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´╗┐Title: Wau-nan-gee or the Massacre at Chicago - A Romance of the American Revolution
Author: Richardson, John, 1796-1852
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Wau-nan-gee or the Massacre at Chicago - A Romance of the American Revolution" ***

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WAU-NAN-GEE
OR,
THE MASSACRE AT CHICAGO,

A ROMANCE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION,

By MAJOR RICHARDSON,
AUTHOR OF "WACOUSTA," "HARDSCRABBLE," "ECARTE,"
"JACK BRAG IN SPAIN," "TECUMSEH," &c.

NEW YORK:
H. LONG AND BROTHER,
No. 43 ANN STREET.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year One Thousand
Eight Hundred and Fifty-Two,

BY H. LONG AND BROTHER,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States
for the Southern District of New York



PREFATORY INSCRIPTION.

My Publishers ask of me a couple of pages of matter to precede this
Tale. It is scarcely necessary to state, that the whole of the text
approaches so nearly to Historical fact, that any other preface
than that which admits the introduction of but one strictly fictitious
character--Maria Heywood--in the book, must be, in a great degree,
supererogatory. Yet I gladly avail myself of this pleasing opportunity
of manifesting the deep interest and sympathy with which I have
ever regarded those brave spirits--heroes not less than heroines--who
participated in the trials of that brief but horrid epoch.
How can I better exemplify this than by inscribing to the descendants
of the venerable founder of the City of Chicago--a prominent actor
in the scene--as well as to the gallant military survivors of the
Massacre, if any yet exist, the fruits of that interest and that
sympathy.

Dedications and Inscriptions have almost grown out of fashion--at
least they are not so general in the present century as in the days
of Dryden; but where, through them, an opportunity for the expression
of esteem and sympathy is presented, an Author may gladly avail
himself of the occasion to show that no common interest influenced
the tracings of his pen--not the mere desire to make a book, but
to establish on a high pedestal, and to circulate through the most
attractive and popular medium, the merits of those whose
deeds and sufferings have inspired him with the generous spirit of
eulogistic comment.

To Her Majesty's 41st Regiment, in garrison at Detroit shortly
after the occurrences herein detailed, my first Indian Tale,
"Wacousta," was inscribed, and this in memory of the long, and by
no means feather-bed service I had seen with that gallant Corps,
in the then Western wilds of America; it was a tribute of the
soldier to his companions in arms. In the same spirit I inscribe
"Wau-nan-gee" to those who were then our enemies, but whose courage
and whose sufferings were well known to all, and claimed our deep
sympathy, our respect, and our admiration,--none more than the
noble Mrs. Heald, and Mrs. Helme, the former the wife of the
Commanding Officer, the latter the daughter of the patriarch of
Illinois, Mr. Kenzie, some years since gathered to his forefathers.

THE AUTHOR.

New York, March 30th, 1852.



WAU-NAN-GEE;
OR,
THE MASSACRE AT CHICAGO.



CHAPTER I.

   "He has come to ope the purple testament of war."
      --_Richard II_

It was the 7th of August, 1812, when Winnebeg, the confidential
Indian messenger of Captain Headley, commanding Fort Dearborn,
suddenly made his appearance within the stockade. With a countenance
on which was depicted more of the seriousness and concern than
usually attach to his race, he requested the officer of the guard,
Lieutenant Elmsley, to allow him to pass to the apartment of the
Chief. The subaltern shook him cordially by the hand as an old and
familiar acquaintance; and, half laughingly taunting him with the
great solemnity of his aspect, asked him where he had been so long,
and what news he brought.

"Berry bad news," replied the Indian gravely; "must see him Gubbernor
directly--dis give him;" and thrusting his hand into the bosom of
his deerskin shirt, he drew forth a large sealed packet, evidently
an official despatch.

"From Detroit, Winnebeg?"

"Yes, come in two days--great news--bad news!"

"Indeed? You shall see the commanding officer directly."

"Corporal Collins, conduct Winnebeg to Captain Headley's quarters."

The non--commissioned officer hastened to acquit himself of the
duty, and, on the announcement of his name, the chief was admitted
to the presence of the commandant.

The latter saw at a glance, from the countenance of the Indian,
that there was something wrong. He shook him warmly by the hand,
bade him be seated, and then hastily breaking the seal of the
despatch, with an air of preoccupation perused its contents.

The document was from General Hull, and ran nearly as follows:--

"From the difficulty of access to your post, cut off as is the
communication by the numerous bands of hostile Indians whom Tecumseh
has raised up in arms against us, I take it for granted that you
are yet ignorant that war has been declared between Great
Britain and the United States. Such, however, is the fact, and in
a few days I expect myself to be surrounded by a horde of savages,
when my position will indeed be a trying one, not as regards myself,
but the hundreds of defenceless women and children, whom nothing
can preserve from the tomahawk and the scalping knife. I, moreover,
fear much for Colonel Cass, who, with a body of five hundred men,
is at a short distance from this, and will be cut to pieces the
moment an attack is made upon myself. To add to the untowardness
of events, I have just received intelligence that the Fort of
Mackinaw has been taken by the British and their allies, so that,
almost simultaneously with the receipt of this, you in all probability
will hear of their advance upon yourself. The result must not be
tested, and forthwith you will, _if it be yet practicable_, evacuate
your post and retire upon Fort Wayne, after having first distributed
all the public property contained in the fort and factory among
the friendly Indians around you. This is most important, for it
is necessary that these people should be conciliated, not only with
a view to the safe escort of your detachment to Fort Wayne, but in
order to their subsequent assistance here. There are, I believe,
nearly five hundred Pottowatomies encamped around you, and such a
numerous body of Indians would, if left free to act against Tecumseh's
warriors, materially lessen the difficulty of my position here.
Treat them as if you had the utmost reliance on their fidelity,
for any appearance of distrust might only increase the evil we wish
to avoid. I rely upon your judgment and discretion, which Colonel
Miller assures me are great. I have preferred writing this
confidential dispatch with my own hand, in order that, by keeping
your exposed condition as secret as possible, no unnecessary alarm
may be excited in the inhabitants of this town by a knowledge of
the danger that threatens their friends."

All this was indeed news, and most painful and perplexing news, to
Captain Headley. He read the dispatch twice, and when he had
completed the second perusal, he raised his eyes to the chief, who
was regarding him at the moment fixedly as with a view to read his
intentions, and asked if General Hull had at all communicated to
him the contents of the dispatch.

"Yes, Gubbernor," replied the Indian. "Tell him Winnebeg take
soger--den come back to Detroit--what say him, Gubbernor--go to Fort
Wayne?" and he looked earnestly at the commanding officer while he
waited his answer.

"I do not know, Winnebeg; I have not made up my mind. We must
consider what is best to be done."

All this was evasive. The order was conclusive with Captain Headley.
Had his road led over a battery bristling with cannon, once ordered,
he would have made the attempt; but, from a motive of prudence,
the cause for which he could not explain to himself, he was unwilling
to communicate his final determination to the chief.

"Leave me now, Winnebeg; I have much to do that must be done
directly; come early to-morrow, and we will talk the matter over.
Meanwhile, not a word to your young men of the beginning of the
war, or the fall of Mackinaw. Do you promise me? To-morrow I will
hold a council."

"Yes, Winnebeg promise," he said, taking the proffered hand of
Captain Headley; "not speak till to-morrow? How him fine squaw,
eh?"

"Mrs. Headley is quite well, Winnebeg," returned the Captain,
faintly smiling, "and I am sure she will be very glad to hear that
you have returned. Come and breakfast with us at eight o'clock,
and she will tell you so herself; so, for the present, good bye."

Winnebeg departed, but, far from satisfied with the answer he had
received, he repeated the question to the commanding officer--"Go
to Fort Wayne?"

"Maybe--perhaps--I will tell you to-morrow in council," returned
Captain Headley. "What do you think, Winnebeg?"

The chief looked at him steadily for some moments, shook his head
in disapproval of the scheme, and then slowly and silently withdrew.

"What can this mean?" mused Captain Headley, when left alone.
"Whence his opposition to the will of the General? Surely he cannot
meditate treachery. He does not wish to see us taken by the British
here. But--nonsense! I will at once summon my officers, make known
the state of affairs, and for form's sake, consult with them as to
our mode of proceeding--my own determination of retreat is not the
less formed. Corporal Collins!" he called to the orderly, who was
pacing up and down in front of the door opening on the parade
ground, "summon the several officers to attend me here within the
hour."

"Please your honor, sir," said the man, hesitatingly, as he raised
his hand to his cap.

"Well, sir, please what?"

"There is only Mr. Elmsley in the fort. He is the officer of the
guard."

"And where is Mr. Ronayne?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Ronayne and the Doctor rode out soon after dinner,
sir, in the direction of Hardscrabble."

"The direction of the devil," muttered the commanding officer.
"This is the result of my loosening the reins of discipline; besides,
there is some risk. Hostile Indians may be in the neighborhood;
and what should I do without officers, pressed as we are now? Let
me know, orderly, when they return. The next time they leave the
fort, it will be for ever."

"Sir!" said the Corporal, hearing the words, but not comprehending
their meaning.

"When next they leave the fort, they will never enter it again,"
rejoined Captain Headley, abstractedly. "Meanwhile, as soon as Mr.
Ronayne and the Doctor return, let them know that I wish to see
them, with Mr. Elmsley, immediately."

"Certainly, sir," said Corporal Collins, again touching his cap;
"but hang me," he muttered as he departed, "if I don't report to
Mr. Ronayne all that he has said. Never enter the fort again! Well,
here's a bobbery!" and thus soliloquizing, he resumed his accustomed
walk.

It was with deep concern at his heart that Captain Headley, on
returning to the apartment of his wife, communicated to her the
substance of General Hull's dispatch. A feeling of misgiving arose
to her mind from the first, and she saw in the early future scenes
and sufferings from which, only an hour before, all had believed
themselves to be utterly exempt. For some moments they continued
silently gazing on each other, as if to read the thoughts that were
passing through the minds of each, when, taking the hand of
the noble woman in his own, he pressed it affectionately as he
remarked--

"Ellen, you have ever been my friend and counsellor, as well as
the adored wife with which heaven has blessed me, even beyond all
I could have desired on earth. Tell me candidly your opinion. What
course ought I to pursue on this occasion? One passage in the
dispatch leaves it, in some degree, optional to regulate my actions
by circumstances. 'If it be yet practicable,' writes the General.
Now, I confess my mind is pretty well made up on the subject, but,
nevertheless, I should like to have your opinion to sustain me.
Thus armed, I can enter upon my plans with the greater confidence
of success."

"But, dear Headley, tell me what is your opinion, then I will
frankly state my own."

"To retreat, as ordered. I have not the excuse to offer if I would,
that the order of the General is impracticable; besides, to remain
here longer would only be to insure our subsequent fall. Even if
the captors of Mackinaw should fail to carry our weak post, some
other force will be sent to succeed them."

Mrs. Headley shook her head, while a faint but melancholy smile
passed over her fine features.

"I grieve to differ with you, Headley," she at length said; "but
I like not the idea of this abandonment of the fort, to enter on
a retreat fraught with every danger to us all. Here, well provisioned
and armed, weak though be your force, you can but fall into the
hands of a generous foe. Better that than perish by the tomahawk
in the wilderness."

"How mean you, my dear?" returned her husband, slightly annoyed
that she differed from him, in the decision at which he had already
arrived. "What chance of harm is there so great in marching through
the woods as in remaining here? Have we not five hundred Pottowatomie
warriors to escort us to Fort Wayne?"

"Alas, my too confiding husband, it is from these very people you
have named that most I fear the danger."

"Nonsense!" returned Captain Headley in a tone of gentle rebuke,
while he pressed his lips to the expansive brow of his companion;
"this is unkind, Ellen. Why distrust these our staunchest friends?
I would rely upon Winnebeg as upon myself. He is too noble a fellow
not to hold treachery in abhorrence."

"Nay, nay," continued Mrs. Headley; "think not for a moment that
I doubt Winnebeg; but there is another in the camp of the
Pottowatomies who has scarcely less influence with the tribe, and
who may take advantage of the present crisis of affairs, and turn
them to his own purpose.

"Who do you mean, Ellen, and what purpose? Really, it is important
that I should know. What purpose, what motive, can he have?" eagerly
questioned Captain Headley.

"The purpose and motive those which often make the gentle tigers,
the timid daring, the irresolute confirmed of will--Love."

"Love! what love? whose love? and what has that to do with the
fidelity of the Pottowatomies?"

"The love of Wau-nan-gee, the once gentle and modest son of Winnebeg,
who, scarce three months since, could not gaze into a white woman's
eyes without melting softness beaming from his own, and the
rich, ripe peach-blush crimsoning his dark cheek."

"And what now?" questioned Captain Headley, seriously.

"My love," resumed Mrs. Headley, placing her hand emphatically on
his shoulder, "you know I have never concealed from you anything
that regarded myself. I have had no secrets from you; but this is
one which affects another. Except for the present aspect of affairs,
when you should be duly informed of that which bears reference to
our immediate position, I should have felt myself bound by every
tie of delicacy and honor, not less than of inclination, to have
kept confined to my own bosom that which I am now to reveal in the
fullest confidence, on the sole understanding that the slightest
allusion shall never be made by you hereafter to the subject."

"This becomes mysterious," rejoined the commandant, smiling; "but
Ellen, pleasantry apart, I promise you most truly--and, shall I
add, on the honor of an officer and a gentleman, that your disclosure
shall be sacred."

"Good! now that I have quieted my own mind, by exacting from you
what in fact was not absolutely necessary, I will explain as briefly
as I can. Do you recollect the evening of Maria Heywood's marriage
with Ronayne?"

"Yes."

"And you remarked the agitation evinced by Wau-nan-gee, during the
ceremony, and particularly at the close, when Ronayne, as customary,
kissed his bride?"

"I noticed that there was some confusion caused by his abrupt
departure, but I neither knew nor inquired the cause; I was too
interested in the performance of the ceremony to think of anything
but the happiness that awaited them, and which they appeared so
much to desire themselves."

"Well, no matter; but you must know that all the agitation of the
youth was caused by his jealousy of the good fortune of Ronayne."

"Jealous of Ronayne?" exclaimed Captain Headley with unfeigned
surprise. "Ha! ha! ha! excuse me, my dear Ellen, but I cannot
avoid being amused at the strangeness of the conceit."

"It was even so," returned Mrs. Headley, gravely, "and a source of
unhappiness I fear it will prove to us all that it was so."

"Proceed," said her husband.

"Are you aware that the son of Winnebeg has never entered the fort
nor been even in the neighborhood since the night of that marriage?"
pursued his wife.

"I do not believe he has been seen since," remarked Captain Headley.

"I _know_ that he has not; but yet he is ever near, seemingly bent
on one purpose."

"Love?" interposed the Captain, smiling.

"Yes, love! but a fearful love--though the love of a smooth-faced
boy--a love that may bring down destruction upon us all."

"Ellen, you begin to fill me with alarm," remarked her husband,
gravely. "You are not a woman to be startled by trifles, and there
is that in your manner just now which fully satisfies me of the
importance of what you have to communicate."



CHAPTER II.

"You know my love for Mrs. Ronayne," continued Mrs. Headley, after
a pause of a few minutes. "Even as though she were my own daughter,
I regard her, and would do for her all that a fond mother could
for her child. Only yesterday afternoon, while Ronayne and the
Doctor were out with a party fishing on the old ground above
Hardscrabble, she expressed a wish to visit the tomb of her poor
mother, who, dying within a week after her marriage, had been buried
near the base of the summer-house on the grounds attached to their
cottage, and asked me to accompany her. Of course I consented; and
as you were busily engaged, you did not particularly notice my
absence. We crossed the river in the scow, and ascended leisurely
to the garden. It struck me as we walked that the figure of a man,
seemingly an Indian, floated rapidly past within the paling of the
garden, but I could not distinctly trace the outline, and therefore
assumed that I had been deceived, and so said nothing to my companion
on the subject.

"We had not been long in the garden when Mrs. Ronayne, leaving me
to saunter among and cull from the rich flowers which grew in wild
luxuriance around, begged me to wait for her a few minutes while
she ascended to the summer-house to commune in private with her
thoughts, and indulge the feelings which had been called up, at
this her first visit since the place had been abandoned, to the
once happy residence of her girlhood. At her entrance, I distinctly
heard her give a low shriek, but, taking it for granted that this
was in consequence of the effect upon her mind of a sudden recurrence
to old and well remembered scenes with which so much of the unpleasant
was associated, I paid no great attention to it. After this all
was still, and nearly an hour had elapsed when, fancying that it
was imprudent to leave her so long to her own melancholy thoughts,
I moved towards the summer-house myself, making as much noise with
my feet as possible to prepare her for my approach. I had got about
half way up the ascent, when to my astonishment I beheld issuing
from the entrance not Mrs. Ronayne, but the long-absent Wau-nan-gee,
who, with a flushed cheek and a fiery eye, divested of all its
former softness, made several bounds in an opposite direction, and,
without uttering a word, rapidly disappeared among the fruit trees
which bordered on the forest.

"Seized with a strong presentiment of evil, I entered the
summer-house. Judge my astonishment when I found it empty. Heaven!
what could this mean? I had distinctly seen Mrs. Ronayne enter it,
and I had scarcely since taken my eyes off the building. In an
agony of despair, I threw myself upon the wooden bench, and scarcely
conscious of what I did, called frantically on Maria's name.
Suddenly, a sound similar to that of a faint moan seemed to proceed
from beneath my feet. I rose, removed the rude Indian mat with
which the centre of the floor is covered, and perceived that it
had been recently cut into an oblong square nearly the size of the
mat itself. The whole truth now flashed upon me--it was evident
that my friend was beneath: but the great difficulty was to find
the means of removing the door, which fitted so closely that it
required some superinducing motive even to suspect its existence.
There was nothing inside the building which could effect my purpose.
I ran to the door and cast my eyes towards the cottage.
Around it I saw a number of Indians stealthily moving near one of
the wings to the rear. In a moment I saw the necessity for
promptitude, and hastened rapidly towards the beach where I had
left the crew of the boat, consisting of four men and Corporal
Collins, and bade them come as far as the entrance to the garden,
where they could distinctly see and be seen from the cottage. I
remarked that there were Indians lurking about the grounds, and
that neither Mrs. Ronayne nor myself liked being so near them
without protection. 'As for you, Corporal Collins,' I added playfully,
'you must lend me your bayonet; an Indian does not like that weapon,
and, should any of these people feel inclined to prove unruly, the
bare sight of it will be sufficient. Remain here at the gate until
I return with Mrs. Ronayne, and keep a good look out that we are
not carried off.'"

"But, my dear," interposed Captain Headley, anxiously, "why all
this mystery about the matter?--all this beating about the bush?--why
did you not take Collins and his party to the summer-house and
release Mrs. Ronayne, if indeed it was she whose moan you heard?

"Nay, Headley, in this I but followed your own example. There were
many reasons why this should not be. Firstly, for the sake of Maria,
whose actual position might be such as to render it injudicious
that they be made acquainted with it. Secondly, because it would
unavoidably have brought the men in collision with the Indians,
which would have entailed ruin upon us all. No; I felt the mere
sight of them would awe the Indians around the cottage, whom policy
would prevent from open outrage, and that, provided with Collins's
bayonet, I could open the trap door and deliver my friend, without
any of the party knowing aught of what had occurred."

"Right prudently and sagely did you act, my dear Ellen," returned
her husband--"go on: I am all impatience to hear the result."

"On regaining the summer-house, I applied the point of the weapon.
With some little exertion the door was raised, and, looking down,
I saw something broad and white in the gloom, on which lay a figure
indistinctly marked in outline. Gradually, as my eyes became
accustomed to the darkness, I remarked two or three rude stones
placed as steps, which I placed my feet upon and descended until
I had gained the bottom of the aperture and upon the white substance
I have just named. It was a large piece of white calico, covering
a bed of what appeared to me to be corn-leaves, on which sat or
rather reclined Maria. She looked the image of despair--as one
stupified--and when I first addressed her, could not speak. Her
dress was greatly disordered, her hat off and lying near her, and
the comb detached from the long hair.

"'Oh, Maria, my child!' I said to her soothingly, 'what a terrible
incident is this! Who could have believed Wau-nan-gee would have
committed this outrage?'

"The air let in from above tended greatly to revive her, and soon,
with my assistance, she was enabled to stand.

"Her voice and manner proclaimed deep agitation. 'Dear, dear Mrs.
Headley,' she said impressively, as she threw herself upon my bosom,
'as you love me, not a word to Ronayne or to any other human being.
Oh, merciful Providence! it can do no good that aught of this
occurrence should be revealed. Promise me then, my more than mother,
that what has passed since we entered this garden shall be confined
to your own breast.'

"'I comprehend and appreciate your motive for this concealment,
Maria,' I observed, soothingly. 'The knowledge of Wau-nan-gee's
wrong would arouse the anger of Ronayne in such manner as to give
rise to fatal discord between the Indians around and ourselves.
Depend upon it, both for the love I bear you, and the necessity
for silence, the occurrences of this day never shall be disclosed
by me.'

"'Thanks, thanks,' she returned fervently. 'To-morrow you shall
know all--the deep, the terrible secret that weighs at my heart
shall be revealed to you. Yes, give me but until then to prepare
myself for the full and entire disclosure of the unhappy truth,
and you will not hate me for all that has taken place.'

"'Maria--Mrs. Ronayne!' I said with some slight severity of manner.

"'Oh, you are surprised at my language and sentiments. When the
heart is full, the lip measures not its words. Yet, oh, my mother!
condemn me not. Hear first what I have to say. Again I repeat, ere
your eyes are closed in sleep to-morrow night, you shall know all.
The tale will startle you; but now,' she added, 'I feel that I have
strength enough to follow.'

"During this short and singular dialogue--singular enough, you must
admit, on the part of Mrs. Ronayne--I had assisted her in restoring
her dress, which, as I have already said, was very much disordered.
On turning to ascend by the stone steps, I remarked with surprise
certain articles of food placed on the corner of the calico, which
I had been too much occupied with Maria's condition to perceive
before. These consisted of a wooden bowl of milk--a brown earthen
pitcher of water--a number of flat cakes, seemingly made of corn
meal, and a portion of dried venison ham; a wooden spoon was in
the bowl, a black tin japanned drinking cup near the water, and a
common Indian knife stuck into the venison.

"'Bless me, Maria,' I said, with an attempt at pleasantry, after
we had ascended, and closed the door, 'it was well I came to your
rescue; Wau-nan-gee certainly meant to have kept you imprisoned
here some time, if we may judge from the quantity of food he had
provided.'

"'Such, I believe, was the original intention,' gravely replied
Mrs. Ronayne.

"She made no other remark, but sighed deeply. We now drew near the
gate where Collins and his men were stationed, looking out anxiously
for our appearance. I recommended to Maria, in a low tone, not to
appear dejected, as the men knew nothing of what had occurred--not
even that Wau-nan-gee had been on the grounds--and any appearance
of agitation might give rise to suspicion. She followed my suggestion
and rallied. I returned Collins his bayonet, stating, with a poor
attempt at pleasantry, that we had met with no enemy on whom to
try it. He then led the way back, with his party, to the boat.

"The presence of the men acting, in some degree, as a check upon
our conversation, Mrs. Ronayne consequently preserved an unbroken
silence. She seemed immersed in deep and painful thought, and I
could see beneath the thin veil she wore the tears coursing slowly
down her cheek. Her first inquiry, on landing, was whether the
fishing party was returned, and, on being told that it had not,
she seemed to be greatly relieved. I watched her closely, for I
need not say that my own daughter could not have inspired me with
deeper interest, and in the increased agitation I remarked
as the hour of her husband's expected return drew nearer, I began
to apprehend a fearful result. Not that, even if my suspicions were
correct, she could well be blamed, as the mere victim of a violence
she could not prevent; but what I did not like to perceive, and
which pained me much, was her evident prepossession in favor of
the impetuous boy, which induced her to abstain from all indignant
censure. These, however, are merely my own, crude and perhaps
unfounded impressions. That she has some terrible truth to reveal
to me, there cannot be a question, nor is it likely that it can
affect any but herself. This night, however, I shall know all from
her own lips, which, although sealed in prudence to her husband,
will not hesitate to confide to me the fullest extent of her painful
secret; meanwhile, I should recommend that Wau-nan-gee be watched.
His long absence from the fort, while evidently concealed in the
neighborhood, looks not well. Evidently, he has been long planning
the abduction of Maria, and now that he finds himself foiled by
her evasion this day, he will avail himself of the present crisis
to leave no means unaccomplished to possess her, no matter what
blood may be shed in the attainment of his object."

"Strange, indeed, what you have related," said Captain Headley,
gravely, when his wife had ceased. "I confess I scarcely know what
to think or how to act. I must hold council with my officers
immediately--hear their opinions without divulging aught of what
you have related, and act as my own judgment confirms. How
unfortunate! Ronayne and his wife, accompanied by Von Voltenberg,
have taken it into their heads to ride to Hardscrabble, and God
knows when they will be back. Really, this is most annoying."

At that moment a terrible shriek, as that of a man in his last
fearful agony, was heard without. Struck with sudden dismay, both
Captain Headley and his wife rushed to the door, which they reached
even as Ensign Ronayne, pale, without his hat, his hair blowing in
the breeze, and his cheek colorless as death, was in the act of
falling from his jaded horse, whose trembling limbs and sides
covered with foam, attested the desperate speed with which he had
been ridden.

"Oh, God! he has heard all--he knows all," murmured Mrs. Headley,
as she fell back in the arms of her husband. "Now, then, is the
drama of horror but commenced."

Before the unfortunate officer could be--raised and carried to his
apartments by the sympathizing soldiers of the garrison, another
horseman followed into the fort. It was Doctor Van Voltenberg,
whose flushed face and excited appearance denoted the speed at
which he too had ridden. He flung himself from his horse, and
followed anxiously to the apartment of his friend.

But where was the third of the party? where was Maria, the universally
beloved of every soldier of that garrison? where was Mrs. Ronayne?



CHAPTER III.

   "A sailor's wife had chestnuts in her lap, and mouncht."
      --_Macbeth_

   "Thy abundant goodness shall excuse this deadly blot in
   thy digressing son."
      --_Richard II._

Little more than a month had elapsed since the marriage of the
impetuous and generous Ensign Ronayne to the woman he adored.
Absorbed by the intensity of their passion, fed by the solitude
around, each day increased their attachment, and their full hearts
acknowledged that the love which the man bears to his mistress--the
affianced sharer of his inmost thoughts--is passionless compared
with that which follows the mystic tie, linking their most secret
being in fearlessness of devotion. Then, for the first time, had
they felt and acknowledged all the power of the beauty of God's
holy ordinance, which seemed to wed not in mere form, but in fact,
the deepest emotions of their glowing souls. What was the world to
them? They hoped to live and die among those wild scenes in which
their passion had been cradled and nurtured, until now it had
acquired a force almost more than human. Often then, and often
even since the short period of their union, had they fallen on
their knees in the silence and solitude of the wilderness around,
and, clasped to each other's heart, returned fervent thanks to the
Deity, not only for having given them hearts to comprehend love in
all its mysterious and holy sublimity, but in having blessed them
with the dearer self in which each other found pleasure and lived
a double existence. More calm, more softened, more subdued in
feeling, after this passionate ebullition, a holy and voluptuous
calm would beam from their eyes; and when they alluded gently and
fondly to the years and years of happiness that yet awaited them
in the health and fulness of their youth, thoughts and looks, not
words, attested the deep thankfulness of their hearts.

All this had been up to the evening of the incidents named in our
opening chapter. Then, for the first time, had a change come over
Maria's feelings and manner. On leaving Mrs. Headley, she had
retired to her apartments, endeavoring to prepare herself for the
momentarily expected arrival of her husband, whom she longed, yet
dreaded to meet. She received him with a restraint which she had
great difficulty in disguising, and wept many bitter tears, as,
anxiously remarking her changed and extraordinary manner, he looked
reproachfully and fixedly at her, without, however, saying a word
that was passing in his mind.

"Nay, nay, Ronayne; you think me reserved, altered, to-day; but
indeed I am not well. The cause you shall know later, not now--it
would be premature. I am a bad dissembler, and cannot look gay
when my heart is full of anguish to overwhelming; but, my love, I
must entreat a very great favor of you, which I know you will not
refuse."

"Is there aught under heaven that I can refuse to my adored one?"
returned Ronayne, tenderly clasping her to his breast; "no, Maria,
you have a boon to ask, and the boon shall be granted."

"After all, it is not a Very great deal," she remarked, with a
sickly smile; "but I have a strong desire to ride to Hardscrabble
to-morrow. You know it is long since I have been there, and I have
a particular reason to visit it in the course of the afternoon
to-morrow." Her voice trembled, and she felt ill at ease.

Her husband looked grave. "Nay, Maria, is this wise? You know, as
you have just said, that you have not visited that scene since the
death of your father; wherefore now, and simply to reopen a
fast-closing wound?"

"It is for the reason," she said, "that I have so long neglected
this duty that I am the more anxious to repair the seeming neglect."

"Your first visit," remarked Ronayne, half reproachfully, "methinks
ought to have been to the grave of your poor mother. You have not
been over to the cottage since her death."

Had an arrow passed through the heart of Mrs. Ronayne, it could
not have imparted more exquisitely keen sensations than did that
casual remark. She turned pale, but made no reply; nay, almost fell
fainting on his bosom.

"What, my soul's beloved, is the matter? Nay, pardon me for bringing
up again the memory so suddenly upon your gentle thought! I should
have used more caution in renewing the recollection of the past."

"Say rather of the present," murmured Mrs. Ronayne, in a tone so
low that she could not be distinctly heard by her husband. "Oh,
this poor heart!"

"You spoke, Maria?"

"Oh, I did but repeat my dreamings to myself. I scarcely know what
I said."

"Well, love, since you desire to ride to Hardscrabble to-morrow,
I will even meet your wishes; and yet I know not how it is, but
something tells me that ill will grow out of this."

"Oh, no, say not so," she suddenly exclaimed, sinking on her knees
at his feet, and holding up her hands in an attitude of supplication;
"can that be ill in your eyes which brings happiness to the heart
of your loving wife? Pity rather the existence of those fears which
cause her to tremble, lest the cup be dashed from her lips ere yet
half tasted. Oh! I dare not speak more plainly--not yet--not
yet--to-morrow--then shall the restraint be removed, from my lips
and heart, and, whatever be the result, you shall know all. I feel
that to you I must appear to speak in parables and mystery; but
oh, since yesterday, I feel that I am not myself."

She drooped her head upon his shoulder, and wept profoundly.

"Calm yourself, dearest; I will harass you with no more converse
on this subject to-night. Let one remark suffice. I am afraid that
Captain Headley will refuse permission for us to venture as far as
Hardscrabble; he thinks it attended by risk to the officers on the
part of the Indians; of course, much more to you."

"Nay, Ronayne, there cannot surely be a greater risk incurred there
than in venturing on a fishing excursion, as you have done to-night.
Besides, we need not let him know that we are going in that
direction."

"What! you wicked mutineer," chided Ronayne, playfully, "do you
recommend insubordination? Would you have me to disobey the orders
of the commanding officer? Oh, fie!"

"Not exactly that," she returned, with a slight blush; "but gratify
me only this once, and I will never allow you to break an order
again."

"Nay, sweetest, I did but jest; were my life the penalty, I would
not deny you."

"Ah! how little does he think that more than life depends upon it,"
murmured Mrs. Ronayne to herself. "Or who could have supposed
yesterday that my heart would have been oppressed by the feelings
which assail it now? Wau-nan-gee--strange, wildly--loving,
fascinating, and incomprehensible boy--with what confidence do I
repose on your truth; with what joy do I at length glory in that
devotedness which has made you so wholly, so exclusively mine."

These words were abstractedly, almost involuntarily, uttered in a
low tone, as Ronayne left the room in search of Doctor Von Voltenberg,
who he was desirous should, for the better protection of his wife
from accident, accompany them on their ride of to-morrow.

She herself soon retired for the night, but not to rest.

In that wild and simple garrison, where the germs of the heart and
head alone shone forth, reflecting their brilliancy and beauty more
forcibly from the fact of the very limitation of their sphere of
contact, there was no sacrifice to the mere conventionalisms of
inane fashion. Customs there were military customs, duly observed,
and not less than treason against the state would it have been
considered by Captain Headley, had any officer of his sallied forth
without being duly caparisoned as a member of the corps to which
he belonged; but in all things else, and where duty was not involved,
each was free to adopt the style of costume or the general habits
that best suited his own fancy. And, whenever inclined, they were
suffered to leave the fort, either dressed in the rough, shaggy
blanket of the Canadian trapper or voyageur, or the more fanciful
and picturesque dress of the Indian. This had not always been the
case. Captain Headley had once been as severe as he now was indulgent,
and the uttermost conformity of costume with the regulations of
the United States had for a long period been exacted; but gradually,
on finding, as he conceived, the Indians around him too favorably
disposed to require the continuance of the imposing military parade
with which it had been his policy to awe them, he had gradually
relaxed in his system of discipline, conceding not more to his
officers themselves than to his noble and amiable wife, who was
ever the soother of whatever temporary differences sprang up between
them, many little points of etiquette, to which formerly he had
most scrupulously adhered.

Among the varieties of dresses possessed by Ensign Ronayne, was a
very handsome one which the mother of Wau-nan-gee, for whom it was
made, had disposed of to him; and this, when preparing for the ride
the next day, his wife strongly advised him to wear. As he knew
there could be no objection on the part of Captain Headley only to
the direction in which they rode, and that only from the possibility
of encountering a party of hostile Indians, and not to the costume
itself, he laughingly remarked that her old flame, Wau-nan-gee,
had certainly made a deeper impression on her heart than she was
willing to admit, since no dress pleased her half so well as that
which had once been worn by the gentle and dark--eyed youth.

For a moment or two she turned pale, and then suddenly flushing
the deepest dye, as the sense of her husband's remark came fully
upon her apprehension, she said, not without some pain and confusion,
mingled with gentle reproach:--

"You seem to have forgotten, Ronayne, that that was the dress you
wore on an occasion of danger, when life and death and happiness
hung upon the issue. Might I not have the credit of prizing it on
that account?"

"Nay, beloved one," he exclaimed, as he pressed her to his heart,
"you know I did but jest. Then was my strong love for yourself, my
protection and my shield; and if that love was powerful then, what
irresistible strength has it attained now. Maria, I would fain
desire to live for ever, if but to show the vastness and enduringness
of my love for you."

"Ah! to what a trial am I to be subjected," she murmured, "and yet
I would not shun it. Why has the calm deep current of our joy been
thus cruelly interrupted, Ronayne? Should fate or circumstances
ever interpose to separate us, will you always entertain for me
the same ardent affection that you do now?"

"Heavens! why do you ask? What means this question? What is there
to divide us? nay, even separate us for an hour?"

"Oh! I cannot explain myself," she returned. "I know I speak wildly,
but I only mean in the possible event of anything of the kind. I
do not say that it may or will happen; but you know it might. None
of these things are impossible. We cannot control our destiny."

"Well, my love," remarked Ronayne, with a sigh, while an expression
of gravity and sadness pervaded his features, "it cannot be denied
that you have adopted some strange fancies this morning; firstly,
a desire to visit Hardscrabble, a place which you have always
hitherto carefully avoided; secondly, to see me dressed in a costume
which I have not worn since the occasion to which you have just
adverted; and thirdly, to frighten me to death by even hinting at
the possibility of separation. By the bye," he added, "it is a very
long time since we have seen Wau-nan-gee. You know he disappeared
the night of our marriage, and has never been seen since. I wonder
what can have become of him. Would you not like once more, Maria,
to see his handsome face? I shall never forget the eagerness with
which he picked up the wedding-ring which I had let fall in the
act of putting it on your finger, or the look of deep disappointment
when I rather abruptly--nay, somewhat rudely--snatched it from him,
as he tremblingly proceeded to complete that part of the ceremony
himself. It certainly looked very ominous."

It was a great relief to Mrs. Ronayne when, at the very moment that
her husband ceased speaking, a knock was heard at the door, and in
the next moment the figure of Doctor Von Voltenberg crossed the
threshold. He came to announce that the horses were already saddled,
and waiting for them. With a heart full to oppression, she left
the room, and regained her chamber. There she threw herself upon
her knees at the bedside, and burst into a paroxysm of tears. It
was the first time she had been alone since the occurrence at the
summer-house; the first opportunity she had had of giving unrestrained
indulgence to the powerful emotions that had for many hours hung
like an immovable weight upon her soul. The first outburst of
hitherto-suppressed feeling over, she became more calm. She felt
that her long absence might excite surprise. A basin of cold water
soon removed all traces of her tears, and in less than half an hour
she had regained the party, her beautiful form clad in a dark green
riding habit made of cloth of the lightest texture, and her full
dark hair, surmounted by a straw hat tastily plaited and
fashioned by her own hands, and trimmed with a broad, pale, and
richly-bordered ribbon.

Ronayne's eye caught her own as she entered. Never had she appeared
so strikingly beautiful. He said nothing, but the rich Virginian
blood mounted to his cheek, while his expressive eye conveyed, as
plainly as language itself could render it, how ardent and enduring
was his love.

That look heightened the color on her own enchanting face, but it
was only for the moment, and evidently caused by some absorbing
recollection of an absent friend. She turned away her head to
conceal the tear that forced itself down her cheek, and then
everything being ready--for Ronayne had availed himself of her
absence to assume his Indian dress--the party went to the barrack
square, and were soon in the saddle.

"God bless her!" ejaculated Corporal Collins, as, after relinquishing
the bridle he had held while her husband assisted her to mount,
the graceful form of Mrs. Ronayne receded from his view, leaving
him once more to resume his monotonous walk in front of the building.
"Ah, there is nobody like that sweet lady!"

"There goes an angel!" said Sergeant Nixon in a low voice to his
companions of the guard, all of whom off sentry had risen, and were
now standing all attention, as the little party passed towards the
gate.

"Isn't she a trump!" said another man of the guard--Weston. "See
how she sits her horse--just as if she had been born to it."

"Sergeant Nixon," said Maria, in one of her sweetest tones, as she
moved her horse towards the non-commissioned officer in passing.

The Sergeant touched his cap with marked respect.

"Should anything occur to detain us in our ride, let this packet
be given to Mrs. Headley. Mind, Sergeant, certainly not before
midnight."

"Your command shall be obeyed, Mrs. Ronayne. Should you return
before midnight, it will be found with me; if not, I shall at once
carry it to Mrs. Headley."

"Just so. Good by, Nixon!" and as she placed the packet in his
possession, she pressed his hand, as if to signify that the proper
execution of the commission was of some importance.

"What is it, Maria? what do you wait for?" asked Ronayne, reining
in his horse to enable her to come up.

"Nothing. I am merely sending a trifling message to Mrs. Headley
by Sergeant Nixon," and then putting her horse into a canter, she
joined her cavaliers, and pursued with them the road that led along
the right bank of a branch of the Chicago river to the Hardscrabble
farm.



CHAPTER IV.

   You see this chase is hotly followed.
      --_Henry V._

The spot called Hardscrabble was distant about two miles from Fort
Dearborn, and had been the scene of a recent and bloody tragedy.
They who are familiar with the events that occurred during a
different and earlier phase of this tale are aware that, not four
months previously, the father of Mrs. Ronayne had, as well as a
faithful domestic, been cruelly murdered there, during a period of
profound peace, by a party of Winnebagoes, and that, on the removal
of his body to the grounds of the cottage, near the fort, in which
his wife and daughter resided, the house had been hermetically
closed. The outrage upon Mr. Heywood had taken place early in April.
It was now, as has already been said, the 7th of August, and within
that period Mrs. Ronayne had drunk deeply of the cup of reciprocated
wedded bliss, she had also known the anguish of the severance of
every natural tie. Both her parents were buried near the
summer-house, and, had it not been for the fervent love of her
husband--a love that daily increased in purity and intensity--even
the great strength of mind for which she was remarkable would have
ill enabled her to endure the twofold shock. But, even with all
his love, the natural melancholy of her character became tinged
with an additional shade of seriousness, which, far from being
displeasing, or detracting from the sweetness of her most expressive
and faultless face, seemed to invest it with a newer and a holier
charm. The perfection of her classic style of beauty given as Maria
Heywood, may well justify a repetition here.

