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´╗┐Title: Nick of the Woods
Author: Bird, Robert M.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Nick of the Woods" ***

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NICK OF THE WOODS

Or, Adventures of Prairie Life

by

ROBERT M. BIRD, M.D.



Unenlightened man--
A savage, roaming through the woods and wilds
In quest of prey, and with th' unfashiomed fur
Bough clad.

THOMPSON.



PREFACE.


At the period when "Nick of the Woods" was written, the genius of
Chateaubriand and of Cooper had thrown a poetical illusion over the
Indian character; and the red men were presented--almost stereotyped in
the popular mind--as the embodiments of grand and tender sentiment--a new
style of the beau-ideal--brave, gentle, loving, refined, honourable,
romantic personages--nature's nobles, the chivalry of the forest. It
may be submitted that such are not the lineaments of the race--that
they never were the lineaments of any race existing in an uncivilised
state--indeed, could not be--and that such conceptions as _Atala_ and
_Uncas_ are beautiful unrealities and fictions merely, as imaginary and
contrary to nature as the shepherd swains of the old pastoral school of
rhyme and romance; at all events, that one does not find beings of this
class, or any thing in the slightest degree resembling them, among the
tribes now known to travellers and legislators. The Indian is doubtless a
gentleman; but he is a gentleman who wears a very dirty shirt, and lives
a very miserable life, having nothing to employ him or keep him alive
except the pleasures of the chase and of the scalp-hunt--which we
dignify with the name of war. The writer differed from his critical
friends, and from many philanthropists, in believing the Indian to be
capable--perfectly capable, where restraint assists the work of friendly
instruction--of civilisation: the Choctaws and Cherokees, and the
ancient Mexicans and Peruvians, prove it; but, in his natural barbaric
state, he is a barbarian--and it is not possible he could be anything
else. The purposes of the author, in his book, confined him to real
Indians. He drew them as, in his judgment, they existed--and as,
according to all observation, they still exist wherever not softened by
cultivation,--ignorant, violent, debased, brutal; he drew them, too, as
they appeared, and still appear, in war--or the scalp-hunt--when all the
worst deformities of the savage temperament receive their strongest and
fiercest development.

Having, therefore, no other, and certainly no worse, desire than to make
his delineations in this regard as correct and true to nature as he
could, it was with no little surprise he found himself taken to account
by some of the critical gentry, on the charge of entertaining the humane
design of influencing the passions of his countrymen against the remnant
of an unfortunate race, with a view of excusing the wrongs done to it by
the whites, if not of actually hastening the period of that "final
destruction" which it pleases so many men, against all probability, if
not against all possibility, to predict as a certain future event. Had
the accusation been confined to the reviewers, he might not, perhaps,
have thought it safe to complain; but currency was given to it in a
quarter which renders a disclaimer the more reasonable or the less
presumptuous. One may contend with a brother author who dares not resist
the verdict of the critics. In the English edition of the novel,
published at the same time as the American, in a preface furnished by Mr.
Ainsworth, the distinguished author of "Rookwood," "Crichton," &c. &c.,
to whom he is indebted for many polite and obliging expressions
respecting it, it is hinted, hypothetically, that the writer's views were
"coloured by national antipathy, and by a desire to justify the
encroachments of his countrymen upon the persecuted natives, rather than
by a reasonable estimate of the subject." The accused notices this fancy,
however injurious he first felt it to be, less to refute than to smile at
it. He prefers to make a more philosophic and practical application. The
real inference to be drawn is, that he has succeeded very ill in this,
somewhat essential, portion of his plan,--on the principle that the
composition must be amiss, the design of which is so readily
misapprehended. He may plead guilty to the defect; but he cannot admit
the charge to have had any foundation in truth.

The writer confesses to have felt a little concern at an imputation,
which was once faintly attempted to be made, he scarcely now remembers by
whom, that in the character of Nathan Slaughter he intended to throw a
slur upon the peaceful Society of Friends, of which Nathan is described
as having been an unworthy member. This notion is undeserving of serious
challenge. The whole object was here to portray the peculiar
characteristics of a class of men, very limited, of course, in number,
but found, in the old Indian days, scattered, at intervals, along the
extreme frontier of every State, from New York to Georgia; men in whom
the terrible barbarities of the savages, suffered through their families,
or their friends and neighbours, had wrought a change of temper as
strange as fearful. That passion is the mightiest which overcomes the
most powerful restraints and prostrates the strongest barriers; and there
was a dramatic propriety, at least, in associating with such a character
as Nathan's, obstacles of faith and habit, which gave the greater force
to his deeds and a deeper mystery to his story. No one conversant with
the history of border affairs can fail to recollect some one or more
instances of solitary men, bereaved fathers or orphaned sons, the
sole survivors, sometimes, of exterminated households, who remained only
to devote themselves to lives of vengeance; and "Indian-hating" (which
implied the fullest indulgence of a rancorous animosity no blood could
appease) was so far from being an uncommon passion in some particular
districts, that it was thought to have infected, occasionally, persons,
otherwise of good repute, who ranged the woods, intent on private
adventures, which they were careful to conceal from the public eye. The
author remembers, in the published journal of an old traveller--an
Englishman, and, as he thinks, a Friend; but he cannot be certain of this
fact, the name having escaped him, and the loose memorandum he made at
the time, having been mislaid--who visited the region of the upper Ohio
towards the close of the last century, an observation on this subject,
which made too deep an impression to be easily forgotten. It was stated,
as the consequence of the Indian atrocities, that such were the extent
and depth of the vindictive feeling throughout the community, that it was
suspected in some cases to have reached men whose faith was opposed to
warfare and bloodshed. The legend of Wandering Nathan is, no doubt, an
idle and unfounded one, although some vague notions touching the
existence of just such a personage, whose habitat was referred to Western
Pennsylvania, used to prevail among the cotemporaries, or immediate
successors, of Boone and Kenton, M'Colloch and Wetzel. It is enough,
however, for the author to be sustained in such a matter by poetical
possibility; and he can afford to be indifferent to a charge which has
the scarce consistent merit of imputing to him, at one and the same time,
hostility towards the most warlike and the most peaceable of mankind.



NICK OF THE WOODS.



CHAPTER I.


The sun of an August afternoon, 1782, was yet blazing upon the rude
palisades and equally rude cabins of one of the principal stations in
Lincoln county, when a long train of emigrants, issuing from the
southern forest, wound its way over the clearings, and among the waving
maize-fields that surrounded the settlement, and approached the chief
gate of its enclosure.

The party was numerous, consisting perhaps of seven or eight score
individuals in all, men, women, and children, the last bearing that
proportion to the others in point of numbers usually found in a
borderer's family, and thus, with the help of pack-horses, cattle, and a
few negroes, the property of the more wealthy emigrants, scattered here
and there throughout the assemblage, giving to the whole train the
appearance of an army, or moving village, of Vandals in quest of some new
home to be won with the edge of the sword. Of the whole number there were
at least fifty well-armed; some of these, however, being striplings of
fourteen, and, in one or two instances, even of twelve, who balanced the
big rifle on their shoulders, or sustained it over their saddle-bows,
with all the gravity and dignity of grown warriors; while some few of
the negroes were provided with the same formidable weapons. In fact, the
dangers of the journey through the wilderness required that every
individual of a party should be well armed, who was at all capable of
bearing arms; and this was a kind of capacity which necessity instilled
into the American frontiersman in the earliest infancy.

Of this armed force, such as it was, the two principal divisions, all
well mounted, or at least provided with horses, which they rode or not
as the humour seized them, were distributed in military order on the
front and in the rear; while scouts, leading in the van, and flanking
parties beating the woods on either side, where the nature of the
country permitted, indicated still further the presence of a martial
spirit on the part of the leaders. The women and children, stowed
carefully away, for the most part with other valuable chattels, on the
backs of pack-horses, were mingled with droves of cattle in the centre,
many of which were made to bear burdens as well as the horses. Of wheeled
carriages there was not a single one in the whole train, the difficulties
of the road, which was a mere bridle-path, being such that they were
never, at that early day, attempted to be brought into the country,
unless when wafted in boats down the Ohio.

Thus marshalled, and stealing from the depth of the forest into the
clearings around the Station, there was something in the appearance of
the train--wild, singular, and striking. The tall and robust frames of
the men, wrapped in blanket coats and hunting-frocks,--some of which,
where the wearers were young and of gallant tempers, were profusely
decked with fringes of yellow, green, and scarlet; the gleam of their
weapons, and the tramp of their horses, gave a warlike air to the whole,
typical, it might be supposed, of the sanguinary struggle by which alone
the desert was to be wrung from the wandering barbarian; while the
appearance of their families, with their domestic beasts and the
implements of husbandry, was in harmony with what might be supposed the
future destinies of the land, when peaceful labour should succeed to the
strife of conquest.

The exiles were already in the heart of their land of promise, and many
within view of the haven where they were to end their wanderings. Smiles
of pleasure lighted their wayworn countenances, as they beheld the waving
fields of maize and the gleam of the distant cabins; and their
satisfaction was still further increased when the people of the Station,
catching sight of them, rushed out, some mounted and others on foot, to
meet them, uttering loud shouts of welcome, such as, in that day, greeted
every band of new comers; and adding to the clamour of the reception a
_feu-de-joie_, which they fired in honour of the numbers and martial
appearance of the present company. The salutation was requited, and the
stirring hurrahs returned, by the travellers, most of whom pressed
forward to the van in disorder, eager to take part in the merry-making
ere it was over, or perhaps to seek for friends who had preceded them in
the journey through the wilderness. Such friends were, in many instances,
found, and their loud and affectionate greetings were mingled with the
scarce less cordial welcomes extended by the colonists, even to the
unknown stranger. Such was the reception of the emigrants at that period
and in that country, where men were united together by a sense of common
danger; and where every armed visitor, besides being an accession to the
strength of the colonists, brought with him such news of absent friends
and still remembered homes as was sure to recommend him to favour.

The only individual who, on this occasion of rejoicing, preserved a
melancholy countenance, and who, instead of riding forward, like the
others, to shake hands with the people of the Station, betrayed an
inclination to avoid their greetings altogether, was a young man, who,
from the position he occupied in the band, and from other causes, was
entitled to superior attention. With the rank and nominal title of
second-captain,--a dignity conferred upon him by his companions, he was,
in reality, the commander of the party, the ostensible leader being,
although a man of good repute on the Virginia border, entirely wanting in
the military reputation and skill which the other had acquired in the
armies of the Republics, and of which the value was fully appreciated,
when danger first seemed to threaten the exiles on their march. He was a
youth of scarce twenty-three years of age; but five of those years had
been passed in camps and battles; and the labours, passions, and
privations of his profession had antedated the period of manhood. A frame
tall and athletic, a countenance which, although retaining the smoothness
and freshness of youth, was yet marked with the manly gravity and
decision of mature life, added, in appearance, at least six years to his
age. He wore a hunting-frock of the plainest green colour, with cap and
leggings of leather, such as were worn by many of the poorest or least
pretending exiles; like whom also he bore a rifle on his shoulder, with
the horn and other equipments of a hunter. There was little, therefore,
to distinguish him at the first view, from among his companions; although
his erect military bearing, and the fine blooded bay horse which he rode,
would have won him more than a passing look. The holsters at his
saddle-bow, and the sabre at his side, were weapons not indeed very
generally worn by frontiersmen, but still common enough to prevent their
being regarded as badges of rank.

With this youthful officer the rear-guard, which he commanded, having
deserted him, to press forward to the van, there remained only three
persons, two of whom were negro slaves, both mounted and armed, that
followed at a little distance behind, leading thrice their number of
pack-horses. The third was a female, who rode closely at his side, the
rein of her pony being, in fact, grasped in his hand; though he looked as
if scarce conscious that he held it,--a degree of insensibility that
would have spoken little in his favour to an observer; for his companion
was both young and beautiful, and watched his moody countenance on her
part with looks of the most anxious and affectionate interest. Her
riding-habit, chosen, like his own garments, with more regard to
usefulness than beauty, and perhaps somewhat the worse for its encounters
with the wind and forest, could not conceal the graceful figure it
defended; nor had the sunbeam, though it had darkened the bright
complexion exposed to its summer fury, during a journey of more than six
weeks, robbed her fair visage of a single charm. There was, in the
general cast of features, a sufficient resemblance between the two to
indicate near relationship; although it was plain that the gloom seated
upon the brow of her kinsmen, as if a permanent characteristic, was an
unwelcome and unnatural visitant on her own. The clear blue eye, the
golden locks floating over her temples, the ruddy cheek and look of
seventeen, and, generally, the frank and open character of her
expression, betokened a spirit too joyous and elastic to indulge in those
dark anticipations of the future or mournful recollections of the past,
which clouded the bosom of her relative. And well for her that such was
the cheerful temper of her mind; for it was manifest, from her whole
appearance, that her lot, as originally cast, must have been among the
gentle, the refined, and the luxurious, and that she was now, for the
first time, exposed to discomfort, hardship, and suffering, among
companions, who, however kind and courteous of conduct, were unpolished
in their habits, conversation, and feelings, and, in every other respect,
unfitted to be her associates.

She looked upon the face of her kinsman, and seeing that it grew the
darker and gloomier the nearer they approached the scene of rejoicing,
she laid her hand upon his arm, and murmured softly and affectionately--

"Roland,--cousin,--brother!--what is it that disturbs you? Will you not
ride forward, and salute the good people that are making us welcome?"

"Us!" muttered the young man, with a bitter voice; "who is there on
earth, Edith, to welcome us? Where shall _we_ look for the friends and
kinsfolk, that the meanest of the company are finding among yonder noisy
barbarians?"

"You do them injustice, Roland," said the maiden. "Yesternight we had
experience at the Station we left, that these wild people of the woods do
not confine their welcomes to kinsmen. Kinder and more hospitable people
do not exist in the world."

"It is not that, Edith," said the young man; "I were but a brute to doubt
their hospitality. But look, Edith; we are in Kentucky, almost at our
place of refuge. Yonder hovels, lowly, mean, and wretched--are they the
mansions that should shelter the child of my father's brother? Yonder
people, the outcasts of our borders, the poor, the rude, the savage--but
one degree elevated above the Indians, with whom they contend,--are they
the society from whom Edith Forrester should choose her friends?"

"They are," said Edith, firmly; "and Edith Forrester asks none better.
In such a cabin as these, and, if need be, in one still more humble,
she is content to pass her life, and dream that she is still in the
house of her fathers. From such people, too, she will choose her friends,
knowing that, even among the humblest of them, there are many worthy of
her regard and affection. What have we to mourn in the world we have
left behind us? We are the last of our name and race; fortune has left
us nothing to regret. My only relative on earth, saving yourself,
Roland,--saving yourself, my cousin, my brother,"--her lip quivered, and,
for a moment her eyes were filled with tears,--"my only other living
relation resides in this wilderness-land; and she, tenderly nurtured as
myself, finds in it enough to engage her thoughts and secure her
happiness. Why, then, should not I? Why should not _you_? Trust me, dear
Roland, I should myself be as happy as the day is long, could I only know
that you did not grieve for me."

"I cannot but choose it," said Roland. "It is to me you owe the loss of
fortune and your present banishment from the world."

"Say not so, Roland, for it is not true; no! I never can believe that our
poor uncle would have carried his resentment, for such a cause, so far.
But supposing that he could, and granting that all were as you say, I am
prouder to be the poor cousin of Roland Forrester, who has bled in the
battles of his country, than if I were the rich and courted kinswoman of
one who had betrayed the memory of his father."

"You are, at least, an angel," said the youth; "and I am but a villain to
say or do anything to give you pain. Farewell then to Fell-hallow, to old
James River, and all! If you can forget these things, Edith, so will I;
at all events, I will try."

"Now," said Edith, "you talk like my true cousin."

"Well, Edith, the world is before us; and shame be upon me, if I, who
have health, strength, and youth to back my ambition, cannot provide you
a refuge and a home. I will leave you for a while in the hands of this
good aunt at the Falls; and then, with old Emperor there for my adjutant,
and Sam for my rank and file, I will plunge into the forest, and scatter
it as I have seen a band of tories scattered by my old major (who, by the
bye, is only three years older than myself), Henry Lee, not many years
back. Then, when I have built me a house, furrowed my acres with my
martial plough-share (for to that, it appears, my sword must come), and
reaped my harvest with my own hands (it will be hard work to beat my
horse-pistols into a sickle), then, Edith--"

"Then, Roland," said the maiden, with a smile and a tear, "if you should
still remember your poor cousin, it will not be hard to persuade her to
follow you to your retreat, to share your fortunes of good and of evil,
and to love you better in your adversity than she ever expected to love
you in your prosperity."

"Spoken like my true Edith!" said the young officer, whose melancholy
fled before her soft accents, as the evil spirit of Saul before the
tinklings of the Jewish harp,--"spoken like my true Edith; for whom I
promise, if fate smile upon my exertions, to rear a new Fell-hallow on
the banks of the Ohio, in which I will be, myself, the first to forget
that on James River. And now, Edith, let us ride forward and meet yon gay
looking giant, whom, from his bustling demeanour, and fresh jerkin, I
judge to be the commander of the Station, the redoubtable Colonel Bruce
himself."

As he spoke the individual thus alluded to, separating himself from the
throng, galloped up to the speaker, and displayed a person which excited
the envy even of the manly looking Forrester. He was a man of at least
fifty years, but as hale as one of thirty, without a single gray hair to
deform the beauty of his raven locks, which fell down in masses nearly to
his shoulders. His stature was colossal, and the proportions of his frame
as just as they were gigantic; so that there was much in his appearance
of real native majesty. Nothing, in fact, could be well imagined more
truly striking and grand than his appearance, as seen at the first
glance; though the second revealed a lounging indifference of carriage,
amounting, at times, to something like awkwardness and uncouthness, which
a little detracted from the effect. Such men were oft-times, in those
days, sent from among the mountain counties of Virginia, to amaze the
lesser mortals of the plains, who regarded them as the genii of the
forest, and almost looked, as was said of the victor of the Kenhawa,[1]
himself of the race, to see the earth tremble beneath their footsteps.
With a spirit corresponding to his frame, he would have been the Nimrod
that he seemed. But nature had long before extinguished the race of
demigods; and the worthy Commander of the Station was not of them. He was
a mortal man, distinguished by little, save his exterior, from other
mortal men, and from the crowd of settlers who had followed him from the
fortress. He wore, it is true, a new and jaunty hunting-shirt of dressed
deer-skin, as yellow as gold, and fringed and furbelowed with shreds of
the same substance, dyed as red as blood-root could make them; but was
otherwise, to the view, a plain yeoman, endowed with those gifts of mind
only which were necessary to his station, but with the virtues which are
alike common to forest and city. Courage and hospitality, however, were
then hardly accounted virtues, being too universal to be distinguished as
such; and courtesy was equally native to the independent borderer.

[Footnote 1: Gen. Andrew Lewis.]

He shook the young officer heartily by the hand, a ceremony which he
instantly repeated with the fair Edith; and giving them to understand
that he claimed them as his own especial guests, insisted with much
honest warmth, that old companionship in arms with one of their late
nearest and dearest kinsmen had given him a double right to do so:--

"You must know," said he, "the good old Major your uncle, the brave
old Major Roly, as we called him, Major Roland Forrester: well,
K'-yaptin,--well, young lady,--my first battle war fought under his
command; and an excellent commander he war; it war on the bloody
Monongahela, whar the Frenchmen and Injuns trounced us so promiskous.
Perhaps you've h'ard him tell of big Tom Bruce,--for so they called me
then? I war a copporal in the first company of Rangers that crossed the
river. Lord! how the world is turning upside down! I war a copporal
then, and now I'm a k'-yunnel; a greater man in commission than war ever
my old Major; and the Lord, he nows, I thought my old Major Forrester
war the greatest man in all Virginnee, next to the G'-yovernor and
K'-yunnel George Washington! Well, you must know, we marched up the
g'yully that runs from the river; and bang went the savages' g'-yuns,
and smash went their hatchets; and it came to close quarters, a regular
rough-and-tumble, hard scratch! And so I war a-head of the Major, and the
Major war behind, and the fight had made him as vicious as a wild cat,
and he war hungry for a shot; and so says he to me, for I war right afore
him, 'Git out of my way, you damned big rascal, till I git a crack at
'em!' And so I got out of his way, for I war mad at being called a damned
big rascal, especially as I war doing my best, and covering him from
mischief besides. Well! as soon as I jumped out of his way, bang went his
piece, and bang went another, let fly by an Injun;--down went the Major,
shot right through the hips, slam-bang. And so said I, 'Major,'--for I
warn't well over my passion,--'if you'd 'a' taken things easy, I'd 'a' a
stopped that slug for you.' And so says he, 'Bang away you big fool, and
don't stand talking.' And so he swounded away; and that made me vicious,
too, and I killed two of the red niggurs, before you could say Jack
Robinson, just by way of satisfaction for the Major; and then I helped to
carry him off to the tumbrels. I never see'd my old Major from that day
to this; and it war only a month ago that I h'ard of his death. I honour
his memory; and so, K'-yaptin, you see, thar's a sort of claim to old
friendship between us."

To this characteristic speech, which was delivered with great
earnestness, Captain Forrester made a suitable response; and intimating
his willingness to accept the proffered hospitality of his uncle's
companion in arms, he rode forward with his host and kinswoman towards
the Station, of which, when once fairly relieved of the forest, he had a
clear view.

It seemed unusually populous, as indeed it was; but Roland, as he
rode by, remarked, on the skirts of the village, a dozen or more
shooting-targets set up on the green, and perceived it was a gala-day
which had drawn the young men from a distance to the fort. This, in fact,
he was speedily told by a youth, whom the worthy Bruce introduced to him
as his eldest son and namesake, "big Tom Bruce,--the third of that name;
the other two Toms,--for two others he had had,--having been killed by
the Injuns, and he having changed the boy's name, that he might have a
Tom in the family." The youth was worthy of his father, being full six
feet high, though scarcely yet out of his teens, and presented a visage
of such serene gravity and good-humoured simplicity as won the affections
of the soldier in a moment.

"Thar's a boy now, the brute," said Colonel Bruce, sending him off to
assist in the distribution of the guests among the settlers, "that comes
of the best stock for loving women and fighting Injuns in all Kentucky!
And so, captain, if young madam, your sister h'yar, is for picking a
husband out of Kentuck, I'll say it, and stand to it, thar's not a better
lad to be found than Tom Bruce, if you hunt the district all over. You'd
scarce believe it, mom," he continued, addressing Edith herself, "but the
young brute did actually take the scalp of a full-grown Shawnee before he
war fourteen y'ar old, and that in fa'r fight, whar thar war none to help
him. The way of it war this: Tom war out in the range, looking for a
neighbour's horse; when what should he see but two great big Shawnees
astride of the identicular beast he war hunting! Away went Tom, and away
went the bloody villians hard after, one of 'em afoot, the other on the
horse. 'Now,' said Tom, this won't do, no how;' and so he let fly at the
mounted feller; but being a little skeary, as how could he help it, the
young brute, being the first time he ever banged at an Injun, he hit the
horse, which dropped down in a flurry; and away comes the red devil over
his head, like a rocket, end on to a sapling. Up jumps Tom and picks up
the Injun's gun; and bang goes the other Shawnee at him, and jumps to a
tree. 'A bird in the hand,' said Tom, 'is worth two in a bush;' and with
that he blows out the first feller's brains, just as he is gitting up,
and runs into the fort, hard chased by the other. And then to see the
fellers, when I asked him why he didn't shoot the Injun that had fired at
him, and so make sure of both, the other being in a sort of swound-like
from the tumble, and ready to be knocked on the head at any moment?
'Lord!' said Tom, 'I never thought of it, I war such a fool!' and with
that he blubbered all night, to think he had not killed them both.
Howsomever, I war always of opinion that what he had done war good work
for a boy of fourteen.--But, come now, my lovely young mom; we are
entering the Station. May you never enter a house where you are less
welcome."



CHAPTER II.


Men and boys had rushed from the fortress together, to greet the new
comers, and few remained save the women; of whom not a few, particularly
of the younger individuals, were as eager to satisfy their curiosity as
their fathers and brothers. The disorderly spirit had spread even among
the daughters of the commandant, to the great concern of his spouse; who,
although originally of a degree somewhat humbler even than his own, had a
much more elevated sense of the dignity of his commission as a colonel of
militia, and a due consciousness of the necessity of adapting her manners
to her rank. She stood on the porch of her cabin, which had the merit of
being larger than any other in the fort, maintaining order among some
half dozen or more lasses, the eldest scarce exceeding seventeen, whom
she endeavoured to range in a row, to receive the expected guests in
state, though every moment some one or other might be seen edging away
from her side, as if in the act of deserting her altogether.

"Out on you, you flirting critturs!" said she, her indignation provoked,
and her sense of propriety shocked by such unworthy behaviour:--"Stop
thar, you Nell! whar you going? You Sally, you Phoebe, you Jane, and
the rest of you! ha'nt you no better idea of what's manners for a
Cunnel's daughters? I'm ashamed of you,--to run ramping and tearing
after the strange men thar, like tom-boys, or any common person's
daughters! Laws! _do_ remember your father's a Cunnel in the milishy,
and set down in the porch here on the bench, like genteel young ladies;
or stand up, if you like that better, and wait till your father, Cunnel
Bruce that is, brings up the captains: one of 'em's a rale army captain,
with epaulets and broad-sword, with a chance of money, and an uncommon
handsome sister,--rale genteel people from old Virginnee: and I'm glad of
it,--it's so seldom you sees any body but common persons come to
Kentucky. Do behave yourselves: thar's Telie Doe thar at the loom don't
think so much as turning her eyes around; she's a pattern for you."

"Law, mother!" said the eldest of the daughters, bridling with disdain,
"I reckon I know how to behave myself as well as Telie Doe, or any other
girl in the settlement;"--a declaration echoed and re-echoed by her
sisters, all of whom bent their eyes towards a corner of the ample porch,
where, busied with a rude loom, fashioned perhaps by the axe and knife of
the militia colonel himself, on which she was weaving a coarse cloth from
the fibres of the flax-nettle, sat a female somewhat younger than the
eldest of the sisters, and doubtless of a more humble degree, as was
shown by the labour in which she was engaged, while the others seemed to
enjoy a holiday, and by her coarse brown garments, worn at a moment when
the fair Bruces were flaunting in their best bibs and tuckers, the same
having been put on not more in honour of the exiles, whose coming had
been announced the day before, than out of compliment to the young men of
the settlement, who were wont to assemble on such occasions to gather the
latest news from the States.

The pattern of good manners thus referred to, was as unconscious of the
compliment bestowed upon her by the worthy Mrs. Bruce as of the glances
of disdain it drew from the daughters, being apparently at that moment
too much occupied with her work to think of anything else; nor did she
lift up her eyes until, the conversation having been resumed between the
mother and daughters, one of the latter demanded "what was the name of
that army captain, that was so rich and great, of whom her mother had
been talking?"

"Captain Roland Forrester," replied the latter; at the sound of which
name the maiden at the loom started and looked up with an air of fright,
that caused exceeding diversion among the others. "Look at Telie Doe!"
they cried, laughing: "you can't speak above your breath but she thinks
you are speaking to her; and, sure, you can't speak to her, but she looks
as if she would jump out of her skin, and run away for her dear life!"

And so, indeed, the girl did appear for a moment, looking as wild and
terrified as the animal whose name she bore, when the first bay of the
deer-hound startles her in the deep woodland pastures, rolling her eyes,
catching her breath convulsively, shivering, and, in short, betraying a
degree of agitation; that would have appeared unaccountable to a
stranger; though, as it caused more amusement than surprise among the
merry Bruces, it was but fair to suppose that it sprung from
constitutional nervousness, or the sudden interruption of her
meditations. As she started up in her confusion, rolling her eyes from
one laughing maiden to another, her very trepidation imparted an interest
to her features, which were in themselves pretty enough, though not so
much as to attract observation, when in a state of rest. Then it was that
the observer might see, or fancy he saw, a world of latent expression in
her wild dark eyes, and trace the workings of a quick and sensitive
spirit, whose existence would have been otherwise unsuspected, in the
tremulous movement of her lips. And then, too, one might have been struck
with the exquisite contour of a slight figure, which even the coarse
garments, spun, and perhaps shaped, by her own hands, could not entirely
conceal. At such times of excitement, there was something in her
appearance both striking and singular--Indian-like, one might almost have
said. Such an epithet might have been borne out by the wildness of her
looks, the darkness of her eyes, the simple arrangement of her coal-black
hair--which instead of being confined by comb or fillet, was twisted
round a thorn cut from the nearest locust-tree--and by the smallness of
her stature, though the lightness and European tinge of her complexion
must have instantly disproved the idea.

Her discomposure dispelled from the bosoms of her companions all the
little resentment produced by the matron's invidious comparison; and each
now did her best to increase it by cries of "Jump, Telie, the Indians
will catch you!" "Take care, Telie, Tom Bruce will kiss you!" "Run,
Telie, the dog will bite you!" and other expressions, of a like alarming
nature, which, if they did not augment her terror, divided and distracted
her attention, till quite bewildered, she stared now on one, now on the
other, and at each mischievous assault, started, and trembled, and gasped
for breath, in inexpressible confusion. It was fortunate for her that
this species of baiting, which from the spirit and skill with which her
youthful tormentors pursued it, seemed no uncommon infliction, the
reforming mother considered to be, at least at that particular moment,
unworthy the daughters of a colonel in the militia.

"Do behave yourselves, you ungenteel critturs," said she; "Phoebe Bruce,
you're old enough to know better; don't expose yourself before
stranngers. Thar they come now; thar's Cunnel Bruce that is, talking to
Captain Forrester that is, and a right-down soldier-looking captain he
is, too. I wonder whar's his cocked hat, and feather, and goold epaulets?
Thar's his big broad-sword, and--but, Lord above us, ar'nt his sister a
beauty! Any man in Kentucky will be proud of her; but, I warrant me,
she'll take to nothing under a cunnel!"

The young misses ceased their sport to stare at the strangers, and even
Telie Doe, pattern of propriety as she was, had no sooner recovered her
equanimity than she turned her eyes from the loom and bent them eagerly
upon the train now entering through the main gate, gazing long and
earnestly upon the young captain and the fair Edith, who with the colonel
of militia, and a fourth individual, parted from it, and rode up to the
porch. The fourth person, a sober, and substantial-looking borderer, in a
huge blanket-coat and slouched hat, the latter stuck round with buck's
tails, was the nominal captain of the party. He conversed a moment with
Forrester and the commandant, and then, being given in charge by the
latter to his son Tom, who was hallooed from the crowd for this purpose,
he rode away, leaving the colonel to do the honours to his second in
command. These the colonel executed with much courtesy and gallantry, if
not with grace, leaping from his horse with unexpected activity, and
assisting Edith to dismount, which he effected by taking her in his arms
and whisking her from the saddle with as little apparent effort as though
he were handling an infant.

"Welcome, my beautiful young lady," said he, giving her another hearty
shake of the hand: "H'yar's a house that shall shelter you; though thar's
not much can be said of it, except that it is safe and wholesome. H'yar's
my old lady too, and my daughters, that will make much of you; and as for
my sons, thar's not a brute of 'em that won't fight for you; but th' ar'
all busy stowing away the stranngers; and, I reckon, they think it ar'nt
manners to show themselves to a young lady, while she's making
acquaintance with the women."

With that the gallant colonel presented the fair stranger to his wife and
daughters, the latter of whom, a little daunted at first by her
appearance, as a being superior in degree to the ordinary race of
mortals, but quickly re-assured by her frank and easy deportment, loaded
her with caresses, and carried her into the house, to improve the few
hours allowed to make her acquaintance, and to assist her in changing her
apparel, for which the means were furnished from sundry bags and
packages, that the elder of the two negromen, the only immediate
followers of her kinsmen, took from the back of a pack-horse. The mother
of the Bruces thought it advisable to follow them, to see, perhaps, in
person, that they conducted themselves towards their guest as a colonel's
daughter should.

None of the females remained on the porch save Telie, the girl of the
loom, who, too humble or too timid to seek the acquaintance of the
stranger lady, like the others, had been overlooked in the bustle, and
now pursued her labour with but little notice from those who remained.

"And now, Colonel," said the young officer, declining the offer of
refreshments made by his host, "allow me, like a true soldier, to proceed
to the business with which you heard our commander, Major Johnson, charge
me. To-morrow we resume our journey to the Falls. I should gladly myself,
for Miss Forrester's sake, consent to remain with you a few days, to
recruit our strength a little. But that cannot be. Our men are resolved
to push on without delay; and as I have no authority to restrain them, I
must e'en accompany them."

"Well," said Colonel Bruce, "if it must be, it must, and I'm not the
brute to say 'No' to you. But lord, Captain, I should be glad to have you
stay a month or two, war it only to have a long talk about my old friend,
the brave old major. And thar's your sister, Captain,--lord, sir, she
would be the pet of the family, and would help my wife teach the girls
manners. Lord!" he continued, laughing, "you've no idea what grand
notions have got into the old woman's head about the way of behaving,
ever since it war that the Governor of Virginnie sent me a cunnel's
commission. She thinks I ought to w'ar a cocked hat and goold swabs,
and put on a blue coat instead of a leather shirt; but I wonder how soon
I'd see the end of it, out h'yar in the bushes? And then, as for the
girls, why thar's no end of the lessons she gives them;--and thar's
my Jenny,--that's the youngest,--came blubbering up the other day,
saying, 'she believed mother intended even to stop their licking at
the sugar-troughs, she was getting so great and so proud!' Howsomever,
women will be women, and thar's the end of it."

To this philosophic remark the officer of inferior degree bowed
acquiescence, and recalling his host's attention to the subject of most
interest to himself, requested to be informed what difficulties or
dangers might be apprehended on the further route to the Falls of Ohio.

"Why, none on 'arth that I know of," said Bruce; "you've as cl'ar
and broad a trace before you as man and beast could make--a
buffalo-street,[2] through the canes; and, when thar's open woods, blazes
as thick as stars, and horse-tracks still thicker: thar war more than a
thousand settlers have travelled it this year already. As for danngers,
Captain, why I reckon thar's none to think on. Thar war a good chance of
whooping and howling about Bear's Grass, last year, and some hard
fighting; but I h'ar nothing of Injuns thar this y'ar. But you leave
some of your people h'yar: what force do you tote down to the Falls
to-morrow?"

[Footnote 2: The bison-paths when very broad, were often thus called.]

"Twenty-seven guns in all: but several quite too young to face an enemy."

"Thar's no trusting to years in a matter of fighting!" said the
Kentuckian. "Thar's my son Tom, that killed his brute at fourteen; but, I
remember, I told you that story. Howsomever, I hold thar's no Injuns on
the road; and if you should meet any, why, it will be down about Bear's
Grass, or the Forks of Salt, whar you can keep your eyes open, and whar
the settlements are so thick, it is easy taking cover. No, no, Captain,
the fighting this year is all on the north side of Kentucky."

"Yet, I believe," said Roland, "there have been no troubles there since
the defeat of Captain Estill on Little Mountain, and of Holder at that
place,--what do you call it?"

"Upper Blue Licks of Licking," said Bruce; "and war'nt they troubles
enough for a season? Two Kentucky captains (and one of them a south-side
man, too,) whipped in fa'r fight, and by nothing better than brutish
Injuns!"

"They were sad affairs, indeed; and the numbers of white men murdered
made them still more shocking."

"The murdering," said the gallant Colonel Bruce, "is nothing, sir: it is
the shame of the thumping that makes one feel vicious; thar's the thing
no Kentuckian can stand, sir. To be murdered, whar thar's ten Injuns to
one white man, is nothing; but whar it comes to being trounced by equal
numbers, why thar's the thing not to be tolerated. Howsomever, Captain,
we're no worse off in Kentucky than our neighbours. Thar's them five
hundred Pennsylvanians that went out in June, under old Cunnel Crawford
from Pittsburg, agin the brutes of Sandusky, war more ridiculously
whipped by old Captain Pipe, the Delaware, thar's no denying."

"What!" said Roland, "was Crawford's company beaten?"

"Beaten!" said the Kentuckian, opening his eyes; "cut off the _b_, and
say the savages made a dinner of 'em, and you'll be nearer the true
history of the matter. It's but two months ago; and so I suppose the news
of the affa'r hadn't got into East Virginnie when you started. Well,
Captain, the long and short of it is,--the cunnel _war_ beaten and
exterminated, and that on a hard run from the fight he had hunted hard
after. How many ever got back safe agin to Pittsburg, I never could
rightly h'ar, but what I know is, that thar war dozens of prisoners
beaten to death by the squaws and children, and that old Cunnel Crawford
himself war put to the double torture and roasted alive; and, I reckon,
if he war'nt eaten, it war only because he war too old to be tender."

"Horrible!" said the young soldier, muttering half to himself, though not
in tones so low but that the Kentuckian caught their import; "and I must
expose my poor Edith to fall into the power of such fiends and monsters!"

"Ay, Captain," said Bruce, "thar's the thing that sticks most in
the heart of them that live in the wilderness and have wives and
daughters;--to think of _their_ falling into the hands of the brutes, who
murder and scalp a woman just as readily as a man. As to their torturing
them, that's not so certain, but the brutes arn't a bit too good for it;
and I did h'ar of their burning one poor woman at Sandusky. But now,
Captain, if you are anxious to have the young lady, your sister, in
safety, h'yar's the place to stick up your tent-poles, h'yar, in this
very settlement, whar the Injuns never trouble us, never coming within
ten miles of us. Thar's as good land here as on Bear's Grass; and we
shall be glad of your company. It is not often we have a rich man to take
luck among us. Howsomever, I won't deceive you, if you will go to the
Ohio; I hold, thar's no danger on the trace for either man or woman."

"My good friend," said Roland, "you seem to labour under two errors in
respect to me which it is fitting I should correct. In the first place,
the lady whom you have several times called, I know not why, my sister,
claims no such near relationship, being only my cousin."

"Why, sure!" said the colonel, "someone told me so, and thar's a strong
family likeness."

"There should be," said the youth, "since our fathers were twin brothers,
and resembled each other in all particulars, in body, in mind, and, as I
may say, in fortune. They were alike in their lives, alike also in their
deaths: they fell together, struck down by the same cannon-ball, at the
bombardment of Norfolk, seven years ago."

"May I never see a scalp," said the Kentuckian, warmly grasping the young
man's hand, "if I don't honour you the more for boasting such a father
and such uncles! You come of the true stock, captain, thar's no denying;
and my brave old major's estates have fallen into the right hands; for,
if thar's any believing the news the last band of emigrants brought of
you h'yar, thar war no braver officer in Lee's corps, nor in the whole
Virginnee line, than young Captain Forrester."

"Here," said Roland, looking as if what he said cost him a painful
effort, "lies the second error,--your considering me, as you manifestly
do, the heir of your old major, my uncle Roland,--which I am not."

"Lord!" said the worthy Bruce, "he was the richest man in
Prince-George, and he had thousands of fat acres in the Valley, the
best in all Fincastle, as I know very well, for I war a Fincastle man
myself; and thar war my old friend Braxley,--he war a lieutenant under
the major at Braddock's, and afterwards his steward, and manager, and
lawyer-like,--who used to come over the Ridge to see after them. But I
see how it is; he left all to the young lady?"

"Not an acre," said Roland.

"What!" said the Kentuckian: "he left no children of his own. Who then is
the heir?"

"Your old friend, as you call him, Richard Braxley. And hence you see,"
continued the youth, as if desirous to change the conversation, "that I
come to Kentucky, an adventurer and fortune-hunter, like other emigrants,
to locate lands under proclamation-warrants and bounty-grants, to fell
trees, raise corn, shoot bisons and Indians, and, in general, do any
thing else that can be required of a good Virginian or good Kentuckian."

It was evidently the captain's wish now to leave altogether the subject
on which he had thought it incumbent to acquaint his host with so much;
but the worthy Bruce was not so easily satisfied; and not conceiving
there was any peculiar impropriety in indulging curiosity in matters
relating to his old major, however distasteful that curiosity might prove
to his guest, he succeeded in drawing from the reluctant young man many
more particulars of his story; which, as they have an important
connection with the events it is our object to narrate, we must be
pardoned for briefly noticing.

Major Roland Forrester, the uncle and godfather of the young soldier, and
the representative of one of the most ancient and affluent families on
James River (for by this trivial name Virginians are content to designate
the noble _Powhatan_), was the eldest of three brothers, of whom the two
younger, as was often the case under the _ancien regime_ in Virginia,
were left, at the death of their parent, to shift for themselves;
while the eldest son inherited the undivided princely estate of his
ancestors. This was at the period when that contest of principle with
power, which finally resulted in the separation of the American Colonies
from the parent State, first began to agitate the minds of the good
planters of Virginia, in common with the people of all the other
colonies. Men had already begun to take sides, in feeling as in argument;
and, as usual, interest had, no doubt, its full share in directing and
confirming the predilections of individuals. These circumstances,--the
regular succession of the eldest-born to the paternal estate, and the
necessity imposed on the others of carving out their own fortunes,--had,
perhaps, their influence in determining the political bias of the
brothers, and preparing them for contention when the increase of party
feeling, and the clash of interests between the government abroad and the
colonies at home, called upon all men to avow their principles and take
their stands. It was as natural that the one should retain affection and
reverence for the institutions which had made him rich and distinguished,
as that the younger brothers, who had suffered under them a deprivation
of their natural rights, should declare for a system of government and
laws more liberal and equitable in their character and operation. At all
events, and be the cause of difference what it might, when the storm of
the Revolution burst over the land, the brothers were found arrayed on
opposite sides--the two younger, the fathers of Roland and Edith,
instantly taking up arms in the popular cause, while nothing, perhaps,
but helpless feebleness and bodily infirmities, the results of wounds
received in Braddock's war, throughout which he had fought at the head of
a battalion of "Buckskins," or Virginia Rangers, prevented the elder
brother from arming as zealously in the cause of his king. Fierce,
uncompromising, and vindictive, however, in his temper, he never forgave
his brothers the bold and active part they both took in the contest; and
it was his resentment, perhaps, more than natural affection for his
neglected offspring, that caused him to defeat his brothers' hopes of
succession to his estates, (he being himself unmarried), by executing a
will in favour of an illegitimate child, an infant daughter, whom he drew
from concealment and acknowledged as his offspring. This child, however,
was soon removed, having being burned to death in the house of its
foster-mother. But its decease effected little or no change in his
feelings towards his brothers, who, pursuing the principles they had so
early avowed, were among the first to take arms among the patriots of
Virginia, and fell, as Roland had said, at Norfolk, leaving each an
orphan child--Roland, then a youth of fifteen, and Edith, a child of ten,
to the mercy of the elder brother. Their death effected what perhaps
their prayers never would have done. The stern loyalist took the orphans
to his bosom, cherished and loved them, or at least appeared to do so,
and often avowed his intention to make them his heirs. But it was
Roland's ill fate to provoke his ire, as Roland's father had done before
him. The death of that father, one of the earliest martyrs to liberty,
had created in his youthful mind a strong abhorrence of everything
British and loyal; and after presuming a dozen times or more to disclose
and defend his hatred, he put the coping-stone to his audacity, by
suddenly leaving his uncle's house, two years after he had been received
into it, and galloping away, a cornet in one of the companies of the
first regiment of horse which Virginia sent to the armies of Congress.
He never more saw his uncle. He cared little for his wrath or its
effects; if disinherited himself, it pleased his imagination to think he
had enriched his gentle cousin. But his uncle carried his resentment
further than he had dreamed, or indeed any one else who had beheld the
show of affection he continued to the orphan Edith up to the last moment
of his existence. He died in October of the preceding year, a week before
the capitulation at York-town, and almost within the sound of the guns
that proclaimed the fall of the cause he had so loyally espoused. From
this place of victory Roland departed to seek his kinswoman. He found her
in the house--not of his fathers, but of a stranger--herself a destitute
and homeless orphan. No will appeared to pronounce her the mistress of
the wealth he had himself rejected; but, in place of it, the original
testament in favour of Major Forrester's own child was produced by
Braxley, his confidential friend and attorney, who, by it, was appointed
both executor of the estate and trustee to the individual in whose favour
it was constructed.

The production of such a testament, so many years after the death of the
girl, caused no little astonishment; but this was still further increased
by what followed, the aforesaid Braxley instantly taking possession of
the whole estate in the name of the heiress, who, he made formal
deposition, was, to the best of his belief, yet alive, and would appear
to claim her inheritance. In support of this extraordinary averment, he
produced, or professed himself ready to produce, evidence to show that
Forrester's child, instead of being burned to death as was believed, had
actually been trepanned and carried away by persons to him unknown, the
burning of the house of her foster-mother having been devised and
executed merely to give colour to the story of her death. Who were the
perpetrators of such an outrage, and for what purpose it had been
devised, he affected to be ignorant; though he threw out many hints and
surmises of a character more painful to Edith and Roland than even the
loss of the property. These hints Roland could not persuade himself to
repeat to the curious Kentuckian, since they went, in fact, to charge his
own father, and Edith's, with the crime of having themselves concealed
the child, for the purpose of removing the only bar to their expectations
of succession.

Whatever might be thought of this singular story, it gained some
believers, and was enough in the hands of Braxley, a man of great address
and resolution, and withal, a lawyer, to enable him to laugh to scorn the
feeble efforts made by the impoverished Roland to bring it to the test of
legal arbitrament. Despairing, in fact, of his cause, after a few trials
had convinced him of his impotence, and perhaps himself almost believing
the tale to be true, the young man gave up the contest, and directed his
thoughts to the condition of his cousin Edith; who, upon the above
circumstances being made known, had received a warm invitation to the
house and protection of her only female relative, a married lady, whose
husband had, two years before, emigrated to the Falls of Ohio, where he
was now a person of considerable importance. This invitation determined
the course to be pursued. The young man instantly resigned his
commission, and converting the little property that remained into
articles necessary to the emigrant, turned his face to the boundless
West, and with his helpless kinswoman at his side, plunged at once into
the forest. A home for Edith in the house of a relative was the first
object of his desires; his second, as he had already mentioned, was to
lay the foundation for the fortunes of both.

There was something in the condition of the young and almost friendless
adventurers to interest the feelings of the hardy Kentuckian; but they
were affected still more strongly by the generous self-sacrifice, as it
might be called, which the young soldier was evidently making for his
kinswoman, for whom he had given up an honourable profession and his
hopes of fame and distinction, to live a life of inglorious toil in the
desert. He gave the youth another energetic grasp of hand, and said, with
uncommon emphasis,--

"Hark'ee, Captain, my lad, I love and honour ye; and I could say no more,
if you war my own natteral born father! As to that 'ar' Richard Braxley,
whom I call'd my old friend, you must know, it war an old custom I have
of calling a man a friend who war only an acquaintance; for I am for
being friendly to all men that ar' white and honest, and no Injuns. Now,
I do hold that Braxley to be a rascal,--a precocious rascal, sir! and, I
rather reckon, thar war lying and villiany at the bottom of that will;
and I hope you'll live to see the truth of it."

The sympathy felt by the Kentuckian in the story was experienced in a
still stronger degree by Telie Doe, the girl of the loom, who, little
noticed, if at all, by the two, sat apparently occupied with her work,
yet drinking in every word uttered by the young soldier with a deep and
eager interest, until Roland by chance looking round, beheld her large
eyes fastened upon him, with a wild, sorrowful look, of which, however,
she herself seemed quite unconscious, that greatly surprised him. The
Kentuckian observing her at the same time, called to her,--"What, Telie,
my girl, are you working upon a holiday? You should be dressed like the
others, and making friends with the stranger lady. And so git away with
you now, and make yourself handsome, and don't stand thar looking as if
the gentleman would eat you."

"A qu'ar crittur she, poor thing!" said Bruce, looking after her
commiseratingly; "and a stranger might think her no more nor half-witted.
But she has sense enough, poor crittur! and, I reckon, is just as smart,
if she war not so humble and skittish, as any of my own daughters."

"What," said Roland, "is she not then your child?"

"No, no," replied Bruce, shaking his head; "a poor crittur, of no manner
of kin whatever. Her father war an old friend, or acquaintance-like; for,
rat it, I won't own friendship for any such apostatised villians, no
how:--but the man war taken by the Shawnees; and so as thar war none to
befriend her, and she war but a little chit no bigger nor my hand, I took
to her myself and raised her. But the worst of it is, and that's what
makes her so wild and skeary, her father, Abel Doe, turned Injun himself,
like Girty, Elliot, and the rest of them refugee scoundrels you've h'ard
of. Now _that's_ enough, you see, to make the poor thing sad and
frightful; for Abel Doe is a rogue, thar's no denying, and everybody
hates and cusses him, as is but his due; and it's natteral, now she's
growing old enough to be ashamed of him, she should be ashamed of herself
too,--though thar's nothing but her father to charge against her, poor
creatur'. A bad thing for her to have an Injunised father; for if it
war'nt for him, I reckon, my son Tom, the brute, would take to her, and
marry her."

"Poor creature, indeed!" muttered Roland to himself, contrasting in
thought the condition of this helpless and deserted girl with that of his
own unfortunate kinswoman, and sighing to acknowledge that it was still
more forlorn and pitiable.

His sympathy was, however, but short-lived, being interrupted on the
instant by a loud uproar of voices from the gate of the stockade,
sounding half in mirth, half in triumph; while the junior Bruce was seen
approaching the porch, looking the very messenger of good news.



CHAPTER III.


"What's the matter, Tom Bruce?" said the father, eyeing him with
surprise.

"Matter enough," responded the young giant, with a grin of mingled awe
and delight; "the Jibbenainosay is up again!"

"Whar?" cried the senior, eagerly,--"not in our limits?"

"No, by Jehoshaphat," replied Tom; "but nigh enough to be
neighbourly,--on the north bank of Kentuck, whar he has left his
mark right in the middle of the road, as fresh as though it war but
the work of the morning!"

"And a clear mark, Tom?--no mistake in it?"

"Right to an iota!" said the young man;--"a reggelar cross on the breast,
and a good tomahawk dig right through the skull; and a long-legg'd
fellow, too, that looked as though he might have fou't old Sattan
himself?"

"It's the Jibbenainosay, sure enough; and so good luck to him!" cried the
commander: "thar's a harricane coming!"

"Who is the Jibbenainosay?" demanded Forrester.

"Who?" cried Tom Bruce: "Why, Nick,--Nick of the Woods."

"And who, if you please, is Nick of the Woods?"

"Thar," replied the junior, with another grin, "thar, strannger, you're
too hard for me. Some think one thing, and some another; but thar's many
reckon he's the devil."

"And his mark, that you were talking of in such mysterious terms,--what
is that?"

"Why, a dead Injun, to be sure, with Nick's mark on him,--a knife-cut, or
a brace of 'em, over the ribs in the shape of a cross. That's the way the
Jibbenainosay marks all the meat of his killing. It has been a whole year
now since we h'ard of him."

"Captain," said the elder Bruce, "you don't seem to understand the afta'r
altogether; but if you were to ask Tom about the Jibbenainosay till
doomsday, he could tell you no more than he has told already. You must
know, thar's a creatur' of some sort or other that ranges the woods round
about our station h'yar, keeping a sort of guard over us like, and
killing all the brute Injuns that ar' onlucky enough to come in his way,
besides scalping them and marking them with his mark. The Injuns call him
_Jibbenainosay_, or a word of that natur', which them that know more
about the Injun gabble than I do, say, means the _Spirit-that-walks_; and
if we can believe any such lying devils as Injuns (which I am loath to
do, for the truth ar'nt in 'em), he is neither man nor beast, but a great
ghost or devil that knife cannot harm nor bullet touch; and they have
always had an idea that our fort h'yar in partickelar, and the country
round about, war under his friendly protection--many thanks to him,
whether he be a devil or not; for that whar the reason the savages so
soon left off a worrying of us."

"Is it possible," said Roland, "that any one can believe such an absurd
story?"

"Why not?" said Bruce, stoutly. "Thar's the Injuns themselves, Shawnees,
Hurons, Delawares, and all,--but partickelarly the Shawnees, for he beats
all creation a-killing of Shawnees,--that believe in him, and hold him in
such eternal dread, that thar's scarce a brute of 'em has come within ten
miles of the station h'yar this three y'ar; because as how, he haunts
about our woods h'yar in partickelar, and kills 'em wheresomever he
catches 'em,--especially the Shawnees, as I said afore, against which the
creatur' has a most butchering spite; and there's them among the other
tribes that call him _Shawneewannaween_, or the Howl of the Shawnees,
because of his keeping them ever a-howling. And thar's his marks,
captain,--what do you make of _that_? When you find an Injun lying
scalped and tomahawked, it stands to reason thar war something to kill
him?"

"Ay, truly," said Forrester; "but I think you have human beings enough to
give the credit to, without referring it to a supernatural one."

"Strannger," said Big Tom Bruce the younger, with a sagacious nod, "when
you kill an Injun yourself, I reckon,--meaning no offence--you will be
willing to take all the honour that can come of it, without leaving it to
be scrambled after by others. Thar's no man 'arns a scalp in Kentucky,
without taking great pains to show it to his neighbours."

"And besides, captain," said the father, very gravely, "thar are men
among us who have _seen_ the creatur'!"

"_That_," said Roland, who perceived his new friends were not well
pleased with his incredulity, "is an argument I can resist no longer."

"Thar war Ben Jones, and Samuel Sharp, and Peter Small-eye, and a dozen
more, who all had a glimpse of him stalking through the woods, at
different times; and, they agree, he looks more like a devil nor a
mortal man,--a great tall fellow, with horns and a hairy head like a
buffalo-bull, and a little devil that looks like a black b'ar, that
walks before him to point out the way. He war always found in the
deepest forests, and that's the reason we call him Nick of the Woods;
wharby we mean _Old_ Nick of the Woods; for we hold him to be the devil,
though a friendly one to all but Injuns. Now, captain, I war never
superstitious in my life,--but I go my death on the Jibbenainosay! I
never seed the creatur' himself, but I have seen, in my time, two
different savages of his killing. It's a sure sign, if you see him in the
woods, that thar's Injuns at hand: and it's a good sign when you find his
mark without seeing himself, for then you may be sure the brutes are
off,--for they can't stand old Nick of the Woods no how! At first, he war
never h'ard of afar from our station; but he has begun to widen his
range. Last year he left his marks down Salt River in Jefferson; and now,
you see, he is striking game north of the Kentucky; and I've h'ard of
them that say he kills Shawnees even in their own country; though
consarning _that_ I'll not be so partickelar. No, no, Captain, thar's no
mistake in Nick of the Woods; and if you are so minded, we will go and
h'ar the whole news of him. But, I say, Tom," continued the Kentuckian,
as the three left the porch together, "who brought the news?"

"Captain Ralph,--Roaring Ralph Stackpole," replied Tom Bruce, with a
knowing and humorous look.

"What!" cried the father, in sudden alarm; "Look to the horses, Tom!"

"I will," said the youth, laughing: "it war no sooner known that Captain
Ralph war among us than it was resolved to have six Regulators in the
range all night! Thar's some of these new colts (not to speak of our own
creaturs), and especially that blooded brown beast of the captain's,
which the nigger calls Brown Briery, or some such name, would set a
better man than Roaring Ralph Stackpole's mouth watering."

"And who," said Roland, "is Roaring Ralph Stackpole? and what has he to
do with Brown Briarens?"

"A proper fellow as ever you saw," replied Tom, approvingly;--"killed
two Injuns once, single-handed, on Bear-Grass, and has stolen more horses
from them than ar' another man in Kentucky. A prime creatur'! but he has
his fault, poor fellow, and sometimes mistakes a Christian's horse for an
Injun's, thar's the truth of it!"

"And such scoundrels you make officers of?" demanded the soldier,
indignantly.

"Oh," said the elder Bruce, "thar's no reggelar commission in the case.
But whar thar's a knot of our poor folks out of horses, and inclined to
steal a lot from the Shawnees (which is all fa'r plundering, you see, for
thar's not a horse among them, the brutes, that they did not steal from
Kentucky), they send for Roaring Ralph and make him their captain; and a
capital one he is, too, being all fight from top to bottom; and as for
the stealing part, thar's no one can equal him. But, as Tom says, he
sometimes _does_ make mistakes, having stolen horses so often from the
Injuns, he can scarce keep his hands off a Christian's, and that makes us
wrathy."

By this time the speakers had reached the gate of the fort, and passed
among the cabins outside, where they found a throng of the villagers,
surrounding the captain of horse-thieves, and listening with great
edification to, and deriving no little amusement from, his account of the
last achievement of the Jibbenainosay. Of this, as it related no more
than the young Bruce had already repeated,--namely, that, while riding
that morning from the north side, he had stumbled upon the corse of an
Indian, which bore all the marks of having been a late victim to the
wandering demon of the woods,--we shall say nothing; but the appearance
and conduct of the narrator, one of the first, and perhaps the parent,
of the race of men who have made Salt River so renowned in story, were
such as to demand a less summary notice. He was stout, bandy-legged,
broad-shouldered, and bull-headed, ugly, and villanous of look; yet with
an impudent, swaggering, joyous self-esteem traced in every feature and
expressed in every action of body, that rather disposed the beholder to
laugh than to be displeased at his appearance. An old blanket-coat, or
wrap-rascal, once white, but now of the same muddy brown hue that stained
his visage--and once also of sufficient length to defend his legs, though
the skirts had long since been transferred to the cuffs and elbows, where
they appeared in huge patches--covered the upper part of his body; while
the lower boasted a pair of buckskin breeches and leather wrappers,
somewhat its junior in age, but its rival in mud and maculation. An old
round fur hat, intended originally for a boy, and only made to fit his
head by being slit in sundry places at the bottom, thus leaving a dozen
yawning gaps, through which, as through the chinks of a lattice, stole
out as many stiff bunches of black hair, gave to the capital excrescence
an air as ridiculous as it was truly uncouth; which was not a little
increased by the absence on one side of the brim, and by a loose fragment
of it hanging down on the other. To give something martial to an
appearance in other respects so outlandish and ludicrous, he had his
rifle, and other usual equipments of a woodsman, including the knife and
tomahawk, the first of which he carried in his hand, swinging it about at
every moment, with a vigour and apparent carelessness well fitted to
discompose a nervous person, had any such happened among his auditors. As
if there was not enough in his figure, visage, and attire to move the
mirth of beholders, he added to his other attractions a variety of
gestures and antics of the most extravagant kinds, dancing, leaping,
and dodging about, clapping his hands and cracking his heels together,
with the activity, restlessness, and, we may add, the grace, of a
jumping-jack. Such was the worthy, or unworthy, son of Salt River, a man
wholly unknown to history, though not to local and traditionary fame, and
much less to the then inhabitants of Bruce's Station, to whom he related
his news of the Jibbenainosay with that emphasis and importance of tone
and manner which are most significantly expressed in the phrase of
"laying down the law."

As soon as he saw the commander of the station approaching, he cleared
the throng around him by a skip and a hop, seized the colonel by the
hand, and doing the same with the soldier, before Boland could repel him,
as he would have done, exclaimed, "Glad to see you, cunnel;--same to you,
strannger--What's the news from Virginnie? Strannger, my name's Ralph
Stackpole, and I'm a ring-tailed squealer!"

"Then, Mr. Ralph Stackpole, the ring-tailed squealer," said Roland,
disengaging his hand, "be so good as to pursue your business, without
regarding or taking any notice of me."

"'Tarnal death to me!" cried the captain of horse-thieves, indignant at
the rebuff, "I'm a gentleman, and my name's _Fight_! Foot and hand, tooth
and nail, claw and mudscraper, knife, gun, and tomahawk, or any other way
you choose to take me, I'm your man! Cock-a-doodle-doo!" And with that
the gentleman jumped into the air, and flapped his wings, as much to the
amusement of the provoker of his wrath as of any other person present.

"Come, Ralph," said the commander of the Station, "whar'd' you steal that
brown mar' thar?"--a question whose abruptness somewhat quelled the
ferment of the man's fury, while it drew a roar of laughter from the
lookers-on.

"Thar it is!" said he, striking an attitude and clapping a hand on his
breast, like a man who felt his honour unjustly assailed. "Steal! _I_
steal any horse but an Injun's! Whar's the man dar's insinivate that?
Blood and massacree-ation! whar's the man?"

"H'yar," said Bruce, very composedly. "I know that old mar' belongs to
Peter Harper, on the north side."

"You're right, by Hooky!" cried Roaring Ralph; at which seeming admission
of his knavery the merriment of the spectators was greatly increased; nor
was it much lessened when the fellow proceeded to aver that he had
borrowed it, and that with the express stipulation that it should be left
at Bruce's Station, subject to the orders of its owner. "Thar, cunnel,"
said he, "thar's the beast; take it; and just tell me whar's the one you
mean to lend me,--for I must be oft afore sunset."

"And whar are you going?" demanded Bruce.

"To St. Asaphis,"--which was a Station some twenty or thirty miles
off,--replied Captain Stackpole.

"Too far for the Regulators to follow, Ralph," said Colonel Bruce; at
which the young men present laughed louder than ever, and eyed the
visitor in a way that seemed both to disconcert and offend him.

"Cunnel," said he, "you're a man in authority, and my superior officer;
wharfo' thar' can be no scalping between us. But my name's Tom Dowdle,
the ragman!" he screamed, suddenly skipping into the thickest of the
throng, and sounding a note of defiance; "my name's Tom Dowdle, the
ragman, and I'm for any man that insults me! log-leg or leather-breeches,
green-shirt or blanket-coat, land-trotter or river-roller,--I'm the man
for a massacree!" Then giving himself a twirl upon his foot that would
have done credit to a dancing-master, he proceeded to other antic
demonstrations of hostility, which when performed in after years on the
banks of the Lower Mississippi, by himself and his worthy imitators,
were, we suspect, the cause of their receiving the name of the mighty
alligator. It is said, by naturalists, of this monstrous reptile, that he
delights, when the returning warmth of spring has brought his fellows
from their holes, and placed them basking along the banks of a swampy
lagoon, to dart into the centre of the expanse, and challenge the whole
field to combat. He roars, he blows the water from his nostrils, he
lashes it with his tail, he whirls round and round, churning the water
into foam; until, having worked himself into a proper fury, he darts back
again to the shore, to seek an antagonist. Had the gallant captain of
horse-thieves boasted the blood, as he afterwards did the name, of an
"alligator half-breed," he could have scarce conducted himself in a way
more worthy of his parentage. He leaped into the centre of the throng,
where, having found elbow-room for his purpose, he performed the gyration
mentioned before, following it up by other feats expressive of his
hostile humour. He flapped his wings and crowed, until every chanticleer
in the settlement replied to the note of battle; he snorted and neighed
like a horse; he bellowed like a bull; he barked like a dog; he yelled
like an Indian; he whined like a panther; he howled like a wolf; until
one would have thought he was a living managerie, comprising within his
single body the spirit of every animal noted for its love of conflict.
Then, not content with such a display of readiness to fight the field,
he darted from the centre of the area allowed him for his exercise,
and invited the lookers-on individually to battle. "Whar's your
buffalo-bull," he cried, "to cross horns with the roarer of Salt River?
Whar's your full-blood colt that can shake a saddle off? h'yar's an old
nag can kick off the top of a buck-eye! Whar's your cat of the Knobs?
your wolf of the Rolling Prairies? h'yar's the old brown b'ar can claw
the bark off a gum tree! H'yar's a man for you, Tom Bruce! Same to you,
Sim Roberts! to you, Jimmy Big-nose! to you, and to you, and to you!
Ar'n't I a ring-tailed squealer? Can go down Salt on my back, and swim up
the Ohio! Whar's the man to fight Roaring Ralph Stackpole?"

Now, whether it happened that there were none present inclined to a
contest with such a champion, or whether it was that the young men looked
upon the exhibition as a mere bravado meant rather to amuse them than
irritate, it so occurred that not one of them accepted the challenge;
though each, when personally called on, did his best to add to the
roarer's fury, if fury it really were, by letting off sundry jests in
relation to borrowed horses and Regulators.[3] That the fellow's rage was
in great part assumed, Roland, who was, at first, somewhat amused at his
extravagance, became soon convinced; and growing at last weary of it, he
was about to signify to his host his inclination to return into the fort,
when the appearance of another individual on the ground suddenly gave
promise of new entertainment.

[Footnote 3: It is scarce necessary to inform the reader that by
this term must be understood those public-spirited citizens, amateur
jack-ketches, who administer Lynch-law in districts where regular law
is but inefficiently, or not at all, established.]



CHAPTER IV.


"If you're ralely ripe for a fight, Roaring Ralph," cried Tom Bruce the
younger, who had shown, like the others, a greater disposition to jest
than to do battle with the champion, "here comes the very man for you.
Look, boys, thar comes Bloody Nathan!" At which formidable name there was
a loud shout set up, with an infinite deal of laughing and clapping of
hands.

"Whar's the fellow?" cried Captain Stackpole, springing six feet into the
air, and uttering a whoop of anticipated triumph. "I've heerd of the
brute, and, 'tarnal death to me, but I'm his super-superior! Show me tho
critter, and let me fly! Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

"Hurrah for Roaring Ralph Stackpole!" cried the young men, some of whom
proceeded to pat him on the back in compliment to his courage, while
others ran forward to hasten the approach of the expected antagonist.

The appearance of the comer, at a distance, promised an equal match to
tho captain of horse-thieves; but Roland perceived, from the increase of
merriment among the Kentuckians, and especially from his host joining
heartily in it, that there was more in Bloody Nathan than met the eye.
And yet there was enough in his appearance to attract attention, and to
convince the soldier that if Kentucky had shown him, in Captain
Stackpole, one extraordinary specimen of her inhabitants, she had others
to exhibit not a whit less remarkable. It is on the frontiers, indeed,
where adventurers from every corner of the world, and from every circle
of society are thrown together, that we behold the strongest contrasts,
and the strangest varieties, of human character.

Casting his eyes down the road, or street (for it was flanked by the
outer cabins of the settlement, and perhaps deserved the latter name),
which led, among stumps and gullies, from the gate of the stockade to the
bottom of the hill, Forrester beheld a tall man approaching, leading an
old lame white horse, at the heels of which followed a little silky
haired black or brown dog, dragging its tail betwixt its legs, in
compliment to the curs of the Station, which seemed as hospitably
inclined to spread a field of battle for the submissive brute, as their
owners were to make ready another for its master. The first thing that
surprised the soldier in the appearance of the person bearing so
formidable a name, was an incongruity which struck others as well as
himself, even the colonel of militia exclaiming, as he pointed it out
with his finger, "It's old Nathan Slaughter, to the backbone! Thar he
comes, the brute, leading a horse in his hand, and carrying his pack on
his own back! But he's a marciful man, Old Nathan, and the horse thar,
old White Dobbin, war foundered and good for nothing ever since the boys
made a race with him against Sammy Parker's jackass."

As he approached yet higher, Roland perceived that his tall, gaunt figure
was arrayed in garments of leather from top to toe, even his cap, or hat
(for such it seemed, having several broad flaps suspended by strings, so
as to serve the purpose of a brim), being composed of fragments of tanned
skins rudely sewed together. His upper garment differed from a hunting
shirt only in wanting the fringes usually appended to it, and in being
fashioned without any regard to the body it encompassed, so that in
looseness and shapelessness, it looked more like a sack than a human
vestment; and, like his breeches and leggings, it bore the marks of the
most reverend antiquity, being covered with patches and stains of all
ages, sizes, and colours.

Thus far Bloody Nathan's appearance was not inconsistent with his name,
being uncommonly wild and savage; and to assist in maintaining his claims
to the title, he had a long rifle on his shoulder, and a knife in his
belt, both of which were in a state of dilapidation worthy of his other
equipments; the knife, from long use and age, being worn so thin that it
seemed scarce worthy the carrying, while the rifle boasted a stock so
rude, shapeless, and, as one would have judged from its magnitude and
weight, so unserviceable, that it was easy to believe it had been
constructed by the unskilful hands of Nathan himself. His visage, seeming
to belong to a man of at least forty-five or fifty years of age, was
hollow, and almost as weather-worn as his apparel, with a long hooked
nose, prominent chin, a wide mouth exceedingly straight and pinched, with
a melancholy or contemplative twist at the corners, and a pair of black
staring eyes, that beamed a good-natured, humble, and perhaps submissive,
simplicity of disposition. His gait, too, as he stumbled along up the
hill, with a shuffling, awkward, hesitating step, was like that of a man
who apprehended injury and insult, and who did not possess the spirit
to resist them. The fact, moreover, of his sustaining on his own
shoulders a heavy pack of deer and other skins, to relieve the miserable
horse which he led, betokened a merciful temper, scarce compatible with
the qualities of a man of war and contention. Another test and criterion
by which Roland judged his claims to the character of a roarer, he found
in the little black dog; for the Virginian was a devout believer, as we
are ourselves, in that maxim of practical philosophers, namely, that by
the dog you shall know the master, the one being fierce, magnanimous, and
cowardly, just as his master is a bully, a gentleman, or a dastard. The
little dog of Nathan was evidently a coward, creeping along at White
Dobbin's heels, and seeming to supplicate with his tail, which now
draggled in the mud, and now attempted a timid wag, that his fellow-curs
of the Station should not be rude and inhospitable to a peaceful
stranger.

On the whole, the appearance of the man was anything in the world but
that of the ferocious ruffian whom the nick-name had led Roland to
anticipate; and he scarce knew whether to pity him, or to join in the
laugh with which the young men of the settlement greeted his approach.
Perhaps his sense of the ridiculous would have disposed the young soldier
to merriment; but the wistful look with which, while advancing, Nathan
seemed to deprecate the insults he evidently expected, spoke volumes of
reproach to his spirit, and the half-formed smile faded from his
countenance.

"Thar!" exclaimed Tom Bruce, slapping Stackpole on the shoulder, with
great glee, "thar's the man that calls himself Dannger! At him, for the
honour of Salt River; but take care of his forelegs, for, I tell you,
he's the Pennsylvany war-horse!"

"And arn't I the ramping tiger of the Rolling Fork?" cried Captain Ralph;
"and can't I eat him, hoss, dog, dirty jacket, and all? Hold me by the
tail while I devour him!"

With that, he executed two or three escapades, demivoltes curvets, and
other antics of a truly equine character, an galloping up to the amazed
Nathan, saluted him with a neigh so shrill and hostile that even White
Dobbin pricked up his ears, and betrayed other symptoms of alarm.

"Surely, Colonel," said Roland, "you will not allow that mad ruffian to
assail the poor man?"

"Oh," said Bruce, "Ralph won't hurt him; he's never vicious, except among
Injuns and horses. He's only for skearing the old feller."

"And who," said Forrester, "may the old fellow be? and why do you call
him Bloody Nathan?"

"We call him Bloody Nathan," replied the commander, "because he's the
only man in all Kentucky that _won't fight_! and thar's the way he beats
us all hollow. Lord, Captain, you'd hardly believe it, but he's nothing
more than a poor Pennsylvany Quaker; and what brought him out to
Kentucky, whar thar's nar another creatur' of his tribe, thar's no
knowing. Some say he war dishonest, and so had to cut loose from
Pennsylvany; but I never heerd of his stealing anything in Kentucky; I
reckon thar's too much of the chicken about him for that. Some say he is
hunting rich lands; which war like enough for anybody that war not so
poor and lazy. And some say his wits are unsettled, and I hold that
that's the truth of the creatur'; for he does nothing but go wandering up
and down the country, now h'yar and now thar, hunting for meat and skins;
and that's pretty much the way he makes a living: and once I see'd the
creatur' have a fit--a right up-and-down touch of the falling-sickness,
with his mouth all of a foam. Thar's them that's good-natur'd that calls
him Wandering Nathan, because of his being h'yar and thar, and every
whar. He don't seem much afear'd of the Injuns; but, they say, the red
brutes never disturbs the Pennsylvany Quakers. Howsomever, he makes
himself useful; for sometimes he finds Injun sign whar thar's no Injuns
thought of, and so he gives information; but he always does it, as he
says, to save bloodshed, not to bring on a fight. He comes to me once,
thar's more than three years ago, and instead of saying, 'Cunnel, thar's
twenty Injuns lying on the road at the lower ford of Salt, whar you may
nab them,' says he, says he, 'Friend Thomas, thee must keep the people
from going nigh the ford, for thar's Injuns thar that will hurt them;'
and then he takes himself off; whilst I rides down thar with twenty-five
men and exterminates them, killing six, and driving the others the Lord
knows whar. He has had but a hard time of it amongst us, poor creatur';
for it used to make us wrathy to find thar war so little fight in him
that he wouldn't so much as kill a murdering Injun. I took his gun from
him once; for why, he wouldn't attend muster when I had enrolled him. But
I pitied the brute; for he war poor, and thar war but little corn in his
cabin, and nothing to shoot meat with; and so I gave it back, and told
him to take his own ways for an old fool."

While Colonel Bruce was thus delineating the character of Nathan
Slaughter, the latter found himself surrounded by the young men of the
Station, the butt of a thousand jests, and the victim of the insolence of
the captain of horse-thieves. It is not to be supposed that Roaring Ralph
was really the bully and madman that his extravagant freaks and
expressions seemed to proclaim him. These, like any other "actions that a
man might play," were assumed, partly because it suited his humour to be
fantastic, and partly because the putting of his antic disposition on,
was the only means which he, like many of his betters, possessed of
attracting attention, and avoiding the neglect and contempt to which his
low habits and appearance would have otherwise justly consigned him.
There was, therefore, little really hostile in the feelings with which he
approached the non-combatant; though it was more than probable, the
disgust he, in common with the other warlike personages, entertained
toward the peaceable Nathan, might have rendered him a little more
malicious than usual.

"Nathan!" said he, as soon as he had concluded his neighing and
curvetting, "if you ever said your prayers, now's the time. Down with
your pack--for I can't stand deer's ha'r sticking in my swallow, no how!"

"Friend," said Nathan, meekly, "I beg thee will not disturb me. I am a
man of peace and quiet."

And so saying, he endeavoured to pass onwards, but was prevented by
Ralph, who, seizing his heavy bundle with one hand, applied his right
foot to it with a dexterity that not only removed it from the poor man's
back, but sent the dried skins scattering over the road. This feat was
rewarded by the spectators with loud shouts, all which, as well as the
insult itself, Nathan bore with exemplary patience.

"Friend," he said, "what does thee seek of me, that thee treats me thus?"

"A fight!" replied Captain Stackpole, uttering a war-whoop; "a fight,
strannger, for the love of heaven!"

"Thee seeks it of the wrong person," said Nathan; "and I beg thee will
get thee away,"

"What!" said Stackpole, "arn't thee the Pennsylvanny war-horse, the
screamer of the meeting-house, the ba'r of Yea-Nay-and-Verily?"

"I am a man of peace," said the submissive Slaughter.

"Yea verily, verily and yea!" cried Ralph, snuffling through the
nostrils, but assuming an air of extreme indignation: "Strannger, I've
heerd of you! You're the man that holds it agin duty and conscience to
kill Injuns, the redskin screamers--that refuses to defend the women, the
splendiferous creatur's! and the little children, the squall-a-baby
d'avs! And wharfo'? Bec'ause as how you're a man of peace and no fight,
you superiferous, long-legged, no-souled crittur! But I'm the gentleman
to make a man of you. So down with your gun, and 'tarnal death to me,
I'll whip the cowardly devil out of you."

"Friend," said Nathan, his humility yielding to a feeling of contempt,
"thee is theeself a cowardly person, or thee wouldn't seek a quarrel with
one thee knows can't fight thee Thee would not be so ready with thee
match."

With that, he stooped to gather up his skins, a proceeding that
Stackpole, against whom the laugh was turned by this sally of Nathan's,
resisted by catching him by the nape of the neck, twirling him round, and
making as if he really would have beaten him.

Even this the peaceful Nathan bore without anger or murmuring; but his
patience fled, when Stackpole, turning to the little dog, which was
bristling its back and growling, expressed a half inclination to take up
its master's quarrel, applied his foot to its ribs with a violence that
sent it rolling some five or six yards down the hill, where it lay for a
time yelping and whining with pain.

"Friend!" said Nathan, sternly, "thee is but a dog theeself, to harm the
creature! What will thee have with me?"

"A fight! a fight, I tell thee!" replied Captain Ralph, "till I teach thy
leatherified conscience the new doctrines of Kentucky."

"Fight thee I cannot and dare not," said Nathan; and then added, much to
the surprise of Forrester, who, sharing, his indignation at the brutality
of his tormentor, had approached to drive the fellow off,--"But if thee
must have thee deserts, thee _shall_ have them.--Thee prides theeself
upon thee courage and strength--will thee adventure with me a friendly
fall?"

"Hurrah for Nathan!" cried the young men, vastly delighted at his
unwonted spirit, while Captain Ralph himself expressed his pleasure, by
leaping into the air, crowing, and dashing off his hat, which he kicked
down the hill with as much good will as he had previously bestowed upon
the little dog.

"Off with your leather night-cap, and down with your rifle," he cried,
giving his own weapon into the hands of a looker-on, "and scrape some of
the grease off your jacket; for, 'tarnal death to me, I shall give you
the Virginny lock, fling you head-fo'most, and you'll find yourself, in a
twinkling, sticking fast right in the centre of the 'arth!"

"Thee may find theeself mistaken," said Nathan, giving up his gun to one
of the young men, but instead of rejecting his hat, pulling it down tight
over his brows. "There is locks taught among the mountains of Bedford
that may be as good as them learned on the hills of Virginia.--I am ready
for thee."

"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" cried Ralph Stackpole, springing towards his man,
and clapping his hands, one on Nathan's left shoulder, the other on his
right hip: "Are you ready?"

"I am," replied Nathan.

"Down, then, you go, war you a buffalo!" And with that the captain of the
horse-thieves put forth his strength, which was very great, in an effort
that appeared to Roland quite irresistible; though, as it happened, it
scarce moved Nathan from his position.

"Thee is mistaken, friend!" he cried, exerting his strength in return,
and with an effect that no one had anticipated. By magic, as it seemed,
the heels of the captain of the horse-thieves were suddenly seen flying
in the air, his head aiming at the earth, upon which it as suddenly
descended with the violence of a bomb-shell; and there it would doubtless
have burrowed, like the aforesaid implement of destruction, had the soil
been soft enough for the purpose, or exploded into a thousand fragments,
had not the shell been double the thickness of an ordinary skull.

"Huzza! Bloody Nathan for ever!" shouted the delighted villagers.

"He has killed the man," said Forrester; "but bear witness, all, the
fellow provoked his fate."

"Thanks to you, strannger! but not so dead as you reckon," said Ralph,
rising to his feet, and scratching his poll, with a stare of comical
confusion. "I say, strannger, here's my shoulders,--but whar's my
head?--Do you reckon I had the worst of it?"

