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Title: On the Kentucky Frontier - A Story of the Fighting Pioneers of the West
Author: Otis, James, 1848-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "On the Kentucky Frontier - A Story of the Fighting Pioneers of the West" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)



  [Illustration: In a twinkling I was by his side, and there saw
  that which caused the cold chill of fear to run down my
  back.--Page 40. _Frontis. On the Kentucky Frontier._]



 ON THE

 KENTUCKY FRONTIER.

 A STORY OF THE FIGHTING PIONEERS
 OF THE WEST.



 By JAMES OTIS



 [Illustration]

 With Six Page Illustrations by J. Watson Davis



 NEW YORK:
 A. L. BURT, PUBLISHER.



Copyright, 1900, by A. L. BURT.

ON THE KENTUCKY FRONTIER.

BY JAMES OTIS.



PREFACE.


"Poor Simon Kenton experienced the bitter effects of wrong, ingratitude,
and neglect. On account of some legal matters concerning his lands in
Kentucky, he was imprisoned for twelve months upon the very spot where
he built his cabin in 1775. In 1802, beggared by lawsuits and losses, he
became landless. Yet he never murmured at the ingratitude which pressed
him down, and in 1813 the veteran joined the Kentucky troops under
Shelby, and was in the battle of the Thames. In 1824, then seventy years
old, he journeyed to Frankfort, in tattered garments and upon a
miserable horse, to ask the legislature of Kentucky to release the
claims of the State upon some of his mountain lands. He was stared at by
the boys, and shunned by the citizens, for none knew him. At length
General Thomas Fletcher recognized him, gave him a new suit of clothes,
and entertained him kindly. When it was known that Simon Kenton was in
town, scores flocked to see the old hero. He was taken to the Capitol
and seated in the Speaker's chair. His lands were released, and
afterward Congress gave him a pension of two hundred and forty dollars a
year. He died, at the age of eighty-one years, in 1836, at his residence
at the head of Mad River, Logan County, Ohio, in sight of the place
where, fifty-eight years before, the Indians were about to put him to
death."

(Lossing's "Field-Book of the Revolution.")



CONTENTS.


 CHAPTER                                                PAGE

    I. SIMON KENTON                                       1

   II. BESIEGED                                          24

  III. THE VENTURE                                       45

   IV. PAUL SAMPSON                                      68

    V. DOWN THE OHIO                                     91

   VI. ASTRAY                                           114

  VII. THE CAPTIVE SCOUT                                131

 VIII. AT THE RENDEZVOUS                                161

   IX. KASKASKIA                                        184

    X. CAHOKIA                                          208

   XI. HOMEWARD BOUND                                   229

  XII. A NOVEL BATTLE                                   251



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                             PAGE
 IN A TWINKLING I WAS BY HIS SIDE AND THERE SAW THAT
 WHICH CAUSED THE COLD CHILL OF FEAR TO RUN
 DOWN MY BACK                                        FRONTISPIECE.

 THE BRUTE FELL, AS THOUGH STRUCK BY LIGHTNING AND
 A CRY OF TRIUMPH RANG FROM MY LIPS                           62

 WITHIN FIVE SECONDS I HAD FIRED, USING THE CURL OF
 VAPOR FOR A TARGET                                          103

 WE ADVANCED FROM ONE PLACE OF SHELTER TO ANOTHER,
 FIRING RAPIDLY                                              142

 STRAIGHT UP TO THE BIG GATE WE ADVANCED BELIEVING
 THAT IN THE NEXT SECOND WE SHOULD HEAR THE
 ALARM GUN                                                   204

 FROM OUT OF OUR BARRICADE WHISTLED THREE BULLETS
 AND EVERY ONE FOUND ITS MARK                                258



ON THE KENTUCKY FRONTIER.



CHAPTER I.

SIMON KENTON.


It is my purpose to set down what I saw during such time as Simon Kenton
gave me my first lessons in woodcraft and it is well to make the
statement in advance in order that others may be deprived of the
opportunity of saying what would sound disagreeable:--that the pupil was
for a time so dull that one less patient and painstaking than Kenton
would have brought the lessons to a speedy close.

That which now seems the most difficult is to decide how I shall begin
this story of the little which I did on the Kentucky frontier during the
year of grace 1778, and I can hit upon no plan which promises better
success than that of copying here what I read in a printed book long
years after I, a green lad, set out to do my little share toward
bringing peace and a sense of security to the settlers who were striving
to make homes for themselves and their families in what was then known
as the colony of Virginia.

I make use of such a beginning because it appears to me as if the wise
man who thus explains the condition of affairs among us at that time,
tells in a few lines what I might struggle vainly over many pages of
paper to put into form one-half so concise and satisfactory:

"With the single exception of Dunmore's expedition in 1774, hostilities
west of the Alleghanies were nothing but a series of border conflicts,
each little party acting upon its own responsibility, until 1778, when
Major George Rogers Clarke led a regular expedition against the frontier
posts of the enemy in the wilderness. Clarke first went toward Kentucky
in 1772, when he paddled down the Ohio with the Reverend David Jones,
then on his way to preach the Gospel to the Western Indians.

"He was at once impressed with the importance of that fertile region,
and the necessity of making it a secure place for settlements. His mind
was clear and comprehensive; his personal courage of the truest stamp;
his energies, physical and mental, always vigorous, and he soon became
an oracle among the backwoods-men. During the years 1775 and 1776, he
traversed vast regions of the wilderness south of the Ohio, studied the
character of the Indians chiefly from the observations of others, and
sought to discover a plan by which a tide of emigration might flow
unchecked and secure into that paradise of the continent.

"He soon became convinced that the British garrisons at Detroit,
Kaskaskia, and Vincennes, were the nests of those vultures who preyed
upon the feeble settlements of the west, and deluged the virgin soil
with the blood of the pioneers. Virginia, to which province this rich
wilderness belonged, was at that time bending all her energies in
advancing the cause of independence within her borders east of the
Alleghanies, and the settlers west of the mountains were left to their
own defense.

"Major Clarke, convinced of the necessity of reducing the hostile forts
in the Ohio country, submitted a plan for the purpose to the Virginia
Legislature, in December, 1777. His scheme was highly approved, and
Governor Henry and his council were so warmly interested that Major
Clarke received two sets of instructions, one public, ordering him to
'proceed to the defense of Kentucky,' the other private, directing an
attack upon the British fort at Kaskaskia. Twelve hundred pounds were
appropriated to defray the expenses of the expedition; and the
commandant of Fort Pitt was ordered to furnish Clarke with ammunition,
boats, and other necessary equipments.

"His force consisted of only four companies, and they were all prime
men. Early in the spring they rendezvoused upon Corn Island, at the
falls of the Ohio, six hundred and seven miles by water, below Fort
Pitt. Here Clarke was joined by Simon Kenton, one of the boldest
pioneers of the west, then a young man of twenty-two years. He had been
acting as a spy for two years previously; henceforth he was engaged in a
more honorable, but not more useful, service."

Now that this much has been explained by another, I am still at a loss
to know how this poor story should be begun, and after much cudgeling of
my weak brain have decided to jump into the matter after the same
fashion that the events come into my memory after these many years of
peace and idleness.

On a certain morning in February, in the year 1778, I went out to look
after my traps, and had thrown myself down on the bank of the Ohio River
to decide a question which had been vexing me many days.

Never for a moment did I lose sight of the fact that it was necessary I
have my wits about me in case I counted on keeping my hair, for many a
scalp had been taken in that vicinity within the six months just passed,
and I believed that nothing larger than a squirrel could come within
striking distance, save by my own knowledge and consent.

Therefore it was I sprang up very suddenly in the greatest alarm when a
white man stood before me, having approached so silently that it was
almost as if he had come up through the very earth.

It is not to be supposed that Indians were the only beings in form of
men we settlers on the Ohio had reason to fear in those days; there were
many white men whose hearts were as black as those of the savages, and
who would draw bead on one of their kind from sheer love of spilling
blood, if no other reason presented itself.

As I have set down here, I sprang to my feet, rifle in hand, ready for
the first threatening movement on the part of the stranger; but he gave
little token of being an enemy.

His weapon was thrown across the hollow of his arm as he stood looking
at me in a friendly manner, and I might easily have shot him down,
unless he was quicker with a rifle than any other I had ever met.

A young fellow was this newcomer, hardly more than one and twenty, as it
then seemed to me, and there was that in his face which gave token that
he might be a close friend or a dangerous enemy, whichsoever way he was
approached.

"Out for fur?" he said rather than asked, glancing down at the traps
which lay near at hand.

I nodded; but remained on my guard, determined not to be taken at a
disadvantage by soft words.

"It is better to keep movin', than lay 'round where a sneakin' Injun
might creep up a bit too near," he said with a smile, as he seated
himself near the decaying tree-trunk on which I had left the traps.

"I would have sworn neither white nor red could have come upon me in the
fashion you did," I said hotly, and thoroughly ashamed of myself for
having been so careless.

"I reckon it might have puzzled an Injun to do the trick. If I couldn't
beat them at movin' 'round, my head would have been bare these five
years."

It sounded much like boasting, his claiming to be able to beat an Indian
at woodcraft, for at that time I believed the savages could outwit any
settler who ever lived; but before many weeks had passed I came to
understand that I had been sadly mistaken.

"Is that your cabin yonder under the big knoll?" he asked, more as if by
way of beginning a conversation than from curiosity.

"Yes; have you been there?"

"I looked it over; but didn't try to scrape acquaintance. Does your
mother live there?"

"Yes; she and I alone."

"What sent her down into this wilderness with no one but a lad like
yourself?" he asked, speaking as if he was twice my age, when, unless
all signs failed, he was no more than five years my elder.

"Father was with us when we came, last year. He was killed by the
murdering savage sneaks nearly two months ago."

"Why did you hold on here?" the stranger asked, eying me curiously.
"Surely the clearin' isn't so far along that it pays to risk your life
for it."

"Mother would have packed off; but I couldn't leave."

"Why?"

"It's a poor kind of a son who won't at least try to wipe off such a
score, and I'll hold on here till those who killed the poor old man have
found out who I am!"

Tears of mingled rage, grief, and helplessness came into my eyes as I
spoke thus hotly, and I wheeled around quickly lest this stranger,
seeing them, should set me down for a younger lad than I really was.

"It's quite a job you've shouldered," he said after a pause. "The Injuns
nearabout here ain't to be caught nappin' every hour in the day, and the
chances are your mother may find herself alone on the clearin' before
you have made any great headway in settlin' the score."

"Because you crept up on me, there is no reason why the red snakes can
do the same thing!" I cried angrily, whereupon he nodded gravely as if
agreeing with me, after which he asked:

"How old are you?"

"Must a fellow have seen so many years more or less before he can do the
work of a man?" I demanded, giving proof by my petulance that I was yet
little more than a child.

"It was not with anything of the kind in my mind that I asked the
question. Perhaps I wondered if you'd had the experience that'll be
needed before your work is done."

"I'm just turned sixteen," I replied, thoroughly ashamed of having
displayed an ill-temper.

"Where did you come from?"

"Pennsylvania."

"Was your father a Tory?" he asked.

"Indeed he wasn't!" and now I grew hot again. "He believed we might
better our condition by pushing into the wilderness, for when a man's
land is overrun by two armies, as ours had been, farming is a poor
trade."

Then he questioned me yet more closely until I had come to an end of my
short story, which began with the day we set out from the colony founded
by William Penn, and ended with that hour when I came across my poor
father's mangled body scarce half a mile from our clearing, where the
beasts in human form had tortured him.

All this I told the stranger as if he had been, an old friend, for there
was something, in his voice and manner which won my heart at once, and
when the sad tale was ended I came to understand he had not questioned
me idly.

"My name is Simon Kenton," he said, after a time of silence, as if he
was turning over in mind what I had told him. "The day I was sixteen I
took to the wilderness because of--there is no reason why that part of
it need be told. It was six years ago, an' in those years I've seen a
good bit of life on the frontier, though perhaps it would have been
better had I gone east an' taken a hand with those who are fightin'
against the king. But a soldier's life would raffle my grain, I reckon,
so I've held on out here, nearabout Fort Pitt, where there's been plenty
to do."

"Fort Pitt!" I exclaimed. "Why, that's a long distance up the river!"

"Six hundred miles or so."

"Are you down here trapping?" I asked, now questioning him as he had me.

"I'm headin' for Corn Island?"

"Then you haven't much further to go. Its no more than a dozen miles
down the river."

"So I guessed. I left my canoe over yonder, an' took to the shore partly
to find somethin' in the way of meat, and partly to have a look around."

Then it was, and before I could question him further, he told me why he
had come, the substance of which I have already set down in the language
of another. At that time he did not give me the story complete as it was
written by him whose words I quoted at the beginning of this tale; but I
understood the settlers were making a move against the British and
Indians, and it seemed to me a most noble undertaking, for, had not the
king's officers incited the savages to bloody deeds, the frontier might
have been a land of peace.

When he was come to an end of the story, and Simon Kenton was not one to
use more words than were necessary, I proposed that he go with me to my
home, for by this time it was near to noon, and I had suddenly lost all
desire to continue the work of setting traps.

He agreed right willingly, as if it favored his plans to do so, and we
two went back to the clearing, he moving through the thicket more like a
shadow than a stoutly built man whose weight seemed against such
stealthy traveling. Never had I seen such noiseless progress; a squirrel
would have given more token of his presence, and I wondered not that he
had been welcomed at Fort Pitt as a scout, spy, or whatever one may
please to call his occupation.

My mother made the young man welcome, as she would have done any I might
have brought in with me to our home in Pennsylvania, and out here in the
wilderness, where we had not seen a strange, yet friendly, face since my
poor father was murdered, she was rejoiced to meet one who might give us
news of the outside world.

Simon Kenton was not a polished man such as would be met within the
eastern colonies; but he gave every token of honest purpose, and it was
impossible to remain long in his company without believing him to be one
who would be a firm friend at all times.

We enjoyed his visit more than can be told, and then without warning he
broached that subject which had a great bearing upon all my life from
that moment.

"Why do you try to hold your mother here in the wilderness, Louis
Nelson?" he asked suddenly. "Surely a lad like yourself cannot hope to
make a clearing unaided, and it is but keeping her in great danger of a
cruel death."

"What other can I do?" I asked in surprise, having no inkling as to his
true meaning.

"Take her where she will at least be able to lie down at night without
fear of being aroused by the gleam of the scalping knife, or the flames
of her own dwelling," he replied decidedly.

"All we have in the world is here," my mother said half to herself.

"Then it will not be hard to leave it, for a boy of Louis' age should
be able to provide you with as good almost anywhere else."

I looked at him in open-mouthed astonishment, whereupon he said in such
a tone as forced one to believe he spoke only the truth:

"We have every reason to believe there will be bloody scenes hereabout
before Major Clarke has finished his work. You cannot hope to hold out
against the painted scoundrels who will roam up and down the river in
search of white blood that can be spilled. Send your mother back to Fort
Pitt by the boats that will soon be returnin', an' join me in this
expedition. You can go to her in the fall with money enough to provide
another home as good, or better, than this, an' what is of more account,
you'll have the satisfaction of knowin' that ate is in safety."

There is no good reason why I should set down here all the arguments
Simon Kenton used to persuade me to break up the home my father had
established, although in poor shape, at the cost of his life, nor yet
speak of his efforts to make my mother believe I would be in less danger
with Major Clarke's force than if I remained there struggling to make
headway against the encroachments of the wilderness, at the same time
that I would be forced to remain on the alert lest a pitiless, savage
foe take my life.

It is enough if I say that before the shadows of night began to lengthen
both my mother and myself were convinced he had given good advice, and
were ready to follow it as soon as a new day had dawned.

We decided to leave our poor belongings where they were, and set out
with Kenton next morning. Mother should go to Fort Pitt where she would
be protected, and I, with the consent of Major Clarke, was to enlist in
the troop which it was believed would drive out of the country those
unscrupulous British officers who were constantly striving to stir up
the savages against such of the settlers as believed the colonists had
good cause to rebel against the king.

Until a late hour did Simon Kenton sit with us two, telling of the many
adventures he had met with since the day he left his home in Fauquier
County, Virginia, six years before, and although the stories related to
deeds of daring and hairbreadth escapes, there was in his speech nothing
of boasting. It was as if he spoke of what some other person had done,
and without due cause for praise.

Never once did he speak of his reason for leaving home, and there was a
certain something in his manner which prevented me from asking any
questions. He told so much of his life story as seemed to him proper,
and we were content, believing him to be a young man of proven courage
and honest purposes.

Kenton and I slept on the skins in front of the fireplace, where I had
ever made my bed, and so little fear had we the enemy might be near,
that I never so much as looked out of doors after mother went up the
ladder which led to the rough attic she called her chamber.

It was the first time since my father's cruel death that I had not
circled around the cabin once or more to make certain everything was
quiet; the coming of this young man had driven from my mind all thought
of possible danger.

Those who live on the frontier sleep lightly, it is true; but they do
not waste much time in tossing about on the bed before closing their
eyes in slumber--and I was in dreamland within a very few moments after
stretching out at full length.

It seemed as if I had but just lost consciousness when I awakened to
find a heavy hand covering my mouth, and to hear Simon Kenton whisper:

"There is need for us to turn out. The sneakin' redskins have surrounded
the cabin. Are you awake?"

I nodded, for it would have been impossible to speak while his hand was
like to shut off my breath, and he rose softly to his feet.

It is not necessary for me to say that we on the Ohio in 1778 thought
first in the morning of our rifles, and never lay down at night without
having the trusty weapons where we could grasp them readily. Thus it was
that, when I followed Kenton's example, I rose up ready for a struggle.

Not a sound could I hear, save the soughing of the wind among the trees;
but I knew my companion had good cause for giving an alarm, and had
probably been on the alert while I was composing myself to sleep.

"Get word to your mother; but do not let her come down here," he
whispered when I joined him at the shuttered window, where he stood with
his ear to the crevice. "Make no noise, an' it may be we can take the
painted snakes by surprise, which will be a fine turnin' of the
tables."

I did as he directed, and heard my mother say in a low voice as I turned
to descend the ladder:

"Be careful, Louis, and do not expose yourself recklessly in order to
give our visitor the idea that you can equal him in deeds of daring."

Under almost any other circumstances I could have laughed at the idea
that I might even hope to equal such as Simon Kenton in bravery; but
with death lurking close at hand one does not give way to mirth, and I
hastened to the young man's side as a prayer of thankfulness went up
from my heart because it had so chanced he was with us when an
experienced head and arm were needed.

It is not my purpose to belittle myself. While looking up to our visitor
as an elder and one well versed in such warfare as was before us, I knew
full well I should not have acted a stupid part had I been alone. I
might fail to hold my own against the savages; but death would not have
been invited by my own folly.

The door, as well as the window shutters, was loopholed, and here Kenton
took his stand, stationing me at that side of the house nearest the
knoll, from where we might naturally expect the enemy would come.

My mother appeared before we had made all the arrangements for a fight,
and at once set about supplying us with ammunition and food in order
that we might not be forced to move from our posts in quest of either.

Then she took up my father's rifle, which was leaning against the side
of the hut nearest me, as if to show that it was her purpose to do
whatsoever lay in her power toward the defense, whereupon Kenton shook
his head disapprovingly, and might have made objection to being aided by
a woman; but before he could open his lips to speak the painted fiends
were upon us.

With whoops and yells they rose up close under the walls of the cabin,
where we might not be able to draw bead upon them, and at the same
instant a volley of rifle shots rang out as three bullets came inside
between the crevices of the logs.



CHAPTER II.

BESIEGED.


This kind of warfare was new to me. Although living on the frontier so
far from any other settlement, our cabin had never before been attacked
by savages.

My father was killed some distance away from home, and, judging from the
signs nearabout the place where he had been tortured to death, it seemed
certain that no more than three Indians had captured him.

Most likely it was a party of hunters, who had not really come out for
mischief, but seeing an opportunity to take the life of a white man
seized upon it. If they had been on the warpath, then beyond a
peradventure our cabin would have been attacked.

To Simon Kenton, however, this sort of work was by no means new. He had
been besieged many times, as we knew from the stories the young man told
us a short time previous; but I ventured to say that never before had he
been pitted against the painted foes with so small a force, and in a
place where it was not probable any help could come.

Our cabin was situated so far back from the river that those passing up
or down the stream would not suspect a habitation was near at hand, and,
unless well acquainted with the clearing, an hundred men might go back
and forth, never thinking that a settler had ventured in this vicinity.

Therefore it was that I, and most likely Simon Kenton also, realized how
entirely alone we were. Unless we could beat off this foe which had so
suddenly assailed us, within a comparatively short time, the end was
near at hand for all, because no preparations had been made for a siege,
and our store of provisions and water, even with careful husbanding,
must be exhausted within a few days.

As all this came into my mind, and I learned that it was possible for
the Indians to send their bullets inside, through the chinks between the
logs, provided they were sufficiently good marksmen, my heart sank
within me. I said to myself that Kenton had come too late to be of
service to us, and too soon for his own safety.

As I have said, the savages had crept up under the cover of darkness
close beneath the walls of the cabin, and were able to shoot at us with
but little danger to themselves. Our only hope lay in dislodging them
from their place of vantage, and this much I realized fully even though
unexperienced in warfare.

On reading what is here set down one may say that a boy of sixteen,
situated as was I at that moment, would not thus calmly weigh the
chances for and against a successful defense. In reply to such
criticism, I would say that in my opinion any lad of ordinary
intelligence must perforce have had much the same thoughts, because of
the ample time for reflection.

After the first volley, and until perhaps ten minutes had elapsed, the
Indians gave no sign of life. All was still as if we three were alone in
the wilderness--as if it had been some hideous nightmare which awakened
us. During such time, Simon Kenton stood like a statue; but in such
attitude as gave me to understand that all his senses were alert. He was
an experienced Indian fighter, listening for some token which should
give him a clue as to how he might best protect his own life.

My mother remained near one of the loopholes at the rear of the house,
also on the alert, and I had not moved from the position taken up when
we made our first poor preparations for the defense.

Suddenly, and when I had come to believe that our chances for a
successful defense were slight indeed, Simon Kenton moved swiftly, yet
noiselessly, to that side of the room opposite where I was standing,
thrust the muzzle of his rifle between the logs near to the ground and
fired.

A cry of pain followed the report of the weapon, and it was as if the
noise had but just died away, when the young man had his rifle charged
once more, so rapid were his movements.

One, two, three minutes, perhaps, passed in silence, and again, but in
another quarter, did Kenton repeat his maneuver, although during this
time I had heard nothing whatsoever save my own labored breathing.

A second cry from without told that two of the painted snakes had
received a more or less serious dose of lead without having inflicted
injury upon us.

I knew that Kenton's acts had been the result of his keen sense of
hearing, and said to myself that the man must have been fitted by nature
for work like this, since it would be impossible for any person to train
his ears to such perfection.

This thought was in my mind when I heard a rustling of the foliage on
the outside near where I stood, and that instant I made as if to copy
the example of my companion.

"It is too late now," he said in a low tone. "The snakes are creepin'
off satisfied that they are like to get the worst of such a game. They
will hatch up some other plan before troublin' us again."

"But surely we haven't bested them so soon as this," I replied like a
stupid, and he laughed as if there was somewhat of humor in my remark.

"They have come here to plunder this cabin, and are not like to draw off
so soon. We will have enough of their company within the next four and
twenty hours; but for a time I reckon we have got a breathin' spell.
This is the way the British king wages war; provokin' the savages
against peaceful settlers; but once Major Clarke has broken up the
English nests, I'll venture to say the scurvy redcoats will turn their
attention to other matters than playin' the part of butchers."

