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´╗┐Title: The Phantom of the River
Author: Ellis, Edward Sylvester, 1840-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "The Phantom of the River" ***

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                    _BOONE AND KENTON SERIES, NO. 2_

                        THE PHANTOM OF THE RIVER

                     A SEQUEL TO "SHOD WITH SILENCE"

                           BY EDWARD S. ELLIS

AUTHOR OF "THE LOG CABIN SERIES," "DEERFOOT SERIES," "WYOMING SERIES,"
ETC.

PHILADELPHIA
HENRY T. COATES & CO.
COPYRIGHT, 1896,



[Illustration: BOONE AND KENTON.]



CONTENTS.


I. LONGING FOR NIGHT

II. THE CAWING OF A CROW

III. THE HALT IN THE WOODS

IV. ON THE EDGE OF THE CLEARING

V. DARING AND DELICATE WORK

VI. THE RIGHT OF EMINENT DOMAIN

VII. A QUESTION OF OWNERSHIP

VIII. BY THE WAY

IX. THE "ACCIDENT"

X. AT RATTLESNAKE GULCH

XI. WATCHING AND WAITING

XII. CARRYING THE WAR INTO AFRICA

XIII. UNKIND FATE

XIV. THE INTRUDER

XV. A DARK PROSPECT

XVI. SIMON KENTON IN A PANIC

XVII. A RUN OF GOOD FORTUNE

XVIII. "IT'S AN ILL WIND THAT BLOWS NOBODY ANY GOOD"

XIX. A FELLOW-PASSENGER

XX. WAR'S STRATEGY

XXI. THE PHANTOM OF THE RIVER

XXII. PUTTING OUT FROM SHORE

XXIII. THE SHAWANOE CAMP

XXIV. THE FORLORN HOPE

XXV. FACE TO FACE

XXVI. IN THE LION'S DEN

XXVII. THE LAST RECOURSE

XXVIII. THE RETURN

XXIX. SQUARING ACCOUNTS

XXX. CONCLUSION



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

BOONE AND KENTON.

JETHRO IN TROUBLE.

THE PHANTOM BOAT.

THE MISSIONARY'S TRIUMPH.



PHANTOM OF THE RIVER.



CHAPTER I.

LONGING FOR NIGHT.


"I think there's trouble ahead, Dan'l."

"There isn't any doubt of it, Simon."

The first remark was made by the famous pioneer ranger, Simon Kenton,
and the second fell from the lips of the more famous Daniel Boone.

It was at the close of a warm day in August, more than a century ago,
that these veterans of the woods came together for the purpose of
consultation. They had threaded their way along parallel lines,
separated by hardly a furlong, for a mile from their starting-point,
when the above interchange of views took place.

Boone had kept close to the Ohio while stealthily moving eastward, while
Kenton took the same course, gliding more deeply among the shadows of
the Kentucky forest until, disturbed by the evidence of danger, he
trended to the left and met Boone near the river.

The two sat down on a fallen tree, side by side, and, while talking in
low tones, did not for a moment forget their surroundings. They had
lived too long in the perilous wilderness to forget that there was never
a moment when a pioneer was absolutely safe from the fierce or stealthy
red man.

"Dan'l," said Kenton, in that low, musical voice which was one of his
most marked characteristics, "this 'ere bus'ness has took the qu'arest
shape of anything that you or me have been mixed up in."

"I haven't been mixed up in it, Simon," corrected Boone, turning his
somewhat narrow, but clean-shaven face upon the other, and smiling
gently in a way that brought the wrinkles around a pair of eyes as blue
as those of Kenton himself.

"Not yet, but you're powerful sartin to be afore them folks reach the
block-house."

Boone nodded his head to signify that he agreed with his friend.

"You wasn't at the block-house, Dan'l, when the flatboat stopped there?"

"No."

"Neither was I; I was tramping through the woods on my way to make a
call on Mr. Ashbridge."

"That's the man who put up the cabin a mile back down the river?"

"Yes; you see Norman Ashbridge or his son George--and the same is a
powerful likely younker--come down the Ohio last spring in their
flatboat, and stopped at the clearing a mile below us, where they put up
a tidy cabin. A few weeks ago the father started east to bring down his
family in another flatboat. George, the younker, got tired of waiting
and set out to meet 'em; him and me come together in the woods, and had
a scrimmage with the varmints afore we got on the boat with 'em. Things
were purty warm on the way down the river, for The Panther made matters
warm for us."

"The Panther!" repeated Boone, turning toward his friend; "I was afraid
he was mixed up in this."

"I should say he was--ruther," replied Kenton, with a grin over the
surprise of his older companion. "That chap sneaked onto the boat last
night, believing he had a chance to clean us all out. Of course, I
knowed what was up, but The Panther made a powerful big mistake. He got
mixed up with that darkey you seed--his name is Jethro Juggens--and you
may shoot me if the darkey didn't throw him down and hold him fast till
we made him prisoner."

Boone had heard something of this extraordinary exploit, but he looked
questioningly at Kenton, as though he could hardly credit the fact.

"It's all as true as Gospel. We kept Wa-on-mon, which the same is The
Panther, till late that night, when Mr. Ashbridge and Altman and me went
over in a canoe to the other flatboat, which the Shawanoes had cleaned
out, to even up accounts with 'em. Sime Girty was with 'em, but they
left afore we got to the craft, and we sot it afire and come back."

"I seed the light last night, but didn't know what it was."

"While we was gone, Mr. Altman's darter, Agnes (she ain't much more than
a child), felt so sorry for The Panther, thinking, too, that I meant to
shove him under, that she cut the cords that bound him--"

"What a fool of a gal!"

"Dan'l," sternly interrupted Kenton, laying his hand on the arm of his
friend, "you mustn't speak that way of Tom Altman's child. There ain't a
finer, smarter, purtier, sweeter gal in all Ohio or Kaintuck than little
Agnes Altman. She made a powerful big mistake, but she done it in the
kindness of her heart, and, Dan'l, you and me knows there ain't many
such mistakes made. But that little gal showed her pluck when she
follered up Wa-on-mon, snatched the knife from his hand when he warn't
looking, and warned young Ashbridge in time to save him. Wal, The
Panther made a rush to jump overboard, but he happened to step onto that
darkey again, so he was nabbed."

"But what's become of The Panther?" asked Boone, hoping to hear that the
career of this terrible scourge of the border was ended.

Kenton rested his long, formidable flintlock rifle on the log at his
side, clasped his thin iron fingers over one knee, the foot of which was
raised from the ground, and looked thoughtfully among the trees in
front. His coonskin cap was shoved back from his forehead, and a frown
settled on it, and his thin lips were compressed for a few moments
before he spoke.

"Dan'l, things haven't turned out altogether to suit me. As you know,
the flatboat kept on down the river till it reached the clearing this
morning. Afore we went ashore, I diskivered that Girty and several
varmints was in the cabin. They knowed we was going there, and they
meant to wait until we got inside, when they'd clean us all out. While
we was man[oe]uvring round like, so as to trade places with 'em, a
powerful qu'ar thing happened."

"There's a good many queer things happening in this part of the world,
Simon," curtly remarked Boone.

"Two of them Shawanoes was shot--one killed or the other hit hard--and
in both cases it was done by that darkey, Jethro Juggens. He's a big,
strong, simple chap, that hates work worse nor pizen, but he knows how
to shoot that gun of his in a way that'll open your eyes."

"But what about The Panther?" asked Boone, feeling more interest in him
than in Jethro Juggens. Kenton's brow clouded again as he made answer:

"Consarn The Panther! I forgot about him. It was agreed that him and me
would meet, all by ourselves, in the woods near the clearing, and settle
that account between us. If I come back all right, Girty and the
varmints was to leave the cabin. I come back and they left."

"And you evened up matters with The Panther?" exclaimed Boone, with a
glow of satisfaction, in strong contrast to the scornful disgust on the
rugged countenance of his friend.

"No; I went to the spot, but The Panther didn't show himself."

The readers of "Shod with Silence" will recall the circumstances. Simon
Kenton hurried to the appointed place of meeting, eager for the
encounter with Wa-on-mon, the famous war chief of the Shawanoes, but the
crafty miscreant had vanished, and nothing was seen of him.

"I never thought Wa-on-mon was a coward," bitterly repeated Kenton.

"And, Simon," said Boone, impressively, "don't make the mistake of
thinking so now; the reason why he didn't meet you wasn't that he was
afraid of you."

"What was it?"

"You know as well as me."

And so he did. The savage leader of the Shawanoes merely deferred his
furious meeting with the ranger in order to strike a more fearful blow
against the pioneers.

The moment Wa-on-mon plunged into the woods near the clearing, with the
avowed purpose of meeting Kenton, he was off like a deer in search of a
large war party that he knew was somewhere in the neighborhood. With
them he meant to return and "wipe out" every man, woman and child of the
settlers.

Meanwhile, the Altmans and Ashbridges, assisted by their companions,
removed all their goods from the flatboat against the bank and placed
them in the cabin, prepared some time before for the occupancy of the
Ashbridges. This was hardly done when Daniel Boone appeared at the
clearing with disquieting news. He advised them, however, to stay, since
their means of defence was good, but hardly was the decision reached
when a runner came in with the news that an uprising among the
surrounding tribes had already begun, and it would not do for the
pioneers to remain another day. Nothing could save the lonely cabins and
exposed dwellings except immediate flight to the nearest settlement or
block-house.

Ten miles from the clearing, and standing on the northern bank of the
Ohio, was the block-house in charge of Captain Bushwick. The Altmans and
Ashbridges made the sad mistake of not fastening the flatboat to the
bank and taking up their quarters at this frontier post until the full
truth was learned about the dangers confronting them.

The first intention of Boone and his party was to escort the settlers
back to the block-house. They had a brush with a company of Shawanoes,
and defeated them. It was not the main body, however, under the
leadership of The Panther. That remained to be heard from, and its
whereabouts was unknown.

Mr. Altman, his wife, and daughter Agnes, and his negro servant, Jethro
Juggens, Mr. Ashbridge and his wife, daughter Mabel, and their son
George set out for the block-house on the Ohio side of the river.

Their plan was to keep along the Kentucky bank until opposite the post,
when the means would be readily found for crossing. The two families
were in charge of the rangers that Boone had brought with him for the
purpose of acting as their escort. They were forced to leave behind them
all their earthly possessions in the solitary cabin, with not the
remotest prospect of ever seeing them or it again.

Although the day was well along when the start was made, yet the
situation was so critical, because of the part The Panther was certain
to play in the coming events, that Boone and Kenton took the advance,
proceeding by parallel but separated lines, and on the guard against any
stealthy approach from the Indians.

It was the hope that by preventing or, rather, averting any attack until
nightfall, the prospects of the pioneers would be vastly improved.
Though the forest possessed no available trail that could be used even
in the daytime, the rangers, and especially Kenton and Boone, were so
familiar with it, that they could guide their friends with unerring
accuracy when the darkness was so profound that it was almost worthy of
the old remark that a person could not see his hand before his face.

Accordingly, all yearned or prayed for the coming of darkness.

"Hark," whispered Kenton, turning to Boone, and raising his hand as a
gesture for silence.

No need of that, for the elder had caught the sound--a faint and
apparently distant cawing of a crow from some lofty tree-top.

Both had heard the same cry more than once that afternoon, and instead
of its being the call of a crow, they knew it came from the throat of an
Indian warrior, and therefore a relentless enemy.



CHAPTER II.

THE CAWING OF A CROW.


Three separate times previous to this that faint cawing signal had been
heard, as it seemed, from the distant tree-tops. The most sensitive ear
could not say of a certainty it was not made by one of those
black-coated birds calling to its mate or the flock from which it had
strayed. Neither Boone nor Kenton distinguished any difference between
the tone and what they had heard times without number, and yet neither
held a doubt that it was emitted by a dusky spy stealing through the
woods, and that it bore a momentous message to others of his kith and
kin.

The keen sense of hearing enabled the rangers to locate the signal at
less than a quarter of a mile in front and quite close to the Ohio. From
the first time it was heard, no more than half an hour before, it held
the same relative distance from the river, but advanced at a pace so
nearly equal to that of Boone and Kenton that it was impossible to
decide whether it was further off or nearer than before.

There was no reply to the call, and it was uttered only three times in
each instance. The oppressive stillness that held reign throughout the
forest on that sultry summer afternoon enabled the two men to hear the
cawing with unmistakable distinctness.

In short, our friends interpreted it as a notice from the dusky scout to
his comrades that he was following the progress of the pioneers, which
was therefore fully understood by the war party that was seeking to
encompass their destruction.

When the signal sounded for the fourth time, the rangers seated on the
fallen tree looked in each other's faces without speaking. Then Kenton
asked, in his guarded undertone:

"What do you make of it, Dan'l?"

"There's only one thing to make of it; them Shawanoes are keeping track
of every movement of the folks behind us, and we can't hinder' em."

"How many of the varmints are playing the spy?"

"There may be one, and there may be a dozen."

This answer, of necessity, was guess-work, for there was no possible
means of determining the number, since the hostiles in front so
regulated their progress that not a glimpse had been caught of the
almost invisible trail left by them.

And yet the matter was not wholly conjecture, after all.

"Dan'l," said Kenton, with a significant smile, "there's more than one
of 'em, and you and me know it."

The older smiled in turn and nodded his head.

"You're right; there's two, and may be more--but we know there's two."

Nothing could show more strikingly the marvelous woodcraft of these
remarkable men than their agreement in this declaration, which was
founded upon this fact.

There was a shade of difference between the tone of the last signal and
those that preceded it. You and I would have shaken our heads and
smiled, had we been asked to distinguish it, but to those two past
masters in woodcraft it was as absolute as between the notes of a flute
and the throbbing of a drum.

It was as if, after a Shawanoe had cawed three times, he permitted a
companion to try his hand, or rather his throat, at it, and he who made
the attempt acquitted himself right well.

"Now, Simon," remarked the elder, "as I make it, it's this way--they
mean to ambush the party at Rattlesnake Gulch."

"You're right! that's it," remarked Kenton, with an approving nod of his
head, "and if we don't sarcumvent 'em the varmints will have every
scalp, including ours."

"Rattlesnake Gulch" was a name given to a deep depression on the
Kentucky side of the river, and within one hundred yards of the stream.
It was less than a half a mile in advance of where the two rangers were
seated on the fallen tree, as the summer day was drawing to a close.

A trail made by buffaloes, deer, and other wild animals led through the
middle of this densely-wooded section. No doubt this path had been in
existence at least one hundred years. Beyond the gulch it trended to the
right and deeper into the woods, terminating at a noted salt lick,
always a favorite resort of quadrupeds whether wild or domestic.

The forest was so deep and matted with undergrowth, both to the right
and left of this depression, that nothing but the most pressing
necessity could prevent a person from using the trail when journeying to
the eastward or westward through that section. Evidently, the Shawanoes
counted upon the settlers following the path, and such they would
assuredly do unless prevented by the advance scouts.

"Captain Bushwick was out on a little scout himself last summer,"
remarked Kenton, who, despite their alarming surroundings, seemed to be
in somewhat of a reminiscent mood, "when, on his way back, he started
through that holler. The fust thing he did was to step into a rattler,
which burried his fangs in his leggins, just missing his skin. Afore the
sarpent could strike again, the captain made a sweep with his gun bar'l
that knocked off his head. He was a whopper, and the captain pulled out
his knife to cut off his rattles to bring to the block-house, when he
catched the whir of another rattler just behind him, and if he hadn't
jumped powerful lively he would have catched it that time sartin.
Howsumever, the sarpint couldn't reach him, and the captain shot the
mate, and brought the music box of each home with him."

"It was Captain Bushwick who gave the name Rattlesnake Gulch to the
place, I 'spose," was the inquiring remark of Boone.

"Yes, he seemed to think that name was not only purty, but desarving,
though I've been through the holler a good many times and never seed a
sarpent."

"I have."

"When was that?"

"Less than two weeks ago, I was just entering from the other side when I
caught sight of a buck that was on his way to the lick. He would have
seed me if he hadn't seed just then something else in the path in front
of him that interested him more. It was a rattler as big as them of the
captain's. The buck was a fool, for instead of backing out, as you know
animals are quick to do at sight of a rattler, he began to snuff and
cavort about the snake, and finally brought his front hoofs down on it.
Of course, he cut the serpent all to ribbons, but afore he done it the
buck was stung once or twice, and inside of half an hour he jined the
rattler he had sent on afore. Rattlers are as bad as Injins!" muttered
Boone, with an expression of disgust.

"They may be in some partic'lars, but in some they ain't, Dan'l; f'r
instance, they don't caw like a crow, and don't try to ambuscade folks,
and they give you warning afore they strike, which is more than the
two-legged varmints do."

"Talk about the rattler giving warning afore he strikes," repeated
Boone, who had a poor opinion of the genus crotalus, "he'd be a much
more decent sarpint if he didn't strike at all. The black snake doesn't
sting you, and yet he'll kill the rattler every time. Howsumever," added
the elder ranger, "what's snakes got to do with the bus'ness afore us?"

"That's what I was thinking. Now, Dan'l, we've got to make the varmints
think we're going to try to pass through Rattlesnake Gulch to-night, so
they'll all gather there to welcome us."

"And then what will our folks do?"

"Take some other route."

"But which one? The woods are so thick on the right and left that they,
especially the women, can't go ten feet without making a noise that'll
be sartin to be heard by the varmints."

"There are several things they can do," replied Kenton, thoughtfully,
proving that, like his companion, he had speculated much on the matter.
"In the first place, they must move so slow that they won't reach the
neighborhood of the gulch till after dark, and yet if they move too slow
the Shawanoes will be suspicious. I wish night was near at hand."

"What good does wishing do?"

"None, and never did; but when night does come we can turn about--that
is, some of the boys can, with the women--and cross the river further
down stream, strike the trail on the other side of the Ohio, and go
straight to the block-house."

Boone shook his head. The scheme did not impress him favorably.

"How are you going to get them women and two children across the river?
It isn't likely that any one of 'em knows how to swim a stroke."

"What trouble would it be to tote 'em over?"

Boone again shook his head; he was not pleased with the suggestion.

"I didn't mean to do anything of the kind, but," added Kenton, more
seriously, "there's a canoe of mine hid under the bushes just this side
of the gulch, purvided the varmints haven't tumbled over it."

"More'n likely they've took it away or smashed it, but if I ain't
mistook, there's a craft alongside the flatboat that you left at the
clearing."

"You are right."

"Why not go back for that?"

"It ain't a bad idee," remarked Kenton, thoughtfully. "If I can manage
to fetch the boat up the river without any of the varmints 'specting it,
it'll be just the thing."

"It won't carry all the women and children and rest of the folks at
once."

"Then we can make two v'yages or more, if it's necessary."

"It's risky bus'ness, but it's the best thing that can be done. If you
are lucky 'nough to find tother boat where you left it, seems to me
things will look up."

Kenton glanced around among the tree-tops, as if searching for
something. So he was, though not for any special object.

"'Cording to the way things look it'll be a good two hours afore it'll
be dark 'nough to set to work to sarcumvent the varmints. Them two hours
are long 'nough for the folks to make the trip to Rattlesnake Gulch
twice over. Some plan has got to be fixed up not to git thar till after
two hours is gone, and yet not to have the Shawanoes 'spect that we
'spect anything. Can you tell me how the thing is to be done, Dan'l?"

"There ought to be a good many ways," replied the elder, after a brief
pause; "some accident might happen, such, f'r 'nstance, as getting bit
by a rattler."

Kenton saw the twinkle in the eyes of his friend, who spoke with the
utmost gravity. "Remember," said the younger, "I never seed any rattler
near the gulch; you have; you're the one, therefore, to see some of 'em
agin. You're the one to let a big rattler sting you. After he's made
sartin he's done his work well, why I'll happen 'long and smash the
rattler, and then look after you--helloa!"

Both instinctively grasped their rifles, for they heard the rustling of
leaves, which showed that some one was approaching. Had the noise been
less pronounced the two rangers would have darted behind the nearest
sheltering trees; but the noise was too distinct for either Boone or
Kenton to suspect that an enemy was at hand. They knew it was a
friend--at least one from whom they had nothing to fear.

So it proved; for while they were peering toward the point whence the
figure was known to be approaching, Jethro Juggens, the burly colored
servant lad of Mr. Altman, slouched into sight, with his rifle slung
over his shoulder. Not until he had advanced a dozen steps further did
he see two hunters seated on the fallen tree. Then he stopped suddenly,
with a startled expression, and brought his heavy rifle to the front.

"None of that!" called Kenton, uncertain what the fellow might do.

"Hello, Mr. Kenton, dat's yo'self, am it?" called Jethro, with a grin;
"I tinked you was de Panther. I was jes' gwine to plug yo'; lucky yo'
spoke when yo' done did, or I'd wiped out bofe ob yo' afore anybody
could hold me; but," added Jethro, in an awed undertone, "I's got bery
important news for yo', Mr. Kenton and Mr. Boom."



CHAPTER III.

THE HALT IN THE WOODS.


The appearance of Jethro Juggens surprised Boone and Kenton as they sat
on the fallen tree, for they were looking for nothing of the kind. When
he announced that he was the bearer of important tidings, he naturally
became an object of increased interest, for the fate of the little party
of pioneers was the problem that the two great rangers were trying to
solve.

"You bring important news," repeated Kenton, who, as the reader already
knows, was quite partial to the negro, for, with all his stupidity, he
had given proof of astonishing skill in marksmanship. "What is your
news?"

"I's very well," replied Jethro, taking his seat beside the men on the
log, removing his cap, and fanning his shining countenance.

"That being so," continued Kenton, "what's the news you brought?"

"Haben't I jes' told yo'? I's bery well, 'cepting dat I's hungry, dough
I can't make none ob de folks blebe it. Howsumeber, I guess dey blebes
it, but dey don't keer."

"Haven't you any other news for us?" asked Boone, looking sternly at
Jethro, who did not note, or, noting perhaps, did not care for his
displeasure.

"Nuffin else in 'tickler, 'cept dat de folks am also well."

"That is some kind of news, though only what we expected. Nothing has
happened to any of 'em?" inquired Kenton.

"Nuffin dat I reckomembers."

"Where are they?"

"Don't you know?" asked Jethro, in turn, looking around in surprise that
he should put the question, when he had parted with his friends only
comparatively a short time before. "Whar do you 'spose dey am, Mr.
Kenton?"

"I know where they ought to be," said the ranger, gravely; "they ought
to be about a half a mile or so down the river, picking their way
through the woods to this tree where we're setting; but I didn't know
but what something had happened."

"Didn't I just tole you dat nuffin didn't happen?"

"Are the folks coming up the river towards us?"

"Dey were settin' still on some rocks on the ground when I left."

"What's that for?"

"I 'spose dey're tired; want to rest."

Kenton looked significantly at Boone. Jethro's theory would not answer.
There was no member of the little party of pioneers, not even Agnes
Altman, nor Mabel Ashbridge, only ten years of age, who would become so
wearied by twice as long a tramp as to feel the need of rest.

"Did you come yourself, or were you sent ahead to see us?"

"I come myself, dat is, nobody fotched me on his back; but Mr. Hastings
subgested dat I come, by saying if I didn't he would kick me."

Weber Hastings was the sturdy member of the escort party who, in the
absence of Boone, had charge of them.

Jethro Juggens began to display more sense in his words than he had yet
shown. He became more serious in his manner.

"De way ob it was dis: One ob de men from de block-house had been
scoutin' frough de woods, and he come back and tole Mr. Hastings what he
seed----"

"What was it?" interrupted Kenton.

"Being as he didn't tole me, yo'll hab to obscoose me from answerin' dat
question, but I was invited to go on ahead and to tell yo' folks dat Mr.
Hastings wanted one ob yo' or bofe ob yo' to come back again, as he had
somethin' he wanted to see yo' about."

Neither Boone nor Kenton made any comment on the singular course of
Hastings in selecting Jethro Juggens to bear such a message, when, among
all the male members of the company probably there was not one that was
less qualified.

"I don't know what it means," said Boone, rising from the tree, "but it
means something. You had better go back with this simpleton at once."

"And you?"

"I'll push ahead and larn what I kin. It won't make any difference
whether I'm with you or not, if there's a fight coming, but I'll do my
best to jine you. I'm likely to run onto something ahead that we oughter
know."

"Do you expect to use any signallin' for me?" asked Kenton, who had also
risen to his feet.

"Don't see that there'll be any need, but if there is you'll understand
it. You and me are too used to each other, Simon, to make any slip
up----"

Kenton raised his hand and smiled. While the words were in the mouth of
Boone, the soft, faint cawing of the crow was heard for the fifth time.

At the same moment two interesting facts were impressed upon the
rangers.

The call did not sound half so far away as in any one of the former
instances, and it came from a throat which essayed it for the first time
in the hearing of Boone and Kenton.

"Now we know there's three of 'em," remarked the latter.

"They're wondering why me and the rest of 'em aren't pushing faster
through the woods. But off with you, Simon; we're losing time."

Without another word these two great pioneers separated, the elder
moving silently among the trees to the eastward, that is, up the Ohio
and toward Rattlesnake Gulch, now a place of the first importance to all
concerned. He did not look around to note what was done by the other.

But Kenton had taken only a few steps when he stopped and looked back.

Jethro Juggens was standing by the fallen tree with his gun on his
shoulder and glancing inquiringly from the disappearing figure of Boone
to that of Kenton, only a few yards away.

"What's the matter?" asked the latter. "What are you waiting for?"

"Which ob yo' folks wants me, Mr. Kenton?"

"I don't think either one of us will die of a broken heart if we lose
you; but come along with me."

"Sure Mr. Boone won't feel bad if I don't go wid him?"

"Come along, keep close to me and don't make any noise, for the woods is
full of the varmints."

Enough has been told for the reader to understand the situation. The
Altman and Ashbridge families were threading their way through the
Kentucky wilderness, from the clearing where a cabin had been erected
some weeks before, to the block-house ten miles distant and on the
opposite side of the river. They were escorted by a number of rangers
and scouts from the block-house, under the charge of Daniel Boone, and
sent thither by Captain Bushwick, who discovered the imminent peril of
the families after they had declined the invitation to tarry at the
block-house, and had passed beyond and down the Ohio in the flatboat.

Kenton was not mistaken in his theory about the return journey of
himself and companion. Not the slightest sign of danger appeared, and in
a comparatively short time they came upon their friends, who, from their
appearance, might well have been taken for a picnic party on an outing
of their own.

What more inviting opening could the crouching Shawanoes ask than was
here presented to them? From their lurking places among the surrounding
trees they could pour in a frightfully destructive volley that would
stretch many of the helpless party lifeless on the ground.

And why did they not do so? Because they knew the cost to them. Those
hunters and rangers were used to the Indian method of fighting. If the
redskins could approach nigh enough to fire before detection, there
would be enough white men left to make many of them bite the dust ere
they could get beyond reach of the deadly rifles.

No; in the estimation of the Shawanoes there was a plan open to them
that was a thousandfold more preferable.

Rattlesnake Gulch was the beau ideal place for an ambuscade, for it not
only offered a certain chance for the destruction of the entire party of
whites, but afforded a perfect protection against any unpleasant
consequences to the ambuscaders.



CHAPTER IV.

ON THE EDGE OF THE CLEARING.


The arrival of Kenton naturally caused a stir on the part of all the
members of the party that halted on their way through the Kentucky
wilderness to the block-house, somewhat less than ten miles distant and
on the other side of the Ohio River.

Not only Hastings and his brother rangers, but the Ashbridges and
Altmans gathered around the pioneer to hear what he had to say and the
directions as to their own proceedings.

Mr. Ashbridge and his friend Altman were roused by the murmur of voices
and the subdued excitement, and joined the group that surrounded the
tall, athletic figure--all excepting little Mabel Ashbridge, who was
just getting her tiny dam in shape, and deemed that of more importance
than listening to the conversation of the elders.

The words of Weber Hastings proved that he was as quick as Boone and
Kenton to comprehend the peculiar peril which confronted the party.

"It isn't far to the block-house," he replied to the question of Kenton,
"and we can do it in two or three hours, if the redskins would give us
the chance."

"What caused you to make this stop, Weber?"

"Rattlesnake Gulch," was the response.

"What's the matter with that?"

"There's where the Shawanoes mean to ambush us."

"You're right," replied Kenton, nodding his head and compressing his
lips. "That's just what the varmints have fixed things to do, and if
they can do it they'll wipe out every one of this party. Boone and me
made up our minds that that was their trick. He's gone ahead to watch
'em, and I've come back to help you folks."

"From what Mr. Hastings said," remarked the elder Ashbridge, who, like
his friend Altman, was thoroughly roused, "the woods are so matted and
choked with dense undergrowth on both sides of the gulch that it is
impossible for us to pick our way through it at night without being
heard by the Indians."

"He's right," was the emphatic comment of Kenton, "the thing can't be
done."

"That being admitted," said Altman, "why would it not be wise to cross
the river at this point, or make the rest of the journey through the
Ohio woods? We who know how to swim can take over those who cannot, or
better, perhaps, construct a raft upon which to float to the other
side."

"That would be the idee exactly, if it could be hid from the varmints,
but they're watching us, and have been doing so ever since we've left
the clearing. They know everything you do. Afore you could get half-way
cross the river with the raft they would open on you from the woods on
both sides, and pick off each woman and gal and them as was pushing the
raft."

"I do not doubt what you say," observed Altman, with a shudder at the
graphic picture drawn by the scout, "but it seems strange to me," he
added, with a glance around, as if he expected to catch sight of some of
their terrible enemies, "that they have not already opened upon us,
while we are here in camp, as may be said. What better chance could they
ask?"

"They could pick off a number of you, but Weber here and the rest of the
boys would make them dance to lively music if they tried it. That's what
holds 'em back, for these chaps," remarked Kenton, looking proudly
around upon his companions, "have fout the varmints afore to-day."

"Then we are doing the only thing possible, by remaining here until it
becomes so late in the day that we shall not reach Rattlesnake Gulch
until after dark, and then, instead of attempting to go through it, we
will cross the river, I presume, though I am not aware of the decision
that has been reached by Mr. Hastings."

"What will they suspect, then, if we stop here?" asked George Ashbridge.

"Now you've hit the trouble. When they find you don't arrive at some
p'int where they've been looking for you, they'll know you're stopped.
Some of their spies will sneak back through the woods to l'arn what it
means--more'n likely they've already done so," added Kenton, with
another glance around him, "and then when they see you setting or
standing or lolling around, without any partic'lar reason for your doing
so, they'll understand the real cause powerful quick. As soon as they
diskiver you don't mean to try the Rattlesnake Gulch route, they'll fix
things to open onto you, and send as many as they can under."

"Then the problem, as I understand it," said the older Ashbridge, "is to
act so as to convince the Indians that we intend to follow the path
through the gulch where they mean to ambuscade us, and to keep up this
impression until nightfall."

"You've hit it precisely, Mr. Ashbridge."

"But how is that to be done? I know of no one beside you to answer the
question."

"Boone and me have been thinking powerful hard over the matter, and the
best thing to be done, as I see it, is this: You know we left a canoe
down by the clearing alongside the boat. I'll go back there and get it,
that is, if it is still there. I'll try to keep so close in under the
bank that the varmints won't know what I'm driving at. I'll manage to
reach a p'int just this side of Rattlesnake Gulch early in the evening,
and will wait for you. Then I'll hurry the women folks 'cross to the
other side and make the rest of the journey to the block-house on the
Ohio bank."

"You will have to make two trips with the canoe."

"Onless I can find another one that was hid under the bushes on this
side not fur from the gulch. If that's there, I'll take one party over,
and Boone, or some one else, tother."

"And the rest of us will have it out with the redskins," remarked Weber
Hastings, with flashing eyes.

"You must start on agin," said Kenton, addressing Hastings, as the
leader of the party in the absence of himself and Boone; "don't hurry,
for as it is you've got too much time now on your hands. If you find
you're getting too near Rattlesnake Gulch afore sun-down, you must have
some sort of accident that'll give you an excuse for stopping for a
time. That'll keep the varmints from 'specting anything."

"We ought to be able to arrange some accident," remarked George
Ashbridge, with a smile, slyly pressing the hand of Agnes, standing
beside him. "I'll fall over a log if necessary and break a leg."

"A better plan will be for Jethro to get shot accidentally like."

"Gorrynation, dat won't work!" exclaimed the negro, who did not let a
word escape him; "de bestest way to fix dat will be to stuff me so full
of victuals dat I won't be able to walk alone, and de rest ob yo' will
hab to carry me slow like."

"Wal, time is passing; it won't do to stay here any longer; I leave you
in charge of Weber; he can do as well as me or Boone."

The scout turned to move away, when Jethro Juggens laid his hand on his
arm.

"See yar, Mr. Kenton, I's worried 'bout yo'," said the colored youth,
with an anxious expression on his countenance.

"What's the cause of that?" asked the ranger, who, as already stated,
held a kindly feeling toward the good-natured fellow.

"I's feard sumfin' will happen to yo'--feels it in my bones; I tink yo'
oughter hab some one to look after yo' while yo's gone."

"Would you like to do it?"

"I tinks a good deal ob yo', Mr. Kenton, and I's willin' to take keer ob
yo', and see dat yo' gets back all right."

Yielding to that waggish disposition which was a marked characteristic
of Simon Kenton, sometimes under the most trying circumstances, the
ranger said:

"Come on, younker, you shall take care of me."