"Huzza for Nathan Slaughter! He has whipped the ramping tiger of Salt
River!" cried the young men of the Station.

"Well, I reckon he has," said the magnanimous Captain Ralph, picking
up his hat: then walking up to Nathan, who had taken his dog into his
arms, to examine into the little animal's hurts, he cried, with much
good-humoured energy,--"Thar's my fo'paw, in token I've had enough of you
and want no mo'. But I say, Nathan Slaughter," he added, as he grasped
the victor's hand, "it's no thing you can boast of, to be the strongest
man in Kentucky, and the most sevagarous at a tussel,--h'yar among
murdering Injuns and scalping runnegades,--and keep your fists off their
top-knots. Thar's my idear: for I go for the doctrine that every
able-bodied man should sarve his country and his neighbours, and fight
their foes; and them that does is men and gentlemen, and them that don't
is cowards and rascals, that's my idear. And so, fawwell."

Then, executing another demivolte or two, but with much less spirit than
he had previously displayed, he returned to Colonel Bruce, saying,
"Whar's that horse you promised me, cunnel? I'm a licked man, and I can't
stay here no longer, no way no how. Lend me a hoss, cunnel, and trust to
my honour."

"You shall have a beast," said Bruce, coolly; "but as to trusting your
honour, I shall do no such thing, having something much better to rely
on. Tom will show you a horse; and, remember, you are to leave him at
Logan's. If you carry him a step further, captain, you'll never carry
another. Judge Lynch is looking at you; and so bewar'."

Having uttered this hint, he left the captian of horse-thieves to digest
it as he might, and stepped up to Nathan, who had seated himself on a
stump, where, with his skins at his side, his little dog and his rifle
betwixt his legs, he sat enduring a thousand sarcastic encomiums on his
strength and spirit, with as many sharp denunciations of the peaceful
principles that robbed the community of the services he had shown himself
so well able to render. The doctrine, so eloquently avowed by Captain
Ralph, that it was incumbent upon every able-bodied man to fight the
enemies of their little state, the murderers of their wives and children,
was a canon of belief imprinted on the heart of every man in the
district; and Nathan's failure to do so, however caused by his
conscientious aversion to bloodshed, no more excused him from contempt
and persecution in the wilderness, than it did others of his persuasion
in the Eastern republics, during the war of the revolution. His
appearance, accordingly, at any Station, was usually the signal for
reproach and abuse; the fear of which had driven him almost altogether
from the society of his fellowmen, so that he was seldom seen among them,
except when impelled by necessity, or when his wanderings in the woods
had acquainted him with the proximity of the foes of his persecutors. His
victory over the captain of horse-thieves exposed him, on this occasion,
to ruder and angrier remonstrances than usual; which having sought in
vain to avert, he sat down in despair, enduring all in silence, staring
from one to another of his tormentors with lack-lustre eyes, and playing
with the silken hair of his dog. The approach of the captain of the
Station procured him an interval of peace, which he, however, employed
only to communicate his troubles to the little cur, that, in his
perplexity, he had addressed pretty much as he would have addressed a
human friend and adviser: "Well, Peter," said he, abstractedly, and with
a heavy sigh, "what does _thee_ think of matters and things!" To which
question, the ridiculousness of which somewhat mollified the anger of the
young men, Peter replied by rubbing his nose against his master's hand,
and by walking a step or two down the hill, as if advising an instant
retreat from the inhospitable Station.

"Ay, Peter," muttered Nathan, "the sooner we go the better; for there are
none that makes us welcome. But nevertheless, Peter, we must have our
lead and our powder; and we must tell these poor people the news."

"And pray, Nathan," said Colonel Bruce, rousing him from his meditations,
"what may your news for the poor people be? I reckon it will be much
wiser to tell it to me than that 'ar brute dog. You have seen the
Jibbenainosay, perhaps, or his mark thar-away on the Kentucky?"

"Nay," said Nathan. "But there is news from the Injun towns of a great
gathering of Injuns with their men of war in the Miami villages, who
design, the evil creatures, marching into the district of Kentucky with a
greater army than was ever seen in the land before."

"Let them come, the brutes," said the Kentuckian, with a laugh of scorn;
"it will save us the trouble of hunting them up in their own towns."

"Nay," said Nathan, "but perhaps they _have_ come; for the prisoner who
escaped, and who is bearing the news to friend Clark, the General at the
Falls, says they were to march two days after he fled from them."

"And whar did you learn this precious news?"

"At the lower fort of Kentucky, and from the man himself," said Nathan.
"He had warned the settlers at Lexington--"

"That's piper's news," interrupted one of the young men. "Captain Ralph
told us all about that; but he said thar war nobody at Lexington believed
the story."

"Then," said Nathan, meekly, "it may be that the man was mistaken. Yet
persons should have a care, for there is Injun sign all along the
Kentucky. But that is my story. And now, friend Thomas, if thee will give
me lead and powder for my skins, I will be gone, and trouble thee no
longer."

"It's a sin and a shame to waste them on a man who only employs them to
kill deer, b'ar, and turkey," said Bruce, "yet a man musn't starve, even
whar he's a quaker. So go you along with my son Dick thar, to the store,
and he'll give you the value of your plunder. A poor, miserable brute,
thar's no denying," he continued, contemptuously, as Nathan, obeying the
direction, followed Bruce's second son into the fortress. "The man has
some spirit now and then; but whar's the use of it, while he's nothing
but a no-fight quaker? I tried to reason him out of his notions; but thar
war no use in trying, no how I could work it. I have an idea about these
quakers--"

But here, luckily, the worthy Colonel's idea was suddenly put to flight
by the appearance of Telie Doe, who came stealing through the throng, to
summon him to his evening meal,--a call which neither he nor his guest
was indisposed to obey; and taking Telie by the hand in a paternal
manner, he ushered the young soldier back into the fort.

The girl, Roland observed, had changed her attire at the bidding of her
protector, and now, though dressed with the greatest simplicity, appeared
to more advantage than before. He thought her, indeed, quite handsome,
and pitying her more than orphan condition, he endeavoured to show her
such kindness as was in his power, by addressing to her some
complimentary remarks, as he walked along at her side. His words,
however, only revived the terror she seemed really to experience,
whenever any one accosted her; seeing which, he desisted, doubting if she
deserved the compliment the benevolent Bruce had so recently paid to her
good sense.



CHAPTER V.

The evening meal being concluded, and a few brief moments devoted to
conversation with her new friends, Edith was glad, when, at a hint from
her kinsman as to the early hour appointed for setting out on the morrow,
she was permitted to seek the rest of which she stood in need. Her
chamber--and, by a rare exercise of hospitality, the merit of which she
appreciated, since she was sensible it could not have been made without
sacrifice, she occupied it alone--boasted few of the luxuries, few even
of the comforts, to which she had been accustomed in her native land, and
her father's house. But misfortune had taught her spirit humility; and
the recollection of nights passed in the desert, with only a thin
mattress betwixt her and the naked earth, and a little tent-cloth and
the boughs of trees to protect her from inclement skies, caused her to
regard her present retreat with such feelings of satisfaction as she
might have indulged if in the chamber of a palace.

She was followed to the apartment by a bevy of the fair Bruces, all
solicitous to render her such assistance as they could, and all, perhaps,
equally anxious to indulge their admiration, for the second or third
time, over the slender store of finery, which Edith good-naturedly opened
to their inspection. In this way the time fled amain until Mrs. Bruce,
more considerate than her daughters, and somewhat scandalised by the loud
commendations which they passed on sundry articles of dress such as were
never before seen in Kentucky, rushed into the chamber, and drove them
manfully away.

"Poor, ignorant critturs!" said she, by way of apology, "they knows no
better: thar's the mischief of being raised in the back-woods. They'll
never l'arn to be genteel, thar's so many common persons comes out here
with their daughters. I'm sure, I do my best to l'arn 'em."

With these words she tendered her own good offices to Edith, which the
young lady declining with many thanks, she bade her good-night, and, to
Edith's great relief, left her to herself. A few moments then sufficed to
complete her preparations for slumber, which being effected, she threw
herself on her knees, to implore the further favour of the orphan's
Friend, who had conducted her so far in safety on her journey.

Whilst thus engaged, her mind absorbed in the solemn duty, she failed to
note that another visitor had softly stolen into the apartment; and
accordingly, when she rose from her devotions, and beheld a female figure
standing in the distance, though regarding her with both reverence and
timidity, she could not suppress an exclamation of alarm.

"Do not be afraid,--it is only Telie Doe," said the visitor, with a low
and trembling voice: "I thought you would want some one to--to take the
candle."

"You are very good," replied Edith, who, having scarcely before observed
the humble and retiring maid, and supposing her to be one of her host's
children, had little doubt she had stolen in to indulge her curiosity,
like the others, although at so late a moment as to authorise a little
cruelty on the part of the guest. "I am very tired and sleepy," she said,
creeping into bed, hoping that the confession would be understood and
accepted as an apology. She then, seeing that Telie did not act upon the
hint, intimated that she had no further occasion for the light, and bade
her good-night. But Telie, instead of departing, maintained her stand at
the little rude table, where, besides the candle, were several articles
of apparel that Edith had laid out in readiness for the morning, and upon
which she thought the girl's eyes were fixed.

"If you had come a little earlier," said Edith, with unfailing
good-nature, "I should have been glad to show you anything I have.
But now, indeed, it is too late, and all my packages are made up--"

"It is not _that_," interrupted the maiden hastily, but with trepidation.
"No, I did not want to trouble you. But--"

"But what?" demanded Edith, with surprise, yet with kindness, for she
observed the agitation of the speaker.

"Lady," said Telie, mustering resolution, and stepping to the bed-side,
"if you will not be angry with me, I would, I would--"

"You would ask a favour, perhaps," said Edith, encouraging her with a
smile.

"Yes, that is it," replied the girl, dropping on her knees, not so much,
however, as it appeared, from abasement of spirit, as to bring her lips
nearer to Edith's ear, that she might speak in a lower voice. "I know,
from what they say, you are a great lady, and that you once had many
people to wait upon you; and now you are in the wild woods, among
strangers, and none about you but men." Edith replied with a sigh, and
Telie, timorously grasping at the hand lying nearest her own, murmured
eagerly, "If you would but take _me_ with you, I am used to the woods,
and I would be your servant."

"_You_!" exclaimed Edith, her surprise getting the better of her sadness.
"Your mother would surely never consent to your being a servant?"

"My mother?" muttered Telie,--"I have no mother,--no relations."

"What! Mr. Bruce is not then your father?"

"No,--I have no father. Yes,--that is, I have a father; but he has,--he
has turned Indian."

These words were whispered rather than spoken, yet whispered with a tone
of grief and shame that touched Edith's feelings. Her pity was expressed
in her countenance, and Telie, reading the gentle sympathy infused into
every lovely feature, bent over the hand she had clasped, and touched it
with her lips.

"I have told you the truth," she said, mournfully: "one like me should
not be ashamed to be a servant. And so, lady, if you will take me, I will
go with you and serve you; and poor and ignorant as I am, I _can_ serve
you,--yes, ma'am," she added, eagerly, "I can serve you more and better
than you think,--indeed, indeed I can."

"Alas, poor child," said Edith, "I am one who must learn to do without
attendance and service. I have no home to give you."

"I have heard it all," said Telie; "but I can live in the woods with you,
till you have a house; and then I can work for you, and you'll never
regret taking me,--no, indeed, for I know all that's to be done by a
woman in a new land, and you don't; and, indeed, if you have none to help
you, it would kill you, it would indeed: for it is a hard, hard time in
the woods, for a woman that has been brought up tenderly."

"Alas, child," said Edith, perhaps a little pettishly, for she liked not
to dwell upon such gloomy anticipations, "why should you be discontented
with the home you have already? Surely, there are none here unkind to
you?"

"No," replied the maiden, "they are very good to me, and Mr. Bruce has
been a father to me. But then I am _not_ his child, and it is wrong of me
to live upon him, who has so many children of his own. And then my
father--all talk of my father; all the people here hate him, though he
has never done them harm, and I know,--yes, I know it well enough, though
they won't believe it,--that he keeps the Indians from hurting them; but
they hate him and curse him; and oh! I wish I was away, where I should
never hear them speak of him more. Perhaps they don't know anything about
him at the Falls, and then there will be nobody to call me the white
Indian's daughter."

"And does Mr. Bruce, or his wife, know of your desire to leave him?"

"No," said Telie, her terrors reviving; "but if you should ask them for
me, then they would agree to let me go. He told the Captain,--that's
Captain Forrester,--he would do any thing for him; and indeed he would,
for he is a good man, and he will do what he says."

"How strange, how improper, nay, how ungrateful then, if he be a good
man," said Edith, "that you should wish to leave him and his kind
family, to live among persons entirely unknown. Be content, my poor maid.
You have little save imaginary evils to affect you. You are happier here
than you can be among strangers."

Telie clasped her hands in despair: "I shall never be happy here,
nor anywhere. But take me," she added eagerly, "take me for your own
sake;--for it will be good for you to have me with you in the woods,--it
will, indeed it will."

"It cannot be," said Edith, gently. But the maiden would scarce take a
refusal. Her terrors had been dissipated by her having ventured so far on
speech, and she now pursued her object with an imploring and passionate
earnestness that both surprised and embarrassed Edith, while it increased
her sympathy for the poor bereaved pleader. She endeavoured to convince
her, if not of the utter folly of her desires, at least of the
impossibility there was on her part of granting them. She succeeded,
however, in producing conviction only on one point. Telie perceived that
her suit was not to be granted; of when, as soon as she was satisfied,
she left off entreaty, and rose to her feet with a saddened and humbled
visage, and then, taking up the candle, she left the fair stranger to her
repose.

In the meanwhile, Roland also was preparing for slumber; and finding, as
indeed he could not avoid seeing, that the hospitality of his host had
placed the males of the family under the necessity of taking their rest
in the open air on the porch, he insisted upon passing the night in the
same place in their company. In fact, the original habitation of the
back-woodsman seldom boasted more than two rooms in all, and these none
of the largest; and when emigrants arrived at a Station, there was little
attempt made to find shelter for any save their women and children, to
whom the men of the settlement readily gave up their own quarters, to
share those of their male visitors under the blanket-tents which were
spread before the doors. This, to men who had thus passed the nights for
several weeks in succession, was anything but hardship; and when the
weather was warm and dry, they could congratulate themselves on sleeping
in greater comfort than, their sheltered companions. Of this Forrester
was well aware, and he took an early period to communicate his resolution
of rejecting the unmanly luxury of a bed, and sleeping like a soldier,
wrapped in his cloak, with his saddle for a pillow. In this way, the
night proving unexpectedly sultry, he succeeded in enjoying more
delightful and refreshing slumbers than blessed his kinswoman in her
bed of down. The song of the katydid and the cry of the whippoorwill
came more sweetly to his ears from the adjacent woods; and the breeze
that had stirred a thousand leagues of forest in its flight, whispered
over his cheek with a more enchanting music than it made among the
chinks and crannies of the wall by Edith's bed-side. A few idle
dreams,--recollections of home, mingled with the anticipated scenes
of the future, the deep forest, the wild beast, and the lurking
Indian,--amused, without harassing, his sleeping mind; and it was not
until the first gray of dawn that he experienced any interruption. He
started up suddenly, his ears still tingling with the soft tones of an
unknown voice, which had whispered in them, "Cross the river by the Lower
Ford,--there is danger at the Upper." He stared around, but saw nothing
all was silent around him, save the deep breathing of the sleepers at his
side. "Who spoke?" he demanded in a whisper, but received no reply.
"River,--Upper and Lower Ford,--danger?--" he muttered: "now I would have
sworn some one spoke to me; and yet I must have dreamed it. Strange
things, dreams,--thoughts in freedom, loosed from the chains of
association,--temporary mad-fits, undoubtedly: marvellous impressions
they produce on the organs of sense; see, hear, smell, taste, touch, more
exquisitely _without_ the organs than _with_ them--What's the use of
organs? There's the poser--I think--I--" but here he ceased thinking
altogether, his philosophy having served the purpose such philosophy
usually does, and wrapped him a second time in the arms of Morpheus. He
opened his eyes almost immediately, as he thought; but his morning nap
had lasted half an hour; the dawn was already purple and violet in the
sky, his companions had left his side, and the hum of voices and the
sound of footsteps in and around the Station, told him that his
fellow-exiles were already preparing to resume their journey.

"A brave morrow to you, captain!" said the commander of the fortress, the
thunder of whose footsteps, as he approached the house with uncommonly
fierce strides, had perhaps broken his slumbers. A frown was on his brow,
and the grasp of his hand, in which every finger seemed doing the duty of
a boa-constrictor, spoke of a spirit up in arms, and wrestling with
passion.

"What is the matter?" asked Roland.

"Matter that consarns you and me more than any other two persons in the
etarnal world!" said Bruce, with such energy of utterance as nothing-but
rage could supply. "Thar has been a black wolf in the pin-fold,--_alias_,
as they used to say at the court-house, Captain Ralph Stackpole; and
the end of it is, war I never to tell another truth in my life, that your
blooded brown horse has absquatulated!"

"_Absquatulated!"_ echoed Forrester, amazed as much at the word as at the
fierce visage of his friend,--"what is that? Is the horse hurt?"

"Stolen away, sir, by the etarnal Old Scratch! Carried off by Roaring
Ralph Stackpole, while I, like a brute, war sound a-sleeping! And h'yar's
the knavery of the thing; sir! the unpronounceable rascality, sir!--I
loaned the brute one of my own critturs, just to be rid of him, and have
him out of harm's way; for I had a forewarning, the brute, that his mouth
war a-watering after the Dew beasts in the pinfold, and after the brown
horse in partickelar! And so I loaned him a horse, and sent him off to
Logan's. Well, sir, and what does the brute do but ride off, for a
make-believe, to set us easy; for he knew, the brute, if he war in sight
of us, we should have had guards over the cattle all night long; well,
sir, down he sot in ambush, till all were quiet; and then he stole back,
and turning my own horse among the others, as if to say, 'Thar's the
beast that I borrowed,'--it war a wonder the brute war so honest!--picked
the best of the gathering, your blooded brown horse, sir! and all the
while, I war sleeping like a brute, and leaving the guest in my own house
to be robbed by Captain Ralph Stackpole, the villian!"

"If it be possible to follow the rascal," said Roland, giving way to
wrath himself, "I must do so, and without a moment's delay. I would to
heaven I had known this earlier."

"Whar war the use," said Bruce; "whar was the use of disturbing a tired
man in his nap, and he a guest of mine too?"

"The advantage would have been," said Roland, a little testily, "that the
pursuit could have been instantly begun."

"And war it _not_?" said the colonel. "Thar war not two minutes lost
after the horse war missing, afore my son Tom and a dozen more of the
best woodsmen war mounted on the fleetest horses in the settlement, and
galloping after, right on the brute's trail."

"Thanks, my friend," said Roland, with a cordial grasp of the hand. "The
horse will be recovered?"

"Thar's no denying it," said Bruce, "if a fresh leg can outrun a weary
one; and besides, the brute war not content with the best horse, but he
must have the second best too, that's Major Smalleye's two-y'ar-old pony.
He has an eye for a horse, the etarnal skirmudgeon! but the pony will be
the death of him; for he's skeary, and will keep Ralph slow in the path.
No, sir; we'll have your brown horse before you can say Jack Robinson.
But the intolerability of the thing, sir, is that Ralph Stackpole should
steal my guest's horse, sir! But it's the end of his thieving, the brute,
or thar's no snakes! I told him Lynch war out, the brute, and I told the
boys to take car' I war not found lying; and I reckon they won't forget
me! I like the crittur, thar's no denying, for he's a screamer among the
Injuns; but thar's no standing a horse-thief! No, sir, thar's no standing
a horse-thief!"

The only consequence of this accident which was apprehended, was that the
march of the exiles must be delayed until the soldier's horse was
recovered, or Roland himself left behind until the animal was brought in;
unless, indeed, he chose to accept another freely offered him by his
gallant host, and trust to having his own charger restored on some future
occasion. He was himself unwilling that the progress of more than a
hundred human beings towards the long sighed for land of promise should
be delayed a moment on his account; and for this reason he exhorted his
nominal superior to hasten the preparations for departure, without
thinking of him. His first resolution in relation to his own course,
was to proceed with the company, leaving his horse to be sent after him,
when recovered. He was loath, however, to leave the highly-prized and
long-tried charger behind; and Colonel Bruce, taking advantage of the
feeling, and representing the openness and safety of the road, the
shortness of the day's journey (for the next Station at which the exiles
intended lodging was scarce twenty miles distant), and above all,
promising, if he remained, to escort him thither with a band of his young
men, to whom the excursion would be but an agreeable frolic, the soldier
changed his mind, and, in an evil hour, as it afterwards appeared,
consented to remain until Brown Briareus was brought in,--provided this
should happen before mid-day; at which time, if the horse did not appear,
it was agreed he should set out, trusting to his good fortune and the
friendly zeal of his host, for the future recovery and restoration of his
charger. Later than mid-day he was resolved not to remain; for however
secure the road, it was wiser to pursue it in company than alone; nor
would he have consented to remain a moment, had there appeared the least
impediment to his joining the companions of his exile before nightfall.

His measures were taken accordingly. His baggage-horses, under the charge
of the younger of the two negroes, were sent on with the band; the other,
an old and faithful slave of his father, being retained as a useful
appendage to a party containing his kinswoman, from whom he, of course,
saw no reason to be separated. To Edith herself, the delay was far from
being disagreable. It promised a gay and cheerful gallop through the
forest, instead of the dull, plodding, funeral-like march to which she
had been day after day monotonously accustomed. She assented, therefore,
to the arrangement, and, like her kinsman, beheld, in the fresh light of
sun-rise, without a sigh, without even a single foreboding of evil, the
departure of the train of emigrants, with whom she had journeyed in
safety so many long and weary leagues through the desert.

They set out in high spirits, after shaking hands with their hosts at the
gates, and saluting them with cheers, which they repeated in honour of
their young captain; and, in a few moments, the whole train had vanished,
as if swallowed up by the dark forest.



CHAPTER VI.


Within an hour after the emigrants had set out, the sky, which had
previously been clear and radiant, began to be overcast with clouds,
dropping occasional rains, which Roland scarcely observed with regret,
their effect on the sultry atmosphere being highly agreeable and
refreshing. They continued thus to fall at intervals until nine o'clock;
when Roland, as he sat on the porch debating with Bruce the probabilities
of their continuance, was roused by a shout from the outer village; and
looking up, he beheld, to his great delight, Richard Bruce, the second
son of his host, a lad of sixteen, ride into the enclosure, leading in
triumph his recovered charger.

"Thar's the brute, strannger!" said he, with uncommon glee: "he war too
hard a horse for Ralph's riding; and, I reckon, if he hadn't been, you
wouldn't have had him so easy, for he's a peeler at a run, trot, or
gallop, he is, I tell you! It's bad luck for Stackpole to be flung by man
and beast two days hand-running,--first by Bloody Nathan, then by a
stolen crittur!"

"And whar _is_ the brute, Stackpole? and what have you done with him?"
demanded Bruce.

"Thar, father, you're too hard for me," replied the youth; "but I'll tell
you all I know on it. You needn't look at his legs, Captain, for they're
all as sound as hickory: the crittur's a bit worried with his morning's
work; but that's nothing to speak on."

The lad's story was soon told. The track of the horse-thief had been
followed through the woods; and it was soon seen, from its irregularity,
that he had made an unlucky selection of beasts, both being so restive
and rebellious, that, it was obvious, he had found it no easy matter to
urge them along. A place was found where he appeared to have been thrown
by the turbulent Briareus, which he seemed afterwards to have pursued,
mounted on the pony, in the vain hope of retaking the mettlesome charger,
until persuaded of his inability, or afraid, from the direction in which
the animal had fled, of being led back again to the settlement. His
track, after abandoning the chase, was as plain as that left by the
war-horse, and was followed by the main body of pursuers, while Richard
and two or three others, taking the latter, had the good fortune to find
and recover the animal as he was solacing himself, after his morning
adventures, in a grassy wood, scarce two miles from the Station. What had
become of Stackpole the lad knew not, but had no doubt, as he added, with
a knowing look, "that Lynch's boys would soon give a good account of him;
for Major Smalleye war as mad as a beaten b'ar about the two-y'ar-old
pony."

"Well," said the father, "I reckon the brute will deserve all he may come
by; and thar's no use in mourning him. Thar's as good Injun-fighters as
he, left in Kentucky, thar's the comfort; and thar's no denying, men will
be much easier about their horses."

With this consoling assurance, in which Roland saw implied the visitation
of the deadliest vengeance on the head of the offender, Bruce proceeded
to congratulate him on the recovery of Brown Briareus, and to intimate
his readiness, after the animal had been allowed a little rest, which it
evidently needed, to marshal his band of young men, and conduct him on
his way after the exiles. But fate willed that the friendly intention
should never be put into execution, and that the young soldier should go
forth on his pilgrimage unattended and unprotected.

Within the space of half an hour, the clouds, which seemed previously to
have discharged all their moisture, collected into a dense canopy,
darkening the whole heaven, and rumbling with thunder, that became every
moment louder and heavier. Then came gusts of wind, groaning through the
forest, rattling among the dead limbs of the girdled trees, and whistling
over the palisades of the fort. These were succeeded by louder peals of
thunder, and vivid flashes of lightning, which continued and increased,
until the tempest, for such it was, burst in fury, discharging deluges of
rain, that fell with unintermitting violence until an hour or more after
mid-day.

This was a circumstance which, as it necessarily deferred the moment of
his setting out, caused Forrester a little uneasiness; but he soon came
to believe he had reason to congratulate himself on its occurrence, since
it was scarce possible the band would continue their journey in such a
storm; and, indeed, Bruce was of opinion that the day's march would be
ended on the banks of the river,--one of the principal forks of the
Salt,--but little more than ten miles from his Station; where, if the
exiles were wise, they would pitch their camp, waiting for the subsidence
of the waters. This was a point that Roland might be expected to reach in
a ride of three or four hours at most; which consideration not only
satisfied him under the delay, but almost made him resolve to defer his
setting-out until the following morning, that his kinswoman might have
the advantage of sleeping a second time under the shelter of a roof,
rather than be compelled to exchange it for the chill and humid forest.

It was while he was balancing this thought in his mind, and watching with
a gladdened eye the first flash of sunshine, breaking through the parted
clouds, that a shout, louder than that which had proclaimed the recovery
of his steed, but of a wild and mournful character, arose from the outer
village, and a horseman, covered with mud, reeking with rain, and reeling
in the saddle with fatigue and exhaustion, rode into the fort, followed
by a crowd of men, women, and children, all testifying, by their looks
and exclamations, that he was the bearer of alarming news. And such
indeed he was, as was shown by the first words he answered in reply to
Bruce's demand "what was the matter?"

"There are a thousand Indians," he said, "Shawnees, Delawares, Wyandots,
Miamies,--all the tribes of the North,--laying siege to Bryant's Station,
and perhaps at this moment they are burning and murdering at Lexington.
Men, Colonel Bruce! send us all your men, without a moment's delay; and
send off for Logan and his forces: despatch some one who can ride, for I
can sit a horse no longer."

"Whar's Dick Bruce?" cried the Kentuckian; and the son answering, he
continued, "Mount the roan Long-legs, you brute, and ride to St. Asaph's
in no time. Tell Cunnel Logan what you h'ar; and add, that before he can
draw girth, I shall be, with every fighting-man in my fort, on the north
side of Kentucky. Ride, you brute, ride for your life; and do you take
car' _you_ come along with the Cunnel; for it's time you war trying your
hand at an Injun top-knot. Ride, you brute, ride!"

"Wah--wah--wah--wah!" whooped the boy, like a young Indian, flying to
obey the order, and exulting in the expectation of combat.

"Sound horn, you Samuel Sharp!" cried the father. "You, Ben Jones, and
some more of you, ride out and rouse the settlement; and, some of you,
hunt up Tom Bruce and the Regulators: it war a pity they hanged Ralph
Stackpole; for he fights Injuns like a wolverine. Tell all them that
ar'n't ready to start to follow at a hard gallop, and join me at the ford
of Kentucky; and them that can't join me thar, let them follow to
Lexington; and them that don't find me thar, let them follow to Bryant's,
or to any-whar whar thar's Injuns! Hurrah, you brutes! whar's your guns
and your horses? your knives and your tomahawks? If thar's a thousand
Injuns, or the half of 'em, thar's meat for all of you. Whar's Ikey
Jones, the fifer? Let's have Yankee-Doodle and the Rogue's March for, by
the etarnal Old Scratch, all them white men that ar'n't a-horse-back in
twenty-five minutes, are rogues worse than red Injuns!--Hurrah for
Kentucky!"

The spirit of the worthy officer of militia infused animation into
all bosoms; and, in an instant, the settlement, late so peaceful,
resounded with the hum and uproar of warlike preparation. Horses were
caught and saddled, rifles pulled from their perches, knives sharpened,
ammunition-pouches and provender-bags filled, and every other step taken
necessary to the simple equipment of a border army, called to action in
an emergency so sudden and urgent.

In the meanwhile, the intelligence was not without its effects on
Roland Forrester, who, seeing himself so unexpectedly deprived of the
promised escort,--for he could scarce think, under such circumstances,
of withdrawing a single man from the force called to a duty so
important,--perceived the necessity of employing his own resources to
effect escape from a position which he now felt to be embarrassing. He
regretted, for the first time, his separation from the band of emigrants,
and became doubly anxious to follow them: for, if it were true that so
large a force of Indians was really in the District, there was every
reason to suppose they would, according to their known system of warfare,
divide into small parties, and scatter over the whole country, infesting
every road and path; and he knew not how soon some of them might be found
following on the heels of the messenger. He took advantage of the first
symptom of returning serenity on the part of his host, to acquaint him
with his resolution to set out immediately, the rains having ceased, and
the clouds broken up and almost vanished.

"Lord, captain," said the Kentuckian, "I hoped you would have been for
taking a brush with us; and it war my idea to send a messenger after your
party, in hopes your men would join us in the rusty. Whar will they have
such another chance? A thousand Injuns ready cut and dried for killing!
Lord, what a fool I war for not setting more store by that tale of Nathan
Slaughter's! I never knowed the brute to lie in such a case; for, as he
is always ramping about the woods, he's as good as a paid scout.
Howsomever, the crittur did'nt speak on his own knowledge; and that
infarnal Stackpole was just ripe from the North side. But, I say,
captain, if your men will fight, just tote 'em back, stow away the women
behind the logs here, and march your guns after me; and, if thar's half
the number of red niggurs they speak of to be found, you shall see an
affa'r of a skrimmage that will be good for your wholesome,--you will, by
the etarnal!"

"If the men are of that mind," said Roland, gallantly, "I am not the one
to balk them. I will, at least, see whither their inclinations tend; and
that the matter may the sooner be decided, I will set out without delay."

"And we who war to escort you, captain," said the Kentuckian, with some
embarrassment: "you're a soldier, captain, and you see the case!"

"I do; I have no desire to weaken your force; and, I trust, no protection
is needed."

"Not an iota; the road is as safe as the furrow of a Virginnee
corn-field,--at least till you strike the lower Forks; and _thar_ I've
heard of no rampaging since last summer: I'll indamnify you against all
loss and mischief,--I will, if it war on my salvation!"

"If you could but spare me a single guide," said Forrester.

"Whar's the use, captain? The road is as broad and el'ar as a turnpike in
the Old Dominion; it leads you, chock up, right on the Upper Ford, whar
thar's safe passage at any moment: but, I reckon, the rains will make it
look a little wrathy a while, and so fetch your people to a stand-still.
But it's a pot soon full and soon empty, and it will be low enough in the
morning."

"The Upper Ford?" said Roland, his dream, for so he esteemed it,
recurring to his mind: "is there then a Lower Ford?"

"Ay," replied Bruce; "but thar's no passing it in the freshes; and
besides, the place has a bad name. It war thar old John Ashburn pitched
his Station, in '78; but the savages made murdering work of him, taking
every scalp in the company; and so it makes one sad-like to pass thar,
and the more partickelarly that it's all natteral fine ground for an
ambush. You'll see the road, when you're six mile deep in the forest,
turning off to the right, under a shivered beech-tree. You are then four
miles from the river, or tharabouts, and just that distance, I reckon,
from your company. No, captain," he repeated, "the road is wide and open,
and a guide war mere lumber on your hands."

This was a point, however, on which the young soldier, doubly
solicitous on his kinswoman's account, to avoid mistake, was not so
easily satisfied: seeing which, the Kentuckian yielded to his
importunity,--perhaps somewhat ashamed of suffering his guests to depart
entirely alone,--and began to cast about him for some suitable person who
could be prevailed upon to exchange the privilege of fighting Indians for
the inglorious duty of conducting wayfarers through the forest. This was
no easy task, and it was not until he assumed his military authority, as
commander of all the enrolled militia-men in his district, empowered to
make such disposition of his forces as he thought fit, that he succeeded
in compelling the service of one of his reluctant followers, under whose
guidance Roland and his little party soon after set out. Their farewells
were briefly said, the urgent nature of his duties leaving the hospitable
Bruce little opportunity for superfluous speech. He followed them,
however, to the bottom of the hill, grasped Roland by the hand; and doing
the same thing by Edith, as if his conscience smote him for dismissing
her with so little ceremony and such insufficient attendance, he swore
that if any evil happened to her on the road, he would rest neither night
nor day until he had repaired it, or lost his scalp in the effort.

With this characteristic and somewhat ominous farewell, he took his
leave; and the cousins, with their guide and faithful servant, spurred
onwards at a brisk pace, until the open fields of the settlement were
exchanged for the deep and gloomy woodlands.



CHAPTER VII.


The sun shone out clearly and brilliantly, and the tree-tops, from which
the winds had already shaken the rain, rustled freshly to the more
moderate breezes that had succeeded them; and Roland, animated by the
change, by the brisk pace at which he was riding, and by the hope of soon
overtaking his fellow-exiles, met the joyous look of his kinswoman with a
countenance no longer disturbed by care.

And yet there was a solemnity in the scene around them that might have
called for other and more sombre feelings. The forest into which they had
plunged, was of the grand and gloomy character which the fertility of the
soil and the absence of the axe for a thousand years imprint on the
western woodlands, especially in the vicinity of rivers. Oaks, elms, and
walnuts, tulip-trees and beeches, with other monarchs of the wilderness,
lifted their trunks like so many pillars, green with mosses and ivies,
and swung their majestic arms, tufted with mistletoe, far over head,
supporting a canopy,--a series of domes and arches without end,--that had
for ages overshadowed the soil. Their roots, often concealed by a billowy
undergrowth of shrubs and bushes, oftener by brakes of the gigantic and
evergreen cane, forming fences as singular as they were, for the most
part, impenetrable, were yet at times visible, where open glades
stretched through the woods, broken only by buttressed trunks, and by the
stems of colossal vines, hanging from the boughs like cables, or the arms
of an oriental banyan; while their luxuriant tops rolled in union with
the leafy roofs that supported them. The vague and shadowy prospects
opened by these occasional glades stirred the imagination, and produced a
feeling of solitude in the mind, greater perhaps than would have been
felt had the view been continually bounded by a green wall of canes.

The road, if such it could be called, through this noble forest was, like
that the emigrants had so long pursued through the wilderness, a mere
path, designated, where the wood was open, by blazes, or axe-marks on the
trees; and, where the undergrowth was dense, a narrow track cut through
the canes and shrubs, scarce sufficient in many places to allow the
passage of two horsemen abreast; though when, as was frequently the case,
it followed the ancient routes of the bisons to fords and salt-licks, it
presented, as Bruce had described, a wide and commodious highway,
practicable even to wheeled carriages.

The gait of the little party over this road was at first rapid and cheery
enough; but by and by, having penetrated deeper into the wood, where
breezes and sunbeams were alike unknown, they found their progress
impeded by a thousand pools and sloughs, the consequences of the storm,
that stretched from brake to brake. These interruptions promised to make
the evening journey longer than Roland had anticipated; but he caught, at
intervals, the fresh foot-prints of his comrades in the soil where it was
not exposed to the rains, and reflected with pleasure, that, travelling
even at the slowest pace, he must reach the ford where he expected to
find them encamped, long before dark. He felt, therefore, no uneasiness
at the delay; nor did he think any of those obstacles to rapid progress a
cause for regret that gave him the better opportunity to interchange
ideas with his fair kinswoman.

His only concern arose from the conduct of his guide, a rough,
dark-visaged man, who had betrayed, from the first moment of starting, a
sullen countenance, indicative of his disinclination to the duty assigned
him; which feeling evidently grew stronger the further he advanced,
nowithstanding sundry efforts Forrester made to bring him to a better
humour. He displayed no desire to enter into conversation with the
soldier, replying to such questions as were directed at him with a
brevity little short of rudeness; and his smothered exclamations of
impatience, whenever his delicate followers slackened their pace at a bog
or gully, which he had himself dashed through with a manly contempt of
mud and mire, somewhat stirred the choler of the young captain.

They had, perhaps, followed him a distance of four miles into the forest,
when the occurrence of a wider and deeper pool than ordinary producing a
corresponding delay on the part of Roland, who was somewhat averse to
plunging with Edith up to the saddle-girths in mire, drew from him a very
unmannerly, though not the less hearty execration on the delicacy of
"them thar persons who," as he expressed it, "stumped at a mud-hole as
skearily as if every tadpole in it war a screeching Injun."

Of this explosion of ill-temper Roland took no notice, until he had, with
the assistance of Emperor, the negro, effected a safe passage for Edith
over the puddle; in the course of which he had leisure to observe that
the path now struck into a wide buffalo-street, that swept away through a
wilderness of wood and cane-brake, in nearly a straight line, for a
considerable distance. He observed, also, that the road looked drier and
less broken than usual; his satisfaction at which had the good effect of
materially abating the rage into which he had been thrown by the uncivil
bearing of the guide. Nevertheless, he had no sooner brought his
kinswoman safely to land, than, leaving her in the charge of Emperor, he
galloped up to the side of his conductor, and gave vent to his
indignation in the following pithy query:--

"My friend," said he, "will you have the goodness to inform me whether
you have ever lived in a land where courtesy to strangers and kindness
and respect to women are ranked among the virtues of manhood?"

The man replied only by a fierce and angry stare; and plying the ribs of
his horse with his heels, he dashed onwards. But Roland kept at his side,
not doubting that a little more wholesome reproof would be of profit to
the man, as well as advantageous to his own interests.

"I ask that question," he continued, "because a man from such a land,
seeing strangers, and one of them a female, struggling in a bog, would,
instead of standing upon dry land, making disrespectful remarks, have
done his best to help them through it."

"Strannger," said the man, drawing up his horse, and looking,
notwithstanding his anger, as if he felt the rebuke to be in a measure
just, "I am neither hog nor dog, Injun nor outlandish niggur, but a
man--a man, strannger! outside and inside, in flesh, blood, and spirit,
jest as my Maker made me; though thar may be something of the scale-bark
and parsimmon about me, I'll not deny; for I've heer'd on it before. I
axes the lady's pardon, if I've offended: and thar's the eend on't."

"The end of it," said Forrester, "will be much more satisfactory, if you
give no further occasion for complaint. But now," he continued, Edith
drawing nigh, "let us ride on and as fast as you like; for the road seems
both open and good."

"Strannger," said the guide, without budging an inch, "you have axed me a
question; and, according to the fa'r rule of the woods, it's my right to
ax you another."

"Very well," said Roland, assenting to the justice of the rule; "ask it,
and he brief."

"What you war saying of the road is true; thar it goes, wide, open,
cl'ar, and straight, with as good a fence on both sides of it to keep in
stragglers, as war ever made of ash, oak, or chestnut rails,--though it's
nothing but a natteral bank of cane-brake: and so it runs, jest as cl'ar
and wide, all the way to the river."

"I am glad to hear it," was the soldier's reply; "but now for your
question?"

"Hy'ar it is," said the man, flinging out his hand with angry energy; "I
wants to ax of you, as a sodger, for I've heer'd you're of the reggelar
sarvice, whether it's a wiser and more Christian affa'r, when thar's
Injuns in the land a murdering of your neighbours' wives and children,
and all the settlement's in a screech and a cry, to send an able-bodied
man to fight them; or to tote him off, a day's journey thar and back
ag'in, to track a road that a blind man on a blind horse could travel,
without axing questions of anybody? Thar's my question," he added,
somewhat vehemently; "and now let's have a sodger's answer!"

"My good friend," said Roland, a little offended, and yet more
embarrassed, by the interrogatory, "none can tell better than yourself
how much, or how little occasion I may have for a guide. Your question,
therefore, I leave you to answer yourself. If you think your duty calls
you to abandon a woman in the wild woods to such guidance as one wholly
unacquainted with them can give, you can depart as soon as you think fit;
for I cannot--"

The guide gave him no time to finish the sentence. "You're right,
strannger," he cried; "thar is your road, as plain as the way up a
hickory, b'aring to a camp of old friends and acquaintances,--and hy'ar
is mine, running right slap among fighting Injuns!"

And with that he turned his horse's head, and flourishing his right hand,
armed with the ever constant rifle, above his own, and uttering a whoop
expressive of the wild pleasure he felt at being released from his
ignoble duty, he dashed across the pool, and galloped in a moment out of
sight, leaving Roland and his party confounded at the desertion.

"An outlandish niggur'!" muttered old Emperor, on whom this expression of
the guide had produced no very favourable effect; "guess the gemman white
man is a niggur himself, and a rogue, and a potater, or whatsomever you
call 'em! Leab a lady and a gemman lost in the woods, and neither take
'em on nor take 'em back!--lor-a-massy!"

To this half-soliloquised expression of indignation the soldier felt
inclined to add a few bitter invectives of his own; but Edith treating
the matter lightly, and affecting to be better pleased at the rude man's
absence than she had been with his company, he abated his own wrath, and
acknowledged that the desertion afforded the best proof of the safety of
the road; since he could not believe that the fellow, with all his
roughness and inhumanity, would have been so base as to leave them while
really surrounded by difficulties. He remembered enough of Bruce's
description of the road, which he had taken care should be minute and
exact, to feel persuaded that the principal obstructions were now over,
and that, as the guide had said, there was no possibility of wandering
from the path. They had already travelled nearly half the distance to the
river, and to accomplish the remainder, they had yet four hours of
day-light. He saw no reason why they should not proceed alone, trusting
to their good fate for a fortunate issue to their enterprise. To return
to the fort would be only to separate themselves further from their
friends, without ensuring them a better guide, or, indeed, any guide at
all, since it was highly probable they would find it only occupied by
women and children. In a word, he satisfied himself that nothing remained
for him but to continue his journey, and trust to his own sagacity to end
it to advantage.

He set out accordingly, followed by Edith and Emperor, the latter
bringing up the rear in true military style, and handling his rifle, as
if almost desirous of finding an opportunity to use it in the service of
his young mistress.

In this manner, they travelled onwards with but little interruption for
more than a mile; and Roland was beginning anxiously to look for the path
that led to the Lower Ford, when Emperor galloped to the van and brought
the party to a halt by reporting that he heard the sound of hoofs
following at a distance behind.

"Perhaps,--perhaps," said Edith, while the gleam of her eye, shining with
sudden pleasure, indicated how little real satisfaction she had felt at
the desertion of their conductor,--"perhaps it is the sour fellow, the
guide, coming back, ashamed of his misconduct."

"We will soon see," said Roland, turning his horse to reconnoitre; a
proceeding that was, however, rendered unnecessary by the hurried speed
of the comer, who, dashing suddenly round a bend in the road, disclosed
to his wondering eyes, not the tall frame and sullen aspect of the guide,
but the lighter figure and fairer visage of the girl, Telie Doe. She was
evidently arrayed for travel, having donned her best attire of blue
cloth, with a little cap of the same colour on her head, under which her
countenance, beaming with exercise and anxiety, looked, in both Roland's
and Edith's eyes, extremely pretty; much more so, indeed, than either had
deemed it to be; while, secured behind the cushion or pillion, on which
she rode,--for not a jot of saddle had she,--was a little bundle
containing such worldly comforts as were necessary to one seriously bent
upon a journey. She was mounted upon a sprightly pony, which she managed
with more address and courage than would have been augured from her
former timorous demeanour; and it was plain that she had put him to his
mettle through the woods, with but little regard to the sloughs and
puddles which had so greatly embarrassed the fair Edith. Indeed, it
appeared that the exercise which had infused animation into her
countenance had bestowed a share also on her spirit: for, having checked
her horse an instant, and looked a little abashed at the sudden sight of
the strangers, she recovered herself in a moment, and riding boldly up,
she proceeded, without waiting to be questioned, to explain the cause of
her appearance. She had met the deserter, she said, returning to the
Station, and thinking it was not right the stranger lady should be left
without a guide in the woods, she had ridden after her to offer _her_
services.

"It was at least somewhat surprising," Roland could not avoid saying,
"that the fellow should have found you already equipt in the woods?"

At this innuendo, Telie was somewhat embarrassed, but more so, when,
looking towards Edith, as if to address her reply to her, she caught the
inquiring look of the latter, made still more expressive by the
recollection which Edith retained of the earnest entreaty Telie had made
the preceding night, to be taken into her service.

"I will not tell you a falsehood, ma'am," she said at last, with a firm
voice; "I was not on the road by chance; I came to follow you. I knew the
man you had to guide you was unwilling to go, and I thought he would
leave you, as he has done. And, besides, the road is not so clear as it
seems; it branches off to so many of the salt-licks, and the tracks are
so washed away by the rains, that none but one that knows it can be sure
of keeping it long."

"And how," inquired Edith, very pointedly,--for, in her heart, she
suspected the little damsel was determined to enter her service, whether
she would or not, and had actually run away from her friends for the
purpose,--"how, after you have led us to our party, do you expect to
return again to your friends?"

"If you will let me go with you as far as Jackson's Station" (the
settlement at which it was originally determined the emigrants should
pass the night), said the maiden humbly, "I will find friends there who
will take me home; and perhaps our own people will come for me, for they
are often visiting about among the Stations."

This declaration, made in a tone that convinced Edith the girl had given
over all hopes of being received into her protection, unless she could
remove opposition by the services she might render on the way, pointed
out also an easy mode of getting rid of her when a separation should be
advisable, and thus removed the only objection she felt to accept her
proffered guidance. As for Roland, however, he expressed much natural
reluctance to drag a young and inexperienced female so far from her home,
leaving her afterwards to return as she might. But he perceived that her
presence gave courage to his kinswoman; he felt that her acquaintance
with the path was more to be relied upon than his own sagacity; and he
knew not, if he even rejected her offered services altogether, how he
could with any grace communicate the refusal, and leave her abandoned to
her own discretion in the forest. He felt a little inclined, at first, to
wonder at the interest she seemed to have taken in his cousin's welfare;
but, by and by, he reflected that perhaps, after all, her motive lay in
no better or deeper feeling than a mere girlish desire to make her way
to the neighbouring station (twenty miles make but a neighbourly distance
in the wilderness), to enjoy a frolic among her gadding acquaintance.
This reflection ended the struggle in his mind; and turning to her with a
smiling countenance, he said, "If you are so sure of getting home, my
pretty maid, you may be as certain we will be glad of your company and
guidance. But let us delay no longer."

The girl, starting at these words with alacrity, switched her pony and
darted to the head of the little party, as if addressing herself to her
duty in a business-like way; and there she maintained her position with
great zeal, although Roland and Edith endeavoured, for kindness' sake, to
make her sensible they desired her to ride with them as a companion, and
not at a distance, like a pioneer. The faster they spurred, however, the
more zealously she applied her switch, and her pony being both spirited
and fresh, while their own horses were both not a little the worse for
their long journey, she managed to keep in front, maintaining a gait that
promised in a short time to bring them to the banks of the river.

They had ridden perhaps a mile in this manner, when a sudden opening in
the cane-brake on the right hand, at a place where stood a beech-tree,
riven by a thunderbolt in former years, but still spreading its shattered
ruins in the air, convinced Roland that he had at last reached the road
to the Lower Ford, which Bruce had so strictly cautioned him to avoid.
What, therefore, was his surprise, when Telie, having reached the tree,
turned at once into the by-road, leaving the direct path which they had
so long pursued, and which still swept away before them, as spacious and
uninterrupted, save by occasional pools, as ever.

"You are wrong," he cried, checking his steed.

"This is the road, sir," said the girl, though in some trepidation.

"By no means," said Forrester, "that path leads to the Lower Ford; here
is the shivered beech, which the colonel described to me."

"Yes, sir," said Telie, hurriedly; "it is the mark; they call it the
Crooked Finger-post."

"And a crooked road it is like to lead us, if we follow it," said Roland.
"It leads to the Lower Ford, and is not therefore _our_ road. I remember
the Colonel's direction."

"Yes, sir," said Telie, anxiously,--"to take the beech on the right
shoulder, and then down four miles, to the water."

"Precisely so," said the soldier; "with only this difference (for, go
which way we will, the tree being on the right side of each path, we must
still keep it on the right shoulder), that the road to the Upper Ford,
which I am now travelling, is the one for our purposes. Of this I am
confident."

"And yet, Roland," said Edith, somewhat alarmed at this difference of
opinion, where unanimity was so much more desirable, "the young woman
should know best."

"Yes!" cried Telie, eagerly; "I have lived here almost seven years, and
been across the river more than as many times. This is the shortest and
safest way."

"It may be both the shortest and safest," said Forrester, whose respect
for the girl's knowledge of the woods and ability to guide him through
them, began to be vastly diminished; "but _this_ is the road Mr. Bruce
described. Of this I am positive; and to make the matter still more
certain, if need be, here are horse-tracks, fresh, numerous, scarcely
washed by the rain, and undoubtedly made by our old companions; whereas
_that_ path seems not to have been trodden for a twelve-month."

"I will guide you right," faltered Telie, with anxious voice.

"My good girl," said the soldier, kindly, but positively, "you must allow
me to doubt your ability to do that,--at least, on that path. Here is our
road; and we must follow it."

He resumed it, as he spoke, and Edith, conquered by his arguments, which
seemed decisive, followed him; but looking back, after having proceeded a
few steps, she saw the baffled guide still lingering on the rejected
path, and wringing her hands with grief and disappointment.

"You will not remain behind us?" said Edith, riding back to her: "You
see, my cousin is positive: you must surely be mistaken?"

"I am _not_ mistaken," said the girl, earnestly; "and, oh! he will repent
that ever he took his own way through this forest."

"How can that be? What cause have you to say so?"

"I do not know," murmured the damsel, in woeful perplexity; "but--but,
sometimes, that road is dangerous."

"Sometimes all roads are so," said Edith, her patience failing, when she
found Telie could give no better reason for her opposition. "Let us
continue: my kinsman is waiting us, and we must lose no more time by
delay."

With these words, she again trotted forward, and Telie, after hesitating
a moment, thought fit to follow.

But now the animation that had, a few moments before, beamed forth in
every look and gesture of the maiden, gave place to dejection of spirits,
and even, as Edith thought, to alarm. She seemed as anxious now to linger
in the rear as she had been before to preserve a bold position in front.
Her eyes wandered timorously from brake to tree, as if in fear lest each
should conceal a lurking enemy; and often, as Edith looked back, she was
struck with the singularly mournful and distressed expression of her
countenance.



CHAPTER VIII.


These symptoms of anxiety and alarm affected Edith's own spirits; they
did more,--they shook her faith in the justice of her kinsman's
conclusions. His arguments in relation to the road were, indeed,
unanswerable, and Telie had offered none to weaken them. Yet why should
she betray such distress, if they were upon the right one? and why, in
fact, should she not be supposed to know both the right and the wrong,
since she had, as she said, so frequently travelled both?

These questions Edith could not refrain asking of Roland, who professed
himself unable to answer them, unless by supposing the girl had become
confused, as he thought was not improbable, or had, in reality, been so
long absent from the forest as to have forgotten its paths altogether:
which was likely enough, as she seemed a very simple-minded,
inexperienced creature. "But why need we," he said, "trouble ourselves
to find reasons for the poor girl's opposition? Here are the tracks of
our friends, broader and deeper than ever: here they wind down into the
hollow; and there, you may see where they have floundered through that
vile pool, that is still turbid, where they crossed it. A horrible
quagmire! But courage, my fair cousin: it is only such difficulties as
these which the road can lead us into."

Such were the expressions with which the young soldier endeavoured to
reassure his kinswoman's courage, his own confidence remaining still
unmoved; although in secret he felt somewhat surprised at the coincidence
between the girl's recommendations of the by-road and the injunctions of
his morning dream. But while pondering over the wonder, he had arrived at
the quagmire alluded to, through which the difficulties of conducting his
cousin were sufficiently great to banish other matters for a moment from
his mind. Having crossed it at last in safety, he paused to give such
instructions or assistance as might be needed by his two followers; when
Edith, who had halted at his side, suddenly laid her hand on his arm, and
exclaimed, with a visage of terror,--"Hark, Roland! do you hear? What is
that?"

"Heard him, massa!" ejaculated Emperor from the middle of the bog, with
voice still more quavering than the maiden's, and lips rapidly changing
from Spanish-brown to clayey-yellow; "heard him, massa! Reckon it's an
Injun! lorra-massy!"

"Peace, fool," cried Forrester, bending his looks from the alarmed
countenance of his kinswoman to the quarter whence had proceeded the
sound which had so suddenly struck terror into her bosom.

"Hark, Roland! it rises again!" she exclaimed; and Roland now distinctly
heard a sound in the depth of the forest to the right hand, as of the
yell of a human being, but at a great distance off. At the place which
they had reached, the canes and undergrowth of other kinds had
disappeared, and a wide glade, stretching over hill and hollow, swept
away from both sides of the road further than the eye could see. The
trees, standing wider apart than usual, were, if possible, of a more
majestic stature; their wide and massive tops were so thickly interlaced,
that not a single sunbeam found its way among the gloomy arcades below. A
wilder, more solitary, and more awe-inspiring spot Roland had not before
seen; and it was peculiarly fitted to add double effect to sights and
sounds of a melancholy or fearful character. Accordingly, when the cry
was repeated, as it soon was, though at the same distance as before, it
came echoing among the hollow arches of the woods with a wild and almost
unearthly cadence, the utterance, as it-seemed, of mortal agony and
despair, that breathed a secret horror through the breasts of all.

"It is the Jibbenainosay!" muttered the shivering Telie: "these are the
woods he used to range in most; and they say he screams after his prey!
It is not too late:--let us go back!"

"An Injun, massa!" said Emperor, stuttering with fright, and yet
proceeding both to handle his arms and to give encouragement to his young
mistress, which his age and privileged character, as well as the urgency
of the occasion, entitled him to do: "don't be afraid, missie Edie;
nebber mind;--ole Emperor will fight and die for missie, old massa John's
daughter!"

"Hist!" said Roland, as another scream rose on the air, louder and more
thrilling than before.

"It is the cry of a human being!" said Edith,--"of a man in distress!"

"It is, indeed," replied the soldier,--"of a man in great peril, or
suffering. Remain here on the road; and if anything--Nay, if you will
follow me, it may be better; but let it be at a distance. If anything
happens to me, set spurs to your horses:--Telie here can at least lead
you back to the fort."

With these words, and without waiting to hear the remonstrances, or
remove the terrors of his companions, the young man turned his horse into
the wood, and guided by the cries, which were almost incessant, soon
found himself in the vicinity of the place from which they proceeded. It
was a thick grove of beeches of the colossal growth of the west, their
stems as tall and straight as the pines of the Alleghanies, and their
boughs, arched and pendulous like those of the elm, almost sweeping the
earth below, over which they cast shadows so dark that scarce anything
was visible beneath them, save their hoary and spectral trunks.

As Roland, followed by his little party, approached this spot, the cries
of the unknown, and as yet unseen, sufferer, fearful even at a distance,
grew into the wildest shrieks of fear, mingled with groans, howls, broken
prayers and execrations, and half-inarticulate expressions, now of
fondling entreaty, now of fierce and frantic command, that seemed
addressed to a second person hard by.

A thousand strange and appalling conceits had crept into Roland's mind,
when he first heard the cries. One while he almost fancied he had
stumbled upon a gang of savages, who were torturing a prisoner to death;
another moment, he thought the yells must proceed from some unlucky
hunter, perishing by inches in the grasp of a wild beast, perhaps a bear
or panther, with which animals it was easy to believe the forest might
abound. With such horrible fancies oppressing his mind, his surprise
may be imagined, when, having cocked his rifle and thrown open his
holsters, to be prepared for the worst, he rushed into the grove and
beheld a spectacle no more formidable than was presented by a single
individual,--a man in a shaggy blanket-coat,--sitting on horseback under
one of the most venerable of the beeches, and uttering those diabolical
outcries that had alarmed the party, for no imaginable purpose, as Roland
was at first inclined to suspect, unless for his own private diversion.

A second look, however, convinced the soldier that the wretched being had
sufficient cause for his clamour, being, in truth, in a situation almost
as dreadful as any Roland had imagined. His arms were pinioned behind his
back, and his neck secured in a halter (taken, as it appeared, from his
steed), by which he was fastened to a large bough immediately above his
head, with nothing betwixt him and death, save the horse on which he
sat,--a young and terrified beast, at whose slightest start or motion, he
must have swung off and perished, while he possessed no means of
restraining the animal whatever, except such as lay in strength of leg
and virtue of voice.

In this terrible situation, it was plain, he had remained for a
considerable period, his clothes and hair (for his hat had fallen to the
ground) being saturated with rain; while his face purple with blood, his
eyes swollen and protruding from their orbits with a most ghastly look of
agony and fear, showed how often the uneasiness of his horse, round whose
body his legs were wrapped with the convulsive energy of despair, had
brought him to the very verge of strangulation.

The yells of mortal terror, for such they had been, with which he had so
long filled the forest, were changed to shrieks of rapture, as soon as he
beheld help approach in the person of the astonished soldier. "Praised be
the Etarnal!" he roared; "cut me loose, strannger!--Praised be the
Etarnal, and this here dumb beast!--Cut me loose, strannger, for the
love of God!"

Such was Roland's intention; for which purpose he had already clapped his
hand to his sabre, to employ it in a service more humane than any it had
previously known; when, unfortunately, the voice of the fellow did what
his distorted countenance had failed to do, and revealed to Roland's
indignant eyes the author of all his present difficulties, the thief of
the pinfold, the robber of Brown Briareus,--in a word, the redoubtable
Captain Ralph Stackpole.

In a moment, Roland understood the mystery which he had been before too
excited to inquire into. He remembered the hints of Bruce, and he had
learned enough of border customs and principles to perceive that the
justice of the woods had at last overtaken the horse-thief. The pursuing
party had captured him,--taken him in the very manner, while still in
possession of the 'two-year-old pony,' and at once adjudged him to the
penalty prescribed by the border code,--tied his arms, noosed him with
the halter of the stolen horse, and left him to swing, as soon as the
animal should be tired of supporting him. There was a kind of dreadful
poetical justice in thus making the stolen horse the thief's executioner;
it gave the animal himself an opportunity to wreak vengeance for all
wrongs received, and at the same time allowed his captor the rare
privilege of galloping on his back into eternity.

Such was the mode of settling such offences against the peace and dignity
of the settlements; such was the way in which Stackpole had been reduced
to his unenviable situation; and, that all passers-by might take note
that the execution had not been done without authority, there was painted
upon the smooth white bark of the tree, in large black letters, traced by
a finger well charged with moistened gunpowder, the ominous name--JUDGE
LYNCH,--the Rhadamanthus of the forest, whose decisions are yet respected
in the land, and whose authority sometimes bids fair to supersede that of
all erring human tribunals.

Thus tied up, his rifle, knife, and ammunition laid under a tree hard by,
that he might have the satisfaction, if satisfaction it could be, of
knowing they were in safety, the executioners had left him to his fate,
and ridden away long since, to attend to other important affairs of the
colony.

The moment that Roland understood in whose service he was drawing his
sword, a change came over the spirit of his thoughts and feelings, and he
returned it very composedly to its sheath,--much to the satisfaction of
the negro, Emperor, who, recognising the unfortunate Ralph at the same
instant, cried aloud, "'Top massa! 't ar Captain Stackpole, what stole
Brown Briery! Reckon I'll touch the pony on the rib, hah! Hanging too
good for him, white niggah t'ief, hah!"

With that, the incensed negro made as if he would have driven the pony
from under the luckless Ralph; but was prevented by his master, who,
taking a second survey of the spectacle, motioned to the horror-struck
females to retire, and prepared himself to follow them.

"'Tarnal death to you, captain! you won't leave me?" cried Ralph, in
terror. "Honour bright! Help him that needs help--that's the rule for a
Christian!"

"Villain!" said Roland, sternly, "I have no help to give you. You are
strung up according to the laws of the settlements, with which I have no
desire to interfere. I am the last man you should ask for pity."

"I don't ax your pity, 'tarnal death to me,--I ax your _help_.'" roared
Ralph; "Cut me loose is the word, and then sw'ar at me atter! I stole
your hoss thar:--well, whar's the harm? Didn't he fling me, and kick me,
and bite me into the bargain, the cursed savage? and ar'n't you got him
ag'in as good as ever? And besides, didn't that etarnal old Bruce fob me
off with a beast good for nothing, and talk big to me besides? and warn't
that all fa'r provocation? An didn't you yourself sw'ar ag'in shaking
paws with me, and treat me as if I war no gentleman? 'Tarnal death to me,
cut me loose, or I'll haunt you, when I'm a ghost, I will, 'tarnal death
to me!"

"Cut him down, Roland, for Heaven's sake!" said Edith, whom the
surprise and terror of the spectacle at first rendered speechless: "you
surely,--no, Roland, you surely can't mean to leave him to perish?"

"Upon my soul," said the soldier, and we are sorry to record a speech
representing him in a light so unamiable, "I don't see what right I have
to release him; and I really have not the least inclination to do so. The
rascal is the cause of all our difficulties; and, if evil should happen
us, he will be the cause of that too. But for him, we should be now safe
with our party. And besides, as I said before, he is hanged according to
Kentucky law; a very good law, as far as it regards horse-thieves, for
whom hanging is too light a punishment."

"Nevertheless, release him,--save the poor wretch's life," reiterated
Edith, to whom Stackpole, perceiving in her his only friend, now
addressed the most piteous cries and supplications: "the law is
murderous, its makers and executioners barbarians. Save him, Roland, I
charge you, I entreat you!"

"He owes his life to your intercession," said the soldier; and drawing
his sabre again, but with no apparent good will, he divided the halter by
which Ralph was suspended, and the wretch was free.

"Cut the tug, the buffalo-tug!" shouted the culprit, thrusting his arms
as far from his back as he could, and displaying the thong of bison-skin,
which his struggles had almost buried in his flesh. A single touch of the
steel, rewarded by such a yell of transport as was never before heard
in those savage retreats, sufficed to sever the bond; and Stackpole,
leaping on the earth, began to testify his joy in modes as novel as they
were frantic. His first act was to fling his arms round the neck of his
steed, which he hugged and kissed with the most rapturous affection,
doubtless in requital of the docility it had shown when docility was so
necessary to its rider's life; his second, to leap half a dozen times
into the air, feeling his neck all the time, and uttering the most
singular and vociferous cries, as if to make double trial of the
condition of his windpipe; his third, to bawl aloud, directing the
important question to the soldier, "How many days has it been since they
hanged me? War it to-day, or yesterday, or the day before? or war it a
whole year ago? for may I be next hung to the horn of a buffalo, instead
of the limb of a beech tree, if I didn't feel as if I had been squeaking
thar ever since the beginning of creation! Cock-a-doodle-doo! him that
ar'nt born to be hanged, won't be hanged, no-how!" Then running to Edith,
who sat watching his proceedings with silent amazement, he flung himself
on his knees, seized the hem of her riding-habit, which he kissed with
the fervour of an adorer, exclaiming with a vehement sincerity, that made
the whole action still more strangely ludicrous, "Oh! you splendiferous
creatur'! you angeliferous anngel! here am I, Ralph Stackpole the
Screamer, that can whip all Kentucky, white, black, mixed, and Injun; and
I'm the man to go with you to the ends of the 'arth, to fight, die, work,
beg, and steal bosses for you! I am, and you may make a little dog of me;
you may, or a niggur, or a boss, or a door-post, or a back-log, or a
dinner,--'tarnal death to me, but you may _eat_ me! I'm the man to feel a
favour, partickelarly when it comes to helping me out of a halter; and so
jist say the word who I shall lick, to begin on; for I'm your slave jist
as much as that niggur, to go with you, as I said afore, to the ends of
the 'arth, and the length of Kentucky over?"

"Away with you, you scoundrel and jackanapes," said Roland, for to this
ardent expression of gratitude Edith was herself too much frightened to
reply.

"Strannger!" cried the offended horse-thief, "you cut the tug, and you
cut the halter; and so, though you did it only on hard axing, I'd take as
many hard words of you as you can pick out of a dictionary,--I will,
'tarnal death to me. But as for madam thar, the anngel, she saved my
life, and I go my death in her sarvice; and now's the time to show
sarvice, for thar's danger abroad in the forest."

"Danger!" echoed Roland, his anxiety banishing the disgust with which he
was so much inclined to regard the worthy horse-thief; "what makes you
say that?"

"Strannger," replied Ralph, with a lengthened visage and a gravity
somewhat surprising for him, "I seed the Jibbenainosay! 'tarnal death to
me, but I seed him as plain as ever I seed old Salt! I war a-hanging
thar, and squeaking and cussing, and talking soft nonsense to the pony,
to keep him out of his tantrums, when what should I see but a great
crittur come tramping through the forest, right off yander by the fallen
oak, with a big b'ar before him--"

"Pish!" said the soldier, "what has this to do with danger?"

"Beca'se and because," said Ralph, "when you see the Jibbenainosay,
thar's always abbregynes[4] in the cover. I never seed the crittur
before, but I reckon it war he, for thar's nothing like him in natur'.
And so I'm for cutting out of the forest jist on the track of a streak of
lightning,--now hy'yar, now thar, but on a full run without stopping. And
so, if anngeliferous madam is willing, thump me round the 'arth with a
crab-apple, if I don't holp her out of the bushes, and do all her
fighting into the bargain,--I will, 'tarnal death to me!"

[Footnote 4: _Abbregynes_--aborigines.]

"You may go about your business," said Roland, with as much sternness as
contempt. "We will have none of your base company."

"Whoop! whoo, whoo, whoo! don't rifle[5] me, for I'm danngerous!" yelled
the demibarbarian, springing on his stolen horse, and riding up to Edith.
"Say the word, marm," he cried; "for I'll fight for you, or run for you,
take scalp or cut stick, shake fist or show leg, anything in reason or
out of reason. Strannger thar's as brash[6] as a new hound in a b'ar
fight, or a young boss in a corn-field, and no safe friend in a forest.
Say the word, marm,--or if you think it ar'nt manners to speak to a
strannger, jist shake your little finger, and I'll follow like a dog, and
do you dog's sarvice. Or, if you don't like me, say the word, or shake
t'other finger, and 'tarnal death to me, but I'll be off like an elk of
the prairies!"

[Footnote 5: To _rifle_--to ruffle.]

[Footnote 6: _Brash_--rash, head-strong, over-valiant.]

"You may go," said Edith, not at all solicitous to retain a follower of
Mr. Stackpole's character and conversation: "we have no occasion for your
assistance."

"Farewell!" said Ralph; and turning, and giving his pony a thump with his
fist and a kick with each heel, and uttering a shrill whoop, he darted
away through the forest, and was soon out of sight.



CHAPTER IX.


The course of Stackpole was through the woods, in a direction immediately
opposite to that by which Roland had ridden to his assistance.

"He is going to the Lower Ford," said Telie, anxiously. "It is not too
late for us to follow him. If there are Indians in the wood, it is the
only way to escape them!"

"And why should we believe there _are_ Indians in the wood?" demanded
Roland; "because that half-mad rogue, made still madder by his terrors,
saw something which his fancy converted into the imaginary Nick of the
Woods? You must give me a better reason than that, my good Telie, if you
would have me desert the road. I have no faith in your Jibbenainosays."

But a better reason than her disinclination to travel it, and her fears
lest, if Indians were abroad, they would be found lying in ambush at the
upper and more frequented pass of the river, the girl had none to give;
and, in consequence, Roland (though secretly wondering at her
pertinacity, and still connecting it in thought with his oft-remembered
dream), expressing some impatience at the delays they had already
experienced, led the way back to the buffalo-road, resolved to prosecute
it with vigour. But fate had prepared for him other and more serious
obstructions.

He had scarce regained the path, before he became sensible, from the
tracks freshly printed in the damp earth, that a horseman, coming from
the very river towards which he was bending his way, had passed by whilst
he was engaged in the wood liberating the horse-thief. This was a
circumstance that both pleased and annoyed him. It was so far agreeable,
as it seemed to offer the best proof that the road was open, with none of
those dreadful savages about it, who had so long haunted the brain of
Telie Doe. But what chiefly concerned the young soldier was the knowledge
that he had lost an opportunity of inquiring after his friends, and
ascertaining whether they had really pitched their camp on the banks of
the river; a circumstance which he now rather hoped than dared to be
certain of, the tempest not seeming to have been so violent in that
quarter as, of a necessity, to bring the company to a halt. If they had
_not_ encamped in the expected place, but, on the contrary, had continued
their course to the appointed Station, he saw nothing before him but the
gloomy prospect of concluding his journey over an unknown road, after
night-fall, or returning to the Station he had left, also by night; for
much time had been lost by the various delays, and the day was now
declining fast.

These considerations threw a damp over his spirits, but taught him the
necessity of activity; and he was, accordingly, urging his little party
forward with such speed as he could, when there was suddenly heard at a
distance on the rear the sound of fire-arms, as if five or six pieces
were discharged together, followed by cries not less wild and alarming
than those uttered by the despairing horse-thief.

These bringing the party to a stand, the quick ears of the soldier
detected the rattling of hoofs on the road behind, and presently their
came rushing towards them with furious speed a solitary horseman, his
head bare, his locks streaming in the wind, and his whole appearance
betraying the extremity of confusion and terror; which was the more
remarkable, as he was well mounted and armed with the usual rifle, knife,
and hatchet of the back-woodsman. He looked as if flying from pursuing
foes, his eyes being cast backwards, and that so eagerly that he failed
to notice the party of wondering strangers drawn up before him on the
road, until saluted by a halloo from Roland; at which he checked his
steed, looking for an instant ten times more confounded and frightened
than before.

"You tarnation critturs!" he at last bawled, with the accents of one
driven to desperation, "if there a'n't no dodging you, then there
_a'n't_. Here's for you, you everlasting varmints--due your darndest!"

With that he clubbed his rifle, and advanced towards the party in what
seemed a paroxysm of insane fury, brandishing the weapon and rolling his
eyes with a ferocity that could have only arisen from his being in that
happy frame of mind which is properly termed "frightened out of fear."

"How, you villain!" said Roland, in amazement, "do you take us for wild
Indians?"

"What, by the holy hokey, and _a'n't_ you?" cried the stranger, his rage
giving way to the most lively transports; "Christian men!" he exclaimed
in admiration, "and one of 'em a niggur, and two of em wimming! oh hokey!
You're Capting Forrester, and I've heerd on you! Thought there was
nothing in the wood but Injuns, blast their ugly picturs! and blast him,
Sy Jones, as was, that brought me among 'em! And now I'm talking of 'em,
Capting, don't stop to ax questions, but run,--cut and run, Capting, for
there's an everlasting sight of 'em behind me!--six of 'em, Capting, or
my name a'n't Pardon Dodge,--six of 'em,--all except one, and _him_ I
shot, the blasted crittur! for, you see, they followed me behind, and
they cut me off before: and there was no dodging 'em,--(Dodge's my name,
and dodging's my natur')--without getting lost in the woods; and it was
either losing myself or my scalp; and so that riz my ebenezer, and I
banged the first of 'em all to smash--if I didn't, then it a'n't no
matter!"

"What, in Heaven's name," said Roland, overcome by the man's volubility
and alarm together,--"what means all this? Are there Indians behind us?"

"Five of 'em, and the dead feller,--shocking long-legged crittur he
was; jumped out of a bush, and seized me by the bridle--hokey! how he
skeared me!--Gun went off of her own accord, and shot him into bits as
small as fourpence-ha'pennies. Then there was a squeaking and squalling,
and the hull of e'm let fly at me; and then, I cut on the back track,
and they took and took atter; and I calculate, if we wait here a quarter
of a minute longer, they will be on us jist like devils and roaring
lions.--But where shall we run? You can't gin us a hint how to make way
through the woods?--Shocking bad woods to be lost in! Bad place here for
talking, Capting,--right 'twixt two fires,--six Injuns behind (and one of
'em dead), and an almighty passel before,--the Ford's full on 'em!"

"What!" said Roland, "did you pass the Ford? and is not Colonel Johnson,
with his emigrants, there?"

"Not a man on 'em; saw 'em streaking through the mud, half way to
Jackson's. Everlasting lying critturs, them emigrants! told me there was
no Injuns on the road! when what should I do but see a hull grist on 'em
dodging among the bushes at the river, to surround me, the tarnation
critturs. But I kinder had the start on 'em, and I whipped, and I cut,
and I run, and I dodged. And so says I, 'I've beat you, you tarnation
scalping varmints!' when up jumps that long-legged feller, and the five
behind him; and, blast 'em, that riz my corruption. And I--"

"In a word," said Roland, impatiently, and with a stern accent, assumed
perhaps to reassure his kinswoman, whom the alarming communications of
the stranger, uttered in an agony of terror and haste, filled with an
agitation which she could not conceal, "you have seen Indians, or you say
you have. If you tell the truth, there is no time left for deliberation;
if a falsehood--"

"Why should we wait upon the road to question and wonder?" said Telie
Doe, with a boldness and firmness that at another moment would have
excited surprise; "why should we wait here, while the Indians may be
approaching? The forest is open, and the Lower Ford is free."

"If you can yet lead us thither," said Roland, eagerly, "all is not yet
lost. We can neither advance nor return. On, maiden, for the love of
Heaven!"

These hasty expressions revealed to Edith the deep and serious light in
which her kinsman regarded their present situation, though at first
seeking to hide his anxiety under a veil of composure. In fact, there was
not an individual present on whom the fatal news of the vicinity of the
redman had produced a more alarming impression than on Roland. Young,
bravo, acquainted with war, and accustomed to scenes of blood and peril,
it is not to be supposed that he entertained fear on his own account; but
the presence of one whom he loved, and whom he would have rescued from
danger, at any moment, at the sacrifice of his own life thrice over, was
enough to cause, and excuse, a temporary fainting of spirit, and a desire
to fly the scene of peril, of which, under any other circumstances, he
would have been heartily ashamed. The suddenness of the terror--for up to
the present moment he had dreamed of no difficulty comprising danger, or
of no danger implying the presence of savages in the forest--had somewhat
shocked his mind from its propriety, and left him in a manner unfitted to
exercise the decision and energy so necessary to the welfare of his
feeble and well-nigh helpless followers. The vastness of his
embarrassment, all disclosed at once,--his friends and fellow-emigrants
now far away; the few miles which he had, to the last, hoped separated
him from them, converted into leagues; Indian enemies at hand; advance
and retreat both alike cut off; and night approaching fast, in which,
without a guide, any attempt to retreat through the wild forest would be
as likely to secure his destruction as deliverance;--these were
circumstances that crowded into his mind with benumbing effect,
engrossing his faculties, when the most active use of them was essential
to the preservation of his party.

It was at this moment of weakness and confusion, while uttering what was
meant to throw some little discredit over the story of Dodge, to abate
the terrors of Edith, that the words of Telie Doe fell on his ears,
bringing both aid and hope to his embarrassed spirits. _She_, at least,
was acquainted with the woods; she, at least, could conduct him, if not
to the fortified Station he had left (and bitterly now did he regret
having left it), to the neglected ford of the river, which her former
attempts to lead him thither, and the memory of his dream, caused him now
to regard as a city of refuge pointed out by destiny itself.

"You shall have your way, at last, fair Telie," he said, with a laugh,
but not with merriment: "Fate speaks for you; and whether I will or not,
we must go to the Lower Ford"

"You will never repent it," said the girl, the bright looks which she had
worn for the few moments she was permitted to control the motions of the
party, returning to her visage, and seeming to emanate from a rejoicing
spirit;--"they will not think of waylaying us at the Lower Ford."

With that, she darted into the wood, and, followed by the others,
including the new-comer, Dodge, was soon at a considerable distance from
the road.

"Singular," said Roland to Edith, at whose rein he now rode, endeavouring
to remove her terrors, which, though she uttered no words, were
manifestly overpowering,--"singular that the girl should look so glad and
fearless, while we are, I believe, all horribly frightened. It is,
however, a good omen. When one so timorous as she casts aside fear, there
is little reason for others to be frighted."

"I hope,--I hope so," murmured Edith. "But--but I have had my omens,
Roland, and they were evil ones. I dreamed--You smile at me!"

"I do," said the soldier, "and not more at your joyless tones, my fair
cousin, than at the coincidence of our thoughts. _I_ dreamed (for I
also have had my visions) last night, that some one came to me and
whispered in my ear to 'cross the river at the Lower Ford, the Upper
being dangerous.' Verily, I shall hereafter treat my dreams with respect.
I suppose,--I hope, were it only to prove we have a good angel in
common,--that you dreamed the same thing."

"No,--it was not that," said Edith, with a sad and anxious countenance.
"It was a dream that has always been followed by evil. I dreamed--. But
it will offend you, cousin?"

"What!" said Roland, "a dream? You dreamed perhaps that I forgot both
wisdom and affection, when, for the sake of this worthless beast,
Briareus, I drew you into difficulty and peril?"

"No, no," said Edith, earnestly, and then added in a low voice, "I
dreamed of Richard Braxley!"

"Curse him!" muttered the youth, with tones of bitter passion: "it is to
him we owe all that now afflicts us,--poverty and exile, our distresses
and difficulties, our fears and our dangers. For a wooer," he added, with
a smile of equal bitterness, "methinks he has fallen on but a rough way
of proving his regard. But you dreamed of him. Well, what was it? He came
to you with the look of a beaten dog, fawned at your feet, and displaying
that infernal will, 'Marry me,' quoth he, 'fair maid, and I will be a
greater rascal than before,--I will burn this will, and consent to enjoy
Roland Forrester's lands and houses in right of my wife, instead of
claiming them in trust for an heir no longer in the land of the living.'
Cur!--and but for you, Edith, I would have repaid his insolence as it
deserved. But you ever intercede for your worst enemies. There is that
confounded Stackpole, now: I vow to heaven, I am sorry I cut the rascal
down!--But you dreamed of Braxley! What said the villain?"