"If we had only started to meet Major Clarke's force when you first
arrived," I said despondently, whereat Simon Kenton clapped me on the
shoulder in a friendly fashion, as he cried:

"This is no time to be thinking of what might have happened, Louis
Nelson. Men on the frontier must ever look forward, else by gazing
backward their hearts may grow timorous. Until we have driven off these
savages it should be to us as if Major Clarke's force had never set
out."

Mother had made no attempt to join in the conversation. Her pale face
and quivering lips told that she was thinking of that time, only such a
short distance in the past, when father had been in the clutches of
those who at that moment thirsted for our blood, and grief overshadowed
all the fears which the future could present.

Observing her, and knowing full well what terrible memories had come
trooping into her mind, I fell silent, striving as best I could to keep
back the timorousness which threatened to overcome me as I thus realized
what the wretches on the outside would do once our feeble defense was
overcome.

Simon Kenton moved here and there noiselessly as a cat, intent only upon
learning so much of what might be going on outside as his ears could
tell him.

While I remained motionless and silent at the post assigned me, he never
ceased for an instant his stealthy movements, and the knowledge that he
was so keenly on the alert did much toward strengthening my weak heart.

When perhaps an hour had passed thus in silence, a great hope came to
me, and foolishly I gave it words.

"The savages, finding that we were prepared for them, have drawn off," I
said, whereat Kenton smiled pityingly as one might at the foolish remark
of a child.

"We are not rid of them so easily, else are they different from any of
the scoundrels I have chanced to come across. Once having made an
attack, and blood has been drawn, I warrant you, we must beat them off
by sheer force before we can count on their leaving this clearin'."

When perhaps another hour had passed, and yet the enemy made no sign, I
was grown more courageous, and ate of the corn cake and dried venison
which had been set out for our refreshment; but mother remained wrapped
in gloomy thought, and Simon Kenton did not even for the slightest space
of time relax his vigilance.

It must have been well on toward morning before we heard aught more of
those whose great desire was to shed our blood.

Then the first intimation I had of any movement was the report of
Kenton's rifle.

"Did you see anything?" I asked in a tremor.

"No; but they are comin' this way with brushwood, havin' an idea to set
fire to the cabin."

Even though the danger which beset us was great, I could not repress my
curiosity. It seemed almost as if he had made me a foolish answer, for
how might a man know, when it was so dark that one could not see three
paces from the cabin in either direction, that the savages were making
ready for any such attempt, and I asked how he was so positive as to
their movements.

"I have heard them rippin' off the dry branches with their knives, and,
just before I fired, knew from the noise in the thicket that they were
draggin' the brushwood this way."

I was almost bewildered by this man's knowledge of woodcraft; but
refrained from commenting, contenting myself by saying in a tone of
satisfaction:

"They will not make much headway at setting these green logs on fire. It
is but two days since the rain came down in such torrents that the
outside of the cabin must be sodden with water."

"They may succeed in fillin' the room with smoke; but that counts for
little. The flames will give us an opportunity which must not be
neglected."

It is possible that the savages came to understand all this before
carrying out the plan which Kenton believed had been formed, for after
he discharged his rifle we heard no more of them, and, finally, when it
seemed as if at least eight and forty hours were passed, the gray light
came stealing through the thicket, slowly dispelling the darkness, until
we had clear range of vision from the loopholes on either hand.

Twenty paces from the front of the house lay a pile of dry brush,
telling that Simon Kenton's ears had not deceived him.

There were no signs of our foe. So far as one's eyes might give him
information, we were alone in the thicket with none to molest or make
afraid.

Kenton set about making a blaze in the fireplace, and such act aroused
my mother from her sorrowful memories to a realization of the present.

All her housewifely instincts took possession of her once more, and she
set about preparing breakfast--perhaps the last meal we might ever eat.

"Think you the savages count on starving us out?" I asked, rather for
the purpose of starting a conversation than to gain information.

"It may be that all the party are not yet arrived, and those who made
the first attack are waitin' for more to come up. If the entire force is
here, then certain it is they count on starvin' us, although so far as
the villains know, that may prove a long task. Were you and I alone, I
should favor tryin' to give 'em the slip after midnight; but it would be
folly to attempt anything of the kind while your mother is to be
protected."

"You will not find her a coward," I said proudly, whereat he replied
with a laugh:

"Of that we have already had good proof; but there would be too much
danger in attemptin' to fight our way out while she was with us. After a
time----"

He was interrupted by rifle shots in the distance. First one, then a
couple, and, after an interval of four or five seconds, what sounded
like a regular volley.

Then came scattering shots, by which I understood that whoever was
engaged in deadly combat had succeeded in gaining a shelter, and was
firing only when the possibility of hitting a target presented itself.

"Can it be that some of Major Clarke's force have come our way?" I asked
as a great hope came into my heart; but Simon Kenton speedily dashed it.

"The major's men are to sail down the river, and would not stop this
side of Corn Island, save through dire necessity."

"Then who can the savages have been firing at?"

"Some white man must have ventured this way, as did I, and walked into
the very thick of them."

"But all the while we have lived here you are the first who has come to
this clearing by accident," I replied, still bent on believing that some
of the major's forces must have gone out of their road, and were thus
near enough to lend aid in our time of trouble.

"It is a trapper or, a settler," Kenton said decisively, with the air of
one who will not admit himself at fault. "The question in my mind is
whether I'm not bound to lend a hand."

"Surely you would never think of leaving the cabin in daylight, when you
know beyond a peradventure that the savages are watching it?" my mother
said in alarm, and Kenton turned away as if realizing the truth of her
words.

It is not possible for me to set down on paper such as will enable
another to understand our feelings during this time when we knew white
men were struggling for life, and needing the aid which we were
powerless to give.

It seemed little short of the veriest cowardice to remain within shelter
at such a time, and yet all of us knew full well that speedy death would
come to him who should venture out.

Five minutes after the first report was heard all was silent again, for
mayhap half an hour, during which time each of us, even Kenton, had come
to hope the Indians were baffled in their effort to murder, and with
that hope came into my mind a most intense regret that we had not been
able to give warning of our sore need.

I persisted in believing that some of Major Clarke's men had been near
at hand, and said to myself we might have escaped all our perils could
it have been possible to give an alarm.

When half an hour had passed the firing broke out again, not in volleys,
but with a shot at intervals of ten or fifteen seconds, and then we all
fancied screams of pain and exultation could be heard.

"The savages have succeeded!" Kenton said curtly. "Whoever blundered
this way has already paid for the mistake, or will before the sun rises
again."

Mother, her mind once more in the past, turned pale as death and I
trembled like one with an ague, for it seemed at the moment as if this
was a token of what our fate would be.

The breakfast which mother had been preparing was neglected until some
time later, when Simon Kenton said with an evident effort at
cheerfulness:

"We're playin' the fool to stand here as if waitin' for the painted
scoundrels to do their will. We have no reason to despair because they
have captured some unfortunate; but should be all the more determined to
worst them."

Then he deftly finished the work mother had begun, and insisted upon our
sharing in the meal, for, according to his belief, there was no reason
why we need stand close guard now that the sun had risen.

Under such circumstances it was difficult to eat, at least I found it
so; food well-nigh choked me, but I forced it down because of his stern
command, and we made at least the semblance of eating breakfast, with as
much zest as you can fancy people display under the shadow of the
gallows.

When the pretense of a meal had come to an end, Kenton got up from the
table and stood at the loophole in the door an instant, giving vent to a
low exclamation of surprise or dismay as he peered forth.

In a twinkling I was by his side, and there saw that which caused the
cold chill of fear to run down my back.

Directly in front of the cabin, toward the river, beyond range of our
rifles, stood a man and a boy, each bound hand and foot to a tree trunk.

It was the report of their guns that we heard, and fortune had been
unkind to them, else death would have come during the fight. It had
been delayed that it might be accompanied by the keenest torture.

"Are they neighbors of yours?" Kenton asked.

"So far as I know, there are no settlers nearabout."

"Then this man and boy have come lookin' for a place to make a clearin',
or are workin' their way eastward from some point below on the river."

This did not seem a reasonable explanation, to my mind, for if the
prisoners had been coming up the river they would not have ventured so
far away as must have been the case when the Indians discovered them;
but my heart was too heavy to admit of making any argument against his
assertion, which, as a matter of fact, was of but little consequence now
that they were doomed to a cruel death.

And that they were doomed we knew full well. The savages were counting
on torturing them where we might have a full view of the horrible
spectacle, and we could not hope anything would happen to prevent it.

On the evening previous Simon Kenton had told us the story of a settler
who was beset even as we were then, and whose nearest neighbor was
tortured at the stake within his range of vision that the helpless man
might see what was in store for him when he could no longer make any
defense.

While hearing the story it was impossible for me to realize how
agonizing must have been the position of the besieged man. Now I
understood it keenly, and resolved not to look out from that side of the
house again, lest the painted fiends should begin their horrible work
before night came.

Mother knew from our conversation what it was we gazed at, and remained
nearabout the fireplace striving to choke back the sobs of grief and
sympathy which shook her frame.

After gazing upon the helpless captives five minutes or more, as if to
picture indelibly upon his mind all the surroundings, Simon Kenton
began moving to and fro across the end of the room, not on the alert
against the enemy, but apparently plunged in deep thought.

After a time he said curtly to me:

"Keep a lookout on either side, lad, for some of the snakes may grow
careless, an' you will get a shot."

Then he fell to pacing to and fro again, and after what seemed a very
long time of most painful silence, said to me as if announcing the most
commonplace fact:

"I count on lendin' a hand to those poor fellows yonder."

"Lending a hand!" I repeated in amazement. "Haven't you declared it was
impossible to leave this house without being shot down?"

"Yes, an' I reckon that comes pretty near being the truth."

"Then how may you give them any assistance?"

"I am not countin' on tryin' to do anything just now. There's like to
be plenty of time, for unless something happens to interrupt the curs,
they will not torture the prisoners until evening. When the sun goes
down I shall creep out."

"And then is the time when the Indians will keep a closer watch," I
ventured to say.

"Ay, lad, you are right, and yet we must contrive to outwit them.
Instead of openin' the door, I'll make my way through the small window
at the rear, which can be the better guarded by you and your mother
while the shutter is unfastened."

"I shall go with you," I said, speaking on impulse, and hardly realizing
the meaning of the words.

"You'll do nothing of the kind. Your duty is here, and mine there."



CHAPTER III.

THE VENTURE.


I could not believe Simon Kenton would dare to make the venture of which
he had spoken, for of a verity it seemed no less than the killing of
one's self.

We knew beyond a peradventure that the Indians secreted in the thicket
round about us were keeping sharp watch over the cabin, on the alert for
a movement of such a kind, and there was not a single chance in a
hundred that one of us could even show his head out of either window or
door without being shot down.

That being the case, and there seemed no doubt about it, how might one
venture forth so far as where the poor captives were lashed to the trees
looking forward with almost certainty to all the terrible tortures
which these brutes could devise?

Thinking over the matter after Simon Kenton had declared his purpose, I
said to myself that he had spoken out of the fulness of his heart, and
not with a belief that he might carry his proposition into execution. I
argued, mentally, that his desire to aid the unfortunate creatures had
caused him to believe the impossible might be accomplished; but after he
should have time to consider the matter thoroughly, he would realize
that he could effect nothing more than his own death.

After having said what he would do, Kenton paced to and fro, keeping
sharp watch upon the thicket, and saying nothing.

Once I would have spoken concerning the time when Major Clarke's party
might be expected at Corn Island; but he motioned me away as if he had
no inclination for conversation.

I had promised myself not to look out in the direction where the unhappy
captives were to be seen; but it was as if their helplessness
fascinated me to such a degree that I could not keep my eyes from them.

I gazed at short intervals, but for no more than a few seconds at a
time, and saw no change, save once when it appeared to me as if the man
was speaking earnestly to the boy.

I could readily fancy that the elder was trying to encourage the lad for
that terrible time of trial, and the tears overflowed my eyes as I grew
faint with horror while thinking of what the evening would bring forth.

There is no good reason why I should try to give the details of our
movements or conversation during this wofully long day. We spoke
together but little, first because Simon Kenton was buried in his own
thoughts or plans, and secondly because my mother's grief had been
aroused by sight of the captives to such an extent that her sobs put an
end to speech.

Twice did Kenton get a glimpse of a tuft of feathers in the underbrush,
and both times he discharged his rifle; once bringing forth a shrill
cry of pain, and again evidently missing his aim, which was by no means
surprising under the circumstances.

Late in the afternoon mother cooked another meal, and we went through
the form of eating as if from a sense of duty. It was but justice to our
bodies for us to do so, since no one could say when we might have
another opportunity.

Then the shadows of evening began to lengthen, and I glanced at Simon
Kenton from time to time in order to learn how he might draw back after
having announced so positively that he should make an effort at aiding
the captives.

But he had no idea of drawing back, as I should have known had I been
acquainted with him longer.

During the latter part of the afternoon he surveyed the thicket in the
rear of the house at frequent intervals; partially opened the shutter
two or three times to make certain it could be swung outward
noiselessly, and, finally, threw off his hunting shirt lest the garment
should hamper his movements.

"Are you indeed counting on the attempt?" I asked when he had thus put
himself in trim for wriggling through the thicket.

"I have already said so," he replied calmly.

"There is too much danger! You must not risk your life when the chances
are all against you!" I cried vehemently.

"It will be easier to go than stay here and listen to that fiendish orgy
which will begin before many hours have passed!"

"You can hope to do no more than share the poor fellow's fate!" I
exclaimed impatiently.

"There is a chance I shall pull through, and the game is well worth the
candle. I may not tell the story to you; but there are good reasons why
I, above all others, should risk my life in an effort to save others;
or, to put it in other words, why I ought to die trying to help those
poor fellows, rather than remain idle."

He spoke in such a solemn tone that I could not have argued further
against his going, however much it pained me, and I gazed at him in
silence, wondering what might be the meaning of those strange words.

Now that it appeared positive he would set forth, and equally certain he
would be killed, I began to realize what might be our condition after he
had left my mother and myself alone to defend the cabin against the
painted crew who thirsted for our blood.

It was not probable the poor woman and I could hold out many hours after
the brave fellow departed, however good our courage or strong our
endurance. The Indians would speedily overpower us, and I knew full well
what the end must be unless I was so fortunate as to die fighting.

Therefore it was as if I was assisting in an attempt to take my own
life, when I did as Simon Kenton bid.

"You are to stand by the window as I leap out," he said when the
evening was nearly come, "and on the first flash of a redskin's rifle
shoot at random if you see no target. The smoke will serve to partially
hide my movements. Your mother is to take up her station at the front
door until she hears you fire, and then she'll shoot over my head as
soon as possible. I'm countin' that you can keep the savages back till
I've gained a shelter in the thicket. After that the shutter is to be
barred quickly, and you will both stand on guard at the front door,
unless some danger threatens from the rear. If you hear the cry of an
owl repeated three times from any quarter, you can be certain I have
succeeded, an' there's no need of sayin' that you're to be on the alert
for my coming. It's possible I shall be able to get in here again. If I
fail in that, and yet remain free, you may be positive help will soon
arrive to raise the siege."

He had crossed the room while speaking, and was now standing by the side
of the window through which he proposed to pass.

I stepped forward to press his hand, for I knew full well he would not
linger once everything was ready for the perilous venture.

It was as if he did not see me--perhaps it did not suit his mood to say
good-by. At all events he kept his face from me even after the shutter
was unbarred, and then, without turning his head, he whispered:

"Stand ready! Remember what I have said!"

Then, with a quick movement, he flung open the shutter and had leaped
through almost before I realized his purpose. His swift bound served to
bewilder me, and I stood gazing out, with my rifle raised, not realizing
the necessity of closing the opening.

It was mother who flung the shutter into place softly and replaced the
bars, and I stood there like a stupid until the house was barricaded
once more, when I said stupidly:

"The savages didn't see him!"

"It is God's mercy, Louis," my mother replied devoutly. "Possibly he may
be permitted to rescue those poor creatures who must have suffered an
hundred deaths already!"

"It can't be that he will succeed while so many keen eyes are close at
hand. It is only reasonable to suppose all the crew are near about the
captives, therefore how may one man prevail against them?"

"If it be the Lord's will, there need be no counting the odds," and
having said this, mother knelt by the side of the table, while I,
somewhat recovered from my fear and bewilderment, went to the loophole
in the door that I might keep the captives in view so far as the
darkness permitted.

It was not yet night, although the gloom of the forest was so dense that
one could not distinguish objects very far away.

Simon Kenton had ventured out at that time when the gray of twilight
distorts everything, causing even the most familiar features of the
landscape to appear weird, and in so doing he had shown much wisdom.

An hour later the Indians would have drawn closer to the cabin,
suspecting we might make an attempt to escape under cover of darkness,
and an hour earlier the light of day cut off any hope of getting out
unseen.

Calculating the time to a nicety, moving swiftly as but few could move,
he had left the cabin without alarming the wary foe, and thus far his
success was so great as to astonish me.

I could yet barely distinguish the forms of the unhappy prisoners, and,
moving to and fro near them like evil things, were shadow-like figures
which I knew to be Indians.

As a matter of course it was impossible for me to see the faces of these
two over whom hovered a most cruel death; but I could well imagine the
expression of despair on their faces.

They could not fail to understand that it was worse than vain to hope
aid would come in the hour of their extremity, and yet I doubt not they
tried to encourage themselves by saying it was possible a party of white
men might pass that way before the horrible orgy should be begun.

While gazing through the loophole, my mother remaining on her knees
praying fervently, I said again and again to myself that Simon Kenton
could do nothing single-handed against that mob of murdering brutes. In
fact, now he was outside the house all the chances were against my ever
seeing him again. It was hardly within the range of probability he could
save his own life if he made even the slightest effort to rescue the
prisoners.

The shadows of night gathered rapidly, and yet it seemed as if each
second was a full minute in length. I was in that agonizing frame of
mind where one is raised by hope and buried under despair at the same
instant.

Although my ears were strained to catch the lightest sound, I heard
nothing save the rustling of the foliage as it was stirred by the
gentle night wind. If Simon Kenton was attempting to approach the
prisoners, he must have made a detour through the thicket to avoid the
savages who undoubtedly kept close watch over the cabin lest we
unfortunate ones should give them the slip.

After a time, and it was impossible for me to decide whether I had
remained on watch one hour or two, a tiny gleam of light could be seen
in the direction where I knew the prisoners were stationed, and as it
increased in size I understood that the brutes were making ready for
their horrible sport.

The flame grew brighter and brighter until I could distinguish the forms
of the helpless ones, with dark figures flitting between my line of
vision and the fire, and I mentally joined my mother in her prayer for
the relief of those whom I believed were beyond all earthly aid.

As I knew the savages had done many times before, so they were about to
do now--torture us at the same time they inflicted death on their
prisoners.

We were to be shown what would speedily be our own fate.

While I stood there helplessly watching the horrible preparations, a
certain frenzy of rage took possession of me, and I no longer gave heed
to anything save a desire to bring death upon some of that fiendish crew
before they began the work of torture.

"I cannot stay here longer, mother!" I exclaimed suddenly. "If Simon
Kenton risks his life to aid those who are strangers to him, why should
I not be as brave? Alone he cannot hope to effect a rescue, and will
surely perish. With one other to help him, that which now seems
impossible may be compassed."

As I think of the scene now, the wonder is that my dear mother did not
remind me of what would be her fate if both Kenton and I were captured;
but the brave woman gave no heed to herself, nor to her love for me.

Looking up while still remaining on her knees, she said softly:

"If you believe it your duty, my son, go, and may the good God grant
that you come back to me alive!"

These were not exactly the kind of words best calculated to give a lad
courage, and I realized that by listening to her many seconds I should
become cowardly. Even as I stood by her side my determination grew
fainter; in five minutes more timorousness might overcome me.

"I will leave the cabin as he did, mother, and you shall stand at the
door ready to give us entrance, if it so be we come back."

Mother rose quickly to her feet; kissed me fervently, and then, without
delay, as if understanding that it was not well to prolong the parting,
began to unbar the shutter.

In a twinkling I had put on powder horn and pouch; looked well to my
rifle, and was ready to follow Simon Kenton in his desperate venture.

The shutter was open. Not daring to look back, I sprang out, believing
as I did so that the report of a rifle would be my death knell; but no
sound came.

The savages, thinking we were securely caged, had gathered around the
prisoners in readiness to begin the terrible work, and I was free to
rush on to my own doom.

While believing there was little chance I should succeed in saving my
own life, I was not careless.

Moving onward stealthily; stopping at each yard of distance to learn if
one of the foe might be near at hand, I pressed forward in a circle,
counting on coming within view of the prisoners at a point midway
between the cabin and that fork in the path which led to the riverside.

Each instant I expected to come upon Simon Kenton, and as the moments
went by I began to understand that if he heard me approaching from the
rear he might leap upon me, believing one of the savages was creeping
upon him, and such realization caused me to hope it would be possible to
avoid him.

It was a strange situation, this being equally afraid of friend and foe,
and could have been in a certain degree avoided if I had but accompanied
the young scout.

Nothing interfered with my progress, however, until I was arrived at the
point for which I had been aiming, and saw full before me the
preparations for the torture.

Two fires had been built ten or twelve yards distant from the prisoners,
evidently for purposes of illumination, and at the feet of the
unfortunate ones was heaped a quantity of dry wood, which would be
kindled into a flame when the first portion of the terrible work had
been concluded.

Now the savages were making ready for the dance around their victims,
and I saw fourteen of the painted brutes, hideous in feathers, beads and
gaudy coloring.

To describe that which followed immediately after I had a view of the
scene, would be impossible. The fiends were alternately advancing toward
the prisoners, and retreating, moving with a certain measured step, and
brandishing weapons in the faces of the two who were helpless.

The lad seemed literally frozen with terror; but the man faced his cruel
enemies as if defying them to wring a cry of pain from his compressed
lips.

Perhaps five minutes passed while I thus remained motionless in the
thicket within half a rifle-shot distance, and then one of the murderous
brutes approached the boy knife in hand.

I knew the poor lad was to be maimed in some manner. The same blinding
rush of rage which had come upon me while I was in the cabin,
overpowered all sense of danger.

Giving no heed to my own peril; thinking only to save the frightened lad
from immediate pain, I fired point blank at the brute who would have
drawn the first blood, and when he fell, as though struck by lightning,
a cry of triumph rang from my lips.

What followed I am unable to set down of my own knowledge, for I was
become like one in a fever of rage and desperation.

I set about re-charging my rifle without giving heed to the rush which
should have followed the shot, and dimly, as if it was something in
which I had no concern, I heard the report of another rifle; another cry
which seemed but the echo of my own.

Before my feverish brain had taken in all this as a fact, I was ready to
shoot again, and never had I aimed with more deliberation. I felt
certain this second bullet of mine would find its target, and when it
sped on its way I needed not to gaze at the be-feathered brute within
range to know that he was dead or disabled.

  [Illustration: The brute fell as though struck by lightning, and a
  cry of triumph rang from my lips.--Page 62. _On the Kentucky
  Frontier._]

Again came what was like the echo of my own gun, and I saw four of
the villains on the ground, while the others had made for the nearest
shelter, each seeking some tree trunk that would shelter his worthless
body.

Now I realized that I had come up nearly opposite where Simon Kenton was
stationed, and he it was who had fired immediately after my rifle spoke.