Above the middle size, her figure was at once gracefully and richly
formed. Her face, of a chiselled oval, was of a delicate olive
tint, which well harmonized with eyes of a lustrous hazel, and hair
of glossy, raven black, of rare amplitude and length. A mouth
classically small, bordered by lips of coral fulness, disclosed,
when she smiled, teeth white and even; while a forehead, high and
denoting strong intellect, combined with a nose somewhat more
aquiline than Grecian, to give dignity to a countenance that might
otherwise have exhibited too much of a character of voluptuous
beauty. Yet, although her features, when lighted up by vivacity or
emotion, were radiant with intelligence, their expression when in
repose was of a pensive cast, that, contrasted with her general
appearance, gave to it a charm, addressed at once to sense and
sentiment, of which it is impossible by description to give an
adequate idea. A dimpled cheek--an arm, hand, and foot, that might
have served the statuary as a model, completed a person which,
without exaggeration, might be deemed almost, if not wholly,
faultless.

For some minutes, as the party rode along the road bordering on
the serpentine branch of the Chicago leading to Hardscrabble, Mrs.
Ronayne, apprehensive that her husband might attribute any appearance
of depression of spirits to physical illness, and insist on postponing
her ride to some future occasion, fell, as most people do who are
sensible that for the first time in their lives they are acting
with insincerity, into the very opposite extreme. With a
consciousness of wrong at her heart--with a soul distracted with
uncertainty and hesitancy as to the result of the course she was
pursuing--she indulged in a gaiety that, in her, was wholly unnatural.
She rattled, talked, laughed with ill-timed volubility--offered to
make wagers with the surgeon and Ronayne that she would take her
horse over the highest fallen log, or, if they preferred it, swim
with either of them across the river, and lastly proposed that they
should start together and see who would first reach the farm-house.
All this time the deepest scarlet was on her cheek, her manner
betrayed the most feverish excitement, and there was unwonted
brilliancy in her eye.

Ronayne looked at her earnestly. Suddenly a change came over her,
for she had remarked, and felt confused under the penetrating glance
which seemed to tell her that she did not feel that lightness of
heart with the semblance of which she was seeking to deceive him.
For the first time since his marriage--nay, for the first time
since his acquaintance with her--and this had been of more than
two years' date--he felt pain--pain inflicted by _her_. There was
evidently some secret thought at her heart which she withheld; and
she who had never before concealed a passing emotion of her soul,
was now wrapped up in an unaccountable mystery.

In proportion with her husband's increasing gravity, Mrs. Ronayne's
spirits became depressed, until in reality enfeebled by her strong
previous excitement, she looked pale as death itself, and expressed
a desire for a glass of water.

Deeply touched and alarmed by the sudden change which had taken
place in his wife's appearance and manner, Ronayne threw himself
from his horse, and, being provided with a silver drinking cup,
flew to the river to fill it. In order to obtain the liquid pure
and cool, however, it was necessary to turn a small and acute point
of underwood, a little to the right, where a few rude stone steps
led to a sort of natural well, where, even in the hottest day of
summer, the beverage came fresh as from a coral fountain. It was
a spot well known to every frequenter of that road, and few passers-by
ever drank from any other source.

The young officer was in the act of dipping his cup into the stream,
when three shots were distinctly heard in the neighborhood of
Hardscrabble, then about half a mile distant, and after the interval
of a few seconds, the rapid galloping of horses' hoofs behind him.
With an inconceivable dread of he knew not what at his heart, he
sprang round the point of wood to gain the road where he had left
his wife and Von Voltenberg. To his astonishment both were gone.
They were the hoofs of their horses he had heard--his own was tied
to a tree, as he had left him, and making endeavors to free himself,
that he might follow his companions.

We will not attempt to describe the feelings of Ronayne. The mere
disappearance of the party might have been accounted for, had it
not been for the shots which preceded. But the association was
terrible. It bewildered him--almost deprived him of thought and
judgment. Evidently, there was an enemy in the neighborhood; but,
even if so, why the obvious advance into the very heart of danger;
for, from the direction of the sound, he could have no doubt that
one horse, at least, had taken the direction of Hardscrabble, and
that, from the peculiar and rapid footfall of the animal, he felt
assured was his wife's.

What could this mean? Mrs. Ronayne's he knew to be a very spirited
young horse, and the only manner in which he could explain her
absence was by inferring that, startled by the report of the
firearms, he had suddenly run away with her, and that Von Voltenberg
had followed as speedily as he could to check him.

He dashed the cup of water to the earth, mounted, and dug his spurs
in the flanks of his horse, when the latter, bounding forward with
agony under the exquisite sense of pain, seemed rather to leap than
run over the ground Fifty yards from the point where he started,
something glaringly white on the ground frightened the animal and
caused him to shy so abruptly, even while continuing his speed,
that Ronayne, excellent horseman as he was, had great difficulty
in preserving his seat. Rapid as was the glance obtained of the
object, he at once recognised it for the habit collar of his wife,
and therefore all uncertainty was at an end as to the direction
her horse had taken. His heart was full, but he had scarcely power
to think. A thousand incidents and fears seemed to crowd upon his
brain at the same time, and in such confusion that he felt as though
his very reason were deserting him. The recollection of the strong
presentiment of evil which he had expressed in regard to this ride
came with tenfold force on his mind, and scarce left a hope to
weigh against the fears that overwhelmed him.

Still he dashed on, straining his eyes as though he would have
doubled the extent of his vision, looking searchingly into every
opening into the wood, and endeavoring to distinguish, amid the
rapid sounds produced by his own horse's hoofs, those of his
companions. It seemed an age while he passed over the ground that
kept him from the fatal farm-house. At length the orchard attached
to it came in view, and then the garden, and on the broad lane
which separated both, the large walnut tree the branches of which,
two months before covered with snowy blossoms, were now bent low
by the weight of their own fruitfulness. In another instant, he
was in the centre of the open space. Uncertain what course to follow
now, he checked his generous steed so suddenly and fiercely as to
throw him upon his haunches. Everything was still. Beyond the
breathing of his own horse, there was not a sound to indicate the
existence of animal life. The Indians had evidently destroyed all
the stock on the farm since its abandonment, and melancholy appeared
here to have established universal dominion. This suspense was
torture--the silence horrible. He would rather have heard the Indian
scalp-cry--heard the death-shriek--anything, provided it would
guide him to the form of her he loved. Beyond this forest there
was nothing that could be called a road. A few narrow footpaths
diverged from it into the forest, but these were merely sufficiently
broad for the passage by Indian file, except on the immediate verge
of the river, where horse and rider might barely escape collision
with the branches. The bank, over which this apology for a highway
ran, was composed of a sandy soil, so that sound was not absolutely
necessary to the assurance that horsemen were on that road. From
its absence, however, in every other quarter, the distracted officer
was naturally led to infer that they whom he so anxiously sought
had taken that direction, and thither he determined to follow. But
a second thought induced him to turn the angle of the house, before
leaving, that he might not have to reproach himself later with
having left anything unexamined behind. To his great surprise he
found the door, which he had himself hermetically closed many weeks
before, wide open. His first purpose, after sweeping his eye rapidly
but keenly around the half-trodden cornfield in the rear, was to
enter. This, in order not to lose time, and the rude aperture being
sufficiently large, he did without dismounting.

As his horse sprang in, he thought he could distinguish a moccasined
foot just at the moment of its hurried disappearance into the loft
above, but everything was so still that he felt satisfied his
distempered imagination and excited feeling, running on one
all-absorbing subject, had deceived him. He looked around.
Two dark objects attracted his attention, in the farthest corner
from him, of the room, the shutters of which being closed, yielded
but an indistinct light to one coming suddenly from the open air.
He moved his horse, stooping low himself as he advanced to that
end of the rude apartment, and beheld to his surprise, two small
trunks of black leather, on one of which was painted in rather
large letters "Maria Heywood." The other had no name upon it, but
he could have pledged his existence that, not one week previously,
he had seen it in his own apartment, and that it was his. That,
however, might be a mistake, for it was difficult to distinguish
with certainty; but in regard to the proprietorship of the other
there could be no question, and the only reasonable manner in which
he could account for their being there at that moment, was, that
the trunks had been in use by Mr. Heywood at the period of his
murder, and that, having been overlooked by the Indians, they had
been locked up, on closing the farm-house altogether.

It must not be supposed that the young officer took as much time
to comprehend and draw inferences from what he saw, as we have
taken in the description. A few rapid glances only were thrown
around, when, satisfied that there was no more to aid him in his
search, he turned his horse's head to gain the broader pathway
which, it has already been said, bordered on the river. Again he
sallied from the house, but his emotions of alarm and surprise may
be conceived--not springing from any personal consideration, but
from the certainty he now entertained of the probable fate of his
wife--when, on gaining the exterior, he perceived, not fifty yards
from him, a party of Indians, about twenty in number, some scattered
along the edge of the wood, and others peering cautiously around
the corners of the outbuildings. Although his heart sank within
him at the sight, and the image of his Maria was at the moment
uppermost in his thoughts--stood palpably before him as she looked
at the very moment when she stood first equipped for this most
unfortunate ride--his keen and collected eye could distinguish the
very color of the war paint, for they were in full costume, and
the peculiar decorations that told them to be of their old and
inveterate enemies the Winnebagoes.

There are epochs in life when the thoughts of years crowd upon the
mind in little more than moments. All the past then seems to flash
full upon the recollection, and in such rapid yet distinct succession,
that the only surprise is how the brain can sustain the torturing
and confounding weight. No one incident of the slightest interest
had ever occurred to his wife and himself that Ronayne did not
recall vividly, keenly, even while gazing on those men of blood;
and he suffered anguish of heart, physical as well as mental, which
none can understand who have not experienced that rending asunder
of the soul which follows the loss of that in which the soul alone
lives. Presently, as his quick eye glanced rapidly along the wood,
he saw, to his increasing dismay, Von Voltenberg brought forward
to its edge by two other Indians leading the horse by the bridle.
He was, evidently, a prisoner. Oh, how he strained his eyes with
painful, with agonizing earnestness, to behold her whom he expected
to behold next, and how rapidly rose the feeling of hope and
exultation when he found no second prisoner appear. He now felt
assured that his last chance of recovering the lost one lay in his
pursuing the course he had at first selected. The prospect of
eluding his enemies and gaining that road was poor, for there was
but one way open to him--almost in their very teeth--yet this he
was resolved to try. Death was before him if he hesitated; although,
had he beheld his wife a prisoner, he would rather have shared a
similar fate than abandoned her in her extremity, now that a hope
had sprung up in his heart--his energies were aroused, and renewed
activity braced his limbs.



CHAPTER V.

On the right of the farm-house called Hardscrabble, as it faced
the water, there was a kitchen garden, the fence of which was quite
five feet high, and scattered about within this were standing, now
almost shrivelled up from age, many clusters of peas and beans
pending lazily and languidly from their poles. To force his way
across this fence, and then diagonally through the garden in order
to gain the opposite corner and cross into the road beyond, was
now the sole object of the young officer; but before putting it in
practice, he called out in a loud and distinct voice to Von Voltenberg
to know what had become of his wife, and whether she too was a
prisoner. But there was no answer. The Doctor had evidently been
enjoined not to reply, for, immediately after he had put his
question, Ronayne saw an Indian hold up his tomahawk menacingly to
the prisoner, and heard him utter some words as if to enjoin silence.
Seemingly desirous, however, at all risk to satisfy his friend,
Von Voltenberg suddenly raised his hand, and seemed to point
significantly over his shoulder in an oblique direction to the
rear. This convinced Ronayne that he had been correct in his
conjecture, for the direction was the road he intended taking.
Gathering himself up in his saddle, he slowly walked his horse
about twenty paces towards the edge of the forest. This was done
both for the purpose of preventing any suspicion of an attempt at
flight, and of giving sufficient run for his leap. Then suddenly
wheeling round, he put the animal to his speed, and, amid the loud
shouts of the Indians, who rushed forward from every point to
overtake him, accomplished the desperate leap, the tips of his
horse's hoofs just grazing as he passed. Encumbered with their arms
as they were, it took each Indian, however active, at least a second
to clear the fence, and this gave the young officer considerable
advantage of distance; but what surprised him was that not a shot
was fired. It seemed as though his pursuers thought it beneath
their dignity to fire at a single fleeing man, whom they were
certain of taking, and matter of rivalry with all to be the first
to reach and secure. Onward they pressed now without uttering a
sound; but the rattling of their war ornaments, with the crackling
of the decayed vegetation beneath their feet, told Ronayne that
they were too near for him to hope for escape, unless his horse
should clear the opposite corner of the field, and of this he almost
despaired, jaded as the animal was by previous exertion through
the heavy ground he was now traversing. Fortunately he found that
there was a perceptible declivity as he approached the water, and
not merely that, but that one of the rails of the zigzag fence had
been detached. Desperate as his position was, this gave him renewed
confidence, and he even ventured to turn and examine the number
and position of his enemies. They were some twenty in number,
all painted perfectly black, and dispersed at long intervals
throughout the field. In front of all was a very young warrior,
who seemed the most emulous of the party to secure the honor of
the capture, for the leaps he took were prodigious, and it was
evident that nothing but the clearing of the fence could save the
closely-pursued officer from capture. Again his horse took the
leap, and this time easily enough; and even while in the very act,
he thought, he fancied, he heard a voice behind him softly pronounce
his name. In the confusion of his mind, however, he could not judge
distinctly of anything. It might have been the sighing of the wind
among the dried leaves and tendrils that floated from the bean-poles
at his side, and he regarded it not. His mind was too much intent
on, too much absorbed on weightier matters to heed the occurrence.
The air from the water revived, reinvigorated both himself and his
horse. Again at full speed, he dashed on along its margin until
suddenly, after having gone over nearly a mile of ground, the
conviction arose to him that he must have been wrong in his
comprehension of Von Voltenberg's sign, and that the beloved of
his soul--she for the uncertainty of whose fate his heart suffered
an anguish the most horrible, was not before him, but a prisoner
with her companion. That thought, growing rapidly into assurance,
was sufficient to destroy all energy. He checked his horse, and
brought him to a full stand. As a soldier, whose services belonged
to his country, he felt that he had no right to throw himself into
a position that would render those services useless, but at least
he would take no unnecessary trouble to avoid it. He turned to
listen to the sounds of his pursuers, now fully resolved to make
no further attempt at escape. He heard nothing but the rustling of
the leaves and the gurgling of the water over the shallow and pebbly
portions of its bed. He retraced his way at a walk. That was his
direct course to the fort, and he was determined leisurely to pursue
it, taking the chapter of accidents as it might be opened to him.
Soon he came to the point where he had first leaped the garden
fence. He looked within. There was not an Indian to be seen. That
they were lurking somewhere around him, he felt perfectly assured,
and at each moment he expected to see them start up and seize his
horse by the bridle. But although he now rode slowly, carelessly,
his eye was everywhere. The pathway he followed led along a strip
some twenty feet in width, between the garden fence and the river,
to the bottom of the clearing or lawn that ran to the edge of the
latter. Keenly he glanced towards the skirt of the forest on his
left where he had first beheld the savages with their prisoner,
but not a sign of one of them was to be seen. All this was certainly
most extraordinary and unaccountable, but Ronayne knew the character
of Indian stratagem too well not to feel assured that the very next
moment succeeding that of this serpent-like quietude, might be
replete with excitement, and he was prepared for its occurrence.
He dreaded to advance. He almost feared that he should not be seen.
Every step forward in safety increased the distance which separated
him from the idol of his soul, and the purest air of heaven had no
sweetness for him that was not breathed with her. His head drooped
upon his breast--he could hear the beating of his own heart. He
prayed inwardly, secretly, fervently to God to restore to him his
wife as by a miracle, and save him from the madness of despair.
When he again raised his head, he was startled but not surprised
to see his further progress interrupted by a dozen Indians,
springing up as it were from the very bowels of the earth, and
standing in the same careless and unexcited attitude in which he
had beheld them at the outset. Mechanically wheeling his horse to
escape by the lane, he beheld a similar display. He was evidently
hemmed in. His further advance or retreat was completely intercepted.

Truly has it been said, we are the creatures of circumstance. A
moment before, and while there was no enemy visible, Ronayne had
felt the utmost indifference in regard to a fate the bitterness of
which would, at least, have been sweetened by the fact of his being
near to solace and sustain his wife. He could not believe that it
was the purpose of the warriors to do them bodily harm; for, had
that been their intention, they would, without doubt, have fired
at him, when they found themselves foiled in their recent pursuit;
and such was the devotedness of love of the man, that forgetting
under the circumstances the sterner duty of the officer, he would
have preferred the tent and bonds of the savage _for ever_ with
her to the comforts and freedom of his own home, when the presence
of the loved and familiar being in whom alone he lived should no
longer give life and interest to the latter. But now a sudden change
in his plans was resolved upon, for the same glance which had fallen
on the warriors in his front, had enabled him to see, in the
distance, that Von Voltenberg, profiting probably by the carelessness
of those left in charge, was moving stealthily and alone between
the cornfield and the building, behind which he soon disappeared.
The quickening sound of hoofs immediately succeeding attested that
he was in full flight, and then a rapid association of ideas brought
to the strongly imaginative mind of the young officer the conviction
that his wife had escaped too, for he felt assured that Von Voltenberg
would not abandon her. What the object was in endeavoring to secure
himself he could not tell. The Indians had evidently some more than
ordinary motive in his capture, or wherefore their great anxiety
to take him unhurt, and their seeming indifference in regard to
the other prisoners, who had been left almost unguarded. There
might be two reasons for this. Firstly, they might be on their
war-path, and therefore might not find it either convenient or
desirable to incumber themselves, on a march, with a woman; and,
secondly, having discovered the Doctor to be a "medicine man"--a
fact of which he would not have failed to apprise them--they might
not feel themselves permitted by the Great Spirit to detain him,
and therefore, without absolutely releasing, gave him the opportunity
for escape.

Of course, all these reflections were the result of but a momentary
action of the brain. Ronayne, with much warmth and impetuosity of
character, was of quick and sound apprehension, and at once saw
the advantages or disadvantages of an extreme position. To advance
or retire, as has already been remarked, was impossible, for both
in front and rear stood the warriors leaning carelessly on their
guns, as if they expected at each moment that he would come up and
surrender himself. But, whatever his previous musings, half nursed
into the determination, such was now far from being the intention
of the Virginian. Certain that he would be fired at, his main object
was to prevent their closing with him so far as to impede his
action. In order to prevent nearer advance upon him, therefore, he
pulled his pocket handkerchief from the bosom of his hunting-shirt,
and waved it over his head in token of submission. Guttural sounds
of approbation broke from the warriors, amid which he thought
he could hear the voice of his wife earnestly calling upon his
name, in the distance. He looked, but saw nothing. The idea that
she had been suffered to make her escape grew stronger. He felt
assured, for the sounds of horses' hoofs had ceased, that she was
lingering for him to join her; that she had seen him wave the
handkerchief, and that, tearing he was about to deliver himself
into the hands of his enemies, she had uttered that cry to indicate
her position. Apparently in the certainty of their prisoner, the
Indians both above and below had thrown themselves at the side of
the lane under the fence, some even commencing to fill and smoke
their pipe tomahawks. This again was the moment of action. To leap
the fence at this time was out of all question, but the river was
unusually deep immediately on his right. Rapidly he wheeled his
horse, and, bearing him up with a strong arm, as he reached the
bank, while he forced the rowels of his spurs into his flanks,
caused him to bound over nearly one third of the narrow stream.
Almost before the Indians had time to recover from their surprise
and dash in after him, he was nearly across. As he ascended the
opposite bank, and gained the road above, another cry from the same
voice rang upon his ears. He looked and beheld at one of the windows
of the farm--house a form evidently that of a woman, the outline
and dress of which he could not, however, distinguish, reclining
negligently, almost motionless, on the bosom of the youngest warrior,
who had evinced such earnestness in his desire to capture him.
Alternately, as Ronayne continued his course to the fort, along
that bank of the Chicago, the youth pealed forth the peculiar
war-whoop of his tribe, and waved, seemingly, the very pocket
handkerchief which the unhappy officer had a few moments before
thrown down as an earnest of his submission. Was this meant as a
reproach or a threat? He could not tell; but certainly he felt that
he deserved the former in their eyes, who had shown him so much
mercy. In less than ten minutes he had passed over the intermediate
ground, his ear achingly on the stretch to catch the sounds of
horses' hoofs on the opposite' bank--that bank which, not two hours
previously, he had traversed with a bright hope, if not with a
heart wholly free from anxiety--but in vain. Furiously, wildly,
he rode into the fort. He was haggard, pale, and dripping from the
immersion he had so recently undergone. His first inquiry at the
gate, on entering, was if Mrs. Ronayne had returned. Being answered
in the negative, life itself seemed to be annihilated; and, overcome
by the overwhelming agony he had endured for the last two hours,
he gave a frightful shriek of despair, and, on gaining the centre
of the parade, fell fainting from his horse to the ground, as we
have already seen at the close of our opening chapter.



CHAPTER VI.

   "My particular grief is of so floodgate and overbearing nature,
   that it engluts and swallows other sorrows."
      --_Othello._

Never did day close more cheerlessly on the hearts of men, than
that which succeeded to the occurrences detailed in our last chapter.
Yea, it was a terrible blow which had been inflicted upon all. The
sun of the existence of each, from the commanding officer to
the youngest drummer-boy, had been dimmed; and many a weather-beaten
soldier, grown grey in the natural apathy of age, now found himself
unable to restrain the rising tear. Not a woman, not a child arrived
at the years of consciousness, but missed and mourned over the
absence of her who had been, not merely the favorite, but the
beloved of the whole garrison.

The young Virginian himself was, for the moment, the only exception
to this mental anguish. When taken up from the ground to which he
had fallen, and borne to his room, he was in a high fever and
delirious from excitement--unconscious of everything around. He
did not manifest a sense of the nature and extent of his grief by
exclamations of despair, or reference to the past, but lay like
one stupified, his cheek highly flushed, his eyes fixed and upturned,
his hands clasped across his chest, his breathing scarcely audible,
and seemingly without the power of combination of thought, or the
exercise of memory.

When Von Voltenberg soon afterwards followed, he at once saw that
congestion of the brain was rapidly forming, and immediately prepared
to bleed him. The room, which, first filled with sorrowing soldiers
and their wives, not only excluded the necessary air, but impeded
action, was now urgently requested to be cleared, and none remained
but Mrs. Headley, Mrs. Elmsley, Mr. Ronayne's servant Catherine,
and Corporal Collins, who, having been relieved from his duty as
orderly, had entreated the surgeon to permit him to render what
service might be required during the young officer's illness. There
was no fastidious or misplaced delicacy here. Mrs. Headley had ever
felt as a mother towards the Virginian, Mrs. Elmsley as a sister,
and, even had this not been the case, the strong affection they
bore to his wife would have led them to attend the sick couch of
the husband. One supported his shoulder as he was raised in his
bed, the other took his extended hand, while Corporal Collins,
looking much paler and more frightened than either of them, held
the basin. If Von Voltenberg was not particularly given to fasting,
or loved the punch made of the horrid whiskey distilled in those
days in the west, he was, nevertheless, a skilful surgeon. With a
steady hand he now divided the vein, when forth gushed a stream of
blood so dark and discolored that the significant and triumphant
shake of the head which he gave clearly indicated what would have
been the result had the bleeding been delayed much longer.

Greatly relieved by the removal of the oppressive weight, the
unhappy ensign opened his eyes, and became sensible of objects,
but it was only that consciousness might render him even more keenly
alive to the horror of his position. Each article of furniture and
dress around the room brought increased desolation to his heart.
There was the harp Maria was wont to touch with such exquisite
grace. There was the dress she had thrown off to assume her riding
habit--for it will be recollected that the officers of that post
had no gilded suites of apartments at their command, but barely a
couple of barrack rooms for the married men, and one for the single.
Now a shoe caught his eye, now a glove, a hat, a slipper, her
dressing-case; even the tiny thimble with which she had worked the
linen upon his back; each and all of these, endearing yet painful
to the sight from the recollections they brought up, he glanced at
alternately, until his feelings were so wrought upon that he was
almost frantic.

"Take those things away!" he cried, starting up and pointing to
them; "I cannot endure the sight. They will kill me--ay, worse than
kill--tear my heart-strings with slow agony. Ah! dear Mrs.
Headley--Mrs. Elmsley--both of you, who loved Maria so well--can
you not understand the pangs I suffer! Yesterday I could have defied
the world in the vain pride of my happiness and strength; to-day
I feel that I am more wretched than the slave that tugs at his
chain--more feeble than a child. Would to heaven that I could die
within this hour! Oh, God! oh, God! oh, God! how shall I endure
this!"

He turned on his side, buried his face in the pillow, and sobbed
and wept, until every one around had caught the deep infection of
his profound suffering. The lips of Corporal Collins, as he stood
stiff in his military attitude, were closely compressed, and his
brow was contracted. A sympathy, traceable on each quivering muscle,
was evidently struggling for mastery, and he turned abruptly round.
Had others taken time from their own sorrow to watch his next
movement, they might have seen him raise his hand to his lips, and
drain deeply from a flask he had taken from the bosom of his uniform.
Mrs. Elmsley, with her face buried in her hands, leaned against
one of the foot-posts of the bed; and Mrs. Headley--the majestic
Mrs. Headley, with more complex feelings at her heart than actuated
the others--knelt at the head of the bed, laid her hand upon the
shoulder of the patient, and conjured him, in tones that marked
her own deep sorrow, to bear the trial like a man, and not destroy
himself by unavailing grief. Yet, even as she spoke, the tears fell
copiously upon the bed.

"Mrs. Headley," said Von Voltenberg, who afterwards admitted that,
in the whole course of his practice, he had never been similarly
touched, "do not check him. Let him give full vent to this emotion,
for painful as it now is, both to himself and to us who witness
it, this outburst once exhausted, the crisis once past, there will
be less fear of a return. See, already the paroxysm is weaker--he
is more calm--both mind and body are worn out, and if he can but
sleep for a few hours, although he may perhaps awaken to more acute
sorrow, no danger to his life need be apprehended."

Notwithstanding this remark was made in little more than a whisper,
it was distinctly heard by the sufferer. Suddenly starting up again
in his bed, he turned quickly round to the surgeon, and said, in
a tone of reproach--

"And is this all the consolation you have to offer me? What! tell
me that I shall awaken to keener pain than that which now racks my
being, and drag on a miserable life! Of what value that life to
me? But stay, my mind is not yet itself, or how is it that I have
not yet questioned you about my wife! Dear Von Voltenberg!" and he
threw the hand of the recently-punctured arm upon the shoulder of
the surgeon, "what news have you of Maria? Tell me of her safety
say that you have rescued her and that I shall see her again, and
I will for ever bless the voice that saves me from despair. Oh,
Von Voltenberg! speak, speak! surely you could never have had the
baseness to desert her. How were you taken? how have you escaped?
and why alone?"

"Poor Ronayne! would to God that I could give you consolation; but,
alas! I cannot. She fell into the hands of the Indians before I
did, and I saw her borne rapidly to the rear of the farm-house; me
they took to the road where you saw me. From that moment I
never once beheld her; but reassure yourself, all may yet be well.
True, she is a prisoner, but I apprehend no violence, for the
Indians offered none to myself, and I thought that they showed
unaccountable moderation to you, never firing a shot when you had
so completely baffled them in the chase. It was that which gave me
confidence to attempt my own escape, when I saw them all pressing
forward to secure you, leaving me altogether unguarded. But we will
speak of this no more to-night. You must sleep, Ronayne, if you
would have strength to enter upon action to-morrow. From the
appearance of their encampment, not twenty paces in rear of the
spot where you beheld me, I have reason to think that it has been
established there many days, and that Mrs. Ronayne may yet be
rescued, for the party of Indians does not exceed five-and-twenty
men. What they want is, doubtless, ransom, a few blankets or guns."

"Oh! say you so; bless you for that!" continued the Virginian,
eagerly; "yes, I will be calm--seek rest to restore me for the
morning; I will see Captain Headley, and entreat him to let me take
out a detachment. Oh! he will not refuse me. Do you think he will,
Mrs. Headley? Surely you will plead for me. I know twenty brave
fellows who will cheerfully volunteer for the duty."

"Alas!" said Mrs. Headley, with a deep despondency at her heart,
"I fear I can give you no encouragement there, Ronayne; I am quite
satisfied, indeed, that Headley will not suffer a man to leave the
fort at this crisis."

"Crisis! what crisis!" interrupted the youth vehemently. "Obdurate
man, has the past not cured him of his martinetism? By heaven, let
him refuse me, and I, alone and without permission, will go in
search of my wife. Fool, fool that I was to return now without
her; but I had hoped she was here;" and again he burst into another
wild agony of grief.

Corporal Collins touched his cap and advanced a pace forward.

"The Captain said this afternoon that the next time your honor left
the fort you should never return to it. I thought it was my duty,
your honor, to tell you, for I couldn't make out what he meant."

"Oh! he did, did he?" muttered Ronayne, with sudden calm. "Well,
be it so!"

"Corporal Collins," said Mrs. Headley sternly to him, as she arose
from her kneeling posture, "you would have done better to have held
your peace on a matter which you say you do not comprehend. Mr.
Ronayne has annoyance sufficient without your misinterpreting to
him an observation of his commanding officer, which, in all
probability, was made in any other spirit than that which your
words would convey."

The corporal made a respectful obeisance and withdrew into the
corridor, rebuked.

"Ronayne," pursued Mrs. Headley, "I can make all allowance for your
excited feelings. I will speak to Headley on the matter; and,
although I cannot hold out to you any hope that he either will even
acknowledge the necessity, much less take the action you desire,
I feel perfectly assured that, when you have heard his reasons,
you will agree with us both that it would neither be of avail nor
politic to take a step of this kind for the recovery of her whom
we all deplore--God knows, no one more bitterly than myself."

"Mrs. Headley, you surprise me; I can scarcely believe that I
understand you rightly. I had always thought your feelings towards
Maria were those of a mother for her child?"

"Even so, Ronayne. You judged them rightly. As a mother I have
loved, and love her still; but we will talk of all this to-morrow
morning, and I leave you now to the quiet, if rest is not to be
hoped for, that you so much require; for Headley needs all his
officers in important council to-morrow, prior to holding a second
immediately after with our Indian allies. Nay," seeing that all
present looked surprised, and a desire to know wherefore, "it were
idle to enter upon the subject now; sufficient be it to know that
it is one of the deepest importance, and that, even should you be
carried there in a litter, Ronayne--but God forbid the necessity!--you
must be present."

"At what hour does that council assemble, Mrs. Headley?" asked the
ensign.

"At midday, I believe. Winnebeg has been desired to bring the chiefs
to the glacis, between the flagstaff and the southern block-house,
at two o'clock precisely."

"What! Winnebeg returned?" exclaimed Ronayne, as he impetuously
rose in his bed. "Ah, then there is hope. He will aid me in my
enterprise. And what of Wau-nan-gee? Is he, too, here, Mrs. Headley?
Yes, he must be. Oh, this is indeed providential! I shall rise with
the dawn, and seek them both. Everything can be accomplished, if
at all, before the hour of our own council arrives."

Mrs. Headley cast a look of profound sadness on him, as, taking
his hot hand in hers, she said--

"Wau-nan-gee did not come with Winnebeg, Ronayne; but there is
reason to believe that he is not far from the camp of the
Pottowatomies, for he was seen yesterday. Yet he will not aid you
in your proposed enterprise."

"Oh! Mrs. Headley, you do him wrong--indeed you do. Wau-nan-gee
loves Maria too well not to risk his life for her. You little know
the strength of his generous attachment, if you doubt his interest
in her preservation."

"I know, that his love for her is great--perhaps too much so," she
replied, emphatically, after a moment's pause, while bending over
to adjust his pillow, and in a voice so subdued as to be inaudible
to all but himself.



CHAPTER VII.

Ronayne's pale cheek became suddenly scarlet. He perceived from
the tone and look that accompanied the words that suspicion of some
kind, whence derived he knew not, had entered into the mind of Mrs.
Headley, and that she saw in the regard of the young Indian for
his wife, evidence of a prepossession which might prove dangerous
to his peace. But this, to a mind generous and impetuous as that
of the highly-gifted officer, brought no alarm. Conscious of the
entire possession of the heart and confidence of his wife, it was
a source of speculative pride, rather than of concern to him,
that the warm-hearted and inartificial Indian, at once brave,
boy-like, and handsome, should, with a cheek glowing, and an eye
beaming with overweening softness, feel and betray all the power
of her beauty when exposed to the influence of its presence. It
was a compliment to himself--to his own taste and judgment, and,
had this been possible, would have increased his love for her on
whom nature, hand in hand with the graces, had lavished such
adornments of disposition and person as to compel a homage which
rarely came to woman from such a quarter. The love of Wau-nan-gee
had been known to both, but it had always been regarded as the
innocent and enthusiastic preference of the boy who had scarcely
yet learned to comprehend the new and strange emotion struggling
for development at his heart. It had often been the topic of their
conversation; and many a smile, half crimsoning into a blush, had
Ronayne called up to the brow of his young wife, while playfully
adverting to the equal right to invest her with the marriage ring,
which he had so eagerly manifested on the evening of their union.
And, if he had shown a humor on that occasion which displeased or
hurt the Indian it was not from any unworthy jealousy of the act
he had sought to perform, but because he was ashamed of his own
awkwardness, exhibited on such an occasion and in presence of his
bride. Since that night Wau-nan-gee had disappeared, and both by
the husband and wife had his absence been deeply regretted, for
they both loved the youth, not only for the services he had rendered,
but the interest his gentleness of deportment and retiring modesty
had inspired.

If, therefore, he changed color at the remark of Mrs. Headley, it
was not because a guilty passion was hinted at as influencing the
boy, or because, even if it did, that he much heeded it, but because
he thought it was meant to suggest that the danger would come from
the tenderness of her who had inspired it. For the moment he felt
mortified at the possibility of such an idea being entertained,
and, had Mrs. Headley made the remark she did, except In his own
ear, Ronayne would have expressed himself accordingly.

"He cannot love her too well," was his reply; "oh, no, that is my
chief hope. Think you that I should be calm as I am, did I not,
now that I know he is returned, feel assured that his strong yet
pure attachment for her will cause him to head a strong band for
her rescue? I am better now--I am determined to be better; for at
the first dawn I will go forth and seek Wau-nan-gee. We shall not
be five hours away; and, long before the council assembles, we
shall again, I am confident, be re-united. Ah, what a long night
until then! would that it were dawn!"

"That were of no use," returned Mrs. Headley, gravely and aloud.
"I know that the strictest orders were issued immediately after
your return, to allow neither officer nor man to leave the fort,
unless passed by Headley himself."

"Or I shall never return, I suppose," muttered the Virginian
bitterly; "well, we shall see;" and he ground his teeth together
fiercely.

"Ronayne," said Mrs. Headley, "spare your bitterness. You will know
to-morrow what Headley meant by his remark; yet promise me one
thing before I leave you, that before you seek to leave the fort,
you will see me in the morning, in my apartments. If, then, I fail
to satisfy you of the reasons which exist against your entertaining
any hopes of success in the enterprise you meditate, I think I may
venture to say that I shall obtain of not to oppose you. But,
stay! on consideration, it will be better that what I have to urge
should be said at once. This is no time or occasion for mere forms
or ceremonies. There is too much at stake. I shall leave you now,
and return, alone, in little more than an hour. You will dismiss
Collins for the night, desiring him to close the door--not fasten
it, so that I may make no noise--find no difficulty in entering.
Better that you give vent to your feelings here, in the privacy of
your own room, than reveal by your excitement to others that which
should be known only to ourselves."

"Good heaven! what can all this mean? what can it portend?" exclaimed
the startled officer.

"Prepare yourself for no pleasant communication, Ronayne," continued
Mrs. Headley, sadly; "I must wound, yet I trust but to heal; one
point I would have you question Von Voltenberg on before I go--the
manner in which Maria fell into the hands of the Indians."

During this short and low conversation, Mrs. Elmsley and Von
Voltenberg had been talking aside on the same subject, the former
continuing to weep quietly but bitterly for the loss of her friend.
Ronayne now questioned the surgeon in regard to the cause of the
suddenness of their departure from the point where he had dismounted
to procure water.

Von Voltenberg replied that he scarcely knew himself, but his own
impression was that Mrs. Ronayne had started off her horse the
moment the shots were fired--he supposed in the very exaggerated
spirit of wantonness which had marked her actions ever since leaving
the fort. He had mechanically followed in courtesy, and the result
was as has been seen--her sudden captivity by the war party, who
had hurried her off, almost unresistingly, he knew not whither,
while he himself was taken in the direction in which Ronayne had
seen him.

"Did she scream--did she express alarm when taken?" asked Mrs.
Headley.

"No; I cannot say that she did," returned the Doctor, somewhat
surprised, and not comprehending the motive for the question; "but
you know Mrs. Ronayne is a woman of great nerve and presence of
mind. Moreover, as the thing was done in a moment, she must have
been too greatly astonished to understand her danger, for she came
abruptly on the Indians on turning the sharp angle of the road
leading up to the house."

Mrs. Headley's eyes met those of Ronayne with grave meaning. He
seemed to understand her, and when, with Mrs. Elmsley, she had
departed, he threw himself back upon his pillow, and, closing his
eyes, mused deeply. To the inquiry of Von Voltenberg, he replied
that, feeling disposed to rest a little, he would not trouble him
to sit up longer, but begged him to retire and to send Collins to
his barrack-room, leaving his door on the latch, in case he should
be summoned by the commanding officer for any purpose before morning.

As Mrs. Headley separated for the night from Mrs. Elmsley, and
approached her own door, a man in uniform came up, touched his cap
respectfully, and presented a packet.

"This parcel, Mrs. Headley, I received from Mrs. Ronayne on leaving
the fort this afternoon, with the direction that I should hand it
to you if she did not return by midnight. Alas! ma'am, we have
every reason to fear the dear lady will never return; twelve
o'clock has just struck, and I am come to fulfil my trust."

"Thank you, Serjeant Nixon. As you say, I fear there is little hope
of Mrs. Ronayne returning; but this package may possibly throw some
light on the cause of her absence."

"Oh! I hope so; yet how Should it, ma'am? she could not have known
what was going to happen when she went out."

"No--true, Nixon, you are right. I suppose it contains something
that she has borrowed, or that I have asked her for. Ah! I recollect
now--it is some embroidery she worked for me. Good night, serjeant;
or do you wish to see Captain Headley?"

"No, ma'am, I only came to deliver the package which Mrs. Ronayne
seemed so anxious you should get to-night."

"There was no such very great hurry about it," returned Mrs. Headley,
carelessly, yet not without agitation; "I would to heaven she had
been here to give it to me herself!"

"Amen!" solemnly returned the serjeant; "I would willingly lose my
left arm, could I see her sweet face in Fort Dearborn again."

"Good night, Nixon," said Mrs. Headley, quickly and much affected;
"you are a noble fellow!" and she took and warmly pressed his hand.

"Oh! Mrs. Headley, that is the way Mrs. Ronayne pressed my hand
after she had placed the packet in it, and obtained my assurance
that her directions should be punctually obeyed. I shall ever feel
that pressure--see the look of kindness that accompanied it. I
prayed inwardly to God, as I stood gazing on her while she rode
gracefully away, to shower all His choicest blessings on her."

"Good Nixon, no more;" and Mrs. Headley was in the next minute at
the side of her husband, who, with deep care on his brow, sat at
a table buried in papers, and with the despatch of General Hull in
his hand.

"Well, my dear, have you seen him--and how does he bear his
affliction?"

"Oh! Headley, I pity him from my inmost soul--pity him for what he
now suffers; and, oh! how much more for the greater agony he has
yet to endure!"

"You have not yet, then, told him?"

"No! Mrs. Elmsley and Von Voltenberg were there; and even the former
must not know the secret. Let all mourn her as one lost to us for,
ever, but not through her own fault. Let them continue to believe
that she has been violently torn from us, not that she has proved
unfaithful to her husband, ungrateful to her friends."