"He said," replied Edith, who had listened mournfully, but in silence, to
the young man's hasty expressions, like one who was too well acquainted
with the impetuosity of his temper to think of opposing him in his angry
moments, or perhaps because her spirits were too much subdued by her
fears to allow her to play the monitress,--"He said, and frowningly too,
'that soft words were with him the prelude to hard resolutions, and that
where he could not win as the turtle, he could take his prey like a
vulture;'--or some such words of anger. Now, Roland, I have twice before
dreamed of this man, and on each occasion a heavy calamity ensued, and
that on the following day. I dreamed of him the night before our uncle
died. I dreamed a second time, and the next day he produced and recorded
the will that robbed us of our inheritance. I dreamed of him again last
night; and what evil is now hovering over us I know not;--but, it is
foolish of me to say so,--yet my fears tell me it will be something
dreadful."

"Your fears, I hope, will deceive you," said Roland, smiling in spite of
himself at this little display of weakness on the part of Edith. "I have
much confidence in this girl, Telie, though I can scarce tell why. A free
road and a round gallop will carry us to our journey's end by nightfall;
and, at the worst, we shall have bright starlight to light us on. Be
comforted, my cousin. I begin heartily to suspect yon cowardly Dodge, or
Dodger, or whatever he calls himself, has been imposed upon by his fears,
and that he has actually seen no Indians at all. The springing up of a
bush from under his horse's feet, and the starting away of a dozen
frighted rabbits, might easily explain his conceit of the long-legged
Indian, and his five murderous accomplices; and as for the savages seen
in ambush at the Ford, the shaking of the cane-brake by the breeze, or by
some skulking bear, would as readily account for them. The idea of his
being allowed to pass a crew of Indians in their lair, without being
pursued, or even fired upon, is quite preposterous."

These ideas, perhaps devised to dispel his kinswoman's fears, were scarce
uttered before they appeared highly reasonable to the inventor himself;
and he straightway rode to Dodge's side, and began to question him more
closely than he had before had leisure to do, in relation to those
wondrous adventures, the recounting of which had produced so serious a
change in the destination of the party. All his efforts, however, to
obtain satisfactory confirmation of his suspicion were unavailing. The
man, now in a great measure relieved of his terrors, repeated his story
with a thousand details, which convinced Roland that it was, in its chief
features, correct. That he had actually been attacked, or fired upon by
some persons, Roland could not doubt, having heard the shots himself. As
to the ambush at the Ford, all he could say was, that he had actually
seen several Indians,--he knew not the number,--stealing through the wood
in the direction opposite the river, as if on the outlook for some
expected party,--Captain Forrester's, he supposed, of which he had heard
among the emigrants; and that this giving him the advantage of the
first discovery, he had darted ahead with all his speed, until arrested
at an unexpected moment by the six warriors, whose guns and voices had
been heard by the party.

Besides communicating all the information which he possessed on these
points, he proceeded, without waiting to be asked, to give an account of
his own history; and a very lamentable one it was. He was from the
Down-East country, a representative of the Bay State, from which he had
been seduced by the arguments of his old friend Josiah Jones, to go "a
pedlering" with the latter to the new settlements in the West; where the
situation of the colonists, so far removed from all markets, promised
uncommon advantages to the adventurous trader. These had been in a
measure realised on the Upper Ohio; but the prospect of superior gains in
Kentucky had tempted the two friends to extend their speculations
further; and in an evil hour they embarked their assorted notions and
their own bodies in a flatboat on the Ohio; in the descent of which it
was their fortune to be stripped of every thing, after enduring risks
without number, and daily attacks from, Indians lying in wait on the
banks of the river, which misadventures had terminated in the capture of
their boat, and the death of Josiah, the unlucky projector of the
expedition. Pardon himself barely escaping with his life. These
calamities were the more distasteful to the worthy Dodge, whose
inclinations were of no warlike cast, and whose courage never rose to the
fighting point, as he freely professed, until goaded into action by sheer
desperation. He had "got enough," as he said, "of the everlasting Injuns,
and of Kentucky, where there was such a shocking deal of 'em that a
peaceable trader's scalp was in no more security than a rambling
scout's;" and cursing his bad luck, and the memory of the friend who had
cajoled him into ruin, difficulty, and constant danger, his sole desire
was now to return to the safer lands of the East, which he expected to
effect most advantageously by advancing to some of the South-eastern
stations, and throwing himself in the way of the first band of militia
whose tour of duty in the district was completed, and who should be
about to return to their native state. He had got enough of the Ohio as
well as the Indians; the wilderness-road possessed fewer terrors, and
therefore appeared to his imagination the more eligible route of escape.



CHAPTER X.


Dodge's story, which was not without its interest to Roland, though the
rapidity of their progress through the woods, and the constant necessity
of being on the alert, kept him a somewhat inattentive listener, was
brought to an abrupt close by the motions of Telie Doe, who, having
guided the party for several miles with great confidence, began at last
to hesitate, and betray symptoms of doubt and embarrassment, that
attracted the soldier's attention. There seemed some cause for
hesitation: the glades, at first broad and open, through which they had
made their way, were becoming smaller and more frequently interrupted by
copses; the wood grew denser and darker; the surface of the ground became
broken by rugged ascents and swampy hollows, the one encumbered by stones
and mouldering trunks of trees, the other converted by the rains into
lakes and pools, through which it was difficult to find a path; whilst
the constant turning and winding to right and left, to avoid such
obstacles, made it a still greater task to preserve the line of direction
which Telie had intimated was the proper one to pursue. "Was it
possible," he asked of himself, "the girl could be at fault?" The
answer to this question, when addressed to Telie herself, confirmed his
fears. She was perplexed, she was frightened; she had been long expecting
to strike the neglected road, with which she professed to be so well
acquainted, and, sure she was, they had ridden far enough to find it. But
the hills and swamps had confused her; she was afraid to proceed,--she
knew not where she was.

This announcement filled the young soldier's mind with alarm; for upon
Telie's knowledge of the woods he had placed his best reliance, conscious
that his own experience in such matters was as little to be depended on
as that of any of his companions. Yet it was necessary he should now
assume the lead himself, and do his best to rescue the party from its
difficulties; and this, after a little reflection, he thought he could
scarce fail in effecting. The portion of the forest through which he was
rambling was a kind of triangle, marked by the two roads on the east,
with its base bounded by the long looked for river; and one of these
boundaries he must strike, proceed in whatsoever direction he would. If
he persevered in the course he had followed so long, he must of necessity
find himself, sooner or later, in the path which Telie had failed to
discover, and failed, as he supposed, in consequence of wandering away to
the west, so as to keep it constantly on the right hand, instead of in
front. To recover it, then, all that was necessary to be done was to
direct his course to the right, and to proceed until the road was found.

The reasoning was just, and the probability was that a few moments would
find the party on the recovered path. But a half-hour passed by, and the
travellers, all anxious and doubting, and filled with gloom, were yet
stumbling in the forest, winding amid labyrinths of bog and brake, hill
and hollow, that every moment became wilder and more perplexing. To add
to their alarm, it was manifest that the day was fast approaching its
close. The sun had set, or was so low in the heavens that not a single
ray could be seen trembling on the tallest tree; and thus was lost the
only means of deciding towards what quarter of the compass they were
directing their steps. The mosses on the trees were appealed to in
vain,--as they will be by all who expect to find them pointing like the
mariner's needle to the pole. They indicate the quarter from which blow
the prevailing humid winds of any region of country; but in the moist and
dense forests of the interior, they are often equally luxuriant on every
side of the tree. The varying shape and robustness of boughs are thought
to offer a better means of finding the points of the compass; but none
but Indians and hunters grown gray in the woods, can profit by _their_
occult lessons. The attempts of Roland to draw instruction from them
served only to complete his confusion; and, by and by, giving over all
hope of succeeding through any exercise of skill or prudence, he left
the matter to fortune and his good horse, riding, in the obstinacy of
despair, withersoever the weary animal chose to bear him, without knowing
whether it might be afar from danger, or backwards into the vicinity of
the very enemies whom he had laboured so long to avoid.

As he advanced in this manner, he was once or twice inclined to suspect
that he was actually retracing his steps, and approaching the path by
which he had entered the depths of the wood; and on one occasion he was
almost assured that such was the fact by the peculiar appearance of a
brambly thicket, containing many dead trees, which he thought he had
noticed while following in confidence after the leading of Telie Doe. A
nearer approach to the place convinced him of his error, but awoke a new
hope in his mind, by showing him that he was drawing nigh the haunts of
men. The blazes of the axe were seen on the trees, running away in lines,
as if marked by the hands of the surveyor; those trees that were dead, he
observed, had been destroyed by girdling; and on the edge of the tangled
brake where they were most abundant, he noticed several stalks of maize,
the relics of some former harvest, the copse itself having once been, as
he supposed, a corn-field,

"It is only a tomahawk-improvement," said Telie Doe, shaking her head, as
he turned towards her a look of joyous inquiry; and she pointed towards
what seemed to have been once a cabin of logs of the smallest size--too
small indeed for habitation--but which, more than half fallen down, was
rotting away, half hidden under the weeds and brambles that grew, and
seemed to have grown for years, within its little area; "there are many
of them in the woods, that were never settled."

Roland did not require to be informed that a "tomahawk-improvement,"
as it was often called in those days, meant nothing more than the box of
logs in form of a cabin, which the hunter or land-speculator could build
with his hatchet in a few hours, a few girdled trees, a dozen or more
grains of corn from his pouch-thrust into the soil, with perhaps a few
poles laid along the earth to indicate an enclosed field; and that such
improvements, as they gave pre-emption rights to the maker, were often
established by adventurers, to secure a claim in the event of their not
lighting on lands more to their liking. Years had evidently passed by
since the maker of this neglected improvement had visited his territory,
and Roland no longer hoped to discover such signs about it as might
enable him to recover his lost way. His spirits sunk as rapidly as they
had risen, and he was preparing to make one more effort to escape from
the forest, while the daylight yet lasted, or to find some stronghold in
which to pass the night; when his attention was drawn to Telie Doe, who
had ridden a little in advance, eagerly scanning the trees and soil
around, in the hope that some ancient mark or footstep might point out a
mode of escape. As she thus looked about her, moving slowly in advance,
her pony on a sudden began to snort and prance, and betray other
indications of terror, and Telie herself was seen to become agitated and
alarmed, retreating back upon the party, but keeping her eyes wildly
rolling from bush to bush, as if in instant expectation of seeing an
enemy.

"What is the matter?" cried Roland, riding to her assistance. "Are we in
enchanted land, that our horses must be frightened, as well as
ourselves?"

"He smells the war-paint," said Telie, with a trembling voice;--"there
are Indians near us."

"Nonsense!" said Roland, looking around, and seeing, with the exception
of the copse just passed, nothing but an open forest, without shelter or
harbour for an ambushed foe. But at that moment Edith caught him by the
arm, and turned upon him a countenance more wan with fear than that she
had exhibited upon first hearing the cries of Stackpole. It expressed,
indeed, more than alarm,--it was the highest degree of terror, and the
feeling was so overpowering that her lips, though moving as in the act of
speech, gave forth no sound whatever. But what her lips refused to tell,
her finger, though shaking in the ague that convulsed every fibre of her
frame, pointed out; and Roland, following it with his eyes, beheld the
object that had excited so much emotion. He started himself, as his gaze
fell upon a naked Indian stretched under a tree hard by, and sheltered
from view only by a dead bough lately fallen from its trunk, yet lying so
still and motionless that he might easily have been passed by without
observation in the growing dusk and twilight of the woods, had it not
been for the instinctive terrors of the pony, which, like other horses,
and, indeed, all other domestic beasts in the settlements, often thus
pointed out to their masters the presence of an enemy.

The rifle of the soldier was in an instant cocked and at his shoulder,
while the pedler and Emperor, as it happened, were too much discomposed
at the spectacle to make any such show of battle. They gazed blankly upon
the leader, whose piece, settling down into an aim that must have been
fatal, suddenly wavered, and then, to their surprise, was withdrawn.

"The slayer has been here before us," he exclaimed,--"the man is dead and
scalped already!"

With these words he advanced to the tree, and the others following, they
beheld with horror the body of a savage, of vast and noble proportions,
lying on its face across the roots of the tree, and glued, it might
almost be said, to the earth by a mass of coagulated blood, that had
issued from the scalp and axe-cloven skull. The fragments of a rifle
shattered, as it seemed, by a violent blow against the tree under which
he Jay, were scattered at his side, with a broken powder-horn, a
splintered knife, the helve of a tomahawk, and other equipments of a
warrior, all in like manner shivered to pieces by the unknown assassin.
The warrior seemed to have perished only after a fearful struggle; the
earth was torn where he lay, and his hands, yet grasping the soil, were
dyed a double red in the blood of his antagonist, or perhaps in his own.

While Roland gazed upon the spectacle, amazed, and wondering in what
manner the wretched being had met his death, which must have happened
very recently, and whilst his party was within the sound of a rifle-shot,
he observed a shudder to creep over the apparently lifeless frame; the
fingers relaxed their grasp of the earth, and then clutched it again with
violence; a broken, strangling rattle came from the throat; and a spasm
of convulsion seizing upon every limb, it was suddenly raised a little
upon one arm, so as to display the countenance, covered with blood, the
eyes retroverted into their orbits, and glaring with the sightless
whites. It was a horrible spectacle,--the last convulsion of many that
had shaken the wretched and insensible, yet still suffering clay, since
it had received the death-stroke. The spasm was the last, and but
momentary; yet it sufficed to raise the body of the mangled barbarian, so
far that, when the pang that excited it suddenly ceased, and, with it,
the life of the sufferer, the body rolled over on the back, and thus lay,
exposing to the eyes of the lookers-on two gashes, wide and gory, on the
breast, traced by a sharp knife and a powerful hand, and, as it seemed,
in the mere wantonness of a malice and lust of blood which even death
could not satisfy. The sight of these gashes answered the question Roland
had asked of his own imagination; they were in the form of a _cross_; and
as the legend, so long derided, of the forest-fiend recurred to his
memory, he responded, almost with a feeling of superstitious awe, to the
trembling cry of Telie Doe:--

"It is the Jibbenainosay!" she exclaimed, staring upon the corse with
mingled horror and wonder:--"Nick of the Woods is up again in the
forest!"



CHAPTER XI.


There was little really superstitious in the temper of Captain Forrester;
and however his mind might be at first stirred by the discovery of a
victim of the redoubted fiend so devoutly believed in by his host of the
preceding evening, it is certain that his credulity was not so much
excited as his surprise. He sprang from his horse and examined the body,
but looked in vain for the mark of the bullet that had robbed it of life.
No gun-shot wound, at least none of importance, appeared in any part.
There was, indeed, a bullet-hole in the left shoulder, and, as it seemed,
very recently inflicted: but it was bound up with leaves and vulnerary
herbs, in the usual Indian way, showing that it must have been received
at some period anterior to the attack which had robbed the warrior of
life. The gashes across the ribs were the only other wounds on the body;
that on the head, made by a hatchet, was evidently the one that had
caused the warrior's death.

If this circumstance abated the wonder the soldier had at first felt on
the score of a man being killed at so short a distance from his own
party, without any one hearing the shot, he was still more at a loss to
know how one of the dead man's race, proverbial for wariness and
vigilance, should have been approached by any merely human enemy so nigh
as to render fire-arms unnecessary to his destruction. But that a human
enemy had effected the slaughter, inexplicable as it seemed, he had no
doubt; and he began straightway to search among the leaves strewn over
the ground, for the marks of his foot-steps; not questioning that, if he
could find and follow them for a little distance, he should discover the
author of the deed, and, which was of more moment to himself, a friend
and guide to conduct his party from the forest.

His search was, however, fruitless; for, whether it was that the shadows
of the evening lay too dark on the ground, or that eyes more accustomed
than his own to such duties were required to detect a trail among dried
forest leaves, it was certain that he failed to discover a single
foot-step, or other vestige of the slayer. Nor were Pardon Dodge and
Emperor, whom he summoned to his assistance, a whit more successful; a
circumstance, however, that rather proved their inexperience than the
supernatural character of the Jibbenainosay, whose foot-prints, as it
appeared, were not more difficult to find than those of the dead Indian,
for which they sought equally in vain.

While they were thus fruitlessly engaged, an exclamation from Telie Doe
drew their attention to a spectacle, suddenly observed, which, to her
awe-struck eyes, presented the appearance of the very being, so truculent
yet supernatural, whose traces, it seemed, were to be discovered only on
the breasts of his lifeless victims; and Roland, looking up, beheld with
surprise, perhaps even for a moment with the stronger feeling of awe, a
figure stalking through the woods at a distance, looking as tall and
gigantic in the growing twilight, as the airy demon of the Brocken, or
the equally colossal spectres seen on the wild summits of the Peruvian
Andes. Distance and the darkness together rendered the vision indistinct;
but Roland could see that the form was human, that it moved onwards with
rapid strides, and with its countenance bent upon the earth, or upon
another moving object, dusky and of lesser size, that rolled before it,
guiding the way, like the bowl of the dervise in the Arabian story; and,
finally, that it held in its hands, as if on the watch for an enemy, an
implement wondrously like the fire-lock of a human fighting-man. At
first, it appeared as if the figure was approaching the party, and that
in a direct line; but presently Roland perceived it was gradually bending
its course away to the left, its eyes still so closely fixed on its dusky
guide,--the very bear, as Roland supposed, which was said so often to
direct the steps of the Jibbenainosay,--that it seemed as if about to
pass the party entirely without observation.

But this it made no part of the young soldier's resolutions to permit;
and, accordingly, he sprang upon his horse, determined to ride forwards
and bring the apparition to a stand, while it was yet at a distance.

"Man or devil, Jibbenainosay or rambling settler," he cried, "it is, at
least, no Indian, and therefore no enemy. Holla, friend!" he exclaimed
aloud, and dashed forward, followed, though not without hesitation, by
his companions.

At the sound of his voice the spectre started and looked up; and then,
without betraying either surprise or a disposition to beat a mysterious
retreat, advanced to meet the soldier, walking rapidly, and waving his
hand all the while with an impatient gesture, as if commanding the party
to halt;--a command which was immediately obeyed by Roland and all.

And now it was, that, as it drew nigh, its stature appeared to grow less
and less colossal, and the wild lineaments with which fancy had invested
it, faded from sight, leaving the phantom a mere man, of tall frame
indeed, but without a single characteristic of dress or person to delight
the soul of wonder. The black bear dwindled into a little dog, the
meekest and most insignificant of his tribe, being nothing less or more,
in fact, than the identical Peter, which had fared so roughly in the
hands, or rather under the feet, of Roaring Ralph Stackpole, at the
Station, the day before; while the human spectre, the supposed fiend of
the woods, sinking from its dignity in equal proportion of abasement,
suddenly presented to Roland's eyes the person of Peter's master, the
humble, peaceful, harmless Nathan Slaughter.

The transformation was so great and unexpected, for even Roland looked to
find in the wanderer, if not a destroying angel, at least some formidable
champion of the forest, that he could scarce forbear a laugh, as Nathan
came stalking up, followed by little Peter, who stole to the rear, as
soon as strangers were perceived, as if to avoid the kicks and cuffs
which his experience had, doubtless, taught him were to be expected on
all such occasions. The young man felt the more inclined to indulge his
mirth, as the character which Bruce had given him of Wandering Nathan, as
one perfectly acquainted with the woods, convinced him that he could not
have fallen upon a better person to extricate him from his dangerous
dilemma, and thus relieved his breast of a mountain of anxiety and
distress. But the laugh with which he greeted his approach found no
response from Nathan himself, who, having looked with amazement upon
Edith and Telie, as if marvelling what madness had brought females at
that hour into that wild desert, turned at last to the soldier,
demanding, with inauspicious gravity,--

"Friend! does thee think thee is in thee own parlour with thee women at
home, that thee shouts so loud and laughs so merrily? or does thee know
thee is in a wild Kentucky forest, with murdering Injuns all around
thee?"

"I trust not," said Roland, much more seriously; "but, in truth, we all
took you for Nick of the Woods, the redoubtable Nick himself; and you
must allow that our terrors were ridiculous enough, when they could
convert a peaceful man like you into such a blood-thirsty creature. That
there are Indians in the wood I can well believe, having the evidence
of Dodge, here, who professes to have seen six, and killed one, and of my
own eyes into the bargain.--Yonder lies one, dead, at this moment, under
the walnut-tree, killed by some unknown hand,--Telie Doe says by Nick of
the Woods himself--"

"Friend," said Nathan, interrupting the young man, without ceremony,
"thee had better think of living Injuns than talk of dead ones; for, of a
truth, thee is like to have trouble with them!"

"Not now, I hope, with such a man as you to help me out of the woods. In
the name of heaven, where am I, and whither am I going?"

"Whither thee is going," replied Nathan, "it might be hard to say, seeing
that thee way of travelling is none of the straightest: nevertheless, if
thee continues thee present course, it is my idea, thee is travelling to
the Upper Ford of the river, and will fetch it in twelve minutes, or
thereabouts, and, in the same space, find theeself in the midst of thirty
ambushed Injuns."

"Good heavens!" cried Roland, "have we then been labouring only to
approach the cut-throats? There is not a moment, then, to lose, and your
finding us is even more providential than I thought. Put yourself at our
head, lead us out of this den of thieves,--conduct us to the Lower
Ford,--to our companions, the emigrants; or, if that may not be, take us
back to the Station,--or any where at all, where I may find safety for
these females.--For myself, I am incapable of guiding them longer."

"Truly," said Nathan, looking embarrassed, "I would do what I could for
thee, but--"

"_But!_ Do you hesitate?" cried the Virginian, in extreme indignation:
"will you leave us to perish, when you, and you alone, can guide us from
the forest?"

"Friend," said Nathan, in a submissive, deprecating tone, "I am a man of
peace: and paradventure, the party being so numerous, the Injuns will
fall upon us: and, truly, they will not spare me any more than another:
for they kill the non-fighting men, as well as them that fight. Truly, I
am in much fear for myself: but a single man might escape."

"If you are such a knave, such a mean-spirited, unfeeling dastard, as to
think of leaving these women to their fate," said Roland, giving way to
rage, "be assured that the first step will be your last;--I will blow
your brains out, the moment you attempt to leave us!"

At these ireful words, Nathan's eyes began to widen.

"Truly," said he, "I don't think thee would be so wicked! But thee takes
by force that which I would have given with good will. It was not my
purpose to refuse thee assistance; though it is unseemly that one of my
peaceful faith should go with fighting-men among men of war, as if to do
battle. But, friend, if we should fall upon the angry red-men, truly,
there will bloodshed come of it; and thee will say to me, 'Nathan, lift
up thee gun and shoot;' and peradventure, if I say 'Nay,' thee will call
me hard names, as thee did before, saying, 'If thee don't, I will blow
thee brains out!'--Friend, I am a man of peace; and if--"

"Trouble yourself no longer on that score," said the soldier, who began
to understand how the land lay, and how much the meek Nathan's reluctance
to become his guide was engendered by his fears of being called on to
take a share in such fighting as might occur: "trouble yourself no
longer; we will take care to avoid a contest."

"Truly," said Nathan, "that may not be as thee chooses, the Injuns being
all around thee."

"If a rencontre should be inevitable," said Roland, with a smile,
mingling grim contempt of Nathan's pusillanimity with secret satisfaction
at the thought of being thus able to secure the safety of his kinswoman,
"all that I shall expect of you will be to decamp with the females,
whilst we three, Emperor, Pardon Dodge, and myself, cover your retreat:
we can, at least, check the assailants, if we die for it!"

This resolute speech was echoed by each of the other combatants, the
negro exclaiming, though with no very valiant utterance, "Yes, massa! no
mistake in ole Emperor;--will die for missie and massa,"--while Pardon,
who was fast relapsing into the desperation that had given him courage on
a former occasion, cried out, with direful emphasis, "If there's no
dodging the critturs, then there a'n't; and if I must fight, then I
_must_; and them that takes my scalp must gin the worth on't, or it a'n't
no matter!"

"Truly," said Nathan, who listened to these several outpourings of spirit
with much complacency, "I am a man of peace and amity, according to my
conscience; but if others are men of wrath and battle, according to
theirs, I will not take it upon me to censure them,--nay, not even if
they should feel themselves called upon by hard necessity to shed the
blood of their Injun fellow-creatures,--who, it must be confessed, if we
should stumble on the same, will do their best to make that necessity as
strong as possible. But now let us away, and see what help there is for
us; though whither to go, and what to do, there being Injuns before, and
Injuns behind, and Injuns all around, truly, truly, it doth perplex me."

And so, indeed, it seemed; for Nathan straightway fell into a fit of
musing, shaking his head, and tapping his finger contemplatively on the
stock of that rifle, terrible only to the animals that furnished him
subsistence, and all the while in such apparent abstraction, that he took
no notice of a suggestion made by Roland,--namely, that he should lead
the way to the deserted Ford, where, as the soldier said, there was every
reason to believe there were no Indians,--but continued to argue the
difficulty in his own mind, interrupting the debate only to ask counsel
where there seemed the least probability of obtaining it:--

"Peter!" said he, addressing himself to the little dog, and that with as
much gravity as if addressing himself to a human adviser, "I have my
thoughts on the matter,--what does _thee_ think of matters and things?"

"My friend," cried Roland, impatiently, "this is no affair to be
entrusted to the wisdom of a brute dog!"

"If there is any one here whose wisdom can serve us better," said Nathan,
meekly, "let him speak. Thee don't know Peter, friend, or thee would use
him with respect. Many a long day has he followed me through the forest;
and many a time has he helped me out of harm and peril from man and
beast, when I was at sore shifts to help myself. For, truly, friend, as I
told thee before, the Injuns have no regard for men, whether men of peace
or war; and an honest, quiet, peace-loving man can no more roam the wood,
hunting for the food that sustains life, without the fear of being
murdered, than a fighting-man in search of his prey.--Thee sees now
what little dog Peter is doing? He runs to the tracks, and he wags his
tail;--truly I am of the same way of thinking!"

"What tracks are they?" demanded Roland, as he followed Nathan to the
path which the latter had been pursuing, when arrested by the soldier,
and where the little cur was now smelling about, occasionally lifting his
head and wagging his tail, as if to call his master's attention.

"_What_ tracks!" echoed Nathan, looking on the youth first with wonder,
and then with commiseration, and adding,--"It was a tempting of
Providence, friend, for _thee_ to lead poor helpless women into a wild
forest. Does thee not know the tracks of thee own horses?"

"'Sdeath!" said Roland, looking on the marks, as Nathan, pointed them out
in the soft earth, and reflecting with chagrin how wildly he had been
rambling, for more than an hour, since they had been impressed on the
soil.

"Thee knows the hoof-marks," said Nathan, now pointing with a grin, at
other tracks of a different appearance among them; "perhaps thee knows
_these_ foot-prints also?"

"They are the marks of footmen," said the soldier, in surprise; "but how
came they there I know not, no footmen being of our party."

The grin that marked the visage of the man of peace widened almost into a
laugh, as Roland spoke. "Verily," he cried, "thee is in the wrong place,
friend, in the forest! If thee had no footmen with thee, could thee have
none _after_ thee? Look, friend, here are tracks, not of one man, but of
five, each stepping on tiptoe, as if to tread lightly and look well
before him,--each with a moccasin on,--each with a toe turned in; each--"

"Enough,--they were Indians!" said Roland, with a shudder, "and they must
have been close behind us!"

"Now, friend," said Nathan, "thee will have more respect for Peter; for,
truly, it was Peter told me of these things, when I was peaceably hunting
my game in the forest. He showed me the track of five ignorant persons
rambling through the wood, as the hawk flies in the air,--round, round,
round, all the time,--or like an ox that has been browsing on the leaves
of the buck-eye;[7] and he showed me that five evil-minded Shawnees were
pursuing in their trail. So thinks I to myself, 'these poor creatures
will come to mischief, if no one gives them warning of their danger;' and
therefore I started to follow, Peter showing me the way. And truly, if
there can any good come of me finding thee in this hard ease, thee must
give all the thanks and all the praise to poor Peter!"

[Footnote 7: The buck-eye, or American horse-chestnut, seems to be
universally considered, in the West, a mortal poison, both fruit and
leaves. Cattle affected by it are said to play many remarkable antics, as
if intoxicated--turning, twisting, and rolling about and around, until
death closes their agonies]

"I will never more speak ill of a dog as long as I live," said Roland.
"But let us away. I thought our best course was to the Lower Ford; but, I
find, I am mistaken. We must away in the opposite direction."

"Not so," said Nathan, coolly; "Peter is of opinion that we must run the
track over again; and, truly, so am I. We must follow these, same five
Injuns: it is as much as our lives are worth."

"You are mad!" said Roland. "This will be to bring us right upon the
skulking cut-throats. Let us fly in another direction: the forest is open
before us."

"And how long does thee think it will keep open? Friend, I tell thee,
thee is surrounded by Injuns. On the south, they lie at the Ford; on the
west, is the river rolling along in a flood; and at the east, are the
roads full of Shawnees on the scout. Verily, friend, there is but little
comfort to think of proceeding in any direction, even to the north, where
there are five murdering creatures full before us. But this is my
thought, and, I rather think, it is Peter's: if we go to the north, we
know pretty much all the evil that lies before us, and how to avoid it;
whereas, by turning in either of the other quarters, we go into danger
blindfold."

"And how shall we avoid these five villains before us?" asked Roland,
anxiously.

"By keeping them before us," replied Nathan; "that is, friend, by
following _them_, until such time as they turn where thee turned before
them, (and, I warrant me, the evil creatures will turn wheresoever thee
trail does); when we, if we have good luck, may slip quietly forward, and
leave them, to follow us, after first taking the full swing of all thee
roundabout vagaries."

"Take your own course," said Roland; "it may be the best. We can, at the
worst, but stumble upon these five; and then (granting that you can, in
the meanwhile, bear the females off), I will answer for keeping two or
three of the villains busy. Take your own course," he repeated; "the
night is darkening around us; we must do something."

"Thee says the truth," cried Nathan. "As for stumbling unawares on the
five evil persons thee is in dread of, trust Peter for that; thee shall
soon see what a friend thee has in little dog Peter. Truly, for a
peaceful man like me, it is needful I should have some one to tell me
when dangerous persons are nigh."

With these words, which were uttered with a good countenance, showing how
much his confidence in the apparently insignificant Peter preserved him
from the fears natural to his character and situation, the man of peace
proceeded to marshal the company in a line, directing them to follow him
in that order, and earnestly impressing upon all the necessity of
preserving strict silence upon the march. This being done, he boldly
strode forwards, taking a post at least two hundred paces in advance of
the others, at which distance, as he gave Roland to understand, he
desired the party to follow, as was the more necessary, since their being
mounted rendered them the more liable to be observed by distant enemies.
"If thee sees me wave my hand above my head," were his last instructions
to the young soldier, who began to be well pleased with his readiness and
forecast, "bring thee people to a halt; if thee sees me drop upon the
ground, lead them under the nearest cover, and keep them quiet; for thee
may then be certain there is mischief, or mischievous people nigh at
hand. But verily, friend, with Peter's help, we will circumvent them
all."

With this cheering assurance, lie now strode forward to his station, and
coming to a halt with his dog Peter, Roland immediately beheld the latter
run to a post forty or fifty paces further in advance, when he paused to
receive the final orders of his master, which were given with a motion of
the same hand that a moment after beckoned the party to follow. Had
Roland been sufficiently nigh to take note of proceedings, he would have
admired the conduct of the little brute, the unerring accuracy with which
he pursued the trail, the soft and noiseless motion with which he stepped
from leaf to leaf, casting his eyes ever and anon to the right and left,
and winding the air before him, as if in reality conscious of peril, and
sensible that the welfare of the six mortals at his heels depended upon
the faithful exercise of all his sagacity. These things, however, from
the distance, Roland was unable to observe; but he saw enough to convince
him that the animal addressed itself to its task with as much zeal and
prudence as its master. A sense of security, the first felt for several
hours, now began to disperse the gloom that had oppressed his spirits;
and Edith's countenance, throughout the whole of the adventure a
faithful, though doubtless somewhat exaggerated reflection of his own,
also lost much of its melancholy and terror, though without at any moment
regaining the cheerful smiles that had decked it at the setting out. It
was left for Roland alone, as his mind regained its elasticity, to marvel
at the motley additions by which his party had increased in so short a
time to twice its original numbers, and to speculate on the prospects of
an expedition committed to the guidance of such a conductor as little
Peter.



CHAPTER XII.


The distance at which Roland with his party followed the guides, and the
gloom of the woods, prevented his making any close observations upon
their motions, unless when some swelling ridge, nearly destitute of
trees, brought them nearer to the light of the upper air. At other times
he could do little more than follow with his eye the tall figure of
Nathan, plunging from shadow to shadow, and knoll to knoll, with a pace
both free and rapid, and little resembling the shambling, hesitating step
with which he moved among the haunts of his contemners and oppressors. As
for the dog, little Peter, he was only with difficulty seen when
ascending some such illuminated knoll as has been mentioned, when he
might be traced creeping along with unabated vigilance and caution.

It was while ascending one of these low, and almost bare swells of
ground, that the little animal gave the first proof of that sagacity or
wisdom, as Nathan called it, on which the latter seemed to rely for
safety so much more than on his own experience and address. He had no
sooner reached the summit of the knoll than he abruptly came to a stand,
and by and by cowered to the earth, as if to escape the observation of
enemies in front, whose presence he indicated in no other way, unless by
a few twitches and flourishes of his tail, which, a moment after, became
as rigid and motionless as if, with his body, it had been suddenly
converted into stone. The whole action, as far as Roland could notice it
was similar to that of a well-trained spaniel marking game, and such was
the interpretation the soldier put upon it, until Nathan, suddenly
stopping, waved his hand as a signal to the party to halt, which was
immediately obeyed. The next moment Nathan was seen creeping up the hill,
to investigate the cause of alarm, which he proceeded to do with great
caution, as if well persuaded there was danger at hand. Indeed, he had
not yet reached the brow of the eminence, when Roland beheld him suddenly
drop upon his face, thereby giving the best evidence of the existence of
peril of an extreme and urgent character.

The young Virginian remembered the instructions of his guide, to seek
shelter for his party the moment this signal was given; and, accordingly,
he led his followers without delay into a little tangled brake hard by,
where he charged them to remain in quiet until the cause of the
interruption should be ascertained and removed. From the edge of the
brake he could see the guide, still maintaining his position on his face,
yet dragging himself upward like a snake, until he had reached the top of
the hill and looked over into the maze of forest beyond. In this
situation he lay for several moments, apparently deeply engaged with the
scene before him; when Forrester, impatient of his silence and delay,
anxiously interested in every turn of events, and perhaps unwilling, at a
season of difficulty, to rely altogether on Nathan's unaided
observations, gave his horse in charge of Emperor, and ascended the
eminence himself; taking care, however, to do as Nathan had done, and
throw himself upon the ground, when near its summit. In this way, he
succeeded in creeping to Nathan's side, when the cause of alarm was soon
made manifest.

The forest beyond the ridge was, for a considerable distance, open and
free from undergrowth, the trees standing wide apart, and thus admitting
a broad extent of vision, though now contracted by the increasing dusk of
evening. Through this expanse, and in its darkest corner, flitting dimly
along, Roland's eyes fell upon certain shadows, at first vague and
indistinct, but which soon assumed the human form, marching one after the
other in a line, and apparently approaching the very ridge on which he
lay, each with the stealthy yet rapid pace of a wild cat. They were but
five in number; but the order of their march, the appearance of their
bodies seemingly half naked, and the busy intentness with which they
pursued the trail left so broad and open by the inexperienced wanderers,
would have convinced Roland of their savage character, had he possessed
no other evidence than that of his own senses.

"They are Indians;" he muttered in Nathan's ear.

"Shawnee creatures," said the latter, with edifying coolness;--"and
will think no more of taking the scalps of thee two poor women than of
digging off thee own."

"There are but five of them, and--" The young man paused, and the gloom
that a spirit so long harassed by fears, though fears for another, had
spread over his countenance, was exchanged for a look of fierce decision
that better became his features. "Harkee, man," he abruptly resumed, "we
cannot pass the ridge without being seen by them; our horses are
exhausted, and we cannot hope to escape them by open flight."

"Verily," said Nathan, "thee speaks the truth."

"Nor can we leave the path we are now pursuing, without fear of falling
into the hands of a party more numerous and powerful. Our only path of
escape, you said, was over this ridge, and towards yonder Lower Ford?"

"Truly," said Nathan, with a lugubrious look of assent,--"what thee says
is true: but how we are to fly these evil-minded creatures, with poor
frightened women hanging to our legs--"

"We will not fly them!" said Roland, the frown of battle gathering
on his brows. "Yonder crawling reptiles,--reptiles in spirit as in
movement,--have been dogging our steps for hours, waiting for the
moment when to strike with advantage at my defenceless followers; and
they will dog us still, if permitted, until there is no escape from their
knives and hatchets for either man or woman. There is a way of stopping
them,--there is a way of requiting them!"

"Truly," said Nathan, "there is no such way; unless we were wicked men of
the world and fighting men, and would wage battle with them!"

"Why not meet the villains in their own way? There are but five of
them,--and footmen too! By heavens, man, we will charge them,--cut them
to pieces, and so rid the wood of them! Four strong men like us,
fighting, too, in defence of women,"

"_Four!_" echoed Nathan, looking wonder and alarm together: "does thee
think to have _me_ do the wicked thing of shedding blood? Thee should
remember, friend, that I am a follower of peaceful doctrines, a man of
peace and amity."

"What!" said Roland, warmly, "would you not defend your life from the
villains? Would you suffer yourself to be tomahawked, unresisting, when a
touch of the trigger under your finger, a blow of the knife at your belt,
would preserve the existence nature and heaven alike call on you to
protect? Would you lie still, like a fettered ox, to be butchered?"

"Truly," said Nathan, "I would take myself away; or, if that might
not be, why then, friend,--verily, friend, if I could do nothing
else,--truly, I must then give myself up to be murdered,"

"Spiritless, mad, or hypocritical!" cried Roland, with mingled wonder
and contempt. Then grasping his strange companion by the arm, he cried,
"Harkee, man, if you would not strike a blow for yourself,--would you
not strike it for another? What if you had a wife, a parent, a child,
lying beneath the uplifted hatchet, and you with these arms in your
hands,--what! do you tell me you would stand by and see them murdered?--I
say, a wife or child!--the wife of your bosom,--the child of your heart?
would you see _them_ murdered?"

At this stirring appeal, uttered with indescribable energy and passion,
though only in a whisper, Nathan's countenance changed from dark to pale,
and his arm trembled in the soldier's grasp. He turned upon him also a
look of extraordinary wildness, and muttered betwixt his teeth an answer
that betokened as much confusion of mind as agitation of spirits:
"Friend," he said, "whoever thee is, it matters nothing to thee what
might happen, or has happened, in such case made and provided. I am a
man, thee is another; thee has thee conscience, and I have mine. If thee
will fight, fight; settle it with thee conscience. If thee don't like to
see thee kinswoman murdered, and thee thinks thee has a call to battle,
do thee best with sword and pistol, gun and tomahawk; kill and slay to
thee liking: if thee conscience finds no fault with thee, neither will I.
But as for me, let the old Adam of the flesh stir me as it may, I have no
one to fight for,--wife or child, parent or kinsman, I have none: if thee
will hunt the world over, thee will not find one in it that is my kinsman
or relative."

"But I ask you," said Roland, somewhat surprised at the turn of Nathan's
answer, "I ask you, if you _had_ a wife or child--"

"But I have _not_," cried Nathan, interrupting him vehemently; "and
therefore, friend, why should thee speak of them? Them that are dead, let
them rest: they can never cry to me more.--Think of thee own blood, and
do what seems best to thee for the good thereof."

"Assuredly I would," said Roland, who, however much his curiosity was
roused by the unexpected agitation of his guide, had little time to think
of any affairs but his own,--"Assuredly I would, could I only count upon
your hearty assistance. I tell you, man, my blood boils to look at yonder
crawling serpents, and to think of the ferocious object with which they
are dogging at my heels; and I would give a year of my life,--ay, if the
whole number of years were but ten,--one whole year of all,--for the
privilege of paying them for their villany beforehand."

"Thee has thee two men to back thee," said Nathan, who had now recovered
his composure; "and with these two men, if thee is warlike enough, thee
might do as much mischief as thee conscience calls for. But, truly, it
becomes not a man of peace like me to speak of strife and bloodshed--Yet,
truly," he added, hastily, "I think there must mischief come of this
meeting; for, verily, the evil creatures are leaving thee tracks, and
coming towards us!"

"They stop!" said Forrester, eagerly,--"they look about them,--they have
lost the track,--they are coming this way! You will not fight, yet you
may counsel.--What shall I do? Shall I attack them? What _can_ I do?"

"Friend," replied Nathan, briskly, "I can't tell what thee can do; but I
can tell thee what a man of Kentucky, a wicked fighter of Injuns, would
do in such a case made and provided. He would betake him to the thicket
where he had hidden his women and horses, and he would lie down with his
fighting men behind a log; and truly, if these ill-disposed Injun-men
were foolish enough to approach, he would fire upon them with his three
guns, taking them by surprise, and perhaps, wicked man, killing the
better half of them on the spot: and then--"

"And then," interrupted Roland taking fire at the idea, "he would spring
on his horse, and make sure of the rest with sword and pistol?"

"Truly," said Nathan, "he would do no such thing, seeing that, the moment
he lifted up his head above the log, he would be liker to have an Injun
bullet through it than to see the wicked creature that shot it. Verily,
a man of Kentucky would be wiser. He would take the pistols thee speaks
of, supposing it were his good luck to have them, and let fly at the
evil-minded creatures with them also; not hoping, indeed, to do any
execution with such small ware, but to make the Injuns believe there were
as many enemies as fire-arms: and, truly, if they did not take to their
heels after such a second volley, they would be foolisher Injuns than
were ever before heard of in Kentucky."

"By Heaven," said Forrester, "it is good advice: and I will take it!"

"Advice, friend! I don't advise thee," said Nathan, hastily: "truly, I
advise to nothing but peace and amity. I only tell thee what a wicked
Kentucky fighting-man would do,--a man that might think it, as many of
them do, as lawful to shoot a prowling Injun as a skulking bear."

"And I would to Heaven," said Roland, "I had but two,--nay, but one of
them with me this instant. A man like Bruce were worth the lives of a
dozen such scum.--I must do my best."

"Truly, friend," said Nathan, who had listened to the warlike outpourings
of the young soldier with a degree of complacency and admiration one
would have scarce looked for in a man of his peaceful character, "thee
has a conscience of thee own, and if thee will fight these Injun-men from
an ambush, truly, I will not censure nor exhort thee to the contrary.
If thee can rely upon thee two men, the coloured person and the other,
thee may hold the evil creatures exceeding uneasy."

"Alas," said Roland, the fire departing from his eyes, "you remind me of
my weakness. My men will _not_ fight, unless from sheer desperation.
Emperor I know to be a coward, and Dodge, I fear, is no braver."

"Verily," said Nathan, bluffly, "it was foolish of thee to come into
the woods in such company, foolisher still to think of fighting five
Injun-men with such followers to back thee; and truly," he added, "it was
foolishest of all to put the safe-keeping of such helpless creatures into
the hands of one who can neither fight for them nor for himself.
Nevertheless, thee is as a babe and suckling in the woods, and Peter and
I will do the best we can for thee. It is lucky for thee, that as thee
cannot fight, thee has the power to fly; and, truly, for the poor women's
sake, it is better thee should leave the woods in peace."

With that, Nathan directed the young man's attention to the pursuing
foes, who, having by some mischance, lost the trail, had scattered about
in search of it, and at last recovered it; though not before two of them
had approached so nigh the ridge on which the observers lay as to give
just occasion for fear lest they should cross it immediately in front of
the party of travellers. The deadly purpose with which the barbarians
were pursuing him Roland could infer from the cautious silence preserved
while they were searching for the lost tracks; and even when these were
regained, the discovery was communicated from one to another merely by
signs, not a man uttering so much as a word. In a few moments, they were
seen again, formed in a single file, stealing through the woods with a
noiseless but rapid pace, and, fortunately, bending their steps towards a
distant part of the ridge, where Roland and his companions had so lately
crossed it.

"Get thee down to thee people," said Nathan; "lead them behind the
thicket, and when thee sees me beckon thee, carry them boldly over the
hill. Thee must pass it, while the Shawnee-men are behind yonder clump of
trees, which is so luckily for thee on the very comb of the swell. Be
quick in obeying, friend, or the evil creatures may catch sight of thee:
thee has no time to lose."

The ardour of battle once driven from his mind, Roland was able to
perceive the folly of risking a needless contest betwixt a superior body
of wild Indian warriors and his own followers. But had his warlike spirit
been at its height, it must have been quelled in a moment by the
appearance of his party, left in the thicket, during his brief absence on
the hill, to feed their imaginations with terrors of every appalling
character; in which occupation, as he judged at a glance, the gallant
Dodge and Emperor had been even more industrious than the females, the
negro looking the very personification of mute horror, and bending low on
his saddle as if expecting every instant a shower of Indian bullets to be
let fly into the thicket; while Pardon expressed the state of his
feelings by trying aloud, as soon as Rowland appeared, "I say, Capting,
if you seed 'em, a'nt there no dodging of 'em no how?"

"We can escape, Roland!" exclaimed Edith, anticipating the soldier's news
from his countenance; "the good man can save us?"

"I hope, I trust so," replied the kinsman: "we are in no immediate
danger. Be composed, and for your lives, all now preserve silence."

A few words served to explain the posture of affairs, and a few seconds
to transfer the party from its ignoble hiding-place to the open wood
behind it; when Roland, casting his eyes to where Nathan lay motionless
on the hill, awaited impatiently the expected signal. Fortunately, it was
soon given; and, in a few moments more, the party, moving briskly but
stealthily over the eminence, had plunged into the dark forest beyond,
leaving the baffled pursuers to follow afterwards as they might.

"Now," said Nathan, taking post at Roland's side, and boldly directing
his course across the track of the enemy, "we have the evil creatures
behind us, and, truly, there we will keep them. And now, friend soldier,
since such thee is, thee must make thee horses do duty, tired or not; for
if we reach not the Old Ford before darkness closes on us, we may find
but ill fortune crossing the waters. Hark, friend! does thee hear?" he
exclaimed, coming to a pause, as a sudden and frightful yell suddenly
rose in the forest beyond the ridge, obviously proceeding from the five
foes, and expressing at once surprise, horror, and lamentation: "Did thee
not say thee found a dead Injun in the wood?"

"We did," replied the soldier, "the body of an Indian horribly mangled;
and, if I am to believe the strange story I have heard of the
Jibbenainosay, it was some of his bloody work."

"It is good for thee, then, and the maidens that is with thee," said
Nathan; "for, truly, the evil creatures have found that same dead man,
being doubtless one of their own scouting companions; and, truly, they
say the Injuns, in such cases made and provided, give over their evil
designs in terror and despair; in which case, as I said, it will be good
for thee and thee companions. But follow, friends, and tarry not to ask
questions. Thee poor women shall come to no harm, if Nathan Slaughter or
little Dog Peter can help them."

With these words of encouragement, Nathan, bounding along with an
activity that kept him ever in advance of the mounted wanderers, led the
way from the open forest into a labyrinth of brakes and bogs, through
paths traced rather by wolves and bears than any nobler animals, so wild,
so difficult, and sometimes, in appearance, so impracticable to be
pursued, that Roland, bewildered from the first, looked every moment to
find himself plunged into difficulties from which neither the zeal of
Nathan nor the sagacity of the unpretending Peter could extricate his
weary followers. The night was coming fast, and coming with clouds and
distant peals of thunder, the harbingers of new tempests; and how the
journey was to be continued, when darkness should at last invest them,
through the wild mazes of vine and brake in which they now wandered, was
a question which he scarce durst answer. But night came, and still Nathan
led the way with unabated confidence and activity, professing a very
hearty contempt for all perils and difficulties of the woods, except such
as proceeded from "evil-minded Shawnee creatures;" and, indeed, averring
that there was scarce a nook in the forest, for miles around, with which
he was not as well acquainted as with the patches of his own leathern
garments. "Truly," said he, "when I first came to this land, I did make
me a little cabin in a place hard by; but the Injuns burned the same;
and, verily, had it not been for little Peter, who gave me a hint of
their coming, I should have been burned with it. Be of good heart,
friend: if thee will keep the ill-meaning Injun-men out of my way, I
will adventure to lead thee anywhere thee will, within twenty miles of
this place, on the darkest night, and that through the thickest cane, or
deepest swamp, thee can lay eyes on,--that is, if I have but little dog
Peter to help me. Courage, friend; thee is now coming fast to the river;
and, if we have but good luck in crossing it, thee shall, peradventure,
find theeself nearer thee friends than thee thinks for."

This agreeable assurance was a cordial to the spirits of all, and the
travellers now finding themselves, though still in profound darkness,
moving through the open woodlands again, instead of the maze of copses
that had so long confined them, Roland took advantage of the change to
place himself at Nathan's side, and endeavour to draw from him some
account of his history, and the causes that had brought him into a
position and way of life so ill suited to his faith and peaceful habits.
To his questions, however, Nathan seemed little disposed to return
satisfactory answers, except in so far as they related to his adventures
since the period of his coming to the frontier; of which he spoke very
freely, though succinctly. He had built him cabins, like other lonely
settlers, and planted cornfields, from which he had been driven, time
after time, by the evil Shawnees, incurring frequent perils and
hardships; which, with the persecutions he endured from his more warlike
and intolerant neighbours, gradually drove him into the forest to seek a
precarious subsistence from the spoils of the chase. As to his past life,
and the causes that had made him a dweller of the wilderness, he betrayed
so little inclination to satisfy the young man's curiosity, that Roland
dropped the subject entirely, not however without suspecting, that the
imputations Bruce had cast upon his character might have had some
foundation in truth.

But while conning these things over in his mind, on a sudden the soldier
stepped from the dark forest into a broad opening, canopied only by the
sky, sweeping like a road through the wood, in which it was lost behind
him; while, in front, it sank abruptly into a deep hollow or gulf, in
which was heard the sullen rush of an impetuous river.



CHAPTER XIII.


The roar of the moving flood, for such, by its noise, it seemed, as they
descended the river-bank, to which Nathan had so skilfully conducted
them, awoke in Roland's bosom a feeling of dismay.

"Fear not," said the guide, to whom he imparted his doubts of the safety
of the ford; "there is more danger in one single skulking Shawnee than
ten thousand such sputtering brooks. Verily, the ford is good enough,
though deep and rough; and if the water should soil thee young women's
garments a little, thee should remember it will not make so ugly a stain
as the bood-mark of a scalping-savage."

"Lead on," said Pardon Dodge, with unexpected spirit; "I am not one of
them 'ere fellers as fears a big river; and my hoss is a dreadful fine
swimmer."

"In that case," said Nathan, "if thee consents to the same; I will
get up behind thee, and so pass over dry-shod; for the feel of wet
leather-breeches is quite uncomfortable."

This proposal, being reasonable enough, was readily acceded to, and
Nathan was in the act of climbing to the crupper of Dodge's horse, when
little Peter began to manifest a prudent desire to pass the ford dry-shod
also, by pawing at his master's heels, and beseeching his notice with
sundry low but expressive whinings. Such, at least, was the
interpretation which Roland, who perceived the animal's motions, was
inclined to put upon them. He was, therefore, not a little surprised when
Nathan, starting from the stirrup into which he had climbed, leaped again
to the ground, staring around him from right to left with every
appearance of alarm.

"Right, Peter!" he at last muttered, fixing his eye upon the further bank
of the river, a dark mass of hill and forest that rose in dim relief
against the clouded sky, overshadowing the whole stream, which lay like a
pitchy abyss betwixt it and the travellers,--"right, Peter! thee eyes is
as good as thee nose--thee is determined the poor women shall not be
murdered!"

"What is it you see?" demanded Forrester, "and why do you talk of
murdering?"

"Speak low, and look across the river," whispered the guide, in reply;
"does thee see the light glimmering among the rocks by the roadside?"

"I see neither rocks nor road--all is to my eyes confused blackness; and
as for a light, I see nothing--stay! No; 'tis the gleam of a fire-fly."

"The gleam of a fire-fly!" murmured Nathan, with tones that seemed to
mingle wonder and derision with feelings of a much more serious
character; "it is such a fire-fly as might burn a house, or roast a
living captive at the stake:--it is a brand in the hands of a 'camping
Shawnee! Look, friend, he is blowing it into a flame; and presently thee
will see the whole bank around it in a glow."

It was even as Nathan said. Almost while he was yet speaking, the light,
which all now clearly beheld, at first a point as small and faint as the
spark of a lampyris, and then a star scarce bigger or brighter than the
torch of a jack-o'-lantern, suddenly grew in magnitude, projecting a long
and lance-like, though broken, reflection over the wheeling current, and
then as suddenly shot into a bright and ruddy blaze, illumining hill and
river, and even the anxious countenances of the travellers. At the same
time, a dark figure, as of a man engaged feeding the flame with fresh
fuel, was plainly seen twice or thrice to pass before it. How many
others, his comrades, might be watching its increasing blaze, or
preparing for their wild slumbers, among the rocks and bushes where it
was kindled, it was impossible to divine. The sight of the fire itself in
such a solitary spot, and under such circumstances, even if no attendant
had been seen by it, would have been enough to alarm the travellers, and
compel the conviction that their enemies had not forgotten to station a
force at this neglected ford, as well as at the other more frequented one
above, and thus to deprive them of the last hope of escape.

This unexpected incident, the climax of a long series of disappointments,
all of a character so painful and exciting, drove the young soldier again
to despair; which feeling the tantalising sense that he was now within
but a few miles of his companions in exile, and separated from them only
by the single obstruction before him, exasperated into a species of fury
bordering almost upon frenzy.

"There is but one way of escape," he exclaimed, without venturing even a
look towards his kinswoman, or seeking by idle words to conceal the
danger of their situation: "we must pass the river, the roar of the water
will drown the noise of our foot-steps; we can cross unheard and unlooked
for; and then, if there be no way of avoiding them, we can pour a volley
among the rascals at their fire, and take advantage of their confusion to
gallop by. Look to the women, Nathan Slaughter; and you, Pardon Dodge,
and Emperor, follow me, and do as you see me do."

"Truly," said Wandering Nathan, with admirable coolness and
complacency, "thee is a courageous young man, and a young man of sense
and spirit,--that is to say, after thee own sense of matters and things:
and, truly, if it were not for the poor women, and for the blazing fire,
thee might greatly confound and harmfully vanquish the evil creatures,
there placed so unluckily on the bank, in the way and manner which thee
thinks of. But, friend, thee plan will not do: thee might pass unheard
indeed, but not unseen. Does thee not see how brightly the fire blazes on
the water? Truly, we should all be seen and fired at, before we reached
the middle of the stream; and, truly, I should not be surprised if the
gleam of the fire on the pale faces of thee poor women should bring a
shot upon us where we stand; and, therefore, friend, the sooner we get us
out of the way, the better."

"And where shall we betake us?" demanded Roland, the sternness of whose
accents but ill-disguised the gloom and hopelessness of his feelings.

"To a place of safety and of rest," replied the guide, "and to one that
is nigh at hand; where we may lodge us, with little fear of Injuns, until
such time as the waters shall bate a little, or the stars give us light
to cross them at a place where are no evil Shawnees to oppose us. And
then, friend as to slipping by these foolish creatures who make such
bright fires on the public highway, truly, with little Peter's
assistance, we can do it with great ease."

"Let us not delay," said Roland; and added sullenly, "though where a
place of rest and safety can be found in these detestable woods, I can no
longer imagine."

"It is a place of rest, at least for the dead," said Nathan, in a low
voice, at the same time leading the party back again up the bank, and
taking care to shelter them as he ascended, as much as possible, from the
light of the fire, which was now blazing with great brilliancy: "nine
human corpses,--father and mother, grandam and children,--sleep under the
threshold at the door; and there are not many, white men or Injuns, that
will, of their free will, step over the bosoms of the poor murdered
creatures, after nightfall; and, the more especially, because there are
them that believe they rise at midnight, and roam round the house and the
clearings, mourning. Yet it is a good hiding-place for them that are in
trouble; and many a night have little Peter and I sheltered us beneath
the ruined roof, with little fear of either ghosts or Injuns; though,
truly, we have sometimes heard strange and mournful noises among the
trees around us. It is but a poor place and a sad one; but it will afford
thee weary women a safe resting-place till such time as we can cross the
river."

These words of Nathan brought to Roland's recollection the story of the
Ashburns, whom Bruce had alluded to, as having been all destroyed at
their Station in a single night by the Indians, and whose tragical fate,
perhaps, more than any other circumstance, had diverted the course of
travel from the ford, near to which they had seated themselves, to the
upper, and, originally, less frequented one.

It was not without reluctance that Roland prepared to lead his
little party to this scene of butchery and sorrow; for, though little
inclined himself to superstitious feelings of any kind, he could easily
imagine what would be the effect of such a scene, with its gloomy and
blood-stained associations, on the harassed mind of his cousin. But
suffering and terror, even on the part of Edith, were not to be thought
of, where they could purchase escape from evils far more real and
appalling; and he therefore avoided all remonstrance and opposition, and
even sought to hasten the steps of his conductor towards the ruined and
solitary pile.

The bank was soon re-ascended; and the party, stealing along in silence,
presently took their last view of the ford, and the yet blazing-fire that
had warned them so opportunely from its dangerous vicinity. In another
moment they had crept a second time into the forest, though in the
opposite quarter from that whence they had come; making their way through
what had once been a broad path, evidently cut by the hands of man,
through a thick cane-brake, though long disused, and now almost choked by
brambles and shrubs; and, by and by, having followed it for somewhat less
than half a mile, they found themselves on a kind of clearing, which, it
was equally manifest, had been once a cultivated field of several acres
in extent. Throughout the whole of this space, the trunks of the old
forest-trees, dimly seen in the light of a clouded sky, were yet
standing, but entirely leafless and dead, and presenting such an aspect
of desolation as is painful to the mind, even when sunshine, and the
flourishing maize at their roots, invest them with a milder and more
cheerful character. Such prospects are common enough in all new American
clearings, where the husbandman is content to deprive the trees of life,
by _girdling_, and then leave them to the assaults of the elements and
the natural course of decay; and where a thousand trunks, of the gigantic
growth of the West, are thus seen rising together in the air, naked and
hoary with age, they impress the imagination with such gloom as is
engendered by the sight of ruined colonnades.

Such was the case with the present prospect; years had passed since the
axe had sapped the strength of the mighty oaks and beeches; bough after
bough, and limb after limb, had fallen to the earth, with here and there
some huge trunk itself, overthrown by the blast, and now rotting among
weeds on the soil which it cumbered. At the present hour, the spectacle
was peculiarly mournful and dreary. The deep solitude of the spot,--the
hour itself,--the gloomy aspect of the sky veiled in clouds,--the
occasional rush of the wind sweeping like a tempest through the woods, to
be succeeded by a dead and dismal calm,--the roll of distant thunder
reverberating among-the hills,--but, more than all, the remembrance of
the tragical event that had consigned the ill-fated settlement to neglect
and desolation, gave the deepest character of gloom to the scene.

As the travellers entered upon the clearing, there occurred one of those
casualties which so often increase the awe of the looker-on, in such
places. In one of the deepest lulls and hushes of the wind, when there
was no apparent cause in operation to produce such an effect, a tall and
majestic trunk was seen to decline from the perpendicular, topple slowly
through the air, and then fall to the earth with a crash like the shock
of an earthquake.

The poet and the moralising philosopher may find food for contemplation
in such a scene and such a catastrophe. He may see, in the lofty and
decaying trunks, the hoary relics and representatives of a generation of
better and greater spirits than those who lead the destinies of his
own,--spirits, left not more as monuments of the past than as models for
the imitation of the present; he may contrast their majestic serenity and
rest, their silence and immovableness, with the turmoil of the greener
growth around, the uproar and collision produced by every gust, and trace
the resemblance to the scene where the storms of party, rising among the
sons, hurtle so indecently around the gray fathers of the republic, whose
presence should stay them; and, finally, he may behold in the trunks, as
they yield at last to decay, and sink one by one to the earth, the fall
of each aged parent of his country,--a fall, indeed, as of an oak of a
thousand generations, shocking the earth around, and producing for a
moment, wonder, awe, grief, and then a long forgetfulness.

But men in the situation of the travellers have neither time nor
inclination for moralising. The fall of the tree only served to alarm the
weaker members of the party, to some of whom, perhaps, it appeared as an
inauspicious omen. Apparently, however, it woke certain mournful
recollections in the brains of both little Peter and his master, the
former of whom, as he passed it by, began to snuffle and whine in a low
and peculiar manner; while Nathan immediately responded, as if in reply
to his counsellor's address, "Ay, truly, Peter!--thee has a good memory
of the matter; though five long years is a marvellous time for thee
little noddle to hold things. It was under this very tree they murdered
the poor old granny, and brained the innocent, helpless babe. Of a truth,
it was a sight that made my heart sink within me."

"What!" asked Roland, who followed close at his heels, and over heard the
half-soliloquised expressions; "were _you_ present at the massacre!"

"Alas, friend," replied Nathan, "it was neither the first nor last
massacre that I have seen with these eyes. I dwelt, in them days, in a
cabin a little distance down the river; and these poor people, the
Ashburns, were my near neighbours; though, truly, they were not to me as
neighbours should be, but held me in dis-favour because of my faith, and
ever repelled me from their doors with scorn and ill-will. Yet was I
sorry for them, because of the little children they had in the house, the
same being far from succour; and when I found the tracks of the Injun
party in the wood, as it was often my fate to do, while rambling in
search of food, and saw that they were bending their way towards my own
little wigwam, I said to myself, 'Whilst they are burning the same, I
will get me to friend Ashburn, that he may be warned and escape to friend
Brace's Station in time, with his people and cattle.' But, verily, they
held my story light, and laughed and derided me: for, in them days, the
people hardened their hearts and closed their ears against me, because I
held it not according to conscience to kill Injuns as they did, and so
refused. And so, friend, they drove me from their doors; seeing which,
and perceiving the poor creatures were in a manner besotted, and bent
upon their own destruction, and the night coming on fast, I turned my
steps and ran with what speed I could to friend Bruce's, telling him the
whole story, and advising that he should despatch a strong body of
horsemen to the place, so as to frighten the evil creatures away; for,
truly, I did not hold it right that there should be bloodshed. But,
truly and alas, friend, I fared no better, and perhaps a little worse, at
the Station than I had fared before at Ashburn's; wherefore, being left
in despair, I said to myself, I will go into the woods, and hide me away,
not returning to the river, lest I should be compelled to look upon the
shedding-of the blood of the women and little babes, which I had no power
to prevent. But it came into my mind, that, perhaps, the Injuns, not
finding me in the wigwam, might lie in wait round about it, expecting my
return, and so delay the attack upon friend Ashburn's house; whereby I
might have time to reach him, and warn him of his danger again; and this
idea prevailed with me, so that I rose me up again, and, with little
Peter at my side, I ran back again, until I had reached this very field;
when Peter gave me to know the Injuns were hard by. Thee don't know
little Peter, friend; truly, he has the strongest nose for an Injun thee
ever saw. Does thee not fear how he whines and snuffs along the grass?
Now, friend, were it not that this is a bloody spot that Peter
remembers well, because of the wicked deeds he saw performed, I would
know by his whining, as truly as if he were to open his mouth and say as
much in words, that there were evil Injuns nigh at hand, and that it
behooved me to be up and a-doing. Well, friend, as I was saying,--it was
with such words as these that little Peter told me that mischief was
nigh; and, truly, I had scarce time to hide me in the corn, which was
then in the ear, before I heard the direful yells with which the
bloodthirsty creatures, who were then round about the house, woke up its
frighted inmates. Verily, friend, I will not shock thee by telling thee
what I heard and saw. There was a fate on the family, and even on the
animals that looked to it for protection. Neither horse nor cow gave them
the alarm; and even the house-dog slept so soundly, that the enemies
dragged loose brush into the porch and fired it, before any one but
themselves dreamed of danger. It was when the flames burst out that the
warwhoop was sounded; and when the eyes of the sleepers opened, it was
only to see themselves surrounded by flames and raging Shawnees. Then,
friend," continued Nathan, speaking with a faltering and low voice,
graduated for the ears of Roland, for whom alone the story was intended,
though others caught here and there some of its dismal revealments,
"then, thee may think, there was rushing out of men, women, and children,
with the cracking of rifles, the crashing of hatchets, the plunge of
knives, with yells and shrieks such as would turn thee spirit into ice
and water to hear. It was a fearful massacre; but, friend, fearful as it
was, these eyes of mine had looked on one more dreadful before: thee
would not believe it, friend, but thee knows not what them see who have
spent their lives on the Injun border.--Well, friend," continued the
narrator, after this brief digression, "while they were murdering the
stronger, I saw the weakest of all,--the old grandam, with the youngest
babe in her arms, come flying into the corn; and she had reached this
very tree that has fallen but now, as if to remind me of the story, when
the pursuer,--for it was but a single man they sent in chase of the poor
feeble old woman, caught up with her, and struck her down with his
tomahawk. Then, friend,--for, truly, I saw it all in the light of the
fire, being scarce two rods off,--he snatched the poor babe from the
dying woman's arms, and struck it with the same bloody hatchet,--"

"And you!" exclaimed Roland, leaning from his horse and clutching the
speaker by the collar, for he was seized with ungovernable indignation,
or rather fury, at what he esteemed the cold-blooded cowardice of Nathan,
"_You_!" he cried, grasping him as if he would have torn him to pieces,
"You, wretch! stood by and saw the child murdered!"

"Friend!" said Nathan, with some surprise at the unexpected assault, but
still with great submissiveness, "thee is as unjust to me as others. Had
I been as free to shed blood as thee theeself, yet could I not have saved
the babe in that way, seeing that my gun was taken from me, and I was
unarmed. Thee forgets,--or rather I forgot to inform thee,--how, when I
told friend Bruce my story, he took my gun from me, saying that 'as I was
not man enough to use it, I should not be allowed to carry it,' and so
turned me out naked from the fort. Truly, it was an ill thing of him to
take from me that which gave me my meat; and truly too, it was doubly
ill of him, as it concerned the child; for I tell thee, friend, when I
stood in the corn and saw the great brutal Injun raise the hatchet to
strike the little child, had there been a gun in my hand, I should--I
can't tell thee, friend, what I might have done; but, truly, I should not
have permitted the evil creature to do the bloody deed!"

"I thought so, by Heaven!" said Roland, who had relaxed his grasp the
moment Nathan mentioned the seizure of the gun, which story was
corroborated by the account Bruce had himself given of that stretch of
authority,--"I thought so: no human creature, not an Indian, unless the
veriest dastard and dog that ever lived, could have had arms in his hand,
and, on such an occasion, failed to use them! But you had humanity,--you
did something?"

"Friend," said Nathan, meekly, "I did what I could,--but, truly, what
could I? Nevertheless, friend, I did, being set beside myself by the
sight, snatch the little babe out of the man's hands, and fly to the
woods, hoping, though it was sore wounded, that it might yet live. But,
alas, before I had run a mile, it died in my arms, and I was covered from
head to foot with its blood. It was a sore sight for friend Bruce, whom I
found with his people galloping to the ford, to see what there might be
in my story: for, it seems, as he told me himself, that after he had
driven me away, he could not sleep for thinking that perhaps I had told
the truth. And truth enough, he soon found, I had spoken; for galloping
immediately to Ashburn's house, he found nothing there but the corses of
the people, and the house partly consumed,--for, being of green timber,
it could not all burn. There was not one of the poor family that
escaped."

"But they were avenged?" muttered the soldier.

"If thee calls killing the killers avenging," replied Nathan, "the poor
deceased people had vengeance enough. Of the fourteen murderers, for that
was the number, eleven were killed before day-dawn, the pursuers having
discovered where they had built their fire, and so taken them by
surprise; and of the three that escaped, it was afterwards said by
returning captives, that only one made his way home, the other two having
perished in the woods, in some way unknown.--But, truly," continued
Nathan, suddenly diverting his attention from the tragic theme to the
motions of his dog, "little Peter is more disturbed than is his wont.
Truly, he has never had a liking to the spot: I have heard them that said
a dog could scent the presence of spirits."

"To my mind," said Roland, who had not forgotten Nathan's eulogium on the
excellence of the animal's nose for scenting Indians, and who was
somewhat alarmed at what appeared to him the evident uneasiness of little
Peter, "he is more like to wind another party of cursed Shawnees than
any harmless, disembodied spirits."

"Friend," said Nathan, "it may be that Injuns have trodden upon this
field this day, seeing that the wood is full of them; and it is like
enough that those very evil creatures at the ford hard by have stolen
hither, before taking their post, to glut their eyes with the sight of
the ruins, where the blood of nine poor white persons was shed by their
brothers in a single night; though, truly, in that case, they must have
also thought of the thirteen murderers that bled for the victims; which
would prove somewhat a drawback to their satisfaction. No, friend; Peter
has his likes and his dislikes, like a human being; and this is a spot he
ever approaches with abhorrence,--as, truly, I do myself, never coming
hither unless when driven, as now, by necessity. But, friend, if thee is
in fear, thee shall be satisfied there is no danger before thee; it shall
never be said that I undertook to lead thee poor women out of mischief
only to plunge them into peril. I will go before thee to the ruin, which
thee sees there by the hollow, and reconnoitre."

"It needs not," said Roland, who now seeing the cabin of which they were
in search close at hand, and perceiving that Peter's uneasiness had
subsided, dismissed his own as being groundless. But notwithstanding, he
thought proper, as Nathan advanced, to ride forward himself, and inspect
the condition of the building, in which he was about to commit the safety
of the being he held most dear, and on whose account, only, he felt the
thousand anxieties and terrors he never could have otherwise experienced.

The building was a low cabin of logs, standing, as it seemed, on the
verge of an abyss, in which the river could be heard rushing
tumultuously, as if among rocks and other obstructions. It was one of
those double cabins so frequently found in the west; that is to say, it
consisted of two separate cots, or wings, standing a little distance
apart, but united by a common roof; which thus afforded shelter to the
open hall, or passage, between them; while the roof, being continued also
from the eaves, both before and behind, in pent-house fashion, it allowed
space for wide porches, in which, and in the open passage, the summer
traveller, resting in such a cabin, will almost always find the most
agreeable quarters.

How little soever of common wisdom and discretion the fate of the
builders might have shown them to possess, they had not forgotten to
provide their solitary dwelling with such defences as were common to all
others in the land at that period. A line of palisades, carelessly and
feebly constructed indeed, but perhaps sufficient for the purpose
intended, enclosed the ground on which the cabin stood; and this being
placed directly in the centre, and joining the palisades at the sides,
thus divided the enclosure into two little yards, one in front, the other
in the rear, in which was space sufficient for horses and cattle, as well
as for the garrison, when called to repel assailants. The space behind
extended to the verge of the river-bank, which, falling down a sheer
precipice of forty or fifty feet, required no defence of stakes, and
seemed never to have been provided with them; while that in front
circumscribed a portion of a cleared field entirely destitute of trees,
and almost of bushes.

Such had been the original plan and condition of a fortified
private-dwelling, a favourable specimen, perhaps, of the _family-forts_
of the day, and which, manned by five or six active and courageous
defenders, might have bidden defiance to thrice the number of barbarians
that had actually succeeded in storming it. Its present appearance was
ruinous and melancholy in the extreme. The stockade was in great part
destroyed, especially in front, where the stakes seemed to have been
rooted up by the winds, or to have fallen from sheer decay; and the right
wing or cot, that had suffered most from the flames, lay a black and
mouldering-pile of logs, confusedly heaped on its floor, or on the earth
beneath. The only part of the building yet standing was the cot on the
left hand, which consisted of but a single room, and that, as Roland
perceived at a glance, almost roofless and ready to fall.

Nothing could be more truly cheerless and forbidding than the appearance
of the ruined pile; and the hoarse and dismal rush of the river below,
heard the more readily by reason of a deep rocky fissure, or ravine,
running from the rear yard to the water's edge, through which the sound
ascended in hollow echoes, added double horror to its appearance. It was,
moreover, obviously insecure and untenable against any resolute enemy, to
whom the ruins of the fallen wing and stockade and the rugged depths of
the ravine offered much more effectual shelter, as well as the best place
of annoyance. The repugnance, however, that Roland felt to occupy it even
for a few hours, was combatted by Nathan, who represented that the ford
at which he designed crossing the river, several miles farther down,
could not be safely attempted until the rise of the waning moon, or
until the clouds should disperse, affording them the benefit of the dim
star-light; that the road to it ran through swamps and hollows, now
submerged, in which could be found no place of rest for the females,
exhausted by fatigue and mental suffering; and that the ruin might be
made as secure as the Station the travellers had left; "for truly," said
he, "it is not according to my ways or conscience to leave anything to
chance or good luck, when there is Injun scent in the forest, though it
be in the forest ten miles off. Truly, friend, I design, when thee poor
tired women is sleeping, to keep watch round the ruin, with Peter to help
me; and if theeself and thee two male persons have strength to do the
same, it will be all the better for the same."

"It shall be done," said Roland, as much relieved by the suggestion as he
was pleased by the humane spirit that prompted it: "my two soldiers can
watch, if they cannot fight, and I shall take care they watch well."

Thus composing the difficulty, preparations were immediately made to
occupy the ruin, into which Roland, having previously entered with the
Emperor, and struck a light, introduced his weary kinswoman with her
companion Telie; while Nathan and Pardon Dodge led the horses into the
ravine, where they could be easily confined, and allowed to browse and
drink at will, being at the same time beyond the reach of observation
from any foe that might yet be prowling through the forest.



CHAPTER XIV.


The light struck by the negro was soon succeeded by a fire, for which
ample materials lay ready at hand among the ruins; and as it blazed up
from the broken and long deserted hearth, the travellers could better
view the dismal aspect of the cabin. It consisted, as has been mentioned,
of but a single remaining apartment, with walls of logs, from whose
chinks the clay, with which they had been originally plastered, had long
since vanished, with here and there a fragment of a log itself, leaving a
thousand gaps for the admission of wind and rain. The ceiling of poles
(for it had once possessed a kind of garret) had fallen down under the
weight of the rotting roof, of which but a small portion remained, and
that in the craziest condition; and the floor of _puncheons_, or planks
of split logs, was in a state of equal dilapidation, more than half of it
having rotted away, and mingled with the earth on which it reposed. Doors
and windows there were none; but two mouldering gaps in the front and the
rear walls, and another of greater magnitude opening, from the side, into
what had once been the hall or passage (though now a platform heaped with
fragments of charred timber), showed where the narrow entrance and
loop-hole windows had once existed. The former was without leaf or
defence of any kind, unless such might have been found in three or four
logs standing against the wall hard by, whence they could be easily
removed and piled against the opening; for which purpose, Roland did not
doubt they had been used, and by the houseless Nathan himself. But a
better protection was offered by the ruins of the other apartment, which
had fallen down in such a way as almost to block up the door, leaving a
passage in and out, only towards the rear of the building; and, in case
of sudden attack and seizure of this sole entrance, there were several
gaps at the bottom of the wall, through one of which, in particular, it
would be easy enough to effect a retreat. At this place, the floor was
entirely wanting, and the earth below washed into a gully communicating
with the rocky ravine, of which it might be considered the head.

But the looks of the soldier did not dwell long upon the dreary spectacle
of ruin; they were soon cast upon the countenance of Edith, concealed so
long by darkness. It was even wanner and paler than he feared to find it,
and her eye shone with an unnatural lustre, as it met his own. She
extended her hands and placed them in his, gazed upon him piercingly, but
without speaking, or indeed seeming able to utter a single word.

"Be of good heart," he said, replying to the look of inquiry; "we are
unfortunate, Edith, but we are safe."

"Thank Heaven!" she exclaimed, but more wildly than fervently: "I have
been looking every moment to see you shot dead at my feet! Would I had
died, Roland, my brother, before I brought you to this fatal land--But I
distress you! Well, I will not be frightened more. But is not this an
adventure for a woman that never before looked upon a cut finger without
fainting? Truly, Roland,--'truly,' as friend Nathan says,--it is as
ridiculous as frightful: and then this cabin, where they killed so many
poor women and children,--is it not a ridiculous lodging place for Edith
Forrester? a canopy of clouds, a couch of clay, with owls and snakes for
my bed-fellows--truly, truly, truly, it is very ridiculous!"

It seemed, for a moment, as if the maiden's effort to exchange her
melancholy and terror for a more joyous feeling, would have resulted in
producing even greater agitation than before; but the soothing words of
Roland, and the encouraging countenance maintained by Telie Doe, who
seemed little affected by their forlorn situation, gradually tranquilised
her mind, and enabled her the better to preserve the air of levity and
mirthfulness, which she so vainly attempted at first to assume. This
moment of calm Roland took advantage of to apprise her of the necessity
of recruiting her spirits with a few hours' asleep; for which purpose he
began to look about him for some suitable place in which to strew her a
bed of fern and leaves.

"Why, here is one strewn for me already," she cried, with an affected
laugh, pointing to a corner, in which lay a mass of leaves so green and
fresh that they looked as if plucked but a day or two before: "truly,
Nathan has not invited me to his hiding-place to lodge me meanly (Heaven
forgive me for laughing at the poor man; for we owe him our lives!) nay,
nor to send me supperless to bed. See!" she added, pointing to a small
brazen kettle, which her quick eye detected among the leaves, and which
was soon followed by a second that Emperor stirred up from its
concealment, and both of them, as was soon perceived, still retaining the
odour of a recent savoury stew: "Look well, Emperor: where the kitchen
is, the larder cannot be far distant. I warrant we shall find that Nathan
has provided us a good supper."

"Such, perhaps, as a woodman only can eat," said Roland, who, somewhat
surprised at the superfluous number of Nathan's valuables (for to Nathan,
he doubted not, they belonged), had begun stirring the leaves, and
succeeded in raking up with his rifle, which he had not laid aside, a
little earthen pouch, well stored with parched corn. "A strange fellow,
this Nathan," he muttered: "he really spoke as if he had not visited the
ruin for a considerable period; whereas it is evident he must have slept
here last night. But he seems to affect mystery in all that concerns his
own private movements--it is the character of his persuasion."

