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Title: The Riflemen of the Miami
Author: Ellis, Edward Sylvester, 1840-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE RIFLEMEN

OF THE

Miami.



BY EDWARD S. ELLIS



BEADLE AND COMPANY,
NEW YORK: 141 WILLIAM STREET.
LONDON: 44 PATERNOSTER ROW.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year 1862, by
BEADLE AND COMPANY,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New York.



THE RIFLEMEN OF THE MIAMI.



CHAPTER I.

THE RESCUE.

    If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well
    It were done quickly.--MACBETH.


"Quick, boys, and be careful that they don't see your heads."

Four men were moving along under the bank of the Miami, with their
bodies bent, at a gait that was almost rapid enough to be called a run.
They were constantly raising their heads and peering over the bank, as
though watching something in the wood, which in this section was quite
open. All four were attired in the garb of hunters, and were evidently
men whose homes were in the great wilderness. They had embrowned faces,
and sinewy limbs, and the _personnel_ of the woodman--of the men who
hovered only upon the confines of civilization, rarely, if ever,
venturing within the crowded city or village. It is hardly necessary to
say that each carried his rifle and his hunting-knife.

Between the three foremost was a striking resemblance; it appeared
impossible that more than five years divided them in age. Two were
brothers, George and Lewis Dernor, while the third answered to the
_sobriquet_ of Dick--his real name being Richard Allmat. The fourth--he
who brought up the rear--possessed an individuality which must have
marked him in any situation. Barely more than five feet in height, and
with bowed legs, instead of owning a jovial temper, as one would have a
right to expect from his jolly-looking face, he was, in reality, a most
irascible fellow. Never known to express satisfaction at any
occurrence, gift or suggestion, he was constantly finding fault, and
threatening dire vengeance upon those who surrounded him. These threats
never being carried out, attracted little attention. "Tom" (as he was
called) was considered a privileged individual, and, in spite of his
disposition, was a favorite with those who knew him. This may seem
strange when we add that, in addition to his sour temper, the natural
defect of his legs prevented him from placing any dependence upon them.
At his best speed he was but an ordinary runner. A stranger well might
wonder that he should adopt a life where fleetness of foot was so
necessary--in fact, so almost indispensable. Tom O'Hara turned ranger
from pure love for the wild, adventurous life; and, despite the natural
defects to which we have referred, possessed accomplishments that
rendered him a most valuable ally and companion. He never had met his
superior with the rifle, and his knowledge of woodcraft was such that,
although he had spent ten years on the border, his slowness of foot had
never operated against him; nor once had he been outwitted by the
red-men of the woods. Besides this, he had the enviable reputation of
being a _lucky individual_--one whose rifle never missed fire, or sped
wide of its mark--one to whom no unfortunate accident over occurred; so
that, take him all in all, few hunters were safer in the wood than this
same Tom O'Hara.

These four were known as the _Riflemen of the Miami_, of whom Lewis
Dernor was the leader. Another member, then a long way off, will be
referred to hereafter.

"Quick, boys, and be careful that they don't see your heads,"
admonished Lewis, ducking his own and gesticulating to those behind
him. "_Sh!_ look quick! there they go!"

The four stretched their necks, glancing over the bank, out into a
small clearing in the wood.

"They'll cross that in a minute," whispered the first speaker. "Don't
raise your heads too high or you'll be seen."

"You don't appear to think nobody knows nothing but you," growled Tom,
with a savage look.

"_Quiet!_ There they go!"

One Indian strode into the clearing, followed by another, then by two
abreast, between whom a woman was walking, her head bent as if in
despair, with steps painful and labored. Behind these came three other
savages. They passed across the clearing--the whole seven, with their
captive like the moving figures in a panorama, and entered the wood
upon the opposite side.

"Every mother's son of them is in his war-paint," said Lewis--who, by
the way, divided his words with Tom, the other two rarely speaking
except when directly appealed to.

"Who said they wasn't?" demanded Tom. "And what difference does it
make? They've got somebody's gal there, hain't they? eh? Say. And
what's the odds whether they've daubed themselves up with their stuff
or not?"

"Well, what's the next move? To set up a yell and pitch after them?"

"None but a fool would want to do that."

"But don't you notice the bank gets so low down yonder that it won't
hide us, and we'll have to show ourselves?"

"It'll hide us as long as we want to be hid. Come, don't squat here, or
we'll let the rascals slip, after all."

Again the three moved down the bank, as rapidly, silently and
cautiously as spirits, ever and anon raising their heads as they gained
a glimpse of the Indians passing through the wood. The latter were
following a course parallel with the Miami, so that the relative
distance between the two parties remained nearly the same. It was
manifest to the hunters that the Indians intended crossing the river
with their captive at some point lower down, and were making toward
that point. It was further evident from the deliberation in their
movements, and from the fact that they were not proceeding in "Indian
file," that as yet they had no suspicion of being pursued, although
every one of their number knew of the existence of the Riflemen of the
Miami--that formidable confederation whose very name was a word of
terror even to their savage hearts. Entirely unsuspicious of the danger
which menaced them, every thing was in favor of the hunters.

For several hundred yards further, the two parties maintained their
relative distance, the Indians proceeding at a usual walk, and the
whites at a very irregular one--now running rapidly a few steps, and
then halting and gazing over the bank to ascertain the precise
whereabouts of their enemies; then skulking a few yards further, and
halting as before, remaining all the time nearly opposite the "braves."
Suddenly the latter came to a stand.

"Now for a confab," said Lewis, as his companions gathered about him.
"I wonder what they are going to jabber about?"

"What do you want to know for, eh?" asked Tom.

"It's pretty plain they're going to cross the river, but, confound it,
how can we tell where it's going to be done? I've told you that the
bank gets so low, just yonder, that it won't hide us any longer."

"Who wants it to hide us? They intend to cross the river _here_, and in
about ten minutes, too. Just watch their actions, if you can do it
without showing your head."

The Indians stood together, conversing upon some point about which
there seemed a variance of opinion. Their deep, guttural, ejaculatory
words were plainly audible to the hunters, and their gleaming, bedaubed
visages were seen in all their hideous repulsiveness. They gesticulated
continually, pointing behind them in the direction of their trail, and
across the river, over the heads of the crouching Riflemen, who were
watching every motion. Nothing would have been easier for the latter
than to have sent four of these savages into eternity without a
moment's warning; yet, nothing was further from their intentions, for,
of all things, this would have been the surest to defeat their chief
object. The captive would have been brained the instant the savages saw
they could not hold her. The great point was to surprise them so
suddenly and completely as to prevent this.

From the present appearance of matters, this seemed not very difficult
of accomplishment, as it was a foregone conclusion upon the part of the
hunters that the savages would endeavor to ford the river at the point
where they lay in ambush for them. It only remained for the Riflemen to
bide their time, and, at the proper moment, rush upon and scatter them,
and rescue the captive from their hands.

"I wonder whether they're going to talk all day," remarked Tom,
impatiently, after they had conversed some twenty or thirty minutes.

"They're in a dispute about something. It won't take them long to get
through with it."

"How do you know that, I should like to know? Like enough they'll talk
till dark, and keep us waiting. Confound 'em, what's the use?"

No one ventured to reply to Tom's sulky observation, and, after several
impatient exclamations, he added:

"The longer they talk the louder they get, which is a sure sign the
dispute is getting hotter, which is another sign it'll be considerable
time before they get through."

"I am sure we can wait as long as they can," said Dick, mildly.

"My heavens! who said we couldn't? Just hear 'em jabber!"

The conversation of the Indians had now become so earnest, that every
word spoken was distinctly heard by the Riflemen. The latter, from the
dress and actions of the savages, understood they had no chief with
them, but were merely seven warriors, who had been out on this
barbarous expedition, and were returning to their town with the booty
and the captive they had secured.

"They're talking in the Shawnee tongue," said Lewis. "Can't you
understand what they're driving at?"

"If you only keep your jaws shut a minute or two, I could; but if you
three fellers mean to talk all the time, I should like to know how I am
going to understand any thing they say. See whether you can keep quiet
a minute, just."

Tom's companions did as requested, while he bent his head forward, and
seemed to concentrate all his faculties into the one of listening. Upon
the part of the Riflemen all was still as death. After several minutes
of the acutest attention, Tom raised his head, and said, with a glowing
expression:

"They're talking about _us_."

"The deuce! what are they saying?"

"Don't you see they're pointing up the river and across it? Well, the
meaning of all that is, that they're wondering which way we'll come
from."

"What seems to be the general expectation?"

"The trouble is just there--the expectation is altogether too general.
Some think we're on their trail, others that we're following the other
side the river down, and waiting for the chance to let drive at 'em,
while one, at least, feels certain we're _coming up_ the stream to meet
'em."

"Is that their dispute?"

"A part of it, of course, but the trouble is--what to do. Some want to
strike off in the woods and take a roundabout way to reach home; but
the greatest number want to cross the stream at this point."

"They'll probably do it then."

"Of course they will--no; I'll be shot if they ain't going further into
the woods!" suddenly exclaimed Tom.

"They're going to start in a minute, too. Get ready, boys, for a
rush--it's all we can do."

"Hold still a minute," commanded Tom, excitedly.

Then dropping his rifle, he ran down to the river's edge, and picked up
several large pebbles, one of which he placed in his right hand as if
about to throw it.

"What are you going to do with that?" asked Dick.

"That's none of your business; you've only to wait and see. Just keep
your heads down now, if you don't want them knocked off."

Tom, drawing his hand back, struck it quickly against his thigh,
accomplishing what is generally termed "jerking" the stone. The latter
went circling high over the heads of the disputing Indians, and came
down upon the other side of them, cutting its way through the dry
leaves of the trees with a peculiar _zip-zip_, which was distinctly
heard by the Riflemen themselves.

The unusual sound could not fail instantly to attract the attention of
the Indians. They paused in their conversation, and turned their
alarmed gaze toward it, as if in expectation of some danger. With their
instinctive caution, they separated, and partially protecting
themselves behind the trees, prepared to receive what they supposed to
be their enemies. A noticeable fact did not escape the eyes of the
Riflemen. The captive, a weak, defenseless girl, was not allowed to
screen herself, as did her captors, but was compelled by them to stand
out in full view, as an additional safeguard against their bullets.

It was at this moment that Tom hurled the second stone over the heads
of the Indians, it descending with the same sharp, cutting sound, and
resolving their suspicions into a certainty that their white enemies
were indeed at hand. Lewis Dernor, now that the moment of action had
arrived, was as shrewd and far-sighted as either Tom or any of the
others. It was these very qualities, coolness and self-reliance in the
crisis of danger, that made him nominally the leader of the Riflemen of
the Miami. He saw the great advantage gained by O'Hara's artifice in
attracting the attention of the Indians to the point opposite to that
from which the peril threatened; but, at the same time, he well knew
that those same Shawnees were too well skilled in woodcraft to suffer
their gaze to be diverted for any length of time from the river-bank.

As matters now stood, the captive herself was the only one who was
looking in the direction of the latter, while her gaze was a mere
mechanical one, wandering hither and thither without resting for a
moment upon any particular object. Lewis felt that the all-important
point was to make her aware of the vicinity of friends. She being a
total stranger to them, and evidently with no hope of any immediate
rescue, made this a matter of considerable difficulty; but, without
hesitating a moment, Lewis suddenly arose to the upright position,
thereby exposing his head and shoulders, and beckoned to the girl to
approach him. The instant he had done this, he dropped on his face and
disappeared.

The attempt was only a partial success. At the moment of rising, the
gaze of the captive was toward a point further down-stream; but the
figure of the hunter, as it rose and sunk from view, was in her field
of vision and did not entirely escape her notice. The unusual
occurrence drew her look thither, making it certain that a second
attempt, could it be made, would succeed far better than the first. All
this Lewis comprehended, and as quick as possible repeated his movement
precisely as before.

This time the girl saw him and perfectly understood his meaning; but,
with a precipitancy that filled the hunters with the greatest alarm,
she started directly toward them, with outstretched arms, as if
imploring assistance. It was at this instant that Lewis discovered a
quickness of perception, coolness and promptness of action that was
absolutely wonderful. Looking out upon the exciting drama being enacted
before him, he saw with unerring certainty how far the girl could run
before being fired at by the savages. Waiting until she had gone the
distance, he raised his head and shoulders to view, and called out in a
voice of thunder:

"I say, gal, drop flat on your face and stay there."

The quickness with which this command was obeyed, and the almost
simultaneous crack of two rifles, might well have caused the belief
that she had fallen because shot through the heart; but such was not
the case. The command of Lewis broke upon her like a thunder-peal, and
as quick as a flash of lightning did she comprehend the fearfully
imminent peril in which she was placed. So marvelously close had been
the calculation of the hunter, that at the very instant she obeyed him,
the rifle of the nearest Indian was pointed full at her. This did not
escape the eagle eye of O'Hara, who, with the same coolness that
characterized the action of his leader, discharged his piece at the
bronzed head of the Shawnee, his aim scarcely occupying a second. The
bullet sped sure, striking the savage at the very moment his own weapon
was fired, and his death-yell mingled with the whistle of his own
harmless rifle-ball.

Even in this moment of terrible danger, the manner in which the Indians
shifted to the opposite side of the trees could but attract the notice
of the hunters. It was simultaneous on the part of all, and resembled
that of automata, moved by machinery. First, every copper-colored body
was exposed to full view; and the next minute six gleaming
rifle-barrels only showed where they had sheltered themselves from the
fire of the whites. They no longer doubted the point from which their
danger threatened, and a genuine strategic Indian fight now commenced.

Had the captive, who was now literally between two fires, done nothing
but merely fall upon her face, her situation could not have been
improved in the least thereby. But the nature of the ground near her
was such that, by lying perfectly motionless, the bullets of the
Shawnees could not strike her, unless they could gain a position nearer
to the hunters. As matters stood, she was safe only so long as her
captors could be kept from changing their places.

This was manifest to both the whites and the Indians; and while the
latter were now actuated by the desire to slay the girl, the efforts of
the former were turned toward her salvation. It was further evident
that the Shawnees were aware that they were now opposed to the Riflemen
of the Miami, and were nothing loth for a trial of skill. The loss of
one of their number was such a matter of course, that it operated only
as an incentive for exertion and skill upon their part.

A portion of the dress of the girl, as she lay upon the ground, could
be seen by several of the Indians, and they fired numerous shots at it.
Finding this accomplished nothing, they resorted to a far more
dangerous expedient--that of shooting away enough earth in front of her
to allow the free passage of one of their bullets to her body. It will
be seen that great skill was required to do this, but the expertness of
the Shawnee marksmen was equal to the task. They commenced their work
by sending a ball so as to strike the earth immediately before her, and
a few inches below the surface. The instant this was done, another
fired his bullet directly after, with such skill that it varied but the
fraction of an inch from following directly in its path. The force with
which these balls were discharged was such that the twelfth one would
most assuredly take the life of the girl.

None knew this better than Lewis Dernor, who, in the same trumpet-like
tone that had characterized his former command, called out:

"Young gal, clean away the dirt in front of you and hide yourself
better, or the imps will riddle you."

It required no more incentive to do this, and she used her hands with
such vigor that a few moments accomplished all she could wish. The
ground, being soft and moist, favored her, and when she dragged herself
a few feet forward, all of her dress disappeared from the view of the
Indians, and she was as safe from their bullets as if behind the
river-bank itself.

A few more shots convinced the Shawnees of this, and they now sent
several bullets whistling over the heads of the Riflemen as if to
remind them that they were to receive attention. So long as the members
of the two parties maintained their respective positions, this affray
could amount to nothing; accordingly, several of the savages made an
effort to change their posts in such a manner as to outflank the
whites. Despite the admirable skill with which this attempt was made,
the deadly rifle of George Dernor brought down a warrior as he flitted
from tree to tree. This, for the present, put a stop to the movement
and turned the efforts of the savages in another direction.

Two brawny Shawnees, convinced that nothing could be done against the
Riflemen, renewed their attempts to secure a shot at the girl, who all
this time lay as motionless as if dead. They commenced working their
way slowly but surely toward the river, while she, unconscious of the
murderous stratagem, patiently awaited the turn of affairs which would
free her from her terrible thralldom. Finally, an Indian, who was
squatted behind a tree, gained a view of a tuft of her hair and brought
his rifle to his shoulder. The sunlight that scintillated along the
barrel of his weapon made it resemble a burnished spear, poised in his
hand, while following it up to the stock, not only his crooked arm
which supported the gun, but his entire profile was visible. Forgetting
his own peril in his anxiety to slay the helpless girl, the Shawnee
leaned several inches further forward, thereby discovering one-half of
his shaven head. Ere he could draw it back, the whip-like crack of
another rifle broke the stillness, and he fell forward on his face,
pierced through and through the brain.

"I've a great notion to break your head for you!" exclaimed Tom, in an
excited whisper to Dick, for it was the latter who had fired the fatal
shot.

"Why, what's up now?"

"I'd just got that Shawnee sure when you picked him off. Don't you
serve me that trick again."

With this ebullition, Tom subsided, and turned his attention once more
toward their common enemy.

The shot of Dick really decided the affray. It convinced the Indians
that not only were they unable to shoot the girl or avenge themselves
upon the Riflemen, but the latter had so much the advantage of them,
that to prolong the contest would only be to insure their own
annihilation. Three of their number were already slain, and the
remaining four, from their respective positions, had not the shadow of
a chance to pick off any of the whites. What might naturally be
expected under the circumstances occurred. The savages commenced a
retreat, conducting it with such caution that the whites could not gain
another shot. The last seen of them was a shadowy glimpse in a distant
part of the wood, as the four fled, thereby doing only what the
Riflemen of the Miami had before compelled many a body of Indians to
do.

A few minutes later, Lewis rose up and said:

"This way, gal; there's none of the imps left."

The girl, timidly raising her head, glanced about her, and then, Lewis'
invitation being repeated, she arose and walked toward him, looking
furtively backward as though still fearful of her late captors.

"Bless your dear soul," said Lewis, warmly welcoming her, "you've had a
skeery time with them Shawnees, but you're safe for the present. You
may set that down as a question that needn't be argued."

"Oh! how can I thank you for rescuing me! I can never, never repay
you," said she, with streaming eyes.

"Who the deuce wants you to pay us?" asked Tom, gruffly.

"Come, come, Tom, see whether you can't be civil once, even if you've
got to be sick for it. Don't mind him, little gal; he loves you all the
more for what he said."

"I know he does, or he would never have risked his life to save a
stranger as he has just done."

Tom, from some cause or other, was obliged to gouge his eye several
times with his crooked finger. One might have suspected that they were
more moist than usual, had he not looked particularly savage at that
moment. Dick, who, by the merest accident, glanced in his face was
nearly startled off his feet by the irascible fellow shouting:

"What you looking at? Say! Can't a chap rub his eyes without your
gaping at him that way?"

Dick meekly removed his gaze, while Tom looked ferocious enough to
annihilate the whole party.

The girl, just rescued from the Shawnees, was a comely maiden. Though
attired in the homespun garb of the backwoods, she would have attracted
attention in any society. If not beautiful, she certainly was handsome,
being possessed of a countenance rich with expression, and a form of
perfect grace. Blue eyes, golden hair, a well-turned head, small nose
and a health-tinted complexion, were characteristics to arrest the eye
of the most ordinary observer. Even under disadvantageous circumstances
like the present, these were so striking that they could but make an
impression, and a skillful reader of human nature would have seen that
Lewis had been _touched_--that, in short, the leader of the Riflemen of
the Miami had reached the incipient stages of the passion of passions,
in the short interview to which we have referred. That he would rather
have been scalped than have been suspected of it by his companions, was
very true.

Taking the small hands which were confidingly placed in his own, he
said;

"Let us hear all about this scrape, my little one."

"My home is, or was until night before last, many miles from here. On
that evening, I was left alone by my dearest friend, who little dreamed
of the danger which hovered over our house. The Indians must have been
aware of his absence, for, before it was fairly dark, three of them
stalked in the door without saying a word, and led me away. They have
traveled constantly ever since, and I was almost wearied to death, when
you came up, and by the assistance of kind Heaven, saved me. How came
you to be so interested in a stranger?"

"As for that matter," replied Lewis, "it ain't the first time, my
little one, that _we've_ been interested in strangers. I might say
we've a particular interest in all the whites and reds of this region.
The Riflemen of the Miami----"

"Are you the men who are known by that name?" asked the girl, with a
glowing countenance.

"At your service," replied Lewis, with a modest blush.

"Indeed, I have heard of you, and have heard your name blessed again
and again by the settlers further east."

"Which certainly is pleasant to us. As I was going to say, we were
coming down the Miami, this morning, when we chanced to strike the
trail of these identical Indians. It was easy enough to see that it was
but a short time since they had gone along, and, as it was in our line,
of course we jogged on after them. The red imps were taking it coolly,
and in a couple of hours or so we got sight of them going down the
river. Well, we followed on after them till they made their halt out
here, when--well, you know the rest."

"Of course she does," said Tom, "so what's the use of talking? What's
the gal want to do? Go back to her friends, I s'pose?"

"If you could take me there, I could not express my thankfulness."

"Where is it you belong?"

The girl gave the name of a settlement nearly a hundred miles distant.
Lewis bent his head a moment, as if deliberating something, and then
said:

"We've got a job on our hands that _must be done_ this very night, and
it is going to be such a lively one that it won't do to have you in the
vicinity. Consequently, although there isn't one of us but what would
risk his life to take you back to your friends, it can't be done _just
now_."

"You will not leave me?" plead the girl.

"Leave you? that's something the _Riflemen_, I make bold to say, never
did yet. No; of course we'll not _leave_ you. I'll tell you the plan.
About five miles off from the river, lives old Caleb Smith and his two
big sons, all as clever and kind as so many babies. We've got to be
back at our rendezvous to-night, where the other member of our company
is to meet us; and on our way there, we'll leave you at Old Smith's and
return for you in a few days. Won't that be the best we can do, Tom?"

"S'pose so."

The girl herself expressed great satisfaction at this conclusion; and,
as it was getting well along in the day, the Riflemen set out with
their charge. In due time they reached "Old Smith's house," who was
well known to them, and who received them with the most hearty
cordiality. He gladly took charge of the rescued girl, promising that
she should be guarded as much as if his own child. Just as the shadows
of evening were closing over the wood, the Riflemen took their
departure.

Three days later they returned to fulfill their promise to the girl,
when old Smith told them that, fearing some unexpected occurrence had
detained them, he had sent his two sons to conduct her to her home.



CHAPTER II.

THE SETTLERS.

    We will rear new trees under homes that glow
    As if gems were the frontage of every bough;
    O'er our white walls we will train the vine,
    And sit in its shadow at day's decline,
    And watch our herds as they range at will
    Through the green savannas, all bright and still.

                                              MRS. HEMANS.


The incident narrated in the preceding chapter occurred one autumn,
many years ago. In the spring succeeding this autumn, a company of
settlers, with their loaded teams, and unwieldy baggage, were making
their slow way through the labyrinths of an Ohio forest to a sparse
settlement buried many miles further in the wilderness.

At that day, so comparatively recent, such a sight was rarely witnessed
in this section, as a deep-rooted hostility existed between the
settlers and Indians, and an undertaking like the present was attended
with too great danger for it to be often repeated. The rut of a single
wagon, half obliterated by accumulated leaves and rankly-growing grass,
showed that this route had been traveled over but once before, and that
on the preceding season. At regular intervals, trees were passed with
chips hacked from their sides, the track having first been "blazed"
before being passed over.