Thus attacked on either hand, the savages must have believed they were
beset by a large force, and their only desire was to shelter themselves
from the deadly fire.

While loading my rifle I looked for an instant at the boy. His eyes were
opened wide; his lips parted as if to cry out, and on his face was an
expression of mingled hope and doubt painful in its intensity.

Again I saw a target. Twenty paces away was one of the brutes leaping
from tree to tree as if striving to gain the river, and him I stopped on
the instant.

Ten seconds later came the report of a rifle from the opposite side of
the path, and I knew Simon Kenton had not wasted a bullet.

No less than six of the feathered brutes were out of the fight, and it
was only with difficulty that I repressed a cry of triumph, for I knew
full well the villains would not linger long against an unseen foe whose
aim was so deadly.

Twice more did I fire, and once Kenton's rifle rang out. Then I believed
the brutes had taken refuge in flight, for two passed within my line of
vision while I was reloading my weapon.

"Kenton!" I shouted, holding the rifle at my shoulder meanwhile, lest by
raising my voice I might have brought the foe upon me, and before one
could have counted twenty the young scout was by my side.

"Is it indeed you, lad?" he asked as if overcome with astonishment.

"And why not? I have been able to take some part in the rescue?"

"_Some part_, lad? You have made it possible when I believed nothing
might be done. But for your attack, yonder poor fellows would even now
be in agony, because I could not have fired without bringing the whole
gang upon me. A shot from both sides was what caused them to believe we
had a large force."

"Let us cut those prisoners loose," I cried, waiting to hear no more,
and eager to relieve them, from their misery.

"Wait," he whispered, clutching me by the arm. "The snakes may take it
into their heads to turn back, and it will be well if I quicken their
pace a bit. Stand here, and do not come out from cover till I get back."

He was off like a flash, and with no more noise, while I remained on the
alert for an attack; but burning to set free the poor lad, who was
seeking here and there with his eyes to learn if those who had saved him
from pain were yet near at hand.

Then the man spoke words of hope to the boy, as I could understand, by
the expression on both their faces, and I waited with finger on the
trigger of the rifle lest the savages should make one desperate effort
to accomplish their cruel work.

Surely if any of the Indians were near at hand now, some attempt would
be made to kill the prisoners, and after waiting perhaps five minutes, I
stepped boldly out within the rays of light.

Near at hand were four rifles, where they had been left against a
sapling while their owners took part in the dance of death, and I knew
we might add the prisoners, well armed, to our force.

The lad gave vent to a low cry of most intense joy as he saw me; but the
man said quietly, as if it was quite natural I should be there:

"You came in good time. How many are with you?"

"Only one other, sir, and he is in pursuit of the savages," I replied,
wielding my hunting knife to sever the bonds which held both prisoners
helpless.

I had no more than given the poor fellows freedom, and while they stood
chafing their wrists to restore the circulation of blood, Simon Kenton
came up swiftly.

"It is well we get back to the cabin; the snakes have halted just under
the river bank, and it may be they will turn back to find out how many
we can muster. Come on!"

Stopping only sufficiently long to secure the rifles which were near at
hand, we four ran to the cabin, the door of which my mother held open;
and once we were inside, the dear soul clasped me to her bosom as if I
had come back from the dead, as indeed was very nearly the case.



CHAPTER IV.

PAUL SAMPSON.


When we were inside the cabin once more, with the door and windows
barred and the man and lad whom we had rescued eating ravenously from
the store of food my mother set before them, there was in my mind the
thought that I had good reason to be proud of the part I had so lately
played.

Simon Kenton and I had killed, or driven off, a band of fourteen
savages, and surely my portion of the work had not been slight. It
seemed to me then, as now, that I did my full share in the business. It
is true, except for the fact of our having taken the brutes by surprise,
and come upon them in such fashion they had no means of knowing but that
we outnumbered them three or four to one, the matter might have come to
a different ending; but it was much to our credit that we had been able
to surprise those wretches who seldom made an attack unless it can be
begun in like manner.

I repeat I was feeling proud of our work, more particularly when I
looked at our guests, realizing that but for Simon Kenton and myself
they would at that very moment be suffering all the tortures the painted
wolves could inflict, and I glanced at the young scout, thinking to read
in his face thoughts akin to mine.

In this I was mistaken. Despite what was very nearly a fact--that the
Indians had been put to flight--he was standing by the loophole of the
door keeping careful watch, and, so far as could be told by the
expression on his face, it might have been us white men who were worsted
in the encounter.

I failed to see in his bearing anything to betoken that he had but
lately faced death in its most horrible form in order to make an effort
at saving the lives of strangers, and from that moment I looked up to
the young man much as if he had been of a superior race from any I had
previously seen.

It is not to be supposed that I stood idly by dwelling upon such
thoughts as are here set down in words, while, for aught we knew, the
brutes might be gathering in greater force than before.

I was not so wholly given over to vanity as all that would indicate; but
moved here or there looking after our defense in such manner as seemed
to me proper, my mind busy all the while, and the vainglorious thoughts
dying away as I observed Kenton.

Then, when the young scout had advised that I remain at the further end
of the cabin, keeping watch from the loophole in the shutter, I turned
my attention to those whom we had saved from the stake.

They were father and son, as I learned from the conversation the elder
was holding with my mother, who ministered to their wants at the table.
Horace Sampson was the man's name, and he called the lad Paul.

The two had come from Maryland to locate a homestead, and the only
wonder in my mind was that the savages had not taken them captives
before they got so far into the wilderness; for neither of them knew as
much regarding woodcraft as had I on my tenth birthday.

They had believed it would be possible for them to frighten the Indians
by a mere show of weapons, and could not be persuaded by those who had
been on the frontier, that it was but little less than suicide to
venture in this section of the country alone.

For three weeks they had traveled here and there searching for a
likely-looking location, and not until the day previous had the savages
shown themselves.

Then that which might have been expected happened in a twinkling, and
before either the father or the son had an idea any danger threatened,
they were disarmed, and bound within view of our cabin, as I have
related.

Even after having been so near a terrible death, Mr. Sampson believed it
might be possible to retrace his steps in safety; but my mother cried
out so loudly against any such foolhardy venture, and painted the
dangers of the frontier in such vivid colors, that the ignorant man
finally came to believe it was hardly safe to trust himself alone amidst
foes whose methods of warfare were so entirely a secret to him.

Simon Kenton must have been listening to the conversation even as I had
been doing, for he said when mother had ceased her warning:

"The only safe path for you is that which leads to Corn Island. There
you will find a goodly company, and I doubt not that before many days
have passed you will meet with some who propose to journey on your
road."

"But how may we provide for ourselves on this island of which you
speak?" the man asked helplessly, and the question in itself was
sufficient to prove his ignorance.

"There will be no lack of helping hands," Simon Kenton replied with a
smile. "On the frontier men do not count the value of food and a
shelter, as do those who live in town."

Then, as if to show he was pig-headed as well as ignorant, Mr. Sampson
argued that he was not willing to accept charity from strangers; that it
would be demeaning himself to receive anything for which he was unable
to pay.

"You must do that, or take the chances of providin' sport for the
painted snakes, as you were like to do a short time ago," Kenton replied
curtly, and I understood by the tone that he was losing patience because
of the man's stubbornness.

Having thus spoken the young scout turned once more to stand guard at
the loophole, and Paul, the lad, his meal ended, came timidly toward
where I was stationed.

He appeared to be a boy after my own heart, entirely different in
manners and speech from his father, and I decided at once that we should
be firm friends so long as he might remain on the frontier.

I could well understand that he was burning with a desire to ask
questions, and did not hesitate to give him encouragement to begin.

He was eager to know how long I had lived in the wilderness; how often I
had fought against the savages, and such like simple questions, all of
which I answered until he was come to an end.

Then I asked about his home in Maryland; of his journey to the Ohio
River, and, finally, how he felt while bound to the stake.

"The fear in my heart was so great that I did not fully have my senses,"
he replied with a shudder. "Not until the fires were kindled and the
dancing had begun did I dream that those beasts would put us to death. I
was like one in a dream until the first shot was fired, and a savage
dropped dead almost at my feet."

"We didn't open fire any too soon," I said with perhaps a tinge of pride
in my tone because I had played my part well, as it seemed to me.

"In another instant the Indian's knife would have been in my body!" he
cried. "I could tell by the fierce gleam in his eyes that he counted on
taking my life."

"The murdering brutes do not kill their prisoners so quickly or easily.
He would have prolonged your life to its utmost limit, in order that you
might suffer the more."

Then I told him of my father's cruel death; of what we had found to tell
the horrible story, and before I had finished the tears were running
down his cheeks.

Simon Kenton must have been listening to our conversation, for he called
sharply, when Paul was almost overcome with grief:

"You lads had best get what sleep you can before daylight, for as soon
as the sun rises, if it so be the red wolves have drawn off, we must set
out for Corn Island."

I understood that he was not well pleased because I had frightened the
lad who was so lately come from the bustling world, and it shamed me
because of giving him, who was so brave, an opportunity for reproof.

My mother spread out the skins near the fireplace, where I had been in
the custom of sleeping, and Paul dutifully laid himself down, while his
father remained at the table evidently in a brown study.

It was not in my mind to allow Simon Kenton to perform all the labor,
and I said stoutly, yet at the same time feeling that my eyes were
growing heavy:

"I count on doing my share of the watching this night. It is not right
that I should sleep while you remain awake."

"I should not trust you to stand guard alone, and there is no good
reason why both of us remain on duty. Take your sleep now, that you may
be the better fitted for a long day's tramp."

He spoke in such a commanding tone that I could do no less than obey,
and when my mother clambered up the ladder to her bed in the loft I lay
down by Paul's side, closing my eyes in slumber almost as soon as my
body was stretched out at full length.

The day had dawned when a cry from Simon Kenton brought me to my feet in
alarm, believing the savages were upon us; but he quieted my fears as he
said with a laugh:

"I had a notion of findin' out how long you need to get your eyes open
wide. If we two are to join Major Clarke, we should be well acquainted."

"I am not such an idiot as to sleep after being summoned," I replied
just a trifle testily, for it seemed much as if he was making sport of
me. "I may not be as well up in woodcraft as are you; but I'm no
idler."

"Now you are takin' me too seriously," he replied with another laugh
which disarmed me of anger. "It was high time you made ready for the
tramp, an' I'm pleased to see you so quick at a call. He who finds it
hard to shake the sleep from his eyes should remain in towns where he
need not hold a rifle ever at hand in order to save his life. Look at
yonder would-be settler," he added in a whisper, and I glanced in the
direction of his outstretched finger, where was Mr. Sampson, yawning and
stretching as if struggling to gather his senses. "Is it strange the
painted brutes captured such as he with but little difficulty?"

Paul was no such sluggard. He had risen at the same time I did, and now
stood near the door on the alert for whatever might come his way.

I could hear my mother moving about in the loft, and knew she would soon
be down to cook breakfast, after which, as I understood the plan, we
were to begin the journey.

"Have the savages left us?" I asked of the young scout.

"Ay, so it seems, though I'm not overly eager to believe it without
better proof than that we've heard nothin' from 'em since you went to
sleep. Stand you here ready for anything that may turn up, an' I'll have
a look round."

He unbarred the door as he spoke, and when he had stolen softly out I
stood guard in his place, with Paul close by my side.

Not until the morning meal had been cooked and was spread on the table
did Simon Kenton return, and the news which he brought gave me a sense
of deepest relief.

"The dose we gave 'em last night was enough," he said, leaning his rifle
against the side of the hut as he took a seat at the table without
waiting for an invitation. "Now is the time for us to start, for there's
no knowin' how soon the brutes may take it into their ugly heads to come
back."

"Are we to leave all our belongings here?" I asked, looking around at
the scanty store of furniture, the greater portion of which my father
had made.

"Better them than your hair," Simon Kenton replied. "If the snakes come
this way again they'll make short work of the cabin an' all that's in
it, whether you be here to make a show of defendin' it or not. In case
they stay away, the stuff will be safe where it is, if we take care to
keep out the wild beasts."

There was a look of pain on my mother's face which I knew had been
caused by the thought of leaving behind her scanty goods; but she gave
no words to her sorrow, joining with the young scout in the conversation
concerning the day's tramp.

When the meal had been eaten, and mother tidied up the cabin a bit, we
went out into the sunlight, closing door and window shutter behind us,
as if counting on returning before nightfall.

Simon Kenton took the lead, and then was begun the long march which did
not end until late in the night.

We made few halts, and then only for a few moments at a time. We ate as
we walked, forcing our way through the dense underbrush, and ever on the
alert against danger.

Mr. Sampson more than once insisted that the pace was killing him; he
declared, when the day was half spent, that it would be impossible for
him to walk half a mile farther; but when Kenton quietly suggested that
he might halt wheresoever he chose, and follow our trail the next
morning, he came to the conclusion that perhaps he might keep his feet a
short time longer.

Paul was as cheery a companion as one could desire. Although he was
foot-sore and weary, as I knew full well, not a word of complaint came
from his lips, and before the day was ended I knew Simon Kenton had
begun to love the lad even as I already did, for he whispered once when
we were well in advance of the others:

"That boy is worth a dozen such men as his father. He has got true
pluck, an' I'll warrant you wouldn't hear him whine even when he'd
fallen in his tracks worn out."

There is no reason why I need say how my mother bore her share of the
fatigue. She was a brave, true woman, and when any task, however great,
was to be done, went at it with a will and in silence, or with cheery
words.

When, at a late hour in the evening, we were come opposite Corn Island,
and had found one of Major Clarke's force who was willing to ferry us
across the river, I was more astounded than words can express, for it
was as if I had suddenly emerged from the wilderness to find myself in a
populous town.

No less than twenty families had come down with the volunteers, and were
encamped together, nearby where the men had their quarters. Counting
men, women and children, there could not have been less than four
hundred and fifty people, three times as many as I had ever before seen
in one place.

The greater portion of this gathering was asleep; but I could well fancy
what bustle and confusion there must be when all were moving about, and
the mere idea bewildered me.

Simon Kenton led us directly to the hut set apart for the use of Major
Clarke, and there introduced us to the commander of the expedition, who
bid us welcome in such a hearty fashion that even Mr. Sampson must have
forgotten what he had said about "accepting charity."

Mother was taken in charge by some of the women, and we four, meaning
Simon Kenton, the Sampsons, father and son, and myself, were given the
use of a lean-to made of brush--not a substantial shelter; but to me,
who had well-nigh come to an end of my endurance, it was most inviting.

Even Kenton himself felt the effects of the long tramp; and we indulged
in no conversation that night, each member of the party falling asleep
as soon as he was on the ground.

Paul and I were early abroad next morning. To him there was no novelty
in such a throng, for he told me solemnly that he had seen in Maryland
many more people bent on merrymaking than could be found on Corn Island,
and I was forced to believe the lad, although it hardly seemed possible.

As I have said, there were no less than twenty families who had come
down with the major's force to find homes in the wilderness, and,
learning in some way, I know not how, that I was the son of a settler,
many of them gathered around to learn how we had fared on our clearing.

There was more than one pale face among the women and younger children
when I told of my father's death, and I dare say but few would have
remained to build homes nearabout the Ohio River if it had been possible
for them to get back to the settlement they had just left.

Mr. Sampson appeared like a different man now that he was with a throng
of people. He no longer seemed to think it necessary he should return
to Maryland, where a wife and two children awaited his coming; but
declared that he would join his fortunes with those who counted on
building up a village on the frontier.

Paul kept close by my side as I talked with the men concerning the
expedition on which Major Clarke was to lead them, and when, late on
that first day in camp, I told him of my intention to join the force as
a volunteer, he declared that nothing would please him better than to be
my comrade.

"If my father is willing, I shall go," he said quietly; but in a tone
which told me that he was one with a will of his own, and not likely to
be led by the nose against his own desire or inclination.

At the first opportunity I sought out Simon Kenton to tell him of Paul's
plans, and the young scout said heartily:

"I like the lad, and will be glad to have him with us, although for a
time he may cost us some trouble."

"He is quick to learn, I fancy, and by observing those around him, will
soon be able to get about in a proper fashion," I replied confidently,
whereupon the scout surprised me by saying:

"There will be none save you an' me for him to see."

"What then will have become of all this gathering?" I asked in
astonishment.

"They will be far behind us, lad. Was it in your mind that I would march
in line like a soldier?"

"What else can you do?"

"Remain in advance to make certain no danger threatens. You and I will
act as scouts; I reckon there may be others, but I have been hired to
conduct all this party, first to the British outpost at Kaskaskia, and
then to Cahokia."

"You alone?" I cried, overwhelmed to learn that this young fellow was of
so much importance in the eyes of a soldier like Major Clarke.

"Not alone, for I count on takin' one Louis Nelson with me, an' he has
it in mind that Paul Sampson will make the third."

"But I am far too ignorant to share such an important duty!"

"The lad who is willin' to face a gang of painted wolves such as
besieged your cabin, and to do so almost single-handed, gives promise of
bein' a comrade to my likin'. We'll lead the men, Louis, an' I dare
venture to say there'll be no ambush we shan't scent out before the
murderin' redskins succeed in doing any mischief."

"And are you willing to take Paul Sampson?" I asked, still in a maze of
bewilderment.

"Aye, that I am, an' venture to say he'll turn out to be your equal
after a little experience."

I could hardly contain myself for joy at the thought that mine was to be
a man's work; but ran off at full speed to make my mother acquainted
with what I believed was rare good fortune.

She, kind soul, was saddened because such an opportunity had presented
itself to me, and although she spoke not a word against the enterprise,
I understood what was in her heart, and said quickly, even though it
cost me a pang to utter the words:

"You are not pleased, mother, and I had thought it would make you glad
because Simon Kenton had so much of faith in me. I will tell him I
cannot go, and you may forget I have spoken of it."

The tears were very near her eyelids as she drew me closer and said
softly, hardly daring to trust her voice:

"I would not keep you, my son, even though the parting give me great
pain. On the frontier boys must speedily learn to be men, and it may be
best for you to go. Perhaps we will join these settlers who intend to
build up a town nearby, when you come back covered with glory."

"Now you are making sport of me, mother," I replied reproachfully.
"There is no glory to be gained in fighting savages."

"To my mind you gained very much, Louis, when you ventured your life to
save Mr. Sampson and Paul."

I was at a loss to understand exactly what she meant, nor did I try very
hard, for the look of pain was gone from her face, and I wanted to
repeat the good news to Paul.

I found him on the shore of the island, gazing across the water as if he
saw in the muddy stream some wonderful vision, and instead of being
surprised or elated when I told what proud position we were to occupy in
the expedition, he said with a sigh:

"It is enough if I am to be with you, Louis."

"And your father? Will he give his consent?"

"He is laying plans for the new settlement which is to be made, and when
I told him it would give me pleasure to go with you and Simon Kenton,
he said he had other things of which to think."

"Does that mean you are free to go?"

"Now that he has companions there will be no thought of me. We will go,
Louis; but do you think we will come back?"

The question almost frightened me. I had thought only of being a scout
for such a brave party as was here encamped, and had given no heed to
the possible danger which awaited us, until reminded of it by Paul's
words.



CHAPTER V.

DOWN THE OHIO.


Paul's question as to whether we would ever come back caused me to be
attacked by timorousness, the first sensation of the kind I had
experienced since the venture was proposed.

Now the matter had been brought home to me in such an innocent way, I
began to realize all that this journey might mean. I had not spent my
life on the frontier without having heard of Major Clarke, and knew full
well he would not turn his back because of danger; in fact, should he
chance to lead his men into a place where their lives were imperiled,
the major's first thought would be as to how he might get the best of
the foe--not as to how he and his following could escape.

In addition to this, only a single glance was needed to show that the
work would be hot, once the force had come within striking distance of
the enemy. Major Clarke had enlisted none save old frontiersmen, each
one of whom had battled for his life against the painted wolves a dozen
times over, and I question if there was a man in the forest who had not
some private wrongs to avenge upon both savages and Britishers.

Knowing all this, one need be a simple who did not understand how sharp
would be the efforts to strike a telling blow once the company was in
the vicinity of the enemy, whether that enemy was a red-coated soldier,
or a half-naked, feather-bedecked brute such as had lived a life of
murdering and plundering since the first day the white men came into
that section of the country.

And Paul and I were to act, as best we might, the part of scouts in
advance of such a force as was this which followed Major Clarke! We
who, because of our ignorance, should have remained in the rear, would
lead the way, taking perforce the hottest of the fights because of being
the first to encounter the foe.

It is little wonder that I was overwhelmed with timorousness on
realizing for the first time what I had taken upon myself; but Paul, who
never dreamed of all we might seek out, remained calm and placid as if
ours was to be the most innocent of pleasure excursions.

The lad was surprised at finding me silent when he had done no more than
repeat what I had said to him a dozen times over, and asked solicitously
if I was ill.

It would have been little more than the truth had I told him I was sick
with fear; but such words would have shamed me, and I held my peace,
allowing him to believe that I who had never known a day's sickness, had
suddenly been overcome in some womanish fashion.

It was Simon Kenton who broke in upon our not overly pleasant
conversation, by saying gleefully, as one might who had just come into
some good fortune.

"If you lads have settled all your business, we'll be off 'twixt now an'
sunset, for I'm countin' on gettin' a good view of the river before we
make a halt."

"Are the men ready to move?" I asked in surprise.

"They will follow twenty-four hours later, provided we learn of nothin'
to prevent the movement. It's our task to spy out the land, an' we're
bound to keep well in advance."

I glanced quickly at Paul in order to see how the news affected him; but
not so much as a tremor of the eyelids followed this information.
Perhaps if he had known all the danger as well as did I, he might have
presented a different appearance.

It would have been shameful had I shown fear when this lad who knew
nothing of life on the frontier remained unmoved, and I stiffened my
lip as best I might, resolved that neither he nor Simon Kenton should
guess of that which was in my heart.

Not only did the scout intend to set forth on this day; but I understood
from his movements that he was eager to begin the work as soon as
possible, despite the fact of his having spoken as if an hour earlier or
later could make no difference to him, and I said with so much of
calmness as might be forced into my voice:

"If it so be you are minded to go at once, I can make ready within five
minutes."

"It would please me to be rid of this place. A crowd of people is not to
my likin' an' by settin' out now there will be no call for any great
haste, whereas the same cannot be said in case we are but a few hours
ahead of the volunteers."

"I wish only to have a word with my mother, and then we cannot leave the
island too soon to please me," I replied, and added on observing in
Paul's face what I fancied was a wistful look, as if he was saying to
himself that it would be a consolation to have some one bid him God
speed, "will you come with me, lad? I dare venture to say she will treat
us both alike."

He sprang forward eagerly, with the moisture of a coming tear in his
eyes, and we went toward that portion of the encampment where were the
women, all of whom found ample occupation in cooking for the volunteers.

Perhaps it is as well if I set down nothing regarding the parting with
my mother; it was painful to me, and cannot deeply interest any who
reads these lines, if peradventure they really have a reader.

It is enough if I say that both us lads, for she gave Paul the same show
of affection as was bestowed upon me, promised to be as careful of our
lives as one could who had set about such work as ours might prove, and
in less than half an hour from the moment Simon Kenton announced his
intention of leaving the island, we were standing by the water's edge
awaiting his commands.

The young scout did not delay once we were ready. A canoe such as is
known by the name of "dugout," was moored to a tree, and in her had been
loaded our scanty outfit.

A supply of ammunition, pepper, salt, a few potatoes and three loaves of
corn bread made up the list of our belongings such as we could not carry
in the pockets of our hunting shirts. As a matter of course each had a
knife and a rifle, which last would serve to provide us with more food,
and we really needed nothing else.