And to the astonishment of the party, the two walked off side by side,
and disappeared among the trees to the westward.

"We'll make this bargain," remarked Kenton, a few minutes after they
were beyond sight of their friends: "You'll take care of me, and I'll do
my best to take care of you."

"Dat hits me 'bout right."

"You'll do just what I tell you to do, and won't speak or move without
my first telling you to do so."

"Dat's it; and yo' won't speak or move without fust askin' me; I'll be
easy with yo', Mr. Kenton."

"But," gravely remarked the scout, "if each of us should happen to
forbid t'other to stir or speak, we'd have to stand still forever. I'll
act as boss at first, and then when I'm ready I'll give you your turn."

"Dat don't strike me ozactly right, but, as I jist obsarved, I'll be
easy wid yo', Mr. Kenton, and let yo' start in," replied Jethro,
somewhat puzzled at the off-hand manner in which the ranger took hold of
the reins.

But the ranger never laid aside his caution and vigilance. He kept
Jethro Juggens at his heels, forbidding him to speak a word, but to
watch and listen to the utmost. The sun was in the horizon when, without
any special incident, they arrived at the clearing, which all had left
earlier in the day.

The first view brought a disappointment to Kenton. Nothing in the
appearance of the settlers' cabin intimated that it had suffered any
disturbance since the departure of the pioneers, and the unladen
flatboat rested against the bank, just where it lay when the ranger cast
a backward glance at it some hours before. The canoe, however, which was
the magnet that drew him thither, was missing.

It was in as plain sight as the larger craft upon the departure of the
party, but the keen vision was unable to discover the first outline of
the bow or stern. Since it could not have removed itself, it followed
that its disappearance was due to human agency.

"The varmints seem to be everywhere to-day," muttered the impatient
ranger; "they've been there since we left, and more'n likely some of 'em
are there now; but I've come after that canoe, and I'm going to have it,
or my name isn't Sime Kenton."

"Shall I go wid yo' to see yo' don't get hurt?" inquired Jethro Juggens.

"No; stay where you be, and keep out of sight, and don't speak, nor
stir, nor breathe, till I come back," replied the ranger, making ready
to set out on one of the most perilous adventures of his eventful
career.



CHAPTER V.

DARING AND DELICATE WORK.


It will be borne in mind that Kenton had approached the clearing from
the east, or up the river, so that it was necessary to cross the open
space to reach the spot where the silent flatboat rested against the
bank, and near which he expected to find the canoe, so necessary in the
plan he had formed for saving the settlers and their families.

To start across this clear space was too risky a proceeding for so
guarded a woodsman as he. If any of his enemies were on the other side,
where he meant to look for the smaller boat, the ranger was certain to
be detected. His plan, therefore, was to pass around the clearing by
entering the woods and moving to the rear. This he set out to do upon
parting from Jethro Juggens.

He had not yet passed from sight among the trees when his steps were
arrested by a vigorous "St! st!"

Well aware of the point whence it came, he turned impatiently around,
took a couple of steps toward his dusky companion, and demanded in an
undertone:

"What do you want?"

"Yo' tole me not to speak or move or breve; if I don't speak or move,
can't you let up on de breving bus'ness? I'm afraid it's gwine to bodder
me to shet off breving."

"All right, so you don't forget to stay right where you are till I come
back."

Kenton resumed his advance, keeping out of sight in the woods, until he
had skirted three sides of the clearing and approached the river again,
opposite the point where he had first halted with his companion, and
failed to see the canoe.

As yet it was an absolute mystery as to what had become of the lesser
boat. A half-dozen causes might account for its disappearance. It might
have been set adrift by one of the Shawanoes, or captured and paddled
across the river, or destroyed, or--

At that moment the figure of a sinewy Shawanoe shot up to view, as if
from a jumping-box. He was near the canoe, but between it and Kenton,
and so close, indeed, that but for the fact that his face was turned
toward the river, he must have discovered the white man.

Kenton's heart gave a quick throb, for something in the shoulders, the
back of the head and contour of the body suggested that the Indian was
his old enemy, Wa-on-mon, The Panther.

"If it's the varmint himself," thought Kenton, "him and me can just as
well have it now, even if there are others of his people not fur off."

Either the Indian did not see that on the river for which he was
searching, or the view was satisfactory, for he now turned and looked
toward the cabin. This brought his face into full view, and the glimpse
which the white man caught from a peep around the edge of the bark
showed the warrior to be a stranger.

Kenton's position enabled him to see the log cabin as clearly as did the
Shawanoe, but it was impossible to detect anything to justify his
interest in the building. The situation had become so peculiar that all
the sagacity of the ranger was insufficient for him to decide upon the
best course to pursue.

Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed, during which the warrior, sitting on
the ground, with his back against the tree, remained as motionless as
did The Panther, when a prisoner the night before on the flatboat.

"I'm blessed if I don't believe he's asleep," mused Kenton.

Nothing is easier than for a person to pretend unconsciousness, but in
this case the white man could think of no reason for the red man doing
that.

"Shod with silence," as Simon Kenton or his brothers were when threading
their way among the forest shadows, he stepped from behind the tree and
began moving toward the long, graceful canoe, whose nose rested against
the bank.

His course took him near the Shawanoe, and he paused while yet several
paces to the rear. The hostile was at his mercy. He could drive the life
from his body with lightning-like suddenness.

"That isn't the way for a Christian to fight," concluded Kenton, making
such an abrupt change in his course that the distance between the two
was increased.

The pose of the Indian was the natural one of a sleeper. His back being
against the trunk of a tree, his knees were drawn up, with his arms
resting upon them. His long rifle reclined against the same support as
his body, his knife and tomahawk were in place in the girdle around the
waist of his half-naked person, his head was sunk, with the chin resting
on his chest, and his coarse, black hair dangling in front or behind his
shoulders.

As he sat thus, his face was turned partly away from the canoe. Kenton's
course took him past the sleeper, whose eyes, as he noted, were closed.
All doubt of his being unconscious were removed, since no reason was
conceivable for any pretence on his part.

Fortune held the promise of a rare and remarkable triumph. It has been
said that the canoe rested so lightly against the banks that only a very
slight force was required to release and let it float down stream.

If, therefore, the Shawanoe should awake and note its absence, he would
conclude that it was due to the action of the current, a conclusion that
could not be formulated in the event of his rifle keeping it company.
Following the suggestion of such a theory, the Shawanoe, in seeking to
recover the boat, would look down instead of up stream for it.

With these reasons, therefore, swaying him, Kenton put past him all
inclination to trifle with a sleeping sentinel, and with only a
momentary pause stepped forward until he laid his hand on the arching
prow of the canoe, which was the same as the stern.

The long two-bladed paddle lay in the bottom, just as he himself had
laid it after rowing ashore with The Panther. Everything was ready, but
the hardest test of all now confronted the scout, who had performed his
part thus far with a consummate skill that could not be surpassed.

Keeping his gaze upon his enemy, he dipped one end of the paddle in the
water, and, with the same noiselessness as before, sent the boat up the
stream and across the clear space at the foot of the clearing.

Something like assurance came to him when he drove it beneath the
overhanging limbs and stepped ashore for Jethro Juggens. Knowing the
precise spot where he had left him, he hurried thither without losing a
second. But the fellow was gone.

"Sarved me right for bringing him along!" muttered the angry Kenton,
"but what can have become of the younker?"

Well, indeed, might he ask the question.



CHAPTER VI.

THE RIGHT OF EMINENT DOMAIN.


It always seemed to Jethro Juggens that Kenton took a great deal more
pains or used a greater degree of caution than was necessary when he
undertook a task in which Indians were concerned. The density of the
African's intellect did not blind him to the need of using caution or
care in dealing with the treacherous people, but the excessive timidity
of so active or powerful a man as the pioneer struck the dusky youth
unfavorably.

"He tinks dat dat canoe am ober yender, somewhar near dat flatboat,"
mused Jethro, several minutes after the departure of the scout; "I has a
little ob dat 'pinion myself. It wouldn't take more dan five minutes to
run across to de oder side. Dat's what he oughter do, but instead ob dat
he goes clear round de clearing frough de woods--de most obfoolishest
ting dat he could do. He runs de risk ob steppin' on a rattlesnake and
gettin' stung, or ob catchin' a limb under his chin and liftin' him
offen his feet and droppin' him on his back wid a violence dat will
shake all de teeth out ob his head."

The reader has learned the success of the plan adopted by Kenton.

"I don't feel perzactly right ober dis bus'ness," muttered Jethro, some
minutes later. "I come along to help look after Mr. Kenton, and when de
danger comes I let him slip away without me.

"He played de boss fust ober me, which am all right, 'cause dat am de
way to fix dem tings, but it's 'bout time my turn come."

An expression of displeasure passed over the ebon countenance.

"He told me I musn't speak nor move nor breve. Dar ain't no sense in
dat. Den he gib me percumission to breve. 'Sposen he hadn't done so,
what would hab come of me? I couldn't hold my bref for free, four hours
while he war gone. As for movin' and talkin', I hab already done dat, so
dar ain't no use ob tinting any more 'bout it."

It was really a relief to reflect that he had violated all the commands
laid upon him, for the fact ended the mental struggle which might have
continued indefinitely. Inasmuch, therefore, as the bars were down, the
disobedience grew or expanded.

Kenton, before parting with the servant, made sure he was in a place
where there was little danger of discovery. The undergrowth was so dense
that no one was likely to pass through it except in case of necessity,
for work would be saved by making a much longer tour around. It was
quite near the river, on the margin of the clearing, though far enough
from the latter to prevent the fellow being seen if he used only
ordinary prudence.

In open violation of his orders, Jethro made his way to the open space,
putting forth no special precaution in doing so, and peered around.
There was nothing in the appearance of the flatboat to interest him, nor
could he note any change in the looks of the cabin.

"I don't feel dat dis matter am gwine right," he mused, returning to his
former position; "I'se gettin' worried 'bout Mr. Kenton; it war
understood dat I war to go 'long to help took care ob him, and dar's no
knowing what trouble he'll get into."

Enough had passed between the two before their separation for Jethro to
understand quite clearly the scheme he had in mind. He knew the ranger
meant to take the longest way round to the other side of the clearing,
throwing away, in the estimation of the African, a great deal of time
and effort.

Fortunately, Jethro did not yield to his impulse to solve the matter by
striding across the open space and making a hunt himself for the cause
that was destined to play a most important part in the fortunes of the
pioneers. Thus, a calamity, far-reaching in its consequences, was
averted.

But a few minutes more of reflection induced the youth to do something
hardly less dangerous or ill-advised.

He decided to follow after Kenton, taking the same course and making for
the same destination.

"It'll s'prise him," thought Jethro, with a grin, "when I sort of
whistle, and he looks round and sees me standin' dar smilin' at him.
I'll doot!"

The youth was not sufficiently skilled in woodcraft to follow the ranger
by means of his trail. Indeed, there was no need of his doing so, since
the course was well known to him.

It was not without some misgiving that Jethro started upon his venture,
for, despite his sophistries, he knew he was quite likely to incur the
displeasure of Kenton, who had shown more than once a partiality toward
him. If any disaster followed, the youth knew he would be blamed. It was
his task, therefore, so to conduct himself that only the best results
should flow from his violation of orders.

Jethro kept well back among the trees while circling around the
clearing. The increased light on his right was all the guide he needed,
even had he not gained a slight acquaintance with the section by his
stirring experience earlier in the day.

Now and then he approached near enough to the cleared space to see the
cabin, and thus took hardly a step without fully knowing where he was.
At a point in a line with the cabin and the flatboat beyond, he came to
a halt and glanced at his immediate surroundings.

"Dis is 'bout de spot whar I stood when I plugged dat Injun, and," added
Jethro, with a chuckle, "whar I scooped de shirt dat dat Girty hung out
to dry. Dey tried to make b'leve aftwards dat it war a flag ob trooce,
meanin' dat dey wanted us all to stop shootin' while we had a talk wid
each oder; dey fooled Kenton and de rest ob de folks, but dey didn't
fool dis chile."

He found a fascination in studying the rear of the cabin, which George
Ashbridge and his father had builded with so much care and labor.

"Lucky for me dat I wasn't wid' em," reflected Jethro, "for if I had
been dey would hab sat 'round while I done all de work. Mighty strange
dat eberybody tinks I'm good fur nuffin but work, but dey done forgot
dat I knows how to shoot a gun as well as oder folks."

He stood for a minute or two in deep thought. He was revolving an
important scheme in his mind.

"From de style dat Mr. Kenton moved wid when he luff me, it'll take him
'bout two days to git 'round to where he's gwine to find dat canoe,
consequinchly dar ain't no use ob my being in such a hurry dat I'll
broke my neck. I'll take a look inside dat house to make sure dat
matters am all right."

And without the first hesitation he proceeded to carry out his
extraordinary purpose.

He first approached the rear of the cabin, where, it will be remembered,
were two windows on the lower floor and two on the upper. Each of these
was too narrow to permit any man to force his body through. It was from
one of the lower ones that Simon Girty had displayed the flag of truce,
only to have it whipped off the ramrod and appropriated by the watchful
Jethro, who, after wearing the garment for a time, laid it aside in
order to escape the merriment his appearance caused for the others.

The dusky youth peeped through the opening at the interior, where the
furniture and goods were tumbled about in great confusion. The view was
unsatisfactory, and he passed around to the front, with the intention of
entering by means of the door.

There are unnumbered incidents continually occurring, as they have
occurred in the past, in which luck seems to play a most prominent part.
We doubt whether any other explanation can be made of the extraordinary
series of events in which Jethro Juggens now became involved, and which
were destined to have a momentous bearing upon the fortunes of his
friends, beyond even the calculations of the sagacious Boone and Kenton.

It is probable that had the colored youth presented himself in front of
the door a half-hour sooner, he not only would have been instantly
detected by some of the Shawanoes, but would have been slain. It is
certain that had he delayed his movements for a less time than that
named these consequences would have followed, for the reader has learned
that before the warrior guarding the canoe fell asleep he showed a good
deal of interest in the cabin in the clearing.

But Jethro's action was so timed (without any credit due to himself)
that he escaped both perils, as well as that of being seen by Kenton,
who, it will be remembered, gave considerable attention to the same
quarter. It is hard to imagine what his feelings would have been, had
the scout turned his gaze towards the building at the moment the colored
youth came around the corner and walked to the front door.

"Dat's right," muttered Jethro, when he noted the latch-string hanging
out; "dat makes it discumnecessary for me to kick in de door."

The leathern thong was smartly twitched, the door shoved gently inward,
and, with a slightly quickened throbbing of the heart, Jethro Juggens
stepped across the threshold.

Boxes of varying sizes were broken apart, or scattered here or there
about the lower floor. Near the broad, spacious fireplace were a number
of pots, kettles, a crane, and irons, or other simple utensils, such as
were used by our forefathers. The whole floor was so cluttered up that
care was necessary in moving about the circumscribed space.

The sloping ladder leading to the upper floor was in place, but little,
if anything, had been carried thither. The time, of course, was too
brief to permit it.

Jethro peeped through the windows in turn, but discovered nothing to
cause alarm. Then, it may be said, he did his first sensible act of the
day; he pulled in the latch-string to prevent an enemy stealing upon him
unawares.

A chuckle escaped the youngster when his eye rested upon a box
containing what was left of the bread that had furnished the pioneers
with their last meal. Leaning his rifle against the wall, he clutched a
goodly-sized loaf of the dark, wholesome staff of life, and buried his
big, perfect teeth in it, crunching crust and lighter portion as though
they were the most tender and delicious fruits.

Stretching out upon the hard floor, which served him as well as a bed of
eider-down, he sank into a deep, peaceful slumber, with no thought of
the consequences that were certain to flow from this unprecedented
action upon his part.

By this time the long summer day was drawing to a close. When darkness
finally settled over forest and river, Jethro Juggens was still
sleeping.



CHAPTER VII.

A QUESTION OF OWNERSHIP.


Simon Kenton proceeded on the principle of the greatest good to the
greatest number.

When, with consummate delicacy and skill, he withdrew the canoe from
under the very nose of the sleeping Shawanoe, and noiselessly impelled
it across the open space under the screening undergrowth on the other
side, he did not dare to call to Jethro Juggens to join him, through
fear that the slight noise would rouse the Indian only a few yards off,
sitting with his back against a tree and his head bowed on his chest.

Instead, he stepped ashore and picked his way to where he had left him,
only to find, as has been shown, that the colored youth, in the face of
positive instructions, had gone elsewhere.

"Sarves me right for bringing him with me," repeated the disgusted
pioneer. "I might have knowed he'd do something of the kind."

In his impatience, he turned to leave the spot without further tarrying,
but his partiality for the youth, whose skill in handling the rifle was
so remarkable, caused him to linger a few moments and emit a couple of
guarded signals.

Inasmuch as Jethro Juggens just then was inside the cabin making his
evening meal, it is unnecessary to say that Kenton's effort was without
success.

"If he did hear me he wouldn't know what it meant, and if he did know
what it meant he'd yell back his answer loud enough to be heard at the
block-house--so I'll let him look out for himself."

Before resuming his place in the canoe the ranger stole to a point near
the edge of the clearing, where, by cautiously parting the undergrowth
and peering out, he could look across to the flatboat and catch the
outlines of the sleeping Shawanoe.

The pioneer was just in time to witness an entertaining scene.

The providential slumber of the warrior was what in ordinary parlance
may be described as a "cat nap," inasmuch as it came to an end, of its
own accord, a moment after Kenton took his last peep at him.

The Shawanoe raised his chin, and then in the most natural manner in the
world, rubbed his eyes by gouging his forefingers into them, just as all
boys and girls do when their senses are coming back to them. Next, he
reached out his hand and brought his rifle in front, doing so while in
the act of rising on his feet. Then he started, became rigid, and stared
at the river as though doubting his own vision.

The canoe, which was there only a short time before, was gone.

After all, it would seem he should have felt no great astonishment, for,
resting so lightly against the bank, it was not to be wondered at that
it worked loose and floated off.

The painted face was turned inquiringly in the direction of Kenton, as
though a glimmering of the truth had entered the brain of the red man,
but clearly that was impossible, and he moved along the bank, speedily
disappearing, in his search for the missing craft.

"He knows about how long he has slept," mused the smiling Kenton, "and
he knows the boat can't have drifted far. When he goes fur 'nough to
find it, and don't find it, he'll come back there again; he'll examine
the ground, and will diskiver my footprints; he won't know whether the
moccasins belong to a white man or one of the varmints, but he will get
an idee of why the thing didn't float down instead of up stream. Wal,"
muttered the ranger, "it'll take sharper eyes than his to trail a canoe
through the water, and I don't think he'll git this ere craft ag'in in a
hurry."

While those thoughts were in the mind of Kenton, he had re-entered the
boat again and taken up the broad ashen paddle.

The reader will understand the difficult task that was before him. From
the clearing to Rattlesnake Gulch was all if not more than two miles. It
was his work to reach the latter point by the time that night was fully
come.

Ordinarily this would have been so easy that it could not be considered
in the nature of work, but above all things it must be accomplished
without the knowledge of the Shawanoes, who, it may be said, were on
every hand. A sight of the ranger stealing his way up stream, and the
halt of the pioneers before reaching the place fixed upon for the
ambuscade, could not fail to apprise the Indians that their intended
victims had no intention of walking into the trap set for them.

Since the war party would never knowingly permit the settlers to escape
them, an attack was certain to follow; and though the veteran rangers,
under the leadership of Boone and Kenton, were confident of beating them
off, yet more or less casualties were certain to follow an attack. Some
of the helpless ones would suffer; probably several would be killed or
carried off, which meant the same thing.

To avert these woful afflictions was the cause of the extraordinary
precautions on the part of Boone and Kenton, especially the latter.

Enough has been said to show that the problem Simon Kenton had set out
to solve was anything but a simple one.

The arms which swayed the paddle, however, were sturdy and muscular, and
could keep to the task for hours without sensible fatigue. Kenton did
not mind a simple obstruction of that nature, and, indeed, would have
been glad because of the curtain thus offered if it had continued all
the way.

Once more and again was the frail craft impelled beneath the limbs, its
progress ceasing almost at the moment the paddle was withdrawn from the
water.

During these brief intervals of subsidence, the ranger listened intently
for such sounds as could tell him of the whereabouts of his enemies. He
knew, as may be said, that they were everywhere, and he was liable to
collide with them at the most unexpected moments. The pioneers or their
escort were subjected to the most eagle-eyed vigilance.

For a furlong the advance continued in this laborious fashion. Then
Kenton made a longer pause than usual, for he had reached a point where
it was necessary to drive the canoe across a space fully one hundred
feet in width, and where there was nothing that could serve to the
slightest extent as a screen.

The ranger debated with himself as to the best course to pursue.

"I don't b'leve there's any varmint on the watch there," was the
conclusion of Kenton; "the Shawanoes know where the women folks and the
boys are, and that's the place that they're watching--so here goes."

Again the ashen paddle was dipped in the clear current, but at the very
moment of imparting the powerful impulse to it, the ranger checked
himself with the suddenness of lightning.

From a point apparently directly across the river came the same signal
that had disturbed him and Boone earlier in the afternoon. The faint
cawing of a crow, as if calling from the upper branches of a tree to his
mate, floated across the Ohio to the startled ears of the listening
Kenton.

"Well, I'm blessed!" he muttered, "if crows ain't thicker in Kaintuck
than I ever knowed 'em afore at this season of the year."

This signal, which the man did not doubt for a moment came from the
throat of one of the Shawanoe spies, settled the question which he had
been debating with himself.

Forcing the nose of the canoe against the bank, he stepped ashore.
Before drawing it entirely forth, however, he decided to walk the short
distance through the woods, so as to select the most favorable course to
follow.

He had not far to go, but the simple act was marked by all the
thoroughness with which he did everything relating to his life
profession.

While the wood, because of the abundance of undergrowth, was not what he
desired, yet he was confident of working his way through it and back to
the water again without injuring the canoe. He set out to do so,
returning to the starting-point at the end of fifteen or twenty minutes.

And there a surprise awaited him. The boat was gone!

If he had withdrawn it with incredible deftness from under the closed
eyes of the Shawanoe, that same individual (for it must be he) had
displayed hardly less cleverness in snatching it from his grasp.

Kenton lost no time in speculating over the matter, but hurried swiftly
and noiselessly along the bank in quest of the daring thief. He came
upon him, only a few rods distant, making his way with great care and
skill along the bank, as though he had no fear of any dispute over the
ownership of the craft, as, indeed, he did not; for, catching sight of
the white man at the same instant the latter saw him, he leaped ashore,
and, knife in hand, attacked him with the impetuous fury of a jungle
tiger.

Ten minutes later, when Simon Kenton resumed possession of the canoe, he
muttered, with grim significance:

"Sometimes a varmint makes a mistake; that air varmint made one, but
he'll never make another, 'cause when the chance comes he won't be
there!"



CHAPTER VIII.

BY THE WAY.


Meanwhile, the families of the settlers and their escorts were not idle.

Turned back, when on the threshold as it were of success, they bore
their hard lot with the fortitude and uncomplaining courage which was
one of the most marked characteristics of the pioneers of the West.

They had entered the "promised land," as may be said, for all of the
Ashbridges and Altmans had passed through the door of the cabin in the
clearing; they had deposited their household goods and worldly
possessions in the structure erected with so much care and labor; then,
being warned of the imminent peril of staying, had set out for the
block-house, ten miles distant, there to remain until it was safe for
them to venture once more into the wilderness.

Daniel Boone was in advance of the company, scouting in the neighborhood
of Rattlesnake Gulch, for it was indispensable that he should keep watch
of the main war party of Shawanoes there, and learn, as far as possible,
their intentions towards the whites.

Kenton had turned back to the clearing in quest of the canoe with which
he hoped to carry the families across the Ohio during the favoring
darkness of the night without discovery by the dusky enemies. We left
him pushing his way up stream, after his deadly encounter with the
Shawanoe who had withdrawn the craft from where it was left by the
ranger during his temporary absence.

It may be said, that every man and woman, threading their way through
the wilderness to the block-house, understood the scheme which it was
hoped could be carried through to completion, and each, of course, was
eager to lend his aid to its success.

Within ten minutes, therefore, of the departure of Kenton and Jethro
Juggens, those whom they left behind took up the journey eastward--that
is, toward dreaded Rattlesnake Gulch, which intervened between them and
the post under the command of Captain Bushwick.

The line of march was simple. Weber Hastings acted as guide, or rather
avant-courier, since all knew the route that was to be followed. He kept
a hundred yards, or so, in advance of the company, which timed their
gait to his, so that the intervening space was neither increased nor
diminished.

A second scout kept pace with his chief, but so far removed to the
right, and deeper in the forest, that only rarely did they catch sight
of each other. There were no guards on the left or at the rear, the two
named being considered sufficient to give timely notice of the approach
of danger.

There was no attempt at anything like military order on the part of the
others. The pioneer scouts were impatient of discipline, preferring to
"fight fire with fire"--that is, to combat the Indian by methods
peculiar to the Indians themselves.

Accordingly, the rest of the rangers straggled along, inclosing, so far
as possible, the members of the families whom they hoped to deliver from
their great peril. Mr. Ashbridge and his wife sauntered in front of
their old friends, with little Mabel most of the time between them and
holding a hand of each. Her disposition, however, to dart aside and
pluck every brilliant flower that flashed among the green vegetation
could not be restrained at all times, and was the cause of much anxiety
on the part of her parents.

Next in order walked Mr. Altman and his wife, while of Agnes, the
daughter, and George, it may be said they brought up the rear.

"I wonder," said Agnes, in her low, sweet voice, "whether, when we reach
the block-house, we shall be safe, or whether we shall have to keep on
going east until we arrive at our old home in Virginia before we can
feel beyond the power of these dreadful red men."

"Why do you express that doubt, when it has been a good many years since
the people in our old homes have suffered from the Indians?"

"Not so long ago that I cannot remember it."

"But don't forget that you are seventeen years old--"

"Several months more, please to remember, sir."

"And you can remember, I suppose, a dozen years; that is a good while.
But it is not so bad as all that. Kenton explained matters yesterday
when I was talking with him. There is what is called a flurry among the
Indians, and as long as it lasts we must keep under the wing of some
block-house or in some settlement."

"But how long is it to last?"

"There is only One who can answer that question. It may be in a few
weeks, or months, or possibly a year or two. You know that such
expeditions as Crawford's and St. Clair's make matters worse than
before."

"Why?"

"Colonel Crawford, as you remember, was not only defeated, but he was
made prisoner and burned to death at the stake. Then President
Washington sent General St. Clair, and the combined tribes smote him hip
and thigh. All this makes the Indians bolder and more open in their
hostility, until I have no doubt that hundreds of them believe they are
strong enough to drive every white man out of Ohio and Kentucky."

"Why doesn't General Washington send some one who knows how to fight the
Indians, and with men enough to whip them?"

"St. Clair had enough men to whip the enemy, but the general didn't know
how to handle them when he got into the Indian country. You have learned
of the dreadful mistake that Braddock and his regulars made more than
thirty years ago, during the French and Indian war, when all of the
British soldiers would have been killed if it had not been for
Washington and his Virginians."

"I should think General Washington himself would take command of a
force. I know he would end all this trouble," added Agnes, with a glow
of pride in the illustrious Father of his Country.

"I have no doubt he would if he wasn't President; but he has to stay in
Philadelphia and make the other officers do their duty. But if he can't
come himself, he knows enough now to send the right men. The next battle
will see the Indians so badly whipped that they will stay so for many,
many years to come."

"And then?"

"Hundreds and thousands of people will come from the East and settle in
the West. The land will be cleared off and planted; cities and towns
will spring up, and that clearing of ours, with the other acres we shall
add, will make you and I wealthy, Agnes."

"It may make you wealthy, George; but how can it help me?"

He gave the dainty hand a warmer pressure than before and lowered his
voice, so that only the shell-like ear, so close to his own, could catch
his words.

"If it benefits me it must benefit you; for, God willing, long before
that time we shall be one. Am I wrong in that hope, dearest?"

"George," said Agnes, when they had walked a little further in silence,
"there is one prospect which causes me some discomfort."

"And what is that?"

"Of all our people being cooped up in the block-house for weeks, and
perhaps months, until the trouble with the Indians is over. We stopped
there the other day when we were coming down the river. It is a large,
roomy structure, but there is nothing beside the single building. A good
many men make their homes there at different times, and though they are
all as kind as they can be, it will be anything but pleasant when your
folks and ours are added to them."

"I don't wonder that you feel thus. The same thought has occurred to me
and Kenton, and I guess every one else. Some other arrangement will have
to be made. Captain Bushwick will have several strong cabins put up, if
it looks as though you will have to stay more than a few days, or he may
do better than that."

"How?"

"Send us all to Boonesboro. That's where the great Daniel Boone, that's
helping us just now, makes his home. It was named for him. It is a
regular stockade, with a number of cabins inside, and abundant room for
twenty families or more."

"How far off is it?"

"I am not sure, but less than fifty miles."

"Why not go there at once, without stopping at the block-house?"

"The trouble is that, if it would be safe to make the journey there now,
it would be just as safe to stay in our own house at the clearing. The
route leads through one of the most dangerous regions in Kentucky."

"If that is the case, how can we reach it from the block-house?"

"It will have to be done by awaiting some favorable chance; that chance,
as you know, isn't now, but it may come in a short time. Kenton or
Boone, or some of their men, will be quick to learn it."

Agnes was about to reply, when one of the rangers, who had wandered
somewhat ahead or to one side, emitted a cry that must have penetrated a
goodly part of a mile. His terrified friends stopped short, grasped
their rifles more tightly, and stared wonderingly at the man, who was
acting like a crazy person.

He had flung his gun aside, and caught up a heavy stick, with which he
was threshing something on the ground.

It required hardly a second glance from those who ran toward him to
recognize the writhing object as an immense rattlesnake. The man seemed
to be in a frenzy, and continued belaboring the reptile even after all
saw it was as dead as dead could be.

"What's the use, Jim?" called Hastings, who had hastened to return upon
hearing his wild shout; "he's gone under; did he bite you?"

"Yes," replied the other, in a husky voice staggering backward and
sinking to the ground; "he bit me twice before I seed him; I'm done
for."



CHAPTER IX.

THE "ACCIDENT."


It would seem that the pioneers had more than enough to occupy their
minds on this eventful journey through the woods, without coming in
contact with such a frightful thing as a rattlesnake, but here was one
of the hardy members of the escort apparently stricken unto death by the
huge reptile that he had just slain.

By the time the poor fellow had collapsed and fallen to the earth,
almost the entire party were gathered around him. That section of the
Union, even in those early days, was not wholly lacking in whiskey.
There may not have been a great deal of it manufactured in the
territory, but those who made their homes in that favored land did not
often suffer for lack of it.

Flasks there were in plenty, but it was noticeable that not one of the
rangers who had come from the fort made haste to bring forth a supply
and place it at the lips of their collapsed companion.

It was Mr. Altman who was quick to kneel beside the man and apply the
vessel to his mouth, as he raised him to a sitting position.

"Don't you remember, George," said Agnes, "that Mr. Kenton said we must
meet with some accident that would prevent our reaching Rattlesnake
Gulch until night was fully come?"

"I do."

"Well, that's the accident we have met."

A light flashed upon young Ashbridge. The amused expression on the faces
of the escort was explained. James Deane had not been harmed by the
rattlesnake which he had pounded to death. As is said, all this was done
for effect.

The most real thing about the business was that Jim was procuring a
prodigious supply of excellent whiskey without any expense to himself,
and without any cause existing for such an over-dose.

Seeing the actual danger that threatened their friend, Hastings touched
the shoulder of Mr. Altman, who looked up inquiringly at him.

"I wouldn't give him any more."

"It will be safer to fill him up with it, so as to counteract the
poison."

"Yesh--fill him up," added Jim, thickly, reaching out his hand vaguely
for the bottle; "fill him up--coun'act--hic--p'son--fill him up so he
runs over."

"I think, Tom, he's running over now," suggested Mr. Ashbridge, who
understood matters.

The words and the expressions on the countenances of the others caused
the truth to flash upon the good Samaritan. He rose to his feet with a
disgusted look. Then he shook his glass flask, and held it up between
him and the sunlight.

"If I had suspected, he shouldn't have had a drop; he has drank enough
to make three men drunk."

"And he's as drunk as three men can get," replied Ashbridge.

"Fetch on your rattler--hic," stuttered Jim, who was about to add some
more remarks when he gave it up and toppled over on the ground,
deferring all such observations to a more convenient season.

It assumed an almost grotesque phase, and sounds incredible when it is
stated that this pretended rattlesnake bite was solely for the purpose
of deceiving the members of the Shawanoe war party that were swarming
through the woods, yet not only was such the fact, but the scheme,
singular as it was, met the approval of Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton,
whose judgment in such matters all will admit should be accepted as
final.

Meanwhile, Hastings was anxiously consulting with Ashbridge, Altman, and
his own men.

The situation was grave to the last degree, and the crisis could not be
far off.

"We don't need to wait here more'n half an hour," said he, "and may be
not that long; then, when we start, night'll be fully here afore we
reach the gulch."

"And the Indians have been deceived as to our purpose?" was the
inquiring remark of Mr. Ashbridge.

"There's no sartinty of that, but it looks that way."

"But the most alarming feature of this business, as it seems to me,"
continued the pioneer, "is this: the time must soon come when these
Shawanoes will learn we do not mean to pass through that valley of
death."