"Think you not, Ellen, that it would be better to continue Ronayne
in the same belief? As you have not opened the subject to him, it
is not too late to alter your first intention."

"Dear Headley, Ronayne must know all. In no other way can the wound
at his heart be healed. I comprehend his noble, generous character
well. Such is his love for Maria, that he will never recover the
shock of her loss while he believes her to have been unwillingly
torn from him. He will pine until he sickens and dies, and, indeed,
unless the whole truth be told to him, he will find some means of
leaving the fort in search of her; indeed he has said he will--that
nothing shall prevent him; and, alas, if he does, it will be
with but little disposition to return without her. Now, I know that
if his love be great, his pride and proper self-esteem are not less
so, and feel assured that however acute his first agony, he, will
dry up the fountain of his grief, from the moment that he learns
that her love for himself has been transferred to another; that,
carried away by a strange and seductive fascination, she has
abandoned him for an uneducated boy. His pride, even if it do not
make him forget her, will so balance with his now unrequited
affection, as to enable him to bear himself up, until time shall
have robbed the wound of all its bitterness, and nothing remain
but the scar. You will, moreover, have an efficient officer preserved
to you, and one whose services may be much required in the present
crisis--whose voice in the council will not be without its weight,
and whose arm and example will help to instil confidence in the
men, with all of whom he is a marked favorite."

"You are right, Ellen, if all that you suppose be true; better that
the wound should be enlarged to insure its speedier cure, than that
the laceration, though less acute, should be continued. But is it
not necessary to be well assured of this? Should you not have
stronger ground than what you witnessed yesterday to justify the
belief that this excursion was planned to insure the result that
has followed?"

"Depend upon it, Headley, I will not do so, for you know I am not
disposed to 'aught extenuate or aught set down in malice,' but I
have already prepared Ronayne, indirectly, to expect some singular
relation in which Maria is concerned. I wanted him to form some
idea of the nature of the revelation I had to make, in order that
the shock might not be so great, when I fully entered upon the
subject, I had at first intended that he should come to me in the
morning, but, on reflection, I thought it better that everything
should be told to him to-night where he is, and therefore stated,
on leaving, that I would return within an hour. Was I right, my
love?" and she took and pressed his hand to her lips.

"Always right, dear Ellen--always considerate and prudent. Yes,
poor fellow, it were cruel to let him slumber in hope, however
faint, only to wake to confirmed despair in the morning. Besides
there may be, most probably will be, a wild outbreak of his passionate
grief, and that, manifested here where the servants cannot fail to
hear him, may induce suspicions of the true cause that must never
be entertained. No, whatever we know, however we may deplore the
weakness--the infatuation of that once noble girl, within our own
hearts must remain her unfortunate secret."

"Generously, nobly said, my husband. Were I not certain that it
would destroy, wither up the very soul of Ronayne to keep him in
uncertainty and ignorance, I would not rend the veil from before
his eyes; but it must be so, even for his own future peace. Besides
me, therefore, for he will not know that I have entrusted you with
the fact, none in the garrison will be aware of the truth, and
Ronayne will at least not have to feel the mortification--the
bitterness arising from the conviction that his wife is mourned by
his comrades, with aught of diminution of that respect they had
ever borne to her."

"How annoying is this occurrence at this particular moment," observed
Captain Headley, musingly pressing his hand to his brow, "and how
unfortunate. Had Winnebeg brought General Hull's despatch one day
sooner, all this would not have happened, for they never could have
obtained permission to leave the fort, much less to visit so
dangerous a vicinity as Hardscrabble. Our march from this would
have changed the whole current of events."

"Even so," returned Mrs. Headley; "but here is a packet, left with
Serjeant Nixon, which he has just handed to me, and which may throw
some light on the subject. I will first glance over it myself."

She broke the seal--hurriedly read it--and then passed it to her
husband, whose utter dismay, as he exchanged looks of deep and
painful intelligence with her, after perusing the letter, was
scarcely inferior to her own.

"This is evidence indeed!" he murmured. "Who could have expected it?"



CHAPTER VIII.

   "Grief is proud, and makes its owner stout."
      --_King John_

It was nearly one o'clock in the morning when Mrs. Headley, wrapped
in her husband's loose military cloak and forage cap, once more
approached the apartment of Ronayne, situated at the inner extremity
of the low range of buildings inhabited by herself. This disguise
had been assumed, not because she felt ashamed of the errand on
which she was bound, but because she did not wish to provoke
curiosity or remark, in the event of her encountering, while going
or returning, any of the reliefs or patrols, which she knew orders
had been given, for the first time that night, to have changed
every half hour. In the extreme darkness of the night, the difference
of her height could scarcely be distinguished from that of her
husband, and it was not likely that any one would address the
supposed commanding officer, whom all would assume anxious in regard
to the health of his subordinate, and on his way to ascertain the
extent of his malady.

The lights were burning dimly in the apartment. There was a window
on each side of the door, and the farthest of these she fancied
she saw shaded by a human form from without. She stopped suddenly,
and kept her eyes riveted on the object, holding in her breath that
she might not betray her presence. Presently the shadow was removed
from the window, and lost altogether to her sight. A movement of
the light now made within was reflected on the figure of Ronayne,
who, with a candle in his hand, seemed to be approaching the door.
He was still dressed as he had thrown himself on his bed, on
entering, in the deerskin hunting-frock he had worn during the day,
and his temples were bound with a blue-bordered scarlet bandanna
handkerchief--for he had ever loathed the abomination of a nightcap
as being symbolical of the gibbet. As he came nearer to the window,
the light which he bore reflected distinctly without and upon an
Indian standing in the doorway, similarly habited, even to the very
turban.

Mrs. Headley felt that she could not be mistaken in the figure,
but if any doubt had existed, it would have been dissipated when
involuntarily calling out, and in a tone meant to imitate the
harsher voice of her husband, the name of Wau-nan-gee, the
face was wildly turned in the broad light to penetrate the darkness
which half enshrouded her from view, and the features of the boy
distinctly revealed. Surprised, but armed with strong resolution,
she made a rapid forward movement to seize and detain him, knowing
well that Ronayne, at the sound of voices, would come forth at once
to her assistance; but the Indian, without uttering a sound, stole
rapidly away towards the picketing in the distance, and was seen
no more.

As Mrs. Headley now approached the door, it was opened by Ronayne,
who apologised to her for not having sooner attended to her knock,
but declared it to be so low that he had not distinctly heard it.

"Nay," she replied, when she had entered and taken a seat, "I did
not knock, nor had I intended to knock; I have disturbed another
midnight visitor."

"Another visitor! To whom do you allude, my dear Mrs. Headley? I
must have deceived myself, or surely I heard, soon after I had
risen from my couch, the name of Wau-nan-gee."

"You did not deceive yourself," she returned, gravely; "I saw
Wau-nan-gee at the threshold of your door as plainly as I see you,
and habited in the same manner. I called to him, but he fled."

"Impossible!" said the anxious officer; "wherefore should he flee
after knocking for admission? What motive could he have in coming?
and how could he obtain admission unperceived? I have no doubt that
fatigue and excitement and the lateness of the hour have tended to
call up this vision. Would that you could make it real."

"Ronayne," repeated Mrs. Headley, gravely, "you well know that I
am not given much to imagine that which is not. Even to the very
handkerchief you have on your head, his dress was identical, was
Wau-nan-gee's; and I well recollect the occasion when, at the
distribution of the annual presents to the Indians, you appropriated
that handkerchief to yourself, because, as you said, Wau-nan-gee
had manifested so much good taste in choosing one like it."

"But, my dear Mrs. Headley," returned the officer with gravity,
while, after closing the shutters, he took a seat at her side, "you
must pardon me if the very fact of the resemblance in dress only
increases my conviction of the illusion. In all probability, it
was my shadow that you saw reflected by the strong light upon the
glass upper half of the door."

"As you please, Ronayne; but, for my own part, I have not the
slightest doubt on the subject. You ask how he could get here?
Even, as you will remember, you once made an evasion from the
fort--well intended, I grant, but still an evasion from the fort--over
the picketing of the fort. But the matter would not be of so much
consequence at any other time. At present, it is connected with
much that I have to reveal; but how so connected, I cannot even
fancy myself. Ronayne," she continued, taking his hand and pressing
it in her own, "disabuse yourself of the idea that Wau-nan-gee,
whatever he may have been, is now your friend."

"Wau-nan-gee not my friend?" returned the officer, sadly. "Well,
I was prepared in some degree to hear the assertion, Mrs. Headley,
our conversation an hour since being well calculated to make me
revolve the subject in my mind during your short absence, and I
have done so. When you mentioned a moment ago that Wau-nan-gee
had been at this door, seeking for admission, I felt confident that
you had done him great wrong; but now, I confess, since you so
positively assert his presence and sudden evasion, I am led to
apprehend, I know not what. Speak; let me hear it all," he concluded,
with bitterness.

"Ronayne, my almost son," she said, leaning her arm affectionately
on his shoulder, "it was with the view that suspicion should be
excited in your mind by my language that I stated what I did. I
did not wish the truth to burst upon you with annihilating suddenness,
and therefore sought to prepare you for the blow I am destined to
inflict."

"And that is--" he said, with stern and furrowed brow, a pallid
cheek, and compressed lip.

"Nay, Ronayne, I like not that tone and manner."

"Proceed, Mrs. Headley, pray proceed; I am ready to hear all. Whence
this sorrow so much keener than that I now endure, and how is it
connected with Wau-nan-gee!"

"Has it never occurred to you to connect the one with the other?"
she observed, in low and uncertain accents.

"Ha! is it that?" he exclaimed, vehemently starting and hurriedly
pacing the apartment. "It is then even as your words had led me to
infer. Still, I would not approach the subject myself. I waited
for something more direct from your lips. You have uttered it, and
I am now prepared to hear all. But, Mrs. Headley, mark me, be well
assured of all you say; let not mere appearances be the groundwork
of your suspicions, or you destroy two generous hearts for ever;
but," he resumed more calmly, yet with a look of fierce determination,
as he once more seated himself at her side, "although the love I
bear Maria is deeper far than man ever bore for woman, assure me
that it is not returned, that this soft--eyed boy, with Indian
guile, has stolen the love in which I lived, and then I tear her
from my heart for ever. Think me no mere puling fawnster, craving
a love that is not freely given. As the passion that I feel is
fire, hot as the Virginian sun that nurtured me, so will it become
ice the moment it ceases to be fed by that which first enkindled
it. Yes," he continued, bitterly, "I could tear my heart out if in
its weakness it could pine for one, however once endeared, who had
ceased to respond to all its devotedness and worship. I might think
of her, but only to sustain my wounded spirit. Contempt and scorn
for her fickleness, not love--base and grovelling love--should ever
be associated with her image, when undesiredly it arose to my
repelling memory. But oh, God!" he exclaimed, bowing his head upon
hand, and yielding to his deep emotion, "is it possible that this
can be! Can it be that I should ever speak and think of Maria thus!
Oh, whence this too great affliction! why this separation of soul
from soul! this rending asunder of the mystic bond that once united
us! But stop!" and he raised his head, the hot and inflaming tears
still gathering in his eyes, "she cannot surely thus have acted,
and yet--and yet--oh! Mrs. Headley, if you knew the desolation of
my heart, you would pity me. It is crushed, crushed!"

During this painful ebullition of contradictory feeling, in which
pride and love combated fiercely for the ascendency, Mrs. Headley
had been deeply affected; but feeling the necessity for going
through the task she had imposed upon herself, she strove as much
as possible to appear calm and collected, even severe. His
last appeal brought tears from her own eyes.

"Indeed, indeed, Ronayne," she exclaimed, pressing his hand fervently
between her palms, "I do pity you, I do sympathize with you, even
as a mother, in the desolation of your heavily-stricken heart. I
had dreaded this emotion, and only my strong regard for yourself
gave me strength to undertake the infliction of the counter wound,
which I knew alone could preserve you from utter misery and despair;
and yet, if you would cherish the illusion, if you would not that
the stern reality should sear up each avenue to hope, to each
sweeter recollection of the past, I will, if you desire it, abstain."

"Nay, not so, Mrs. Headley," replied the unhappy officer; "you are
very cruel, but I know you mean it well; proceed--let me be told
all. The stronger your recital, the more confirmatory of the utter
destruction of my dreams of happiness, and the better for myself.
I have already said that scorn and contempt alone can dwell in my
heart, if that which I surmise you are about to relate be but found
to be true. I am ready for the torture--begin!" and, as if with
a dogged determination to hear, and suffer while he heard, he leaned
his elbow on the back of his chair, and covered his eyes with his
hand.

The recital need not be repeated here. All that had occurred on
the preceding day, and that which is already known to the reader,
Mrs. Headley now communicated, adding that she had been undecided
in her opinion on the subject, until the answer to the question
put to Von Voltenberg convinced her that the whole thing had been
planned, and that she had willingly thrown herself into the power
of Wau-nan-gee. The few guns, she concluded, were evidently a signal
of which she availed herself by instantly galloping off, while
Ronayne was yet at some distance from her, and unhorsed.

Prepared as the unhappy officer had been for intelligence involving
this mysterious change of affection in his wife, he was utterly
dismayed when Mrs. Headley recounted what she had witnessed in the
summer-house, to which she had voluntarily gone, and from which
she probably never would have returned had not accident disclosed
the secret of the trap--door.

"This is, indeed, a terrible blow!" he said, solemnly, removing
his hand and exhibiting a pale cheek and lip, and a stern and
knitted brow; "but now I know the worst, I better can bear the
infliction. Strange, I almost hate myself for it; but I feel my
heart relieved. I know I am no longer cared for there, and wherefore
seek to force an erring woman to my will? And yet, when I think of
it, of the monstrous love that weds rich intellect and gorgeous
beauty to the mere blushing bud of scarce conscious boyhood, I feel
as one utterly bewildered. Still, again, since that love be hers,
since she may not control the passion that urges her to her fate,
so unselfish am I in my feeling, even amid all the weight of my
disappointment, that rather would I have her free and happy in the
love she has exchanged, than know her pining in endless captivity,
separated from and consumed with vain desire for a reunion with
myself--her love for me unquenched and unquenchable."

"Ah! what a husband has she not lost! Generous, noble Ronayne, that
is what I had expected. You bear this bravely; I knew you would,
or never should I have dared to enter upon the matter. But
your generosity must go further; it must never be known that Maria
has gone off willingly--no doubt must be entertained of her
continued love for you. She must still be respected, even as she
is pitied and deplored; the belief that she has been made captive
and carried off must not be shaken."

"The struggle at her heart must indeed have been great before she
fell," remarked Ronayne, musingly, and with an air of profound
sadness; "for although her appearance in the rude vault beneath
the floor of the summer-house would appear to indicate compulsion,
her after conduct justifies not the belief. The imploring earnestness
with which she entreated you, Mrs. Headley, not to make known what
you had seen to me; her abstaining from all censure of Wau-nan-gee
at the moment, and her subsequent interest in him, too forcible to
be concealed; her strange and unaccountable manner during our ride,
as if to banish some gnawing reproach at her heart; her galloping
off when freed for the moment from my presence, and at the evident
signal given to announce that everything was prepared for her
reception; the appearance of her trunks in the farm-house, evidently,
I am now convinced, taken there within a day or two; the pretended
desire of the Indians, friends of Wau-nan-gee, to make me a prisoner,
and thus induce in me the belief that such was her fate. Oh! yes,"
he continued, rising and pacing the room rapidly, "I can see through
the whole plot. His party were Pottowatomies, painted as warriors
of a distant tribe, that suspicion might be averted from themselves.
Their object was not to make either Von Voltenberg or myself
prisoners, but merely to give such evidence of hostility as to
cause us to believe they were enemies. Oh, what sin, what artifice
for a woman once so ingenious, a boy so young! But now I am assured
of all this, I am better--I am better. Some sudden inspiration has
flashed the truth upon me, that I might, find that relief which a
knowledge of her unfaithfulness alone can render me."

"It must have been even so," rejoined Mrs. Headley; "for, certainly,
the fact of yourself and Von Voltenberg being allowed to escape by
hostile Indians, who could so easily have shot you down, or taken
you prisoners, had they been really so inclined, appears to me to
be incredible."

"And yet, if it was planned," pursued Ronayne thoughtfully, "what
opportunity of communication had they to arrange their measures?
Wau-nan-gee has, we know, long been absent for weeks, or certainly
not once within the fort."

"Ronayne," said Mrs. Headley, significantly, "I speak to you of
these things freely as to one so much younger than myself. Have I
not just said that I saw Wau-nan-gee most distinctly at your door
as I entered--nobody but ourselves know that he has got in, much
less in what manner."

"I understand you, my dear Mrs. Headley; you would infer that he
has stolen in at some obscure part of the fort, and under cover of
the darkness; but even if so, am I not always at home?"

"Never on guard, Ronayne; or am I mistaken," she added with a faint
smile, "in supposing that the officer on duty passes the night with
his men?"

"By heaven it is so," returned the Virginian vehemently, and striking
his brow with his open palm, "this intimacy is of long standing.
Though pretending absence, Wau-nan-gee has been ever present. My
guard nights have been selected for those interviews. The
poison of his young love has been infused into the willing woman's
ear and heart, and now that I recollect it, often on my return home
have I seen her, pale, dejected, and full of thought--he has
entreated her to fly with him--to suffer him to be the sole, the
undivided sharer of her love--she has hesitated, struggled, and
finally consented. By the same means by which his entrance has been
effected, the trunks of Hardscrabble have been removed, and all
was prepared for her evasion yesterday, had she not been baffled
in her object by your sudden appearance. Oh, I see it all!"



CHAPTER IX.

"Ronayne, Ronayne!" resumed Mrs. Headley, after the strong excitement
of her feeling had been in some measure calmed, "how rapidly you
arrive at conclusions. Much of what you say is probable--for your
sake, I would it were all so, but let us be guided in our judgment
by circumstances and facts alone. If it had at first been arranged
that the plan adopted with such success to-day, why the visit to,
and detention in, the vault of the summer-house where every
preparation had been made for a long concealment?"

"That," replied Ronayne, "is a mystery which time alone can unravel.
I confess that it involves a contradiction susceptible of explanation
only by themselves. This, in all human probability we shall never
know; but then, again, forgive me, Mrs. Headley, for thus detaining
you with any selfish interests, but your voice, your counsel, your
very knowledge of the facts--all breathe peace to my wounded spirit;
but, I ask again, why the scream she gave--why the emotion, the
grief, she evinced when, on opening the trap-door, you saw her
reclining exhausted on that rude couch? I would reason the matter
so as to convince myself _thoroughly_ that her flight has been her
own wilful act, for then I shall the less regret, even though I
should not be able to banish her image wholly from my mind. You
have said that you saw Wau-nan-gee leave the summer-house with an
excitement in his eye and manner you had never witnessed before,
and that this corresponded with the state in which you found Maria
a few moments later. Now, is it probable that if she had purposed
anything wrong she would have asked you to accompany her, or that
she should have asked you to wait for her, while visiting a spot
whence she knew she never would return? Oh, no! this could never
be. Her mode of evasion, if such had been intended, would have been
very different; she would have chosen a moment when you were in
some distant part of the garden, and saw her not, to steal into
the summer-house. All clue, then, would have been lost, and the
appearance of the Indians lurking about the cottage would naturally
have impressed you with the belief that she had been carried off
by them. How were they dressed?"

"Even as you have described the party that pursued, or affected to
pursue you yesterday," exclaimed Mrs. Headley, "in the war paint
of the Winnebagoes. I know it well, for their chiefs have often
been in council here."

"Just so," pursued Ronayne. "Is it not then reasonable to
suppose--mark, I do not weakly seek to justify the wrong which
but too certainly exists, but I would dissect each circumstance
until the truth be known--is it not, I repeat, reasonable to suppose
that, even if Maria wanted an evidence of her abduction, she would
have gone towards the cottage rather than the summer-house. It
would have been easy enough then for the Indians who, I have no
doubt, were the same party I encountered at Hardscrabble, to have
carried her off before any assistance could arrive from the fort.
On the contrary, she was certain of discovery in the summer-house
into which she had been seen to enter, and every part of which she
would have known would have been most strictly searched. Wherefore,
too, the object in keeping her confined, as it were, in a dungeon,
when the free air was open to her, and the boundless wilderness
offered health and freedom?"

"I have thought of all that, Ronayne," replied Mrs. Headley, "and
I cannot but suppose that this retreat was a temporary one. In all
probability, when Wau-nan-gee issued from the summer-house, he was
in the act of proceeding to make his preparations for finishing
the work just begun, but seeing that I had not yet left the grounds,
waited to know what my movements would be before he took any farther
step. My stationing the boat's crew before the gate, where they
could command the whole of the view between the cottage and the
summer-house, acted as a check upon them, and little dreaming, I
presume, that I had discovered the trap-door, they had intended,
on my departure across the river, to avail themselves of my absence,
and bear her off into the forest. As for the deep grief which I
witnessed on entering the summer-house, that may easily be accounted
for. A woman of refinement, education, and generous susceptibility,
however unhappily carried away she may be by a resistless, and, in
her view, fated passion, does not without a pang tear herself from
old associations to enter upon new, especially where they are of
an inferior character. She may mourn her weakness even at the moment
she most yields to it. One dominant thought may fill her soul--one
master sentiment influence all her actions, and govern the pulsations
of her heart, but that does not exclude the workings of other and
nobler emotions of the mind. Even when she feels herself most
tyrannized over by the passion, the infatuation, the destiny against
which she finds it vain to struggle, sorrow for her altered position
will intrude itself, and then is her heart strengthened and her
mind consoled only by the reflection that the sacrifice was
indispensable to the attainment of that, without which, in the
strong excitement of her imagination, she deems life valueless.
Charity should induce us to believe that it is, what I have already
termed it, a disease, for on no other principle can we account for
that aberration of the passions, the intellect and the judgment
which can lead such a woman to forget that mind chiefly gives value
to love, and to sacrifice all that is esteemed most honorable in
the sex by man, to the fascination of mere animal beauty. Ah!
Ronayne, this must have been the case in the present instance. You
see, I probe you deeply--but enough!"

"Dear Mrs. Headley," returned the Virginian, pressing her hands
warmly in his own, "I am satisfied that, humiliating as it is to
admit the correctness of your impression, there is but too much
reason to think that it is even as you say. When I recur to the
past of yesterday and to-day, I cannot doubt it; and yet I confess
there is much buried in obscurity which I would fain have explained.
Were it made clear, manifest as the handwriting on the wall,
that Maria had abandoned me for Wau-nan-gee, I should be at ease.
It is the uncertainty only that now racks my mind. Could I _know_,
not merely _believe_ her false, a weight would be taken from my
heart. Oh! Mrs. Headley, why did you not suffer Wau-nan-gee to
enter--why drive from me the only means of explanation at which I
can ever arrive--and, yet, what could have been his object in thus
venturing here after having despoiled my home of its treasure? If
guilty, would he have dared to approach me? and that he might not
do so with evil intent, is evident from the fact of his having
knocked for admission. Oh! Mrs. Headley, I know not what to think--my
mind is chaos--I am a very changeling in my mood: not from want
of energy to act when once assured, but from the very doubts that
agitate my mind, made wavering by the absence of all certain proof."

While the soul of the unfortunate young officer was thus a prey to
every shade of doubt, and manifesting the very weakness that his
lips denied, Mrs. Headley regarded him with, deep concern. She
could well divine all that was passing in his heart, and the chord
of her sympathy was keenly touched. For some moments she did not
speak, but appeared to be lost in her own painful reflections. At
length, when Ronayne, who during these remarks had been rapidly
pacing the room, threw himself into a chair, burying his face in
his hands, evidently ill at ease, she drew forth her packet, the
seal of which was broken, and handed it to him, saying with sadness--

"My dear Ronayne, I had hoped that I should not have been under
the necessity of making known to you the contents of this note,
but I see it cannot be withheld. It was placed in my hands, just
after I had parted with Mrs. Elmsley, by Serjeant Nixon, who stated
that Maria had left it with him for me, as she rode out this morning,
telling him it was of the utmost importance that he should deliver
it."

"I saw her in conversation with him," said Ronayne, as he took the
note and approached the light to read it, "and on asking what
detained her, she said, hastily, that she was merely sending you
a message--not a document of the importance which you seem to attach
to this. I felt at the time that she was not dealing seriously with
me; but as it seemed a matter of little consequence I did not pay
much attention to it; but, let me read!"

The following were the contents of the note, which Ronayne eagerly
perused, with what profound emotion it need scarcely be necessary
to describe:

"My dear Mrs. Headley: When you receive this, you will have seen
me, perhaps, for the last time; but I am sure that you will believe
that, in tearing myself from the scene where so many happy, though
not altogether unchequered days have been passed, no one occupies
a deeper place in my regret than yourself, whom I have ever regarded
as a second mother. The dreadful reasons which exist for it, however,
prevent me, as a wife, from acting otherwise. I know you will
condemn me--tax me with ingratitude and selfishness. I am prepared
for reproach; but, alas! no other course remains for me to pursue.
If I have yielded to the persuasions of the gentle, the affectionate,
the devoted Wau-nan-gee, it is not so much on my own account as in
consideration of the hope held out to me of a long future of
happiness with the object of my heart's worship. For him I can,
and do make every sacrifice, even to the incurring of your
displeasure, and the condemnation of all who know me. But let
me entreat you to remember, that if he is seemingly guilty, I alone
am truly so, and chargeable for the deep offence that will of course
be attributed to him. Remember that I have planned the whole; and
should it be decreed by fate that we never meet again, I pray God
in his infinite goodness to preserve those whom I now abandon, and
spare them the distraction that weighs upon this severely-tried
heart.

"I promised you a candid explanation of everything relating to what
you saw yesterday. This you will find fully detailed in the
accompanying document, written after you had left me, and before
the return of Ronayne last night from fishing."

"Document! what document?" asked the Virginian, interrupting himself,
and in a voice husky from emotion; "there is nothing here, Mrs.
Headley, but the letter itself."

"Nothing but that and the piece of embroidery which Maria had worked
for me were contained in the packet," was the reply. "In her hurry
she must have forgotten to inclose it."

"In the accompanying document (resumed the Virginian, reading) you
will find the nature of my connexion with Wau-nan-gee fully explained.
You will, of course, make such use of all that is necessary to your
purpose as you may deem advisable; but, as I make that part of the
communication which refers to Wau-nan-gee strictly confidential,
I conjure you never, in the slightest way, to allude to him as
being connected either with my evasion or with the revelation I
have made to you in the inclosure. Adieu, my dear Mrs. Headley.
God grant we may meet again!

"Your own Maria."

During the perusal of this note, Mrs. Headley had watched the
countenance of Ronayne with much anxiety. She saw there evidence
of strong and varied feelings which he made an effort to subdue,
and so far succeeded that, when he had finished he returned the
note to her with a calm she had not expected.

"There is no need of further confirmation now, Mrs. Headley," he
said, with a bitter half-smile. "You have, indeed, probed but to
heal. All my weakness is past. To-morrow I shall be myself again,
and attend the council. Pardon me that I have been the cause of
detaining you so late, and believe me when I say that deeply do I
thank you for the interest you have taken in me."

"God bless you, Ronayne! Alas, you are not alone in, your trials--much
of moment awaits us all. Good night!"

And, assuming her disguise, she speedily regained her home.



CHAPTER X.

   "Ne'er may he live to see a sunshine day that cries--Retire,
   when Warwick bids him stay."
      --_Henry IV._

On the western bank of the south side of the Chicago River, and
opposite to Fort Dearborn, stood the only building which, with the
exception of the cottage of Mr. Heywood on the opposite shore, and
already alluded to, could at all come under the classification of
a dwelling-house. The owner of this mansion, as it was generally
called, which rose near the junction of the river with Lake Michigan,
was a gentleman who had been long a resident and trader in the
neighborhood, and between whom and the Pottowatomie Indians in
particular, a good understanding had always existed. Several
voyageurs, consisting of French Canadians and half-breeds, constituted
his establishment, and in the course of his speculations, chiefly
in furs, with the several tribes, he had amassed considerable
wealth. He was, in fact, the only person of any standing or education
outside the wall of the fort itself, and of course the only civilian,
besides Mr. Heywood--whom, however, they far less frequently
saw--the officers of the garrison could associate with. His house
was the abode of hospitality, and as, in his trading capacity, he
had opportunities of procuring many even of the luxuries of life
from Detroit and Buffalo, which were not within the reach of the
inmates of the fort, much of the monotony which would have attached
to a society purely military, however gifted or sufficient to their
mutual happiness, was thus avoided. His library was ample, and
there was scarcely an author of celebrity (the world was not overrun
with them in those days), either historian, essayist, or novelist,
whose works were not to be found on the shelves of his massive
black walnut bookcase, made by the hands of his own people from
the most gigantic trees of that genus that could be found in
Illinois. He had, moreover, for the amusement of the officers of
the little garrison, prepared a billiard room, where many a rainy
hour was passed, when the sports of the chase and of the prairie
were shut out to them, and for those who asked not for either of
these amusements, there was a tastefully, but not ostentatiously,
furnished drawing-room, with one of the best pianos made in those
days, which he had had imported at a great expense from the capital
of the western world, and at which his amiable and only daughter
generally presided.

Margaret McKenzie had been born at Chicago, but having lost her
mother at an early age, her father, profiting by one of his periodical
visits to New York, had taken her with him for the purpose of
receiving such an education as would enable her not only to grace
a drawing-room, and make her a companion to a man of sense and
refinement, but to fit her for those more domestic duties which
the uncertain character of so secluded a life might occasionally
render necessary, and where luxury and education alone were
insufficient to a trading husband's views of happiness. After five
years' absence, she had returned to Chicago, a girl of strong mind,
warm affection, without the slightest affectation, and altogether
so adapted in manner and education--for she eminently combined the
useful with the ornamental--that her father was delighted with
her, not less for the proficiency she had made in all that
gives value to society, but because of the utter absence of all
appearance of regret in abandoning the gay and enlivening scenes
of the fascinating capital, in which she had spent so many years,
for the still, dull monotony of the primeval forest in which her
childhood had been passed.

But here she was not doomed to "waste her sweetness on the desert
air." There were only two officers in the garrison, besides Captain
Headley, when Miss McKenzie returned to her native wilds--Doctor
Von Voltenberg and Lieut. Elmsley. The third who made up the number
of those attached to the company had a few days previously been
shot and scalped by a party of Indians near Hardscrabble, while on
his return to the fort from shooting the hen, or English grouse,
of the prairie. His place was supplied by Ensign Ronayne, who had
joined the garrison a few days after. Lieutenant Elmsley, captivated
by the accomplishments and amiability of the fascinating Margaret,
had offered her his heart and hand, and obtained her unreluctant
promise speedily to share his barrack room, some twenty feet by
twelve in dimensions. Meanwhile, in order to prove to him how well
she was fitted to be a soldier's wife, not an article of food was
ever placed before her father's almost constant visitors that did
not in some measure pass under her supervision. Poor would have
been the preparation of the grosser viands had not her directing
voice presided; and, as for the tarts, and puddings, and custards,
_et hoc genus omne_, no one who tasted could doubt that no hands
but her own had operated in the fabrication; and the currant, the
cranberry, the strawberry jelly, the peach, the plum, and the cherry
preserve, and the currant and gooseberry wine! What, in the name
of all that is delicate in gastronomy, could be more delicious or
exhibit greater perfection of taste! So thought Von Voltenberg. He
was in raptures. Such a wife, he thought, was all he wanted to his
comfort; he could have dispensed, if necessary, with the more
intellectual portions of the worth of Margaret McKenzie, but his
imagination could not picture to itself perfection superior to that
of an interesting and beautiful woman, manipulating among fruit,
and sugar, and dough, until she had produced results far sweeter
and much more prized by him than all the ornamental accomplishments
in the world. It was even whispered that the Doctor, deeply sensible
of the treasure he should obtain in the possession of so generally
useful a wife, had absolutely proposed for her, but that she,
without offending him, had rejected the honor. Whether it was so
or not, no one knew positively, for Margaret McKenzie was not a
woman to triumph in the humiliation of another, not because she
considered it in any way a humiliation to a man that he did not so
accord in sentiment with her as to render an union for life with
him desirable, but because she knew it would, however absurdly,
draw upon him the ill-natured comments of his companions. Be that
as it may, whether or not he did offer and was rejected, it made
no difference in his relations with the family. He ate her dinner,
luxuriated over her preserves, and sipped her wine as plentifully
as when first she had offered them to him; and they always were
the best friends in the world.

Soon after the first rumor of Von Voltenberg's offer--and if the
secret was betrayed, it must have been by himself, during one of
his moments of devotion to his favorite whiskey punch--it was
generally known throughout the fort and neighborhood that Lieutenant
Elmsley was to espouse Miss McKenzie, and that the ceremony was
only delayed until the arrival of his the officer so recently
killed and scalped, as has been stated, was now almost daily
expected. At length he came, and soon afterwards Captain Headley,
duly commissioned to perform the service, in the absence of a
clergyman, married them, Ronayne assisting as groomsman, and Mrs.
Ronayne--then Maria Heywood--as bridesmaid. This was two years
previous to the marriage of the Virginian himself, and the occasion
on which he first met her whom he subsequently so fervently adored.

It was no privation to Mrs. Elmsley to forsake the almost luxurious
ease of her father's house for the more sober accommodation of her
husband's barrack-rooms. True, these were comfortably furnished,
but still they had that primness which belongs ever to the quarters
of a soldier; but from the moment of casting her destiny, she had
determined in every sense to be a soldier's wife, and to inure
herself from the first to the plainness incident to the condition.
All she had transferred to the fort was her music and her books;
and if at any moment caprice or inclination led her to desire a
change, it was but to get up a little party, such as their limited
social circle would permit, and transfer the amusements of the day
to her father's more inviting mansion, where the servants had from
herself learned all the art of management. Lively in disposition
in the extreme, Mrs. Elmsley loved to promote the comfort of others;
and as her husband possessed an equally happy temperament, they
contributed not a little to enliven the circle of which, in point
of gaiety, they might be said to be the centre.

The owner of the establishment himself--Mr. McKenzie--was fond of
good living, and having arrived at an age when continued prosperity
permitted a relaxation from the toils of the earlier and cooler
portions of the day, loved to indulge after dinner in a large
arm-chair, placed in a veranda that overlooked the fort and country
around, and where the light air from the lake, waving through the
branches of the thin trees, swept with refreshing coolness along
the broad corridor. He generally smoked the fragrant herbs of the
Indians, mixed with tobacco, and sipped the delicious clarets with
which his cellar was stocked, and which he kept, not for sale or
barter, but for the exclusive use of himself and friends.

Immediately after Winnebeg had left Captain Headley, he made his
way to the mansion of Mr. McKenzie, whom he found, as usual, sitting
in his veranda, enjoying his pipe and wine after dinner. The greeting
was that of old friends long separated. They had known each other
from their youth; and, while the Indian entertained the highest
respect for the character and opinions of Mr. McKenzie, the latter
in turn reposed the most unbounded confidence in the sincerity and
integrity of the chief.

"Well, Winnebeg, my old friend, where do you come from? Where have
you been all this time? I thought you had deserted us altogether.
But I recollect now; Captain Headley sent you with despatches to
Detroit. What news do you bring back? But first try a glass of
claret. Harry!"--calling out to a son of one of his voyageurs,
who acted in his household in the capacity of his private
servant--"bring another chair and a wine-glass."

"Yes, come from Detroit, Missa Kenzie," replied the Indian gravely,
as he seated himself, took his tomahawk from his side, filled it,
and began to smoke; "bring him bad news for you--for all."

"How is this, Winnebeg?" exclaimed his listener, putting down the
glass which he had raised to his lips. "What bad news do you mean?"

"Leave him all dis," he observed, as he swept his hand towards the
fort and the outhouses and buildings containing Mr. McKenzie's
property--the profits of a long life passed in a region to which
he had become attached from very habit.

"Leave what! my property? I do not understand you, Winnebeg; speak
out! What are you driving at, man? What necessity is there for
all this?"

"English fight him Yankee now--big war begun. By by English come,
take him Chicago!"

"The war begun!" said Mr. McKenzie, rising in astonishment from
his seat; "do you mean to say, Winnebeg, that the English and
Americans are actually at war? that they have been fighting at
Detroit? How do you know it?"

"How him know it?" returned the chief; "look here, Winnebeg fight
him English," and baring his thigh, just below the left hip, he
showed the scar of a superficial flesh wound still encrusted with
blood.

"Where did you get that, Winnebeg, and how long since?"

"Two week," he replied, holding up as many fingers, "near Canard
Bridge, close, to Malden, Canada--General Hull angry--say Winnebeg
no business fight--carry him despatches."

"General Hull! How long has General Hull been there? Where, then,
is Colonel Miller, of the fourth regiment, who commanded the other
day?"

"Colonel Miller Detroit too; but Hull big officer--great chief--come
with plenty sogers--send Winnebeg with despatch to Gubbenor here."

"Indeed! This is important; I must hasten to see Captain Headley,
and learn from him the contents. Alas! my good friend Winnebeg,
this news may, and I fear will, be the cause of my utter ruin. Of
course, you have no idea of what the despatch contains?"

"Yes, Missa Kenzie, Winnebeg know. Winnebeg wish to speak to you
about despatch--say go directly to Fort Wayne."

"The troops ordered to Fort Wayne, and all we possess left wholly
unprotected. This is indeed a calamity," said the trader, raising
his hand to his now thoughtful brow.

"You no take him goods on pack-horses to Fort Wayne?" remarked the
Indian inquiringly.

"Impossible, Winnebeg! I might take a few packages of peltries,
but the great bulk must be left behind; yet it seems to me folly
to go to Fort Wayne. We shall be cut off before we get there."

"Just so," returned Winnebeg. "See him Gubbenor, Missa McKenzie;
tell him not go. Stay here--fort strong--plenty powder--plenty
guns--you tell him so."

"Most assuredly I will; and if he adopts the most prudent course,
he will remain. With your strong force without and ours within, we
may have a fair chance with any force that may be brought against
us, whereas heaven only knows what may not be the result if we
attempt so long a march through the wilderness, alive with Indians
in the interest of the British. Good by, Winnebeg; you will excuse
me, I am sure, for there must be no time lost in consulting
with Captain Headley. Make yourself at home, and call out to Harry
for anything you may want. That claret will not hurt you after your
long journey; it is pleasant to the taste, and not very strong."

"Tankee, Massa Kenzie; Winnebeg go to Pottowatomie camp--not been
dere yet. Gubbenor say no tell him Ingins war begun till hold
council to-morrow. Winnebeg sure him know it free, four days."

"Why, do you think that, Winnebeg, since there has been no
intelligence of the kind since your arrival?"

"See him plenty Pottowatomie here in Detroit while Winnebeg wait
for despatches."

"Indeed; but they may not have returned."

"Don't know--maybe no, maybe yes."

"Well, to-morrow the matter will be no secret, Winnebeg; and some
decision will no doubt be added. In the meantime, you will be able
to learn whether anything is known in the encampment of this
unwelcome news, and, if so, what your people think of it."

"Kenzie," said the chief, taking and warmly grasping the trader's
hand, "all Pottowatomies tink like Winnebeg--no go to Fort Wayne."



CHAPTER XI.

When Mr. McKenzie entered the fort, it was with a clouded brow and
an oppressed heart. At the gate he met his son-in-law, Lieutenant
Elmsley, who, while burning with impatience to be near and console
his unfortunate friend, was without the power to leave his post,
and in his vexation and annoyance, kept pacing rapidly up and down
in front of the guard-house.

"What is the matter, Elmsley--what disturbs you so unusually?"

"Can you ask, sir," said the officer, "or have you not heard the
dreadful news?"

"Yes, I have heard it, but did not suppose it had as yet been
generally known."

"The whole garrison knows it. It could not be concealed. The poor
fellow rushed like a madman to announce it. He fell fainting to
the ground, and was carried to his room, where, even at this moment,
Mrs. Headley and Margaret are attending him."

"Attending whom?" demanded Mr. McKenzie with an air of astonishment,
"and to what are you alluding?"