Like the emigrant-party which had preceded it, the present one
possessed but a single wagon, drawn by two pair of slow but powerful
oxen. It had a substantial cover, beneath which were stowed an immense
quantity of baggage and some six or eight children, including also four
women, two of whom were married and two unmarried. At the side of the
front oxen walked the driver, whose whole attention was devoted to
their direction. Several yards in advance rode two horsemen, and beside
them three men plodded forward on foot. In the rear, scarcely a yard
behind the lumbering wagon, walked "old Caleb Smith," and his two
overgrown sons, as proud of them as was any monarch of his favorite
generals. In addition to the men enumerated, there were three more--who
may properly be called the scouts of the party. One of these was a
couple of hundred yards in advance, stealing his way along, as
carefully as if pursued by an unrelenting foe, his whole soul occupied
in watching for signs of the dusky red-men of the woods. At a somewhat
less distance on either side of the road, and in such a position as to
be opposite the wagon, was one of the remaining scouts, as watchful,
vigilant and skillful as the one referred to. Thus the party
progressed, neglecting no precaution that could make their safety more
secure, and although numerically small, still far more powerful than
were many emigrant-parties who had preceded them in penetrating other
portions of the Great West.

One of the young women, that we have mentioned as being in the wagon,
was Edith Sudbury, the heroine of the preceding chapter. She had not a
single relation among all those around her, and it was certainly
singular that she should have united her destinies with those who,
several months before, were entirely unknown to her. But, though not
related, every one was her friend. Her amiable disposition, her grace
and beauty of manners, her own prepossessing appearance, and above all,
her unremitting kindness to every one with whom she came in contact,
had won upon the hearts of all. Old Smith's two sons, Jim and Harry,
one eighteen the other twenty, both over six feet in height, looked
upon "little Edith" as nothing more than a baby, and woe betide the one
who dared to offer her harm or insult in their presence!

"I say, father, how much further ahead is that creek we've got to
cross?" asked Jim, in a free and easy manner, as he would have spoken
to an equal.

"Well, sonny, it must be nigh on to ten mile."

"Won't get over afore morning then?"

"Don't expect to, as you see it's well along in the after noon."

"Let's see--we've come over forty mile, hain't we?"

"Yes, Jim, nearer fifty."

"Well, we're that much nearer the settlement, _that's_ certain. If we
get over the creek without much trouble with the oxen, we may fetch up
there by sundown, eh?"

"That's the expectation, I believe."

"Provided, of course, _the Injins don't make trouble_."

"Sh! not so loud, Jim," continued Harry. "They might hear us in the
wagon, and I don't s'pose you'd want to scare Edith, when there's no
need of it."

"I should like to see any one try that same thing on 'em. They'd be
somebody else scared, I reckon. But, father," asked Jim, in an earnest
whisper, "how is it about the Injins? We haven't seen a sign of one
yet, and that's what gets me."

The parent and his children fell a few yards further behind, and
commenced conversing together in suppressed voices.

"I tell you what, boys," said the father, "it won't do to expect to get
through without hot work. I've been talking with the scouts, and they
think the same. I believe a number are following us, and waiting only
for the proper place to come in upon us."

"Where do you suppose that will be?"

"_The creek!_"

"Shouldn't wonder if 'twas," said Harry, in a matter-of-fact tone; "if
we only had the women-folks out the way, we might count on some tall
fun. I wish Edith was taken care of."

"That's the deuce of it. I should think she got enough of the imps last
autumn, when the Riflemen left her at our house; but that's the
_Injin_, especially the Shawnee part of it. If there's any chance to
get scalps with long hair, they're bound to do it. However, boys, it
won't do to lose heart."

"That's the fact, father, and I reckon none of this crowd intend to do
that thing just now. Sam, in front, isn't likely to get asleep, is he?"

"No danger of him. They say he never shuts both eyes at the same time."

"I'll answer for them on the sides of the road," added Harry. "If
there's a greasy Shawnee in a mile, Jake Laughlin will scent him. You
mind the time, Jim, when he went with us over into Kentucky, and he
saved us from running into that ambush?"

"'Tain't likely I'll ever forget it, being I got my arm bored with some
of their lead."

"Well, that affair satisfied me that Jake Laughlin understands as much
as it is worth while to understand about Injin deviltries, and that he
ain't likely to be blind when there's so much to practice eyesight on."

"I'd give our yoke of oxen this minute, if I could only set eyes on Lew
Dernor and his boys, the Riflemen of the Miami," said the parent.
"They've been long together, as I s'pose, and have been in more Injin
fights and scrimmages than any men living, and yet not one of them has
been grazed by a bullet. There's Tom O'Hara, whose legs are so short
that he's about as tall when he sits down as he is when he stands up,
and yet, I'll be hanged if he isn't the luckiest one of the lot.
They're a wonderful set of boys, are those Riflemen."

"Father," said son Jim, with a meaning smile, "you remember the night
that Lew brought Edith to our house?"

"Of course I do."

"Didn't it strike you that he acted queerly then?"

"What do you mean? I don't understand you. I noticed nothing."

"I did. I saw how he watched Edith, and I made up my mind that he was
in _love with her_! Since then I've found out it _was_ so!"

"Why, Jim, I never dreamed of such a thing. He hasn't been to our house
since to see her."

"Just because he _is_ in love! I've met him in the woods a dozen times
since, and by the way in which he questioned me, I'd been a downright
fool if I hadn't understood him."

This avowal seemed to trouble the father, as he bent his head; and, for
a while, nothing further was said. But Jim, who had little reverence
for sentiment or romance, added, in a meaning voice:

"That isn't all, father."

"What else have you to tell?"

"That Edith loves him!"

"Thunder! I don't believe it."

"Well, I can't say _positively_ that she does; but I know she _likes_
him, and if Lew Dernor has a mind he can get her. You don't appear to
like it, father."

"I don't care much, but the gal seems so like my own da'ter, being I
never had any, that I should hate despritly to lose her."

"Fudge! it's got to come to that sooner or later, and who could she get
better than Lew Dernor, the leader of the Miami Riflemen?"

"None, that's the fact, but----"

A footstep attracted their attention, and looking up, they saw Jake
Laughlin step into view. He raised his hand, as if to command silence,
jerking his thumb at the same time significantly toward the wagon and
the rest of the settlers. He stepped carefully into the wagon-track,
and the father and sons halted.

"It's so," said he, nodding his head several times.

"Are you sure?"

"I've seen sign a half-dozen times since noon."

"Shawnees, I s'pose?"

"Yes. There are plenty of them in the woods."

"What are they waiting for?"

"The chance. There ain't enough, and we're too wide awake to allow them
to attack us at present. They're waiting to take us off our guard or to
get us at disadvantage. I've an idee where that'll be."

"The creek?"

"Most certainly. There's where the tug of war will come, and I think if
we should encamp to-night without a guard there would be no danger of
attack from the Shawnees."

"Are you going to warn others?"

"Not until night, I think, as there is no necessity for it."

"Well, we don't need to tell you to be on the look-out. You know we've
got a lot of women-folks to take care of."

"Never fear."

With this, Laughlin stole back into the wood, as cautiously as he had
emerged from it, and the father and his sons quickened their pace in
order to gain the ground they had lost. As they resumed their places in
the rear of the wagon, no one would have suspected from their actions
and appearance, that they had been conversing upon a subject so
important to all.

It was about the middle of the afternoon, and the emigrant-party
plodded patiently forward, chatting and conversing upon ordinary topics
with such pleasantry and zest that no one would have suspected the
least thought of danger had entered their heads. So long as the silence
of the scouts continued, the emigrants knew there was no cause for
alarm. Should danger threaten, they would be warned in time.

An hour later, as they were proceeding quietly along, the near report
of a rifle broke upon their ears. Every face blanched, and every heart
beat faster at the startling signal of danger. This it meant, and
nothing else; and the members of the company instinctively halted, and
made a partial preparation for an attack. They had scarcely done so,
when Laughlin, with his cat-like tread, stepped in among them.

"What made you fire, Jake?" asked Dravoond, one of the leaders of the
party.

"Me fire? I haven't pulled trigger since I shot the wild turkey
yesterday. It must have been Sam or Myrick."

As he spoke, the latter two, who were the other scouts, also made their
appearance, when, to the surprise of all, it was discovered that
neither of them had fired the alarming shot. Consequently, it must have
been done by a stranger. The moment this fact became known, the scouts
separated and resumed their duties, while the emigrants, after a short
consultation, moved on again, more slowly and carefully than before.

On the whole, although the report of the rifle could not be explained
by any of the emigrants, the majority were disposed to take it rather
as a favorable sign than otherwise. If made by an Indian, it could not
have been done accidentally, for such a thing rarely if ever was known
among them; and, as it could not have been fired by an enemy, with the
full knowledge of the vicinity of the emigrants, the savages, if
savages they were, must either be unaware of the latter fact, or else
the strange shot came from a white man.

If there were lurking Indians in the wood, ignorant of the presence of
the whites, they were soon apprised, for both of the leading oxen, who
had not done such a thing for days, now paused and bellowed
terrifically for several moments. The driver endeavored to check their
dreadful noise by whacking them over the heads, but it availed nothing.
They were determined, and continued the clamor, pausing now and then,
as though pleased with the echo, which could be heard rolling through
the woods for over a mile distant. Having finished, they resumed their
progress, as if satisfied with what they had done.

"Father, them's our oxen," said Jim, "and, by thunder, if they bawl out
that way agin I'll shoot 'em both. How far did you say the settlement
is off?"

"Forty or fifty miles. Why do you ask again?"

"Nothin', only if they've put any of their babies asleep to-day, them
oxen have set them all to squalling agin."

The sun was getting well down toward the horizon, and the dim twilight
was wrapping the woods in its mantle, when the teamster halted the
oxen, and the emigrants commenced their preparations for the
encampment. The wagon was left standing in its tracks, the oxen simply
unfastened, and with their yokes on, led to where some bundles of hay
were spread upon the ground. A large fire was soon blazing and
crackling a short distance away, around which the women were engaged in
preparing the evening meal, while the men, who wandered hither and
thither apparently without any definite object, neglected no precaution
which could insure them against attack through the night. The three
scouts had extended their beats several hundred yards, and completely
reconnoitered the ground intervening between them and the camp-fire, so
that they felt some assurance of safety as they joined their friends in
the evening meal.

Just as they all had finished partaking of this, a second rifle report,
as near to them as was the first, broke the stillness. The men started
to their feet and grasped their weapons. They gazed all around them, as
if expecting the appearance of some one, but failing to see any thing,
commenced speculating upon the cause of this singular repetition of
what had puzzled them so at first.

"It beats my larning to explain it," said old Smith.

"I tell you what it is," said son Harry, "that ain't an Injin's piece,
nohow you can fix it."

"How do you know that?" queried brother Jim.

"It's the same gun we heard this afternoon, and when you see a Shawnee
do that I'll believe our oxen don't know how to beller."

"We must be ready, my friends, for the worst," said one of the
emigrants, who, up to this time, had not referred to the danger at all.

Another reconnoissance was made by the scouts, but with no better
success than before. The darkness of the wood was such that they
labored at great disadvantage, and it would have been no difficult
matter for a single person to have remained concealed within a short
distance of the whites.

As the night progressed, the females and children retired to the wagon,
and the men chose their stations around it. The oxen, one by one, sunk
heavily to the earth, contentedly chewing their cuds, and a stillness
as profound as that of the tomb settled upon the forest. The fire had
smouldered to a few embers, which glowed with a dim redness through the
ashes, and occasionally disclosed a shadowy form as it hurried by.

Several of the men were sleeping soundly, for enough were on duty as
sentinels to make them feel as much ease as it was possible to feel
where they could never be assured of perfect safety. Two of the most
faithful sentinels were Jim and Harry Smith, who were stationed within
a few feet of each other. Now and then they exchanged a word or two,
but the risk was too great to attempt any thing like a continued
conversation.

Three separate times Jim was sure he heard a footstep near him, and as
often did he turn his head and fail to discover the meaning of it.
Finally, he caught a glimpse of some one as he brushed hurriedly by and
disappeared in the darkness. He raised his gun, and was on the point of
firing, when he lowered it again. The thought that probably it was a
white man, and a dislike to give the camp a groundless alarm, was the
cause of this failure to fire.

Several times again through the night did he detect a foot-fall, but he
was not able to catch sight of the stranger. Shortly after midnight the
evidences of his visit ceased, and Jim concluded that he had withdrawn
so as to be beyond sight when daylight broke.

What was his surprise, therefore, when he saw, as the gray light of
morning stole through the wood, the form of a man seated on the ground,
with his head reclining against a tree and sound asleep. If this
surprise was great, it became absolute amazement when he examined his
features, and saw that the man was no other than Lewis Dernor, the
leader of the Riflemen of the Miami! Jim could scarce believe his
senses as he walked forward and shook the sleeper by the shoulder.

"I should as soon have expected to see Mad Anthony himself as to see
you, Lew Dernor, sitting here sound asleep," said he, as the Rifleman
opened his eyes and looked about him. A smile crossed his handsome
countenance as he replied:

"I believe I have been sleeping."

"I believe you have, too. Have you been hanging around here all night?"

"Yes, and all day, too."

"And was it you who fired those shots?"

"I fired my rifle once or twice, I believe."

"Good! Well, Lew, we're glad to see you, and we would be a deuced sight
gladder if we could see the rest of the Riflemen. Where are they?"

"Up the Miami, I suppose. At any rate, that's where I left them."

"Well, I'm afraid we're getting into hot water here, Lew, to tell the
truth, and there's no one whose face would be more welcome just now
than yours. I see they are beginning to wake up and show themselves.
Gavoon has started the fire, so s'pose we go in and you make yourself
known."

The hunter followed young Smith to the camp, where, in a short time, he
met and shook hands with most of the settlers, who were indeed glad
enough to see him; and this gladness was increased to delight when he
expressed his willingness to accompany them across the dreaded creek.
In the course of a half-hour the females began to make their
appearance. Near by was a small stream where they performed their
ablutions, which finished, they gathered around the camp-fire, and
busied themselves with preparing the breakfast of the party.

Dernor, the Rifleman, was conversing with one of the settlers, when
some one touched him on the shoulder. Looking around, he encountered
his friend, Jim Smith.

"Here's a person I s'pose you've no objection to see," said he, with a
light laugh.

The bronzed face of the hunter deepened its hue as he saw Edith Sudbury
approaching, and although gifted with a natural grace of manner, he
displayed some embarrassment as he advanced to greet her. Her conduct,
too, was not without its suspicious air. Rosy and fresh as the flowers
of the green woods around, perhaps the carnation of her cheeks was
caused only by the morning exercise. Jim noticed these manifestations,
and quietly smiled, but said nothing.

In regard to the Rifleman, at least, he was right. As that brave and
gallant-hearted ranger wandered through the grand old forests of Ohio,
and the cane-brakes of the "Dark and Bloody Ground," a fair face had
haunted his waking and dreaming hours. As he knelt beside the sparkling
brook to slake his thirst, he beheld the same features reflected beside
his own in its mirror-like surface. As alone he threaded his way
through the labyrinths of those dim solitudes, he had a fairy companion
as faithful to him as his own shadow. And when with his tried and
faithful followers, it was the same. Only in the excitement of the
fight, or the moments when his strategic skill was in rivalry with that
of his dusky enemies, did this shadowy being cease to haunt him. Night
and day, it was the same--and now he had met the _reality_, and was
conversing with her.

The conversation lasted but a few minutes. The services of Edith were
needed, and she tripped away to assist the others at their duties. As
she disappeared, Jim came up and laughingly remarked to the Rifleman:

"A fine girl that, Lewis."

"Indeed she is. I never have heard her name--that is, nothing more than
Edith. What is the rest?"

"Sudbury--Edith Sudbury."

The hunter started, as if bitten by a rattlesnake, and turned as pale
as death. Young Smith noticed his emotion, and asked, with some alarm:

"What's the matter, Lew? What is there about that name that so troubles
you?"

"Never mind, Jim. I did not think it was _her_!"

Smith had too much natural kindness of heart to refer to a subject so
painful to the hunter, although his curiosity was great to know what
could possibly have affected him so strangely. As nothing further was
said by Dernor, this curiosity remained unsatisfied for a long time.

The emigrant-party shortly after was under way. When within a mile or
so of the creek to which we have referred, one of the scouts
reconnoitered it, and came in with the report that quite a body of
Shawnees were on its banks, and beyond a doubt were waiting for the
company to come up. Dernor coincided in this opinion, and held a
consultation with the male members of the party. The result of this
consultation was a determination on his part to make all haste to the
rendezvous of the Riflemen of the Miami, and bring them hither, the
settlers agreeing to halt and await their arrival. The danger that
menaced them was certainly great to make this step necessary.



CHAPTER III.

THE RIFLEMEN OF THE MIAMI.

    There they sat and chatted gayly, while the flickering of the blaze
    Led the shadows on their faces in a wild and devious maze;
    And among them, one I noted, unto whom the rest gave place,
    Which was token he was foremost in the fight or in the chase.

                                                DR. ENGLISH.


One cold, drizzly, sleety day, in a winter toward the latter part of
the last century, a party of Shawnee Indians crossed from the Kentucky
cane-brakes into Ohio. Penetrating its deep, labyrinthine forests, they
came upon a double cabin, where dwelt two widows, with several
children. These they inhumanly massacred, and burnt their dwellings to
the ground. Then, laden with their plunder, they set out on their
return to Kentucky.

It so happened that two brothers, George and Lewis Dernor, who were
upon a hunting expedition in this section, came upon the burning cabin
within an hour after the savages had left it. They saw by the numerous
tracks that the party was too large for them to think of attacking;
nevertheless, they took the trail with the resolution of ascertaining
to what tribe the savages belonged; and, if possible, to pick off one
or two, as a slight payment for the outrage they had committed.
Following on for several miles, they gained a glimpse of them, as they
crossed a ridge, and discovered, as they had suspected all along, that
they were a party of Shawnees returning to Kentucky, although the
majority of this tribe of Indians at this time had their towns in Ohio.
A half-hour later, by signs known only to experienced woodmen, they
became convinced that some one else was also upon the trail of the
Indians. After a great amount of maneuvering and stratagetic
reconnoitering, they learned that it was a hunter like themselves, and
no other but their old friend Dick Allmat. Accompanied by him, they
continued the pursuit, and a mile further on, discovered that still
another person was dogging the Shawnees. Pretty certain that this must
also be a friend, they managed to make themselves known to him without
the tedious ceremony which had characterized their introduction to
Allmat. He proved to be Tom O'Hara, whose utmost exertions were
necessary to keep pace with the retreating savages. He was in a perfect
fury that they should proceed so fast, when he could see no necessity
for it, and was half tempted to expend some of his wrath upon those of
his friends who laughed at his discomfiture.

The party, now numbering four experienced hunters, felt considerable
confidence in their strength, and the proposition was made to attack
the Shawnees. The latter numbered seven or eight, and from their
deliberate and incautious movements, it was manifest, had not learned
that they were pursued. Perhaps they believed no white man could brave
the blinding, seething storm then raging, for they neglected those
precautions which seem to be second nature with the North American
Indian.

The proposition made by Lewis Dernor was agreed to, and the plan
matured. The conflict took place in a sort of open hollow, and probably
was one of the most sanguinary personal conflicts that ever occurred on
the frontier. The hunters came out of it with no wounds worth
mentioning, while only two of the savages escaped. These plunged into
the woods, and disappeared with the speed of the wind, and the whites
were left undisputed masters of the field.

This was by no means the first outrage which had been committed by
similar bands of Indians, and just at this particular time the arm of
the General Government was so weakened from the repeated disastrous
campaigns against them, that they insulted the whites with impunity,
and entertained, in reality, no fear at all of punishment or
retribution. This was the subject of conversation with the hunters, and
so impressed them, that Lewis Dernor proposed that they should bind
themselves together for an indefinite period, (which was not intended
to be over a couple of years or so at the most,) to do their utmost to
check the monstrous outrages which were becoming so common along the
border. The four hunters mentioned were well known to each other, and
had the reputation of being the best riflemen and woodmen of any then
known. In addition to this, they were all unmarried, and without any
prospects of changing their condition; consequently they were at
perfect liberty to wander whither they pleased.

The proposition was considered, and received a unanimous and
enthusiastic response from all. The brothers Dernor, in their hunting
expeditions, had spent several nights in a cave along the Miami, which
they had discovered by accident, and which afforded them not only a
comfortable, but also a perfect concealment. It was agreed that this
should be their rendezvous, and in order that all might learn its
locality, and the manner of approach to it, the following night was
spent within it.

Now commences the history of the Riflemen of the Miami, as they were
christened by the settlers, to whom their exploits soon became known,
and as they were proud to acknowledge themselves. Instead of disbanding
at the end of two years, as was originally contemplated, this
confederation had an existence for over a dozen years. They
participated in Anthony Wayne's great battle with the Indians, in 1794,
where two of the members fell, and which concluded their history, as
the surviving members retired to private life, and were too old to
participate in the Tecumseh's war of 1812.

It would require a volume to detail the exploits of these Riflemen.
Unlike many other confederations that were formed about this period,
their only object was that of self-defense, and of offering protection
to the settlers who were constantly penetrating the Great West. No
innocent Indians ever suffered at their hands, and many was the one
they befriended and assisted in his extremity. But woe betide the
offender that fell into their hands. To the cruel they were unsparing;
to the merciless they showed no mercy. While their name was loved and
revered by the whites, it was feared and execrated by the savages. The
Shawnees were unusually active and vindictive at this time, and it was
with them that the most frequent encounters took place. The incident
detailed in the first chapter was but one among many that were
constantly occurring, and it scarcely equaled in importance numerous
exploits that they had before performed.

There was a fifth member, who joined the Riflemen only a year or two
previous to the period in which we design to notice their actions more
particularly. He was known as Ferdinand Sego, and became a member from
a part which he performed one night on the Ohio, when the Riflemen were
attacked by three times their number. He displayed such activity, skill
and courage, that he was importuned to unite with them, although, up to
this time, they had refused to receive any accessions to their number.
He consented, and from that time forward the Riflemen of the Miami
numbered five hunters.

Sego joined them, however, with the understanding that he should be
obliged to absent himself from time to time. At regular intervals he
left them, and was gone sometimes for over a week. As he had no rifle,
the cause of these excursions remained a mystery to his friends until
he chose to reveal it himself. It then turned out that it was nothing
less than a female that exercised such a potent influence upon him.
Sego, as he became intimately acquainted with his friends, often spoke
of this girl, and of the great affection he bore her. One day he gave
her name--Edith Sudbury. This excited no unusual interest, until Lewis
Dernor learned, on the day that he encountered the emigrants, that he
and Sego loved the same girl!

This was the cause of his unusual agitation, and the pain he felt at
hearing her name pronounced. He entertained the strongest friendship
for Sego, but, until he had met Edith, he had never known any thing, by
experience, of the divine power of our nature. When he did love,
therefore, it was with his whole soul and being. His companions, less
sagacious in sentimental affairs than worldly, failed to divine the
cause of the singular actions of their leader, who did his utmost to
conceal it from them. Little did he dream, as he listened to the
enthusiastic praises of Edith by Sego, that it was the being who
constantly occupied his thoughts. But the truth had broken upon him
like a peal of thunder at midday.

On the day succeeding Lewis' departure from the settlers, three of his
men, O'Hara, Dernor and Allmat, stood on the banks of the Miami,
several hundred yards above their rendezvous. The sky was clear and
sunshiny, and they were making ready for a trial of skill with their
rifles. From where they stood, the most practiced eye would have failed
to discover any spot which could possibly afford shelter for one of
their number, much less for them all. But beneath a cluster of bushes,
projecting from the upper edge of the bank, was an orifice, barely
sufficient to admit the passage of a man's body. Entering this, on his
hands and knees, he was ushered into a subterranean cave, dark, but of
ample dimensions to accommodate a dozen men. It was furnished with
blankets and the skins of different animals, and each of the Riflemen
took especial pride in decorating and fixing it up for their
convenience.

Dick paced off two hundred yards, and then chipped a small piece from
the trunk of a beech tree along the river-bank, as a target for their
weapons. As he stepped one side, O'Hara raised his piece, and scarcely
pausing to take aim, fired. Instead of striking the mark, he missed it
by fully two inches. When this was announced, he turned round, and with
an impatient exclamation, demanded:

"Who fired that gun last?"

"I believe I did," replied Dernor.

"You just touch it again, and you'll never touch another rifle. Do you
know what you have done?"