Hastings nodded his head. He had thought of all this, as well as of the
complications that were likely to follow.

"How long after we make our pause will they suspect the truth?"

"Inside of ten minutes; but," added the ranger, "they may think we've
decided to wait till morning afore we pass through."

"Is that probable?" asked young Ashbridge.

"No; there isn't one chance in a thousand that they'll think anything of
the kind, and yet there is that one chance."

Mr. Ashbridge again took up the exchange of views with the leader of the
scouts, the others listening with the closest attention and interest.

"Suppose the Shawanoes believe we have merely postponed our passage
through the gulch until morning, and that we are certain to attempt it
then--what will they do?"

"Wait where they are till daylight, or for a week, if they were sure the
thing would be tried; but," was the significant remark of Hastings,
"don't build any hopes on any such idea as that."

"I am sure it would be foolish to do so, but we are getting down to
bed-rock facts now. The Indians must soon learn that we have no
intention of walking into their trap. What they will then do is not
clear to you."

"No; but I don't think they'll make an attack till the night is purty
well nigh gone. They always spend a good deal of time in figgering and
man[oe]uverin' round. It's that time between the beginning of darkness
and sun-up that's got to be used by us for the benefit of your folks, or
it will not be used at all."

"Mr. Kenton seems to have taken wise steps, as he always does under such
circumstances, for the safety of our families. He counts upon securing
that canoe which was left with the flatboat, and has hope of finding
another near the gulch. Suppose he fails in both instances--what then?"

"Only Kenton himself can answer that question; I believe he's as likely
to fail as to win, but he'll soon be on hand; he won't keep us waiting
long. Boone will be purty sure to jine us, and atween' em they'll do the
right thing."

"There can be no doubt of that, but, if you will pardon me, Mr.
Hastings, it seems to me that there is something for us to do. My
solicitude for the dear ones around us, who cannot help themselves, must
excuse my presumption."

"It's no presumption, sir; we are all glad to hear what you have to
say."

"Accidents are liable to occur at any time, even though some of them are
bogus," qualified Ashbridge, with a glance at the unconscious figure of
Jim Deane a few rods away. "Boone and Kenton have placed themselves in
great peril. One of them may be killed; it is impossible that both will
fall. We are fortunate in having such good friends as you to stand by
us, but the wisest man is he who provides, as far as he can, for every
contingency. Suppose we see nothing of Boone or Kenton again?"

"I can't think such a thing as both of 'em going under at the same time
can happen. One of 'em is sartin to turn up purty soon."

"But Kenton may fail to bring the canoe, upon which so much depends.
Now, to come down to the point, when we halt near the gulch will our
position be such that we can make a good defence against an attack?"

"I don't know," was the frank reply of the ranger; "we've only one man
with us who knows all about Rattlesnake Gulch, and the ins and outs of
the place."

"Who is that man?"

For reply, Hastings pointed to Jim Deane, sunk in a helpless stupor.

"Humph!" remarked the pioneer, "he is of no more account than a dead
man, and won't be for some hours to come."



CHAPTER X.

AT RATTLESNAKE GULCH.


By this time night was closing over forest and river. The sun had set,
and a strong west wind blew steadily up stream. Masses of clouds were
drifting across the sky, and when the moon should appear its light would
be treacherous and uncertain.

"We must wait no longer," said Hastings, "for we shall run the risk of
an attack where we are, and that would be almost as bad as an ambush."

"True," remarked Altman, with a shudder, as he glanced around them, "we
are without any protection at all in this open ground. We must hit upon
a better place than this in which to make our halt."

The leader nodded toward two of his men, who advanced to where the
sleeping Jim lay on the ground, as helpless and inanimate as a log. Each
taking him by a shoulder lifted him to his feet. Then they let go, and
he dropped like a bundle of rags.

He was yanked up again, shaken, slapped, and vigorously told to stand
up.

"I'm all right," mumbled Jim, "fetch on (hic) your rattler; let 'em
bite--who cares? Whiskey'll cure him--fetch on your whiskey."

After some more heroic treatment, the man was finally roused to that
degree that he was able to wobble forward, partly supported by his two
friends, one of whom took charge of his gun.

"If I had known nothing was the matter with him," said the disgusted Mr.
Altman, "he wouldn't have gotten a drop from me. The only man who can
give us the information we need might just as well be dead."

The company advanced much in the same fashion as earlier in the day,
except that still greater precaution was observed. The females were kept
near the centre and the husbands close to them, so that there was a rude
resemblance to a hollow square.

Hastings took the lead, as he always did in the absence of Kenton and
Boone, and had not gone far when he became aware that he was following a
well-marked path. A companion on his right and another on his left had
noted something of the kind some minutes before. The three paths, not to
mention others, converged and became one a little further on.

These, as had been intimated, were the trails made by wild animals on
their way to the salt lick lying some distance on the other side of
Rattlesnake Gulch. The pioneers were now quite close to that ill-omened
spot, and the burden of the expedition rested wholly upon the shoulders
of Weber Hastings, who maintained a position never less than fifty feet
in advance of his nearest companion.

Hastings caught a faint, momentary rustling directly in front of him. He
instantly stopped and listened. It sounded the next moment further to
the right. He knew it made by one of the Shawanoes, who, with all their
skill, could not advance in perfect silence amid such gloom any more
than could the white man.

Suddenly he detected a different sound. It was as if something was
gliding over the leaves, and was accompanied by a delicate whirring
noise, which Hastings recognized on the instant, for many a time and oft
he had heard it before.

Those of our readers who have caught the warning of the rattlesnake can
make no mistake when they hear it a second time.

Another of those baleful reptiles was gliding across the path of the
pioneers, as if to apprise them of the appropriateness of the name of
the gulch, which was now near at hand.

The greatest annoying hindrance in this stealthy groping among the trees
was the condition of Jim Deane, who had taken a prodigious over-dose of
the universal remedy for the rattlesnake's venom. When in his sober
senses, he was one of the bravest and most skilful scouts in the west,
and was held in special high esteem by Capt. Bushwick, for whom he had
performed arduous and perilous service.

But, naturally enough, he was now another person, the opposite of
himself. In order to leave their escort free to attend to their delicate
task, George Ashbridge and his father took charge of Jim, and, in
assuming the contract, they found it was all they could do to "deliver
the goods."

Deane rallied after several stumbles, and managed to walk with less help
from the father and son, though he swayed from side to side and leaned
heavily upon both. He continued muttering and talking, partly to himself
and partly to those who were aiding him in locomotion.

"Going to the gulch--all right," he mumbled, when they were quite near
their destination, "want to go into the fort; that's the place for you
folks."

The scout stopped as suddenly as if he had run against the trunk of a
tree. Despite his broken utterance, a vague sense of his situation was
gradually forcing itself upon him.

He realized, in a dim but increasingly distinct way, the necessity of
throwing off the spell which muddled his brain. As he repeated and
renewed the effort, he gained more strength.

Holding himself somewhat unsteadily, he looked around in the gloom at
his elder escort, and demanded:

"Where going?"

"We are trying to reach the block-house, but it's a long way off. We are
now close to Rattlesnake Gulch."

"That's all right," repeated Deane, wobbling forward again; "going to
the fort--our fort."

Jim Deane stopped abruptly as before, and blinked and started in the
vain effort to penetrate the gloom in which all were enveloped. His
companions noted that he was now able to maintain the erect position
without any help from them.

"Can't you get a candle?" he asked, his brain still muddled, "too dark
to see; get candle, and I'll show you the fort."

The company was now so near Rattlesnake Gulch that Weber Hastings, the
guide, decided it would not do to approach any closer. They must await
the coming of Kenton before doing anything further.

Gradually, or with less difficulty than would be suspected, the ranger
brought all his men together, or they gathered around the families whom
they had set out to escort to the block-house. Although they could
hardly see each other's forms in the darkness, a few minutes sufficed to
prove none were missing. All were there, but, ah! for how long should
this be said of them? "We are so near Rattlesnake Gulch," explained
Hastings, "that if we go a hundred yards further, we'll walk straight
into the ambush the varmints have set for us."

"What is to be done?" asked Mr. Altman, in a guarded undertone.

"We'll move a little further down the slope to the edge of the river,
and wait for Kenton or Boone; one of them will be here purty soon."

Mr. Ashbridge now made known what Jim Deane had declared in his broken
way. Before he could be questioned, the fellow, who was still nearer
sobriety, said:

"Boys, you think I don't know what I'm saying; I'm not as sober as I
oughter be, but I give it to you straight; you've made a big mistake,
and I'll prove it to you."



CHAPTER XI.

WATCHING AND WAITING.


Deane had rapidly regained control of his senses during the past few
minutes. The open air, the continued action of his body and the growing
consciousness of the imminent peril of the company, combined to give him
mastery over the insidious enemy that he had taken into his mouth to
steal away his brains.

By this time, too, his friends were convinced that he was not talking at
random, and that when he spoke of the "fort" near at hand he had ground
for his words.

"Wal, Jim," remarked Hastings, in a low voice, as the party gathered
closely around the fellow in the gloom; "I guess you understand matters
better than you did a few minutes ago. Take the lead and we'll follow,
but don't forget that a feller's eyes ain't of much use to him just
now."

"I, I think I've got my bearings; the river off here to the left is how
fur away?"

"Something like a hundred yards--a little more I reckon."

"That's what I thought, and Rattlesnake Gulch is right ahead. Wal, in a
straight line down the slope toward the river is a lot of limbs, brush
and stones that we got together some months ago, when the varmints
cornered us, or wiped us nearly all out. If we're going to make a halt,
that's the place for us."

"Go ahead, then, for it won't be long afore the varmints will notice we
have stopped."

The ranger--he paddled no longer--took charge of matters with the
assurance of one who feels himself master of the situation. As they
advanced, the ground inclined downward to the river. The wood was quite
open, but considerable undergrowth appeared, through which it was
impossible even for the rangers to make their way in the darkness
without some rustling, which was almost certain to betray their
movements to the Indians.

Fortunately, however, they had not far to go to their destination.
Hastings, who was but a pace or two behind Deane, became conscious at
the end of a few minutes that he had stopped.

"Here we are," whispered the guide; "pass the word back for 'em to look
out they don't stumble, for things are rough round here."

Not only did the leader of the company notify his own men, who were
instant to understand the situation, but they assisted the Ashbridges
and Altmans into the exceedingly rude fortification. The utmost care was
used, but, in spite of all, there were several stumbles, and more than
one hasty exclamation at the accident.

When matters became clear to all, as they soon did, it was learned that
they were now upon the spot where Hastings and his companions made their
last stand when attacked by The Panther and his Shawanoes, some months
before. Foreseeing the desperate struggle at hand, the scouts had seized
the brief time at their command to throw up some intrenchments.

An ash that had been splintered by lightning gave much help, and laid
the foundation, as may be said, of the fortification. The trunk had been
wrenched off a dozen feet above ground, leaving the stump, with its
hundreds of needle-like points, projecting upward. The fragments of
several large limbs were of help, and a prostrate tree, some yards away,
was of incalculable benefit, even though the trunk was less than a foot
in diameter.

Then there were a few boulders and large stones scattered around.
Ordinarily, a dozen men would hesitate to try to move them, but, with
the energy of desperation, these had been tumbled into place, and served
their part well.

The conclusion of all this haste and effort to throw up a protection
around themselves was, that a very primitive and broken fortification
extended in an irregular circle from the splintered tree, right and
left, until it enclosed a space thirty feet across at its largest
diameter. It was not a complete circle, however, but formed
three-fourths of one. The side toward the river was left open, so as to
preserve the means of retreat if the worst came.

The worst did come, as has been intimated, and through this opening the
few defenders that were left, after the resistless assault of The
Panther and his warriors, dashed in the supreme effort to save their
lives. Such is an imperfect description of the "fort" into which the
pioneers were conducted, when the time arrived for them to essay no
further concealment of their intention to leave Rattlesnake Gulch wholly
to itself.

Fifteen or twenty minutes were used by the fugitives, as they may be
considered, in "locating" themselves. In other words, they improved the
time in learning, so far as possible, their immediate surroundings, and
the best means of defence against the Shawanoes, that were certain to
leave them but a short time to themselves.

Above all things, it was necessary that Hastings and his men should know
this, and, with the help of Deane, the knowledge was soon acquired.
Finally, Hastings stationed his men in their proper positions, and then
conducted the others to a spot near the splintered ash. He made sure
that all were near him, and that each heard every word he spoke, though
he guarded the utterances with a care that would have shut them from a
listening Shawanoe a rod away.

"You understand, my friends, that this place is only a makeshift; we're
powerful lucky that Jim got sober in time to find it for us. This is the
safest spot, and here the women and children will stay till we leave."

"And when is that likely to be?" asked Mr. Altman.

"I can't say till Kenton gets back; he'll be here afore long."

"Suppose anything happens to him and Boone?" suggested Mr. Ashbridge.

"Something like that has been said afore; Boone and Kenton are always
having something happen to them, but that both of 'em should slip up and
not show themselves agin--why, that sort of thing can't be."

"It might take place," remarked young Ashbridge, whose faith in the two
great pioneers equaled that of Hastings, "but it is so unlikely that it
isn't worth considering it. As I understand it, we have to wait here
until Kenton comes back."

"You've hit it, younker, to a dot. You folks can see that a chap's eyes
ain't of much account, so you must all make the best use of your ears."

"I can see a little," said Agnes Altman, "and I shall believe that our
eyes are almost as likely as our ears to help us."

"You've got a wise head on your shoulders," said the ranger, admiringly.
"About all that you folks need to remember is, that the varmints are all
around us, and where there's one of 'em, he's sure to try some trick.
Look out for him."

"Surely, Mr. Hastings, you don't mean that Mr. Altman and my son shall
all stay in this spot, merely to keep company with our families, when
every man is needed to guard the approaches to this enclosure."

"Wal, I'll own that was my idea, but we can turn you to use if you say
so."

"We do say so, most decidedly," Mr. Altman was quick to remark.

"Come with me."

Thereupon, the leader of the rangers gave Mr. Altman, Ashbridge, and the
son their several stations. Each had his rifle, and was simply to do his
utmost to guard against the insidious approach of the Shawanoes, who, if
they had not already located them, were certain to do so very soon.

The instructions of Hastings to his men was, that the moment they
discovered an Indian they should wait only long enough to make sure of
no mistake, and then shoot to kill.

"Every varmint counts at a time like this," he said, significantly, "and
if any one is lucky enough to drop The Panther, it'll be worth a dozen
warriors."

When all the male members were placed, they were crouching behind
boulders, limbs, and ridges of dirt in the irregular three-quarter
circle, and separated from each other by a space varying from two yards
to a distance twice as great.

Whether intentional or otherwise, Hastings stationed George Ashbridge
immediately on the left of Agnes Altman, while her mother, Mrs.
Ashbridge, and Mabel were near at hand. The lovers were so close,
indeed, that there was little risk in their exchanging a whispered word
or two at intervals. When either raised his or her head, the other could
catch the faint outlines of the loved one.

While the temporary refuge was a most fortunate thing for the distressed
fugitives, it had several features which caused uneasiness to Hastings
and his experienced rangers. Although the moon soon appeared in the sky,
its light was treacherous and uncertain, because of the skurrying
clouds. Sometimes an object would be visible for a number of rods on the
river, and then it took a pair of keen eyes to identify a canoe at half
that distance.

More serious, however, than all was the west wind. This blew steadily,
and with considerable force, directly upon the river. It sighed among
the trees, and so stirred the branches that the rustling was continuous.
Thus it afforded a diversion that was wholly in favor of the Indians,
for, without taking any special precaution, they could approach as near
as they chose to the fortification, with little, if any, fear of
detection.

That they would be quick to turn this to account was certain.

Hastings had not forgotten to impress his friends with the fact that
they were awaiting the coming of Simon Kenton, and incidentally of
Daniel Boone. Each, when he did appear, would do so with the
noiselessness of The Panther himself, and too great care could not he
taken to guard against mistaking them for enemies.

There really was little, if any, danger of this, since all understood
the situation, and would run no risk of harming their friends.
Furthermore, Kenton and Boone were sure to give timely notice of their
coming by means of signals which every one of the rangers would
understand.

The sleep of most of the men had been broken and scant during the past
twenty-four hours, but the situation was so strained that there was no
danger of any one falling asleep until the peril passed. If any one
thing was certain, it was that the watch within that rough circle would
be unremitting and vigilant while it lasted.

Mabel Ashbridge laid her head on the lap of her mother, who like Mrs.
Altman, sat with her back against the splintered ash, and with little
appreciation of the fearful shadow that rested upon all, soon sank into
unconsciousness. The mothers were so nervous and unstrung that though
they occasionally shut their eyes, the slumber was fitful and brief.

But among all the party there was none more alert than Agnes Altman. She
had not yet quite forgiven herself for her weakness in showing mercy to
the imprisoned Panther the night before, when he came within a hair of
slaying her beloved George Ashbridge, and, without hinting her intention
to any one, she determined that, with the help of heaven, she would do
something to erase that criminal imprudence, as she viewed it, on her
part.

It may have been this resolution, supplemented by her own consummate
faculties of sight and vision, or, more properly, it was both, that
brought to her a knowledge of peril before it was suspected by any one
of the rangers, or even by George Ashbridge, who, as may be said, was at
her elbow.

Agnes was seated on the leaves, the same as her mother, and with her
back resting against a boulder, which rose a few inches above her head.
In this posture she closed her eyes. They could be of no use to her, and
by shutting them she was able to concentrate her faculties into the
single one of listening; upon that alone she now placed her dependence.

And seated thus, and listening with absorbing intensity, she speedily
became aware of a startling fact; some one was directly on the other
side of the boulder, and separated by no more than three feet from her.

That that some one was a Shawanoe Indian was as certain as that her name
was Agnes Altman.



CHAPTER XII.

CARRYING THE WAR INTO AFRICA.


Jethro Juggens, the brawny servant of Mr. Altman, the dusky youth with
the strength of a Hercules, the intellect of a child, or a skill in the
use of the rifle hardly second to that of Kenton and Boone, has a
singular but momentous part to play in the incidents that follow. The
reader must, therefore, bear with us when now and then we turn aside
from the graver and more tragical sweep of incidents to follow the
doings and the fortunes and misfortunes of the one who rendered such
signal service to his friends, already related in "Shod with Silence."

Simon Kenton denounced himself times without number for bringing Jethro
with him when he set out to recover the canoe that had been left at the
clearing; and yet that act, ill-advised as it seemed, changed the whole
course of events that followed quick and fast, and became the foundation
of one of the most remarkable legends connected with the romantic Ohio
and the stirring events that marked the history of the settlement of
Ohio and Kentucky.

With no thought of the mischief he was likely to cause, Jethro Juggens,
as the reader has learned, circled part way round the cabin in the
clearing, passed through the door, drew in the latch-string, devoured
nearly all of the bread that was left behind, and then lay down and went
to sleep.

He had managed to gain so much slumber during the past twenty-four hours
that he was in need of nothing of the kind. As a consequence, he
remained unconscious less than an hour, when he opened his eyes, as
fully awake as he ever was in all his life.

The room was in darkness, and he was so confused that for a brief spell
he was at a loss to know where he was. Rising to a sitting position, he
rubbed his eyes and stared around in the gloom.

"Am dis de flatboat, and am I in de cellar ob it?" he asked himself.

But a moment's reflection recalled what had taken place.

"Gracious! I wonder if anyting hab happened to Mr. Kenton?" he
exclaimed, starting to his feet and stumbling headlong over one of the
boxes, unnoticed in the gloom.

"Dar's no tellin' what trouble he may get into widout me watchin' and
tookin' keer ob him. I's afraid I'm too late to help him."

He would have opened the door and hurried out, but at that moment his
keen nostrils caught the appetizing odor of the loaves of bread, amid
which he had created havoc a short time before.

"I hab an obspression dat I done eat some ob dat afore I took a nap, but
I ain't certain; don't want to make any mistake, and I feels sorter
hungry."

There was enough food left to furnish him another good meal, and he did
not stop using his peerless teeth and massive jaws until he had secured
it.

His rifle was leaning against the wall near the door, where he had left
it. He took it in hand, with the intention of opening the door and
passing out, when the first real thrill of alarm stirred him. He heard
some one attempting to open the door.

He knew it was an enemy, for Kenton, the only friend he had in the
neighborhood, would never come there to look for him.

The latch-string being drawn in, it was impossible for the door to be
opened, except by great labor from the outside. Nevertheless, some one
was pushing at it repeatedly, and with such vigor that there could be no
mistake about it.

"Who dar?" demanded Jethro, in his deepest voice, holding his rifle
ready to use it in case the Indian effected an entrance.

There was no answer, but the efforts on the outside ceased for a minute,
to be resumed more guardedly than at first.

"Go way from der, I toles yo' or yo'll get into trouble," called the
youth, in a louder voice, meant to be as threatening as he could make
it.

Again the pushing ceased, and all became still.

Jethro heard the wind blowing strongly around the cabin and among the
trees beyond. Standing in the open clearing, as did the cabin, no shadow
was cast upon it. The narrow windows, therefore, were clearly outlined
against the dim moonlight. The youth glanced furtively at them,
comprehending more fully than at any time before the sad mistake he had
made in disobeying the orders of Kenton. But for that he would not have
been in his present plight.

But it was too late for regrets to avail him. All he could do was to
fight it out as best he knew how to the end.

Stepping nearer the door, he bent his head and listened. The pressure
against the structure had ceased, but he caught the murmur of voices
when a few broken sentences were uttered. Their meaning, of course, was
beyond his reach.

"Why don't dey be gemmen?" he asked himself, "or talk in American, so
dat anoder gemmen can understand 'em? I don't know what dey's talkin'
'bout, and it sounds as if dey don't know demselves."

He could understand, however, that no immediate cause for fear existed.

A dozen brawny Shawanoes could not force the door, and the windows, as
has been explained, were too narrow for any one to push his body
through.

But, all the same, some mischief was afoot at one of the rear
window's--the one into which Jethro Juggens had fired that very day with
fatal effect. The disturbance was transferred from the door to the
window.

The youth was standing in the middle of the lower apartment, gun in
hand, watching and listening. The moon was so placed in the heavens that
this particular opening was seen more clearly than any of the others,
and peering intently at it, Jethro became conscious of some dark object
that was slowly obtruding into his field of vision.

"What de mischief am dat?" he muttered. "Looks like a hobblegoblin, but
I knows it am an Injin."

Dimly seen in the partial illumination, the resemblance to the head of a
warrior was so close that all doubt was removed from the mind of Jethro
Juggens.

"Dat's what I's waiting for," was his thought, as he brought his piece
to a level, took the best aim he could in the darkness, and let fly.

The report within the close room was so thunderous that his ears
tingled, but confident of the accuracy of his shot, he looked through
the smoke at the moonlit opening.

"I didn't hear no yell, but I reckoned dat blowed de top ob his head off
afore he could let out de war-whoop dat Mr. Kenton says an Injin always
gibs when he cotches his last sickness--gracious hebbins! how's dat?"

Could he believe his eyes? The head at which he had fired only a few
feet away had not vanished. There it was, the owner apparently staring
in upon him, with the same interest he had shown from the first.

"Dat beats all creation! I knowed I hit him, 'cause I couldn't miss him
if I tried. He must had a head as hard as mine--"

If Jethro Juggens was astounded by what had just occurred, he was almost
lifted off his feet by what followed before he finished the expression
of the thought that was in his mind. Through the narrow window at which
he was gazing the muzzle of a gun was thrust and the weapon discharged,
the ball passing so close that he felt it nip his ear.

With a howl of dismay the youth leaped a foot in the air and to one
side. No one could have had a narrower escape than he, and he knew it.

"Tings are gettin' mixed most obstrageously," he muttered, stepping
nearer to one side of the room and proceeding to reload his gun as best
he could in the darkness.

Much as Jethro had blundered, and obtuse as he was in many things, he
understood what had taken place. That which he supposed to be the head
of an Indian was some object presented by the crouching warrior with the
purpose of drawing his fire, and it succeeded in doing so. The flash of
the negro's rifle revealed where he stood, and the Shawanoe, who was
watching for that clew, lost no time in firing, missing by a
hair's-breadth a fatal result. Thus it came about that not the least
execution was done on either side.

Jethro waited some minutes in order to discover the next movement of his
enemies. Nothing presenting itself, he had resort to the dangerous
expedient of trying to peer through the different windows. Being
enveloped in impenetrable gloom, he could not have been seen by the
Indians had they been on the watch, though possibly they might have
heard him. As it was, no shot was fired at him, nor was he able to
detect anything that could give him the least information of what his
enemies were doing, or what they intended to do. They may have been
quite near, but he could not get the first glimpse of them.

"Dis yeah am gettin' ser'us," mused Jethro, leaning against the side of
the house in order to think more clearly. "I's afeard dat somethin' may
happen to Mr. Kenton, and if it does and he can't get back, nor me
neither, what's goin' to become of de folks? I 'spose dey am most
worried to def now."

[Illustration: JETHRO IN TROUBLE.]

Since it looked as if it would be impossible for him to leave the cabin
for an indefinite time, the anxiety of the dusky youth to do so
increased with every passing minute, until he formed the resolution to
make the attempt, no matter what the consequences might prove to
himself.

A dispassionate view of the situation would have pronounced Jethro as
useful to the pioneers in one place as in another. Possibly, it might
have been decided that it was better that he should remain away so long
as the peril remained imminent, despite the fact that he had already
done them most effective service.

Jethro could not so far forget the first law of human nature as not to
debate and hesitate for a considerable while before taking the decisive
step.

"I might leave de door open," he reflected, "so dat if any ob de heathen
are hangin' round de outside waitin' for a chance to shet me off, I kin
dodge back and slam de door in dar faces. Ef I don't see 'em till I git
too fur to run back, I kin dive into de woods or hide."

All this sounded well enough in theory, but the young man could not lose
sight of one thing: in point of fleetness he could not compare with any
of the Shawanoes. They could run him down, as may be said, in a
twinkling.

It was impossible for one so inexperienced as he to form a reasonable
guess of the intentions of the red men. It was curious, to say the
least, that one or two of them should linger in the vicinity of the
cabin after the departure of the pioneers for the block-house. Even
Simon Kenton could not have guessed their purpose.

"Dey couldn't hab seed me go in," thought Jethro, "for, if dey did, dey
would hab hollered to me and asked me who I was lookin' fur; I'd gib 'em
some sass, and den dar would hab been a row and some ha'r pullin'."

The youth leaned against the side of the apartment a brief while longer
in intense cogitation, and then sighed.

"I ain't used to tinkin' so hard as dis; it exhorsts me."

To remedy which he groped his way to the huge bread box, a few paces
away. There was enough, left to furnish a person of ordinary appetite
with a good meal, but, when he ceased, nothing was left.

"Umph! dat rewives me; I feel stronger now--I'll do a little more hard
tinkin'--graciousnation, I's got it!" he exclaimed, leaping from the
floor in exultation; "why didn't I tink ob it afore? I'll hold one ob
dese boxes ober me, so dey can't see nuffin' ob me, and den walk out ob
de house and straight 'cross de clearin' to de woods. When I got dar,
I'll flung de box off en run! Dat's de plan, suah I's born!"



CHAPTER XIII.

UNKIND FATE.


After setting out on his return to his friends with the canoe which he
had recovered so cleverly from the drowsy Shawanoe, Simon Kenton gave
little thought to Jethro Juggens. The youth had become separated from
the scout through his own disregard of orders, and, as has already been
said, the former regarded his highest duty to be to the pioneers, who, a
mile or so away, were anxiously looking for his return.

It was during the first part of his voyage with the canoe that Kenton
had his hurricane encounter with the warrior who withdrew it from the
point along the bank where he left the craft for a few minutes only.

The scout was surprised and somewhat alarmed for his friends over one or
two facts which thus came to light. The Indian who paid so dearly for
this little trick he attempted upon the white man was not the one that
sat on the bank near the clearing while the boat was withdrawn from
before him. This proved that more than one Shawanoe was down the river
between the pioneers and the cabin in the clearing. The cawing from the
Ohio side showed that the lynx-eyed watchers were there, with the
unwelcome certainty that the Shawanoes were far more numerous than
either Boone or Kenton had supposed.

"Wa-on-mon has been doing some good work," reflected Kenton, "since he
sneaked out of sight, instead of meeting me for our last scrimmage.
Dan'l is right when he says the reason The Panther done that warn't
'cause he was afeared of me, but' cause he seed a chance of hittin' a
powerfuller blow than in sending nobody but Sime Kenton under. That's
what he's up to, with a mighty big chance of doing what he set out to
do."

The signal from the Ohio bank, and the encounter with the redskin, drove
all hesitation from the ranger's mind regarding the canoe. He drew it
from the water and upon the dry land, his paddle and rifle lying inside,
and then, with no little labor, dragged it among the trees to the other
side of the open space, where it was launched again, uninjured by its
rough experience.

"I hope there ain't many such places," he muttered, as he took the
paddle in hand; "'cause if there is, this old boat will suffer."

But night was closing in, and, with the coming of darkness, the need of
such extreme caution would pass. The wind too, was now blowing so
strongly up the river that it was not necessary to use the extreme
caution against making any noise while pushing his way along the bank.

To Kenton's disgust, he had gone a little more than a hundred yards
further when he struck another of the very places he had in mind. It was
twice as broad as the one he had flanked a few minutes before, and did
not offer the slightest concealment.

He checked the canoe, with the nose on the edge of the opening, and took
several minutes to look over the ground and decide upon the best course
to follow.

To most persons it must seem like an excess of caution for Kenton to
hesitate to propel his boat across this open space when it confronted
him. That there was any dusky foe crouching in the woods, with his eyes
fixed upon that "clearing" in the water and watching for the appearance
of Kenton, was a piece of fine-spun theorizing that entered the realms
of the absurd. It was preposterous to suppose anything of the kind.
Simon Kenton was too much of a veteran in woodcraft to make such
preposterous mistakes.

But the unwelcome truth which stared him in the face was that he had
been followed from the clearing, and the signal from the other side of
the river, resembling the call of a crow, he believed referred to him.
It looked as if there was an understanding between the Shawanoe scouts
on the Ohio and those on the Kentucky side of the river.

As the matter stood, however, Kenton decided not to drag the canoe among
the trees again. In the gathering darkness he was liable to injure it
beyond repair, and in a brief while the gloom itself would afford him
the screen he needed.

The wind stirred the water into wrinkles and wavelets along the shore,
which rippled against the canoe and the end of the paddle when held
motionless. Further out in the river the disturbance was so marked that
it would have caused some annoyance even to a strong swimmer.

Kenton's conclusion was to stay where he was for a brief while--that is,
until the gloom increased sufficiently to allow him to paddle across the
open space without the misgiving that now held his muscular arm
motionless.

Sitting thus, with all his senses alert, he caught the distinct outlines
of some large object on the surface of the river. It was moving with
moderate swiftness from the Ohio bank in a diagonal direction to the
Kentucky shore, making for a point but a short distance above where the
ranger was waiting for a slight increase of darkness.

A second glance identified the object as an Indian canoe containing
several occupants. But for the noise made by the wind and water he would
have heard the dipping of the paddles, for there was no attempt in the
way of secrecy of movement.

"That looks as though they didn't 'spect none of us was in these parts,"
mused Kenton, with considerable relief. "If the varmints thought Sime
Kenton was loafin' anywhere near they'd be a powerful sight more
keerful."

Since the new party were following a course which would ultimately take
them up stream and nearer to the party of fugitives, the ranger decided
to learn, if possible, something more of their intentions.

A moment's thought convinced him that there was more risk in following
the Shawanoes in his canoe than on foot. He suspected the party intended
to land. He could move with more freedom and effect among the trees,
with liberty to return to his boat whenever he chose.

Accordingly, with hardly a moment's hesitation, he stepped out of the
canoe again and drew the prow so far up the bank that there was no
danger of its being swept away by the disturbed current. Then, with the
noiseless celerity for which he was noted, he moved along the shore in
the direction of the camp, where soon after his friends gathered and
anxiously awaited his coming.

A disappointment came to the ranger. His supposition was that the
Shawanoes in the canoe would run in close to shore or paddle up the
stream at so moderate a speed that it would be easy for him to overtake
them, but for some reason or other she shot forward with a swiftness
fully double what he expected. Kenton's error, as will be seen, was in
not sticking to his canoe, in which it would have cost him little effort
to follow the other at a safe distance, ready to dart in under the
protection of the overhanging limbs at the first danger of detection.

"They won't land till they get to Rattlesnake Gulch, or above it," was
his new conclusion, "and I'm throwing away time by dodging among the
trees."

Men of the stamp of the ranger follow their decisions by instant action.
Turning about, he strode rapidly through the woods to the point where he
had left his canoe but a short time before.

To his consternation it was gone.

Hardly crediting his senses, he made hasty search, with the speedy
confirmation of the astounding fact.

He was too skilled in woodcraft to make any mistake as to the precise
spot, just on the edge as it was of the open space which he hesitated to
cross.

Whereas, the boat was there less than a quarter of an hour before, it
was now nowhere in sight.

Inasmuch as he had taken pains to draw it far enough up the bank to
prevent it being swept free by the current, only one conclusion was
possible; a single Shawanoe or more had taken it away.

It may be doubted whether Simon Kenton in all his life was more
chagrined, for he had been surprised and outwitted with a cleverness
that was the keenest possible blow to his pride.