"Why, Ronayne, of course; to whom do you allude if not to him? Have
you not heard that, while riding out with his wife and Von Voltenberg
this afternoon, they were intercepted by a party of hostile Indians,
and poor Maria taken prisoner."

"God bless my soul, is it possible? This is terrible, indeed. Are
we then already surrounded by hostile Indians, and is the war
already brought to our door?"

"War! what war?" asked the subaltern, "and what has this fearful
piece of treachery to do with open war--war with whom?"

"And have you not heard that England and the United States are
openly engaged in hostilities--has Winnebeg not revealed this?"

"Not a word," replied Lieutenant Elmsley, astonished, in his turn,
at the information.

"At another moment, and on an indifferent occasion, this mutual
misunderstanding might afford room for pleasantry," continued Mr.
McKenzie with a grave smile; "but it is not so. Winnebeg, I see,
has been true to his trust; and although cognizant of the nature
of the despatches, revealed the information to no one but myself,
whom he regarded as having not only a right to possess it at the
earliest moment, but as being the most proper person to advise with
the commanding officer, at the earliest moment, on the measures to
be adopted. I am here for that purpose; think you I shall find him
alone, for I wouldn't enter upon the subject before Mrs. Headley."

"I have just said that Mrs. Headley and Margaret are in attendance
on the unfortunate Ronayne," replied Elmsley. "You will, therefore,
be sure to find him alone, and no doubt busied in the formation of
plans of operations consequent on this intelligence."

"Recollect, not a word of this until it is officially revealed. I
shall not even let Captain Headley know that I am aware of the
facts, but simply state that, having heard he was in receipt of
despatches, I had come to know if there was any news of importance.
But, of one thing I would warn you, Elmsley; there will be a council
of war to-morrow, and I could wish that your view of the subject
may lead you to prefer defending the fort to the last extremity in
preference to a long and uncertain retreat to Fort Wayne, which I
know is suggested in the despatch."

"I shall have no difficulty in arriving at that decision," returned
the officer of the guard, "for common sense only is necessary to
show the advantages of one course over the other. In the meantime,
I shall evince no knowledge of what you have conveyed to me, until
the hour of council. Did no other consideration weigh with me, I
would oppose a movement which cuts us off from all hope of restoring
the dear lost wife of Ronayne to her distracted husband."

"Good bye, God bless you," answered the trader, as he moved towards
the quarters of Captain Headley.

"Then," mused Elmsley, when alone, "are the forebodings of that
fusty old number of the National Intelligencer which I have thumbed
for hours over and over again for the last three months at length
finally realized--and war was come at last; well be it so! My
chief anxiety is for Margaret. Would that she and all the rest of
the weak women in this fortress were safe within the fortifications
of Detroit; but all evil seems to be coming upon us at once."

"Ah! Mr. McKenzie, I am very glad to see you," said Captain Headley,
rising as the trader entered the room set apart for his library
and the transaction of military official business. "Take a seat.
You could not have paid me a more opportune visit."

"I had understood that Winnebeg had just returned with despatches
from Detroit," remarked the trader, "and am come to learn the news."

"Bad enough," answered Capt. Headley, gravely, as he handed to him
the despatch from General Hull. "Read that!"

Mr. McKenzie attentively perused the document. It was evidently of
a nature not to please him, for as he read he knit his brow,
bit his lip, and uttered more than one ejaculatory "pish!"

"And what do you intend to do, Captain Headley?" he demanded, as
he twisted the paper in his fingers impatiently.

"Stay, my dear sir," said the commanding officer, anxiously, "do
not thus disfigure or slight the general's official--I must preserve
it as the only voucher for the course I shall in all probability
pursue."

"What is that course?" asked Mr. McKenzie; "surely, Captain Headley,
you will not strictly follow the letter of these instructions? You
are not compelled to do so. It is left optional with yourself; and
there cannot be a question as to the great disadvantage attending
a retreat."

"Pardon me," said the commanding--officer, with something of the
hauteur of one sensible of his own personal responsibility; "I
consider every paragraph in this official as a direct order. The
only sentence that would appear to leave a certain option with
myself is where reference is made to the _practicability_ of retreat.
Now, I can see nothing impracticable in it. We have nothing to
apprehend, with a body of five hundred brave Pottowatomies for our
escort, while, if we continue here we must expect a strong British
force speedily upon us."

"Let me give you a word of counsel before this question is publicly
discussed," returned the trader seriously; "I know the Indians
well, and how easily they are influenced by circumstances. Friendly
as these Pottowatomies now seem to be, the influence of the majority
of the tribes who have joined the British forces may soon change
them from friends into foes."

"My life on their fidelity," returned Captain Headley, with unusual
energy. "While Winnebeg continues with them, I feel that I should
dishonor by doubting him."

"Do not mistake me," returned the trader. "Your faith in the honesty
of Winnebeg, Capt. Headley, is not greater than my own--nay, not
so great, perhaps, for I have known and always regarded him from
his boyhood; but all the Pottowatomies are not Winnebegs, neither
are the warriors so completely under the control of their chiefs
as to permit their counsels alone to influence their actions."

"You do not mean to say that you have reason to doubt any of these
people, Mr. McKenzie?" remarked the captain, seriously and
inquiringly.

"Not at all; but I wish to show how much more imprudent it would
be to trust to them than to ourselves; reinforcements may arrive
in time if they are sent for immediately, and should they not, it
will be time enough to think of evacuating when our Indian spies
bring us notice of the preparations of the British to attack us."

"And should they arrive before our retreat is begun, then must, we
be driven into an unequal contest, for the order of the secretary
at war expressly declares that no post shall be surrendered without
a battle. It is evident that the fort cannot be maintained against
a regular force; therefore, the garrison, or they who survive the
assault, must be made prisoners in any case; whereas, by retiring
now, we not only prevent the advance of the enemy, to the manifest
ruin of yourself and other settlers in the neighborhood, but carry
succor to Fort Wayne. This is the resolution I have taken. After
first consulting with my officers on public parade in the morning,
when our position shall be fully made known to all, I shall
meet the Indians in council. The necessary directions have been
conveyed to Winnebeg."

"I can only regret, sir," returned Mr. McKenzie, with great gravity
of speech and deportment, "that your determination should have been
formed before consulting with your officers. In a case of this
kind, involving the interests of all, it becomes, I should conceive,
not a mere courtesy but a duty, that the opinions and advice of
all competent to judge should be taken."

"You need not be alarmed, Mr. McKenzie; I perfectly know how to
act on this occasion. The opinions of my officers shall be taken,
even as I have taken yours. If you have anything further to offer,
therefore, I shall be happy to hear it."

"Captain Headley," returned the trader, rising with dignity, and
taking up his hat, "I have nothing further of advice to offer to
one so confident in his own judgment; but bear in mind what I now
tell you, that if you follow the letter of these instructions rather
than the spirit, you will have cause to repent it. I make not this
remark from mere considerations of my own personal interests, which,
of course, will be greatly affected by this abandonment of the
post, but because I sincerely believe that a defence will entail
less disaster than a march through the vast wilderness we shall
have to traverse, hampered as we shall be with women, less able to
bear up against fatigue, privation, and disaster. As the Indian
orators say, 'I have spoken!' and now, sir, I have the honor of
wishing you a very good day."

"Well, what says he--what does he intend?" asked Lieutenant Elmsley,
who was lingering near the gate, waiting for the return of his
father-in-law.

"He is an obstinate, conceited ramrod," returned the latter,
peevishly; "but you will know all to-morrow, for he really intends
to do you the honor to consult you in the morning."

"But what is his decision? You have not said."

"To give up everything to the Indians, and retreat forthwith."

"Can it be possible?" exclaimed the officer, perfectly indignant
at the communication.

"Even so. Alas, for the poor women, and the ladies particularly!
what a march for them; but I go, meanwhile, to 'set my house in
order.' Well, Elmsley, all I had garnered up through a quarter of
a century of incessant toil, as a heritage for you and yours, will,
I fear, be utterly lost."

"God bless you," said the officer, grasping his hand, "think not
of that. There are far weightier considerations at stake than
those of a merely pecuniary nature. The lesson Margaret has taught
herself--to be contented to live on a soldier's pay--will not have
altogether been thrown away upon her. The loss of her fortune is
the least calamity to be dreaded."

"Nobly said, Elmsley. Well are you worthy of her!" He warmly shook
the hand that still lingered in his own, and then turned the angle
of the gateway leading down to his own dwelling.



CHAPTER XII.

   "For we to-morrow hold divided council."
      --_Richard III._

On the following morning there was unusual commotion in the fort,
and, notwithstanding the great sultriness of the weather, both
officers and men appeared in the full costume of the regiment from
an early hour. The bright and silken flag, worked by the hands of
Mrs. Ronayne, had been hoisted by Corporal Nixon's own hands, for
he knew that not a man of the garrison would look upon it without
vividly interesting himself in the fate of her who had worked it,
and desiring to be a volunteer of the party he fully expected would
be sent out that morning to attempt her rescue. Already had he
decided on five of the number who, besides himself, would be selected
by Ronayne on the occasion, and these were Collins, Phillips,
Weston, Green, and Watson. He knew that an early parade had been
ordered by Captain Headley, and as this was a rare occurrence, he
could assign no other cause for it than the desire the commanding
officer entertained to send off the little expedition as speedily
as possible.

Precisely at eight o'clock the roll of the drum brought forth from
their respective barrack rooms some sixty men, composing the strength
of the little fort, with the exception of the invalids and
convalescents, some fifteen in number. But even of these, such as
could find strength to drag themselves, came forth and lingered in
the rear of the slowly forming little line, while women and children
gathered in groups near the guard-house, anxious to see who would
be the fortunate ones selected for the recovery of the much-loved
wife of their favorite.

A few moments later, and the officers were seen approaching from
their several quarters to join the parade. Captain Headley, dressed
in his newest uniform, was the first on the ground; then came the
Doctor, then Elmsley, for, on that occasion, the guard at the gate
had been left without an officer; and lastly, much to the surprise
of all, Ronayne. As he approached, all eyes were fixed upon him,
and every breast acknowledged a sympathy in the pallor of his now
unmoved brow, that in more than one instance moulded itself into
a tear it was impossible to suppress. As for the women, they held
their aprons to their eyes and wept outright. On gaining his company,
the Virginian touched his cap as usual to the commander of the
parade, and, passing close by Elmsley, whose eyes he saw riveted
upon him with much interest, he significantly grasped his hand.

"Mr. Elmsley," ordered the commandant, "let the company be wheeled
inwards, to form a hollow square."

The order was promptly obeyed, and within the square stood the
little group of officers.

"Gentlemen and men!" began Captain Headley, as he unfolded a
despatch, "it is on no common occasion that we find ourselves
assembled this morning."

Every eye was again turned upon Ronayne. The looks of the men seemed
to say, "We know it, and we are prepared to do our utmost to repair
the evil."

"There is not a man of us, your honor," said Corporal Collins, "who
is not ready to volunteer to go out and recover Mrs. Ronayne,
or die in the attempt. You have but to say the word."

"Silence, sir! How dare you presume to speak in the ranks! Corporal
Collins, from this day you lose your stripes,--a fit example, truly,
for a non-commissioned officer to set to the men. Mr. Elmsley, you
will see to this."

The lieutenant gravely touched his hat, but replied not.

"It is not for this purpose that I have assembled you," resumed
Captain Headley. "Much as is to be deplored the unfortunate occurrence
of yesterday, matters of deeper importance must engage our attention
now."

Many of the men shrugged their shoulders, and looked their discontent.
They could not imagine what he meant, or what could be of more
importance to them than the recovery of the lost lady.

The parade was once more called to attention, when Captain Headley
proceeded to read to them the document that has been so often before
the reader.

"You see, gentlemen and men," he continued, when he had finished
the perusal, "how intricate is our position, and how little choice
there is left to us to decide in the matter. It must be but mere
form to ask your opinions on the subject, for the directions of
the General are so positive that our duty is implicitly to follow
them. Mr. Elmsley, as the oldest officer, what is your opinion?"

All had heard with the greatest surprise the unexpected communication,
but there were few who were of the opinion of their commander, that
their safety would be best insured by a retreat. The men, of course,
were not expected to have a voice in the consultation, but it was
desirable that they should hear what their respective officers had
to say, and therefore the subject had been opened to the latter in
their presence.

"My opinion, Captain Headley," returned his lieutenant, "can be of
little weight in a matter which you appear to have decided already;
however, as it is asked in presence of the whole garrison, in
presence of the whole garrison will I give it. On no account should
we retire from this post. Our force, it is true, is small, but we
have stout hearts and willing hands, and, with four good bastions
to protect our flanks of defence, we may make a better resistance
than it appears they have done at Mackinaw, should the British deem
it worth their while to come so far out of their way to attack us.
My own impression is that they will not, for there is nothing to
be gained by the conquest of a post which commands no channel of
communication, and therefore offers no advantage to compensate for
the sacrifice of life necessary to take it. Certainly, nothing will
be attempted unless Detroit itself should fall. The British forces
will have too much to occupy them there to think of weakening by
dividing the troops they have in that quarter. On the other hand,
should we undertake a protracted march to Fort Wayne, encumbered
as we are with women, and children, and invalids, there is but too
great reason to infer that parties of British Indians, apprised of
our march, will hasten to the attack, and then our position in the
heart of the woods will be hopeless indeed. These, sir, are my
views on the subject nor can I conceive how a man of common
discernment can entertain any other."

"Mr. Elmsley, I merely asked you, in courtesy, to pronounce your
own opinion, not indirectly to pass censure on those of your
superiors. I have stated not only my opinion, but my decision. Even
were I desirous to remain I could not, for our provisions are nearly
consumed."

"Why, captain," said Phillips, speaking from his place in the ranks,
"I know that we have cattle enough to last the troops six months."

"Who speaks? Who dares to question my assertion?" thundered Capt.
Headley. "We may have cattle enough," he added, in a milder tone,
feeling that some explanation was due to the men generally, "but
we are deficient in salt to cure the meat when killed."

"A sheer pretence!" muttered another voice not far from Phillips;
"where there is a will, there is a way."

"Who spoke?" demanded Captain Headley, angrily.

"I did, sir," answered Collins; "you have taken the stripes from
me, you can do no more."

"Drummers, into the square!" ordered the captain. "Gentlemen, before
we proceed further in this matter, this man must be tried for
insubordination--a drum head court martial immediately. Sergeant
Nixon, go to the orderly's room and bring the articles of war."

"Nay, Captain Headley," interposed the sergeant, "poor Collins!"

"What, sir! do you, too, disobey?"

"No, sir," returned the non-commissioned officer, respectfully,
"but I thought when brave men would so soon be wanted for the
defence of those colors, your honor could not be serious in your
threat to score their backs; and a braver and a better soldier than
Corporal Collins is nowhere to be found in the American ranks. He
is excited, sir, by the loss of Mrs.--"

"Stay, Nixon," interrupted Ensign Ronayne, "not another word.
Captain Headley," he resumed, sternly, turning round to his
commandant, "if Corporal Collins is punished, you will have to
punish me also, for I swear that be but a hand laid upon him, and
I will incur such guilt of insubordination as must compel you to
place me under arrest. This severity, sir, at such a moment, is
misplaced, and not to be borne."

"Mr. Ronayne, depend upon it, this conduct on your part shall not
pass unnoticed. When the proper time arrives, expect to be put upon
your trial for this most unofficer-like interference with my
authority. At present, I can ill afford to spare your services,
and placing you in arrest now would only be to affect the interests
of my command. When we reach Fort Wayne, you may rely upon a proper
representation of your behavior. Private Collins, retire to your
place in the ranks."

"Reach Fort Wayne!" returned the Virginian, emphatically. "Mark
me, sir, we shall never reach Fort Wayne. Captain Headley," he
continued, more calmly, "look at those colors; do you not think we
shall find more spirit to defend them while floating there (and he
pointed to them), calling upon us, as it were, to remember the day
when first they were unfurled before the British Lion, than when
carrying them off encased and strapped with the old kettles and
pans of the company upon some raw-boned old pack-horse, as if
ashamed to show themselves to an enemy."

"And those colors especially," ventured Sergeant Nixon, emboldened
by the warm language in his defence used by the high-spirited young
officer. "They are the same worked by the hands of Mrs. Ronayne,
and run up there on the day of her own marriage, on the fourth
of July. I hoisted them with my own hands this morning, because I
believed we were going out to the rescue of that dear lady, and,
in my mind, I can only say that it would be much easier to send
out half the force for her, with a few Indians for scouts to point
out where the red devils are, and then, when we have got her safe,
to return here and defend the place, or perish under the ruins."

"God bless her!" exclaimed nearly half the men, turning their eyes
towards the rustling flag, which a slight and rising breeze now
displayed in all its graceful beauty of color and proportion. "Sure
enough she worked it, and we are ready to die under the same, if
she only be here to see us."

"God bless her!" repeated the women in the distance. "If our prayers
could be of any use, our husbands should run all risk from the
Indians, so that we might see her sweet face again. Oh, let them
go, captain!"

Despite all the determination he had formed, Ronayne could not
stand this new feature in the scene unmoved. He drew his handkerchief
hastily from the bosom of his uniform, and carried it to his eyes.
The recollection of the fourth of July, so recently passed, came
with irresistible force upon his memory, and even while his own
heart was made more desolate, this universal manifestation of the
regard in which his wife was held affected him deeply.

"Nay, Mr. Ronayne, rather than exhibit this emotion before the men,
had you not better retire?" remarked Captain Headley, in a low
tone; "their excitement, too, will the sooner subside when you are
gone."

"Sir, if you assume a weakness in me," returned the officer,
haughtily, as he removed the handkerchief from his eyes, "you are
wrong. I came here not to advert to the past, but to do my duty.
I confess I am touched by the honest and noble feeling of my
comrades, but nothing more. No entreaty of mine will be urged in
support of their prayer. I am prepared to sink my individual loss
in consideration of the general danger."

All the men were taken by surprise. They had wondered from the
first at seeing Ronayne come upon parade, with a manner so different
from that which he had shown on the preceding evening; but they
had taken it for granted that he knew of an intended sortie, and,
relying on its successful issue, was only waiting for the order
from Captain Headley.

A loud shout was now heard from the common, and presently one of
the two sentinels that had been stationed at the gate walked quickly
up with his firelock at the recover, and reported to Captain Headley
that the Indians were mustering strongly about their encampment,
and seemingly more painted than usual.

"This is as it should be," replied the commanding officer. "The
day of council should be a gala day, whatever the occasion, and
doubtless they are making preparations accordingly. It is well,
however, that I have changed the hour of our consultation from
twelve to eight. We have now more leisure for our own preparations."

"And these are, Captain Headley, permit me to ask?" remarked Mr.
McKenzie, who had stood at some distance from the parade, without
interfering with the preceding discussion.

"To distribute, sir, as directed, the stores belonging to the United
States then dismantle the fort, and depart at once for Fort
Wayne. Those noble and faithful Pottowatomies, who are now assembling
for the council, will bear us bravely through."

One or two shots were now heard from the gate. The men were startled;
still more so when they heard a loud mocking laugh succeed to the
report. Several of them turned their heads and looked around. They
saw that the flag, then wheeling and tossing, as if indignant at
the outrage, had been cut by the bullets. The Indians had never
before attempted this.

"That, sir, is the work of your friendly Pottowatomies," remarked
Ronayne, With a sneer; "their friendship is truly very remarkable
at this particular moment. They show their regard for us by insulting
the American flag in a way in which they never did before."

"March off your guard immediately, Mr. Elmsley; let the sentries
be posted, and all remain armed until further orders; yet mark,
both officers and men, no distrust must be openly shown. Do not
let it appear that the inconsiderate act of one or two young men
has raised your unfounded and ungenerous suspicions of a whole
tribe. It is not that I have any doubt as to their truth, but my
policy has ever been to show them we are never unprepared for an
emergency. Corporal Collins, you will resume your Stripes."

In obedience to his order, the guard was relieved at the gate, and
the whole of the men made to linger about the parade, preparatory
to the hour of council.



CHAPTER XIII.

While Lieutenant Elmsley was occupied as acting adjutant--a duty
which he was called upon to perform, as well as that of regimental
subaltern--Ronayne sauntered mechanically towards the gate.
Notwithstanding the seeming indifference he had at first manifested
in regard to the absence of his wife, there were few among the men
who, whatever their surprise at his language, were not afterwards
made sensible that he was profoundly affected; and as he somewhat
sternly passed each soldier on his way, they silently and with
unusual deference--a deference that indicated their own strong
sympathy--touched their caps to him. Arrived at the gate, he looked
long and anxiously, almost incessantly, even as one without an
object, towards Hardscrabble, the forest road to which was dotted,
here and there, with occasional openings, enabling the eye to
distinguish the serpentine course of the silver river. All around
and before him were the lounging Indians to whom allusion has just
been made. There appeared to be unusual excitement in their manner,
and groups of the younger warriors particularly were to be seen in
animated conversation. He was about to retire from the gate and
join Lieutenant Elmsley, who had now nearly finished distributing
his guard, but anxious to take one last look of the neighborhood
of Hardscrabble, his eyes suddenly fell upon the outline of a horse
just emerging from a wooded part of the road upon the plain, and
partially concealed by the figure of an Indian that stood at the
side of the horse. He looked again--the distance was too great
to enable him to judge distinctly, but he felt convinced the rider
was a woman. There was A telescope kept in the bastion near the
flagstaff, for the use principally of the officer of the guard. He
walked rapidly to this, and drew the instrument to its proper focus,
but when he looked in the direction in which he had before gazed
nothing was to be seen. Vexed and annoyed beyond all measure, he
descended again rapidly to the gate, but with no better success.
He could not doubt that it was his wife whom he had seen, yet
unwilling to breathe the knowledge even to himself, his heart was
a prey to the most contradictory feelings. In a few moments, however,
the horse he had before remarked again appeared emerging from the
same point of road, but this time he no longer carried a woman but
a warrior, so that all means of identifying the former were denied
to him. But still there was evidence sufficient. The horse was
evidently Maria's, though with its tail twisted and plaited as for
disguise; and as Ronayne with the glass brought fully to bear upon
him, saw the rider throw over his shoulders and fasten round his
neck, a blanket, and place on his head a colored calico turban,
such as was in common use among the Pottowatomies, he felt satisfied
that it was the same youth who, in the disguise of a Miami, had
pressed him so closely in the chase of the preceding day.

Strange to say, he entertained no feeling of enmity towards the
youth, even when he turned away with feelings of mingled bitterness
and mortification, and silently ascended the bastion to replace
the glass. Never was his mind more unsettled--never had he entertained
so perfect a sentiment of indifference for everything around him.
It was very well to talk of pride, and scorn, and fortitude, but
existence to him had become a dull weight, a rayless future, and
nothing would have pleased him better at that moment, than the
sudden announcement of a British force being at hand. In the stirring
excitement of action only could he hope to find distraction, and
the ball aimed at his heart, the sword pointed to his throat, he
would have scarcely deemed it worth his while to seek to turn aside.
The roar of artillery and of musquetry would, he felt, be music to
his ears, provided it shut out from memory the recollection of what
had been. But the idea of a long and monotonous march to Fort Wayne,
even provided it should be effected without interruption, bringing
with it at each moment recollections of the past was a horror not
to be endured; and he determined, by every means in his power, to
oppose the resolution of the commanding officer to the uttermost.
He was already under the ban of one threatened court-martial, and
it mattered little to him what steps Captain Headley might adopt
in regard to him for the future.

He had passed some moments in these reflections--fitful, varied,
and broken as those of a disconnected dream--when turning his eyes
again towards the gate where the sentinels had been posted, he saw
one of them bring his musket to the charge as if to prevent the
ingress of some one seeking admittance. Struck by the circumstance,
Ronayne hastened below, and as he advanced he saw the same sentinel
pick up a piece of paper, the superscription of which he was
endeavoring to examine. Before he had time to do this, however,
the officer had come up, and the sentinel promptly handed it to
him.

"Good God! what does this mean?" It was the handwriting of his
wife. Ronayne looked forward upon the common, and saw at about a
hundred yards before him, and retiring rapidly, the horseman whom
he had just before remarked. There was no necessity for asking any
questions. The whole thing explained itself.

"What can she have to say to me?" he mused to himself, as he broke
the bark string with which the note was tied; his competitor of
yesterday, too, the bearer! Hastily he unfolded it. It contained
these few words, hastily written in pencil on a leaf torn from her
memorandum book--"Go not to the council!" He examined the paper
closely--he could find no more.

The feelings of Ronayne, on reading these few words, traced by his
wife's well-remembered hand, may be comprehended. All the stubbornness
of his indifference was shaken; and sinking every consideration of
self he found a strange, wild pleasure in the knowledge that she
was free from personal restraint, and had power to command the
services of those whom she willed to do her bidding. What the
meaning of the caution was, in regard to the council, he could not
divine, neither wherefore it had been couched in such laconic terms;
but it was evident that, as the new wife of Wau-nan-gee, she had
obtained information of some danger of which they in the garrison
knew not, and that the recollection of those she had left behind
was not so weakened as to prevent her from imparting to those most
interested what she had learned.

Feeling the necessity of communicating instantly with Elmsley on
the subject, yet scarcely knowing how, without exposing Maria, to
account to him for the manner in which he had received the singular
warning, he sought his friend, who had now finally disposed of his
men at their several posts, and told him that, without feeling
himself at liberty to reveal to him the medium through which the
suspicion had been awakened in his breast, he had every reason to
believe that some treachery was intended at the council called by
Headley, and that he had come to consult with him accordingly.

With infinite good taste and tact, Elmsley utterly abstained from
making the slightest allusion to Mrs. Ronayne, not only because he
had perceived that her husband did not seem to encourage any approach
to a subject which gave him pain, but because he felt that the
consolation of those words, on an occasion of such bereavement,
was rather a mockery than a sympathy. Without, therefore, making
the slightest allusion to the past, he answered gravely--

"If you have reason to apprehend this, Ronayne, we can take our
precautions accordingly. As the whole object and intent of the
council is to _seem_ to hold a consultation as to the course we
ought to pursue in this emergency, whereas it is simply in fact to
enable Headley, who is becoming stubborn and pompous as of old, to
tell the chiefs that he intends at once to distribute the public
stores among themselves and warriors, and then march with little
more than the men can carry on their backs; as this only, I repeat,
is his object in holding a council at all, I see no great reason
why either you or I, who have already given our opinions on the
matter, should attend it. We may do the 'state some service' by
remaining within."

"Would it not be well," returned the Virginian thoughtfully, "to
give Headley some hint of false dealing on the part of the
Pottowatomies? not such as to lead him to believe that any
direct intelligence has been received of that fact, but simply that
some loose hints have been thrown out."

"My dear fellow," returned the lieutenant, with a faint smile, "do
you think there is anything under the sun--scarcely even the tomahawk
in his own brain--that could persuade Headley to mistrust his pet
Pottowatomies? No, not even his long experience of the treachery
of the race--not all his knowledge of the fickleness of their
character--of the facility with which they turn over in a single
day from the American to the British flag--would convince him."

"And yet," pursued Ronayne, musingly, "they know nothing of the
war. What could be their motives, where their immediate interests
will be rather retarded than promoted by the maintenance of peaceful
relations?"

"How do we know what passes without the fort? They may have had
their runners and news brought to them of the war before Winnebeg
returned."

A sudden thought flashed across the brain of Ronayne. Could tidings
of the event in any way be connected with the flight of his wife?
and had that, at the instigation of Wau-nan-gee, accelerated the
moment of her departure? But Elmsley knew not what _he_ knew, and
he offered no remark on the subject.

"It wants now an hour," resumed Lieutenant Elmsley, looking at his
watch, "to the time named for the council which is to be held on
the glacis immediately in front of the southern bastion, and,
therefore, immediately under the flag. Join me here then, Ronayne,
and I shall have made the necessary arrangements. All the
responsibility I take upon myself, my friend, not only as your
senior, but as one who is perfectly willing to take the lion's
share of the anger that has been showered so plentifully upon both
this day. Now I must hasten and regulate the '_imperium in imperio_'
for I am afraid that if, as you say, we trust alone to Headley's
reading of Pottowatomie faith, we shall have rather a Flemish
account of satisfaction to render to ourselves. Goodbye. In half
an hour--not later."

Ronayne, having nothing in the meantime to do, sauntered towards
his own apartments. When he entered his chamber, Catharine, the
faithful servant of his wife, was leaning along the foot of the
bed, her face buried in the covering and sobbing violently. The
depth of her sorrow was anguish to him. He shuffled his feet along
the floor to make her sensible of his presence. The girl heard him;
she looked up--her face and eyes were so swollen with tears that
she could scarcely see. She started to her feet, and raising her
apron with both hands to her eyes, left the room sobbing even more
violently than before.

"Poor girl--poor girl!" murmured Ronayne, while a tear forced itself
into his own; "indeed I feel for your grief; but it will soon
subside; you will soon be well, while I ---"

He threw himself, dressed as he was, even without removing his
sword, upon, the bed--he took out Maria's hasty note--he read the
words "Go not to the council" at least fifty times over. There was
not the minutest particle of each letter of each word that he did
not typify in his heart. Her delicate and expressive, yet faithless
hand had traced the whole. It was enough. It was the last relic of
herself.



CHAPTER XIV.

   "I would have some conference with you that concerns you nearly."
      --_Much Ado About Nothing._

When Ronayne rejoined his friend, all the preparations he intended
making had been completed, and Mrs. Elmsley having despatched a
servant to say that breakfast was waiting for them, the latter,
after having stationed Corporal Collins at the gate to give early
notice of the approach of the Indians, linked his arm in that of
Ronayne, and conducted him to his rooms.

It was, of course, the first time the Virginian had seen Mrs.
Elmsley since the preceding evening, when, with Mrs. Headley, she
had been a pained witness of the desolating grief she so deeply
shared herself. The swollen eyelid and the pale cheek attested that
little sleep had visited her eyes during the subsequent part of
the night; and when she affectionately took the proffered hand of
Ronayne, whose composedness she was greatly surprised and pleased
to witness, there was a melancholy expression of sympathy in her
glance that tried all the powers of self-possession of the latter.

How different was that breakfast table from what it had been on
former occasions! How often, both before and after their marriage,
had Ronayne and his wife partaken of the hospitable board, with
hearts light as gratified love could render them, and exhilarated
by the witty tallies of the amiable hostess, who, full of life and
gaiety herself, sought ever to render her more sedate friend as
exuberant in spirit as herself. How graceful the manner in which
she recommended her exquisitely-made coffee, her deliciously-dried
bear and venison hams, the luxuriously-flavored and slightly-smoked
white fish from the Superior and the Sault; and with what art she
allured the appetite from one delicacy to another, until scarcely
an article of food at her table was left untasted. And yet all
this, not in a spirit of ostentatious display of her own aptitude
in these somewhat sensual enjoyments, but from a desire, by the
exercise of those little niceties of attention which insensibly
win upon the heart, to please, to gratify--to make sensible that
she sought to please and to gratify--those whom both herself and
her husband so deeply regarded.

The breakfast was now a hurried one. It had not been prepared with
the usual care. The directing hand of the mistress seemed not to
be visible--it was heavy as the hearts of those who now partook
of it, and even the never failing claret, of which Elmsley compelled
his friend to swallow several goblets, had lost more than half its
power to exhilarate; for, oh! there was one of that once happy
party gone for ever from their sight, and the solemn and restrained
manner of each was sufficient evidence of the deep void her absence
had created.

It was a relief to all when Corporal Collins hurriedly appeared at
the door and announced that the greater portion of the warriors of
the Pottowatomies, with Winnebeg at their head, were now advancing
towards the glacis, where a large awning, open at the sides, had
been erected soon after the morning's parade.

"Winnebeg at their head, did you say, Collins?"

"Yes, sir, Winnebeg, and with him--for I know them as
well--Wau-ban-see, Black Partridge, To-pee nee-be, Kee-po-tah, and
that tall, scowling chief that never looks friendly, Pee-to-tum.
They are all in their war dresses, and their young men as well."

"I am glad, at least, Winnebeg is with them," remarked Elmsley to
his friend. "Whatever may be purposed by the others, neither he
nor Black Partridge can have any knowledge of it. Has Serjeant
Nixon had that three-pounder run up into the upper floor of the
block-house, Collins?"

"They are at work at it now, sir. I expect it will be all ready by
the time your honor gets there, Mr. Elmsley."

"You are on guard at the gate?"

"I have been where you posted me, sir."

"Good! Is Captain Headley gone out yet?"

"Not yet, your honor. I saw him, as I came along, go towards Doctor
Von Voltenberg's rooms."

"We had better wait then, Ronayne, until he goes forth to assemble
the council; otherwise he may interfere and play the devil with us
all, by countermanding my arrangements."

"And do you really mean to say that you would permit him to do so,
Elmsley? I am sure I would not; for, if ever disobedience to orders
could be justified it is on this occasion."

"I do not exactly say that I would, Ronayne; but it is just as well
to avoid clashing if possible. I confess I am no particular advocate,
where the thing can be avoided, of wilfully and deliberately
thwarting the authority of a commanding officer. But once he is
out of the fort I shall be in command."

Another non-commissioned officer entered. It was Weston, who, that
morning, had been promoted to the dignity of lance corporal, and
the commanding officer's immediate orderly.

"Lieutenant Elmsley, the captain desires me to say that he is
waiting for you and Mr. Ronayne to accompany the doctor and himself
to the council."

"Then," said the subaltern addressed, "you will give my compliments,
Weston, to Captain Headley, and say to him that both Mr. Ronayne
and myself decline attending that council--that we do not think it
prudent to leave the fort without an officer, and that we conceive
that having given our opinions on the matter for which the council
is called, we can be of much more service here than there. Now
mind, Weston, you will deliver this message respectfully, and in
a manner befitting a soldier to his superior."

"Certainly, sir," replied the corporal, as he touched his, cap and
withdrew.

"You will have a visit from himself next, Elmsley," remarked his
wife. "But why refuse to attend the council? There is no enemy
near us, and surely half an hour's absence on the glacis cannot
much endanger the safety of the garrison, surrounded as we are by
friendly Indians."

"Margaret, my love," said her husband, taking her hand affectionately,
"we must trust nothing to chance. No one can tell what may not
occur in the interim of our absence. Who, for instance, could have
foretold yesterday morning that we should be as we are to-day!"

"True," said Ronayne, as he paced the room with sudden and bitter
excitement; "who could have told yesterday that we should be
as we are to-day? There is nothing certain in life--no, nothing--all
is vanity."

This painful change of feeling and of manner, from the self-control
so recently imposed upon himself, had not been without its cause.
The tenderness of his friends brought back to his memory the
recollection of many an hour of happiness passed in that room--when
the same manifestations of affection had been exhibited in presence
of the wife. But where was she now--where was his own share in that
happiness which, for the first time, he almost half envied in his
friend?

The door was again opened, and in walked not Captain Headley but
Mr. McKenzie; his brow was overcast, and there was evidently deep
care on his mind; but after tenderly embracing his daughter, he
remarked to the officers, "I am glad you have come to the decision
of not leaving the fort. I met Headley going out, and he is very
angry. He has made me promise, however, to follow him in a few
moments. I should have gone at once, but I could not resist the
twofold temptation of pressing this dear girl to my heart, and
telling you both how much I approve your prudence. For once you
and Headley seem to have exchanged characters."

"No doubt," returned Elmsley, smiling, "that if we ever get to Fort
Wayne, both Ronayne and myself will be hanged, drawn, and quartered
by sentence of a court-martial, as a just punishment for our most
glaring disobedience of orders here; but that will not be worse
than being scalped here for obeying them; besides, there is this
advantage attending the first--we shall have a little longer lease
of life. But seriously, sir, there is now no time to lose. The
moment you are out of the gates, I shall cause them to be fastened
until the council is over. I have had cause for entertaining some
little suspicion of your friends the Pottowatomies--nay," seeing
that the trader looked surprised, "there is no time to enter into
explanation now. Later, I will state to you."

"I have no doubt you have been correctly informed," replied Mr.
McKenzie, as, after throwing his arm around the waist of his
daughter, he replaced his hat and prepared to depart. "Great as is
the confidence I have in Winnebeg and the majority of the chiefs,
I confess there has been a boldness--an almost insolence--perceptible
in the behavior of many of the young men, seemingly urged on by
Pee-to-tum, that I neither understand nor approve; but, as you say,
there is no time to lose. God bless you, Margaret!"

When he had passed the gates, to which he had been accompanied by
his son-in-law and Ronayne, Serjeant Nixon, who, as previously
instructed, stood near for the purpose, fastened the bars and turned
the lock. What men could be spared for the purpose were divided
between the two subalterns. The one took his post in the upper
floor of the block-house nearest to and overlooking the glacis;
the other ascending the south bastion, manned two of the guns--the
burning matches of both being concealed.

Not less than four hundred warriors could have followed their
leaders to this council. The chiefs had already assembled and taken
their places under the awning, while a little above them sat Captain
Headley, the Doctor, and Mr. McKenzie, when the great mass moved
towards the glacis. All were habited in half war dress, if the term
may be permitted, and a formidable number separated from the main
body and drew near to the gate. This, much to their surprise, was
in the very act of being closed as they appeared before it.
Much dissatisfaction was expressed in guttural sounds and
exclamations, and one young Indian, more daring than the rest,
struck his tomahawk deeply into the door. No notice was taken of
this at first; but finding that the Indians persevered in their
clamor and demand for admittance, Ronayne, who was in the block-house,
ordered the three-pounder to be fired over their heads. This at
once had the effect of dispersing and driving them towards the
glacis, which they now tumultuously crowded, speaking loudly and
angrily to the chiefs, who interrupted at the very opening of the
council, yet not more surprised than the two officers were on
hearing the gun, had started to their feet and turned their eyes
towards the fort--the flashing light of the torches being now
distinctly visible.

There being no repetition, however, of the report, Captain Headley,
who had been questioned by the chiefs as to the cause, explained
the discharge by attributing it to accident, or an intention on
the part of Lieutenant Elmsley to compliment the opening of the
council. But though he stated this, he did not himself believe that
either was the reason, for he was well aware that no piece of
ordnance had been in the block-house early that morning, and
consequently, that it must have been placed there from some vague
idea of danger connected with his officers' refusal to attend the
council. He had observed, with some anxiety, the gathering of the
Indians around the gate, and without being able to understand its
exact character, entertained a vague impression that some danger
was impending, yet by a strange contradiction, not at all uncommon,
was more than ever annoyed with Elmsley for manifesting thus openly
and markedly the distrust he entertained of their allies.

In an increased desire for conciliation he now resumed the council.
The chiefs were duly informed, through Winnebeg, that war had been
declared between Great Britain and the United States; that the
American general commanding on the frontier had sent orders to
evacuate the fort immediately, and make the best of their way to
Fort Wayne, under the escort of the Pottowatomies then present:
but that, before the march commenced, he (Captain Headley) was, in
order to show the friendship of the United States, to distribute
among the chiefs and warriors in the neighborhood all the property
of the government in equal shares--"not only all stores of clothing
and implements of the chase shall be divided among you," he concluded,
"but the provisions and ammunition, which latter we have in abundance.
All we ask in return is safe escort to Fort Wayne."

No sooner was this last announcement made when the glacis was filled
with triumphant yells from the warriors. The chiefs themselves,
with the exception of Pee-to-tum, whose cry had been the signal
for their clamor, preserved a dignified silence. The eyes of Mr.
McKenzie and Winnebeg sought each other, and there was a pained
expression of disappointment in both that revealed at once the
cause of their concern. The former bit his lip and muttered, as he
turned away from the Indian to Captain Headley, the word "fool."

"Sir, did you speak?" asked the latter, half coloring as he fancied
he had caught the word.

"I have said and think, Captain Headley, that in this last act of
folly--the promise of ammunition to the Indians--you have signed
our death-warrant. No one acquainted with Indian character can
misunderstand the feeling which pervades, not the chiefs but
the warriors. If anything were wanting to satisfy me it would be
found in the yell of satisfaction with which that promise was
received. They are too drunk with hope even to stop to inquire.
Tecumseh's emissaries have been among them. British influence has
been at work; but we will talk of this later. The chiefs seem
surprised at this discourse between ourselves."