While Roland, with the females, was thus laying hands, and speculating,
upon the supposed chattels of their conductor, Nathan himself entered the
apartment, betraying some degree of agitation in his countenance; whilst
the faithful Peter, who followed at his side, manifested equal
uneasiness, by snuffing the air, whining, and rubbing himself frequently
against his master's legs.

"Friends," he cried, abruptly, "Peter talks too plainly to be mistaken:
there is mischief nigh at hand, though where, or how it can be, sinner
and weak foolish man that I am, I know not: we must leave warm fires and
soft beds, and take refuge again in the woods."

This unexpected announcement again banished the blood from Edith's
cheeks. She had, on his entrance, caught the pouch of corn from Roland's
hands, intending to present it to the guide, with some such light
expressions as should convince her kinsman of her recovered spirits; but
the visage and words of Nathan struck her dumb, and she stood holding
it in her hand, without speaking a word, until it caught Nathan's eye. He
snatched it from her grasp, surveying it with astonishment and even
alarm, and only ceased to look at it, when little Peter, who had run into
the corner and among the bed of leaves, uttered a whine louder than
before. The pouch dropped from Nathan's hand as his eye fell upon the
shining-kettles, on which he gazed as if petrified.

"What, in Heaven's name, is the matter!" demanded Roland, himself taking
the alarm: "are you frighted at your own kettles?"

"Mine!" cried Nathan, clasping his hands, and looking terror and remorse
together--"If thee will kill me, friend, thee will scarce do amiss; for,
miserable, blind sinner that I am, I have led thee poor luckless women
into the very lion's den! into the hiding-place and head-quarters of the
very cut-throats that is seeking to destroy thee! Up and away--does thee
not hear Peter howling at the door? Hist! Peter, hist!--Truly, this is a
pretty piece of business for thee, Nathan Slaughter!--Does thee not hear
them close at hand?"

"I hear the hooting of an owl and the answer of his fellow," replied
Roland; but his words were cut short by a second howl from Peter, and the
cry of his master, "Up, if thee be not besotted; drag thee women by the
hands and follow me."

With these words, Nathan was leaping towards the door, when a cry from
Roland arrested him. He looked round and perceived Edith had fainted in
the soldier's arms. "I will save the poor thing for thee--help thou the
other," he cried, and snatching her up as if she had been but a feather,
he was again in the act of springing to the door, when brought to a stand
by a far more exciting impediment. A shriek from Telie Doe, uttered in
sudden terror, was echoed by a laugh, strangely wild, harsh, guttural,
and expressive of equal triumph and derision, coming from the door;
looking to which the eyes of Nathan and the soldier fell upon a tall and
naked Indian, shorn and painted, who, rifle in hand, the grim smile yet
writhing on his features, and exclaiming with a mockery of friendly
accost, "_Bo-zhoo_,[8] brudders,--Injun good friend!" was stepping that
moment into the hovel; and as if that spectacle and those sounds were not
enough to chill the heart's blood of the spectators, there were seen over
his shoulders, the gleaming eyes, and heard behind his back, the malign
laughter of three or four equally wild and ferocious companions.

[Footnote 8: _Bo-zhoo_--a corruption of the French _bon jour_, a word of
salutation adopted by Western Indians from the _Voyageurs_ of Canada, and
used by them with great zeal by night as well as by day.]

"To the door, if thee is a man,--rush!" cried Nathan, with a voice
more like the blast of a bugle than the tone of a frighted man of peace;
and casting Edith from his arms, he set the example of attack or
flight--Roland scarcely knew which,--by leaping against the breast of the
daring intruder. Both fell together across the threshold, and Roland
obeying the call with desperate and frantic ardour, stumbled over their
bodies, pitching headlong into the passage, whereby he escaped the
certain death that otherwise awaited him, three several rifle-shots
having been that instant poured upon him from a distance of scarce as
many feet.

"Strike, if thee conscience permits thee!" he heard the voice of
Nathan cry in his ears, and the next moment, a shot from the interior
of the hovel, heralded by a quavering cry from the faithful
Emperor,--"Lorra-gor! nebber harm an Injun in my life!" struck the
hatchet from the shattered hand of a foeman, who had taken advantage of
his downfall to aim a fatal blow at him while rising. A yell of pain came
from the maimed and baffled warrior, who, springing over the blackened
ruins before the door, escaped the stroke of the clubbed rifle which the
soldier aimed at him in return, the piece having been discharged by the
fall. The cry of the flying assailant was echoed by what seemed in
Roland's ears the yells of fifty supporters, two of whom he saw within
six feet of him, brandishing their hatchets, as if in the act of flinging
them at his almost defenceless person. It was at this moment that he
experienced aid from a quarter whence it was almost least expected; a
rifle was discharged from the ravine, and as one of the fierce foes
suddenly dropped, mortally wounded upon the floor, he heard the voice of
Pardon, the Yankee, crying in tones of desperation, "When there is no
dodging 'em, then I'm the man for 'em, or it a'n't no matter!"

"Bravo! bravely done, Emperor and Dodge both!" cried Roland, to whom this
happy and quite unexpected display of courage from his followers, and its
successful results, imparted a degree of assurance and hope not before
felt; for, indeed, up to this moment, his feeling had been the mere
frenzy of despair--"Courage, and rush on!" And with these words, he did
not hesitate to dash against the remaining foe, striking up the uplifted
hatchet with his rifle, and endeavouring with the same effort to dash his
weapon into the warrior's face. But the former part only of the manoeuvre
succeeded; the tomahawk was indeed dashed aside, but the rifle was torn
from his own grasp, and the next moment he was clutched as in the embrace
of a bear, and pressed with suffocating force upon the breast of his
undaunted adversary.

"Brudder!" growled the savage, and the foam flew from his grinning
lips, advanced until they were almost in contact with the soldier's
face--"Brudder!" he cried, as he felt his triumph, and twined his arms
still more tightly around Roland's frame, "Long-knife nothing! hab a
scalp, Shawnee!"

With these words, he sprang from the broken floor of the passage, on
which the encounter began, and dragging the soldier along, made as if he
would have carried him off alive. But although in the grasp of a man of
much superior strength, the resolution and activity of Roland preserved
him from a destiny at once so fearful and ignoble. He exerted the
strength he possessed at the instant when the bulky captor was springing
from the floor to the broken ground beneath, and with such effect, that,
though it did not entirely release him from his grasp, it carried them
headlong to the earth together; whence, after a brief and blind struggle,
both rose together, each clutching at the weapon that promised soonest to
terminate the contest. The pistols of the soldier, which, as well as
Emperor's, the peaceful Nathan had taken the precaution to carry with him
into the ruin, had been forgotten in the suddenness and hurry of the
assault; his rifle had been wrested from his hands, and thrown he knew
not where. The knife, which, like a true adventurer of the forest, he had
buckled in his belt, was ready to be grasped; but the instinct of long
habits carried his hand to the broad-sword, which was yet strapped to his
thigh; and this, as he rose, he attempted to draw, not doubting that a
single blow of the trusty steel would rid him of his brown enemy. But the
Shawnee, as bold, as alert, and far more discreet, better acquainted,
too, with those savage personal rencontres which, make up so large a
portion of Indian warfare, had drawn his knife before he had yet regained
his footing; and before the Virginian's sword was half unsheathed, the
hand that tugged at it was again seized and held as in a vice, while the
warrior, elevating his own free weapon above his head, prepared, with a
laugh and whoop of triumph, to plunge it into the soldier's throat. His
countenance, grim with warpaint, grimmer with ferocious exultation, was
distinctly perceived, the bright blaze of the fire shining through the
gaps of the hovel, so as to illuminate every feature; and Roland, as he
strove in vain to clutch at the uplifted arm so as to avert the
threatened blow, could distinguish every motion of the weapon, and every
change of his foeman's visage. But he did not even then despair, for he
was, in all circumstances affecting only himself, a man of true
intrepidity; and it was only when, on a sudden, the light wholly vanished
from the cabin, as if the brands had been scattered and trodden out, that
he began to anticipate a fatal result from the advantage possessed by his
opponent. But at that very instant, and while, blinded by the sudden
darkness, he was expecting the blow which he no longer knew how to avoid,
the laugh of the warrior, now louder and more exultant than before, was
suddenly changed to a yell of agony. A jet of warm blood, at the same
moment, gushed over Roland's right arm; and the savage, struck by an
unknown hand, or by a random ball, fell a dead man at his feet,
overwhelming the soldier in his fall.

"Up, and do according to thee conscience!" cried Nathan Slaughter; whose
friendly arm, more nervous than that of his late foe, at this conjuncture
jerked Roland from beneath the body: "for, truly, thee fights like unto a
young lion, or an old bear; and, truly, I will not censure thee, if thee
kills a whole dozen of the wicked cut-throats! Here is thee gun and thee
pistols: fire and shout aloud with thee voice; for, of a verity, thee
enemies is confounded by thee resolution: do thee make them believe thee
has been reinforced by numbers."

And with that the peaceful Nathan, uplifting his voice, and springing
among the ruins from log to log, began to utter a series of shouts, all
designed to appear as if coming from different throats, and all
expressing such manly courage and defiance, that even Pardon Dodge, who
yet lay ensconced among the rocks of the ravine, and Emperor, the negro,
who, it seems, had taken post behind the ruins at the door, felt their
spirits wax resolute and valiant, and added their voices to the din, the
one roaring, "Come on, ye 'tarnal critturs, if you _must_ come!" while
the other bellowed, with equal spirit, "Don't care for niggah Injun no
way--will fight and die for massa and missie!"

All these several details, from the moment of the appearance of the
warrior at the door until the loud shouts of the besieged travellers took
the place of the savage whoops previously sounded, passed in fewer
moments than we have taken pages to record them. The rush of Nathan
against the leader, the discomfiture of one, and the death of his two
comrades, were indeed the work of but an instant, as it seemed to Roland;
and he was scarce aware of the assault, before he perceived that it was
over. The successful, and, doubtless, the wholly unexpected resistance of
the little party, resulting in a manner so fatal to the advanced guard of
assailants, had struck terror and confusion into the main body, whose
presence had been only made known by their yells, not a single shot
having yet been fired by them.

It was in this moment of confusion that Nathan sprang to the side of
Roland, who was hastily recharging his piece, and catching him by the
hand, said, with a voice that betrayed the deepest agitation, though his
countenance was veiled in night,--"Friend, I have betrayed thee poor
women into danger, so that the axe and scalping-knife is now near their
innocent poor heads."

"It needs not to speak of it," said Roland; adding hastily. "The
miscreant that entered the cabin--did you kill him?"

"_Kill_, friend! _I_ kill!" echoed Nathan, with accents more disturbed
than ever; "would thee have me a murderer? Truly, I did creep over him,
and leave the cabin."

"And left him in it alive!" cried Roland, who was about to rush into the
hovel, when Nathan detained him, saying, "Don't thee be alarmed, friend.
Truly, thee may think it was ill of me to fall upon him so violently;
but, truly, be must have split his head upon a log, or wounded himself
with a splinter;--or perhaps the coloured person stuck him with a knife;
but, truly, as it happened his blood spouted on my hand, by reason of the
hurt he got; so that I left him clean dead."

"Good!" said Roland; "but, by Heaven, I hoped and believed you had
yourself finished him like a man. But time presses: we must retreat again
to the woods,--they are yet open behind us."

"Thee is mistaken," said Nathan; and, as if to confirm his words, there
arose at that moment a loud whooping, with the crack of a dozen or more
rifles, let fly with impotent rage by the enemy, showing plainly enough
that the ruin was already actually environed.

"The ravine,--the river!" cried Forrester; "we can swim it with the
horses, if it be not fordable."

"It is a torrent that would sweep thee, with thee strongest war-horse, to
perdition," muttered Nathan: "does thee not hear how it roars among the
rocks and cliffs? It is here deep, narrow, and rocky; and, though, in the
season of drought, a child might step across it from rock to rock, it is
a cataract in the time of floods. No, friend; I have brought thee into a
trap whence thee has no escape, unless thee would desert these poor
helpless women."

"Put but them in safety," said Roland, "and care not for the rest.--And
yet I do not despair: we have shown what we can do by resolution: we can
keep the cut-throats at bay till the morning."

"And what will that advantage thee, except to see thee poor females
murdered in the light of the sun, instead of having them killed out of
thee sight in darkness? Truly, the first glimmer of dawn will be the
signal of death to all; for then the Shawnees will find thee weakness, if
indeed they do not find it before."

"Man!" said Roland, "why should you drive me to despair? Give me better
comfort,--give me counsel, or say no more. You have brought us to this
pass: do your best to save us, or our blood be upon your head!"

To these words of unjust reproach, wrung from the young soldier by the
bitterness of his feelings, Nathan at first made no reply. Preserving
silence for awhile, he said, at last:

"Well, friend, I counsel thee to be of good heart, and to do what thee
can, making thee enemies, since thee cannot increase thee friends, as few
in numbers as possible;--to do which, friend," he added, suddenly, "if
thee will shoot that evil creature that lies like a log on the earth,
creeping towards the ruin, I will have no objection!"

With these words, which were uttered in a low voice, Nathan, pulling the
young man behind a screen of fallen timbers near to which they stood,
endeavoured to point him out the enemy whom his eye had that moment
detected crawling towards the hovel, with the subtle motion of a serpent.
But the vision of Roland, not yet accustomed to trace objects in the
darkness of a wood, failed to discover the approaching foe.

"Truly," said Nathan, somewhat impatiently, "if thee will not consider it
as an evil thing of me, and a blood-guiltiness, I will hold thee gun for
thee, and thee shall pull the trigger!" which piece of service the man of
peace, having doubtless satisfied his conscience of its lawfulness, was
actually about to render the soldier, when the good intention was set at
naught by the savage suddenly leaping to his feet, followed by a dozen
others, all springing, as it seemed, out of the earth, and rushing with
wild yells against the ruin. The suddenness and fury of the attack struck
dismay to the bosom of the soldier, who, discharging his rifle, and
snatching up his pistols, already in imagination beheld the bloody
fingers of a barbarian grasped among the bright locks of his Edith; when
Nathan, crying, "Blood upon my hands, but not upon my head!--give it to
them, murdering dogs!" let fly his own piece upon the throng; the effect
of which, together with the discharge of Roland's pistols immediately
after, was such as to stagger the assailants, of whom but a single one
preserved resolution enough to advance upon the defenders, whooping to
his companions in vain to follow. "Thee will remember I fight to save the
lives of thee helpless women!" muttered Nathan, in Roland's ear; and then
as if the first act of warfare had released him for ever from all
peaceful obligations, awakened a courage and appetite for blood superior
even to the soldier's, and, in other words, set him entirely beside
himself, he rushed against the advancing Shawnee, dealing him a blow with
the butt of his heavy stocked rifle that crushed through skull and brain
as through a gourd, killing the man on the spot. Then leaping like a buck
to avoid the shot of the others, he rushed back to the ruin, and grasping
the hand of the admiring soldier, and wringing it with all his might, he
cried, "Thee sees what thee has brought me to! Friend, thee has seen me
shed a man's blood!--But, nevertheless, friend, the villains shall not
kill thee poor women, nor harm a hair of their heads."

The valour of the man of peace was fortunately seconded on this occasion
by Dodge and the negro, the former from his hiding place in the ravine,
the latter from among the ruins; and the enemy, thus seriously warned of
the danger of approaching too nigh a fortress manned by what very
naturally appeared to them eight different persons,--for such, including
the pistols, was the number of fire-arms,--retired precipitately to the
woods, where they expressed their hostility only by occasional whoops,
and now and then by a shot fired impotently against the ruins.

The success of this second defence, the spirited behaviour of Dodge and
Emperor, but more than all the happy change in the principles and
practice of Nathan, who seemed as if about to prove that he could deserve
the nickname of Tiger so long bestowed upon him in derision, greatly
relieved the spirits of the soldier, who was not without hopes of being
able to maintain the contest until the enemy should be discouraged and
driven off, or some providential accident bring him succour. He took
advantage of the cessation of hostilities to creep into the hovel and
whisper words of assurance to his feebler dependents, of whom indeed
Telie Doe now betrayed the greatest distress and agitation, while Edith,
on the contrary, maintained, as he judged--for the fire was extinguished,
and he saw not her countenance--a degree of tranquillity he had not dared
to hope. It was a tranquillity, however, resulting from despair and
stupor,--a lethargy of spirit, resulting from overwrought feelings, in
which she happily remained, more than half unconscious of what was
passing around her.



CHAPTER XV.


The enemy, twice repulsed, and on both occasions with severe loss, had
been taught the folly of exposing themselves too freely to the fire of
the travellers; but although driven back, they manifested little
inclination to fly further than was necessary to obtain shelter, and as
little to give over their fierce purposes. Concealing themselves
severally behind logs, rocks, and bushes, and so disposing their force as
to form a line around the ruin, open only towards the river, where escape
was obviously impracticable, they employed themselves keeping a strict
watch upon the hovel, firing repeated volleys, and as often uttering
yells, with which they sought to strike terror into the hearts of the
besieged. Occasionally some single warrior, bolder than the rest, would
creep near the ruins, and obtaining such shelter as he could, discharge
his piece at any mouldering beam, or other object, which his fancy
converted into the exposed body of a defender. But the travellers had
taken good care to establish themselves in such positions among the ruins
as offered the best protection; and although the bullets whistled sharp
and nigh, not a single one had yet received a wound; nor was there much
reason to apprehend injury so long as the darkness of night befriended
them.

Yet it was obvious to all that this state of security could not last
long, and that it existed only because the enemy was not yet aware of his
advantage. The condition of the ruins was such that a dozen men of
sufficient spirit, dividing themselves, and creeping along the earth,
might at any moment make their way to any and every part of the hovel
without being seen, when a single rush must put it in their power. An
open assault indeed from the whole body of besiegers, whose number was
reckoned by Nathan at full fifteen or twenty, must have produced the same
success, though with the loss of several lives. A random shot might at
any moment destroy or disable one of the little garrison, and thus rob
one important corner of the hovel, which, from its dilapidated state was
wholly indefensible from within of defence. It was indeed, as Roland
felt, more than folly to hope that all should escape unharmed for many
hours longer. But the worst fear of all was that previously suggested by
Nathan: all might survive the perils of the night; but what fate was to
be expected when the coming of day should expose the party, in all its
true weakness, to the eyes of the enemy? If relief came not before
morning, Roland's heart whispered him, it must come in vain. But the
probabilities of relief, what were they? The question was asked of
Nathan, and the answer went like iron through Roland's soul. They were in
the deepest and most solitary part of the forest, twelve miles from
Bruce's Station, and at least eight from that at which the emigrants were
to lodge; with no other places within twice the distance, from which help
could be obtained. They had left, three or four miles behind, the main
and only road on which volunteers, summoned from the Western Stations to
repel the invasion, of which the news had arrived before Roland's
departure from Bruce's village, could be expected to pass; if indeed the
strong force of the enemy posted at the Upper Ford had not cut off all
communication between the two districts. From Bruce's Station little or
no assistance could be hoped, the entire strength of its garrison, as
Roland well knew, having long since departed to share in the struggle on
the north side of Kentucky. Assistance could be looked for only from his
late companions, the emigrants, from whom he had parted in an evil hour.
But how were they to be made acquainted with his situation?

The discussion of these questions almost distracted the young man. Help
could only come from themselves. Would it not be possible to cut their
way through the besiegers? He proposed a thousand wild schemes of escape;
now he would mount his trusty steed, and dashing among the enemy, receive
their fire, distract their attention, and perhaps draw them in pursuit,
while Nathan and the others galloped off with the women in another
quarter; and again, he would plunge with them into the boiling torrent
below, trusting to the strength of the horses to carry them through in
safety.

To these and other frantic proposals, uttered in the intervals of combat,
which was still maintained, with occasional demonstrations on the part of
the enemy of advancing to a third assault, Nathan replied only by
representing the certain death they would bring upon all, especially "the
poor helpless women," whose condition, with the reflection that he had
brought them into it, seemed ever to dwell upon his mind, producing
feelings of remorseful excitement not inferior even to the compunctions
which he expressed at every shot discharged by him at the foe. Indeed his
conscience seemed sorely distressed and perplexed; now he upbraided
himself with being the murderer of the two poor women, and now of his
Shawnee fellow-creatures; now he wrung the soldier by the hand, begging
him to bear witness that he was shedding blood, not out of malice or
wantonness, or even self-defence, but purely to save the innocent scalps
of poor women, whose blood would be otherwise on his head; and now
beseeching the young man with equal fervour to let the world know of his
doings, that the blame might fall, not upon the faith of which he was an
unworthy professor, but upon him, the evil-doer and backslider. But with
all his remorse and contrition, he manifested no inclination to give over
the work of fighting; but, on the contrary, fired away with extreme
good-will at every evil Shawnee creature that showed himself, encouraging
Roland to do the same, and exhibiting throughout the whole contest the
most exemplary courage and good conduct.

But courage and good conduct, although so unexpectedly manifested in the
time of need by all his companions, Roland felt could only serve to defer
for a few hours the fate of his party. The night wore away fast, the
assailants grew bolder; and from the louder yells and more frequent shots
coming from them, it seemed as if their numbers, instead of diminishing
under his own fire, were gradually increasing by the dropping in of their
scouts from the forest. At the same time, he became sensible that his
stores of ammunition were fast decreasing.

"Friend," said Nathan, wringing the soldier's hand for the twentieth
time, when made acquainted with the deficiency, "it is written, that thee
women shall be murdered before thee eyes! Nevertheless I will do my best
to save them. Friend, I must leave thee! Thee shall have assistance. Can
thee hold out the hovel till morning? But it is foolish to ask thee: thee
_must_ hold it out, and with none save the coloured person and the man
Dodge to help thee; for I say to thee, it has come to this at last, as I
thought it would: I must break through the lines of thee Injun foes, and
find thee assistance."

"It is impossible," said Roland in despair; "you will only provoke your
destruction."

"It may be, friend, as thee says," responded Nathan; "nevertheless,
friend, for thee women's sake, I will adventure it; for it is I,
miserable sinner that I am, that have brought them to this pass, and that
must bring them out of it again, if man can do it."

At a moment of less grief and desperation, Roland would have better
appreciated the magnitude of the service which Nathan thus offered to
attempt, and even hesitated to permit what must have manifestly seemed
the throwing away of a human life. But the emergency was too great to
allow the operation of any but selfish feelings. The existence of his
companions, the life of his Edith, depended upon procuring relief, and
this could be obtained in no other way. If the undertaking was dangerous
in the extreme, he saw it with the eyes of a soldier as well as a lover:
it was a feat he would himself have dared without hesitation, could it
have promised, in his hands, any relief to his followers.

"Go, then, and God be with you," he muttered, eagerly "you have our lives
in your hand. But it will be long, long before you can reach the band on
foot. Yet do not weary or pause by the way. I have but little wealth; but
with what I have I will reward you."

"Friend," said Nathan proudly, "what I do I do for no lucre of reward,
but for pity of thee poor women; for truly I have seen the murdering and
scalping of poor women before, and the seeing of the same has left blood
upon my head, which is a mournful thing to think of."

"Well, be not offended: do what you can--our lives may rest on a single
minute."

"I _will_ do what I can, friend," replied Nathan; "and if I can but pass
safely through thee foes, there is scarce a horse in thee company, were
it even thee war-horse, that shall run to thee friends more fleetly. But,
friend, do thee hold out the house: use thee powder charily; keep up the
spirits of thee two men, and be of good heart theeself, fighting
valiantly, and slaying according to thee conscience; and then, friend, if
it be Heaven's will, I will return to thee, and help thee out of thee
troubles."

With these words, Nathan turned from the soldier, setting out upon his
dangerous duty with a courage and self-devotion of which Roland did not
yet know all the merit. He threw himself upon the earth, and muttering to
little Peter, "Now, Peter, as thee ever served thee master well and
truly, serve him well and truly now," began to glide away amongst the
ruins, making his way from log to log, and bush to bush, close behind the
animal, who seemed to determine the period and direction of every
movement. His course was down the river, the opposite of that by which
the party had reached the ruin, in which quarter the woods were highest,
and promised the most accessible, as well as the best shelter; though
that could be reached only in the event of his successfully avoiding the
different barbarians hidden among the bushes on its border. He soon
vanished, with his dog, from the eyes of the soldier; who now, in
pursuance of instructions previously given him by Nathan, caused his two
followers to let fly a volley among the trees, which had the expected
effect of drawing another in return from the foes, accompanied by their
loudest whoops of menace and defiance. In this manner Nathan, as he drew
nigh the wood, was enabled to form correct opinions as to the different
positions of the besiegers, and to select that point in the line which
seemed the weakest; while the attention of the foe was in a measure drawn
off, so as to give him the better opportunity of advancing on them
unobserved. With this object in view, a second and third volley were
fired by the little garrison; after which they ceased making such feints
of hostility, and left him, as he had directed, to his fate.

It was then that, with a beating heart, Roland awaited the event; and as
he began to figure to his imagination the perils which Nathan must
necessarily encounter in the undertaking, he listened for the shout of
triumph that he feared would, each moment, proclaim the capture or death
of his messenger. But he listened in vain,--at least, in vain for such
sounds as his skill might interpret into evidences of Nathan's fate: he
heard nothing but the occasional crack of a rifle aimed at the ruin,
with the yell of the savage that fired it, the rush of the breeze, the
rumbling of the thunder, and the deep-toned echoes from the river below.
There was nothing whatever occurred, at least for a quarter of an hour,
by which he might judge what was the issue of the enterprise; and he was
beginning to indulge the hope that Nathan had passed safely through the
besiegers, when a sudden yell of a peculiarly wild and thrilling
character was uttered in the wood in the quarter in which Nathan had
fled; and this, exciting, as it seemed to do, a prodigious sensation
among his foes, filled him with anxiety and dread. To his ears the shout
expressed fury and exultation such as might well be felt at the sudden
discovery and capture of the luckless messenger; and his fear that such
had been the end of Nathan's undertaking was greatly increased by what
followed. The shots and whoops suddenly ceased, and, for ten minutes or
more, all was silent, save the roar of the river, and the whispering of
the fitful breeze. "They have taken him alive, poor wretch!" muttered the
soldier, "and now they are forcing from him a confession of our
weakness!"

It seemed as if there might be some foundation for the suspicion; for
presently a great shout burst from the enemy, and the next moment a rush
was made against the ruin as if by the whole force of the enemy. "Fire!"
shouted Roland to his companions: "if we must die, let it be like men;"
and no sooner did he behold the dark figures of the assailants leaping
among the ruins, than he discharged his rifle and a pair of pistols which
he had reserved in his own hands, the other pair having been divided
between Dodge and the negro, who used them with equal resolution, and
with an effect that Roland had not anticipated; the assailants,
apparently daunted by the weight of the volley, seven pieces having been
discharged in rapid succession, instantly beat a retreat, resuming their
former positions. From these, however, they now maintained an almost
incessant fire; and by and by several of them, stealing cautiously up,
effected a lodgment in a distant part of the ruins, whence, without
betraying any especial desire to come to closer quarters, they began to
carry on the war in a manner that greatly increased Roland's alarm, their
bullets flying about and into the hovel so thickly that he became afraid
lest some of them should reach its hapless inhabitants. He was already
debating within himself the propriety of transferring Edith and her
companion from this ruinous and now dangerous abode to the ravine, where
they might be sheltered from all danger, at least for a time, when a bolt
of lightning, as he at first thought it, shot from the nearest group of
foes, flashed over his head, and striking what remained of the roof,
stood trembling in it, an arrow of blazing fire. The appearance of this
missile, followed, as it immediately was, by several others discharged
from the same tow, confirmed the soldier's resolution to remove the
females, while it greatly increased his anxiety; for although there was
little fear that the flames could be communicated from the arrows to the
roof so deeply saturated by the late rains, yet each, while burning,
served, like a flambeau, to illuminate the ruins below, and must be
expected before long to reveal the helplessness of the party, and to
light the besiegers to their prey.

With such fears on his mind, he hesitated no longer to remove his cousin
and her companion to the ravine; which was effected with but little risk
or difficulty, the ravine heading, as was mentioned before, under the
floor of the hovel itself, and its borders being so strewn with broken
timbers and planks, as to screen the party from observation. He concealed
them both among the rocks and brambles with which the hollow abounded,
listened a moment to the rush of the flood as it swept the precipitous
bank, and the roar with which it seemed struggling among rocky
obstructions above, and smiling with the grim thought, that, when
resistance was no longer availing, there was yet a refuge for his
kinswoman within the dark bosom of those troubled waters, to which he
felt, with the stern resolution of a Roman father rather than of a
Christian lover, that he could, when nothing else remained, consign her
with his own hands, he returned to the ruins, to keep up the appearance
of still defending it, and to preserve the entrance of the ravine.



CHAPTER XVI.


The flaming arrows were still shot in vain at the water-soaked roof, and
the combustibles with which they were armed, burning out very rapidly,
produced hut little of that effect in illuminating the ruins which Roland
had apprehended, and for which they had been perhaps in part designed;
and, in consequence, the savages soon ceased to shoot them. A more useful
ally to the besiegers was promised in the moon, which was now rising over
the woods, and occasionally revealing her wan and wasted crescent through
gaps in the clouds. Waning in her last quarter, and struggling amid banks
of vapour, she yet retained sufficient, magnitude and lustre, when risen
a few more degrees, to dispel the almost sepulchral darkness that had
hitherto invested the ruins, and thus proved a more effectual protection
to the travellers than their own courage. Of this Roland was well aware;
and he watched the increasing light with sullen and gloomy forebodings;
though still exhorting his two supporters to hope and courage, and
setting them a constant example of vigilance and resolution. But neither
hope nor courage, neither vigilance nor resolution, availed to deprive
the foe of the advantage he had gained in effecting a lodgment among the
ruins, where four or five different warriors still maintained a hot fire
upon the hovel, doing, of course, little harm, as it was entirely
deserted, but threatening mischief enough, when it should fall into their
hands,--a catastrophe that was deferred only in consequence of the
extreme cautiousness with which they now conducted hostilities, the
travellers making only a show of defending it, though sensible that it
almost entirely commanded the ravine.

It was now more than an hour and a half since Nathan had departed,
and Roland was beginning himself to feel the hope he encouraged in
the others, that the man of peace had actually succeeded in effecting
his escape, and that the wild whoop which he at first esteemed the
evidence of his capture or death, and the assault that followed it,
had been caused by some circumstance having no relation to Nathan
whatever,--perhaps by the arrival of a reinforcement, whose coming had
infused new spirit into the breasts of the so long baffled assailants.
"If he _have_ escaped," he muttered, "he must already be near the
camp:--a strong man and fleet runner might reach it in an hour. In
another hour,--nay, perhaps in half an hour, for there are good horses
and bold hearts in the band,--I shall hear the rattle of their hoofs in
the wood, and the yells of these cursed bandits, scattered like dust
under their footsteps. If I can but hold the ravine for an hour! Thank
Heaven, the moon is a second time lost in clouds, the thunder is again
rolling through the sky! A tempest now were better than gales of
Araby,--a thunder-gust were our salvation."

The wishes of the soldier seemed about, to be fulfilled. The clouds,
which for half an hour had been breaking up, again gathered, producing
thicker darkness than before; and heavy peals of thunder, heralded by
pale sheets of lightning that threw a ghastly but insufficient light over
objects, were again heard rattling at a distance over the woods. The fire
of the savages began to slacken, and by and by entirely ceased. They
waited perhaps for the moment when the increasing glare of the lightning
should enable them better to distinguish between the broken timbers, the
objects of so many wasted volleys, and the crouching bodies of the
defenders.

The soldier took advantage of this moment of tranquillity to descend to
the river to quench his thirst, and to bear back some of the liquid
element to his fainting followers. While engaged in this duty he cast his
eyes upon the scene, surveying with sullen interest the flood that cut
off his escape from the fatal hovel. The mouth of the ravine was wide and
scattered over with rocks and bushes, that even projected for some little
space into the water, the latter vibrating up and down in a manner that
proved the strength and irregularity of the current. The river was here
bounded by frowning cliffs, from which, a furlong or two above, had
fallen huge blocks of stone that greatly contracted its narrow channel;
and among these the swollen waters surged and foamed with the greatest
violence, producing that hollow roar, which was so much in keeping with
the solitude of the ruin, and so proper an accompaniment to the growling
thunder and the wild yells of the warriors. Below these massive
obstructions, and opposite the mouth of the ravine, the channel had
expanded into a pool; in which the waters might have regained their
tranquillity and rolled along in peace, but for the presence of an
island, which, growing up in the centre of the expanse, consolidated by
the roots of a thousand willows and other trees that delight in such
humid soils, and, in times of flood, covered by a raft of drift timber
entangled among its trees, presented a barrier, on either side of which
the current swept with speed and fury, though, as it seemed, entirely
unopposed by rocks. In such a current, as Roland thought, there was
nothing unusually formidable; a daring swimmer might easily make his way
to the island opposite, where, if difficulties were presented by the
second channel, he might as easily find shelter from enemies firing on
him from the banks. He gazed again on the island, which, viewed in the
gloom, revealed to his eyes only a mass of shadowy boughs, resting in
peace and security. His heart beat high with hope, and he was beginning
to debate the chances of success in an attempt to swim his party across
the channel on the horses, when a flash of lightning, brighter than
usual, disclosed the fancied island a cluster of shaking tree-tops, whose
trunks as well as the soil that supported them, were buried fathoms deep
in the flood. At the same moment, he heard coming on a gust that repelled
and deadened for a time the louder tumult from the rocks above, other
roaring sounds, indicating the existence of other rocky obstructions at
the foot of the island, among which as he could now see, the same flash
having shown him the strength of the current in the centre of the
channel, the swimmer must be dashed, who failed to find footing on the
island.

"We are imprisoned, indeed," he muttered, bitterly: "Heaven itself has
deserted us."

As he uttered these repining words, stooping to dip the canteen with
which he was provided, in the water, a little canoe, darting forward with
a velocity that seemed produced by the combined strength of the current
and the rower, shot suddenly among the rocks and bushes at the entrance
of the ravine, wedging itself fast among them, and a human figure leaped
from it to the shore. The soldier started back aghast, as if from a
dweller of another world; but recovering his courage in an instant, and
not doubting that he beheld in the unexpected visitor a Shawnee and foe,
who had thus found means of assailing his party on the rear, he rushed
upon the stranger with drawn sword, for he had laid his rifle aside, and
taking him at a disadvantage, while stooping to drag the boat further
ashore, he smote him such a blow over the head, as brought him instantly
to the ground, a dead man to all appearance, since, while his body fell
upon the earth, his head,--or at least a goodly portion of it, sliced
away by the blow,--went skimming into the water.

"Die, dog!" said Roland, as he struck the blow; and not content
with that, he clapped his foot on the victim's breast, to give him the
_coup-de-grace_ when, wonder of wonders, the supposed Shawnee and dead
man opened his lips, and cried aloud, in good choice Salt-River
English,--"'Tarnal death to you, white man! what are you after?"

It was the voice, the never-to-be-forgotten voice, of the captain of
horse-thieves; and as Roland's sword dropped from his hand in the
surprise, up rose Roaring Ralph himself, his eyes rolling, as Roland saw
by a second flash of lightning, with thrice their usual obliquity, his
left hand scratching among the locks of hair exposed by the blow of the
sabre, which had carried off a huge slice of his hat, without doing other
mischief, while his right brandished a rifle, which he handled as if
about to repay the favour with interest. But the same flash that revealed
his visage to the astonished soldier, disclosed also Roland's features to
him, and he fairly yelled with joy at the sight. "'Tarnal death to me!"
he roared, first leaping into the air and cracking' his heels together,
then snatching at Roland's hand, which he clutched and twisted with the
gripe of a bear, and then cracking his heels together again, "'tarnal
death to me, sodger, but I know'd it war _you_ war in a squabblification!
I heard the cracking and the squeaking; "'Tarnal death to me!' says I,
'thar's Injuns!' And then I thought, and says I, '"Tarnal death to me,
who are they after?' and then, 'tarnal death to me, it came over me like
a strick of lightning, and says I, 'Tarnal death to me, but its
anngelliferous madam that helped me out of the halter!' Strannger!" he
roared, executing another demivolte, "h'yar am I, come to do
anngelliferous madam's fighting ag'in all critturs human and inhuman,
Christian and Injun, white, red, black, and party-coloured. Show me
anngelliferous madam, and then show me the abbregynes; and if you ever
seed fighting, 'tarnal death to me, but you'll say it war only the
squabbling of seed-ticks and blue-bottle flies! I say, sodger, show me
anngelliferous madam: you cut the halter, and you cut the tug; but it war
madam the anngel that set you on: wharfo', I'm her dog and her niggur
from now to etarnity, and I'm come to fight for her, and lick her enemies
till you shall see nothing left of 'em but ha'rs and nails!"

Of these expressions, uttered with extreme volubility and the most
extravagant gestures, Roland took no notice; his astonishment at the
horse-thief's appearance was giving way to new thoughts and hopes, and he
eagerly demanded of Ralph how he had got there.

"In the dug-out,"[9] said Ralph; "found her floating among the bushes,
ax'd me out a flopper[10] with my tom-axe in no time, jumped in,
thought of anngelliferous madam, and came down the falls like a cob in a
corn-van--ar'n't I the leaping trout of the waters? Strannger, I don't
want to sw'ar; but I reckon if there ar'n't hell up thar among the big
stones, thar's hell no other whar all about Salt River! But I say,
sodger, I came here not to talk nor cavort[11], but to show that I'm the
man, Ralph Stackpole, to die dog for them that pats me. So, whar's
anngelliferous madam? Let me see her, sodger, that I may feel wolfish
when I jumps among the redskins; for I'm all for a fight, and thar ar'n't
no run in me."

[Footnote 9: _Dug-out_--a canoe--because _dug out_ or hollowed with the
axe.]

[Footnote 10: _Flopper_--a flapper, a paddle.]

[Footnote 11: _Cavort_--to play pranks, to gasconade.]

"It is well, indeed, if it shall prove so," said Roland, not without
bitterness; "for it is to you alone we owe all our misfortunes."

With these words, he led the way to the place, where, among the horses,
concealed among brambles and stones, lay the unfortunate females,
cowering on the bare earth. The pale sheets of lightning, flashing now
with greater frequency, revealed them to Ralph's eyes, a ghastly and
melancholy pair, whose situation and appearance were well fitted to move
the feelings of a manly bosom; Edith lying almost insensible across
Telie's knees, while the latter, weeping bitterly, yet seemed striving to
forget her own distresses, while ministering to those of her companion.

"'Tarnal death to me!" cried Stackpole, looking upon Edith's pallid
visage and rayless eyes with more emotion than would have been expected
from his rude character, or than was expressed in his uncouth phrases,
"if that don't make me eat a niggur, may I be tetotaciously chawed up
myself! Oh, you anngelliferous madam! jist look up and say the word, for
I'm now ready to mount a wild-cat: jist look up, and don't make a die of
it, for thar's no occasion: for ar'n't I your niggur-slave, Ralph
Stackpole? and ar'n't I come to lick all that's agin you, Mingo, Shawnee,
Delaware, and all! Oh, you anngelliferous crittur! don't swound away, but
look up, and see how I'll wallop 'em!"

And here the worthy horse-thief, seeing that his exhortations produced no
effect upon the apparently dying Edith, dropped upon his knees, and began
to blubber and lament over her, as if overcome by his feelings, promising
her a world of Indian scalps, and a whole Salt River full of Shawnee
blood, if she would only look up and see how he went about it.

"Show your gratitude by actions, not by words," said Roland, who,
whatever his cause for disliking the zealous Ralph, was not unrejoiced at
his presence, as that of a valuable auxiliary: "rise up, and tell me, in
the name of heaven, how you succeeded in reaching this place, and what
hope there is of leaving it?"

But Ralph was too much afflicted by the wretched condition of Edith, whom
his gratitude for the life she had bestowed had made the mistress
paramount of his soul, to give much heed to any one but herself; and it
was only by dint of hard questioning that Roland drew from him, little by
little, an account of the causes which had kept him in the vicinity of
the travellers, and finally brought him to the scene of combat.

It had been, it appeared, an eventful and unlucky day with the
horse-thief, as well as the soldier. Aside from his adventure on the
beech-tree, enough in all truth to mark the day for him with a black
stone, he had been peculiarly unfortunate with the horses to which he had
so unceremoniously helped himself. The gallant Briareus, after sundry
trials of strength with his new master, had at last succeeded in throwing
him from his back; and the two-year-old pony, after obeying him the whole
day with the docility of a dog, even when the halter was round his neck,
and carrying him in safety until within a few miles of Jackson's Station,
had attempted the same exploit, and succeeded, galloping off on the back
track towards his home. This second loss was the more intolerable, since
Stackpole, having endured the penalty for stealing him, considered
himself as having a legal, Lynch-like right to the animal, which no one
could now dispute. He therefore returned in pursuit of the pony, until
night arrested his footsteps on the banks of the river, which, the waters
still rising, he did not care to cross in the dark. He had, therefore,
built a fire by the road-side, intending to camp-out till morning.

"And it was your fire, then, that checked us?" cried Roland, at this part
of the story,--"it was _your_ light we took for the watch-fire of
Indians?"

"Injuns you may say," quoth Stackpole, innocently, "for thar war a knot
of 'em I seed sneaking over the ford; and jist as I was squinting a long
aim at 'em, hoping I might smash two of 'em at alick, slam-bang goes a
feller that had got behind me, 'tarnal death to him, and roused me out of
my snuggery. Well, sodger, then I jumps into the cane, and next into the
timber; for I reckoned all Injun creation war atter me. And so I sticks
fast in a lick; and then to sumtotalise, I wallops down a rock, eend
foremost, like a bull-toad: and, 'tarnal death to me, while I war
scratching my head, and wondering whar I came from, I heerd the crack of
the guns across the river, and thought of anngelliferous madam. 'Tarnal
death to me, sodger, it turned me wrong side out! and while I war axing
all natur' how I war to get over, what should I do but see the old
sugar-trough floating in the bushes,--I seed her in a strick of
lightning. So pops I in, and paddles I down, till I comes to the
rocks,--and ar'n't they beauties? 'H'yar goes for grim death and
massacreation,' says I, and tuck the shoot; and if I didn't fetch old
dug-out through slicker than snakes, and faster than a well-greased
thunderbolt, niggurs ar'n't niggurs, nor Injuns Injuns: and, strannger,
if you axes me why, h'yar's the wharfo'--'twar because I thought of
anngelliferous madam! Strannger, I am the gentleman to see her out of a
fight; and so jist tell her thar's no occasion for being uneasy; for,
'tarnal death to me, I'll mount Shawnees, and die for her, jist like
nothing."

"Wretch that you are," cried Roland, whose detestation of the unlucky
cause of his troubles, revived by the discovery that it was to _his_
presence at the ford they owed their last and most fatal disappointment,
rendered him somewhat insensible to the good feelings and courage which
had brought the grateful fellow to his assistance,--"you were born for
our destruction; every way you have proved our ruin: but for you my poor
kinswoman would have been now in safety among her friends. Had she left
you hanging on the beech, you would not have been on the river, to cut
off her only escape, when pursued close at hand by murderous savages."

The reproach, now for the first time acquainting Stackpole with the
injury he had, though so unintentionally and innocently, inflicted upon
his benefactress; and the sight of her, lying apparently half-dead at his
feet, wrought up the feelings of the worthy horse-thief to a pitch of
desperate compunction, mingled with fury.

"If I'm the crittur that holped her into the fix, I'm the crittur to holp
her out of it. 'Tarnal death to me, whar's the Injuns? H'yar goes to eat
'em!"

With that, he uttered a yell,--the first human cry that had been uttered
for some time, for the assailants were still resting on their arms,--and
rushing up the ravine, as if well acquainted with the localities of the
Station, he ran to the ruin, repeating his cries at every step, with a
loudness and vigour of tone that soon drew a response from the lurking
enemy.

"H'yar you 'tarnal-temporal, long-legged, 'tater-headed paint-faces!"
he roared, leaping from the passage floor to the pile of ruins before
the door of the hovel (where Emperor yet lay ensconced, and whither
Roland followed him), as if in utter defiance of the foemen whom he
hailed with such opprobrious epithets,--"h'yar you bald head,
smoke-dried, punkin-eating red-skins! you half-niggurs! you 'coon-whelps!
you snakes! you varmints! you raggamuffins what goes about licking
women and children, and scar'ring-anngelliferous madam! git up and
show your scalp-locks; for 'tarnal death to me, I'm the man to take
'em--cock-a-doodle-doo!"

And the valiant horse-thief concluded his warlike defiance with such a
crow as might have struck consternation to the heart not merely of the
best game-cock in Kentucky, but of the bird of Jove itself. Great was the
excitement it produced among the warriors. A furious hubbub was heard
to arise among them, followed by many wrathful voices exclaiming in
broken English, with eager haste, "Know him dah! cuss' rascal! Cappin
Stackpole!--steal Injun hoss!" And the' "steal Injun hoss!" iterated and
reiterated by a dozen voices, and always with the most iracund emphasis,
enabled Roland to form a proper conception of the sense in which his
enemies held that offence, as well as of the great merits and wide-spread
fame of his new ally, whose mere voice had thrown the red-men into such a
ferment.

But it was not with words alone they vented their displeasure.
Rifle-shots and execrations were discharged together against the
notorious enemy of their pinfolds; who nothing daunted, and nothing
loath, let fly his own "speechifier," as he denominated his rifle, in
return, accompanying the salute with divers yells and maledictions, in
which latter he showed himself, to say the truth, infinitely superior
to his antagonists. He would even, so great and fervent was his desire to
fight the battles of his benefactress to advantage, have retained his
exposed stand on the pile of ruins, daring every bullet, had not Roland
dragged him down by main force, and compelled him to seek a shelter like
the rest, from which, however, he carried on the war, loading and firing
his piece with wonderful rapidity, and yelling and roaring all the time
with triumphant fury, as if reckoning upon every shot to bring down an
enemy.

It was not many minutes, however, before Roland began to fear that
the fatality which had marked all his relations with the intrepid
horse-thief, had not yet lost its influence, and that Stackpole's present
assistance was anything but advantageous to his cause. It seemed, indeed,
as if the savages had been driven to increased rage by the discovery of
his presence; and that the hope of capturing _him_, the most daring and
inveterate of all the hungerers after Indian horseflesh, and requiting
his manifold transgressions on the spot, had infused into them new spirit
and fiercer determination. Their fire became more vigorous, their shouts
more wild and ferocious: those who had effected a lodgment among the
ruins crept higher, while others appeared dealing their shots from other
quarters close at hand; and in fine, the situation of his little party
became so precarious, that Roland, apprehending every moment a general
assault, and despairing of being again able to repel it, drew them
secretly off from the ruin, which he abandoned entirely, and took refuge
among the rocks at the head of the ravine.

It was then,--while unconscious of the sudden evacuation of the hovel,
but not doubting they had driven the defenders into its interior, tho
enemy poured in half a dozen or more volleys, as preliminaries to the
assault which the soldier apprehended,--that he turned to the unlucky
Ralph; and arresting him as he was about to fire upon the foe from his
new cover, demanded, with much agitation, if it were not possible to
transport the hapless females in the little canoe, which his mind had
often reverted to as a probable means of escape, to a place of safety.

"'Tarnal death to me," said Ralph, "thar's a boiling-pot above and a
boiling pot below; but ar'n't I the crittur to shake old Salt by the
fo'-paw? Can take anngelliferous down 'ar a shoot that war ever seed!"

"And why, in Heaven's name," cried the Virginian, "did you not say so
before, and relieve her from this horrible situation?"

"'Tarnal death to me, ar'nt I to do her fighting first?" demanded the
honest Ralph. "Jist let's have another crack at the villians, jist for
madam's satisfaction; and then, sodger, if you're for taking the shoot,
I'm jist the salmon to show you the way. But I say, sodger, I won't lie,"
he continued, finding Roland was bent upon instant escape, while the
savages were yet unaware of their flight from the hovel,--"I wont lie,
sodger;--thar's rather a small trough to hold madam and the gal, and me
and you and the nigger and the white man" (for Stackpole was already
acquainted with the number of the party); "and as for the hosses, 'twill
be all crucifixion to get 'em through old Salt's fingers."

"Think not of horses, nor of us," said Roland. "Save but the women, and
it will be enough. For the rest of us, we will do our best. We can keep
the hollow till we are relieved; for, if Nathan be alive, relief must be
now on the way." And in a few hurried words, he acquainted Stackpole with
his having despatched the man of peace to seek assistance.

"Thar's no trusting the crittur, Tiger Nathan," said Ralph; "though at a
close hug, a squeeze on the small ribs, or a kick up of heels, he's all
splendiferous. Afore you see his ugly pictur' ag'in, 'tarnal death to me,
strannger, you'll be devoured; the red niggurs thar won't make two bites
at you. No, sodger,--if we run, we run,--thar's the principle; we takes
the water, the whole herd together, niggurs, hosses, and all,
particularly the hosses; for, 'tarnal death to me, it's ag'in my
conscience to leave so much as a hoof. And so, sodger, if you
conscientiously thinks thar has been walloping enough done on both sides,
I'm jist the man to help you all out of the bobbery;--though, cuss me,
you might as well have cut me out of the beech without so much hard
axing!"

These words of the worthy horse-thief, uttered as hurriedly as his own,
but far more coolly, animated the spirits of the young soldier with
double hope; and taking advantage of the busy intentness with which the
enemy still poured their fire into the ruin, he despatched Ralph down the
ravine, to prepare the canoe for the women, while he himself summoned
Dodge and Emperor to make an effort for their own deliverance.



CHAPTER XVII.


The roar of the river, alternating with peals of thunder, which were now
loud and frequent, awake many an anxious pang in Roland's bosom, as he
lifted his half-unconscious kinswoman from the earth, and bore her to the
canoe; but his anxiety was much more increased when he came to survey
the little vessel itself, which was scarce twelve feet in length, and
seemed ill-fitted to sustain the weight of even half the party. It was,
besides, of the clumsiest and worst possible figure, a mere log, in fact,
roughly hollowed out, without any attempt having been made to point its
extremities; so that it looked less like a canoe than an ox-trough; which
latter purpose it was perhaps designed chiefly to serve, and intended to
be used for the former only when an occasional rise of the waters might
make a canoe necessary to the convenience of the maker. Such a vessel,
managed by a skilful hand, might indeed bear the two females, with honest
Ralph, through the foaming rapids below; but Roland felt, that to burden
it with others would be to insure the destruction of all. He resolved,
therefore, that no other should enter it; and, having deposited Telie Doe
in it by the side of Edith, he directed Dodge and Emperor to mount their
horses, and trust to their strength and courage for a safe escape. To
Emperor, whatever distaste he might have for the adventure, this was an
order, like all others, to be obeyed without murmuring; and, fortunately,
Pardon Dodge's humanity, or his discretion, was so strongly fortified by
his confidence in the swimming virtues of his steed, that he very readily
agreed to try his fortune on horseback.

"Anything to git round them everlasting varmint,--though it a'n't no sich
great circumstance to fight 'em neither, where one's a kinder got one's
hand in," he cried, with quite a joyous voice; and added, as if to
encourage the others,--"it's my idea, that, if such an old crazy boat can
swim the river, a hoss can do it a mortal heap better."

"'Tarnal death to me," said Ralph Stackpole, "them's got the grit that'll
go down old Salt on horseback! But it's all for the good of
anngelliferous madam: and so, if thar's any hard rubbing, or drowning, or
anything-of that synommous natur', to happen, it ar'n't a thing to be
holped no how. But hand in the guns and speechifiers, and make ready for
a go; for, 'tarnal death to me, the abbrygynes ar' making a rush for
the cabin!"

There was indeed little time left for deliberation. While Ralph was yet
speaking, a dozen or more flaming brands were suddenly seen flung into
the air, as if against the broken roof of the cabin, through which they
fell into the interior; and, with a tremendous whoop, the savages, thus
lighting the way to the assault, rushed against their fancied prey. The
next moment, there was heard a yell of disappointed rage and wonder,
followed by a rush of men into the ravine.

"Now, sodger," cried Ralph, "stick close to the trough; and if you ever
seed etarnity at midnight, you'll see a small sample now!"

With that, he pushed the canoe into the stream, and Roland, urging his
terrified steed with voice and spur, and leading his cousin's equally
alarmed palfrey, leaped in after him, calling to Dodge and Emperor to
follow. But how they followed, or whether they followed at all, it was
not easy at that moment to determine; for a bright flash of lightning,
glaring over the river, vanished suddenly, leaving all in double
darkness, and the impetuous rush of the current whirled him he knew not
whither; while the crash of the thunder that followed, prevented his
hearing any other noise, save the increasing and never absent roar of the
waters. Another flash illuminated the scene, and during its short-lived
radiance he perceived himself flying, as it almost seemed, through the
water, borne along by a furious current betwixt what appeared to him two
lofty walls of crag and forest, towards those obstructions in the
channel, which, in times of flood, converted the whole river into a
boiling caldron. They were masses of rock, among which had lodged rafts
of drift timber, forming a dam or barrier on either side of the river,
from which the descending floods were whirled into a central channel,
ample enough in the dry season to discharge the waters in quiet, but
through which they were now driven with all the hurry and rage of a
torrent. The scene, viewed in the momentary glare of the lightning, was
indeed terrific: the dark and rugged walls on either side, the ramparts
of timber of every shape and size, from the little willow sapling to the
full-grown sycamore piled high above the rocks, and the rushing gulf
betwixt them, made up a spectacle sufficient to appal the stoutest heart;
and Roland gasped for breath, as he beheld the little canoe whirl into
the narrow chasm, and then vanish, even before the light was over, as if
swallowed up in its boiling vortex.

But there was little time for fear or conjecture. He cast the rein of the
palfrey from his hand, directed Briareus's head towards the abyss, and
the next moment, sweeping in darkness and with the speed of an arrow,
betwixt the barriers, he felt his charger swimming beneath him in
comparatively tranquil waters. Another flash illumined hill and river,
and he beheld the little canoe dancing along in safety, scarce fifty
yards in advance, with Stackpole waving the tattered fragments of his hat
aloft, and yelling out a note of triumph. But the lusty hurrah was
unheard by the soldier. A more dreadful sound came to his ears from
behind, in a shriek that seemed uttered by the combined voices of men and
horses, and was heard even above the din of the torrent. But it was as
momentary as dreadful, and if a cry of agony, it was of agony that was
soon over. Its fatal cause was soon exhibited, when Roland, awakened by
the sound from the trance, which, during the brief moment of his passage
through the abyss, had chained his faculties, turned, by a violent jerk,
the head of his charger up the stream, in the instinctive effort to
render assistance to his less fortunate followers. A fainter flash than
before played upon the waters, and he beheld two or three dark masses,
like the bodies of horses, hurried by among the waves, whilst another, of
lesser bulk and human form, suddenly rose from the depth of the stream at
his side. This he instantly grasped in his hand, and dragged half across
his saddle-bow, when a broken, strangling exclamation, "Lorra-g-g-gor!"
made him aware that he had saved the life of the faithful Emperor.
"Clutch fast to the saddle," he cried; and the negro obeying with another
ejaculation, the soldier turned Briareus again down the stream, to look
for the canoe. But almost immediately his charger struck the ground; and
Roland, to his inexpressible joy, found himself landed upon a projecting
bank, on which the current had already swept the canoe, with its precious
freight, unharmed.

"If that ar'n't equal to coming down a strick of lightning," cried
Roaring Ralph, as he helped the soldier from the water, "thar's no legs
to a jumping bull-frog! Smash away, old bait!" he continued,
apostrophising with great exultation and self-admiration the river whose
terrors he had thus so successfully defied; "ar'n't I the gentleman for
you? Roar as much as you please;--when it comes to fighting for
anngelliferous madam, I can lick you, old Salt, 'tarnal death to me! And
so, anngelliferous madam, don't you car' a copper for the old crittur;
for thar's more in his bark than his bite. And as for the abbregynes, if
I've fout 'em enough for your satisfaction, we'll just say good-bye to
'em, and leave 'em to take the scalp off old Salt."

The consolation thus offered by the worthy captain of horse-thieves was
lost upon Edith, who, locked in the arms of her kinsman, and sensible of
her escape from the horrid danger that had so long surrounded her,
sensible also of the peril from which he had just been released, wept her
terrors away upon his breast, and for a moment almost forgot that her
sufferings were not yet over.

It was only for an instant that the young soldier indulged his joy. He
breathed a few words of comfort and encouragement, and then turned to
inquire after Dodge, whose gallant hearing in the hour of danger had
conquered the disgust he at first felt at his cowardice, and won upon his
gratitude and respect. But the Yankee appeared not, and the loud calls
Roland made for him were echoed only by the hoarse roar from the
barriers, now left far behind, and the thunder that yet pealed through
the sky. Nor could Emperor, when restored a little to his wits, which had
been greatly disturbed by his own perils in the river, give any
satisfactory account of his fate. He could only remember that the current
had borne himself against the logs, under which he had been swept, and
whirled he knew not whither until he found himself in the arms of his
master; and Dodge, who had rushed before him into the flood, he supposed,
had met a similar fate, but without the happy termination that marked his
own.

That the Yankee had indeed found his death among the roaring waters,
Roland could well believe, the wonder only being how the rest had escaped
in safety. Of the five horses, three only had reached the bank, Briareus
and the palfrey, which had fortunately followed Roland down the middle of
the chasm, and the horse of the unlucky Pardon. The others had been
either drowned among the logs, or swept down the stream.

A few moments sufficed to acquaint Roland with several losses; but he
took little time to lament them. The deliverance of his party was not yet
wholly effected, and every moment was to be improved, to put it, before
daylight, beyond the reach of pursuit. The captain of horse-thieves
avouched himself able to lead the way from the wilderness, to conduct the
travellers to a safe ford below, and thence through the woods, to the
rendezvous of the emigrants.

"Let it be anywhere," said Roland, "where there is safety; and let us not
delay a moment longer. Our remaining here can avail nothing to poor
Dodge."

With these words, he assisted his kinswoman upon her palfrey, placed
Telie Doe upon the horse of the unfortunate Yankee, and giving up his own
Briareus to the exhausted negro, prepared to resume his ill-starred
journey on foot. Then, taking post on the rear, he gave the signal to his
new guide; and once more the travellers were buried in the intricacies of
the forest.



CHAPTER XVIII.


It was at a critical period when the travellers effected their escape
from the scene of their late sufferings. The morning was already drawing
nigh, and might, but for the heavy clouds that prolonged the night of
terror, have been seen shooting its first streaks through the eastern
skies. Another half hour, if for that half hour they could have
maintained their position in the ravine, would have seen them exposed in
all their helplessness to the gaze, and to the fire of the determined
foe. It became them to improve the few remaining moments of darkness, and
to make such exertions as might get them, before dawn, beyond the reach
of discovery or pursuit.

Exertions were, accordingly, made; and, although man and horse were alike
exhausted, and the thick brakes and oozy swamps through which Roaring
Ralph led the way, opposed a thousand obstructions to rapid motion, they
had left the fatal ruin at least two miles behind them, or so honest
Stackpole averred, when the day at last broke over the forest. To add to
the satisfaction of the fugitives, it broke in unexpected splendour. The
clouds parted, and, as the floating masses rolled lazily away before a
pleasant morning breeze, they were seen lighted up and tinted with a
thousand glorious dyes of sunshine.

The appearance of the great luminary was hailed with joy, as the omen of
a happier fate than had been heralded by the clouds and storms of
evening. Smiles began to beam from the haggard and care-worn visages of
the travellers; the very horses seemed to feel the inspiring influence of
the change; and as for Roaring Ralph, the sight of his beautiful
benefactress recovering her good looks, and the exulting consciousness
that it was _his_ hand which had snatched her from misery and death,
produced such a fever of delight in his brain as was only to be allayed
by the most extravagant expressions and actions. He assured her a dozen
times over, "he was her dog and her slave, and vowed he would hunt her
so many Injun scalps, and steal her such a 'tarnal chance of Shawnee
hosses, thar shorld'nt be a gal in all Kentucky should come up to her for
stock and glory:" and, finally, not content with making a thousand other
promises of an equally extravagant character, and swearing, that, "if she
axed it, he would go down on his knees and say his prayers to her," he
offered, as soon as he had carried her safely across the river, to "take
the backtrack, and lick, single-handed, all the Injun abbregynes that
might be following." Indeed, to such a pitch did his enthusiasm run,
that, not knowing how otherwise to give vent to his over-charged
feelings, he suddenly turned upon his heel, and shaking his fist in the
direction whence he had come, as if against the enemy who had caused his
benefactress so much distress, he pronounced a formal and emphatic curse
upon their whole race, "from the head-chief to the commoner, from the
whisky-soaking warrior down to the pan-licking squall-a-baby," all of
whom he anathematised with as much originality as fervour of expression;
after which, he proceeded, with more sedateness, to resume his post at
the head of the travellers, and conduct them onwards on their way.

Another hour was now consumed in diving amid cane-brakes and swamps, to
which Roaring Ralph evinced a decidedly greater partiality than to the
open forest, in which the travellers had found themselves at the dawn;
and in this he seemed to show somewhat more of judgment and discretion
than would have been argued from his hair-brained conversation; for the
danger of stumbling upon scouting Indians, of which the country now
seemed so full, was manifestly greater in the open woods than in the dark
and almost unfrequented cane-brakes: and the worthy horse-thief, with all
his apparent love of fight, was not at all anxious that the angel of his
worship should be alarmed or endangered, while entrusted to his zealous
safe-keeping.

But it happened in this case, as it has happened with better and wiser
men, that Stackpole's cunning over-reached itself, as was fully shown in
the event; and it would have been happier for himself and all if his
discretion, instead of plunging him among difficult and almost impassable
bogs, where a precious hour was wasted in effecting a mere temporary
security and concealment from observation, had taught him the necessity
of pushing onwards with all possible speed, so as to leave pursuers, if
pursuit should be attempted, far behind. At the expiration of that hour,
so injudiciously wasted, the fugitives issued from the brake, and
stepping into a narrow path worn by the feet of bisons, among stunted
shrubs and parched grasses, along the face of a lime-stone bed, sparingly
scattered over with a similar barren growth, began to wind their way
downward into a hollow vale, in which they could hear the murmurs, and
perceive the glimmering waters of the river over which they seemed never
destined to pass.

"_Thar_', 'tarnal death to me!" roared Ralph, pointing downwards with
triumph, "arn't that old Salt now, looking as sweet and liquorish as a
whole trough-full of sugar-tree? We'll just take a dip at him,
anngelliferous madam, jist to wash the mud off our shoes; and then,
'tarnal death to me, farewell to old Salt, and the abbregynes
together--cock-a-doodle-doo!"

With this comfortable assurance, and such encouragement as he could
convey in the lustiest gallicantation ever fetched from lungs of man or
fowl, the worthy Stackpole, who had slackened his steps, but without
stopping while he spoke, turned his face again to the descent; when--as
if that war-cry had conjured up enemies from the very air,--a rifle
bullet, shot from a bush not six yards off, suddenly whizzed through
his hair, scattering a handful of it to the winds; and while a dozen or
more were, at the same instant, poured upon other members of the
unfortunate party, fourteen or fifteen savages rushed out from their
concealment among the grass and bushes, three of whom seized upon the
rein of the unhappy Edith, while twice as many sprang upon Captain
Forrester, and, before he could raise an arm in defence, bore him to the
earth, a victim or a prisoner.

So much the astounded horse-thief saw with his own eyes; but before he
could make good any of the numberless promises he had volunteered, during
the morning journey, of killing and eating the whole family of North
American Indians, or exemplify the unutterable gratitude and devotion he
had as often professed to the fair Virginian, four brawny barbarians, one
of them rising at his side and from the very bush whence the bullet had
been discharged at his head, rushed against him, flourishing their guns
and knives, and yelling with transport, "Got you _now_, Cappin Stackpole,
steal-hoss! No go steal no hoss no more! roast on great big fire!"

"'Tarnal death to me!" roared Stackpole, forgetting everything else in
the instinct of self-preservation; and firing his piece at the nearest
enemy, he suddenly leaped from the path into the bushes on its lower
side, where was a precipitous descent, down which he went rolling and
crashing with a velocity almost equal to that of the bullets that were
sent after him. Three of the four assailants immediately darted after in
pursuit, and their shouts growing fainter and fainter as they descended,
were mingled with the loud yell of victory, now uttered by a dozen savage
voices from the hill-side.

It was a victory, indeed, in every sense, complete, almost bloodless, as
it seemed, to the assailants, and effected at a moment when the hopes of
the travellers were at the highest: and so sudden was the attack, so
instantaneous the change from freedom to captivity, so like the juggling
transition of a dream the whole catastrophe, that Forrester, although
overthrown and bleeding from two several wounds received at the first
fire, and wholly in the power of his enemies, who flourished their knives
and axes in his face, yelling with exultation, could scarce appreciate
his situation, or understand what dreadful misadventure had happened,
until his eye, wandering among the dusky arms that grappled him, fell
first upon the body of the negro Emperor, hard by, gored by numberless
wounds, and trampled by the feet of his slayers, and then upon the
apparition, a thousand times more dismal to his eyes, of his kinswoman
snatched from her horse and struggling in the arms of her savage captors.
The frenzy with which he was seized at this lamentable sight endowed him
with a giant's strength; but it was exerted in vain to free himself from
his enemies, all of whom seemed to experience a barbarous delight at his
struggles, some encouraging him, with loud laughter and in broken
English, to continue them, while others taunted and scolded at him more
like shrewish squaws than valiant warriors, assuring him that they were
great Shawnee fighting-men, and he a little Long-knife dog, entirely
beneath their notice: which expressions, though at variance with all his
preconceived notions of the stern gravity of the Indian character, and
rather indicative of a roughly jocose than a darkly ferocious spirit, did
not prevent their taking the surest means to quiet his exertions and
secure their prize, by tying his hands behind him with a thong of buffalo
hide, drawn so tight as to inflict the most excruciating pain. But pain
of body was then, and for many moments after, lost in agony of mind,
which could he conceived only by him who, like the young soldier, has
been doomed, once in his life, to see a tender female, the nearest and
dearest object of his affections, in the hands of enemies, the most
heartless, merciless, and brutal of all the races of men. He saw her pale
visage convulsed with terror and despair,--he beheld her arms stretched
towards him, as if beseeching the help he no longer had the power to
render,--and expected every instant the fall of the hatchet, or the
flash of the knife, that was to pour her blood upon the earth before him.
He would have called upon the wretches around for pity, but his tongue
clove to his mouth, his brain spun round; and such became the intensity
of his feelings, that he was suddenly bereft of sense, and fell like a
dead man to the earth, where he lay for a time, ignorant of all events
passing around, ignorant also of the duration of his insensibility.



CHAPTER XIX.


When the soldier recovered his senses, it was to wonder again at the
change that had come over the scene. The loud yells, the bitter taunts,
the mocking laughs, were heard no more; and nothing broke the silence of
the wilderness save the stir of the leaf in the breeze, and the ripple of
the river against its pebbly banks below. He glanced a moment from the
bush in which he was lying, in search of the barbarians who had lately
covered the slope of the hill, but all had vanished; captor and captive
had alike fled; and the sparrow twittering among the stunted bushes, and
the grasshopper singing in the grass, were the only living objects to be
seen. The thong was still upon his wrists, and as he felt it rankling in
his flesh, he almost believed that his savage captors, with a refinement
in cruelty the more remarkable as it must have robbed them of the sight
of his dying agonies, had left him thus bound and wounded, to perish
miserably in the wilderness alone.

This suspicion was, however, soon driven from his mind; for making an
effort to rise to his feet, he found himself suddenly withheld by a
powerful grasp, while a guttural voice muttered in his ear from behind,
with accents half angry, half exultant,--"Long-knife no move;--see how
Piankeshaw kill Long-knife's brudders!--Piankeshaw great fighting-man!"
He turned his face with difficulty, and saw, crouching among the leaves
behind him, a grim old warrior plentifully bedaubed over head and breast
with the scarlet clay of his native Wabash, his dark shining eyes bent
now upon his rifle which he held extended over Roland's body, now turned
upon Roland himself, whom he seemed to watch over with a miser's, or a
wild-cat's, affection, and now wandering away up the stony path along the
hill-side, as if in expectation of the coming of an object dearer even
than rifle or captive to his imagination.

In the confused and distracted state of his mind, Roland was as little
able to understand the expressions of the warrior as to account for the
disappearance of his murderous associates; and he would have marvelled
for what purpose he was thus concealed, among the bushes with his grim
companion, had not his whole soul been too busily and painfully occupied
with the thoughts of his vanished Edith. He strove to ask the wild
barbarian of her fate, but the latter motioned him fiercely to keep
silence; and the motion and the savage look that accompanied it being
disregarded, the Indian drew a long knife from his belt, and pressing the
point on Roland's throat, muttered too sternly and emphatically to be
misconceived,--"Long-knife speak, Long-knife die! Piankeshaw fight
Long-knife's brudders--Piankeshaw great fighting-man!" from which all
that Roland could understand was that there was mischief of some kind
still in the wind, and that he was commanded to preserve silence on the
peril of his life. What that mischief could be he was unable to divine;
but he was not kept long in ignorance.

As he lay upon the ground, his cheek pillowed upon it stone which
accident, or perhaps the humanity of the old warrior, had placed under
his head, he could distinguish a hollow, pattering, distant sound, in
which, at first mistaken for the murmuring of the river over some rocky
ledge, and then for the clatter of wild beasts approaching over the rocky
hill, his practised ear soon detected the trampling of a body of horse,
evidently winding their way along the stony road which had conducted him
to captivity, and from which he was but a few paces removed. His heart
thrilled within him. Was it, could it be, a band of gallant Kentuckians,
in pursuit of the bold marauders, whose presence in the neighbourhood
of the settlements had been already made known? or could they be (the
thrill of expectation grew to transport, as he thought it) his fellow
emigrants, summoned by the faithful Nathan to his assistance, and now
straining every nerve to overtake the savages, whom they had tracked from
the deserted ruin? He could now account for the disappearance of his
captors, and the deathlike silence that surrounded him. Too vigilant to
be taken at unawares, and perhaps long since apprised of the coming of
the band, the Indians had resumed their hiding-places in the grass and
among the bushes, preparing for the new-comers an ambuscade similar to
that they had so successfully practised against Roland's unfortunate
party. "Let them hide as they will, detestable miscreants," he uttered to
himself with feelings of vindictive triumph; "they will not, this time,
have frightened women and a handful of dispirited fugitives to deal
with."

With these feelings burning in his bosom, he made an effort to turn his
face towards the top of the hill, that he might catch the first sight of
the friendly band, and glut his eyes with the view of the anticipated
speedy discomfiture and destruction of his enemies. In this effort he
received unexpected aid from the old warrior, who, perceiving his
intention, pulled him round with his own hands, telling him, with the
grim complacency of one who desired a witness to his bravery, "Now, you
hold still, you see,--you see Piankeshaw old Injun,--you see Piankeshaw
kill man, take scalp, kill all Long-knife:--debbil great fighting-man,
old Piankeshaw!" which self-admiring assurance, repeated for the third
time, the warrior pronounced with extreme earnestness and emphasis.

It was now that Roland could distinctly perceive the nature of the ground
on which his captors had formed their ambush. The hill along whose side
the bison path went winding down to the river with an easy descent, was
nearly bare of trees, its barren soil affording nourishment only for a
coarse grass, enamelled with asters and other brilliant flowers, and for
a few stunted cedar-bushes, scattered here and there; while, in many
places, the naked rock, broken into ledges and gullies, the beds of
occasional brooks, was seen gleaming gray and desolate in the sunshine.
Its surface being thus broken, was unfit for the operations of cavalry;
and the savages being posted, as Roland judged from the position of the
old Piankeshaw, midway along the descent, where were but few trees of
sufficient magnitude to serve as a cover to assailants, while they
themselves were concealed behind rocks and bushes, there was little doubt
they could inflict loss upon an advancing body of footmen of equal
numbers, and perhaps repel them altogether. But, Roland, now impressed
with the belief that the approaching horsemen, whose trampling grew
heavier each moment, as if they were advancing at a full trot, composed
the flower of his own band, had but little fear of the result of a
contest. He did not doubt they would outnumber the savages, who, he
thought, could not muster more than fifteen or sixteen guns; and coming
from a Station, which he had been taught to believe was of no mean
strength it was more than probable their numbers had been reinforced by a
detachment from its garrison.

Such were his thoughts, such were his hopes, as the party drew yet
nigher, the sound of their hoofs clattering at last on the ridge of the
hill; but his disappointment may be imagined, when, as they burst at last
on his sight, emerging from the woods above, the gallant party dwindled
suddenly into a troop of young men, only eleven in number, who rattled
along the path in greater haste than order, as if dreaming of anything in
the world but the proximity of an enemy. The leader he recognised at a
glance by his tall figure, as Tom Bruce the younger, whose feats of
Regulation the previous day had produced a strong though indirect
influence on his own fortunes; and the ten lusty youths who followed his
heels, he doubted not, made up the limbs and body of that inquisitorial
court which, under him as its head, had dispensed so liberal an allowance
of border law to honest Ralph Stackpole. That they were now travelling on
duty of a similar kind, he was strongly inclined to believe; but the
appearance of their horses, covered with foam, as if they had ridden far
and fast, their rifles held in readiness in both hands, as if in
momentary expectation of being called on to use them, with an occasional
gesture from their youthful leader, who seemed to encourage them to
greater speed, convinced him they were bent upon more serious business,
perhaps in pursuit of the Indians, with whose marauding visitation some
accident had made them acquainted.

The smallness of the force, and its almost entire incompetence to yield
him any relief, filled the soldier's breast with despair; but, hopeless
as he was, he could not see the gallant young men rushing blindly among
the savages, each of whose rifles was already selecting its victim,
without making an effort to apprize them of their danger. Forgetting,
therefore, his own situation, or generously disregarding it, he summoned
all his strength, and, as they began to descend the hill, shouted aloud,
"Beware the ambush!--Halt"--But before the words were all uttered, he was
grasped by the throat with strangling violence, and the old warrior,
whose left hand thus choked his utterance, drew his knife a second time,
with the other, and seemed for an instant as if he would have plunged it
into the soldier's bosom.

But the cry had not been made in vain, and although, from the distance,
the words had not been distinguished by the young Kentuckians, enough was
heard to convince them the enemy was nigh at hand. They came to an
immediate halt, and Roland, whose throat was still held by the warrior
and his bosom threatened by the vengeful knife, but whose eyes neither
the anguish of suffocation nor the fear of instant death could draw from
the little band, saw them leap from their horses, which were given in
charge of one of the number, who immediately retired beyond the brow of
the hill; while Tom Bruce, a worthy scion of a warlike stock, brandishing
his rifle in one hand, and with the other pointing his nine remaining
followers down the road, cried, in tones so manly that they came to
Roland's ear,--"Now, boys, the women's down _thar_, and the red skins
with them! Show fight, for the honour of Kentuck and the love of woman.
Every man to his bush, and every bullet to its Injun! Bring the brutes
out of their cover!"

This speech, short and homely as it was, was answered by a loud shout
from the nine young men, who began to divide, with the intention of
obeying its simple final instructions; when the Indians, seeing the
design, unwilling to forego the advantage of the first open shot and
perhaps hoping by a weak fire to mask their strength, and decoy the young
Kentuckians into closer quarters, let fly a volley of six or seven guns
from the bushes near to where Roland lay, but without doing much
mischief, or even deceiving the young men, as was expected.

"Thar they go, the brutes!" roared Tom Bruce, adding as he sprang with
his followers among the bushes, "show 'em your noses, and keep a good
squint over your elbows."

"Long-knife big fool,--Piankeshaw eat him up!" cried, the old warrior,
now releasing the soldier's throat from durance, but speaking with tones
of ire and indignation: "shall see how great Injun fighting-man eat up
white man!"

With these words, leaving Roland to endure his bonds, and solace himself
as he might, he crept away into the long grass, and was soon entirely
lost to sight.

The combat that now ensued was one so different in most of its
characteristics from all that Roland had ever before witnessed, that he
watched its progress, notwithstanding the tortures of his bonds and the
fever of his mind, with an interest even apart from that which he
necessarily felt in it, as one whose all of happiness or misery depended
upon the issue. In all conflicts in which he had been engaged, the
adverse ranks were arrayed face to face, looking upon each other as they
fought; but here no man saw his enemy, both parties concealing themselves
so effectually in the grass and among the rocks and shrubs, that there
was nothing to indicate even their existence, save the occasional
discharge of a rifle, and the wreath of white smoke curling up from it
into the air. In the battles of regular soldiers, too, men fought in
masses, the chief strength of either party arising from the support which
individuals thus gave to one another, each deriving additional courage
and confidence from the presence of his fellows. Here, on the contrary,
it seemed the first object of each individual, whether American or
Indian, to separate himself as far from his friends as possible, seeking
his own enemies, trusting to his own resources, carrying on the war on
his own foundation,--in short, like the enthusiastic Jerseyman, who,
without belonging to either side, was found at the battle of Monmouth,
peppering away from a fence, at whatever he fancied a foeman--"fighting
on his own _hook_" entirely.

It did not seem to Roland as if a battle fought upon such principles,
could result in any great injury to either party. But he forget, or
rather he was ignorant, that the separation of the combatants, while
effecting the best protection not merely to any one individual, but to
all his comrades, who must have been endangered, if near him; by every
bullet aimed at himself, did not imply either fear or hesitation on his
part, whose object, next to that mentioned, was to avoid the shots of the
many, while seeking out and approaching a single antagonist, whom he was
ever ready singly to encounter.

And thus it happened, that, while Roland deemed the antagonists were
manoeuvring over the hill side, dragging themselves from bush to bush and
rock to rock, to no profitable purpose, they were actually creeping
nigher and nigher to each other every moment, the savages crawling
onwards with the exultation of men who felt their superior strength,
and the Kentuckians advancing with equal alacrity, as if ignorant of, or
bravely indifferent to their inferiority.

It was not a long time, indeed, before the Virginian began to have a
better opinion of the intentions of the respective parties; for, by and
by, the shots, which were at first fired very irregularly and at long
intervals, became more frequent, and, as it seemed, more serious, and an
occasional whoop from an Indian, or a wild shout from a Kentuckian,
showed that the excitement of actual conflict was beginning to be felt on
either side. At the same time, he became sensible, from the direction of
the firing, that both parties had gradually extended themselves in a
line, reaching, notwithstanding the smallness of their numbers, from the
crest of the hill on the one hand, to the borders of the river on the
other, and thus perceived that the gallant Regulators, however
ignorant of the science of war, and borne by impetuous tempers into a
contest with a more numerous foe, were not in the mood to be taken either
on the flank or rear, but were resolved, in true military style, to keep
their antagonists before them.