When he disposed of the single warrior that attempted precisely the same
trick upon him, the pioneer accepted that as an end of the matter. He
did not deem it possible that a second danger of that nature could
threaten him.

What added special poignancy to his humiliation was the belief, formed
without any tangible grounds, that the Indian who had outwitted him was
the Shawanoe from before whom the canoe had been withdrawn while he was
indulging in his afternoon siesta. This impression which fastened itself
upon him, constituted the "most unkindest cut of all."

But, angered, exasperated, and mortified as he was, Simon Kenton was not
the man to waste the minutes in idle lamentation. Since the first part
of the former attempt to outwit him had succeeded, he felt there was no
reason why the second part should triumph. He therefore started down the
stream as rapidly as he could force his way in the darkness.

There was no duplication, however, of the second part of the programme.
Whoever the dusky thief was that had withdrawn the canoe from the
possession of the unsuspicious ranger, he was too wise to commit the
fatal mistake of his predecessor. Instead of loitering close in shore,
he had taken to the clear water, or propelled the boat with a deft
swiftness that placed him beyond all danger from the irate white man.

So it was that the time quickly came when Kenton paused in his blind
pursuit, convinced that the craft was irrecoverably gone.

"I'll be hanged if that varmint ain't a sharp one!" he muttered, with a
feeling akin to admiration at the performance. "It ain't the first time
Sim Kenton has been outwitted by his people, but it's the first time he
had it played on him in that style."

It was a serious blow to the scheme which the pioneer had formed for the
deliverance of his friends; for, as will be seen, it destroyed all
chance of transporting the women and children to the Ohio shore in the
canoe that had accompanied the flatboat a part of the way down the
river.

The roughness of the water under the high, steady wind might well cause
the men to hesitate over the other plan that had been spoken of--that of
swimming the stream and bearing the women and children with them. The
project of constructing a raft upon which to float them over was open to
the fatal objection that the watchful Shawanoes were absolutely certain
to discover it, and discovery could mean but one thing--not only those
on the raft, but the men who might be swimming in the water, would be so
utterly at the mercy of their enemies in their canoes that it would be
but play to pick off every man, woman, and child.

Only one shadowy hope remained--the second canoe, which he hoped to find
at the point where he had hidden it some weeks before, close to
Rattlesnake Gulch. If that had remained undetected by the Indians, it
could take the place of the one he had just lost.

Pushing out in the gloom, Kenton, with one at least of the rangers to
bear him company, need have little personal fear, even if discovered by
the Shawanoes; for they could drive the boat as fast over the water as
could the most skilful of pursuers, and the gloom or woods of the Ohio
shore once reached, all danger to them would vanish. But dare lie hope
that such an opportunity would be presented to him? It would seem, that
with their dusky enemies everywhere, some of them were certain to
stumble upon the boat, though if they did so, it would be accident
rather than design.

There was only one way, however, of settling the matter; that was to
learn whether the boat was where it had been left or where he hoped to
find it.

Kenton pushed along the shore with a haste which at times approached
recklessness; but, as he drew near Rattlesnake Gulch, he called into
play his usual caution, even with the wind and darkness in his favor.

With more anxiety than often troubled him, he groped his way to the spot
where he had carefully hidden his canoe. His search, if quick, was
thorough, and, alas! it told him the woeful truth that the second boat
was as effectually beyond all possible reach as was the first one.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE INTRUDER.


It has been said that Agnes Altman, seated behind the boulder on the
edge of the rude fortification near the river, was among the most alert
of the pioneers that had taken refuge there until Simon Kenton could
open the way for their escape across the Ohio.

To this fact may be ascribed the startling discovery she made that an
Indian warrior was crouching on the other side of the boulder, no more
than three feet from where she was listening with intensest attention,
and in this discovery she preceded all other members of the company.

The Shawanoe, indeed, was so close that it may be said the slight noise
he made shut out the rustling of the wind and the rippling of the
current against the bank, the overhanging branches and around the
twisted roots along shore.

She heard his body move along the surface of the rock, and, pressing her
ear against it, caught the slight disturbance more distinctly. A solid
substance, as every one knows, is a better conductor of sound than air,
and the medium was of more help to her than she dreamed it could be.

What particular thing her mortal enemy was doing she could not surmise,
nor did it specially concern her to know at that moment; there could be
no doubt that he was in a state of pernicious activity.

The question which the maiden asked herself was, whether she should not
acquaint George Ashbridge with what she had learned. He was almost at
her elbow, as has been explained, and, brief as was the time, several
whispered conferences had taken place.

But, if she should speak or move, the Indian on the other side of the
boulder would take the alarm and make off. This, it would seem, was the
very thing which a young woman in her situation ought to desire above
all others, but Agnes thought the miscreant should not be allowed to
escape in that manner, at least not before he and his people had been
taught a well-needed lesson.

She concluded to remain quiescent and await developments.

The next thing decided upon may have been characteristic of her age and
sex, but, all the same, it was a piece of recklessness almost the equal
of the weakness shown when she placed the knife in the hand of The
Panther. She decided to peep over the top of the rock and learn what the
Shawanoe was doing.

Sufficient moonlight found its way among the branches to permit one to
see indistinctly for a few feet. She was confident that she could give
their enemy one quick glance and then drop back before he could do her
harm.

Her heart beat a little faster than it was wont when, with the silence
of a phantom, she began slowly raising her head, with her eyes fixed on
the top of the rock, which she touched with her hands. Before she
reached the elevation in mind, she discovered the Indian was doing the
same thing, and, fortunately for her, was two or three seconds advanced
with the action.

The crown of the warrior, with the projecting eagle feathers, were as if
they were a part of the darkness itself, so vaguely were they outlined
in the gloom, though their identity was as clear to the girl as if the
noon-day sun was shining upon the painted features.

The head rose just high enough for the glittering eyes to peer over the
horizon of the rock in the endeavor to learn something of the situation
within the interior of the "fort."

Agnes was transfixed for a moment. She feared that if she sank lower, or
changed her position, the Indian would detect it and use his knife or
tomahawk, and the same unspeakable dread prevented her crying out to
warn George Ashbridge or any of the others of their peril.

She had no weapon of her own at command, and very probably it would have
made no difference if she had, for she was but an infant before this
terrible embodiment of strength, treachery and hate. But she felt she
must do something to teach the miscreant the risk he ran by his daring
act.

Groping silently with her right hand among and under the leaves, she
managed to clutch some gravel and dirt, which, with a quick flirt, she
intended to fling in the face of the Indian. It would probably cause him
some inconvenience and considerable surprise, though the weapon was too
insignificant for him to make any use of it.

The result of the novel demonstration can only be guessed, since the
opportunity to try it passed at the moment Agnes was ready to make the
test. When in the act of drawing back her hand, the head of the Shawanoe
vanished as noiselessly as it had obtruded on the scene.

It seems incredible that the savage could have gained any knowledge of
the interior of the fortification or of the location of the defenders.
The gloom was too deep to permit the use of any vision except that of
the owl or cat. He had probably withdrawn to repeat his attempt at some
other point.

Again, the marvelous delicacy of hearing told the girl that her enemy
was in motion, not directly in front of the boulder, but on the left, in
the direction of George Ashbridge. She peered intently at that point,
wondering how much longer she ought to remain motionless and mute, and
on the point of calling, in a suppressed voice, to her lover, when
something whisked by her elbow, too quickly or too dimly seen for her to
comprehend at once what it meant.

Then it flashed upon her.

"George!" she called, in an undertone, so full of dread and terror that
he was at her side in an instant.

"What's the matter? What has happened?"

"There's an Indian within the inclosure!"

"Impossible! You are mistaken!"

"I saw him this minute."

"Where? Tell me how it was!" he whispered, seizing her hand, and quick
to catch her excitement.

"I saw the top of his head peeping over this very rock in front of me. I
was about to call to you, when he dropped down again. The next moment he
passed over the spot where you are. He did it so quickly and silently
that I heard nothing, and caught only the most shadowy glimpses of him."

"Can it be possible? I cannot dispute you, and yet--"

A tall figure, walking erect, assumed form in the gloom, and was upon
the startled lovers before they were aware of it.

Young Ashbridge was in the act of bringing his rifle to a level, when
Weber Hastings spoke.

"Not too fast, younkers. I'm afeared I didn't do the best thing in the
world, when I placed you two so near each other."

"No matter where you placed her," replied the youth, "you did a good
thing for the rest. She has sharper eyes than any of us, for she has
seen what nobody else saw."

"What's that? What's that?"

"Within the last three minutes," said Agnes, "one of the Shawanoes
passed by this boulder behind which I have been sitting, and is now
somewhere within the inclosure. Oh, I wonder if he means any harm to
your folks, George, or mine!"

And spurred by her new terror she hurried across the brief intervening
space to where her mother and Miss Altman were sitting trembling, and
occasionally whispering in the darkness.

Thank heaven! no harm had befallen them, and since there was no call for
her to return to George Ashbridge and Weber Hastings, she remained with
those that were so near and dear to her.

"Them varmints are gettin' pow'rful sassy," was the comment of Hastings,
who, now that the truth was known, seemed to lose all the excitement he
had first shown. "You don't think the gal was mistook?"

"I am sure she was not."

"So am I; stay right here where you be, while I look around for that
varmint; keep a lookout yourself, for he may try to sneak out this way."

"All I want is a chance at him."

"That's right--helloa!"

It so happened that Jim Deane, fully recovered from the effects of the
rattlesnake antidote he had taken earlier in the evening, was on guard
at a point almost opposite where Agnes Altman had made her alarming
discovery. Instead of being sheltered by boulders and rocks, he had lain
down behind some branches and logs, which he himself had helped place in
position weeks before, when he and his companions were caught in their
desperate straits.

Stretched at full length upon his face, with one hand grasping the
barrel of his rifle in front and hearing nothing, he felt something
softly touch his foot. The ranger did not speak or move a limb, but with
rare cleverness, suspected the astonishing truth; one of the Shawanoe
had entered the fort and was making a tour of inspection. The miscreant
would offer harm to no one until he had gathered the knowledge he
sought. Then he doubtless meant to deal some swift, terrible blows with
his knife, and make off before anything could be done in the way of
punishment.

The ranger turned his head and peered over his shoulder behind him.
Lying flat on the ground, while the one that had touched him was on his
feet, the advantage was with the white man. The almost impalpable
outlines of a crouching figure that had paused upon touching his foot
was revealed, and all doubt vanished from the mind of Deane.

His posture, as will be perceived, was an awkward one compared with that
of the Shawanoe. It was necessary for the white man to change it before
he could assume the offensive, and during the making of that change was
the time for the hostile to get in his effective work.

The possibility of his doing so caused no hesitation on the part of Jim
Deane. He flirted himself upon his back, snapped his feet beneath his
body, and came to a standing position in a twinkling. In the act of
doing so, he cocked his rifle.

The click of the hammer warned the intruder of his danger. His situation
was not one in which to make a fight, and he turned to flee. The white
man heard him, and dashed through the gloom to gain sufficient sight to
warrant a shot. The fugitive must have been as familiar with the ground
as was his pursuer, for he showed no hesitation as to his course, nor
did he give any evidence of blundering.

He was so near the side of the inclosure that he had to run but a few
steps when he made a leap which lifted him several feet above the
obstruction, and it was this temporary elevation which gave the ranger
the chance he was seeking. At the moment the figure was at the highest
point of the arch, with his feet gathered beneath him, the ranger
brought his gun to his shoulder and let fly.

A flash, a resounding report, a rasping shriek that resounded through
the woods, and the Shawanoe sprawled forward on his face, with his hands
clutching the leaves and dirt, and then all was still.

"That 'ere varmint ought to have knowed that 'cause a man happens to git
bit by a rattler and takes an over-dose of antidote, it ain't no reason
for stubbin' your toe agin him, and thinkin' he's forgot how to shoot
off a gun."

"You managed that purty well, Jim," quietly remarked Weber Hastings,
appearing that moment at his elbow. "Glad to see you don't forget to
reload as quick as you kin."

"I larned that long ago; wonder if there are any more of the varmints
'bout."

"If there is, they'll be a little more keerful, but there's no saying
what'll be the next thing--sh!"

Through the arches of the forest stole the soft, tremulous notes of a
night bird--so faintly heard that even the trained ears of the ranger
could do no more than guess the distance.

"That's Kenton," he remarked, in a guarded voice; "I'm powerful glad of
it, for now something will be done."



CHAPTER XV.

A DARK PROSPECT.


Weber Hastings waited only a few seconds after hearing the soft,
tremulous bird call that stole among the leafy arches, when he replied
with an imitation so exact that it might well have been mistaken for an
echo of the first.

Nothing more was done, for that was sufficient. Groping around among the
"hornets' nests," as Kenton declared it to be, eluding the Shawanoes,
who seemed to be everywhere, the pioneer found it impossible to locate
his friends, until, as a last resort, he had recourse to the signal,
which he knew would be recognized by Hastings, provided it could be
projected to him.

Ten minutes later, the pioneer appeared within the enclosure as silently
as if he had risen from the very earth. He sat down on the ground to
consult with Hastings after his arrival had been made known to the rest.
He would have willingly talked to them all, had it been feasible, but
the exciting incidents a brief time before proved that not a man could
be spared from his station. There was no certainty as to the schemes of
the Shawanoes, and nothing less than the utmost vigilance could save the
fugitives.

"What do you think of things?" inquired Hastings, the moment they were
alone.

"They look bad--powerful bad; fact is, I don't see how they could look
much worse."

"How did you make out?"

"Didn't make out at all," growled the ranger, not yet recovered from his
keen disappointment; "I went back to the clearin', and yanked out that
canoe from right under the nose of one of them varmints; when I had
fetched it purty near here, I left it a few minutes to reckynoiter, and
when I went back I'll be hanged if the same varmint hadn't yanked it
back agin."

He made no reference to the first affair, which resulted in a fatal
failure to the Indian attempting it. That didn't count in the light of
the success which followed it.

"Of course, you hadn't any chance of getting it back again, or you'd
done it?"

"You're correct; it was growing dark, and, though I hunted powerful
lively for the varmint, I didn't get the first show for drawin' a bead
on him."

"You said somethin' about another canoe of your'n that you hed among the
bushes some time ago, near where we are now."

"I found the spot, but didn't find no canoe; the varmints had been ahead
of me; I shouldn't wonder, now, if the boat which I seed comin' over
from the Ohio side was the identical craft that I was looking for."

Kenton indulged in a forceful exclamation, for the occasion was one of
the rare ones in which his chagrin and self disgust became intolerable.
Nevertheless, he was very much of a philosopher, and soon talked with
all his self-possession, betraying a hopeful vein in his composition
which did much to sustain him in the great trials to which he was
subjected in later years.

"I counted on two boats," he added, "and did git one; now, I haven't got
any. But it don't do any good to kick."

"No," assented his companion; "we must make the best of it."

"Though there doesn't seem to be any 'best' about the bus'ness. Haven't
heard anything of Boone since I left you?"

"Not a word."

"A good deal depends on what he says. He went more among the varmints
than I did, though I found 'em plenty 'nough--confound 'em! But Boone is
wiser than me. I don't think the varmints hate him quite as bad, and
that gives him a better show for learning what they're up to."

"The Ingins must have one or two canoes," suggested Hastings, hinting at
a scheme that had assumed form in his mind.

"I know what you mean, Web. There ain't no one that would try it
quicker'n me, if I had the least chance."

"You stole a boat from one of 'em not long ago."

"But the varmint was asleep, and there was only that one. Here there's
twenty of 'em at least--most likely more--and every varmint of' em is as
wide awake as if he had been asleep seventeen years and a half. No,"
grimly added the veteran, "there ain't nothin' that would suit the
varmints better than to have Sime Kenton try to steal one of their
canoes from' em. The style in which they would lift his hair would be
beautiful. They'd be powerful glad to give me a chance if they believed
I'd try it."

"Wal," remarked Hastings, with a sigh, "it looks to me as if it's going
to be the same game over again that Jim Deane and the boys had played on
'em some months ago, 'cepting there won't be half the chance there was
then."

"Why not?"

"Wal, with them there war'nt nobody beside themselves and all knowed how
to fight, and they did fight, too--there's no mistake. But we've got two
women, a likely gal and a little girl, and of course there isn't one of
us that'll knock under or run as long as they're above ground."

"Of course not; them's the sentiments of every one of us."

"When daylight comes the varmints will be on all sides of us. They can
keep behind the trees and pick off one of us whenever he shows his
head."

"They can do a great deal better than that," suggested Kenton.

"How?"

"Starve us out; we have eat nothin' since leaving the clearin', though
that time is so short it don't count, but there isn't a mouthful of food
in this party, and no way of getting it."

"It does look bad," remarked Hastings, feeling deeply the views
expressed by his companion.

"I wish Boone would come, so him and me could agree on something to try,
whether it will win or not."

Simon Kenton was not the man to sit down and fold his hands in despair,
no matter how desperate the situation, but he had expressed the wish
that was strong within him, that he might have the counsel of the man
who was twenty years his senior, and who had turned his steps westward
before Kenton knew that Kentucky and Ohio existed.

"I'm glad of one thing," added the pioneer, after a moment's pause, "and
that is, that this arrangement of yours is open on the side toward the
river."

"Jim said that was done so as to give him and the boys a chance for the
last plunge. If they hadn't done that them three chaps never would have
seen the sun rise again."

"It may come to the same thing when there's only two or three of us
left. Helloa! who's this?"

It was Mr. Altman, who, knowing where the two were in consultation,
ventured to approach them, doing so with an apology.

"I have no wish to intrude," he added, "but I am disturbed over one
matter, Kenton, about which I would like to ask a question or two."

"What's that?" inquired the scout.

"When you left us this afternoon you took my servant Jethro with you,
but I have seen nothing of him since you came back."

"I'll be hanged if I hadn't forgot all about that younker!"

"Did you bring him back with you?"

"No; and I'm doubtful if you see him ag'in--leastways not very soon."

He then told all he knew about the fellow, his master listening, as may
well be supposed, with the deepest interest. Keenly as he regretted the
misfortune that had befallen the stupid fellow, he saw that no possible
blame could be placed upon any one beside the youth himself.

"If he happens to fall into the hands of the Shawanoes, it will go hard
with him," remarked Mr. Altman, with a shudder.

"So it will, so it will," repeated Kenton; "the varmints never fancy
them of his color, and they've good reason to hate him."

"I heard that he did a powerful lot to help you folks," remarked
Hastings.

"I should say he did; whenever one of the varmints was hit, you could
make up your mind that it was the darky that done it. He had the
confoundest luck, and at the same time can shoot a gun as well as Boone,
or you or me. But worse than all that, he was the means of catching The
Panther himself, and nearly pounded the life out of him."

"Wouldn't the chief like to lay hands on him?" said Altman.

"Much as he hates me and the rest of us, I think he would give any two
for the sake of that darky. If he once gets hold of him it won't be any
shootin' bus'ness, but Col. Crawford over agin."

The thought was a depressing one, but all were powerless to help the
fellow, and the consciousness of the fearful danger which hung over all
was a hundredfold sadder. The Ashbridges and Altmans saw the nearest and
dearest ones on earth in the most imminent peril of their lives, and, so
far as human agency was concerned, none were able to extend a helping
hand.

"I've a feeling," remarked Hastings, after Thomas Altman had withdrawn
to his station, "that whatever is done to help these folks has got to be
done this very night."

"There ain't no speck of doubt about it--helloa, who's this?"

A second form approached them through the gloom. Dimly seen though it
was, something in the gait or manner told Kenton who it was.

"Is that you, Dan'l?"

"Yes," replied the veteran, quietly sitting down near them as though he
had been absent but a few minutes. "I had a hard time to find you, and
was on the p'int several times of 'calling.'"

"Why didn't you do it? I did."

"There are too many Injins in the woods. I heerd 'em 'calling' to each
other more than once, and it was all I could do to keep from bumpin'
aginst 'em. If I had signaled, some of 'em would have answered, and
things might have got mixed. I 'spected where you was, and therefore
knowed the right spot to look."

"As I didn't, I 'called,' and come through all right. Wal, Dan'l, as you
say, the varmints are powerful plenty in these parts. Since you and me
hadn't any trouble gettin' into this fort, as Jim Deane calls it, it
follers that if the varmints should try it they would find it jest as
easy."

"So they won't," remarked Hastings; "but one of 'em found it rather
risky gettin' out agin."

"I heerd a gun go off a while ago," said Boone, as though the matter had
little interest to him.

Hastings related the occurrence which resulted in the death of the dusky
intruder, and Kenton gave an account of what he had done, or, rather,
attempted to do, for he was more unsparing in condemning his failures
than his worst enemies would have been.

"Now, Dan'l," remarked his younger friend, "the past ain't of any
'count; it's the present, the now, that we've got to take care of. What
do you think the varmints mean to do?"

"Wait where they are till mornin', and then begin shooting."

"And if they can't pick us all off, keep us here till we're starved
out?"

"There ain't any doubt of that."

"I agree with you, Daniel; therefore, whatever we do for the folks has
got to be done afore sun-up."

"That's as true as Gospel."

"How many of the varmints are there?"

"There seemed to be about twenty, more or less, this afternoon, but
toward night some others come from 'cross the river, I reckon, as there
must be all of thirty."

"Who has charge of 'em, Daniel?"

"That painted imp they call Wa-on-mon, or The Panther."



CHAPTER XVI.

SIMON KENTON IN A PANIC.


It was no surprise to Simon Kenton to learn that his old enemy, The
Panther, was at the head of the formidable war party that were plotting
with so much success against the pioneers. He had suspected the truth
before he learned it from Boone.

The fact removed the last vestige of suspicion any one might have held
as to the motive of the chieftain in failing to accept the challenge of
Kenton to mortal combat. Wa-on-mon had made haste to hunt up the war
party of Shawanoes that he must have known were in the vicinity, well
aware that with them at his beck and call he could strike a thousandfold
more effective blow than by the simple overthrow of Kenton, accompanied
by the disablement of himself.

The ferocious leader was perilously near success, and it looked as if
nothing could extricate the fugitives from destruction.

The reader need not be reminded that it was the presence and care of the
four females that was a mortal handicap to the brave men who had set out
to conduct them to the block-house up the river. Had they been already
there, the pioneers and rangers would have given the Shawanoes a hot
fight, and driven them off with the loss of more than one of their
bravest leaders.

From what has been already made known, it will be seen that it was not a
hard thing for a friend or enemy to enter the rough inclosure which had
been dignified with the name of fort. The discovery of the Shawanoe's
presence was in the nature of an accident; but for Agnes Altman he might
have wandered almost at will among the men on guard, and, having learned
all he had set out to learn, stole away without detection.

Kenton and Boone reversed the method when they appeared on the scene.
They had but to make themselves known (an easy matter, since they were
expected) to receive a welcome. At the same time they avoided detection
by the Indians, who were hovering on all sides.

It has been shown that, in a certain sense, one part of the
fortification was open, since nothing in the nature of a defence
interposed between it and the river. The presumption was, that in this
direction one would have a fair chance of stealing away undiscovered.

The fact, however, that such an opening presented itself was proof that
it was under close surveillance. Possibly, in the gloom, some of the
most skilful of the rangers, by swimming under water a long way, might
elude the vigilance of the Shawanoes, but the attempt would be fatal to
any one of the females, and to more than one of the men.

Kenton, Boone and Hastings held what might be considered a council of
war, since the fate to all concerned depended upon the result of the
conference.

"There seems but the one chance," remarked Boone, after each had
expressed his views, "and that's a powerful slim one."

"So must every chance be," commented Kenton.

"From what we've learned to-night any one of us three can sneak out of
this place and off in the woods. If that's so, what's to hinder two or
three doing it, by treading on each other's heels?"

"Nothin'," was the prompt response of Hastings.

"'Spose, then, that I try it to the right and Simon to the left; 'spose
that each of us takes two persons with him and that they are females?"

"And if you should get through the lines with 'em?" asked Hastings.

"That's all we want; once clear of the varmints, and with the better
part of the night afore us, the road to the block-house will be so clear
that sun-up will find us all there."

Kenton did not like this plan, and said so.

"It won't work," he asserted, with quiet emphasis. "You and me, Dan'l,
might get through the lines, 'cause we've both done it this very night,
but we couldn't take a woman or gal with us."

Boone held unlimited faith in the woodcraft of his friend, and meant to
leave the decision of the question with him. Kenton condemned the scheme
from the first; therefore it was abandoned.

"I've nothing more to offer," said the elder pioneer, disappointed by
the emphatic veto of the other; "there seems but one thing left for
us--to stay here and fight it out with the varmints to-morrow. We can
drop some of 'em, and mebbe The Panther will be among 'em, but there
won't be one of us left to rej'ice over his going under."

Kenton held his peace for several minutes. His companions knew he was
thinking intently and that something, desperate though it might be,
would come from it. Neither Boone nor Hastings could offer the first
suggestion; they could only wait for their athletic companion to counsel
or to act.

Without a word, Kenton rose to his feet.

The others did the same, even though their erect position offered a
tempting target to any prowling enemies who might succeed in entering
the inclosure.

"Dan'l, take my gun," said the younger ranger, impressively; "if I never
come back, keep it in remembrance of the many times you and Sime Kenton
have been on the trail together."

"I'll do it, Simon," replied Boone, accepting the weapon.

"But," interposed Hastings, with a nervousness he could not conceal,
"can't me and Boone be of help to you?"

"Not the least; I must go it alone this time."

"But let us know what you're going to try to do."

"When you and me were talking awhile ago, Hastings, you remember I said
there warn't no chance of stealing any canoe in these parts belonging to
the varmints; you remember that?"

"Of course."

"All the same I'm going after the canoe I seed crossing the Ohio just as
it was getting dark. I don't b'leve I'll get it, or if I do that I can
make any use of it."

Boone was impelled to interpose, for understanding the hopeless
character of the attempt, it distressed him unspeakably to have his
brave friend sacrifice himself. The elder, however, held his peace. He
knew that Kenton had weighed all the chances, and the time for protest
had passed.

"Stay right where you are," said the younger, moving as coolly and
deliberately as though making ready to retire for the night. "It ain't
likely the varmints will try to disturb you afore morning, but you know
better than to trust 'em. If I ain't back afore daylight you'll never
see me ag'in, and God help you all."

He wrung the hand of each in turn, and facing toward the river and
assuming a crouching posture, vanished as silently as a shadow in the
gloom, not another word falling from the lips of the two whom he had
left behind, until considerable time had elapsed.

Having stripped for the fray, as may be said, by leaving his cumbersome
rifle behind, Kenton approached the edge of the river with the utmost
circumspection. Suspecting, as he did, that the Shawanoes had left this
point open for the very purpose of inviting such an attempt as he had in
view, he was too wise to neglect every precaution to keep it secret. If
by any remote possibility he should succeed in his daring purpose, it
could only be by keeping his enemies in ignorance of his movements, at
least up to the point of decisive action on his part.

He therefore availed himself of every screen that could be used to hide
his body, and advanced for several rods, more after the fashion of a
serpent gliding over the ground than of a man stealing forward on his
hands and knees. More than a quarter of an hour was consumed in passing
this slight distance. Patience is a cardinal virtue with men of his
profession, a moment's undue haste often undoing the work of hours. When
at last he was able to reach out his hand and dip it in the cool waters,
he was quite certain that none of the Shawanoes suspected what he had
accomplished.

At this crisis several conditions united to help the intrepid scout. The
wind still blowing strongly up the river rustled the vegetation, and
whipped the surface of the river into wavelets that veiled other sounds,
and helped to conceal any disturbance of the water. A glance at the sky
showed the moon hidden by clouds, but the keen survey of Kenton told him
that they would soon float past the face of the orb, leaving it to shine
with greater strength than before. There was not a moment, therefore, to
spare.

He was still flat on the ground, not daring to raise his head more than
a few inches. With the same indescribable movement he glided from the
land into the water, sinking quietly and heavily below the surface as
though he were an iron statue.

Close to the shore the depth was shallow, but he secured enough freedom
of movement to work his way quickly into deep water, where he was at
home. Swimming with prodigious power and skill, wholly beneath the
surface, he turned on his back and allowed his nose to rise just high
enough to give him one deep inhalation, when he sank again.

With the water crinkled and disturbed by the strong wind, the
keenest-eyed Indian, peering out from the undergrowth along shore, would
have discovered nothing upon which to hinge the faintest suspicion.

After another long swim, without the power to breathe, Kenton allowed
his head to come up and opened his eyes.

As he anticipated, the moon was just emerging from the mass of drifting
clouds, and the increasing light, spreading over forest and river,
considerably extended his area of vision. Confident that his departure
was unknown to any of the lurking Shawanoe scouts, he scrutinized his
surroundings with more confidence than he would have felt had it been
otherwise.

He could trace the dark outline of the shore he had just left, or rather
the mass of trees and branches were clearly stamped against the
background of sky. Above and below rippled the river in the dim
moonlight, while a wall of indistinct blackness masked the Ohio shore.

Somewhere along the bank, which he had left but a brief while before,
nestled the canoe he had set out to find and bring to a point where it
could be used to help deliver the pioneers from their perilous
environment, and, without giving another thought to the impossibility of
success, he grimly resolved to do his utmost, no matter if certain death
was to be the result.

Prudence required him to wait until the moon was obscured. Masses of
vapor were continually passing in front of it, and he had to wait only a
few minutes when the gloom permitted the attempt.

With the same cool promptness he swam toward shore, until the distance
he had in mind was passed. Then carefully measuring the space, he sank
below the surface again. The precaution seemed unnecessary, but such
trifles sometimes decide the question of life and death. Not the
slightest misgiving remained, when he noiselessly raised his head
beneath the overhanging branches, that his departure and return were
suspected by a single Shawanoe.

And yet he was only on the threshold of his enterprise. The real work
now confronted him.

Having come in to shore at a point considerably above where he had left
it, Kenton hoped the canoe for which he was searching was below him. He
therefore decided to continue his hunt in that direction.

With the advantage gained, he required but a short time to do this, the
result being a mistake on his part. He saw nothing of the craft.

He was about to turn again when he looked out upon the river, where the
moon was shining with unobscured light.

He gave a start, and peered through the parted bushes a second time,
and, as he did so, he received the greatest shock of his life. Never
before or after that eventful night did he go through so astounding an
experience.

So terrified indeed was the brave ranger by what he saw, that, forgetful
of the Shawanoes, the imperiled fugitives, and everything except his own
panic, he dashed through the intervening space, and, bursting into the
inclosure where he had left his friends, called in a husky undertone:

"Boys, we're lost! we're lost! There's a ghost coming up the river!"



CHAPTER XVII.

A RUN OF GOOD FORTUNE.


We have now reached a point in our narrative where it once more becomes
necessary to follow the fortunes of Jethro Juggens, whom we were obliged
to leave in anything but a pleasant situation.

After a rather stirring experience in the cabin of Mr. Ashbridge,
whither he had gone in total disregard of the instructions of Simon
Kenton, he awoke to the fact that it would not do for him to tarry
longer so far from his friends and exposed to so much personal danger.
He must leave without further delay.

The proof received of the presence of one or more Shawanoes on the
outside was too alarming for him to feel any of his old-time assurance
in venturing across the clearing to the shelter of the surrounding
forest. It will be remembered that he suddenly formed the decision to
incase himself in armor, so to speak, by using one of the several boxes
that had been brought down the river on the flatboat.

Filled with the scheme, he made ready for the extraordinary experiment.
His plan was to invert one of the boxes over his head, and thus
protected, stride across the open space to the woods; but second thought
and considerable experimenting revealed difficulties which speedily
became mountainous in their nature.

"Dat will be all right," he muttered, after he had emptied the box which
had contained the food and some other articles; "but it's gwine to be a
mighty bother to take dis ting and my gun too. Den as long as I keep it
ober my head I won't be able to see where I'm gwine; I may keep walkin'
round in a circle for two, free days, and fotch up ag'in de doah ob dis
house ebery time. I'll hab to make a peep-hole in front."

To do this required work, but the pine wood was soft and his knife was
sharp. Vigorous use of the implement soon opened a hole two or three
inches in diameter, through which he could obtain a good view of his
immediate surroundings.

"Dat will work," he muttered, with some satisfaction, as he felt of the
opening, and found he could pass his hand through it; "it's a little
bigger dan I meant to make it, but if I see one ob de heathen p'intin'
his gun toward me I can slip my head to one side. I'll try it."

He lifted the receptacle over his head and shoulders, and found it
fitted to a nicety. It could not have answered better had it been
constructed for the express purpose of serving him as a shield.

He cautiously peeped through the windows, and discovering nothing to
cause misgiving, drew back the door sufficiently to allow him to pass
through with his turtle-like protection. Then he stepped forth upon the
partially moonlit clearing, and, with considerable labor, inched along
until perhaps a dozen feet distant from the building. His next act was
to turn abruptly about and hasten back through the open door with such
precipitation that he stumbled headlong into the room.

"Gorrynation! I's a big fool!" was his exclamation, and which, it is
safe to say, none of his acquaintances would have disputed.

To his dismay he made several disquieting discoveries. In the first
place, when he attempted to look through the peep-hole it was not there.
Inadvertently he had put on the box in a reversed position, so that the
opening was behind him. He attempted to shift the box about, but it
would not work well. At the same moment he became aware that he had
forgotten to bring his gun with him, and, worst of all, a sudden
conviction flashed upon him that the soft pine in which he was enveloped
was not strong enough to stop the course of a bullet. Therefore the wood
was no protection at all.