"Know what I've done? Of course I do. I've fired it."

"_You've put a spell on it._"

"The deuce! Try it again!"

O'Hara shook his head.

"It would never miss such a mark as that unless it was bewitched. I've
got to melt up that money of mine, or the thing will never be worth a
half-penny again."

When a Kentuckian's gun is bewitched, or has a "spell upon it," the
only way in which he can free it of its enchantment, is by firing a
silver bullet from it. Unless this is done, they steadfastly believe it
can never be relied upon afterward.

O'Hara, accordingly, produced his bullet-mould, kindled a fire, which
required much more blowing and care to fuse the metal than it did to
melt lead or pewter. But he succeeded at last, melting down all his
spare change to make the small, shining bullet. This was rammed down
his gun, a deliberate aim taken, and Dick announced that it had struck
the mark plumb in the center. The charm was gone!

It would be uninteresting to narrate the different methods by which
each of the three men demonstrated his remarkable skill with his
favorite weapon. They fired at different distances, at objects in the
air, and in each others' hands, and then discharged their pieces on a
run, wheeling as quick as thought. Although the weapon used was the old
flint-lock rifle, the dexterity exhibited by each could scarcely be
excelled by that of the most famous sharp-shooters of the present day,
with their improved guns. The exercise was continued for over two
hours, when, as O'Hara was reloading his piece, the report of a rifle
was heard upon the opposite side of the Miami, and the bullet whizzed
within an inch of O'Hara's face. As all three looked across the river,
they saw a faint, bluish wreath rising from the shrubbery, but no signs
of the one who had fired the shot.

"I guess his gun has had a spell put on it," said O'Hara, sneeringly.

"And I guess you'll get a spell put on you, if he tries that again,"
remarked Dick, carefully scrutinizing the opposite bank.

"Why doesn't he show himself, the coward? Like enough there is a whole
party of Shawnees----"

"Sh! Something moved over there."

"He's going to cross, I'll be shot if he isn't."

A splash was now heard, as though something had been cast upon the
surface of the water, and a moment later, a small Indian canoe, in
which was seated a single person, shot from beneath the shrubbery,
skimming over the river like a swallow, and headed directly toward the
spot where the Riflemen were standing. Dick raised his rifle, but
instantly lowered it with a laugh.

"It's nobody but Lew himself. He just fired to scare us."

Propelled by a single paddle, the frail boat sped onward with great
celerity, and its prow, in a few moments, grated lightly against the
shingle at the feet of the hunters, and their leader stepped forth.

"Been practicing, I see," he remarked.

"A little; _you_ tried your hand, also."

Lewis smiled, as he replied:

"A little fun, of course; but we've got better business on hand."

"Let's hear it, for we are ready for any thing."

"A lot of settlers are going through the woods, down below, and they
need company, for the Shawnees have scented them as sure as the world.
I've promised them that we will see them through--where's Sego?"
suddenly asked the leader, looking around, as if searching for the one
mentioned.

"He went off yesterday."

"That's unlucky, for we shall need him, too. Will he be back to-day?"

"He said he expected to return this afternoon."

"We will wait for him, then, though they need us, most certainly."

"It's the first time Sego has been off in a good while," said Dick,
"and I don't know what started him this time."

Lewis thought that he would give a good deal if he knew, although he
chose to say nothing about it. An hour or more was spent in
conversation, when the four sauntered carelessly toward the cave, the
canoe first having been pulled high enough upon the bank to make it
secure against being washed away by the current. They did not enter the
cave, but passed it, and returned after it was fairly dark, when they
were certain that no prying eyes had seen them.

When morning dawned, Sego had not returned, and Lewis was undetermined
whether to wait longer for him, or to go on at once. The case was
urgent, but the need of Sego's arm was also urgent, and he concluded to
wait still further. The forenoon, the afternoon, and finally the night
came and went, without bringing any signs of the absentee, and at
daylight on this day, Lewis and his men made ready to start, resolved
not to lose another moment. As they passed down to the river's edge,
the delinquent made his appearance and joined them. They crossed the
Miami in the canoe--its lightness rendering it necessary to make the
passage twice--and plunging in the forest, made all haste toward the
settlers.

Meanwhile, the prolonged absence of the Riflemen, was the occasion of
much speculation and anxiety upon the part of the emigrants. When Lewis
had named the period at which he expected to join them with his men,
they all knew he had allowed himself the widest limit, and fully
intended to return within the time specified.

When, therefore, this hour passed, they certainly had sufficient
grounds for their anxiety and uneasiness, and some of the men did not
hesitate to express their conviction that the Riflemen would not come
at all. Not that they would willingly fail to keep their appointment,
but it was more than probable that circumstances had arisen which
prevented it.

The settlers remained encamped until thirty hours beyond the time of
the expected arrival of the Riflemen, when every one had given up all
hope of seeing them, and it was agreed to move on to the banks of the
creek. The scouts, who had been constantly busy, reported that no signs
of Indians were visible in the vicinity, and strong hopes were
entertained that they would be able to cross without disturbance.

"Before venturing into that same piece of water," said Smith, "I
propose that another examination of the woods be made, and that some of
us wade over first to see how deep the stream is."

The latter suggestion had already been acted upon by the scouts several
times, but, as all shared the feeling of Smith, the scouts, joined this
time by the old man's two sons, set out to act upon his proposal. After
examining the bank upon which they stood, with the greatest care, for
several hundred yards both above and below, they returned with the
report that no signs of danger had been discovered.

Two of them now entered the creek in front of the oxen, and commenced
wading across. It would be impossible to depict the anxiety, intense
apprehension, and almost terror with which they were regarded by their
friends upon the shore. One was Laughlin and the other Harry Smith, and
mixed with the parents' natural uneasiness, was a pride which glowed
upon his face at seeing his son so unhesitatingly facing danger. Had he
known that the most imminent peril threatened him, the wealth of the
Indias would not have tempted him to call him back.

Step by step the two men advanced across the creek, the water in no
place being above their knees, until they stepped upon dry land once
more. This was the culminating point of anxiety with their friends.
This apprehension now became so intense as to be painful and almost
unbearable. Some ten or fifteen minutes (which seemed hours to the
waiting friends) was spent in reconnoitering the shore, after which the
two stepped into the station and set out on their return. They had
taken but a step or two, when they suddenly drew back, and Laughlin
made a signal of danger to the settlers, the cause of which was
instantly seen by all.



CHAPTER IV.

THE PASSAGE OF THE CREEK.

    Be set forever in disgrace
    The glory of the red-man's race,
    If from the foe we turn our face,
    Or safety seek in flight!--G. P. MORRIS.


Laughlin's signal of danger was accompanied by a meaning motion up the
creek, intended to direct the attention of the settlers to that point.
Looking in the direction indicated, they saw what at first appeared
nothing but a mere log or stump floating on the water, but what, upon a
closer inspection, it was evident, had a deeper significance than that.
It was near the center of the current, drifting slowly downward,
impelled certainly by nothing more than the force of the stream itself.
As it came nearer, it proved to be three trees, partly trimmed of their
branches, and secured together, a contrivance in the formation of which
the hand of man most surely must have been concerned.

"Some Injin deviltry!" muttered the older Smith, as he lay on his face
with the other settlers. "It'll be dangerous to be too curious. Jest
keep an eye on the concern, from where you lie, and if you see a
top-knot, blaze away."

At this moment, a low whistle from the scouts on the opposite bank
warned all that this was no time for carelessness; and ceasing their
whispered remarks, the men turned their whole attention toward the
object in question. The children were all lying down in the wagon, and
the women crouched so low that no stray shot could reach them. The
greatest worriment was over the oxen. As they stood, lazily chewing
their cuds, their horns and eyes could be plainly seen from the creek,
so that any foes concealed in the raft could shoot one or all of them,
and thus inflict an irreparable injury upon the whites. Although it was
possible that such an occurrence might take place, yet it was hardly
probable the shots would be expended upon such "small" game.

When directly opposite the settlers, the logs in question underwent a
most searching scrutiny from both shores, the result of which was the
conviction that no human being was nearer the suspicious object than
those engaged in scrutinizing it. Whatever had been the intention of
the Indians--for Indians undoubtedly they were who had formed the
raft--they had declined to risk their own persons upon it, as it
drifted down the current. This was so plain, that Laughlin called out:

"You needn't be skeart, boys, there's no Injin _thar_; so jest drive in
and cross."

"Take another look first," cried out one of the settlers. "There are
Indians _somewhere_ in these parts, for those trees never grew together
like that."

The advice of the settler was so sensible and timely, that Laughlin and
Smith acted upon it at once, withdrawing some yards from the stream and
proceeding some distance up it, with the same caution that had
characterized all their movements. The result of this reconnoissance
was the same as the other. If there were any savages at all in the
vicinity, they were so carefully concealed that the skill of the two
whites could avail nothing in discovering them. This being reported,
preparations were resumed for crossing.

It should be remarked, that the creek, a short distance above the
fording-place, made a bend, thus limiting the view of the whites
considerably. This being the case, the other son of Smith stationed
himself at this curve, to give notice of the approach of any danger.
Every thing being in readiness, the oxen were driven into the water,
which was accomplished very easily, as all four were thirsty.

The progress was necessarily slow, the wheels of the wagon sinking so
deep in the muddy bottom that the united efforts of the four powerful
oxen were barely able to move it. The deepest portion was passed ere
one-third of the stream was crossed, the men being compelled to place
their hands to the wheels to keep them moving.

It was at this moment, and just as the wagon-body raised several inches
from the water, that an exclamation from young Smith startled all.
Looking toward him, they saw him raise his rifle and fire at something
in the creek, and then fall flat on his face. The next moment a raft,
precisely similar to the first, came in view, floating somewhat nearer
the left bank, so that it would pass between the shore and the wagon,
provided the latter remained stationary.

"There are Injins on that," called out Smith from his hiding-place. "I
seen their top-knots."

The whites understood their peril at once. The oxen were lashed and
goaded, until they slipped on their faces in their efforts to pull the
wagon forward, while the men caught the wheels and turned them round
and round without moving the wagon a particle. All depended upon
reaching the shore before the Indians could come upon them, for, beyond
a doubt, there were Indians concealed upon the raft which was so
rapidly nearing them. For a dozen feet or so the wagon moved readily;
but at this point it sunk below the hubs, and the united strength of
men and oxen utterly failed to move it--this, too, occurring when the
position was such that the approaching raft must pass so close as
almost to touch it!

"No use, boys," called out Mr. Smith. "Get your rifles ready for the
imps."

Most of the men had placed their guns in the wagon while toiling at the
wheels, and they now caught them and stood on the defensive. As yet,
nothing could be seen of the savages who were concealed upon the raft,
but a moment later, the logs swerved over toward the shore which the
settlers had just left. Thus it was plain that the Indians, seeing the
true state of affairs, were as anxious to avoid the collision as the
whites had been. The water being shallow, they were able to place their
feet upon the bottom, and thus move the raft readily. As is generally
the case, the courage of the whites increased in proportion as they
discovered that of the Indians diminishing, and the proposal was made
by one to wade over to the contrivance and demolish it. The better
sense of the others, however, prevailed, and they maintained the
defensive only.

As the raft came down-stream, it continued veering over to the shore so
much, that if it passed the wagon at all, it would do so by a safe
distance. All at once, as the expectant settlers were looking at it
with the most acute attention, some one called out:

"Look _under_ the concern."

All, of course, did so, and all distinctly saw in the clear water,
directly under the raft, some ten or twelve human feet walking along on
the bottom. Not only the feet themselves, but the legs, as far up as
the knees, could be seen, and they formed a most curious sight mixing
promiscuously together, as it seemed, while moving forward. The raft
thus had the appearance of some great aquatic monster, whose ridged
back floated on the surface, while his feet traversed the bottom. The
bodies of the Indians, of course, were above the current; but being
prone, the logs being arranged for that especial purpose, they were
effectually concealed from view.

In a moment, the raft floated over that portion of the river which had
been muddied by the passage of the wagon, and the feet of the Indians
became invisible. When they had crossed it, they were too far down to
be seen, and thus the logs went onward, moving so much faster than the
current that they left a wake behind them.

"All together now--once more!" said the older Smith, catching hold of
one of the wheels. The others did the same, and the oxen having had
sufficient rest the combined strength of all started the wagon, and a
few moments later it went up the bank on dry land and entered the
woods.

With a want of foresight that was unaccountable, the settlers had
failed to pay any further attention to the raft after it was fairly
below them. Perhaps it was the recollection of this that led the elder
Smith and one of his friends to walk down to the bank and look for it.
They descried it, lying against their own side of the creek, not more
than two hundred yards distant, and, at the very moment their eyes
rested upon it, they caught a shadowy glimpse of an Indian, as he
flitted noiselessly from it into the wood. As they waited and saw no
more, they rightly judged that he was the last one, the others having
landed entirely unobserved.

"That looks bad," said Smith, "we are not done with the rascals yet."

At this moment son Jim, who was still on the other side of the creek,
called out that eight Indians had landed, and were stealing up the
river bank to attack the party. His words were heard, and every man
dropped on his face in the wood, and with loaded rifles waited the
assault. They had scarcely done so when the sharp explosion of several
guns broke the stillness, and the two foremost oxen, with a wild bellow
of agony, sunk to the ground and died. The brutes behind them imitated
their motion, although operated upon solely by their own sense of
weariness. They thus unconsciously did the wisest thing possible under
the circumstances, as the shots that were afterward fired passed
harmlessly over them.

For the space of twenty minutes after this incident, a perfect silence
reigned in the wood. These twenty minutes were occupied by the Shawnees
in getting in a position to pick off the settlers. The latter could see
them dodging from tree to tree, and coming closer and closer every
moment. Emboldened by their immunity thus far, they became more
incautious, until several exposed themselves so plainly that the elder
Smith and one of the settlers fired precisely at the same moment, each
one shooting a savage dead. A whole volley was returned, several
bullets cutting the shrubbery and bushes over the heads of the
settlers, while others passed through the wagon-covering, evidently
fired with intent against the women and children in it. These shots
accomplished nothing, as the latter kept their heads below the top of
the heavy oaken sides, which were proof against the best rifle ever
discharged.

The two shots of the settlers for a time created a sort of panic with
the Indians. They retreated far more rapidly than they had come up, and
in a few moments were invisible. The whites were too well versed in
Indian ways and strategy to take this as a genuine retreat, knowing
that in a few moments they would return more furious than ever.

There was an advantage in favor of the settlers of which, up to this
moment, they had not been aware. Some fifty yards below them was an
open space over forty feet in width, across which the Shawnees hurried
pell mell into the cover beyond. Here they were reinforced by some
half-dozen Indians of their own tribe, who had been in the vicinity and
had been attracted by the sound of firing. The assailants now numbered
about a dozen, and confident in their strength, made ready for the
final attack.

All this time young Smith, upon the opposite side of the creek, was
engaged in watching the Shawnees as well as he could from his covert.
He now called out to the whites that they were about to advance again,
and that he would pick off one at least as they passed across the open
space referred to. A moment later, the crack of his rifle showed that
he had kept his word and that the crisis of the contest was upon them.

Young Smith had fired just at the moment the foremost Indian came in
view. The other had advanced to a point about half way across the
opening, when five spouts of flame burst from the thick shrubbery upon
the opposite side of the creek; there was the simultaneous report of as
many rifles, and five messengers of death went tearing among the
Shawnees, mangling, killing and scattering them like chaff in the
whirlwind.

"_The Riflemen of the Miami!_" shouted Laughlin, in a delirium of joy,
springing to his feet and swinging his cap over his head. All eyes, in
a transport of pleasure, were turned toward the spot where the thin,
blueish smoke of their rifles was rising, but for a few moments nothing
was seen. At the expiration of that time, the manly form of Lewis
Dernor rose to view, and, with a nod of recognition, he stepped into
the stream and commenced wading across, closely followed by young
Smith, who, up to the moment of the discharge of the rifles, had no
more suspicion the hunters were in the vicinity than had the Shawnees
themselves.

It scarcely need be said that the welcome which the settlers extended
to the hunter was of the most hearty and genuine kind. Through his
instrumentality they felt they all had been saved from massacre at the
hands of the Shawnees.

"But where are your men?" asked several.

"Upon the opposite side. They will cross over shortly."

"And will they accompany us?"

"They will not leave you until you have reached your destination."

"The Indians will not trouble us again?"

"No, I think not; but the boys can go with you as well as not, and I
make this arrangement as a sort of compensation for my failure to keep
my appointment."

"Your absence did excite much wonder, but you came up in the nick of
time, most certainly."

"Sego, unconsciously, was the cause of our delay. He was absent at the
time I reached the Miami. We could have come on without him, of course;
but, as I was pretty sure a large body of Indians were going to attack
you, I thought it best not to come until we were all together."

The Rifleman spoke with such sadness that all noticed it and felt great
curiosity to know the cause. There was but one who dared to question
him, the elder Smith, and he at once called him aside.

"What's the matter, Lew?" he asked. "I never saw you act so odd. Come,
out with it."

"Oh, there's nothing the matter with me," replied Dernor, his very
manner showing an increase of his embarrassment.

"Yes, now, I know there is. Let's hear it."

The bronzed face of the hunter took a deeper hue as he asked:

"Is she--Edith with you?"

"Of course she is," laughed Smith, a dim, vague idea of his meaning
beginning to make its way through his brain.

"To tell the truth, then, Smith, there is one man of ours that I _must_
prevent from seeing her."

Smith looked up in amazement. Lewis proceeded:

"The distance from here to the settlement toward which you are
journeying is not more than forty miles. Let me take Edith and make
that journey alone. I have traveled the ground often enough, and I will
lead her through the woods safely and much sooner than you can perform
the same journey. This is the only favor I have ever asked or expect to
ask of you. Don't refuse it.

"Why, my heavens! who intended to refuse it? Take her? Of course you
may, provided she is willing, for where could she be safer than in the
charge of Lew Dernor? Nowhere, I cac'late."

"You please tell her that it is _necessary_, then, will you?"

Old Smith hastened away, and told Edith Sudbury that her own safety
demanded that she should place herself under the care of the hunter,
who would conduct her safely to the settlement. She exhibited some
natural hesitation at first, but having perfect confidence both in
Smith, who so long had acted the part of father toward her, and in
Dernor, who had manifested such interest in her welfare, she made her
preparations. Smith simply stated to the others that this singular
proceeding was imperatively necessary, and requested them not to refer
to it in the presence of the other hunters.

A few minutes later, the four remaining Riflemen stepped into the
stream, and commenced wading across. As they did so, Edith Sudbury and
the hunter plunged into the forest, and commenced their eventful
journey to the settlement.



CHAPTER V.

APPREHENSION.

    They're gone--again the red-men rally
      With dance and song the woods resound;
    The hatchet's buried in the valley;
      No foe profanes our hunting-ground!
    The green leaves on the blithe boughs quiver,
      The verdant hills with song-birds ring,
    While our bark canoes, the river
      Skim, like swallows on the wing.--G. P. MORRIS.


As the Riflemen reached the spot where the settlers were awaiting them,
the preparations for resuming the journey were instantly made. The dead
oxen were rolled to one side, and on the hardened ground the wagon was
easily dragged by the remaining yoke. The hunters and experienced men
of the party were certain that the Shawnees had fled, and that, for the
present at least, there was no further danger from them; but, in order
to quiet the fears of the women, a thorough examination of the
surrounding woods was made. This search resulted only in the discovery
of the dead bodies of the Indians. As the Riflemen never scalped a
savage, the bodies were left undisturbed.

"Where the deuce has Lew gone to?" demanded O'Hara, after several times
looking around him.

Those who were acquainted with the facts of the case looked in each
other's face, as if in doubt what to reply.

"Don't anybody know? eh? Say!" he repeated, in an angry voice.

"He's taken a near cut to the settlement," replied the elder Smith.

"_Anybody go with him?_"

"He took a female, believing that her safety demanded such a course."

"Lew never had more sense than he needed, and it's all gone now.
Cutting across through the woods with a gal," repeated O'Hara, in a
contemptuous tone. "Just as though she'd be safer with him than with
us. I hope the Shawnees will get on his trail and catch both."

"What do you want the gal caught for?" demanded Harry Smith, blustering
up.

"She'd no business to be such a fool as to go with him."

"I never allow any one to say any thing against her," added young
Smith, growing red in the face.

"If you want your head broke, just say so," said O'Hara, savagely.

"Come, come," interrupted the elder Smith, "boys should be careful not
to get mad. Shut up, each of you, or I'll whip both of you."

This ended the high words between the two parties, and five minutes
later they were conversing together on as friendly and good terms as it
can be possible between two mortals.

All things being in readiness, the party resumed their journey, using
the same caution that had characterized their march previous to the
attack of the Indians. The Riflemen themselves performed the part of
scouts, and the progress was uninterrupted by any incident worth
mentioning until late in the afternoon.

The sky, which had been of a threatening character for several hours,
now became overcast, and it was evident that a violent storm was about
to break upon them. This being the case, there was nothing to be gained
by pressing onward, and the settlers accordingly halted for the night.
A sort of barricade was made around the wagon, so that, in case of
attack, a good resistance could be made, and the oxen were secured fast
to the wagon. Stakes were cut and driven into the ground, and a strong
piece of canvas, which had been brought for the purpose, stretched
across them in such a manner that a comfortable shelter was afforded
those whose duty did not compel them to brave the storm.

These arrangements were hardly completed, when a dull, roaring sound,
like that of the ocean, was heard in the woods. It came rapidly nearer,
and in a few moments the swaying trees showed that it was passing
onward over the camp. The frightened and bewildered birds circled
screaming overhead, the rotten limbs and twigs went flying through the
air, and thick darkness gathered at once over the forest. A moment
later, several big drops of water pattered through the leaves like so
many bullets and immediately the rain came down in torrents. The
thunder booming in the distance, then sharply exploding like a piece of
ordnance directly overhead, the crack of the solid oak as the
thunderbolt tore it to splinters, the incessant streaming of the
lightning across the sky, the soughing of the wind--all these made a
scene terrifically grand, and would have induced almost any one to have
sought the shelter offered him, convinced that the only danger at such
a time was from the elements themselves.

But with the Riflemen the case was far different. They well knew that
it was just at such times that the wily Indian prowled through the
woods in quest of his victims, and that at no other period was his
watchfulness so great as at one like the present. Thus it was that
three of the Miami Riflemen braved the terrors of the storm on that
night, and thus it was that all three were witnesses of the occurrences
we are about to narrate.

The storm continued without intermission almost the entire night. The
only change perceptible was in the thunder and lightning. The flashes
of the latter grew less and less, until several minutes frequently
elapsed between them; but the rain came down as if the "windows of
heaven were opened," and a minute's exposure was sufficient to drench
one to the skin, while the wind, soughing through the trees, made the
hours as dismal and dreary as it was possible for them to be.

The three Riflemen who stood as sentinels, were Dick, George Dernor and
O'Hara. No changes were made during the night, as the men would have
looked upon such a proceeding as childish and foolish. O'Hara was
leaning against a tree, some ten or fifteen yards from the camp,
watching that portion of the wood which immediately surrounded him, as
well as the occasional gleams of lightning would permit. While doing
this, his gaze fell upon a stump, about twenty feet distant. As the
lightning flamed out, he saw distinctly a bareheaded man seated upon
it!

At first sight of this singular apparition, O'Hara started, rubbed his
eyes, fixed his gaze upon the spot, believing that he had been
deceived. A moment later, as another flash illuminated the wood, he saw
the man again. He was seated on the edge of the stump, his feet and
arms hanging down, and, as stated before, without any covering for his
head. The latter was bullet-shaped, and the view which was afforded of
him was so perfect, that the hunter saw he had short, curly hair, of a
reddish color. His eyes were small, but sparkling like an Indian's,
and, when they could be seen, were fixed with frightful intensity upon
the Rifleman. The whole expression of his face was forbidding and
repulsive.

At the first distinct view of this man, came the conviction to O'Hara
that he had seen him before, and he spent a few minutes in endeavoring
to remember where and when it was. He was unable to do so, however,
although he was positive that he was an enemy to him.