"Gubbernor," said Winnebeg, solemnly, and in his own broken English
phraseology, "as the head chief of the Pottowatomies, I return
thanks to our Great Father for the liberal presents he has made to
our nation; but I think it will be better not to go away or give
up the ammunition, because we have plenty of everything to defend
the fort for a long time. Give my warriors blankets and cloths,
and the squaws trinkets, and keep the powder safe here. We can kill
the cattle and make pimmecan. If a force comes to attack you, we
can attack them from the woods and, the sand-hills. This, gubbernor,
is what I have to say."

"And I," remarked Pee-to-tum, starting to his feet and with fierce
gesticulation, "insist, in the name of the warriors, that the wishes
of our Great Father of the United States be done. He has said we
shall have the powder, and we will have it--and the rum, and Kenzie's
strong drinks too. Father, I have spoken."

Another loud and triumphant yell from the warriors grouped around
too clearly evinced that there was danger to be apprehended from
those they had hitherto looked upon as their friends. Captain
Headley felt ill at ease, for he was conscious that he had irrevocably
committed himself; and, what was more mortifying to his pride, he
was compelled inwardly to admit that his subalterns, although at
the price of disobedience of orders, had, in this instance, evinced
far more judgement and prudence than himself. Still, the pride of
superiority--mayhap of vanity--was in some measure deprived of its
humiliation, as he consoled himself with the reflection that their
precaution must have been the result of an intimation of some change
of feeling on the part of the warrior, whereas he himself had been
left, wholly in ignorance on the subject, and led to repose
confidently on their good faith. Still he shuddered as he thought
of those within, at what might have been the turbulence of the
young men, evidently encouraged by the dark Pee-to-tum, had they
gained admission into the fort.

Feeling that things had arrived at a crisis and that it would not
be prudent to provoke those in whose power they now unquestionably
were, he remarked calmly to Winnebeg that the word of the Father
of the United States was pledged, could not be withdrawn without
dishonor, and that, therefore, his resolution was unchanged in
regard to the distribution of the powder with the other presents,
which should take place on that very spot on the morrow.

Winnebeg looked angrily round as the yell of Pee-to-tum marked the
triumph and satisfaction of the latter at this renewal of the
promise of Captain Headley. It was uttered, not in gladness for
the gifts, but as thought it would express the knowledge that the
donation was compelled--not to be avoided. Mr. McKenzie had difficulty
in restraining the nervousness of his annoyance.

"Then, sir," he said, addressing the commanding officer, "since we
are to assist in cutting our own throats, it seems to me that the
most prudent course to pursue will be to leave everything
standing as it is, and allow the Indians to help themselves, while
we march as rapidly as possible to our destination."

"What! and without escort? That, indeed, would be madness," exclaimed
Captain Headley.

"It is from the escort we have most reason to apprehend danger,"
returned the trader. "What say you, Winnebeg?"

"Winnebeg say, suppose him Gubbernor not stay fight him English--go
directly. Leave him Ingin here divide him presents."

Black Partridge and all the other chiefs, except Pee-to-tum, gave
the same opinion.

Whether nettled at the support given to the proposition of Mr.
McKenzie by Winnebeg, or more immediately influenced by his strict
sense of obedience to the order he had received from General Hull,
or by both motives, Captain Headley firmly repeated his determination
to distribute everything, as he promised, on the following day.
The hour of twelve was named, and the council broke up, the younger
Indians leaping and shouting with joy as they separated in small
parties, some yet lingering about the fort and glacis, but the main
body moving off again to their encampment.



CHAPTER XV.

The remainder of the day passed heavily and gloomily. All felt
there was a crisis at hand, and the insolent tone which the younger
Indians had assumed, left little hope with any that the escort of
their allies on the long and dreary route on which they were about
to enter would bring with it anything but despair and disaster.

Captain Headley had exerted his prerogative. He had, as commanding
officer, decided upon his course in opposition to the judgment even
of his Indian counsellors; but he was not happy--he was not satisfied
himself. On re-entering the fort, after the council had been broken
up, he had felt it necessary to the maintenance of his own dignity
to summon the subalterns before him, and read, or rather commence
to read to them, a lecture on their disobedience of his command to
them to follow him to the council; but, with strong evidence of
contempt in their manner, they had turned on their heels and walked
away without replying, leaving him deeply mortified at a want of
respect for him, which was rendered the more bitter to his pride
by a certain latent consciousness that it had not been wholly
unmerited. On entering his apartment, he found his noble wife
preparing at her leisure the private arrangements for departure,
and calm and collected as if no circumstances of more than ordinary
interest were agitating the general mind. He caught her in his
arms; he sat upon the sofa, and drew her passionately to his heart.
Never in the course of twenty years' marriage had he more fondly
loved her. There was a luxury of endearment in that embrace that
renewed all the earlier and more vivid recollection of their union,
and for many minutes they remained thus, each wishing it could last
for ever. When this full outpouring of their souls had subsided,
their hearts beat lighter, felt freer, and there was less
scruple in entering on the subject of the immediate future that
awaited them.

While they thus sat conversing in a strain of confidence and
tenderness, which the immediate trials to which they were about to
be exposed rendered, more exquisitely keen, Mr. McKenzie and Winnebeg
entered unannounced. At the sight of Captain Headley, hand in hand
with his wife, who sat upon his knee, the former would have retired,
but Mrs. Headley, without at all displacing herself or affecting
a confusion she did not feel, begged him to remain, adding that,
as she supposed Winnebeg and himself had important business with
Captain Headley, she would retire into the adjoining room.

She rose slowly and majestically, bowed gracefully to the trader,
and took the hand of the chief, who as heartily returned the warm
pressure she gave it.

"God bless him squaw!" he said, feelingly; "Winnebeg always love
him. Lay down life for him."

"Thank you, good Winnebeg," returned Mrs. Headley, warmly, while
a faint smile played upon her features; "I am sure you would do
that, but let us hope it will never come to the trial."

"Hope so," returned the chief, as he shook his head gravely, and
followed with a mournful glance the receding form of the noble-minded
woman.

"Captain Headley," remarked Mr. McKenzie with severity, when the
door was closed on her, "I am come to use strong language to you,
but the occasion justifies it. If you do not rescind your promise
of powder to the Indians, the blood of your wife, of my daughter--of
every woman and child--of every individual in the garrison, be upon
your head! Sir, you will be a murderer, and without the poor excuse
of even being compelled to pursue the course you have. Was it not
enough to promise them the public stores, without exciting their
cupidity still further? Did you not hear the insolent Pee-to-tum
declare that not only he would have all the ardent spirit as well,
and not merely that, but what was contained in my cellar? When
men--and Indians, in particular--use such language, do you think
it prudent to put the means of our certain destruction in their
hands? Do you think it likely that, when once they have drained to
repletion of the maddening liquor, they will hesitate as to the
manner of disposing of the powder so recklessly, nay, so guiltily,
given to them? No, sir; let those articles be theirs, and we are
lost, irrevocably lost! Speak, Winnebeg--you hear--you understand
all I say--am I right?"

"Yes, Kenzie right," returned the chief; "sorry give him
powder--young warrior not obey Winnebeg--Pee-to-tum bad man--make
him wicked:--no give him powder, Gubbernor!"

All the extent of the indiscretion of which he had been guilty now,
for the first time, occurred to Captain Headley, and he could not
but agree with the trader, that the results he foretold were those
the most likely to follow the distribution.

"But how am I to act?" he returned (his pride causing him to reply
rather to Winnebeg than to Mr. McKenzie); "how can I retract the
promise I have so solemnly made without incurring the very danger
you seem to apprehend? It will never do. Pee-to-tum will then sow
disunion between us and our allies, and then where will be our
expected escort?"

"Captain Headley, are you wilfully blind that you do not perceive
you have lost all power, all influence to command where most you
seem so much to rely? Why, sir, it is clear that they are only
waiting for the delivery of the presents to throw off the mask.
Better would it have been had you allowed them to gut the fort and
choose for themselves. In their eagerness for plunder, they would
have lingered at least a couple of days behind, thus enabling you
to effect your march without them. Better that, I say, than the
suicidal course you have adopted; but far better still it were had
you boldly resolved to defend the post to the last. Your daring
and your determination would have awed the Indians. Your present
evident weakness and vacillation but inspire contempt."

"Mr. McKenzie," said the captain, rising with strong indignation
in his manner, "this language I may not, will not hear with impunity."

"Nay," continued the trader, "you shall hear, for I have a right
to speak. By your conduct, all are imperilled. For the men it were
not so bad; but the women! Indeed, no language can be too strong
to express the dangers you have drawn around us all. Have you no
thought of your own noble wife?"

The door opened, and Mrs. Headley stood once more before them, calm
and composed, but with a countenance slightly flushed.

"Headley--Mr. McKenzie, excuse my intrusion, but I could not avoid
overhearing this unpleasant argument, which can tend to no benefit
in our strong emergency. Think me not bold if I intrude in this
matter, and, as a woman who has passed not a few summers of existence
in these wilds, offer my opinion. With you, Mr. McKenzie, I perfectly
agree that it would be highly imprudent, in the present changed
state of feeling of the Pottowatomies generally, to supply them
with ammunition which may be used against ourselves, and, with
Captain Headley on the other hand, deem that it would be impolitic
to exasperate the young men by denying that which they now so
confidently expect."

"And how, dear Ellen, would you solve the difficulty?" asked her
husband, smiling.

Mr. McKenzie spoke not; but his eyes were bent upon her with mingled
surprise, respect, and admiration.

"You may keep the word of promise to the ear, but break it to the
hope," she replied. "Did you not say you had appointed to-morrow
for the delivery of the presents?"

"I did. To-morrow at twelve. Everything will then be handed over."

"Then," resumed Mrs. Headley, "what more simple than to produce,
among the other parcels, a single cask of powder and another of
rum; and if asked why there is not more, to offer in excuse that
you had not known your supply was so low. No doubt, Pee-to-tum and
those who, with himself, are discontented, will express
disappointment, even indignation; but that is a very secondary
consideration, when we consider the importance of withholding the
gift. One cask of powder and one of rum divided among four hundred
warriors will not amount to much after all."

"All very well, Ellen; but what is to prevent them, if they fancy
themselves duped, from forcing the store and discovering the deceit
that has been practised? Then, indeed, will they have some just
ground for their fury."

"I have provided against that," she replied. "I mean that Winnebeg
shall call a council of his young men this night at twelve, so as
to keep them away from the fort that they may not know what is
going on; then, when all is still, the whole of the men can be
employed in removing the casks of powder and liquor, rolling them
some into the sallyport, and emptying their contents into the well,
which you know is built there as a reservoir in the event of a
siege; the remainder, conveyed through the northern gate, the heads
knocked in, and the contents thrown into the river. If they should
search, they will find nothing."

"Good!" said Winnebeg, who perfectly understood the proposition,
and had listened to every word.

"Indeed, indeed, Mrs. Headley," remarked the trader, "who will not
admit that there is more resource on an emergency in a woman's mind
than in all our boasted wisdom put together? A better plan could
not have been devised. You will adopt it, Captain Headley?"

"Most certainly," he said, fervently grasping the hand of his wife.
"When did my Ellen ever fail to better my judgment by her sound
advice?"

"And yet, but for our little misunderstanding, Captain Headley--a
misunderstanding not personal, but simply of opinion--we should
never have had the advantage of her most wise umpiry. This is
certainly an illustration that good sometimes comes of evil."

"And now, gentlemen," said Mrs. Headley, playfully, "that I have
conferred upon you the benefit of that wisdom you seem so properly
to appreciate, I will again leave you to yourselves."

"God bless him!" said Winnebeg, as he took the hand that was again
proffered to him in the most friendly manner.

"My ammunition and liquors must be destroyed in the same manner,"
said the trader, who now rose to take his leave. "Only three or
four of my voyageurs are at home just now. You will allow some of
your own men to assist them, Captain Headley."

"The moment the public stores are destroyed, they shall all do so,"
replied the captain; "the work cannot be too speedily done. Think
you, Winnebeg, you can keep your young men in the encampment
to-night?"

"Try him Gubbernor--call him council--speak him of march to Fort
Wayne; spose young Ingin come, good--spose him no come, sleep till
to-morrow."

"Very well, Winnebeg, you must arrange it as best you can, but
contrive at least to keep them from prowling around the fort. At
midnight, then, Mr. McKenzie, we shall commence the work of
destruction. When you have made your own preparations, and wish to
come in for aid, follow the subterranean passage that leads from
the river near your warehouse to the sallyport; you will find the
men there busily engaged, and ready for you the moment they have
emptied the contents of our casks."

The commandant waved his hand in a familiar manner as he concluded,
and the trader and the chief withdrew.



CHAPTER XVI.

   "But I am constant as the northern star."
      --_Julius Caesar._

The remainder of that day, the 12th of August, passed over without
incident, but not without anxiety; for the Indians, no longer
indulging in the indolence of the wigwam or the activity of the
chase, occupied themselves with running, leaping, wrestling, jumping,
throwing the rude stone quoit, and firing at a target with the bow.
It might have seemed as though they sought to intimidate, as much
by exuberance of spirits as by a display of numbers, the little
garrison, who, it was clear, from the closing of the gate and the
firing of the gun, no longer regarded them with the confidence they
had ever hitherto manifested. These sports were evidently the
prelude to some ulterior purpose, either immediate or not distantly
remote, and the energy with which they were followed, attested the
excitement with which the accomplishment was looked for. It seemed
as though none would permit a moment of repose to the blood until
the fond object for which it had been excited should have been
attained.

All this was remarked from the fort; but, notwithstanding a vigilant
lookout was kept up, Captain Headley had given orders that if small
parties of the Indians should seek admission, it was not to be
refused to them. This made the duty exceedingly severe, for the
men, being compelled to work in harness under a scorching sun,
suffered greatly, and none were sorry when, at the close of the
day, not only their own task had partially terminated, but the
jaded Indians, drunk with too much joy and excitement, were seen
wending lazily for the night to their several places of repose.

At about midnight Captain Headley and his officers stood, not
together, but on different parts of the rampart, watching the
encampment of the Pottowatomies. Most of their fires had been
extinguished, but towards the centre where stood the tent of
Winnebeg, there was a bright flickering glare, around which forms
of men could be seen moving to the measured sound of the faintly
audible and monotonous drum.

"Now, then, gentlemen, is the moment for exertion. Winnebeg has
evidently found it easier, in their present humor, to get his
warriors into a war-dance than a sober council; but no matter in
what manner, provided their detention be secured. You will now move
your men to the stores, and, in order not only to prevent accident,
but noise, see that all are provided with their moccasins. Mr.
Elmsley, you will take command of the party conveying the ammunition
through the sallyport, and empty it into the well; and you, Mr.
Ronayne, will proceed through the northern gate, roll the casks
which I have directed each to be covered with a blanket to the edge
of the river, cause their heads to be forced in noiselessly with
chisels, then empty the contents--powder as well as rum--into the
stream. No light must be used to betray your movements to the
Indians, or to incur the risk of explosion. One lantern only hangs
up in the store out of the reach of all harm, and it is transparent
enough to enable you to see what you are about, to distinguish the
several casks, those containing the powder and rum, from those in
which are packed the bags of shot, flints, gun-screws, &c. All
these latter you will throw into the well, with the spare
muskets, the stocks of which must be noiselessly broken up. This
operation will take up some hours, gentlemen. The nights are not
long, and it will require all the time until dawn to complete the
work. Now, then, that you have your instructions, proceed to work
with your respective parties. For myself, I shall superintend the
whole."

Without replying, the two officers departed to execute the but too
agreeable duty assigned to them, while Von Voltenberg, who had paid
his professional visits for the night, was instructed to keep a
vigilant lookout on the common until dawn, in order to detect any
movement on the part of the Indians, singly or in parties, to
approach the fort. Corporal Green, whose sight was remarkable for
its keenness, was instructed to keep pacing the circuit of the
rampart during the night, and to report to the doctor, for whom,
in consideration of his being a non-combatant, a chair had been
placed in a sentry box overlooking the encampment, anything remarkable
that he might observe.

Nothing particular at first occurred during the execution of this
important duty. The casks were silently rolled, knocked in, and
emptied in the well and river. This took up many hours; but towards
dawn, as Ensign Ronayne was following at some little distance in
the rear of his men, he thought he observed a dark moving form as
of a man crawling upon his belly, and endeavoring to approach as
near as possible to the spot where the men were at work. Impressed
at once with the assurance that it was some one sent by Pee-to-tum
to watch the actions of the garrison, he advanced boldly up to him,
being then distant at least fifty feet from his party, and near
the awning which had been left standing for the accommodation of
the Indians who were to receive their presents the next day. The
prowler, finding it impossible to elude the officer in the position
in which he was then gliding, suddenly started to his feet, and
sought to escape detection in flight; but Ronayne, who was a very
quick runner, and moreover wore moccasins as well as his men, soon
came up with him, when the Indian rapidly turned, and, upraising
his arm, prepared to strike a desperate blow at the chest of the
unarmed youth. But even while the knife was balancing, as if to
select some vulnerable part, another figure started suddenly from
behind a part of the awning, close to which they all were, and
grasping the arm of the assailant, dexterously wrested the weapon
from his hand, and flung it far away from him upon the glacis.

All this was the work of a moment. The spy turned fiercely upon
the intruder, and, saying something fiercely and authoritatively
to him in Indian, strode leisurely away. Ronayne could not be
mistaken. The first was Pee-to-tum, and even if he could not have
traced the graceful outline of the well--knit figure, the soft and
musical voice which replied to the scorning threat of the fierce
chief sufficiently denoted it to be Wau-nan-gee.

"Heavens! how is this? Wau-nan-gee!" he asked, sternly, yet trembling
with excitement in every limb, "why came you here? Why have you
saved my life? Speak! are you not my enemy? Where is my wife?"

All these questions were asked with the greatest volubility, and
in a state of mind so confused by the host of feelings the presence
of the young Indian inspired, that he scarcely comprehended the
latter as he replied:--

"All! love him too much, Ronayne wife--love him Ronayne
too--Wau-nan-gee friend, dear friend--Wau-nan-gee die for him--Ronayne
wife in Ingin camp--pale--pale, very much!"

"Answer me," said Ronayne, grasping him by the shoulder in pure
excitement, "tell me truly, Wau-nan-gee--I will not hurt you if
you do--but tell me, on the truth of an Indian warrior, is not my
wife your wife? did she not go to you? does she not love you?"

"Ugh?" exclaimed the boy, with an expression of deep melancholy in
his manner; "Wau-nan-gee love him too much, but not make him wife.
Spose him not Ronayne wife, then Wau-nan-gee; die happy spose him
Wau-nan-gee wife. Feel him dere, my friend--feel him heart--oh much
sick for Maria--but Wau-nan-gee Ronayne friend no hurt him wife."

"Can all this be possible?" he exclaimed, vehemently to himself.
"Oh, what a noble, what a generous being; he restores life and
happiness to my heart! But still I am not yet convinced, the joy
is too great for such light testimony. One question more, Wau-nan-gee:
why did my wife leave this? Did you persuade her to go?"

"Yes, Ronayne, Wau-nan-gee tell him go. Shuh!" he continued, as if
enjoining silence, and looking cautiously round, "no speak,
Ronayne--Ingin very wicked--kill him garrison by by--Ronayne and
Maria--Wau-nan-gee friend, dear friend--Wau-nan-gee save him--Ingin
kill him--Maria cry very much, promise no." Then drawing a
handkerchief from his pocket, which the officer recognised, even
in the gloom, as that which he had thrown down at Hardscrabble,
and which was subsequently waved from the window of the farm-house,
he handed it to him.

"Now, then," he exclaimed, "is all my doubt removed, and again am
I the happiest of men in the assurance of the continued love of
the adored one. Oh, Wau-nan-gee, my friend, my brother!" He threw
himself into his embrace; he pressed him forcibly to his heart.
"Oh, how true, how just was the feeling which caused me not to
hate, even when I fancied you had most injured me! Wau-nan-gee,
you must always be my friend; you must be Maria's friend; you must
love us both!"

"Yes," said the Indian, warmly and with difficulty maintaining the
stoicism of his race; "Wau-nan-gee happy to lay down his life for
Ronayne and Maria; oh! Ronayne," and he took the hand of the
Virginian and placed it on his chest which he bared, "can't tell
how much Wau-nan-gee love him Maria--want to make him happy. Suppose
Ronayne come now with Wau-nan-gee--take him to squaw camp. Stay
there till battle over. Yes, come, come!"

"Noble and generous boy! how do you win my very soul to you!"
returned the officer, as he again affectionately embraced him. "No,
no, I cannot do that, great and severe as is this sacrifice of
inclination. But what battle do you speak of?"

"Letter tell him all," said the youth. "Not say Wau-nan-gee say so."

"Wau-nan-gee," said Ronayne, impressively, "no doubt there is
danger. We all know it. Was it not you who brought me a line from
Maria this morning?"

"Yes, my friend. Pee-to-tum say attack him council. Wau-nan-gee
tell him Maria write--afraid to say much."

"No doubt, then, we shall be attacked before many days are over;
but thank God, she at least is safe. Wau-nan-gee, you must
take care of her in the camp of your women. When all is safe, you
will come to me with her."

"Mr. Ronayne," called a voice near the river, "where are you?"

It was Captain Headley.

"Good by, Wau-nan-gee," said the officer, "I must go. Give my love
to Maria, and tell her I am sick to see her," and he put his hand
over his heart, "and that I will join her when all danger is over;
to-morrow night I shall have a letter for her. You can contrive to
steal into the fort at night, and into my room unnoticed,
Wau-nan-gee?"

"Spose him come," again urged the Indian, "Wau-nan-gee find him
little tent for Ronayne and his wife for two three days? Wau-nan-gee
wait upon him, bring him food. Maria say come--must come."

"No, Wau-nan-gee, my dear friend, you know I cannot as a warrior
think of myself alone; I must do my duty; but I am called. Good
by, my noble boy. To-morrow night at twelve. God bless you! I leave
my wife wholly to your care."

"Wau-nan-gee die for him," said the youth energetically, as, after
again pressing the extended hand of the Virginian, he traced his
way cautiously to the encampment.

"Mr. Ronayne," repeated Captain Headley, "where are you?"

"Here, sir; I have for a few moments been absent from my post, but
I thought I remarked an Indian skulking near to watch our movements,
and I followed him. I was not wrong; it was Pee-to-tum. When
discovered, he rose to his feet and would have stabbed me, but
Wau-nan-gee was near and warded off the blow."

"Wau-nan-gee! said you, Mr. Ronayne? Did he ward off the blow aimed
at your life?"

"He did, sir; why should he not? We have always been friends."

Had it not been dark, Captain Headley would have looked as he felt,
exceedingly puzzled for a reply.

"To tell the truth, Mr. Ronayne, I had not suspected this. I should
rather have imagined that he was the chief instigator of the young
men to discontent; but I am glad to find it otherwise."

For a moment it flashed across the mind of the Virginian that Mrs.
Headley had, from policy or in confidence, communicated all she
knew in regard to Maria's evasion to her husband. The idea of any
man possessing the slightest knowledge of wrong in his wife would
have maddened him; but now that he in some measure knew the facts,
and looked upon her in all the purity of her spotless nature, he
was not sorry to have an opportunity to remove the impression; he,
therefore, answered calmly, yet without adverting to the actual
position of his wife.

"So far from that being the case, Captain Headley, Wau-nan-gee is
the last person to engage in an outrage of the kind. Doubtless
these letters, of which the youth has been the bearer, will explain
much that is now a mystery."

The laborious duty of the night being now ended, the gates were
once more fastened; and as the officers passed the lamp which hung
over the entrance of the commandant's quarters, Ronayne glanced at
the superscriptions of the two missives. The one was written in
ink, and directed to Mrs. Headley; the other in pencil, and addressed
to himself.

Ronayne was too impatient to know the contents of the letters to
waste further time in conversation. At the invitation of Captain
Headley, he entered and unfolded the note, while the commandant
sought the apartment of his wife.

Mrs. Headley had thrown herself towards morning on her bed, but
not to sleep; her mind was too full of apprehensions for the fast
coming future, and for the melancholy, sad past; and, even at the
moment when her husband entered, her thoughts were of the unfortunate
Mrs. Ronayne.

"From Maria! is it possible?" she exclaimed, as she broke the seal.
"Whence comes this? who brought it?"

"What think you of Wau-nan-gee!" he answered,
significantly--"Wau-nan-gee, who saved within the hour her husband's
life!"

"Then, by my soul, is she innocent!" exclaimed the generous woman,
rising up. "Almighty God, I thank thee. Oh, how rashly have we
judged; but let me read. The document is dated from this, the night
before her departure; it is the same, no doubt, she should have
inclosed before--not a word in addition. I will read it later.
Where is Ronayne?"

"In the next room. He, too, has received a communication, which he
is now reading. You had better go in to him, while I give some
directions to Elmsley, which require to be attended to immediately.
I shall rejoin you presently."



CHAPTER XVII.

When Mrs. Headley entered, unannounced, into the apartment where
the Virginian was sitting, he brushed his hand across his eyes,
but now they wept not only the emotion of grief that he betrayed,
but of joy, of pride, of the fulness of life. He rose, pressed her
hand warmly, and, giving her Maria's note to read, took the letter
which she proffered in return.

"Ah! Ronayne," began the first, "what language can express my
feelings--my fears--my agony. For the last week I have not seemed
to live a human existence. My mind has been all chaos and confusion.
I have been feverish, excited, scarcely conscious of my own acts,
and filled with a strong dread of an evil which I know will come,
must come, although only protracted. And yet, with all the horror
of my position, how much more bitter might have been my self-reproach,
my remorse, in having neglected, in my distraction, to inclose the
packet for Mrs. Headley, which the noble-hearted, the devoted
Wau-nan-gee now conveys. I thought I had given it to Sergeant Nixon,
but Wau-nan-gee found it in the pocket of my saddle only yesterday.
Oh, but for the arrival of Winnebeg with the intelligence he brings,
it would now be too late, and what, then, would have been my
sensations? His appearance has altered the plans of the unfriendly
portion of the Indians, who, presuming that the troops will soon
leave the fort, have determined to wait for the division of the
stores, and attack you on the march. But still they could not
restrain their impatience, and the day of the council was fixed.
All this I learned from Wau-nan-gee, who makes me acquainted
with everything that is going on, and is both hated and suspected
by Pee-to-tum, who would willingly find him guilty of treachery,
and destroy him if he could. I begged him, in my deep sorrow, to
be the bearer to you, even amid all danger of detection, of a few
words of warning which I knew you would sufficiently understand.
He did go, while dashing up seemingly in defiance to the gate; and
with a joy you may well understand, I marked the result. So far,
then, has the step which my great love for you induced me to take,
regardless of minor considerations, been of vital service to you
all; for good and generous as Wau-nan-gee is, nothing short of his
deep and respectful attachment would have led him to reveal the
secrets of his people, and thus defeat their cruel purpose. But,
oh! when I think that the danger is only deferred, not removed,
how poor is the consolation! Dear Ronayne, my heart is sad, sad,
sad! Last night I dreamed you were near, and this morning I awoke
to horror, to know that, perhaps, your hours are numbered, while
for me there is no hope of death, which then would be a blessing,
except from my own hand! Oh, suffer me not to pray in vain if you
would have me live! Once you evaded (oh, how cruelly!) the stratagem
which would have saved your life and honor--which would have made
you an unwilling prisoner with those who, for my own safety, hold
me captive.

"Alas! had I not hoped that you would have been compelled to share
my weary bondage until the dread crisis had passed, I had never
been here; and now that the great object of my heart has failed,
I would return, and share the danger that surrounds you. One more
embrace would give me greater strength to die. One more renewal of
each well-remembered face would make me firmer in resolve to meet
the coming danger, that danger shared by all. But Wau-nan-gee, in
all things else docile as a slave, in this denies me. In his mother's
tent I dwell, disguised from the wretch Pee-to-tum in Indian garb,
and, although she does not seem to do so, she watches my motions
closely. Oh! then, since I may not go to you, come for a brief
period to your adoring wife! Come with the occasion back with
Wau-nan-gee. He will conduct you to the tent where now I am, some
little distance from the general encampment, and never visited but
by Winnebeg and his son. You will say I am but an indifferent
soldier's wife to give such counsel to a husband. I confess it; my
love for you is greater than my regard for your glory. But what
glory do you seek? March with the troops and ingloriously you
perish; for what can avail defence against the strong force I know
to be fully bent upon your destruction. Join me here and you are
saved--saved for a long and future course of glory for your
country--and, oh! far dearer to me, for a long and future course
of wedded happiness. Yet, oh, God! how can my pencil trace this
icy language, while my heart is desolate--longing--pining for your
presence. Oh, beloved Ronayne! by all the vows of love you ever
poured into my willing ear--by all the fires of passion you ever
kindled in my heart, I conjure you to come, for I can endure this
suspense, this cruel uncertainty no longer. To-night I shall count
the long, long hours; and, oh! if Wau-nan-gee return without you,
without one ray of hope to animate this breaking heart, I will not
leave him until I have won his promise to conduct me at midnight
to the secret entrance through which he has so often gained admission
into the fort; or failing in my plea to him, I will make the attempt
to fly myself. But, dear Ronayne, if you come not, the measure
of my grief will be full indeed to overflowing. I can no longer
endure this."

Such was the last note of the unhappy and distracted Maria Ronayne.
The document addressed to Mrs. Headley was more voluminous, and
written of course under the impression that when read by the latter,
her own husband would be secure from the danger it detailed. It
was in substance as follows:

Wau-nan-gee, who had been absent for nearly a month in the immediate
theatre of war near Detroit, and heard rumors of an intended attack
upon Chicago, had hastened back with great expedition to announce
to his friends the approaching danger; but much to his surprise,
he found on his arrival that the news of that event had been known
in the camp several days previously through the agency of certain
emissaries who used every exertion to win the Pottowatomies over
to Tecumseh and the British cause. A council had been secretly held
before the return of Winnebeg with the despatch from General Hull,
and terms had been offered and proposals made on that occasion
which were variously received, according to the humor, interests,
and rapacity of the parties. By the majority of the chiefs, to
their honor be it said, the proposal of treachery to the Americans
was sternly rejected, but there was one of their number--Pee-to-tum--not
a full-blooded Pottowatomie, but a sort of mongrel Chippewa,
adopted in the tribe for his untamably fiendish disposition,
connected with certain other mere animal qualities, who was loud
in his invectives against the Americans for their asserted aggressions
on the Indian territory, and he, by pointing out the advantages
that would accrue to themselves by an alliance with England, won
upon almost all the young warriors to decide in abandoning the
American cause immediately. Thus, although there was no decided
treaty made, there was a tacit understanding that all possible
advantage was to be taken of circumstances, and whenever a favorable
opportunity presented itself, the mask was to be thrown off. In
vain Black Partridge, Kee-po-tah, Waubansee, and other Pottowatomie
chiefs declared they washed their hands of all wrong that might be
perpetrated. The young men, or the great majority of them, wanted
excitement, blood, plunder; and they sustained Pee-to-tum in all
that he advanced. Hoping, however, that the tumult would subside
with the absence of those who first incited it, the chiefs did not
like to alarm the commandant by a knowledge of what was going on
among themselves, but were contented with recommending, as has
already been seen, that he should remain in defence of his own post
rather than confide himself to the safe keeping of those on whom
he depended for an escort.

The night of the arrival of Wau-nan-gee he gleaned all this
information; and filled with anxiety for the danger that threatened
the wife of Ronayne, whom really he loved with a deep passion--yet
one utterly unfed by hope or expectation of any kind whatever--he
determined that night to enter the fort while her husband was on
guard, and acquainting her with her danger, entreat her to allow
him to conceal her until all was over. He succeeded, though not
without some risk of being discovered in consequence of the
exclamation of surprise and almost terror, which Mrs. Ronayne
uttered on his appearance so suddenly and unexpectedly before her;
but the humble manner of the boy--the deprecating yet earnest look
he threw on her, and the lowly posture in which he crouched, soon
satisfied her that there was some important reason for his
appearance at that hour of the night, which it was essential she
should learn. She, therefore, took his hand to reassure him, and
with an attempt at lightness, bade him tell her what brought him
there after so long an absence at that late hour of the night, and
when he must have known that Ronayne was on guard and herself alone?

The boy shook his head with a solemn, sad expression, "Come alone,
come!" he replied; "no speak him Ronayne. Pottowatomie kill him
Wau-nan-gee--oh, Wau-nan-gee very sick!"

Those few brief sentences, delivered in that melancholy and
significant manner, rendered Mrs. Ronayne extremely nervous. She
made him sit on the sofa. She took his hand--she asked him what he
meant. With tears swimming in his large, soft, languishing black
eyes, he told her everything relating to the subject--of his own
return for the express purpose of looking to her safety--of the
secret council of the Indians--of the fierce determination of
Pee-to-tum and the misguided young men whose cupidity and passions
he had so strongly awakened. He said he came to save her, to take
her out of the fort until all the trouble was over, to conceal
herself in a spot, to watch her, and to protect her as a brother.

"And Ronayne--your friend, my husband--what will you do with him?"
exclaimed Mrs. Ronayne, greatly excited and terrified by what she
had heard. "Oh, Wau-nan-gee, can you not save us all? Will it not
be enough to tell Capt Headley what you know, and thus put him on
his guard!"

"Suppose him tell Captain Headley, Ingin knew it--Ingin know
Wau-nan-gee tell him. Kill him Wau-nan-gee like a dog. Save him
Maria!"

"And will you not save Ronayne? If you care for me, Wau-nan-gee,
you will save my husband."

"Spose him love him very much husband?" he said, fixing a penetrating
yet softened look on her.

"Yes, Wau-nan-gee, very much," returned Mrs. Ronayne with emphasis.
"If you save one you must save the other."

Without pursuing the conversation further, it may suffice to remark
that Wau-nan-gee left not Mrs. Ronayne until he had exacted her
promise to meet him on the following afternoon in the summer-house,
when he said he would be enabled to show her a place where, with
her husband, she might be concealed as soon as it was known on what
day the Indians should have decided on their attack. This he pledged
himself to have arranged in the course of the morning, so that by
the afternoon she should be enabled to judge of the convenience it
afforded. The trunks seen by Ronayne at Hardscrabble, were hastily
packed by Mrs. Ronayne with articles of clothing for both, and
conveyed by Wau-nan-gee that night through his secret entrance to
the summer-house, and subsequently removed.

Not liking to call attention to the circumstance of her crossing
the water unaccompanied, and moreover, really desiring the presence
of one of her own sex to sustain her in the course that had been
forced upon her, she had requested Mrs. Headley to bear her company.
On her entering the summer-house, the trap-door, which appeared to
have been made that very morning, was open; but instead of
Wau-nan-gee, she beheld standing near its entrance another dark
Indian whom she had too much reason to fear and dread.

It has already been remarked that Pee-to-tum was not a genuine
Pottowatomie, but one of that race whose very name is a synonym
with treachery and falsehood--a Chippewa. With low, heavy features;
a dark, scowling brow; coarse, long, dark hair, shading the restless,
ever-moving eye that, like that of the serpent, seemed to fascinate
where most the cold and slimy animal sought to sting; the broad,
coarse nose; the skin partaking more in the Chippewa, of that
offensive, rank odor peculiar to the Indian, than any others of
the race; with all these loathsome attributes of person, yet with
a soul swelling with the most unbounded vanity and self-sufficiency,
based on ignorance and assumption; this man, although having a wife
and children grown up, had dared to cast the eye of desire on Mrs.
Ronayne. Long had he watched her, not as the gentle, the pure,
the self-sacrificing Wau-nan-gee, but as a tiger gloating for his
prey. To possess her had been one of his leading motives in urging
the alliance with the tribes in the British interests--to hasten
the moment she might become a prisoner in his hands, his chief aim
in stirring up the young warriors into a determination of early
attack.

Only two days prior to the return of Wau-nan-gee he had been in
the fort, and passing near Mrs. Ronayne as she was amusing herself
at battledore with her friend, Mrs. Elmsley, remarked to a companion
as he bent his eyes insolently upon her: "The white chiefs' wives
are amusing themselves. They are wise. In a few days we shall have
them in our wigwams."

No notice was taken of the remark at the time. Mrs. Ronayne had
more than once noticed the eyes of the loathsome Chippewa fixed
upon her with an expression she shuddered at but could not define,
and she had attributes his words on that occasion to impotent anger
and disappointment, at the dislike she had conceived for him.

This was the loathsome being she now met, and knowing, as she did
from Wau-nan-gee, all that he meditated in regard to himself and
friend, the horror she experienced may be conceived. Rapidly, and
in time to suppress in a great measure the scream she attempted to
give, the savage placed one hand upon her mouth, and clasping her
tightly round the waist, bore her to the opening through which he
made her rudely descend, still keeping his hand upon her mouth.

When the feet of Mrs. Ronayne touched the bottom of that seemingly
living tomb, she was so paralysed by fear that she had not strength
to support herself, and but for the arm of the dark chief still
clasped around her waist, she must have fallen. The very sight of
her weakness inflamed the Chippewa the more. He removed her hat
and threw it on the ground. The vast volume of her brown hair he
unfastened from the comb. It fell, enveloping her figure to her
knees. The eyes of the brutal Chippewa flashed fire in the half
darkness that prevailed around. The hand hitherto held upon her
mouth, now fell upon and fiercely pressed her bosom, and his hideous
lips sought hers. With a violent effort she tore them from the
pollution of his touch, and uttering a fault cry of despair, sank
fainting from his now loosening grasp. What followed she could not
tell; but when some minutes afterwards she came to her senses, weak
and exhausted from excitement, Wau-nan-gee was sitting at her side
chafing her palms with his own, and with the large tears coursing
down his cheeks.

At the first sight of the boy Mrs. Ronayne started, for she fancied
that she must have been laboring under the influence of a dream,
and that not Pee-to-tum, but himself, had used the violence
she experienced; but when she recalled all that had passed, perceived
her own disorder of dress, and remarked the unfeigned affliction
of the youth, she knew that it could not be so. Still deeply
agitated, she asked him anxiously where the Chippewa was, and
wherefore, he and not Wau-nan-gee had been in the summer-house as
promised, when she came in. With every appearance of profound sorrow
and sincerity, the youth replied that he knew not how Pee-to-tum
had got there--that he himself, after leaving the trap-door open
ready for the descent of Mrs. Ronayne, had gone to the further
extremity of the vault for the purpose of removing a large stone
which blocked up a hole admitting the fresh air from above near
the cottage, and that he was returning by this passage, which was
narrow but nearly six feet in height, when he heard the cry for
aid, and knowing it to be hers he had flown to her assistance, but
that the sound of his approaching footsteps must have alarmed the
Chippewa and caused him to fly--stopping motionless, perhaps, till
he, Wau-nan-gee, had passed him, and then escaping by the same
outlet. He it must have been whom Mrs. Headley had remarked stealing
across the garden just before she entered it with Maria.

Once reassured of the fidelity and truth of the boy, Mrs. Ronayne,
although painfully, distractingly ignorant of the extent to which
the insolence of Pee-to-tum had been carried, was too much absorbed
in the consideration of her husband's safety to lose sight of the
subject more immediately at her heart, in mere personal regrets
that now were of little avail. She said to Wau-nan-gee that the
place in which she then was would certainly have been well suited
to the purpose intended but for two reasons; firstly, that now
having been discovered by Pee-to-tum, it would no longer be secure;
and secondly, that her husband would never consent to abandon his
comrades to secure his own safety. She proposed, instead, that a
plan should be arranged to make them both prisoners while out on
the following day, and in such manner that it should be supposed
in the garrison that the capture had been effected by hostile
Indians; and to this the youth joyfully assented, stating that a
number of his friends less hostile in their intentions might be
procured to aid him in the matter. It was arranged that this should
be done on the following day, and this at so great a distance from
the encampment that Pee-to-tum should know nothing of the occurrence
till both husband and wife were beyond his reach.

"It is a strange and a wild project," she remarked, "but the crisis
is desperate, and anything to save my husband's life. But now I
must go, dear Wau-nan-gee; Mrs. Headley is in the garden waiting
for me."