Paul had made an attempt to speak with his father before leaving; but
Mr. Sampson was so deeply engaged in laying plans for the future village
which was to spring up on the banks of the Ohio, that he had no time to
spend on his son.

Major Clarke was the only member of all that company who knew we were to
set out at this time, and he remained in close conversation with Simon
Kenton a good half hour after Paul and I had taken our places in the
dugout. Then, seeing that the scout was eager to be off, he stepped
back, saying to us lads:

"See to it that you follow closely the instructions given by Kenton;
your lives may depend upon obedience, for the work you have undertaken
is in the highest degree dangerous."

He might have spared himself that much breath, so far as I was
concerned, for there was in my mind a very good idea of the perils we
would be called upon to face, and I had little relish for such a
reminder, because my courage at this moment was none of the best.

"So long as we remain in advance you may count on it that there is
nothin' to fear," Kenton said as he unmoored the boat and sent her
moving out into the current with a single stroke of the paddle. "We
shall give you fair warnin' if we come across anything worth knowin',
unless----"

He did not finish the sentence; but I knew full well how to conclude it.
"Unless we are taken by surprise and all killed," is what he would have
said but for the fear of alarming Paul and me.

Before we were half a mile from the island I came to realize that I was
playing the part of a fool by allowing my mind to dwell upon the
possibilities of the future, and, forcing thought into a different
channel, I began to speak of the village which it was proposed to build
on the bank of the river, little dreaming that it would one day be a
great city known as Louisville, as if named for me.

During ten minutes or more, not a word was spoken, and then as if
talking to himself, Kenton said:

"The volunteers will set out sometime to-morrow, an' should move along
as fast as we can."

"Are all the men coming down the river?" Paul said:

"Some will be left behind to look after the women and children; but the
remainder are to set off in the flat boats that were moored at the other
side of the island."

"If they are to come in boats, I do not understand why we push on
ahead," I said stupidly, whereupon Kenton replied:

"It's our business to know if the painted snakes are nearabout the river
in any great force."

"And how may we learn that, unless we tramp along the shore?"

"The chances are that the snakes would fire at us, not countin' on the
main force bein' so near."

"In which case we should gain the information by being shot--perhaps
killed."

"I reckon one of us would come out alive, an' he could get back to give
the news," Kenton said quietly, as if the possibility of our losing our
lives was as nothing so long as the volunteers were warned. "But there's
a good chance we'd all slip through without a scratch, even though the
reptiles had gathered in full force, for they're not the best marksmen
to be found hereabout, an' by keepin' well in the middle of the stream
it should be safe sailin'. Now I'm thinkin' we'd better keep our tongues
quiet, and set our eyes at work, else there's a show of slippin' by what
we've been sent to find. If you see the least auspicious looking thing,
sing out, and we'll know what it means before goin' any further."

Paul listened to these words as if they had no especial concern for him,
and I was near to being vexed with the lad because of his seeming
indifference when life was in danger; but checked myself with the
thought that he would put on a different look if he fully understood the
situation.

By this time Simon Kenton was keeping his eyes at work as he labored at
the paddle, refusing my proffer of assistance, and I question if a
single bent twig or broken bough escaped his notice. It was as if he
saw both sides of the river at the same instant, listening as eagerly as
he gazed, and it can be fancied that I did not dare attempt anything in
the way of conversation.

It is needless for me to explain at length in what fashion we rounded
this point, or skirted that cove half hidden by the overhanging foliage,
for all know full well how voyagers on the Ohio in the days of the
revolution guarded against ambush or sudden attack.

To my mind we might as well have remained with the volunteers during
this portion of the journey, for in case we came upon any considerable
body of savages there was little chance either of us would succeed in
carrying back the news to those who virtually placed their lives in our
keeping.

  [Illustration: Within five seconds I had fired, using the curl of
  vapor for a target.--Page 108. _On The Kentucky Frontier._]

We had been sailing three hours or more; the sun was low in the heavens,
and the shadows were already so dense on the western bank that a hundred
painted brutes might have been concealed beneath the low hanging
branches without our being any the wiser.

To me it seemed foolish to continue on any further, if our only purpose
was to scan both sides of the river carefully, and I was on the point of
saying as much to Kenton when a tiny puff of smoke darted out from amid
the foliage to the right of us, hardly more than fifty yards away; a
sharp report like unto the crack of a whip could be heard, while the
splinters flew from the paddle in the scout's hand.

It goes without saying that I was startled; but not to such an extent as
to deprive me of my wits.

I knew full well none but a savage would have fired at us, and the
knowledge that the villainous enemy was so near served to make me forget
the fear which had beset me a short time previous.

Within five seconds from the instant the tiny puff of smoke darted out
like the tongue of a snake, I had fired, using the curl of vapor for a
target, and Simon Kenton said approvingly, but with no trace of
excitement in his tone:

"That was well done! A lad who is so quick with a shot should not be
taken at a disadvantage, whatever turns up."

He had forced the bow of the dugout from the shore even before I fired,
and, bending low, was paddling with all his strength as if the one idea
of escape was all that occupied his mind.

Paul had neither spoken nor moved; at the moment his back was toward me,
a fact which I regretted because I could not see his face to learn if he
changed color.

We were no more than in mid-stream before a second shot was heard, this
time coming from a point lower down the river; but the bullet flew
harmlessly over our heads.

I made no effort to return the shot, for the very good reason that there
was no chance I could do any execution at such a distance, even though
he who had fired remained motionless, which was hardly to be expected.

Kenton pulled around the next bend, hugging the eastern shore closely,
and when we were come to a small creek he forced the canoe up the tiny
water course until it was completely hidden by the foliage.

"We might have gone on without fear," I said in a whisper, surprised by
this manoeuver, "We were traveling faster than the savages could walk,
and might easily have outstripped them."

"Which is exactly what we don't count on doin'," he said quietly,
speaking in an ordinary tone, and thus showing he had no thought of
danger while we remained on this side the river.

"Why not?" Paul asked mildly.

"Because it's our business to know how many of the reptiles are on
yonder bank."

"But how will you find out?"

"Go back there, an' have a look at 'em. In less than an hour we can do
the trick in fine style."

Paul and I looked at each other in mingled fear and amazement while one
might have counted ten, and then I turned my eyes away, understanding by
this time that to gather such information was the only reason why we had
come down the river ahead of the volunteers.

Kenton sat like a statue in the center of the canoe, we lads being at
either end, and it seemed to me as if a full hour passed before a word
was spoken.

Then the night was so near upon us that, save directly in the middle of
the river, it was impossible to distinguish objects twenty paces
distant.

"I reckon we may as well get to work," and Kenton cautiously forced the
canoe out from amid the tangle of foliage until the current carried her
down stream.

He did not use the paddle save to keep her from running afoul of dry
brush or logs on the bank, and we had drifted two miles, perhaps, when
he suddenly bent to his work, sending the light craft across the river
at a speed I had never before seen equaled, even by my father.

I fully expected to hear the report of a rifle, or feel the sting of a
bullet when we were in the middle of the stream where a sharp-eyed
savage might see us; but nothing occurred to check our progress, and in
a marvelously short space of time we were once more screened from view;
but now on the same side of the river where we knew the painted snakes
lurked.

"You are to stay in the dugout," Simon Kenton whispered to me as he
raised his rifle. "If it so chances that I'm not back here by sunrise,
you must work your way up stream to warn Major Clarke."

Had he given me the opportunity I should have urged that he take us with
him, or wait till near morning before undertaking so dangerous a
venture; but the words had no more than been spoken when he was gone.

At one instant he was speaking with me, and at the next he had vanished
as completely and silently as if the waters had covered him. No Indian
who ever lived could have equaled him in swiftness and noiselessness.

Paul was mystified when he turned and failed to see Kenton, and I felt
forced to explain in whispers what had happened, else I believe of a
verity the lad would have cried out in his bewilderment.

It is not possible for those who have always lived in large settlements
or towns to realize the desolateness of such a position as was ours
while we waited for the return of the scout.

He had ventured into the forest where we knew to a certainty were
bloodthirsty enemies, and that he realized all the possibilities had
been shown by the order for us to work our way up-stream to warn the
on-coming boats, in case he failed to return by sunrise.

My heart was almost in my mouth as I sat there holding Paul's hand,
starting at the lightest sound, and hearing even in the rippling of the
water some token of the savages. My tongue was parched; I could not
have uttered a single word had it been necessary to speak, and only with
the greatest difficulty did I prevent my hand from trembling, thus
exposing to my companion that I was wofully afraid.

When perhaps an hour had passed it seemed to me as if we had been there
a full night, and then came that sound which I had at the same time been
expecting and fearing to hear.

From the distance, half a mile away, I guessed, came the crack of a
rifle; then another and another, and after that the same deathly silence
as before.

"Think you any harm has come to him?" Paul whispered tremulously, and I
replied as I believed truly:

"Not unless he met with an accident before that first shot was fired. If
there had been a large number of savages nearabout, he would have used
every effort to return without loss of time, that we might go to warn
the volunteers. There may have been only a few, with, perhaps, a
captive, and he has attempted a rescue."

I was heartened by my own words, which sounded plausible, and remained
on the alert ten minutes or more, expecting each instant to see Kenton
appear as silently as he had vanished.

When that length of time had elapsed, however, and he yet remained
absent, fear crept over me, and I imagined the worst.

After half an hour went by, and I kept note of time by counting, there
was no longer any hope in my heart.

After firing a shot Kenton would, had he been able, come back to us at
once; for even though he had not learned all which seemed necessary, he
must have understood that he would no longer be able to spy upon the
foe.

I tried to decide what should be done; but my brain was in a whirl. I
could hardly have defended myself if one of the painted brutes had shown
himself close at hand.

It was Paul who aroused me from what was little less than the
stupefaction of despair, by whispering in my ear:

"He did not say that we should go up the river until sunrise. Why may it
not be possible for us to help him?"

I shook my head, believing it was too late for us to effect anything in
his behalf; but the suggestion, coming from a lad who was ignorant of
all this wretched business, awakened me to a realization of my own
folly.

"I am the one to go," I said decidedly "You shall stay here, in case he
comes back."

"By so doing I could be of no assistance. We will go together."

Even now I fail to understand why my wits had so completely deserted me.
I had no thought of what might be the result if we two made off into the
forest in the darkness; but before we met Simon Kenton again I realized
my folly most keenly.

Without trying to persuade him to remain, as I should have done even in
my foolishness, I whispered:

"You must move softly and keep close behind me, lest we be separated in
the thicket where it might mean death to cry out. Follow my every
motion, for I shall take the lead."

He grasped his rifle in a manner which told he at least was no coward,
and clutched my hunting shirt to make certain of obeying the command I
had given.

I stepped over the side of the canoe into the water; but not as silently
as Simon Kenton had done, and we two waded ashore with no heed as to
where this rash move was likely to lead us.

Ashamed though I am to confess it, I took no heed as to the location of
the boat we were leaving--made no attempt to seek out what would serve
as a guide when we returned, if in deed we ever did; but had only in
mind the idea of proceeding up-stream toward where the reports of the
weapons had come from.

And into the blackness of the forest we plunged,
I claiming to be better versed, in woodcraft than my companion, yet
doing that which the most ignorant townsman would never have dreamed of
attempting.

It was the act of a fool, and I was to receive the punishment due my
folly.



CHAPTER VI.

ASTRAY.


It seemed to me that the noise of the firearms had come from a point
about half a mile from the shore, and less than a third of this distance
up-stream, therefore I bent my way in that direction, heeding nothing
save the terrible fear that Simon Kenton had been taken prisoner, or
killed outright.

Could I have learned that he was dead my heart might have been somewhat
lighter, for I knew full well how terrible would be the torture
inflicted upon him once the savages understood who he was.

In such case, Paul and I were bound to carry the sad news back to the
volunteers without delay; but while there was a chance of our being able
to give him succor, I held that it was our duty to make every effort in
such direction.

When I was older grown, and had seen more of warfare, I came to
understand that the life of one man counts for but little when compared
with the general good, and had such fact been impressed upon my mind at
this time, I would never have set out on the foolhardy errand which bid
fair to lead Paul Sampson and me to our death.

The lad whom Simon Kenton and I had saved from the stake was an apt
pupil, as he showed on this night when he followed close in my
footsteps, betraying no signs of fear when he might well have been
excused for betraying timorousness, and moving with the utmost caution.

It is not for me to say that we advanced as silently as the young scout
could have done; but I was satisfied that we were not moving in a clumsy
fashion, and began to feel a certain pride in thus showing Paul how we
of the frontier followed on the trail of our enemies.

During perhaps half an hour we two went steadily but cautiously forward,
and then it seemed to me as if we should have arrived at the spot from
which the shots had come.

I halted and listened intently. Not a sound could be heard save the
soughing of the wind among the foliage, or the countless faint noises of
the night which tell of life when the world is supposed to be sleeping.

For the first time a sense of distrust in my own ability found lodgment
in my mind. It seemed positive we had either traveled in the wrong
direction, or the savages had left the vicinity where the encounter had
taken place. Surely we ought to have come across Kenton, unless he made
a wider detour than at first seemed probable, or, as I feared, had been
taken prisoners.

A certain numbness as of despair took possession of me; I pressed
forward with less heed than before to the direction I was taking, and
again stood still to listen.

When we made this second halt I believed we were no less than two miles
from where the canoe lay, and it was positive the enemy had not been so
far away when the weapons were discharged.

Paul pressed my arm in token that he wanted to say something; but I
clapped my hand over his mouth. The fact that I had made a most grievous
mistake was beginning to find lodgment in my dull brain, and a nervous
fear was creeping over me.

The thought that he, a lad from the east who knew nothing of woodcraft,
had good reason to distrust my ability, angered me, and like a fool I
advanced once more, this time at right angles with the course we had
been pursuing, even though I should have known that such traveling at
random was not calculated to produce the desired results.

When we had forced our way through the underbrush for a distance of
perhaps another mile, we were halted by a swamp.

It was not possible that either the Indians or Simon Kenton had
attempted to cross such a place where one must flounder around with
noise enough to proclaim his every movement, and I leaned against the
trunk of a tree fully realizing all the mischief I had wrought.

Again Paul gave token of wishing to speak, and I no longer attempted to
check him.

"If we are to hunt for Kenton, or count on learning what has become of
him, would it not be better that we went back to the canoe, and waited
for the coming of day?"

"Then it is our duty to push up stream to warn the volunteers," I
replied moodily.

"We cannot hope to find him while it is dark, and it may be that we
shall lose our way," he suggested mildly, whereupon, and without reason,
I turned upon him angrily.

"We have lost it already!"

"Can you not retrace your steps to the river?" he asked mildly, and
without show of fear.

"We should be able to strike the stream; but, having done so, I could
not say whether we were above or below the canoe, and we might travel
for hours in the wrong direction."

"We would be able to learn our course by the current, and if it be not
possible to find the boat, then must we go up the river to warn the
volunteers."

"And leave Simon Kenton in the hands of the savage brutes?" I asked
angrily, grown unreasoning in my nervous fears and the knowledge that I
had made a fool of myself.

"We are not leaving Kenton, because we have never found him, and since,
as seems true, we only wander about aimlessly, would it not be wisest to
think of the others, who rely upon us to point out the danger which may
await them?"

Paul Sampson was speaking like a sensible lad, and I realized it fully.
He, the boy ignorant of woodcraft, should have been the leader, and I
wished most devoutly I had consulted with him before setting out on
this wild-goose chase.

While one might have counted twenty I stood unwilling to acknowledge my
helplessness, and then something like a gleam of common sense came into
my mind. I stood ready to confess that I had acted like a simple, and he
must have understood something of the truth, when I said:

"It shall be as you propose, Paul, and we'll make for the river; but
this time I am not counting on taking the lead, having already shown
that I have no right to direct our movements."

"If you despair like this, then are we lost indeed," he said mildly.
"Remember that I know nothing whatever of such work. Go on as before,
using your best efforts to lead us to the river. Then we should aim to
meet the volunteers, so it seems to me, forgetting poor Kenton because
of the many others who need to know exactly what has happened here."

Without attempting an argument, even had I been able to find one which
would warrant our traveling to and fro as we had done, I acted upon his
suggestion.

Either we had traveled in a southerly direction to where the river took
a sharp bend, or were much deeper in the forest than had at first seemed
possible to me, for a full hour was spent making our way through the
tangled underbrush, now slowly because of the necessity for silence, and
again pressing forward as rapidly as we deemed safe, and not until such
a length of time had elapsed did we come to the bank of the stream.

That I had allowed myself to be completely turned around was proven by
the current of the river, for without such evidence I would have gone
toward the south, believing I was making my way northward.

"The canoe must be above us," Paul said as we halted, "and by following
the shore it should be possible to come upon it."

This seemed no more than reasonable, and hope once more filled my heart
as I led the way along the bank, now moving with greater caution because
it was more probable we might come upon the enemy.

One place looked much like another in the darkness, and yet before
midnight we arrived at a spot where I firmly believed the dugout had
been left.

Paul was of the same opinion, even going so far as to declare that he
had noted on coming ashore the gum tree which we were standing near
while holding the consultation.

I was disposed to believe as he did, but yet the fact that the canoe
could not be found caused me to think both of us were mistaken.

"Surely this can't be the place," I argued, "for none save Simon Kenton
could have come upon the canoe in the darkness, and, on failing to find
us, he would wait a certain time for our return."

"You can't say that positively," Paul replied, "for the scout realizes
that the safety of the volunteers depends upon him in a measure, and
would count our lives as of but little value compared with so many as
are coming down the river."

"Then you think he has been here and gone away in the boat?" I asked.

"That I do, for the gum tree is as familiar to my eyes as anything can
be on so dark a night as this."

I was overcome by the possibility. If what Paul declared with such
assurance was true, then were we two lads left alone upon the banks of
the river amid a savage foe, to make our way back to Corn Island, or,
what would be a far more difficult and dangerous task, to continue on to
the mouth of the Tennessee River.

By going back we should proclaim the fact of my folly, and prove me to
be a lad whose ignorance was near to crime; while to advance seemed
little less than the sacrifice of our own lives.

Somewhat of this I said to Paul, and he replied like the true-hearted,
brave lad he was:

"It is better to acknowledge one's ignorance than try to purchase
secrecy at the expense of life. If we have made a mistake, why not admit
it?"

I, who had plumed myself upon the fact that Simon Kenton was willing to
take me with him as a scout, felt that almost anything was better than
returning, and yet I knew it was my duty to push on up the stream to
warn those who were descending, because we were not yet positive that
the scout had taken away the boat.

Kenton might be a prisoner in the hands of the savages, and in such case
it was of the utmost importance Major Clarke and his volunteers should
know the facts.

Not without a severe mental struggle did I decide to smother my pride
and follow Paul's advice; but once having settled upon a course of
action, I was eager to pursue it.

Prudence dictated that we should wait until daybreak; but I believe of
a verity it would have made me wild to remain in that spot inactive,
thinking only of my folly, and now, as when we left the canoe, I pressed
on with but one idea in mind; but, fortunately, yet retaining so much of
common sense as to understand that we must be on the alert to gain such
information as was possible during the journey.

The further we continued on up the river, the more firmly did I become
convinced that our last halting place was at the spot where the canoe
had been left, for we saw no other such familiar indentation on the
shore, and now the important question in my mind was as to whether Simon
Kenton had embarked in the dugout, or if the Indians had carried her
away. This last proposition appeared to me so improbable that I hardly
gave it a place in my thoughts.

On, on, we went, traveling at the rate of no more than two miles an
hour, because of being forced to move silently and at the same time
carrying out the plan of learning if there might be enemies in the
vicinity, and it was nearabout daybreak when, as I believed, we had been
advancing for no less than three hours, our progress was checked as we
came suddenly upon a party of savages, the greater number of whom were
asleep.

It was accident, rather than wisdom, which prevented our tumbling
directly in upon them, and thereby insuring our own captivity or death.

I was in the lead, as Paul had insisted should be the case, and my
thoughts were occupied with speculations concerning Simon Kenton rather
than the work which lay before me, when a noise as of some one snoring
arrested my footsteps.

I had come to a halt within a dozen paces of the savages, and could see,
where the underbrush was thinnest, the form of a feather-bedecked brute
leaning against a tree evidently on guard.

A dozen steps more and we had been directly upon them.

Turning quickly, I clasped my hand over Paul's mouth, lest he should
speak, although the lad had shown himself to be a better frontiersman
than I, and this movement of mine told him of the danger so near at
hand.

During twenty seconds, perhaps, we two stood peering into the gloom,
able only to learn that there could not be less than twenty Indians here
encamped, and then silently as shadows, for our lives depended upon the
movement, we turned about, retracing our steps until thirty yards or
more lay between us and the sleeping murderers.

Then I whispered in my comrade's ear:

"We must make a detour here lest those brutes come to know of our
whereabouts, so keep well in mind the direction of the river."

"Do you count on going forward without learning if Simon Kenton may be
among the savages?" he asked, and a flood of shame came over me as I
thus realized that my own danger had caused me to forget the scout at a
time when his possible fate should have been uppermost in mind.

Of a verity Paul Sampson ought to have been the leader, and I his humble
follower.

So abased was I by his thoughtfulness and my own stupidity, that I would
have suggested he reconnoiter the camp, but an instant later, realizing
that such dangerous work should be performed by me if for no other
reason than that I might atone for my past folly, I whispered:

"Stay here, while I go forward."

"Why should I not follow? If it so be Kenton is not there, we may
continue on, and thus save the time you would spend in returning to find
me."

Again he was right, and again was I stupid.

Well, we did as he suggested, and no lad on the frontier could have done
better work than this same Paul, who was so lately come from the east.

Skirting around the sleeping scoundrels so silently that the quick-eared
watchers failed to take alarm, we got such view of the brutes as could
be had in the darkness, and when half an hour or more was spent in the
work, I could say of a truth that Simon Kenton had not been made
prisoner by this band.

It was a great relief of mind, and yet only served to increase my shame,
for now did I begin to believe that the scout had taken away the canoe,
going up the river, or down, as might seem to him best, regardless of us
two who had committed such a fault as was ours.

The gray light was filtering through the foliage when we were clear of
the foe and could with some degree of safety continue the journey.

I pushed on at a swift pace that we might put the greatest possible
distance between them and us before the day should have fully come; and
the sun was rising when we halted for a breathing spell.

Now I found that Paul had much the same idea as I regarding Kenton's
whereabouts, save that he contended the scout had continued on down the
river, believing a band of twenty would hardly attempt to lay an ambush
for three or four boats heavily laden with armed men.

"A party like that might do great mischief firing upon the boats from
the thicket," I said, "and if Simon Kenton saw them, I make certain he
has gone back. If not, we may gain some little credit, although hardly
enough to counterbalance the shame, by returning."

We knew the volunteers would begin the journey as soon as day broke,
therefore within an hour, if we traveled at our best pace, it should be
possible to hail the foremost craft.

The Indians might also move in the same direction, therefore it stood us
in hand to advance as rapidly as possible, and I led the way once more
at my best pace.

Lest it may seem that I set down too much concerning what we did, and
too little regarding the brave men who were about to risk their lives in
order that the settlers on the frontier might be more safe, this
account shall be cut short with no further mention of ourselves until we
saw, far in the distance, the first of the flat-boats.

Making our way with all speed to the outermost portion of the point on
which we were standing at the moment, we waved our arms vigorously, not
daring to shout, and the craft was yet a quarter of a mile away when we
saw by the commotion aboard that our signals had been seen and
understood.