"I don't care who he is," muttered O'Hara; "he ought to know better
than to squat out there when he knows I have seen him. I say, old
chap," he called, in a louder tone, "come down off that stump, or I'll
fetch you."

Whoever the person addressed might be, it was evident he cared nothing
for the command of the hunter, for the latter, the next moment, saw
him, not only seated as immobile as ever, but with a sneer of contempt
upon his face. This so exasperated O'Hara that he instantly called out:
"I'll give you two seconds to get off of that, and if you don't do it
in that time, I'll tumble you off."

He brought his rifle to his shoulder, so as to be ready to fire if the
man remained. He held it thus full a minute, at the end of which he
discerned the foolhardy being who had not changed his position in the
least. Hesitating no longer, he pointed his piece directly at his
heart, and discharged it.

"It's your own fault," mused the hunter. "I gave you fair warning and
plenty time to get out the way, and in such places as we're in just
now, we can't afford to stand on ceremony. You must be careful----"

Again the red lightning flamed out, and revealed the man, seated as
before, the sneer on his face having increased, and his eyes flaming
with more dreadful intensity than ever!

"Man or spirit," said O'Hara, now thoroughly startled, "I'll give you
another shot at any rate."

He reloaded, and, awaiting his opportunity, fired again full at the
man's breast. O'Hara's hair nearly lifted the cap from his head, when
he saw his foe sitting unharmed, and as scornful as though no bullet
could wound him. The bravest man has his weakness, and the greatest
weakness of such characters as the man we are dealing with is their
superstition. O'Hara verily believed the man at whom he had fired
possessed more than mortal attributes, and, far more frightened than he
would have been had a score of Shawnees sounded their war-whoop in his
ears, he made a low whistle as a signal for Dick and Dernor to come up.
In a moment they were beside him, curious to know the cause of his
firing.

The next flash of lightning showed three hunters intently staring
toward a man who was sitting composedly on a stump, and staring back at
them with equal intensity.

"You all seen him, didn't you?" asked Tom, in a whisper. Receiving an
affirmative answer, he added:

"Let's all aim square at his breast, and then we'll be sure that one of
us at least will hit him. If that doesn't finish him, there's no use of
trying."

For the third time, the mysterious being braved the deadly bullets,
this time from three separate rifles, and for the third time he was
seen sitting, unharmed and contemptuous, upon the stump.

"It's all a waste of powder," said O'Hara. "We might pour a broadside
from a brigade into him without making him wink."

"Let's go up and take him," said Dick.

"He'll take _us_," said O'Hara, who was not ashamed of his fright in
such a case as this.

"Fudge! don't be frightened; come along. I'll lead."

Thus strengthened, O'Hara moved on behind the two others. Most
assuredly the mysterious personage would have been captured, had not
the lightning, which continued to act the part of illuminator,
discovered their approach to him. His feet were instantly seen to
twinkle in the air, and he whisked off the stump as quick as thought,
and disappeared. To make sure, however, the Riflemen passed their hands
over the stump, but of course found nothing. The booming of the thunder
had been so continuous, that the reports of the rifles had not awakened
the settlers, and the three hunters conversed together without fear of
disturbance.

"I don't care what he is," said O'Hara, "I'm sure I've seen him
before."

"Just what I am sure of," added Dick. "The very second I laid my eyes
on him, his face seemed familiar. But it must have been several years
ago."

"It's queer I can't remember," repeated O'Hara, as if talking with
himself.

"I remember having seen him, too, I'll be hanged if I don't," added
George Dernor, with a dogged decision.

O'Hara made a leap fully six feet from the ground, and uttered a
half-whistle, indicative of some great discovery.

"What's up? what's the matter?" asked Dick, considerably surprised.

"Just one of you break my head, will you, for I'm the greatest fool
that ever lived. I remember now who that man is."

"Who?"

O'Hara repeated a name that fairly took the breath away from the
others. They had let one of the most inhuman villains of the day
escape, and one for whose life either of the Riflemen would have
undergone any sacrifice. The mention of his name, too, revealed to them
the reason why he had been unharmed by their shots.

"We fired at his _breast_ every time," said O'Hara. "If we had only
fired at some other part of his body, he would have been riddled. What
a precious set of fools we are!"

As no one disputed this exclamation, it may be supposed that all agreed
to it. At any rate, their vexation was extreme for having failed to
remember the man who, at that particular time, was probably more
notorious than any other living being in the West.

"What's done can't be helped," remarked Dick. "If we ever have the
chance to draw bead on him again, we'll _know where to aim_."

Nothing further was seen of the man who had braved their utmost through
the night. He had taken his departure, and was fated to play an
important _rôle_ with a couple of our other friends.

The storm abated toward morning, and the settlers were once more under
way. Their destination, a small frontier settlement, was reached late
in the day, without any further incident, and their dangers for the
present were ended. To the unbounded surprise of all, they learned that
Lewis Dernor and Edith had not arrived, and there had been nothing
heard of them.

This caused the most painful apprehension with all, for they knew well
enough that they would have been in several hours ahead of them, had
not something unusual prevented. They could imagine but one
cause--Indians!

The settlers commenced their labors at once. Trees were felled, and the
foundations of strong, substantial cabins laid, ground was cleared and
prepared to receive the seed, while the garrison of the block-house was
strengthened, and the condition of the settlement improved by every
means at their command.

Lewis had left a request with the emigrants, upon taking Edith from
them, that the Riflemen should await his return at this settlement, and
they accordingly remained. Two days passed without his coming in, when
the anxiety of Edith's friends became so great, that it was determined
to form a party to go in quest of her; but, upon mentioning the resolve
to O'Hara, he strenuously opposed it, affirming that a large party
could accomplish nothing at all, save to get themselves in trouble. In
this opinion he was joined by several of the more experienced, and as a
consequence, the scheme was abandoned. O'Hara then expressed the
intention of taking a companion and going in search of them himself.
The companion he chose was Dick Allmat.

Sego took an active interest in these proceedings, but as yet had not
heard the name of Edith Sudbury mentioned. Indeed, none knew that name
except her immediate friends, who heeded the request which Lewis had
made, that it should be kept a secret. Thus it happened that he
entertained not the slightest suspicion of the true state of the case.
Had he known it, nothing could have hindered him from hurrying forth at
once to the rescue.

O'Hara and Dick left the settlement one day about noon, and struck off
in the woods toward the creek where the affray with the Shawnees had
occurred. It was their design to take the trail, if possible, and
follow it up until they discovered a clue to the unaccountable state of
affairs. On reaching the creek, however, they were chagrined to find
their fears realized. The storm which we have mentioned as succeeding
the departure of Lewis and Edith, had completely obliterated all traces
of their footsteps, and the Riflemen were left with no dependence
except their wood-craft.

This, in the end, answered their purpose. Examining the woods with the
eye of a true hunter, O'Hara satisfied himself of the course his leader
would take, and this he pursued with the dogged persistency of the
Indian himself. He was confident that the trail which he and the girl
had made subsequent to the storm could be followed without difficulty,
if he could only strike it. But just here lay the trouble.

"It looks likely," said O'Hara, as he and Dick stood deliberating upon
the proper course to pursue, "that he would take the nearest cut to the
settlement, and then again it doesn't look so likely. Lew is such a
fool, there's no telling what he'd do."

"Why do you think he wouldn't take the shortest way home?"

"'Cause he wouldn't, that's why. You see, Dick," added Tom, in a more
pleasant voice, "Shawnees are in the woods, and it's no ways unpossible
that they haven't learned that them two fools are tramping through the
country. If they do it, why it looks nateral that they'd s'pose they'd
try to reach home just as soon as they could, and would try to head 'em
off. Now, if the red-skins know this, Lew knows also that they know it,
and I hope, for our own credit, he's got too much sense to walk into
any of their traps. That's the reason why I think he may have took a
longer way home."

"Just exactly what he has done," said Dick in a glow of admiration.

"How do you know it is, eh?"

"I mean I think so, of course."

"Well, say what you mean, next time. And that is what makes all the
difficulty. How are we to know where to look for his trail?"

"It's pretty certain we won't find it by standing here all day."

"You go west and I will follow the creek, and when you stumble on any
thing worth looking at, just give the whistle."

The two did as proposed. Dick ranged backward and forward until
nightfall, while O'Hara examined the banks of the creek, until the
gathering darkness made it a hopeless task. Upon coming together, they
had nothing favorable to report, and thus ended the first day's search.

"You know what I'm certain of?" asked O'Hara, as they were ready to
resume the hunt upon the next morning.

"No, of course not."

"I'm sure that that red-headed villain that we fired at on the stump is
mixed up in this affair."

Dick opened his eyes at this startling thought, and replied, in a few
moments:

"I shouldn't wonder at all if he really was. Hang him! it's just the
business that suits him. But Lew ought to know enough for him."

"Every man is a fool when he is in love," said O'Hara, contemptuously,
"and that's the reason why I'm pretty certain both of 'em are in
trouble. If he wasn't in love with the gal, he might know what to do;
but--oh! heavens," he added, unable to find words to express his
disgust at his leader betraying such a weakness.

"I s'pose we'll hunt as we did yesterday?"

"Of course. Let's go at it at once."

O'Hara returned to the creek and resumed his search along the banks,
while Dick took to the woods as before. A half-hour later, a whistle
from the former called him to the stream, where he found his friend
bending over some "sign" that he had discovered in the soft earth of
the shore.

"It's his," said O'Hara, "as sure as you live. They spent the night on
the other side of the creek, and he has carried her across the next
morning, and taken to the woods at this point."

"We can easily tell the direction he has taken, then."

"Not so easy, either; for don't you see he has gone _up_ the creek,
which ain't toward home. I tell you what it is, Lew has smelled danger,
and if the red-skins have catched him, there's been some splendid fun
afore they done it. Lew ain't such a fool, after all."

"Do you think," asked Dick, in a low tone, for he entertained a strong
affection for his leader, "Do you think it is _certain_ Lew has been
catched?"

"NO SIR," replied O'Hara, in tones so loud that they woke an echo
through the woods. "It ain't certain by no means. He may have thought
it best to make a long circle before reaching home, and like enough he
is in the settlement this minute, or very near there. But I guess not,"
he added, after a minute's pause, and in a different voice. "Things
look dubious, and we may have a big job before us."

"Let's go to work at once."

"The first sensible words you've spoken this morning, when it seems
we're both doing more talking than is necessary. Come on."

The trail was followed with the greatest difficulty, for the time which
had elapsed since it was made was almost sufficient to obliterate it
entirely. Now and then, where the ground was more favorable, it was
easily discernible. After progressing a mile or so, O'Hara exclaimed,
with an air of perplexity:

"There is something here that I don't understand. I've seen only _the
track of one person up to this time_."

"She isn't with him, then?"

"Yes, but he _appears to be carrying her_; and what that means is more
than I can tell. It can't be she's hurt."

"Maybe, Tom, we ain't on the track of Lew," said Dick, with a hopeful
gleam.

"Yes, we are. I could tell his track among a thousand. The mistake
isn't _there_. All we've got to do is to follow it."

The pursuit was renewed and kept up until the bank of a smaller stream
was reached, where the trail was irrecoverably lost. After leading into
the water, it failed to come out upon the opposite side, and the utmost
skill of the hunters was unable to regain it. The entire day was
consumed by them in the search, when it was given up as hopeless. It
would have been hard to tell which feeling predominated in the breasts
of the two Riflemen--an apprehensive anxiety for the fate of their
leader, or a gratifying pride at this evidence which he had given of
his consummate knowledge of woodcraft.

These two hunters continued their hunt for two days more, when they
returned to the settlement and reported their failure to gain any
definite knowledge of Dernor and Edith. Neither had the settlers gained
any tidings of them.

Where were they?



CHAPTER VI.

A HUNTER'S WOOING.

                                    And we knew
    That this rare sternness had its softness too,
    That woman's charm and grace upon his being wrought;
    That underneath the armor of his breast
      Were springs of tenderness, all quick to flow
      In sympathy with childhood's joy or woe;
    That children climbed his knees, and made his arms their rest.

                                         LONDON CHARIVARI.


It was with a heart beating with more than one excessive emotion, that
Lewis Dernor, the Rifleman, plunged into the forest with Edith Sudbury.
None knew better than he the perils that threatened them in those dim
labyrinths, and none was better prepared to encounter them. Were they
twice as many, he would rather have braved them than allowed Edith and
Sego to meet before he had declared his love to her.

In taking this step, the Rifleman had more than one twinge of
conscience, for he could but consider it of questionable propriety in
acting his part. Beyond a doubt, Sego and Edith were accepted lovers,
who had been separated for months, and it seemed cruel, to say the
least, thus to take advantage of their separation. The more he
reflected upon it, the more guilty did he feel, until he formed the
resolution to acquaint his fair charge with the presence of her lover
with the settlers, and then leave her own heart to decide the matter.

The instant this resolve was formed, the honest-hearted hunter felt
better. What though the judgment should be against him, he had done his
duty, and this very fact gave him a pleasure which nothing else could
destroy. His great, all-absorbing love for Edith had led him to use the
artifice mentioned, in order to defer the interview between her and
Sego; but, great as was this master-passion, it could lead him no
further in deception than it had already done. More than once he half
determined to turn and make his way back to the settlement, and was
only prevented by a dread of the speculation and remarks that such a
proceeding would occasion upon their part.

It must not be supposed that Lewis doubted his ability to reach the
settlement in safety, with Edith. Had he known what danger he was
doomed to encounter, he would have retraced his steps instantly,
although he had commenced them with such a strong determination to keep
her and Sego separate for a time.

For an hour or so the journey progressed in silence upon the part of
the hunter and his charge. While, as might be expected, his passion
often led his gaze from the path he was pursuing, still it made him
doubly alive to the responsibilities resting upon him, and increased
his vigilance and watchfulness to a degree that would have appeared
absurd to an ordinary observer. Most of the time, he kept a step or two
in advance of Edith, trailing his rifle in his left hand, while his
form was half bent, and his head projected forward, giving him the
attitude of constant and intense attention. His eyes were flitting
constantly from tree-top to ground, from side to side, ahead and behind
him, kindling with admiration and fire as they rested upon the form of
his companion. The latter was enveloped in a large shawl, a portion of
which covered her head, while her arms gathered the rest around her
person. Her face was inclined, so that she was not sensible of the many
ardent glances to which she was subjected. She stepped lightly forward,
her beautifully moccasined feet hardly disturbing the leaves, among
which they twinkled like some forest-flower.

Lewis had proposed to himself, when starting, to take the nearest route
to the settlement; but his apprehension for the safety of Edith led him
to change his intention after going a few miles. The Indians which he
had assisted so signally to repulse, he believed would hover around the
settlers so long as there remained an opportunity to pick off any of
them. They would not fail, too, to scour the woods in search of smaller
parties, and knowing the destination of the emigrants, would select the
very ground over which they too were journeying. The Rifleman took the
best course to avoid them. Retracing his steps some distance, he turned
off toward the creek, he having concluded to ascend this for several
miles, and then take a circuitous route to the settlement, convinced
that, in this case, the longest way was the surest.

"Why this change of direction?" asked Edith, looking up in alarm, as he
turned and commenced retracing his steps.

"I think it best," he replied, with a smile.

"Have you discovered danger? Are we pursued?"

"Not that I know of. But I have been thinking for some time that if
there _are_ any Injins in this wood, this is the very ground they will
select to cut us off, because they know that it is the one which we
would naturally take, in making such a journey as this."

"_I have full faith in you._"

And the gallant Rifleman felt he would die before any act of his should
cause her to lose this faith in him. As she turned her trusting blue
eyes up to his, their heavenly light seemed to fill his whole being,
and he scarcely was conscious of what he did when he reached out his
hand, and said:

"Edith, let me take your hand."

"Why, what need is there of that?" she coyly asked, with a roguish
look, as she half complied and half hesitated.

"I shall feel safer--that is, I shall feel more certain of your safety
if I lead you."

"Oh! well, you may lead me then," and she slid her almost fairy hand
into his hard, horny palm, with a charming simplicity, which made the
hunter's heart leap with a painful pleasure. That little, white member,
as the Rifleman grasped it, was like the poles of a battery. It sent a
shock through every part of his system, and gave his arm precisely the
same tremor that takes place when a person is charged through this limb
with electricity. If Edith had only returned the pressure, Lewis Dernor
most assuredly would never have been able to stand it, and, therefore,
it was fortunate that she did not.

It was this pressure, and the looks accompanying it, that made Edith
Sudbury conscious that the hunter loved her. She would have been an
exception to her sex had she not suspected this before. The thousand
and one acts, and little, airy nothings, had given her a suspicion of
the truth long since, but she had never felt certain of it.

This knowledge, which must ever be pleasant and flattering to the
maiden, caused no unpleasant feelings on her part. If she did not love
him, she certainly respected and admired his noble qualities, and the
difference between the emotions named and love itself is certainly too
faint for recognition. Under almost any circumstances they will grow
into the passion, and all be lost in blending. Respect is the scout and
guide that leads love to the soul.

The tell-tale blush stole on Edith's face, as a realizing sense of her
situation came upon her, and, for a long time, she dared not look up,
much less speak. Suddenly the Rifleman made a spring in the air, and
drew a deep breath, as though seized with a mortal pain.

"What's the matter?" asked Edith, in a tremor of apprehension.

"Oh! it nearly killed me!" replied the hunter, in a faint voice.

"What? Do tell me. Are you hurt? What caused it?"

"Why, Edith, _didn't you squeeze my hand_?"

"If I did, it was _certainly unintentional_."

"Never mind. I thought it was on purpose."

The merry, musical laugh of the maiden rung out through the
forest-arches, and the Rifleman, for the time, lost all thoughts of
Indians and danger; but this delightful forgetfulness could not last
long. As the faint rumble of thunder was heard in the distance, he
started, as though awakened from a dream, and looked furtively around
him, half expecting to see his dread foes start from behind the trees,
and rush upon him.

"Are you frightened?" asked Edith.

"Only for you," he replied, with a natural gallantry.

"And why are you alarmed on my account? What has occurred that makes
you walk faster, and look so constantly about you?"

"Edith," said the hunter, in a low voice of passionate tenderness, "you
have lived on the frontier long enough to be familiar with its dangers.
When I first saw you, it was in an awful situation for a gal like
yourself, but you bore it like a man. I 'spose, therefore, that there's
no use in keeping any thing back from you."

"Of course not. What good could that possibly do?"

"Well, then, it's my opinion that _some one is following us_."

"What makes you think so?" asked Edith, in genuine alarm; for there is
something startling in the sudden knowledge that a foe is pursuing us,
when there is no shelter at hand which can secure us against him.

"I can not give you the reason that makes me positive a foe is behind
us; but I am so certain of it, that we must hurry forward and take
measures to hide our trail."

"Why not rejoin our friends?"

"I do not think it can be done, as there are plenty Injin between us,
and we could not avoid them."

"Do what you think best, for surely none can know better than you."

"Come on, then."

They ascended the creek until the darkening sky, booming thunder, and
constant flashing of lightning warned them that the storm was at hand.
The hunter then stooped, and, lifting his companion in his arms with
the same ease that he would have picked up an infant, stepped into the
stream, and waded nearly across, going several hundred yards further up
before stepping upon the land. By this time, the swaying of the trees,
and the pattering of several large drops of water, told them that they
had but a few minutes to spare. The hunter was perfectly acquainted
with this section, and made all haste toward a spot which, more than
once, had served him as a shelter in such storms as this. It consisted
of a number of fallen trees, evidently torn up by some tornado, whose
branches were so interlocked and matted that a slight effort of the
hand of man had turned into a comfortable security as one need wish who
was storm-stayed in the forest.

As this was reached, the storm burst upon them in all its grand fury,
but their refuge answered every purpose, and not a thread of Edith's
clothes was wetted. Darkness came on prematurely, and, as the reader
already knows, the storm continued nearly through the entire night.
Fully, and almost morbidly alive to the danger that ever menaced them,
Lewis kept his station at the mouth or entrance of their shelter until
daylight, not willing that for a moment a free entrance to any foe
should be offered.

When morning dawned, it was clear and beautiful, and the two set out
immediately upon their journey. As they had partaken of no food for a
considerable time, the Rifleman was on the alert to procure some. The
forests of Kentucky and Ohio, at that day, literally swarmed with game,
and, in less than a half-hour from starting, he had brought down a wild
turkey, which was dressed and cooked with admirable skill, and which
afforded them a nourishing and substantial meal.

Lewis was fearful that the late storm would cause such a rise in the
creek that he would be unable to cross if he waited any longer, and he,
therefore, attempted it at once. He found it muddy and rapidly rising,
but he carried Edith over without difficulty, and then resumed his
journey, taking such a direction that he could only reach the
settlement by a wide _détour_ from directness.

"At any rate," said Dernor, "if any one attempted to follow us
yesterday, he is thrown off the track, and has got to commence again."

"Should they accidentally come across our trail, it would be easy
enough for them to follow it, would it not?"

"Yes, any one could do that, but you see we're so far up the stream
that there is little likelihood of that."

"I _do_ hope the Indians will not trouble us more," said Edith, in a
low, earnest voice.

"And so do I," said the Rifleman, in a lower and more earnest voice,
and venturing at the same time to press the hand that he held within
his own.

There certainly was something in the situation of these two calculated
to inspire mutual trust. Edith felt that, under the merciful Being who
was ever watching her, there was no stronger or more faithful arm upon
which she could rely than the one beside her--that there was no heart
truer, and no devotion more trustworthy. Under these circumstances, her
words were quite unembarrassed and familiar.

"Suppose we _are_ overtaken?" she asked, looking up in his face.

"_You_ will never be captured while _I_ have strength to defend you,"
was the fervent reply.

"You are too kind and noble."

This time Edith impulsively pressed his hand, and, to his dying day,
Lewis Dernor affirmed that this was one of the happiest moments of his
life. Deeply learned as he was in wood-lore, he was a perfect novice in
the subtle mysteries of the tender passion, and the cause of his
ecstasy on this occasion was the sudden certainty that his love was
returned. Had he been less a novice in such matters, he would have
reflected that this slight evidence of regard most probably was but a
mere momentary emotion which any man in his situation might have
inspired. But, "where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise;" and
the happy hunter was all unconscious of this disagreeable possibility.

He felt an unutterable desire to say something--something grand and
terrible--which would give Edith a faint idea of the strength of the
passion burning in his breast. Inability to say this something kept him
silent for a long period. Several times, indeed, he was on the point of
speaking, but the words that came to him were too commonplace and weak
to express his tumultuous thoughts. Just as he was on the point of
deciding upon something, it came to him with startling suddenness that
he was too careless with his charge. For the last hour he had hardly
been conscious that he was traveling in the woods, much less that in
these same woods lurked the deadly Indian, whose thoughts were
constantly bent upon murder and outrage.

"Edith," said he, "I would do any thing if it would only place us where
we could talk without fear of being disturbed. But it can't be done
here. There's Injins in these woods, and I'd never forgive myself if I
should forget it agin, and I've already done so several times. Just
stop a minute."

He took her hand, and the two bent forward in the attitude of intense
listening; and listening thus, they heard faintly in the distance the
report of a rifle. It was several miles away, and evidently fired by
some wandering Indian or hunter. Its only effect upon our friends was
that peculiar one of making them more fully sensible that there were
other beings in the woods besides themselves.

"It means nothing," said Dernor. "Let's go on, but more careful than
before."

"Do you think there is any one following us?" asked Edith, for this
constant renewal of her apprehension made her nervous and unnaturally
suspicious.

"I have no reason to think so, and I haven't any suspicion that there
is. So I guess there's no need of being scared."

"I can not help feeling frightened," said Edith, clinging closer to
him. "I do wish we were at the settlement. How much longer will it take
us to reach it?"

"To-morrow, at the very furthest, I hope we shall be there, and perhaps
to-night, if we keep up a brisk walk."

"I see no reason why we should not hurry."

"Nor I, either," laughed Dernor. "So come on."