"No, no go," he said; "spose him Mrs. Headley go home. Wau-nan-gee
take Maria home by by. Got canoe here. No let him go home. Pee-to-tum
wicked--Pee-to-tum got Ingin plenty yonder," and he pointed in the
direction of the cottage; "Pee-to-tum carry off Maria--go see where
he is. Shut him door till Wau-nan-gee come back. Mrs. Headley
come, no see him here; no tink him here."

He accordingly ascended, fastened down the trap-door and departed,
as we have said, little anticipating to have been seen by Mrs.
Headley.

He had not been five minutes gone when she heard a dull, heavy
sound which satisfied her that the stone was being rolled from the
orifice spoken of by Wau-nan-gee. Feeling assured that Pee-to-tum
had seen him depart, and knowing her to be there and helpless,
was returning to renew his odious and brutal passion, she sought
to rise in order to force up and escape by the trap-door. This she
did, regardless of her disordered appearance, and without even
thinking of hat or comb; but she had no sooner moved a step forward
when she again fell down, as much paralysed by fear as exhausted
by weakness. In her helplessness she could only sob and moan and
vainly deplore the absence of her late rescuer, while all her
thoughts and feelings were of her husband. The footsteps advanced;
she grew at each moment more nervous, more terrified. She had
scarcely the power to move herself on the spot where she half sat,
half reclined. Presently the trap-door was heard to move, soon it
opened, and there to her astonishment, yet not less to her exceeding
embarrassment, inasmuch as she could not, without compromising the
saviour of her honor--the purposed saviour of her life, explain in
what manner she had been placed in the strange position in which
she had been found, she beheld Mrs. Headley. What followed is known
to the reader. It was not, however, Pee-to-tum whom Mrs. Ronayne
had heard rolling away the stone, but Wau-nan-gee returning to set
her free for the present, as he had seen the soldiers at the gate
and knew that she was safe.



CHAPTER XVIII.

   "This is my glove--by this hand I will take thee a box on the ear."
      --_Henry V._

The following morning was as bright and glorious as an August sun
could render it, but its very brilliancy seemed a mockery to the
gloom and despair that filled the hearts of the little garrison.
Still, notwithstanding the treachery few were ignorant the Indians
intended, there was a bearing among all, from the commanding officer
down, that, while attesting determination and confidence in
themselves, left no ground for a suspicion that the designs of
their treacherous allies had been revealed.

The guard was mounted, as usual, and the customary formalities of
the military service complied with, and arrangements were made,
soon after the men had eaten their breakfasts, for the conveyance
of the stores to the glacis.

At twelve o'clock all was ready, and the mass of Indian warriors,
painted and armed, moved in loose and disorganized bodies across
the plain, and grouped around their chiefs, who, seated on the
ground, received for the young men the presents which had been set
apart in divisions for every ten. The cloths, blankets, trinkets,
and provisions, were first handed over, but when on coming to the
ammunition and liquor only one cask of each was, found, the
indignation of the whole band, the chiefs excepted, was, as had
been expected, excessive.

"My Father promised us plenty of powder and plenty of liquor,"
exclaimed Pee-to-tum, stamping with his feet and gesticulating
violently; "Where is it?"

"This is all that is left of the stores," exclaimed Capt. Headley.
"When we reach Fort Wayne you shall have more."

"My Father lies," returned the Chippewa. "Pee-to-tum did not sleep
like a lazy hound in his tent last night; he crawled near the
fort; he heard the powder barrels knocked in with axes; he heard
the rum poured into the river like water. Even to-day," and he
pointed with his clenched tomahawk, "the river is red with liquor
till it is 'strong grog.' What should prevent us from avenging
ourselves for this cheat, by mixing the blood of our father with
the same water till it looks like strong rum also?" A terrific yell
burst from the surrounding warriors, who all brandished their
tomahawks in a menacing manner.

"What should prevent you?" said Capt. Headley, suddenly carried
out of his usual prudence by the insolence of the ruffian--"what
should and will prevent you!" and he pointed to the bastion, which
had been manned as on the former occasion, while the burning matches
seemed only to await his signal. "Each of those guns contains a
bag of fifty bullets, and each bullet can kill its enemy. Now then,
have but the courage to lay a hand upon me and you will see the
result. See, I am alone--only Mr. McKenzie to witness the act."

There was a pause of a few moments, during which low murmurs broke
from the younger Indians, and the dark and subtle eye of Pee-to-tum
quailed before the bold look of the commanding officer, who continued:

"As for you, vile Chippewa, you are the sole cause of all these
troubles, all this excitement in the young men of the Pottowatomie
Nation. You are of that dark and malignant race, as far below the
Pottowatomie in everything that is noble and generous and good as
the Evil Spirit is below the Good Spirit. There is nothing but
falsehood and treachery in their selfish and avaricious nature.
They are deceitful, and so given to love rum that when an Indian
is seen wallowing like a hog in the gutter, and with the foam
disgorging from his blue and lizard-like lips, stabbing right and
left indiscriminately, as if hatred and the sight of blood were
essential to his very existence, you may at once know him to be a
Chippewa. How then can such a man, and of such a race, disgrace
and dishonor the councils of the war path of the nobler Pottowatomies?
How, I ask, can Black Partridge, Winnebeg, Waubansee, To-kee-nee-bee,
and Kee-po-tah consent to allow such a mongrel chief to exercise
an influence among their warriors hostile to the Americans, who
have ever treated them with kindness, even when they themselves do
not seem to second him in his views?"

The scorn Captain Headley threw into his voice and manner as he
uttered these words, which they perfectly understood, was such that
Pee-to-tum, whose fingers played tremulously with the handle of
his tomahawk, could not, without difficulty, refrain from using
it; but when he glanced upwards and saw Lieutenant Elmsley attentively
watching all that passed with his glass, his rage was stifled, but
inwardly he vowed to be revenged. The young men evinced great
excitement also; and from that moment, on this occasion particularly,
it was evident to Captain Headley that they were entirely under
the influence of the Chippewa.

"Father," said Black Partridge, rising and solemnly replying to
the appeal just made by Captain Headley, "this medal I have worn
for many years upon my breast. It was given me by the Great Father
of the Americans as a token of a friendship I never have broken;
but since everything tells me that my young men, who I grieve to
say will no longer obey the voice of their grey-headed chiefs, have
determined to wash their hands in American blood, it would
not be right in me to keep this token of peace any longer. Father,"
he concluded, removing the ribbon by which it was suspended over
his chest, "I deliver the medal back to you, and may you live to
see and tell our Great Father that Black Partridge was ever faithful
to the United States, and washes his hands of all that may now
happen."

The same disclaimer was made by "Winnebeg and the other friendly
chiefs; lastly, Pee-to-tum rose:

"Dog!" he said, insolently, as he tore his medal from his chest
and held it up for a moment, dangling in his hands, "tell him you
serve, if you live to see him, that Pee-to-tum, the dark Chippewa,
is for ever his enemy--that wherever he can do so he will spill
the blood of the Yankee, till it runs like the rum your warriors
spilt last night; tell him that Pee-to-tum spits upon his face
thus!" Then, throwing it contemptuously on the ground and stamping
upon it with his moccasined feet, he burst forth into a laugh
intended to be as insulting as the act itself.

This profanation was too much for Captain Headley. He rose from
his chair, and exclaiming in his fury, "take that, damned Chippewa,
in return!" first spat in his face and then hurled at him his heavy
military glove, which happening to strike the pupil of his eye
while in full glare of indignation at the first insult, it was
deprived of sight for ever.

Great was the tumult that now ensued. Incapable of acting himself
from the intensity of agony he suffered, Pee-to-tum could only
utter fierce howlings and threats of vengeance, but several of the
warriors advanced furiously upon the commanding officer with the
most startling yells and threatening manner. The latter, hopeless
of escape, but determined to sell his life dearly, drew his sword
while he presented a pistol with his other hand.

"McKenzie," he said quickly, "get out of the way! remember me to
Ellen!" and then elevating his voice to such a pitch as he knew
would be heard in the fort, he distinctly uttered the command
"fire!"

But the order had been anticipated. Even as the word fell from his
lips the curling smoke from a gun was seen, and loud cheers succeeding
to the report burst from every man upon the ramparts, while a second
and smaller American flag was waved triumphantly by the hand of
Ronayne above the piece which had just been discharged.

Astonished at this unexpected scene, the Indians, who had been
greatly startled not only at the command which had been so coolly
given by the commanding officer, but by the discharge they had
incorrectly deemed aimed at themselves, suddenly ceased their
clamor, and following the course to which the attention of those
within the garrison appeared to be directed, beheld, to their
surprise, five-and-twenty tall and well--mounted horsemen dressed
in the costume of warriors, and headed by a man of great size,
pushing rapidly along the road leading from Hardscrabble for the
fort. The nearer they approached the louder became the shouts of
the soldiers, until finally the latter all left the ramparts,
evidently to open the gates and welcome the new-comers, who soon
disappeared through the opening.

The arrival of these strangers, small as their number was, had
evidently an effect upon the Pottowatomies, who for a moment looked
grave, and attempted no longer to molest Captain Headley. Mr.
McKenzie, who was still present and knew how to take advantage of
the occasion, profited by the surprise, and suggested to the
commanding officer, that as the conference was now over and
the presents all delivered, they should return to the fort to know
who the new-comers were. The friendly chiefs were, moreover, invited
to accompany them; and thus they returned leisurely, without further
interruption, into the stockade. Pee-to-tum, suffering severely,
had been led to his tent; and the threat bulk of the warriors,
freed from the excitement of his presence, busied themselves with
collecting together their individual shares of the presents they
had received. During the whole of the afternoon they were to be
seen wending their way leisurely, and in small and detached
groups--sometimes in single file--from the glacis to their own
encampment.

"Headley, my dear fellow," exclaimed the leader of the party--a
tall, powerful, sunburnt man, dressed like his companions, who now
stood dismounted, holding the bridle of his jaded horse and conversing
with the Doctor, for the other officers were still at their posts.
"Is what I hear then true--and have I only arrived in time to be
too late? Is all your ammunition then destroyed--all, all, all--none
left?" These questions were anxiously put as the stranger held the
hand of the commanding officer grasped in his own.

"It is even so," returned Captain Headley, impressed with deep
regret for the act, for in a moment he saw that this addition to
his little force would have enabled him to maintain his post until
the arrival of the British at least--"all that remains are twenty
rounds of cartridges for the pouches of the men, and a single keg
for use if necessary on the march--not six rounds of ammunition
remain for the guns."

"By G--, how unfortunate!" returned the stranger, striking his brow
with his palm; "had I been but eighteen hours sooner you were all
saved, for here are five-and-twenty as gallant and willing hearts
as ever wielded tomahawk or rifle. Hearing of your extremity I had
hastily collected them to afford you succor. Oh, I could eat my
heart up with disappointment!" he continued, "to think that all my
exertions, my speed, have been in vain. Headley, what could have
induced you to destroy the ammunition--your only hope of salvation?"

"What has been done," replied the commanding officer, with unfeigned
sorrow at his heart as he reflected on the subject, "cannot be
undone; but, ray dear Wells, it was impossible that we could divine
the generous interest which was sending you to our rescue; and had
not the powder and other ammunition been destroyed it must have
fallen into the hands of those who I grieve to say are but too
ready to use it against us. Moreover, purposing as I did, and do,
to march to-morrow morning, at all risks and under whatever
circumstance, I had given up this day all provisions not necessary
for our subsistence on the march. If then even the ammunition had
remained, we must have suffered from want of food."

"What, with those five-and-twenty horses, Headley?" returned the
other, pointing to the group that stood in the centre of the barrack
square. "Not so. They would have been sufficient when killed and
dried to have yielded us food for a month. No man knows better how
to make pimmecan than myself. Still," he continued, with greater
vivacity, "there is a hope. I have shown the manner in which the
provisions can be replaced, and I know you have a well within the
sally-port into which can be received the waters of Lake
Michigan--let search be made and instantly, and no doubt out of all
that you have thrown away, sufficient serviceable powder may be
found to enable us to defend the fort for ten days longer, when
something will assuredly turn up to better our condition."

"Would that it could be so," returned Captain Headley, with a
solemnity rendered more profound from the very smallness of the
contingency on which the safety of so much depended, "but there is
no hope. Anticipating that the Indians would attempt the very course
you now suggest--that of saving what powder might be uninjured by
the slimy bed into which it was thrown, all has been so mixed up
with rum and other liquids as to be rendered utterly useless.
Everything seems to be against us."

"Then, since all hope is over," returned the stranger with marked
disappointment, "we will not indulge in vain regrets for the past,
but make the best preparation for to-morrow. It is only to die in
harness after all. But, alas! I pity the poor women. How is my dear
Ellen--how does she support this severe affliction?"

"Bravely--nobly, like herself," returned the commanding officer
with emotion. "She will be delighted, yet grieved to behold
you--delighted at the generous devotion that has brought you so
far, and at the head of so small a force to our assistance; grieved
because she will know that you have only come in time to share our
fate. But dispose of your party and come in. Serjeant Nixon," he
called to that official, whom he saw passing from the rampart to
the guard-house.

The non-commissioned officer was soon at his side, and the captain
having given him directions to quarter the Indians for the night
in the officers' mess-room, liberally supplying them and their
horses with whatever they might require, and the stranger having
himself addressed some remarks to his people in the Miami tongue,
they both repaired with heavy hearts to the quarters of the former.

The meeting between Captain Wells and Mrs. Headley--the uncle and
niece, both of whom entertained a strong natural affection, founded
as much on similarity of character as on mere blood connexion--was
a very affecting one. They had long been separated, and year after
year a visit of a few weeks had been promised by the former to
Chicago; but the multiplicity of his public duties, for he was an
active agent in the Indian Department, had always prevented him
from carrying his intention into execution. But now when he heard
of the danger to which the garrison was exposed, and his beloved
niece in particular, he lost not a moment in appointing a deputy
to perform his duties during his absence, and collecting
five-and-twenty warriors whom he knew to be not only devoted to
him but the most resolute of the Miami race, he hurried off with
the object of forming a sort of body-guard to the ladies of the
detachment which he had been informed had received the instructions
of General Hull to proceed forthwith to Fort Wayne. Had he had
reason to doubt the faith of the Pottowatomies intended to form
the escort of the detachment generally, he might and would have
brought with him a much larger force; but it was not until after
he had traversed almost the whole of the one hundred and eighty
miles which he and his party had ridden without rest, that he
obtained information of the Indian disaffection. Alarmed lest he
should be too late, he and his party urged their harassed steeds
to greater speed, and having made a signal to the garrison, which
was seen by Ronayne through the telescope he kept constantly
to his eye, the gun was fired, the flag waved, and the shouts pealed
forth that, in all probability, in drowning his words of command
saved the life of his friend and relative.

"Well, Ellen, my love," proposed Capt. Headley, after a good deal
of conversation on the subject of their position had taken place,
"as this is to be the last of the many days which, until within a
week, we have passed so happily in Chicago, what say you to our
all dining here together? With many of us it will, doubtless, be
for the last time. We have still a few bottles of claret left in
which to drink your uncle's health, mixed up only with a regret
that his visit to us had not occurred at a happier period."

"Most willingly, Headley, I approve your suggestion, and shall
cause the dinner to be prepared. All I ask is the assistance of
Mrs. Elmsley and Ronayne's servants. With their aid my own servants
can even contrive to manage something for a dinner."

"_Dum vivimus, vivamus!_" exclaimed the herculean and resolute
captain. "I can see no reason why, because we are to be shot down
and perhaps eaten to-morrow, we should not enjoy the pleasure of
a little social eating and drinking ourselves to-day! I am not one
to lament fruitlessly over that which cannot be avoided. Sufficient
for the day, as scripture has it, is the evil thereof. I certainly
go in for the dinner and a glass of claret. It will help to wash
down half the dust I have swallowed within the last forty-eight
hours."

"Well, gentlemen," said Mrs. Headley, with a playfulness extraordinary
for the occasion, but which was induced solely by a design to set
the minds of her friends at ease, by impressing them with a belief
that her unconcern was greater, than it really was, "while I prepare
the feast, go you out into what highways and byways are left to us
and invite our friends. Uncle, you have not seen Mrs. Elmsley since
she was a young, clashing, and unmarried belle. She will be delighted
to meet with you. Tell her I will take no denial--both herself and
husband must attend. We shall dine at five, becoming fashionable
as we stand on the brink of the grave; and by the way, Headley,
all these troubles have made me quite forget it, but this is the
anniversary not only of my birth but wedding day."

"God bless you!" said her husband, tenderly embracing her, "and
grant of his great mercy that you may see many returns of the day
under far brighter and more auspicious circumstances!"



CHAPTER XIX.

It was a curious sight--one that could only have been witnessed in
a military community, used to scenes of excitement and ever prepared
for danger--to see under the roof of the commanding officer of Fort
Dearborn, not only men but delicate and educated and highly
accomplished women, partaking, with seeming unconcern, of a meal
which each felt might be the last but one they were fated to taste
on earth, and as it were with the sword of Damocles suspended over
their heads. There was an evident desire to banish from the mind
any thought of the morrow--to sustain each other, yet with the
conviction strong at their hearts that none of them would ever
live to see Fort Wayne. They, nevertheless, talked seriously and
deprecatingly of the change they would find between the two
quarters--the one just overtopping the wild flats of Ohio, like a
solitary oasis in the desert; the other, that which they were about
to leave--rich in rides and drives, offering every facility and
amusement to the lover of the gun and of the rod--to those whose
taste led them to prefer rowing over the comparatively tiny waters
of the Chicago, or sailing along the broad expanse of the noble
Michigan. But they could not wholly succeed in cheating themselves
into temporary forgetfulness of the much that was to intervene
before that change could be effected. Now and then there would be
a painful pause in the conversation; and then as each glanced into
the eyes of each, and could distinctly read the dominant thought
that was passing in his mind, another attempt would follow to give
a tone of indifference to the subject.

Not so with the humbler portion of the garrison. On the contrary,
there was no attempt to conceal from each other, or from themselves,
the magnitude and extent of the danger that awaited them; but in
proportion as they even magnified the peril, so was their
determination increased to defend themselves and families if
attacked, to the last. The single men talked in groups, and hesitated
not to condemn in strong language, the course pursued by their
commanding officer, for it was obvious to all that had he at the
first decided on defending the fort, the Indians never would have
acted in the insolent and hostile manner they had manifested; and
even if they had, the provisions and ammunition preserved, they
might, with this newly arrived strength, have made a defence of
months against their treachery. The principal spokesmen were Serjeant
Nixon, Corporals Green and Weston, and Phillips, Case, Watson, and
Degarmo, who having been the last whose fortune it had been to
smell powder against the Indians, were considered as being more
immediately competent to speak on the occasion. Such of the married
men as were off guard passed what hours they could in consoling
and sustaining the courage of their poor wives, who wept bitter
tears and uttered ceaseless lamentations, not so much on account
of the trials that awaited themselves as their helpless children,
in a distressing march through the wilderness, which they regarded
with nearly as great horror as the tomahawk of the Indian itself.

To return, however, to the quarters of the commandant. It must not
be assumed that because the excellent claret of that officer, to
which had been added a few bottles saved from Mr. McKenzie's private
stock, was enjoyed with a gusto not habitual to men in the same
position with our little band of martyrs, there was the disposition
to drown care through that very tempting medium, or to indulge in
the slightest degree in excess; or if there was an exception it
was to be found in Von Voltenberg, who managed now and then
dexterously to top off an extra glass, until by repeated little
manoeuvres of this kind he had in the end been one bottle ahead of
his companions. Soon after dinner Ronayne, whose spirits had been
cheered on the one hand and depressed on the other by the letter
of his wife, had, at the suggestion of Mrs. Headley, read for the
satisfaction and information of all the document addressed to
himself; and when this was concluded, exciting in the minds of all,
and particularly those yet unacquainted with the contents, renewed
interest in her fate, the ladies withdrew to complete such of their
arrangements for the march as were still necessary. On their
departure followed by the customary and, in this instance,
heart-impelled honors, and the health of the newly-arrived guest
being drunk, as "The Hero of the Valley of the Miami," Mr. McKenzie
took the occasion to remark:

"I have heard much of the prowess evinced by Captain Wells, both
against General St. Clair's army and while acting with that of
General Wayne, and should like much to know from his own lips
whether report speaks correctly of him or not. Come, captain, the
opportunity may not soon occur again--will you indulge us?"

"Willingly," returned the captain, raising his tall and herculean
frame in his chair and draining off his claret; "As you say, the
opportunity may not again soon occur; there is something here,"
and he pointed with his finger to his breast, "that tells me that
of the many fights in which I have been engaged, that of to-morrow
will be the last."

All looked grave, but no one answered. Each seemed to think that
such would be his own individual case.

"Pass the wine, Headley," resumed his relative. "Gentlemen, you
must not expect me to enter into a history of all my old fights,
both against and in defence of my own country. That would occupy
me until to-morrow morning; and you know we have other work cut
out for us. I will simply give you an outline--a very skeleton of
the causes which found me first fighting against St. Clair, and
subsequently in the ranks of Wayne."

Without encroaching on the patience of the readers of this tale by
using his precise words, it can only be necessary here to give an
epitome of the military career of Captain William Wells, which was
indeed one of no ordinary kind. He was a native of Kentucky, and
in early boyhood--being scarcely ten years of age--had been taken
prisoner, during a foray into that then wild state by the Miami
Indians. Being a boy of remarkable symmetry, resolution, and
intelligence, he was greatly noticed by one of the principal chiefs
of the tribe, who adopted him as a son, and trained him to battle,
into which he invariably went whenever most was to be done. This
mode of life young Wells loved so greatly, and the kindness shown
him was such that he never entertained the slightest regret at the
loss of old associations, or a desire to return to them. At the
time of the great battle between the Indians and General St. Clair,
he had gained the reputation of being one of the most formidable
warriors, both from his skill and great personal strength in the
ranks of the Miamis; and entertaining no scruple of conscience,
simply because he had not taken the trouble to reflect on the
subject, entered with all the ardor of his nature into that contest,
and it was said that a greater number of the American soldiers fell
by his hand than any other individual warrior engaged, and now he
rose higher than ever in the estimation of his tribe. But the very
circumstance of his prowess and success had the effect of dissociating
him for ever from those in whose cause he had triumphed. After that
sanguinary battle, so fatal to the American arms, he for the first
time began to reflect on the great wrong he had done to his own
race, and resolved to atone for the past by killing, in fair fight,
one Indian at least for every American that had fallen beneath his
tomahawk and rifle. Acting promptly on this suddenly-formed resolution
he at once abandoned his adopted father, and his Indian wife and
children, and hastened to Gen. Wayne, to whom he offered his
services. By that officer he was gladly employed, principally as
a scout, almost up to the close of the war; and during its
continuance many were the daring feats he performed. One example
must suffice.

A short time previous to the great battle of 1794, Wells, on whom
General Wayne had conferred the rank of captain, took with him a
subaltern and eleven men, for the purpose of watching the movements
of his old companions in arms. His men were all well trained to
the peculiar duty they were called upon to perform, and, after
having marched three days with a caution and knowledge of the forest
scarcely surpassed by the Indians themselves, found that they were
on the fresh trail of the enemy, although how many in number they
could not tell. They followed leisurely until night, when having
seen but one large encampment, Capt. Wells came to the determination,
if the disparity of numbers should not be too great, of attacking
them. Every disposition was made. The party crept cautiously near
them and then lay down in ambush, while their leader, as had been
arranged, entered their camp fearlessly and as a friend, and sat
himself down on the right of the circle, rapidly counting their
numbers as he did so. There were found to be twenty-two warriors
with one squaw. On being interrogated he stated that he had just
come from the British Fort Miami, and was on his way to stir up
the Indians to fight General Wayne. As he declared himself very
hungry the squaw hospitably put some hominy on the fire to warm
for his supper, of which he had intended to partake abundantly had
not a misapprehension on the part of his men hastened the moment
of action, and embittered all the satisfaction he would otherwise
have derived from his success. A motion of his hand was to have
been a signal to fire, each selecting his man; and the party,
conceiving that he had given this, acted prematurely, not only
depriving him of his supper, which was not yet ready, and of which
he stood in great need, but killing the unfortunate squaw who was
standing up stirring it at the time, and whom he had intended to
save. The next moment the formidable and dreaded tomahawk of the
captain went to work among the survivors, and out of the twenty-two
warriors but three escaped; he himself receiving a wound from a
ramrod shot through his wrist, and his lieutenant being hit by a
bullet in the thigh. The greatest havoc committed on this occasion
was by Wells himself, and it was his boast that in Wayne's war he
had slain a far greater number of Indians than he had killed
Americans throughout the contest with St. Clair; and cool indeed
must have been the determination of the man who could composedly
sit down alone and in the face of twenty-two warriors, some of whom
it might have been expected would have recognised him, or to whom
accident might have betrayed the proximity of his party, and resolve
to dispatch an ample supper before proceeding to the work of blood.
But these were the usages of the war in which he had been educated,
and a nobler and more generous heart than that of Captain Wells
never beat beneath the war-paint of an Indian.

Such was the man, the outline of whose story we have necessarily
condensed, who now, at the head of those Indians whom he once fought
for, and subsequently against, came to proffer his aid to the
unfortunate garrison of Fort Dearborn. What such an arm and such
daring might have accomplished, had circumstances combined to second
his efforts, can easily be surmised; but, unfortunately, all was
now of no avail, for the very sinews of success had been wrung from
him, and he felt that the utmost desperation of courage must
be insufficient to stem the tide of numbers that would lie in wait
for their prey on the morrow. But although h was not mad enough to
expect that if attacked anything but defeat and slaughter could
ensue, nothing would have pleased him more than an encounter on
the open prairie with the false Pottowatomies, notwithstanding
their great odds, had not the lives of women and helpless children
been at stake. These were the considerations that weighed with him
the most; for independently of his strong affection for his noble
niece, and his interest in her companions, he had never forgotten
the occasion when the poor Indian squaw was shot down across the
fire over which she was performing an act of kindness to himself;
and often and often, during his after life of repose from the
toils of war, had her blood risen to his imagination as if in
reproach for the act. If this could be called a weakness, it was
the only weak point that could be found in his character.

As there was little reason to apprehend that the Indians would
occasion any annoyance during the night to those whom they were so
certain to take at an advantage in the morning, when far removed
from their defences, Captain Headley had caused the garrison to be
divided into two watches--the one being stationed on the ramparts
until midnight, when they were ordered to be relieved by the second
party, who in the meantime slept--thus affording to all a few hours
of that repose of which for the last week they had scarcely tasted.

Midnight had arrived. The watches had been changed, and Corporal
Collins being of the new relief, had, after disposing his men in
the most advantageous manner to detect an approach, taken his own
station near the flag-staff, a point where the greater vigilance
was necessary, by reason of the storehouses and other outbuildings
of Mr. McKenzie; under cover it was not difficult for a cautious
enemy to approach the place unperceived.

He had not been at this point half an hour when he fancied he could
discover in the darkness the outline of a man moving cautiously
across the ground which had been used for the council, and seemingly
endeavoring to gain the rear of the factory. He challenged loudly
and abruptly, but there was no answer. Expecting to see the same
figure emerging from the opposite cover of the building, he fixed
his keen eye on that spot, when, as he had conjectured, it fell
upon the same, outline, but now performing a wider circuit. The
challenge was repeated, but the figure instead of answering remained
perfectly stationary. A third time the corporal challenged, and no
answer being returned he very indiscreetly fired, when the figure
fell to the earth apparently shot dead.

The report at that hour of the night naturally caused a good deal
of commotion, and brought every one to the spot--not only the
officers from their rooms but the watch that had thrown themselves,
accoutred as they were, upon their beds. Ronayne, who had retired
early for the purpose, was at the time in the act of completing a
long letter which he had written in reply to his wife, in which,
after pouring forth his soul in the most impassioned expressions
of devotion, he urged her in the strongest manner, and by every
hope of future happiness on earth, not to adopt the rash step she
had threatened, and paralyse his courage, and lessen his fortitude
to bear, by her presence in the midst of danger, but to remain
secure where she was, with Wau-nan-gee's mother, until the crisis
had passed. "I shall fight valiantly and successfully," he
concluded, "if you are not near to distract me by a knowledge of
your proximity to danger. If, on the contrary, you, in your great
and dear love, persist in your design, I feel that I shall perish
like a coward. I inclose you a part of myself, in the meantime--a
lock of my hair."

On hearing the report of the musket a fearful misgiving had oppressed
him, for he knew that this was about the hour when Wau-nan-gee had
promised to come for his letter, and he hurried to ascertain what
had occasioned the discharge. The result of his inquiry was not
satisfactory. Had the whole Indian force been discovered stealing
upon and surrounding them for a night attack, they would not have
carried half the dismay to his soul that he experienced when Corporal
Collins told him that he had fired at a solitary individual who
was creeping up to the fort and would not answer, although challenged
three times.

"Corporal," he said, in a low tone, "I have ever been a staunch
friend to you, and by that unlucky shot you have destroyed me. The
person you fired at was Wau-nan-gee, I feel assured. He was coming
for a letter from me to Mrs. Ronayne who is a prisoner, not with
other Indians as we had supposed, but in the Pottowatomie camp.
The only way you can repair this wrong is by going out secretly
through the sally-port and examining the body to see if it really
is he."

"Look, look, look!" said the corporal, who had kept his eye fixed
on the dark shadow hitherto motionless on the ground; "he is not
dead--see, he rises, and walks rapidly but stealthily in the
direction he was taking when I fired."

"And that is to the rear of the stockade, where he has discovered
some secret entrance, perhaps in consequence of the picketing having
rotted away below. Not a word of this, Collins. If it is he, as I
feel assured it is, he will go out again soon, and you must see
that he is not interfered with. He must bear my letter to my wife."

"You may depend upon it, Mr. Ronayne, he shall not be touched. I
will again keep that post myself."

The Virginian was right. He had not two minutes regained his room,
when a slight tap at the window announced his young and faithful
visitor. He flew to the door, opened it, and taking the boy by
the hand, let him in. He was paler than usual, and the expression
of his countenance denoted emotion and anxiety. As Ronayne cast
his eye downwards he remarked that his left hand was bound round
with, a handkerchief of a light color, through which the blood was
forcing its way.

"My God! Wau-nan-gee, is it possible?" he exclaimed, as he grasped
him fervently by the opposite palm; "were you hurt by that shot
fired just now?"

The Indian nodded his head affirmatively, as with an air of chagrin
and disappointment, he said, "No good fire, Ronayne--Wau-nan-gee
no mind him blood--Ingin Pee-to-tum hear gun fire--see Wau-nan-gee
hand--know Wau-nan-gee visit fort."

Ronayne, seeing that the youth was mortified at the manner of his
reception after the service he had rendered, explained to him fully
the facts of the case. He, however, told him that he had spoken to
the man who had fired at him under the idea of his being a spy,
and that he might rely that nothing of the sort would happen
on his return. Anxious to see the extent of the injury he had
received, he untied the handkerchief, washed the wound, and found
that the bullet had cut away the fleshy part of the palm just under
the thumb, but without touching the bone. A little lint and diachylon
plaster soon afforded a temporary remedy for this, and the whole
having been covered with a light linen bandage, he gave the youth
a half worn pair of loose gauntlets to wear if he felt desirous to
conceal the wound from the observation of his fellow warriors. This
done, and his letter to his wife folded and given to the safe
guardianship of the boy, with whom he made his final arrangements
for a reunion as circumstances might render prudent and expedient,
he finally drew him to his heart, and expressed in tones that could
not fail to carry conviction of their truth as well as deep
gratification to the generous heart of Wau-nan-gee the extent of
his gratitude and friendship.

When the young Indian had departed, not before renewing his strong
persuasion to induce the officer to accompany him to his wife,
Ronayne, determining that no mistake should occur in the compliance
of both his directions to Corporal Collins, once more ascended to
the bastion from which, he had soon the satisfaction to see
Wau-nan-gee glide away in the direction of his encampment, until
his figure was soon lost in the distance.



CHAPTER XX.

   "Mounted upon a hot and fiery steed which his aspiring rider
   seemed to know."
      --_Richard II._

As if in mockery of the climax of trial they were to be made to
undergo before its close, the 15th of August, 1812, dawned upon
the inmates of Fort Dearborn with a brilliancy even surpassing that
of the preceding day. Well do we, who chronicle these events,
recollect it; for while the little garrison, in recording whose
fate we take not less an interest than our readers can in the
perusal, were preparing to march out of the fort--to abandon scenes
and associations to which long habit had endeared them, and with
the almost certainty of meeting death at every step, we stood at
the battery which vomited destruction into the stronghold of him
who had counselled and commanded the advance upon Fort Wayne. It
has been a vulgar belief, fostered by his enemies, by those who
were desirous of relieving themselves from the odium of participation,
and of rising to power and consideration by the condemnation of
their chief, that the position of General Hull was one fraught with
advantage to himself and of disadvantage to his enemies. Nothing
can be more incorrect. The batteries, to which we have alluded,
had so completely attained the range of the Fort of Detroit, in
the small area of which were cooped up a force of nearly twenty-five
hundred men, that every shot that was fired told with terrible
effect, and not less than three officers of the small regular force
were killed or mutilated by one ball passing through the very heart
of their private apartments, into which it had, as if searchingly
and insidiously, found its way. To the left, moreover, was another
floating battery of large ships of war, preparing to vomit forth
their thunder, and distract the garrison and divide their fire,
which could be returned only from their immediate front bearing
on the river, that it soon became evident to the besiegers that
their enemy had no power to arrest or effectually check the fury
of their attack. But not this alone. Thousands of Indians had
occupied the ground in the rear, and only waited the advance of
the British columns, furnished also with artillery for an assault
in another quarter, to rush with the immolating tomahawk upon the
defenceless inhabitants of the town, and complete a slaughter to
which there would have been no parallel in warfare. They could not
have been restrained; their savage appetite for blood must have
been appeased, and of this fact General Hull had been apprised.
Moreover, five hundred of his force who had been detached under
Colonel Cass, were at no great distance, and had an effectual
resistance been made at Detroit--had blood been, as they would have
conceived, wantonly spilt, the exasperation of the Indians would
have been such that, in all probability, Colonel Cass would not at
the present day be a candidate for presidential honors, nor would
any of his force have shared a better fate. All these things we
state impartially and without fear of contradiction, because they
occurred under our own eyes, and because we believe that the people
of the United States do not understand the true difficulties by
which General Hull was beset. It may be very well, and is correct
enough in the abstract, to say that an officer commanding a post,
armed and garrisoned as Detroit was, ought to have annihilated
their assailants, but where, in the return of prisoners, is mention
made of artillerymen sufficient to serve even half the guns by
which the fortress was defended? The Fourth Regiment of the line
was there, but not the gallant Fourth Artillery, and every soldier
knows that that arm is often more injurious to friends than to foes
in the hands of men not duly trained to it. With the exception only
of the regiment first named, the army of General Hull consisted
wholly of raw levies chiefly from Ohio, expert enough at the rifle,
but utterly incompetent to serve artillery with effect. Again, the
greater the number of men the greater the disadvantage, unless at
the moment of assault, for it has already been shown that the
British battering guns had obtained the correct range, and half
the force had only canvas to cover them.

We pretend not, assume not, to be the panegyrist of General Hull,
but we have ever been of opinion that, as he expressed himself in
his official despatch to the commandant at Chicago, his principal
anxiety was in regard to the defenceless inhabitants; and that had
his been an isolated command, where men and soldiers only were the
actors, no consideration would have induced him to lose sight of
the order of the Secretary of War--that no post should be surrendered
without a battle. If he erred it was from motives of humanity alone.
But we return from our short digression to the little party in Fort
Dearborn.

As we have before remarked, the sun rose on their immediate
preparation for departure with a seemingly mocking brilliancy. None
had been in bed from early dawn; and as both officers and men
glanced, for the last time, from the ramparts upon the common, they
saw assembled around nearly the whole of the Indians, with arms in
their hands, and though not absolutely dressed in war dress, without
any of those indications of warriors prepared for a long march,
such as that meditated by the troops, while their tents still
remained standing.

"The prospect is gloomy enough," remarked Captain Wells, gravely;
"those follows have evidently been up all night and watching
the fort from a distance, to see whether an attempt might not be
made to 'steal a march' upon them in the dark--look yonder to the
loft, do you see that band crouching as the light becomes stronger
behind those sand hills? Mark me well if that is not the point from
which they will make their attack, if attack us they do! For myself,
I am prepared for the worst; and in order that they shall know how
much I mistrust them--nay, how certain I am of what they intend,
I shall head the advance with my brave warriors painted as black
as the devil himself. And so to prepare ourselves."

"Corporal Nixon, pull me down that flag," ordered Ensign Ronayne,
pointing to it, when the commanding officer had descended to give
directions for the formation of the line of march--"that is my
especial charge, and he who may take a fancy to it must win it with
my life."

The corporal replied not. He was not aware of the true position of
his young officer's lady, and he was afraid to give him pain by
making allusion to her. He, however, promptly obeyed, and when the
flag was lowered, and the lines cut away, assisted him in enfolding
it somewhat in the fashion of a Scotch tartan round his body.

At the moment when the flag came down, the Indians on the common
set up a tremendous yell. It was evidently that of triumph at the
unmistakable evidence of the immediate evacuation of the fort.

The hot blood of Ronayne could not suffer this with impunity. At
the full extent of his lungs he pealed back a yell of defiance,
which attracted the general notice towards himself, standing erect
as he did with the bright and brilliant colors of the silken flag
flashing in the sun. Among those who were nearest to him was
Pee-to-tum, over whose wounded eye had been drawn a colored
handkerchief as a bandage. The Chippewa shook his tomahawk menacingly
at him, and motioned as though he would represent the act of tearing
the flag from his body.

The shout and its cause were heard and known below. Captain Headley
returned to the rampart, and with much excitement in his manner
and tone, inquired of the young officer what he meant by such
imprudence of conduct at such a moment--when they were about to
place themselves, almost defenceless, at the mercy of those whom
he so wantonly provoked.

"It ill becomes you, sir," returned the Virginian, fiercely and
sarcastically, "to talk to me of imprudence, who but follow your
example of yesterday. Where was the prudence, I ask, which induced
you to compromise not only your own life, but the lives of all, in
spitting first, then dashing your glove, into the face of the
Chippewa?"

"If you dare to question the propriety of my conduct, sir," returned
his commanding officer, "know that the act was provoked--unavoidable,
if we would respect ourselves and command the respect of our enemies.
Pee-to-tum had insulted the American people by contemptuously
trampling under foot the medal that had been given to him by the
President. Join your company, sir! What tomfoolery is that?" alluding
to the manner in which the colors were disposed of. "Remove those
colors!"

"That tomfoolery," returned Ronayne, his cheek paling with passion
as he descended to the parade, "means that I know what you do not,
Captain Headley--how to defend the colors intrusted to my care. I
will not remove them."

"This fills the measure of your insolence, Mr. Ronayne," returned
the commandant; "you will have a heavy account to settle by the
time you reach Fort Wayne."

"The sooner the better; but if we do reach it, it will be from no
merit of arrangement of yours," returned the subaltern, as he placed
himself in his allotted station in the company.

It may and must appear not only surprising, but out of character
to the reader, that such language should pass between two
officers--and these unquestionably gentlemen--of the regular
service--the one in command, the other filling the lowest grade of
the commissioned service; but so it was. The high spirit of the
Virginian had ever manifested deep impatience under what he considered
to be the unnecessary martinetism of Capt. Headley, and there had
always existed, from the moment of joining of the former, a
disposition to run restive under his undue exercise of authority.
This feeling had been greatly increased since the resolution taken
by Capt. Headley to retreat after giving away the presents and
ammunition to the Indians, not only because it was a most imprudent
step, but because while the fort was maintained, there was the
greater chance of his again being reunited, through the
instrumentality of Wau-nan-gee, to his wife. Perhaps had he known
the sincere sympathy which Capt. Headley entertained for him at
the grief occasioned by her loss, or the knowledge he had obtained
of her supposed guilt, which, notwithstanding all their little
differences, he guarded with so much delicacy, this bitterness of
feeling would have been much qualified; but he was ignorant of the
fact, and only on one occasion, and for a moment as has been seen,
suspected that Mrs. Headley had, under the seal of confidence and
from a presumed necessity, betrayed his secret. If the history of
that time did not record these frequent and strong expressions of
dissatisfaction and discontent between the captain and the ensign,
we should feel that we were violating consistency in detailing
them; but they were so, and the only barrier to an open and more
marked rupture existed in the person of Mrs. Headley, whom Ronayne
loved and honored as though she had been his own mother, and who,
on her part, often pleaded his generous warmth of temperament and
more noble qualities of heart in mitigation of the annoyance and
anger of her husband.