Then two men set out in a canoe, paddling in advance of the unwieldy
flat-boat in order that there might be no necessity of her rounding-to,
and within a comparatively short time we were ferried out to the larger
craft, on which was Major Clarke, eager to learn why we were returning.

I had no desire to shield myself, although knowing full well that in the
minds of such men as listened to the story I had committed almost a
crime in deserting the canoe while Simon Kenton was ashore. The entire
tale was told without reserve, and then was I gladdened by the major's
words:

"It may be fortunate that you acted the part of a foolish lad, for
certain it is that Simon Kenton would not have disregarded such a
company as you saw on shore. It must be that he either failed to find
them, or came across another band. It stands us in hand to look after
the party of reptiles lest they be on their way to Corn Island, there to
fall upon the women and children."

Having said this he gave certain orders to the men, and without delay
the long sweeps were worked until the heavy craft was forced close into
the western bank, where she was made fast.

Then thirty or more were ordered ashore, the major going with them after
he had given us lads permission to follow.

"That we will do, sir," I said, "if we are needed to lead the way."

"We would be poor frontiersmen if we failed to follow your trail, lads,"
Major Clarke said with a smile. "You shall do as you please."

Now it would have suited me better to remain in safety aboard the
flat-boat, yet there was a chance that now I might show my desire to
repair the wrong committed, and I replied as if my heart was full of
courage:

"We may not be of much assistance, sir; but I should like it better if
we had a hand in the work."

Whereupon Paul stepped closely to my side as if to say I had but spoken
the thoughts which were in his mind.

Thus it was that we two followed the volunteers, knowing full well we
might fall into an ambush, and certain we would soon be battling with
our enemies.

Among these men led by Major Clarke, there was not one ignorant of how
the work before him should be accomplished. No orders, were necessary.

The volunteers moved ten or twelve paces apart, stretching far up from
the river until they were what would be called by military men a
"skirmish line," and then began the advance, while the flat-boat
remained moored to the bank and two settlers were paddling at full speed
up-stream to warn the other craft.

Save for the bungling movements of Paul and myself, not a sound could be
heard as we pressed forward, keenly on the alert for the enemy, and
ready for an immediate attack.

It was as if a company of shadows flitted here and there amid the
underbrush, so far as might be told from sound, and although the advance
was noiseless, it was made swiftly.

Paul and I were left somewhat in the rear because of not being able to
keep the pace silently, and during more than half of the hour which
passed, I failed to see a single man ahead of us.

Then suddenly, although we knew full well it must soon come, the report
of a rifle rang out on the still air; after this another and another,
until there could be no question but that the foremost of the party had
come upon those of whom we gave warning.

My timorousness was forgotten on the instant--cast out of mind by the
knowledge that our lives must be defended, and Paul, whom I believe of a
verity had never been timid, pressed forward so rapidly to take part in
the struggle that I laid hold of him lest he should unnecessarily run
into danger.

We advanced three hundred paces or more before coming to where our men
were sheltered behind trees, trying to pick off the foe who were in
similar positions, and I heard Major Clarke say in a sharp, low tone:

"Get to cover, lads! The reptiles are close upon us, and you are giving
them fair targets."

I leaped behind a gum tree, giving no heed to Paul's movements, and had
but just gained this shelter when a bullet cut the bark within an inch
of my face.

The Indians were ready for battle, although I had often heard it said
they would never stand up in a fair fight, and there came into my mind
the fear that Paul and I might have seen only a portion of their
force--that possibly we were confronting a large body led by British
officers.



CHAPTER VII.

THE CAPTIVE SCOUT.


To you who have read of, and perhaps taken part in, battles between two
armies, this encounter on the banks of the Ohio may seem trifling, and
devoid of interest, because there is no thrilling account of this
gallant charge, or that stubborn holding of a position.

Since the day when thirty men under command of Major Clarke confronted
an unknown number of Indians on the banks of the Ohio, driving them back
in such fashion that there was no longer spirit enough left in them to
carry out the murderous plan which they had formed for attacking the
defenseless ones on Corn Island--since that day, I say, this country
has seen much of warfare, and what was to Paul Sampson and myself like
a veritable battle has, even while I write, passed into history as
something too insignificant to be worthy of any extended mention.

To us lads, however, who stood there in the long, scattered line,
knowing that our lives depended upon our own exertions; knowing that the
least incautious movement--a single instant wasted when the trigger of a
rifle should have been pressed, might mean death, it was an engagement
as heavy and important as any that has been waged since the world began,
and with good reason, because our own safety hung in the balance.

In this world one is prone to give importance to, or detract from, an
event in such measure as it concerns himself alone, and, therefore, Paul
and I may well be excused for holding high in our memory this conflict
which meant everything to those people who on Corn Island awaited our
movements before they should begin to build that settlement which has
since become known as Louisville.

Of it I can tell no more than that which I saw, and I dare venture to
say that my experience was the same as that of every other in the line,
for no man could give attention save to what lay directly before him.

It was in fact nothing more, this battle, than standing behind gum or
pine tree, as the case might be, peering intently ahead and on either
side for a distance of twenty or thirty paces, hoping to catch a glimpse
of a tuft of feathers which would tell where a bullet might be sent with
deadly effect, or cowering back whenever a movement of the foliage told
that a rifle barrel was being thrust out so that the holder might take
deadly aim.

Commonplace enough it sounds when set down in words; but if he who
chances to read can imagine himself in such a position, his only effort
being to save his own life or take that of another, some little idea may
be had of the thrilling excitement which overcame me like unto a fever.

Now and then from different points could be heard voices shouting words
of encouragement to those in that line of brave men who might perchance
be for the moment faint-hearted. Again, and all too often, came the cry
of pain or an exclamation of anger when the bullet of a savage had
bitten the flesh, and meanwhile Major Clarke was calling out to this man
or to that as he leaped from one point of vantage to the other,
animating every one by his words as well as his example.

In such a situation the combatants do not give heed to the passage of
time. There are intervals when each second is as a dozen minutes, and
then again, when the minutes flit by apparently more quickly than one
could count.

Once, when having turned my back to the tree, knowing that my body was
fully sheltered while I reloaded my rifle, I observed Paul, calm and
collected as the mightiest hunter among us. If perchance his aim was
less true than some of the others, it was not because of nervousness or
anxiety concerning himself. He stood his ground like a man--a man who
fights to protect others, rather than for his own honor or to preserve
his own life.

On that morning Paul Sampson gave good proof that he was worthy to be
numbered among the defenders of the frontier, and showed that in him
could be found none of his father's fickle-mindedness.

The report of his rifle rang out as often as did that of the most eager
or most experienced in the line, and how much execution he might have
done I know not; but this is certain, that I saw no less than two tufts
of feathers rise convulsively and then sink suddenly out of sight when
his weapon had been discharged at them.

I say it is impossible to tell at such a time how long one faces his
foe; but it was afterwards told that the Indians stood up to the battle
for near an hour, and then came the word from Major Clarke that they
were falling back.

This information was in the nature of a command for us to advance, and
advance we did, leaping from one place of shelter to another, while
hastening the faint-hearted foe by bullets sent whithersoever the
swaying of the foliage told us one of the brutes was making his way
onward.

When we had advanced in such halting fashion for the distance of forty
or fifty paces, I was come to where the painted crew had made their
stand, and there saw good evidence of what we had accomplished.

No less than four bodies were stretched on the ground lifeless, and my
timorousness returned in a measure as I realized that near at hand,
perhaps making ready to take aim at me, might be some savage, so badly
wounded that he could not join his fellows in what had become little
less than a flight.

  [Illustration: We advanced from one place of shelter to another,
  firing rapidly,--Page 142. _On the Kentucky Frontier._]

At that moment we were in more danger of such of the savages than
from those who were yet sound in body; but as the time passed and I felt
neither the sting of a bullet nor the burning cut of a knife, my courage
came back again before those around me noted the fact of my having been
near to cowardice.

We advanced, leaping from one sheltered spot to another, until the word
was passed along the line that the remnant of the foe had taken to
flight, no longer trying to shelter themselves, and the battle was over,
save for those eager white men who pursued in the hope of shedding yet
more Indian blood.

Major Clarke gave the word for his force to fall back to the boat. He
told off four men to search the thicket for bodies of the savages in
order that we might know how many had fallen, and the remainder of the
party, save two or three who were so far in advance as not to have heard
the command, returned to where the flat-boat was moored.

It was in my mind to congratulate Paul upon his having been in action
and come out unscathed, believing a lad like him, who had stood up
against the enemy for the first time in his life, would be ready to hear
words of praise, or, at least, discuss the exciting events.

But the boy whom I had looked upon as ignorant because of never having
lived on the frontier, was now shaming me by his actions.

Instead of spending his time in useless words, Paul began cleaning his
heated rifle, and otherwise putting himself into condition to do a like
service if the occasion should suddenly require it.

Abashed by his calm and manly behavior, I held my peace, following his
example, and when the last of the pursuers had returned to the flat-boat
we two lads were ready to take part in another encounter.

Those who had been detailed to learn how much injury we inflicted upon
the foe, reported that fourteen killed or grievously wounded lay in the
thicket, and once more Major Clarke questioned us as to the probable
number we had seen in the encampment.

I was positive, as also was Paul, that there could not have been upward
of thirty, while it was more reasonable to believe the band numbered
less than twenty, and the major claimed that we might rest assured there
was no longer any danger to be feared from this particular band of
brutes.

While we were fighting in the thicket the other flat-boats had come down
the stream, rounded-to, and made fast alongside the first craft; but not
a man had gone on shore to take part in the battle because of the orders
left by our leader.

Now we were ready to continue the journey, and the major said to Paul
and me when we were on board once more, drifting with the current:

"I allow that it was a fortunate mishap for you lads to have lost sight
of Simon Kenton, otherwise we should have been called upon to bury a
certain number of dead from among the force, instead of having to count
only four slightly wounded. Had that party of reptiles fired on us from
the thicket as we drifted by, much loss of life must have followed.
Therefore I hold to it that you have done us, at the very beginning of
the journey, good service."

"But where can Simon Kenton be?" I asked.

"Pushing on down the river most like, believing you were captured while
he was spying upon the other members of that gang. We shall come across
him before many days have passed, unless it so be that he finds it
necessary to come back for the purpose of warning us."

If the major had intimated that Simon Kenton might at that moment be a
prisoner among the savages, I should have felt the keenest anxiety for
his safety; but here was a man who had had more experience on the
frontier than the eldest among us, speaking of the scout as if it was
not possible any danger could have come to him, and whatever fears
might have been in my mind prior to this time were speedily allayed.

Now I began to enjoy the journey down the river. We had nothing to do
save sit at our ease while the swift, strong current bore us onward
toward our destination, and such traveling was exceedingly pleasant,
more particularly since I no longer thought it necessary to blame myself
for having left the canoe when I should have remained by her.

Simon Kenton himself would censure me for having done as I did; but
after knowing how much good had resulted from it, his words of blame
could not be severe.

It was with such thoughts I comforted myself, and finally gave no heed
to anything save that which was pleasurable.

When noon came Paul and I shared the provisions of our companions, and,
after the meal was come to an end, lay stretched at full length in the
after part of the boat watching the panorama spread out before us.

It must not be supposed that while the boats drifted on in this lazy
fashion the men neglected to give due heed to possible danger.

Strict watch was kept on either bank, and when it became necessary to
round a point or pass some tiny cove fringed with trees wherein the
enemy might lurk to send a shower of bullets among us, the heavy craft
were forced to the greatest possible distance from the place of danger,
while every man stood, rifle in hand, ready to check an attack or return
a volley.

It was not permitted that we should hold converse in voices louder than
a whisper, and those who worked the heavy sweeps were careful to do so
in the most noiseless fashion, for we knew full well that the enemy
lurked on either shore, and every care was taken to avoid giving notice
of our approach.

When the day was near to an end the boats were allowed to come closer
together, and finally, when night was so near at hand that the shadows
on the shore grew dense, Major Clarke gave a signal, by gestures, that
we were to haul up till morning.

"Are we to lay by the bank over night?" Paul asked, and I, unable to
reply, appealed for information to the man nearest, who said much as if
believing the question a foolish one:

"I reckon there won't be any boatin' done after sunset, unless there's
some great need. Those who drift down this river just now had best do so
when it is possible to have a good view of either bank, and Major Clarke
is not the man to take needless chances."

"The savages can do no more mischief in the dark than when the sun
shines," Paul said quietly.

"That is where I'm not agreein' with you, my lad. In the light we can
give as good as they send; but after dark, when there's no chance of
seein' the reptiles, they have the upper hands. Howsomever, our opinion
on the matter won't have any very great weight with the major, and
you'll find that along about this time each day we'll be looking for a
place to halt."

The boat in which we sailed was the foremost of the fleet, and while the
man was yet speaking the crew worked the sweeps until she rounded to
under the bank, followed by the others, and in less than half an hour we
were moored for the night.

This done, the first duty was to learn whether there might be any of the
enemy in the vicinity, and scouts were sent out at once, while the
remainder of the company set about getting supper, or, perhaps I should
say, eating it, for such food as we carried at that time was already
cooked.

There was no thought of immediate danger in my mind; as a matter of
course I realized that we were surrounded by enemies, but after the
battle of the morning I was confident the enemy had been driven to a
respectful distance.

I had ceased to think of Simon Kenton, save as pushing on down the river
at his best pace, scolding because we were not with him to share in the
labor, and I counted on spending the night in rest.

It so chanced that Major Clarke was seated very near Paul and I when the
first of the scouts returned, and the information he brought was
sufficient to drive from the minds of every man on board all thought of
idling.

It appeared from the story we heard, that this scout, seeing a faint
glow as of a light on the opposite side of the river, a mile below where
we were lying, had taken a canoe from the nearest flat-boat and paddled
across.

There, after having landed, he crept noiselessly through the foliage an
hundred yards or more from the bank until he saw that which explained to
me, at least, why Paul and I failed to find the dugout when we returned
after our foolish tramp.

A party of fifty Indians, most likely a portion of the same band we
whipped that morning, had halted for the purpose of torturing a
prisoner to death, and that prisoner, so the man declared, was none
other than Simon Kenton.

He also had been rash and foolish when going ashore in search of
information, and at about the time we heard the reports of the firearms
he must have been made a prisoner.

Even as I shuddered at the possibility that those who would go to the
rescue might arrive too late, I thought with a certain sense of relief
that now he could not find fault with us for having abandoned our post.

Had we remained in the canoe, as we should have done, then beyond a
peradventure we had been captives with him, and the flat-boats, not
having been delayed by the battle, might at this time be too far down
stream for their occupants to render any aid.

It goes without saying that instantly this news was told preparations
were made for the rescue, and while the men were being told off, for
Major Clarke did not intend to take with him more than half a company,
Paul said to me quietly, as if there was nothing to excite or alarm:

"Of course it is our right to aid in the rescue of the scout."

"There are many others here who could do better service than we," I
replied, not relishing a second encounter.

If Paul and I had been alone in the thicket, and were the only ones who
could give assistance to Simon Kenton, then never for an instant would I
have dreamed of holding back; but here were near to four hundred men,
all of them with more experience in such bloody business than either he
or I, and it was only a question of desire that would carry us into the
conflict.

"We set out from Corn Island with him, and should be the first to go to
his relief," Paul said, as if the matter was already settled in his
mind, and I understood on the instant that he would apply to Major
Clarke for permission to join the force, whether I was disposed to
accompany him or not.

It would have shamed me wofully had Simon Kenton been alive when the
party reached him, and failed to see me with my comrade, therefore I
leaped up at once as if eager for another battle, and together we
approached the commander.

"It is our desire, sir, to take part in the rescue," Paul said modestly,
"We were his comrades, and should be the first to go to his relief."

Then it was Major Clarke made much the same answer as had I, replying
that it would be better the older men take the brunt of the affair; but
Paul held grimly to his purpose, by repeating:

"It is our duty, sir, and I believe it to be our right."

I was not disposed that he should be the only one to display courage and
a desire to aid Simon Kenton, therefore I said, throwing such of desire
into my tones as was possible:

"I pray you, sir, that we be allowed to join the party, if for no other
reason than because the scout was our comrade."

"It shall be as you say, lads," Major Clarke replied; "but I warn you
against being too eager for such frays. An attack in the night, while it
may sometimes be less dangerous than in the daytime, is likely to prove
far more hazardous."

The major might have convinced me that it was my duty to remain aboard
the flat-boat; but Paul Sampson was as headstrong once he had resolved,
as he was quiet in manner, and I understood, without the necessity for
words, that he would not be turned from his purpose.

It can well be supposed that after this word was brought in every man
gave due heed to silence, for should the savages who were making ready
to torture the prisoner, discover that we were near at hand, Simon
Kenton's death would speedily follow.

To make any attempt to gain the opposite shore with one of the large
flat-boats would be folly, therefore all the dugouts which we towed, or
carried aboard, were brought into line, and those men selected for the
enterprise clambered into them, Paul and I among the others.

Now to my surprise, instead of putting directly across the river, the
boats were allowed to drift down on the same side where the heavy craft
were moored, keeping well within the shadow of the trees, and not until
we were a mile or more below where it was said the Indians had halted,
was any effort made to cross.

By the time the opposite side was gained we were fully two miles down
stream, and even a greater distance from the place it would be necessary
to gain in order to rescue Kenton.

Here we landed, Major Clarke and one of the older men taking the lead,
while the remainder followed in single file.

Paul and I were midway of the line, and because strict orders had been
given that no word should be spoken, he pressed my arm from time to
time as if to convey by such means the thoughts that came into his mind.

I could not divine of what he might be thinking; but I knew it was a
very disagreeable fact that at any moment we might fall into an ambush,
for no man could say with certainty that the Indians had failed to note
our coming.

I suffered more during that tramp of two miles in the utter darkness,
than on the previous night when it had seemed as if Paul's fate and mine
was sealed.

When we were come so near to the place of torture that the light of the
fires kindled around the tree to which the captive was bound could be
plainly seen, but were screened from view of the river by the foliage,
my heart beat and thumped until it seemed, so nervous had I become, as
if the noise must give warning to the painted crew who were dancing
around their intended victim.

In whispers Major Clarke gave orders that the men should separate and
creep forward, each at a distance of six paces from the other, until we
had half encircled the murderous band, and then each was to be on the
alert, ready to fire when the first report of the commander's rifle was
heard.

By such means was it believed that a full half of the savages would be
slain at the first fire, and, thus taken by surprise, the remainder
would seek safety in flight.

When Paul and I, keeping nearer together than the orders permitted, had
come as close to the savages as might be done with safety, we had a full
view of the unfortunate Kenton.

I had no doubt but that the Indians recognized him as one who had worked
them no little harm in the past, for they were preparing to prolong his
tortures to the utmost. Sharp splinters of wood were being made ready
for use after the fashion of spears, lest knives should produce death
too quickly, and the painted crew were already circling close around
him, when, as I knew from what had been told me by the others, before
the fires were lighted which should burn his flesh, he would be cut and
mangled with a thousand superficial wounds.

A brave man was Simon Kenton, and so he showed himself at this moment
when there could have been no hope in his mind that help was near.

Stripped nearly naked in order that the murderous wolves might see where
to strike without inflicting too serious an injury, he faced them with
what was very like a smile on his face, while the blood was already
flowing down his body from tiny gashes, and I understood that however
much of anguish might come to him, never a cry of pain could be rung
from his lips.

Paul crept nearer to grasp my arm with a convulsive clutch, and I knew
the lad was feeling most keenly for the prisoner, being able to
understand full well what must have been the captive's thoughts, for had
he not occupied the same position?

I had leveled my rifle, aiming at the Indian who stood nearest Simon
Kenton, determined that the ball should find its billet, when the sharp
crack of Major Clarke's weapon rang out, and a dancing savage fell to
the ground with a shriek of pain and defiance.

Instantly half an hundred rifles were discharged, and it seemed to me as
if every feathered head went down, after which the scene was obscured
from view by clouds of sulphurous smoke.



CHAPTER VIII.

AT THE RENDEZVOUS.


Even before the smoke had cleared away sufficiently for me to see the
captives, our people rushed forward, all reloading as they ran, and
during two or three minutes the confusion was so great that I could not
make out what might be going on.

Paul and I had dashed forward with the rest, and, instinctively, so far
as I was concerned, we directed our steps toward the prisoner, who was
bound hand and foot in such a manner that I question if he could have
moved either of his limbs by so much as a hair's breadth.

The effect of the fire was not so deadly as I had at first supposed.
More than one of the savages must have dropped to the ground to
disconcert our aim, as I now understood on seeing that no more than
five lay stretched out on the ground near the captive.

The remainder had taken to cover a short distance away, and two of our
men dropped as they ran forward, while I saw bloodstains on the shirts
of two others.

"We must get to shelter!" I shouted to Paul, swerving aside from the
course we had been pursuing as I spoke, and clutching his arm in order
that he should be forced to do the same.

The brave little lad had no idea of leaving Simon Kenton at the mercy of
the painted brutes, however. It was reasonable to suppose they would
shoot him rather than allow a rescue, and Paul was bent on saving him at
the hazard of his own life.

Wrenching his arm from my grasp, and almost at the same instant drawing
his hunting knife, he dashed on toward the tree to which the scout was
bound, and involuntarily I followed; but no credit should be given me
for the act, because I was hardly conscious of my own movements.

Here, there and everywhere around us, as it seemed to me, rang out the
reports of rifles, and every weapon was held with deadly aim.

It was as if the air was full of death-dealing missiles, and yet no one
of them touched us as we sped across what was now an open space, both
white men and savages having retreated to the nearest shelter.

Paul was the first to reach the captive, and with an exultant shout he
began hacking at the deer-hide thongs with which the poor fellow was
bound.

"You're lads after my own heart!" Simon Kenton cried, his voice ringing
out clear and distinct even above the yells of the combatants and the
rattle of the rifles. "If I live it may be possible to pay you two for
this night's work!"

His words drove the timorousness from my heart, and before he ceased
speaking I was aiding Paul in severing the thongs with as much eagerness
as if it had been my idea rather than his to perform such perilous work.

The savages began to shoot at us in the hope of preventing our purpose,
and, perhaps, to kill the prisoner at the same time, whereupon our
people opened such rapid and murderous fire that not a be-feathered head
dared to show itself, and in a comparatively short space of time Simon
Kenton was running stiffly toward the nearest shelter.

He had been bound in one position so long that his limbs were nearly
helpless; but he managed to get over the ground nearly as fast as could
we two lads, and picked up a rifle that had fallen from a dead Indian's
hand even as he ran.

It was to me as if the fight had hardly more than begun when we three
were in a place of comparative safety once more, and on the alert to
pick off a foe.

Paul and I had a sufficient amount of ammunition to provide the scout
with what he needed in order to continue his portion of the fight, and
as he stood behind a big gum tree watching keenly for an opportunity to
avenge the insults he had endured, we carried on quite a friendly
conversation.

"What did you do when mornin' came an' I failed to show up?" Kenton
asked, whereupon I replied quickly, thinking that the present was by far
the best time I would ever have in which to acknowledge my fault.

"We went in search of you after an hour had passed, and failed to find
the canoe on our return."

Then Paul, most like, understanding that I would have the story told in
a manner favorable to myself, gave a hurried account of our adventures
from that time until we learned of the scout's trouble.