He struck up a brisk walk as he spoke, and continued it for some twenty
minutes, when a small creek was reached, the one where O'Hara and
Allmat lost the trail. Before wading it, the Rifleman paused on its
banks as if in deep thought. This was so marked that Edith questioned
him.

"I'm thinking whether it wouldn't be best to put this brook to the same
use that I did last summer. A half-dozen Miamis got rather closer to me
than was pleasant, when I jumped in here and threw them off the scent."

"How?"

"I will show you."

He picked her up as he spoke, and stepped carefully into the water. The
center of the stream was sufficiently deep to hide his trail, even had
the bottom been less favorable than it was. But this was hard, gravelly
and pebbly, and he walked close to the edge without fear of betraying
himself.

Having gone a considerable distance, he approached the bank, and made a
leap which carried him several feet upon it. He alighted upon the face
of a large, firmly-fixed stone, where, poising himself for a moment, he
sprung to another; and then, making a fourth leap, came down upon the
ground. By this artifice he avoided leaving any visible trail until so
far from the creek that almost any pursuer would fail to discover it.
This explains why his two pursuers did fail in pursuing him.

"We're safe again for a while," said the Rifleman. "Any one who comes
upon our track must do it between us and the creek."

"I feel greatly relieved," said Edith.

"And much more comfortable, I suppose?"

"Why, of course," she replied, half laughing, as she turned her
gleaming, radiant face up to his.

The Rifleman hardly knew what he did. A mist seemed to come before his
eyes, and he felt as though floating in space, as, acting under an
electrifying impulse, he stooped and kissed the warm lips of his fair
companion. This transport of bliss was changed to the most utter misery
when she answered, with every appearance of anger:

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself to take advantage of my
helplessness."

"Are you offended?" he asked, his very voice showing his wretchedness
of feeling.

Edith looked up with flashing eyes, crimsoned face, and silent voice,
as if she would annihilate him by her very look. Gradually a change,
like the sunlight breaking through the storm-clouds, overspread her
features. The light of her eyes grew softer, and the expression of her
face more merciful, until, as the hunter had paused and scarcely
breathed for her reply, she said, with one of her most enchanting
smiles:

"I am not offended. You may kiss me again if you wish to do so."

"If I wish to," said the Rifleman, drawing her to him. "If I wish
to----"

Here his words became unintelligible. He continued kissing her until
she checked him.

"Sh!"

The crackling of some bushes a few yards away showed that they were no
longer alone. The whole aspect of the Rifleman changed. The lover
became the ranger instantly. Cocking his rifle, he placed himself in
front of Edith so as to confront this unexpected danger.



CHAPTER VII.

THE COUNTRYMAN.

    Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time.

                                                 SHAKSPEARE.


The crackling of the bushes continued, while the Rifleman compressed
his lips and stood like a tiger at bay. In a moment he saw a man making
his way through the tangled shrubbery, and almost immediately he
lowered his rifle with an expression of disappointment. The individual
before him was so different from what he expected, that a fuller notice
of him is necessary, especially as he now takes his place as one of the
_dramatis personæ_ of this tale.

He appeared to be an awkward countryman, cowardly, ignorant of
wood-craft, and completely bewildered by the dangers that beset him.
His dress was half-savage and half-civilized, torn and disfigured, as
if he had been running at the top of his speed through a thicket of
briers and brambles. The only weapon he carried was a large knife
firmly grasped in his hand. His face was blank and expressionless, save
that it bore the impress of great animal fear, now mingled with
surprise at confronting our two friends so unexpectedly. His head was
round, bullet-like, with sandy hair, while the face seemed stained and
begrimed with dirt and perspiration. He stood a moment with both hands
stretched stiffly downward, his mouth wide open, apparently unable to
find words to express his astonishment.

"Well, young man, good-day to you," said Dernor, advancing toward him.

"Good-day--good-day; fine weather for corn," he repeated, as if anxious
to gain the good opinion of the hunter.

"How came you in these parts, my friend?"

"Heaven save you, I _run_ here. The Injins have been after me."

"They didn't catch you?"

"No, sir," replied the young man, bursting into a loud guffaw. "I run
too fast."

"What might be your name?"

"Zeke Hunt, but I'm derned 'fraid it won't be any name at all if I stay
in these parts much longer. Oh, dear," whined the young man, "I wish I
was back in Pennsylvany, on the farm."

"What made you leave it?"

"The old man whipped me, and I run away."

"Why don't you go back?"

"I'd rather meet all the painted Injins in the woods than him. He'd
whip me all through the town."

"No doubt you deserve it."

"Boo-hoo! you ain't going to lick me too, are you?" plead the man,
gouging one eye with his finger.

"No, no; don't make a fool of yourself. What would I wish to hurt you
for?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. I'm 'fraid of everybody."

"See here, Zeke, was there any Injins chasing you, just now?"

"Yes--no. I've been clear of them a long time, I run so fast; but I'm
just as afeard, as I s'pose the Injins are all over the woods."

"Not so bad as that, though we'd be willing to get along if there was a
few less."

"Yes, that's so. Got any thing to eat?"

"No, but we'll soon have something."

"Can I go 'long with you?" asked the frightened fellow.

"If you wish to, provided you do what I want you to."

"Oh, I'll do any thing for you. Who's that with you?" he questioned,
peering around the hunter, who, although he had advanced a few steps,
still stood in front of Edith.

"A young friend, Miss Edith Sudbury."

"Glad to see you," said the young man, with an awkward bow.

"But see here," pursued the Rifleman, "how comes it you are in these
woods at all? You didn't come all the way from Pennsylvany alone?"

"Oh, no--oh, no. I came down the Ohio in a flat-boat."

"How is it that you are here, then?"

"The other day we stopped along the shore a while, and I went off in
the woods, and got lost. When I found my way back, the flat-boat had
gone, and I was left alone. I've been wandering around ever since, and
am nearly starved to death. Be you two hunting?"

"No, we are making our way to a settlement some miles off. Do you wish
to go with us?"

"Yes, anywhere to get out of these derned woods. Gracious! what a big
job it'll be to cut all these trees down," said young Hunt, looking
above and around him, as though absorbed with this new idea.

"A big job, certainly; but there'll be a big lot to do it when the time
comes. There don't appear to be any reason why we should wait, and so
we'll move ahead."

"Which way are you going?"

"Right ahead."

"Over the same ground that I come over?"

"I s'pose so."

"Oh, heavens! you are lost if you do. Don't do that."

"What's the matter? Any danger?"

"The woods are chuck full of Injins, I tell you. There must have
somebody passed that way and they looking for them, there are so many."

Dernor turned and spoke to Edith:

"No doubt he is right. It is but what I suspected. What shall I do?
Take a longer way home, and a safer one, or the short route?"

"Take the _safest_, whichever that may be."

"That is the longest. Come on, friend."

"I'm follerin'," replied that worthy, striding after him.

It was considerably past the hour of noon, and the brisk walk through
the woods had given the Rifleman an appetite something akin to that of
his new-found companion, so that he did not forget the expressed wish
of the latter. He had no difficulty in bringing down another turkey and
cooking it. There was one peculiarity which did not escape either
Dernor or Edith. On the part of the latter it occasioned no concern,
but it was the subject of considerable wonder and speculation with the
former. Zeke Hunt, as he called himself, professed to be ravenously
hungry; but when the tempting, juicy meat of the turkey was placed
before him, he swallowed but a few mouthfuls. This was a small matter,
it was true, and with any one except the Rifleman, would have escaped
notice but this sagacious hunter considered it of so much importance as
to ask an explanation.

"You appeared to be dying with hunger, and now, when food is offered,
you hardly touch it. What is the meaning of that?"

"I don't know," said Zeke, wiping his fingers on the hair of his head.

"Yes, you do know. Tell me the meaning of it."

"S'pose I ain't hungry."

"Isn't the bird cooked well enough?"

"Wouldn't hurt if 'twas cooked better."

The Rifleman at first was disposed to resent this insult, but, on
second thought, he set the man down as a fool, and one unworthy of
notice. There is no disguising the fact that his action had given the
hunter an unpleasant suspicion, which, however, was dissipated by the
perfect coolness with which he met his inquiry.

"I guess yer ain't used to cookin', be you?" he asked, perfectly
unabashed by the frigid manner of the hunter.

"I've done considerable, sir, in the last few years."

"Don't say so. Shouldn't have thought it, from the way that thing
looks."

"What is the matter with this cooking, I should like to know; eh?"

"Oh, nothin', as I knows on. The gal appears to like it well enough."

"Indeed I do," said Edith, unable to restrain a laugh at the manner of
their new companion, who, seeing it, rolled his head back and gave an
answering "horse-laugh" that could have been heard a half-mile distant.

"Don't let me hear that agin," said the Rifleman, rising to his feet.

"Why don't you want to hear it?" asked Zeke, in blank astonishment.

"It's no wonder the flat-boat left you, if you were in the habit of
making such noises as that. It's enough to wake every sleeping Injin in
these woods."

"It'll scare 'em, I guess, won't it?"

"I should think it would, so don't try it agin."

"Done eatin'?"

"Yes, of course."

"Thought it was about time."

"We will not reach home to-night," said the Rifleman, speaking to
Edith. "I'm sorry, for they'll be worried about us."

"I am sorry, too, for I dislike to remain in the woods so long."

"This fellow will be of little use to us, as he doesn't appear to know
any thing. I can't understand how he has come this far. He's been
lucky, I s'pose, but whether we're going to be, with him along, is more
than I can tell."

"Of course you won't turn him off. It would be cruel," said Edith,
sincerely commiserating the helpless situation of the young man.

"As long as he behaves himself, and it doesn't make it any more
dangerous for you, he can stay with us; but he mustn't open that big
mouth of his as wide as he did just now."

"Hello! how long afore you're goin' to start?" called out Zeke, as our
two friends stood talking together.

"Follow behind us, and make no noise, if you want to save your
top-knot."

"Hope there ain't no danger of that happening, after I've come as far
as this all right."

The three moved forward once again, the movements of the Rifleman
characterized by his usual caution, while Zeke Hunt straddled along at
a most awkward gait, kicking up the leaves, and breaking and bending
the undergrowth in such a manner as to make the care of the hunter
entirely useless. In this manner they traveled until nightfall, when
they reached the banks of a small brook, beside which it was decided to
encamp for the night. During the latter part of the day it had been
steadily growing colder, so that, after some deliberation, Dernor
concluded to start a fire.

"You don't s'pose the Injins will see it, do you?" asked Hunt.

"I'm sure I can't tell. Why do you ask?"

"'Cause, if _they_ are goin' to see it, I want to get out the way. I
don't s'pose you've traveled the woods much, have you?"

"Probably as much as you have."

"You have, eh?"

There was something in the tone in which this was uttered that made the
hunter turn and look at Zeke Hunt. As he did so, he saw an expression
of his greenish, gray goggle-eyes that made him feel certain, for the
minute, that he had seen him before. It may have been a fancy, for the
expression was gone instantly, and succeeded by the same blank,
half-idiotic look.

This was the second time the same unpleasant suspicion had entered the
mind of the Rifleman, and he was resolved, at the least, to keep an eye
upon Zeke Hunt. While it was not at all impossible that the story he
had told was true in every particular, still there was an air of
improbability about it, which could not escape the notice of so
quick-sighted a man as Dernor, and, from this time forward, every
action or word of the awkward countryman was watched with a jealous
eye.

The fire which was kindled was carefully screened, so that it would not
be apt to catch the eye of any one in the neighborhood. After some
conversation between the hunter and Edith, the latter wrapped his
blanket over her own, and, thus protected, lay down upon the ground.
The weariness and fatigue brought on by the day's travel soon
manifested itself in a deep, dreamless, refreshing sleep.

"Are you going to stay up all night?" asked Dernor of the countryman.

"I don't know whether I am or not."

"Ain't you sleepy?"

"Don't feel much so jest now; s'pose I mought after a while."

"You have traveled enough. Why don't you feel sleepy?"

"Haw! haw! haw! what a question. How do I know why I ain't sleepy? You
don't appear so yourself."

"I ain't, either."

"You've done as much tramping as I have."

"That may be; but I'm used to it, and you ain't."

"Don't know 'bout that. Used to do good 'eal of it up on the farm. Say,
you, did you ever hear of the Riflemen of the Miami?"

"Yes, very often. They are sometimes seen in these parts."

"I'd like to jine them 'ere fellers."

"You jine 'em!" repeated Dernor, contemptuously. "You'd be a pretty
chap to go with them. Them chaps, sir, is _hunters_!" he added, in a
triumphant tone.

"Jest what I s'posed, and that's why I wanted to jine 'em."

"Can you shoot?"

"Ef you'll lend me your iron there a minute, I'll show you what I can
do."

"It is dark now. There is no chance to show your skill. Wait till
morning."

"Very well, don't forget. I've done some shootin', fur all I ain't used
to Injins. But, I say, do you know the head feller of them Riflemen?"

"I'm very well acquainted with him."

"What sort of a chap is he?"

"Good deal such a man as I am."

"Haw! haw! great man to be the leader. Hope you're never taken for him,
be you?"

"Very often--because _I am_ the leader of the Riflemen myself."

"Get out," said the countryman, as if he expected to be bitten. "You
can't make me believe that."

"It makes no difference to me whether you believe it or not. If you
make much more noise, like enough you'll find out who I am."

"Be you really the leader of the Riflemen?" queried Zeke Hunt, not
noticing the warning which had just been uttered.

"I've told you once, so let's hear no more about it."

"My gracious! you don't look much like one. 'Pears to me you and I look
a good deal alike. Don't you think so?"

"Heaven save me, _I hope_ not."

"Oh, I'm willing that it should be so. I ain't offended."

The impudence of the countryman was so consummate that Dernor could not
restrain a laugh at it.

"They always considered me good-looking down hum," he added; "and there
wasn't a gal I wasn't able to get if I wanted her."

"I should think you would be anxious to get back again."

"Would be, if it wasn't for the old man. He was _awful_ on me. Didn't
appear to be proud of me at all."

"Queer, sure. I don't see how he could help it."

"Me neither. Dad was always mad, though, and used to aboose me
shameful. The fust thing in my life that I can remember was of gettin'
a lickin'."

"What was it for?"

"Nothin' worth tellin'. I was a little feller then, and one day heated
the poker red-hot, and run it down grandmother's back. But there!
didn't he lam me for that! Always was whippin' me. School-teacher was
just as bad. Licked me like blazes the fust day."

"Did he lick you for nothin'?"

"Purty near. Didn't do any thing except to put a handful of gunpowder
in a dry inkstand, and then touch it off under his chair. Haw! haw!
haw! didn't he jump? and oh gracious!" he added, in a solemn tone,
"didn't I jump, too, when he fell on me."

"You seem to have been about the biggest scamp in the country. Why did
he whip you this last time when you run away?"

"Hadn't any more reason than he had at other times. I tried to take Ann
Parsons home from singing-school, and she wouldn't let me. That was the
reason."

"He couldn't have whipped you for that."

"Well, it all come from that. I followed her home, and jest give her my
opinion of her, and when her old man undertook to say any thing, I jest
pitched in and walloped him."

"You had a sensible father, and it's a pity he hasn't got you now, for
I don't care any thing about your company."

"You going to turn me off? You said you wouldn't."

"And I shan't, I tell you agin, as long as you behave yourself. If you
cac'late to go with me to the settlement, you must not have too much to
say. Remember that we are still in dangerous territory, and a little
foolishness by either of us may bring a pack of the red-skins upon us."

"Just what I thought. I'm sleepy."

And without further ceremony, he lolled over on the ground, and in a
few minutes, to all appearances, was sound asleep. Intently watching
his face for a time, the Rifleman now and then saw his eyelids partly
unclose, as if he wished to ascertain whether any one was scrutinizing
him. The somewhat lengthy conversation which we have taken the pains to
record, had about disarmed the hunter of the suspicions which had been
lingering with him for a long time. He believed Zeke Hunt an ignorant
fellow, who had been left along the Ohio river, as he had related, and
who had not yet learned that trait of civilized society, carefully to
conceal his thoughts and feelings when in conversation. The impression
which he first felt, of having met him before, might easily arise from
his resemblance to some former acquaintance.

Still, the Rifleman was by no means so forgetful of his charge as to
indulge in slumber, when there was the remotest probability of danger
threatening her. Inured as he was to all manner of hardships and
suffering, it was no difficult matter for him to spend several nights
in succession without sleep. He therefore watched over her through the
second night, never, for a single moment, allowing himself to become
unconscious. Several times he saw the countryman raise his head and
change his position, and when spoken to, heard him mutter something
about it being "derned hard to sleep with his head on the soft side of
a stone, and one side toasted and the other froze."

The hours wore away without any incident worth mentioning, and at the
first appearance of day Edith was astir and ready to resume the
journey. Enough of the turkey, slain on the day before, remained to
give each a sufficient meal, and with cheerful spirits upon the part of
all, the three again took up their march through the wilderness.

The route which the information of the countryman led the hunter to
adopt was such that he expected to reach the settlement in the course
of the afternoon. It will thus be seen that it was a very circuitous
one--they, in fact, being already several miles north of their
destination. As yet, the eagle eye of the hunter had discovered no
danger, and their march was continued without interruption until noon,
when they halted for a few minutes' rest.

"If you haint no 'bjection, I'll try a shot with your gun," said Zeke
Hunt, "bein' as you thought I couldn't shoot any."

"I'd rather not have my rifle fired at present, youngster, as ears that
we don't fancy might hear it."

"You're only afeard I might beat you, that's all."

This remark so nettled the hunter that he resolved to gratify his
disagreeable companion.

"Put up your mark, then," said he, "and as far off as you choose."

The countryman walked to a tree somewhat over a hundred yards distant,
and with his knife clipped off a small piece of bark, leaving a
gleaming spot, an inch or two in diameter.

"You fire first," said he, as he came back.

The hunter drew up his rifle, and pausing hardly a second to take aim,
buried the bullet fairly in the center of the target.

"Whew! that's derned good; don't believe I can beat it much; but I'll
try."

The gun was quickly reloaded, and, after taking aim and adjusting it
nearly a dozen times, Zeke Hunt fired, missing the tree altogether. As
he ran to ascertain the result of his shot, instead of handing the
rifle to Dernor, he carried it, apparently without thinking, with him.
When he had carefully examined the mark, he proceeded to reload it,
before returning. This was so natural an occurrence, that the hunter
received his weapon without noticing it.

"Want to fire again?" asked the countryman.

"No, it isn't worth while."

"I give in, but think I'll be up to you after a little practice."

About half an hour afterward, as they were walking along, Dernor, by a
mere accident, happened to look at the pan of his rifle and saw that
the priming had been removed. A moment's reflection convinced him that
this had been done by Zeke Hunt, not accidentally, but on purpose. The
hunter managed to reprime without being noticed, and he made a vow that
this apparent lubber should henceforth be watched with a lynx-eye.

They had gone scarcely a half-mile further, when the latter came up
beside Edith, and remarked that he had been taken sick.

"Don't you feel able to walk?" she asked.

"I'm dreadful afeard I shall have to ax you to pause for a while," he
said, manifesting that peculiar repugnance to receiving kindness,
which, singularly enough is manifested more or less by every person in
similar circumstances.

"What's the matter?" gruffly asked Dernor, who was still meditating
upon the incident we have mentioned above.

"Sick," groaned Zeke Hunt, apparently in great misery.

"What has made you sick?"

"I don't know; allers was considered delicate."

"How do you feel?"

"_Jest as though I wanted to whistle!_" was the curious reply and
placing his finger in his mouth, the fellow gave a sound that would
have done credit to an ordinary locomotive.

"If you make that noise again I'll shoot you," said the Rifleman, now
fairly convinced that mischief was intended. Without heeding his
threat, the sick man arose to the upright position, and with flashing
eyes, repeated the sound.

"I gave you warning," said Dernor, raising his gun, pointing it at his
breast, and pulling the trigger. It missed fire!

"I guess you'll have to fix up that load a little," said Zeke Hunt,
"and afore you can do that, you're likely to have visitors."

The Rifleman clubbed his gun and advanced toward the man. The latter
drew his knife, and said:

"Keep off, Lew Dernor; don't you know me?"

"I've been a fool," said the hunter. "Yes, I know you through your
disguise, _Simon Girty_. I see what you have been trying to do, but you
will never take one of us alive. I hear the tramp of the coming Indians
that he has signaled," he added, addressing Edith, "and there is not a
minute to lose."

So saying, he placed his arm around her waist, and started off at a
rapid run.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE FLIGHT.

    The pass was steep and rugged,
      The wolves they howled and whined;
    But he ran like a whirlwind up the pass,
      And left the wolves behind.--MACAULAY.

                    Moments like these,
    Rend men's lives into immortalities.--BYRON.


For a few minutes, the Rifleman ran "like a whirlwind," supporting
entirely the weight of Edith, for none knew better than he the imminent
peril that menaced both. The wood was quite open, so that his way was
not much impeded, and he went at a terrific rate, well aware that all
depended upon gaining an advantage over the Indians at the start.

He had gone but a short distance, when he became convinced that his
only danger was from falling into the hands of his pursuers, as it was
their sole object to make him and Edith prisoners; as a consequence,
there was no danger from being fired at by them. When he deemed it
prudent, he released his hold upon her, and she, half running and being
half carried, flew over the ground at a rate as astonishing to herself
as it was to her pursuers. The latter kept up a series of yells and
outcries, amid which the discordant screeches of Zeke Hunt, now Simon
Girty, the renegade, could be plainly distinguished. Several furtive
glances over the shoulder gave him glimpses of some eight or ten
savages in pursuit, the renegade being among the foremost.

As Dernor was thus hurrying forward, he recalled that, less than half a
mile distant, the woods were broken and cut up by ravines and hills, as
though an earthquake had passed through that section; and, believing
that this would afford him a better opportunity of eluding his foes, he
turned in that direction and strained every nerve to reach it. As for
Edith herself, she seemed fired with supernatural strength, and sped
with a swiftness of which she never dreamed herself capable. Seeing
this, the Rifleman attempted to draw the charge out of his gun and
reload it. It was a work of great difficulty to do this while running,
but he succeeded in accomplishing it at last.

Constantly glancing behind him, in order to see his chance, he suddenly
whirled and fired with the rapidity of thought. Without pausing to
reload, he again placed his arm around Edith, and dashed forward almost
at the top of his speed.

Finding that the Indians, if gaining at all, were gaining very slowly
upon him, he half concluded that it was their intention to run his
companion down, well knowing that, although he was fully competent both
in speed and in bottom to contest with them, it could not be expected
that she could continue the rate at which she was going, for any length
of time.

"Ain't you tired?" he asked, hurriedly.

"Not much; I can run a great deal further," she replied, in the same
hurried manner.

"Keep your spirits up; we'll soon have different ground to travel
over."

Almost as he spoke, they came to the edge of a sort of ravine, too
broad for either to leap, and too precipitous to admit of an immediate
descent by either. Still retaining his hold upon her, Dernor ran
rapidly along the edge, until reaching a favorable spot, he lifted her
bodily from the ground, and bounded down to a rock over a dozen feet
below, and then leaped from this to the bottom of the ravine, Edith
sustaining no more of a shock than if she had been a feather.

Being now in the bottom of the ravine, where the ground was
comparatively even, the hunter placed the girl once more upon her feet,
and side by side they continued their flight from their merciless
pursuers. Their loud, exultant yells continued reverberating through
the woods, and glancing upward, Dernor saw the form of a huge Indian
suddenly come to view, on the edge of the ravine, some distance ahead
of him, and make some menacing motion toward him. As the ravine at this
point was a sheer precipice, the hunter did not believe he would
attempt to descend it, and feeling there was no danger of being fired
upon, he kept steadily onward.

But he was mistaken. Before he was opposite the savage, he came sliding
and tumbling down the ravine, as though some one had pushed him from
behind. However that may have been, he alighted on his feet without
injury, and made directly toward the fugitives, with the manifest
intention of checking their flight.