These causes combined to throw the dusky youth into a panic, which sent
him and the box crashing through the door before his novel experiment
was subjected to a real test.

"It won't work," was his decision; "I hab to show my feet, 'cause dey's
de biggest part ob me, and if de heathens shoot dem off dey'll hab me
dead suah."

The only comfort he derived from the partial experiment was that nothing
was seen or heard of the red men. It seemed to him that they would have
made some demonstration had they observed him, and he was strongly
tempted to make a dash for the wood, without encumbering himself with
anything more than his gun.

Sufficient uncertainty, however, remained to hold him in check for a
time, when, like an inspiration, a new suggestion forced itself into his
brain.

Among the goods left behind in the cabin by the pioneers in their flight
toward the block-house was considerable bedding, mostly in the shape of
sheets, quilts and blankets. Why not swathe himself in these instead of
using the awkward and cumbersome box?

The more he thought of the plan, the more he was pleased. He could wrap
the tough linen sheets about his figure until the thickness would be
doubly as effective as the wood. He could gather them round his head so
that they would project above and protect it, and let them descend so
low that his feet would be well armored and still leave opportunity to
use them. He could readily carry his gun and leave a space in front of
his eyes through which to make observations.

What was to prevent the complete success of the plan?

"Nuffin," he muttered, answering his own question. "I'll put so many ob
dem sheets 'round me dat dey can bang away all night widout hurtin'
nobody. Den, I've been told dat Injins am mighty skeery, and dey may
take me for a hobblegoblin or ghost."

Absurd as the scheme of Jethro Juggens may seem, it was not wholly
lacking in merit. At any rate, he took but a brief while to turn it over
in his mind, when he set to work to put it to a practical test.

The toughness of the sheets made them preferable to the softer and more
yielding blankets, and the youth decided to use them exclusively. Each,
of course, had been put together by deft hands and spinning-wheel, and
was of firm, strong texture. Jethro was so familiar with where these
were stowed, through his work of loading and unloading, that he found no
trouble when compelled to labor in total darkness.

One by one the sheets were drawn forth, until six of them were tumbled
upon the floor at his feet. He opened wide the door, that the faint
moonlight should give help in arraying himself in his novel costume.
Then, making sure that the rifle was not forgotten this time, he wrapped
himself round and round, again and again, until he resembled an enormous
pillow stood on one end.

He made sure that the folds projected above his hat, and would shut out
all bullets that might hurtle against the unique helmet. At the same
time the covering descended so low about his ankles that it trailed upon
the ground, and portended disaster in case of haste upon his part.

Now that the essay was to be pushed to a conclusion, Jethro was wise in
taking every possible precaution.

Peering through the door, he scanned the clearing to the river, as it
was revealed by the moon, which just then was obstructed by passing
clouds. Then he looked searchingly to the eastward, where, so far as he
could tell, nothing threatened, and the same result followed a survey of
the clearing in the opposite direction. Lastly, he peered through the
rear window where had been displayed the flag of truce which he
dextrously appropriated to his personal use.

This was the course he was inclined to take, and because of that he
subjected it to the closest possible study.

Was it imagination, or did he really see the figures of one or two
Indians standing motionless on the edge of the wood, as if waiting for
him to come forth and place himself within their reach? Jethro stood
intently watching them for some minutes, until in the obscured moonlight
they vanished from sight.

"Guess dar ain't nobody dar," was his conclusion, as his spirits revived
again; "anyway, I won't try to rout 'em out if dar is."

The uncertainty caused him to change his intention and decide to advance
toward the wood near where Kenton had withdrawn the canoe from under the
nose of the sleeping Shawanoe. A vague feeling of security hung around
the flatboat. The youth was accustomed to that, having spent so much
time on it, and if he were driven to it as a refuge, was confident of
making a good defence with the aid of his rifle.

With that peculiar sensitiveness to little things which a man often
displays in moments of danger, Jethro paused after reaching the outside,
and, making sure that the latch-string was drawn inward, carefully
closed the door behind him. Thus it was securely locked, and he
reflected with a start that he had now burned his bridge behind him. If
any enemies at that moment should charge upon him, he could not make use
of the cabin, even though he stood near enough to it to reach it with
his outstretched hand.

So far as he saw, no danger confronted him, and he resolutely struck off
in the direction he had in mind, instantly discovering that the pains he
had taken to protect his feet and ankles seriously interfered with his
locomotion. He could take only very short steps, and naturally became
impatient with his slow progress.

The figure that he cut was certainly grotesque to the last degree. His
ample proportions were made much more ample by the many thicknesses of
spotless linen in which they were arrayed. The folds, extended above his
head, naturally added to his height, so that he suggested a ghostly
giant mincing across the clearing to the river.

The strangely good fortune which had accompanied the dusky youth did not
desert him now when entering upon the most remarkable experience of his
career. We have shown how he entered the cabin unchallenged, when, had
he made the attempt a little earlier or later, assuredly he could not
have escaped the bullet of one of the two Indians in the vicinity.

From what was afterward learned, the theory of Kenton and Boone was
probably reasonably correct, though it did not fully explain all that
took place.

When Kenton returned to the clearing toward the close of that day, there
were two Shawanoes lurking in the vicinity. It may have been that The
Panther, arranging the ambuscade further away at Rattlesnake Gulch, held
a suspicion that the pioneers might turn back on their own trail and
make a stand in the cabin, and he instructed these two warriors to
remain and signal the fact to him, probably by some peculiar discharge
of their rifles.

While one of them was moving through the woods, the other remained near
the canoe and fell into a doze. It was at this juncture that Jethro
Juggens entered the cabin unobserved. Soon after, the second Indian
returned to the neighborhood of the other, who had awakened, and noted
with amazement the loss of the boat.

One of these warriors set out to recover it, with what result has
already been made known. The other remained in the vicinity of the
clearing to watch things until his return. Discovering the presence of
one of the party in the building, but, without any means of knowing his
identity, he set out to dislodge him.

The voices which Jethro insisted he heard outside the door could very
well have been the voice of a single warrior, such subterfuges being
among the most common with the American race. After the man[oe]uvring
back and forth between this Shawanoe and the youth, the former must have
grown uneasy over the prolonged absence of his companion who had set out
to recover the canoe. Abandoning the cabin with one or more occupants,
he hurried along the river bank. This enterprise was more successful
than the other, for he recovered the boat without the slightest injury
to himself.

Thus it came about that when Jethro Juggens emerged from the cabin,
bandaged and swathed from above the crown of his head to the soles of
his feet, the extraordinary precaution was useless, and he might have
walked forth with the assurance of one who was master of the situation.

But had he done so that which we have now to make known could never have
taken place.



CHAPTER XVIII.

"IT'S AN ILL WIND THAT BLOWS NOBODY ANY GOOD."


Although Jethro Juggens was not in the slightest danger of molestation
by the Shawanoes from the moment he emerged from the cabin and started
across the clearing, he was not to escape all danger and a great scare.

He chafed at the binding of the linen armor about his ankles. He was
impatient to walk faster, and could not do so in that situation. His
strength was great, but a Hercules could not have overcome the obstacle
without loosening it. Glancing to the right and left and on all sides,
and seeing nothing threatening, he decided to end the intolerable
annoyance in the only way possible. He therefore stopped short and
stooped over to loosen the bandages.

But lo! it was impossible. His body was so confined that he could only
make a slight inclination. The hands, which were partly covered, would
not reach further than a point just above his knees.

"I' clar to gracious!" exclaimed the alarmed Jethro, straightening up
like a jack-knife, "I's committed sooicide. I'll nebber be able to get
my feet free. I'll hab to lib dis way de rest ob my life, and dat won't
be berry long."

But the first shock over, the truth gradually dawned upon him that
inasmuch as he had wound himself up, he must possess the ability to
unwind himself. All he had to do was to begin at the upper instead of
the lower part of his body.

"Qu'ar I didn't tink ob dat," he said, with a chuckle at his own fright.

It was the work of but a few minutes to unwrap his body and limbs, when
he kicked his feet free, and "Richard was himself again." By that time,
however, he had entirely freed himself from the sheets, which he flung
over his left arm, while he held his heavy gun in his right.

"What's de use ob smotherin' myself to def," he muttered. "Dar ain't no
Injuns 'round, and dar won't be--gracious hebben."

From the edge of the wood, barely fifty feet away, a dark object issued
and advanced straight upon him.

"Dat's de Panther! I knows him by his face; he wants to git eben wid me
'cause I wouldn't 'low him to stick his foot in my mouf."

Forgetful of the effective weapon he had in his hand, Jethro made a dash
for the flatboat, his nearest refuge, and forgetful, too, of the
voluminous folds over his arm, he tangled the lower ends about his feet
and sprawled headlong to the ground. This completed the panic, and
letting go of his rifle, he rolled over on his back and made desperate
efforts to gather the mass of linen over his face and body, so as to
protect him against bullet and knife and tomahawk, somewhat as a child
covers its head at night to escape imaginary terrors.

There was so much of the stuff that the armoring of his head and limbs
was quite effective, but his feet were left wholly unprotected. The only
recourse left was to kick, which he proceeded to do with a vigor that
would have sent any man flying had he come within reach of the whirring
pedals.

When this had continued until Jethro was tired, he concluded that the
demonstration had frightened off his enemy. Dropping his feet on the
ground, he drew the covering of his face sufficiently to one side to
permit him to peep forth. Seeing nothing, he ventured to raise his head
a little higher and to look around.

The dark object that had thrown him into the panic was just disappearing
from sight in the direction of the wood whence it came. There was enough
moonlight at that moment for him to identify it.

"By gracious! it am a bar! I done forgot dat I had my loaded gun and
could hab drapped him easy. If any ob de folks had come 'long while I
lay on my back kickin' at de sky, dey would hab tought I had a bone in
my froat and didn't know what to do wid it."

In all probability the bear, when he first appeared, intended to make an
investigation, but the sight of a figure, smothered in sheets and with
his feet thrumming in the air like a couple of drum sticks, must have
frightened bruin into leaving the strange animal alone.

Jethro was disposed to make chase after the animal and bring him to
account, but reflection showed the unwisdom of allowing any diversion to
interfere with the plain dictates of duty.

"Dar's no tellin' what trouble Mr. Kenton may hab tumbled into widout
habin' me dar to pull him out. De rest ob de folks don't know how to
shoot Injuns half as well as me."

It was evident the youth felt quite proud of his exploits, and who can
blame him? He surely had warrant for his pride. He had decided to pay a
visit to the flatboat even though time was so urgent. It lay close
against the bank, just as it had been left earlier in the day, after the
cargo was removed. Abandoning it before a chance was given to break it
up, and with the vague hope that they might be permitted to turn it to
account some time in the future, the pioneers offered it no harm, nor
was it injured by the Indians who, later, came upon the scene.

Jethro stepped over the heavy gunwale and looked about him with peculiar
interest, for, as is well known, that craft was the scene of many
stirring incidents during the preceding twenty-four hours.

There was the long sweeping oar, balanced on a pivot at either end, with
the handle reaching almost to the middle of the boat. That portion
considered the stern (although in no respect did it differ from the bow)
had the covered space, used as sleeping quarters for the females. At the
other end was where the cooking was done.

In the bottom lay the two long poles to be used in controlling the boat
when necessary, and, groping about, Jethro noticed the pieces of rope
that had served to bind The Panther, and which no one had deemed
valuable enough to be removed. Other pieces of board and a few fragments
of articles were scattered around, but none was of any account. Jethro
flung down his big armful of linen at the bow, and, sitting upon them,
gave himself over to characteristic meditation.

There is no intellect so dull through which some bright thought does not
now and then flash. It may come and go too quickly to be turned to
account, but, all the same, it is that mystic throb which proves that
all human souls are beating in unison with the divinity that created
them.

Sitting thus at the prow of the flatboat, meditating upon the strange
occurrences through which he had passed since leaving his old home in
Virginia, a scheme gradually assumed definite form in the brain of
Jethro Juggens, whose brilliancy and originality startled even himself.

And yet, when it comes to be analyzed, there was really nothing
startling and brilliant in it. The wonder would have been, if any
person, with a modicum of sense, could have held his place under similar
circumstances and not thought of that which gradually worked its way
into his consciousness.

There were the poles used in handling the flatboat; there were bits of
rope scattered about the bottom of the craft. He was sitting upon almost
half a score of tough, thin sheets of linen; he was the possessor of a
sharp knife and was dextrous in its use; and the wind was blowing almost
a gale from the west, and therefore directly up stream; why not sail the
flatboat up the Ohio?

This was the question which at first held the youth breathless with the
very grandeur and magnitude of the scheme; but, as fully considered, it
became simple and more practical.

Jethro was far from suspecting the real use to which his scheme could be
possibly put. He knew and suspected nothing of the desperate straits in
which his friends were placed at that very hour. He had an altogether
different project in view.

"Dey're pickin' dar way frough de woods, whar it's dark, and habing all
sorts ob trouble. Dey can't see tings, and dat makes it wusser; de one
dat's walkin' at de head will be sartin to hab a limb cotch him under
his chin and raise him off his feet; den he'll feel like sw'aring, but
will be afeared to do so, 'cause de heathen might oberhear him and stop
him, and make him explanify de meanin' of his discumvations.

"De tramp wouldn't be much if de sun war shinin' so dat dey could walk
long widout steppin' on snakes. When dey see me come sailin' up de
ribber, why, dey will be so pleased dat Mr. Altman won't--dat is, he
won't obsist on my workin' so hard, and Mrs. Altman won't frow out so
many digustin' hints 'bout de bigness ob my appertite."

Having labored up to his decision, Jethro Juggens threw away no time in
carrying it out. It really seemed as if everything had been directed for
the last hour or two to prepare this very course to him. The failure of
the wooden box to serve him as an armor, and the resort to the sheets of
linen, the turning of his steps toward the flatboat, and, above all,
that strong, steadily-blowing west wind--many persons would have seen
something more than a mere coincidence in these things, and who shall
say that this view would not have been right?

The task that presented itself to Jethro Juggens, though a hard one, was
by no means impossible. His keen-edged knife soon fashioned excavations
in the soft planking at the sides, through which he passed some of the
pieces of rope and fastened one of the poles in an upright position, or
nearly so, for he was wise enough to place it so that it leaned backward
like the masts of ordinary sailing vessels. He secured this as strongly
as he could, and then did the same with the second pole on the other
side, and directly opposite the first.

He had now two strong uprights or masts. He examined and tested them
until certain that nothing more could be done to add to their firmness.
Then he set to work to knot or tie a number of the sheets together at
the corners, until a sail was fashioned of the right dimensions, and
this, in turn, was secured to the masts.

He went about the business with that deliberation and care which marks
the skilled workman. Almost any one, placed as he was, would have been
hasty, nervous and unfitted to do a good job. It would have been
neglected at some point, and, consequently, disaster would have come at
the beginning of the enterprise. Jethro wrought as though such a thing
as danger was not within a hundred miles, and that, too, when he had
recently passed through some terrifying incidents.

When the work was completed, he had a sail containing something like
fifty square feet, the sheets secured together with no little skill, and
the masts so strongly set that they could be relied upon, unless some
unusual cause interfered with them. The only probable contingency to
cause misgiving was the wind.

That would not always blow from the west, and it might cease within an
hour, or even less time.

"It may get contrary," reflected Jethro, "and turn de oder way; if dat
am de case, dis old boat will go kitin' down de Ohio till we strike de
Massissip--and den--I done forgot what dat riber runs into, but if I
discomember incorrectly, it am de Red Sea; don't want to go dar, so I'll
jump ober board, if I can't stop de boat, and take to de woods.

"Mebbe de gale will twist 'round and come from de souf; under dem
sarcummentions de boat'll bang in 'mong de trees and smash tings. If Mr.
Kenton had managed to got 'long when I ain't wid him, and Mr. Boone
don't fall down and hurt hisself, why dem two might got de Injins
togeder and hold dem on de Kentucky shore, while I run ober' em wid de
flatboat.

"Dat would gib' em such a good squshin' dat dey wouldn't bother us for a
good while. It happens, howsumeber, just now dat de wind am blowin'
right, and we kin sail up de Ohio as fur as we want, dat is," qualified
Jethro, "if we don't want to go furder dan de wind will took us--but why
don't the old ting start?"

The sail was spread, and the strong gale was impinging dead against it,
and yet, strange to say, the flatboat remained as motionless as if sunk
at the bottom of the river.



CHAPTER XIX.

A FELLOW-PASSENGER.


Jethro Juggens was alarmed on the very threshold of his strange
enterprise by the threatened danger of failure. When everything was
ready to start, the flatboat refused to stir so much as an inch.

In the hope of helping matters, he swung the bow oar a number of times,
so as to turn the head out in the stream. It moved a foot or two, and
then became stationary, gradually working back to its former position.
Then he tried the same thing with the stern oar, accomplishing about as
much as if he had attempted to overturn a rock.

"Dat beats de dickens!" muttered the puzzled youth, stopping to rest
himself. "Qu'ar de wind am jes' strong enough to hold de boat stock
still. I guess I'll onwestigate."

And, doing so, the mystery was speedily solved. He had forgotten to
hoist the anchor, which lay imbedded on the bottom, on the outside of
the boat near the stern.

"I'll neber tell nobody dat," he said, ashamed of the blunder. Lifting
the heavy weight over his gunwale, he dropped it in the bottom of the
boat, which immediately began gliding slowly up stream. With the aid of
the long paddles, he easily worked the craft so far out in the stream
that there was no danger of running into any of the overhanging limbs
and vegetation.

Jethro did not make the mistake of paddling the flatboat into the middle
of the current, which was so much stronger there as to impede, if not to
check, its progress altogether. And, as before stated, there could be no
saying how much longer this favorable wind would continue.

The dusky youth overflowed with complacency when he sat down at the prow
and noticed the satisfactory trend of events.

He was within a dozen yards or so of the wooded bank, sometimes
approaching still closer, in accordance with the configuration of the
land. His desire to keep advancing, while the chance was his, led him to
venture further in, in order to take advantage of the sluggish current.
Once or twice he felt a projecting root graze the bottom, and again the
craft came almost to a standstill from partially grounding in a shallow
portion. Its momentum, however, carried it over into deeper water, when
its speed instantly increased.

Seeing nothing for him to do, Jethro seated himself at the bow, with his
rifle resting in the boat near him, and his feet hanging over the water.

"Mr. Kenton and Boone and Altman and Ashbridge and all de rest ob de
folks couldn't hab tought ob dis if dey had put their minds altogeder
onto it. It was Jethro Juggens dat trotted out de idee. Some folks tinks
he ain't much more dan a fool, and mebbe he ain't, but he knows a ting
or two, and when dey cotch sight--"

At that instant the flatboat struck a shallow portion with such
suddenness that it instantly stopped, and the youth, unprepared for the
shock, sprawled overboard with a loud splash.

Nothing more serious than a shock and wetting resulted, and when he
clambered to his feet the water did not reach to his knees. Grasping the
prow with his huge hand, and applying his prodigious strength, he easily
forced the front of the boat into deeper water and swung himself over
the gunwale.

"Dat sort of bus'ness am inconwenieut, and it musn't happen agin."

Several sweeps of the two oars, he grasped one in either hand, worked
the craft sufficiently far from land to prevent any repetition of his
mishap. Then, caring naught for his moistened clothing, he sat down at
the prow again.

The boat was moving steadily up stream, with more speed, indeed, than it
had ever shown descending it. So long as the strong wind blew from the
west this progress would continue. The moon, veiled at intervals by the
drifting masses of clouds, sometimes revealed the trees on his right
sweeping backward and occasionally, when the light was wholly
unobstructed, he could catch the dim shadowy outlines of the Ohio shore.
Not only was the water rippled by the bow of the boat as it forced its
way forward, but it was broken into tiny chopping seas by the action of
the gale.

The roving eyes detected no sign of life in any direction. The gloom was
not pierced even by the starlike twinkle of some Indian campfire or
signal light, but the dull boom of a rifle report, rolling over the
river from the direction of Rattlesnake Gulch, proved that life, fierce,
alert and vigilant, still throbbed with terrifying intensity.

It so came about that the second Shawanoe, he who succeeded in
recapturing the canoe from Simon Kenton, was returning in the direction
of the clearing. The sagacious warrior knew the ranger would be quick to
discover the theft of his property, and would make search for it. Only
by the utmost care and skill could he escape an encounter with the
terrible scout, whom he held in unspeakable dread.

It was natural, therefore, that he should give his closest attention to
the shore he was skirting, confident that that was the only direction
whence danger could come. So, while the canoe skimmed the water, he held
his gaze on the bank, and watched and listened with the acuteness of
long training.

"Who dar?"

The question was asked in a sepulchral voice, and would have startled
the bravest man. The head of the Indian whirled about like a flash, and
he saw that which, it is safe to say, no member of his race had ever
seen--an Ohio flatboat gliding up stream, with a broad spread of white
sail, and moving with a noiselessness of death itself.

More than that, it was almost upon him. Only by dextrous work could he
save himself from being run down. Less than a dozen feet separated them.

[Illustration: THE PHANTOM BOAT.]

Glancing at the frightful object, the Shawanoe observed the figure of a
sturdy, broad-shouldered man, standing near the bow with his rifle in
his grasp. The sight was more than he could stand. With a frantic sweep
of his paddle he drove the canoe like a swallow against the bank, leaped
out and dashed into the woods.

"Dat chap acts as dough he am scared," remarked Jethro, in doubt whether
or not to fire; "de next time, I 'spose, I oughter shoot fust and den
make my obspectful inquiries afterward."

The incident was hardly over when to the surprise and disappointment of
the youth the progress of the boat began to slacken, soon ceased, and
then it slowly floated down stream. The wind had died out more suddenly
than it had risen. He quickly dropped the anchor overboard.

"Wonder how fur I've come," he thought, peering at the bank and unable
to locate himself; "reckon I must hab come fifteen or twenty miles--but
dat can't be either, for de folks at de block-house would hab seen me if
I didn't see dem--hulloa! dat chap must tink he knows me; it ain't him
after all."

The canoe which had shot under the bank so suddenly, now emerged again
and paddled straight towards the flatboat, only a short distance away.
The action so startled the dusky youth that he would have acted upon his
own suggestion of firing before asking any questions, had he not
perceived that the occupant was a white man.

"Dat can't be Mr. Kenton or Boone," mused Jethro, closely studying the
stranger. "No, it am somebody dat hasn't de honor ob my obquaintance.
Him and me ain't neber met afore."

As the individual came closer and was more plainly shown in the dim
moonlight, he was seen to be a sturdy man in middle life, dressed much
the same as Mr. Ashbridge and Altman--that is, with more regard for the
fashions of the age than was shown by men like Boone and Kenton.

"Good evening," he called, nodding his head in salutation; "may I come
aboard?"

"Who am yo'? Am yo' name Girty?" asked Jethro, in doubt whether to
permit the man to join him, now that his canoe was near enough to permit
him to do so. His appearance was pleasing, and his voice had a hearty
ring about it, but the African, since he was master of the situation,
felt he could not be too careful of his company.

The stranger laughed at the question asked him, and replied:

"Bless me, that's the first time I was ever taken for Mr. Girty. You
seem to be alone on the boat."

Jethro suspected this to be a trick meant to make him unmask his
weakness. He was not to be caught that way.

"No, sah! dar's whar yo's mistooken, sah. Dan'l Kenton and Simon Boone,
and 'leven oder gemman am in dis boat wid me, and if yo'----"

"Tut, tut," interrupted the stranger, with another laugh, so genial in
its character that it disarmed the youth.

"'Scoose me; I meant to say dat dem folks would like to be wid me."

"My son, you and I are the best of friends; you surely have no misgiving
regarding me; my name is Finley."

And, with this remark, he stepped over the gunwale and cordially shook
the hand of Jethro, who was won by his looks and manner. He helped
fasten the canoe at the side of the flatboat, and invited the visitor to
seat himself upon the remaining sheets at the stern, an invitation that
was so agreeably accepted that Jethro was certain he had never met so
delightful a gentleman.

There may be some among my readers who have recognized the name of the
man who paddled out in the canoe as among the most honored in the early
history of the West. He was James B. Finley, the famous missionary,
whose career is one of the brightest pages among the many stained by
cruelty, vice and crime. For years he carried his life in his hands,
traversing the vast stretches of wilderness with rifle over his
shoulder, living on the game brought down by his own marksmanship, or
what he could obtain in the lodges of the red men or the cabins of the
pioneers. He slept in the woods, freezing by the lonely campfire, or
sweltering in the smothering heat of the summer sun.

And wherever this devoted man went, he carried the message of his
Master. He labored unceasingly in His vineyard, illustrating precept by
his own example, and winning many to the right way, not only among the
rough bordermen, but from among the fierce warriors themselves.

Without turning aside in this place to refer more fully to Rev. Mr.
Finley, the interesting fact should be recalled that it was under his
exhortation that Simon Kenton, years subsequent to the events we are now
recording, professed conversion, and became a deeply devout man.

The missionary showed his tact by making no reference to the tremendous
falsehood he had just brought home to Jethro Juggens.

Laying his hand in a fatherly way upon the shoulder of the youth, he
remarked:

"You will believe me, my son, when I tell you I am surprised."

"Yes, I offen s'prise folks."

"What is your name, please?"

Jethro answered all his questions truthfully and respectfully, so that
in a few minutes the gentleman gained a fair understanding of the
incidents in which the colored youth had been involved during the past
few days, and which placed him in his present extraordinary situation.

"I have seen a great many flatboats pass down the river," remarked Mr.
Finley, at the close of the interesting narrative, "but this is the
first time I ever saw any go up stream."

"Yes, I tinked I'se begun de fashine."

"But why is it you are at rest?"

"'Cause de anchor am drapped overboard."

"But don't you notice that the wind is blowing again, and the boat will
move readily."

Jethro had not observed the fact until his friend reminded him of it.
Then he made haste to hoist the anchor, and once more the flatboat
resumed its singular voyage up the Ohio.



CHAPTER XX.

WAR'S STRATEGY.


Even after considerable more conversation than has been recorded, Jethro
Juggens and the missionary had much to learn of each other.

The youth was especially puzzled to understand how it was that almost
immediately following the flight of the Shawanoe in the extremity of
panic, the good man should have paddled out to the flatboat in the canoe
that had been so hurriedly deserted.

"That was a curious circumstance," said Mr. Finley, musingly; "sit down
beside me and I will tell you about it."

"I's bery glad to do so," replied Jethro, placing himself at a
respectful distance from the good man, "if you don't tink I had better
keep a lookout dat we don't run by the block-house afore we knows it."

"My dear boy, we are still a long way from that. Have no fear. From what
you have told me I see you understand that sad times are coming between
the white people and the Indians of this region."

"Yes, sah."

"I and many of my friends have been expecting it for weeks and months
past, and have done all we could to prevent the dreadful state of things
that is now at hand."

"How was it you tried to prevent it?" asked Jethro, feeling that he
ought to say something when the missionary paused; "was yo' idee to get
all de Injuns togeder, tie' em fast to de trees, and den let the trees
fall down on 'em and mash 'em?"

"No, we had a better plan than that," gravely replied the missionary,
making sure the youth did not see the flitting smile; "I went among the
different tribes and talked with the chiefs and leaders, and strove in
every way possible to show them not only the wickedness of going upon
the war-path, but that in the end they themselves must be the chief
sufferers."

Jethro Juggens turned his head and stared at the speaker in amazement.

"And did yo' go right 'mong de heathen all alone by yo'self?"

"That's the only way in which I could have gone. They would not have
allowed me to have any companions, for that would have shown I
distrusted them."

"Wal, didn't yo' obstrust them?" inquired the youth, to whom the whole
business was a mystery.

"I cannot deny that I felt I was in danger of violence at times, but
when I took up the work of my Master I expected that, and therefore was
not disappointed. If it was the will of Heaven that I should yield my
life at any time, I was always ready. You know, my son, that that is the
true way to live."

"Yes, sah."

"So it never caused me any discomfort. The only uneasiness a person
should feel is whether he is ready for the call when it comes. Well, to
return to what you asked me about, it soon became clear to me that the
worst sort of trouble was at hand. The Indians have defeated the
expeditions sent against them, until many believe our government is not
strong enough to conquer them. They need a crushing defeat, just such as
I am sure the next battle will be, before we can secure a lasting peace
for the frontier. I was engaged in this business when I approached the
Ohio this evening. At the moment of reaching the river I caught sight of
this boat and the ingenious arrangement you have made. I saw the
terrified Indian whom you hailed dash to shore and flee in mortal fright
into the woods.

"There was not enough light for me to recognize him," continued the
missionary, speaking as though every person, American and Caucasian, in
that vast region was an acquaintance. "I called to him, but he paid no
heed, and inasmuch as he had left his canoe behind him and I wished to
cross the river, I thought I might as well call upon you."

"What yo' want to cross de riber fur?" asked Jethro, without reflecting
that his question approached impertinence.

"Just now, I am looking for a chief known as Wa-on-mon, or, as his own
people call him, The Panther."

"Do yo' know dat debbil?" demanded the amazed youth, springing to his
feet and looking down in the face of the surprised missionary, who
replied:

"I have known him a good many years, have slept in his lodge, have
fondled his two children, have hunted with him, and placed my life in
his hands times without number."

Jethro could hardly express his astonishment at this information. Aside
from what he had seen of the fierce chieftain, he could not forget the
character given him by Simon Kenton. In his way, he related the proposed
duel to the death between the ranger and the leader of the Shawanoes.

Mr. Finley listened with the deepest interest, for he felt a strong
attachment to both of the parties, and he cherished the hope that the
fearful personal encounters between them would give way, sooner or
later, to a more charitable, if not to a gentler feeling.

"De reason de fout didn't take place," explained Jethro, "was 'cause de
Panther got scared and runned away."

The reply was, in effect, that which was made by Daniel Boone when
discussing the question with Kenton.

"You are mistaken in supposing Wa-on-mon was frightened; he is afraid of
no man."

"What den made him get skeered at Mr. Kenton?"

"He did not. The Panther's heart is full of bitterness toward the white
people. He saw, by hurrying off, a chance to do greater harm to those
whom he regards as intruders upon the hunting grounds of his people;
that is why the two did not meet."

"Mr. Kenton says de Panther hab shot women and children, and done de
wust tings dat you can tink of."

"Simon Kenton is a truthful man."

"And I know he hab tried to do a worser ting dan dat."

"Impossible! What can it be?"

"He tried to step into my mouf when I war asleep."

The brave old pioneer preachers were as full of humor as they were of
tenderness or pathos. Mr. Finley threw back his head and shook with
laughter, though it was noticeable that it was as silent as that of
Leatherstocking when that inimitable hero was amused with anything that
took place in the woods.

The missionary made the youth give him the particulars of the incident,
and despite the tragic atmosphere by which it was surrounded, he
appreciated its grotesque features. Before he had grasped the whole
occurrence he shuddered at the tempest of fury that he knew had been
awakened to life in the breast of the terrible chieftain of the
Shawanoes.

"To think of his being flung to the ground by this young man, of his
being struck by him, and then bound and held for hours in captivity--ah,
me! I pray that this colored youth may never fall into the power of
Wa-on-mon. Much I fear that yesterday's events have so deepened the
hatred of the chieftain, that the truth can make little impression upon
his heart."

By questioning and comment, Mr. Finley gradually gained an accurate idea
of the perilous situation of the pioneers who were on their way to the
block-house to escape the storm that was already bursting from the sky.
The information, however, that he filtered through the brain of Jethro
Juggens could not fail to be mystifying in more than one respect.

Thus he knew that the pioneers had started up the Kentucky side of the
river for Capt. Bushwick's block-house, and, before going far, had come
to a halt, while Kenton returned to the clearing in quest of the canoe
that had been left there beside the flatboat. His natural object, it
would seem, in taking this course, was to secure the smaller craft for
use in transporting the women and children to the other side of the
Ohio. Why he should have taken Jethro Juggens as a companion could not
be conjectured.

Another self-evident fact caused the missionary less misgiving than
would be supposed. Kenton had captured the canoe, for he and it were
gone when the youth boarded the flatboat. Furthermore, the craft in
which the visitor paddled out to the flatboat was the very one, as
identified by Jethro, which, in some way, had been recaptured from the
ranger. The presence of the warrior in the boat seemed to point with
absolute certainty to the conclusion that the Shawanoe had slain the
great pioneer before wresting the property from him.

But Mr. Finley did not accept that theory, and was willing to await an
explanation in the near future.

An inexpressibly greater and more distressing problem lay beyond that,
as to the ultimate fate of the two families turned back, as may be said,
on the threshold of success. The action of Kenton and Boone told their
anxiety to place them on the same side of the Ohio with the block-house,
and it indicated with equal certainty the appearance of some frightful
danger in their front.

That danger must be The Panther and his war party. Thus, it will be
perceived, that by a course of rapid reasoning the missionary was
approaching a correct idea of the situation.

He knew nothing of Rattlesnake Gulch, for the pioneer circuit preachers
of the west had to traverse too many vast areas of wilderness to become
minutely familiar with every portion; but the checking of the fugitives,
or the turning back of their real leader, could mean but one thing; they
had discovered the presence of The Panther and his Shawanoes in their
path.

All and considerably more than the foregoing being conceded, the
missionary could not but regard the turning over to him of the
invaluable canoe, to say nothing of the flatboat itself, as
providential. There was now abundant means to carry the imperiled ones
to the other shore.