"I ran straight into the arms of four snakes who had heard me coming,
and showed myself to be the biggest idiot that ever made a try of goin'
down the Ohio River," Kenton said bitterly, and I rejoiced at the tone,
for it told that he would not be likely to inquire very closely into my
folly.

He had been bound to the tree where we found him, since early morning,
and during such time the savages had given him a slight foretaste of
what was to come, by cutting his body here and there until the blood
flowed in tiny streams.

At the moment it struck me as strange that we three should be talking of
the past in this leisurely fashion, interrupting ourselves now and then
to discharge our rifles when a tuft of feathers could be seen; but I
afterward came to know that in times of greatest danger Simon Kenton
appeared to be occupied with the most trifling affairs.

I asked him once, when the conversation lagged, if he had thought Major
Clarke's force might come to his relief, and he replied emphatically:

"I had no idea, lad, but that they were many miles below here. You can
be certain that I turned the matter over and over again in my mind.
There was ample time for reflection, and I could see no way but for me
to go into the other world as cheerfully as possible. I was determined
those sneaks shouldn't bring a cry of pain to my lips. But for you two,
for I'm countin' that some of the reptiles would have shot me before
this if you hadn't come up like little men, riskin' the bullets, to set
me free, I'd taken no more part in this 'ere trip of Major Clarke's. If
either of you ever get into a tight place, you can count on my standin'
close alongside while the breath stays in my body."

This was the moment when I should have confessed that but for Paul, he,
Simon Kenton, would yet be bound to the tree; but the words were not
spoken, and I have never ceased to regret that I did not make the
explanation due my comrade.

As I read over what is here set down it seems much as if I had made it
appear that we were giving little heed to whatever might be passing
around us, when, as a matter of fact, we were keenly alive to all that
went on, and lost no opportunity of dealing the painted fiends a deadly
blow.

Nor were the other members of our party at all backward in doing their
duty. As when we faced the savages further up the river, every man did
his best, and this display of courage was not to the liking of such
sneaks as had counted on shedding Simon Kenton's blood.

Within half an hour from the time the scout was set free, they began to
draw back, and we pressed our advantage until such a blow had been dealt
as must have taught them a lesson.

Then was heard Major Clarke's voice ordering the men back to the canoes,
and within a few moments we were being ferried across to the flat-boat,
where the other members of the expedition were waiting anxiously to
learn the result of the venture.

There was no longer any urgent reason why we should remain silent, for
the noise of the conflict had alarmed every painted snake within sound
of the rifles, and our men discussed the situation without taking the
precaution to speak in whispers.

The general belief appeared to be that these two parties whom we had
fought since daybreak, were one and the same. Our first meeting was with
those who were pushing on up the river in advance to spy out the land,
and it was the main body that had made of Kenton a prisoner.

All that had happened was for the best. But for my folly many men might
have been slain, and that folly would not have been committed but for
the fact of the scout's having been taking prisoner.

Clearly the good God had interposed in our favor, and we were come out
of the fights with nothing more serious than wounds which, if properly
cared for, would soon heal.

Within half an hour from the time we stepped on board the flat-boat
after having released Kenton, he insisted that Paul and I should lay
down to sleep, and at the moment I believed this display of care for us
arose from our efforts to release him at a time when death was looking
into his face.

Having had no sleep the night before, we were only too glad to act upon
his suggestion, and in a short time both of us lads were sleeping
soundly as only tired boys can.

At midnight we came to understand why Kenton had been so solicitous for
our welfare.

Then he aroused us, saying as we opened our eyes:

"I reckon you lads don't want to stay here any longer, an' it's time we
were movin'?"

"Where are you going?" I asked sleepily.

"Ahead of the flat-boats. Unless we start now there's little chance we
can do the party much good, an' I'm countin' on makin' a better job than
was the first one."

It was not to my liking, this setting out in the middle of the night to
drift through a country infested, as we had by this time every reason to
believe, with savage enemies, and I failed to understand how we could be
of benefit to the volunteers by sailing down the river in the darkness
when we might pass an hundred bands of reptiles without having any
suspicion they were near.

This much I said to Kenton, and he replied with a laugh:

"I reckon we can count on the river's bein' clear for the next thirty
miles, an' after we've gone that far it'll be a case of layin' alongside
the bank to wait for daylight, or takin' a quiet little scout ashore."

"As you did last night," I said quietly, giving but little heed to the
words, and a second later I could have bitten my tongue for having made
such a slip, for the scout said grimly:

"Perhaps it'll be as well if we don't talk much about last night. The
lad who leaves a canoe to search for a comrade who's out scoutin', not
havin' left any word as to where he might be goin', ain't in good trim
to cast up old scores at others."

Now it was I understood why Simon Kenton had refrained from making any
disagreeable remark when Paul told of our movements. He realized that we
had done a reckless thing, but was not minded to say what might have
hurt our feelings at a time when we had just aided in saving his life.

But for my quick tongue I should never have known that he realized fully
all my folly.

It can well be fancied that, after this reminder that I was not to be
trusted in time of danger, my lips remained closed, and in silence I set
about making ready for the journey.

The dugout which Kenton had decided to take was lying alongside, and in
her had already been placed such a supply of provisions as we might
need.

There was little for Paul and I to do save get our sleepy eyes wide
open, and clamber over the side of the flat-boat, a task which we
performed in silence.

Major Clarke was awake to give us his final instructions, and after he
had held a private conversation with Kenton, the latter came into the
canoe, casting off the hawser as he said in answer to a whispered remark
of the commander's:

"Never fear but that I know full well what may happen, an' you can count
on my bein' more careful than before."

I had an idea that these words might have reference to my foolishness of
the night previous, and did not seek to learn what Major Clarke had been
warning him against.

We pushed off into the darkness, our light craft moved quickly away by
the rapid current, and almost immediately it seemed as if we were wholly
alone in the wilderness once more.

Save to keep the canoe in mid-stream, Kenton made no effort to direct
her movements, and we floated down the river in silence, keeping sharp
watch on either bank while I promised myself never again to be guilty of
giving way to fear.

Paul, brave lad that he was, held his peace. Thus far he had covered
himself with the glory which can be gained when one is pitted against
such enemies as were ours, and the fact that I had not given him full
credit when there was an opportunity for so doing, only caused me to
feel the more keenly that he was my superior even though having had no
previous experience.

I guessed that the current carried us a good five miles an hour. The
distance from Corn Island to the rendezvous at the mouth of the
Tennessee River was said to be considerably more than three hundred
miles, and at the rate of progress made by the heavy boats, lying by
during the night as they did, it would require full six days in which to
make the journey.

We in the canoe could not look forward to less than five days of this
drifting on the river, in case we met with no delay, and while I
thought of my mother it seemed as if we were going to the other side of
the world. I wondered whether I might ever see her again, and it
appeared much as if the chances were against our meeting, judging from
the dangers into which we had already run when the voyage was hardly
more than well begun.

By this dwelling upon the possibilities I soon worked myself into a most
cowardly frame of mind, from which I did not awaken until we were come
to a long stretch of sandy land either side of the river, where there
was no fear our enemies could find a hiding-place.

Then it was that Simon Kenton started a conversation, as if knowing I
needed cheering, and he did not bring it to a close until we were near
the wooded portion of the shores again.

When daylight came we had seen nothing to cause alarm, although all knew
full well that we might have passed scores of savages without being
aware of the fact, and the scout paddled the boat toward the western
shore, as he said in a low tone:

"I'm countin' on havin' a look around, lads, an' this time you'll stay
quietly aboard till I come back, or the flat-boats heave in sight."

Paul, understanding that these words were somewhat in the nature of a
reproof to me, said boldly:

"It was well for you, Simon Kenton, that Louis insisted on going ashore,
else the sun had never risen again for your eyes."

"All that I know right well, lad, an' I'd be a brute if I didn't give
the fact due weight; but I'm not willin' you should put your own lives
in peril for me. You've got people who love you, while I----"

He ceased speaking suddenly as if having said more than he intended, and
again my tongue was an unruly member.

"Haven't you any kin who would mourn because of your absence?" I asked,
and Simon Kenton's face grew pale, bronzed though it was by the
weather.

"The less that's said about me the better," he replied curtly, and then,
the canoe being alongside the bank, he sprang out to make her fast, thus
putting an end to further words.

He was absent no more than half an hour, during which time Paul and I
sat motionless and silent, hidden by the foliage, from the view of any
who might pass either by land or water.

When he returned we knew he had seen no signs of danger, although not a
word was spoken until we were a mile or more from the halting place.
Then he said quietly:

"I reckon we've already met all the reptiles who are roamin' hereabout,
an' that we shan't run our noses into any more fights this side of the
Tennessee River. We'll keep a sharp lookout just the same, though, an'
pull up to-night so's not to get too far ahead of the volunteers."

As he said so we did. During the day we drifted with the current seeing
naught of danger, and at nightfall pulled the canoe up under the
overhanging foliage to enjoy a good night's rest.

The story of this day's journey was that of the days which followed
until we were come to the rendezvous, arriving, as we believed, not more
than four and twenty hours in advance of Major Clarke's force.

Since the day when Simon Kenton was made prisoner we had seen no signs
of the foe, and it seemed certain that then we had come upon the only
warlike band outside the British outposts.

When we stepped from the canoe at the mouth of the Tennessee River I
drew in a long breath of relief, for at that moment I was nearer
exhaustion than I ever believed would be possible when one has done
nothing more than remain inactive.

To sit in a narrow boat like our dugout day after day, not daring to
move lest she should be overset, is real labor. I had never had much
experience in such traveling, and felt that I really needed no more.

We made camp by building a lean-to of light stuff, and while Simon
Kenton went back into the thicket to search for game of some kind, Paul
Sampson and I lounged lazily about, enjoying to the utmost the
possibility of stretching our limbs at full length.

The scout was yet absent when we saw emerge cautiously from the foliage
four white men, and but for the fact that they carried a goodly supply
of meat, thus showing they had been out hunting, I might have suspected
them to be British spies.

As it was, I did not feel at liberty to give any especial information
concerning ourselves, and warned Paul to be on his guard against
speaking of the flat-boats; but rather to let them believe we were
simply journeying down the river in search of a homestead location.

As a matter of course the sharp-eyed hunters saw our lean-to
immediately they emerged, from amid the underbrush, and came directly
toward us.

In the wilderness men are either enemies or friends; there is no
half-way ground as amid townspeople, and I at once decided in my mind
that these newcomers might be depended upon, although I wished most
heartily for Simon Kenton, who could, take the responsibility of
receiving them.

Their first question was as to whether we were alone, and on being told
who was our companion and leader, one of the party expressed the
greatest pleasure at meeting him once more.

"I've scouted an' trapped with young Kenton," the hunter said warmly,
"an' a better friend I never hope to have. Where are you headin', lads?"

I stammered, not willing to give much information until we knew more
regarding the strangers, and yet hesitating to refuse an answer to a
simple question, when Paul said quickly, relieving me of my
embarrassment:

"If you know Simon Kenton, sir, you can well understand that it does not
become us boys to speak of his purpose. He has gone in search of meat,
and will soon return to answer for himself."

"Well, said, lad. You have a cautious tongue, an' it's needed
hereabouts, because some of us have white enemies as well as red. We can
wait for Kenton, an' meanwhile there'll be no great harm done if we set
to work cookin' a bit of this 'ere game."

Then the men took possession of our poor camp, and the odor of meat
cooking was soon rising on the evening air, sharpening our appetites
until, but for the shame of it, I would have begged some of the food
before it had more than been browned by the flames.

The meal was not yet prepared when Simon Kenton appeared, and I was
rejoiced to see him greet the hunters as if they had been old friends,
for it told that during this night at least we had nothing to fear.

Without hesitation he explained the purpose of our coming, and told of
the flat-boats with their loads of volunteers which might be expected on
the morrow, whereupon the strangers seemed highly gratified.

It appeared, as I soon learned by the conversation, that these men had
come from Kaskaskia; but were by no means on friendly terms with the
commander of the British post there.

They were in sympathy with the efforts of the colonists to shake off the
yoke which the king had put upon them, and declared their purpose to
join Major Clarke's force, if that officer should be willing to receive
them.

"I'll answer for it that the major gives you a hearty welcome," Kenton
said in a tone of satisfaction, "an' by your aid we shall be able to
surprise the outpost."

Then the conversation ceased in order that all hands might partake of
the meal, which by this time was prepared, and we two lads felt that
the most dangerous portion of the enterprise was over, although at least
two British garrisons were yet to be captured.



CHAPTER IX.

KASKASKIA.


During this evening and the following day we gained all the information
concerning Kaskaskia which it was necessary Major Clarke should know.

These men who had come upon us so opportunely, were, as I have said,
trappers from that outpost, and eager to do whatsoever they might toward
overthrowing the rule of the Britishers on our frontier.

Such desire was only natural, as may be believed when I say that the
king's officers pursued the policy of stimulating the Indians against
the settlers, in order that such as were not willing to own allegiance
to the king should be killed or driven from the country.

Monsieur Rocheblave, a Frenchman, had command of the British forces
roundabout Kaskaskia, and the hunters reported him to be an exceedingly
vigilant officer, who kept a large number of spies continually on the
alert to guard against the approach of people from Kentucky who were
known to have taken sides with the eastern colonists in the struggle for
liberty.

There were eighty British soldiers in the garrison, and all the redskins
nearabout were in the pay of the commandant, therefore it might be said
that the force at this point was exceeding strong; but Simon Kenton's
friends believed it might be taken by surprise, providing we could
capture the spies sent out by Rocheblave.

Once our people appeared before the garrison, when the Indians were not
there to lend their aid, the post must of a necessity surrender, and
thus the work set for us to do might be accomplished without bloodshed.

That this renegade Frenchman was exerting himself to stir up the
Indiana against the settlers there could be no question; in fact one of
these hunters had good proof that such was the case, he having been
present when the king's officer offered a certain reward in the shape of
ammunition and blankets if the savages would surprise and massacre a
number of families who had made a clearing on the banks of the
Mississippi River.

Kaskaskia was founded, as I have read, after the visit of La Salle to
the Mississippi in 1683, by Father Gravier, Catholic missionary among
the Illinois Indians, and was the capital and chief town of the Illinois
country so far as the French continued in possession of it. In 1763, it
was ceded by the French to Great Britain, and such of the French
officers as held possession were continued in the pay of the English
king.

With the exception of fifteen or twenty, such as the hunters whom we
met, all the settlers in that vicinity were of French descent.

The day following our arrival at the mouth of the Tennessee River was
spent in idleness. We had a plentiful supply of meat, and the hunters
were unwilling to talk or think of anything save the possible capture of
the outpost from whence had been sent so many murdering bands of savages
to shed blood simply that the king's hold upon this fair country might
be the stronger.

Therefore it was we remained idle, wasting our time, as I thought, until
an hour past noon, when Paul and I had wandered a short distance up the
river in company with Simon Kenton and the hunter whom he had greeted as
a friend, and then were spoken those words which lifted from Simon
Kenton's heart the greatest burden man can bear.

Several times since he so suddenly appeared to me on the bank of the
Ohio River, having come at a time when he could render my mother and
myself the greatest possible service, had he commenced a sentence
regarding himself, and suddenly stopped, as if fearing to betray
somewhat of his own life which others should not know.

Such behavior, together with the fact that he refused to say anything
concerning his early life, or why he was serving as a scout when it
would seem as if nature had fitted him for some noble purpose, convinced
me, boy though I was, that there was a painful secret which had sent him
out from among those whom he loved.

On this day of which I speak, while we were strolling aimlessly up the
river, the hunter said carelessly, giving no particular weight to his
words:

"I met Donnelly at Cahokia a short time ago, and we spoke of you,
Simon."

Kenton stopped suddenly as does a man when a bullet reaches a vital spot
in his body. His face turned pale as I had seen it once before, and he
trembled as if in an ague fit, striving to speak, but in vain, and the
hunter, alarmed by this show of weakness, would have sprung forward to
prevent the scout from falling, but the latter waved him aside as he
asked in a tremulous whisper:

"Which Donnelly did you meet?"

"He whom you have reason to know; perhaps it would have been better if I
said that Donnelly who has good cause to remember you."

"Do you mean Martin?" Simon Kenton asked with an effort, and showing yet
greater evidence of being disturbed in mind.

"Ay, lad, Martin Donnelly, and why should you, above all others, show
fear at his name?"

"Tell me!" and Kenton leaned forward eagerly, as if his very life
depended upon the answer. "Do you mean to say you spoke with that Martin
Donnelly who lived some time ago in Fauquier County, in the colony of
Virginia?"

"Ay, Simon, the same. He whom you flogged until the breath had-well nigh
left his body."

"And he lives?" Kenton asked with a long indrawing of the breath,
straightening himself up as does one who has been suddenly relieved of a
heavy burden.

"He was alive when I met him in Cahokia, and counted on settling down in
the Illinois country, if it so chanced everything was favorable. He left
his family in Virginia so I understood; but reckoned on going after them
some time this fall."

Kenton leaned against a tree, his face hidden in his arm, and we three
stood gazing at him in silence and astonishment until perhaps ten
minutes had passed, when he turned to face us with an expression such as
I shall never forget.

"If you have made no mistake, John Lucas," he said, speaking slowly, and
with a ring of joy in his tone, "if you have spoken truly, there is
taken from me that which I believed I must carry to my grave, and from
there to the presence of my God. If Martin Donnelly be alive, I am a
free man once more----"

"I tell you, Simon, I saw and talked with Martin Donnelly," Lucas
exclaimed impatiently. "What is the meaning of your words? Why have you
not always been a free man, save perchance when the savages had you in
their clutches, as these lads here have told?"

"Here is the story of a man who came on the frontier believing himself a
murderer, and doing whatsoever he might to atone for a supposed crime
committed at a moment when anger held possession of him. As you know, I
was born in Fauquier County in 1755, where my father, an Irishman, had
won for himself by hard labor such a home and such a plantation as a
poor man could survey with pride. Up to the time I was sixteen years old
there came no thought into my mind save to be a planter, and continue
the work my father had begun. Then I loved a girl, the daughter of our
nearest neighbor, and counted, with the consent of her parents as well
as mine, on marrying her in due course of time. Martin Donnelly came
into the district, and by unfair means, as I did and still claim, won
her from me. I met him the day after he was married. He taunted me with
what he had done; claimed that an Irish planter in Virginia was of so
little consequence that the first newcomer could take from him
whatsoever he had that was to be won by fair words, and continued in
such strain until rage overpowered me. I leaped upon him like a panther,
using no weapons; and with my bare hands pommeled him until he lay like
one dead. Fear took the place of anger; I tried to rouse him; but he lay
as does a corpse, and I, believing myself a murderer, fled, pursued only
by my own conscience, across the Alleghanies, where I joined those who
were pushing forward on the extreme frontier. Since that day have I
shunned the abode of all men save those who live remote from any
settlement. How often I have yearned to see my father and mother, there
is no need for me to say. I dared not go back, believing I would be
seized and executed as a murderer; but now I am free to do whatsoever I
will, and save for the fact that my word binds me to remain as scout
with Major Clarke until the expedition comes to an end with the capture
of Vincennes, I would set off this hour for the home I have dreamed of,
but never expected again to see."

Having thus spoken Simon Kenton walked rapidly away up stream, and we
three, awed by his story, and knowing that at such a time it would be
best to leave him alone, returned to the camp, I for one feeling that
however great a failure might be Major Clarke's expedition so far as
concerned the British outposts, it was wondrously successful, inasmuch
as through it there had been lifted from one man the shadow of a great
crime.

Not until nearly nightfall did the scout rejoin us, and then all traces
of his emotion had vanished. He was much the same person as before, and
yet entirely different, if I may use so contradictory an expression. I
mean that there was no change in his manner so far as could be seen
when we spoke of the purpose of our journey, or of that which was to be
done in the future; but when talking with Paul and me there was a
gladsome ring in his voice--a certain freedom of manner which struck me
forcibly, and yet might not have been evident to one who was
unacquainted with all the facts.

More than once during the evening he referred to the day when he was to
go back to Virginia, and during the remainder of the journey it was as
if all his future actions were marked out with especial reference to
that visit, only lately become possible.

Not until noon of the following day did the first of the flat-boats come
in sight, and it was the advice of these hunters from Kaskaskia that we
set out on the march up the Mississippi without delay, lest Monsieur
Rocheblave's spies should give that officer timely warning of our
coming.

Immediately Major Clarke came on shore Simon Kenton informed him of what
we had learned, and the four hunters announced their desire to
accompany the expedition from this point as guides.

Nothing could have been more favorable to the enterprise, and, as may be
readily supposed, the major did not hesitate to accept their services.

The volunteers, all good men and tried, were speedily acquainted with
the facts of the case, for in such an enterprise as this the commander
made no effort to conceal his intentions from those who accompanied him,
and it was believed by every one that no time should be wasted at this
point on the river.

When the last boat had rounded-to and made fast in front of our camp, we
were as well prepared for the march, in fact, better, than we should be
twenty-four hours later, and the halt was prolonged only until it could
be decided by all the members of the party how we might best set out.

After a consultation it was decided that the boats should be dropped
about six miles further down the river to such point as would afford
concealment for them, after which our party would begin the march across
the wilderness, and the last craft had not been made fast half an hour
before we were under way again, Simon Kenton, Paul and I paddling ahead
to select a spot where we might leave the unwieldy boats with some
degree of assurance that they would remain undiscovered.

In order that I should be able to tell the story of all we two lads did
while we were with Simon Kenton, it is necessary that much of the detail
be omitted, else would this poor story run to such length that he who
attempted to read might grow weary in the task.

Therefore it is that nothing shall be set down regarding the march
across the wilderness, during which we met with no other adventure than
the capture of one of Rocheblave's spies, whom we met the second day
after leaving the river.

It chanced to be the good fortune of us three--meaning Simon Kenton,
Paul and myself--to come across the fellow while he was cooking a fat
turkey, and although it was by no means to his liking, we forced him to
go back with us to Major Clarke. He claimed to be an honest settler of
Kaskaskia, whose sympathies were with the struggling colonists; but John
Lucas had told us that there were few in the settlement thus disposed,
and Simon Kenton believed it safer to hold him for a certain time, than
run the chances of letting him go whithersoever he would.

The hunters from the outposts soon settled his fate, for they recognized
in him one who had been most active in inciting the Indians against the
settlers of Kentucky, and but for Major Clarke's bold stand he would
have been put out of the world in the quickest possible manner, as
indeed he should have been, for I counted him a more deliberate murderer
even than the savages, and equally culpable.

However, we held him close prisoner by tying him between two of the
strongest men, and I venture to say that during the remainder of our
tramp through the wilderness he got a reasonably good idea of how
innocent women and children fare when they are forced to accompany
savage captors.

Our progress was reasonably rapid, and yet no precautions were spared to
prevent surprise.

Twenty of the party, among whom were Simon Kenton, Paul and myself,
remained two miles or more in advance of the main body, spreading out in
what nowadays would be called a skirmish line, and taking exceeding good
care that nothing escaped our attention.

It was on the afternoon of the fourth day of July when we arrived within
a mile of the outpost, having every reason to believe that thus far
Monsieur Rocheblave was ignorant that we proposed to deprive him of his
command.

Had it not been for the opportune meeting with the four hunters, I
question if we should have been able to advance secretly thus near; but
they, acquainted with all the approaches to the settlement, and knowing
where we would be less likely to attract attention, led us safely on
until we were in a good position to begin the work on hand.

Although there were more than four hundred in the party, we remained
five hours hidden almost beside the garrison, and yet no suspicion of
our presence was aroused.