Lewis Dernor saw that a collision with the Indian was unavoidable, and
without the least hesitation prepared himself for it. The savage was a
Miami--a brawny, muscular warrior, fully six feet in height, of
matchless symmetry and formidable strength. When the combatants were
perhaps a dozen yards apart, he raised his tomahawk over his head, and
poising it a moment, hurled it, with a most deadly force, full at the
head of the hunter. The latter had not expected such a demonstration as
this, but had detected it in time to avoid it. He dropped his head the
instant the weapon left the savage's hand, and it whizzed over him,
going end over end, until it struck the solid rock, where the terrible
force of the concussion shivered it to atoms. Seeing this, the Miami
whipped out his knife and stood on the defensive.

"Now, my good friend," muttered Dernor, between his clenched teeth, "it
is _my_ turn."

He handed his rifle to Edith--who had paused, now that they were so
close to their enemy--and, drawing his own knife, made a sort of
running bound, coming upon the Indian with a panther-like spring, that
nearly drove him backward off his feet. There was a clashing of knives,
the scintillation of steel against steel, the deadly embrace, and
hand-to-hand struggle; and, as the Rifleman recoiled clear of his
fallen adversary, he reached out to Edith for his rifle.

"Come on," said he, in his ordinary voice; "I guess the way is clear."

"I--I am afraid," faltered Edith, "that I can not run much further."

"There ain't any need of it," said the hunter. "Lean on me, and we'll
walk awhile, if there's a thousand tearing Injins after us."

Edith panted and trembled violently from the exhausting efforts she had
been compelled to make, while the mortal terror she felt at the Miamis,
made her nearly wild with excitement. Their chilling yells, so
different from any thing ever heard among civilized beings, would have
crazed almost any person, but Dernor listened to them with as much
composure as he would to the songs of so many birds.

He became aware, shortly after, from the direction of these sounds,
that the Indians had entered the ravine, and were now coming along
again, at the top of their speed. He paused a moment, to determine
precisely the distance of these, and then looked into the gloomy,
terror-stricken face of Edith.

"I have rested," said he, "and if we don't get over ground faster than
this, them red-skins will have us both, in less than ten minutes. Let
me carry you."

She made no resistance, for she was barely able to stand, and
supporting her in such a manner that her feet hardly touched ground,
Dernor once more threw all of his astonishing energy into the flight.
Fully a quarter of a mile he ran directly through the ravine, and then,
reaching a point that would admit of it, he made a running leap, and
came up out of it, like a diver emerging from the sea.

He was now in the woods again, after having gained a considerable
advantage over his pursuers; but the Indians behind him were still
uncomfortably close, and he could not hope that all would pass the
point where he had left the ravine, without discovering the signs he
had left there of his flight. Knowing this, he was aware that the
golden moment was the present. The Miamis--to whom most of the pursuers
belonged--were "thrown off the scent" for the time. After having gone a
considerable distance, and having satisfied himself that they had not
yet regained it, Dernor determined to take advantage of this to give
Edith a portion of the rest she needed so much.

"I am not used to running like this," said she, leaning heavily on him,
"and I am afraid I can not bear it."

"I ought to be shot and scalped, for making you take this journey,"
said Dernor.

"Why, you did it for the best," she added, in surprise.

"Yes, I thought so--perhaps, the best for myself. I had no idea of
being pursued in this manner. It seems I have been a fool. I let that
Simon Girty make me believe he was an awkward countryman, and lead me
into this muss."

"You think we can keep out of their hands?"

"I trust so; the night ain't many hours away, and if we can only keep
clear till then, why, all right. I hain't seen the Injin yet, Miami or
Shawnee, that could foller a track in the night-time."

"They did not see us come out of the ravine. How will they know enough
of our direction to keep up the pursuit?"

"Injin is Injin, and the dirt I made in scratching out of there will be
seen by a dozen of their snaky eyes."

"How far, dear friend, did you say it is to the settlement?"

"Full twenty miles."

"We can reach it, then, by traveling all night?"

"Yes, very easy, if you can hold out till the darkness comes on."

"I hope I can, but I am so terribly worn out that I must go very
slowly. You said it was the best for _you_ that we should undertake
this journey alone, through the woods. What did you mean by saying
that?"

"I will tell you some other time," replied the hunter, in great
embarrassment. "I done so that I might be _alone with you_."

Edith looked earnestly at him, as though she would read his very soul.
She was about to speak, when the appalling yells of the human
bloodhounds sounded so fearfully near, that her very blood seemed to
curdle in her veins.

"Where shall we fly?" she asked, looking up imploringly in the face of
the hunter.

"Come on as rapidly as you can," he replied, again supporting her.

Great as were the apprehension and terror of Edith, she could but
notice the singular conduct of her companion. He kept constantly
looking around, not as though he expected danger, but as if searching
for something. The cause of this was soon manifest.

"Edith," said he, "it will be full two hours afore there'll be enough
darkness to do us any good. Can you stand it till then?"

"I can _stand_ it," she answered, with a sad laugh, "but I can not
_run_ it."

"We must either run or be took. Now, _my dearest_ _one_, you've done
enough to kill a dozen common women, and you shouldn't try to do more,
and I don't intend to let you."

"But how can---- Oh, Heavenly Father! hear those shouts--but how can
you prevent it?"

"I must leave you behind."

Edith's eyes dilated with horror, now doubly intensified.

"Don't think for a minute," the hunter hastened to say, "that I intend
to desart you. No, no; may the lightning strike me down if I could ever
do such a thing. What I mean is, that I must hide you till night, when
I'll come back, and we'll go on, taking things comfortably."

"It must be done quickly. Don't wait a minute."

The Rifleman led the way to some thick, dense bushes and without
approaching them very closely, signified her to enter them. She did so,
with considerable difficulty, and when she had entered and covered
away, he could see nothing of her.

"Stay there till I come," said he, "and be careful and not put your
head out, if you hear any noise."

"How shall I know whether it is you or not?"

"I'll be around as soon as it is dark enough, and will speak. Don't
forget what I said. Don't let any noise make you show yourself.
Good-by."

"Good-by;" and the hunter turned to attend to his own safety.



CHAPTER IX.

THE RIFLEMAN AND HURON ON THE TRAIL.

    The woodcock, in his moist retreat,
    Heard not the falling of their feet;
    On his dark roost the gray owl slept,
    Time, with his drum the partridge kept;
    Nor left the deer his watering-place,
    So hushed, so noiseless was their pace.

                                           W. H. C. HOSMER.


On a fine summer day, the one succeeding that upon which occurred the
incident just related, one of the Riflemen of the Miami, was making his
way through the dense forests that at that period nearly covered the
entire portion of Ohio. His short stature, bowed legs, and round,
shining visage, showed unmistakably that he was Tom O'Hara. His rifle
was slung over his shoulder, and as he walked leisurely along, he had
that easy, saucy air which showed him to be totally unmindful of the
opinion of friend or foe. That he had no fears of disturbance was
manifest from the carelessness with which he proceeded, constantly
kicking the leaves before him, and when a limb brushed his face,
suddenly stopping and spitefully wrenching it off with an expression of
impatience. He was in a worse temper than usual, and incensed at
something that continually occupied his mind.

"What can have become of the fools?" he muttered. "He oughter been home
two, three days ago, and we hain't seen a sign of him yet. Can't be
Lew's such a dunce as to walk into the red-skins' hands. No, no, no."

He shook his head as if displeased, and for a time continued his
solitary journey in silence. The great question which he was debating
was regarding his leader's whereabouts, and his ill-temper arose
principally from the fact that he was unable to offer a solution
satisfactory to himself.

"Let me see," he added. "If Lew is took, why the gal's took, and if the
gal's took, Lew must be too; so that p'int is settled. It _might_ be
some of the Injins _have_ got him, but somehow or other I can't believe
it. Don't look reasonable, although Dick 'peared to think so."

Again he bent his head as if in deep thought. Gradually his meditations
brought him nearer the truth.

"He's found out that the shortest path was the safest one--something a
man is pretty apt to think when he is with the gal he loves, and so he
has took the roundabout way home. That's it, sure. But hold on a
minute," said O'Hara, as a new thought struck him; "I'd like to know
the route which it would take them so long to travel over. It's queer,
I'll be hanged if it isn't. That gal will be the death of Lew yet. I'd
like to see the gal that could pull the wool over _my_ eyes."

And, as if alarmed at the thought, he strode rapidly forward, shaking
his head, and muttering more savagely than ever to himself. Gradually
he regained his natural state of semi-composure, and proceeded in his
audible musings:

"Whatever is up, I'm bound to find out afore I go back. Not that I care
a cent for Lew--not a bit of it. If he don't know any better than to
shut his eyes when Injins is about, he oughter suffer. But then I'd
like to know _how things is_. Hello!"

The Rifleman stopped and commenced snuffing the air, like an animal
when it scents danger.

"That's smoke, as sure as I live. Who's been kindling a fire at this
time of day?"

Turning his head in every direction, he, at length, determined the one
from which the vapor came. There being scarcely any wind at all, he
rightly judged it must be close at hand. Stealing carefully along from
tree to tree, he finally detected the faint blue rising through the
wood, scarcely fifty yards away. Approaching still closer, he gained a
full view of the fire, and also of him who had kindled it. The latter
was an Indian warrior, who was seated on the ground with his legs
gathered under him, and his head bowed forward as if sleeping. The
hunter saw, from the nodding of his head, that such was the case.
Occasionally he would incline forward until ready to fall on his face,
when he would start up with a jerk, rub his eyes, look about him, and
then go to nodding again.

"It seems that everybody have lost their senses," muttered O'Hara. "Now
just see that Injin wagging his head at the fire, tryin' to sleep here
in broad daylight. How easy I could send a bullet through him! But
there's no danger of that, as we Riflemen don't fight in that style. Be
careful, my fellow."

Here the Indian fell over on his face and then scrambled to his feet,
looked around, seeking to appear wondrously awake, and then sat down as
before.

"A Huron, as I live," said O'Hara, in pleased astonishment. "What can
_that_ red-skin mean by being in these parts? All alone, too. If he was
only Oonamoo, now, I'd feel glad to see him."

Oonamoo, to whom the hunter alluded, was a Huron scout, well known
along the frontier as one of the best friends the whites possessed. He
had the shrewdness, cunning and skill of his people in an astonishing
degree, and had many times given evidence of his faithfulness to the
settlers. He was well known to the Riflemen of the Miami, having guided
them in several expeditions, and with O'Hara especially he was on good
terms. The anxiety of the latter, therefore, to meet him can be well
understood.

"Oonamoo would unravel the whole thing afore noon," said he, "and I'd
about as lief see him this minute as I would see Lew. Let me get a
better glimpse of his face. I didn't suspect him being a Huron when he
jumped up just now, or I'd noticed his features. It don't look like
Oonamoo, to see him noddin' in that style."

He moved cautiously around, until fairly in front of the savage, when
he uttered a low, peculiar whistle. The latter instantly raised his
head, his black eyes open to their fullest extent, and gave a look that
at once discovered his identity to O'Hara.

"Oonamoo, and no mistake," he muttered; and then repeating the whistle
as a warning that he was about to approach, he stepped boldly forth and
revealed himself. The Huron started with surprise, and then advanced
with an expression of pleasure to greet his white brother.

"Glad to meet," he said, speaking brokenly.

"And I'm derned glad to see you, Oonamoo, for I need your help this
minute. What are you doing? Out on a scout?"

The Huron shook his head.

"No scout--Oonamoo live in woods--like the deer--can't sleep near white
men's houses."

"'Pears you can sleep here though, the way your head was bobbin'
around. Been up late at night, I s'pose?"

"No sleep now--meet 'Hara, white brother," said he, with an expression
of joy upon his swarthy countenance.

"Yes, I smelt the smoke of your fire, and follerin' it up I cone onto
you. 'Pears to me it was rather careless kindling your fire here in
broad daylight. Ain't there any Injins in the neighborhood?"

"Woods full of 'em--Shawnees, Miamis, Delawares, all over, like leaves
of trees," replied the savage, sweeping his arm around him.

"Ain't you _afeard_ they might come down on you?"

The Rifleman indulged in an inward laugh, for he well knew the reply
that would be made. The dark face of the Huron assumed an expression of
withering scorn as he answered:

"Oonamoo don't know _fear_--spit on Shawnee and Miami--he sleeps in
their hunting-grounds, and by their wigwams, but they don't touch him.
He scalp their warriors--all he meets, but Oonamoo never lose scalp."

"Don't be too sure of that; that proud top-knot of yours may be yanked
off yet, Mr. Oonamoo. Many a Shawnee would be proud to have that
hanging in his lodge."

"He never get him though," replied the Huron, with great readiness.

"I hope not, for I'd feel sorry to see such a good warrior as you go
under when he is needed so much. You ain't on a scout or hunt just now,
then?"

The savage shook his head from side to side as quick as lightning.

"Then you'll take a tramp with me?"

It now went up and down with the same celerity.

"To sum up then, Oonamoo, Lew, our leader, is in a bad scrape."

"Shawnee got him? Miami got him?"

"That's what I want to find out. Shouldn't be s'prised if both have
nabbed him."

"How get him?"

There was something curious in the eagerness with which the Huron asked
the questions. It was more noticeable from the fact that O'Hara spoke
slowly and deliberately, so that the short, broken sentences of the
savage seemed all the more short and broken.

"That I can't tell, Oonamoo," repeated the hunter, who, it will be
noticed, evinced the remarkable fact of being in a good temper with the
Indian. "You see, him and the gal----"

"Gal with him?" asked the savage, with amazing quickness.

"Yes; didn't I tell you that?"

"Bad--bad--gal make him blind--see notting, all time--she afore his
face."

"You've got the idea this time, Oonamoo. Lew's in love, above his head
and ears, and can't be to blame so much for what he's done," said
O'Hara, a gleam of pity stealing through his rough nature, like a ray
of sunshine entering a gloomy cave. "He's made a fool of himself, I'm
afeard, 'cause there's a female on his hands."

"What want to do? Foller him--catch him?"

"That's it. The first thing to be done is to find the trail."

"Where lost? Where see him last?"

O'Hara proceeded to relate as best he could what is already known to
the reader, or more properly that portion of it which was known to him.
He stated that he and Dick Allmat had lost the trail in a small brook,
and that their most persistent efforts had failed to recover it. Upon
speculating further, he learned from Oonamoo that they were in the
vicinity of the ravine where Dernor and Edith had so narrowly escaped
the Indians, the latter fact of course being unknown to them. The Huron
added, that there was "much track" in the woods around them, and
O'Hara, thinking that perhaps his leader's might be among them,
proposed that they should make an examination of them. To this the
savage readily agreed, and the two moved forward through the wood for
that purpose.

In the course of a few minutes they reached the ravine, and the Indian,
pointing down into it, as they stood upon its bank, said:

"Full of tracks--many Injin pass there."

"Let us go down and take a look at them."

A few minutes later, they were following up the ravine, on a sort of
half-run, the Huron leading the way, and evincing, at nearly every
step, that remarkable quickness of sight and comprehension so
characteristic of his race. Suddenly he paused so abruptly that O'Hara
ran against him.

"What the deuce is the matter?" he asked, rubbing his nose.

"Look!"

Several dark drops of blood were visible on the ground which was also
torn up by the feet of the combatants. As the reader probably suspects,
this was the scene of the conflict between Dernor and the Miami Indian.

"See," said Oonamoo, walking slowly around, and pointing to the ground.
"Track of Injin--track of white man--tear up ground--fight--till Injin
killed. White man then run--see him tracks there, there, there," he
added, pointing further and further from him as he uttered each of the
last three words.

"But where's the gal?"

The Huron pointed to the spot where Edith had stood spell-bound while
the contest was going on. O'Hara, although a skillful backwoodsman, was
not equal to his savage companion; but he saw at once, from the dainty
impress of the earth, that he was correct in supposing that Edith had
stood there. They now resumed their pursuit, the hunter bringing all
his wood-craft into play, in order to keep up with his companion.

"I can't see her tracks to save my life," said the former, after they
had proceeded some distance.

"Him carry her," replied the savage, without the least hesitation.

"Hang me if you haven't got about as much brains as a person needs in
these parts," muttered O'Hara, admiringly, as he imitated the
monotonous trot of the savage. A moment later and he paused again.

"What's up now?" asked the hunter.

"Track gone."

"But I see plenty in front of us."

"White man's not there--gone."

A minute examination revealed the fact that most of the impressions
were now made by persons passing _backward_ as well as forward, as
though confusion had arisen from some cause. O'Hara suspected the
reason of this, but, without venturing an opinion, questioned his dusky
friend:

"Huntin' for tracks," he answered. "White man gone."

The two now walked slowly backward, their gaze wandering along the
sides of the ravine instead of the bottom. In a moment the quick eye of
the Indian discerned the spot where he judged the exit had been made,
and a short examination proved that he was right. The feet of Dernor
had sunk deep in the soft earth as he made his Herculean efforts in the
ascent, while those of his pursuers were so light that they hardly
disturbed them.

Up out of the ravine came the Huron and hunter, and into the woods they
plunged, following the trail now with the greatest readiness. A short
distance further they reached the banks where Edith had concealed
herself, and here, for a time, even the red-skin was at fault. He saw
that the shrubbery had been passed by most of the pursuers without
their having approached closely enough to make an examination. From the
circuit which Dernor had made to reach these bushes, the quick-witted
Huron rightly suspected that he had turned them to some account.
Accordingly, he cautiously parted them and looked in. An immediate
"Ugh!" showed O'Hara that he had made some discovery.

"Hide gal there--then run on."

"Where is she?"

"Injin didn't git her in bushes," replied the savage, implying that if
she was captured at all it was not done here.

"Go on, then," added O'Hara.

It was now noticed that the steps of the fugitive had shortened, it
following, as a natural consequence, that he had slackened his speed at
this point. Several hundred yards further on, another fact was
observed. The pursuing Indians, instead of adhering to the trail, as
they had done heretofore, separated and left it. This, to both Oonamoo
and O'Hara was evidence that they had either come in sight of Dernor,
or else were so certain of the direction he was taking that they did
not deem it necessary to watch his footsteps. The Rifleman could not
believe the former was the case, inasmuch as it was the very thing,
above all others, which his leader would seek to avoid; for the most
requisite condition to the success of his artifice, was that his
pursuers should still think Edith was with him. Be that as it may, one
thing was certain. The pursuer and pursued at this point were very
close together--closer than the safety of the latter could admit for
any length of time.

A few hundred yards further, the dark face of the Huron lit up with an
expression of admiring pleasure.

"Him run agin," said he, glancing to O'Hara, who was now beside him.

The steps of the flying Rifleman now lengthened rapidly, as if he had
traveled at superhuman speed. As O'Hara saw the remarkable leaps which
he must have taken, he could not help exclaiming, in admiration: "Go
it, Lew. I'd like to see the red-skin that could overhaul you, when
you're a mind to bring your pegs down to it."

"Run much--like scar't deer," added Oonamoo.

"Yes, _sir_; Lew has been letting out just along here, and I reckon
them Injins never seen such steps as he took."

It was very evident that the hunter had "let out" to his utmost
ability, and with the determination of leaving his pursuers far in the
rear. Previous to this he had not called his formidable power into
play; but so rapidly had his gait increased that in many places his
footsteps were fully ten feet apart!

It had not escaped the notice of Oonamoo and O'Hara, that a white man
was among the pursuers, and it occasioned considerable speculation upon
the part of the latter. The trails of the two were distinguishable,
Dernor having a small, well-shaped foot, inclining outward very
slightly, while that of the other was large, heavy, turning outward at
a very large angle.

"Who can this chap be?" asked O'Hara of his companion.

"Renegade--bad white man--Girty--white chief."

"Whew! I see how it is now. That's the dog that hung around the
settlers on the night of the storm, and got fired at a dozen times."

"Why no killed--no hurt?"

"We didn't know who he was, and all shot at his breast."

"Ugh! no hurt him, then."

"No, for, they say, the dog often wears a bullet-proof plate over his
breast, and his life has, more than once, been saved by it. He's a
brave man, for all he's such an inhuman brute; for who would dare to
sit and let us fire agin and agin at him, when it was just as likely
we'd fire at his head as at his breast? It was more of an accident than
any thing else that we didn't kill him."

"Bad man--kill women and children," said Oonamoo.

"No one disputes that. What a pity we didn't know him when we first set
eyes on him. I shouldn't wonder now if he's been fooling Lew, as well
as us. My gracious! hasn't the boy used his pegs along here?" exclaimed
O'Hara, again looking at the ground.

"No catch him," said the Huron. "No Injun run like him. Tracks turn
round pretty soon."

"What makes you think so?"

"Gal bring him back--not leave _her_!"

"You're right. He won't forget she is behind him. But how is he going
to throw the dogs off the scent?"

"How t'row white men off scent, eh?"

"I understand--by taking to the water."

"Take to water agin."

As the Huron spoke, they came upon the edge of a second brook--one, in
fact, large enough to be called a creek. The trail led directly into
this, it being manifest that Dernor had so shaped his flight as to
reach it.

"I will cross over and examine the opposite side, while you do the same
along this shore."

"No, won't," replied Oonamoo, with a decided shake of his head. "White
man no cross--gal behind him--come out on this side agin."

The savage was so certain of this, that he refused even to allow O'Hara
to enter the stream. A moment's reflection convinced him, also, that
the supposition was correct, and they commenced their ascent of the
bank. They had gone scarcely a dozen steps, when they came upon
numerous moccasin-tracks, showing that, if the pursuers had crossed the
creek, they had also returned. At this discovery, Oonamoo indulged in a
characteristic exclamation:

"He hide trail--all safe--no cotch him."

"How are _we_ going to find it?" asked O'Hara.

Marvelous as was the skill of the Huron, he doubted his own ability to
regain the trail in the ordinary manner, and he accordingly had resort
to the same means that he used in ascending the ravine. Without
attempting to search for the trail itself, he carefully examined the
shore in order to find the point at which the fugitive could safely
leave the stream. Oonamoo, from his knowledge of the leader of the
Riflemen, knew that he would walk for miles in the creek, before he
would leave it without the certainty of deceiving his pursuers. The
course which Dernor had taken being such that he had entered the water
at a point considerably _above_ where Edith had concealed herself, the
savages, in case they were aware that the latter was somewhere on the
back-trail, would naturally suppose that, if he came out of it on the
same side in which he had entered, it would be _below_ this point;
which, all being comprehended by the Huron, satisfied him that the
fugitive had disappointed these expectations, and gone _up_ the stream.

Two things, therefore, were determined with considerable
certainty--Dernor had not _crossed_ the creek, but had left at a point
either near or above where Oonamoo and O'Hara were standing. Satisfied
of this, the two moved along the bank, taking long, leaping steps,
treading so lightly as barely to leave the impression of their feet,
and scrutinizing each bank with the most jealous eye.

They had ascended fully a half-mile without discovering any thing upon
which "to hang a suspicion," when O'Hara, who had contrived to get in
advance of the Huron, uttered a suppressed exclamation of surprise.

"Here's where he could have come out," said he.

Oonamoo looked carefully before him, and shook his head. The object in
question consisted of a fallen tree, the top of which lay in the edge
of the stream, while the upturned roots were nearly a hundred feet
distant. It will be seen at once, that the hunter could easily have
walked along the trunk of this without leaving a visible footprint, and
leaped off into the woods from the base and continued his flight as
before. Plain as was this to the Huron, another fact was still
plainer--the Rifleman had done no such thing.

"Why do you think he hasn't used this tree?" asked O'Hara.

"Too plain--_Injin sure to t'ink he do it._"

Oonamoo had told the exact truth, for Dernor had really approached the
branches of the tree with the intention of using them as we have
hinted, when he had seen that his pursuers would be sure to suspect
such an artifice, from the ready means afforded him; and he had,
therefore, given over his first resolve, and continued his ascent of
the creek.

All around the base were the imprints of moccasins, showing where the
Shawnees and Miamis had searched and failed to find the trail. Oonamoo
having noticed all this, in far less time than it has taken us to
relate it, walked out on the tree-trunk as far as it would allow him
without wetting his feet Standing thus, he leaned over and peered out
into the water.