But missionary Finley was too familiar with the people of the West, and
too well versed in woodcraft, to feel over-confidence, or to believe
that it was plain sailing into the haven of absolute safety. If The
Panther had cut off the flight of the fugitives to the block-house, he
was not the one to permit them to flank the danger by means of the
canoe.

The first step necessary, as it seemed to the good man, was to open
communication in some way with Simon Kenton.

"Have you any idea where he is?" he asked of Jethro.

"Yes--I feels purty suah, and it makes me feel bad."

"Where can he be?"

"He fell out dat canoe and got drownded; I feels bad 'cause I neber
oughter left Mr. Kenton alone. He took me 'long to hab care ob him, and
I outer feel dat I am to blame for his drownin'."

"Have no alarm about that. Kenton is too good a swimmer to lose his life
in that way."

"But he mout get de cramps."

"He might, but he didn't. He probably awaited your return as long as it
was safe, and then continued up the river to join his friends. In some
way he lost the canoe to the Shawanoe, who abandoned it to me."

"I should tink dat he would come back to look for de boat."

"The same thought has occurred to me, I hope he has done so, for then we
shall be pretty sure to see him. But, after all, if he set out for that
purpose, he has probably given it up and returned, or he would have
shown himself before."

All this time the flatboat, with its broad spread of sail, was gliding
steadily up the Ohio, keeping as close as was prudent to the Kentucky
shore.

An odd thought had gradually assumed form in the mind of the missionary.
He had noted the headlong panic into which the single Shawanoe was
thrown by the sudden sight of the fantastic craft, and he asked himself
whether, such being the case, The Panther and his warriors could not be
temporarily frightened, and advantage taken of it.

"At any rate it is worth trying," was his conclusion.

But in arriving at this belief, it did not occur to the good man that
the seeming apparition might produce the same effect upon the white men
as upon the Shawanoes.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE PHANTOM OF THE RIVER.


The reader has long since penetrated the cause of the panic into which
Simon Kenton was thrown--a panic as wild, as unreasonable and
uncontrollable as that of the single Shawanoe, some time before, when he
plunged into the forest and fled as if from the pursuit of the evil one
himself.

There were no more superstitious men living than the daring pioneers and
scouts of the West. Never hesitating to meet death, and courageously
facing peril before which most people would have cowered, they demanded
that that death and that peril should present themselves in tangible
form. In other words, they shrank at receiving no blows, provided the
opportunity was given them of striking effective blows in return.

In trailing an enemy, when the "crossing of the ways" was reached, that
is, where it was impossible to decide from evidence the right path to
take, the question was often decided by a flirt of a hunting-knife;
whichever course the implement indicated when it fell, was accepted as
the finger of Providence, and was followed with as much unflinching
vigor as though the possibility of an error did not exist. In many other
respects was this belief in signs and the awe of the supernatural shown.

The brief, terrified glance of Kenton revealed to him an Ohio flatboat
moving up the river against the current--something which in all his
varied experience he had never seen. The same glance showed a yawning
white spread across the craft, as if it were the upturned wing of some
monster swimming on its side in the water.

Without pausing to reflect that this appearance was the key to the whole
mystery, the brave man gave way to terror, and, throwing discretion to
the winds, dashed into the enclosure among his friends with the
exclamation:

"Boys, we're lost! We're lost! There's a ghost coming up the river!"

His words and manner threw the others into consternation. While it is
certain that some would have shown more coolness, yet nothing is more
contagious than fear, and the panic of one considered the
clearest-headed and most daring of the rangers caused the rest for a
brief while to bid good-by to their senses.

Forgetful of the Shawanoes near at hand, and thinking of nothing but the
new and dreadful peril, the men and women made haste to gather about the
tall figure that advanced almost to the middle of the inclosure before
checking himself.

"What is it, Kenton? For heaven's sake, tell us!"

"Where is it? What does it look like?"

"Keep your head, Simon," counselled Boone, in the babel of exclamations,
"and tell us what it is the ghost of."

"You remember t'other flatboat," said Kenton, partially recovering his
self-mastery, "the one the MacDougalls was on, and they was all killed?"

"Yes, of course, of course," replied several.

"Wal, the ghost of that flatboat is coming up the river; it's right off
shore; it'll be among us in a few minutes; we had better take to the
woods."

And, incredible as it may seem, the intrepid scout would have led the
absurd stampede, had not his elder and cooler friend laid his hand on
his arm.

"Simon, you ain't yourself; don't forget the varmints are all around
us."

"Dan'l," returned Kenton, sharply, "did you ever see a ghost?"

"I have not."

"Wal, if you want to see one, walk down to the edge of the river and
there it is! As for me, I want to git away afore it comes any closer;
but I forgot 'bout the varmints; I'll wait till you folks have a look at
it, and then we'll all run."

Evidently, the ranger was rallying from his panic.

Among the group that gathered around him were several who were quick to
recover from their own fright, and to see that the true course was to
investigate the cause of the latter's state of mind.

"Wait here till I take a look for myself," said George Ashbridge,
touching the elbow of his father; "there's something in this that I
don't understand; I will be gone but a few minutes; it's the strangest
condition of affairs I ever knew."

He whisked off in the obscurity and quickly reached the river side.

Meanwhile, Missionary Finley gave proof of his sagacity. Having decided
to use the flatboat and its sail as a possible weapon, he had risen to
his feet, and with hands grasping the bow oar was figuring as to how he
could discover the proper point at which to work the boat to land.

He had made up his mind to emit a signal which would be recognized
either by Boone or Kenton, if it reached their ears, when across the
brief, intervening space he heard the threshing and the terrified
exclamations of his old friend.

"Here we are, Jethro! This is the place! Now, work with a will!"

Both bent their strong arms to the task, and the water was churned at
each end of the craft by the broad blades that swept deep and powerful
like the arms of a propeller. The bulky boat responded and began
approaching the bank, no more than a couple of rods distant.

In this hurly-burly of affright and excitement, the missionary
compressed his lips to keep back the tugging smile. He had caught the
first words uttered by Kenton, identified his voice, and understood the
cause of his alarm.

"If it please Heaven to deliver us all from peril," was the thought of
Finley, "I shall not forget this affair, and I will make sure that Simon
is not allowed to forget it."

It was only a minute or two later that George Ashbridge hurried to the
margin of the water. The sweep of the long oars and the sight of the
flatboat itself, with the spread of sail above it, all so near that they
were recognized at the first glance, told the whole amazing story to the
young man, though, as yet, he could not comprehend how it had all come
about.

One of the figures toiling at the sweeps was Jethro Juggens; he could
form no suspicion as to the identity of the other.

"Is that you, Jethro?" called Ashbridge, in a guarded undertone.

"It am," was the proud response; "keep out ob de way, Marse George, or
dis boat will run ober you. We's comin' like thunder."

"There! that will do," said the missionary, as the boat struck sideways,
almost abreast of where the youth was standing; "we couldn't have made a
better landing. Good evening, my friend; I am sure we are welcome."

With these cheery words the man, with his rifle in his left hand,
stepped across the gunwale upon the hard earth and extended his right to
young Ashbridge.

"My name is Finley--James B. Finley; I am a missionary for Ohio and
Kentucky, and joined your young friend hero to see whether I can be of
any help to you and those with you."

"And an angel could not be more welcome," was the fervent response of
the youth, returning the warm pressure of the good man.

"There seems to be trouble here," said he, with grave concern.

"We are in sore straits, indeed; we have been resting for a good while,
afraid to go on, for there is an ambuscade of the Indians just beyond,
into which they are waiting for us to enter."

"I presume the Shawanoes are in charge of The Panther."

"So Daniel Boone tells us."

"I feared as much; I'm glad that Boone is with you."

"And so is Kenton."

"Yes; I recognized his voice; he seems to be a little disturbed by the
appearance of our craft."

"I never knew it was possible for a man like him to become so
frightened. He seems to have lost his wits."

"They will soon return to him; he's a noble fellow."

"Jes' let me know what you want done," remarked Jethro Juggens, who had
placed the anchor so as to hold the flatboat motionless; "don't forget
dat I fixed up dis yer contrivance."

"Yes, all the credit belongs to him. He will explain when there is time;
we have not a minute to spare now; it looks as if the appearance of the
boat has given the red men, as well as the others, a scare."

"No doubt of that, and Kenton's performance has had a good deal to do
with it, for he upset our people completely."

"We must take instant advantage of this diversion, which is
providential; let us go to your friends at once."

The missionary set off with young Ashbridge at his side and Jethro
Juggens immediately behind them. A few brief, hurried steps took them to
the group, whose members were beginning to regain a part at least of
their senses.

It was no occasion for Mr. Finley to indulge in any pleasantry at the
expense of his old friend, Simon Kenton, however appropriate it might be
at another time. His words were grave, quick and prompt, as were
becoming. He hurriedly shook hands with Boone, Kenton and the rangers,
to all of whom he was well known and by them held in high esteem. He
greeted the others warmly in turn, using his tongue while doing so.

"The appearance of the flatboat is so strange that it gave you all a
good scare, and no wonder that it did so. It has produced the same
effect upon The Panther's party, else they would not have allowed us to
land or permitted this passing back and forth; but like you they will
soon recover from it; one must use this opportunity, so providentially
placed in our way."

"That's the right kind of talk," remarked Kenton, who was already
humiliated at the part he had played a short time before.

"From what Jethro told me, you have little, if any, luggage with you."

"Only what we can carry in our hands," replied Mr. Altman.

"So far as I can judge, you are all gathered in this spot--a thing you
would not be permitted to do but for the fright of the Indians. Follow
me then; I will lead the way."

Less time than would be supposed was occupied in this broken
conversation. As stated, the words of the missionary were quickly
uttered, and he showed his promptness by wheeling about and moving down
the gentle incline toward the river. It seemed strange for him to take
the lead of a party of rangers, among whom were Daniel Boone and Simon
Kenton, but his leadership was only for the moment, and could have been
assumed by Jethro Juggens himself, for it signified an advance only to
the flatboat itself.

Boone, with several quick strides, placed himself beside the preacher.

"Have a care," he continued. "I don't understand what makes the varmints
so quiet."

"Because they are scared, as all of you were by the flatboat and its
sail."

"The only one of us skeered was Simon," corrected the great pioneer,
"and then he skeered us by the way he carried on."

"Well, any one of you would have been just as much frightened as he, and
I suspect the rumpus he created had something to do with the panic of
the Shawanoes; but you are right; it will not last long, and it may be
over already."

The habit of caution to which all the rangers were trained asserted
itself. Grasping their rifles firmly, they involuntarily assumed a
crouching pose and stepped lightly forward, as if afraid the slightest
footfall would betray them. They glanced to the right and left, and more
than once fancied they discerned shadowy forms stealing here and there
in the gloom.

It was natural, perhaps, that a different and somewhat peculiar feeling
should influence the two families of settlers. They felt as if they
would ignore the existence of enemies in their immediate neighborhood;
they would forget that any danger of that nature ever threatened them at
all, and devote their utmost energies to hurrying forward to the
flatboat. They held their gaze in that direction, and tried to pierce
the gloom and see nothing but the single object upon which their hope
was fixed.

Mr. Ashbridge and his wife clasped a hand of Mabel between them. Mr.
Altman and his wife clung to each other, while George Ashbridge had
fallen slightly to the rear with Agnes, while the rangers seemed to
straggle irregularly forward, as they had done when pushing through the
woods, but, in truth, they were advancing in accordance with a
well-defined idea of the best course to follow at this time.

Finley, Kenton and Boone held their places at the head, and the
fugitives speedily reached the river side, where the unpleasant fact
became apparent that the wind, which had been blowing so long and
steadily, had dropped to a degree that it could no longer be of any help
to them.



CHAPTER XXII.

PUTTING OUT FROM SHORE.


Not a moment was to be lost. Everything depended upon boarding the
flatboat and pushing off at once from shore. The party was so large that
the craft was sure to be crowded, but its buoyancy was sufficient to
carry still more.

To most of the party hurrying on board, the silence and inactivity of
the Shawanoes were incomprehensible. That they had been partially dazed
was fair to believe, but it could not continue long. The presence of the
boat, with its sail still spread, against the bank, must tell the story
to the fierce red men, who ought to be as quick to recover from it as
were the pioneers.

It mattered not that the wind had failed. The one point was to get the
flatboat away from land, and out into the stream. That done, a long step
would be taken toward safety. The ambuscade would be flanked and
avoided.

"You can't hurry too much," said the missionary, beginning to show
nervousness now that the critical moment was at hand. He helped the
women on board, and did what he could to prevent the confusion caused at
this juncture by the crowding. He expected that a volley would come
every moment from the gloom along the shore, and therefore held his
station where his body would be most likely to shield the helpless ones.

Amid the confusion there was something approaching order, and it can be
said that no time was thrown away. Within a minute of reaching the
flatboat it seemed that every one of the pioneers was on board.

"Lay down," whispered Boone, addressing the settlers especially; "the
varmints are sartin to fire afore you can get out on the river--"

"Dar goes dat canue," called Jethro Juggens, who managed to be the first
on board.

The little boat had been swung around and fastened to the farther side
of the more bulky craft, so as to allow the latter to approach nearer
the land. The youth was doing what he could to aid his friends (really
doing nothing), when he observed the canoe several feet away with the
intervening space steadily increasing.

"Jump over after it," commanded Kenton, who himself would have done what
he ordered but for the need of his presence on the flatboat.

"Drop dat boat!" shouted Jethro, addressing (with a view of impressing
those around him) an imaginary foe. At the same moment, leaving his gun
behind him, he leaped overboard and swam powerfully toward the little
craft. The clothing of the youth had not yet dried from the wetting
received by his bath earlier in the evening, and at this sultry season
of the year a plunge in the river was pleasant than otherwise.

Jethro ought to have noticed that while the canoe was drifting with the
current it was also approaching the middle of the Ohio. That could
hardly take place without the interference of some one.

But the powerful youth noted not the significant fact, and swam with
lusty stroke straight for the little boat that had changed hands so
frequently during the last few hours, and been the cause of more than
one furious wrangle. Only a second or two was necessary to reach it, and
he laid his hand on the gunwale.

At that instant a Shawanoe warrior rose from the interior of the canoe,
and lifted his hand in which was clasped a knife, with the purpose of
burying it with vicious energy in the breast of the astonished youth.

"Whew! gorrynation! I didn't know yo' war dar!" gasped Jethro, dropping
like a loon beneath the surface just in time to escape the ferocious
thrust.

The Shawanoe leaned so far out, with upraised weapon, to strike the
African when he came up, that the canoe careened almost upon its side.
He was in this attitude of expectancy when, from the flatboat, came the
sharp crack of a rifle, and the savage plunged over, head first, with a
smothered shriek, and sank from sight.

"I expected something of the kind," muttered Simon Kenton, who, amid the
tumult around him, proceeded to reload his rifle with as much coolness
as if he were in the depth of the forest and had just brought down a
deer or bear.

From the undergrowth immediately above where the boat was pushing from
land, a second warrior, whose zeal outran his discretion, emitted a
ringing whoop, and dashed straight at the crowding fugitives. He was
nearer Mrs. Altman than any of the others, and meant to bury his
uplifted tomahawk in her brain, but when almost within reach he made a
frenzied leap from the ground, and, with outspread arms and legs,
tumbled forward on his face.

It was never clearly established who was quick enough to check the
murderous miscreant in this fashion, for fighting had fairly begun and
considerable shooting was going on; but the moon at that moment was
unobscured, and Mr. Altman insisted that he saw Missionary Finley raise
his rifle like a flash and discharge it in the direction of the warrior
just at the instant before the husband could intervene in defence of his
wife.

When the good man was afterward taxed with the exploit, so creditable to
his coolness and courage, he showed a reluctance to discuss it. Pressed
further, he would not admit the charge, and yet refrained from denial.
It will be conceded, therefore, that the presumption is reasonable that
Missionary Finley was the instrument of saving Mrs. Altman's life when
it was in the gravest possible peril. Meanwhile Jethro Juggens found
himself with interesting surroundings. Availing himself of his great
skill in the water, he dived so deeply that his feet touched bottom and
he came up a dozen rods away from the canoe and between it and the Ohio
shore. The passing of the Shawanoe took place while the youth was
beneath the surface, so that he was unaware of the true situation when
he arose and stared at the boat.

"Gorrynation, if de t'ing ain't upsot!" was his exclamation when he had
approached somewhat nearer and saw the boat turned bottom upward.

The spasmodic lunge of the Shawanoe had overturned the craft, which
resembled a huge tortoise, drifting with the current.

"He's walking on de bottom ob de ribber, wid dat boat ober his head, to
keep from gettin' moonstruck. Dat can't be neither," added Jethro,
"onless he am seventeen foot tall, and I don't tink he am dat high."

The gently moving arms of the swimmer came in contact with something.
Closing his hands about it, he found it to be the oar flung out of the
canoe by the overturning.

"Dat'll come handy," thought Jethro. "When he sticks out his head to get
a bref ob air, I'll whack him wid de paddle till he s'renders."

After manoeuvring about the canoe for some minutes, a suspicion of the
truth dawned upon the youth. Even when under the water he was able to
hear the deadened reports of the rifles above, and he believed that one
of the shots must have reached the occupant of the boat, whose frenzied
leap capsized it.

Gathering courage after a few minutes, he grasped the canoe and managed
to swing it back into proper position, but it contained so much water as
to forbid its use until it was emptied. This could be done only by
taking it ashore. Jethro therefore tossed the paddle inside, and
grasping the gunwale with one hand, swam with the other toward Ohio. It
may be added that he reached it without further event, and there for a
time we will leave him to himself.

"Lie down!" thundered the missionary, seeing that his first order was
only partially obeyed. "My good woman, I beg your pardon, but it must be
done."

His words were addressed to Mrs. Ashbridge, who, in her anxiety for her
husband and son, was exposing herself in the most reckless manner. As he
spoke, he seized her in his arms as though she were but an infant, and
placed her not too gently flat in the bottom of the boat.

"There! spend these minutes in prayer--no; that will never do," he
added, grasping the shoulder of Agnes Altman, who, at that moment,
attempted to rise; "keep down--all that is between you and death is that
plank."

"But--but," pleaded the distressed girl, "tell father and George to be
careful, won't you, please?"

"We are in the hands of God, my child, and have only to do our duty.
Help us by causing no anxiety about yourselves."

The great necessity, as has been explained, was to work the flatboat
away from land. The most direct means of doing this was by pushing with
the poles that had been taken on board for that use; but they were
fastened in place as supports for the sail that had brought the craft to
this place. The sweeps would accomplish this work, but only slowly and
by frightful exposure on the part of those swaying them.

Nevertheless, Jim Deane seized the bow sweep at the moment another
ranger grasped the rear one, and both wrought with right good will.

Dark forms appeared in greater number along shore and near the craft
itself. The gloom was lit up by flashes of guns, and the air was rent by
the shouts of the combatants, for the white men could make as much noise
as their enemies in the swirl and frenzy of personal encounter and
deadly conflict.

Boone, Kenton, the missionary and most of the men had leaped into the
flatboat and crouched low, where all seemed huddled together in
inextricable confusion. The two were toiling at the sweeps, and the
craft worked away from the shore with maddening tardiness. To some of
the terrified inmates it did not seem to move at all.

"A little harder, Jim," called the missionary "shall I lend a hand?"

"No," replied Deane; "I'll fetch it, I don't need you--yes I do, too."

As he spoke, he let go of the sweep and sagged heavily downward.

"Are you hit?" asked the good man, raising the head upon his knee.

"I got my last sickness that time, parson--it's all up--good-by!"

The missionary would have said more, would have prayed with the fellow,
despite the terrifying peril around him, had there been time to do so,
but Jim Deane was dead.

"God rest his soul!" murmured the good man, gently laying down the head,
and drawing the body as closely as he could to the gunwale, where it
would be out of the way.

As from the first, the missionary exposed himself with the utmost
recklessness, and, where the bullets were hurtling all about him, the
wonder was that he had not already been struck; but the life of Rev. J.
B. Finley was one of sacrifice, peril, suffering and hardship, in which
his last thought was for himself. He was ready for the call of the dark
angel, whether he came at midnight, morning, or high noon, and the angel
did not come until after the lapse of many years, when the scenes such
as we are describing had long passed away.

A strange and for a time wholly unaccountable occurrence took place near
the stem of the flatboat, only a moment before Jim Deane was mortally
smitten.

Simon Kenton had just withdrawn his attention from Jethro Juggens and
his canoe, and was looking toward the bank at his elbow, when he uttered
an exclamation, the meaning of which no one caught, or, if he did,
failed to notice it in the tumult and hullabaloo. At the same moment the
ranger gathered his muscles into one mighty effort, and made a leap
toward shore.

Superb as was his skill in this direction, the distance was too great to
be covered, and he stuck in the water, but so near land that he sank
only to his waist. He struggled furiously forward, seemingly in the very
midst of the Shawanoes, and was immediately lost to sight.

There was no time to inquire the meaning of this extraordinary action,
and no one suspected it, but it became apparent within a brief space of
time.

It was at this juncture that several noticed the wind had risen again.
It was blowing not so strongly as before, but with sufficient power to
start the flatboat slowly up stream. Boone called to all to keep down,
while he, crouching close to the stern, held the oar so that it helped
steer the craft into mid-stream.

The missionary did the same with the forward sweep, and, impelled by the
wind, the craft slowly forged away from the Kentucky and toward the Ohio
shore.

All hearts were beating high with hope and thankfulness when a piercing
cry came from Mrs. Ashbridge.

"Where is Mabel? What has become of Mabel? Oh, where is she?"

Dismay reigned during the minute or two of frenzied search of the
interior of the craft. The space was so small that the hunt was quickly
over, with the dreadful truth established that little ten-year old Mabel
Ashbridge was not on the flatboat.

Missionary Finley announced the fact when he said:

"She has fallen into the hands of the Shawanoes; that was the cause of
Simon Kenton leaping ashore."



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE SHAWANOE CAMP.


How it all happened was never clearly established, but it is not to be
supposed that in the tumult, the swirl, the confusion, the firing,
shouting and dashing to and fro, that the coolest-headed Shawanoe or
most self-possessed ranger could any more than keep a general idea of
the hurricane rush of events. Special incidents were noted by different
persons, as the circumstances favored them, while others saw and knew
nothing of what took place under their very eyes.

Mr. and Mrs. Ashbridge hurried down the wooded slope in the gloom, each
holding a hand of Mabel between them. At the side of the flatboat, where
there were crowding in increased excitement, the parents released the
child, and the father turned to help in the defence against the Indians,
who immediately attacked them. Mabel entered the boat near the bow, and
had crouched there several minutes, in obedience to the order of the
missionary, to avoid the bullets that were whistling about, when the
idea seized her that there were much better quarters at the stern, where
the pushing was less.

The best way, as it struck her, to reach the spot, was by bounding
ashore and darting the few paces thither. She made the attempt, and was
in the act of leaping back when her arm was gripped by a warrior, who
hurried her from the spot.

Although bewildered and partly dazed by the rush of events, the child
resisted and screamed for help, but she was powerless in the hands of
the sinewy savage, who forced her from the edge of the river.

It must be remembered, that in addition to the confusion it was night,
and the partial moon in the sky was obscured at intervals by passing
clouds. Beside, among the shadows of the wood the gloom was so deepened
that the wonder is, not that none of Mabel's friends saw her capture but
that Simon Kenton observed it.

He did so a minute later, and knew at once that the little one, if saved
at all, must be saved instantly. He cleared most of the intervening
space with his tremendous bound, and made for the Shawanoe like a
cyclone. He had noted the point where the warrior had passed from view,
as well as the general direction taken by him; consequently a quick dash
in the right course ought to overtake him.

Such was the dash made by the ranger, at the imminent risk of colliding
with tree-trunks, limbs, and boulders, and with the result that within
twenty feet of the river he ran plump against the Indian who had the
terrified child in charge, and with no suspicion of his furious pursuer.

The attack of the Bengal tiger upon the hunter that is throttling its
whining cubs, is no fiercer, more resistless and lightning-like, than
was the assault of Simon Kenton upon the buck that was making off with
the little daughter of Norman Ashbridge.

It mattered not that the gloom was well-nigh impenetrable, and the eye
could not direct or follow the blow. The ranger knew he had his man in
his grasp, and within a few seconds the affair was over.

Had there been only the slightest illumination of the wood at this point
to aid the eye, the rescue of Mabel would have been effected, but she
knew not the meaning of the terrific struggle, and the instant her
captor loosened his grip upon her arm, so as to defend himself, she
hurried off in the gloom in the hope of joining her friends on the
flatboat.

"I say, gal, where be you?" called Kenton, grasping with one hand, and
expecting every moment to touch her form.

But the little one heard him not, or if she did, had no suspicion of his
identity, and a few moments only convinced the ranger that the child
once within his grasp was gone again, he knew not where.

He held a strong hope, however, that she had started on her return for
the boat from which she had been taken in such hot haste by her
abductor. If so, the attempt on her part offered a chance of saving her
if the ranger moved promptly; for, by hastening to the same point he was
sure to meet her, even though amid enemies; but, if he delayed, she must
inevitably fall into the hands of the Shawanoes again.

It was apparent to Kenton that none of those on the boat were aware of
the loss of the child, and if it became known to her friends they could
give her no help. The ranger was fortunate, indeed, that in the flurry
he was not assaulted in turn by some of the hostiles.

He picked his way as best he could to the river's margin, carefully
keeping himself back in the gloom while he made his observation. The
moon was still unobstructed, and showed him the flatboat fifty feet away
and increasing the space every minute.

Thus it came about, that as the craft was laboriously worked into
mid-stream and towards the Ohio shore, two of the whites were left
behind amid the merciless members of The Panther's band.

The situation was of little moment to Simon Kenton, for more than once
he had been in a situation of much greater peril. He felt abundantly
able to take care of himself, his great concern being for the little one
to whom fate had been so cruel.

Inasmuch as there was not one chance in a thousand of accomplishing
anything by groping in the gloom among the trees, he adopted the single
course that promised success, and that was only to a slight degree
indeed.

The flatboat was now so far out in the river that the firing had ceased
on both sides. Kenton did not know to what extent his friends had
suffered, but he was certain that in addition to the warrior whom he had
picked off in time to save Jethro Juggens, several others must have gone
down in the fusilade.

When The Panther brought his band together to effect the ambuscade at
Rattlesnake Gulch, he must have established some sort of camp or
headquarters beyond that point, where it could not be noted by the
fugitives until on the other side of the dangerous section. Hoping, with
a shudder of misgiving, that the little child would be taken to this
camp instead of being tomahawked, he began searching for it.

The task was less difficult than would be supposed. A veteran like
Kenton had no trouble in avoiding the warriors moving about. As he
expected, he passed but a short distance beyond the gulch, when he
caught the twinkle of the campfire just beyond the hollow in which the
Shawanoes had arranged to blot out the whole company of settlers and
pioneers.

Carefully threading his way through the undergrowth and among the trees,
he reached a point from which he gained an unobstructed view of the camp
without any risk of discovery on his part. The scene in many respects
resembled that which he had looked upon times without number.

There was the fire of sticks and branches that had been burning several
hours, for it contained many glowing embers, in the middle of an open
space. A circle of diminishing light was thrown out several rods in all
directions. Upon a fallen tree, on the other side of the blaze, sat
three warriors, painted and decked in the hideous manner adopted by the
people when upon the war-path. Armed with rifles, tomahawks and knives,
they were talking excitedly, and one had just had his wounded arm
bandaged, proving that he failed to go through the battle unscathed.

Two other Shawanoes were standing at the right of the fire, also talking
with great animation. Further back, where the light was less, were
others, most of them seated on the ground. Kenton's scrutiny satisfied
him that more than one of these had been "hit hard," and their
companions were looking after them as best they could.

Nothing was seen of those that had fallen, though the American Indian is
not the one to forget his stricken comrade, and the warriors that had
started on their journey to the happy hunting grounds were certain to
receive due attention. As nearly as the spy could judge there were from
twelve to fifteen Shawanoes in camp. Since Boone had reported the party
as about double that number, several of them--not counting those that
had fallen--were still absent.

The ranger was profoundly interested in two of these absentees. One was
little Mabel Ashbridge, and the other The Panther, leader of the
Shawanoes. The closest scrutiny failed to reveal either of them, and
though he had no real cause for doing so, he could not help connecting
their absence with each other.

His suspicion proved right, for only a few minutes passed when two
figures strode from the gloom into the firelight. One was Wa-on-mon,
whose hand gripped the arm of the young captive. He walked at a moderate
pace to the fallen tree, where he motioned to Mabel to take her seat.
She obeyed with the same promptness she would have shown had the command
come from her father or mother.

The Panther remained standing, and the three who had been seated on the
log also rose and advanced, several others drawing near and taking part
in the conversation.

"Ah!" muttered Kenton, between his set teeth, with his flashing eyes
fixed upon The Panther, "if I could only have come 'cross you and the
little gal!"

Seated with the firelight falling upon her face, the ranger was able to
see it quite plainly. She had lost the cute little homemade cap in the
flurry, and her luxuriant hair hung loosely about her shoulder. She was
neatly clad in homespun, though the dress, the stockings, and the shoes
were of coarse texture.

The countenance wore the scared expression which showed that the child
suspected her dreadful peril. The marks of weeping were noticed, but the
ferocious Wa-on-mon had probably terrified her to that extent that she
was forced to deny herself the relief of tears. Resting on the fallen
tree, with her dimpled hands clasped, she hardly removed her eyes from
the chieftain and his immediate companions. She appeared to feel they
were about to decide her fate.

From his concealment, not far off, Kenton allowed nothing in his field
of vision to escape him. He could not catch a word uttered by the
Shawanoes, but he did not believe the chief was discussing with his
warriors the question of what should be done with the little captive,
for the reason that it was not his habit to debate such matters with his
followers. His rule was so absolute that he made his own decisions,
leaving to others to obey or take the consequences.

It was more probable that The Panther was seeking the views of his
followers on what was the best step to prevent the fugitives from
reaching the block-house, now that they had escaped the ambuscade that
had been set for them.

While the ranger held his position he did a deal of thinking. The
problem that wholly interested him was, as to what could be done to save
the child, for that she was doomed by her captors, sooner or later, to
death, he considered as certain as he did his own existence. It simply
remained to be decided when she should be sacrificed.

Kenton was too much of a veteran to attempt anything rash. Had Mabel
been an adult, on the alert for something of the kind, possibly he might
have warned her of his presence without revealing himself to the
captors, but it would have been fatal folly to try to effect an
understanding with her.

He asked himself whether he could steal up behind the log, and then, by
a sudden dash, seize and make off with her. There were a few minutes
when he was much inclined to make the venture, but the more he reflected
the more hopeless did the chances of success appear.

He could not run fast in the darkness among the trees, and burdened with
the care of Mabel, The Panther and half a dozen warriors would be upon
him by the time he was fairly started, with the absolute result that
child and would-be rescuer would not live ten minutes.

"There's one thing powerful sartin'," muttered Kenton, keeping his eye
upon the party, "if they decide that the gal shall be sent under while
she's setting there on that log, the first move to harm a hair of her
head means death to him as tries it."

So it would have been. The silent, sinewy figure, standing as rigid and
motionless as the tree-trunk which sheltered him, let nothing escape
him. Had The Panther, or any of his warriors, turned toward Mabel
Ashbridge with hostile intent, he would have fallen forward with a
bullet through heart or brain before he could have raised his hand to do
evil.

The night wore along, with more hostiles returning at intervals, and
still the discussion continued between the chieftain and his warriors.
It was a puzzle to Kenton why the talk should continue so long, for to
him there was nothing in the situation to cause much variance of
opinion.

The ranger was still watching and wondering, when from the gloom of the
wood another party strode into view, and walked up to the group gathered
about The Panther, and, as he did so, it would be hard to decide whether
they or Simon Kenton were filled with the greater amazement over the
unexpected occurrence.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE FORLORN HOPE.


It is useless to dwell upon the grief and consternation of the occupants
of the flatboat when the discovery was made that little Mabel Ashbridge
was missing.

The parents and brother, after the first shock, bore the affliction with
rare courage. By common impulse, they looked to the two persons best
fitted of all to give counsel and hope, Missionary Finley and Daniel
Boone.

Young George Ashbridge was the first to speak after the fearful lull
that followed the cry of the stricken mother. Touching the arm of Boone,
he asked:

"Can we not work the flatboat back to shore, charge upon the Shawanoes,
and recover her before they have time to rally?"

"It might do," replied the pioneer, feelingly, "if we had daylight to
help us, but not while the night lasts. I had a son shot down by the
varmints just as I was entering Kentucky, and they ran off with a
daughter of mine, whom I took back from them, but the sarcumstances was
different from this."

"But we must do something; we cannot go to the block-house and leave the
dear little one behind. I would give my life to save her."

"So would we all, so would we all," repeated Boone, touched by the
memory of his own sorrows, "but we must not shut our eyes from seeing
things as they are."

The youth groaned in anguish and said no more. The hardest thing of all
was to remain idle while the cherished sister was in her dreadful peril.

"I'll let myself overboard," said the veteran, "swim back, and do what I
can to help Simon."

"You can give him no help," gently interposed the missionary; "in truth,
Kenton will do better without than with you."

"I'm of that way of thinking myself," said Boone, "though if Simon was
expecting me it would be different."