None other, save men familiar with frontier life, could have
accomplished what at this time seems to me almost impossible, even
though I know full well it was done.

We remained hidden in the thicket, from which point we could see the
people of the settlement as they moved to and fro intent on their daily
tasks, and yet one might have passed within an hundred yards of us
without being suspicious that so many armed men were in the vicinity.

It was believed, at least by Paul and me, that a battle must be fought
before we could gain possession of the outpost, and perhaps there is no
need why I should set down here the fact that once more was my heart
filled with timorousness, for by this time it should well be understood
that whenever danger threatened I grew cowardly.

It was one thing to fight against the Indians in the forest where we
could find as good shelter as they, and quite another to advance in the
open against a garrison of men equally skilful with ourselves in
handling a rifle, and protected by a stockade.

I believed, and with good cause, that many of as would be sent into
another world before the sun rose again, and, unless I was willing to
show my companions how much of a coward I had become, I must take my
chances of death with the others.

It was by no means cheerful, lying there in the thicket, not daring to
speak or move lest an alarm should be given, and looking forward to that
struggle which must speedily ensue.

Had it been possible to hold converse with Paul, then might some subject
have been brought up which would have changed the current of my
thoughts; but I was forbidden even to whisper, and it seemed to me then
as if between us and that stockade so short a distance away, death
stalked to and fro, awaiting our approach.

It is the coward, and only the coward, who reaches out into the future
in search of danger. The sensible man waits until confronted by the
peril before giving way to fear, and this was proven to me before many
hours had passed. I suffered ten times more than if we had advanced and
been severely beaten, and yet, as we speedily understood, I had no
reason whatsoever to thus torture myself.

When the night came it seemed to me as if Major Clarke had forgotten for
what purpose we were there.

Peering out from amid the thicket we could see that the inhabitants of
the settlement had gone to their rest. Two hours after the sunset, the
garrison was quiet, and yet our commander gave no signal.

Looking forward to wounds, and perhaps death, as I did, the moments went
by exceedingly slow, and I came to believe that almost any danger would
be preferable to this stealthy waiting for the signal which should
precipitate the action.

Paul, who lay close by my side, seemingly gave no heed to the passage of
time. Like the brave lad I had come to understand him to be, he remained
apparently indifferent to what the future might hold in store for us,
gaining the repose which would serve him in good stead when violent
action was required.

It seemed to me as if the night was more than half spent when I observed
Major Clarke rising to his feet, and, as I afterwards learned, it was no
more than nine o'clock.

The decisive moment had come. If now we failed to capture Kaskaskia,
then was the expedition a dire failure, and those who did not fall
beneath the bullets might expect to find themselves prisoners in the
hands of captors who would show but little less mercy than the savages.

Before we had arrived at this hiding-place it was decided that the party
should be divided into five sections, each of which would make the
attack from a different point, and now that the signal had been given
the men formed themselves into detachments, moving silently away in the
darkness as had been previously agreed upon.

Simon Kenton, Paul and myself, were among those who were to march
straight toward the stockade from where we lay, and therefore we made no
movement until those who were to approach from the opposite side had
been given time to get into position. Major Clarke himself was to lead
our division, and although he counted on taking the garrison by
surprise, I believe it was in his mind that if a victory was to be
secured, we would pay dearly for it in blood.

Well, I am giving over many words to what was in itself but a most
trifling affair. It only required that we should march up and take the
garrison, as if all the king's soldiers there were waiting with open
arms to receive us in friendly fashion.

When the word to advance was given, our portion of the company could see
in the gloom far away on either hand the different detachments closing
in upon the stockade, and yet not a sound came from those valiant
soldiers of the king, who instead of guarding the outpost were spending
their time in slumber.

Nearer and nearer we advanced, believing all the while that in the next
second would be heard the report of an alarm gun; but the minutes went
by, and the silence within the stockade was as profound as if none save
the dead held possession.

  [Illustration: Straight up to the big gate we advanced, believing
  that in the next second we should hear the alarm gun.--Page 204.
  _On the Kentucky Frontier._]

Straight up to the big gate we advanced, and so secure did the
garrison feel in the friendship of the savages, who thirsted for the
blood of such white people as were not in the king's favor, that the
barrier was not so much as closed.

We entered and had surrounded the commandant's quarters before any one
of the enemy was aware of our presence, and then came the alarm.

A gun was fired at the instant Major Clarke stood before the door of
Monsieur Rocheblave's house, and the echo of the report had hardly died
away before he, followed by a score of men, entered the building.

Standing close by Paul's side, directly behind Simon Kenton, I awaited
the beginning of that battle which seemed imminent; yet grown somewhat
bolder because of the fact that we were within the stockade.

While I remained on the alert, my rifle half upraised, there came the
word, I know not from where, that the commandant had surrendered, and,
turning toward us, Simon Kenton said much as if he was dissatisfied with
this peaceful ending of what had promised to be a most difficult
undertaking.

"Well, lads, the first of the outposts we counted on capturing is ours,
and we have not been put to the expense of a single charge of
ammunition."

"Do you mean to say that there will be no fighting?" I asked in
surprise.

"How can there be since Monsieur Rocheblave has surrendered?"

"But we were told there were eighty men here to hold the garrison in the
king's name?"

"Ay, lad; but the commander having decided that we shall enter into
peaceful possession, deprives them of a right to make objections.
Kaskaskia is ours, and it will be a long day before the king's flag be
hoisted again. But how is this? One would say you were disappointed."

"I hardly know whether to laugh or cry."

"Why should you cry, lad?"

"Because during this five hours past have I lain in the thicket
trembling lest death would be my share in this engagement, and he who
makes of himself such a simple should weep because he is so
feeble-minded."



CHAPTER X.

CAHOKIA.


While we could not rightfully take much praise to ourselves for having
captured a post where no resistance was made, the members of Major
Clarke's force, including even Paul and myself, looked with triumph upon
the exploit, bloodless though it had proven to be.

Surely the king would not have thus lost possession of his outpost had
we, meaning the entire company, remained at home, and, therefore, might
we claim that the garrison was now held in the name of the province of
Virginia solely through our efforts.

As we learned next day from those to whom Major Clarke had confided the
facts, many of Monsieur Rocheblave's papers had been destroyed by his
wife after he was made prisoner, for our people did not consider it
necessary to make a woman captive. She was allowed to retain possession
of the house until morning, and during that time burned many papers
which should have come into our keeping.

There was not time, however, for her to destroy all Monsieur's
correspondence, and enough was found to prove beyond a doubt that he,
acting under instructions from England, had been inciting the Indians to
hostilities against such of the settlers as dared believe the rebellious
colonists were in the right.

I believe of a verity our men would have wreaked speedy vengeance upon
this Frenchman who had caused the death and torture of so many of our
countrymen, but for Major Clarke's presence of mind.

Immediately after learning that the members of the force were aware of
the Frenchman's guilt, he detailed twenty of the most reliable
men--those whom he could trust to carry out his orders to the letter,
and sent them in charge of Monsieur Rocheblave and his wife to
Williamsburg in Virginia, that the wicked man might be tried for the
crimes he had committed against defenseless women and children.

The party set off before noon of the day following our capture of the
garrison, at a time when our people were occupied in other directions,
and thus no act was committed which might have brought shame upon us,
although I hold even now that it would not have been wrong had we wiped
out Monsieur Rocheblave's crime with his own life, regardless of the
fact that he, being a prisoner, was entitled to our protection.

He had entertained no such notions of honor when he set the savages upon
the defenseless settlers, knowing full well how much of horrible
suffering would be caused.

He left with a whole skin, however, as I know full well, since Paul and
I aided in making ready the boat which was to carry the party to the
mouth of the Ohio River, from which point they would strike across the
country to Williamsburg.

The Frenchman's wife went with him, as a matter of course, and I have
since tried to learn what became of the scoundrel, but without success.
He deserved hanging, if ever any man did, although many people claimed
that he was not really guilty, since he had but carried out the orders
given by his superiors.

Had any of those who pleaded so eloquently for his release known what it
was to have a father tortured to death, as I knew, there would have been
leas said in favor of such a wretch.

However, that has nothing to do with the story of what Paul Sampson and
I did and saw while we scouted in company with Simon Kenton.

When our people learned that Monsieur Rocheblave had been sent away with
a whole skin, for, as I have said, all the preparations for his
departure were made with the utmost secrecy and he and his wife
smuggled on board the boat, there was something very like mutiny in the
camp, and Major Clarke had quite as big a job to quiet the men as he
could well handle; but the volunteers soon settled down quietly,
promising themselves that the time would come when they might have more
voice in deciding the fate of the Frenchman.

Having seized the outpost, it was as if Major Clarke counted on
loitering in Kaskaskia without making any further effort toward
capturing the other possessions of the king's on the Mississippi River.

During three days we remained quietly in the settlement, amusing
ourselves as best we might, and many of the company indulged in much
grumbling because of the inactivity.

We had come to open the river for our own people, they said, and it was
little short of a crime to loiter when there were so many garrisons near
at hand which should come into our possession.

Before the three days were passed, however, we came to understand our
commander's purpose. He had not disturbed the French settlers whom we
found in Kaskaskia; but, on the contrary, showed his intention of
protecting them as he would those who were bound to us by ties of blood,
and the result was that the people began to realize how much had been
gained by this change of governors.

The savages were no longer welcome to hold their hideous pow-wows there,
and the soldiers could not rob the settlers as had been done when
Monsieur Rocheblave was in command. In every respect the people were the
gainers by our coming, and fully appreciated the fact.

The next British outpost up the river above Kaskaskia, was Cahokia, a
settlement where considerable trade was carried on, and a depository of
British arms for distribution among the savages.

It had been occupied by the Caoquias, a tribe of Illinois Indians, long
before the discovery of the Mississippi. The French settled there
shortly after La Salle descended the river, and it was said to contain
not less than forty families in addition to the garrison of about sixty
soldiers.

This was the post Major Clarke had counted on capturing when he left
Corn Island, and we soon came to know that he had not changed his
intentions, but was busily engaged perfecting his plans at the very time
when some of us accused him of spending the days in idleness.

Between these two outposts were three small villages which the king
claimed as his own, and these it would be necessary to capture before
arriving at the larger settlements.

When all his arrangements were completed, Major Clarke announced that
Captain Joseph Bowman, the commander of one of the companies, was to
lead the expedition to Cahokia, which would consist of about two hundred
men, while he, Major Clarke, with the remainder of the force, was to
remain at Kaskaskia, and at the same time be prepared to keep in check
such of the Indians nearabout as might take into their ugly heads to
make trouble for us.

Now was seen the wisdom of the major's proceedings during such time as
we had remained in the captured garrison.

The inhabitants of Kaskaskia had had time to realize that they were much
better off under the rule of the colonists than that of the king, and
once this was brought fully home to them, they became eager that the
other outposts on the river should experience the same change of
government.

Therefore, instead of secretly sending scouts ahead to warn these
villages through which we must pass, the people of the post begged
permission to accompany the volunteers, claiming that by relating what
had occurred in their own settlement they could quickly bring the others
to terms, thereby preventing bloodshed, and doing a favor to their
neighbors at the same time they benefited themselves.

As Simon Kenton put it: "Once they knew that the Americans were prepared
to take possession of America--or such portion of it as came in their
way--the one desire was that the rule of the king might be wiped out
speedily, which was good sense, inasmuch as both parties could not hold
portions of the river without coming to blows."

If these people whose settlements we had taken without striking a blow
could have had their way, every outpost now garrisoned by men who gave
allegiance to the king would be speedily in our possession, and while
the temper of the people was at this point, the proper time had come to
push the advantage.

When it was announced that among those who would set out under command
of Captain Bowman would be the scout Kenton and his two companions, I
had no misgivings.

The anguish of mind that had been mine with so little cause just before
we surprised the Kaskaskia garrison had taught me a lesson, and, in
addition, I believed that we would continue our march in the same
bloodless, triumphant fashion as it had been begun.

And in this I was not mistaken.

Lest I draw out this story to too great length, setting down facts which
strangers may think are of no importance in the history of our taking
possession of the Mississippi River, I shall go straight ahead toward
the end without stopping here to relate what at the time seemed to us of
considerable importance, or to explain how Paul and I acted or felt
under certain trying and disagreeable circumstances.

Simon Kenton was to have charge of the advance portion of the force
which Captain Bowman led. That is to say, if we were speaking of such
maneuvers at this day, we should say that Simon Kenton was in command of
the skirmishers, and, as a matter of course, Paul Sampson and I played
the part, however poorly, of his assistants.

We, and I am now speaking not only of us three who called ourselves
scouts, but twelve or fifteen more who were ordered to join us, set out
from Kaskaskia on the morning of the 8th of July, about two hours in
advance of the main force, with the understanding that it was our duty
to capture such spies as might be met, or to fall back in case we were
confronted by any considerable number of savages.

Well, we began the sixty-mile tramp in good spirits, and when, late on
that same day we were come within hailing distance of the first small
settlement that lay on the road, our march had been no more than a
pleasure excursion.

Neither spy nor Indian had we seen, and I believe that eighteen or
twenty men could have taken possession of this village belonging to the
king, by force of arms, had it been necessary, without any very serious
trouble.

But the orders were for us to halt until the main body should come up,
and this we did, whereupon those settlers from the captured post
advanced to hold a parley with the occupants of this clearing.

It was not a lengthy conference. After those who had so lately
recognized Monsieur Rocheblave as their governor, explained to these
other settlers the advantages to be gained, the village was ours.

We had simply to walk in as honored guests, and the American flag was
hoisted in token that they no longer held themselves as subjects of the
king.

And the story of our successful advance thus far was the same as must be
told from this point.

We marched into two other villages, our allies from Kaskaskia going
ahead to pave the way, and left the settlers, while we continued on up
the river, as brothers rather than enemies.

Three villages hoisted our flag in token of their sympathy with and
desire to aid the colonists, and then we were come, at the close of the
third day, near to Cahokia, the post, as I have said, of no mean
importance, and garrisoned by sixty soldiers.

Here at least did Paul Sampson and I believe our entrance would be
opposed; but as before, Captain Bowman sent our allies ahead, and we
came into the trading village where the king had deposited large
quantities of arms for barter with the Indians, having met with no
opposition, and being received right generously.

The people greeted us with huzzas when we marched into the stockade,
behind our allies, and were equally as enthusiastic on being told by
Captain Bowman that they must take the oath of allegiance to the colony
of Virginia.

The purpose for which our force had left Corn Island was accomplished in
the capture of Cahokia, for this post was really the last which Major
Clarke had claimed it might be possible to reduce.

It is true he had mentioned Vincennes in his plans to the authorities of
Virginia; but, as we understood from Simon Kenton while we laid here at
Cahokia, the garrison on the Wabash River was not to be attacked unless
it might be done with reasonable assurance of success.

Now this outpost of Vincennes was one of the first settlements formed in
the valley of the Mississippi. It was occupied by the French emigrants
as early as 1735, and called post St. Vincent. In 1745, the name of
Vincennes was given to it in honor of F. M. de Vincennes, a gallant and
much respected French officer who was killed in the battle with the
Chickasaws in 1736.

It was the most important post in the valley, but whether it was to be
attacked, we who were at Cahokia could not even so much as guess.

Simon Kenton believed our portion of the work would end here, arguing
that Major Clarke must leave a garrison both at Kaskaskia and Cahokia in
order to hold the stockades, and by so doing his little army would be
greatly weakened; so that he could hardly hope for a victory if it
chanced that we were obliged to resort to force in order to gain
possession.

"Accordin' to my way of thinkin', lads, our work is done," the scout
said, late on that night after we took possession of Cahokia. "There's
naught left us to do save retrace our steps, for I should guess that you
were not minded to remain in either of these settlements as members of
the garrison."

"Indeed we are not," I replied promptly. "My mother awaits me at Corn
Island, and unless she decides to go back to the land which my father
cleared, I must set about making a home for her."

"I have no wish to remain," Paul added. "It may not be that my father
needs me; but I have a mother in Maryland, and service in a garrison is
not pleasing. If, as you believe, the work laid out for Major Clarke has
been accomplished, Louis Nelson and I will return with you, if it so be
you are going back."

"Indeed I am, my boy," Simon Kenton replied with the air of one who
anticipates much pleasure in the future. "Now that there is no longer a
shadow over me, I am as eager to find my father and my mother as are you
lads to meet yours."

"When shall we return?" I asked, for now that the homeward journey was
being considered, I, who really had no home, was eager to begin it.

"It was understood between Major Clarke and myself that I might be at
liberty to turn back whenever Captain Bowman should state he no longer
required my services, and I reckon, lads, that the time has come. Wait
you here until I learn what he has to say regardin' the matter."

Within an hour it was decided that we three were to carry Captain
Bowman's report to Major Clarke, and when I lay down to sleep that night
it was with the knowledge that at the first light of dawn we would begin
the sixty-mile journey, counting on making it within four-and-twenty
hours with but little labor, since from this point we could proceed in
a canoe, aided by the swiftly running current.

We set out as had been decided upon, one of the settlers in Cahokia
willingly lending us a dugout, with the understanding that we should
leave it at Kaskaskia to be returned whenever opportunity offered, and
before midnight Simon Kenton was giving to Major Clarke the account of
our successes.

We remained three days longer at this post; but all that happened which
concerned us three may be told in few words.

It was decided that all save those who chose to remain to man the
garrisons might return whenever it pleased them, and, knowing that fifty
or more who had left relatives on Corn Island were counting on going
back soon, we three waited for them in order that our force might be so
large as to deter the savages who were possibly lurking about the banks
of the Ohio River, from making an attack.

When three days had passed, however, we found that none of the men were
disposed to begin quite so soon what would doubtless prove an arduous
undertaking, and Simon Kenton laid the matter before us by saying:

"Lads, I am eager to get back into Fauquier County. If it so be you have
no stomach for layin' around here eatin' the bread of idleness suppose
we start to-morrow mornin'? There is nothin' to keep us, and much to
incline our hearts toward the journey."

Unless I have utterly failed in making it appear here that I had a great
affection for my mother, it can readily be understood how we answered
the scout, and without delay we set about the few necessary preparations
for the voyage, determined to leave Kaskaskia before daylight next
morning.

And now at this point let me copy what I read many years later regarding
Vincennes:

"The stronger and more important post of Vincennes, situate on the east
bank of the Wabash River, one hundred miles above its entrance into the
Ohio, was yet unsubdued, and Major Clarke felt that the object of his
mission would be but half accomplished if he did not gain possession of
that place. It was necessary to garrison Kaskaskia and Cahokia in order
to retain them, and to do this would so weaken his little army that he
could, scarcely hope for victory in an attack upon Vincennes, unless he
should be as successful in effecting a surprise as he had in capturing
the posts already in his possession. While thus perplexed and doubting
which course to pursue, he communicated his desires to Father Gabault, a
French priest, who agreed to bring those inhabitants of Vincennes over
whom he had pastoral charge, to the support of the American cause. The
influence of the priest was successful; the inhabitants arose in the
night and cast off their allegiance to the British, expelled the
garrison from the fort, and pulled down the English standard. The
American flag floated in triumph over the ramparts in the morning."

All this was done before we three were come again to Corn Island, and I
question if the British king ever lost more territory at a less cost in
blood, either on the part of those who made the capture or the hirelings
who should have held the garrisons, than in this expedition of Major
Clarke's into the valley of Mississippi.

I am now come to be an old man, and yet since that time have heard but
little spoken concerning the achievements of Major Clarke and his force
of four hundred, when the most fertile portion of the Mississippi River
was taken from the Britishers and made a portion of the American
colonies.

We had done our work well, as it seemed to me then and does now,
although in the telling of it there is none of that clash of arms and
cheers of triumph which have accompanied far smaller achievements.

And here would my story properly end but for the fact that we three must
make the journey down the Mississippi to the Ohio, following the course
of this last noble river on foot, because we could not well stem the
current in a canoe, through a country infested by savage enemies, who
would use every effort to take our lives.



CHAPTER XI.

HOMEWARD BOUND.


We spent no time in leave-taking after once having made ready for the
journey. It was as if we three formed a separate command, and had no
comrades among the main body of the volunteers, therefore it was not
necessary we should say good-by.

Simon Kenton was to carry up the Ohio certain papers with which Major
Clarke had entrusted him, and once these were in his possession there
was nothing to detain us at Kaskaskia.

We took our departure from the post a full half hour before daybreak,
when none save the sentinels were there to see us push off from the
shore, and allowed the canoe to drift down the river until we were come
to the Ohio.

It would be more laborious to paddle the dugout against the swift
current than to walk, and we had already decided to make our way through
the wilderness on foot, ever keeping within a short distance of the
river, where we might expect to get the earliest information if the
savages were moving about bent on mischief.

We came to a halt at a point where we waited for the flat-boats on the
journey down, and here a day was spent in procuring and cooking meat,
for Simon Kenton had decided that once the long tramp was really begun
we would push forward at the best possible pace. It was reasonable to
believe that in a short time we would have arrived at that portion of
the country where it might not be well to discharge a rifle simply for
the purpose of killing game.

We did not expect to make the journey without some danger of coming
across small parties of the painted brutes who thirsted for the blood of
white people; but it was not in our thoughts that we should encounter
any serious dangers. The worst of the tramp, so we believed, might be
the labor of pushing on through the underbrush until the many miles
which lay between us and Corn Island had been traversed.

Simon Kenton was in particularly good humor on that morning when, all
our preparations completed, we left the camping place with our faces
turned toward the north, and I was exceedingly happy, for at the end of
the journey my mother was waiting to greet me.

During two full days we pressed steadily onward, seeing nothing to cause
alarm, and making reasonably good progress, and then came that which
threatened a fatal ending to what had been a most successful journey.

We encamped on the second night in a small thicket of scrub where the
foliage was so dense that the chill night wind was shut out as
completely as if we had been within four walls of stout logs, and felt
so secure that Simon Kenton himself had proposed we build a light blaze
to cook a turkey we had just killed.

The meat was roasted, and we ate such a supper as can be enjoyed only by
those who have performed a full day's labor, and after the meal was come
to an end Paul and I fell asleep even as we sat before the fire.

How long we were thus unconscious I am unable to say; but it seemed to
me as if I had no more than crossed the borders of dreamland before I
was awakened by the pressure of a heavy hand over my mouth.

In the forest one becomes accustomed to awakening quickly, and without
starting up.

When the eyes are open the first thought is as to the reason for thus
being aroused, and due heed is given to all the surroundings before any
movement is made.

Therefore it was I understood at once that Simon Kenton's hand was
covering my mouth, and that he was hurriedly burying the light embers
with ashes.

Pressing his arm to let him know I was thoroughly aroused, I rose to a
sitting posture.

No sound brake the stillness of the night, for, sheltered as we were by
the scrub, even the moaning of the wind failed to reach our ears.

Kenton was awakening Paul, and he, brave lad, made as little disturbance
on thus being aroused as if all his life had been spent on the frontier.

It was to my mind a certainty that the scout had heard or seen savages,
and I drew up my rifle to assure myself it was in proper working order.

It is by no means soothing to the nerves to be thus aroused and forced
to remain on the alert in ignorance of what threatens. I know of no
situation more trying, and while I inwardly trembled with apprehension,
my eyes sought out Paul in the gloom to learn how he was bearing up
under what many old, experienced hunters have told me was, in their
opinion, the most trying of all border warfare.

The lad sat silent and motionless, his rifle in hand, and though it was
impossible to distinguish his features, I knew full well he was as calm
and placid as when we remained concealed in the thicket just beyond the
stockade at Kaskaskia, when I believed a desperate battle was before us.