"Look dere--knowed it," said he, pointing out a few feet from the
shore. The water was semi-translucent, so that it required a keen view
to discover the object of the Huron's gaze; but, following the
direction of his finger, O'Hara made out to discover on the bottom of
the creek the _sign_ left by the passage of a human foot. They were not
_impressions_, because there was not a dent visible, the ground being
entirely free from any thing like it; but there were two delicate, yet
perfect _outlines_ of a moccasin. The hunter had stood a few moments on
this spot, and then stepped into deeper water. The tracks thus left by
his feet had gradually filled with the muddy sediment composing the
bottom of the creek, until, as we have said, there were no
_impressions_ left; but, completely around where they had once been,
ran a dark line, as if traced by the hand of an artist, a complete
outline of the hunter's foot. This faint, almost invisible, evidence of
his passage had entirely escaped the eyes of his pursuers.

"What I t'ought," said Oonamoo; "knowed dey'd t'ink he'd come out
dere--go in water agin--come out furder up-stream."

"By thunder," said O'Hara, in amazement, "you make me ashamed of
myself, Oonamoo. I believe you could track the gray eagle through air.
Come, now, where is Lew? you can tell, if you're a mind to."

This extravagant compliment was entirely lost upon the stolid Huron. He
appeared not to hear it. He merely repeated, "He come out furder up,"
and, springing lightly from the tree, continued his cautious ascent of
the creek, O'Hara following behind, and occasionally muttering his
unbounded admiration of the Indian's astonishing skill.

The opposite side of the stream was overhung almost entirely with the
heavy undergrowth so characteristic of the western forests. Beneath
this it would have been an easy matter for a foe to have concealed
himself and to fire upon the hunter and Indian; but the latter scarcely
deigned to look across, well knowing that no such a danger threatened
them. While the savages were searching for the trail of the fugitive,
Oonamoo was certain that, as yet, no one knew that any one was upon
theirs. Even had they known it, they would have cared but little, for
they were too formidable a body to fear the two men who were following
them.

All along the shore were numerous moccasin-tracks, showing how
persistently the Indians had kept up the pursuit. It struck O'Hara that
his leader must have walked pretty rapidly through the creek to keep
out of sight of the enemies, for they, being upon the land, had nothing
to retard their progress. The causes of his success in this matter were
twofold. In the first place, the extraordinary speed at which he had
run had placed him far in advance of his pursuers, upon reaching the
creek, so that he had ascended it a good distance before they reached
it; and, unlike the shrewd Huron, they were deceived by the artifice he
had practiced, believing that he had either crossed the stream, or gone
down it. In this manner he gained a start sufficient to accomplish all
he desired.

O'Hara was just on the point of framing his mouth to ask a suppressed
question, when Oonamoo, who was several feet in advance, suddenly
paused and raised his hand over his head, as a signal that silence and
caution were now necessary.



CHAPTER X.

THE PURSUIT OF THE PURSUERS.

    The red-breast, perched in arbor green,
    Sad minstrel of the quiet scene,
    While hymning, for the dying sun,
    Strains like a broken-hearted one,
    Raised not her mottled wings to fly,
    As swept those silent warriors by.--W. H. C. HOSMER.


The Huron stood a moment as motionless as a statue; then, bending
slowly forward, still holding one hand partly raised as a signal for
the hunter to retain his immobility, he took several steps forward, so
lightly and cautiously that there was absolutely no sound at all
produced. He then sunk slowly downward, and seemed to concentrate all
his faculties into the single one of sight. This lasted but a moment,
when he arose to the upright position, and, turning his head, signified
to O'Hara that he might approach. The latter did so, and immediately
saw the cause of his cautious movements. Drawn up on the bank, so as to
be entirely free of the water, with the bottom turned upward, lay an
Indian's canoe. It was made of bark, beautifully shaped, and it was
evident had not been used for a considerable time.

They silently surveyed this object for some time, when Oonamoo, who had
also been examining the earth around it gave vent to a chuckling,
guttural laugh--a sure sign that he had made some discovery which
delighted him hugely. It would have been an amusing sight for any one
to have seen this expression of pleasure upon the dark, stoical face of
the Huron. There was scarcely a change of his features, but such as was
perceptible would have been mistaken by an ordinary observer as an
evidence that he was undergoing some physical pain.

"What is the matter? what is it that pleases you, Oonamoo?" asked
O'Hara, considerably puzzled to understand the cause.

"Shawnee fool--Miami fool--don't know notting."

"What makes you think so?"

"_He come out dere!_" he replied, pointing at the end of the canoe
which lay nearest the water, and then indulging his characteristic
chuckle again.

As we have hinted in the preceding pages, O'Hara was a most skillful
backwoodsman, having few superiors among those of his own color. When
he chose to exercise his wood-craft, the true cause of his being termed
a lucky hunter was apparent, it being nothing more than his wonderful
skill and shrewdness. But, remarkable as were those qualities in him,
he was by no means equal to the Huron. Those signs, invisible in the
deep labyrinths of the woods to common eyes, were as plain to him as
the printed pages of the book to the scholar. In the preceding chapter,
we have endeavored to give some idea of the skill he displayed when
these qualities were called into requisition. O'Hara, understanding
perfectly the superior ability of his dusky friend, relied upon him to
solve all difficulties that might arise, scarcely making any effort
himself to do so. This will account for his apparent ignorance of the
secrets of the forest, which, perhaps has been noticed by the reader.

"Shawnee fool--Miami fool--don't know notting," repeated the Huron.

"They don't know as much as you, that's sartin; but I've found more
than once they knowed enough to satisfy me."

"_He come out dere_," said Oonamoo, again.

Finding there was little chance of gaining what information he wished
from the Indian, O'Hara set about solving the difficulty himself. The
former having announced that Dernor had left the creek at this point,
it now remained for him to determine by what means he had thrown his
pursuers off the scent, as it was very manifest he had done. The ground
around the canoe was quite wet and spongy, showing the numerous
footprints with considerable distinctness. Among these, it was very
easy to distinguish that of the leader of the Riflemen. The instant
O'Hara saw this, he became aware of the curious fact that it was more
_recent than those of the Indian_, proving that Dernor had _followed
them_, instead of they having followed him! How this was accomplished,
the hunter was at a loss to determine, although, from the expression of
the Indian's face, he knew it was all plain to him.

"Lew has gone over this ground last," said O'Hara, "but how he has done
it, I can't see just now. How was it?"

"_Look under canoe_," said Oonamoo.

O'Hara's eyes opened, as he began to comprehend matters. He carefully
raised one end of the canoe, and saw at once that his leader had lain
beneath it, while his enemies were searching for him. A few words more
from the Huron, and every thing was explained. Believing the reader
will be interested in the description of the ingenious artifice adopted
by the hunter, we here give it as briefly as possible.

It may seem incredible that Lewis Dernor should have been concealed
beneath this Indian canoe, when fully a dozen savages were thirsting
for his scalp, and when it would have appeared the height of absurdity
to think that they would fail to look beneath it. Nevertheless, such
was really the case. It happened in the following manner:

When the Rifleman discovered the canoe lying against the bank, he
sprung from the water, coming upon the frail barken structure with such
force that he perceptibly started the bottom. It thus appeared to have
been deserted for its uselessness. Stepping off of this upon the swampy
ground, he walked about twenty yards up the bank, when he turned to the
left, and approached the water again. The trail which he left was so
distinct that no one could fail to see, he having purposely made it
thus. Instead of taking to the water again, as it would appear he had
done, he merely entered its margin, and then walked backward to the
canoe again, stepping so exactly in his own footsteps, that the wily
Shawnees and Miamis had no suspicion of the stratagem practiced.
Reaching the canoe, he managed to lift it, without changing its
position, when he lowered it again, without making any additional
footprints. This done, he slipped beneath it, drew up his feet, and
confidently awaited the approach of the savages.

In about twenty minutes they came up. The foremost paused, upon seeing
the canoe with its cracked bottom, and were about to overturn it, when
their eyes rested upon the footprints of the fugitive. There was no
need of looking beneath it, for they could see the direction he had
taken. He was going at such speed that they had no time to pause, and
they immediately dashed off in pursuit, the others following suit, like
so many hounds. So soon as he was satisfied they were out of sight, the
Rifleman came from beneath the canoe, carefully setting it back in its
place again, and struck off in the woods at a more leisurely gait.

"All safe--nebber git on track agin," said Oonamoo.

"Don't believe they will. By gracious! but I should hate to try that
trick of Lew's. Just s'pose they had looked under! it would have been
all up with him. I daresn't use such means, 'cause I haven't got legs
enough, for emergencies. Where does the trail lead to now, Oonamoo?"

"Where gal hid--go get her now--Injin know notting about it."

"I s'pose Lew will take his time now, as he knows he's got the dogs off
his track."

"Go slow little ways--then run fast--want to see gal."

The Huron certainly displayed some knowledge of the workings of the
heart when he remarked, in substance, that, although the lover might
proceed at a moderate gait for some distance, it would not be long
before the thoughts of Edith would urge him to as great exertions as he
had displayed during the height of the chase. True to what he had said,
O'Hara noticed that his footsteps gradually lengthened until it was
manifest that he had been "letting himself out" again.

It was now getting well along in the afternoon. The Huron struck into a
sort of a compromise between a walk and a trot, he being anxious to
make what progress he could before darkness set in. They had come too
far to overtake Dernor and Edith the next day, and O'Hara began really
to believe that the two had reached the settlement by this time. Upon
mentioning this supposition to Oonamoo, the latter shook his
head--meaning that all danger had not been overcome by the fugitives.
The woods were too full of Indians, and the settlement was too far away
for them to accomplish the rest of their journey without danger.

Objects were just growing indistinct, when O'Hara and the Huron came
upon the bushes where Edith had been concealed. They saw that Dernor
had approached on the opposite side from which he had left it, and that
upon being rejoined by his charge, he had once more started northward,
as if his desire was still to remain above his enemies, and avoid, as
much as lay in his power, all probabilities of encountering them.

"I s'pose we've got to lay on our oars, as the sailors say, till
daylight," said O'Hara.

The Huron looked at him, as if he failed to comprehend him, and he
added, in explanation:

"There being no light, of course we can't see their tracks, and will
have to wait till morning."

"No wait--go on all night."

"How will you do that?"

"Oonamoo know which way dey go."

"I don't deny that, but, smart as you are, I don't believe you can see
a trail on such a night as this."

"Don't want to see trail--know which way go--go up, then go off toward
settlement."

O'Hara understood that the Huron had formed his idea of the general
direction which the Rifleman had taken, and intended to follow him in
this manner. Being thoroughly well acquainted with the country, there
was no difficulty in doing this; and, without pausing to think of drink
or food, the two resumed their pursuit as hopefully and confidently as
though the matter were already settled.

To follow up thus persistently one of the most skillful border-men of
the period, with the desire of assisting him in whatever strait he may
have gotten himself, would have been the acme of absurdity upon the
part of those undertaking it, and would have gained for them no thanks
for attempting it, had the circumstances been difficult. But,
incommoded as he was by the charge of Edith, and environed by enemies,
it could hardly be expected that he would come through unscathed. His
enemies, fully aware of the difficulties of his situation, undoubtedly
were using every endeavor to thwart him, it being certain that they
were aware of his identity. To have captured the leader of the Riflemen
of the Miami would have been a feat of which even a war-party would
have been proud, and the Huron well knew they would not give over their
efforts until he was absolutely beyond their reach. This was the reason
why he was so anxious to press forward as far as it would be prudent to
venture during the darkness.

By midnight the two had reached a point above which the Huron believed
the fugitives would not go; and being unable to determine the precise
course which they had taken after this, they concluded to wait until
daylight before going further. Accordingly they lay down on the ground,
both dropping to sleep immediately, and both waking at precisely the
same moment, just as the light of the day was appearing.

A half-hour's search discovered the trail of their friends within
several hundred yards of where they had slept--thus close and exact had
been the calculation of the sagacious Huron. He and O'Hara now began to
entertain hopes that, after all, the fugitives had succeeded in
reaching the settlement. The latter, at the most, was not more than
twenty miles distant; and, had Dernor been allowed the entire night to
travel, he could have safely reached it. A critical examination of his
footprints, however, revealed the fact that they had not been made more
than twenty hours before. If he had reached the settlement, therefore,
he must have done it in the latter part of the preceding day.

The two now pressed on with all haste. They had gone scarcely a
half-mile, when both made a startling discovery. Numerous
moccasin-tracks became suddenly visible, and O'Hara needed no prompting
to understand that the persistent Indians were again upon the trail of
the fugitives. How they had succeeded in regaining it, after being so
cleverly misled, was a mystery. The Huron accounted for it only upon
the supposition that they had come upon it by accident. A slight
comparison of the two trails by Oonamoo showed that the savages were
close behind their friends--so close that they could overtake them ere
they could reach their destination--the settlement.



CHAPTER XI.

AT BAY.

    Like lightning from storm-clouds on high,
    The hurtling, death-winged arrows fly,
    And windrows of pale warriors lie!
    Oh! never has the sun's bright eye
    Looked from his hill-top in the sky,
        Upon a field so glorious.--G. P. MORRIS.


As Oonamoo and O'Hara pressed forward, they found they were gaining
very rapidly upon the pursuers and pursued. As for the Huron, he had an
apprehension amounting almost to a certain conviction that the leader
of the Riflemen, after all, had committed a sad mistake, in believing
that he was safe from his enemies, after being rejoined by Edith. This
belief had led him into some trap, and the faithful Indian felt that
his services were sorely needed at that very moment.

It was yet early in the day, when he and the hunter ascended a sort of
ridge, which afforded them quite an extensive view of the surrounding
wilderness. Here, carefully protecting their persons from observation,
they looked out over the forest in quest of signs of human beings. The
unexperienced person might have looked for hours without discovering
the slightest evidence of animal life in the vast expanse spread out
before him. He would have seen the dark emerald of these western wilds
cut by the gleaming silver of many a stream and river; the tree-tops
gently bowed, like a field of grain, when the breeze rides over it; and
overhead, perhaps, would have been noted the flocks of birds circling
in curious figures; but all beneath would have been silent--silent,
save in that deep, solemn murmur which comes up perpetually like the
voice of the ocean.

But the Huron had scarcely glanced over the sylvan scene, when his dark
eye rested upon what, to him, was a most palpable evidence of the
presence of others in these woods. About a half-mile distant, on the
edge of a small clearing, stood the remains of a log fort. This was
subjected to a most searching scrutiny by both, but, for a time, O'Hara
discovered nothing unusual in its appearance.

"He's dere--he and the gal," said Oonamoo, pointing toward the pile of
logs.

"How do you know that? Have you seen him?"

"See now what he done--he's dere. Look agin."

"I've looked at them logs ever since we've been standing here, but
hain't seen Lew or the gal yet."

"Eber seen logs afore?"

"Have I ever seen them logs before? Yes, often."

"How they look when last see him?"

"The same as they do now, I believe."

"Sure?" asked Oonamoo, in a tone that revealed all to O'Hara. He now
looked again toward the remains of the log-fort, and understood at once
the meaning of the Huron's question. He had passed by the spot during
the preceding autumn, and noticed that the logs were scattered and
thrown down, as if a tornado had passed over the spot. Now, however,
there was system in their arrangement--proof sure that the hand of man
had been employed upon them. The Huron had seen them scarcely a week
before, and knew that all these changes had been made since--that, in
fact, Lewis Dernor had made them, and at that moment was standing at
bay behind them.

While yet they were looking, they saw something gleam for an instant in
the sunlight, and then disappear as if drawn behind the logs.

"That was Lew's rifle," said O'Hara. "He always keeps the barrel
polished up so that it nearly blinds a person to shoot."

"'Sh! look."

At the point where they had witnessed the movement of this bright
object, they now saw a red jet of flame spout out, a wreath of blue
smoke arise, and then came the report of a rifle.

"There's one red-skin the less," said O'Hara. "When Lew pulls trigger,
_something_ is sure to go under."

"Want us there," said Oonamoo, starting down the ridge on his peculiar
trot, and moving off toward what may now properly be termed a fort.
Upon coming in its vicinity, both exercised the greatest caution in
their movements, knowing, as they did, that it was besieged by their
deadly enemies. A half-hour's reconnoitering by both showed that there
were ten Indians, exclusive of one dead one, collected at one end of
the clearing, where each, safely ensconced behind a tree, was patiently
waiting for a shot at the Rifleman, whom they now at last believed they
had fairly cornered.

Upon witnessing this condition of affairs, Oonamoo and O'Hara debated a
proposition proposed by the latter. It was that the Huron, who was very
fleet of foot, should instantly make all haste to the settlement, and
return with the Riflemen and a sufficient force to scatter the
besieging Indians to the four winds. This undertaking would require
more than five hours at the utmost to fulfill it, but those five hours
were so precious, that Oonamoo decided not to make the attempt. He felt
sure that unless Dernor surrendered, the party of savages would attack
the place in a body before two hours elapsed; and, brave and determined
as he knew the Rifleman to be, he could see that a resistance upon his
part would be useless. He, therefore, acted with his usual wisdom, in
deciding to remain upon the ground to render assistance when it would
be needed.

The first plan adopted by O'Hara and the Huron was to keep their
position, remaining carefully concealed, until the savages should move
forward to the assault, when, as the former expressed it, they would
"wade in promiscuously." This project offered to its originators the
great point of excitement and desperate fighting, but was finally
rejected by the Huron for the last reason.

It is a very pleasant thing for a nation to think itself invincible and
able to conquer all others with which it may come in collision. The
same sensations, in a smaller degree, no doubt are experienced by two
persons when, in the flush of the moment, they feel able to combat with
five times their numbers; but, if time be allowed, the "sober second
thought" will prevail, and action will be guided more by prudence than
madness. The Huron was as brave a man as ever breathed, but he was also
as shrewd and cunning. He knew well enough that should he and O'Hara
rush in upon ten desperate, well-armed warriors, no matter how fiercely
they might fight, the result would be that both would be killed and no
one benefited. He, therefore, determined to resort once more to his
powers of stratagem.

The great point now was to make Dernor aware of the vicinity of his two
friends. Without this Oonamoo would be more likely to be shot by him
than by the savages. This part of the stratagem was the most difficult
to accomplish. The Shawnees and Miamis being collected at one end of
the clearing, it could not be expected that any signal, however
skillfully or guardedly made, would attract the notice of Dernor. It
might possibly be seen by Edith, but would not be understood. This
means, therefore, was not even attempted.

The besieged Rifleman of course kept himself invisible. He had become
aware, when within a mile or so of the present spot, that he was again
pursued by his unrelenting enemies, and making all haste thither, had
thrown the logs together as compactly and securely as the time allowed
him would permit. He had brought down one of his assailants, and they
in turn had buried some twenty balls in the logs around him, without
inflicting injury upon either Edith or himself.

In the hope of giving his leader an inkling of the condition of
affairs, O'Hara uttered a whistle, so perfect an imitation of the call
of a certain bird, that the suspicious Shawnees and Miamis failed to
notice it. Pausing a few moments, he repeated it, and then awaited the
action of Oonamoo. Whether Dernor had caught the signal or not, of
course his friends had no means of judging; but the Huron, knowing that
if he had not his own death was certain, now coolly made the desperate
attempt he had decided upon.

Securely sheltered behind his log-fort, Dernor stood with cocked rifle
awaiting his chance to pick off one of his enemies. Every faculty was
absorbed in this, and he scarcely removed his eye once from the spot
where he knew they were collected. He was aware of their exact number,
as he was also of the fact that Girty, the renegade, was not among
them. His lips were compressed, a dark scowl had settled upon his face,
and it would have been easy for any one to have read the iron
determination of his heart. He was at bay, it was true, and he was not
ignorant of the desire of the savages to gain possession of him. He
said nothing to Edith of the resolve he had made, but she needed no
telling to understand it. So long as life remained, her defender would
never desert her.

He was standing thus, gazing stealthily out through a loophole, when
Edith, who was watching every portion of the clearing, placed her hand
on his shoulder and told him that an Indian was stealing toward them
from the side opposite to that on which their enemies were collected.
As quick as thought Dernor wheeled around, pointed his rifle out and
took aim at the approaching savage. The latter saw the movement,
understood fully its cause, and yet made no attempt to escape, relying
entirely upon the chances of the Rifleman discovering his identity
before firing. His faith was rewarded, although Oonamoo came nigher
death in that single moment than ever he imagined. Dernor's finger was
already pressing the trigger, when he saw directly behind the
approaching Indian the barrel of a rifle project from behind a tree and
then disappear again. This served to arrest his attention, and before
he renewed his aim the round face of O'Hara was thrust forth and
disappeared again. This led him to examine the face of the venturesome
Indian. A single glance and he recognized Oonamoo, the faithful Huron.
He instantly drew his rifle in, and the latter, understanding the
meaning of it, sprung nimbly forward, and with one bound cleared the
opposing barricades and came down beside the besieged Rifleman. The
latter grasped his hand and silently pressed it.

"Who is with you?" he asked, after relinquishing it.

"'Hara--short feller--legs like bent Injin's bow."

"Nobody else?"

"Nobody else," replied the Huron.

"You watch that side, then, Oonamoo, and I will attend to this."

"No watch this side--no Injin come here--all on toder side--me watch
with you--come round this side bime-by."

"Do as you please; you're an Injin and ought to understand them."

Oonamoo had been seen by the besieging savages as he bounded over the
logs, and, for a few minutes, they were puzzled to understand the
meaning of so singular an occurrence. Their first impression was that
one of their number, more daring than the others, had taken this
desperate means of getting at the Rifleman, and they listened intently
for sounds of combat and struggles between them; but, as moment after
moment passed without the silence being disturbed, their eyes were
opened to the fact that he had been reinforced by a formidable ally;
and this, too, when a little foresight on their part would have
prevented it. Having felt certain, previous to this, that the white man
had no friends in the vicinity, they had neglected to surround his
fort, so as to prevent their approach. To prevent any thing further
happening like this, a part of the band now proceeded to get on the
opposite side of him.

There was but one way in which this could be done without being menaced
by the rifles of the besieged party. Several of the Indians, being
careful to keep the protecting trees before them, slowly retreated
backward until they had gone far enough in the wood to be safe, when
they passed around and approached the fort from the opposite side. It
was not long before they became aware that the friend of the Rifleman
was fully as sagacious as himself, and that, after all, the parties
were not so unequally matched. The threatening muzzles were constantly
protruding from behind those logs, and it was absolute suicide for any
one to attempt to stand before them.

Dernor having caught a glimpse of O'Hara, his companion, wondered
considerably that he did not follow the example of the Huron, and unite
with him in the fort. Thus strengthened, his confidence would have been
restored, and he would bid defiance to the Shawnees and Miamis. But, as
he waited, and finally saw that a number of Indians had succeeded in
getting behind him, he was compelled to give up this hope. This excited
speculation the more upon his part, because he was fully aware of
O'Hara's defects, and felt that it would have been the most prudent
course for him to adopt. At length he questioned the Huron:

"Where's Tom?"

"Dunno--gone away."

"Why didn't he do as you did--come over and join me?"

"Tom 'Hara goin' _to do sumkin' else_--_he_ know what."

"I expect he does. He'd better move his carcase from where he was a few
minutes ago, or them dogs will move it for him."

"He know--_dey_ won't move _him_--he get out way soon enough."

"He's got too short legs," said Dernor, who, aware of the affection the
Huron bore him, and experiencing a sort of reaction of his spirits
after their continued depression, was disposed to quiz Oonamoo a
little.

"Got _long_ eyes, dough," replied he, quickly.

"Got long eyes?" laughed Dernor. "I don't know as they're any longer
than mine."

"Good 'eal longer. Tom 'Hara neber let Shawnee and Miami get him atween
the logs--he know too much."

Dernor felt the sarcasm of this remark and took it kindly.

"Neither would they have got me here, had I been alone."