In this manner, the conflict continued for many minutes, the combatants
approaching nearer and nearer, the excitement waxing fiercer every
instant, until shots were incessantly exchanged, and, as it seemed, with
occasional effect; for the yells, which grew louder and more frequent on
both sides, were sometimes mingled with cries of pain on the one hand,
and shouts of triumph on the other; during all which time, nothing
whatever was seen of the combatants, at least by Roland, whose mental
agonies were not a little increased by his being a compelled spectator,
if such he could be called, of a battle in which he was so deeply
interested, without possessing the power to mingle in it, or strike a
single blow on his own behalf. His fears of the event had been, from the
first, much stronger than his hopes. Aware of the greatly superior
strength of the savages, he did not doubt that the moment would come when
he should see them rush in a body upon the Kentuckians, and overwhelm
them with numbers. But that was a measure into which nothing but an
uncommon pitch of fury could have driven the barbarians: for with
marksmen like those opposed to them, who needed but a glance of an enemy
to insure his instant destruction, the first spring from the grass would
have been the signal of death to all who attempted it, leaving the
survivors, no longer superior in numbers, to decide the contest with men
who were, individually, in courage, strength, and skill, at least their
equals. Indeed, a proof of the extreme folly of such a course on the part
of the Indians was soon shown when the Regulators, fighting their way
onwards as if wholly regardless of the superior numbers of the foe, had
advanced so nigh the latter as to command (which from occupying the
highest ground, they were better able to do) the hiding-places of some of
their opponents. Three young warriors, yielding to their fury, ashamed
perhaps of being thus bearded by a weaker foe, or inflamed with the hope
of securing a scalp of one young Kentuckian who had crept dangerously
nigh, suddenly sprung from their lairs, and guided by the smoke of the
rifle which he had just discharged, rushed towards the spot, yelling with
vindictive exultation. They were the first combatants Roland had yet seen
actually engaged in the conflict; and he noted their appearance and act
of daring with a sinking heart, as the prelude to a charge from the whole
body of Indians upon the devoted Kentuckians. But scarce were their brown
bodies seen to rise from the grass, before three rifles were fired from
as many points on the hill-side, following each other in such rapid
succession that the ear could scarce distinguish the different
explosions, each of them telling with fatal effect upon the rash
warriors, two of whom fell dead on the spot, while the third and
foremost, uttering a faint whoop of defiance and making an effort to
throw the hatchet he held in his hand, suddenly staggered and fell in
like manner to the earth.

Loud and bold was the shout of the Kentuckians at this happy stroke of
success, and laughs of scorn were mingled with their warlike hurrahs, as
they prepared to improve the advantage so fortunately gained. Loudest of
all in both laugh and hurrah was the young Tom Bruce, whose voice was
heard, scarce sixty yards off, roaring, "Hurrah for old Kentuck! Try 'em
agin, boys, give it to 'em handsome once more! and then, boys, a rush for
the women!"

The sound of a friendly voice at so short a distance fired Roland's heart
with hope, and he shouted aloud himself, no Indian seeming nigh, for
assistance. But his voice was lost in a tempest of yells, the utterance
of grief and fury, with which the fall of their three companions had
filled the breasts of the savages. The effect of this fatal loss,
stirring up their passions to a sudden frenzy, was to goad them into the
very step which they had hitherto so wisely avoided. All sprang from the
ground as with one consent, and regardless of the exposure and danger,
dashed, with hideous shouts, against the Kentuckians. But the volley with
which they were received, each Kentuckian selecting his man, and firing
with unerring and merciless aim, damped their short-lived ardour; and
quickly dropping again among the grass and bushes, they were fain to
continue the combat as they had begun it, in a way which, if it produced
less injury to their antagonists, was conducive of greater safety to
themselves.

The firing was now hot and incessant on both sides, but particularly on
the part of the Regulators, who, inspired by success, but still prudently
avoiding all unnecessary exposure of their persons, pressed their enemies
with a spirit from which Roland now for the first time drew the happiest
auguries. Their stirring hurrahs bespoke a confidence in the result of
the fray, infinitely cheering to his spirits; and he forgot his tortures,
which from the many frantic struggles he had made to force the thong from
his wrists, drawing it at each still further into his flesh, were now
almost insupportable, when, amid the din of firing and yelling, he heard
Tom Bruce cry aloud to his companions, "Now, boys! one more crack, and
then for rifle-butt, knife, and hatchet!" It seemed, indeed, as if the
heavy losses the Indians had sustained, had turned the scale of battle
entirely in favour of the Kentuckians. It was evident even to Roland,
that the former, although yelling and shouting with as much apparent
vigour as ever, were gradually giving ground before the latter, and
retreating towards their former lairs; while he could as clearly
perceive, from Bruce's expressions, that the intrepid Kentuckian was
actually preparing to execute the very measure that had caused such loss
to his enemies, and which, being thus resolved on, showed his confidence
of victory. "Ready, boys!" he heard him shout again, and even nigher than
before;--"take the shoot with full pieces, and let the skirmudgeons have
it handsome!"

At that conjuncture, and just when Forrester caught his breath with
intense and devouring expectation, an incident occurred which entirely
changed the face of affairs, and snatched the victory from the hands of
the Kentuckians. The gallant Bruce, thus calling upon his followers to
prepare for the charge, had scarce uttered the words recorded, before
a voice, lustier even than his own, bellowed from a bush immediately on
his rear,--"Take it like a butcher's bull-dog, tooth and nail!--knife
and skull-splitter, foot and finger, give it to 'em every
way,--cock-a-doodle-doo!"

At these words, coming from a quarter and from an ally entirely
unexpected, young Bruce looked behind him and beheld, emerging from a
hazel bush, through which it had just forced its way, the visage of
Roaring Ralph Stackpole, its natural ugliness greatly increased by
countless scratches and spots of blood, the result of his leap down the
ledge of rocks, when first set upon by the Indians, and his eyes
squinting daggers and ratsbane, especially while he was giving utterance
to that gallinaceous slogan with which he was wont to express his
appetite for conflict, and with which he now concluded his unceremonious
salutation.

The voice and visage were alike familiar to Bruce's senses, and neither
was so well fitted to excite alarm as merriment. But, on the present
occasion, they produced an effect upon the young Regulator's spirits, and
through them upon his actions, the most unfortunate in the world; to
understand which it must be recollected that the worthy Kentuckian had,
twenty-four hours before, with his own hands, assisted in gibbeting
honest Ralph on the beech tree, where, he had every reason to suppose,
his lifeless body was hanging at that very moment. His astonishment and
horror may therefore be conceived, when, turning in some purturbation at
the well known voice, he beheld that identical body, the corse of the
executed horse-thief, crawling after him in the grass, "winking, and
blinking, and squinting," as he was used afterwards to say, "as if the
devil had him by the pastern." It was a spectacle which the nerves of
even Tom Bruce could not stand; it did what armed Indians could not
do,--it frightened him out of his propriety. Forgetting his situation,
his comrades, the savages,--forgetting everything but the fact of his
having administered the last correction of Lynch-law to the object of his
terror, he sprang on his feet, and roaring, "By the etarnal devil, here's
Ralph Stackpole!" he took to his heels, running, in his confusion, right
in the direction of the enemy, among whom he would have presently found
himself, but for a shot, by which, before he had run six yards, the
unfortunate youth was struck to the earth.

The exclamation, and the sight of Ralph himself, who also rose to follow
the young leader upon what he deemed a rush against the foe, electrified
the whole body of the Regulators, who were immediately thrown into
confusion; of which the savages took the same advantage they had taken of
Bruce's agitation, firing upon them as they rose, and then rushing upon
them to end the fray, before they could recover their wits or spirits. It
needed but this, and the fall of their leader, to render the disorder of
the young men irretrievable; and, accordingly, in less than a moment they
were seen,--all, at least, who were not already disabled,--flying in a
panic from the field of battle. It was in vain that the captain of
horse-thieves, divining at last the cause of their extraordinary flight,
roared out that he was a living man, with nothing of a ghost about him
whatever; the panic was universal and irremediable, and nothing remained
for him to do but to save his own life as quickly as possible.

"'Tarnal death to me!" he bellowed, turning to fly; but a groan from
Bruce fell on his ear. He ran to the side of the fallen youth, and
catching him by the hand, exclaimed, "Now for the best leg, Tom, and a
rush up hill to the bosses!"

"You _ar'n't_ hanged then, after all?" muttered the junior; and then
fell back as if unable to rise, adding faintly, "Go;--rat it, I'm done
for.--As for the--'l--savages, what I have to say--'l--'l--. But I reckon
scalping's not much;--'l--'l--one soon gets used to it!"--

And thus the young Kentuckian, his blood oozing-fast, his mind wandering,
his utterance failing, muttered, resigning himself to his fate, ignorant
that even Stackpole was no longer at his side to hear him. His fate did
indeed seem to be inevitable; for while Stackpole had him by the hand,
vainly tugging to get him on his feet, three different Indians were seen
running with might and main to quench the last spark of his existence,
and to finish Stackpole at the same time. But in that very emergency, the
ill-luck which seemed to pursue the horse-thief, and all with whom he was
associated, found a change; and destiny sent them doth assistance in a
way and by means as unexpected as they were unhoped for. The approach of
the savages was noticed by Roaring Ralph, who, not knowing how to save
his young executioner, against whom he seemed to entertain no feelings of
anger whatever, and whose approaching fate he appeared well disposed to
revenge beforehand, clapped his rifle to his shoulder, to make sure of
one of the number; when his eye was attracted by the spectacle of a horse
rushing up the stony road, neighing furiously, and scattering the Indians
from before him. It was the charger Briareus, who had broken from the
tree where he had been fastened below, and now came dashing up the hill,
distracted with terror, or perhaps burning to mingle in the battle, which
he had heard and snuffed from afar. He galloped by the three Indians, who
leaped aside in alarm, while Stackpole, taking advantage of the moment,
ran up and seized him by the bridle. In another moment, he had assisted
the fainting Kentuckian upon the animal's back, leaped up behind him,
and was dashing with wild speed up the hill, yelling with triumph, and
laughing to scorn the bullets that were shot vainly after.

All this the unhappy Roland beheld, and with a revulsion of feelings,
that can only be imagined. He saw, without, indeed, entirely
comprehending the cause, the sudden confusion and final flight of the
little band, at the moment of anticipated victory. He saw them flying
wildly up the hill, in irretrievable rout, followed by the whooping
victors, who, with the fugitives, soon vanished entirely from view,
leaving the field of battle to the dead and to the thrice miserable
captives.



CHAPTER XX.


The conflict, though sharp and hot, considering the insignificant number
of combatants on either side, was of no very long duration, the whole
time, from the appearance of the Kentuckians until the flight, scarce
exceeding half an hour. But the pursuit, which the victors immediately
commenced, lasted a much longer space; and it was more than an hour,--an
age of suspense and suffering to the soldier,--before the sound of
whooping on the hill apprised him of their return. They brought with
them, as trophies of success two horses, on each of which sat three or
four different Indians, as many indeed as could get upon the animal's
back, where they clung together, shouting, laughing, and otherwise
diverting themselves, more like joyous schoolboys than stern warriors who
had just fought and won a bloody, battle.

But this semblance of mirth and good humour lasted no longer than while
the savages were riding from the hill-top to the battle-ground, which
having reached, they sprang upon the ground, and running wildly about,
uttered several cries of the most mournful character, laments, as Roland
supposed, over the bodies of their fallen companions.

But if such was their sorrow while looking-upon their own dead, the sight
of their lifeless foemen--of whom two, besides the negro Emperor, who had
been tomahawked the moment after he fell, had been unhappily left lying
on the field--soon changed it into a fiercer passion. The wail became
a yell of fury, loud and frightful; and Roland could see them gathering
around each corpse, striking the senseless clay repeatedly with their
knives and hatchets, each seeking to surpass his fellow in the savage
work of mutilation. Such is the red man of America, whom courage, an
attribute of all lovers of blood, whether man or animal; misfortune, the
destiny, in every quarter of the globe, of every barbarous race, which
contact with, a civilised one cannot civilise; and the dreams of poets
and sentimentalists have invested with a character wholly incompatible
with his condition. Individual virtues may be, and indeed frequently are,
found among men in a natural state; but honour, justice, and generosity,
as characteristics of the mass, are refinements belonging only to an
advanced stage of civilisation.

In the midst of this barbarous display of unsatisfied rage, several of
the savages approached the unfortunate Roland, and among them the old
Piankeshaw, who, flourishing his hatchet, already clotted with blood, and
looking more like a demon than a human being, made an effort to dash out
the soldier's brains; in which, however, he was restrained by two younger
savages, who caught him in their arms, and muttered somewhat in their own
tongue, which mollified his wrath in a moment causing him to burst into a
roar of obstreperous laughter. "Ees,--good!" he cried, grinning with
apparent benevolence and friendship over the helpless youth: "no hurt
Long-knife; take him Piankeshaw nation; make good friend squaw,
papoose--all brudders, Long-knife." With these expressions, of the
purport of which Roland could understand but little, he left him,
retiring with the rest, as Roland soon saw, to conceal or bury the bodies
of his slain comrades, which were borne in the arms of the survivors to
the bottom of the hill, and there, carefully and in silence, deposited
among thickets, or in crannies of the rock.

This ceremony completed, Roland was again visited by his Piankeshaw
friend, and the two young warriors who had saved his life before, and
were perhaps still fearful of trusting it entirely to the tender mercies
of the senior. It was fortunate for Roland that he was thus attended; for
the old warrior had no sooner approached him than he began to weep and
groan, uttering an harangue, which although addressed, as it seemed,
entirely to the prostrate captive, was in the Indian tongue, and
therefore wholly wasted upon his ears. Nevertheless, he could perceive
that the Indian was relating something that weighed very heavily upon his
mind, that he was warming with the subject, and even working himself up
into a passion; and, indeed, he had not spoken very long before his
visage changed from grief to wrath, and from wrath to the extreme of
fury, in which he began to handle his hatchet as on the previous
occasion, making every demonstration of the best disposition in the world
to bury it in the prisoner's brain. He was again arrested by the young
savages, who muttered something in his ear as before; and again the
effect was to convert his anger into merriment, the change being effected
with a facility that might well have amazed the prisoner, had his despair
permitted him to feel any lighter emotion. "Good!" cried the old warrior,
as if in reply to what the others had said; "Long-knife go Piankeshaw
nation,--make great sight for Piankeshaw!" And so saying, he began to
dance about, with many grimaces of visage and contortions of body, that
seemed to have a meaning for his comrades, who fetched a whoop of
admiration, though entirely inexplicable to the soldier. Then seizing the
latter by the arm, and setting him on his feet, the warrior led or
dragged him a little way down the hill, to a place on the road-side,
where the victors were assembled, deliberating doubtless upon the fate of
their prisoners.

They seemed to have suffered a considerable loss in the battle, twelve
being the whole number now to be seen; and most of these, judging from
the fillets of rags and bundles of green leaves tied about their limbs,
had been wounded, two of them to all appearance very severely, if not
mortally, for they lay upon the earth a little apart from the rest, in
whose motions they seemed to take no interest.

As Roland approached, he looked in vain amid the throng for his
kinswoman. Neither she nor Telie Doe was to be seen. But casting his eye
wildly around, it fell upon a little grove of trees not many yards off,
in which he could perceive the figures of horses, as well as of a tall
barbarian, who stood on its edge, as if keeping guard, wrapped,
notwithstanding the sultriness of the weather, in a blanket, from chin to
foot, while his head was as warmly invested in the ample folds of a huge
scarlet handkerchief. He stood like a statue, his arms folded on his
breast, and lost under the heavy festoons of the blanket; while his eyes
were fastened upon the group of Indians on the road-side, from which they
wandered only to glare a moment upon the haggard and despairing visage of
the soldier. In that copse, Roland doubted not, the savages had concealed
a hopeless and helpless captive, the being for whom he had struggled and
suffered so long and so vainly, the maid whose forebodings of evil had
been so soon and so dreadfully realised.

In the meanwhile, the Indians on the road-side began the business for
which they had assembled, that seemed to be, in the first place, the
division of spoils, consisting of the guns, horses, and clothes of the
dead, with sundry other articles, which, but for his unhappy condition,
Roland would have wondered to behold: for there were among them rolls of
cloth and calico, heaps of hawks'-bells and other Indian trinkets,
knives, pipes, powder and ball, and other such articles, even to a keg or
two of the fire-water, enough to stock an Indian trading-house. These,
wherever and however obtained, were distributed equally among the Indians
by a man of lighter skin than themselves,--a half-breed, as Roland
supposed,--who seemed to exercise some authority among them, though ever
deferring in all things to an old Indian of exceedingly fierce and malign
aspect, though wasted and withered into the semblance of a consumptive
wolf, who sat upon a stone, buried in gloomy abstraction, from which,
time by time, he awoke, to direct the dispersion of the valuables,
through the hands of his deputy, with exceeding great gravity and state.

The distribution being effected, and evidently to the satisfaction of all
present, the savages turned their looks upon the prisoner, eyeing him
with mingled triumph and exultation; and the old presiding officer, or
chief, as he seemed to be, shaking off his abstraction, got upon his feet
and made him a harangue, imitating therein the ancient Piankeshaw; though
with this difference, that, whereas the latter spoke entirely in his own
tongue, the former thought fit, among abundance of Indian phrases, to
introduce some that were sufficiently English to enable the soldier to
guess, at least, a part of his meaning. His oration, however, as far as
Roland could understand it, consisted chiefly in informing him that he
was a very great chief, who had killed abundance of white people, men,
women, and children, whose scalps had, for thirty years and more, been
hanging in the smoke of his Shawnee lodge,--that he was very brave, and
loved a white man's blood better than whisky, and that he never spared it
out of pity,--adding as the cause, and seeming well pleased that he could
boast a deficiency so well befitting a warrior, that he had "_no
heart_,"--his interior being framed of stone as hard as the flinty rock
under his feet. This exordium finished, he proceeded to bestow sundry
abusive epithets upon the prisoner, charging him with having put his
young men to a great deal of needless trouble, besides having killed
several; for which, he added, the Longknife ought to expect nothing
better than to have his face blacked and be burnt alive,--a hint that
produced a universal grunt of assent on the part of the auditors. Having
received this testimony of approbation, he resumed his discourse,
pursuing it for the space of ten minutes or more with considerable vigour
and eloquence; but as the whole speech consisted, like most other Indian
speeches, of the same things said over and over again, those same things
being scarce worth the trouble of utterance, we think it needless to say
anything further of it; except that, first, as it seemed to Roland, as
far as he could understand the broken expressions of the chief, he
delivered a furious tirade against the demon enemy of his race, the
bloody Jibbenainosay, the white man's War-Manito, whom he declared it was
his purpose to fight and kill, as soon as that destroyer should have the
courage to face him, the old Shawnee chief, like a human warrior,--and
that it inspired several others to get up and make speeches likewise. Of
all these the burden seemed to be the unpardonable crime of killing their
comrades, of which the young soldier had been guilty; and he judged by
the fury of their countenances, that they were only debating whether they
should put him to death on the spot, or carry him to their country to be
tortured.

The last speaker of all was the old Piankeshaw, whose meaning could be
only guessed at from his countenance and gestures, the one being as angry
and wo-begone as the latter were active and expressive. He pointed, at
least a dozen times over, to two fresh and gory scalps,--the most highly
valued trophies of victory,--that lay at the feet of the Shawnee chief,
as many times to the horses, and thrice as often at the person of Roland,
who stood now surveying his dark visage with a look of sullen despair,
now casting his eyes, with a gaze of inexpressible emotion, towards the
little copse, in which he still sought in vain a glimpse of his Edith.
But if the old warrior's finger was often bent towards these three
attractive objects, innumerable were the times it was pointed at the two
or three little whisky-kegs, which, not having been yet distributed, lay
untouched upon the grass. The words with which he accompanied these
expressive gestures seemed to produce a considerable effect upon all his
hearers, even upon the ancient chief; who, at the close of the oration,
giving a sign to one of his young men, the latter ran to the copse and in
an instant returned, bringing with him one of the horses, which the chief
immediately handed over, through his deputy, to the orator, and the
orator to one of the two young warriors, who seemed to be of his own
tribe. The chief then pointed to a keg of the fire-water, and this was
also given to the Piankeshaw, who received it with a grin of ecstacy,
embraced it, snuffed at its odoriferous contents, and then passed it in
like manner to his second follower. The chief made yet another signal,
and the deputy, taking Roland by the arm, and giving him a piercing,
perhaps even a pitying, look, delivered him likewise into the hands of
the Piankeshaw; who, as if his happiness were now complete, received him
with a yell of joy, that was caught up by his two companions, and finally
joined in by all the savages present.

This shout seemed to be the signal for the breaking up of the convention.
All rose to their feet, iterating and reiterating the savage cry, while
the Piankeshaw, clutching his prize, and slipping a noose around the
thong that bound his arms, endeavoured to drag him to the horse, on which
the young men had already secured the keg of liquor, and which they were
holding in readiness for the elder barbarian to mount.

At that conjecture, and while Roland was beginning to suspect that even
the wretched consolation of remaining in captivity by his kinswoman's
side was about to be denied him, and while the main body of savages were
obviously bidding farewell to the little band of Piankeshaws, some
shaking them by the hands, while others made game of the prisoner's
distress in sundry Indian ways, and all uttering yells expressive of
their different feelings, there appeared rushing from the copse, and
running among the barbarians, the damsel Telie Doe, who, not a little to
the surprise even of the ill-fated Roland himself, ran to his side,
caught the rope by which he was held, and endeavoured frantically to
snatch it from the hands of the Piankeshaw.

The act, for one of her peculiarly timorous spirit, was surprising
enough; but a great transformation seemed to have suddenly taken place in
her character, and even her appearance, which was less that of a feeble
woman engaged in a work of humanity, than of a tigress infuriated by the
approach of hunters against the lair of her sleeping young. She grasped
the cord with unexpected strength, and her eyes flashed fire as they
wandered around, until they met those of the supposed half-breed, to whom
she called with tones of the most vehement indignation,--"Oh, father,
father! what are you doing? You won't give him up to the murderers? You
promised, you promised--"

"Peace, fool!" interrupted the man thus addressed, taking her by the arm,
and endeavouring to jerk her from the prisoner; "away with you to your
place, and be silent."

"I will not, father;--I will not be silent, I will not away!" cried the
girl, resisting his efforts, and speaking with a voice that mingled the
bitterest reproach with imploring entreaty, "you are a white man, father,
and not an Indian; yes, father, you are _no_ Indian; and you promised no
harm should be done,--you did, father, you _did_ promise!"

"Away, gal, I tell you!" thundered the renegade parent; and he again
strove to drag her from the prisoner. But Telie, as if driven frantic by
the act, flung her arms round Roland's body, from which she was drawn
only by an effort of strength which her weak powers were unable to
resist. But even then she did not give over her purpose; but starting
from her father's arms, she ran screaming back to Roland, and would have
again clasped him in her own; when the renegade, driven to fury by her
opposition, arrested her with one hand, and with the other catching up a
knife that lay in the grass, he made as if, in his fit of passion, he
would have actually plunged it into her breast. His malevolent visage
and brutal threat awoke the terrors of the woman in her heart, and she
sank on her knees, crying-with a piercing voice, "Oh, father, don't kill
me! don't kill your own daughter!"

"Kill you, indeed!" muttered the outlaw, with a laugh of scorn; "even
Injuns don't kill their own children." And taking advantage of her
terror, he beckoned to the Piankeshaw, who, as well as all the other
Indians, seemed greatly astounded and scandalised at the indecorous
interference of a female in the affairs of warriors, to remove the
prisoner; which he did by immediately beginning to drag him down the
hill. The action was not unobserved by the girl, whose struggles to
escape from her father's arms, to pursue, as it seemed, after the
soldier, Roland could long see, while her wild and piteous cries were
still longer brought to his ears.

As for Roland himself, the words and actions of the girl,--though they
might have awakened suspicions, not before-experienced, of her good
faith, and even appeared to show that it was less to unlucky accident
than to foul conspiracy he owed his misfortunes,--did not, and could not,
banish the despair that absorbed his mind, to the exclusion of every
other feeling. He seemed even to himself to be in a dream the sport of an
incubus, that oppressed every faculty and energy of spirit, while yet
presenting the most dreadful phantasms to his imagination. His tongue had
lost its function; he strove several times to speak, but tongue and
spirit were alike paralysed. The nightmare oppressed mind and body
together.

It was in this unhappy condition, the result of overwrought, feelings and
intolerable bodily suffering, that he was led by his Piankeshaw masters
down the hill to the river, which they appeared to be about to pass;
whilst the chief body of marauders were left to seek another road from
the field of battle. Here the old warrior descended from his horse, and
leaving Roland in charge of the two juniors, stepped a little aside to a
place where was a ledge of rocks, in the face of which seemed to be the
entrance to a cavern, although carefully blocked up by masses of stone,
that had been but recently removed from its foot. The Piankeshaw, taking
post directly in front of the hole, began to utter many mournful
ejaculations, which were addressed to the insensate rock, or perhaps to
the equally insensate corpse of a comrade concealed within. He drew also
from a little pouch,--his medicine-bag,--divers bits of bone, wood, and
feathers, the most valued idols of his _fetich_, which he scattered about
the rock, singing the while, in a highly lugubrious tone, the praises of
the dead, and shedding tears that might have been supposed the
outpourings of genuine sorrow. But if sorrow it was that thus affected
the spirits of the warrior, as it seemed to have done on several previous
occasions, it proved to be as easily consolable as before, as the event
showed; for having finished his lamentations, and left the rock, he
advanced towards Roland, whom he threatened for the third time with his
knife; when one of the younger Indians muttering a few words of
remonstrance, and pointing at the same time to the keg of fire-water on
the horse's back, his grief and rage expired together in a haw-haw, ten
times more obstreperous and joyous than any he had indulged before. Then
mounting the horse, seemingly in the best humour in the world, and taking
the end of the cord by which Roland was bound, he rode into the water,
dragging the unfortunate prisoner along at his horse's heels; while the
younger Piankeshaws brought up the rear, ready to prevent resistance on
the soldier's part, should he prove in any degree refractory.

In this ignominious manner the unhappy Forrester passed the river, to do
which had, for twenty-four hours, been the chief object of his wishes.
The ford was wide, deep, and rocky, and the current strong, so that he
was several times swept from his feet, and being unable to rise would
have perished,--happy could he have thus escaped his tormentors--had not
the young warriors been nigh to give him assistance. Assistance, in such
cases, was indeed always rendered; but his embarrassments and perils only
afforded food for mirth to his savage attendants, who, at every fall and
dip in the tide, made the hills resound with their vociferous laughter.
It is only among children (we mean, of course, _bad_ ones) and savages,
who are but grown children, after all, that we find malice and mirth go
hand in hand,--the will to create misery and the power to see it invested
in ludicrous colours.

The river was at last crossed, and the bank being ascended, the three
warriors paused a moment to send their last greeting across to their
allies, who were seen climbing the hill, taking their own departure
from the battle-ground. Even Roland was stirred from his stupefaction,
as he beheld the train, some on foot, some on the captured horses,
winding up the narrow road to the hill-top. He looked among them for his
Edith, and saw her,--or fancied he saw her, for the distance was
considerable,--supported on one of the animals, grasped in the arms of a
tall savage, the guard of the grove, whose scarlet turban glittering in
the sunshine, and his ample white blanket flowing over the flanks of the
horse, made the most conspicuous objects in the train. But while he
looked, barbarian and captive vanished together behind the hill, for
they were at the head of the train. There remained a throng of footmen,
who paused an instant on the crest of the ridge to return the farewell
whoop of the three Piankeshaws. This being done, they likewise
disappeared; and the Piankeshaws, turning their faces towards the west,
dragging the prisoner after them, resumed their journey.



CHAPTER XXI.


The agony which Roland suffered from the thong so tightly secured upon
his wrists, was so far advantageous as it distracted his mind from the
subject which had been at first the chief source of his distress: for it
was impossible to think long even of his kinswoman, while enduring
tortures that were aggravated by every jerk of the rope, by which he
was dragged along; these growing more insupportable every moment. His
sufferings, however, seemed to engage little of the thoughts of his
conductors; who, leaving the buffalo road, and striking into the pathless
forest, pushed onward at a rapid pace, compelling him to keep up with
them; and it was not until he had twice fainted from pain and exhaustion,
that, after some discussion, they thought fit to loosen the thong, which
they afterwards removed altogether. Then, whether it was that they were
touched at last with compassion, or afraid that death might snatch the
prisoner from their hands, if too severely treated, they proceeded even
to take other measures of a seemingly friendly kind, to allay his pangs;
washing his lacerated wrists in a little brook, on whose banks they
paused to give him rest, and then binding them up, as well as the two or
three painful, though not dangerous, wounds he had received, with green
leaves, which one of the juniors plucked, bruised, and applied with every
appearance of the most brotherly interest; while the other, to equal, or
surpass him in benevolence, took the keg of whisky from the horse's back,
and filling a little wooden bowl that he drew from a pack, insisted that
the prisoner should swallow it. In this recommendation the old Piankeshaw
also concurred; but finding that Roland recoiled with disgust, after an
attempt to taste the fiery liquid, he took the bowl into his own hands,
and despatched its contents at a draught. "Good! great good!" he
muttered, smacking his lips with high gusto; "white man make good
drink!--Piankeshaw great friend white-man's liquor."

Having thus opened their hearts, nothing could be, to appearance, more
friendly and affectionate than the bearing of the savages, at least so
long as they remained at the brook; and even when the journey was
resumed, which it soon was, their deportment was but little less loving.
It is true, that the senior, before mounting his horse, proceeded very
coolly to clap the noose, which had previously been placed on Roland's
arms, around his neck, where it bade fair to strangle him, at the first
false step of the horse; but the young Indians walked at his side,
chattering in high good humour; though, as their stock of English
extended only to the single phrase, "Bozhoo, brudder," which was not in
itself very comprehensible, though repeated at least twice every minute,
it may be supposed their conversation had no very enlivening effect on
the prisoner.

Nor was the old Piankeshaw much behind the juniors in good humour;
though, it must be confessed, his feelings were far more capricious and
evanescent. One while he would stop his horse, and dragging Roland to his
side, pat him affectionately on the shoulder, and tell him, as well as
his broken language could express his intentions, that he would take him
to the springs of the Wabash, one of the principal seats of his nation,
and make him his son and a great warrior; while at other times, having
indulged in a fit of sighing, groaning, and crying, he would turn in a
towering rage, and express a resolution to kill him on the spot,--from
which bloody disposition, however, he was always easily turned by the
interference of the young men.

These capricious changes were perhaps owing in a great measure to the
presence of the whisky-keg, which the old warrior ever and anon took from
its perch among the packs behind him, and applied to his lips, sorely, as
it appeared, against the will of his companion, who seemed to remonstrate
with him against a practice so unbecoming a warrior, while in the heart
of a foeman's country, and not a little also against his own sense of
propriety: for his whole course in relation to the keg was like that of a
fish that dallies around the angler's worm, uncertain whether to bite,
now looking and longing, now suspecting the hook and retreating, now
returning to look and long again, until, finally, unable to resist the
temptation, it resolves upon a little nibble, which ends, even against
its own will, in a furious bite.

It was in this manner the Piankeshaw addressed himself to his treasure;
the effect of which was to render each returning paroxysm of affection
and sorrow more energetic than before, while it gradually robbed of their
malignity those fits of anger with which he was still occasionally
seized. But it added double fluency to his tongue; and, not content with
muttering his griefs in his own language, addressing them to his own
people, he finally began to pronounce them in English, directing them at
Roland; whereby the latter was made acquainted with the cause of his
sorrow. This, it appeared, was nothing less than the loss of a son killed
in battle with the Kentuckians, and left to moulder, with two or three
Shawnee corses, in the cave by the river-side; which loss he commemorated
a dozen times over, and with a most piteous voice, in a lament that
celebrated the young warrior's virtues: "Lost son," he ejaculated; "good
huntaw: kill bear, kill buffalo, catch fish, feed old squaw, and young
squaw, and little papoose--good son! mighty good son! Good fighting-man:
kill man Virginnee, kill man Kentucky, kill man Injun-man; take scalp,
squaw scalp, papoose scalp, man scalp, all kind scalp--debbil good
fighting man! No go home no more Piankeshaw nation; no more kill bear; no
more kill buffalo; no more catch fish; no more feed old squaw, and young
squaw, and little papoose; no more kill man, no more take scalp--lose own
scalp, take it Long-knife man Kentucky; no more see old Piankeshaw
son,--leave dead, big hole Kentucky; no more see no more Piankeshaw son,
Piankeshaw nation!"

With such lamentations, running at times into rage against his prisoner,
as the representative of those who had shed the young warrior's blood,
the old Piankeshaw whiled away the hours of travel; ceasing them only
when seized with a fit of affection, or when some mis-step of the horse
sent a louder gurgle, with a more delicious odour, from the cask at his
back; which music and perfume together were a kind of magic not to be
resisted by one who stood so greatly in need of consolation.

The effect of such constant and liberal visitations to the comforter and
enemy of his race, continued for several hours together, was soon made
manifest in the old warrior, who grew more loquacious, more lachrymose,
and more foolish every moment; until, by and by, having travelled till
towards sunset, a period of six or seven hours from the time of setting
out, he began to betray the most incontestable evidences of intoxication.
He reeled on the horse's back, and finally, becoming tired of the weight
of his gun, he extended it to Roland, with a very magisterial, yet
friendly nod, as if bidding him take and carry it. It was snatched from
him, however, by one of the younger warriors, who was too wise to intrust
a loaded carbine in the arms of a prisoner, and who had perhaps noted the
sudden gleam of fire, the first which had visited them since the moment
of his capture, that shot into Roland's eyes, as he stretched forth his
hands to take the weapon.

The old Piankeshaw did not seem to notice who had relieved him of the
burden. He settled himself again on the saddle as well as he could, and
jogged onwards, prattling and weeping, according to the mood of the
moment, now droning out an Indian song, and now nodding with drowsiness;
until at last slumber or stupefaction settled so heavily upon his senses
that he became incapable of guiding his horse; and the weary animal,
checked by the unconscious rider, or stopping of his own accord to browse
the green cane-leaves along the path, the Piankeshaw suddenly took a
lurch wider than usual, and fell, like a log, to the ground.

The younger savages had watched the course of proceedings on the part of
the senior with ill-concealed dissatisfaction. The catastrophe completed
their rage, which, however, was fortunately expended upon the legitimate
cause of displeasure. They tumbled the unlucky cask from its perch, and
assailing it with horrible yells and as much apparent military zeal as
could have been exercised upon a human enemy lying in like manner at
their feet, they dashed it to pieces with their tomahawks, scattering its
precious contents upon the grass.

While they were thus engaged, the senior rose from the earth, staring
about him for a moment with looks of stupid inquiry; until beginning at
last to comprehend the accident that had happened to him, and perhaps
moved by the late of his treasure, he also burst into a fury; and
snatching up the nearest gun, he clapped it to his horse's head, and shot
it dead on the spot, roaring out, "Cuss' white-man hoss! throw old
Piankeshaw! No good nothing! Cuss debbil hoss!"

This act of drunken and misdirected ferocity seemed vastly to incense the
young warriors; and the senior waxing as wrathful at the wanton
destruction of his liquor, there immediately ensued a battle of tongues
betwixt the two parties, who scolded and berated one another for the
space of ten minutes or more with prodigious volubility and energy, the
juniors expatiating upon the murder of the horse as an act of the most
unpardonable folly, while the senior seemed to insist that the wasting of
so much good liquor was a felony of equally culpable dye; and it is
probable he had the better side of the argument, since he continued to
grumble for a long time even after he had silenced the others.

But peace was at last restored, and the savages prepared to resume their
journey; but not until they had unanimously resolved that the
consequences of the quarrel should be visited upon the head of the
captive. Their apparent good-humour vanished, and the old Piankeshaw,
staggering up, gave Roland to understand, in an oration full of all the
opprobrious epithets he could muster, either in English or Indian, that
he, Piankeshaw, being a very great warrior, intended to carry him to his
country, to run the gauntlet through every village of the nation, and
then to burn him alive, for the satisfaction of the women and children;
and while pouring this agreeable intelligence into the soldier's ears,
the juniors took the opportunity to tie his arms a second time, heaping
on his shoulders their three packs; to which the old man afterwards
insisted on adding the saddle and bridle of the horse, though for no very
ostensible object, together with a huge mass of the flesh, dug with his
knife from the still quivering carcass, which was perhaps designed for
their supper.

Under this heavy load, the unhappy and degraded soldier was compelled to
stagger along with his masters; but fortunately for no long-period. The
night was fast approaching, and having-soon arrived at a little glade in
the forest, where a spring of sweet water bubbled from the grass, they
signified their intention to make it their camping ground for the night.
A fire was struck, the horse flesh stuck upon a fork and roasted, and a
share of it tendered to the prisoner; who, sick at heart and feverish in
body, refused it with as much disgust as he had shown at the whisky,
expressing his desire only to drink of the spring, which he was allowed
to do to his liking.

The savages then collected grass and leaves, with which they spread a
couch under a tree beside their fire; and here, having compelled the
soldier to lie down, they proceeded to secure him for the night with a
cruel care, that showed what value the loss of the horse and fire-water,
the only other trophies of victory, led them to attach to him. A stake
was cut and laid across his breast, and to the ends of this his
outstretched arms were bound at both wrist and elbow. A pole was then
laid upon his body, to the extremities of which his feet and neck were
also bound; so that he was secured as upon, or rather _under_, a cross,
without the power of moving hand or foot. As if even this were not enough
to satisfy his barbarous companions, they attached an additional cord
to his neck; and this, when they lay down beside him to sleep, one of the
young warriors wrapped several times round his own arm, so that the
slightest movement of the prisoner, were such a thing possible, must
instantly rouse the jealous savage from his slumbers.

These preparations being completed, the young men lay down, one on each
side of the prisoner, and were soon fast asleep.

The old Piankeshaw, meanwhile, sat by the fire, now musing in drunken
revery,--"in cogibundity of cogitation,"--now grumbling a lament for his
perished son, which, by a natural licence of affliction, he managed to
intermingle with regrets for his lost liquor, and occasionally heaping
maledictions upon the heads of his wasteful companions, or soliciting
the prisoner's attention to an account, that he gave him at least six
times over, of the peculiar ceremonies which would be observed in burning
him, when once safely bestowed in the Piankeshaw nation. In this manner,
the old savage, often nodding, but always rousing again, succeeded in
amusing himself nearly half the night long; and it was not until near
midnight that he thought fit, after stirring up the fire, and adding a
fresh log to it, to stretch himself beside one of the juniors, and
grumble himself to sleep. A few explosive and convulsive snorts, such as
might have done honour to the nostrils of a war-horse, marked the
gradations by which he sank to repose; then came the deep, long-drawn
breath of mental annihilation, such as distinguished the slumber of
his companions.

To the prisoner, alone, sleep was wholly denied; for which the renewed
agonies of his bonds, tied with the supreme contempt for suffering which
usually marks the conduct of savages to their captives, would have been
sufficient cause, had there even been no superior pangs of spirit to
banish the comforter from his eyelids. Of his feelings during the journey
from the river,--which, in consequence of numberless delays caused by the
old Piankeshaw's drunkenness, could scarce have been left more than eight
or ten miles behind,--we have said but little, since imagination can only
picture them properly to the reader. Grief, anguish, despair, and the
sense of degradation natural to a man of proud spirit, a slave in the
hands of coarse barbarians, kept his spirit for a long time wholly
subdued and torpid; and it was not until he perceived the old
Piankeshaw's repeated potations, and their effects, that he began to wake
from his lethargy, and question himself whether he might not yet escape,
and, flying to the nearest settlements for assistance, strike a blow for
the recovery of his kinswoman. Weak from exhaustion and wounds, entirely
unarmed, and closely watched, as he perceived he was, by the young
warriors, notwithstanding their affected friendship, it was plain that
nothing could be hoped for, except from caution on his part, and the most
besotted folly on that of his captors. This folly was already made
perceptible in at least one of the party; and as he watched the
oft-repeated visitations of the senior to the little keg, he began to
anticipate the period when the young men should also betake themselves to
the stupefying draught, and give him the opportunity he longed for with
frantic, though concealed, impatience. This hope fell when the cask was
dashed to pieces; but hope, once excited, did not easily forsake him. He
had heard, and read, of escapes, made by captives like himself, from
Indians, when encamped by night in the woods,--nay, of escapes made when
the number of captors and the feebleness of the captive (for even women
and boys had thus obtained their deliverance), rendered the condition of
the latter still more wretched than his own. Why might not _he_, a man
and soldier, guarded by only three foemen, succeed, as others had
succeeded, in freeing himself?

This question, asked over and over again, and each time answered with
greater hope and animation than before, employed his mind until his wary
captors had tied him to the stakes, as has been mentioned, leaving him as
incapable of motion as if every limb had been solidified into stone. Had
the barbarians been able to look into his soul at the moment when he
first strove to test the strength of the ligatures, and found them
resisting his efforts like bands of brass, they would have beheld deeper
and wilder tortures than any they could hope to inflict, ever, at the
stake. The effort was repeated once, twice, thrice--a thousand
times,--but always in vain: the cords were too securely tied, the stakes
too carefully placed, to yield to his puny struggles. He was a prisoner
in reality,--without resource, without help, without hope.

And thus he passed the whole of the bitter night, watching the slow
progress of moments counted only by the throbbings of his fevered
temples, the deep breathings of the Indians, and the motion of the
stars creeping over the vista opened to the skies from the little glade,
a prey to despair, made so much more poignant by disappointment and
self-reproach. Why had he not taken advantage of his temporary release
from the cords, to attempt escape by open flight, when the drunkenness of
the old Piankeshaw would have increased the chances of success? He had
lost his best ally in the cask of liquor; but he resolved,--if the
delirious plans of a mind tossed by the most frenzied passions could be
called resolutions,--a second day should not pass by without an effort
better becoming a soldier, better becoming the only friend and natural
protector of the hapless Edith.

In the meanwhile, the night passed slowly away, the moon, diminished to a
ghastly crescent, rose over the woods, looking down with a sickly smile
upon the prisoner,--an emblem of his decayed fortunes and waning hopes;
and a pale streak, the first dull glimmer of dawn, was seen stealing up
the skies. But neither moon nor streak of dawn yet threw light upon the
little glade. The watch-fire had burned nearly away, and its flames no
longer illuminated the scene. The crackling of the embers, with an
occasional echo from the wood hard by, as of the rustling of a rabbit, or
other small animal, drawn by the unusual appearance of fire near his
favourite fountain, to satisfy a timorous curiosity, was the only sound
to be heard; for the Indians were in the dead sleep of morning, and their
breathing was no longer audible.

The silence and darkness together were doubly painful to Roland, who had
marked the streak of dawn, and longed with fierce impatience for the
moment when he should be again freed from his bonds, and left to attempt
some of those desperate expedients which he had been planning all the
night long. In such a frame of mind, even the accidental falling of a
half-consumed brand upon the embers, and its sudden kindling into flame,
were circumstances of an agreeable nature; and the ruddy glare thrown
over the boughs above his head was welcomed as the return of a friend,
bringing with it hope, and even a share of his long lost tranquillity.

But tranquillity was not fated to dwell long in his bosom. At that very
moment, and while the blaze of the brand was brightest, his ears were
stunned by an explosion bursting like a thunderbolt at his very head, but
whether coming from earth or air, from the hands of Heaven or the
firelock of a human being, he knew not; and immediately after there
sprang a huge dark shadow over his body, and there was heard the crash as
of an axe falling upon the flesh of the young Indian who slept on his
right side. A dismal shriek, the utterance of agony and terror, rose from
the barbarian's lips; and then came the sound of his footsteps, as he
darted, with a cry still wilder, into the forest, pursued by the sound
of other steps; and then all again was silent,--all save groans, and the
rustling in the grass of limbs convulsed in the death-throe at the
soldier's side.

Astounded, bewildered, and even horror-struck, by these incomprehensible
events, the work of but an instant, and all unseen by Roland, who, from
his position, could look only upwards towards the boughs and skies, he
would have thought himself in a dream, but for the agonised struggles
of the young Indian at his side, which he could plainly feel as well as
hear: until by and by they subsided, as if in sudden death. Was it a
rescue? was that shot fired by a friend? that axe wielded by a human
auxiliary? those sounds of feet dying away in the distance, were they the
steps of a deliverer? The thought was ecstacy, and he shouted aloud,
"Return, friend, and loose me! return!"

No voice replied to the shout; but it roused from the earth a dark and
bloody figure, which staggering and falling over the body of the young
warrior, crawled like a scotched reptile upon Roland's breast; when the
light of the fire shining upon it revealed to his eyes the horrible
spectacle of the old Piankeshaw warrior, the lower part of his face shot
entirely away, and his eyes rolling hideously, and, as it seemed,
sightlessly, in the pangs of death, his hand clutching the knife with
which he had so often threatened, and with which he yet seemed destined
to take, though in the last gasp of his own, the soldier's life. With one
hand he felt along the prisoner's body, as if seeking a vital part, and
sustained his own weight, while with the other he made repeated, though
feeble and ineffectual, strokes with the knife, all the time rolling, and
staggering, and shaking his gory head in a manner most horrible to
behold. But vengeance was denied the dying warrior; his blows were
offered impotently, and without aim; and becoming weaker at every effort,
his left arm at last failed to support him, and he fell across Roland's
body; in which position he immediately after expired.

In this frightful condition Roland was left, shocked, although relieved
from fear, by the savage's death, crying in vain to his unknown auxiliary
for assistance. He exerted his voice, until the woods rang with his
shouts; but hollow echoes were the only replies: neither voice nor
returning footstep was to be heard; and it seemed as if he had been
rescued from the Indians' hands, only to be left, bound and helpless, to
perish piecemeal among their bodies. The fear of a fate so dreadful, with
the weight of the old Piankeshaw, a man of almost gigantic proportions,
lying upon his bosom, was more than his agonised spirits and exhausted
strength could endure; and his wounds suddenly bursting out afresh, he
lapsed into a state of insensibility, in which, however, it was happily
his fate not long to remain.



CHAPTER XXII.


When Roland recovered his consciousness, he was no longer a prisoner
extended beneath the Indian cross. His limbs were unbound, and he himself
lying across the knees of a man who was busily engaged sprinkling his
head and breast with water from the little well, to which he had been
borne while still insensible. He stared around him with eyes yet filmy
and vacant. The first objects they fell on were two lifeless figures, the
bodies of his late savage masters, stretched near the half-extinguished
fire. He looked up to the face of his deliverer, which could be readily
seen, for it was now broad day, and beheld, with such a thrill of
pleasure as had not visited his bosom for many weary days, the features
of his trusty guide and emissary, honest Nathan Slaughter, who was
pursuing the work of resuscitation with great apparent zeal, while little
dog Peter stood by wagging his tail, as if encouraging him to
perseverance.

"What, Nathan!" he cried, grasping at his hand, and endeavouring, though
vainly, to rise from his knee, "do I dream! is it _you_?"

"Verily, thee speaks the truth," replied Nathan;--"it is me,--me and
little Peter; and, truly, it is nobody else."

"And I am free again? free, free!--And the savages? the vile, murdering
Piankeshaws? Dead! surprised, killed,--every dog of them!"

"Thee speaks the truth a second time," said Nathan Slaughter, snuffling
and hesitating in his speech: "thee wicked enemies and captivators will
never trouble thee more."

"And who, who was it that rescued me? Hah! there is blood on your face!
your hands are red with it! It was _you_, then, that saved me? _you_ that
killed the accursed cut-throats? Noble Nathan! brave Nathan! true Nathan!
how shall I ever requite the act? how shall I ever forget it?" And as he
spoke, the soldier, yet lying across Nathan's knees, for his limbs
refused to support him, grasped his preserver's hands with a fervour of
gratitude that gave new life and vigour to his exhausted spirits.

"And thee does not think then," muttered Nathan, snuffling twice as much
as before, but growing bolder as Roland's gratitude reassured him,--"thee
does not think,--that is, thee is not of opinion,--that is to say, thee
does not altogether hold it to be as a blood-guiltiness, and a
wickedness, and a shedding of blood, that I did take to me the weapon of
war, and shoot upon thee wicked oppressors, to the saving of thee life?
Truly, friend, it was to save thee life,--thee must remember _that_; it
was a thing that was necessary, and not to be helped. Truly, friend, it
was my desire to help thee in peace and with a peaceful hand; but, of a
truth, there was thee enemies at thee side, with their guns and their
knives, ready to start up and knock out thee unfortunate brains. Truly,
friend, thee sees it couldn't be helped; and, truly, I don't think thee
conscience can condemn me."

"Condemn you indeed!" cried the young man; "it was an act to bind my
gratitude for ever,--an act to win you the admiration and respect of the
whole world, which I shall take care to make acquainted with it."

"Nay, friend," said Nathan, hastily, "the less thee says of it the
better: if thee is theeself satisfied in thee conscience of its
lawfulness, it is enough. Do thee, therefore, hold thee tongue on this
and all other matters wherein thee has seen me do evil; for truly I am a
man of a peaceful faith, and what I have done would be but as a grief and
a scandal to the same."

"But my friends,--my poor Edith!--wretch that I am to think of myself or
of others, while she is still a captive!" cried Roland, again
endeavouring to rise. But his limbs, yet paralysed from the tightness
with which thongs had been bound around them, tottered beneath him, and
but for Nathan, he must have fallen to the earth. "The emigrants," he
continued with incoherent haste;--"you brought them? They are pursuing
the savages? they have rescued her? Speak, Nathan,--tell me all; tell me
that my cousin is free!"

"Truly, friend," muttered Nathan, his countenance losing much of the
equanimity that had begun to cover it, and assuming a darker and
disturbed expression, "thee doth confuse both theeself and me with many
questions. Do thee be content for awhile, till I chafe thee poor legs,
which is like the legs of a dead man, and tie up thee wounds. When thee
can stand up and walk, thee shall know all I have to tell thee, both good
and bad. It is enough thee is theeself safe."

"Alas, I read it all from your looks," cried the soldier; "Edith is still
a prisoner: and I lie here a miserable, crushed worm, incapable of
aiding, unable even to die for her! But the emigrants, my friends? _they_
are at least urging the pursuit? there is a hope they will retake her?"

"Truly, friend," said Nathan, "thee shall know all, if thee will have
patience, and hold thee tongue. Truly, the many things thee says doth
perplex me. If thee loves thee poor kinswoman, and would save her from
cruel bondage and sorrow, thee must be quiet till I have put thee again
upon thee legs; which is the first thing to be thought about: and after
that, thee shall have my counsel and help to do what is good and proper
for the maiden's redeeming."

With these words, Nathan again addressed himself to the task of chafing
Roland's half-lifeless limbs, and binding up the several light, though
painful wounds, which he had received in the conflict; and the soldier
submitting in despair, though still entreating Nathan to tell him the
worst, the latter began at last to relate his story.

The bold attempt of Nathan to pass the line of besiegers at the ruin, it
seemed, he bad accomplished without difficulty, though not without risk;
but this part of the narrative he hurried over, as well as his passage of
the river at a solitary and dangerous ford in the wildest recesses of the
forest. Then striking through the woods, and aiming for the distant
Station, he had arrived within but a few miles of it, when it was his
fortune to stumble upon the band of Regulators, who, after their
memorable exploit at the beech-tree, had joined the emigrants, then on
their march through the woods, and convoyed them to the Station. Here
passing the night in mirth and frolic, they were startled at an early
hour by the alarming intelligence, brought by a volunteer hunter, who had
obtained it none could tell how, of the presence of the Indian army on
the north side; and leaving their friends to arm and follow as they
could, the visitors immediately mounted their horses to return to Bruce's
Station, and thence to seek the field of battle. To these unexpected
friends, thus opportunely met in the woods, Nathan imparted his story,
acquainting them, in the same words, of the presence of enemies so much
nearer at hand than was dreamed, and of the unfortunate dilemma of
Forrester and his helpless party,--an account that fired the blood of the
hot youths as effectually as it could have done if expressed in the blast
of a bugle. A council of war being called on the spot, it was resolved to
gallop at once to the rescue of the travellers, without wasting time in
seeking additional assistance from the emigrants or their neighbours of
the Station just left; which indeed, as from Nathan's observations, it
did not seem that the numbers of the foe could be more than double their
own, the heroic youths held to be entirely needless. Taking Nathan up,
therefore, behind him, and bearing him along, to point out the position
of the Indians, the gallant Tom Bruce, followed by his equally gallant
companions, dashed through the woods, and succeeded by daybreak in
reaching the ruin; where, as Nathan averred, so judiciously had they laid
their plans for the attack, the Indians, if still there, might have been
surprised, entirely worsted, and perhaps the half of them cut off upon
the spot; "which," as he rather hastily observed, "would have been a
great comfort to all concerned." But the ruin was deserted, besiegers and
besieged had alike vanished, as well as the bodies of those assailants
who had fallen in the conflict, to find their graves under the ruins,
among the rocks, or in the whirling eddies of the river. The tracks of
the horses being discovered in the ravine and at the water's edge, it was
inferred that the whole party, too desperate, or too wise, to yield
themselves prisoners, had been driven into the river, and there drowned;
and this idea inflaming the fury of the Kentuckians to the highest pitch,
they sought out and easily discovered among the canes, the fresh trail of
the Indians, which they followed, resolving to exact the fullest measure
of revenge. Nathan, the man of peace, from whom (for he had not thought
proper to acquaint the young men with the warlike part he had himself
taken in the battles of the night) no further services were expected, was
now turned adrift, to follow or protect himself as he might; and the
young men betook themselves to the pursuit with as much speed as the wild
character of the woods permitted.

But it formed no part of honest Nathan's designs to be left behind. His
feelings were too deeply involved in the fate of the unhappy individuals,
whose misadventures he could, or thought he could, so clearly trace to
his own indiscretion, to suffer him to rest, while it was yet wrapped in
obscurity. He had accepted the charge and responsibility of extricating
them from their perils; and his conscience could not be appeased until he
had determined for himself whether in truth they were yet beyond the
reach of assistance. Making his own observations from the appearance of
the different tracts in the ravine, and satisfying himself there was
among them one more Christian footprint than could be accounted for, he
followed after the young men, examining the Indian trail in places where
it had not been effaced by the Kentuckians, until he became convinced
that the fugitives had, in some unaccountable way, escaped alive from the
river, and were still struggling in retreat, led by some friendly guide,
although closely pursued by the foe. This discovery, it was also
probable, had been made by the Kentuckians, who had in consequence urged
their horses to the utmost, and arriving on the hill where the savages
lay in ambush, rushed to the attack, and fought and lost the battle,
before Nathan could reach them. He met them indeed retreating in full
rout before the victors, many wounded, all overcome by panic, and none
willing or able to throw any light on the cause of defeat. One indeed,
checking his horse a moment to bid the man of peace look to himself and
avoid the savages, who were still urging the pursuit, hastily assured him
that the defeat was all owing to Captain Ralph's ghost, which had
suddenly got among them, yelling for vengeance on his executioners for
which reason the conscience-stricken Regulator called Nathan to witness
his oath, which he now made, "that he would never Lynch a man again as
long as he lived." And the worthy warrior having added, with another
oath, which he called a still superior power to attest, "that he had
seen Stackpole fly off with Tom Brace's soul on the back of a devil, in
shape of a big black horse breathing flames and sulphur," struck spur
again into his own charger, not, however, until he had first generously
invited Nathan to get up be-him, to escape the savage pursuers, who were
now seen close behind. Declining the heroic offer, and bidding the youth
effect his own escape, Nathan immediately dived, with his inseparable
friend and adviser, little Peter, among the canes; where he lay concealed
until well assured the victors had abandoned the pursuit, and returned to
the field of battle.

"Then, friend," said the man of peace, who may now be permitted to tell
his own story, "I took council of Peter as to what we should do; and
truly it was our opinion we should creep after the murdering Shawnee
creatures--though verily there was more than Shawnees engaged in this
wicked business--and see what had become of thee and thee poor women;
seeing that we were in a manner, as I may say, the cause of thee
troubles, in carrying thee to the very place where we should not, wicked
sinners that we are: that is, wicked sinner that _I_ am, for truly little
Peter had nothing to do with that matter, having done his best to keep us
from the ruin. Well, friend, as soon as we thought it safe, we crept to
the spot on the hill-side; and safe enough it was, the savages having
departed, leaving nothing behind them, save two young Kentuckians and the
coloured person, whom they had prevailed over and hewn to pieces with
their Hatchets; besides four corpses of their own, which they had stuck
in a cave, where Peter snuffed them out: truly, friend, thee don't know
what a nose little Peter has! Well, friend, I saw then that thee enemies
had divided, the main body departing one way over the hill, while a
smaller party had crossed the river with a horse and prisoner. Truly it
was Peter's opinion that this prisoner was theeself--thee own very self
(a thing I could not be so certain of on my part, seeing that I had never
tracked thee, save by thee horse-prints only), and that if we followed
thee, we might in some way aid thee to escape, thee captivators being so
few in number. And so, friend, we waded the river, and followed thee
trail until night came, when little Peter undertook to nose thee on in
the dark, which he did very successfully, until we reached the place
where the savages had killed their horse, and broken their cask of
liquor, when truly the scent of the same did so prevail over Peter's
nose, that I was in fear he never would smell right again in all his
life, which was a great grief to me; for truly Peter's nose is, as I may
say, the staff of my life, my defence, and my succour: truly thee don't
know the value of little Peter's nose. And, moreover, the savour of
the dead horse did somewhat captivate his attention; for truly little
Peter is but a dog, and he loves horse-flesh. Well, friend, this was a
thing that perplexed me; until, by and by, having brought little Peter to
reason in the matter of the horse, and washed his nose in a brook which
it was my fortune to discover, he did bethink him what he was after, and
so straightway hunt for the track, which being recovered we went on our
way until we lighted right on thee captivators' camp-fire, and truly we
lighted upon it much sooner than we expected. Well, friend," continued
the narrator, "having crept up as near as I durst, I could see how thee
was fixed, tied to the poles so thee could not help theeself; and the
three savages lying beside thee, with their guns in the hollows of their
arms, ready to be seized in a moment. Truly, friend, the sight threw me
into another perplexity; and I lay watching thee and thee cruel
oppressors for more than an hour, marvelling in what way I could give
thee help."

"An hour!" cried Roland; "a friend lying by me during that hour, the most
wretched and distracted of my whole existence? Had you but cut the rope,
and given me the knife to strike a blow for myself!"

"Truly," said the man of peace, "I did so desire to do, seeing that then
thee might have killed the Injuns theeself; which would have been more
seemly, as being a thing thee conscience would not disapprove of; whereas
mine, as thee may suppose, was quite averse to any such bloody doings on
my own part. But, truly, I durst not adventure upon the thing thee speaks
of; for, first, I saw by the stick on thee breast, thee was tied so tight
and fast, it would be an hour's work to cut thee loose--thee captivators
lying by all the while; and, secondly, I knew, by the same reason, thee
limbs would be so numb thee could neither stand upon thee legs, nor hold
a weapon in thee hand, for just as long a time; and, besides, I feared,
in case thee should discover there was help nigh at hand, thee might cry
out in thee surprise, and so alarm these sleeping captivators. And so,
friend, I was in what thee may call a pucker, not knowing what to do; and
so I lay hard by thee, with Peter at the back of me, watching and
revolving the matter for that whole hour, as I told thee; when suddenly
down fell a stick into the fire, and the same blazing up brightly, I saw
two of the savages lying beside thee, their heads so close together thee
might have supposed they both grew from the same pair of shoulders, and
so nigh to me withal, that, verily, I might have poked them with the
muzzle of my gun. Truly, friend," continued Nathan, looking both
bewildered and animated, as he arrived at this period of his story, "I
can't tell thee how it then happened,--whether it was a sort of
nervousness in my fingers' ends, or whether it was all an accident; but,
truly, as it happened, my gun went off in my hands, as it might be of its
own accord, and, truly, it blew the two evil creatures' brains out! And
then, friend, thee sees, there was no stopping, there being the third of
thee captivators to look after; and, truly, as I had done so much, I
thought I might as well do all,--the killing of three men being but a
little worse than the killing of two; and, besides, the creature would
have hurt thee, as thee lay at his mercy. And so, friend, I did verily
spring upon him, sinner that I am, and strike him a blow with my hatchet,
which I had taken from my belt to be ready; whereupon he fled, and I
after him, being in great fear lest, if he escaped, he should return upon
thee and kill thee, before I could get back to cut thee loose And so,
friend, it happened that--that I killed him likewise!--for which I don't
think thee can, in thee heart, blame me, seeing that it was all, over and
over again, on _thee_ account, and nobody else's. Truly, friend, it is
quite amazing, the ill things thee has brought me to!"

"Had there been twenty of the villains, and you had killed them all, I
should have held it the noblest and most virtuous act you could have
performed," said Roland, too fiercely agitated by his own contending
passions to note the strange medley of self-accusing and exculpatory
expressions, the shame-faced, conscience-stricken looks, alternating with
gleams of military fire and self-complacency, with which the man of peace
recounted his bloody exploit, or the adroit attempt, with which he
concluded it, to shuffle the responsibility of the crime, if crime it
were, from his own to the young Virginian's shoulders. At another moment,
the latter might have speculated with as much surprise as approval on
the extraordinary metamorphosis of Nathan, the man of amity and good
will, into a slayer of Indians, double-dyed in gore; but at that
juncture, he had little inclination to dwell on anything save his own
liberation and the hapless fate of his cousin.



CHAPTER XXIII.


By dint of chafing and bathing in the spring, still foul and red with the
blood of the Piankeshaws, the limbs of the soldier soon recovered their
strength, and he was able to rise, to survey the scene of his late
sufferings and liberation, and again recur to the harassing subject of
his kinswoman's fate. Again he beset Nathan with questions, which soon
recalled the disturbed looks which his deliverer had worn when first
assailed with interrogatories. He adjured him to complete the good work
he had so bravely begun, by leaving himself to his fate, and making his
way to the emigrants, or to the nearest inhabited Station, whence
assistance might be procured to pursue the savages and their captives,
before it might be too late. "Lead the party first to the battleground,"
he said: "I am now as a child in strength, but I can crawl thither to
meet you; and once on a horse again, be assured no one shall pursue
better or faster than I."

"If thee thinks of rescuing the maiden," said Nathan--

"I will do so, or die," exclaimed Roland, impetuously; "and would to
Heaven I could die twice over, so I might snatch her from the murdering
monsters. Alas! had you but followed them, instead of these three curs;
and done that service to Edith you have done to me!"

"Truly," said Nathan, "thee talks as if ten men were as easily knocked on
the head as ten rabbits. But, hearken, friend, and do thee have patience
for a while! There is a thing in this matter that perplexes me; and,
verily, there is two or three. Why did thee desert the ruin? and who was
it led thee through the canes? Let me know what it was that happened
thee; for, of a truth, there is more in this same matter than thee
thinks."

Thus called upon, Roland acquainted Nathan with the events that had
succeeded his departure from the ruin,--the appearance of Ralph
Stackpole, and the flight of the party by the river,--circumstances that
moved the wonder and admiration of Nathan,--and with all the other
occurrences up to the moment of the defeat of the Kentuckians, and the
division of the plunder among the victorious Indians. The mention of
these spoils, the rifles, rolls of cloth, beads, bells, and other gewgaw
trinkets, produced an evident impression on Nathan's mind; which was
greatly increased when Roland related the scene betwixt Telie Doe and her
reprobate father, and repeated those expressions which seemed to show
that the attack upon the party was by no means accidental, but the result
of a previously formed design, of which she was not ignorant.

"Where Abel Doe is, there, thee may be sure, there is knavery!" said
Nathan; demanding earnestly if Roland had seen no other white man in the
party.

"I saw no other," he replied: "but there was a tall man in a blanket,
wearing a red turban, who looked at me from a distance; and I thought he
was a half-breed, like Doe,--for so, at first, I supposed the latter to
be."

"Well, friend! And he seemed to command the party, did he not?" demanded
Nathan, with interest.

"The leader," replied Roland, "was a vile, grim old rascal, that they
called Kenauga, or Kenauga, or--"

"Wenonga!" cried Nathan, with extraordinary vivacity, his whole
countenance, in fact, lighting up with the animation of intense
interest,--"an old man tall and raw-boned, a scar on his nose and
cheek, a halt in his gait, his left middle-finger short of a joint,
and a buzzard's beak and talons tied to his hair?--It is Wenonga, the
Black-Vulture. Truly, little Peter! thee is but a dolt and a dog, that
thee told me nothing about it!"

The soldier remarked, with some surprise, the change of Nathan's visage,
and with still more, his angry reproaches of the trusty animal, the first
he had heard him utter.

"And who then is the old Black-Vulture," he asked, "that he should drive
from your mind even the thought of my poor wretched Edith?"

"Thee is but a boy in the woods, if thee never heard of Wenonga, the
Shawnee," replied Nathan hastily,--"a man that has left the mark of his
axe on many a ruined cabin along the frontier, from the Bloody Run of
Bedford to the Kenhawa and the Holston. He is the chief that boasts he
has no heart: and, truly, he has none, being a man that has drunk the
blood of women and children--Friend! thee kinswoman's scalp is already
hanging at his girdle!"

This horrible announcement, uttered with a fierce earnestness that proved
the sincerity of the speaker, froze Roland's blood in his veins, and he
stood speechless and gasping; until Nathan, noting his agitation, and
recovering in part from his own ferment of spirits, exclaimed, even more
hastily than before--"Truly, I have told thee what is false--thee
kinswoman is safe,--a prisoner, but alive and safe."

"You have told me she is dead--murdered by the foul assassins," said
Roland; "and if it be so, it avails not to deny it. If it be so, Nathan,"
he continued, with a look of desperation, "I call Heaven and earth to
witness, that I will pursue the race of the slayers with thrice the fury
of their own malice,--never to pause, never to rest, never to be
satisfied with vengeance, while an Indian lives with blood to be shed,
and I with strength to shed it."

"Thee speaks like a man!" said Nathan, grasping the soldier's hand, and
fairly crushing it in his gripe,--"that is to say," he continued,
suddenly letting go his hold, and seeming somewhat abashed at the fervour
of his sympathy, "like a man, according to thee own sense of matters and
things. But do thee be content; thee poor maid is alive, and like to be
so; and that thee may be assured of it, I will soon tell thee the thing
that is on my mind. Friend, do thee answer me a question,--Has thee any
enemy among the Injuns?--that is to say, any reprobate white man like
this Abel Doe,--who would do thee a wrong?"

The soldier started with surprise, and replied in the negative.

"Has thee no foe, then, at home, whom thee has theeself wronged to that
point that he would willingly league with murdering Injuns to take thee
life?"

"I have my enemies, doubtless, like all other men," said Roland, "but
none so basely, so improbably malignant."

"Verily, then, thee makes me in a perplexity as before," said Nathan;
"for as truly as thee stands before me, so truly did I see, that night
when I left thee at the ruins, and crawled through the Injun lines, a
white man that sat at a fire with Abel Doe, the father of the maid Telie,
apart from the rest, and counselled with him how best to sack the cabin,
without killing the two women. Truly, friend, it was a marvel to myself,
there being so many of the murdering villains, that they did us so little
mischief: but, truly, it was because of the women. And, truly, there was
foul knavery between these two men; for I heard high words and chaffering
between them, as concerning a price or reward which Abel Doe claimed of
the other for the help he was rendering him, in snapping thee up, with
thee kinswoman. Truly, thee must not think I was mistaken; for seeing the
man's red shawl round his head gleaming in the fire, and not knowing
there was any one nigh him (for Abel Doe lay flat upon the earth), a
wicked thought came into my head; 'for, truly,' said I, 'this man is the
chief, and, being alone, a man might strike him with a knife from behind
the tree he rests against, and being killed, his people will fly in fear,
without any more blood-shed;' but creeping nearer, I saw that he was but
a white man in disguise; and so, having listened awhile, to hear what I
could, and hearing what I have told thee, I crept away on my journey."

The effect of this unexpected revelation upon the young Virginian was as
if an adder had suddenly fastened upon his bosom. It woke a suspicion,
involving indeed an improbability such as his better reason revolted at,
but full of pain and terror. But wild and incredible as it seemed, it
received a kind of confirmation from what Nathan added.

"The rifle-guns, the beads, and the cloth," he said, "that were
distributed after the battle,--does thee think they were plunder taken
from the young Kentuckians they had vanquished? Friend, these things were
a price with which the white man in the red shawl paid the assassin
villains for taking thee prisoner,--thee and thee kinswoman. His
hirelings were vagabonds of all the neighbouring tribes, Shawnees,
Wyandots, Delawares, and Piankeshaws, as I noted well when I crept among
them; and old Wenonga is the greatest vagabond of all, having long since
been degraded by his tribe for bad luck, drunkenness, and other follies,
natural to an Injun. My own idea is, that that white man thirsted for
thee blood, having given thee up to the Piankeshaws, who, thee says, had
lost one of their men in the battle; for which thee would certainly have
been burned alive at their village: but what was his design in
captivating thee poor kinswoman that thee calls Edith, truly I cannot
divine, not knowing much of thee history."

"You shall hear it," said Roland, with hoarse accents,--"at least so much
of it as may enable you to confirm or disprove your suspicions. There is
indeed one man whom I have always esteemed my enemy, the enemy also of
Edith,--a knave capable of any extremity, yet never could I have dreamed
of a villany so daring, so transcendent as this!"

So saying, Roland, smothering his agitation as he could, proceeded to
acquaint his rude friend, now necessarily his confidant, with so much of
his history as related to Braxley, his late uncle's confidential agent
and executor;--a man whom Roland's revelations to the gallant and
inquisitive Colonel Bruce, and still more, perhaps, his conversations
with Edith in the wood, may have introduced sufficiently to the reader's
acquaintance. But of Braxley, burning with a hatred he no longer chose to
subdue, the feeling greatly exasperated, also, by the suspicion Nathan's
hints had infused into his mind, he now spoke without restraint; and
assuredly, if one might have judged by the bitterness of his invectives,
the darkness of the colours with which he traced the detested portrait, a
baser wretch did not exist on the whole earth. Yet to a dispassionate and
judicious hearer it might have seemed that there was little in the
evidence to bear out an accusation so sweeping and heavy. Little, indeed,
had the soldier to charge against him save his instrumentality in
defeating hopes and expectations which had been too long indulged to be
surrendered without anger and pain. That this instrumentality,
considering all the circumstances, was to be attributed to base and
fraudulent motives, it was natural to suspect; but the proofs were far
from being satisfactory, as they rested chiefly on surmises and
assumptions.

It will be recollected, that on the death of Major Forrester, Braxley had
brought to light a testament of undoubted authenticity, but of ancient
date, in which the whole estate of the deceased was bequeathed to his own
infant child,--an unfortunate daughter, who, however, it had never been
doubted, had perished many years before among the flames of the cabin of
her foster-mother, but who Braxley had made oath was, to the best of his
knowledge, still alive. His oath was founded, he averred, upon the
declaration of a man, the husband of the foster-mother, a certain
Atkinson, whom tory principles and practices, and perhaps crimes and
outrages--for such were charged against him--had long since driven to
seek refuge on the frontier, but who had privily returned to the major's
house, a few weeks before the latter's death, and made confession that
the girl was still living; but, being recognised by an old acquaintance,
and dreading the vengeance of his countrymen, he had immediately fled
again to the frontier, without acquainting any one with the place of the
girl's concealment. The story of Atkinson's return was confirmed by
the man who had seen and recognised him, but who knew nothing of the
cause of his visit; and Braxley declared he had already taken steps to
ferret him out, and had good hopes through his means of recovering the
lost heiress.

This story Roland affected to believe a vile fabrication, the result of a
deep-laid, and, unfortunately, too successful design on Braxloy's part to
get possession, in the name of an imaginary heiress, of the rich estates
of his patron. The authenticity of the will, which had been framed at a
period when the dissensions between Major Forrester and his brothers were
at the highest, Roland did not doubt; it was the non-existence of the
individual in whose favour it had been executed, a circumstance which he
devoutly believed, that gave a fraudulent character to its production. He
even accused Braxley of having destroyed a second will (by which the
former was of course annulled, even supposing the heiress were still
living), a testament framed a few months before his uncle's death; in
which the latter had bequeathed all his possessions to Edith, the child
of his adoption. That such a second will had been framed, appeared from
the testator's own admissions; at least, he had so informed Edith,
repeating the fact on several different occasions. The fact, indeed, even
Braxley did not deny; but he averred, that the second instrument had been
destroyed by the deceased himself, as soon as the confession of Atkinson
had acquainted him with the existence of his own unfortunate daughter.
This explanation Roland rejected entirely, insisting that during the
whole period of Atkinson's visit, and for some weeks before, his uncle
had been in a condition of mental imbecility and unconsciousness, as
incapable of receiving and understanding the supposed confession as he
was of acting on it. The story was only an additional device of Braxley
to remove from himself the suspicion of having destroyed the second will.

But whatever might have been thought of these imputations, it was evident
that the young soldier had another cause for his enmity,--one, indeed,
that seemed more operative on his mind and feelings than even the loss of
fortune. The robber and plunderer, for these were the softest epithets he
had for his rival, had added to his crimes the enormity of aspiring to
the affections of his kinswoman; whom the absence of Roland and the
helpless imbecility of her uncle left exposed to his presumption and his
arts. Had the maiden smiled upon his suit, this indeed might have seemed
a legitimate cause of hatred on the part of Roland; but Edith had
repelled the lover with firmness, perhaps even with contempt. The
presumption of such a rival Roland might perhaps have pardoned; but he
saw in the occurrences that followed, a bitter and malignant revenge of
the maiden's scorn, which none but the basest of villains could have
attempted. It was this consideration which gave the sharpest edge to the
young man's hatred: and it was his belief that a wretch capable of such a
revenge, was willing to add to it any other measure of villany, however
daring and fiendish, that had turned his thoughts upon Braxley, when
Nathan's words first woke the suspicion of a foeman's design and agency
in the attack on his party. How Braxley, a white man and Virginian, and
therefore the foe of every western tribe, could have so suddenly and
easily thrown himself into the arms of the savages, and brought them to
his own plans, it might have been difficult to say. But anger is
credulous, and fury stops not at impossibilities. "It is Braxley
himself!" he cried, at the close of his narration; "how can it be
doubted? He announced publicly his intention to proceed to the frontier,
to the Kenhawa settlements, in search of the fabulous heiress, and was
gone before our party had all assembled in Fincastle. Thus, then, he
veiled his designs, thus concealed a meditated villany. But his
objects--it was not my miserable life he sought--what would that avail
him?--they aimed at my cousin,--and she is now in his power!"

"Truly, then," said Nathan, who listened to the story with great
interest, and now commented on Roland's agitation with equal composure,
"thee doth make a great fuss for nothing; for, truly, the maid will not
be murdered--Truly, thee has greatly relieved my mind. Thee should not
think the man, being a white man, will kill her."

"Kill her!" cried Roland--"Would that twenty bullets had pierced her
heart, rather than she should have fallen alive into the hands of
Braxley! Miserable wretch that I am! what can I do to save her? We will
rescue her, Nathan; we will seek assistance; we will pursue the
ravisher;--it is not yet too late. Speak to me--I shall go distracted:
what must we do?--what _can_ we do?"

"Truly," said Nathan, "I fear me, we can do nothing.--Don't thee look so
frantic, friend; I don't think thee has good sense. Thee talks of
assistance--what is thee thinking about? where would thee seek
assistance? Has thee forgot the Injun army is on the north side, and all
the fighting-men of the Stations gone to meet them? There is nobody to
help thee."

"But the emigrants, my friends? they are yet nigh at hand--"

"Truly," said Nathan, "thee is mistaken. The news of the Injuns, that
brought friend Thomas the younger into the woods, did greatly dismay
them, as the young men reported; and, truly, they did resolve to delay
their journey no longer, but start again before the break of day, that
they might the sooner reach the Falls, and be in safety with their wives
and little ones. There is no help for thee. Thee and me is alone in the
wilderness, and there is no friend with us. Leave wringing thee hands,
for it can do thee no good."

"I am indeed friendless, and there is no hope," said Roland, with the
accents of despair; "while we seek assistance, and seek it vainly, Edith
is lost,--lost for ever! Would that we had perished together! Hapless
Edith! wretched Edith!--Was ever wretch so miserable as I?"

With such expressions, the young man gave a loose to his feelings, and
Nathan surveyed, first with surprise and then with a kind of gloomy
indignation, but never, as it seemed, with anything like sympathy, the
extravagance of his grief.

"Thee is but a madman!" he exclaimed at last, and with a tone of severity
that arrested Roland's attention: "does thee curse thee fate, and the
Providence that is above thee, because the maid of thee heart is carried
into captivity unharmed? Is thee wretched, because thee eyes did not see
the Injun axe struck into her brain? Friend, thee does not know what such
a sight is; but _I_ do--yes, I have looked upon such a thing, and I will
tell thee what it is; for it is good thee should know. Look, friend," he
continued, grasping Roland by the arm, as if to command his attention,
and surveying him with a look both wild and mournful, "thee sees a man
before thee who was once as young and as happy as thee,--yea, friend,
happier, for I had many around me to love me,--the children of my body,
the wife of my bosom, the mother that gave me birth. Thee did talk of
such things to me in the wood,--thee did mention them one and all,--wife,
parent, and child! Such things had I; and men spoke well of me--But thee
sees what I am! There is none of them remaining,--none only but _me_;
and thee sees me what I am! Ten years ago I was another man,--a poor
man, friend, but one that was happy. I dwelt upon the frontiers of
Bedford--thee may not know the place; it is among the mountains of
Pennsylvania, and far away. _There_ was the house that I did build me;
and in it there was all that I held dear, 'my gray old mother,'--(that's
the way thee did call her, when thee spoke of her in the wood!)--'the
wife of my bosom,' and 'the child of my heart,'--the _children_,
friend,--for there was five of them, sons and daughters together,--little
innocent babes that had done no wrong; and, truly, I loved them well.
Well, friend, the Injuns came around us: for being bold, because of my
faith that made me a man of peace and the friend of all men, I sat me
down far on the border. But the Shawnees came upon me, and came as men of
war, and their hands were red with the blood of my neighbours, and they
raised them against my little infants. Thee asked me in the wood, what I
would do in such case, having arms in my hand? Friend, I _had_ arms in my
hand, at that moment,--a gun that had shot me the beasts of the mountain
for food, and a knife that had pierced the throats of bears in their
dens. I gave them to the Shawnee chief, that he might know I was a
friend.--Friend! if thee asks me now for my children, I can tell
thee--With my own knife he struck down my eldest boy! with my own gun
he slew the mother of my children!--If thee should live till thee is
gray, thee will never see the sight I saw that day! When thee has
children that Injuns murder, as thee stands by,--a wife that clasps thee
legs in the writhing of death,--her blood, spouting up to thee bosom,
where she has slept,--an old mother calling thee to help her in the
death-struggle:--then, friend, _then_ thee may see--then thee
may know--then thee may feel--then thee may call theeself wretched, for
thee will be so! Here was my little boy,--does thee see? there his two
sisters--thee understands?--there--Thee may think I would have snatched a
weapon to help them _then_! Well, thee is right:--but it was too
late!--All murdered, friend!--all--all,--all cruelly murdered!"