CHAPTER XXI.

All being now ready, the gates were thrown wide open for the last
exit of the detachment, and the little column sallied forth. In
the van rode Captain Wells and his little band of Miamis, whose
lugubrious appearance likened the march much more to a funeral
procession than to the movements of troops confident in themselves,
and reposing faith in those whose services had been purchased. Next
came thirty men of the detachment, and to them succeeded the wagons,
containing, besides the women and children and sick, such stores
of the garrison, including spare ammunition, with the luggage of
the officers and men, as could not be dispensed with. Thirty men,
composing the remaining subdivision of the healthy portion of the
detachment, brought up the rear. Their route lay along the lake
shore, while the Indians moved in a parallel line with them,
separated only by a long range of sandhills.

Both excellent horsewomen, and mounted on splendid chargers whose
good points had for years been proved by them in their numerous
rides in the neighborhood, Mrs. Headley and Mrs. Elmsley, with
Ronayne on horseback, brought up the extreme rear. The former,
habited in a riding dress which fitted admirably to her noble and
graceful figure, was cool and collected as though her ride were
one of mere ordinary parade. Deep thought there was in her
countenance, it is true. Less than woman had she been had none been
observable there; but of that unquiet manner which belongs to the
nervous and the timid, there was no trace. She spoke to Mrs.
Elmsley--who also manifested a firmness not common to a woman, to
one under similar circumstances, but still of a less decided
character than that of her companion--of indifferent subjects,
expressing, among other things, her regret that they were then
leaving for ever the wild but beautifully romantic country in which
they had passed so many happy days. "How we shall amuse ourselves
at Fort Wayne," she concluded, after one of those remarks, "heaven
only knows; for although I spent a great part of my girlhood there,
I confess it is the most dull station in which I have ever been
quartered."

"How," remarked Ronayne, with an effort at gaiety his looks belied,
"can the colors be better flanked than by two ladies who unite in
themselves all the chivalrous courage of a Joan d'Arc and a Jeanne
d'Amboise. Really, my dear Mrs. Headley," glancing at the black
morocco belt girt around her waist, and from which protruded the
handles of two pistols about eight inches in length, "I would advise
no Pottowatomie to approach too near you to-day."

"I think I may safely second your recommendation, Ronayne," she
answered, as uncovering the front of her saddle she exhibited a
short rifle which her riding habit concealed, "or they may find
that my life has not been passed in the backwoods, without some
little practical knowledge of the use of arms. When we were first
married at Fort Wayne, Headley taught me to fire the pistol and
the rifle with equal adroitness, and I have not forgotten my
practice."

"And I," said Mrs. Elmsley, "though less formidably provided, have
that which may serve me in an emergency--see here," and she drew
from the bosom of her riding dress a double-barrelled pistol,
somewhat smaller than those of Mrs. Headley.

"Well provided, both of you," said the Virginian, "and I was correct
in saying that the color and the color-bearer were well guarded,
but hark! what is that!"

Several shots were fired. They were discharged by the Indians,
wantonly destroying the cattle browsing around the road by which
they advanced.

"Such will be our fate," exclaimed the officer with the excitement
of indignation; "shot down, no doubt, like so many brutes."

At that moment Captain Headley galloped up from the rear, he having
been the last to leave the fort. Ronayne's words were overheard by
him, and he demanded, hastily and abruptly:

"Are you afraid, sir? You seem well protected."

"Sir!" thundered the ensign, "I can march up to the enemy where
you dare not show your face."

And, apologizing hurriedly to the ladies, he dashed the spurs
furiously into his horse's flanks and followed his captain, who
had hastened to the front.

As the latter gained the head of the column which was only rendered
of any length by the dozen bullock wagons containing the stores
and luggage, he saw Capt. Wells, who was about a hundred yards in
the advance, suddenly wheel round with his Miamis, and push rapidly
back for the--main body.

"They are preparing to attack us, sir," he shouted. "There is not
a moment to be lost in making your arrangements."

Scarcely had these words been uttered, when a volley came rattling
across the sandhill from the level of the prairie, wounding, but
not disabling, two of his men.

"We must charge them," he answered, "it is our only hope. Keep them
in check, Wells, while I form line. Now, my lads, it is death or
victory for us. Baggage wagons halt, and form hollow square, to
shelter the women and children from the bullets of the enemy. Rear
subdivision, to the front! Right subdivision, halt!"

"Left subdivision, halt!" ordered Lieutenant Elmsley, when they
had come up.

"Front!" pursued the captain, and the line was formed. "Men, throw
off your packs--you must have nothing to encumber you in that sand;
the drivers will carry them into the square. Ladies, you had better
retire there too."

"To a soldier's wife the field of battle were preferable on a day
like this," calmly returned Mrs. Headley, who, with Mrs. Elmsley,
had ridden up with the rear. "Better to be shot down there than
tomahawked near the wagons. Besides our presence will encourage
the men--will it not, my lads?" A loud cheer burst from the ranks.
Each man, certainly, felt greater confidence than before.

"Then forward, charge!" shouted Capt. Headley, availing himself of
this moment of enthusiasm; "recollect, you fight for your wives
and children; if you drive not the Indians, they perish!"

"Nay, forget not, you fight for your colors!" cried Ronayne,
galloping furiously through the sand to the front, and heading the
centre.

The ascent was not very steep, and as the colors, tightly girt over
the shoulders of Ronayne and hanging from the flanks of his horse,
first appeared crowning the crest, and then the little serried line
of bayonets glittering like so many streams of light in the sun's
rays, exclamations of wonder, mingled with fierce shouts, burst
from the Indians, who up to this moment had, after their first
volley, been wholly occupied by Captain Wells and his party of
horsemen, whom they seemed more anxious to make prisoners than to
fire at, and this in consideration of their horses, which they were
anxious to obtain unwounded.

"Wells," shouted Captain Headley, on whose little line the Indians
now began to open their fire, "send half your people to protect my
right flank. Charge, men! It is all down hill work now, and we
are fairly in for it. If we are to die, let us die like men."

Simultaneously, and without the order, the men shouted the charge
as, with their commanding officer and the colors full in view before
them, they dashed forward where their enemies were the thickest,
and such was the effect of their unswerving courage that the latter,
although in numbers sufficient to have annihilated them, were awed
by their resolution; and in many instances, those who were not in
the immediate line of their advance, stood leaning on their guns
watching them and without firing a shot; nor was this strange, for
it must be recollected that the hostile feeling to the garrison
had not been shared by all the Pottowatomies, especially by the
chiefs and more elderly warriors.

Before the determined advance of the gallant little band the Indians
gave way, until they had retired again nearly as far as their own
encampment, but the ranks were fast thinning by the distant fire
of the enemy, whom it was found impossible to reach with the bayonet.

"This will never do," thundered Capt. Headley; "halt! form square!"

The order was speedily obeyed; but on hearing firing behind and
looking round for his wife and Mrs. Elmsley, to place them in the
centre, Captain Headley saw that a great number of the Indians whom
they had driven before them had turned aside and reunited behind--thus
cutting them off from their party. It has already been observed
that the horse Mrs. Headley rode was a magnificent animal, docile
yet full of life and spirit, and the excitement and sound of battle
had, on this occasion, given to him an animation--a-grace, if it
may be so expressed, which, rendered even more remarkable by the
superb figure of his rider, excited in several of the Indians a
strong desire to get possession of him uninjured. Her own scalp
they were burning with eagerness to secure; for from the first
moment of the charge down the hill, she had used her little rifle
so successfully that of three Indians hit by her two had been
killed, and they had evinced their deep exasperation. The anxiety
to extricate herself, without the horse being wounded, in all
probability saved her; for they fired so high that almost all the
bullets passed over her head, although not less than seven did
reach their aim--one of them lodging in her left arm. The Indians
were now pressing more closely upon her, when Captain Wells, seeing
the danger to which the noble woman was exposed, dashed back at
the head of his brave horsemen, and used the tomahawk with such
effect without the enemy being able to guard themselves against
the rapidity of his movements, that he soon cleared a passage to
her, cleft the skull of a Pottowatomie who had reached her side,
and was in the very act of removing her riding hat to scalp her
alive, and lifting her off her horse, covered with wounds and faint
from loss of blood, bore her rapidly down towards the lake. As he
approached it, he met Winnebeg and Black Partridge returning to
the scene of blood, to save her if possible, as they had previously
saved Mrs. Elmsley, who had had her horse shot under her, and been
wounded in the ankle. Both were hurried into a canoe, and concealed
under blankets by those good but now powerless chiefs, while the
brave but desperate captain returned to head his warriors and try
the last issue of the fight.

Meanwhile, Captain Headley had been again attacked and with great
fury by the rallying Indians, while the only diversion in his favor
was that made by the little band of Miamis, who, however, could
not be expected to render efficient aid much longer; besides,
whatever immediate advantage might be gained, the final result
when the darkness of night should set in, was but too certain. Not
only his officers and himself, but his men felt this, and they
could scarcely be said to regret it, when, surrounding them from
a distance, the Indians renewed a fire which, from the moment of
their first being thrown into square, had in a great degree been
lulled. During that short interval they had been made to moisten
their parched lips from their canteens of water into which had been
thrown a small quantity of rum at starting, and no one who has ever
donned the buckler need be told the exhilarating, the renewing
influence of this upon men jaded with long previous watching and
fighting at disadvantage.

"Men, husband your ammunition," enjoined the captain, "keep cool,
and when I give the word, level low and deliberately. Our position
cannot be better, for the country is all clear and flat around us.
God defend the right."

"Commence file-firing from the right of faces," he ordered, as he
remarked that the Indians, rendered bolder by has inactivity, were
evidently closing upon him, as for the purpose of a rush.

Steadily and coolly the men pulled the trigger for the first time;
and the effect of the caution he had given was perceptible. The
Indians were no less galled than astonished when turning from one
face to get out of the way of danger, they found the bullets coming
upon them from every point of the compass--not very many, it is
true, but quite enough to stay and to warn them that a nearer
approach was dangerous; and before the little band had discharged
a dozen cartridges each--few failing to tell--they had withdrawn
entirely out of reach of danger either to themselves or to their
enemies.

While thus they stood, as it were, at bay, they for the first time
had leisure to look around and observe the havoc that had been done
along the slope of the sandhill and on the plain below. Nearly half
of their gallant comrades lay there scalped and tomahawked, and
with their bodies and limbs thrown into those strange contortions
which mark the last physical agony of the soldier struck down by
the bullet in the midst of life and health; but for every private
lay two Indians at least--a few of them who had been overtaken in
the furious charge down the hill, but most of them sufferers from
their fire while formed in their little but compact square. Capt.
Headley and his lieutenant looked anxiously, but silently, towards
the sand hill, where they had last seen their wives exposed to the
most imminent danger, yet gallantly defended by Captain Wells and
his Miami warriors, three of whose horses, shot under them, encumbered
the ground, but nothing was to be seen of either; and the bitterness
of sorrow was in their hearts, for they believed them to be dead,
and that their bodies were lying beyond the crest of the hill,
whence occasional shouts were heard. As for Ronayne, he kept his
eye fixed in the opposite direction, for they were not far from
the encampment of the Pottowatomies, and he felt satisfied that
his beloved Maria, who, after the great peril to which he had fears
Mrs. Headley and Mrs Elmsley were exposed, he deeply rejoiced to
know was in a place of safety, was then not far from him, and no
doubt forcibly detained from the field by the mother of Wau-nan-gee,
or by the youth himself.

"'Twere folly to remain here longer and thus inactive," remarked
Captain Headley. "The Indians are evidently waiting for night to
renew their attack, for they are sensible that, as few of them
are provided with rifles, our muskets have greatly the advantage
of range. Hark! do you hear the yells and shouting of the hell-hounds
in the fort? It is well for us that nearly half their force has
been attracted thither by the thirst of plunder and the hope of
obtaining rum. But let us resume our position on the hill. Now
that we shall be enabled to command every thing around us, if we
are to die let us fall together like men and soldiers in our little
serried square."

"Long live our brave captain!--huzza! We will light to the last
cartridge, and bayonet in hand," exclaimed Paul Degarmo, raising
his cap excitedly.

The cheer was taken up and prolonged until the forest that bounded
the places they were in sent back the echo.

Scarcely had this subsided, when terrific shrieks and cries, mingled
with fierce yells, burst from the opposite side of the sandhill.
This lasted for about five minutes, and then gradually died away.
Then many straggling shots were heard, and these died away in
distance.

Captain Headley, who had deferred his movement towards the sandhill
during this manifestation of the presence of the enemy on the other
side of the ridge, now moved his men to its base, and there halted
them. After a little time, ordering a rush with the bayonet on the
first Indians who should show themselves in any force, he stepped
out of the square, and moved in a stooping posture to gain the
summit, that he might reconnoitre the enemy and see what they were
about. But scarcely had he reached the top when he again rapidly
descended. His face was pale--his lips compressed. He had seen a
sight to shake the nerves of the sternest soldier, and gladly did
he swallow, from the canteen of Sergeant Nixon, who offered it to
him, the cordial beverage that carried renewed circulation to his
veins.

"Forward, men, with as little noise as possible, and gain the crest
of the hill; but, whatever you see, let not your nerves be shaken
into indiscretion. If you fire without orders from me, you are
lost without a hope. Be cool, and when I do give the command to
fire, let the front face of the square exchange their discharged
firelocks for those of the rear face, in order to be always loaded.
Now, men, be cool."

Captain Headley was wise in issuing this precautionary order, for
the sight the little square beheld, on gaining and halting on the
ridge, was one not merely to render men reckless and imprudent,
but in a great measure to drive them mad.



CHAPTER XXII.

   "A crimson river of warm blood like to a bubbling fountain
   stirr'd with wind."
      --_Titus Andronicus._

To understand the horrible scene that met the view, first of the
commanding officer, and subsequently of the little square, it will
be necessary to go back to certain events of the past half hour.

When Captain Wells had returned from delivering over his wounded
niece to the charge of Black Partridge and Winnebeg, both of whom
had, with deep sorrow, beheld the fiendish excesses of their young
men, but without being able to prevent them, he was pursuing
his way across the sandhill to the assistance of Captain Headley.
Suddenly, while looking around to find out in what part of the
field his Miamis were, he saw several Pottowatomies approach the
spot where the baggage wagons were drawn up, and commence tomahawking
the children. The cries and shrieks of the mothers, as the helpless
victims perished one after the other, under their eyes, until nearly
a dozen had fallen, brought with it all the renewal of the horror
he ever experienced when women and children were the assailed, and
drove him almost frantic.

"Is that your game?" he exclaimed furiously in their own
language!--"thank God, we can play at that too."

The attempt to check the strong party assembled round the wagons,
he felt would be unavailing, but resolving to venture, single-handed,
into the encampment of the enemy, where their children had been
left unguarded, he turned his horse's head, dashed past the fort
again at his fullest speed, and with revenge and a threat of
retaliation racking his very heart strings, made for their wigwams.
Alarmed, in turn, for the safety of their squaws and children, the
murderers now desisted from their work and followed as vapidly as
they could on foot, the flight of the Miami leader. Every now and
then they stopped and fired, but at the outset all their shots were
in vain, for the captain, accustomed to that sort of warfare,
throwing himself along the neck of his horse, loading and firing
in that position, baffled all their attempts to bring him down,
while he waved his tomahawk on high, as if in triumph at the
successful issue of what he meditated. As the pursuing Indians
passed the gate of the fort, now filled with plunderers, many
intoxicated, Pee-to-tum, who had been there from the first--his
love of drink being even stronger than his thirst for revenge--came
staggering forth, suddenly aroused to a consciousness of what was
going on without, and demanded to know the cause of this new and
immediate tumult. The young Indians hastily informed him; when the
Chippewa, dropping on one knee, and holding his ramrod as a rest
upon the ground, ran his right and uninjured eye along the sight,
pulled the trigger, and brought down the horse of the fugitive,
which fell with a heavy plunge. A tremendous shout followed from
the band who had lost, four warriors by his fire, and who,
consequently deeply enraged, now made the greatest efforts to come
up with and secure him. Before he could disengage himself from his
horse, under which he lay severely wounded himself, two other
Indians came up from an opposite quarter, and, taking him prisoner,
sought to bear him off before the others could reach him. These
were the chiefs Waubansee and Winnebeg, the latter of whom, seeing
the danger of the captain from the moment when the massacre of the
children commenced, had left Mrs. Headley and Mrs. Elmsley under
the care of Black Partridge, and hastened to be of service to him
if possible. But all their efforts to save him were vain. With
rapid strides, and shouts rendered more savage than ever by the
fumes of the liquor he had swallowed, and with the scalp of the
unfortunate Von Voltenberg--who had been killed while returning to
the fort for a small flask of brandy which he had forgotten--dangling
at his side, Pee-to-tum advanced with furious speed, and, stabbing
the captain in the back, put an end to his misery. No sooner had
he fallen, than, like a vulture, the Chippewa sprang upon the
lifeless body, and, making an incision with his knife upon the
strong and full-haired crown, tore the reeking covering away,
and thus added another trophy to his disgusting spoils. This was
the signal for further outrage, Exasperated by the knowledge of
the revenge he had meditated, and the loss he had already occasioned
them, the warriors who had first followed the ill-fated Miami
leader, cut open the left side with their knives, and tore forth
the yet warm and bleeding heart, which, as well as the body itself,
they bore back in triumph to the very spot whence they had set out,
Pee-to-tum carrying his heart, pierced by the ramrod, as it protruded
a couple of feet from the barrel of his rifle.

Squatted in a circle, and within a few feet of the wagon in which
the tomahawked children lay covered with blood, and fast stiffening
in the coldness of death, now sat about twenty Indians, with
Pee-to-tum at their head, passing from hand to hand the quivering
heart of the slain man, whose eyes, straining, as it were, from
their sockets, seemed to watch the horrid repast in which they were
indulging, while the blood streamed disgustingly over their chins
and lips, and trickled over their persons. So many wolves or tigers
could not have torn away more voraciously with their teeth, or
smacked their lips with greater delight in the relish of human
food, than did these loathsome creatures, who now moistened the
nauseous repast from a black bottle of rum which had been found in
one of the wagons containing the medicine for the sick--and what
gave additional disgust was the hideous aspect of the inflamed eye
of the Chippewa, from which the bandage had fallen off, and from
which the heat of the sun's rays was fast drawing a briny, ropy,
and copious discharge, resembling rather the grey and slimy mucus
of the toad than the tears of a human being.

At the moment when the little square thus reappeared unexpectedly
before them, the revellers, who had supposed them either in the
hollow below, or long since disposed of by their comrades, were
almost instantly sobered and on their feet. Quickly they flew to
secure their guns, which lay at a little distance behind them; but,
before they could reach them, a volley from the front face of the
square was poured in with an effect which, at that short distance,
could not fail to prove destructive; and of the twenty Indians who
had composed the circle, more than a dozen of them fell dead, or
so desperately wounded, that they could not crawl off the ground.

"Good, men!" shudderingly remarked Capt. Headley, "we have revenged
this slaughter at least. Cease firing. Pull not another trigger
until I order you. If there be a hope left for us, it must depend
wholly upon our coolness. What a pity you missed that scoundrel
Pee-to-tum. Hark, Elmsley, do you hear his brutal voice calling
upon the Indians to renew the attack!"--and then in a lower tone
to the same officer: "What can have become of our wives? Yonder
rides a Pottowatomie mounted on Mrs. Headley's charger. I pray
God they may not have made them prisoners!"

"Heaven grant it may be so, sir!" solemnly returned his subaltern;
"but, in their present exasperated state, I fear the worst. Why,
while we were in the hollow, I distinctly saw Mrs. Headley bring
down two Indians with her rifle. They would not easily forget that."

"And I, sir," said Sergeant Nixon deferentially, as if fearing to
intrude, "saw Mrs. Elmsley's horse shot under her; and when an
Indian came up and struggled with her, she threw her arm around
his neck, and presented and fired a pistol at him, and then tried
to get at his scalping knife which was suspended over his
chest. What the result was, I could not make out; but the last I
saw of her, she was seized by another Indian and carried in his
arms across the very spot where we now stand. See, sir, that is
her horse!" and he pointed to the animal, which lay only a few feet
from the square, and which, among the dead bodies of soldiers,
Pottowatomies, and Miamis, had hitherto escaped their attention.

"See, sir, they are collecting in great force near the gate,"
observed the lieutenant--"I can distinctly see Pee-to-tum, who has
joined them, motioning with his hand to advance."

"Then is this the best position we could have chosen," returned
Captain Headley; "courage, men! A taste of biscuit from your
haversacks while you have time, a teaspoonful of rum, and then we
must at it again. Mind, above all things, that you keep cool, and
do not fire a shot without orders."

From the moment that Ronayne had placed himself, with the colors,
at the head of the little party when advancing up the sandhill, he
had not spoken a word, but continued to gaze fixedly and abstractedly
upon that part of the plain or prairie which led to the inner
encampment of the Indians. His whole thought--his undivided
attention was given to his wife, whose anxiety, nay, anguish, at
hearing the sounds of conflict which denoted his imminent peril,
he knew must be intense. True, he himself was spared the anxiety
and uncertainty which filled the breasts of his comrades on seeing
those they loved best on earth exposed to all the fearful chance
of battle, but even in that there was an excitement which in some
degree compensated for the risks they ran. The very fact of their
presence had sustained them; but now that the final result seemed
no longer doubtful, and that the annihilation of the whole party
was to be momentarily expected, he felt that one last look, one
last embrace of her he loved, would rob death of half its horrors.
But this was but the momentary selfishness of the man. When Mrs.
Headley and Mrs. Elmsley were known to have disappeared, he more
than ever rejoiced in the circumstances which had removed his
beloved wife from the horrors of the day, and placed her under so
faithful a guardianship as that of the generous Wau-nan-gee.

But there was another reason for the calm, the serious silence
which the Virginian had preserved. Independently of the aching
interest he took in all that he supposed to be passing at that
moment in the mind of his absent wife, he had been deeply galled
by the last insulting remark of Captain Headley, to which he had,
it is true, replied in a similar spirit, yet which nevertheless
had continued to give him much annoyance. His duty as bearer of
the colors being rather passive than active, he had not found it
necessary to open his lips, except to utter a few words of
encouragement and approval to the men. Formed in hollow square, as
the little force now was, there was no opportunity for display of
individual or personal prowess, or he certainly would have sought
an opportunity to test with his commanding officer the extent of
their respective daring. But now an occasion at last presented
itself, and in a manner least expected.



CHAPTER XXIII.

From the position now occupied by the devoted little band, a view
of the whole adjacent country was distinctly commanded, even
to the very gates of the fort, from which they had never advanced
more than half a mile on their retreat, and within a mile of which
their movements had again brought them. On looking anxiously around
to see from what direction the most imminent danger would proceed,
Captain Headley remarked a largo body of Indians issuing from the
gateway, and moving slowly from the fort towards them.

"Give me the glass, Mr. Elmsley," he said to that officer, who had
it slung over his shoulder, "let me see if I can make out what they
intend. Ha! by heaven they are moving one of the field pieces
towards us. Could they but manage a few rounds of that, they would
soon make short work of the affair, but the simpletons seem to have
overlooked the fact of the gun being spiked--even if they knew how
to aim it."

"If it is the gun that was in the block-house, it is not spiked,
sir," remarked Sergeant Nixon.

"Not spiked! how is that?" asked the captain quickly--almost angrily.

"The spikes were too large, sir; and Weston, whose duty it was,
broke a ramrod off instead."

"Ha! is it so? What a thought strikes me! Could we get hold of that
gun, we might yet make terms with those devils. Who will lead a
forlorn hope and volunteer to take it?"

"I will," thundered Ronayne, with sudden vivacity, his eye flashing
fiercely as he met the glance of his commanding officer. "Spare me
three men from each face of the square, and I will bring it to you
or die in the attempt." The captain colored and looked annoyed with
himself.

"One moment, Mr. Ronayne. Have we the means of removing the broken
ramrod if we should get the gun? Where is the armorer?"

"I have them, sir," returned the man. "I thought a drill and a
hammer would be useful on the march, and so I put them in my pack."

"Pish! there is another difficulty. Your pack is as difficult to
reach as the gun. It is in the wagon, is it not?"

"Yes, sir, and the hammer in it, but I have the spike thrust through
a piece of beef in my haversack."

"All right. There are stones enough around to supply the absence
of a hammer."

"Volunteers to the front!" said Ronayne, in a low, firm tone, and
with compressed lip. "What Hardscrabble men will follow me?"

Simultaneously, Sergeant Nixon, Corporals Collins and Green;
Phillips, Watson, Weston, and Degarmo, stepped forth, with several
others, anxious to be of the party, until the number was made up,
and again the diminished square closed upon its centre.

"Not yet," cried Captain Headley, who, having once more applied
the glass to his eye, was closely watching the movements of the
Indian mass. "Nothing must be left to mere chance. Mr. Elmsley,
what is the position of the wagon which contains the ammunition?"

"It was the leading one, sir," returned the officer addressed.
"What alteration has been made in the act of throwing them into
square, I cannot possibly tell."

"See, is not that it?" asked the commanding officer, pointing to
one from the top of which several casks protruded.

"It is," was the reply.

"Then, Mr. Ronayne, first lead your party to the wagons and let
each man load himself from the keg of ball cartridge, and as many
grenades as he can carry--these must supply the place of larger
shot, if we get the gun. Lose no time. There is not an Indian on
that side of the sandhill now, and you will easily accomplish your
object. Sampson," addressing the armorer, "you may as well avail
yourself of the opportunity to get your heavy hammer. The stones
about here are brittle, and may break."

In little more than five minutes, this first part of their duty
was accomplished, although under circumstances far more painful
and repugnant than the more dangerous one in reserve. On their way
to the wagons they were compelled to pass close to the scalped and
disembowelled body of the brave but unfortunate Wells, whose still
bleeding heart, only half eaten, was encrusted with sand, and bore
the ragged impress of teeth driven furiously and voraciously into
it. On their arrival near the wagons, their nerves were further
tried by the horrible and disgusting spectacle of the slain children,
whose scalped heads and mutilated remains gave unmistakable evidence
of the fate that awaited themselves unless Providence should
interpose a miracle in their favor, while their ears were assailed
by the stifled groans and sobbings of mothers who had covered their
heads up with blankets and sheets, not only with a view to shut
out the appalling sight of their murdered offspring, but to seek
exemption from a similar fate. So confused was the perception of
those poor, unhappy creatures, that they could not identify either
the voices or the language of those who were now near them--some,
the fathers of the innocents they mourned--but believed them to be
Pottowatomies, and it was not until they had departed, and were
out of sight, that they ventured again to uncover their heads, and
breathe a pure air.

By the time the party returned, and had deposited within the square
the keg of ball cartridges, and some fifty hand grenades, the
Indians in great numbers had brought the three pounder, which was
now made out to be the calibre of the gun, to the very spot where
Capt. Headley had first formed the square, and just without the
present range of the heavy muskets of the men. There was a great
deal of clamor and bustle about the manner of manoeuvring the piece,
and with the aid of the glass it could be distinctly seen that they
once or twice applied a burning torch to the breech, for, when this
was done, the Indians grouped around retired quickly from its
neighborhood, but, on finding it did not explode, seemed for the
first time to be sensible of the cause, and again gathered near
it.

"Now, Mr. Ronayne, is your time," said Capt. Headley to the young
officer, whose volunteers, twelve in number, with a hand grenade
in each haversack, and a second in his right hand, now stood ready,
with their muskets at the trail, to ignite the port fire, and
descend upon the formidable mass below them. "Sampson, the moment
you reach the gun, drive in the spike, and turn the muzzle towards
the thickest of the enemy. Every bullet will, doubtless, tell. The
discharge will throw them into confusion, and enable you, Mr.
Ronayne, to retire under the cover of our musketry. The gun once
here, and we may change the fortune of the day. Are your port fires
all lighted? Forward, then!"

And down in silence dashed the little party into the midst of their
enemies. Taken completely by surprise, and dismayed at the
sight of the hissing port fire, which they did not comprehend, the
Indians at first drew back and opened a running fire from their
inferior guns, but seeing how small was the number of their
assailants, they again advanced and waited for their nearer approach,
determined apparently to save their powder and make the tomahawk
alone perform its work. Suddenly, Ronayne, who had dismounted on
the hill, halted within twenty paces of the spot, and with his men
at extended order. The Indians dared not to provoke a hand-to-hand
encounter, for that would have brought them within the range of
the muskets they saw levelled above. This was a most critical and
anxious moment to the young officer. He had descended the hill too
rapidly for the port fire to be sufficiently consumed for ignition
of the shells generally, and for nearly a minute they stood thus,
their muskets still at the trail, and at every moment expecting
the Indians to make a final spring upon them.

At length, after the lapse of a few seconds, which seemed ages,
the fire rapidly approached the iron.

"Now, my lads," shouted the Virginian, "throw them in lustily."

A loud cheer burst from the lips of each, as, after having hurled
the missives of death into the dense groups of the astonished
savages, they followed up the advantage created by the confusion
of the bursting shells, by a rush upon the gun, the drag-ropes of
which were seized amid many distant shots, and so effectually used
that, before the former could recover from their panic, the piece
was withdrawn under cover of the fire from the square, and its
muzzle turned to the enemy.

A second loud and triumphant cheer followed from the hill, and the
strong voice of Captain Headley could be distinctly heard when it
had ceased.

"Quick, quick, Mr. Ronayne; there is another strong band approaching
the wood on your left. The work is but half done."

"Light your second grenades," ordered Ronayne. "The sight of the
burning port fires will keep them in check. Sampson, will you never
have finished with the gun? what are you fumbling about that you
do not drive in the ramrod?"

But the man spake not; he reclined motionless over the breech of
the field piece. The next moment the brazen plated cap fell from
his head, and a white forehead was exhibited, with a slight
incrustation of blood on the temple showing where the fatal rifle
ball had entered.

"Ha! dead!" exclaimed Ronayne, excitedly, as he caught the man by
the collar and gently lowered him to the ground. "I must then
perform your duty."

He caught up the drill and the heavy hammer which the stiffening
armorer had dropped, and so well and powerfully did he use it, that
after a few blows the end of the ramrod, broken short off at the
touch--hole, fell into the body of the gun, and the vent-hole was
clear.

"All right," he exclaimed; "quick, Collins, a couple of cartridges
to prime with."

In another moment the gun was ready. The officer passed his eye
along the sight, and saw that the muzzle pointed fully at the large
body that was approaching a small patch of brushwood to take him
in flank.

"The moment I fire," he ordered, "throw in your second grenades,
seize the drag-ropes and retire with all speed with the gun.
I see the fuses are nearly burnt out; this is rather a short one
for my purpose, Collins, but it must answer."

Stepping to the right side of the gun, he held forth the grenade
with his left hand, and applied the port fire to the touch-hole.
There was a fizz of a few seconds, and then the gun went off with
a loud explosion, and a fierce recoil. Yells and shrieks rent the
air, and in a moment the whole of the new band were scampering away
in full flight, leaving behind them some five-and-twenty of their
party killed and disabled by the discharge of the piece, loaded,
as has been seen, with musket bullets.

Profiting by the consternation into which this murderous fire had
thrown the whole body of Pottowatomies, the men pealed forth another
cheer even louder than the first, hurled forward their grenades,
not yet ready for explosion, as far as they could throw them, and
seizing the drag-ropes, ran fleetly with it towards the hill.

Stricken with disappointment, the Indians lost sight of their usual
caution, and rushed furiously forward to recover the gun, which,
however, being now discharged, was of no actual use to them.

"Leave the gun where it is, and bring off your officer," shouted
Captain Headley in a clear voice. "See you not that he is wounded,
and the Indians advancing to dispatch him?"

This was the first intimation the men had of the fact. In their
anxiety to secure the gun, they had not observed that Ronayne, hit
by a rifle bullet while in the very act of firing his piece, had
been brought to the ground with a broken leg, and rendered unable
to follow them. But, no sooner had Captain Headley uttered the
order than all hastened back to the spot where the Virginian reclined
on one side, with the musket of the armorer tightly grasped, and
his look still bent upon the distant forest.

Just as they had reached, and were preparing to lift him up, the
Indians again rushed forward to dispute his possession. They were
within twenty paces, and brandishing their tomahawks triumphantly,
when, suddenly, and one after another, burst in the midst of them,
the grenades which had been hurled prematurely on the discharge of
the field piece, and striking panic into their body, caused them
once more hurriedly to retire.

But this check was only momentary. Rendered reckless at every moment
from the liquor which all had more or less imbibed at different
periods of the battle, and ashamed that they should be kept at bay
by so mere a handful of men, the dark mass now fiercely closed upon
the little party that bore off the wounded officer, and commenced
their attack.

Meanwhile, Captain Headley, seeing this resolute forward movement
of the Indians, and anticipating the certain destruction of the
whole, moved his little square rapidly towards the gun, causing
his men to take with them the ammunition which had been collected
there, and soon the piece was again loaded and turned to his front.
But it was found impossible to discharge the gun without endangering
the lives of his own men more than those even of the enemy, for
the Indians in immediate pursuit kept themselves so cautiously in
the rear of the former, that, in the position he then occupied, it
was impossible to reach them alone. The only movement that could
save them was a rapid change of ground, so as to enable him to take
the enemy in flank, and of this he hastened to avail himself by
again occupying the sandhill. This was done; but in the short
time taken to effect the movement, the bloodhounds had too well
profited by their advantage.

At the head of the pursuers was the Chippewa, Pee-to-tum. His voice
had been loudest in the war whoop, as his foot had been the most
forward in the advance; and his denunciations of the dog Headley,
as he called him, were bitter, and he called loudly for him that
he might kill him with his tomahawk.

"Save yourselves, men, and leave me to my fate," exclaimed the
Virginian, as he heard the voice of the Chippewa almost in his ear.
"Nixon, remove the colors from my shoulders and take them into the
square. I shall not die happy until I know them to be secure."

"Nay, sir," said the non-commissioned officer, "we will not, cannot
desert you; and, if we would, it is now out of our power--we are
too closely pressed--we must fight to the last."

"Then drop me, and turn and fight. Let us not be struck down like
dastards, with our backs to the enemy. Where is that musket?"

"Here it is, sir," said the serjeant; "but in your present disabled
state you cannot make use of it."

"At least I will try," returned the Virginian. "If I could but slay
the black-souled Pee-to-tum, I should revenge the treachery of this
day, and perhaps be the means of saving the remnant of our brave
fellows."

"Oh!" gasped Nixon, as he fell suddenly dead upon the body of his
wounded officer. He had been shot through the back and under the
left rib. A fierce veil followed, and Ronayne beheld the hellish
face of the Chippewa, looking more disgusting than ever in the loss
of his left eye, as, with shining blade, he bounded forward to take
the scalp of his victim.

The body of the serjeant lay across his shattered leg, and not only
gave him great anguish, but impeded his action, faint, moreover,
as he was from loss of blood from several subsequent wounds received
during his transit from the spot where he first had fallen. But
the opportunity of avenging his wife, himself, and his slaughtered
companions--the latter all murdered at his instigation--was one
that would never occur again, and all his energies were aroused.
Even while the half--drunken savage was in the act of taking the
scalp of the unfortunate Nixon, Ronayne removed the bayonet from
the musket, and grasping it with all the fierce determination of
hatred, drove the sharp long instrument with such force through
his exposed body, that not only the point protruded several inches
on the opposite side, but the inner edge of the socket itself cut
deeply into the flesh.

Absolutely roaring with pain, the Chippewa left his bloody work
unfinished. The knife fell from his grasp. He sprang to his feet,
and having at once seen by whose hand the blow had been inflicted,
a sudden thought appeared to occur to him. Down again he threw
himself furiously upon the body of the wounded officer, who,
anticipating the act, had by this time armed himself with the knife
that lay with its handle on the ground and the trickling blade
across the down-turned cheek of the serjeant. He sought to encircle
him in his death grip, but, in falling, the handle of the bayonet
had struck the ground, driving the weapon even deeper in, and thus
adding to his torture. But the greater his suffering, the more
desperate became his thirst for revenge. He now managed to throw
his arms round the neck of the Virginian, and said something in
broken English, which, accompanied as his language was by a
fiendish laugh rendering his countenance more hideous than ever,
caused the latter to make the most furious endeavor to release
himself, while with his right and disengaged hand he struck blindly
with his knife at the uncovered throat of the Indian. But the weapon
was soon wrested from his enfeebled hands, and the Chippewa,
dexterously turning himself so as to get the body of his enemy
completely under him, now tried to scalp him alive. Weak as he was,
the young officer did not lose sight of his presence of mind.
Scarcely had the scalping knife touched his head, when it was again
withdrawn with the most horrible contortions of the whole body of
the Chippewa. Fixing his eye on the Indian's face above that he
might feast on the agony of the wretch who had just avowed himself
to be the violator of his wife, while threatening a repetition of
the outrage when the battle should be over, the Virginian had seized
the handle of the bayonet, and turned the weapon so furiously in
the wound as to cause one general laceration, the agony arising
from which could only be comprehended from the spasmodic movements
and wild bellowings of the savage. In order to free himself from
the torture he was too much distracted by pain to think of removing
by the instant death of his enemy, the Chippewa sprang suddenly
upwards, but this movement only tended to increase the torments
under which he writhed, for, as the Virginian held the handle firmly
in his grasp, the bayonet was half withdrawn, and the sharp point
forced, by the down-hanging weight of the socket, into a new
direction. Wild with revenge and pain, he was at length in the
act of raising his tomahawk to dispatch the Virginian, who had
abandoned his hold of the bayonet, when a shot came from the front
of the square, and Pee-to-tum fell dead across the bodies of both
his immediate victims. Singular to say, the ball, aimed by Captain
Headley himself at the upper part of his person, and during the
only period when the Indians could be reached without danger to
some one or other of the men, entered his brain over his injured
eye, and forced out the other.

The fall of the detested Chippewa--the head and stay of their
battle--seemed greatly to dispirit the Pottowatomies, a band of
about fifty of whom had followed them in this fierce onset. Of that
number, some fifteen had perished, both in the hand-to-hand encounter
with the immediate followers of Ronayne and several shots from the
square. On the other hand, but four of the volunteers
remained--Corporal Collins, Phillips, Weston, and Degarmo--the latter
severely wounded. All the others had fallen, and, with the exception
of Serjeant Nixon, been scalped.

A cessation of the contest now ensued, and the Indians, holding up
what was intended to be a flag of truce, asked permission to carry
off the body of the Chippewa. Sensible how impolitic it would be
to exasperate them without necessity, Captain Headley granted their
request, adding that now the bad man who counselled them had been
stricken down by the anger of the Great Spirit, he hoped they would
come to their senses and obey their legitimate chiefs.

A low murmuring among themselves was the only reply, as they placed
the body in a blanket, drew the bayonet from the wound, from which
followed a copious dark stream, and leisurely proceeded with their
burden and the scalps they had secured to rejoin another body of
their tribe who had been watching them in the distance, and who
now rapidly advanced to meet them, evidently anxious to know
why they returned unmolested, and what tidings they brought.

Advantage was taken of this cessation of combat to bring back what
remained of the gallant little band of volunteers within the square.
The dead were left to moisten the sands on which they had so bravely
fallen. Ronayne still lived, but he could not be removed. The
slightest motion of his body brought with it agony little less
excruciating than that which his enemy had experienced. He knew he
must die, and he begged Captain Headley to let him perish where he
was, under the shadow of the guns of his comrades, and in full
sight of the forest which he knew contained all that he loved on
earth. What he asked to be spared to him was a cloak to shield him
from the burning heat of the sand, and a little water to moisten
his parched lips. Oh! what would he not have given for a draught
of the cool claret of the dinner of yesterday!



CHAPTER XXIV.