"But he won't expect you; he saw what none else of us saw--the capture
of the little one, and will do all that mortal man can do."

"I don't remember whether I told him the camp of The Panther and his
party is just on t'other side of Rattlesnake Gulch or not."

"Probably you did tell him, but it matters little if you did not; he
will speedily learn the truth. They are likely to take the child there,
and she will not arrive in camp much sooner than Kenton will reach the
vicinity."

The parents were quick to notice that Boone and the missionary spoke as
if there were little, if any, doubt in their minds that this course
would be followed.

"Suppose," said Mr. Ashbridge, in a tremulous voice, "she is not spared
to be taken into camp?"

"We are all in the hands of our Heavenly Father," reverently replied the
good man, "He doeth all things well, and we must accept His will with
resignation. If the little one has not been spared, then it is already
too late for us to give her aid; if she has escaped death, then I
believe she is in the camp of the Shawanoes."

"And we can steal up and charge upon them," said the brother, to whom
the inaction was becoming intolerable.

"Such a proceeding would insure her instant death," said Mr. Finley.

"And why? Boone can guide us to the direct spot, so there will be no
mistake about that, and a quick rally and charge will decide it."

"You forget, George," responded the missionary, in his fatherly way,
"that though The Panther has established his camp on the other side of
the gulch, all his warriors are not there; some of them are watching us,
as best they can, from the shore; by the time we turned about, and long
before we could reach land, it would be known to The Panther, or the
ambuscade he formed hours ago would be made as effective as though you
had all pressed on without halt."

"Boone said a few minutes ago that if we had daylight instead of
darkness to help us, there would be hope."

"And he is wise, as he always is, for we should have put back at once;
and doing so, immediately on the heels of our flight, the Shawanoes
would not have been given time to prepare a surprise for us; it is too
late now, and the circumstances prevent any attempt of that nature."

"Then we can do nothing at all--nothing except to wait until Kenton
makes his report," remarked the father, despairingly.

Instead of replying, the missionary turned to Boone, at his elbow, and
whispered something. The pioneer answered in the same guarded manner,
and the conversation, inaudible to others, continued for some minutes.

Meanwhile two of the rangers kept toiling at the sweeps, so gently that
it did not interfere with what was said and done by the others, and the
craft slowly approached the Ohio shore.

Starting up, the missionary looked around and inquired:

"What has become of the canoe Jethro and I brought with us?"

"It floated free during the fight," replied one of the rangers, "and he
swam after it. I reckon he has reached the other side of the river, and
is waiting somewhere along the bank."

A general turning of heads and peering in different directions followed,
but nothing was seen of the missing youth. Several wondered why the
reverend gentleman should have made the inquiry, when the more momentous
subject was upon all minds, but he offered no explanation.

The wind that had brought the flatboat to this point on the river, and
then died out, did not resume its force and direction. It blew gently,
but veered around from the north, so that its tendency was to drive the
craft back to the Kentucky shore. It required hard work at the sweeps to
overcome the momentum, but as the Ohio side was approached the forest
shut off and so lessened the power of the wind that the boat was forced
in close to the bank and brought to a standstill, where all could leap
ashore without difficulty.

And now had the missing child been with them all would have been as
hopeful as could have been desired. Some seven or eight miles away, and
on the same side of the river, stood the strong, rugged block-house,
where the small garrison, under charge of the veteran Captain Bushwick,
could laugh to scorn the assault of a force ten times as numerous as
that under the leadership of The Panther.

A distinctly marked trail wound along the northern branch of the Ohio,
so that it could be readily followed by the fugitives, even without the
escort of the rangers that had been sent out to their assistance.

Mr. Finley gently suggested that the two families should push on to the
block-house, leaving the others to do what they could for the help of
the child. Mr. Ashbridge, as quietly but firmly, made answer that
neither he, his son nor his wife would move a step until the fate of his
child was determined beyond all doubt. Mr. Altman, his wife and daughter
Agnes felt the same way, and the good man did not urge his proposal.

"I would probably feel and act the same if I were similarly placed," he
said, with a touch of sympathy which impressed every one. "You have the
sorrowful consolation of knowing that the suspense won't last long--"

"Ship ahoy, dar! Show yo' colors!" came in a sepulchral voice from the
shadows along shore. All recognized the tones, and before any reply
could be made Jethro Juggens paddled up against the prow in his canoe.

"Wasn't suah dat war yo' or de heathen," he added, stepping over the
gunwale and joining his friends, who were all pleased to learn it had
gone so well with him.

Called upon to explain, he promptly did so in characteristic style:

"While dat little flurry dat didn't 'mount to nuffin' was gwine on 'long
shore, I seed one ob de heathen tryin' to run off wid de canoe. I wasn't
gwine to stand nuffin like dat, and I was b'iling mad. So I flopped
overboard and swam after de boat; de Injin seed me comin' and tried to
dodge, but I cotched him by de heels and whanged his head agin de canoe;
den I got in and paddled ashore and waited for yo' folks, and hyar I is,
and mighty glad to see yo' all."

No one deemed it worth while to contradict this wild yarn, and Jethro
naturally supposed it was believed.

"Friends," said Mr. Finley, amid the hush that fell upon all, "Mr. Boone
and I, after talking over the matter, have made a change of plan. I
shall cross the river to the other side and see what I can do, with the
help of Heaven, for the little child."

Mr. Ashbridge was impelled to question the wisdom of this step, for it
was hardly to be supposed that a man of peace, whose profession was the
opposite of those around him, was the best person to attempt the
perilous task; but, brief as was the acquaintance of all with the
missionary, he had won their confidence.

Besides, the scheme, whatever it was, had the guarantee of Boone himself
as to its wisdom, and was therefore beyond cavil.

"God go with you!" was the fervent exclamation of the father, as he took
the hand of the good man. "Would that I could help."

"Gladly would I take you if I saw any possible aid you could afford, but
the only aid, friends, that any of you can give me is your prayers."

"You will have them unceasingly," said Mrs. Ashbridge, clinging to the
hand of the missionary, as if he was her only earthly comforter.

"I dare not tell you to hope for the best," he said, unwilling to awaken
an expectation that was likely to be followed by bitter disappointment,
"but I can only add that whatever may come, try to say 'God's will be
done.' I shall count upon all of you remaining here until definite news
reaches you."

"Have no fear of our going before that," replied Mr. Altman; "we are
distressed as deeply as our friends, and can hardly bear the suspense."

As the missionary was stepping over the flatboat into the canoe, George
Ashbridge caught his arm, and plead in a low, earnest voice:

"I am sure I can be of some help; please take me. I can't stand it to
remain behind to wait and wait--not knowing what the tidings will be."

"My dear boy," replied Mr. Finley, laying his hand upon his shoulder,
"if any one was to go with me it should be you, for none can be more
capable, but be assured that your company would be a hindrance, as you
would admit if you knew my plan."

The sorrowing brother still held his arm, but could not speak. The
missionary gently removed his grasp, and, entering the canoe, paddled
directly out upon the river. The figure of the boat and occupant quickly
passed from view, and those who remained behind, though they listened
intently, could not catch the faintest sound to betray his progress or
change of direction.

Now that the party left in the flatboat had some leisure on their hands,
they devoted it to looking after their own wounds, and in taking a
precaution, which was only ordinary prudence, against surprise. Two of
the rangers entered the wood, one passing a short distance up and the
other down stream. Their duty was to guard against surprise from the
Shawanoes.

It was not to be expected that The Panther and his party, after being
once repulsed, would accept that as final. They knew the fugitives were
provided with a strong escort, and were on their way to the block-house.
Even though they could not be wholly cut off, great damage might be
inflicted, and more of the intending settlers placed beyond the power of
invading the hunting grounds of the red men. That they would make the
attempt was to be set down as one of the certainties of the immediate
future.

One of the rangers had been killed during the attack and three others
severely wounded; but when, with the assistance of the women, their
hurts had been bandaged or attended to, they made light of them,
insisting that they were as ready for effective service as before.
Indeed, it was one of the wounded men that threaded his way up the river
bank to help guard against surprise from their enemies.

Another change of direction was noted in the wind. Beginning by blowing
directly up stream, it had continued to veer until its course was almost
directly opposite, so that, had the flatboat ventured out in the current
with its sail still spread, its progress down stream would have been
more rapid than ever before.

"Marse George," said Jethro, "whar does dis riber flow?"

Wondering at the meaning of the question, the youth replied, after a
moment's hesitation:

"It flows into the Mississippi."

"And what becomes ob dat?"

"It empties into the Gulf of Mexico, which joins the Atlantic Ocean."

"And dat runs along de oder side ob Wirginny, I hab heard."

"Yes, such is the fact."

"I've an idee; let's put out in de middle ob dis riber, and go scootin'
down de Massipp to de Gulf ob Mexico, and den up de ocean to Wirginny;
dar we'll carry de flatboat ober land till we strike de Ohio ag'in, and
den come down to de block-house from de oder side. It'll be a
round-about way, but we'll got dar, suah."



CHAPTER XXV.

FACE TO FACE.


Two white men had set out to do whatever lay in their power to rescue
little Mabel Ashbridge from the hands of the Shawanoes, and their policy
was diametrically opposed to each other.

Simon Kenton, it may be said, had but one law--that of fighting fire
with fire. Against cunning, woodcraft and daring he would array
precisely the same weapons. In short, he knew of no other method, and
would have laughed to scorn any different line of procedure, with the
single exception of its attempt by the one man who now resorted to it.

Mr. Finley, the missionary, knowing the futility of the course laid down
by Kenton, Boone and those of his calling, determined to go directly
into the camp of The Panther, and try to induce the fiery chieftain to
surrender the little girl to her friends.

What task could be more hopeless?

The unquenchable hatred of Wa-on-mon toward all who belonged to the
Caucasian race has been learned long ago by the reader. He belonged to
the most untamable of his people, and had proven a continual
stumbling-block in the path of the missionary. He shut his ears
resolutely against the pleadings of the good man, and forbade him to
speak to him of the God who taught gentleness, charity, love and the
forgiveness of enemies.

And yet, as Finley told Jethro Juggens, he had hunted with The Panther,
slept in his lodge and trusted his life in his hands many times, and
under ordinary circumstances would not hesitate to do so again.

But those were periods when comparative peace reigned on the frontier,
and the missionary, like many others of his sacred calling, found little
trouble in passing back and forth among the Shawanoes, Wyandots,
Pottawatomies, Delawares and other tribes. Indeed, many converts were
gained, as was shown in the case of the Moravian Indians.

When hostilities broke out, however, and the fierce red men daubed their
faces with paint and rushed upon the war-path, the missionaries were
wise enough to leave them alone and keep out of the way until the
tempest had passed.

War was coming again, of that there could be no doubt, and on its
threshold, at its very opening, Wa-on-mon, the tiger-like chief, known
even among his own people as The Panther, had been subjected to an
indignity at the hands of the pale-faces, such as in his life had never
been put upon him before. He had been flung down, struck repeatedly,
bound and kept a prisoner for many hours.

Then escaping by the usual weapon of the red man--treachery--he had laid
a cunning ambuscade for the destruction of the large party of pioneers
and rangers. The scheme had miscarried, and several of the foremost of
the Shawanoe warriors had fallen before their deadly fire.

The only panacea for this terrific chagrin was the capture of the single
small child attached to the families of the settlers. She, the tender
little flower, had been plucked by the merciless chieftain, and none
knew better than he what sweet revenge could be secured through her upon
the older ones.

Yes; she was in his power, and it was beyond the ability of any one to
take her from him.

And lo! at this moment, the man who preached humility and love and
gentleness and forgiveness of enemies was on the way to the camp of The
Panther to ask him to return the captive to her friends.

Missionary Finley did not need to be reminded of all this, and it must
be confessed that he would not have ventured upon the attempt, so utter
did he consider its hopelessness, but for an extraordinary suggestion
that Daniel Boone whispered in his ear.

This suggestion foreshadowed a complication, as among the possibilities,
from which a diversion might be created in favor of little Mabel
Ashbridge; but the possibility was so remote that the missionary did not
deem it right to awaken false hopes in the hearts of the parents and
brother by making known the scheme that had taken shape in the most
veteran of all pioneers.

Aside from all this was the fearful risk run personally by Finley, in
thus venturing into the hostile camp while, as may be said, the echoes
of the rifle shots were still lingering among the trees. The chances
were that, from The Panther down, there was not one who would not shoot
the missionary the instant he could draw bead on him.

But this was a feature of the business that gave Finley the least
concern. It must not be supposed, however, that he was a reckless man,
who acted on the principle that Providence would take care of him
without the putting forth of any effort on his part. He was a practical
believer in the doctrine that God helps them that help themselves.

When he paddled from the side of the flatboat, therefore, in the cause,
he put forth as much care and skill as Kenton or Boone himself would
have done.

Glancing over his shoulder, he noted the moment when the dim outline of
the wooded shore loomed to view. Then, the swinging of his arms ceased
for a few seconds while he peered off in the gloom and listened. Nothing
was seen or heard to cause misgiving, or to show that any one had
detected his approach.

"From what Kenton told me, the Shawanoes have a larger canoe hidden
somewhere along the bank. It has not yet appeared among these sad
troubles, but it must have a part to play, and I fear it will be used to
carry the warriors to the other side that they may hurry my friends on
their way to the block-house."

He did not cross the river in a direct line, but headed so far up stream
that his canoe became diagonal. His intention was to strike the shore
above Rattlesnake Gulch, thus keeping clear, as he hoped, of the canoe
with the warriors who might be making ready to embark on it. At the same
time, he was assured that he would thus shorten the path to the
campfire, where he expected to find The Panther.

Still watching and listening, the missionary edged his way up stream,
until he had gone as far as he wished, bearing off so that only the
keenest eye of suspicion would have noticed his presence from the shore.
Then, turning the prow straight toward land, he sent it skimming, like a
swallow, over the surface by means of a half-dozen powerful strokes,
ducking his head as it glided among the overhanging limbs, and its nose
slid up the bank. He was out of the little craft in a twinkling, and
drawing it still further so as to hold it secure, he set out, rifle in
hand, to meet Wa-on-mon, chief of the Shawanoes.

It need not be repeated that the missionary comprehended the danger into
which he was running, but, aside from the personal intrepidity that
distinguished him through life, he was controlled and impelled by the
highest of all motives that can direct the conduct of men--the desire to
please God.

Careful meditation over what had taken place convinced him that it was
his duty to enter the camp of the hostiles; and, with that conviction,
ended everything in the nature of hesitation.

Having landed, it remained for him to find The Panther. There might be
some persons, in the place of the reverend gentleman, who would have
conceived it the proper thing to enter the hostile camp without carrying
anything in the nature of a weapon; it may be said, indeed, that his
errand was in the nature of a flag of truce, in which that course was
demanded.

But Mr. Finley understood too well the nature of the people with whom he
was dealing to attempt anything of that nature. Such sentimentality
would be wasted. Besides he conceived it to be quite likely that he
might be called upon to defend himself, in which event the gun would
come in "mighty handy."

Engaged on the business described, the messenger did not add to his
peril by trying to steal noiselessly up to camp, though the act might
have been possible.

"I must advance openly," was his thought, "when near the camp, and it is
better I should do so from the first."

It was hard work picking his course through the dense and tangled
undergrowth, but, quite confident of the right direction to take, he
pushed on until the gleam of a light apprised him that no mistake had
been made.

And then, when within sight of The Panther and his ferocious party, and
half suspecting he was already under the eye of some dusky sentinel, the
missionary came to a halt, and, kneeling in the solemn depths of the
woods, spent several minutes in prayer.

The sound of a rustling near him did not hasten the end of his
devotions. When he had asked his Heavenly Father for all that was in his
mind, he rose to his feet and resumed his advance upon the camp.

He knew he was followed, and that every step was watched, and it was
then that his own manner of procedure saved him. The Shawanoe must have
reasoned that no scout or person with hostile purpose would act thus
recklessly, and, though the dusky sentinel followed and watched his
course until the messenger came within the circle of firelight, yet no
harm was offered him.

Probably, by that time the Indian recognized the visitor as the white
man with such strange views, and so different in his words and conduct
from most of those of his race. If so, he must have wondered at the
temerity of the individual in entering the camp of The Panther at so
critical a time.

While yet some rods distant the missionary recognized the chieftain,
standing among his group of warriors, in excited conversation. The back
of Wa-on-mon was toward him, so that he did not observe the white man;
but he was quick to note the looks in the faces of the others, and the
general turning of eyes in one direction. The chief also wheeled, and,
to his astonishment, saw the man of God approaching him.

There was no mistaking the expression that overspread the painted
countenance of The Panther. He was angered at this intrusion of a white
man into his council of war, as it may be called. A muttered exclamation
escaped him, which those near interpreted as an utterance of impatience
that the visitor had been permitted to come even thus far. He must have
been identified long before, and, in accordance with Indian custom,
should have been shot or cut down ere he could disturb the chieftain and
his cabinet.

But here he was, showing no more hesitation than had marked his course
from the moment he left the side of the flatboat.

Mr. Finley, clad in his partly civilized costume, and with his gun
grasped in his left hand, walked forward, neither timidly nor with an
assumption of confidence it was impossible for him to feel. He was not
only too well aware of the situation himself, but knew the Shawanoes
could not be deceived by any such pretence on his part.

Wa-on-mon had leaned his rifle against the fallen tree upon which the
three warriors were sitting when he first came up, so that he stood with
arms folded and in an attitude of natural and unconscious grace,
glancing from one painted countenance to another, as he asked a question
or listened to whatever they chose to say to him.

It was evident that these were the most trusted of his warriors, for
while the consultation was going on, no one ventured near. They may be
considered as making up the chieftain's cabinet, and when they were in
session all other business had to wait.

The missionary was quick to note the expression on the face of the
terrible Wa-on-mon. He had seen a look there not so long before which
told more plainly than words that he was welcome, but that time had
passed.

Mr. Finley advanced with the same dignified step to the chief, and,
making a half-military salute, said in Shawanoe:

"I greet my brother Wa-on-mon, in whose lodge I have slept in safety
when there was no other place to lay my head."

As he spoke he extended his hand, but The Panther, with his serpent eyes
fixed upon the face of his visitor, made no motion to unfold his arms.
He continued to scowl, and his lips remained mute.

This was embarrassing to a certain extent, though the missionary knew
the cause. He continued, in the same gentle persuasive voice.

"Why does Wa-on-mon frown when he looks upon his pale-faced brother--"

"He is not my brother," interrupted The Panther, with a scowl and look
of indescribable fierceness. "He is a dog, and he shall die!"



CHAPTER XXVI.

IN THE LION'S DEN.


The Panther was in the ugliest mood conceivable. Missionary Finley was
well aware of this before approaching and addressing him. Consequently,
when the chieftain called him a dog and declared he should die, the good
man was neither silenced nor overthrown, though it would be untrue to
say he was not alarmed for his own safety, but he had counted the cost
before making the venture.

"Wa-on-mon did not always look upon the missionary as a dog," he said,
with gentle dignity; "he once called him brother."

"It was because he spoke with a single tongue and was the friend of the
red man," The Panther made haste to say, with no abatement in the
ferocity of expression or manner.

"The missionary always speaks with a single tongue, and he will be the
friend of the red man as long as he lives."

If possible, the wrath of voice and action became more venomous on the
part of The Panther. He unfolded his arms, so as to give facility of
gesture, and with one step forward placed himself so near the white man
that the two could have embraced each other with little change of
position. Then he bent his hideous countenance until the gleaming eyes,
the dangling hair, the white teeth and the painted features were almost
against the mild, beneficent face, which did not shrink or show the
slightest change of looks.

One of the warriors then threw additional wood on the fire, and the
blaze of light lit up the scene as if at noon-day. The Shawanoes
instinctively drew back, so as to leave the principal figures not only
in prominent view, but apart from the others. No one presumed to take
any part in the disputation, but in the stillness and general hush the
words of both were audible to every warrior present.

Little Mabel Ashbridge was perplexed and uncertain what she ought to say
or do, if indeed, she could say or do anything. She did not recognize
the white man who suddenly appeared and addressed the dreadful Indian in
a tongue she could not understand, for it will be remembered that,
although the missionary had joined the company of fugitives some time
before, she saw his countenance for the first time when it reflected the
glow of the firelight.

Had Finley given her one encouraging word, or even look, she would have
rushed to his arms and begged him to take her to her parents and
brother. This would have been a dangerous diversion, and, dreading it,
the missionary carefully acted as though he had no knowledge of her
presence, but she was in his field of vision, and while talking with the
savage chieftain he knew the child, mute and wondering, was seated on
the log and intently watching both.

As The Panther stepped forward in the manner described, and thrust his
baleful countenance into that of the white man, he said, with atrocious
fierceness:

"The missionary lies; he has the forked tongue of the serpent, and like
all the pale-faces, he is the enemy of the red man."

"But Wa-on-mon once said he was the friend of the missionary; why does
he say now that he is an enemy?"

"Did he not fight against the Shawanoes this night? Did he not help the
pale face dogs to flee across the river in the boat?"

These questions were expected by Finley, and his tact, delicacy and
skill were tested to the utmost in meeting them. Following the practice
of The Panther, he continued referring to himself in the third person.

"The missionary gives his days and nights to help those that are in need
of help, and he does not ask whether their color is white or black or
red. He was on his way to visit the red men that Wa-on-mon once said
were the brothers of the missionary, when he came upon some of his own
people who were in sore distress. He did what he could to help them, and
then left to speak to Wa-on-mon."

"And why does he wish to speak to Wa-on-mon?"

It was a subtle question. The cunning Indian suspected the errand of the
good man, but its avowal at this juncture would have been fatal; it must
be parried.

"When the missionary last entered the lodge of Wa-on-mon, he did not ask
him why he wished to speak to him, but gave him welcome. Wa-on-mon now
speaks in another way."

"Because the missionary does not seek Wa-on-mon for himself, but for
another; the missionary's heart is not red, but is white."

"It is red and white, for it loves the white man and the red man. The
heart of Wa-on-mon is red, and he therefore loves his people. Should not
the missionary feel thus toward those whom the Great Spirit is pleased
to make white?"

"The Indian is the child of the Great Spirit; the pale-face is the child
of the evil spirit; these are the hunting grounds of the red man, and
the pale-face has no right here."

It was the same old plea which Finley had heard from the first day he
held converse with a member of the American race, and which he knew
would be dinned into his ears to the very end, but he never listened to
it with impatience.

"The hunting grounds are broad and long, the streams are deep and full
of fish, the woods abound with game, there is room for the red men and
pale-faces to live beside each other."

"But they can never live beside each other!" exclaimed The Panther, with
a deadlier flash of the eye; "the pale-faces are dogs; they steal the
hunting grounds from the Indians; they rob and cheat them; they shoot
our warriors and then call us brothers!"

No words can picture the scorn which the chieftain threw into these
expressions. He flung his head back with an upward graceful swing of the
arms, which added immense force to his declaration. It was an
unconscious but a fine dramatic effect.

The chief difficulty in a "pow-wow" of this nature was that the balance
of argument was invariably on the side of the Indian. The white men had
invaded the hunting grounds of the aborigines. The French and Indian war
was a prodigious struggle between the two rival nations of Europe as to
which should own those hunting grounds; neither thought or cared for the
rights of the red man; they had never done so.

The history of the settlement of this country, as has been said, is
simply a history of violence, wrong, fraud, rapine, injustice,
persecution, and crime on the part of the Caucasian against the
American, relieved now and then, at remote periods, by such wise and
beneficent acts as the Quaker treaty under the old tree at Shackamaxon,
and stained with the hue of hell by such crimes as the massacre of the
Moravian Indians, the capture of the Seminole chieftain Osceola under a
flag of truce, the slaughter in later days of Colonel Chivington, and
innumerable other instances of barbarity never surpassed by the most
ferocious savages of the dark continent.

"Many of the pale-faces are evil," said the missionary. "The words of
Wa-on-mon are true of a great number, I am sorry to say, but they are
not true of all."

"They are true of all. They are true of the missionary."

The firelight showed a deeper flush that sprang to the face of the good
man, who was not, and never could be, fully freed of much of the old
Adam that lingered in his nature. His impulse was strong to smite the
chieftain to the earth for his deadly insult, but Finley always held
such promptings well in hand, and the duskier hue on each health-tinted
cheek was the only evidence that his feelings had been stirred. His
voice was as low and softly modulated as a woman's. He folded both arms
over the muzzle of his rifle, whose stock rested on the leaves at his
feet, and remained calmly confronting the savage chieftain, who more
than once seemed ready to snatch out his knife and drive it into the
heart of the man of God.

"The eyes of Wa-on-mon are not in the sunlight; the smoke is in them;
when the sun drives away the smoke he will see the missionary as he saw
him when they hunted the deer and buffalo and bear together, and when
they helped the Wyandot, Kush-la-ka, to his wigwam."

This allusion was to an incident only a few months old. Kush-la-ka was
almost mortally wounded in a death struggle with an immense bear, and
would have perished had not The Panther and Finley looked after him and
helped him to his own home.

The good man hoped the recall of the occurrence would stir a responsive
chord in the heart of the chieftain, and open the way for uttering the
prayer which he had not yet dared to hint; but the failure was absolute;
the mood of The Panther was too sullen, too revengeful, too deeply
stirred by the memory of recent wrongs for it to be amenable (as it
occasionally had been) to gentle influences. He persisted in regarding
the missionary as a presumptuous and execrated enemy.

"Wa-on-mon is on the war-path," he fairly hissed; "he is the enemy of
all the pale faces."

"Wa-on-mon is a great chieftain; the heart of the missionary is grieved.
Wa-on-mon speaks as he feels, and the missionary will dispute him no
more."

This abrupt collapse, as it may be termed, of the visitor was unexpected
by the Shawanoe. It was a masterful stroke, and produced an immediate
effect, though so slight in its nature that a man less observant than
Finley would have failed to perceive it.

"Why does the missionary come to the camp of Wa-on-mon when more than
one of the Shawanoes have fallen by the rifles of the pale-faces?"

"And the rifles of the Shawanoes have done grievous harm among the
pale-faces?"

"The heart of Wa-on-mon rejoices to learn that!" exclaimed the
chieftain; "how many of them have fallen?"

"There is mourning among my people; one of them fell dead at my side,
and others are grievously hurt."

"There shall be more mourning, for not one of them shall be spared to
reach the block-house! They shall all be cut off."

"The will of the Great Spirit shall be done."

"And why does the missionary come to the camp of Wa-on-mon? He has been
asked the question before."

"And has answered," Finley was quick to say, hesitating to avow the
whole truth, even though it was evident it was known from the first to
the chieftain.

"Cannot the missionary speak with a single tongue? Does he come to seek
Wa-on-mon alone?"

"No," was the prompt response.

"Who comes he to see?"

"The little captive in the hands of Wa-on-mon."

"She is there," said the chief, pointing to the fallen tree upon which
little Mabel sat; "he can see her; he may speak to her."

"The missionary thanks Wa-on-mon--may he call him his brother?"

"No," was the sharp response, "the missionary and Wa-on-mon were once
brothers, but they are so no longer."

"The missionary thanks Wa-on-mon, but he is not, as yet, ready to talk
to the suffering little one."

"Little time remains to do so; she dies at sunrise."

"That is several hours distant; in the meanwhile, the missionary would
speak to Wa-on-mon of the child."

"What does he wish to say?"

"He has a prayer to make."

"What is the prayer?" asked the chief, well aware what it was.

"Wa-on-mon has two little ones, a warrior and a sweet girl. The
missionary has played and talked with them and held them on his knee;
does Wa-on-mon believe that the missionary would not risk his life to
save them from harm?"

Finley paused, but there was no response. The way had been opened at
last, and it was too late now to turn back. He must press forward to the
final solution, no matter what that should prove to be, but all the
signs were ominous of the worst.

The question was anything but pleasing to the chieftain. He was silent a
minute, and replied by means of a pointed question himself:

"Is the child on the tree the child of the missionary?"

"No, but she is the daughter of a friend; she is not a warrior who fires
a gun at the Shawanoes of Wa-on-mon; she has harmed none of them."

"But her parents did; to harm her will hurt them more than will a bullet
fired from the gun of the chieftain; therefore, Wa-on-mon will kill
her."

"Let Wa-on-mon listen to the good spirit that whispers in his ears; let
him show the same kindness to the prisoner that the missionary will show
to the pappoose of the great chieftain; that the father of the captive
would show to the children of Wa-on-mon if the Great Spirit gave them to
him."

"The missionary speaks with a double tongue; he lies; he is a dog, and
he must say such words no more!" broke in The Panther, with a voice, a
manner, and a glare that showed his patience was exhausted. "The
missionary deserves the death of a dog, but he may go back to his
people; he cannot take the child with him; she shall die when the sun
rises."

"If the missionary cannot take the child of his friend with him then he
will not go back to him."

"If he stays till the sun shows itself above the woods then he shall
die."

Finley saw it would not do to hesitate longer. The moment had come for
him to fall back on the last and only recourse left, and much as he
regretted the act (for it was at variance with his principles), he now
made it promptly and with a skill, a cunning and a delicacy that could
not be excelled.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE LAST RECOURSE.


The night was well along when Missionary Finley determined to appeal to
his last recourse for saving the life of little Mabel Ashbridge.

In unnumbered ways the Shawanoes showed that stoicism and indifference
which they take pains to display when in the presence of strangers,
though not always among themselves. A number lolled on the ground, some
were standing, and two had sat down on the fallen tree. Another took
upon himself the duty of keeping the fire vigorously burning. From time
to time he walked off among the trees, and came back with sticks and
brush in his arms, which were flung on the flames. Although the air was
colder than on the preceding night, the additional warmth was not
needed; it was simply the light that was required.

The action of all these Shawanoes was as if their chieftain and his
white visitor were one hundred miles distant. None approached, addressed
or seemed to hear a word that passed, though in the stillness many of
their words, especially those uttered by the chieftain, were audible to
the farthest point of the camp.

The observant eye of Finley told him a significant fact. Allowing for
those that had fallen in the attack upon the flatboat, fully half a
dozen of the warriors were absent. They were watching the movements of
the whites who had crossed the river, and would soon report to The
Panther.

The absence of these warriors, we say, was suggestive, but caused the
missionary no concern. With the pioneers were Daniel Boone and his
rangers, while Simon Kenton was somewhere between the hostile forces.
After the late escape of the party from The Panther and his men, no
great fear was to be entertained of them.

Mabel Ashbridge, wondering, distressed and sorrowful, sat on the fallen
tree, now and then looking around the camp and following the movements
of the painted men as they passed to and fro, some of them occasionally
glancing toward her with a scowl and gleam of the black eyes, which
terrified her, but most of the time her gaze rested upon the chieftain
and white man talking near her.

How odd their words sounded! She could hear everything said, and yet it
was in another language, and seemed as if they were mumbling over
gibberish, like a couple of children for their own amusement, except
that the chief most of the time acted as though he was angry at the
white man, who looked so pleasant and kind that she was sure he must
have a little girl at home.

But strange, novel and exciting as all this seemed, it soon became
monotonous to her. Unable to learn of its meaning, she became drowsy,
and, leaning over and laying her head on the log beside her, she closed
her eyes in slumber.

Thus matters stood when the missionary said:

"The white and red children of the Great Spirit, I fear, will always
fight each other. The missionary has tried to make them live in peace,
but he can do nothing. The Shawanoes have made captive a little girl
over whose head only the moons of a pappoose have passed. A few hours
ago the pale-faces made captive the great chieftain Wa-on-mon, but the
white hunter let him go free."

The Panther was about to interrupt angrily, when the missionary
continued, with the same calm evenness of voice:

"The white hunter did not set Wa-on-mon free because he loved him, but
rather because he hated him. He wished to meet him in combat; but when
he went to the place where Wa-on-mon promised to meet him, the chieftain
was not there. The great Wa-on-mon was not afraid of the white man;
therefore, he must have made a mistake and gone elsewhere."

"Wa-on-mon made haste to meet his warriors, that he might lead them
against the pale-faces and slay them all."

"He lost more braves than did the pale-faces, but the white hunter must
not think the mighty Wa-on-mon is afraid of him."

The remark was as near an untruth as the conscience of the good man
would permit him to go. No one, not even Simon Kenton, suspected The
Panther was afraid to meet any white man that lived in a personal
encounter. But the statement hit the chieftain in the most sensitive
spot.

"Does the white hunter think Wa-on-mon is afraid to meet him in the
depths of the wood, where no eye but that of the Great Spirit shall see
them?"

"How can he help thinking so when Wa-on-mon agrees to meet him, and the
white hunter goes to the spot, and waits for Wa-on-mon, who does not
come?"

"But Wa-on-mon has told the missionary the reason," said The Panther,
with a threatening movement and flash of his eyes.

"Wa-on-mon has not told the white hunter," returned the unruffled
Finley.

"The missionary can tell him."

"And he will do so, but what shall he tell the white hunter when he asks
whether Wa-on-mon will meet him again and prove he is not afraid?"

"Tell the white hunter that Wa-on-mon will meet him!" exclaimed The
Panther, with a concentrated fury of voice and manner surpassing that
which he had yet shown. He placed his hand threateningly upon his knife,
as though in his wrath he would bury it in the body of the good man as a
means of relief for the cyclone of hate that was aroused by his words.