It is impossible to convey an idea of the extraordinary vehemence, the
wild accents, the frantic looks, with which Nathan ended the horrid
story, into which he had been betrayed by his repining companion. His
struggles to subdue the passions that the dreadful recollections of a
whole family's butchery awoke in his bosom, only served to add double
distortion to his changes of countenance, which, a better index of the
convulsion within than were his broken, incoherent, half-inarticulate
words, assumed at last an appearance so wild, so hideous, so truly
terrific, that Roland was seized with horror, deeming himself confronted
with a raging maniac. He raised his hand to remove that of Nathan, which
still clutched his arm, and clutched it with painful force; but while in
the act, the fingers relaxed of themselves, and Nathan dropped suddenly
to the earth, as if struck down by a thunderbolt, his mouth foaming, his
eyes distorted, his hands clenched, his body convulsed,--in short,
exhibiting every proof of an epileptic fit, brought on by overpowering
agitation of mind. As he fell, little Peter sprang to his side, and
throwing his paws on his unconscious master's breast, stood over him as
if to protect him, growling at Roland; who, though greatly shocked at the
catastrophe, did not hesitate to offer such relief as was in his power.
Disregarding the menace of the dog, which seemed at last to understand
the purpose was friendly, he raised Nathan's head upon his knee, loosened
the neckcloth that bound his throat, and sprinkled his face with water
from the spring. While thus engaged, the cap of the sufferer fell from
his head, and Roland saw that Nathan carried with him a better cause for
the affliction than could be referred to any mere temporary emotion,
however overwhelming to the mind. A horrible scar disfigured the top of
his head, which seemed to have been, many years before, crushed by the
blows of a heavy weapon; and it was equally manifest that the savage
scalping-knife had done _its_ work on the mangled head.

The soldier had heard that injuries to the head often resulted in
insanity of some species or other; he could now speculate, on better
grounds, and with better reason, upon some of those singular points of
character which seemed to distinguish the houseless Nathan from the rest
of his fellow-men.



CHAPTER XXIV.


The convulsion was but momentary, and departed with almost the same
suddenness that marked its accession. Nathan started half up, looked
wildly around him, surveying the bodies of the two Piankeshaws, and the
visage of the sympathising soldier. Then snatching up and replacing his
hat with one hand, and grasping Roland's with the other, he exclaimed, as
if wholly unconscious of what had happened him,--

"Thee has heard it, and thee knows it,--thee knows what the Shawnees have
done to me--they have killed them all, all that was of my blood! Had they
done so by thee, friend," he demanded with eagerness, "had they done so
by _thee_, what would thee have done to them?"

"Declared eternal war upon them and their accursed race!" cried Roland,
greatly excited by the story; "I would have sworn undying vengeance, and
I would have sought it,--ay, sought it without ceasing. Day and night,
summer and winter, on the frontier and in their own lands and villages, I
would have pursued the wretches, and pursued them to the death."

"Thee is right," cried Nathan, wringing the hand he still held, and
speaking with a grin of hideous approval;--"by night and by day, in
summer and in winter, in the wood and in the wigwam, thee would seek for
their blood, and thee would shed it;--thee would think of thee wife and
thee little babes, and thee heart would be as stone and fire within
thee--thee would kill, friend, thee would kill, thee would kill!" And the
monosyllable was breathed over and over again with a ferocity of emphasis
that showed how deep and vindictive was the passion in the speaker's
mind. Then,--with a transition of feeling as unexpected as it was abrupt,
he added, still wringing Roland's hand, as if he had found in him a
sympathizing friend, whose further kindness he was resolved to deserve,
and to repay,--"Thee is right; I have thought about what thee has
said--Thee shall have assistance. Thee is a brave man, and thee has not
mocked at me because of my faith. Thee enemies shall be pursued, and the
maid thee loves shall be restored to thee arms."

"Alas," said Roland, almost fearing from the impetuosity, as well as
confidence, with which Nathan now spoke, that his wits were in a state of
distraction, "where shall we look for help, since there are none but
ourselves in this desert, of whom to ask it?"

"From our two selves it must come, and from none others," said Nathan,
briskly. "We will follow the murdering thieves that have robbed thee of
thee treasure, and we will recover the maid Edith from their hands."

"What! unaided? alone?"

"Alone, friend, with little Peter to be our guide, and Providence our
hope and our stay. Thee is a man of courage, and thee heart will not fail
thee, even if thee should find theeself led into the heart of the Injun
nation. I have thought of this thing, friend, and I perceive there is
good hope we shall prevail, and prevail better than if we had an hundred
men to follow at our backs; unless we had them ready with us, to march
this very day. Does thee hear me, friend? The Shawnee fighting-men are
now in Kentucky, assembled in a great army, scalping and murdering as
they come: their villages are left to be guarded by women and children
and old men no longer fit for war. Thee understands me? If thee waits
till thee collects friends, thee will have to cut thee way with them
through fighting-men returned to their villages before thee; if thee
proceeds as thee is, thee has nothing to fear that thee cannot guard
against with thee own cunning,--nothing to oppose thee that thee cannot
conquer with thee own strength and courage."

"And how," cried Roland, too ardent of temper, too ready to snatch at any
hope, to refuse his approbation to the enterprise, though its
difficulties immediately crowded before his eyes, "how shall we follow a
trail so long and cold? where shall we find arms? where--"

"Friend," said Nathan, interrupting him, "thee speaks without thought.
For arms and ammunition, thee has thee choice among the spoils of these
dead villains, thee captivators. For the trail, thee need think nothing
of that: lost or found, thee may be certain it leads to the old Vulture's
town on the Miami: there thee will find thee cousin, and thither I can
lead thee."

"Let us go then, in Heaven's name," cried Roland, "and without further
delay; every moment is precious."

"Thee speaks the truth; and if thee feels thee limbs strong enough--"

"They are nerved by hope; and while that remains, I will neither faint
nor falter. Edith rescued, and one blow--one good blow struck at the
villain that wrongs her;--then let them fail me, if Heaven wills it, and
fail me for ever!"

Few more words were required to confirm Roland's approval of the project
so boldly, and indeed, as it seemed, so judiciously advised by his
companion. To seek assistance was, as Nathan had justly said, to cast
away the opportunity which the absence of the warriors from their towns
opened to his hopes,--an opportunity in which craft and stratagem might
well obtain the success not to be won, at a later period, and after the
return of the marauders, even by a band of armed men.

Turning to the corses that still lay on the couch of leaves where they
expired, Nathan began with little ceremony, and none of the compunction
that might have been expected, to rob them of their knives, guns, and
ammunition, with which Roland, selecting weapons to his liking, was soon
well armed. The pouches of the warriors, containing strips of dried
venison and stores of parched corn, Nathan appropriated in the same way,
taking care, from the superabundance, to reward the services of little
Peter, who received with modest gratitude, but despatched with energetic
haste, the meal which his appearance, as well as his appetite, showed was
not a blessing of every-day occurrence.

These preparations concluded, Nathan signified his readiness to conduct
the young soldier on his way. But as he stepped to the edge of the little
glade, and turned to take a last look of the dead Indians, the victims of
his own warlike hand, a change came over his appearance. The bold and
manly look which he had for a moment assumed, was exchanged for an air of
embarrassment and almost timidity, such as marked his visage of old, at
the Station. He hesitated, paused, looked at the bodies again, and then
at Roland; and finally muttered aloud, though with doubting accents,--

"Thee is a man of war, friend,--a man of war and a soldier! and thee
fights Injuns even as the young men of Kentucky fights them; and thee may
think it but right and proper, as they do, in such case made and
provided, to take the scalps off the heads of these same dead vagabonds!
Truly, friend, if thee is of that mind, truly, I won't oppose thee!"

"Their scalps? _I_ scalp them!" cried Boland, with a soldier's disgust;
"I am no butcher: I leave them to the bears and wolves, which the
villains in their natures so strongly resembled. I will kill Indians
wherever I can; but no scalping, Nathan, no scalping from me!"

"Truly, it is just as thee thinks proper," Nathan mumbled out; and
without further remark he strode into the wood, following the path which
the Piankeshaws had travelled the preceding evening, until, with Roland,
he reached the spot where had happened the catastrophe of the keg,--a
place but a few hundred paces distant from the glade. Along the whole way
he had betrayed symptoms of dissatisfaction and uneasiness, for which
Roland could not account; and now, having arrived at this spot, he came
to a pause, and revealed the source of his trouble.

"Do thee sit down here and rest thee weary limbs, friend," he said.
"Truly, I have left two Injun guns lying open to the day; and, truly, it
doth afflict me to think so; for if other Injuns should chance upon this
place, they must needs find them, and perhaps use them in killing poor
white persons. Truly, I will hide them in a hollow tree, and return to
thee in a minute."

With these words, he immediately retraced his path, leaving Roland to
wonder and speculate at leisure over the singular intermixture of humane
and ferocious elements of which his character seemed compounded. But the
speculation was not long indulged; in a few moments Nathan's footsteps
were heard ringing along the arched path, and he again made his
appearance, but looking a new man. His gait was fierce and confident, his
countenance bold and expressive of satisfaction. "Things should never be
done by halves," he muttered, but more as if speaking to his own thoughts
than to his companion.

With this brief apology, he again led the way through the forest; but not
until Roland had observed, or thought he observed, a drop of blood fall
from his tattered knife-sheath to the earth. But the suspicion that this
little incident, coupled with the change in Nathan's deportment, awoke in
Roland's mind, he had no leisure to pursue, Nathan now striding forward
at a pace which soon brought his companion to a painful sense of his own
enfeebled and suffering condition.

"Thee must neither faint nor flag," said Nathan; "thee enemies have the
start of thee by a whole day; and they have thee horses also. Truly, it
is my fear, that, with these horses and thee kinswoman, Abel Doe and the
man Braxley, thee foeman, may push on for the Injun town with what speed
they can, leaving their Injun thieves the footmen, to follow on as they
may, or perhaps to strike through the woods for the north side, to join
the ramping villains that are there burning and murdering! Thee must keep
up thee strength till night-fall; when thee shall have good meat to eat
and a long sleep to refresh thee; and, truly, on the morrow thee will be
very well, though a little feverish."

With such encouragement, repeated time by time as seemed to him needful,
Nathan continued to lead through wood and brake, with a vigour and
freshness of step that moved the wonder and envy of Roland, who knew
that, like himself, Nathan had been without sleep for two nights in
succession; besides, having employed the intervening days in the most
laborious exertions. Such an example of untiring energy and zeal, and the
reflection that they were displayed in his cause--in the cause of his
hapless Edith--supported Roland's own flagging steps; and he followed
without murmuring, until the close of the day found him again on the
banks of the river that had witnessed so many of his sufferings. He had
been long aware that Nathan had deserted the path of the Piankeshaws; but
not doubting his superior knowledge of the woods had led him into a
shorter path, he was both surprised and concerned, when, striking the
river at last, he found himself in a place entirely unknown, and
apparently many miles below the scene of conflict of the previous day.

"He that would follow upon the heels of Wenonga," said Nathan, "must walk
wide of his footsteps, for fear lest he should suddenly tread on the old
reptile's tail. Thee don't know the craft of an old Injun that expects to
be followed,--as, truly, it is like the Black-Vulture may expect it now.
Do thee be content, friend; there is more paths to Wenonah's town than
them that Wenonga follows; and, truly, we may gain something by taking
the shortest."

Thus satisfying Roland he had good reasons for choosing his own
path, Nathan led the way to the verge of the river; where, leaving the
broad buffalo-trace by which he descended the banks, and diving through
canes and rocks, until he had left the ford to which the path led, a
quarter-mile or more behind, he stopped at last under a grim cliff
overgrown with trees and brambles, where a cove or hollow in the rock, of
a peculiarly wild, solitary, and defensible character, invited him to
take up quarters for the night.

Nor did this seem the first time Wandering Nathan had sought shelter in
the place, which possessed an additional advantage in a little spring
that trickled from the rock, and collected its limpid stores in a rocky
basin hard by; there were divers half-burned brands lying on its sandy
floor, and a bed of fern and cane-leaves, not yet dispersed by the winds,
that had evidently been once pressed by a human form.

"Thee will never see a true man of the woods," said Nathan, with much
apparent self-approval, "build his camp-fire on a roadside, like that
unlucky foolish man, Ralph Stackpole by name, that ferried thee down the
river. Truly, it was a marvel he did not drown thee all, as well as the
poor man Dodge! Here, friend, we can sleep in peace; and, truly, sleep
will be good for thee, and me, and little Peter."

With these words, Nathan set about collecting dried logs and branches,
which former floods had strown in great abundance along the rocks; and
dragging them into the cove, he soon set them in a cheerful blaze. He
then drew forth his stores of provender--the corn and dried meat he had
taken from the Piankeshaws' pouches,--the latter of which, after a
preliminary sop or two in the spring, for the double purpose of washing
off the grains of gunpowder, tobacco, and what not, the usual scrapings
of an Indian's pocket,--and of restoring its long vanished juices,--he
spitted on twigs of cane, and roasted with exceeding patience and
solicitude at the fire. To these dainty viands he added certain cakes and
lumps of some nondescript substance, as Roland supposed it, until assured
by Nathan it was good maple-sugar, and of his own making. "Truly," said
he, "it might have been better, had it been better made. But, truly,
friend, I am, as thee may see, a man that lives in the woods, having
neither cabin nor wigwam, the Injuns having burned down the same, so that
it is tedious to rebuild them; and having neither pots nor pans, the same
having been all stolen, I did make my sugar in the wooden troughs,
boiling it down with hot stones; and, truly, friend, it doth serve the
purpose of salt, and is good against hunger in long journeys."

There was little in the dishes, set off by Nathan's cookery, or in his
own feelings, to dispose the sick and weary soldier to eat; and having
swallowed but a few mouthfuls, he threw himself upon the bed of leaves,
hoping to find that refreshment in slumber which neither food nor the
conversation of his companion could supply. His body being as much worn
and exhausted as his mind, the latter was not doomed to be long tossed by
grief and fear; and before the last hues of sunset had faded in the west,
slumber had swept from his bosom the consciousness of his own sufferings,
with even the memory of his Edith.

In the meanwhile, Nathan had gathered more wood to supply the fire during
the night, and added a new stock of cane-leaves for his own bed; having
made which to his liking, disposed his arms where they could be seized at
a moment's warning, and, above all, accommodated little Peter with a
couch at his feet, he also threw himself at length, and was soon sound
asleep.



CHAPTER XXV.


The morning-star, peeping into the hollow den of the wanderers, was yet
bright on the horizon, when Roland was roused from his slumbers by
Nathan, who had already risen and prepared a hasty meal resembling in all
respects that of the preceding evening. To this the soldier did better
justice than to the other: for, although feeling sore and stiff in every
limb, he experienced none of the feverish consequences Nathan had
predicted from his wounds; and his mind, invigorated by so many hours of
rest, was more tranquil and cheerful. The confidence Nathan seemed to
feel in the reasonableness and practicability of their enterprise,
however wild and daring it might have seemed to others, was his own
best assurance of its success; and hope thus enkindled and growing with
his growing strength, it required no laborious effort to summon the
spirits necessary to sustain him during the coming trials.

This change for the better was not unnoticed by Nathan, who exhorted him
to eat freely, as a necessary prelude to the labours of the day; and the
rude meal being quickly and satisfactorily despatched, and little Peter
receiving his due share, the companions, without further delay, seized
their arms, and recommenced their journey. Crossing the river at the
buffalo-ford above, and exchanging the road to which it led for wilder
and lonelier paths traced by smaller animals, they made their way through
the forest, travelling with considerable speed, which was increased, as
the warmth of exercise gradually restored their native suppleness to the
soldier's limbs.

And now it was, that, as the opening of a glorious dawn, flinging
sunshine and life over the whole wilderness, infused still brighter hopes
into his spirit, he began to divide his thoughts between his kinswoman
and his guide, bestowing more upon the latter than he had previously
found time or inclination to do. His strange appearance, his stranger
character, his sudden metamorphosis from a timid and somewhat
over-conscientious professor of the doctrines of peace and good-will,
into a highly energetic and unremorseful, not to say, valiant man of war,
were all subjects to provoke the soldier's curiosity; which was still
further increased when he pondered over the dismal story Nathan had so
imperfectly told him on the past day. Of those dreadful calamities which,
in Nathan's own language, "had made him what he was," a houseless
wanderer of the wilderness, the Virginian would gladly have known more;
but his first allusion to the subject produced such evident disorder in
Nathan's mind, as if the recollection were too harrowing to be borne,
that the young man immediately repressed his inquiries, and diverted his
guide's thoughts into another channel. His imagination supplied the
imperfect links in the story: he could well believe that the same hands
which had shed the blood of every member of the poor borderer's family,
might have struck the hatchet into the head of the resisting husband and
father; and that the effects of that blow, with the desolation of heart
and fortune which the heavier ones, struck at the same time, had
entailed, might have driven him to the woods, an idle, and perhaps
aimless, wanderer.

How far these causes might have operated in leading Nathan into those
late acts of blood which were at such variance with his faith and
professions, it remained also for Roland to imagine; and, in truth, he
imagined they had operated deeply and far; though nothing in Nathan's own
admissions could be found to sanction any belief save that they were the
results, partly of accident, and partly of sudden and irresistible
impulse.

At all events, it was plain that his warlike feats, however they might
at first have shocked his sense of propriety, now sat but lightly on
his conscience; and, indeed, since his confession at the Piankeshaw
camp, he ceased even to talk of them, perhaps resting upon that as an
all-sufficient explanation and apology. It is certain from that moment he
bore himself more freely and boldly, entered no protest whatever against
being called on to do his share of such fighting as might occur--a
stipulation made with such anxious forethought when he first consented
to accompany the lost travellers--nor betrayed any tenderness of
invective against the Indians, whom, having first spoken of them only as
"evil-minded poor Shawnee creatures," he now designated, conformably
to established usage among his neighbours of the Stations, as "thieves
and dogs," "bloody villains, and rapscallions;" all which expressions he
bestowed with as much ease and emphasis as if he had been accustomed to
use them all his life.

With this singular friend and companion Roland pursued his way through
the wilderness, committing life, and the hopes that were dearer than
life, to his sole guidance and protection; nor did anything happen to
shake his faith in either the zeal or ability of Nathan to conduct to a
prosperous issue the cause he had so freely and disinterestedly espoused.

As they thridded the lonely forest-paths together, Nathan explained at
length the circumstances upon which he founded his hopes of success in
their project; and, in doing so, convinced the soldier, not only that his
sagacity was equal to the enterprise, but that his acquaintance with the
wilderness was by no means confined to the region south of the Ohio; the
northern countries, then wholly in the possession of the Indian tribes,
appearing to be just as well known to him, the Miami country in
particular, in which lay the village of the Black-Vulture. How this
knowledge had been obtained was not so evident; for, although he averred
he hunted the deer or trapped the beaver on either side the river, as
appeared to him most agreeable, it was hardly to be supposed he could
carry on such operations in the heart of the Indian nation. But it was
enough for Roland that the knowledge so essential to his own present
plans, was really possessed by his conductor, and he cared not to
question how it had been arrived at; it was an augury of success, of
which he felt the full influence.

The evening of that day found him upon the banks of the Kentucky, the
wild and beautiful river from which the wilderness around derived its
name; and the next morning, crossing it on a raft of logs speedily
constructed by Nathan, he trod upon the soil of the north side, famous
even then for its beauty and for the deeds of bloodshed almost daily
enacted among its scattered settlements, and destined, unhappily, to be
rendered still more famous for a tragedy which that very day witnessed,
far off among the barren ridges of the Licking, where sixty of the
district's best and bravest sons fell the victims less of Indian subtlety
than of their own unparalleled rashness. But of that bloody field the
travellers were to hear thereafter; the vultures were winging their
flight towards the fatal scene; but they alone could snuff, in that
silent desert, the scent of the battle that vexed it.

Sleeping that night in the woods, the next day, being the fourth since
they left the Piankeshaw camp, beheld the travellers upon the banks of
the Ohio; which, seen, for the first time, in the glory of summer, its
crystal waters wheeling placidly along amid hills and forests, ever
reflected in the bright mirror below, and with the air of virgin solitude
which, through so many leagues of its course, it still presents, never
fails to fill the beholder's mind with an enchanting sense of its
loveliness.

Here a raft was again constructed; and the adventurers pushing boldly
across, were soon upon the opposite shore. This feat accomplished, Nathan
took the precaution to launch their frail float adrift in the current,
that no tell-tale memorial of a white man's visit should remain to be
read by returning warriors. The next moment, ascending the bank of the
river, he plunged with his companion into the midst of brake and forest;
neither of them then dreaming that upon the very spot where they toiled
through the tangled labyrinths, a few years should behold the magic
spectacle of a fair city, the Queen of the West, uprisen with the
suddenness, and almost the splendour, of the _Fata-Morgana_, though,
happily, doomed to no such evanescent existence. Then handling their
arms, like men who felt they were in a foe-man's country, and knew that
every further step was to be taken in peril, they resumed their journey,
travelling with such speed and vigour (for Roland's strength had returned
apace), that at the close of the day they were, according to Nathan's
account, scarce twenty miles distant from the Black-Vulture's village,
which they might easily reach the following day. On the following day,
accordingly, they resumed their march, avoiding all paths, and stealing
through the most unfrequented depths of the woods, proceeding with a
caution which was every moment becoming more obviously necessary to the
success of their enterprise.

Up to this period their journey had presented nothing of interest, being
a mere succession of toil, privation, and occasional suffering, naturally
enough to be expected in such an undertaking; but it was now about to be
varied by an adventure of no little interest in itself, and, in its
consequences, destined to exercise a powerful influence on the prospects
of the travellers.

Laying their plans so as to reach the Indian village only about
nightfall, and travelling but slowly and with great circumspection,
they had not, at mid-day, accomplished much more than half the distance;
when they came to a halt in a little dell, extremely wild and
sequestered, where Nathan proposed to rest a few hours, and recruit their
strength with a warm dinner--a luxury they had not enjoyed for the last
two days, during which they had subsisted upon the corn and dried meat
from the Indian wallets. Accident had, a few moments before, provided
them materials for a more palatable meal. They had stumbled upon a deer
that had just fallen under the attack of a catamount; which, easily
driven from its yet warm and palpitating quarry, surrendered the feast to
its unwelcome visitors. An inspection of the carcass showed that the
animal had been first struck by the bullet of some wandering Indian
hunter--a discovery that somewhat concerned Nathan, until, after a more
careful examination of the wound, which seemed neither severe nor mortal,
he was convinced the poor beast had run many long miles, until, in fact,
wholly exhausted, before the panther had finished the work of the
huntsman. This circumstance removing his uneasiness, he helped himself to
the choicest portion of the animal, amputated a hind leg without stopping
to flay it, and clapping this upon his shoulder in a very business-like
way, left the remainder of the carcass to be despatched by the wild-cat
at her leisure.

The little dell, in which Nathan proposed to cook and enjoy his savoury
treasure, at ease and in safety, was enclosed by hills; of which the one
by which they descended into it fell down in a rolling slope densely
covered with trees; while the other, rocky, barren, and almost naked,
rose precipitously up, a grim picture of solitude and desolation. A
scanty brook, oozing along through the swampy bottom of the hollow, and
supplied by a spring near its head, at which the two friends halted to
prepare their meal, ran meandering away among alders and other swampy
plants, to find exit into a larger vale that opened below, though hidden
from the travellers by the winding of the rocky ridge before them.

In this lonely den, Nathan and Roland began straightway to disencumber
themselves of arms and provisions, seeming well satisfied with its
convenience. But not so little Peter; who, having faithfully accompanied
them so far, now following numbly at his master's heels, and now, in
periods of alarm or doubt, taking post in front, the leader of the party,
uplifted his nose, and fell to snuffing about him in a way that soon
attracted his master's notice. Smelling first around the spring, and then
giving a look both up and down the glen, as if to satisfy himself there
was nothing wrong in either of those quarters, he finally began to ascend
the rocky ridge, snuffing as he went, and ever and anon looking back to
his master and soliciting his attention by a wag of his tail.

"Truly, thee did once wag to me in vain!" said Nathan, snatching up his
gun, and looking volumes of sagacious response at his brute ally, "but
thee won't catch me napping again; though, truly, what thee can smell
here, where is neither track of man nor print of beast, truly, Peter, I
have no idea!"

With these words, he crept up the hill himself, following in little
Peter's wake; and Roland, who also grasped his rifle, as Nathan had done,
though without perhaps attaching the same importance to Peter's note of
warning, thought fit to imitate his example.

In this manner, cautiously crawling up, the two friends reached the crest
of the hill; and peering over a precipice of fifty or more feet sheer
descent, with which it suddenly dipped into a wild but beautiful little
valley below, beheld a scene that, besides startling them somewhat out of
their tranquillity, caused both to bless their good fortune they had not
neglected the warning of their brute confederate.

The vale below, like that they had left, opened into a wider bottom-land,
the bed of a creek, which they could see shining among the trees that
overshadowed the rich alluvion; and into this poured a rivulet that
chattered along through the glen at their feet, in which it had its
sources. The hill on the other side of the little vale, which was of an
oval figure, narrowest at its outlet, was rough and precipitous, like
that on which they lay; but the two uniting above, bounded the head of
the vale with a long, bushy, sweeping slope--a fragment of a natural
amphitheatre--which was evidently of an easy ascent, though abrupt and
steep. The valley thus circumscribed, though broken, and here and there
deeply furrowed by the water-course, was nearly destitute of trees,
except at its head, where a few young beeches flung their silver boughs
and rich green foliage abroad over the grassy knolls, and patches of
papaws drooped their loose leaves and swelling fruit over the stream. It
was in this part of the valley, at the distance of three or four hundred
paces from them, that the eyes of the two adventurers, directed by the
sound of voices, which they had heard the instant they reached the crest
of the ridge, fell, first, upon the smoke of a huge fire curling merrily
up into the air, and then upon the bodies of no less than five Indian
warriors, all zealously and uproariously engaged in an amusement highly
characteristic of their race. There was among them a white man, an
unfortunate prisoner, as was seen at a glance, whom they had bound by the
legs to a tree; around which the savages danced and leaped, yelling now
with rage, now in merriment, but all the while belabouring the poor
wretch with rods and switches, which, at every turn round the tree, they
laid about his head and shoulders with uncommon energy and zest. This was
a species of diversion better relished, as it seemed, by the captors than
their captive; who, infuriated by his pangs, and perhaps desiring, in the
desperation of the moment, to provoke them to end his sufferings with the
hatchet, retaliated with his fists, which were at liberty, striking
fiercely at every opportunity, and once with such effect as to tumble one
of the tormentors to the earth--a catastrophe, however, that the others
rewarded with roars of approving laughter, though without for a moment
intermitting their own cruelties.

This spectacle, it may be well supposed, produced a strong effect upon
the minds of the travellers, who, not without alarm on their own account
at the discovery of such dangerous neighbours, could not view without
emotion a fellow white man and countryman helpless in their hands, and
enduring tortures perhaps preliminary to the more dreadful one of the
stake. They looked one another in the face: the Virginian's eyes sparkled
with a meaning which Nathan could not misunderstand; and clutching his
rifle tighter in his hands, and eyeing the young man with an ominous
stare, he muttered,--"Speak, friend,--thee is a man and a soldier--what
does thee think, in the case made and provided?"

"We are but two men, and they five," replied Roland, firmly, though in
the lowest voice; and then repeated, in the same energetic whisper,--"we
are but two men, Nathan; but there is no kinswoman now to unman me!"

Nathan took another peep at the savages before speaking. Then looking
upon the young man with an uneasy countenance, he said,--"We are but two
men, as thee says, and they five; and, truly, to do what thee thinks of,
in open day, is a thing not to be thought on by men that have soft places
in their bosoms. Nevertheless, I think, according to thee own opinion, we
being strong men that have the wind of the villains, and a good cause to
help us, truly, we might snap the poor man they have captivated out of
their hands, with considerable much damage to them besides, the murdering
rapscallions!--But, friend," he added, seeing Roland give way to his
eagerness,--"thee spoke of the fair maid, thee cousin--If thee fights
this battle, truly, thee may never see her more."

"If I fall," said Roland,--but he was interrupted by Nathan:

"It is not _that_ thee is to think of. Truly, friend, thee may fight
these savages, and thee may vanquish them; but unless thee believes in
thee conscience thee can kill them every one--truly, friend, thee can
hardly expect it?"

"And why should we? It is enough if we can rescue the prisoner."

"Friend, thee is mistaken. If thee attacks the villains, and but one of
them escapes alive to the village, sounding the alarm, thee will never
enter the same in search of the maid, thee kinswoman. Thee sees the case:
thee must choose between the captive there and thee cousin!"

This was a view of the case, and as Roland felt, a just one, well
calculated to stagger his resolutions, if not entirely to abate his
sympathy for the unknown sufferer. As his hopes of success in the
enterprise for which he had already dared and endured so much, evidently
depended upon his ability to approach the Indian village without
awakening suspicion, it was undeniable that an attack upon the party in
the vale, unless resulting in its complete destruction, must cause, to be
borne to the Black-Vulture's town, and on the wings of the wind, the
alarm of white men in the woods; and thus not only cut him off from it,
but actually bring upon himself all the fighting men who might be
remaining in the village. To attack the party with the expectation of
wholly destroying it, was, or seemed to be, an absurdity. But to desert a
wretched prisoner whom he had it perhaps in his power to rescue from
captivity, and from a fate still more dreadful, was a dereliction of
duty, of honour, of common humanity, of which he could scarce persuade
himself to be guilty. He cast his eyes up the glen, and once more looked
upon the captive, who had sunk to the ground, as if from exhaustion, and
whom the savages, after beating him awhile longer, as if to force him
again on his feet, that they might still enjoy their amusement, now fell
to securing with thongs. As Roland looked, he remembered his own night of
captivity, and hesitated no longer. Turning to Nathan, who had been
earnestly reading the struggles of his mind, as revealed in his face, he
said, and with unfaltering resolution,--"You say we _can_ rescue that
man.--I was a prisoner, like him, bound too,--a helpless, hopeless
captive--three Indians to guard me, and but one friend to look upon me;
yet did not that friend abandon me to my fate.--God will protect my poor
cousin--we must rescue him!"

"Thee is a man, every inch of thee!" said Nathan, with a look of uncommon
satisfaction and fire: "thee shall have thee will in the matter of these
murdering Shawnee dogs; and, it may be, it will be none the worse for
thee kinswoman."

With that he motioned Roland to creep with him beyond the crest of the
hill, where they straightway held a hurried consultation of war to
determine upon the plan of proceedings in the prosecution of an adventure
so wild and perilous.

The soldier, burning with fierce ardour, proposed that they should take
post respectively the one at the head, the other at the outlet of the
vale, and creeping as nigh the enemy as they could, deliver their fire,
and then rushing on, before the savages could recover from their
surprise, do their best to finish the affair with their hatchets,--a
plan, which, as he justly said, offered the only prospect of cutting off
the retreat of those who might survive the fire. But Nathan had already
schemed the matter otherwise: he had remarked the impossibility of
approaching the enemy from below, the valley offering no concealment
which would make an advance in that quarter practicable; whereas the
bushes on the slope, where the two walls of the glen united, afforded the
most inviting opportunity to creep on the foe without fear of detection.
"Truly," said he, "we will get us as nigh the assassin thieves as we can;
and, truly, it may be our luck, each of us, to get a brace of them in
range together, and so bang them beautiful!"--an idea that was manifestly
highly agreeable to his imagination, from which he seemed to have utterly
banished all those disgusts and gaingivings on the subject of fighting,
which had formerly afflicted it; "or perhaps, if we can do nothing
better," he continued, "we may catch the vagabonds wandering from their
guns, to pick up sticks for their fire; in which case, friend, truly, it
may be our luck to help them to a second volley out of their own pieces:
or, if the worst must come, truly, then, I do know of a device that may
help the villains into our hands, even to their own undoing!"

With these words, having first examined his own and Roland's arms, to see
that all were in proper battle condition, and then directed little Peter
to ensconce in a bush, wherein little Peter straightway bestowed himself,
Tiger Nathan, with an alacrity of motion and ardour of look that
indicated anything rather than distaste to the murderous work in hand,
led the way along the ridge, until he had reached the place where it
dipped down to the valley, covered with the bushes through which he
expected to advance to a desirable position undiscovered.

But a better auxiliary even than the bushes was soon discovered by the
two friends. A deep gully, washed in the side of the hill by the rains,
was here found running obliquely from its top to the bottom, affording a
covered way, by which, as they saw at a glance, they could approach
within twenty or thirty yards of the foe entirely unseen; and, to add to
its advantages, it was the bed of a little water-course, whose murmurs,
as it leaped from rock to rock, assured them they could as certainly
approach unheard.

"Truly," muttered Nathan, with a grim chuckle, as he looked, first, at
the friendly ravine, and then at the savages below, "the Philistine
rascals is in our hands, and we will smite them hip and thigh!"

With this inspiring assurance he crept into the ravine; and Roland
following, they were soon in possession of a post commanding, not only
the spot occupied by the enemy, but the whole valley.

Peeping through the fringe of shrubs that rose, a verdant parapet, on the
brink of the gully, they looked down upon the savage party, now less than
forty paces from the muzzle of their guns, and wholly unaware of the fate
preparing for them. The scene of diversion and torment was over; the
prisoner, a man of powerful frame but squallid appearance, whose hat,--a
thing of shreds and patches,--adorned the shorn pate of one of the
Indians, while his coat, equally rusty and tattered, hung from the
shoulders of a second, lay bound under a tree, but so nigh that they
could mark the laborious heavings of his chest. Two of the Indians sat
near him on the grass keeping watch, their hatchets in their hands, their
guns resting within reach against the trunk of a tree overthrown by some
hurricane of former years, and now mouldering away. A third was engaged
with his tomahawk, lopping away the few dry boughs that remained on the
trunk. Squatting at the fire, which the third was thus labouring to
replenish with fuel, were the two remaining savages, who, holding their
rifles in their hands, divided their attention betwixt a shoulder of
venison roasting on a stick in the fire, and the captive, whom they
seemed to regard as destined to be sooner or later disposed of in a
similar manner.

The position of the parties precluded the hope Nathan had ventured to
entertain of getting them in a cluster, and so doing double execution
with each bullet; but the disappointment neither chilled his ardour nor
embarrassed his plans. His scheme of attack had been framed to embrace
all contingences; and he wasted no further time in deliberation. A
few whispered words conveyed his last instructions to the soldier; who,
reflecting that he was fighting in the cause of humanity, remembering his
own heavy wrongs, and marking the fiery eagerness that flamed from
Nathan's visage, banished from his mind whatever disinclination he might
have felt at beginning the fray in a mode so seemingly treacherous and
ignoble. He laid his axe on the brink of the gully at his side, together
with his foraging cap; and then, thrusting his rifle through the bushes,
took aim at one of the savages at the fire, Nathan directing his piece
against the other. Both of them presented the fairest marks, as they sat
wholly unconscious of their danger, enjoying in imagination the tortures
yet to be inflicted on the prisoner. But a noise in the gully,--the
falling of a stone loosened by the soldier's foot, or a louder than usual
plash of water,--suddenly roused them from their dreams; they started up,
and turned their eyes towards the hill.--"Now, friend!" whispered
Nathan;--"if thee misses, thee loses thee maiden and thee life into the
bargain.--Is thee ready?"

"Ready," was the reply.

"Right, then, through the dog's brain,--fire!"

The crash of the pieces, and the fall of the two victims, both marked by
a fatal aim, and both pierced through the brain, were the first
announcement of peril to their companions; who, springing up, with yells
of fear and astonishment, and snatching at their arms, looked wildly
around them for the unseen foe. The prisoner, also, astounded out of his
despair, raised his head from the grass, and glared around. The wreaths
of smoke curling over the bushes on the hill-side, betrayed the lurking
place of the assailants; and savages and prisoner turning together, they
all beheld at once the spectacle of two human heads,--or, to speak more
correctly, two human caps, for the heads were far below them,--rising in
the smoke, and peering over the bushes, as if to mark the result of the
volley. Loud, furious, and exulting were the screams of the Indians, as
with the speed of thought, seduced by a stratagem often practised among
the wild heroes of the border, they raised and discharged their pieces
against the imaginary foes so incautiously exposed to their vengeance.
The caps fell, and with them the rifles that had been employed to raise
them; and the voice of Nathan thundered through the glen, as he grasped
his tomahawk and sprang from the ditch,--"Now, friend! up with thee axe,
and do thee duty!"

With these words, the two assailants at once leaped into view, and with a
bold hurrah, and bolder hearts, rushed towards the fire, where lay the
undischarged rifles of their first victims. The savages yelled also in
reply, and two of them bounded forward to dispute the prize. The third,
staggered into momentary inaction by the suddenness and amazement of the
attack, rushed forward but a step; but a whoop of exultation was on his
lips, as he raised the rifle which _he_ had not yet discharged, full
against the breast of Tiger Nathan. But, his triumph was short-lived; the
blow, so fatal as it must have proved to the life of Nathan, was averted
by an unexpected incident. The prisoner, near whom he stood, putting
all his vigour into one tremendous effort, burst his bonds, and, with a
yell ten times louder and fiercer than had yet been uttered, added
himself to the combatants. With a furious cry of encouragement to his
rescuers,--"Hurrah for Kentucky!--give it to 'em good!" he threw himself
upon the savage, beat the gun from his hands, and grasping him in his
brawny arms, hurled him to the earth, where, rolling over and over in
mortal struggle, growling and whooping, and rending one another like wild
beasts, the two, still locked in furious embrace, suddenly tumbled down
the banks of the brook, there high and steep, and were immediately lost
to sight.

Before this catastrophe occurred, the other Indians and the assailants
met at the fire; and each singling out his opponent, and thinking no more
of the rifles, they met as men whose only business was to kill or to die.
With his axe flourished over his head, Nathan rushed against the tallest
and foremost enemy, who, as he advanced, swung his tomahawk, in the act
of throwing it. Their weapons parted from their hands at the same moment,
and with perhaps equal accuracy of aim; but meeting with a crash in the
air, they fell together to the earth, doing no harm to either. The Indian
stooped to recover his weapon; but it was too late: the hand of Nathan
was already upon his shoulder: a single effort of his vast strength
sufficed to stretch the savage at his feet; and holding him down with
knee and hand, Nathan snatched up the nearest axe. "If the life of thee
tribe was in thee bosom," he cried, with a look of unrelenting fury, of
hatred deep and ineffaceable, "thee should die the dog's death, as thee
does!" And with a blow furiously struck, and thrice repeated, he
despatched the struggling savage as he lay.

He rose, brandishing the bloody hatchet, and looked for his companion. He
found him upon the earth, lying upon the breast of his antagonist, whom
it had been his good fortune to over-master. Both had thrown their
hatchets, and both without effect, Roland because skill was wanting, and
the Shawnee because, in the act of throwing, he had stumbled over the
body of one of his comrades, so as to disorder his aim, and even to
deprive him of his footing. Before he could recover himself, Roland
imitated Nathan's example, and threw himself upon the unlucky Indian,--a
youth, as it appeared, whose strength, perhaps at no moment equal to his
own, had been reduced by recent wounds,--and found that he had him
entirely at his mercy. This circumstance, and the knowledge that the
other Indians were now overpowered, softened the soldier's wrath; and
when Nathan, rushing to assist him, cried aloud to him to move aside,
that he might "knock the assassin knave's brains out," Roland replied by
begging Nathan to spare his life. "I have disarmed him," he cried--"he
resists no more--Don't kill him."

"To the last man of his tribe!" cried Nathan, with unexampled ferocity;
and, without another word, drove the hatchet into the wretch's brain.

The victors now leaping to their feet, looked round for the fifth savage
and the prisoner; and directed by a horrible din under the bank of the
stream, which was resounding with, curses, groans, heavy blows, and the
plashing of water, ran to the spot, where the last incident of battle was
revealed to them in a spectacle as novel as it was shocking. The Indian
lay on his back suffocating in mire and water; while astride his body sat
the late prisoner, covered from head to foot with mud and gore, furiously
plying his fists, for he had no other weapons, about the head and face of
his foe, his blows falling like sledge-hammers or battering-rams, with
such strength and fury that it seemed impossible any one of them could
fail to crush the skull to atoms; and all the while garnishing them with
a running accompaniment of oaths and maledictions little less emphatic
and overwhelming. "You switches gentlemen, do you, you exflunctified,
perditioned rascal? Ar'n't you got it, you niggur-in-law to old Satan?
you 'tarnal half-imp, you? H'yar's for you, you dog, and thar's for you,
you dog's dog! H'yar's the way I pay you in a small-change of
sogdologers!"

And thus he cried, until Roland and Nathan seizing him by the
shoulders, dragged him by main force from the Indian, who was found, when
they came to examine the body afterwards, actually pommelled to death,
the skull having been beaten in as with bludgeons.--The victor sprang
upon his feet, and roared his triumph aloud:--"Ar'n't I lick'd him
handsome!--Hurrah for Kentucky and old Salt--Cock-a-doodle-doo!"

And with that, turning to his deliverers, he displayed to
their astonished eyes, though disfigured by blood and mire, the
never-to-be-forgotten features of the captain of horse-thieves,
Soaring Ralph Stackpole.



CHAPTER XXVI.


The amazement of Stackpole at finding to whom he owed his deliverance,
was not less than that of the travellers; but it was mingled, in his
case, with feelings of the most unbounded and clamorous delight. Nathan
he grasped by the hands, being the first upon whom he set his eyes; but
no sooner had they wandered to the soldier, than throwing his arms around
him, he gave him a hug, neither tender nor respectful, but indicative of
the intensest affection and rapture.

"You cut the rope, stranger, and you cut the tug," he cried, "on madam's
beseeching! but h'yar's the time you holped me out of a fix without
axing! Now, strannger, I ar'n't your dog, 'cause how, I'm anngelliferous
madam's: but if I ar'n't your dog, I'm your man, Ralph Stackpole, to be
your true-blue through time and etarnity, any way you'll ax me; and if
you wants a sodger, I'll 'list with you, I will, 'tarnal death to me!"

"But how, in heaven's name, came you here a prisoner? I saw you escape
with my own eyes," said Roland, better pleased, perhaps, at the accession
of such a stout auxiliary than with his mode of professing love and
devotion.

"Strannger," said Ralph, "if you war to ax me from now till doomsday
about the why and the wharfo' I couldn't make you more nor one answer: I
come to holp anngelliferous madam out of the hands of the abbregynes,
according to my sworn duty as her natteral-born slave and redemptioner! I
war hard on the track, when the villians here caught me."

"What!" cried Roland, his heart for the first time warming towards the
despised horse-thief, while even Nathan surveyed him with something like
complacency, "you are following my poor cousin then? You were not brought
here a prisoner?"

"If I war, I wish I may be shot," said Ralph: "it warn't a mile back on
the ridge, whar the Injuns snapped me; 'causa how, I jist bang'd away at
a deer, and jist then up jumps the rascals on me, afo' I had loaded old
speechifier; and so they nabb'd me! And so, sodger, h'yar's the way of it
all: You see, d'you see, as soon as Tom Bruce comes to, so as to
be able to hold the hoss himself--"

"What," said Roland, "was he not mortally wounded?"

"He ar'n't much hurt to speak on, for all of his looking so much like
coffin-meat at the first jump: it war a kind of narvousness come over him
that men feels when they gets the thwack of a bullet among the narves.
And so, you see, d'you see, says I, 'Tom Bruce, do you stick to the
critter, and he'll holp you out of the skrimmage;' and, says I, 'I'll
take the back-track, and foller atter madam.' And, says he, says he--But,
'tarnal death to me, let's scalp these h'yar dead villians, and do the
talking atter! Did you see the licking I gin this here feller? It war a
reggular fair knock-down-and-drag-out, and I licked him! Thar's all sorts
of ways of killing Injuns; but, I reckon, I'm the only gentleman in all
Kentuck as ever took a scalp in the way of natur'! Hurrah for Kentuck!
and hurrah for Ralph Stackpole, for he ar' a screamer!"

The violation of the dead bodies was a mode of crowning their victory
which Roland would have gladly dispensed with; but such forbearance,
opposed to all border ideas of manly spirit and propriety, found no
advocate in the captain of horse-thieves, and none, we are sorry to say,
even in the conscientious Nathan; who, having bathed his peaceful sword
too deep in blood to boggle longer at trifles, seemed mightily inclined
to try his own hand at the exercise. But this addition to the catalogue
of his backslidings was spared him, Roaring Ralph falling to work with an
energy of spirit and rapidity of execution, which showed he needed no
assistance, and left no room for competition.--Such is the practice of
the border, and such it has been ever since the mortal feud, never
destined to be really ended but with the annihilation, or civilisation,
of the American race, first began between the savage and the white
intruder. It was, and is, essentially a measure of retaliation,
compelled, if not justified, by the ferocious example of the red man.
Brutality ever begets brutality; and magnanimity of arms can be only
exercised in the case of a magnanimous foe. With such, the wildest and
fiercest rover of the frontier becomes a generous and even humane enemy.

The Virginian was yet young in the war of the wilderness: and turning in
disgust from a scene he could not prevent, he made his way to the fire,
where the haunch of venison, sending forth a savoury steam through the
whole valley, was yet roasting on the rude Indian spit,--a spectacle
which (we record it with shame) quite banished from his mind not only all
thoughts of Ralph's barbarism, but even the sublime military ardour
awakened by the din and perils of the late conflict. Nor were its effects
less potential upon Nathan and Ralph, who, having first washed from their
hands and faces the stains of battle, now drew nigh, snuffing the perfume
of a dinner with as much ardour as they could have bestowed on the scent
of battle. The haunch, cooked to their hands, was straightway removed to
a convenient place, where all, drawing their knives, fell foul with an
energy of appetite and satisfaction that left them oblivious of most
sublunary affairs. The soldier forgot his sorrows, and Nathan forgot
little Peter,--though little Peter, by suddenly creeping out of the
bushes on the hill, and crawling humbly to the table, and his master's
side, made it apparent he had not forgot himself. As for the captain of
horse-thieves, he forgot everything save the dinner itself, which he
attacked with an appetite well nigh ravenous, having, as he swore, by way
of grace over the first mouthful, eaten nothing save roots and leaves for
more than three days. It was only when, by despatching at least twice his
share of the joint, he began to feel, as he said, "summat like a hoss
and a gentleman," that the others succeeded in drawing from him a full
account of the circumstances which had attended his solitary inroad into
the Indian country and his fall into the clutches of the Shawnee party.

But little had the faithful fellow to impart, beyond what he had already
told. Galloping from the fatal hill, the scene of defeat to the young
Kentuckians, he sustained Tom Bruce in his arms, until the latter,
reviving, had recovered strength enough to provide for his own safety;
upon which Ralph, with a degree of Quixotism, that formed a part of his
character, and which was, in this instance, strengthened by his grateful
devotion to Edith, the saver of his life, declared he would pursue the
trail of her captors, even if it led him to their village, nor cease his
efforts until he had rescued her out of their hands, or laid down his
life in her service. In this resolution he was encouraged by Bruce, who
swore on his part, that he would instantly follow with his father, and
all the men he could raise, recover the prisoners, and burn the towns of
the whole Shawnee nation about their ears; a determination he was perhaps
the more readily driven to by the reflection that the unlucky captives
were his father's individual guests, and had been snatched away while
still, in a manner, under, or relying on, his father's protection. So
much he promised, and so much there was no doubt he would, if able,
perform; nevertheless, he exhorted Ralph to do his best, in the
meanwhile, to help the strangers, vowing, if he succeeded in rendering
them any assistance, or in taking a single scalp of the villains that had
borne them off, he would not only never Lynch him, himself, but would not
even allow others to do it, though he were to steal all the horses in
Kentucky, his father's best bay mare included.

Thus encouraged, the valiant horse-thief, bidding farewell to Tom Bruce
and Brown Briareus together, commenced making good his words by creeping
back to the battle-field; when, arriving before Nathan, he struck the
trail of the main party, and immediately pursued it with zeal and
courage, but still with the necessary caution and circumspection; his
hopes of being able to do something to the advantage of his benefactress,
resting principally on his knowledge of several of the outer Indian
towns, in every one of which, he boasted, he had stolen horses. Being but
poorly provided with food, and afraid to hunt while following so closely
on the heels of the marauders, he was soon reduced to want and suffering,
which he bore for three days with heroic fortitude; until at last, on
the morning of the present day, being in a state of utter starvation, and
a buck springing up in his path, he could resist the temptation no
longer, and so fired upon it. The animal being wounded, and apparently
severely, he set off in pursuit, too eager to lose time by recharging his
piece; and it was while he was in that defenceless condition that the
five Indians, a detachment and rear-guard, as it proved, of the very
party he was dogging, attracted by the sound of his gun, stole upon him
unawares and made him a prisoner. This, it seems, had happened but a
short distance behind; and there was every reason to suppose that the
buck, from whose loins the travellers had filched the haunch that destiny
had superseded by a better, was the identical animal whose seducing
appearance had brought Stackpole into captivity. He was immediately
recognised by his captors, whose exultation was boundless, as indeed was
their cruelty; and he could only account for their halting with him in
that retired hollow, instead of pushing on to display their prize to the
main body, by supposing they could not resist their desire to enjoy a
snug little foretaste of the joys of torturing him at the stake, all by
themselves,--a right they had earned by their good fortune in taking him.
In the valley, then, they had paused, and tying him up, proceeded
straightway to flog him to their hearts' content; and they had just
resolved to intermit the amusement awhile, in favour of their dinner,
when the appearance of his bold deliverers rushing into their camp,
converted the scene of brutal merriment into one of retributive vengeance
and blood.

The discovery that the five human beings he had contributed so much to
destroy, were part and parcel of the very band, the authors of all his
sufferings, the captors of his kinswoman, abated some little feelings of
compunction with which Roland had begun occasionally to look upon the
gory corses around him.

The main body of marauders, with their prisoner, there seemed good reason
to suppose, were yet upon their march to the village, though too far
advanced to leave any hope of overtaking them, were that even desirable.
It is true, that Roland, fired by the thought of being so near his
kinswoman, and having before his eyes a proof of what might be done by
craft and courage, even against overwhelming numbers, urged Nathan
immediately to re-commence the pursuit; the Indians would doubtless halt
to rest and refresh, as the luckless five had done, and might be
approached and destroyed, now that they themselves had increased their
forces by the rescue of Ralph, in the same way: "we can carry, with us,"
he said, "these Indians' guns, with which we shall be more than a match
for the villains;" and he added other arguments, such, however, as
appeared much more weighty to himself than to honest Nathan. That the
main party should have halted, as he supposed, did not appear at all
probable to Nathan: they had no cause to arrest them in their journey,
and they were but a few miles removed from the village, whither they
would doubtless proceed without delay, to enjoy the rewards of their
villany, and end the day in revel and debauch. "And truly, friend," he
added, "it will be better for thee, and me, and the maid, Edith, that we
steal her by night from out of a village defended only by drowsy squaws
and drunken warriors, than if we were to aim at taking her out of the
camp of a war-party. Do thee keep thee patience; and, truly, there is no
telling what good may come of it." In short, Nathan had here, as in
previous instances, made up his mind to conduct affairs his own way; and
Roland, though torn by impatience, could do nothing better than submit.

And now, the dinner being at last despatched, Nathan directed that the
bodies of the slain Indians should be tumbled into a gully, and hidden
from sight; a measure of such evident precaution as to need no
explanation. This was immediately done; but not before Ralph and the man
of peace had well rummaged the pouches of the dead, helping themselves
to such valuables and stores of provender and ammunition as they could
lay hands on; in addition to which, Nathan stripped from one a light
Indian hunting-shirt, from another a blanket, a woman's shawl, and a
medicine bag, from a third divers jingling bundles of brooches and
hawk-bells, together with a pouch containing vermilion and other paints,
the principal articles of savage toilet; which he made up into a bundle,
to be used for a purpose he did not conceal from his comrades. He then
seized upon the rifles of the dead (from among which Stackpole had
already singled out his own), and removing the locks, hid them away in
crannies of the cliffs, concealing the locks in other places;--a
disposition which he also made of the knives and tomahawks; remarking,
with great justice, that "if honest Christian men were to have no good of
the weapons, it was just as well murdering Injuns should be no better
off."

These things concluded, the dead covered over with boughs and brambles,
and nothing left in the vale to attract a passing and unobservant eye, he
gave the signal to resume the march, and with Roland and Captain Ralph,
stole from the field of battle.



CHAPTER XXVII.


The twilight was darkening in the west, when the three adventurers,
stealing through tangled thickets, and along lonely ridges, carefully
avoiding all frequented paths, looked out at last, from a distant hill,
upon the valley in which lay the village of the Black-Vulture. The ruddy
light of evening, bursting from clouds of crimson and purple, and
shooting down through gaps of the hills in cascades of fire, fell
brightly and sweetly on the little prairies, or natural meadow-lands;
which, dotted over with clumps of trees, and watered by a fairy river, a
tributary of the rapid Miami, winding along from side to side, now hiding
beneath the shadow of the hills, now glancing into light, gave an air of
tender beauty to the scene better befitting, as it might have seemed, the
retreat of the innocent and peaceful sons of Oberon, than the wild and
warlike children of the wilderness. Looking further up the vale, the eye
fell upon patches of ripening maize, waving along the river; and beyond
these, just where the valley winded away behind the hills, at the
distance of a mile or more, thin wreaths of smoke creeping from roofs of
bark and skins, indicated the presence of the Indian village.

Thus arrived at the goal and haven of their hopes, the theatre in which
was to be acted the last scene in the drama of their enterprise, the
travellers surveyed it for awhile from their concealment, in deep
silence, each speculating in his own mind upon the exploits still to be
achieved, the perils yet to be encountered, ere success should crown
their exertions, already so arduous and so daring. Then creeping back
again into a deep hollow, convenient for their purpose, they held their
last consultation, and made their final preparations for entering the
village. This Nathan at first proposed to do entirely alone, to spy out
the condition of the village, and to discover, if possible, in what
quarter the marauders had bestowed the unhappy Edith; and this being a
duty requiring the utmost secrecy and circumspection, he insisted it
could not be safely committed to more than one person.

"In that case," said valiant Ralph, "I'm your gentleman! Do you think,
old Tiger Nathan (and, 'tarnal death to me, I do think you're 'ginnin' to
be a peeler of the rale ring-tail specie,--I do, old Rusty, and thar's my
fo'paw on it: you've got to be a man at last, a feller for close locks
and fighting Injuns that's quite cu'rous to think on, and I'll lick any
man that says a word agin you, I will, 'tarnal death to me): But I say,
do you think I'm come so far atter madam, to gin up the holping her out
of bondage to any mortal two-legg'd crittur whatsomever? I'm the person
what knows this h'yar town better nor ar another feller in all Kentucky;
and that I stick on,--for, cuss me, I've stole hosses in it!"

"Truly," said Nathan, after reflecting awhile, "thee might make theeself
of service to the maid, even in thee own way; but, verily, thee is an
unlucky man, and thee brings bad luck wheresoever thee goes; and so I'm
afeard of thee."

"Afeard of your nose!" said Ralph, with great indignation; "ar'n't I jist
been slicked out of the paws of five mortal abbregynes that had me in the
tugs? and ar'n't that luck enough for any feller? I tell you what,
Nathan, me and you will snuff the track together: you shall hunt up
anngelliferous madam, and gin her my compliments; and, while you're about
it, I'll steal her a hoss to ride off on!"

"Truly," said Nathan, complacently, "I was thinking of that; for, they
says, thee is good in a horse-pound; and it needs the poor maid should
have something better to depend on, in flight, than her own poor innocent
legs. And so, friend, if thee thinks in thee conscience thee can help her
to a strong animal, without fear of discovery, I don't care if thee goes
with me: and, truly, if thee could steal two or three more of the
creatures for our own riding, it might greatly advantage the maid."

"Thar you talk like a feller of gumption," said Ralph: "only show me
the sight of a bit of skin-rope for halters, and you'll see a sample of
hoss-stealing to make your ha'r stand on eend!"

"Of a truth," said Nathan, "thee shan't want for halters, if leather can
make them. There is that on my back which will make thee a dozen; and,
truly, as it needs I should now put me on attire more suitable to an
Injun village, it is a satisfaction thee can put the old garment to such
good use."

With these words, Nathan stripped off his coat of skins, so aged and so
venerable, and gave it to the captain of horse-thieves; who, vastly
delighted with the prize, instantly commenced cutting it into strips,
which he twisted together, and fashioned into rude halters; while
Nathan supplied its place by the loose calico shirt he had selected
from among the spoils of the Indian party, throwing over it, mantle-wise,
the broad Indian blanket. His head he bound round with the gaudy shawl
which he had also taken from the brows of a dead foe-man; and he hung
about his person various pouches and ornamented belts, provided for the
purpose. Then, daubing over his face, arms, and breast with streaks of
red, black, and green paint, that seemed designed to represent snakes,
lizards, and other reptiles; he was, on a sudden, converted into a highly
respectable-looking savage, as grim and awe-inspiring as these barbaric
ornaments and his attire, added to his lofty stature, could make him.
Indeed, the metamorphosis was so complete, that Captain Ralph, as he
swore, could scarce look at him without longing, as this worthy personage
expressed it, "to be at his top-knot."

In the meanwhile, Forrester had not deferred with patience to an
arrangement which threatened to leave him, the most interested of all, in
inglorious activity, while his companions were labouring in the cause of
his Edith. He remonstrated, and insisted upon accompanying them to the
village, to share with them all the dangers of the enterprise.

"If there was danger to none but ourselves, truly, thee should go with
us and welcome," said Nathan; representing, justly enough, the little
service that Roland, destitute of the requisite knowledge and skill,
could be expected to render, and the dangers he must necessarily bring
upon the others, in case of any, the most ordinary, difficulties arising
in their progress through the village. Everything must now depend upon
address, upon cunning and presence of mind; the least indiscretion (and
how many might not the soldier, his feelings wound up to a pitch of the
intensest excitement, commit?) must of necessity terminate in the
instant destruction of all. In short, Roland was convinced, though sorely
against his will, that wisdom and affection both called on him to play
the part Nathan had assigned him; and he submitted to be ruled
accordingly,--with the understanding, however, that the rendezvous, in
which he was to await the operations of the others, should be upon the
very borders of the village, whence he might, in any pressing emergency,
in case of positive danger and conflict, be immediately called to their
assistance.

When the twilight had darkened away, and the little river, rippling along
on its course, sparkled only in the light of the stars, the three friends
crept from their retreat, and descended boldly into the valley; where,
guided by the barking of dogs, the occasional yells of a drunken or
gamesome savage, and now and then the red glare of a fire flashing from
the open crannies of a cabin, they found little difficulty in approaching
the Indian village. It was situated on the further bank of the stream,
and, as described, just behind the bend of the vale, at the bottom of a
rugged, but not lofty hill; which, jutting almost into the river, left
yet space enough for the forty or fifty lodges composing the village,
sheltering them in winter from the bitter blasts that rush, at that
season, from the northern lakes. Beyond the river, on the side towards
the travellers, the vale was broader; and it was there the Indians had
chiefly planted their corn-fields,--fields enriched by the labour,
perhaps also by the tears, of their oppressed and degraded women.

Arriving at the borders of the cultivated grounds, the three
adventurers crossed the river, which was neither broad nor deep, and
stealing among logs and stumps at the foot of the hill, where some
industrious savage had, in former years, begun to clear a field, which,
however, his wives had never planted, they lay down in concealment,
waiting until the subsiding of the unusual bustle in the village, a
consequence manifestly of the excesses which Nathan predicted the victors
would indulge in, should render their further advance practicable. But
this was not the work of a moment. The savage can drink and dance through
the night with as lusty a zeal as his white neighbour; the song, the
jest, the merry tale, are as dear to his imagination; and in the
retirement of his own village, feeling no longer the restraint of stolid
gravity,--assumed in the haunts of the white man, less to play the part
of a hero than to cover the nakedness of his own inferiority,--he can
give himself up to wild indulgence, the sport of whim and frolic; and,
when the fire-water is the soul of the feast, the feast only ends with
the last drop of liquor.

It could be scarcely doubted that the Indians of the village were, this
night, paying their devotions to the Manito of the rum-keg, and drinking
folly and fury together from the enchanted draught, which one of the
bravest of the race--its adorer and victim, like Logan the heroic, and
Red-Jacket the renowned,--declared could only have been distilled "from
the hearts of wild-cats and the tongues of women,--it made him so fierce
and so foolish;" nor could it, on the other hand, be questioned that many
a sad and gloomy reminiscence, the recollection of wrong, of defeat, of
disaster, of the loss of friends and of country, was mingled in the joy
of the debauch. From their lurking-place near the village, the three
friends could hear many a wild whoop, now fierce and startling, now
plaintive and mourning,--the one, as Nathan and Ralph said, the halloo
for revenge, the other the whoop of lamentation,--at intervals chiming
strangely in with unmeaning shrieks and roaring laughter, the squeaking
of women and the gibbering of children, with the barking of curs, the
utterance of obstreperous enjoyment, in which the whole village, brute
and human, seemed equally to share. For a time, indeed, one might have
deemed the little hamlet an outer burgh of Pandemonium itself; and the
captain of horse-thieves swore, that, having long been of opinion "the
red abbregynes war the rule children of Sattan, and niggers only the
grand-boys, he should now hold the matter to be as settled as if booked
down in an almanac,--he would, 'tarnal death to him."

But if the festive spirit of the barbarians might have lasted for ever,
there was, it appeared, no such exhaustless quality in their liquor; and,
that failing at last, the uproar began gradually to decrease; although it
was not until within an hour of midnight that Nathan declared the moment
had arrived for entering the village.

He then rose from his lair, and repeating his injunctions to Roland to
remain where he was, until the issue of his own visit should be known,
added a word of parting counsel, which, to Roland's imagination, bore
somewhat an ominous character. "The thing that is to come," he said,
"neither thee nor me knows anything about; for, truly, an Injun village
is a war-trap, which one may sometimes creep into easy enough; but,
truly, the getting out again is another matter. And so, friend, if it
should be my luck, and friend Ralph's, to be killed or captivated, so
that we cannot return to thee again, do thee move by the first blink of
day, and do thee best to save thee own life; and, truly, I have some hope
that thee may succeed, seeing that, if I should fall, little Peter (which
I will leave with thee, for, truly, he would but encumber me among the
dogs of the village, having better skill to avoid murdering Injuns than
the creatures of his own kind), will make thee his master,--as verily, he
can no longer serve a dead one,--and show thee the way back again from
the wilderness. Truly, friend, he hath an affection for thee, for thee
has used him well; which he can say of no other persons, save only thee
and me excepted."

With that, having laid aside his gun, which, as he represented, could
be, in such an undertaking, of no service, and directed Stackpole to do
the same, he shook Roland by the hand, and, waiting an instant till
Ralph had followed his example, and added his farewell in the brief
phrase,--"Sodger, I'm atter my mistress; and, for all Nathan's small talk
about massacree and captivation, we'll fetch her, with a most beautiful
lot of hosses; so thar's no fawwell about it,"--turned to little Peter,
whom he addressed quite as gravely as he had done the Virginian. "Now,
little dog Peter," said he, "I leave thee to take care of theeself and
the young man that is with thee; and do thee be good, and faithful, and
obedient, as thee always has been, and have a good care thee keeps out of
mischief."

With these words, which Peter, doubtless, perfectly understood, for he
squatted himself down upon the ground, without any attempt to follow his
master, Nathan departed, with Roaring Ralph at his side, leaving Roland
to mutter his anxieties and fears, his doubts and impatience, into the
ears of the least presuming of counsellors.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


The night was brilliantly clear, the stars shining with an excess of
lustre, with which Nathan would perhaps, at that moment, have gladly
dispensed, since it was by no means favourable to the achievement he was
now so daringly attempting. Fortunately, however, the Indian village lay,
for the most part, in the shadow of the hill, itself covered with
majestic maples and tulip-trees, that rose in dark and solemn masses
above it, and thus offered the concealment denied in the more open parts
of the valley. With Ralph still at his side, he crept round the
projecting corner of the hill, and, shrouded in its gloom, drew nigh the
village, wherein might be still occasionally heard the halloo of a
drunken savage, followed by an uproarious chorus of barking and howling
curs.

Whether it was that these sounds, or some gloomy forebodings of his own,
awoke the anxieties of Nathan, he did not deign to reveal; but, by and
by, having arrived within but a few paces of a wretched pile of skins and
boughs, the dwelling of some equally wretched and improvident barbarian,
he came to a sudden halt, and withdrawing the captain of horse-thieves
aside from the path, addressed him in the following terms:--

"Thee says, friend, thee has taken horses from this very Village, and
that thee knows it well?"

"As well," replied Ralph, "as I know the step-mothers on my own thumbs
and fingers,--I do, 'tarnal death to me,--that is to say, all the parts,
injacent and outjacent, circum-surrounding the boss-stamp; for thar's the
place of my visiting. The way to fetch it, old boy, is jist to fetch
round this h'yar old skin-pot, whar thar's a whole bee's-nest of young
papooses, the size of bull-toads,--from that, up--(I know it, 'cause how,
I heerd 'em squallin'; and thar war some one a lickin' 'em); or, if you
don't favour taking it so close to the skirmudgeons, then you must claw
up the knob h'yar, and then take and take the shoot, till you fetch right
among the hosses, whar you h'ar them whinnying down the holler; and
thar--"

"Friend," said Nathan, cutting him short, "it is on _thee_ doings, more
than on them of any others, that the hopes of the maid Edith--"

"Call her anngelliferous madam," said Ralph, "for I can't stand any
feller being familiar with her,--I can't, no how."

"Well, friend," said Nathan, "it is on thee doings that her escaping the
Shawnee villains this night depends. If thee does well, it may be we
shall both discover and carry her safe away from captivation: if thee
acts as a foolish imprudent man,--and, truly, friend, I have my fears of
thee,--thee will both fail to help her theeself, and prevent others doing
it, who, it may be, has the power."

"Old boy," said the captain of horse-thieves, with something like a gulp
of emotion, "you ar'n't respectable to a feller's feelings. But I'll
stand anything from you, 'cause how, you down'd my house in a fa'r
tussle, and you helped the captain thar that helped me out of trouble. If
you're atter ginning me a bit of wisdom, and all on madam's account, I'm
jist the gentleman that h'ars you. State the case, and h'yar stands I
confawmable."

"Well, friend," said Nathan, "what I have to advise thee is, that thee
stops where thee is, leaving the rest of this matter entirely to me;
seeing that, as thee knows nothing of this Injun village, excepting the
horse-pound thereof, it will not be safe for thee to enter. Do thee rest
where thee is, and I will spy out the place of the maiden's concealing."

"Old feller," said Captain Ralph, "you won't pretend you knows more of
the place than me? You don't go for to say you ever stole a hoss here?"

"Do thee be content, friend," said Nathan, "to know there is not a cabin
in all the village that is unbeknown to me: do thee be content with that.
Thee must not go near the pound, until thee knows for certain the maid
thee calls madam can be saved. Truly, friend, it may be we cannot help
her to-night, but may do so to-morrow night."

"I see what you're up to," said Ralph: "and thar's no denying it war a
natteral piece of nonsense to steal a hoss, afo' madam war ready to ride
him. And so, old Nathan, if it ar' your qualified opinion I'll sarve
madam better by snuggin' under a log, than by snuffin' atter her among
the cabins, I'm jist the gentleman to knock under, accordin' to reason."

This declaration seemed greatly to relieve the uneasiness of Nathan, who
recommending him to be as good as his word, and ensconce among some logs
lying near the path, awaiting the event of his own visit to the heart of
the village, immediately took his leave; though not with the timid and
skulking step of a spy. Wrapping his blanket about his shoulders, and
assuming the gait of a savage, he stalked boldly forwards; jingling under
his mantle the bundle of hawk's-bells which he carried in his hand, as if
actually to invite the observation of such barbarians as were yet moving
through the village.

But this stretch of audacity, as the listening horse-thief was at first
inclined to esteem it, was soon seen to have been adopted with a wise
foreknowledge of its effects in removing one of the first and greatest
difficulties in the wanderer's way. At the first cabin was a troop of
yelling curs, that seemed somewhat disturbed by the stranger's approach,
and disposed to contest his right of passing scot-free; but a jerk of the
bells settled the difficulty in a moment; and the animals, mute and
crest-fallen, slunk nastily away, as if expecting the crash of a tomahawk
about their ears, in the usual summary Indian way, to punish their
presumption in baying a warrior.

"A right-down natteral, fine conceit!" muttered Captain Ralph,
approvingly: "the next time I come a-grabbin' hosses, if I don't fetch a
bushel of the jinglers, I wish I may be kicked! Them thar Injun dogs is
always the devil."

In the meanwhile, Nathan, though proceeding with such apparent boldness,
and relying upon his disguise as all-sufficient to avert suspicion, was
by no means inclined to court any such dangers as could be really
avoided. If the light of a fire still burning in a wigwam, and watched by
wakeful habitants, shone too brightly from its door, he crept by with the
greatest circumspection; and he gave as wide a berth as possible to every
noisy straggler who yet roamed through the village.

There was indeed necessity for every precaution. It was evident, that the
village was by no means so destitute of defence as he had imagined,--that
the warriors of Wenonga had not generally obeyed the call that carried
the army of the tribes to Kentucky, but had remained in inglorious ease
and sloth in their own cabins. There was no other way, at least, of
accounting for the dozen or more male vagabonds, whom he found at
intervals stretched here before a fire, where they had been carousing in
the open air, and there lying asleep across the path, just where the
demon of good cheer had dropped them. Making his own inferences from
their appearance, and passing them with care, sometimes even, where their
slumbers seemed unsound, crawling by on his face, he succeeded at last in
reaching the central part of the village; where the presence of several
cabins of logs, humble enough in themselves, but far superior to the
ordinary hovels of an Indian village, indicated the abiding place of the
superiors of the clan, or of those apostate white men, renegades from the
States, traitors to their country and to civilisation, who were, at that
day, in so many instances, found uniting their fortunes with the Indians,
following, and even leading them, in their bloody incursions upon the
frontiers. To one of those cabins Nathan made his way with stealthy step;
and peeping through a chink in the logs, beheld a proof that here a
renegade had cast his lot, in the appearance of some half a dozen naked
children, of fairer hue than the savages, yet not so pale as those of his
own race, sleeping on mats round a fire, at which sat, nodding and
dozing, the dark-eyed Indian mother.

One brief, earnest look Nathan gave to this spectacle; then, stealing
away, he bent his steps towards a neighbouring cabin, which he approached
with even greater precautions than before. This was a hovel of logs, like
the other, but of still better construction, having the uncommon
convenience of a chimney, built of sticks and mud, through whose low wide
top ascended volumes of smoke, made ruddy by the glare of the flames
below. A cranny here also afforded the means of spying into the doings
within; and Nathan, who approached it with the precision of one not
unfamiliar with the premises, was not tardy to avail himself of its
advantages. Bare naked walls of logs, the interstices rudely stuffed with
moss and clay,--a few uncouth wooden stools,--a rough table,--a bed of
skins,--and implements of war and the chase hung in various places about
the room, all illuminated more brilliantly by the fire on the hearth than
by the miserable tallow candle, stuck in a lamp of humid clay, that
glimmered on the table,--were not the only objects to attract the
wanderer's eye. Sitting by the fire were two men, both white; though the
blanket and calico shirt of one, and the red shawl which he was just in
the act of removing from his brows, as Nathan peeped through the chink,
with an uncommon darkness of skin and hair, might have well made him pass
for an Indian. His figure was very tall, well proportioned, and athletic;
his visage manly, and even handsome; though the wrinkles of forty winters
furrowed deeply in his brows, and perhaps a certain repelling gleam, the
light of smothered passions shining from the eyes below, might have left
that merit questionable with the beholder.

The other was a smaller man, whom Roland, had he been present, would have
recognised as the supposed half-breed, who, at the partition of spoils,
after the capture of his party, and the defeat of the young Kentuckians,
had given him a prisoner into the hands of the three Piankeshaws,--in a
word, the renegade father of Telie Doe. Nor was his companion less
familiar to Nathan, who beheld in his sombre countenance the features of
that identical stranger, seen with Doe at the fire among the assailants
at the memorable ruin, whose appearance had awakened the first suspicion
that there was more in the attack than proceeded from ordinary causes.
This was a discovery well fitted to increase the interest, and sharpen
the curiosity, of the man of peace: who peering in upon the pair from the
chink, gave all his faculties to the duty of listening and observing. The
visage of Doe, dark and sullen at the best, was now peculiarly moody; and
he sat gazing into the fire, apparently regardless of his companion, who,
as he drew the shawl from his head, and threw it aside, muttered
something into Doe's ears, but in a voice too low for Nathan to
distinguish what he said. The whisper was repeated once and again, but
without seeming to produce any impression upon Doe's ears; at which the
other growing impatient, gave, to Nathan's great satisfaction, a louder
voice to his discourse:

"Hark, you, Jack,--Atkinson,--Doe,--Shanogenaw,--Rattlesnake,--or
whatever you may be pleased to call yourself," he cried, striking the
muser on the shoulder, "are you mad, drunk, or asleep? Get up, man, and
tell me, since you will tell me nothing else, what the devil you are
dreaming about?"

"Why, curse it," said the other, starting up somewhat in anger, but
draining, before he spoke, a deep draught from an earthen pitcher that
stood on the table,--"I was thinking, if you must know, about the
youngster, and the dog's death we have driven him to--Christian work for
Christian men, eh?"

"The fate of war!" exclaimed the renegade's companion, with great
composure; "we have won the battle, boy;--the defeated must bear the
consequences."

"Ondoubtedly," said Doe,--"up to the rack, fodder or no fodder: that's
the word; there's no 'scaping them consequences; they must be taken as
they come,--gantelope, fire-roasting, and all. But, I say, Dick--saving
your pardon for being familiar," he added, "there's the small matter to
be thought on in the case,--and that is, it was not Injuns, but rale
right-down Christian men that brought the younker to the tug. It's a bad
business for white men, and it makes me feel oncomfortable."

"Pooh," said the other, with an air of contemptuous commiseration, "you
are growing sentimental. This comes of listening to that confounded
whimpering Telie."

"No words agin the gal!" cried Doe, sternly; "you may say what you like
of me, for I'm a rascal that desarves it; but I'll stand no barking agin
the gal."

"Why, she's a good girl and a pretty girl,--too good and too pretty to
have so crusty a father,--and I have nothing against her, but her taking
on so about the younker, and so playing the devil with the wits and
good-looks of my own bargain."

"A dear bargain she is like to prove to all of us," said Doe, drowning
his anger, or remorse, in another draught from the pitcher. "She has cost
us eleven men already: it is well the bulk of the whelps was Wabash and
Maumee dogs, or you would have seen her killed and scalped, for all of
your guns and whisky,--you would, there's no two ways about it.
Howsomever, four of 'em was dogs of our own, and two of them was picked
off by the Jibbenainosay. I tell you what, Dick, I'm not the man to skear
at a raw-head-and-bloody-bones; but I do think the coming of this here
cursed Jibbenainosay among us, jist as we was nabbing the girl and
sodger, was as much as to say there was no good could come of it; and so
the Injuns thought too--you saw how hard it was to bring 'em up to the
scratch, when they found he had been knifing a feller right among 'em! I
do believe the crittur's Old Nick himself!"

"So don't I," said the other; "for it is quite unnatural to suppose the
devil would ever take part against his own children."

"Perhaps," said Doe, "you don't believe in the crittur?"

"Good Jack, honest Jack," replied his companion, "I am no such ass."

"Them that don't believe in hell, will natterly go agin the devil,"
muttered the renegade, with strong signs of disapprobation; and then
added earnestly,--"Look you, Squire, you're a man that knows more of
things than me, and the likes of me. You saw that 'ere Injun, dead, in
the woods under the tree, where the five scouters had left him a living
man?"

"Ay," said the man of the turban; "but he had been wounded by the
horseman you so madly suffered to pass the ambush at the ford, and was
obliged to stop from loss of blood and faintness. What so natural as to
suppose the younker fell upon him (we saw the tracks of the whole party
where the body lay), and slashed him in your devil's style, to take
advantage of the superstitious fear of the Indians?"

"There's nothing like being a lawyer, sartain!" grumbled Doe.
"But the warrior right among us, there at the ruin?--you seed him
yourself,--marked right in the thick of us! I reckon you won't say
the sodger, that we had there trapped up fast in the cabin, put the
cross on that Injun too?"

"Nothing more likely," said the sceptic;--"a stratagem a bold man might
easily execute in the dark."

"Well, Squire," said Doe, waxing impatient, "you may jist as well work it
out according to law that this same sodger younker, that never seed
Kentucky afore in his life, has been butchering Shawnees there, ay, and
in this d--d town too, for ten years agone. Ay, Dick, it's true, jist as
I tell you: there has been a dozen or more Injun warriors struck and
scalped in our very wigwams here, in the dead of the night, and nothing,
in the morning, but the mark of the Jibbenainosay to tell who was the
butcher. There's not a cussed warrior of them all that doesn't go to his
bed at night in fear; for none knows when the Jibbenainosay,--the Howl of
the Shawnees,--may be upon him. You must know, there was some bloody
piece of business done in times past (Injuns is the boys for them
things!)--the murdering of a knot of innocent people--by some of the
tribe, with the old villain Wenonga at the head of 'em. Ever since that,
the Jibbenainosay has been murdering among them; and they hold that it's
a judgment on the tribe, as ondoubtedly it is. And now, you see, that's
jist the reason why the old chief has turned such a vagabond; for the
tribe is rifled at him, because of his bringing such a devil on them, and
they won't follow him to battle no more, except some sich riff-raff,
vagabond rascals as them we picked up for this here rascality, no how.
And so, you see, it has a sort of set the old feller mad: he thinks of
nothing but the Jibbenainosay,--(that is, when he's sober, though, cuss
him, I believe it's all one when he's drunk, too.)--of hunting him up and
killing him, for he's jist a feller to fight the devil, there's no two
ways about it. It was because I told him we was going to the woods on
Salt, where the crittur abounds, and where he might get wind of him, that
he smashed his rum-keg, and agreed to go with us."