It would be difficult to describe the expression that illuminated the
Huron's face at this remark. He turned his dark, basilisk orbs (their
fierceness now subdued into a softer light) full upon Edith, who,
seated upon a portion of one of the logs, was listening to the
conversation. The muscles around the corners of his mouth twitched a
little, a wrinkle or two gathered, his beautiful white teeth became
visible, but she only half-suspected that he was smiling.

"Nice gal," said he, his voice now as soft as a woman's. "White man
love her--fight for her--Oonamoo do so too."

She did not know whether to be pleased or frightened at the look of the
Huron. In her perplexity she turned toward Dernor.

"You needn't be alarmed," said he, understanding her embarrassment.
"Oonamoo here is an old and tried friend, and will stand by you as long
as I will, which," he added, in a lower tone, "will be as long as the
One above gives me breath. He is devoted to me if he doesn't love you."

"Yes, Oonamoo does--he love all white folks--love the gals--clever to
him and feed him when hungry."

Dernor merely smiled, believing that the remark of the savage fully
explained his passion without any qualifying observation of his own.

"Oonamoo love white folks--love missionaries--tell him all about God up
dere"--pointing upward--"spirit land--happy place--Oonamoo don't take
scalp when Injin sleeping--so he go up dere when he die."

"I believe you will, for if there ever was an honorable savage you are
one," said Dernor, warmly.

The Huron made no reply to this compliment, evidently thinking enough
had been said. It must not be supposed that this conversation occurred
in the connected form in which we have given it. Several moments
sometimes elapsed between the different remarks, and hardly once during
its progress did Dernor look at the savage. Once or twice he turned
toward Edith, as also did Oonamoo, but the danger that menaced him was
too great for either to be diverted from it.

Some twenty minutes had elapsed, when an exclamation from the Huron
showed that some new scheme was afoot. Immediately after, a blazing
arrow came whizzing through the air, and buried itself in the logs. The
sharp crackling told that the twist of flame had communicated with the
logs and it was burning.

"My God! are we to be burnt alive?" exclaimed Dernor, losing his
self-possession for a moment.

"Ugh--can't burn--logs too wet--go out," replied his unmoved companion.

So it proved, although an inch or two of some of the logs were
sufficiently seasoned to take fire, they were all too damp and soaked
to burn. Oonamoo had hardly spoken when the blaze went out of itself. A
perfect storm of arrows, tipped with burning tow, now came sailing in
upon them, but the only inconvenience they occasioned was a blinding,
suffocating smoke, which lasted, however, but a few moments.

"Where the deuce did they get their bows and tow from?" asked Dernor.
"Do they carry such articles with them?"

"Sent for 'em after git here," replied Oonamoo.

"Won't any of these logs burn?"

"Too wet--smoke--but won't blaze."

The Indians soon found that nothing could be accomplished in the way of
burning out the fugitives, so they ceased the attempt only to devise
some other expedient. What this was to be, the besieged party for a
long time were unable to determine. The first warning they had was a
bullet, which grazed the face of Oonamoo, coming in at the _top_ of the
fort.

"Ugh! Shawnee climb tree--Oonamoo fetch him out dere," said the latter,
sheltering himself as quick as lightning, and peering out in the hope
of gaining a glimpse of the miscreant who had come so near shooting
him. He was disappointed, however, the savage descending the tree with
such skill and caution that his person was never once exposed to the
eagle eye of the Huron.

For an hour succeeding this last attempt nothing further was done by
the besieging savages. They carefully kept their bodies concealed, so
that the utmost watchfulness on the part of Oonamoo and Dernor failed
to get a shot at them. They saw enough, however, to make them certain
they were surrounded by their enemies, and that for the present, at
least, under Heaven, they had nothing but their own bravery and good
rifles to rely upon.

There were several means by which the fugitives could be compelled to
succumb in the end, if these means were only employed by the savages.
The first and obviously safest was to keep up the siege until they were
compelled to come to terms. Dernor had not a drop of water nor a
particle of food, and consequently this plan on the part of the
besiegers would have been only a question of time. Again, a rapid and
determined assault could scarcely fail to take the Rifleman and the
Huron. There were ten Indians to make the attempt, but those ten knew
well enough that two of their number would never live to reach the fort
in case the rush was made and that there would be desperate work before
the two men could be overcome.

During the hour of silence these plans occurred to Dernor, and he
mentioned the first to Oonamoo. The cunning savage shook his head.

"Won't do that--_afeard_."

"Afraid of what?"

"Settlement two--t'ree--fifteen mile off--_afeard_ other Long Knives
come afore we got starve."

"I hope the boys are somewhere in the woods. Why don't the cowardly
dogs rush in upon us? They could batter these logs down in five
minutes."

"_Afeard_ we batter _'em_ down," replied the Huron, with a sparkle of
his black eyes.

"We would surely knock some of them over, but I don't suppose we could
finish up the whole ten."

"Finish some--don't know which--dat de reason."

"Their heads are so full of their devilish inventions, I should think
they could get up some way to attack us without getting a shot at
them."

"Attack purty soon--keep eye peeled--don't see notting?"

"Nothing at all," replied the Rifleman, who, all this time, was peering
through a chink in the logs and not looking at the Indian.

Taking it for granted that if the Huron saw no danger there could be
none, Dernor turned toward Edith, and asked, in that low, passionate
tone which he instinctively assumed in addressing her:

"And how do you feel, dear Edith, all this time?"

"_My_ courage, I think, will bear up as long as _yours_," she answered,
with a faint smile.

"It will bear up to the end, then," he added. Then looking at her a
moment, he continued: "Edith, how you must feel toward me for bringing
you into this trouble! I have been thinking of it for the last day or
two."

"Did you do it on purpose?" she asked. "That is, did you _know_ we
should be pursued and persecuted as we have been when we started?"

"Know it? of course not. I would have been shot before I would have
come."

"Then why do you ask me such a question? No, Lewis, I do not blame you
in the least. On the contrary, I shall never be able to express the
gratitude I feel for what you have done."

This was the first time Edith had addressed the Rifleman by his given
name, and it gave him a peculiar pleasure which it would be difficult
to describe. He was only restrained from approaching by the reflection
that he would cut a most ridiculous figure in the presence of the
Huron. His feelings were now such that, upon his own account alone, he
would have welcomed several days' siege. In fact, he would have cared
very little had Oonamoo been a hundred miles distant just then.

But these emotions were only temporary. Five minutes later, he felt
heartily ashamed that he should have entertained them.

"I am certain, Edith----"

Further utterance was checked by an exclamation from the Huron. Looking
forth, Dernor saw that the crisis of the contest had arrived!



CHAPTER XII.

CONCLUSION.

They come!--be firm--in silence rally! The Long Knives our retreat have
found! Hark! their tramp is in the valley, And they hem the forest
round! The burthened boughs with pale scouts quiver, The echoing hills
tumultuous ring, While, across the eddying river, Their barks, like
foaming war-steeds, spring, The bloodhounds darken land and water, They
come--like buffaloes for slaughter.--G. P. MORRIS.


At that point from which the Huron had advanced to the fort, the
Shawnees and Miamis had now collected, preparatory to their final
attack upon it. The wood being thick at this spot, they had little
difficulty in keeping their bodies out of sight, the besieged being
enabled to judge of their position by the points of their rifles and
portions of their dress, which they took no pains to conceal.

"That means business," said Dernor, loosening his knife, and examining
the priming of his rifle. "What's their idea, Oonamoo?"

"Run all togedder--make big rush--all come from one side."

Being satisfied of this, the Huron crossed over to the side of the
hunter, so as to be ready for the assault. He was as cool as if sitting
in his own wigwam, although none was more aware than himself of the
peril that hung over his head. Could the Shawnees or Miamis once obtain
his person, no species of torment that their fiendish minds could
invent would be left untried upon him. But he had played hide-and-seek
too long with death, to be disconcerted in a moment like this.

"What are they waiting for?" asked Dernor, who began to grow impatient
at the delay.

"Ain't waitin'--here dey come!"

As he spoke, ten Indians suddenly appeared to view, from behind as many
trees, and, pausing a moment, set up a yell that must have been heard
miles distant, and rushed with the speed of the whirlwind toward the
fort. Half-way across the clearing they had come, when the sharp crack
of two rifles was heard, and the two foremost savages, making a
tremendous bound in the air, came down to the ground in their
death-struggles. But the others were not checked in the least. On they
came, right over the prostrate bodies, and the next minute were tearing
at the pile of logs, with the fury of madmen.

The Rifleman and the Huron had discharged their rifles together at the
savages, as they came pouring forward; then drawing their knives, they
awaited the onset. The logs, loosely thrown together, could not long
resist the efforts to dislodge them, and, in a few minutes, came
tumbling to the ground. The first bronzed skull that appeared above
them was shattered like an egg-shell, by the stock of the Huron's
rifle; while, as the savages swarmed in, Dernor stooped, and catching
Edith round the waist, bounded clear of the logs, and dashed at
headlong speed across the clearing. Right behind, like a pack of
hounds, poured his relentless enemies, held in check solely by the
Huron, who, covering the retreat of his white friends, raged like a
tiger with his clubbed rifle; but, powerful and agile as he was, he was
finally brought to the earth, and, heedless of him, the savages poured
onward, intent only on capturing Dernor and Edith.

At this moment the edge of the clearing was reached; the fugitive had
dashed into the wood, and his enemies were just following, when several
flashes illuminated the edge of the forest, and simultaneous with the
report, the remaining Riflemen of the Miami, with one exception, burst
into the clearing and shot forward like a tornado toward the savages.
The number of the whites was increased by Harry and Jim Smith, but half
of the Indians had already gone to the earth, and the remaining ones
broke and scattered as if a mine had exploded beneath their feet.

"Hello! anybody hurt?" demanded Harry Smith. "Come back here, Lew, and
let us see you."

The fugitive had run quite a distance; but, recognizing the voice of a
friend, he halted, looked back, and then returned. In the clearing, he
saw standing the panting, excited forms of the brothers Smith, Allmat,
George Dernor and Ferdinand Sego! The latter was leaning on his rifle,
and looked up as Lewis and Edith came to view. He instantly started, as
if struck by a bullet, and gazed at her as though he doubted the
evidence of his own eyes. Edith, on her part, was hardly less agitated.
She trembled and leaned heavily a moment on the hunter's arm, and then,
relinquishing her hold, bounded forward and was clasped in the arms of
Sego. Neither spoke until they had partly recovered from their
emotions; then they conversed in tones so low, that the bystanders, had
they wished, could not have overheard the words that were said.

All this time, as may well be supposed, Lewis Dernor was tortured by
the most agonizing emotions. The beautiful dreams and air-castles which
he had been continually forming and building during the past few days,
now dissolved like mist in the air, and left nothing but the cold,
cheerless reality, far colder and more cheerless than had ever before
impressed him. Sego and Edith were reunited, and although there
appeared to have been some mystery and misunderstanding between them,
it was now cleared up, and their happiness seemed complete. The
Rifleman drew a deep sigh and looked up.

"I say, Lew," said his brother, "I've asked yer half a dozen times,
whether there's any thing that need keep us here any longer?"

"The Huron--Oonamoo?" asked the hunter, looking around him.

"Was Oonamoo with you?--I recollect, now, Tom said he was. Well, that
must be him, then, stretched out yonder."

The two moved toward the prostrate form of the Indian, which lay upon
its face. They rolled him over on his back, but he was limp and
nerveless as a rag. His body was still warm, but to all appearance he
was entirely lifeless--a gash on the side of his face, from which a
great quantity of blood had streamed over his person, adding to the
ghastly appearance of the body.

"Poor fellow! he's dead," said Lewis, with a saddened feeling, as he
looked down upon him. "He was a faithful fellow, and had few equals.
I'm sorry he's dead."

"Oonamoo ain't dead," said the prostrate individual, opening his eyes,
and getting upon his feet with some difficulty. "Play 'possum--dat
all."

"You're a good one," said George Dernor, admiringly, as he supported
him. "You've had considerable of a hurt though, along side of your
noddle."

"Hit purty hard--hurt a _leetle_," said the Huron.

"We'll dress your wounds as soon as we reach the brook out in the
woods. What did you play 'possum for?"

"Fool Shawnee--fool Miami--t'ink dey cotch Lew and gal, den come and
git Oonamoo scalp. If t'ink he ain't dead, kill him; wait till get out
of sight, den run."

The meaning of which was, that the Huron, upon being felled to the
earth, concluded it best to feign death until his enemies were out of
sight, when he would have risen to his feet and fled. The wound he had
received was so severe, that he knew his flight would be difficult and
tardy, and he, therefore, avoided giving any signs of life as long as
he had reason to believe the savages were in the vicinity. Of course he
was perfectly conscious when the two Riflemen stood over him, and heard
their words. Understanding at once from these the changed condition of
affairs, he arose to his feet, as we have mentioned.

A few minutes later, the party was moving slowly through the wood. The
brothers Smith led the way; behind them came Sego and Edith far more
affectionate and loving than she and Dernor had ever been. The latter,
with his brother, and Allmat and Oonamoo, brought up the rear. In a few
minutes they reached the brook, where the party halted.

The stoical Huron had borne up like a martyr thus far; but the
precipitation with which he sought a seat the moment a pause was made,
showed that he had taxed nature to the utmost. The cool fluid was taken
from the brook in the canteens of the hunters, all the blood thoroughly
washed from the Indian, and then the wound was carefully bandaged by
Edith, from pieces of her own dress. This done, the savage rose to his
feet--his head being so swathed and bundled up that it was nearly
thrice its ordinary size--and looked about him with an air that was
truly amusing.

"You'll be all right agin in a few days," said Harry Smith. "Let's move
on, as the day is getting well along."

"Oonamoo don't go furder--leave you here," said the savage.

"How is this? Come, go with us to the settlement and stay till your
wound gets better," said Lewis.

All joined their entreaties, but it availed nothing. The savage had
made up his mind, and it could not be changed.

"Can't stay--Shawnees, Delawares, all round--git much scalp in woods,"
and waving them an adieu, he plunged into the forest.

"Injin is Injin!" said Jim Smith; "you can't change his nature. The
missionaries have had a hold of him, and made him an honorable
red-skin, but they can't get that hankering after scalps out of him.
Shall I tell you where he's going? He's going back: to the clearin'
where them dead Injins are stretched, and intends to get their
top-knots. I seen him look at 'em very wishful-like when we started
away. He was too weak, and he didn't want to do it afore Edith, or he'd
've had 'em afore we left that place."

[The next time the Riflemen encountered the Huron, it was upon the
war-trail, and full a dozen more scalp-locks hung at his girdle!]

Again the party moved forward, now with considerable briskness, there
being no cause for tardiness or delay. Sego and Edith conversed in low
tones, every look and action showing their perfect happiness, while the
hardy leader of the Riflemen was as wretched an object as it is
possible to imagine. They had progressed several miles, when, as they
descended a sort of hollow, they encountered O'Hara, hurrying along as
fast as the shortness of his legs would permit.

"Hello!" he exclaimed, suddenly halting. "Is the row done with?"

"Of course it is," replied Harry Smith.

"Who finished it?"

"We all had a hand in it, I reckon."

"It's an all-fired shame. As soon as--where's Oonamoo?" he abruptly
demanded, looking around him.

"Gone off in the woods for scalps."

"Didn't lose his?"

"No; although he come mighty nigh losing his head."

"It's an all-fired shame," resumed O'Hara. "As soon as he got inside
the fort there with Lew, I streaked it for the settlement to get the
boys. I told you to hurry, but after you got to the clearin', I wanted
you to wait so that I could jine in the fun, and pitch in
promiscuously. Why didn't you do it?"

"Matters were mixed up a little too much to allow us to wait," replied
Lewis Dernor.

"S'pose they was, but I'm mad and want to lick somebody. Won't you
fight, Lew?"

The latter merely smiled, and the party moved on, O'Hara being forced
to bottle his wrath, as he could find no one upon whom to expend it.
Occasionally, however, he and the brothers Smith had a war of words,
but it amounted to nothing, being attended by no real ill-feeling upon
either side.

It was just growing dark when the party reached the settlement. The
delight with which the fugitives were welcomed by the settlers need not
be described. Many had had the most painful apprehensions regarding
Edith, and nearly every family felt as if one of its members had been
restored, upon her return. And the confidence which they reposed in the
gallant-hearted Rifleman, the reliance which they placed upon his
prowess and bravery, were such that all felt his death would have been
a public calamity.

The Riflemen remained several days in the settlement, there being no
special cause for hurrying their departure. While the members of this
small party enjoyed themselves to the utmost, the sadness and dejection
of their leader was remarked by all. He was often seen wandering in the
woods, silent and moody, resolutely refusing communication with any
one. He carefully avoided Sego and Edith, until the latter, wondering
more than the others at the cause of his changed behavior, sent word to
him that she wished him to spend an evening with her. Dernor's first
impulse was to refuse the invitation; but, on second thought, he
concluded to accept it, and he returned a reply promising to call upon
her on the following evening.

Edith was living with Smith, where Sego was also spending his time,
and, from the wording of her invitation, he confidently expected to
meet her alone. He was considerably disappointed and chagrined,
therefore, on entering the room, to find Sego seated within a few feet
of her, the expression of both faces showing that each was full of
happiness and utterly delighted with each other. Both welcomed him, and
when he had been seated, Edith asked, rather abruptly:

"Now, Lewis, what is the matter with you?"

"Nothing," he replied, looking at the toe of his moccasin, and feeling
a little stubborn and ugly simply because his fair questioner was just
the opposite.

"Now you needn't tell me that," she persisted. "What makes you act so
strangely--and keep away from me as though you hated me?"

"_You_ ought to know," replied the hunter, more sullenly than before.

"I? I am sure I do not. Pray, what is it?"

The hunter, who was acting much like a pouting child, refused to make
answer. Edith laughingly repeated her question several times, but it
was not replied to. Still laughing and blushing, she arose, and moved
her chair close beside him; then, sitting down, placed one of her warm
hands in his. Gently patting his embrowned cheek with the other hand,
she asked, in that voice which none but the maiden can assume who is
conscious of her power:

"_Won't_ you tell Edith what troubles you?"

Matters were getting decidedly dangerous. There sat the sullen hunter,
his head bent, his lips closed, and his eyes fixed resolutely upon the
toe of his moccasin. Right before these eyes, so directly before them
that the view of his foot was almost hid, was the beaming, laughing,
radiant face of Edith, looking right up in his own, her eyes sparkling,
and her countenance a thousand times more lovely than ever. Several
times Dernor felt like catching her to his bosom, and kissing her lips
again and again; but, as he was on the very point of doing so, he
remembered that Sego was in the room, and felt more angered than ever,
and gazed harder than ever at his moccasin.

"Won't you even look at me?" asked Edith, putting her open hand over
his eyes, as if to pull his gaze down. He instantly looked her steadily
in the face, without changing a muscle of his countenance, while she,
folding her hands, returned the gaze with equal steadiness. Her lips,
too, were resolutely closed, but her eyes fairly scintillated with
mischief, and she seemed just able to prevent herself from laughing
outright. How long this _oculistic_ contest would have continued we can
not pretend to say, but it was ended by Edith asking:

"What makes you look so troubled, Lewis?"

"Because I am," he replied, curtly.

"Tell me the cause, and I will do all I can to help it."

"It's _you_ that have done it!" He spoke with deep feeling.

"I that have done it!" repeated the girl, in consternation. "Why, how
did I do it?"

"Edith!" His words were ringingly clear. They were winged with reproof.
"Do you want me to tell you?"

"Of course I do."

"When we were alone, you led me to believe that you loved me. As soon
as you saw Sego you went right into his arms, and I was forgotten."

The lurking mirth and mischief in her face grew more perceptible each
moment, while he was certain, although he did not look in that
direction, that Sego was doing his best to smother a laugh.

"Well, what of that?" she asked, looking down from his face and toying
with a button at his waist.

"_What of that?_" he exclaimed, indignantly. "It is the meanest thing a
person could do."

The reader must be indulgent, and consider the circumstances in which
the hunter was placed. The mischievous Edith was tormenting him. How
could she, being a woman, help it?

"Don't you believe I love you?" she asked, after a moment's pause.

"Believe it? To my sorrow and mortification, _I know_ you don't."

"Lewis!"

"You love Sego, and I can be nothing to you but one of many friends,"
he added.

"Yes, dearly do I love Sego!" the maiden replied, with the old
roguishness in her eyes.

"Fudge!" he exclaimed, impatiently, and making a movement as if to move
away. "Edith"--he spoke earnestly--"I can not bear this trifling. I am
sorry you have treated me thus. I must leave you----"

"No, you must not leave me!" she as earnestly answered.

"Do you wish to keep me here longer, to mortify me?"

"I have something more to say to you."

"Say it quickly, then."

"In the first place, look straight into my eyes, as you did a few
minutes ago."

The hunter did as requested, although it was a harder task than he
suspected.

"Now," said Edith, "in the first place, _I love you_; and, in the
second place, I love him (pointing to Sego); but (here a pause) I do
not feel the same toward each of you."

"I shouldn't think you did, the way things looked in the clearing!"

Edith laughed outright, and then said:

"Lewis, let me tell you something. The man sitting there, whom you know
as Ferdinand Sego, _is my own father_!"

"Is that so?" demanded Dernor, almost springing off his seat, "Then, by
thunder, if you ain't the most noble gal in the wide creation, and I
the biggest fool."

And he embraced her, unmindful of the presence of Sego, who seemed in
danger of an epileptic fit from his excessive laughter.

"How is this? Let's understand matters," said the Rifleman, a few
minutes later.

"I can soon explain," said Sego. "To commence at the beginning, my name
is Ferdinand Sego Sudbury. I emigrated out in this western country some
years since, with my wife, and only daughter, Edith, here. Shortly
after, my wife died; and, feeling lonely and dejected, I took to
wandering in the woods, making long hunts, to while away the time. You
remember when I encountered you, and received an invitation to make one
of your number. I accepted it, with the understanding that I could not
spend my entire time with you. When not with you, I was at my own
cabin, with my daughter. I joined under the simple name which you have
known me by, for no reason at all save that it was a mere notion, I
having used that name in the East on more than one occasion. I kept my
relations with your band secret from Edith, as I did not wish to alarm
her by letting her know that I took part in your desperate expeditions.

"It happened on one occasion, when wandering along the Ohio, on my
return to my cabin, that I encountered a flat-boat, in which were
several of my acquaintances. At their urgent request, I waded out, was
taken on board, and accompanied them to their destination, down the
river. Here I left them, and several days after reached my cabin. I
found Edith gone. The undisturbed condition of the furniture forbade
the supposition that she had been carried off by the savages. I
endeavored to find her trail, but a storm obliterated all traces, and I
was compelled to give her up as lost.

"It was quite a while before I rejoined you. When I did, I said nothing
of my loss, not believing that you knew any thing about it. It seems
singular that I should have omitted to mention it; but, I will not deny
I had a lingering suspicion that Edith had eloped with some young
hunter, whose acquaintance she had formed during my absence. After I
had been with you some time, I mentioned her name, but, you not having
heard it, I gained no satisfaction by doing so.

"What happened after this is known, perhaps, better to you than to me.
If you love Edith, as I rather suspect you do, from all I have heard
and seen, you are welcome to her. I know she has a strong affection for
you."

It is wonderful how a matter like the one in question will become known
in a small community. The next day there was not a person in the whole
settlement who was not aware of what has been related in the last few
pages, and there was not one who did not rejoice in the happiness of
the noble-hearted leader of the Riflemen of the Miami.

                         --------------------

As we have hinted in the commencement of this work, the organization
known by the name last mentioned, kept up its existence several years
longer. Lewis Dernor remained its nominal leader, but, after his
marriage, the exploits of its members became less frequent and noted.
All, however, joined in the great border war which raged for several
years previous to 1794. In Anthony Wayne's great battle of this year,
Tom O'Hara and Allmat fell, and, as has been said in another place, the
organization was broken up, never again to be revived. Lewis Dernor and
Edith lived to a ripe old age, and their descendants at this day are
among the most respectable and widely-known of the inhabitants of
Southern Ohio.





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