It was the precise point for which Missionary Finley had been playing.
The preliminary conversation had been aimed to bring The Panther to see
that the only way he could save himself from the charge of cowardice was
by meeting Kenton in mortal combat. Such an issue, in which one of the
contestants must fall, was extremely distasteful to the man of peace.
There could be only one combination of circumstances that would justify,
in his judgment, that supreme test; that combination now existed.

With the skill of a trained diplomat, with his perfect knowledge of the
Indian character, Finley kept matters moving.

"It will delight the heart of the white hunter to meet Wa-on-mon, as
they were to meet only yesterday, and I know it will make glad the heart
of Wa-on-mon to meet the white hunter in the woods, where no one can see
them. Shall I tell the white hunter that these are the words of
Wa-on-mon?"

"They are Wa-on-mon's words; he will meet the white hunter."

This was all well enough, and the negotiation was progressing
satisfactorily; but the most delicate work yet remained to be done.

The arrangements for the encounter were yet to be completed, and, above
all, the stake must be fixed, or, no matter what the issue, everything
would come to naught.

"The white hunter and my brother, the great and mighty Wa-on-mon, cannot
meet in the darkness of the wood, for when they meet they must see each
others' faces."

It was the first time the missionary had ventured to speak of the
chieftain as his brother since he was angrily forbidden to do so. He
made no objection in the present instance, though possibly it was due to
his mental excitement that he did not notice it.

"They shall meet when the sun rises over the tree-tops; Wa-on-mon will
be there and await the white hunter, if he does not run away."

"The white hunter will not run away," quietly remarked the missionary,
refraining from making the stinging retort that rose to his lips; "but
my brother, the mighty Wa-on-mon, is wise, let him say how he and the
white hunter shall meet, and the missionary will see that it is done."

Before the chieftain could formulate a scheme, the shrewd Finley was
ready with that which he had formed while crossing the river in the
canoe.

"Let Wa-on-mon go to the rock that lies yonder," he said, pointing up
the stream, "it is but a small way beyond this camp; the rock is only
the size of a canoe, and it is hardly above the surface of the water;
does my brother know it?"

"Wa-on-mon knows where his brother, the missionary, means," replied the
chieftain, thrilling the good man by the term used.

"Will he be there when the sun appears above the tree-tops?"

"Wa-on-mon will be there, armed only with his knife."

"It shall be the same with the white hunter."

But the sagacious Panther saw the difficulties that still confronted
them. His "brother" had clinched the confidence the chieftain held in
him by his selection of the battle-ground for the Kentucky side of the
Ohio, not far from the Shawanoe camp. This reduced, as far as possible,
the chances of treachery by the white men, and conceded a most important
point to those with whom treachery has always been a cardinal virtue.

"The missionary will see that the white hunter is by the rocks when it
begins to grow light in the east."

"Then what will the missionary do?"

"He will come back to the camp of Wa-on-mon and await his return."

Had he expressed his wishes he would have added the words, "hoping he
will never come back again," but he was too wise to say anything of that
nature.

"Wa-on-mon will not keep him waiting long," was the confident
declaration of the Shawanoe.

"And when he returns?"

"Then my brother, the missionary, shall go free."

"And the little one asleep there?"

"She dies."

"Wa-on-mon will not return until the white hunter has fallen before his
knife."

"No; but that will not be long."

"Suppose Wa-on-mon does not come back?" remarked Finley, in a
matter-of-fact, off-hand manner, but it was the crucial point of the
whole matter.

"He will come back," was the response of the chieftain.

"Does he think the white hunter will spare him? No," added the
missionary, answering his own question. "But suppose my brother, the
mighty Wa-on-mon, does not come back?"

"Then my brother, the missionary, shall go back to his people."

"But that is the promise my brother gave before; will he not say that if
Wa-on-mon does not come back, the missionary shall return to his people
and take the little captive with him?"

"Wa-on-mon gives his brother that pledge; he has spoken."

It was settled! The scheme that had been in the mind of the good man
from the moment he paddled away from the flatboat was fully assented to
by The Panther. If the latter overcame Simon Kenton in the hand-to-hand
encounter, he would return to camp and put innocent Mabel Ashbridge to
death.

If, on the other hand, the ranger overcame The Panther, or the latter
was seen no more among his warriors, then the missionary was at liberty
to take the tiny hand within his own, and make his way back to her
friends without let or hindrance from the Shawanoes.

In other words, the life of the child was the stake at issue.

"Let my brother make known his wishes to his braves," said the
missionary, losing no time in following up the advantage he had gained.

As if aware for the first time of the presence of his people around him,
The Panther now beckoned to several to approach. They did so with a
prompt readiness which suggested a camp of highly-disciplined soldiers.
The chief explained what had been agreed upon, and made his orders so
explicit that there could be no misconception on the part of any one.
Finley watched closely while he listened, and saw that in this matter at
least all was above board. The chieftain's self-confidence was so
ingrained and deeply set that he could not doubt his own triumph.

But he astounded Rev. Mr. Finley by an unprecedented proof of faith in
his honor.

The combat was to take place as near sunrise as could be arranged. As it
was impossible to say beforehand precisely when The Panther would be due
in camp, it was his order that the decision of the question should be
left wholly with the missionary.

When he should declare to the leading Shawanoes that the time that had
elapsed was so great that it was certain Wa-on-mon had been overthrown
and would not come back to his warriors, then the missionary was free to
take the little captive by the hand and walk away, and no one should say
them nay.

It was an unprecedented compliment in respect to the integrity and honor
of the good man; but, oh, what a temptation, when it promised to settle
the question of life and death for the precious child!



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE RETURN.


The interview between Missionary Finley and the Shawanoe chieftain had
been prolonged; it was of the first importance. Many things that this
narrative does not require should be recorded passed between them, and
the hour was far advanced when the decision was reached; it was agreed
that the life of the little captive, Mabel Ashbridge, should be
determined by the result of the duel to the death between Simon Kenton
and Wa-on-mon, known as The Panther.

Aware as was the missionary of the departure of the ranger at the moment
the flatboat was pushing from the Kentucky shore, he knew his course of
action as well as if he had watched his every movement.

"Throughout the whole interview he had scarcely removed his eyes from
Wa-on-mon and me," was the conclusion of Finley, and he was right.

"I will now go in search of the white hunter," he said, slightly
modifying his manner of speaking; "I shall soon find him, and he will be
at the rock."

"And when the sun rises he will find Wa-on-mon awaiting him there," said
the chieftain.

Waving his hand in a half-military fashion, as a salute not only to the
chief but to the leading Shawanoes, Finley turned about and walked away
in the forest.

He felt an almost irresistible yearning to go over to Mabel Ashbridge
and utter a few comforting words in her ear; but her own welfare
prevented anything of that nature. Besides, she had laid her weary head
down upon the bark and was sleeping as soundly as if resting on her
mother's bosom.

After leaving the Shawanoe camp, the missionary directed his steps
toward the Ohio, where he had left his canoe. There was no call for
secrecy in his movements, and he tramped through the bushes and
undergrowth as a countryman would have done had he held no suspicion of
danger. If he excelled in any direction, it was in making more of a
racket than such a countryman.

As he anticipated, he had not gone far when a familiar signal arrested
him. He instantly paused, and the next moment Simon Kenton was at his
side.

"I seed you and The Panther talkin'," remarked the ranger, "and it
struck me powerful hard that the varmint was saying something that must
be of interest to me."

"I was confident you were lurking among the trees not far off, and since
Wa-on-mon sometimes spoke pretty loud, I fancied you would catch the
drift of our conversation."

"I couldn't catch 'nough to do that, but I am interested in it."

"No one can be more so; I left the camp to hunt for you; do you know of
that rock which lies just above the gulch, on this side of the river? It
is a small flat rock, rising only a few inches above the water."

"I know the spot as well as I do the one where the block-house stands."

"Wa-on-mon has pledged himself to be there when the sun rises, and I
have given him my pledge that you will not be behind him."

"I'll be there!" said Kenton in a low voice, and with a deliberation
that made his earnestness the more impressive. "It's the chance I've
been huntin' for years."

"The agreement is that each of you is to be armed only with his knife.
No one is to be present--not even myself. If Wa-on-mon wins by slaying
you, then Mr. Ashbridge's little child must die."

"And if I win?"

"I am to take her back to her parents unharmed."

"You've said 'nough, parson; I'll be there."

The missionary did not know whether to accept it as a good or bad omen
that Kenton, contrary to The Panther, and contrary to his own habit,
made no boast of what he would do upon meeting the chieftain.

"No danger of his flunking, I hope, parson?"

"Not the slightest; but, Simon, may I say one word?"

"You may say a thousand."

"I have arranged for two persons to meet in deadly combat. There is
something dreadfully shocking in the idea, and in some respects it is
most distressing to me--"

"It ain't to me," interrupted Kenton, with a chuckle; "all I'm afeered
of is that the varmint may find some excuse not to meet me."

"I have assured you that there is no cause for any such fear. What it
has been in my mind to say is that when you do meet, remember that a
truly brave man is merciful."

"I don't understand you, parson."

"Perhaps it is better that I shall not attempt to explain, but, if
possible, remember my words."

"I think that to make sartin there's no slip on my part, I'll go to the
rock now."

"I'll go with you."

It was a brief walk to the place fixed upon for the meeting, and both
were so familiar with the ground, or rather the shore of the river (for
it has been explained that the missionary knew little about Rattlesnake
Gulch itself), that it required only a few minutes for them to proceed
directly to the place.

"I'll leave you here and return to Wa-on-mon," said Finley; "God be with
you, and, if you can, remember what I said just now."

Kenton returned his salutation, and without further words they
separated.

On his return to the Shawanoe camp the good man used extreme caution for
a time, as though fearful of being detected by some of the warriors whom
he was seeking. When certain at last that no human eye saw him, he knelt
in the midst of the solemn wood, and poured out his soul in prayer to
the only One who could aid him in his dire perplexity. He spent a long
time alone and in communion with his Maker, and then, much strengthened
in spirit, he pressed forward with the same openness as before, until
once more he stood in the Shawanoe camp.

Little change had taken place during his absence. Instead of most of the
warriors walking about all were seated--some sleeping, but the majority
awake and talking with each other.

Little Mabel was still unconscious, but instead of reclining on the log
she lay on the leaves close to the fallen tree, one chubby arm doubled
under her cheek, her slumber as sweet and restful as if in her
trundle-bed at home.

Since it was not reasonable to think the little one had made this change
of position herself, it must have been done by one of the Shawanoes. An
odd suspicion came to the missionary that it had been done by The
Panther, but he deemed it unwise to inquire, so the truth was never
known.

But nothing escaped the eye of Finley. He noticed the chieftain sitting
apart talking with four warriors, and two of them were not in the camp
when the missionary left it. They had come in while he was away. Most
likely they were scouts that had been watching the movements of the
pioneers on the other side of the river. It was fortunate if it was so,
for they must have brought news that the fugitives had ceased any effort
to reach the block-house, and were quietly waiting until the missionary
or Kenton, or both, had returned with their tidings.

Finley endeavored to approach near enough to the group to catch
something that was said, but the chief and his warriors were too cunning
to permit this. Not wishing to interrupt, he seated himself on the
fallen tree to wait until Wa-on-mon was ready to talk to him.

The chief did not keep him waiting. Leaving the warriors, he came over
and sat down beside him, the moccasins of the savage so close to the
curly head that a motion of a few inches would have touched it with his
toe.

The Panther did not glance at the little sleeper, and it would be
unwarrantable to suppose that any feeling akin to pity glowed within
that sinister breast, which burned and seethed with a quenchless hatred
of the people that were trying to drive the red men from their hunting
grounds. Nevertheless, Missionary Finley clung to the belief that it was
Wa-on-mon that had lifted the child from her hard seat on the log and
deposited her so gently upon the leaves that her slumber was not
disturbed.

"Has my brother seen the white hunter?" asked Wa-on-mon, speaking in a
much lower tone than was used in the former interview.

"He parted with him a short time ago."

"Is his heart glad that Wa-on-mon will meet him?"

"His heart flows with joy," replied Finley, with deep depression that
such should be the truth, over the prospect of so shocking an event.

"He will not run away?"

"Did he do so yesterday?" was the stinging question of the missionary,
which struck the Shawanoe hard; "he is so afraid he will not be at the
rock in time that he has gone there to await the coming of Wa-on-mon; he
is there now; Wa-on-mon will find him when he goes thither."

"Wa-on-mon will be there when the sun rises from its bed; he will not
keep the white hunter waiting."

"And the pale-faces that have crossed to the other side of the river
will tarry there till the missionary returns to them."

"My brother speaks with a single tongue," remarked The Panther, thereby
uttering another strong tribute to the integrity of his visitor.

"Does he not always speak with a single tongue?" asked Finley, feeling
warranted in pushing the chieftain, now that the all-important question
had been settled.

"He does," was the prompt response of the fiery sachem, who thereby
plumply contradicted what he had said a short time before.

This, in a certain sense, might have been gratifying to the missionary,
had not his knowledge of Indian nature told him unerringly the cause of
the exultant mood of The Panther. Simply, he was gratified at the
prospect of meeting the white man in mortal combat, for he held not a
shadow of doubt that the career of Kenton was already as good as ended.
An hour or so, and the famous ranger would vex the red men no more.

It has been made plain to the reader that the vicious miscreant was
anything but a coward. The events that had since occurred fully
justified his failure to meet Kenton upon the former acceptance of his
challenge.

"The man's confidence in himself is unbounded; he does not think it
possible he can fail to overcome Simon. It will be a fearful struggle
when they do meet, and I shudder at the thought. Can it be that Simon
underestimates the prowess of Wa-on-mon? I hope not, and yet, I fear--I
fear."

Within the following hour a dim, growing light began showing in the
eastern part of the heavens. Day was breaking.

"Wa-on-mon goes to meet the white hunter," said the chieftain, much as a
groom might have announced his going forth to greet his bride.

He made no farewell to the other warriors. He had explained everything
to them and nothing was to be added. His words were addressed to the
missionary, who was so oppressed by the situation that he could make no
response, excepting a silent nod of his head.

"Wa-on-mon will soon return," added the exultant Shawanoe, as if
determined that his visitor should speak.

"How soon?" the latter forced himself to ask.

"When the sun appears there," said The Panther, indicating a point, by
extending his arm, which the orb would reach within an hour after
rising. "Wa-on-mon will come back, bringing the scalp of the white
hunter with him. If he is still absent when the sun is there, the
missionary may take the hand of the captive and go back to his people.
The Shawanoe warriors will not stand in his way."

It would be vain to attempt to depict the anguish of the dreadful
minutes that followed. Missionary Finley underwent a struggle that was
the keenest agony he had ever known. Most of the warriors dropped off in
slumber. Included with these were those who had been wounded, and who
seemed to have the faculty of overcoming their sufferings to a
remarkable degree.

Three remained awake to attend the fire and guard the camp. Little Mabel
Ashbridge slept on in blissful ignorance of the awful fate impending
over her childish head. Only the good man himself suffered a torture
beyond the power of words to describe.

He glanced upward through the leaves continually. At the very moment the
sun reached the point indicated by Wa-on-mon, the undergrowth parted and
the chieftain himself strode forward. And as he did so the missionary
saw on his countenance an expression that he had never noted before.



CHAPTER XXIX.

SQUARING ACCOUNTS.


When Simon Kenton was left alone by the missionary, who had been the
means of bringing about this hostile meeting, he knew that a full hour
must pass before his mortal enemy, The Panther, would reach the spot.
The ranger was in need of sleep, and he did a thing which, while the
most sensible act he could perform under the circumstances, was
certainly extraordinary; he sat down on the ground, with his back
against a tree, closed his eyes in slumber, and did not open them again
until the hour had passed. He possessed that ability, which almost any
one can acquire, of awaking at any time previously fixed upon.

Day was breaking, its light steadily spreading and diffusing itself
through the surrounding forest and filling the summer sky with an
increasing glow. Kenton deliberately arose, drank from the neighboring
river, bathing his hands and face in it, and then sauntered to the spot
where he expected to meet the dusky miscreant who was equally eager to
cross weapons with him. Leaning his rifle against a tree, the ranger
took a position and attitude in which nothing could approach or pass
without being noted by him.

"The parson is the best man in the world," he mused; "there ain't
another white man that dare go visitin' 'mong the varmints like him, for
they trust him just as his own kith and kin do.

"When I seed him walk out of the wood, right by them other varmints and
straight up to The Panther, I was sartin it was all over with him, and
he was in for his last sickness sure. The Panther had just had things
slip up on him in a way that must have made him mad enough to bite off
his own head, but the parson fixed it, and The Panther and me are bound
to meet this time.

"There must be something in that thing which he preaches," continued the
ranger, musingly, "which ain't like other things. What he says hits one
so powerful hard that it makes me feel quar. It makes him love the
varmints, the black people and the white all alike; it makes him leave
his home and spend days or weeks in the wood, just as Boone done afore
he brought his family to Kentucky.

"What did the missionary mean by tellin' me a brave man is merciful? I
wonder whether he had any talk with The Panther? It would be just like
him to do so, but it was time throwed away. Howsumever, his words to me
stick in my ears, and keep going back and forth as nothin' that was ever
said to me afore has done.

"The Panther is full of grit; when he comes I'll make him b'leve I think
he was scared and run off. That'll make him so mad, he'll fight harder
than ever, which is what I want.

"But he'll fight like a wounded catamount, He is sure he'll wipe me out
and send me under this time, and that he can go on shootin' settlers in
the back, tomahawking women and children without stoppin' to bother with
me. Somehow or other I don't feel as sartin in this matter as afore, but
I wouldn't let this chance of closing accounts with The Panther pass by
for the whole of Kentucky--sh! there he comes!"

A rustle, such as a quail might have made in walking over the leaves,
caused the ranger to turn his head like a flash. The undergrowth parted,
and Wa-on-mon, chief of the Shawanoes, stepped into full view hardly ten
feet distant, with his glittering eyes fixed upon the face of the
ranger.

The coarse black hair dangled about the shoulders, with a couple of
strands hanging loosely over the chest. Three stained eagle feathers
projected backward from the crown, where the hair was stained with
several hues of paint. The hard, sinister features displayed the same
fantastic daubs that marked them when The Panther was a prisoner on the
flatboat, the white cross showing on the forehead, with streakings of
red and black on the cheeks and chin. The coppery chest was bare to the
waist, where reposed the single weapon of the chieftain--his formidable
hunting knife, which had committed many a dark deed when wielded in the
vicious grip of the dusky miscreant.

Below the breech-clout the iron limbs were encased in leggings and the
small feet were covered with moccasins, now faded and worn by hard
usage. The Panther paused, with his left foot in advance, his right hand
grasping the hilt of his knife at his waist, and his shoulders and head
thrust forward, the attitude of the body being that of an athlete with
his muscles concentrated for a leap across a chasm that yawns in front
of him.

The pose of Kenton was dissimilar, and yet showed some points of
resemblance. In accordance with the custom of his people, he carried his
knife, in a small scabbard, by a string over his left breast. He grasped
the handle, ready to whip it out on the first need. He did not mean that
his antagonist should "get the drop" on him.

Kenton stood with his feet well together, but separated enough to give
his attitude grace and strength. His coonskin cap, fringed hunting
shirt, leggings and shoes were such as were commonly worn by people of
his calling. He was taller, more sinewy and equally active with the
Shawanoe, upon whom his blue eyes were fixed with burning intensity and
a glow that was the "light of battle" itself.

The Panther had brought no weapon except his knife with him. The rifle
of the ranger rested against a tree several paces away, and as near the
Indian as the white man. It was a strange position for two mortal
enemies, thoroughly distrusting each other, but in neither case did it
imply a lessening of that distrust; it simply attested the faith of the
two in a third person--Missionary Finley. He had arranged this meeting,
and both believed in him.

A scornful smile lit up the thin, smooth, handsome face of Kenton, who,
with his fingers still clasping the haft of the weapon at his breast,
said in the Shawanoe tongue:

"The Panther meets his enemy at last, but does he bring no warriors with
him to hide among the trees and rush forward when he begs for mercy from
the white man?"

This question was meant for the cutting taunt it proved to be, for it
was a strange fashion on the frontier, when two enemies came face to
face in deadly encounter, for each to try to goad the other to the point
of what may be termed nervousness before the critical assault took
place.

"The Panther needs no one to help him bring the dog of a white man to
his knees," replied Wa-on-mon, holding his passion well in hand.

"Then why, Shawanoe, did you run away when a short time since you
promised to meet me by the splintered tree near the clearing?"

"The dog of a white man speaks as a fool! He knows that Wa-on-mon
hastened to find his brave warriors, that the pale-faces should not be
allowed to make their way to the fort. He found them, and they shall
never get there."

"The Shawanoes have tried to stop them, but could not; they tried last
night, and more than one of the dogs were brought low. The gun that
leans against the tree there did its part, as it shall continue to do.
The Shawanoes fled as children, and I leaped ashore and chased them, but
they ran too fast for me to catch them."

This was drawing it with a long bow, but as we have intimated, it was in
accordance with the fashion of the times. The chieftain restrained his
temper better than would have been expected, for the reason that he
understood the motive of his enemy; it was the contest preliminary to
the decisive one.

"Why did not the white dogs all come ashore and chase the Shawanoes?" he
asked, with little appearance of passion in voice or manner.

"One of them did--a little child--you, dog of a Shawanoe, made captive
the child and strode back among your warriors, proud and boastful
because it was the first prisoner you ever took. Oh, brave Shawanoe! Oh,
mighty chieftain!"

While uttering these taunts, Kenton did not permit the slightest "sign"
to escape him. He saw he was fast goading his foe to the resistless
point, the object he had in view. There was an almost insensible
tightening of the muscles of the fingers closing around the handle of
the knife, the faintest possible quiver passed through the thighs, or
showed in a single twitch of the toes of the left foot, which inched
forward. The Panther gave a quick inhalation, and while the words
recorded were in the mouth of Kenton, he hissed:

"Die, dog of a pale-face!"

At the same time he bounded forward, as does the animal whose name he
bore when leaping upon his prostrate foe. The intervening space was
cleared at the single leap, and the knife, whipped from the girdle at
the instant of starting, made a fierce sweep through the air, almost too
quick for the eye to follow, and shot like the head of a rattlesnake at
the breast of the ranger.

Nevertheless, it clove through vacancy, for Kenton recoiled a single
step, the hundredth part of a second before the weapon flashed in front
of his face, and struck with equal power and swiftness at the crouching
demon while yet in mid-air; but nothing could have surpassed the
dexterity of The Panther, who, by a flirt of the head, dodged the blow,
and dropping like a cat upon his feet, not only endeavored to strike the
white man in the back, but came within a hair of succeeding. It need
hardly be said that had he done so, the conflict would have been over on
the instant.

But Kenton saved himself, and faced about to receive the assault from
the opposite direction.

Instead of following up the slight and yet possibly fatal advantage thus
obtained, The Panther became more guarded in his attack. The opening
bout made both more cautious; their respect for each other's prowess was
increased.

Neither uttered a syllable; the taunts had ended; there was no call to
goad each other to fury, for the highest point of passion was already
attained. To spend breath in the utterance of words was to place
themselves in the position of the gymnast who breaks into laughter--it
would be a fatal weakening of strength.

The Panther, crouching low, clutching knife, with head thrust forward,
and gleaming eye fixed on his victim, began slowly circling around him,
on the watch for an opening that would permit him to bound forward and
strike his foe to the earth.

Standing thus in the centre of a circle, Kenton had but to turn slowly
so as to keep his face turned toward his assailant. It was the easiest
thing in the world to present indefinitely an unassailable front, and
yet The Panther had barely completed his first circuit when the opening
which he sought offered itself, and he seized it with lightning-like
quickness.

But it was presented purposely; Kenton incited the attack, and when the
Shawanoe demon shot through the air toward him, he steadied himself for
a second, and struck again with all the might and skill at command.

That which the ranger had not counted upon, or which was not likely to
happen once in a thousand times, intervened to save The Panther for the
single instant. He and Kenton struck precisely the same blow, and their
forearms glanced against each other. The stroke of the white man was the
more powerful, and impinging against the less muscular arm of the
Shawanoe with paralyzing force, sent his knife spinning twenty feet away
among the undergrowth. Before the agile Shawanoe could recover himself
the left hand of Kenton griped his throat, he was borne furiously
backward, hurled to the ground as though he were an infant, the knee of
the ranger was at his breast, and the knife was held ready to complete
the fearful work.

"Dog of a Shawanoe!" hissed the infuriated hunter, "you are conquered at
last! Now beg for mercy!"

Had the positions of the two been reversed, the prostrate foe could not
have been more defiant when he hissed back, with flashing eye:

"Dog of a pale-face, that is afraid to strike!"

The words were meant as a taunt to the ranger to do his worst.

Down deep in the heart of every being, no matter how degraded, how
sinful, how wicked, how merciless, is a spark of goodness which, when
fanned by the angel's breath, glows or spreads until it burns out all
the dross that years of wrong-doing have implanted there. Why it was and
how it came about, Simon Kenton to his dying day never fully understood,
but he always insisted that at that moment he heard the voice of
Missionary Finley, with unmistakable distinctness, in his ear:

"Show him mercy, and mercy shall be shown to you when you need it!"

Impelled by a power which he dared not resist, the ranger rose from the
chest of The Panther, and said in tones that sounded like those of
another person:

"Shawanoe, take your life; I give it to you!"



CHAPTER XXX.

CONCLUSION.


The heart of Missionary Finley stood still when he saw The Panther
stride from the wood into the open space where the campfire was burning.
He knew that the terrible chieftain and Simon Kenton had met in mortal
combat, and what could the return of the Shawanoe mean but that the
prince of pioneers and rangers had been overthrown and slain by his
implacable enemy?

With a self-possession which surprised even himself, the good man looked
straight into the face of the Indian as he approached, and, noting its
strange expression, said:

"Wa-on-mon has met the white hunter and conquered him."

Three paces away The Panther abruptly halted and stood for several
seconds, looking silently at the missionary. Then he said, in a low,
deliberate voice:

"Wa-on-mon has met the white hunter--the white hunter has conquered
Wa-on-mon."

Missionary Finley was quick to catch the point of a situation; but, for
a moment, he was dumfounded. Then a suspicion of the truth flashed upon
him.

The good man was too sagacious to question The Panther. A strange,
hitherto impossible condition of affairs existed. It was dangerous to
meddle with them.

Suppressing all evidence of emotion, Finley asked:

"What are the wishes of my brother, the mighty Wa-on-mon?"

"She opens her eyes; she has awakened!"

He pointed to the little captive, who just then looked around, with a
bewildered air, sat up and rubbed her eyes.

"Where is papa? where is mamma?" she asked, looking from one to the
other, and at a loss to comprehend her situation and her surroundings.

"Take the captive," said The Panther. "No harm shall come to her and my
brother until after they meet their friends."

It was fair notice that the remarkable truce ended at the moment of the
arrival of the missionary and the child among their people.

Again Finley displayed his tact by asking no questions of Wa-on-mon. Nor
did he essay to thank him for his unexpected clemency. He did not so
much as speak to or look at him.

"Come, my child," he said tenderly, extending his hand to Mabel, "I am
going to take you to papa and mamma."

"Oh, I am so glad!" exclaimed the happy one, slipping her hand into the
palm of the missionary.

The warriors standing around and seeing all this must have had their
share, too, of strange emotions, for the experience was without a
parallel with them.

Had the chieftain been any one except The Panther, something in the
nature of a revolt would have been probable; but no one dared gainsay
that fearful leader, who, like Philip, chief of the Wampanoags, had
mortally smitten the warrior that dared to suggest an opposite policy to
that already determined by the sachem.

[Illustration: THE MISSIONARY'S TRIUMPH.]

There were looks, but nothing more, as the man, holding the hand of the
child, walked out of the camp, without any appearance of haste or
fright, and disappeared among the trees.

With a heart swelling with gratitude to God for the wonderful outcome of
the strange complication, the good man picked his way through the
forest, still holding the trusting hand within his own, and comforting
her by promises that she should soon see her father and mother and
brother, who were awaiting her coming on the other side of the river.
Like every other member of the company, she was a-hungered, but there
could be no guarantee that she, like them, would not have to remain so
for hours to come.

When the missionary reached the river side, to recross in his canoe, he
found Kenton awaiting him, paddle in hand. The two men smiled
significantly as their eyes met. They silently grasped hands, and then
adjusting themselves in the boat, with Mabel between them, pushed for
the other shore.

And as the graceful craft skimmed the smooth surface of the Ohio on that
beautiful summer morning, a hundred years ago, the ranger told his story
of his encounter with Wa-on-mon, chief of the Shawanoes.

"It took the varmint some time to know what I meant, when I said he
could go; he wouldn't take the life I offered him at first, but said it
belonged to me, and not to him. That bein' so," added Kenton, with a
grin, "I told him as how I could do as I chose with it, as I throwed it
from me."

"It was a surprise to him, indeed," remarked Finley.

"Wal, I should say powerful somewhat. When he made up his mind at last
that bein' as I wasn't going to send him under, he might as well take
what I give him, he done it."

"Did he say anything?"

"Not a word; I thought maybe he'd pick up his knife ag'in, but he done
nothin' of the kind; he didn't even look to where it had fallen when I
knocked it out of his hand, but walked off in the woods, and that was
the last of him. Parson," said the scout, with a grave expression,
looking him calmly in the face, "I want to ask you a question."

"Why, Simon, my good man, you may ask me anything you choose."

"Where was you when The Panther and me was having our little argyment?"

"I went directly back to the Shawanoe camp and stayed there till he
returned with word that I might depart with Mabel."

"Sure you wasn't nowhere near us?"

"No nearer than what I have just told you."

The ranger paddled a moment in silence.

"Bein' as you say so, that settles it."

The missionary, who was watching his friend closely, now said:

"Since I have answered your question, Simon, it is right that I should
know why you ask it."

"Wal, it's this: Just as I had The Panther down, and was 'bout to finish
the bus'ness, I heard you speak."

"Heard me speak? And what did I say?"

"'Show him mercy, and mercy shall be shown unto you when you need it;'
so what could I do but let him up?"

The good man understood the incident better than did Kenton himself.

"But," he said, gently, "I have just explained that I was too far from
you for me to make myself heard."

"Whose voice was it, then?"

"The voice of Conscience, Simon, or the whisperings of God. It may have
sounded louder to you just then than usual, but it was not the first
time it has sounded in your ear, reproving you when you have done wrong,
and commending you when you have done right. Listen and heed what it
tells you, Simon, and no matter what comes, all shall be well with you."

The missionary saw that his words had made a strong impression, and he
was wise in saying no more.

The ranger headed the course for a point that would land them
considerably below where the friends in the flatboat were awaiting their
coming. Finley, after noting the fact, remarked:

"You are doing it on purpose, Simon."

"Of course; some of the varmints are watchin'."

The object, as the reader will perceive, was to make the Shawanoes
believe the fugitives had shifted their position further down stream.
Since Boone was with the latter party, the stratagem, slight of itself
and possibly ineffectual, was readily understood by them.

When the canoe shot in under the bank on the Ohio side, it was an eighth
of a mile below where the flatboat had been hidden with the utmost care
on the same bank of the river; but there could be no question that the
fugitives had peered out with equal eagerness of vision, and parents,
brother and friends were aware of the amazing, blessed truth that in
that canoe, seated between the missionary and ranger, was Mabel
Ashbridge, she that was lost and was found, was dead but was alive
again.

Finley and Kenton made no mistake as to the situation. The "truce" was
now ended. The Panther was the bitter, relentless enemy that he was
before, eager only for the life of every man, woman and child connected
with the company of fugitives. If little Mabel fell into his hands
again, she would be sacrificed without a throb of pity. He would do his
utmost to prevent the company reaching the block-house. If its members
counted upon his forbearance, it would be a fatal mistake.

And should he and Kenton again face each other in single-handed combat,
it would be with the same unrelenting ferocity as before. The episode
that had just taken place would be as though it had never been. How
strange that such an encounter did take place sooner than either white
or red combatant dreamed!

When the canoe glided from sight under the screening of the Ohio shore,
Kenton, Finley and the little girl sprang out and made all haste to
where the main party by the flatboat were awaiting their coming. The
sagacious Boone had already formed an inkling of the truth, and,
allowing only a minute or two for the reunion and exchange of
salutations, he insisted that the flight to the block-house should be
resumed and pressed with the utmost vigor until the post was reached.
The large boat could serve them no longer, and was abandoned where it
lay. The masts had been taken down so as to allow it to pass under the
overhanging vegetation, and, consequently, had it been permitted to make
its appearance on the river, there would have been nothing in its looks
to suggest the facetious name, "Phantom of the River," first applied to
it by Missionary Finley.

It is not required that the particulars of the seven or eight miles'
journey through the wilderness should be given. The Panther made such
persistent attempts to destroy the pioneers that more than once they
were in the gravest peril; but they had an advantage not possessed
before, in that it was impossible to arrange any ambuscade, for the
advanced guard of rangers were too perfect in their knowledge of
woodcraft to lead the whites into any situation that shut off escape.
The Shawanoes knew enough of Kenton, Boone and their rangers to hold
them in respect, and not presume upon their committing any irretrievable
error.

Jim Deane, the only white man that had fallen, was given decent burial
in the shadowy forest while the party were awaiting the arrival of
Kenton and his companions. The missionary paused long enough to offer up
a prayer over the grave, and then, as we have said, the journey was
pressed to the utmost.

And so, at last, the block-house was safely reached, and, for the time,
all danger to our friends was over.



THE END.





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