During perhaps half an hour we three remained in the same position as
when first having been awakened, and then Simon Kenton began to creep
cautiously out through the underbrush, having first motioned for us to
remain quiet.

He was bent on learning what had alarmed him, and but for advertising
myself as a coward, I would have insisted, as well as I might by
gestures, upon his remaining with us, for to me, almost anything was
preferable to separation.

I checked the impulse, however, but moved closer to Paul, and he, dear
lad, pressed my hand as if to give me courage.

That he, whom I had at the outset considered the weakest of the party,
should be the one to encourage, shamed me, and I threw off his hand as
if in anger, when in reality it was nothing save nervous fear which
prompted the movement.

As nearly as I could judge, Simon Kenton had been absent ten minutes
before we heard anything whatsoever, and then the report of a musket,
followed by a scream of pain, caused the blood to bound in my veins.

Instinctively I leaped to my feet when I should have remained
motionless, and Paul laid hold of the skirt of my hunting-shirt as if
fearing I might be counting on rushing out.

One, two, three minutes passed, during which time the most absolute
silence reigned, and then a slight rustling of the branches told that
the scout was returning.

I breathed more freely, knowing he was not the one who had given vent to
that cry of pain, and stepped forward to learn how serious was the
danger which threatened.

"We have run across thirty or more reptiles--most likely the same that
were met while coming down the river," he whispered in my ear as I bent
forward eager for information.

"Why did you fire?" I asked, believing for the moment that by such act
he had told them where we lay concealed.

"They had learned where we were, and now completely surround us. It's a
case of fightin' our way out, lad, if we count on gainin' Corn Island.
It is better to make a move at once, than wait till they are ready to
close in on us."

I understood by these words that Kenton believed the situation to be
most dangerous, otherwise he would not have suggested we make a move in
the night when the savages would have a great advantage over us, and, as
usual in such cases, my heart grew cowardly once more.

While I stood there undecided the scout hurriedly repeated to Paul that
which he had told me, and I saw the lad rise to his feet without
hesitation. He was even then, as he has since many times proven himself,
my superior in all that goes to make up a frontiersman.

"Follow me," Kenton whispered, "and when you are forced to fire, see to
it there be no delay in re-loadin' your rifle. Accordin' to my way of
thinkin' we'll have to fight ourselves through this gang, an' the more
we disable 'twixt now an' night the easier will be our work to-morrow."

There was in my mind the thought that we were now where we must keep up
a running fight until one party or the other was shot down, and,
considering the fact that they outnumbered us at least ten to one, it
seemed most likely ours would be the side that went under.

When danger comes close upon me I forget my cowardice, as a rule, and so
it was now. There seemed little chance we could fight our way through
where were so many to oppose us, and the odds were all in favor of the
savages.

Realizing this fully, as I believe Simon Kenton did also, I ceased to
think of the cause I had for fear, but set my teeth hard, resolving to
give the painted wolves good reason to remember me after they had shot
us down.

Simon Kenton was not disposed to linger; he understood of what advantage
in a fight is the first blow, and was eager to deal it.

He waited only long enough to assure himself we two lads were ready for
the hot work before us, and then turned to leave the hiding-place which,
as he had said, was already surrounded.

Paul would have brought up the rear, but that I held the position as
belonging to me. Surely a lad who had always lived in towns could not
reasonably expect to be allowed such a post of danger when there were
others with a right to claim it.

That the savages were keeping a keen watch we knew instantly Simon
Kenton stepped outside the dense thicket, for then came the report of a
rifle, and a bullet whistled past my head so near that I could feel the
"wind" of its flight.

It was a queer act, when the darkness was so intense that one could not
distinguish an object twenty paces away, yet instinctively we three
darted behind the nearest trees for shelter, and there stood straining
our eyes in the hope of being able to discover a living target.

It was like looking into a deep well, to peer ahead, and all three of us
must have understood at the same instant that it was little less than
folly to remain there with any hope of sending a bullet home, for Paul
had just turned to continue the flight when Simon Kenton whispered to
me:

"We cannot benefit ourselves by remainin' here. The best plan is to
continue on up river, makin' as many miles as possible before daylight."

Having said this he darted forward, forcing Paul to fall into line
behind him, and I came close at the latter's heels.

Now was begun the oddest fight ever seen on the Ohio River.

We three were pressing forward as if it would advantage us much to gain
a few extra miles before morning, and the savages followed cautiously,
firing at random now and then, although they could not hope a single
bullet would take effect.

Several times we halted in the hope that the reptiles, thinking only of
overtaking us, might come up within shooting distance; but they were too
wary to be caught by any trick of that kind.

Whenever we came to a full stop it was as if all nature ceased
breathing, for we could not hear the lightest whisper amid the foliage,
and when the flight had continued in such fashion for an hour or more,
Simon Kenton said as we stood side by side listening intently for some
token of the villains:

"We won't get a fair shot at them until daylight, an' then they'll have
the same chance at us. I reckon we'd better make all the distance we can
while it is dark, an' then lay by when the sun rises."

To my mind it could benefit us but little if we approached a few miles
nearer our destination, for unless these wretches could be beaten back
within a reasonably short time, they would succeed in killing us before
we could come within fifty miles of the point we most desired to gain.

However, while holding death at bay for a few hours more or less we
might as well have our faces turned in the right direction, and I was
ready to do whatsoever the scout suggested, for, as I have said, fear
had fled from me now that our position was so desperate.

We alternately drove ahead at full speed, and stopped to take breath.
The Indians fired at random now and then, hoping that the sound of our
footsteps might serve as guide; but they inflicted no more injury on us
by shooting, than we did on them while we refrained from discharging our
weapons.

In such manner was the night passed. We had not fired a shot, while the
painted crew in pursuit had wasted twenty bullets or more.

Having walked all day, this severe exertion throughout the night
wearied me excessively, and when the first gray light of coming dawn
filtered through the foliage, it seemed to me as if I was on the verge
of exhaustion.

The labor had told even on Simon Kenton, and Paul was keeping the pace
only through sheer force of will-power.

It was a wondrous relief to me when the scout pointed ahead to what
appeared to be a dense growth of bushes, through which ran a tiny
stream, as he said:

"I reckon we'll find no better place in which to make a stand, than
there."

"Almost anything will please me so that we come to a halt speedily, for
I'm well-nigh winded," I replied, speaking with difficulty because of my
heavy breathing, and in another instant we three stood facing each other
in the thicket, where as yet the light of a new day had not penetrated.

The savages might not approach very near during the darkness without
taking more risks than such reptiles fancied, and during a certain time
we need not fear molestation.

Paul and I flung ourselves at full length on the ground, for in no other
position did it seem possible to recover from the exhaustion which beset
us; but Simon Kenton remained standing at a spot from where he could
have a view of some portion of our surroundings when the sun had
dispelled the gloom.

"I suppose there is good reason to believe the Indians will kill us
before we can arrive at Corn Island?" Paul said in a tone of one asking
a question, after he had recovered his breath sufficiently to speak, and
Simon Kenton replied quietly.

"Two or three such races as we have had this night should give them good
cause for discouragement."

"It is a question whether they or we are getting the worst of this
business," I added, trying to speak calmly, as had my comrades; but
making a bad job of it.

"Twenty-four hours is a long stretch," Paul said thoughtfully, "and it's
all I can do to keep my eyes open."

"Go to sleep, lad," Kenton cried. "We must contrive to get some rest
'twixt now an' night, an' if you two take a nap at once I'll have a
chance later."

It may seem strange that boys should be able to sleep under such
circumstances as these, and yet the permission had no sooner been given
by the scout than I was stretched out at full length, my eyes closing
despite all efforts to keep them open.

The report of a rifle, discharged near at hand, awakened me, and I
looked around to see the scout reloading his rifle.

"Did you wing your bird?" I asked sleepily.

"I hope never to use this 'ere piece again if I didn't. The sneak has
been wrigglin' his way toward us for the last ten minutes, an' I only
waited to let him believe he was keepin' his red carcass out of sight,
although I marked it plainly from the instant he started."

"Have you seen the others?"

"Yes, now an' then through the bushes; but not in such a fashion as I
wanted in order to get a good aim. They've camped down somewhere near
that big gum tree yonder, needin' rest as much as we did, I reckon."

"How long have I been asleep?"

"Three hours or more."

"Then it's time you took a turn at it," and I rose to my feet, Paul
rising up at the same time.

Simon Kenton insisted that we lie down again; but it was to me as if the
repose had been sufficiently long, so thoroughly was I awakened, and
after a short discussion he did as I suggested.

It is needless for me to set down all that was done or said during the
remainder of this long day.

Kenton slept a full four hours, and during that time we had fired twice
at the skulking reptiles as they flitted from one tree to another,
feeling certain that some of the bullets had taken effect.

Then the scout ordered us to get more sleep, nor would he listen to my
assertions that I was fully recovered from the fatigue which had beset
me so sorely.

"You have another long race before you, an' stand in need of more sleep
if you count on holdin' such a pace as I shall set from the goin' down
of the sun till it rises again."

"How long do you expect bein' able to keep up such a flight?" Paul asked
quietly, as if it was a matter in which he had no great interest.

"So far we seem to be doin' rather better than holdin' our own, an' I
reckon we'd best keep up the game. At least three of the painted snakes
are feelin' the worse for havin' begun this little chase, an' we're as
sound as ever."

It was on my tongue's end to say that we could not hope for the same
good fortune during another night of racing through the forest when it
was too dark to distinguish anything not directly in our path; but I
checked myself in time, for no good could come of speaking dispiriting
words while we were in such a desperate situation.

We two lads lay down again to sleep, in accordance with Kenton's
command; but were aroused for a few moments when the scout discharged
his rifle, and I heard him mutter to himself:

"That makes the fourth to-day, an' if we can keep up this play two
nights more, they may come to believe that the game is not worth the
candle."

Sleepily I thought we might find before many hours had passed that all
the shooting was not to be done by us; but the idea was no more than in
mind when my eyes closed again, and I was not conscious of the
surroundings until Kenton shook me roughly.

"It's time we pushed ahead once more," he said in a whisper as I seized
my rifle, believing the savages were about to make a determined attack,
and he added with a low laugh, "There's no more danger threatenin' than
when you was last awake, lad; but the night is well on us, an' we should
be movin'."

He awakened Paul, and the little lad rose to his feet ready for any
emergency; but speaking not a word.

We had yet some portion of our meat, and from this a hurried meal was
made, after which Simon Kenton showed himself ready to set out once more
on what I believed was a fruitless journey, for it did not seem possible
we would live to finish it.

It was like a nightmare, that race through the thicket with the
murderous fiends close on our trail, shooting now and then when in the
gloom the waving branches told of our course.

Kenton kept his word, so far as setting a rapid pace was concerned.
Never before nor since have I strained every muscle and nerve for so
many hours on a stretch.

There were times when we pressed on as if running a foot-race, and more
than once did one or the other of us come full against a tree with such
force that we were hurled backward at full length on the ground.

There was no time to attend to bruises, however severe, for close in our
rear came the relentless brutes, hoping, most likely, for just such a
mishap when they could lessen our number by one.

I believe they fired at us fifty times before we halted for a day's rest
which must be spent in defending ourselves, and by the mercy of God no
bullet came nigh us.

I watched eagerly for the first signs of dawn; my breath was coming
thick and fast, and I feared lest I might fall and not find myself able
to rise again.

Paul had kept close at Kenton's heels without betraying fatigue or
distress; but just at the moment when it seemed as if I must halt,
whatever might be the consequences, he cried sharply:

"I can go no further. You two must keep on without me! It is better that
I be left behind than for all to perish!"

"We'll all come out of it with whole skins, or fall together," Simon
Kenton said sharply. "Try to hold the pace, lad, till we find a place in
which we can defend ourselves."

Even as he spoke we had arrived at a spot where half a dozen large trees
had been overthrown by the wind, forming exactly the kind of a
fortification needed by those sorely beset as were we.

Kenton helped Paul over the logs into the very center, and I followed
with many a stumble, falling on my face, utterly blown, when we were in
the middle of the timber network.



CHAPTER XII.

A NOVEL BATTLE.


It was yet so dark in the forest that one must needs strain his eyes to
distinguish objects ten paces in advance, therefore it can be readily
understood how near to us were the howling wolves, when I say that they
set up a shout of mingled triumph and menace as we thus brought the race
to a close.

It was evident they believed we were now in their power, and indeed
there was much the same thought in my mind when I had aroused from the
stupor of exhaustion sufficiently to take note of our surroundings.

Simon Kenton had led us into the midst of a pile of fallen timber
overgrown with vines and young bushes, which covered a space of perhaps
an hundred square feet. It was a place of refuge which stood in a
partially cleared spot, and might readily be surrounded, while, to make
our way out, it would be necessary to offer one's body as a target to
whomsoever might be on watch.

In the gloom of the morning it had appeared to be a better place for
defense than really was the case, and I question if the scout would have
halted here had he understood what it really was.

While we remained in the very center of the mass we were screened from
view, and could see a goodly portion of all that might be going on
around us; but when that has been said all the advantages of the place
have been described.

In order to get out of it, once we were inside, it would be necessary,
as I have already said, to expose ourselves to the fire of the enemy,
and before many hours should elapse we would be forced to take to our
heels unless we were minded to die of hunger or thirst.

We no longer had any food with us, and there was not a drop of water
nearer than the river. Already it seemed as if my mouth was parched to
the point of swelling, and because it was beyond my reach, I longed most
intensely for something to quench thirst.

The knowledge of our situation, as I have set it down here, came upon me
immediately after I recovered slightly from the effects of the fatigue
caused by the swift race, and, looking into Simon Kenton's face, I knew
full well he had become aware of our disagreeable situation.

Little Paul Sampson, plucky lad that he had proven himself to be, was
the only one who appeared indifferent to the danger.

When it was possible for him to sit upright, for he had been more nearly
exhausted than I was, instead of trying to discover all the
disadvantages of the place, he began to do his share toward the defense
by crawling beneath the fallen timber until he could command a good view
of that portion of the forest from which we had come, and at the same
time screen his own body from those who were most likely searching with
their keen eyes for a living target.

I believe Simon Kenton read from my face the thoughts which were in my
mind, for he said slowly, as if weighing well each word:

"It must be a battle rather than simply a time of defense. We can hold
our position without any great sufferin' for four-an'-twenty hours; but
at the end of that time there's bound to be a change if we count on
seein' Corn Island again."

"How will you bring about a battle unless the savages are disposed to
give us the chance?" I asked petulantly. "They can remain under cover
any length of time, and yet keep us in view. It isn't a case of
starvation with them."

"A man is never beaten until he loses hope," the scout replied cheerily,
and the words were no more than spoken before Paul's rifle rang out
sharply.

"There's one the less!" the lad cried triumphantly. "They're creeping up
to get a shot at us, an' we've only to keep our eyes open in order to
lessen their number greatly 'twixt now and sunrise."

These brave words brought me out of my fit of despondency in a
twinkling, and with a sense of shame that this lad from the east should
show himself more of a man than myself, I crept down to the edge of our
barricade.

Now we three lay where could be had a view of all our surroundings, and
during the next hour, at the end of which time the sun was sending long
shafts of light through the openings in the forest, we succeeded in
sending five of the scoundrels to their happy hunting-grounds, or back
under cover disabled by serious wounds.

Such a beginning gave me great courage, until I came to realize that it
was not probable the reptiles would expose themselves so readily after
having received such a sharp lesson.

Simon Kenton had evidently made up his mind to some course of action
which promised success, for he said cheerily when it was certain the red
snakes had withdrawn to a safe distance:

"You two lads are to bottle up some sleep now, for unless I'm mistaken
we shall make a change of quarters by sunset."

"There's little hope they'll let us go out of here with our lives," I
replied despondently, and the scout added sharply:

"Thus far we have no reason to complain, an' we won't prove ourselves
fools by lookin' into the future for trouble. Get to sleep, lads, for at
noon I shall claim the same privilege."

Weary as we were, it was not a difficult task to close our eyes in
slumber, and within five minutes from the giving of the order we were
sleeping soundly, not to awaken until the sun was directly overhead,
when the scout shook us into wakefulness.

"You've had a good six hours of rest, an' I'm countin' on scoopin' in
only three. Keep a sharp watch till the afternoon is half spent, an'
then rouse me."

"Why should you not sleep as long as we have?" I asked as Paul crept
through the logs to where he could best have a view of our surroundings.

"Because then will have come the time when we must make ready for such a
battle as will satisfy yonder brutes that it is not safe to run down
three white men with the idea of cornerin' them in a forest like this."

Without explaining what he proposed to do, Simon Kenton betook himself
to his well-earned rest, and we lads stood guard to the best of our
ability.

Three hours passed in silence, and during that time we had not seen even
a tuft of feathers to betoken the whereabouts of an enemy.

By allowing my mind to dwell upon the disagreeable fact that we were
without food or water, I was suffering intensely from both hunger and
thirst, and because of thus yielding free rein to imagination, I was
dispirited and hopeless.

Paul took it upon himself to arouse the scout, and once Kenton's eyes
were open he set about bringing on the battle of which he had spoken.

A few moments' work with our knives sufficed to provide each of us with
a long pole, and then he explained his plan.

According to his orders, we were to lie on the ground with our rifles
ready for use, and with the poles make such a rustling of the foliage as
would cause the enemy to believe we were creeping out.

It would be but natural the savages should fire whenever they saw a
swaying of the bushes or branches; but, because of the length of the
poles, we would not be near enough to the point of disturbance to run
any great chance of being hit by the bullets.

  [Illustration: From out of our barricade whistled three bullets,
  and every one found its mark. Page 259. _On the Kentucky
  Frontier._]

Kenton had given the name of "battle" to this maneuver of his; but it
was neither more nor less than a trick, and such an one as the
savages themselves most delighted in.

They had no good cause to be joyous over this one, however, for it
worked as Kenton had counted on, and before the painted wolves
understood the game, they had received a lesson such as I warrant they
never forgot.

When the three of us were in position Simon Kenton gave the signal, and
we prodded vigorously with the poles.

In a twinkling half a dozen rifles were discharged from different points
amid the foliage, thus showing that the enemy was keeping sharp watch,
and we each had a target.

From, out of our barricade whistled three bullets, and every one found
its mark!

It was only with difficulty that I repressed a cry of triumph, for now I
began to understand that we might soon clear a way for ourselves, unless
this band of reptiles had more real courage than their race usually
displayed when pitted against white men.

After an interval of five minutes or more we repeated the maneuver,
receiving a similar reply as before, and were able to deal death or
wounds to another trio.

"Six wiped out or disabled in as many minutes!" Simon Kenton said in a
low tone of triumph. "What do you think now of my battle, lads?"

"If they will fall into the trap twice more, we can count on having this
bank of the river to ourselves," I replied incautiously loud, and the
scout said warningly:

"Have a care, Louis, have a care. If they suspect what kind of a game we
are playin' there'll be little chance of their doin' as we wish."

Well, lest I draw this poor tale out to such length as to weary him who
may read, it is enough if I say that three times more did we succeed in
finding targets for our rifles by using the poles vigorously, and I was
certain that from the moment the scout was awakened until the savages
refused to come out at our bidding, we had sent bullets into no less
than thirteen of them.

Considering the fact that their number could not have exceeded forty,
judging from what we had seen and heard, this work of ours was well
calculated to discourage them.

They had poured into the pile of logs no less than an hundred bullets,
and yet we had not received a scratch!

I almost forgot that I was hungry or thirsty, for the fever of killing
was upon me, and my one hope was that we might draw them two or three
times more in order to give the villainous brutes such a lesson in
blood-letting as they had never learned before.

In this I was disappointed, however, for the snakes had either come to
understand our game, or were drawn off to nurse their wounds, and we saw
no more of them.

At nightfall we stole cautiously out from among the fallen timber, and
not a shot was sent after us.

A mile or more from the scene of our greatest triumph we made a halt
that we might quench our thirst from the river, and during the night our
march was less hurried than when we began the race.

We stopped for breakfast next morning, after shooting a turkey, and by
this time it was certain that the painted reptiles who had relied on
spilling our blood, no longer retained such desire at the price we set
upon it.

After this we pushed forward at a leisurely pace, and in comparative
security, until we arrived at Corn Island, where my mother greeted Paul
and me as if we were come from the dead.

What we did there, or what further adventures befell Simon Kenton before
he was able to revisit his home in Virginia, is not for me to set down
here, since it forms a tale by itself. Neither can I relate how I made a
home for my mother in that new settlement which came to be known by the
name of Louisville; but it seems necessary I should copy from what
another has written, the story of how Major Clarke succeeded in
wresting the valley of the Mississippi from the clutches of the British,
and with such account I bring this writing to an end, hoping others may
find as much pleasure in the reading as I have in the writing of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

"On the twenty-ninth of January, 1779, intelligence was received that
Governor Hamilton had marched an expedition against Vincennes, from
Detroit, nearly a month previously, and that the town was again in
possession of the enemy. It was also said that another and more
formidable expedition was to be sent out in the spring to recapture
Kaskaskia, and to assail the various posts on the Kentucky frontier.
With his usual promptness and energy Colonel Clarke (the Virginia
legislature had recently promoted him) prepared to anticipate the enemy,
and strike the first blow.

"He planned an expedition against Vincennes, and on the seventh of
February commenced his march through the wilderness, with one hundred
and seventy-five men. He had previously despatched Captain Rogers and
forty men, two four-pounders, and a boat, with orders to force their way
up the Wabash to a point near the mouth of White River, and there wait
for further orders.

"For a whole week Colonel Clarke's party traversed the drowned lands of
Illinois, suffering every privation from wet, cold and hunger. When they
arrived at the Little Wabash, at a point where the forks of the stream
are three miles apart, they found the intervening space covered with
water to a depth of three feet. The points of dry land were five miles
apart, and all that distance those hardy soldiers waded the cold
snow-flood, sometimes armpit deep.

"On the evening of the eighteenth they halted a little distance from the
mouth of Embarrass Creek, and so near Vincennes that they could hear the
booming of the evening gun. Here they encamped for the night, and the
next morning at dawn, with their faces blackened with gunpowder to make
themselves appear hideous, they crossed the river in a boat they had
secured, and pushed on through the floods toward the town.

"Just as they reached dry land, in sight of Vincennes, they captured a
resident, and sent him into the town with a letter demanding the
immediate surrender of the place and fort. The people, taken by
surprise, were greatly alarmed, and believed the expedition to be from
Kentucky, composed of the fierce and strong of that advancing
commonwealth. Had armed men dropped in their midst from the clouds, they
could not have been more astonished, for it seemed impossible for this
little band to have traversed the deluged country. The people were
disposed to comply with the demand, but Governor Hamilton, who commanded
in person, would not allow it.

"A siege commenced, and for fourteen hours a furious conflict continued.
The next day the town and fort were surrendered, and the garrison were
made prisoners of war. The stars and stripes took the place of the red
cross of St. George; a round of thirteen guns proclaimed the victory,
and that night the exhausted troops of Colonel Clarke reposed in
comfort."


THE END



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    +-----------------------------------------------+
    |             Transcriber's Note:               |
    |                                               |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:   |
    |                                               |
    | Page   9  begining changed to beginning       |
    | Page  31  towards changed to toward           |
    | Page  50  trange changed to strange           |
    | Page  69  fight changed to flight             |
    | Page 118  It changed to If                    |
    | Page 144  us changed to as                    |
    | Page 215  heady changed to heads              |
    | Page 218  of changed to or                    |
    +-----------------------------------------------+





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