"Well, well," said Doe's associate, "this is idle talk. We have won the
victory, and must enjoy it. I must see the prize."

"What good can come of it?" demanded Doe, moodily: "the gal's half dead
and whole crazy,--or so Telie says. And as for your gitting any good-will
out of her, cuss me if I believe it. And Telie says--"

"That Telie will spoil all! I told you to keep the girl away from her."

"Well, and didn't I act accordin'? I told her I'd murder her, if she went
near her agin--a full-blooded, rale-grit rascal to talk so to my own
daughter, an't I? But I should like to know where's the good of keeping
the gal from her, since it's all she has for comfort?"

"And that is the very reason she must be kept away," said the stranger,
with a look malignly expressive of self-approving cunning: "there must be
no hope, no thought of security, no consciousness of sympathy, to make me
more trouble than I have had already. She must know where she is, and
what she is, a prisoner among wild savages: a little fright, a little
despair, and the work is over. You understand me, eh? There is a way of
bringing the devil himself to terms; and as for a woman, she is not much
more unmanageable. One week of terrors, real and imagined, does the work;
and then, my jolly Jack, you have won your wages."

"And I have desarved 'em," said Doe, striking his fist upon the table
with violence; "for I have made myself jist the d----dest rascal that was
ever made of a white man. Lying, and cheating, and perjuring, and
murdering--it's nothing better nor murder, that of giving up the younker
that never did harm to me or mine, to the Piankeshaws,--for they'll burn
him, they will, d--n 'em! there's no two ways about it.--There's what
I've done for you; and if you were to give me had the plunder, I reckon
'twould do no more than indamnify me for my rascality. And so, here's the
end on't;--you've made me a rascal, and you shall pay for it."

"It is the only thing the world ever does pay for," said the stranger,
with edifying coolness; "and so, don't be afflicted. To be a rascal is to
be a man of sense,--provided you are a rascal in a sensible way,--that
is, a profitable one."

"Ay," said Doe, "that's the doctrine you have been preaching ever since I
knowed you; and _you_ have made a fortun' by it. But as for me, though
I've toed the track after your own leading, I'm jist as poor as ever, and
ten times more despisable,--I am, d--n me; for I'm a white Injun, and
there's nothing more despisable. But here's the case," he added, working
himself into a rage,--"I won't be a rascla for nothing,--I'm sworn to it:
and this is a job you must pay for to the full vally, or you're none the
better on it."

"It will make your fortune," said his companion in iniquity: "there was
bad luck about us before; but all is now safe--The girl will make us
secure."

"I don't see into it a bit," said Doe, morosely: "you were secure enough
without her. The story of the other gal you know of gave you the grab on
the lands and vall'ables; and I don't see what's the good to come of this
here other one, no how."

"Then have you less brains, my jolly Jack, then I have given you credit
for," said the other. "The story you speak of is somewhat too flimsy to
serve us long. We must have a better claim to the lands than can come of
possession in trust for an heir not to be produced, till we can find the
way to Abraham's bosom. We have now obtained it: the younker, thanks to
your Piankeshaw cut-throats, is on the path to Paradise; the girl is left
alone, sole claimant, and heiress at law. In a word, Jack, I design to
marry her;--ay, faith will-she nill-she, I will marry her: and thereby,
besides gratifying certain private whims and humours not worth
mentioning, I will put the last finish to the scheme, and step into
the estate with a clear conscience."

"But the will, the cussed old will?" cried Doe. "You've got up a cry
about it, and there's them that won't let it drop so easy. What's an heir
at law agin a will? You take the gal back, and the cry is, 'Where's the
true gal, the major's daughter?' I reckon, you'll find you're jist got
yourself into a trap of your own making!"

"In that case," said the stranger, with a grin, "we must e'en act like
honest men, and find (after much hunting and rummaging, mind you!) the
major's _last_ will."

"But you burned it!" exclaimed Doe: "you told me so yourself."

"I told you so, Jack; but that was a little bit of innocent deception, to
make you easy. I told you so; but I kept it, to guard against accidents.
And here it is, Jack," added the speaker, drawing from amid the folds of
his blanket a roll of parchment, which he proceeded very deliberately to
spread upon the table: "The very difficulty you mention occurred to me; I
saw it would not do to raise the devil, without retaining the power to
lay him. Here then is the will, that settles the affair to your liking.
The girl and the younker are co-heirs together; but the latter dying
intestate, you understand, the whole falls into the lap of the former.
Are you easy now, honest Jack? Will this satisfy you all is safe?"

"It is jist the thing to an iota," ejaculated Doe, in whom the sight of
the parchment seemed to awaken cupidity and exultation together: "there's
no standing agin it in any court in Virginnee!"

"Right, my boy," said his associate. "But where is the girl? I must see
her."

"In the cabin with Wenonga's squaw, right over agin the Council-house,"
replied Doe; adding with animation, "but I'm agin your going nigh her,
till we settle up accounts jist as honestly as any two sich d--d rascals
can. I say, by G--, I must know how the book stands, and how I'm to
finger the snacks: for snacks is the word, or the bargain's no go."

"Well,--we can talk of this on the morrow."

"To-night's the time," said Doe: "there's nothing like having an honest
understanding of matters afore-hand. I'm not going to be cheated,--not
meaning no offence in saying so; and I've jist made up my mind to keep
the gal out of your way, till we've settled things to our liking."

"Spoken like a sensible rogue," said the stranger, with a voice all
frankness and approval, but with a lowering look of impatience, which
Nathan, who had watched the proceedings of the pair with equal amazement
and interest, could observe from the chink, though it was concealed from
Doe by the position of the speaker, who had risen from his stool, as if
to depart, but who now sat down again, to satisfy the fears of his
partner in villany. To this he immediately addressed himself, but in
tones lower than before, so that Nathan could no longer distinguish his
words.

But Nathan had heard enough. The conversation, as far as he had
distinguished it, chimed strangely in with all his own and Roland's
suspicions; there was, indeed, not a word uttered that did not confirm
them. The confessions of the stranger, vague and mysterious as they
seemed, tallied in all respects with Roland's account of the villanous
designs imputed to the hated Braxley; and it was no little additional
proof of his identity, that, in addressing Doe, whom he styled throughout
as Jack, he had, once at least, called him by the name of Atkinson,--a
refugee, whose connection with the conspiracy in Roland's story Nathan
had not forgotten. It was not, indeed, surprising that Abel Doe should
possess another name; since it was a common practice among renegades
like himself, from some sentiment of shame or other obvious reasons, to
assume an _alias_ and _nom de guerre_, under which they acquired their
notoriety: the only wonder was, that he should prove to be that person
whose agency in the abduction of Edith would, of all other men in the
world, go furthest to sustain the belief of Braxley being the principal
contriver of the outrage.

Such thoughts as these may have wandered through Nathan's mind; but he
took little time to con them over. He had made a discovery at that moment
of more stirring importance and interest. Allowing that Edith Forrester
was the prisoner of whom the disguised stranger and his sordid
confederate spoke, and there was little reason to doubt it, he had
learned, out of their own mouths, the place of her concealment, to
discover which was the object of his daring visit to the village. Her
prison-house was the wigwam of Wenonga, the chief,--if chief he could
still be called, whom the displeasure of his tribe had robbed of almost
every vestige of authority; and thither Nathan, to whom the vile
bargaining of the white-men no longer offered interest, supposing he
could even have overheard it, instantly determined to make his way.

But how was Nathan to know the cabin of the chief from the dozen other
hovels that surrounded the Council-house. That was a question which,
perhaps Nathan did not ask himself: for creeping softly from Doe's hut,
and turning into the street (if such could be called the irregular
winding space that separated the two lines of cabins composing the
village), he stole forward, with nothing of the hesitation or doubt which
might have been expected from one unfamiliar with the village.



CHAPTER XXIX.


While Nathan lay watching at the renegade's hut, there came a change over
the aspect of the night, little less favourable to his plans and hopes
than even the discovery of Edith's place of concealment, which he had so
fortunately made. The sky became suddenly overcast with clouds, and deep
darkness invested the Indian village; while gusts of wind, sweeping with
a moaning sound over the adjacent hills, and waking the forests from
their repose, came rushing over the village, whirring and fluttering
aloft like flights of the boding night-raven, or the more powerful bird
of prey that had given its name to the chieftain of the tribe.

In such darkness, and with the murmur of the blasts and the rustling of
boughs to drown the noise of his footsteps, Nathan no longer feared to
pursue his way; and rising boldly to his feet, drawing his blanket close
around him, and assuming, as before, the gait of a savage, he strode
forwards, and in less than a minute, was upon the public square,--if such
we may call it,--the vacant area in the centre of the village, where
stood the rude shed of bark and boughs, supported by a circular range of
posts, all open, except at top, to the weather, which custom had
dignified with the title of Council-house. The bounds of the square were
marked by clusters of cabins placed with happy contempt of order and
symmetry, and by trees and bushes that grew among and behind them,
particularly at the foot of the hill on one side, and, on the other,
along the borders of the river; which, in the pauses of the gusts, could
be heard sweeping hard by over a broken and pebbly channel. Patches of
bushes might even be seen growing in places on the square itself; and
here and there were a few tall trees, remnants of the old forest which
had once overshadowed the scene towering aloft, and sending forth on the
blast such spiritual murmurs, and wild oraculous whispers, as were wont,
in ancient days, to strike an awe through soothsayers and devotees in the
sacred groves of Dodona.

Through this square, looking solitude and desolation together, lay the
path of the spy; and he trode it without fear, although it offered an
obstruction that might well have daunted the zeal of one less crafty and
determined. In its centre, and near the Council-house, he discovered a
fire, now burning low, but still, as the breeze, time by time, fanned the
decaying embers into flame, sending forth light enough to reveal the
spectacle of at least a dozen savages stretched in slumber around it,
with as many ready rifles stacked round a post hard by. Their appearance,
without affrighting, greatly perplexed the man of peace; who, though at
first disposed to regard them as a kind of guard, to whom had been
committed the charge of the village and the peace of the community,
during the uproar and terrors of the debauch, found reason, upon more
mature inspection, to consider them a band from some neighbouring
village, perhaps an out-going war party, which, unluckily for himself,
had tarried at the village to share the hospitalities, and take part in
the revels, of its inhabitants. Thus, there was near the fire a huge heap
of dried corn-husks and prairie-grass, designed for a couch,--a kind of,
luxury which Nathan supposed the villagers would have scarce taken the
trouble to provide, unless for guests whose warlike pride and sense of
honour would not permit them to sleep under cover until they had struck
the enemy in his own country, and were returning victorious to their own;
and as a proof that they had shared as guests in all the excesses of
their hosts, but few of them were seen huddled together on the couch, the
majority lying about in such confusion and postures as could only have
been produced by the grossest indulgence.

Pausing awhile, but not deterred by the discovery of such undesirable
neighbours, Nathan easily avoided them by making the circuit of the
square; creeping along from tree to tree, and bush to bush, until he had
left the whole group on the rear, and arrived in the vicinity of a cabin,
which, from its appearance, might with propriety be supposed the dwelling
of the most distinguished demagogue of the tribe. It was a cottage of
logs very similar to those of the renegades, who had themselves, perhaps,
built it for the chief, whose favour it was so necessary to purchase by
every means in their power; but as it consisted of only a single room,
and that by no means spacious, the barbarian had seen fit to eke it out
by a brace of summer apartments, being tents of skins, which were pitched
at its ends like wings, and, perhaps, communicated directly with the
interior, though each had its own particular door of mats looking out
upon the square.

All these appearances Nathan could easily note, in occasional gleams from
the fire, which, falling upon the rude and misshapen lodge, revealed its
features obscurely to the eye. It bore an air of solitude that became the
dwelling of a chief. The soil around it, as if too sacred to be invaded
by the profane feet of the multitude, was left overgrown with weeds and
starveling bushes; and an ancient elm, rising among them, and flinging
its shadowy branches wide around, stood like a giant watchman, to repel
the gaze of the curious.

This solitude, these bushes through which he could crawl unobserved, and
the shadows of the tree, offering a concealment equally effectual and
inviting, were all circumstances in Nathan's favour; and giving one
backward glance to the fire on the square, and then fixing his eye on one
of the tents, in which, as the mat at the door shook in the breeze, he
could detect the glimmering of a light, and fancied he could even faintly
hear the murmur of voices, he crawled among the bushes, scarcely doubting
that he was now within but a few feet of the unhappy maid in whose
service he had toiled so long and so well.

But the path to the wigwam was not yet free from obstructions. He had
scarce pushed aside the first bush in his way, opening a vista into the
den of leaves, where he looked to find his best concealment, before a
flash of light from the fire, darting through the gap, and falling upon a
dark grim visage almost within reach of his hand, showed him that he
had stumbled unawares upon a sleeping savage,--a man that had evidently
staggered there in his drunkenness, and falling among the bushes, had
straightway given himself up to sottish repose.

For the first time, a thrill smote through the bosom of the spy; but it
was not wholly a thrill of dismay. There was little indeed in the
appearance of the wretched sleeper, at that moment, to inspire terror;
for apart from the condition of helpless impotence, to which his
ungovernable appetites had reduced him, he seemed to be entirely
unarmed,--at least Nathan could see neither knife nor tomahawk about him.
But there was that in the grim visage, withered with age, and seamed with
many a scar,--in the mutilated, but bony and still nervous hand lying on
the broad naked chest,--and in the recollections of the past they
recalled to Nathan's brain, which awoke a feeling not less exciting, if
less unworthy, than fear. In the first impulse of surprise, it is true,
he started backwards, and grovelled flat upon his face, as if to beat an
instant retreat in the only posture which could conceal him, if the
sleeper should have been disturbed by his approach. But the savage slept
on, drugged to stupefaction by many a deep and potent draught; and
Nathan, preserving his snake-like position only for a moment, rose slowly
upon his hands, and peered over again upon the unconscious barbarian.

But the bushes had closed again around him, and the glimmer of the dying
fire no longer fell upon the barbarian. With an audacity of daring that
marked the eagerness and intensity of his curiosity, Nathan with his
hands pushed the bushes aside, so as again to bring a gleam upon the
swarthy countenance; which he perused with such feelings as left him for
a time unconscious of the object of his enterprise, unconscious of
everything save the spectacle before him, the embodied representation of
features which events of former years had painted in indelible hues on
his remembrance. The face was that of a warrior, worn with years, and
covered with such scars as could be boasted only by one of the most
distinguished men of the tribe. Deep seams also marked the naked chest of
the sleeper; and there was something in the appearance of his garments of
dressed hides, which, though squalid enough, were garnished with
multitudes of silver brooches and tufts of human hair, with here and
there a broad Spanish dollar looped ostentatiously to the skin, to prove
he was anything but a common brave. To each ear was attached a string of
silver coins, strung together in regular gradation from the largest to
the smallest,--a profusion of wealth which could appertain only to a
chief. To prove, indeed, that he was no less, there was visible upon his
head, secured to the tiara, or _glory_, as it might be called (for such
is its figure) of badgers' hairs, which is so often found woven around
the scalp-lock of a North-western Indian, an ornament consisting of the
beaks and claws of a buzzard, and some dozen or more of its sable
feathers. These, as Nathan had previously told the soldier, were the
distinguishing badges of Wenonga, or the Black-Vulture (for so the name
is translated); and it was no less a man than Wenonga himself, the
oldest, most famous, and, at one time, the most powerful chief of his
tribe, who thus lay, a wretched, squalid sot, before the doors of his own
wigwam, which he had been unable to reach. Such was Wenonga; such were
many of the bravest and most distinguished of his truly unfortunate race,
who exchanged their lands, their fathers' graves, and the lives of their
people, for the doubtful celebrity which the white man is so easily
disposed to allow them.

The spy looked upon the face of the Indian; but there was none at hand
to gaze upon his own, to mark the hideous frown of hate, and the more
hideous grin of delight, that mingled on, and distorted his visage, as
he gloated, snake-like, over that of the chief. As he looked, he drew
from its sheath in his girdle his well-worn, but still bright and keen
knife,--which he poised in one hand, while feeling, with what seemed
extraordinary fearlessness or confidence of his prey, with the other
along the sleeper's naked breast, as if regardless how soon he might
wake. But Wenonga still slept on, though the hand of the white man lay
upon his ribs, and rose and fell with the throbs of his warlike heart.
The knife took the place of the hand, and one thrust would have driven it
through the organ that had never beaten with pity or remorse; and that
thrust Nathan, quivering through every fibre with nameless joy and
exultation, and forgetful of everything but his prey, was about to make.
He nerved his hand for the blow; but it trembled with eagerness. He
paused an instant, and before he could make a second effort, a voice from
the wigwam struck upon his ear, and the strength departed from his arm.
He staggered back, and awoke to consciousness; the sound was repeated; it
was the wail, of a female voice, and its mournful accents, coming to his
ear in an interval of the gust, struck a new feeling into his bosom. He
remembered the captive, and his errand of charity and mercy. He drew a
deep and painful breath, and muttering, but within the silent recesses of
his breast, "Thee shall not call to me in vain!" buried the knife softly
in its sheath. Then crawling silently away, and leaving the chief to his
slumbers, he crept through the bushes until he had reached the tent from
which the mourning voice proceeded. Still lying upon his face, he dragged
himself to the door, and looking under the corner of the mat that waved
before it in the wind, he saw at a glance that he had reached the goal of
his journey.

The tent was of an oval figure, and of no great extent; but being
lighted only by a fire burning dimly in the centre of its earthen floor,
and its frail walls darkened by smoke, the eye could scarcely penetrate
to its dusky extremity. It consisted, as has been said, of skins, which
were supported upon poles, wattled together like the framework of a
crate or basket; the poles of the opposite sides being kept asunder by
cross-pieces, which, at the common centre of intersection or radiation,
were themselves upheld by a stout wooden pillar. Upon this pillar, and on
the slender rafters, were laid or suspended sundry Indian utensils of the
kitchen and the field, wooden bowls, earthen pans and Irazen pots, guns,
hatchets, and fish-spears, with ears of corn, dried roots, smoked meats,
blankets and skins, and many articles that had perhaps been plundered
from the Long-knives, such as halters and bridles, hats, coats shawls,
and aprons, and other such gear; among which was conspicuous a bundle of
scalps, some of them with long female tresses, the proofs of the prowess
of a great warrior, who, like the other fighting-men of his race,
accounted the golden ringlets of a girl as noble a trophy of valour as
the grizzled locks of a veteran soldier.

On the floor of the tent, piled against its sides and farthest extremity,
was the raised platform of skins, with rude partitions and curtains of
mats, which formed the sleeping-couch, or, perhaps we might say, the
sleeping-apartments, of the lodge. But these were in a great measure
hidden under heaps of blankets, skins, and other trumpery articles, that
seemed to have been snatched in some sudden hurry from the floor, which
they had previously cumbered. In fact, there was every appearance that
the tent had been for a long time used as a kind of store-room, the
receptacle of a bandit's omnium-gatherum, and had been hastily prepared
for unexpected inmates. But these particulars, which he might have noted
at a glance, Nathan did not pause to survey. There were objects of
greater attractions for his eyes in a group of three female figures: in
one of whom, standing near the fire, and grasping the hands and garments
of a second, as if imploring pity or protection, her hair dishevelled,
her visage bloodless, her eyes wild with grief and terror, he beheld the
object of his perilous enterprise, the lovely and unhappy Edith
Forrester. Struggling in her grasp, as if to escape, yet weeping, and
uttering hurried expressions that were meant to soothe the agitation of
the captive, was the renegade's daughter, Telie, who seemed herself
little less terrified than the prisoner. The third person of the group
was an Indian beldam, old, withered, and witch-like, who sat crouching
over the fire, warming her skinny hands, and only intermitting her
employment occasionally to eye the more youthful pair with looks of
malignant hatred and suspicion.

The gale was still freshening, and the elm-boughs rustled loudly in the
wind; but Nathan could overhear every word of the captive, as, still
grasping Telie by the hand, she besought her, in the language of
desperation, "not to leave her, not to desert her, at such a moment;"
while Telie, shedding tears, which seemed to be equally those of shame
and sorrow, entreated her to fear nothing, and permit her to depart.

"They won't hurt you,--no, my father promised that," she said: "it is the
chief's house, and nobody will come nigh to hurt you. You are safe, lady;
but, oh! my father will kill me, if he finds me here."

"It was your father that caused it all!" cried Edith, with a vehement
change of feeling; "it was _he_ that betrayed us, _he_ that killed, oh!
killed my Roland! Go!--I hate you! Heaven will punish you for what you
have done; Heaven will never forgive the treachery and the murder--Go,
go! they will kill me, and then all will be well,--yes, all will be
well!"

But Telie, thus released, no longer sought to fly. She strove to obtain
and kiss the hand that repelled her, sobbing bitterly, and reiterating
her assurances that no harm was designed the maiden.

"No,--no harm! Do I not know it all?" exclaimed Edith, again giving
way to her fears, and grasping Telie's arm. "_You_ are not like your
father; if you betrayed me once, you will not betray me again. Stay with
me,--yes, stay with me, and I'll forgive you,--forgive you all. That
man--that dreadful man! I know him well: he will come--he has murdered my
cousin, and he is,--oh Heaven, how black a villain! Stay with me, Telie,
to protect me from that man; stay with me, and I'll forgive all you have
done."

It was with such wild entreaties Edith, agitated by an excitement that
seemed almost to have unsettled her brain, still urged Telie not to
abandon her; while Telie, repeating again and again her protestations
that no injury was designed or could happen, and that the old woman at
the fire was specially deputed to protect her, and would do so, begged to
be permitted to go, insisting, with every appearance of sincere alarm,
that her father would kill her if she remained,--that he had forbidden
her to come near the prisoner, which, nevertheless, she had secretly
done, and would do again, if she could this time avoid discovery.

But her protestations were of little avail in moving Edith to her
purpose; and it was only when the latter, worn out by suffering and
agitation, and sinking helpless on the couch at her feet, had no longer
the power to oppose her, that Telie hurriedly, yet with evident grief and
reluctance, tore herself away. She pressed the captive's hand to her
lips, bathed it in her tears, and then, with many a backward glance of
sorrow, stole from the lodge. Nathan crawled aside as she passed out, and
watching a moment until she had fled across the square, returned to his
place of observation. He looked again into the tent, and his heart smote
him with pity as he beheld the wretched Edith sitting in a stupor of
despair, her head sunk upon her breast, her hands clasped, her ashy lips
quivering, but uttering no articulate sound. "Thee prays Heaven to help
thee, poor maid!" he muttered to himself: "Heaven denied the prayer of
them that was as good and as lovely; but thee is not yet forsaken!"

He took his knife from its sheath, and turned his eyes upon the old hag,
who sat at the fire with her back partly towards him, but her eyes
fastened upon the captive, over whom they wandered with the fierce and
unappeasable malice, that was in those days seen rankling in the breast
of many an Indian mother, and expended upon prisoners at the stake with
a savage, nay, a demoniacal zeal that might have put warriors to shame.
In truth, the unlucky captive had always more to apprehend from the
squaws of a tribe than from its warriors; and _their_ cries for vengeance
often gave to the torture wretches whom even their cruel husbands were
inclined to spare.

With knife in hand, and murderous thoughts in his heart, Nathan raised a
corner of the mat, and glared for a moment upon the beldam. But the
feelings of the white-man prevailed; he hesitated, faltered, and dropping
the mat in its place, retreated silently from the door. Then restoring
his knife for a second time to its sheath, listening awhile to hear if
the drunken Wenonga yet stirred in his lair, and taking a survey of the
sleepers at the nearly extinguished fire, he crept away, retraced his
steps through the village, to the place where he had left the captain of
horse-thieves, whom,--to the shame of that worthy be it spoken,--he found
fast locked in the arms of Morpheus, and breathing such a melody from his
upturned nostrils as might have roused the whole village from its repose,
had not that been at least twice as sound and deep as his own.

"Tarnal death to me!" said he, rubbing his eyes when Nathan shook
him from his slumbers, "I war nigh gone in a dead snooze!--being as
how I ar'n't had a true reggelar mouthful of snortin' this h'yar
no-time,--considering I always took it with my hoptical peepers right
open. But, I say, Nathan, what's the last news from the abbregynes and
anngelliferous madam?"

"Give me one of thee halters," said Nathan, "and do thee observe now what
I have to say to thee."

"A halter!" cried Ralph, in dudgeon; "you ar'n't for doing all, and the
hoss-stealing too?"

"Friend," said Nathan, "with this halter I must bind one that sits in
watch over the maiden; and, truly, it is better it should be so, seeing
that these hands of mine have never been stained with the blood of
woman."

"And you have found my mistress?" said Ralph, in a rapture. "Jist call
the Captain, and let's be a doing!"

"He is a brave youth, and a youth of a mighty heart," said Nathan; "but
this is no work for them that has never seen the ways of an Injun
village. Now, friend, does thee hear me? The town is alive with
fighting-men, and there is a war-party of fourteen painted Wyandotts
sleeping on the Council-square. But don't thee be dismayed thereupon;
for, truly, these assassin creatures is all besotted with drink; and were
there with us but ten stout young men of Kentucky, I do truly believe we
could knock every murdering dog of an on the head, and nobody the wiser.
Does thee hear, friend? Do but thee own part in this endeavour well, and
we will save the young and tender maid thee calls madam. Take theeself to
the pound, which thee may do safely, by following the hill: pick out four
good horses, fleet and strong, and carry them safely away, going up the
valley,--mind, friend, thee must go _up_, as if thee was speeding thee
way to the Big Lake, instead of to Kentucky: then, when thee has ridden a
mile, thee may cross the brook, and follow the hills, till thee has
reached the hiding-place that we did spy from out upon this village. Thee
hears, friend? There thee will find the fair maid, Edith; which I will
straightway fetch out of her bondage. And, truly, it may be, I have
learned _that_, this night, which will make both her and the young man
thee calls Captain, which is a brave young man, both rich and happy. And
now, friend, thee has heard me; and thee must do thee duty."

"If I don't fetch her the beautifullest hoss that war ever seed in the
woods," said Ralph, "thar's no reason, except because the Injuns ar'n't
had good luck this year in grabbing! And I'll fetch him round up the
holler, jist as you say too, and round about till I strike the snuggery,
jist the same way; for thar's the way you show judgematical, and I'm
cl'ar of your way of thinking. And so now, h'yar's my fo'-paw, in token
thar's no two ways about me, Ralph Stackpole, a hoss to my friends, and a
niggur to them that sarves me!"

With these words, the two associates, equally zealous in the cause in
which they had embarked, parted, each to achieve his own particular share
of the adventure, in which they had left so little to be done by the
young Virginian.

But, as it happened, neither Roland's inclination nor fate was favourable
to his playing so insignificant a part in the undertaking. He had
remained in the place of concealment assigned him, tortured with
suspense, and racked by self-reproach, for more than an hour: until, his
impatience getting the better of his judgment, he resolved to creep
nigher the village, to ascertain, if possible, the state of affairs. He
had arrived within earshot of the pair, and without overhearing all, had
gathered enough of their conversation to convince him that Edith was at
last found, and that the blow was now to be struck for her deliverance.
His two associates separated before he could reach them; Ralph plunging
among the bushes that covered the hill, while Nathan, as before, stalked
boldly into the village. He called softly after the latter, to attract
his notice; but his voice was lost in the gusts sweeping along the hill;
and Nathan proceeded onwards, without heeding him. He hesitated a moment
whether to follow, or return to his station, where little Peter, more
obedient, or more prudent than himself, still lay, having resolutely
refused to stir at the soldier's invitation to accompany him; until
finally, surrendering his discretion to his anxiety, he resolved to
pursue after Nathan,--a measure of imprudence, if not of folly, which, at
a less exciting moment, no one would have been more ready to condemn than
himself. But the image of Edith in captivity, and perhaps of Braxley
standing by, the master of her fate, was impressed upon his heart, as if
pricked into it with daggers; and to remain longer at a distance, and in
inaction, was impossible. Imitating Nathan's mode of advance as well as
he could, guided by his dusky figure, and hoping soon to overtake him, he
pushed forward and was soon in the dreaded village.



CHAPTER XXX.


In the meanwhile, Edith sat in the tent abandoned to despair, her mind
not yet recovered from the stunning effect of her calamity, struggling
confusedly with images of blood and phantasms of fear, the dreary
recollections of the past mingling with the scarce less dreadful
anticipations of the future. Of the battle on the hill-side she
remembered nothing save the fall of her kinsman, shot down at her
feet,--all she had herself witnessed, and all she could believe; for
Telie Doe's assurances, contradicted in effect by her constant tears and
agitation, that he had been carried off to captivity like herself,
conveyed no conviction to her mind: from that moment, events were
pictured on her memory as the records of a feverish dream, including all
the incidents of her wild and hurried journey to the Indian village. But
with these broken and dream-like reminiscences, there were associated
recollections, vague, yet not the less terrifying, of a visage that had
haunted her presence by day and by night, throughout the whole journey,
watching, over her with the pertinacity of an evil genius; and which, as
her faculties woke slowly from their trance, assumed every moment a more
distinct and dreaded appearance in her imagination.

It was upon these hated features, seen side by side with the
blood-stained aspect of her kinsman, she now pondered in mingled grief
and terror; starting occasionally from the horror of her thoughts only to
be driven back to them again by the scowling eyes of the old crone; who,
still crouching over the fire, as if its warmth could never strike deep
enough into her frozen veins, watched every movement and every look with
the vigilance, and as it seemed, the viciousness of a serpent. No ray of
pity shone even for a moment from her forbidding, and even hideous
countenance; she offered no words, she made no signs, of sympathy; and,
as if to prove her hearty disregard, or profound contempt for the
prisoner's manifest distress, she by and by, to while the time, began to
drone out a succession of grunting sounds, such as make up a red-man's
melody, and such indeed as any village urchin can drum with his heels out
of an empty hogshead. The song, thus barbarously chanted, at first
startled and affrighted the captive; but its monotony had at last an
effect which the beldam was far from designing. It diverted the maiden's
mind in a measure from its own harassing thoughts, and thus introduced a
kind of composure where all had been before painful agitation. Nay, as
the sounds, which were at no time very loud, mingled with the piping of
the gale without and the rustling of the old elm at the door, they lost
their harshness, and were softened into a descant that was lulling to the
senses, and might, like a gentler nepenthe, have, in time, cheated the
over-weary mind to repose. Such, perhaps, was beginning to be its effect.
Edith ceased to bend upon the hag the wild, terrified looks that at first
rewarded the music; she sunk her head upon her bosom, and sat as if
gradually giving way to a lethargy of spirit, which, if not sleep, was
sleep's most beneficent substitute.

From this state of calm she was roused by the sudden cessation of the
music; and looking up, she beheld, with a renewal of all her alarms, a
tall man, standing before her, his face and figure both enveloped in the
folds of a huge blanket, from which, however, a pair of gleaming eyes
were seen riveted upon her own countenance. At the same time, she
observed that the old Indian woman had risen, and was stealing softly
from the apartment. Filled with terror, she would have rushed after the
hag, to claim her protection: but she was immediately arrested by the
visitor, who, seizing her by the arm firmly, yet with an air of respect,
and suffering his blanket to drop to the ground, displayed to her gaze
features that had long dwelt, its darkest phantoms, upon her mind. As he
seized her, he muttered, and still with an accent of the most earnest
respect,--"Fear me not, Edith; I am not yet an enemy."

His voice, though one of gentleness, and even of music, completed the
terrors of the captive, who trembled in his hand like a quail in the
clutches of a kite, and would, but for his grasp, as powerful to sustain
as to oppose, have fallen to the floor. Her lips quivered, but they gave
forth no sound; and her eyes were fastened upon his with a wildness and
intensity of glare that showed the fascination, the temporary
self-abandonment of her spirit.

"Fear me not, Edith Forrester," he repeated, with a voice even more
soothing than before: "You know me;--I am no savage;--I will do you no
harm."

"Yes,--yes,--yes," muttered Edith at last, but in the tones of an
automaton, they were, at first, so broken and inarticulate, though they
gathered force and vehemence as she spoke--"I know you,--yes, yes, I do
know you, and know you well. You are Richard Braxley,--the robber, and
now the persecutor of the orphan; and this hand that holds me is red with
the blood of my cousin. Oh, villain! villain! are you not yet content?"

"The prize is not yet won," replied the other, with a smile that seemed
intended to express his contempt of the maiden's invectives, and his
ability to forgive them: "I am indeed Richard Braxley,--the friend of
Edith Forrester, though she will not believe it,--a rough and self-willed
one, it may be, but still her true and unchangeable friend. Where will
she look for a better? Anger has not alienated, contempt has not
estranged me: injury and injustice still find me the same. I am still
Edith Forrester's friend; and such, in the sturdiness of my affection, I
will remain, whether my fair mistress will or no. But you are feeble and
agitated: sit down and listen to me. I have that to say which will
convince my thoughtless fair the day of disdain is now over."

All these expressions, though uttered with seeming blandness, were yet
accompanied by an air of decision and even command, as if the speaker
were conscious the maiden was fully in his power, and not unwilling she
should know it. But his attempt to make her resume her seat upon the pile
of skins from which she had so wildly started at his entrance, was
resisted by Edith; who, gathering courage from desperation, and shaking
his hand from her arm, as if snatching it from the embraces of a serpent,
replied with even energy,--"I will not sit down,--I will not listen to
you. Approach me not--touch me not. You are a villain and murderer, and
I loathe, oh! unspeakably loathe, your presence. Away from me, or--"

"Or," interrupted Braxley with the sneer of a naturally mean and
vindictive spirit, "you will cry for assistance! From whom do you expect
it? From wild, murderous, besotted Indians, who, if roused from their
drunken slumbers, would be more like to assail you with their hatchets
than to weep for your sorrows? Know, fair Edith, that you are now in
their hands;--that there is not one of them, who would not rather see
those golden tresses hung blackening in the smoke from the rafters of his
wigwam, than floating over the brows they adorn--Look aloft: there are
ringlets of young and fair, the innocent and tender, swinging above
you!--Learn, moreover, that from these dangerous friends there is none
who can protect you, save _me_. Ay, my beauteous Edith," he added, as the
captive, overcome by the representation of her perils so unscrupulously,
nay, so sternly made, sank almost fainting upon the pile, "it is even so;
and you must know it. It is needful you should know what you have to
expect, if you reject my protection. But that you will not reject; in
faith, you _cannot!_ The time has come, as I told you it would, when your
disdainful scruples--I speak plainly, fair Edith!--are to be at an end. I
swore to you--and it was when your scorn and unbelief were at the
highest--that you should yet smile upon the man you disdained, and smile
upon no other. It was a rough and uncouth threat for a lover; but my
mistress would have it so. It was a vow breathed in anger: but it was a
vow not meant to be broken. You tremble! I am cruel in my wooing; but
this is not the moment for compliment and deception. You are _mine_,
Edith: I swore it to myself--ay, and to you. You cannot escape. You have
driven me to extremities; but they have succeeded. You are mine; or you
are--nothing."

"Nothing let it be," said Edith, over whose mind, prone to agitation and
terror, it was evident the fierce and domineering temper of the
individual could exercise an irresistible control, and who, though yet
striving to resist, was visibly sinking before his stern looks and
menacing words;--"let it be nothing! Kill me, if you will, as you have
already killed my cousin. Oh! mockery of passion, of humanity, of
decency, to speak to me thus;--to _me_, the relative, the more than
sister of him you have so basely and cruelly murdered!"

"I have murdered no one," said Braxley, with stony composure: "and if you
will but listen patiently, you will find I am stained by no crime save
that of loving a woman who forces me to woo her like a master, rather
than a slave. Your cousin is living and in safety."

"It is false," cried Edith, wringing her hands; "with my own eyes I saw
him fall, and fall covered with blood!"

"And from that moment you saw nothing more," rejoined Braxley. "The blood
came from the veins of others; he was carried away alive, and almost
unhurt. He is a captive,--a captive like yourself. And why? Shall I
remind my fair Edith how much of her hostility and scorn I owed to her
hot and foolish kinsman? how he persuaded her the love she so naturally
bore so near a relative was reason enough to reject the affection of a
suitor? how impossible she should listen to the dictates of her own
heart, or the calls of her interest, while misled by a counsellor so
indiscreet, and yet so trusted? Before that unlucky young man stepped
between me and my love, Edith Forrester could listen,--ay, and could
smile. Nay, deny it if you will; but hearken. Your cousin is safe; rely
upon that; but, rely, also, he will never again see the home of his
birth, or the kinswoman whose fortunes he has so opposed, until she is
the wife of the man he misjudges and hates. He is removed from my path:
it was necessary to my hopes. His life is, at all events, safe; his
deliverance rests with his kinswoman. When she has plighted her troth,
and surely she _will_ plight it--"

"Never! never!" cried Edith, starting up, her indignation for a moment
getting the better of her fears: "with one so false and treacherous, so
unprincipled and ungrateful, so base and revengeful,--with such a man,
with such a villain, never! no, never!"

"I _am_ a villain indeed, Edith," said Braxley, but with exemplary
coolness; "all men are so. Good and evil are sown together in our
natures, and each has its season and its harvest. In this breast, as in
the breast of the worst and the noblest, Nature set, at birth, an angel
and a devil, either to be the governor of my actions, as either should be
best encouraged. If the devil be now at work, and have been for months,
it was because your scorn called him from his slumbers. Before that time
Edith, I was under the domination of my angel; who then called, or who
deemed me, a villain? Was I then a robber and persecutor of the orphan?
Am I _now_? Perhaps so,--but it is yourself that have made me so. For
you, I called up my evil genius to my aid; and my evil-genius aided me.
He bade me woo no longer like the turtle but strike like the falcon.
Through plots and stratagems, through storms and perils, through battle
and blood, I have pursued you, and I have conquered at last. The captive
of my sword and spear, you will spurn my love no longer; for, in truth,
you cannot. I came to the wilderness to seek an heiress for your uncle's
wealth; I have found her. But she returns to her inheritance the wife of
the seeker! In a word, my Edith,--for why should I, who am now the master
of your fate, forbear the style of a conqueror? why should I longer sue,
who have the power to command?--you are _mine_,--mine beyond the
influence of caprice or change,--mine beyond the hope of escape. This
village you will never leave but as a bride."

So spoke the bold wooer, elated by the consciousness of successful
villany, and perhaps convinced from long experience of the timorous, and
doubtless, feeble, character of the maid, that a haughty and overbearing
tone would produce an impression, however painful it might be to her,
more favourable to his hopes than the soft hypocrisy of sueing. He was
manifestly resolved to wring from her fears the consent not to be
obtained from her love. Nor had he miscalculated the power of such a
display of bold, unflinching energetic determination in awing, if not
bending, her youthful spirit. She seemed indeed, stunned, wholly
overpowered by his resolved and violent manner; and she had scarcely
strength to mutter the answer that rose to her lips:

"If it be so," she faltered out, "this village, then, I must never leave;
for here I will die, die even by the hands of barbarians, and die a
thousand times, ere I look upon you, base and cruel man, with any but the
eyes of detestation. I hated you ever,--I hate you yet."

"My fair mistress," said Braxley, with a sneer that might have well
become the lip of the devil he had pronounced the then ruler of his
breast, "knows not all the alternative. Death is a boon the savages may
bestow, when the whim takes them. But before that, they must show their
affection for their prisoner. There are many that can admire the bright
eyes and ruddy cheeks of the white maiden; and some one, doubtless, will
admit the stranger to a corner of his wigwam and his bosom! Ay, madam, I
will speak plainly,--it is as the wife of Richard Braxley or of a pagan
savage you go out of the tent of Wenonga. Or why go out of the tent of
Wenonga at all? Is Wenonga insensible to the beauty of his guest? The hag
that I drove from the fire, seemed already to see in her prisoner the
maid that was to rob her of her husband."

"Heaven help me!" exclaimed Edith, sinking again to her seat, wholly
overcome by the horrors it was the object of the wooer to accumulate on
her mind. He noted the effect of his threat, and stealing up, he took her
trembling, almost lifeless hand, adding, but in a softer voice,--

"Why will Edith drive one who adores her to these extremities? Let her
smile but as she smiled of yore, and all will yet be well. One smile
secures her deliverance from all that she dreads, her restoration to her
home and to happiness. With that smile, the angel again awakes in my
bosom, and all is love and tenderness."

"Heaven help me!" iterated the trembling girl, struggling to shake off
Braxley's hand. But she struggled feebly and in vain; and Braxley, in the
audacity of his belief that he had frightened her into a more reasonable
mood, proceeded the length of throwing an arm around his almost
insensible victim.

But heaven was not unmindful of the prayer of the desolate and helpless
maid. Scarce had his arm encircled the waist of the captive, when a pair
of arms, long and brawny, infolded his body as in the hug of an angry
bear, and in an instant he lay upon his back on the floor, a knee upon
his breast, a hand at his throat, and a knife, glittering blood-red in
the light of the fire, flourished within an inch of his eyes: while a
voice, subdued to a whisper, yet distinct as if uttered in tones of
thunder, muttered in his ear,--"Speak, and thee dies!"

The attack, so wholly unexpected, so sudden and so violent, was as
irresistible as astounding; and Braxley, unnerved by the surprise and by
fear, succumbing as to the stroke of an avenging angel, the protector of
innocence, whom his villany had conjured from the air, lay gasping upon
the earth without attempting the slightest resistance, while the
assailant, dropping his knife and producing a long cord of twisted
leather, proceeded, with inexpressible dexterity and speed, to bind his
limbs, which he did in a manner none the less effectual for being so
hasty. An instant sufficed to secure him hand and foot; in another, a gag
was clapped in his mouth and secured by a turn of the rope round his
neck; at the third, the conqueror, thrusting his hand into his bosom,
tore from it the stolen will, which he immediately after buried in his
own. Then, spurning the baffled villain into a corner, and flinging over
his body a pile of skins and blankets, until he was entirely hidden from
sight, he left him to the combined agonies of fear, darkness, and
suffocation.

Such was the rapidity, indeed, with which the whole affair was conducted,
that Braxley had scarce time to catch a glimpse of his assailant's
countenance; and that glimpse, without abating his terror, took but
little from his amazement. It was the countenance of an Indian,--or such
it seemed,--grimly and hideously painted over with figures of snakes,
lizards, skulls, and other savage devices, which were repeated upon the
arms, the half-naked bosom, and even the squalid shirt of the victor. One
glance, in the confusion and terror of the moment, Braxley gave to his
extraordinary foe; and then the mantles piled upon his body concealed all
objects from his eyes.

In the meanwhile, Edith, not less confounded, sat cowering with terror,
until the victor, having completed his task, sprang to her side,--a
movement, however, that only increased her dismay,--crying, with warning
gestures, "Fear not and speak not;--up and away!" when, perceiving she
recoiled from him with all her feeble strength, and was indeed unable to
rise, he caught her in his arms, muttering, "Thee is safe--thee friends
is nigh!" and bore her swiftly, yet noiselessly, from the tent.



CHAPTER XXXI.


The night was even darker than before, the fire of the Wyandotts on the
square had burned so low as no longer to send even a ray to the hut of
Wenonga, and the wind, though subsiding, still kept up a sufficient din
to drown the ordinary sound of footsteps. Under such favourable
circumstances, Nathan (for, as may be supposed, it was this faithful
friend who had snatched the forlorn Edith from the grasp of the betrayer)
stalked boldly from the hut, bearing the rescued maiden in his arms, and
little doubting that, having thus so successfully accomplished the first
and greatest step in the enterprise, he could now conclude it in safety,
if not with ease.

But there were perils yet to be encountered, which the man of peace had
not taken into anticipation, and which, indeed, would not have existed,
had his foreboding doubts of the propriety of admitting either of his
associates, and honest Stackpole especially, to a share of the exploit,
been suffered to influence his counsels to the exclusion of that worthy
but unlucky personage altogether. He had scarce stepped from the
tent-door before there arose on the sudden, and at no great distance from
the square over which he was hurrying his precious burden, a horrible
din,--a stamping, snorting, galloping and neighing of horses, as if a
dozen famished bears or wolves had suddenly made their way into the
Indian pinfold, carrying death and distraction into the whole herd. And
this alarming omen was almost instantly followed by an increase of all
the uproar, as if the animals had broken loose from the pound, and were
rushing, mad with terror, towards the centre of the village.

At the first outbreak of the tumult, Nathan had dropped immediately into
the bushes before the wigwam; but perceiving that the sounds increased,
and were actually drawing nigh, and that the sleepers were waking on the
square, he sprang again to his feet, and, flinging his blanket around
Edith, who was yet incapable of aiding herself, resolved to make a bold
effort to escape, while darkness and the confusion of the enemy
permitted. There was, in truth, not a moment to be lost. The slumbers of
the barbarians, proverbially light at all times, and readily broken even
when the stupor of intoxication has steeped their faculties, were not
proof against sounds at once so unusual and so uproarious. A sudden yell
of surprise, bursting from one point, was echoed by another, and another
voice; and, in a moment, the square resounded with these signals of
alarm, added to the wilder screams which some of them set up, of
"Long-knives! Long-knives!" as if the savages supposed themselves
suddenly beset by a whole army of charging Kentuckians.

It was at this moment of dismay and confusion, that Nathan rose from the
earth, and, all other paths being now cut off, darted across a corner of
the square towards the river, which was in a quarter opposite to that
whence the sounds came, in hopes to reach the alder-thicket on its banks,
before being observed. And this, perhaps, he would have succeeded in
reaching, had not Fortune, which seemed this night to give a loose to all
her fickleness, prepared a new and greater difficulty.

As he rose from the bushes, some savage, possessed of greater presence of
mind than his fellows, cast a decaying brand from the fire into the heap
of dried grass and maize-husks, designed for their couches, which,
bursting immediately into a furious flame, illuminated the whole square
and village, and revealed, as it was designed to do, the cause of the
wondrous uproar. A dozen or more horses were instantly seen galloping
into the square, followed by a larger and denser herd behind, all
agitated by terror, all plunging, rearing, prancing, and kicking, as if
possessed by a legion of evil spirits, though driven, as was made
apparent by the yells which the Indians set up on seeing him, by nothing
more than the agency of a human being.

At the first flash of the flames seizing upon the huge bed of straw, and
whirling up in the gust in a prodigious volume, Nathan gave up all for
lost, not doubting that he would be instantly seen and assailed. But the
spectacle of their horses dashing madly into the square, with the cause
of the tumult seen struggling among them, in the apparition of a white
man, sitting aloft, entangled inextricably in the thickest of the herd,
and evidently borne forward with no consent of his own, was metal more
attractive for Indian eyes; and Nathan perceived that he was not only
neglected in the confusion by all, but was likely to remain so, long
enough to enable him to put the thicket betwixt him and the danger of
discovery.

"The knave has endangered us, and to the value of the scalp on his own
foolish head;" muttered Nathan, his indignation speaking in a voice
louder than a whisper: "but, truly, he will pay the price: and, truly,
his loss is the maiden's redeeming!"

He darted forwards as he spoke; but his words had reached the ears of
one, who, cowering like himself among the weeds around Wenonga's hut, now
started suddenly forth, and displayed to his eyes the young Virginian,
who, rushing eagerly up, clasped the rescued captive in his arms,
crying,--"Forward now, for the love of Heaven! forward, forward!"

"Thee has ruined all!" cried Nathan, with bitter reproach, as Edith,
rousing from insensibility at the well known voice, opened her eyes upon
her kinsman, and, all unmindful of the place of meeting, unconscious of
everything but his presence--the presence of him whose supposed death
she had so long lamented,--sprang to his embrace with a cry of joy that
was heard over the whole square, a tone of happiness, pealing above the
rush of the winds and the uproar of men and animals. "Thee has ruined
all,--theeself and the maid! Save thee own life!"

With these words, Nathan strove to tear Edith from his grasp, to make one
more effort for her rescue; and Roland, yielding her to his superior
strength, and perceiving that a dozen Indians were running against them,
drew his tomahawk, and, with a self-devotion which marked his love, his
consciousness of error, and his heroism of character, waved Nathan away,
while he himself rushed, back upon the pursuers, not so much, however, in
the vain hope of disputing the path, as, by laying down his life on the
spot, to purchase one more hope of escape to his Edith.

The act, so unexpectedly, so audaciously bold, drew a shout of admiration
from throats which had before only uttered yells of fury: but it was
mingled with fierce laughter, as the savages, without hesitating at, or
indeed seeming at all to regard his menacing position, ran upon him in a
body, and avoiding the only blow they gave him the power to make, seized
and disarmed him,--a result that, notwithstanding his fierce and furious
struggles, was effected in less space than we have taken to describe it.
Then, leaving him in the hands of two of their number, who proceeded to
bind him securely, the others rushed after Nathan, who, though encumbered
by his burden, again inanimate, her arms clasped around his neck, as they
had been round that of her kinsman, made the most desperate exertions to
bear her off, seeming to regard her weight no more than if the burden had
been a cushion of thistle-down. He ran for a moment with astonishing
activity, leaping over bush and gully, where such crossed his path, with
such prodigious strength and suppleness of frame, as to the savages
appeared little short of miraculous; and, it is more than probable he
might have effected his escape, had he chosen to abandon the helpless
Edith. As it was, he, for a time, bade fair to make his retreat good. He
reached the low thicket that fringed the river, and one more step would
have found him in at least temporary security. But that step was never
to be taken. As he approached, two tall barbarians suddenly sprang from
the cover, where they had been taking their drunken slumbers; and,
responding with exulting whoops to the cries of the others, they leaped
forward to secure him. He turned aside, running downwards to where a
lonely wigwam, surrounded by trees, offered the concealment of its
shadow. But he turned too late; a dozen fierce wolf-like dogs, rushing
from the cabin, and emboldened by the cries of the pursuers, rushed
upon him, hanging to his skirts, and entangling his legs, rending and
tearing all the while, so that he could fly no longer. The Indians were
at his heels: their shouts were in his ears; their hands were almost
upon his shoulders. He stopped, and turning towards them with a gesture
and look of desperate defiance, and still more desperate hatred,
exclaimed,--"Here, devils! cut and hack! your time has come, and I am the
last of them!" And holding Edith at the length of his arm, he pulled open
his garment, as if to invite the death-stroke.

But his death, at least at that moment, was not sought after by the
Indians. They seized him, and, Edith being torn from his hands, dragged
him, with endless whoops, towards the fire, whither they had previously
borne the captured Roland, over whom, as over himself, they yelled their
triumph; while screams of rage from those who had clashed among the
horses after the daring white man who had been seen among them, and the
confusion that still prevailed, showed that _he_ also had fallen into
their hands.

The words of defiance which Nathan breathed at the moment of yielding,
were the last he uttered. Submitting passively to his fate, he was
dragged onwards by a dozen hands, a dozen voices around him vociferating
their surprise at his appearance even more energetically than the joy of
their triumph. His Indian habiliments and painted body evidently struck
them with astonishment, which increased as they drew nearer the fire, and
could better distinguish the extraordinary devices he had traced so
carefully on his breast and visage. Their looks of inquiry, their
questions jabbered freely in broken English as well as in their own
tongue, Nathan regarded no more than their taunts and menaces, replying
to these, as to all, only with a wild and haggard stare, which seemed to
awe several of the younger warriors, who began to exchange looks of
peculiar meaning. At last, as they drew nearer the fire, an old Indian
staggered among the group, who made way for him with a kind of respect,
as was, indeed, his due,--for he was no other than the old Black-Vulture
himself. Limping up to the prisoner, with as much ferocity as his
drunkenness would permit, he laid one hand upon his shoulder, and with
the other aimed a furious hatchet-blow at his head. The blow was arrested
by the renegade Doe, or Atkinson, who made his appearance at the same
time with Wenonga, and muttered some words in the Shawnee tongue, which
seemed meant to soothe the old man's fury.

"Me Injun-man!" said the chief, addressing his words to the prisoner, and
therefore in the prisoner's language,--"Me kill all white-man! Me
Wenonga: me drink white-mans blood! me no heart!" And to impress the
truth of his words on the prisoner's mind, he laid his right hand, from
which the axe had been removed, as well as his left, on Nathan's
shoulder, in which position supporting himself, he nodded and wagged his
head in the other's face, with as savage a look of malice as he could
infuse into his drunken features. To this the prisoner replied by bending
upon the chief a look more hideous than his own, and indeed so strangely
unnatural and revolting, with lips so retracted, features so distorted by
some nameless passion, and eyes gleaming with fires so wild and
unearthly, that even Wenonga, chief as he was, and then in no condition
to be daunted by anything, drew slowly back, removing his hands from the
prisoner's shoulder, who immediately fell down in horrible convulsions,
the foam flying from his lips, and his fingers clenching like spikes of
iron into the flesh of two Indians that had hold of him.

Taunts, questions, and whoops were heard no more among the captors, who
drew aside from their wretched prisoner, as if from the darkest of their
Manitoes, all looking on with unconcealed wonder and awe. The only
person, indeed, who seemed undismayed at the spectacle, was the renegade,
who, as Nathan shook and writhed in the fit, beheld the corner of a piece
of parchment projecting from the bosom of his shirt, and looking vastly
like that identical instrument he had seen but an hour or two before in
the hands of Braxley. Stooping down, and making as if he would have
raised the convulsed man in his arms, he drew the parchment from its
hiding-place, and, unobserved by the Indians, transferred it to a secret
place in his own garments. He then rose up, and stood like the rest,
looking upon the prisoner, until the fit had passed off, which it did in
but a few moments, Nathan starting to his feet, and looking around him in
the greatest wildness, as if, for a moment, not only unconscious of what
had befallen him, but even of his captivity.

But unconsciousness of the latter calamity was of no great duration, and
was dispelled by the old chief saying, but with looks of drunken respect,
that had succeeded his insane fury--"Me brudder great-medicine white-man!
great white-man medicine! Me Wenonga, great Injun-captain, great
kill-man-white-man, kill-all-man, man-man, squaw-man, little papoose-man!
Me make medicine-man brudder-man! Medicine-man tell Wenonga all
Jibbenainosay?--where find Jibbenainosay? How kill Jibbenainosay? kill
white-man's devil-man! Medicine-man tell Injun-man why medicine-man come
Injun town? steal Injun prisoner? steal Injun hoss? Me Wenonga,--me good
brudder medicine-man."

This gibberish, with which he seemed, besides expressing much new-born
good will, to intimate that his cause lay in the belief that the prisoner
was a great white conjuror, who could help him to a solution of sundry
interesting questions, the old chief pronounced with much solemnity and
suavity; and he betrayed an inclination to continue it, the captors of
Nathan standing by and looking on with vast and eager interest. But a
sudden and startling yell from the Indians who had charge of the young
Virginian, preceded by an exclamation from the renegade who had stolen
among them, upset the curiosity of the party,--or rather substituted a
new object for admiration, which set them all running towards the fire,
where Roland lay bound. The cause of the excitement was nothing less than
the discovery which Doe had just made, of the identity of the prisoner
with Roland Forrester, whom he had with his own hands delivered into
those of the merciless Piankeshaws, and whose escape from them and sudden
appearance in the Shawnee village were events just as wonderful to the
savages as the supposed powers of the white medicine-man, his associate.

But there was still a third prodigy to be wondered at. The third prisoner
was dragged from among the horses to the fire, where he was almost
immediately recognised by half a dozen different warriors, as the
redoubted and incorrigible horse-thief, Captain Stackpole. The wonderful
conjuror, and the wonderful young Long-knife, who was one moment a
captive in the hands of Piankeshaws on the banks of the Wabash, and, the
next, an invader of a Shawnee village in the valley of the Miami, were
both forgotten: the captain of horse-thieves was a much more wonderful
person,--or, at least, a much more important prize. His name was howled
aloud and in a moment became the theme of every tongue; and he was
instantly surrounded by every man in the village,--we may say, every
woman and child, too, for the alarm had brought the whole village into
the square; and the shrieks of triumph, the yells of unfeigned delight
with which all welcomed a prisoner so renowned and so detested, produced
an uproar ten times greater than that which gave the alarm.

It was indeed Stackpole, the zealous and unlucky slave of a mistress whom
it was his fate to injure and wrong in every attempt he made to serve
her; and who had brought himself and his associates to their present
bonds by merely toiling on the present occasion too hard in her service.
It seems,--for so he was used himself to tell the tale,--that he entered
the Indian pound with the resolution to fulfil Nathan's instructions to
the letter; and he accordingly selected four of the best animals of the
herd, which he succeeded in haltering without difficulty or noise. Had he
paused here, he might have retreated with his prizes without fear of
discovery. But the excellence of the opportunity,--the best he had ever
had in his life,--the excellence, too, of the horses, thirty or forty in
number, "the primest and beautifullest critturs," he averred, "what war
ever seed in a hoss-pound," with a notion which now suddenly beset his
grateful brain, namely, that by carrying off the whole herd he could
"make anngelliferous madam rich in the item of hoss-flesh," proved too
much for his philosophy and his judgment; and after holding a council of
war in his own mind, he came to a resolution "to steal the lot."

This being determined upon, he imitated the example of magnanimity lately
set him by Nathan, stripped off and converted his venerable wrap-rascal
into extemporary halters, and so made sure of half a dozen more of the
best horses; with which, and the four first selected, not doubting that
the remainder of the herd would readily follow at their heels, he crept
from the fold, to make his way up the valley, and round among the hills,
to the rendezvous. But that was a direction in which, as he soon learned
to his cost, neither the horses he had in hand, nor those that were to
follow in freedom, had the slightest inclination to go; and there
immediately ensued a struggle between the stealer and the stolen, which,
in the space of a minute or less, resulted in the whole herd making a
demonstration towards the centre of the village, whither they succeeded
both in carrying themselves and the vainly resisting horse-thief, who was
borne along on the backs of those he had haltered, like a land-bird on
the bosom of a torrent, incapable alike of resisting or escaping the
flood.

In this manner he was taken in a trap of his own making, as many a better
and wiser man of the world has been, and daily is; and it was no
melioration of his distress to think he had whelmed his associates in his
ruin, and defeated the best and last hopes of his benefactress. It was
with such feelings at his heart, that he was dragged up to the fire, to
be exulted over and scolded at as long as it should seem good to his
captors. But the latter, exhausted by the day's revels, and satisfied
with their victory, so complete and so bloodless, soon gave over
tormenting him, resolving, however, that he should be soundly beaten at
the gantelope on the morrow, for the especial gratification, and in
honour, of the Wyandott party, their guests.

This resolution being made, he was, like Roland and Nathan, led away
bound, each being bestowed in a different hut, where they were committed
to safer guards than had been appointed to watch over Edith; and, in an
hour after, the village was again wrapped in repose. The last to betake
themselves to their rest were Doe, and his confederate, Braxley, the
latter of whom had been released from his disagreeable bonds, when Edith
was carried back to the tent. It was while following Doe to his cabin,
that he discovered the loss of the precious document upon the possession
of which he had built so many stratagems, and so many hopes of success.
His agitation and confusion were so great at the time of Nathan's
assault, that he was wholly unaware it had been taken from him by this
assailant; and Doe, to whom its possession opened newer and bolder
prospects, and who had already formed a design for using it to his own
advantage, effected to believe that he had dropped it on the way, and
would easily recover it on the morrow, as no Indian could possibly
attach the least value to it.

Another subject of agitation to Braxley, was the reappearance of his
rival; who, however, Doe assured him, was "now as certainly a dead man,
as if twenty bullets had been driven through his body."--"He is in the
hands of the Old Vulture," said he, grimly, "and he will burn in fire
jist as sure as _we_ will, Dick Braxley, when the devil gits us!--that
is, unless we ourselves save him!"

"We, Jack!" said the other, with a laugh: "and yet who knows how the wind
may blow _you_? But an hour ago you were as remorseful over the lad's
supposed death as you are now apparently indifferent what befalls him."

"It is true," replied Doe, coolly: "but see the difference! When the
Piankeshaws were burning him,--or when I thought the dogs were at it,--it
was a death of _my_ making for him: it was _I_ that helped him to the
stake. But here the case is altered. He comes here on his own hook; the
Injuns catch him on his own hook; and, d--n them, they'll burn him on
his own hook! and so it's no matter of my consarning. There's the root of
it!"

This explanation satisfied his suspicious ally; and having conversed a
while longer on what appeared to them most wonderful and interesting in
the singular attempt at the rescue, the two retired to their repose.



CHAPTER XXXII.


The following day was one of unusual animation and bustle in the Indian
village, as the prisoners could distinguish even from their several
places of confinement, without, however, being sensible of the cause.
Prom sunrise until after mid-day, they heard, at intervals, volleys of
fire-arms shot off at the skirts of the town, which, being followed by
shrill halloos as from those who fired them, were immediately re-echoed
by all the throats in the village--men, women, children, and dogs uniting
in a clamour that was plainly the outpouring of savage exultation and
delight. It seemed as if parties of warriors, returning victorious from
the lands of the Long-knife, were, time after time, marching into and
through the village, proclaiming the success of their arms, and
exhibiting the trophies of their triumph. The hubbub increased, the
shouts became more frequent and multitudinous, and the village for a
second time seemed given up to the wildest and maddest revelry, to the
sway of unchained demons, or of men abandoned to all the horrible
impulses of lycanthropy.

During all this time, the young Virginian lay bound in a wigwam, guarded
by a brace of old warriors, who occasionally varied the tedium of
watching by stalking to the door, where, like yelping curs paying their
respects to passers-by, they up-lifted their voices and vented a yell or
two in testimony of their approbation of what was going on without. Now
and then, also, they even left the wigwam, but never for more than a few
moments at a time; when, having thus amused themselves, they would
return, squat themselves down by the prisoner's side, and proceed to
entertain him with sundry long-winded speeches in their own dialect, of
which, of course, he understood not a word. Wrapped in his own bitter
thoughts, baffled in his last hope, and now grown indifferent what might
befall him, he lay upon the earthen floor during the whole day, expecting
almost every moment to behold some of the shouting crew of the village
rush into the hovel and drag him away to the tortures which, at that
period, were so often the doom of the prisoner.

But the solitude of his prison-house was invaded only by his two old
jailers; and it was not until nightfall that he beheld a third human
countenance. At that period, Telie Doe stole trembling into the hut,
bringing him food, which she set before him, but with looks of deep grief
and deeper abasement, which he might have attributed to shame and remorse
for a part played in the scheme of captivity, had not all her actions
shown that, although acquainted with the meditated outrage, she was
sincerely desirous to avert it.

Her appearance awakened his dormant spirits, and recalled the memory of
his kinswoman, of whom he besought her to speak, though well aware she
could speak neither hope nor comfort. But scarce had Telie, more abashed
and more sorrowful at the question, opened her lips to reply, when one of
the old Indians interposed, with a frown of displeasure, and, taking her
by the arm, led her angrily to the door, where he waved her away, with
gestures that seemed to threaten a worse reception should she presume to
return.

Thus thwarted and driven back again upon his own reflections, Roland gave
himself up to despondency, awaiting with sullen indifference the fate
which he had no doubt was preparing for him. But he was doomed once more
to experience the agitations of hope, the tormentor not less than the
soother of existence.

Soon after nightfall, and when his mind was in a condition resembling the
hovel in which he lay--a cheerless ruin, lighted only by occasional
flickerings from a fire of spirit fast smouldering into ashes--he heard a
step enter the door, and, by and by, a jabbering debate commenced between
the newcomer and his guards, which resulted in the latter presently
leaving the cabin. The intruder then stepped up to the fire, which he
stirred into a flame; and seating himself full in its light, revealed,
somewhat to Roland's surprise, the form and visage of the renegade, Abel
Doe, whose acts on the hill-side had sufficiently impressed his
lineaments on the soldier's memory. He eyed the captive for awhile very
earnestly, but in deep silence, which Roland himself was the first to
break.

To the soldier, however, bent upon preserving the sullen equanimity which
was his best substitute for resignation, there was enough in the
appearance of this man to excite the fiercest emotions of indignation.
Others might have planned the villany which had brought ruin and misery
upon his head; but it was Doe who, for the bravo's price, and with the
bravo's baseness, had set the toils around him, and struck the blow.
It was, indeed, only through the agency of such an accomplice that
Braxley could have put his schemes into execution, or ventured even to
attempt them. The blood boiled in his veins as he surveyed the mercenary
and unprincipled hireling, and strove, though in vain, to rise upon his
fettered arms, to give energy to his words of denunciation.

"Villain!" he cried, "base, wretched, dastardly caitiff! have you come to
boast the fruits of your rascally crime?"

"Right, captain!" replied Doe, with a consenting nod of the head, "you
have nicked me on the right p'int: villain's the true word to begin on;
and, perhaps, 'twill be the one to end on: but that's as we shall
conclude about it, after we have talked the matter over."

"Begone, wretch,--trouble me not," said Roland, "I have nothing to say to
you, but to curse you."

"Well, I reckon that's natteral enough, too, that cussing of me," said
Doe, "seeing as how I've in a manner deserved it. But there's an end to
all things, even to cussing; and, may be, you'll jist take a jump the
other way, when the gall's over. A friend to-day, an enemy to-morrow, as
the saying is; and you may jist as well say it backwards; for, as things
turn up, I'm no sich blasted enemy, jist now, no-way no-how. I'm for
holding a peace talk, as the Injuns say, d--n 'em, burying the axe, and
taking a whiff or two at the kinnikinick of friendship. So cuss away, if
it will do you good; and I'll stand it. But as for being off, why I don't
mean it noway. I've got a bargain to strike with you, and it is jist a
matter to take the tiger-cat out of you,--it is, d--n it: and when you've
heard it, you'll be in no sich hurry to get rid of me. But, afore we
begin, I've jist got a matter to ax you: and that is,--how the h---- you
cleared the old Piankeshaw and his young uns?"

"If you have anything to propose to me," said Roland, smothering his
wrath as well as he could, though scarce hoping assistance or comfort of
any kind from the man who had done him so much injury, "propose it, and
be brief, and trouble me with no questions."

"Well now," said Doe, "a civil question might as well have a civil
answer! If you killed the old feller and the young-uns, you needn't be
ashamed of it; for cuss me, I think all the better of you for it; for
it's not every feller can kill three Injuns that has him in the tugs, by
no means no-how. But, I reckon, the ramscallions took to the liquor?
(Injuns will be Injuns, there's no two ways about it!) and you riz on
'em, and so paid 'em up scot and lot, according to their desarvings? You
couldn't have done a better thing to make me beholden: for, you see, I
had the giving of you up to 'em, and I felt bad,--I did, d--n me, for I
knew the butchers would burn you, if they got you to the Wabash--I did,
captain, and I had bad thoughts about it. But it was a cussed mad
notion of you, following us, it was, there's no denying! Howsomever,
I won't talk of that. I jist want to ax you where you picked up that
Injun-looking feller that was lugging off the gal, and what his natur'?
The Injuns say, he's a conjuror: now I never heerd of conjurors among
the whites, like as among the Injuns, afore I cut loose from 'em, and I'm
cur'ous on the subject!--I jist ax you a civil question, and I don't mean
no harm in it. There's nobody can make the feller out; and, as for Ralph
Stackpole, blast him, he says he never seed the crittur afore in his
life!"

"If you would have me answer _your_ question," said Roland, in whom Doe's
discourse was beginning to stir up many a former feeling, "you must first
answer mine. This person you speak of,--what is to be his fate?"

"Why, burning, I reckon: but that's according as he pleases the old
Vulture: for, if he can find out what never an Injun Medicine has been
able to do, it may be, the old chief will feed him up and make him his
conjuror. They say, he's conjuring with the crittur now."

"And Stackpole, what will they do with him?"

"Burn him, sartin! They're jist waiting till the warriors come in from
the Licking, where, you must know, they have taken a hundred scalps, or
so, at one grab: and then the feller will roast beyond all mention."

"And I, too," said the Virginian, with such calmness us he could, "I,
too, am to meet the same fate?"

"Most ondoubtedly," said Doe, with an ominous nod of assent. "There's
them among us that speak well of you, as having heart enough to be made
an Injun: but there's them that have sworn you shall burn; and burn you
_must!_--That is, onless--" But he was interrupted by Roland, exclaiming
hurriedly,--

"There is but one more to speak of--my cousin? my poor friendless
cousin?"

"There," said Doe, "you needn't be afeard of burning, by no means
whatsomever. We didn't catch the gal to make a roast of. She is safe
enough; there's one that will take care of her."

"And that one is the villain Braxley! Oh, knave that you are, could you
have the heart,--you who have a daughter of your own, could you have
committed _her_ into the arms of such a villain?"

"No, by G----, I couldn't!" said Doe, with great earnestness: "but
another man's daughter is quite another thing. Howsomever, you needn't
take on for nothing; for he means to marry her and take her safe back to
Virginny: and, you see, I bargained with him agin all rascality; for I
had a gal of my own, and I couldn't think of his playing foul with the
poor creatur'. No, we had an understanding about all that, when we was
waiting for you on old Salt. All Dick wants is jist a wife that will help
him to them lands of the old major. And that, you see, is jist the whole
reason of our making the grab on you."

"You confess it, then!" cried Roland, too much excited by the bitterest
of passions to be surprised at the singular communicativeness of his
visitor: "you sold yourself to the villain for gold! for gold you
hesitated not to sacrifice the happiness of one victim of his passions,
the life of another! Oh, basest of all that bear the name of man, how
could you do this villany?"

"Because," replied Doe, with as much apparent sincerity as emphasis,
"because I am a d--d rascal: there's no sort of doubt about it; and we
won't be tender the way we talk of it. I was an honest man once, captain,
but I am a rascal now; warp and woof, skin-deep and heart-deep, ay, to
the bones and marrow,--I am all the way a rascal! But don't look as if
you was astonished already. I come to make a clean breast of all sorts of
matters, jist, captain, for a little bit of your advantage and my own:
and there's things coming that will make you look a leetle of a sight
wilder! And, first and foremost, to begin. Have you any particular
longing to be out of this here Injun town, and well shut of the d--d fire
torture?"

"Have I any desire to be free! Mad question!"

"Well, captain, I'm jist the man, and the only one, that can help you;
for them that would, can't, and them that can, won't. And, secondly and
lastly, captain, as the parsons say in the settlements, have you any
hankering to be the master of the old major, your uncle's lands and
houses?"

"If you come to mock and torture me,"--said Roland, but was interrupted
by the renegade.

"It is jist to save you from the torture," said he, "that I'm now
speaking; for, cuss me, the more I think of it, the more I can't stand it
no-how. I'm a rascal, captain, but I'm no tiger-cat, especially to them
that hasn't misused me, and there's the grit of a man about you that
strikes my feelings exactly. But, you see, captain, there's a bargain
first to be struck between us, afore I comes up to the rack--but I'll
make tarms easy."

"Make them what you will, and But, alas! where shall I find means to
repay you? I who am robbed of everything?"

"Didn't I say I could help you to the major's lands and houses? and a'n't
they a fortun' for an emperor?"

"You! _you_ help me? help me to _them_?"

"Captain," said the renegade, with sundry emphatic nods of the head, "I'm
a sight more of a rascal than you ever dreamed on! and this snapping of
you up by Injun deviltry, that you think so hard of, is but a small part
of my misdoings: I've been slaving agin you this sixteen years, more of
less, _slaving_ (that's the word, for I made a niggur of myself) to rob
you of these here very lands that I'm now thinking of helping you to! You
don't believe me, captain! Well, did you ever hear of a certain honest
feller of old Augusta, called John Atkinson?"

"Hah!" cried the soldier, looking with new eyes upon the renegade; "you
are then the fellow upon whose perjured testimony Braxley relied to
sustain his frauds?"

"The identical same man, John Atkinson, or Jack, as they used to call me;
but now Abel Doe, for convenience sake," said the refugee, with great
composure; "and so, now, you can see into the whole matter. It was _me_
that had the keeping of the major's daughter that you knows of. Well,
I was an honest feller in them days, I was, captain, by G----!" repeated
the fellow with something that sounded like remorseful utterance, "and
jist as contented in my cabin on the mountain as the old major himself in
his big house at Felhallow. But Dick Braxley came, d--n him, and there
was an end of all honest doings: for Dick was high with the old major,
and the major was agin his brothers; and says Dick, says he, 'Put but
this little gal,'--meaning the major's daughter,--'out of the way and I'm
jist as good as the major's heir; and I'll make your fortun'"--

"Ay! and it was _he_ then, the villain himself," cried Roland, "who
devised this horrible iniquity, which, by innuendo at least, he charged
upon my father!--You are a rascal indeed! And you murdered the poor
child?"

"Murdered! No, rat it, there was no murdering in the case: it was jist
hiding in a hole, as you may call it. We burned down the wigwam, and made
on as if the gal was burned in it; and then I stumped off to the Injun
border, among them that didn't know me, and according to Dick's advice,
helped myself to another name, and jist passed off the gal for my own
daughter."

"Your own daughter!" cried Roland, starting half up, but being unable to
rise on account of his bonds: "the story then is true! and Telie Doe is
my uncle's child, the lost heiress?"

"Well, supposing she is?" said Atkinson, "I reckon you'd not be exactly
the man to help her to her rights?"

"Ay, by Heaven, but I would though!" said Roland, "if rights they be. If
my uncle, upon knowledge that she was still alive, thought fit to alter
his intentions with regard to Edith and myself, he would have found none
more ready to acknowledge the poor girl's claims than ourselves, none
more ready to befriend and assist her."

"Well! there's all the difference between being an honest feller and a
rascal!" muttered Atkinson, casting his eyes upon the fire, which he fell
to studying for a moment with great earnestness. Then starting up
hastily, and turning to the prisoner he exclaimed--

"There's not a better gal in the etarnal world! You don't know it,
captain; but that Telie, that poor critter that's afeard of her own
shadow, did run all risks, and play all manner of fool's tricks, to save
you from this identical same captivation; and the night you was sleeping
at Bruce's fort, and we waiting for you at the ford, she cried, and
begged, and prayed that I would do you no more mischief; and, cuss her,
she threatened to tell you and Bruce, there, the whole affair of the
ambush; till I scared her with my tomahawk, like a d----d rascal as I am
(but there's nothing will fetch her round but fear of murdering); and so
swore her to keep silence. And then, captain, her running away after you
in the woods,--why, it was jist to circumvent us,--to lead you to the
t'other old road, and so save you; it was, captain, and she owned it: and
if you'd a' taken to her leading, as she axed you, she'd 'a' got you out
of the snarl altogether. Howsomever, captain," he continued, after making
those admissions, which solved all the enigmas of Telie's conduct, "I
won't lie in this matter no-how. The gal is no gal of the major's, but
my own flesh and blood: the major's little critter sickened on the
border, and died off in less than a year; and so there was all our
rascally burning and lying for nothing; for, if we had waited a while,
the poor thing would have died of her own accord. Well, captain, I'm
making a long story about nothing: but the short of it is, I didn't make
a bit of a fortun' at all, but fell into troubles; and the end was, I
turned Injun, jist as you see me; and a feller there, Tom Bruce, took to
my little gal out of charity; and so she was bred up a beggar's brat,
with everybody a jeering of her, because of her d----d rascally father.
And, you see, this made a wolf of me; for I couldn't bring her among the
Injuns, to marry her to a cussed niggur of a savage,--no, captain, I
couldn't; for she's my own natteral flesh and blood, and, captain, I love
her! And so I goes back to Virginny, to see what Braxley could do for
her; and there, d----n him, he puts me up to a new rascality; which was
nothing less than setting up my gal for the major's daughter, and making
her a great heiress, and marrying of her. Howsomever, this wouldn't do,
this marrying; for, first, Dick Braxley was a bigger rascal than myself,
and it was agin my conscience to give him the gal, who was a good gal,
deserving of an honest husband; and, next the feller was mad after young
madam, and there was no telling how soon he might p'ison my gal, to
marry the other. And so we couldn't fix the thing then to our liking, no
way; but by and by we did. For when the major died, he sends for me in a
way I told him of; and here's jist the whole of our rascality. We was, in
the first place, jist to kill you off--"

"To kill me, villain!" cried Roland, whose interest was already excited
to the highest pitch by the renegade's story.

"Not exactly with our own hands; for I bargained agin that: but it was
agreed you should be put out of the way of ever returning agin to
Virginny. Well, captain, Dick was then to marry the young lady; and then
jist step into the major's estate by virtue of the major's will,--the
second one you must know, which Dick took good care to hide away,
pretending to suppose the major had destroyed it."

"And that will," exclaimed Roland, "the villain, the unparalleled villain
is still possessed of!"

"No, rat him,--the devil has turned upon him at last, and it is in better
hands!" said Atkinson; and without more ado, he drew the instrument from
his bosom and unfolded it before Roland's astonished eyes. "Read it,"
said Doe, with exulting voice: "I can make nothing of the cursed
pot-hooks myself, having never been able to stand the flogging of a
school-house; but I know the fixings of it, the whole estate devised
equally to you and the young woman, to be divided according as you may
agree of yourselves, a monstrous silly way, that; but there's no helping
it."

And holding it before the Virginian, in the light of the fire, the latter
satisfied himself at a glance that Atkinson had truly reported its
contents. It was written with his uncle's own hand, briefly but clearly;
and while manifesting throughout, the greatest affection on the part of
the testator toward his orphan niece, it contained no expressions
indicative either of ill-will to his nephew or disapprobation of the part
the young man had chosen to play in the great drama of revolution. And
this was the more remarkable as it was dated at a period soon after
Roland had so wilfully, or patriotically, fled to fight the battles of
his country, and when it might have been supposed the stern old
loyalist's anger was at its height. A better and more grateful proof that
the young man had neither lost his regard nor confidence, was shown in a
final codicil, dated in the year of Roland's majority, in which he was
associated with Braxley as executor, the latter worthy having been
made to figure in that capacity alone, in the body of the will.

"This is indeed a discovery!" cried Roland, with the agitation of joy and
hope. "Cut my bonds, deliver me, with my cousin and companions,--and the
best farm in the manor shall reward you:--nay, you shall fix your own
terms for your daughter and yourself."

"Exactly," said Atkinson, who, although the prisoner was carefully bound,
exhibited a jealous disinclination to let the will come near his hands,
and now restored it carefully to his own bosom; "we must talk over that
matter of tarms, jist to avoid mistakes. And to begin, captain, I will
jist observe, as before, that if you don't take my offer, and close with
me hard and fast, you will roast at an Injun stake jist as sartainly as
you are now snugging by an Injun fire; you will, d----n me, there's no
two ways about it!"

"The terms, the terms?" cried Roland, eagerly: "name them; I will not
dispute them."

But the renegade was in no such hurry.

"You see," said he, "I'm a d----d rascal, as I said; and in this matter,
I am just as much a rascal as before, for I'm playing foul with Braxley,
having bargained to work out the whole thing in his sarvice. Howsomever,
there is a kind of fair play in cheating _him_, seeing it was him that
made a rascal of me. And moresomever, I have my doubts of him, and
there's no way I can hold him up to a bargain. And, lastly, captain, I
don't see how he can be of any sarvice to my gal! He can't marry her if
he would; and if he could, he shouldn't have her; and as for leaving her
to his tender mercies, I would jist as soon think of hunting her up
quarters in a bear's den. And as for keeping her among these d----d
brutes, the Injuns--for brutes they are captain, there's no denying it--"

"Why need you speak of it more? I will find her a home and protection,--a
home and protection for both of you."

"As for _me_, captain, thanking' you for the favour, you won't do me no
sich thing, seeing as how I don't look for it. There's two or three small
matters agin me in the Settlements, which it is no notion of mine to
bring up for reckoning. The gal's the crittur to be protected; and I'll
take my pay out chiefly in the good you do to her; and for the small
matters, not meaning no offence, I can trust best to her; for she's my
daughter, and she won't cheat me. Now, captain, a better gal than
Telie--her true name's Matilda, but she never heard anything of it but
Telie--a better gal was never seen in the woods, for all she's young and
timorsome; and it's jist my notion and my desire, that, whatever may
become of me, nothing but good shall become of her. And now, captain,
here's my tarms; I'll cut you loose from Injun tugs and Injun fires,
carry you safe to the Settlements, and give you this here precious
sheepskin,--which is jist as much as saying I'll make you the richest
man, in farms, flocks, and niggurs, in all Virginny; and you shall marry
the gal, and make a lady of her!"

"Marry her!" cried Roland, in amazement and consternation,--"marry her!"

"Ay, captain! that's the word," said Atkinson: "I have an idea you'll
make her a good husband, for you're an honest feller, and a brave
one--I'll say that for you; and she'll make you a good wife, or I'll give
you my scalp on it. I reckon the crittur has a liking for you already;
for I never did see any body so beg, and plead, and take on for mortal
feller. Marry her's the tarms; and, I reckon, you'll allow, they're easy
ones?"

"My good friend, you are surely jesting!" said the Virginian. "I will do
for her whatever you can wish, or demand. The best farm in the whole
estate shall be hers, and the protection of my kinswoman will be
cheerfully and gratefully granted."

"As for jesting, captain," said the renegade, with a lowering brow,
"there's not one particle of it about me, from top to toe. I offer you a
bargain that has all the good on your side; and I reckoned you'd 'a'
jumped at it with a whole hoss-load of thank'ees. I offer you a gal
that's the best gal in the whole eternal wood; and I reckon you may count
all that this here sheepskin will bring you as jist so much dowry of my
giving. A'n't that making tarms easy?--for, as for the small matters for
myself, them is things I will come upon the gal for, without troubling
you for 'em. Now you see, captain, I'll 'jist argue the matter. You may
reckon it strange I should make you such an offer; and ondoubtedly, so it
is. But here's the case. First, captain, I'm agin burning you; it makes.
me oneasy, to think of it--for you ha'n't done me no harm, and you're a
young feller of the rale Virginny grit, jist after my own heart, and I
takes to you. And, next, captain, there's the gal--a good gal, captain,
that's desarving of all I can do for her, and a heap more. But, captain,
what's to become of the crittur when I'am done for? You see, some of
these cussed Injuns--or it may be the white men, for they're all agin
me--will take the scalp off me some day, sooner or later, there's no two
ways about it. Well, then, what's to become of the poor gal, that ha'n't
no friend in the big world to care for her? Now, you see, I'm thinking of
the gal, and I'm making the bargain for her; and I made it in my own mind
jist the minute I seed you were a captive among us, and laid my hand on
this here will. Said I to myself, 'I'll save the youngster, and I'll
marry my gal to him, and there's jist two good things I'll do for the
pair of 'em!' And so, captain, there's exactly the end of it. If you'll
take the gal, you shall have her, and you'll make three different
critturs greatly beholden to you:--first, the gal, who's a good gal, and
a comely gal, and will love and honor you jist as hard as the best madam
in the land; next, myself, that am her father, and longs to give her to
an honest feller, that won't misuse her, and, last, your own partickelar
self;--for the taking of her is exactly the only way you have of gitting
hack the old major's lands, and what I hold to be jist as agreeable,
dragging clear of a hot Injun fire that will roast you to cinders if you
remain in this d--d village two days longer!"

"My friend," cried Roland, driven to desperation, for he perceived
Atkinson was making his extraordinary proposal in perfectly good faith
and simplicity, as a regular matter of matter of business, "you know not
what you ask. Free me and my kinswoman--"

"As for young madam there," interrupted the renegade, "don't be at all
oneasy. She's in good hands, I tell you; and Braxley'll fetch her
straight off to Virginny as soon as he has brought her to reason."

"And your terms," said Roland, smothering his fury as he could, "imply an
understanding that my cousin is to be surrendered to him?"

"Ondoubtedly," replied Doe; "there's no two ways about it. I work on my
own hook, in the matter of the fortun'--'cause how, Dick's not to be
trusted where the play's all in his own hands; but as for cheating him
out of the gal, there's no manner of good can come of it, and it's clear
agin my own interest. No, captain, here's the case; you takes my gal
Telie, and Braxley takes the t'other; and so it's all settled fair
between you."

"Hark you, rascal!" cried Roland, giving way to his feelings; "if you
would deserve a reward, you must win it, not by saving _me_, but my
cousin. My own life I would buy at the price of half the lands which that
will makes me master of--for the rescue of Edith from the vile Braxley I
would give _all_. Save her--save her from Braxley--and then ask me what
you will."

"Well," said Atkinson, "and you'll marry my gal?"

"Death and furies! are you besotted? I will enrich her--ay, with the best
of my estate--with all--she shall have it all."

"And you won't have her, then?" cried the renegade, starting up in anger:
"you don't think her good enough for you, because you're of a great
quality stock, and she's come of nothing but me, John Atkinson, a plain
back-woods feller? Or mayhap," he added, more temperately, "you're agin
taking her because of my being sich a d--d notorious rascal? Well, now, I
reckon that's a thing nobody will know of in Virginny, unless you should
tell it yourself. You can jist call her Telie Jones, or Telie Small, or
any nickname of that natur', and nobody'll be the wiser; and I shall jist
say nothing about it myself--I won't, captain, d--n me; for it's the
gal's good I'm hunting after, and none of my own."

"You are mad, I tell you," cried the soldier. "Fix your own terms for
her: I will execute any instrument, I will give you any bond--"

"None of your cussed bonds for me," said Doe, with great contempt; "I
knows the worth of 'em, and I'm jist lawyer enough to see how you could
git out of 'em, by swearing they were written under compulsion, or
whatsomever you call it. And, besides, who's to stop your cheating the
gal that has nobody to take care of her, when you gits her in Virginny,
where I darn't follow her? No, captain, there's jist but the one way to
make all safe and fair; and that's by marrying her. So marry her,
captain; and jist to be short, captain, you must marry her or burn,
there's no two ways about it. I make you the last offer; there's no time
for another; for to-morrow you must be help'd off, or it's too late for
you. Come, captain, jist say the word--marry the gal, and I'll save you."

"You are mad, I tell you again. Marry her I neither can nor will. But--"

"There's no occasion for more," interrupted Doe, starting angrily up.
"You've jist said the word, and that's enough. And now, captain, when you
come to the stake, don't say _I_ brought you there: no, d--n it,
don't--for I've done jist all I could do to help you to life and
fortun'--I have, d--n me, you can't deny it."

And with these words, uttered with sullen accents and looks, the renegade
stole from the hut, disregarding all Roland's entreaties to him to
return, and all the offers of wealth with which the latter, in a frenzy
of despair, sought to awaken his eupidity and compassion. The door-mats
had scarce closed upon his retreating figure before they were parted to
give entrance to the two old Indians, who immediately assumed their
positions at his side, preserving them with vigilant fidelity throughout
the remainder of the night.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


In the meantime, and at the very moment when the renegade was urging his
extraordinary proposals to the young Virginian, a scene was passing in
the hut of Wenonga, in which one of Roland's fellow-prisoners was
destined to play an important and remarkable part. There, in the very
tent in which he had struck so daring a blow for the rescue of Edith, but
in which Edith appeared no more, lay the luckless Nathan, a victim not so
much of his own rashness as of the excessive zeal, not to say folly, of
his coadjutors. And thither he had been conducted but a few hours before,
after having passed the previous night and day in a prison-house less
honoured, but fated, as it proved, to derive peculiar distinction from
the presence of such a guest.

His extraordinary appearance, partaking so much of that of an Indian
juggler arrayed in the panoply of legerdemain, had produced, as was
mentioned, a powerful effect on the minds of his captors, ever prone to
the grossest credulity and superstition; and this was prodigiously
increased by the sudden recurrence of his disease,--a dreadful
infliction, whose convulsions seem ever to have been proposed as the
favourite exemplars for the expression of prophetic fury and the
demoniacal orgasm, and were aped alike by the Pythian priestess on her
tripod and the ruder impostor of an Indian wigwam. The foaming lips and
convulsed limbs of the prisoner, if they did not "speak the god," to the
awe-struck barbarians, declared at least the presence of the mighty fiend
who possessed his body; and when the fit was over, though they took good
care to bind him with thongs of bison-hide, like his companions, and led
him away to a place of security, it was with a degree of gentleness and
respect that proved the strength of their belief in his supernatural
endowments. This belief was still further indicated, the next day, by
crowds of savages who flocked into the wigwam where he was confined, some
to stare at him, some to inquire the mysteries of their fate, and some,
as it seemed, with credulity less unconditional, to solve the enigma of
his appearance before yielding their full belief. Among these last were
the renegade and one or two savages of a more sagacious or sceptical turn
than their fellows, who beset the supposed conjuror with questions
calculated to pluck out the heart of his mystery.

But questions and curiosity were in vain. The conjuror was possessed by a
silent devil; and whether it was that the shock of his last paroxysm had
left his mind benumbed and stupefied, whether his courage had failed at
last, leaving him plunged in despair, or whether, indeed, his frigid
indifference was not altogether assumed to serve a peculiar purpose, it
was nevertheless certain that he bestowed not the slightest attention
upon any of his questioners, not even upon Doe, who had previously
endeavoured to unravel the riddle by seeking the assistance of Ralph
Stackpole,--assistance, however, which Ralph, waxing sagacious of a
sudden, professed himself wholly unable to give. This faithful fellow,
indeed, professed to be just as ignorant of the person and character of
the young Virginian; swearing, with a magnanimous resolve, to assume
the pains and penalties of Indian ire on his own shoulders, that "the
hoss-stealing" (which, he doubted not, would be held the most
unpardonable feature in the adventure,) "was jist a bit of a private
speculation of his own,--that there was nobody with him,--that he had
come on his expedition alone, and knew no more of the other fellers than
he did of the 'tarnal tempers of Injun hosses,--not he!" In short, the
skeptics were baffled, and the superstitious were left to the enjoyment
of their wonder and awe.

At nightfall, Nathan was removed to Wenonga's cabin, where the chief,
surrounded by a dozen or more warriors, made him a speech in such English
phrases as he had acquired, informing the prisoner, as before, that "he,
Wenonga, was a great chief and warrior, that the other, the prisoner, was
a great medicine-man; and, finally, that he, Wenonga, required of his
prisoner, the medicine-man, by his charms, to produce the Jibbenainosay,
the unearthly slayer of his people and curse of his tribe, in order that
he, the great chief, who feared neither warrior nor devil, might fight
him, like a man, and kill him, so that he, the aforesaid destroyer,
should destroy his young men in the dark no longer."

Not even to this speech, though received by the warriors with marks of
great approbation, did Nathan vouchsafe the least notice; and the savages
despairing of moving him to their purpose at that period, but hoping
perhaps to find him in a more reasonable mood at another moment, left
him--but not until they had again inspected the thongs and satisfied
themselves they were tied in knots strong and intricate enough to
hold even a conjuror. They, also, before leaving him to himself, placed
food and water at his side, and in a way that was perhaps designed to
show their opinion of his wondrous powers; for as his arms were pinioned
tightly behind his back, it was evident he could feed himself only by
magic.

The stolid indifference to all sublunary matters which had distinguished
Nathan throughout the scene, vanished the moment he found himself alone.
In fact, the step of the savage the last to depart was yet rustling among
the weeds at the Black-Vulture's door, when, making a violent effort, he
succeeded in placing himself in a sitting posture, and glared with eager
look around the apartment, which was, as before, dimly lighted by a fire
on the floor. The piles of skins and domestic utensils were hanging
about, as on the preceding night; and indeed, nothing seemed to have been
disturbed, except the weapons, of which there had been so many when
Edith occupied the den, but of which not a single one now remained. Over
the fire,--the long tresses that depended from it swinging and fluttering
in the currents of smoke and heated air,--was the bundle of scalps, to
which Braxley had so insidiously directed the gaze of Edith, and which
was now one of the first objects that met Nathan's eyes.

Having reconnoitered every corner and cranny, and convinced himself that
there was no lurking savage watching his movements, he began straightway
to test the strength of the thong by which his arms were bound; but
without making the slightest impression on it. The cord was strong, the
knots were securely tied; and after five or six minutes of struggling in
which he made the most prodigious efforts to tear it asunder, without
hesitating at the anguish it caused him, he was obliged to give over his
hopes, fain could he have, like Thomson's demon in the net of the good
Knight, enjoyed that consolation of despair,--to

"Sit him felly down, and gnaw his bitter nail."

He summoned his strength, and renewed his efforts again and again, but
always without effect; and being at last persuaded of his inability to
aid himself, and leaned back against a bundle of skins, to counsel with
his own thoughts what hope, if any, yet remained.

At that instant, and while the unuttered misery of his spirit might have
been read in his haggard and despairing eyes, a low whining sound, coming
from a corner of the tent, but on the outside, with a rustling and
scratching, as if some animal were struggling to burrow its way betwixt
the skins and the earth, into the lodge, struck his ear. He started, and
he stared round with a wild but joyous look of recognition.

"Hist, hist!" he cried, or rather whispered, for his voice was not above
his breath; "hist, hist! If thee ever was wise, now do thee show it!"

The whining ceased, the scratching and rustling were heard a moment
longer; and, then, rising from the skin wall, under which he had made his
way, appeared--no bulky demon, indeed, summoned by the conjuror to his
assistance--but little dog Peter, his trusty, sagacious, and hitherto
inseparable friend, creeping with stealthy step, but eyes glistening with
affection, towards the bound and helpless prisoner.

"I can't hug thee, little Peter!" cried the master, as the little animal
crawled to him, wagging his tail, and, throwing his paws upon Nathan's
knee, looked into his face with a most meaning stare of inquiry; "I can't
hug thee, Peter! Thee sees how it is! the Injuns have ensnared me. But
where _thee_ is, Peter, there is hope. Quick, little Peter!" he cried,
thrusting his arms out from his back; "thee has teeth, and thee knows how
to use them--thee has gnawed me free before--Quick, little Peter, quick!
The teeth is thee knives; and with them thee can cut me free!"

The little animal, whose remarkable docility and sagacity have been
instanced before, seemed actually to understand his master's words, or,
at least, to comprehend, from his gestures the strange duty that was now
required of him; and, without more ado, he laid hold with his teeth upon
the thong round Nathan's wrists, tugging and gnawing at it with a zeal
and perseverance that seemed to make his master's deliverance, sooner or
later, sure; and his industry was quickened by Nathan, who all the while
encouraged him with whispers to continue his efforts.

"Thee gnawed me loose, when the four Shawnees had me bound by their fire,
at night, on the banks of the Kenhawa. (Does thee remember _that_,
Peter?) Ay, thee did, while the knaves slept; and from that sleep they
never waked, the murdering villains--no, not one of them! Gnaw, little
Peter, gnaw hard and fast; and care not if thee wounds me with thee
teeth; for, truly, I will forgive thee, even if thee bites me to the
bone. Faster, Peter, faster! Does thee boggle at the skin, because of its
hardness? Truly, I have seen thee a hungered, Peter, when thee would have
cracked it like a marrow-bone! Fast, Peter, fast; and thee shall see
me again in freedom!"

With such expressions Nathan inflamed the zeal of his familiar, who
continued to gnaw for the space of five minutes or more, and with such
effect, that Nathan, who ever and anon tested the brute's progress by a
violent jerk at the rope, found, at the fourth or fifth effort, that it
yielded a little, and cracked, as if its fibres were already giving way.

"Now, Peter! tug, if thee ever tugged!" he cried, his hopes rising almost
to ecstacy: "A little longer, one bite more, a little, but a little
longer, Peter, if thee loves thee master! Yea, Peter, and we will walk
the woods again in freedom! Now, Peter, now for the last bite!"

But the last bite Peter, on the sudden, betrayed a disinclination to
make. He ceased his toil, jostled against his master's side, and uttered
a whine, the lowest that could be made audible.

"Hah!" cried Nathan, as, at the same instant, he heard the sound of
footsteps approaching the wigwam, "thee speaks the truth, and the
accursed villains is upon us! Away with thee, dog--thee shall finish thee
work by and by!"

Faithful to his master's orders, or perhaps to his own sense of what
was fitting and proper in such a case, little Peter leaped hastily
among the skins and other litter that covered half the floor and the
sleeping-berths of the lodge, and was immediately out of sight, having
left the apartment, or concealed himself in its darkest corner. The steps
approached; they reached the door: Nathan threw himself back, reclining
against his pile of furs, and fixed his eye upon the mats at the
entrance. They were presently parted; and the old chief Wenonga came
halting into the apartment,--halting, yet with a step that was designed
to indicate all the pride and dignity of a warrior. And this attempt at
state was the more natural and proper, as he was armed and painted as if
for war, his grim-countenance hideously bedaubed on one side with
vermillion, and the other with black; a long scalping-knife, without
sheath or cover, swinging from his wampum belt; while a hatchet, the
blade and handle both of steel, was grasped in his hand. In this guise,
and with a wild and demoniacal glitter of eye, that seemed the result of
mingled drunkenness and insanity, the old chief stalked and limped up to
the prisoner, looking as if bent upon his instant destruction. That his
passions were up in arms, that he was ripe for mischief and blood, was,
indeed, plain and undeniable; but he soon made it apparent that his rage
was only conditional and alternative, as regarded the prisoner. Pausing
within three or four feet of him, and giving him a look that seemed
designed to freeze his blood, it was so desperately hostile and savage,
he extended his arm and hatchet,--not, however, to strike, as it
appeared, but to do what might be judged almost equally agreeable to
nine-tenths of his race,--that is, to deliver a speech.

"I am Wenonga!" he cried, in his own tongue, being perhaps too much
enraged to think of any other, "I am Wenonga, a great Shawnee chief. I
have fought the Longknives, and drunk their blood: when they hear my
voice they are afraid; they run howling away, like dogs when the squaws
beat them from the fire--who ever stood before Wenonga? I have fought
my enemies, and killed them. I never feared a white man: why should I
fear a white man's devil? Where is the Jibbenainosay, the curse of my
tribe?--the Shawneewannaween, the howl of my people? He kills them in the
dark, he creeps upon them while they sleep; but he fears to stand before
the face of a warrior! Am I a dog? or a woman? The squaws and the
children curse me, as I go by: they say _I_ am the killer of their
husbands and fathers; they tell me it was the deed of Wenonga, that
brought the white man's devil to kill them; 'if Wenonga is a chief, let
him kill the killer of his people!' I am Wenonga; I am a man; I fear
nothing: I have sought the Jibbenainosay. But the Jibbenainosay is a
coward; he walks in the dark, he kills in the time of sleep, he fears to
fight a warrior! My brother is a great medicine-man; he is a white man,
and he knows how to find the white man's devils. Let my brother speak for
me; let him show me where to find the Jibbenainosay; and he shall be a
great chief, and the son of a chief: Wenonga will make him his son, and
he shall be a Shawnee!"

"Does Wenonga, at last, feel he has brought a devil upon his people?"
said Nathan, speaking for the first time since his capture, and speaking
in a way well suited to strike the interrogator with surprise. A sneer,
as it seemed, of gratified malice crept over his face, and was visible
even through the coat of paint that still invested his features; and to
crown all, his words were delivered in the Shawnee tongue, correctly and
unhesitatingly pronounced; which was itself, or so Wenonga appeared to
hold it, a proof of his superhuman acquirements.

The old chief started, as the words fell upon his ear, and looked around
him in awe, as if the prisoner had already summoned a spirit to his
elbow.

"I have heard the voice of the dead!" he cried. "My brother is a great
Medicine! But I am a chief;--I am not afraid."

"The chief tells me lies," rejoined Nathan, who, having once unlocked his
lips, seemed but little disposed to resume his former silence;--"the
chief tells me lies: there is no white-devil hurts his people!"

"I am an old man, and a warrior,--I speak the truth!" said the chief,
with dignity; and then added, with sudden feeling,--"I am an old man: I
had sons and grandsons--young warriors, and boys that would soon have
blacked their faces for battle[12]--where are they? The Jibbenainosay has
been in my village, he has been in my wigwam--there are none left--the
Jibbenainosay killed them!"

[Footnote 12: The young warriors of many tribes are obliged to confine
themselves to black paint, during their probationary campaigns.]

"Ay!" exclaimed the prisoner, and his eyes shot fire as he spoke, "they
fell under his hand, man and boy--there was not one of them spared--they
were of the blood of Wenonga!"

"Wenonga is a great chief!" cried the Indian: "he is childless; but
childless he has made the Long-knife."

"The Long-knife, and the son of Onas!" said Nathan.

The chief staggered back, as if struck by a blow, and stared wildly upon
the prisoner.

"My brother is a medicine-man,--he knows all things!" he exclaimed. "He
speaks the truth: I am a great warrior; I took the scalp of the
Quakel[13]--"

[Footnote 13: _Quakels_--a corruption of Quakers, whom the Indians of
Pennsylvania originally designated as the sons of _Onos_, that being one
of the names they bestowed upon Penn.]

"And of his wife and children--you left not one alive!--Ay!" continued
Nathan, fastening his looks upon the amazed chief, "you slew them all!
And he that was the husband and father was the Shawnees' friend, the
friend even of Wenonga!"

"The white-men are dogs and robbers!" said the chief: "the Quakel was my
brother; but I killed him. I am an Indian--I love white-man's blood. My
people have soft hearts; they cried for the Quakel: but I am a warrior
with no heart. I killed them: their scalps are hanging to my fire-post!
I am not sorry; I am not afraid."

The eyes of the prisoner followed the Indian's hand, as he pointed, with
savage triumph, to the shrivelled scalps that had once crowned the heads
of childhood and innocence, and then sank to the floor, while his whole
frame shivered as with an ague-fit.

"My brother is a great medicine-man," iterated the chief: "he shall show
me the Jibbenainosay, or he shall die."

"The chief lies!" cried Nathan, with a sudden and taunting laugh: "he can
talk big things to a prisoner, but he fears the Jibbenainosay!"

"I am a chief and warrior. I will fight the white-man's devil!"

"The warrior shall see him then," said the captive, with extraordinary
fire. "Cut me loose from my bonds, and I will bring him before the
chief."

And as he spoke, he thrust out his legs, inviting the stroke of the axe
upon the thongs that bound his ankles.

But this was a favour, which, stupid or mad as he was, Wenonga hesitated
to grant.

"The chief," cried Nathan, with a laugh of scorn, "would stand face to
face with the Jibbenainosay, and yet fears to loose a naked prisoner!"

The taunt produced its effect. The axe fell upon tho thong, and Nathan
leaped to his feet. He extended his wrists. The Indian hesitated again.
"The chief shall see the Jibbenainosay!" cried Nathan; and the cord was
cut.

The prisoner turned quickly round; and while his eyes fastened with a
wild but joyous glare upon his jailer's, a laugh that would have become
the jaws of a hyena lighted up his visage, and sounded from his lips.
"Look!" he cried, "thee has thee wish! Thee sees the destroyer of thee
race,--ay, murdering villain, the destroyer of thee people, and
theeself!"

And with that, leaping upon the astounded chief with rather the rancorous
ferocity of a wolf than the enmity of a human being, and clutching him by
the throat with one hand, while with the other he tore the iron tomahawk
from his grasp, he bore him to the earth, clinging to him as he fell,
and using the wrested weapon with such furious haste and skill that,
before they had yet reached the ground, he had buried it in the Indian's
brain. Another stroke, and another, he gave with the same murderous
activity and force; and Wenonga trode the path to the spiritland, bearing
the same gory evidences of the unrelenting and successful vengeance of
the white-man that his children and grand-children had borne before him.

"Ay, dog, thee dies at last! at last I have caught thee!"

With these words, Nathan, leaving the shattered skull, dashed the
tomahawk into the Indian's chest, snatched the scalping-knife from the
belt, and with one grinding sweep of the blade, and one fierce jerk of
his arm, the gray scalp-lock of the warrior was torn from the dishonoured
head. The last proof of the slayer's ferocity was not given until he had
twice, with his utmost strength, drawn the knife over the dead man's
breast, dividing skin, cartilage, and even bone, before it, so sharp was
the blade and so powerful the hand that urged it.

Then, leaping to his feet, and snatching from the post the bundle
of withered scalps--the locks and ringlets of his own murdered
family,--which he spread a moment before his eyes with one hand, while
the other extended, as if to contrast the two prizes together, the
reeking scalp-lock of the murderer, he sprang through the door of the
lodge, and fled from the village; but not until he had, in the insane
fury of the moment, given forth a wild, ear-piercing yell, that spoke the
triumph, the exulting transport, of long-baffled but never-dying revenge.
The wild whoop, thus rising in the depth and stillness of the night,
startled many a wakeful warrior and timorous mother from their repose.
But such sounds in a disorderly hamlet of barbarians were too common to
create alarm or uneasiness; and the wary and the timid again betook
themselves to their dreams, leaving the corse of their chief to stiffen
on the floor of his own wigwam.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


From an uneasy slumber, into which, notwithstanding his sufferings of
mind and body, he had at last fallen, Roland was roused at the break of
day by a horrible clamour, that suddenly arose in the village. A shrill
scream, that seemed to come from a female voice, was first heard; then a
wild yell from the lungs of a warrior, which was caught up and repeated
by other voices; and, in a few moments, the whole town resounded with
shrieks dismal and thrilling, and expressing astonishment mingled with
fear and horror.

The prisoner, incapable of comprehending the cause of such a commotion,
looked to his guards, who had started up at the first cry, grasped their
arms, and stood gazing upon one another with perturbed looks of inquiry.
The shriek was repeated, by one,--twenty,--a hundred throats; and the two
warriors, with hurried exclamations of alarm, rushed from the wigwam,
leaving the prisoner to solve the riddle as he might. But he tasked his
faculties in vain. His first idea--and it sent the blood leaping to his
heart--that the village was suddenly attacked by an army of white
men,--perhaps by the gallant Bruce, the commander of the Station where
his misfortunes had begun,--was but momentary; no lusty hurrahs were
heard mingling with the shrieks of the savages, and no explosions of
fire-arms denoted the existence of conflict. And yet he perceived that
the cries were not all of surprise and dismay. Some voices were uplifted
in rage, which was evidently spreading among the agitated barbarians,
and displacing the other passions in their minds.

In the midst of the tumult, and while he was yet lost in wonder and
speculation, the renegade Doe suddenly rushed into the wigwam, pale with
affright and agitation.

"They'll murder you, captain!" he cried, "there's no time for holding
back now--Take the gal, and I'll save you. The village is up--they'll
have your blood, they're crying for it already--squaws, warriors and
all--ay, d----n 'em, there's no stopping 'em now!"

"What in Heaven's name is the matter?" demanded the soldier.

"All etarnity's the matter!" replied Doe, with vehement utterance:
"the Jibbenainosay has been in the village, and killed the chief--ay,
d----n him,--struck him in his own house, marked him at his own fire! he
lies, dead and scalped--ay, and crossed too--on the floor of his own
wigwam;--the conjuror gone, snapped up by his devil, and Wenonga stiff
and gory! Don't you hear 'em yelling? The Jibbenainosay, I tell you--he
has killed the chief; we found him dead in his cabin; and the Injuns are
bawling for revenge--they are, d----n 'em, and they'll murder you, burn
you, tear you to pieces;--they will, there's no two ways about it:
they're singing out to murder the white men, and they'll be on you in no
time!"

"And there is no escape!" cried Roland, whose blood curdled, as he
listened to the thrilling yells that were increased in number and
loudness, as if the enraged barbarians, rushing madly through the
village, were gathering arms to destroy the prisoners,--"there is no
escape?"

"Take the gal! jist say the word, and I'll save you, or die with you, I
will, d----n me!" exclaimed Doe, with fierce energy. "There's hosses
grazing in the pastures; there's halters swinging above us: I'll mount
you and save you. Say the word, captain, and I'll cut you loose and save
you--say it, and be quick; your life depends on it--Hark! the dogs is
coming! Hold out your arms till I cut the tug--"

"Anything for my life!" cried the Virginian; "but if it can be only
bought at the price of marrying the girl, it is lost."

And the soldier would have resisted the effort Doe was making for his
deliverance.

"You'll be murdered, I tell you!" re-echoed Doe, with increased
vehemence, holding the knife ready in his hand: "they're coming on us: I
don't want to see you butchered like an ox. One word, captain!--I'll take
your word; you're an honest fellow, and I'll believe in you;--jist one
word, captain; I'll help you; I'll fight the dogs for you; I'll give you
weapons. The gal, captain! life and the fortun, captain!--The gal! the
gal!"

"Never, I tell you, never!" cried Roland, who, faithful to the honour and
integrity of spirit which conducted the men of that day, the mighty
fathers of the republic, through the vicissitudes of revolution to the
rewards of liberty, would not stoop to the meanness of falsehood and
deception even in that moment of peril and fear;--"anything but that--but
that, never!"

But, whilst he spoke, Doe, urged on by his own impetuous feelings, had
cut the thong from his wrists, and was even proceeding to divide those
that bound his ankles, disregarding all his protestations and averments,
or perhaps drowning them in his own eager exclamations of "The gal,
captain,--the word, jist one word!" when a dozen or more savages burst
into the hut, and sprang upon the Virginian, yelling, cursing, and
flourishing their knives and hatchets, as if they would have torn him to
pieces on the spot. And such, undoubtedly, was the aim of some of the
younger men, who struck at him several furious blows, that were only
averted by the older warriors at the expense of some of their own blood
shed in the struggle, which was, for a moment, as fiercely waged over the
prisoner as the conflict of enraged hounds over the body of a disabled
panther, that are all emulous to worry and tear. One instant of dreadful
confusion, of shrieks, blows, and maledictions, and the Virginian was
snatched up in the arms of two or three of the strongest men, and dragged
from the hut; but only to find himself surrounded by a herd of villagers,
men, women, and children, who fell upon him with as much fury as the
young warriors had done, beating him with bludgeons, wounding him with
their knives, so that it seemed impossible the older braves could protect
him much longer. But others ran to their assistance; and forming a circle
around him, so as to exclude the mob, he was borne onwards, in temporary
security, but destined to a fate to which murder on the spot would have
been gentleness and mercy.

The tumult had roused Edith also from her painful slumbers; and the more
necessarily, since, although removed from the tent in which she was first
imprisoned, she was still confined in Wenonga's wigwam. It was the scream
of the hag, the chieftain's wife, who had discovered his body, that first
gave the alarm; and the villagers all rushing to the cabin, and yelling
their astonishment and terror, there arose an uproar, almost in her ears,
that was better fitted to fright her to death than to lull her again to
repose. She started from her couch of furs, and with a woman's weakness,
cowered away in the furthest corner of the lodge, to escape the pitiless
fees, whom her fears represented as already seeking her life. Nor was
this chimera banished from her mind when a man, rushing in, snatched her
from her ineffectual concealment and hurried her towards the door. But
her terrors ran in another channel, when the ravisher, conquering the
feeble resistance she attempted, replied to her wild entreaties "not to
kill her," in the well-remembered voice of Braxley:

"Kill you, indeed!" he muttered, but with agitated tones; "I come to save
you; even _you_ are in danger from the maddened villains: they are
murdering all! We must fly,--ay, and fast. My horse is saddled,--the
woods are open--I will yet save you."

"Spare me!--for my uncle's sake, who was your benefactor, spare me!"
cried Edith, struggling to free herself from his grasp. But she struggled
in vain. "I aim to save you," cried Braxley; and without uttering another
word, bore her from the hut; and, still grasping her with an arm of iron,
sprang upon a saddled horse,--the identical animal that had once
sustained the weight of the unfortunate Pardon Dodge,--which stood under
the elm-tree, trembling with fright at the scene of horror then
represented on the square.

Upon this vacant space was now assembled the whole population of the
village, old and young, the strong and the feeble, all agitated alike by
those passions, which, when let loose in a mob, whether civilised or
savage, almost enforce the conviction that there is something essentially
demoniac in the human character and composition; as if, indeed, the earth
of which man is framed had been gathered only after it had been trodden
by the foot of the Prince of Darkness.

Even Edith forgot for a moment her fears of Braxley,--nay, she clung to
him for protection,--when her eye fell upon the savage herd, of whom the
chief number were crowded together in the centre of the square,
surrounding some object rendered invisible by their bodies, while others
were rushing tumultuously hither and thither, driven by causes she could
not divine, brandishing weapons, and uttering howls without number. One
large party was passing from the wigwam itself, their cries not less loud
or ferocious than the others, but changing occasionally into piteous
lamentations. They bore in their arms the body of the murdered chief,--an
object of such horror, that when Edith's eye; had once fallen upon it, it
seemed as if her enthralled spirit would never have recovered strength to
remove them.

But there was a more fearful spectacle yet to be seen. The wife of
Wenonga suddenly rushed from the lodge, bearing a fire-brand in her hand.
She ran to the body of the chief, eyed it, for a moment, with such a look
as a tigress might cast upon her slaughtered cub, and then, uttering a
scream that was heard over the whole square, and whirling the brand round
her head, until it was in a flame, fled with frantic speed towards the
centre of the area, the mob parting before her, and replying to her
shrieks, which were uttered at every step, with outcries scarce less wild
and thrilling. As they parted thus, opening a vista to the heart of the
square, the object which seemed the centre of attraction to all was fully
revealed to the maiden's eyes. Bound to two strong posts near the
Council-house, their arms drawn high above their heads, a circle of
brush-wood, prairie-grass, and other combustibles heaped around them,
were two wretched captives,--white men, from whose persons a dozen savage
hands were tearing their garments, while as many more were employed
heaping additional fuel on the pile. One of these men, as Edith could see
full well, for the spectacle was scarce a hundred paces removed, was
Roaring Ralph, the captain of horse-thieves. The other--and _that_ was a
sight to rend her eye-balls from their sockets,--was her unfortunate
kinsman, the playmate of her childhood, the friend and lover of maturer
years,--her cousin,--brother,--her all,--Roland Forrester. It was no
error of sight, no delusion of mind: the spectacle was too palpable to be
doubted: it was Roland Forrester whom she saw, chained to the stake,
surrounded by yelling and pitiless barbarians, impatient for the
commencement of their infernal pastime, while the wife of the chief,
kneeling at the pile, was already endeavouring, with her brand, to kindle
it into flame.

The shriek of the wretched maiden, as she beheld the deplorable, the
maddening sight, might have melted hearts of stone, had there been even
such among the Indians. But Indians, engaged in the delights of torturing
a prisoner, are, as the dead chief had boasted himself, _without_ heart.
Pity, which the Indian can feel at another moment, as deeply, perhaps,
and benignly as a white man, seems then, and is, entirely unknown, as
much so, indeed, as if it had never entered into his nature. His mind is
then voluntarily given tip to the drunkenness of passion; and cruelty, in
its most atrocious and fiendish character, reigns predominant. The
familiar of a Spanish Inquisition has sometimes moistened the lips of a
heretic stretched upon the rack,--the Buccaneer of the tropics has
relented over the contumacious prisoner gasping to death under his lashes
and heated pincers; but we know of no instance where an Indian, torturing
a prisoner at the stake, the torture once begun, has ever been moved to
compassionate, to regard with any feelings but those of exultation and
joy, the agonies of the thrice-wretched victim.

The shriek of the maiden was unheard, or unregarded; and
Braxley,--himself so horrified by the spectacle that, while pausing
to give it a glance, he forgot the delay was also disclosing it to
Edith,--grasping her tighter in his arms, from which she had half leaped
in her frenzy, turned his horse's head to fly, without seeming to be
regarded or observed by the savages, which was perhaps in part owing to
his having resumed his Indian attire. But, as he turned, he could not
resist the impulse to snatch one more look at his doomed rival. A
universal yell of triumph sounded over the square; the flames were
already bursting from the pile, and the torture was begun.

The torture was begun,--but it was not destined long to endure. The
yell of triumph was yet resounding over the square, and awakening
responsive echoes among the surrounding hills, when the explosion of at
least fifty rifles, sharp, rattling, and deadly, like the war-note of the
rattle-snake, followed by a mighty hurrah of Christian voices, and the
galloping of horse into the village from above, converted the whole scene
into one of amazement and terror. The volley was repeated, and by as many
more guns; and in an instant there was seen rushing into the square a
body of at least a hundred mounted white men, their horses covered with
foam and staggering with exhaustion, yet spurred on by their riders with
furious ardour; while twice as many footmen were beheld rushing after, in
mad rivalry, cheering and shouting, in reply to their leader, whose voice
was heard in front of the horsemen thundering out,--"Small change for the
Blue Licks! Charge 'em, the brutes! give it to 'em handsome!"

The yells of dismay of the savages, taken thus by surprise, and, as it
seemed, by a greatly superior force, whose approach, rapid and tumultuous
as it must have been, their universal devotion to the Saturnalia of blood
had rendered them incapable of perceiving; the shouts of the mounted
assailants, as they dashed into the square and among the mob, shooting as
they came, or handling their rifles like maces, and battle-axes; the
trampling and neighing of the horses; and the thundering hurrahs of the
footmen charging into the town with almost the speed of the horse, made a
din too horrible for description. The shock of the assault was not
resisted by the Indians even for a moment. Some rushed to the
neighbouring wigwams for their guns, but the majority, like the women and
children, fled to seek refuge among the rocks and bushes of the
overhanging hill; from which, however, as they approached it, a deadly
volley was shot upon them by foemen who already occupied its tangled
sides. Others again fled towards the meadows and corn-fields, where, in
like manner, they were intercepted by bands of mounted Long-knives, who
seemed pouring into the valley from every hill. In short, it was soon
made apparent that the village of the Black-Vulture was assailed from all
sides, and by such an army of avenging white men as had never before
penetrated into the Indian territory.

All the savages,--all, at least, who were not shot or struck down in the
square,--fled from the village; and among the foremost of them was
Braxley, who, as much astounded as his Indian confederates, but better
prepared for flight, struck the spurs into his horse, and still retaining
his helpless prize, dashed across the river, to escape as he might.

In the meanwhile, the victims at the stake, though roused to hope and
life by the sudden appearance of their countrymen, were neither released
from bonds nor perils. Though the savages fled, as described, from the
charge of the white men, there were some who remembered the prisoners,
and were resolved that they should never taste the sweets of liberty. The
beldam, who was still busy kindling the pile, roused from her toil by the
shouts of the enemy and the shrieks of her flying people, looked up a
moment, and then snatching at a knife dropped by some fugitive, rushed
upon Stackpole, who was nearest her, with a wild scream of revenge. The
horse-thief, avoiding the blow as well as he could, saluted the hag with
a furious kick, his feet being entirely at liberty; and such was its
violence that the woman was tossed into the air, as if from the horns of
a bull, and then fell, stunned and apparently lifeless, to perish in the
flames she had kindled with her own breath.

A tall warrior, hatchet in hand, with a dozen more at his back, rushed
upon the Virginian. But before he could strike, there came leaping with
astonishing bounds over the bodies of the wounded and dying, and into
the circle of fire, a figure that might have filled a better and braver
warrior with dread. It was the medicine-man, and former captive, the
Indian habiliments and paint still on his body and visage, though both
were flecked and begrimed with blood. In his left hand was a bundle of
scalps, the same he had taken from the tent of Wenonga; the grizzled
scalp-lock of the chief, known by the vulture-feathers, beak, and
talons, still attached to it, was hanging to his girdle; while the steel
battle-axe, so often wielded by Wenonga, was gleaming aloft in his right
hand.

The savage recoiled, and with loud yells of "The Jibbenainosay! the
Jibbenainosay!" turned to fly, while even those behind him staggered back
at the apparition of the destroyer, thus tangibly presented to their
eyes; nor was their awe lessened, when the supposed fiend, taking one
step after the retreating leader of the gang, drove the fatal hatchet
into his brain, with as lusty a whoop of victory as ever came from the
lungs of a warrior. At the same moment he was hidden from their eyes by a
dozen horsemen that came rushing up, with tremendous huzzas, some darting
against the band, while others sprung from their horses to liberate the
prisoners. But this duty had been already rendered, at least in the case
of Captain Forrester. The axe of Wenonga, dripping with blood to the
hilt, divided the rope at a single blow, and then Roland's fingers were
crushed in the grasp of his preserver, as the latter exclaimed, with a
strange, half-frantic chuckle of triumph and delight,--

"Thee sees, friend! Thee thought I had deserted thee? Truly, truly, thee
was mistaken!"

"Hurrah for old Tiger Nathan! I'll never say Q to a quaker agin as long
as I live!" exclaimed another voice, broken, feeble, and vainly aiming to
raise a huzza; and the speaker, seizing Nathan with one hand, while the
other grasped tremulously at Captain Forrester's, displayed to the
latter's eyes the visage of Tom Bruce the younger, pale, sickly,
emaciated, his once gigantic proportions wasted away, and his whole
appearance indicating anything but fitness for a field of battle.

"Strannger!" cried the youth, pressing the soldier's hand with what
strength he could, and laughing faintly, "we've done the handsome thing
by you, me and dad, thar's no denying! But we went your security agin all
sorts of danngers in our beat; and thar's just the occasion. But h'yar's
dad to speak for himself: as for me, I rather think breath's too short
for wasting."

"Hurrah for Kentucky!" roared Colonel Bruce, as he sprang from his horse,
and seized the hand of Roland, wringing and twisting it with a fury of
friendship and gratulation, which, at another moment, would have caused
the soldier to grin with pain. "H'yar we are, captain!" he cried: "picked
you out of the yambers!--Swore to follow you and young madam to the end
of creation,--beat up for recruits, sung out 'Blue Lick' to the people,
roused the General from the Falls,--whole army, a thousand men; double
quick step; found Tiger Nathan in the woods--whar's the creatur'? told of
your fixin'; beat to arms, flew ahead, licked the enemy,--and ha'n't
we extarminated 'em?"

With these hurried, half-incoherent expressions, the gallant Kentuckian
explained, or endeavoured to explain, the mystery of his timely and most
happy appearance; an explanation, however, of which the soldier,
bewildered by the whirl of events, the tumult of his own feelings, and
not less by the uproarious congratulations of his friends, of whom the
captain of horse-thieves, released from his post of danger, was not the
least noisy or affectionate, heard, or understood not a word. To these
causes of confusion were to be added the din and tumult of conflict, the
screams of the flying Indians, and the shouts of pursuing and opposing
white-men, rising from every point of the compass; for from every point
they seemed rushing in upon the foe, whom they appeared to have
completely environed. Was there no other cause for the distraction of
mind which left the young soldier, while thus beset by friendly hands and
voices, incapable of giving them his whole attention? His thoughts were
upon his kinswoman, of whose fate he was still in ignorance. But before
he could ask the question prompted by his anxieties, it was answered by a
cheery hurrah from Bruce's youngest son, Richard, who came galloping into
the square and up to the place of torture, whirling his cap into the air,
in a frenzy of boyish triumph and rapture. At his heels, and mounted
upon the steed so lately bestridden by Braxley, the very animal, which,
notwithstanding its uncommon swimming virtues, had left its master,
Pardon Dodge, at the bottom of Salt River, was--could Roland believe his
eyes?--the identical Pardon Dodge himself, looking a hero, he was so
begrimed with blood and gunpowder, and whooping and hurrahing, as he
came, with as much spirit as if he had been born on the border, and
accustomed all his life to fighting Indians. But Roland did not admire
long at the unlooked-for resurrection of his old ally of the ruin. In his
arms, sustained with an air of infinite pride and exultation, was an
apparition that blinded the Virginian's eyes to every other object;--it
was Edith Forrester; who, extending her own arms, as the soldier sprang
to meet her, leaped to his embrace with such wild cries of delight, such
abandonment of spirit to love and happiness, as stirred up many a
womanish emotion in the breast of the surrounding Kentuckians.

"There!" cried Dodge, "there, capting! Seed the everlasting Injun feller
carrying her off on the hoss; knowed the crittur at first sight; took
atter, and brought the feller to: seed it was the young lady, and was
jist as glad to find her as to find my hoss,--if I wa'n't, it a'n't no
matter."

"Thar, dad!" cried Tom Bruce, grasping his father's arm, and pointing,
but with unsteady finger and glistening eye, at the two cousins,--"that,
that's a sight worth dying for!" with which words he fell suddenly to the
earth.

"Dying, you brute!" cried the father in surprise and concern: "you ar'n't
had a hit, Tom?"

"Not an iota," replied the youth, faintly, "except them etarnal slugs I
fetched from old Salt; but, I reckon, they've done for me: I felt 'em a
dropping, a dropping inside, all night. And so, father, if you'll jist
say I've done as much as my duty, I'll not make no fuss about going."

"Going, you brute!" iterated the father, clasping the hand of his son,
while the others, startled by the young man's sudden fall, gathered
around, to offer help, or to gaze with alarm on his fast changing
countenance; "why, Tom, my boy, you don't mean to make a die of it?"

"If--if you think I've done my duty to the strannger and the young lady,"
said the young man; and added, feebly pressing the father's hand,--"and
to _you_, dad, to you, and mother, and the rest of 'em."

"You have, Tom," said the colonel, with somewhat a husky voice--"to the
travelling strannger, to mother, father, and all--"

"And to Kentucky?" murmured the dying youth,

"To Kentucky," replied the father.

"Well, then, it's no great matter--You'll jist put Dick in my place: he's
the true grit; thar'll be no mistake in Dick, for all he's only a young
blubbering boy; and then it'll be jist all right, as before. And it's my
notion, father--"

"Well, Tom, what is it?" demanded Bruce, as the young man paused as if
from mingled exhaustion and hesitation.

"I don't mean no offence, father," said he,--"but it's my notion, if
you'll never let a poor traveller go into the woods without some
dependable body to take care of him--"

"You're right, Tom; and I an't mad at you for saying so; and I won't."

"And don't let the boys abuse Nathan,--for, I reckon he'll fight, if you
let him take it in his own way. And,--and, father, don't mind Captain
Ralph's stealing a hoss or two out of our pound!"

"He may steal the lot of 'em, the villain!" said Bruce, shaking his head
to dislodge the tears that were starting in his eyes; "and he shall be
none the wuss of it."

"Well, father,--" the young man spoke with greater animation, and with
apparently reviving strength,--"and you think we have pretty considerably
licked the Injuns h'yar, jist now?"

"We have, Tom,--thar's no doubting it. And we'll lick 'em over and over
again, till they've had enough of it."

"Hurrah for Kentucky!" cried the young man, exerting his remaining
strength to give energy to the cry, so often uplifted, in succeeding
years, among the wild woodlands around. It was the last effort of his
sinking powers. He fell back, pressed his father's and his brother's
hands, and almost immediately expired,--a victim not so much of his
wounds, which were not in themselves necessarily fatal, nor perhaps even
dangerous, had they been attended to, as of the heroic efforts, so
overpowering and destructive in his disabled condition, which he had made
to repair his father's fault; for such he evidently esteemed the
dismissing the travellers from the Station without sufficient guides and
protection.



CHAPTER XXXV.


Thus fell the young Kentuckian,--a youth endeared to all who knew him, by
his courage and good humour; and whose fall would, at a moment of less
confusion, have created a deep and melancholy sensation. But he fell amid
the roar and tempest of battle, when there was occasion for other
thoughts and other feelings than those of mere individual grief.

The Indians had been driven from their village, as described, aiming not
to fight, but fly; but being intercepted at all points by the assailants,
and met, here by furious volleys poured from the bushy sides of the hill,
there by charges of horsemen galloping through the meadows and
cornfields, they were again driven back into the town, where, in sheer
desperation, they turned upon their foes to sell their lives as dearly
as they might. They were met at the edge of the village by the party of
horse and footmen that had first dislodged them, with whom, being driven
pell-mell among them by the shock of the intercepting bands, they waged a
fierce and bloody, but brief conflict; and still urged onwards by the
assailants behind, fought their way back to the square, which, deserted
almost entirely at the period of young Bruce's fall, was now suddenly
seen, as he drew his last gasp, scattered over with groups of men flying
for their lives, or struggling together in mortal combat; while the
screams of terror-struck women and children gave a double horror to the
din.

The return of the battle to their own immediate vicinity produced its
effects upon the few who had remained by the dying youth. It fired, in
especial, the blood of Captain Ralph, who, snatching up a fallen axe,
rushed towards the nearest combatants, roaring, by way of consolation, or
sympathy, to the bereaved father, "Don't take it hard, Cunnel,--I'll have
a scalp for Tom's sake in no time!" As for Tiger Nathan, he had
disappeared long before, with most of the horsemen, who had galloped up
to the stake with the younger Bruce and his father, being evidently too
fiercely excited to remain idle any longer. The father and brother of the
deceased, the two cousins and Pardon Dodge, who lingered by the latter,
still on his horse, as if old companionship with the soldier and the
service just rendered the maid had attached him to all their interests,
were all that remained on the spot. But all were driven from a
contemplation of the dead, as the surge of battle again tossed its bloody
spray into the square.

"Thar's no time for weeping," muttered Bruce, softly laying the body of
the youth (for Tom had expired in his arms) upon the earth: "he died like
a man, and thar's the end of it,--Up, Dick, and stand by the lady--Thar's
more work for us."

"Everlasting bad work, Cunnel!" cried Dodge; "they're a killing the
squaws! hark, dunt you hear 'em squeaking? Now, Cunnel, I can kill your
tarnal _man_ fellers, for they've riz my ebenezer, and I've kinder got my
hand in; but, I rather calkilate, I han't no disposition to kill
wimming!"

"Close round the lady!" shouted Bruce, as a sudden movement in the mass
of combatants, and the parting from it of a dozen or more wild Indian
figures, flying in their confusion, for they were pursued by thrice their
number of white men, right towards the little party at the stake,
threatened the latter with unexpected danger.

"I'm the feller for 'em, now that my hand's in!" cried Pardon Dodge; and
taking aim with his rifle,--the only one in the group that was charged,
at the foremost of the Indians, he shot him dead on the spot,--a feat
that instantly removed all danger from the party; for the savages,
yelling at the fall of their leader and the discovery of antagonists thus
drawn up in front, darted off to the right hand at the wildest speed, as
wildly pursued by the greater number of Kentuckians.

And now it was, that, as the wretched and defeated barbarians, scattering
at Dodge's fire, fled from the spot, the party at the stake beheld a
sight well fitted to turn the alarm they had for a moment felt on their
own account, into horror and pity. The savage shot down by Dodge was
instantly scalped by one of the pursuers, of whom five or six others
rushed upon another man--for a second of the fugitives had fallen at the
same moment, but only wounded,--attacking him furiously with knives and
hatchets, while the poor wretch was seen with raised arms vainly
beseeching for quarter. As if this spectacle was not in itself
sufficiently pitiable, there was seen a girlish figure at the man's side,
struggling with the assailants, as if to throw herself between them and
their prey, and uttering the most heart-piercing shrieks.

"It is Telie Doe!" shouted Forrester, leaping from his kinswoman's side,
and rushing with the speed of light to her assistance.--He was followed,
at almost as fleet a step, by Colonel Bruce, who recognised the voice at
the same instant, and knew by the ferocious cries of the men,--"Kill the
cursed tory! kill the renegade villain!" that it was the girl's apostate
father, Abel Doe, who was dying under their vengeful weapons.

"Hold, friends, hold!" cried Roland, as he sprang amid the infuriated
Kentuckians. His interposition was for a moment successful: surprise
arrested the impending weapons; and Doe, taking advantage of the pause,
leaped to his feet, ran a few yards, and then fell again to the ground.

"No quarter for turn-coats and traitors! no mercy for white Injuns!"
cried the angry men, running again at their prey. But Roland was before
them; and as he bestrode the wounded man, the gigantic Bruce rushed up,
and, catching the frenzied daughter in his arms, exclaimed, with tones of
thunder, "Off, you perditioned brutes! would you kill the man before the
eyes of his own natteral-born daughter? Kill Injuns, you brutes,--thar's
the meat for you!"

"Hurrah for Cunnel Tom Bruce!" shouted the men in reply; and satisfying
their rage with direful execrations, invoked upon "all white Injuns and
Injun white men," they rushed away in pursuit of more legitimate objects
of hostility, if such were still to be found,--a thing not so certain,
for few Indian whoops were now mingled with the white man's cry of
victory.

In the meanwhile, Roland had endeavoured to raise the bleeding and
mangled renegade to his feet; but in vain, though assisted by the efforts
of the unhappy wretch himself; who, raising his hands, as if still to
avert the blows of an unrelenting enemy, ejaculated wildly,--"It a'n't
nothing,--its only for the gal. Don't murder a father before his own
child!"

"You are safe,--fear nothing," said Roland, and at the same moment, poor
Telie herself rushed into the dying man's arms, crying, with tones that
went to the Virginian's heart,--"They're gone, father, they're gone! Now
get up, father, and they won't hurt you no more; the good captain has
saved you, father; they won't hurt you, they won't hurt you no more!"

"Is it the Captain?" cried Doe, struggling again to rise, while Bruce
drew the girl gently from his arms. "Is it the captain?" he repeated,
bending his eager looks and countenance ghastly with wounds upon the
Virginian. "They han't murdered you then? I'm glad on it, captain;--I'll
die the easier, captain! And the gal, too?" he exclaimed, as his eyes
fell upon Edith, who, scarce knowing in her horror what she did, but
instinctively seeking the protection of her kinsman, had crept up to the
group now around the dying wretch. "It's all right, captain!--But where's
Dick? where's Dick Braxley? You han't killed him among you?"

"Think not of the villain," said Roland; "I know naught of him."

"I'm a dying man, captain," exclaimed Doe; "I know'd this would be the
end of it. If Dick's a prisoner, jist bring him up and let me speak with
him. It will be for your good, captain."

"I know nothing of the scoundrel. Think of yourself," said the Virginian.

"Why, there, don't I see his red han'kercher," cried Doe, pointing to
Dodge, who, from his horse, which he had not yet deserted, perhaps, from
fear of again losing him, sat looking with soldier-like composure on the
expiring renegade, until made conscious that the shawl which he had tied
round his waist somewhat in manner of an officer's sash, had become an
object of interest to Doe and all others present.

"I took it from the Injun feller," said he, with great self-complacency,
"the everlasting big rascal that was a carrying off madam on my own hoss,
and madam was jist as dead as a piece of rock. I know'd the crittur, and
sung out to the feller to stop, and he wouldn't; and so I jist blazed
away at him, right bang at his back,--knocked him over jist like a streak
o' lightning, and had the scalp off his 'tarnal ugly head afore you could
say John Robinson,--and all the while madam was jist as dead as a piece
of rock. Here's the top-knot, and an ugly dirty top-knot it is!" With
which words, the valiant Dodge displayed his trophy, a scalp of black
hair, yet reeking with blood.

A shiver passed through Edith's frame, she grasped her cousin's arm to
avoid falling, and with a countenance as white and ghastly as countenance
could be, exclaimed,--

"It was Braxley!--It was he carried me off;--but I knew nothing. It was
he! Yes, it was _he_!"

"It war'n't a white man?" cried Dodge, dropping his prize in dismay;
while even Roland staggered with horror at the thought of a fate so
sudden and dreadful overtaking his rival and enemy.

"Ha, ha!" cried the renegade, with a hideous attempt at laughter; "I told
Dick the devil would have us; but I had no idea Dick would be the first
afore him! Shot,--scalped,--sarved like a mere dog of an Injun! Well, the
game's up at last, and we've both made our fortun's! Captain, I've been a
rascal all my life, and I die no better. You wouldn't take my offer,
captain;--it's no matter." He fumbled in his breast, and presently drew
to light the will, with which he so vainly strove the preceding night to
effect his object with Roland; it was stained deeply with his blood.
"Take it, captain," he cried, "take it; I give it to you without axing
tarms; I leave it to yourself, captain. But you'll remember her, captain?
The gal, captain! the gal! I leave it to yourself--"

"She shall never want friend or protector," said Roland.

"Captain," murmured the renegade, with his last breath, and grasping the
soldier's hand with his last convulsive effort--"you're an honest feller;
I'll--yes, captain, I'll trust you!"

These were the renegade's last words; and before Bruce, who muttered,
half in reproach, half in kindness, "The gal never wanted friend or
protector, till she fled from me, who was as a father to her," could draw
the sobbing daughter away, the wretched instrument of a still more
wretched principal in villany, had followed his employer to his last
account.

In the meanwhile, the struggle was over, the battle was fought and
won. The army, for such it was, being commanded in person by the hero
of Kaskaskias,[14] the great protector, and almost founder of the
West,--summoned in haste to avenge the slaughter at the Blue Licks,--a
lamentable disaster, to which we have several times alluded, although it
was foreign to our purpose to venture more than an allusion,--and
conducted with unexampled speed against the Indian towns on the Miami,
had struck a blow which was destined long to be remembered by the
Indians, thus for the first time assailed in their own territory.
Consisting of volunteers well acquainted with the woods, all well mounted
and otherwise equipped, all familiar with battle, and all burning for
revenge, it had reached within but ten or twelve miles of Wenonga's town,
and within still fewer of a smaller village, which it was the object of
the troops first to attack, at sunset of the previous day, and encamped
in the woods to allow man and horse, both well nigh exhausted, a few
hours' refreshment, previous to marching upon the neighbouring village;
when Nathan, flying with the scalp and arms of Wenonga in his hand, and
looking more like an infuriated madman than the inoffensive man of peace
he had been so long esteemed, suddenly appeared amidst the vanguard,
commanded by the gallant Bruce, whom he instantly apprised of the
condition of the captives at Wenonga's town, and urged to attempt their
deliverance.

[Footnote 14: General George Rogers Clark.]

This was done, and with an effect which has been already seen. The
impetuosity of Bruce's men, doubly inflamed by the example of the father
and his eldest son, to whom the rescue of their late guests was an object
of scarce inferior magnitude even compared with the vengeance for which
they burned in common with all others, had in some measure defeated the
hopes of the General, who sought, by a proper disposition of his forces,
completely to invest the Indian village, so as to ensure the destruction
or capture of every inhabitant. As it was, however, very few escaped;
many were killed, and more, including all the women and children (who,
honest Dodge's misgivings to the contrary notwithstanding, were in no
instance designedly injured), taken prisoners. And this, too, at an
expense of but very few lives lost on the part of the victors; the
Indians attempting resistance only when the fall of more than half their
numbers, and the presence of foes on every side, convinced them that
flight was wholly impracticable.

The victory was, indeed, so complete, and--as it appeared that several
bands of warriors from more distant villages were in the town at the time
of the attack--the blow inflicted upon the tribe so much severer than was
anticipated even from a series of attacks upon several different towns,
as was at first designed, that the victors, satisfied that they had done
enough to convince the red-man of the irresistible superiority of the
Long-knife, satisfied, too, perhaps, that the cheapness of the victory
rendered it more valuable than a greater triumph achieved at a greater
loss, gave up at once their original design of carrying the war into
other villages, and resolved to retrace their march to the Settlements.

But the triumph was not completed until the village, with its fields of
standing corn, had been entirely destroyed--a work of cruel vengeance,
yet not so much of vengeance as of policy; since the destruction of their
crops, by driving the savages to seek a winter's subsistence for their
families in the forest, necessarily prevented their making warlike
inroads upon their white neighbours during that season. The maize-stalks,
accordingly, soon fell before the knives and hatchets of the Kentuckians;
while the wigwams were given to the flames. When the last of the rude
habitations had fallen, crashing, to the earth, the victors began their
retreat towards the frontier; so that within a very few hours after they
first appeared, as if bursting from the earth, amid the amazed
barbarians, nothing remained upon the place of conflict and site of a
populous village, save scattered ruins and mangled corses.

Their own dead the invaders bore to a distance, and interred in the
deepest dens of the forest; and then, with their prisoners, carried with
them as the surest means of inducing the tribe to beg for peace, in order
to effect their deliverance, they resumed the path, which, in good time,
led them again to the Settlements.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


With the battle at the Black-Vulture's town, the interest of our history
ceases; and there it may be said to have its end. The deliverance of the
cousins, the one from captivity and death, the other from a fate to her
more dreadful than death; the restoration of the will of their uncle; and
the fall of the daring and unprincipled villain to whose machinations
they owed all their calamities, had changed the current of their
fortunes, which was now to flow in a channel where the eye could no
longer trace obstructions. The last peal of thunder had dissipated the
clouds of adversity, and the star of their destiny shone out with all its
original lustre. The future was no longer one of mere hope; it presented
all the certainty of happiness of which human existence is capable.

Such being the case, it would be a superfluous and unprofitable task to
pursue our history further, were it not that other individuals, whose
interests were so long intermingled with those of the cousins, have a
claim upon our notice. And first, before speaking of the most important
of all, the warlike man of peace, the man-slaying hater of blood, the
redoubtable Nathan Slaughter, let us bestow a word upon honest Pardon
Dodge, whose sudden re-appearance on the stage of life so greatly
astonished the young Virginian.

This resuscitation, however, as explained by Dodge himself, was, after
all, no such wonderful matter. Swept from his horse by the violence of
the flood, in the memorable flight from the ruin, a happy accident had
flung him upon the raft of timber that bordered the fatal _chute_; where,
not doubting that, from the fury of the current, all his companions had
perished, and that he was left to contend alone against the savages, he
immediately sought a concealment among the logs, in which he remained
during the remainder of the night and the greater part of the following
day, until pretty well assured the Indians were no longer in his
vicinity. Then, scaling the cliffy banks of the river, and creeping
through the woods, it was his good fortune at last to stumble upon the
clearings around Brace's Station, at which he arrived soon after the
defeated Regulators had effected their return. Here--having now lost his
horse, arms, everything but life; having battled away also in the
midnight siege some of those terrors that made Indians and border life so
hateful to his imagination, and being perhaps seduced by the hope of
repairing his losses, and revenging the injuries he had suffered--he was
easily persuaded to follow Colonel Bruce and the army of Kentuckians to
the Indian territory, where Fate, through his arm, struck a blow so
dreadfully yet retributively just at the head of the long-prospering
villain, the unprincipled and unremorseful Braxley.

It was mentioned, that when Nathan first burst upon the astonished
Bruce, where he lay with his vanguard encamped in the woods, his
appearance and demeanour were rather those of a truculent madman than of
the simple-minded, inoffensive creature he had so long appeared to the
eyes of all who knew him. His Indian garments and decorations contributed
somewhat to this effect; but the man, it was soon seen, was more changed
in spirit, than in outward attire. The bundle of scalps in his hand, the
single one, yet reeking with blood, at his belt, and the axe of Wenonga,
gory to the helve, and grasped with a hand not less blood-stained, were
not more remarkable evidences of transformation than were manifested in
his countenance, deportment, and expressions. His eye beamed with a wild
excitement, with exultation, mingled with fury; his step was fierce,
active, firm, and elastic, like that of a warrior leaping through the
measures of the war-dance; and when he spoke, his words were of battle
and bloodshed. He flourished the axe of Wenonga, pointed grimly toward
the village, and while recounting the number of warriors who lay therein
waiting to be knocked on the head, he seemed, judging his thoughts from
his gestures, to be employed in imagination in despatching them with his
own hands.

When the march, after a hasty consultation, was agreed upon and resumed,
he, although on foot, maintained a position at the head of the army,
guiding it along with a readiness and precision which argued
extraordinary familiarity with all the approaches to the village; and
when the assault was actually commenced, he was still among the foremost,
as the reader has seen, to enter the village and the square. To cut the
bonds of the Virginian, and utter a fervent expression of delight at his
rescue, was not enough to end the ferment in Nathan's mind. Leaving the
Virginian immediately to the protection of the younger Bruce, he rushed
after the flying Indians, among whom he remained fighting wherever the
conflict was hottest, until there remained no more enemies to encounter,
achieving such exploits as filled all who beheld him with admiration and
amazement.

Nor did the fervour of his fury end altogether even with the battle. He
was among the most zealous in destroying the Indian village, applying the
fire with his own hands to at least a dozen different wigwams, shouting
with the most savage exultation, as each burst into flames.

It was not indeed until the work of destruction was completed, the
retreat commenced, and the army once more buried in the woods, that the
demon which had thus taken possession of his spirit, seemed inclined to
relax its hold, and restore him once more to his wits. It was then,
however, that the remarks which all had now leisure to make on his
extraordinary transformation, the mingled jests and commendations of
which he found himself the theme, began to make an impression on his
mind, and gradually wake him as from a dream that had long mastered and
distracted his faculties. The fire of military enthusiasm flashed no more
from his eyes, his step lost its bold spring and confidence, he eyed
those who so liberally heaped praise on his lately acquired courage and
heroic actions, with uneasiness, embarrassment, and dismay; and cast his
troubled eyes around, as if in search of some friend capable of giving
counsel and comfort in such case made and provided. His looks fell upon
little Peter, who had kept ever at his side from the moment of his escape
from the village, and now trotted along with the deferential humility
which became him, while surrounded by so gallant and numerous an
assemblage; but even little Peter could not relieve him from the weight
of eulogy heaped on his head, nor from the prickings of the conscience
which every word of praise and every encomiastic huzza seemed stirring up
in his breast.

In this exigency, he caught sight of the Virginian,--mounted once more
upon his own trusty Briareus, which the younger Bruce had brought with
him to the field of battle,--and remembered on the sudden that he had not
yet acquainted the former with the important discovery of the will, which
he had so unexpectedly made in the village. The young soldier was riding
side by side with his cousin, for whom a palfrey had been easily provided
from the Indian pound, and indulging with her many a joyous feeling which
their deliverance was so well suited to inspire; but his eye gleamed with
double satisfaction as he marked the approach of his trusty associate and
deliverer.

"We owe you life, fortune, everything," he cried, extending his hand;
"and be assured neither Edith nor myself will forget it. But how is this,
Nathan?" he added, with a smile, as he perceived the bundle of scalps,
which Nathan, in the confusion or absence of his mind, yet dangled in his
hands,--"you were not used so freely to display the proofs of your
prowess!"

"Friend," said Nathan, giving one look, ghastly with sorrow and
perturbation, to the shaking ringlets, another to the youth, "thee looks
upon locks that was once on the heads of my children!" He thrust the
bundle into his bosom, and pointed with a look of inexpressible triumph
to that of Wenonga, hanging to his belt. "And here," he muttered, "is the
scalp of him that slew them! It is enough, friend: thee has had my
story,--thee will not censure me. But, friend," he added, hastily, as if
anxious to revert to another subject; "I have a thing to say to thee,
which it concerns thee and the fair maid, thee cousin, to know. There was
a will, friend,--a true and lawful last will and testament of thee
deceased uncle, in which theeself and thee cousin was made the sole heirs
of the same. Truly, friend, I did take it from the breast of the villain
that plotted thee ruin; but, truly, it was taken from me again, I know
not how."

"I have it safe," said Roland, displaying it for a moment, with great
satisfaction, to Nathan's eyes. "It makes me master of wealth, which you,
Nathan, shall be the first to share. You must leave this wild life of the
border, go with me to Virginia,--"

"I, friend!" exclaimed Nathan, with a melancholy shake of the head; "thee
would not have me back in the Settlements, to scandalise them that is of
my faith! No, friend; my lot is cast in the woods, and thee must not ask
me again to leave them. And, friend, thee must not think I have served
thee for the lucre of money or gain: for, truly, these things is now to
me as nothing. The meat that feeds me, the skins that cover, the leaves
that make my bed, are all in the forest around me, to be mine when I want
them; and what more can I desire? Yet, friend if thee thinks theeself
obliged by whatever I have done for thee, I would ask of thee one favour,
that thee can grant."

"A hundred!" said the Virginian, warmly.

"Nay, friend," muttered Nathan, with both a warning and beseeching look,
"all that I ask is, that thee shall say nothing of me that should
scandalise and disparage the faith to which I was born."

"I understand you," said Roland, "and will remember your wish."

"And now, friend," continued Nathan, "do thee take theeself to the
haunts of thee fellows, the habitations of them that is honest and
peaceful,--thee, and the good maiden, thee cousin; for, truly, it is not
well, neither for thee nor for her,--and especially for her, that is
feeble and fearful,--to dwell nigh to where murdering Injuns abound."

"Yet go with us, good Nathan," said Edith, adding her voice to the
entreaties of her kinsman: "there shall be none to abuse or find fault
with you."

"Thee is a good maid," said Nathan, surveying her with, an interest that
became mournful as he spoke. "When thee goes back to thee father's house,
thee will find them that will gladden at thee coming; and hearts will
yearn with joy over thee young and lovely looks. Thee will smile upon
them, and they will be happy. Such," he added, with deep emotion, "such
might have been _my_ fate, had the Injun axe spared me but a single
child. But it is not so; there is none left to look upon me with smiles
and rejoicing,--none to welcome me from the field and the forest with the
voice of love--no, truly, truly,--there is not one,--not one." And as he
spoke, his voice faltered, his lip quivered, and his whole countenance
betrayed the workings of a bereaved and mourning spirit.

"Think not of this," said Roland, deeply affected, as his cousin also
was, by this unexpected display of feeling in the rude wanderer: "the
gratitude of those you have so well served, shall be to you in place of a
child's affection. We will never forget our obligations. Come with us,
Nathan,--come with us."

But Nathan, ashamed of the weakness which he could not resist, had turned
away to conceal his emotion; and, stalking silently off, with the
ever-faithful Peter at his heels, was soon hidden from their eyes.

The Virginian never saw his wild comrade again. Neither Nathan's habits
nor inclinations carried him often into the society of his fellow-men,
where reproaches and abuse were sure to meet him. Insult and contumely
were, indeed, no longer to be dreaded by the unresisting wanderer, after
the extraordinary proofs of courage which he had that day given. But,
apparently, he now found as little to relish in encomiums passed on his
valour as in the invectives to which he had been formerly exposed. He
stole away, therefore, into the woods, abandoning the army altogether,
and was no more seen during the march.

But Roland did not doubt be should behold him again at Bruce's
Station, where he soon found himself, with his kinswoman, in safety;
and where,--now happily able to return to the land of his birth and the
home of his ancestors,--he remained during a space of two or three weeks,
waiting the arrival of a strong band of Virginia rangers, who (their term
of military service on the frontier having expired) were on the eve of
returning to Virginia, and with whom he designed seeking protection for
his own little party. During all this period he impatiently awaited the
re-appearance of Nathan, but in vain; and as he was informed, and indeed,
from Nathan's own admissions, knew, that the latter had no fixed place of
abode, he saw that it was equally vain to attempt hunting him up in the
forest. In short, he was compelled to depart on his homeward journey,--a
journey happily accomplished in safety,--without again seeing him; but
not until he had left with the commander of the Station a goodly store of
such articles of comfort and necessity as he thought would prove
acceptable to his solitary friend.

Nor did he take leave without making others of his late associates
acquainted with his bounty. The pledge he had given the dying renegade he
offered to redeem to the daughter, by bearing her with him to Virginia,
and providing her a secure home, under the protection of his cousin; but
Telie preferring rather to remain in the family of Colonel Bruce, who
seemed to entertain for her a truly parental affection, he took such
steps as speedily converted the poor dependent orphan into a person of
almost wealth and consequence. His bounty-grants and land-warrants he
left in the hands of Bruce, with instructions to locate them to the best
advantage in favour of the girl, to whom he assigned them with the proper
legal formalities; a few hundred acres, however, being conveyed to
Captain Ralph and the worthy Dodge,--of whom the latter had given over
all thought of returning to the Bay-State, having, as he said, "got his
hand in to killing Injuns, and not caring a fourpence-ha'penny for the
whole everlasting set of them."

Thus settling up his accounts of gratitude, he joyously, and with Edith
still more joyous at his side, turned his face towards the East and
Virginia,--towards Fell-hallow and home: to enjoy a fortune of happiness
to which the memory of the few weeks of anguish and gloom passed in the
desert only served to impart additional zest.

Nor did he, even in the tranquil life of enjoyment which he was now
enabled to lead, lose his interest in the individuals who had shared his
perils and sufferings. His inquiries, made wherever, and whenever,
intelligence could be obtained, were continued for many years, until, in
fact, the District and Wilderness of Kentucky existed no more, but were
both merged in a State, too great and powerful to be longer exposed to
the inroads of savages. The information which he was able to glean in
relation to the several parties, was, however, uncertain and defective,
the means of intelligence being, at that early period, far from
satisfactory: but such as it was, we lay it before the reader.

The worthy Colonel Bruce continued to live and flourish with his Station,
which soon grew into a town of considerable note. The colonel himself,
when last heard from, was no longer a colonel, his good stars, his
military services, and perhaps the fervent prayers of his wife, having
transformed him, one happy day, into a gallant Brigadier. His son Dick
trode in the footsteps, and grew into the likeness of his brother Tom,
being as brave and good-humoured, and far more fortunate; and Roland
heard, a few years after his own departure from Kentucky, with much
satisfaction, that the youth was busily occupied, during such intervals
of peace as the Indians allowed, in clearing and cultivating the lands
bestowed on Telie Doe, whom he had, though scarce yet out of his teens,
taken to wife.

No very certain information was ever obtained in regard to the fate of
Pardon Dodge; but there was every reason to suppose he remained in
Kentucky, fighting Indians to the last, having got so accustomed to that
species of pastime as to feel easy while practising it. We are the more
inclined to think that such was the case, as the name is not yet extinct
on the frontier; and one individual bearing it, has very recently, in one
of the fiercest, though briefest of Indian wars, covered it with immortal
lustre.

Of Ralph Stackpole, the invader of Indian horse-pounds, it was Captain
Forrester's fortune to obtain more minute, though, we are sorry to say,
scarce more satisfactory intelligence. The luck, good and bad together,
which had distinguished Roaring Ralph, in all his relations with Roland,
never, it seems, entirely deserted him. His improvident, harum-scarum
habits had very soon deprived him of all the advantages that might have
resulted from the soldier's munificent gift, and left him a landless
good-for-nothing, yet contented vagabond as before. With poverty
returned sundry peculiar propensities which he had manifested in former
days; so that Ralph again lost savour in the nostrils of his
acquaintance; and the last time that Forrester heard of him, he had got
into a difficulty in some respects similar to that in the woods of Salt
River from which Roland, at Edith's intercession, had saved him. In a
word, he was one day arraigned before a county-court in Kentucky, on a
charge of horse-stealing, and matters went hard against him, his many
offences in that line having steeled the hearts of all against him, and
the proofs of guilt, in this particular instance, being both strong and
manifold. Many an angry and unpitying eye was bent upon the unfortunate
fellow, when his counsel rose to attempt a defence;--which he did in the
following terms: "Gentlemen of the Jury," said the man of law,--"here is
a man, Captain Ralph Stackpole, indicted before you on the charge of
stealing a horse; and the affa'r is pretty considerably proved on
him."--Here there was a murmur heard throughout the court, evincing much
approbation of the counsel's frankness. "Gentlemen of the Jury,"
continued the orator, elevating his voice, "what I have to say in reply,
is, first, that that man thar', Captain Ralph Stackpole, did, in the
year seventeen seventy-nine, when this good State of Kentucky, and
particularly those parts adjacent to Bear's Grass, and the mouth
thereof, where now stands the town of Louisville, were overrun with
yelping Injun-savages,--did, I say, gentlemen, meet two Injun-savages in
the woods on Bear's Grass, and take their scalps, single-handed--a feat,
gentlemen of the jury, that a'n't to be performed every day, even in
Kentucky!" Here there was considerable tumult in the court, and several
persons began to swear. "Secondly, gentlemen of the jury," exclaimed the
attorney-at-law, with a still louder voice, "what I have to say,
_secondly_, gentlemen of the jury, is, that this same identical
prisoner at the bar, Captain Ralph Stackpole, did, on another occasion,
in the year seventeen eighty-two, meet another Injun-savage in the
woods--a savage armed with rifle, knife, and tomahawk--and met him
with--you suppose, gentlemen, with gun, axe, and scalper, in like
manner!--No, gentlemen of the jury!--with his _fists_, and" (with a
voice of thunder) "licked him to death in the natural way!--Gentlemen
of the jury, pass upon the prisoner--guilty or not guilty?" The attorney
resumed his seat: his arguments were irresistible. The jurors started up
in their box, and roared out, to a man, "_Not guilty!_" From that moment,
it may be supposed, Roaring Ralph could steal horses at his pleasure.
Nevertheless, it seems, he immediately lost his appetite for horse-flesh;
and leaving the land altogether, he betook himself to a more congenial
element, launched his broad-horn on the narrow bosom of the Salt, and was
soon afterwards transformed into a Mississippi alligator; in which
amphibious condition, we presume, he roared on to the day of his death.

As for the valiant Nathan Slaughter--the last of the list of worthies,
after whom the young Virginian so often inquired--less was discovered in
relation to his fate than that of the others. A month, or more, perhaps,
after Roland's departure, he re-appeared at Bruce's Station, where he was
twice or thrice again seen. But, whether it was that, as we have once
before hinted, he found the cheers and hearty hurrahs, in token of
respect for his valiant deeds at Wenonga's town, with which Bruce's
people received him, more embarrassing and offensive than the flings and
sarcasms with which they used in former days to greet his appearance, or
whether he had some still more stirring reason for deserting the
neighbourhood, it is certain that he, in a short time, left the vicinity
of Salt River altogether, going no man knew whither. He went, and with
him his still inseparable friend, little dog Peter.

From that moment the Jibbenainosay ceased to frequent his accustomed
haunts in the forest; the phantom Nick of the Woods was never more beheld
stalking through the gloom; nor was his fearful cross ever again seen
traced on the breast of a slaughtered Indian.





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