   "He that comforts my wife is the cherisher of my flesh and blood."
      --_All's Well._

   "What nearer debt in all humanity, than wife is to the husband."
      --_Troilus and Cressida._

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and a burning sun
threw its strong rays upon the sandhill where stood prepared, for
whatever further emergency might occur, the little band of American
soldiers now reduced to less than one half of their original number.
The acquisition of the three-pounder had greatly encouraged them
for the moment, but, during the inaction that succeeded to the
death and removal of the body of the fierce Chippewa, each had
leisure to reflect on the but too probable issue of the struggle.
As long as day remained to them, they felt that they could, while
possessed of the gun and a sufficient quantity of ammunition, defend
themselves; but when the darkness of night should come on, enabling
their enemies to approach and surround them from all quarters, it
must be vain to expect they could maintain the contest with the
same success that had hitherto attended their extraordinary efforts.
Inactivity, in a position of that kind, ever brings despondency,
and from one evil the mind is prone to revert to another. The
married men thought of their wives and children and the horrible
fate that awaited them, and from the men of strong nerve which they
had manifested themselves to be while in positive action, they now
were fast becoming timid, and irresolute, and anxious. The sight
of the many dead and scalped bodies of their comrades around them
was not much calculated to reassure them.

Meanwhile, Captain Headley had kept his glass almost constantly
directed towards that part of the common adjoining the fort, where
the great body of the Indians had now collected, and appeared to
be in earnest deliberation. Among the number of those assembled
he could distinctly make out Winnebeg, Waubansee, and Tee-pee-no-bee,
the former of whom seemed to be addressing the younger Pottowatomies
in energetic terms, while he frequently pointed to the blanket
which contained the body of the slain Chippewa. At length,
when he had been succeeded by the two other chiefs just named, who
seemed to deliver themselves in a similar spirit, a yell apparently
of assent and approval came from the dark mass, and in a few minutes
a party of about a hundred detached themselves from the group, and
preceded by the same flag that had been raised by the immediate
followers of Pee-to-tum, slowly advanced towards the little square.

"Courage, men," said Captain Headley, "we have not fought our steady
battle for nothing; but let us give the credit of success where
most it is due, We owe our preservation, if we are preserved, wholly
to the gallantry of Ensign Ronayne. Had he not removed the spike
from that gun, and fired it at the eventual sacrifice of his own
life--nay more, had he not slain Pee-to-tum, our most bitter and
relentless enemy--we should all have slept upon this field--that
sight we should never have seen;" and he pointed to the rude flag
of which Winnebeg was the bearer, and which was then half way from
the point of departure of the band.

"Even so," observed Lieutenant Elmsley--"to poor Ronayne, if this
rag means anything pacific, and, from the fact of its being borne
by Winnebeg, I have no doubt it does, must be ascribed our exemption
from the fate of our unhappy comrades. Your ball was well aimed,
Captain Headley, and hastened the death of the loathsome and
vindictive savage; but never could he have survived that bayonet
wound. Life must have ebbed away with the blood that followed its
removal; yet," and this was said with a significance which his
commanding officer seemed to understand, "it must be not a little
satisfactory to you to know that your shot saved him from the
tomahawk that was already raised to dispatch him."

"Would that in doing so I had saved his life," returned Captain
Headley, seriously. "How doubly unfortunate is our position--without
a surgeon to attend the wounded. Von Voltenberg I have not seen
during the day--I greatly fear he has fallen also."

At this moment the Indians had come within about twenty paces of
the square, one face of which Captain Headley had ordered to be
opened to make a display of the gun behind which stood a man with
a lighted match. Here they halted, looking with mixed regret, awe,
and anxiety upon what they had so recently had in their own
possession, while Winnebeg advanced a few paces to the front.

"What would the chief Winnebeg?" asked Captain Headley, with dignity.
"He brings with him a flag. Are the Pottowatomies sick with blood?"

"The Pottowatomies are strong," returned the old warrior, in the
figurative language of his race, "but they would not slay the brave.
If the warriors of the white chief will lay down their arms and
surrender themselves prisoners, their lives shall be spared."

"This is well to promise," rejoined the commanding officer; "but
what reason have we to believe that the Pottowatomies are serious?
They know that we will fight to the last, and they seek to save
their own lives by fair words."

"On the faith of a chief, I pledge myself that their word shall be
kept. Pee-to-tum is dead--he has no longer power over the young
men, and they will now obey the voice of their own leaders."

"The word of Winnebeg is always good," replied Capt. Headley, "but
I distrust his young men; they received presents from their
Great Father, and promised to escort his soldiers to Fort Wayne.
How have they kept their word? Look around. More than half my
soldiers lie there; but, not alone. If the Pottowatomie count well,
they will find more than two Indians for every white man."

"Our Father's warriors are brave," returned the chief, "and so the
Pottowatomies would spare their blood. If they surrender their
arms, I promise, in their name, that no more shall be spilt."

"I will consult my brave soldiers--they shall decide," observed
the commandant, "not that I doubt your word or your good intentions,
Winnebeg, but as you had not the power to restrain your young men
at first, how am I to know that you can do so now? At present we
have arms in our hands, and can defend ourselves; but if we yield
them up, we may be tomahawked the next moment. However, as I said
before, my brave, followers shall decide."

"Mr. Elmsley," he added, turning coolly to his subaltern, "count
up our little force, and ascertain how many men of the detachment
remain."

"Two-and-twenty, sir," returned his subaltern, who had taken but
a few minutes to enumerate them.

"Two-and-twenty out of sixty with whom we advanced to the charge
this morning, besides two officers--one mortally wounded, the other
missing. Well, this is rather hot work; but you see, Winnebeg,
that if our loss has been more than forty, including the Miamis,
the Pottowatomies killed are more than double in number."

Winnebeg replied not, but he looked imploringly at Captain Headley,
as if desirous that he should accept the offered terms without
irritating his people with allusions to their heavy loss.

"Well, men," continued that officer, who had remarked the particular
expression of the countenance of the chief, "what is your decision?
I am perfectly ready to act as you shall say, either to fight to
the last, or to surrender, with the chance of being knocked on the
head afterwards."

"Had we not better put it to vote, sir?" suggested Lieut. Elmsley;
"the responsibility will then rest with the majority."

"A good idea, Mr. Elmsley. So be it. The majority of votes shall
decide whether we fight or surrender."

The votes were accordingly taken, and the result was an equal
division--eleven for surrendering and taking the chances of good
faith--the other eleven, chiefly the unmarried men, for fighting
to the last.

"The casting vote is with you, Mr. Elmsley; that given, we return
our answer," remarked Captain Headley.

"Winnebeg," said the lieutenant, addressing him for the first time,
"one question I would ask you first: know you anything of our
wives--are they dead--and where is Mr. McKenzie?"

"They are all alive," returned the chief with animation--"bad wound,
though--Winnebeg help save him himself."

Human nature could stand no more. Both officers, as if actuated by
the same common impulse, met and embraced each other warmly. A
mountain weight seemed to be taken from their oppressed hearts,
and those two men, who had preserved the most cool and collected
courage through the fearful, the appalling scenes of that day,
stilling all their more selfish feelings, now suffered the
warm tears to gush in silence from their eyes. The men beheld this
sight with an emotion little inferior to their own, and many a tear
trickled over their faces and moistened and mixed with the dark
deposit left by the bitten cartridge, as they too rejoiced in the
safety of those brave and noble women.

"There can be no doubt what my decision in this matter will be
now," remarked the lieutenant, when he had a little recovered from
his emotion. "The good Winnebeg who has done thus much--saved
those most dear to us--cannot want the power to save ourselves. My
vote is for the surrender."

"Winnebeg," said Captain Headley, with great feeling, "whatever
doubts may have existed in our minds as to the propriety of
surrendering, they are now wholly removed. We know your worth and
humanity, and commit ourselves wholly to your good faith. Indeed,
from the moment I saw you coming at the head of this party, after
the death of the black-hearted Pee-to-tum, I felt that we were safe
from further attack. Still, it was my duty to consult the men who
had so bravely fought with me. We consent to become your prisoners,
on three conditions--first, that we be suffered to retain our
colors, which you see there wrapped round the dying body of Mr.
Ronayne, the friend of your son; secondly, that we be permitted to
bury our dead comrades; and thirdly, that we be surrendered to the
nearest British post at the earliest opportunity."

Winnebeg, after looking at the spot where the young officer lay,
spoke for a few moments with his followers, who did not seem to
relish the arrangement, for a good deal of animated conversation
ensued between themselves; but at length the point was satisfactorily
settled, and the former assented to the conditions of surrender
Captain Headley had imposed. To have reposed any faith in the
warriors themselves after what had occurred, that officer was now
fully sensible would have been an act of madness; but he confidently
hoped that, although Winnebeg and the other friendly chiefs might
not have had the power to restrain the excitement of their young
men in the first outburst of their rage for blood, their influence
would to a certain extent be regained, now that the fiercest act
in the drama had been played, and the chief actor was no more. The
only thing that created uneasiness in him was the apprehension that
the severity of their own loss might induce such a desire of
vengeance in the minds of the warriors as to cause in them a renewal
of their fury, and an utter disregard of the pledges of their
leaders. Something however--indeed much--must be left to chance.
As prisoners they might and would be saved, if the influence of
their sager warriors and their own better feelings prevailed, while,
as combatants, every man, without an exception, must have fallen.
Moreover, the reason which had decided Lieutenant Elmsley in giving
his vote had an equal influence in sustaining himself in the
expediency of surrender. Their wives were prisoners, and a reunion
with them was not impossible; whereas if they had resolved on
defending themselves with the obstinacy of despair, that hope must
have been for ever cut off, and the noble women--not to speak of
the partners of their brave and humble followers--who had taken so
prominent a share in the combat, wounded and sustained only by the
faint possibility of a meeting with their husbands, would assuredly
be made to undergo a similar fate.

And now commenced the most humiliating part of the movements of
the day--the breaking up of the gallant little square, and the
return, flanked by their Indian captors, of the remains of the
detachment to the fort. In compliance with the wish of Captain
Headley, expressed at the suggestion of his men, instead of taking
the route selected by Winnebeg in his advance, the party were
suffered to return past the wagons. The scene which took place here
was one of mingled consolation and despair. Such of the married
men as had survived the conflict anxiously sought their wives, many
of whom, with pale cheeks and sunken eyes, and hearts nearly crushed
by the pitiless murder of their children, still wrung comfort in
the midst of their despair, as they gazed once more on the features
of those whom they had given up as lost for ever. But then, on the
other hand, was the soul's misery complete of the poor women,
widowed within the past few hours, who sought eagerly but in vain
to distinguish the features of him who alone could console her
under a similar bereavement, and who, with tears and sobs, sank
back again into the wagon, in all the agony of increased and
confirmed despair. It required stern hearts to behold all this
unmoved; but the knowledge that their wives had been unharmed,
whatever the savage destruction of their children, brought some
little relief to the overcharged hearts of such of the married men
as had been spared, and in their secret hearts they returned thanks
to the Providence that had guarded not only their own lives, but
the lives of those most dear to them.



CHAPTER XXV.

And with what feelings did they now re-enter the fort, and what an
aspect did it present! Half-drunken Indians were yet engaged in
the work of plunder and destruction, insomuch so that it scarcely
appeared to them the same place from which they had sallied out in
the morning; and there were moments when the stoutest-hearted wished
that they had never returned to it, but perished on the field where
their comrades lay, unconscious of the past, regardless of the
future of desolation, of which all they saw seemed to give promise.
The officers' quarters, and the blockhouses, which had afforded
them protection and shelter during many a long year, were now burst
open, and every article of heavy bedding and furniture hurled into
the square--the latter ripped open, and broken, and the feathers
and fragments strewn around as if in mockery of the neatness that
had ever been a distinctive characteristic of the well--swept parade
ground, where heretofore a pin might have been picked up without
a finger being soiled in the act. These were, seemingly, too minute
considerations to have weighed at such a moment when higher and
more important interests were at stake; but, to the well-regulated
eye of the soldier, accustomed to order and decorum, they were now
mountains of inequality and discomfort, which contributed as much
to the annoyance and mortification of his position as the very fact
of captivity itself; and if this was the feeling generally of the
men, how deep must have been its effect on the officers, and
particularly on Capt. Headley, who had ever been punctilious to a
nicety in all that regarded the internal arrangements of Fort
Dearborn. But, offensive as this was, how much more so was it to
behold many of the band fantastically arrayed, not only in their
own clothing, but in that of their wives, desecrating, as it were,
the terrible solemnity of the day, and mocking at the severity of
suffering to which the latter had been subjected.

Of the Indians who had formed their escort, some stopped outside
the gate, others mixed with the spectators, and only about a dozen
followed them to the mess room, which Winnebeg said he had selected
for their temporary quarters, as being the least liable to
interruption or molestation. He promised to send them food, and
later in the evening, when all was quiet, to conduct the two officers
to their wives, who, for greater quiet and security, were still
lying concealed in the canoe where he had first placed them.

"Winnebeg, Winnebeg," said Capt. Headley, solemnly, "how can we
ever sufficiently repay you for your noble conduct to-day? Depend
upon it, I shall not fail to make known to our Great Father that
you have saved the lives of one third of the detachment; but let
me remind you of the first part of our contract--the burial of the
dead. There is plenty of daylight, and I wish to send out a dozen
men for the purpose of digging one common grave for them all. Mr.
Ronayne must, if not dead, be brought in on a litter; if, however,
he is no more, no grave can be more honorable to him than that
shared with his followers. You know, Corporal Collins, where the
spades and picks are kept."

"Yes, sir, I know where they are usually kept, and where it is not
likely they have been disturbed. What men, sir, am I to take?"

Almost every man in the detachment expressed his anxiety to be of
the party; but the remainder of those who had been with the Virginian
when he fell, and a few others, all unmarried men, were selected.

"Do you not think, sir," said Lieutenant Elmsley, "that I should
command this party and superintend the arrangements? Poor Ronayne
must be delicately handled."

"If you will do so, Mr. Elmsley, I shall be most glad; but not
deeming it absolutely necessary, I did not propose it as a point
of duty. But there is another thing to be considered: Winnebeg,
what escort will you give to my people? You know your young men
are excited, and many may not know of the conditions of our
surrender."

During this conversation, almost the whole of the Indians, to the
number of eighteen or twenty, who have been alluded to as having
plundered and offensively arrayed themselves in the dresses of the
officers' wives, and who were evidently the most turbulent of the
band, had been drawing gradually closer around the little party of
prisoners. All were more or less ludicrously painted, and exhibited
the most grotesque appearance.

When the remnant of the detachment first entered the fort, it was
remarked that one of them--a mere youth--had closely, almost
impertinently, examined the features of the officers, and had
followed, with most of his companions. When Captain Headley made
his request for an escort, this individual suddenly went up to
Winnebeg, tapped him on the shoulder, and said something, not in
Pottowatomie but in Shawnee, accompanied by much gesticulation,
which seemed to have great weight with the chief.

"Give him escort, dis," said the latter in reply, as he glanced
his eye quickly upon the group, and with seeming intelligence.

"What! those men!" returned Captain Headley, with a shadow of
remonstrance in his tone.

"Yes, all good Pottowatomie--all brave warrior--no give him dis,"
and he pointed to those who had accompanied them from the field,
"all too much tired with fight already--dis men stay here all day.
No fight."

Although by no means persuaded by the reasoning of Winnebeg, that
men who had been plundering and drinking what they could find,
during the whole of the morning, were the most proper persons to
guard prisoners from the violence of excited enemies, Capt. Headley
felt that it would be imprudent to urge any further opposition.
For a single moment, it occurred to him that the chief had offered
this escort with a hostile motive, but it was a thought which,
involuntarily forced upon his mind, was as instantly discarded as
unworthy of the chief, and, whatever might have been his latent
misgivings, he no longer opposed an objection.

The preparations were soon made; the litter, and materials for
digging found, and the little party, who had taken off their uniforms
to avoid particular remark, and to be more free in their movements,
sallied forth. On passing near the gate, and in a direction opposite
to that by which they had just entered, they beheld the body of
Doctor Von Voltenberg, within a few paces of the pathway by which
they now advanced, which was the route taken by the Indians with
the three-pounder. He was stripped to the skin, scalped, and with
a profusion of large green flies and ants of the prairie settled
on and seemingly disputing possession of the dark and coagulated
blood that was already incrusted on the festering wound. The body
was fast becoming bloated and discolored under the rays of an August
sun, but no one could mistake the black and the peculiarly cut
whisker, and the good natured and smiling expression of face which
even in death had not wholly deserted him.

They had now reached the point where the Indians stood when the
first grenades were thrown in among them by the followers of Ronayne.
From this could be commanded a full view of the theatre of contest
as far as the crest of the sandhill, being a full musket-shot from
the spot where he had last fallen. The intermediate space, as has
already been remarked, was thickly strewn with dead bodies amounting
in all to upwards of a hundred, and the place chosen for interment
by Lieutenant Elmsley was the small copse of underwood, from which
the flank movement had been made upon Ronayne by the fresh band of
Indians upon whom he had directed the fire of the three-pounder.

While occupied in digging a grave of about twenty feet square,
their strangely attired looking escort amused themselves with
examining the dead uniformed bodies that lay strewed thickly around,
and it was remarked that they showed no such curiosity in regard
to their own people who were indiscriminately mixed up with them.
Gradually they approached the crest of the hill, and Lieutenant
Elmsley, who was distrustful of their intentions, and kept a close
eye upon their movements, saw the youth, already noticed, suddenly
bound with uplifted tomahawk towards the spot where poor Ronayne
was known to lie, and, after addressing a few words to his companions,
stoop over his body, with what intention he could not make out,
but he presumed to dispatch and to scalp him, for the cry uttered
by the Virginian and heard even at that distance, was piteous to
hear. Desiring the men to go on with their work, and collect
the bodies as soon as it was completed, he hurried rapidly to the
scene of this new action, and as he advanced saw another and a much
stronger party of Indians approaching the same spot. Rapidly their
escort closed in upon the officer over whom the young warrior was
kneeling, and stooping down, drew from their victim another moan
of inexpressible anguish. All then rose, and, grouped together,
moved away parallel with the said ridge until they were finally
lost behind a sudden elevation that continued the hill in an obtuse
angle towards the forest.

Startled by the appearance of these fresh comers, Lieut. Elmsley
paused for a moment in his advance, but feeling that any appearance
of mistrust might act unfavorably upon the band, he renewed his
course, expecting at every moment to reach the mangled body of his
friend. The Indians approached the same point at the same time,
and he saw at once that the majority were composed of those who
had accompanied Winnebeg when he came to offer terms to Captain
Headley. Trusting, therefore, that there was no violence to be
apprehended from those who were aware of the fact of the surrender,
towards himself or party, he proceeded to search for his friend;
but, to his surprise, his body was not to be seen. He could not be
mistaken as to the spot where it had lain, close to Sergeant Nixon;
but, though the latter was nearly in the same position in which he
had fallen, the knife which he had used upon the throat of the
Chippewa, and the imprint of his body upon the sand, deeply moistened
with the blood of both, was the only indication of Ronayne's having
been there. It was evident that he had been carried off by the
strange party who had formed their escort, and that the cries of
agony uttered by him had been produced by the torture of moving
his broken limb. What the motive for this new outrage could have
been, it was difficult to conjecture, unless it was to secure at
their leisure, and before the other party of Indians came up to
dispute possession of the spoils with them--not only his scalp,
but the blood-stained colors which he bore--perhaps to sell the
latter as a trophy to the British.

Without condescending to bestow the slightest notice upon the
officer, the Indians approached the bodies, and leisurely proceeded
to strip them of their clothing. Their leader, uttering a yell of
delight and surprise as he came near it, sprang upon the sergeant
and secured the scalp, which Pee-to-tum had failed to take. This
piece of good fortune led the others to hope for something similar,
and they accordingly dispersed themselves rapidly over the scene
of combat, examining every head and stripping everybody. All this
was done without Lieut. Elmsley having the slightest power to
interfere, for he knew that any attempt at remonstrance would only
be to provoke a similar fate, and thus the party passed on, stripping
every soldier to the skin.

While he lingered hesitatingly near the spot whence his friend had
been so singularly removed, waiting for the plunderers of the dead
to depart before he should rejoin his men, his ears were suddenly
assailed by a piercing shriek from the further extremity of the
underwood in which the latter were digging, and which extended
about two hundred yards on the left of the plain below. At once he
knew the cry, and comprehended its cause; and rushing down the
sandhill without thought of the new danger to which he might be
exposed, turned the corner of the small wood, and stopping abruptly
at a point where he could see without being noticed himself, beheld
A sight as distressing as, a few moments before, it had been
unexpected.

With his uncovered head slightly raised, and reposing upon the
projecting root of a tall tree that rose capriciously, yet
majestically, amid the stunted growth around, lay the enfeebled
and dying Ronayne extended upon a pile of clothing formed of the
very dresses that had now been doffed for the purpose by his escort.
By his side knelt his wife, disguised in the neat dress of one of
Wau-nan-gee's sisters, and gazing into his pale face with a silent
expression of agony which no language could render. But though his
face was wan, and his eye gradually losing its lustre, the arm of
the officer closely clasped around the waist of his wife, ever and
anon strained her so passionately, so convulsively to his heart
that a new fire seemed at these moments to be enkindled in both--and
to prove all the intensity of the undiminished love he bore her.
Neither spoke. Speech could not so well convey what was passing in
their sad souls as could their looks, while the exhausted state of
the wounded officer rendered exertion of any kind not merely painful
but impossible. On the other side of the Virginian, who held his
hand affectionately in his feeble grasp, stooped the young Indian
already noticed, and standing grouped round, and gazing with evident
sorrow on the scene, were his companions. The youth was Wau-nan-gee.
His companions were his immediate and devoted friends--those who
had sought to make the young officer a prisoner on a former occasion,
when, had they succeeded, all this trial of the wife's agony might
have been spared. On the first exit of the troops they had rushed
into the fort on the pretence of plunder and excess, in the hope
that their example would be imitated by many, and that thus the
detachment might be left to pursue its route comparatively unharmed.
And to a certain extent they succeeded, for many did follow them,
and Pee-to-tum among the rest, whose absence in the first onset of
the battle had dispirited the Indians, whom he had first excited,
and given the Americans an advantage of which they never lost sight
until the close. To have taken an active part in the defence, would
have been not only impossible but impolitic, but in the course they
had pursued they had no doubt saved such of the detachment as
remained, for had all been engaged--had all borne a prominent share
in the attack, the event, from the great disparity of numbers,
could not have long been doubtful. When Wau-nan-gee, whose anxiety
to know his fate had been great, first heard from his father of
the wounded condition of Ronayne, he had proffered himself and
friends as the escort of the detachment, intending to bear off the
body, without being seen by the other Indians, to his mother's
tent, where his wounds might be dressed and his life saved by the
care and attention of his own wife.

All these particulars Lieut. Elmsley subsequently ascertained from
Winnebeg, for anxious as he was to take a last leave of his dying
friend, and to express his joy at once again beholding, even under
these disheartening circumstances, her for whom both himself and
his wife had ever entertained the strongest friendship, the officer
was afraid to move from the spot where, unseen himself, he had
witnessed all, lest by suddenly exciting and agitating, he should
abruptly destroy the life which was evidently fast drawing to a
close. To have broken that solemn and silent communion of spirits,
would, he felt, have been sacrilege, and he abstained; and yet, as
if fascinated by the sight, he could not leave the spot--he could
not abandon his dearest and best friends without lingering
to know how far his services might yet be available to both or one.

Apparently, Mrs. Ronayne had not uttered a sound since that piercing
cry had escaped her which attested her first knowledge of the
hopeless condition of her wounded husband. The attempt to carry
him off the field, with the view not only of preventing him from
being scalped, as he certainly would have been by the party then
advancing, but of conveying him to the Indian camp of the women,
had been productive of the greatest suffering; so much so that when
he had gained the point where he now lay, and where his wife had
first met him, he declared to Wau-nan-gee his utter inability to
proceed further, and prevailed on him to place him on the ground
that he might die in quiet.

It was now near sunset, and the condition of the Virginian was
momentarily becoming weaker. He suddenly made an attempt to rally,
and for a moment or two raised himself upon the elbow of the hand
that still encircled the waist of his wife.

"Maria, my soul's adored!" he murmured, "I feel that I have not
many moments left, and I should die in despair did I not know that
there is one who will protect you while he has life. God knows what
has been the fate of our poor companions, but even if living, they
cannot shield you from danger. Wau-nan-gee," he said, turning
faintly to the youth, "two things I am sure you will promise your
friend--first, to conduct yourself in all things as my wife--your
sister--desires; secondly, to conceal and guard these colors until
you can deliver them up to the nearest American fort." Then, when
the youth had solemnly promised, with tears filling his dark eyes,
that he would faithfully execute the trust, he turned again to his
wife, and said in a tone that marked increased exhaustion at the
effort he had made, "Maria, sweet, it is hard to die thus--to leave
you thus; but yet you will not be alone--Wau-nan-gee will love and
protect you, obey your will: yet you need not now fear, I have
avenged your wrong--that wrong of which the ruffian boasted when
I slew him--tortured him--the monster. How different the gentle
love of this affectionate boy! But I have not strength--oh, what
sickly faintness comes over me! surely this must be ----."

"Death!" he would have added, but silence had for ever sealed the
lips that never more would speak his undying affection for his
noble, graceful, and accomplished wife.

For some moments the unhappy woman continued to gaze upon the still
features of her husband as though unconscious of the extent of her
great misery, and when the reaction came, it was not expressed in
shrieks or lamentations, or strong outward manifestations of emotion,
but in the calm, serene, condensed silence of the sorrow that
stultifies and annihilates. Her cheek was pale as marble, and there
was a fixedness of the eye almost alarming to behold, as she rose
erect from her bending position, and said, with severity, "This
and more have your cursed people done, Wau-nan-gee! I shall ever
hate to look upon an Indian face again! Yet that body must be buried
deep in the ground, and in a spot known only to us both, where none
may violate the dead. You have promised to obey me in all things.
This is the first charge upon you. Let us go--the night is fast
approaching, and the place remains to be reached, and the grave is
to be dug. By to-morrow's dawn we travel together and alone
through the wilderness, in execution of the will of your friend
and my husband. Mark that, Wau-nan-gee! It is his will that we
travel together--that you shall be my guide and protector. See
this dress, how well it disguises me. I shall be taken, as we
journey, for your squaw. Ha! ha! That will be excellent, will it
not? Maria Heywood--Ronayne's wife--the mistress of a fiend--then
Wau-nan-gee's squaw--and not yet six weeks married to the first!"

She suddenly paused, put her hand to her brow--seemed to reflect,
and then turning to Wau-nan-gee, inquired why he lingered so long
and wherefore he did not replace the body in the litter and depart.

With a pensive and serious mien the youth, who had been still
kneeling, absorbed in sorrow at the strange coldness of Mrs.
Ronayne's manner, and afraid to disturb her in a distraction which
he comprehended more from her looks and actions than her language,
now rose, and saying something in a low tone to his companions,
who had also regarded her throughout with silent surprise, the
covering on which the body of the unfortunate officer reposed, was
placed upon the blanket, which four of the party held extended,
and at the direction of Wau-nan-gee the whole proceeded towards
the forest.

When this strange and dispiriting scene had terminated, Lieut.
Elmsley, who felt at each moment in a greater degree the uselessness
of any interference in his powerless position, was rejoiced that
at least the last moments of his friend had been consoled by the
presence of his wife; he was led to hope that it had been the result
of a momentarily-disordered brain, on which despair had now wreaked
its worst, and which, therefore, might be expected to regain a
stronger if not its wonted tone when the bitterness of grief should
have somewhat subsided.

Proposing to prevail on Winnebeg to obtain for him a meeting with
her on the morrow, when the remains of her husband should have been
consigned to their rude resting-place, he returned towards his
party, whom he found in the act of covering up the bodies which
they had, unmolested by the Indians, brought in from the different
points where they had fallen. The grave was soon filled up--a
short and mournful prayer read by the officer from memory, and the
party returned full of gloom, and with hearts bowed down by sorrow,
to the dismantled and desolate-looking fort.



CHAPTER XXVI.

   "This act is an ancient tale twice told."
      --_King John._

The wretchedness of that night who can tell! the despondency that
filled the hearts of all, not so much in regard to the present as
from apprehension for the future, who, untried in the same ordeal,
can comprehend? but the feelings of the remnant of that little
band, who were indebted for their safety to their own bravery, were
not selfish. They lamented as deeply the fate of the fallen, as
the dark and uncertain future that awaited themselves--uncertain
because, although the chiefs had promised, and with sincerity, that
they should be given up as prisoners of war at the nearest
post, they had seen too much of the falsehood of the race generally
to rely implicitly on its fulfilment by the warriors. Alas! where
were their comrades--friends, nay, brothers of yesterday? Where
was the brave, the noble-hearted Wells--where the once gay, ever
high-spirited Ronayne--where poor Von Voltenberg--the manly Sergeant
Nixon, a Virginian also--the faithful Corporal Green--and nearly
two thirds of the privates of the detachment? The very fact of
being in the fort again, and everywhere surrounded by objects
rendering more striking the contrast between the past and the
present, was agony in itself. There was scarcely a man among them
who would not have preferred bivouacking, in the wild wood, amid
storm and tempest, and the howling of beasts of prey, to resting
that night within the polluted precincts of what had so recently
been their safeguard and their pride.

Fortunately, the two surviving officers were, in some measure,
exempt from these mortifications. True to his word, Winnebeg had
caused Mrs. Headley and Mrs. Elmsley to be conveyed undercover of
the darkness from their place of concealment to the mansion of Mr.
McKenzie, which, from the great popularity of the trader with the
whole of the Indian tribes, had been left untouched--he himself
having been looked upon as a non-combatant, and, therefore, spared
from all personal outrage.

The meeting between the husbands and their wives--both the former
also slightly wounded during the day--was, as may be supposed, most
affecting. Neither had ever expected, on parting in the morning,
to behold each other; and now, although more or less injured, to
find those who were preserved, as it were, by a miracle from a
cruel death, with a prospect of future happiness, the past was for
the moment forgotten, and gratitude to God for their preservation
the dominant feeling of their souls. The examination of the wounds
of the heroines was the next consideration. Most fortunate was it
that of all the wounds received by the ladies--seven by Mrs. Headley
and three by Mrs. Elmsley--not one was of a nature to disable or
impede the motion of their lower limbs. A ball that had lodged in
her arm, however, gave the former great pain; but, alas! there was
no Von Voltenberg to cut it out. In this extremity, Winnebeg said
he knew an Indian who was very expert at incision, and that he
would procure his attendance.

Meanwhile the party were enabled to partake of some refreshments
which had been ordered on the departure of Winnebeg for his charge;
and exhausted as all had been by intense anxiety and emotion, from
the moment of their setting out almost to the present, this was
truly acceptable, especially to the two officers.

In the course of the repast, allusion was made to the gallantry
and suffering of the unfortunate. Ronayne, when, on Captain Headley
asking, for the first time, what had been done with the body, Lieut.
Elmsley proceeded to relate all that he had heard and witnessed a
few hours previously.

This singular detail excited not only surprise but pain, especially
in Mrs. Headley, whose deep friendship for, and interest in, both
husband and wife had already been so strongly exhibited. It is not
often that, in the hour of our keenest suffering, we have much
sympathy to bestow upon others; but the noble woman had known the
ill-fated Maria too intimately--known her too well--not to feel
deep sorrow for the double affliction under which she labored. In
the confession, if such it can be called, which he had
committed to writing and subsequently transmitted by Wau-nan-gee,
as well as in her wild and unconnected language on the day of the
fatal occurrence itself, she had alluded to something terrible--an
attempt at outrage, but in those vague terms of violated modesty
which left the extent only to be surmised. No one of those who
knew the contents of her communication, had suspected or presumed
the worst, and had it not been for the avowal by Ronayne of his
vengeance for the avowed fulfilment of the hellish and sacrilegious
lust of the hideous monster, and the strange admission that fell
in her despair from Mrs. Ronayne herself, the secret must have died
with themselves.

It was not exactly a subject for discussion, under ordinary
circumstances, and before everyday women; but here not only were
the parties cognizant few in number, but actuated by nobler motives
than those which would have governed mere worldly and censuring
people. Moreover, the nature of their connexion with each other,
and with the victims themselves--for it was shown that Ronayne had
received his mortal wound from the rifle of the Chippewa--even the
atrocity complained of, connected as it was with all the horrors
of the past day, not only justified but compelled it.

"She must not be left where she is," gravely remarked Mrs. Headley,
after some moments of reflection; "cannot Winnebeg, the good
Winnebeg, whom, perhaps, we have taxed too much, be persuaded to
bring her to us? Now that the worst has happened she will be far
happier--more contented, by sharing our fortunes, whatever they
may be, than remaining in the Indian encampment, cut off from every
kindred association. What think you, Mrs. Elmsley?"

"Oh, I shall be too delighted to see, and to soothe her sorrow. As
a sister, I have ever loved her--as a sister, I love her still."

"Then, assuredly," returned Mrs. Headley, "will she not hesitate
to overcome her false delicacy, and to consider herself, what she
really is, the victim of misfortune, and not of guilt, when a mother
and a sister united look upon her as pure in thought as in the days
of her unwedded innocence, and offer her what home may be preserved
to themselves."

"Generously, nobly said!" remarked Lieutenant Elmsley, pressing
the hand of his wife and looking his feelings as he caught the eye
of the last speaker. "I had intended to ask Winnebeg not to simply
go himself, but to permit me to accompany him, that I might know
her intention and offer her my aid. What I have now heard confirms
me in my design. Early to-morrow morning, if he assents, we shall
go over. But here he is himself, with the Indian who is to perform
the operation on your arm, Mrs. Headley."

The door opened, and Winnebeg entered, followed by a tall, powerful,
good-looking Pottowatomie, who glanced inquisitively around the
apartment with the air of one who expects an unpleasant recognition,
nor was it apparently without reason, for the moment Mrs. Elmsley
beheld him, she uttered an involuntary shriek, and drew back with
every manifestation of disgust. The Indian remarked it, and sought
to retire, but Mrs. Elmsley, suddenly recollecting herself, and
fearing so to offend him as to prevent the aid he had come to
render, rose and held out her hand to him, saying, with an attempt
at a smile--

"Never mind--although we have fought a hard battle together
to-day, it is all over now. Let us be friends. Winnebeg, explain
this to him."

Winnebeg did so, when, with a mingled look of astonishment and
pleasure, the Pottowatomie warmly returned her pressure. It was
the same warrior with whom she had grappled, in the desperation of
a last hope, when so opportunely extricated from her perilous
position by Black Partridge. As he had the reputation of much
expertness in making incisions and removing balls lodged in the
flesh, his attendance had been requested.

Calm and composed, although evidently laboring under deep dejection
for the loss of her uncle, the horrible mode of whose death had,
however, been kept back from her, Mrs. Headley, dressed in the
light-textured riding habit in which she had gone forth in the
morning, and which, it has already been remarked, set off her finely
moulded bust and waist to the best advantage, prepared to submit
herself to the operation. As she raised herself up on the ottoman
on which she reclined, Mrs. Elmsley cut open the sleeve to the
shoulder, thus laying bare one of the most magnificent arms that
ever was appended to a woman's body, the dazzling whiteness of
whose contour was only dimmed in the fleshy part above, and in the
immediate vicinity of the spot where the ball had entered.

At a sign from Captain Headley, the Indian, who had been talking
aside with his chief, now approached, but no sooner did he behold
the uncovered limb, when, either dazzled by its brilliancy, which
to him must have seemed in a great degree superhuman, or shocked
that anything so beautiful should have been thus wounded, he suddenly
stopped, and while his eyes were as if fascinated, the blood could
be seen suddenly to recede from his dark cheek.

"No, father," he said to Winnebeg, "I cannot do it. I cannot cut
that arm open--the very thought makes me sick here"--and he pointed
to his heart. "I cannot do it."

Although this involuntary homage to the rich, full, and moulded
beauty of a limb which was but a sample of the perfection of the
whole person, and which in a woman seldom attains its fullest
harmony of proportion before the mature age which Mrs. Headley had
attained, was not exactly that of the porter who, at an earlier
period, solicited the famous Duchess of Gordon to permit him to
light his pipe at her ladyship's brilliant eyes, it was certainly
conceived in much of a similar spirit, and Mrs. Headley could scarce
herself suppress a smile when she remarked the effect upon the
Indian.

And yet this man had been one of the foremost in the attack, and
at his waist, even then, dangled more scalps than had been taken
by any other warrior during the day.

"Well," said Mrs. Headley, on the Pottowatomie continuing resolute
in his refusal to touch the wound--"somebody must do this act of
charity, for the ball gives me much pain. Mr. McKenzie," she added,
with that sort of smile that may be attributed to a person seeking
to assume an air of unconcern even when most disheartened--"you
have long been accustomed to use the dissecting knife on the buffalo
and the bear: do you not think that you could find the courage
necessary for the occasion!"

"Most decidedly; I will make the attempt if you desire it," returned
the trader; "but I fear that my surgical apparatus is Very limited
indeed. Von Voltenberg having been stripped, all his instruments
have, doubtless, been plundered, so it is no use to look for
aid there; and the only thing with which I can try my skill is a
common but very sharp penknife."

"Try whatever you please," said Mrs. Headley; "only relieve me of
this suffering; that which you may inflict cannot possibly be
worse"--and unflinchingly extending her arm, she waited for him to
begin.

For the first time in his life Mr. McKenzie felt nervous. There
was a greater amount of courage required to cut into the delicate
flesh, of a woman than even to _kill_ a bear or a buffalo; but as he
had promised, he summoned up his resolution and skill to the task.

The Pottowatomie, bedizened with scalps as he was, had remained to
witness the cutting out of the ball; and nothing could surpass the
expression of surprise that pervaded his features, as he keenly
watched the almost immovability of Mrs. Headley from the moment
that the blade of the penknife, dexterously enough handled, entered
into the flesh and effected the incision necessary to enable the
ball to be removed. When the operation was finished, and the ball
produced, he started suddenly to his feet, and uttered a sharp
exclamation, denoting approbation of her wonderful courage. He
asked, as a favor, to retain the ball as a testimony of her heroism;
when Mrs. Headley presented it to him with her own hand. And with
this he departed, exulting as though he had taken a new scalp.

This incident, perhaps unimportant in itself, was not without some
moment in the results to which it led. On the day following the
fort was filled with Indians and their squaws not only endeavoring
to assert their claims to individual prisoners, but infuriated at
the losses, seeking a victim to the manes of their deceased relatives.
Among others was an aged squaw, who had lost a favorite son in the
battle, and who, having been told by a warrior that he had distinctly
seen him killed by a shot from Mrs. Headley's rifle, repaired to
the house of Mr. McKenzie, where she knew she then was, bent upon
exciting the general sympathy of the warriors in her favor, and
obtaining their assent that she should revenge his death upon the
"white squaw."

It happened, however, that the noble woman, feeling great relief
from the abstraction of the ball from her left arm the preceding
evening, and feeling secure in the pledge entered into by Winnebeg,
and confirmed in a measure by his people, had fearlessly mounted
her horse, which had been recovered for her, and ridden alone to
the baggage wagons for the purpose of procuring some article which,
at the moment, she much required. As she was returning, and when
near the entrance to the fort, she was met by the vixen, furious
with rage and disappointment at not having found her.

Advancing with a cry that might be likened to that of a fiend, she
seized the bridle of the horse, and attempted to drag his rider by
her habit to the ground--shrieking forth at the same time her
determination to have her life who had taken the life of her son.
But Mrs. Headley was not one, as the reader of this by no means
fictitious narrative already knows, to be thus intimidated. She
possessed too much of the high spirit, the resolute nature of her
unfortunate uncle to submit quietly to the outrage, and, moreover,
she knew enough of the Indian character to be sensible that it was
not by any manifestation of submission that she could hope to escape
the threatened danger. Her course was at once taken. She struck
the gaunt and shrivelled hag such a violent stroke over her shoulder
with the horsewhip of cowhide she held, that the latter was
compelled to release her hold; and, as she rushed into the fort,
calling on the Indians to revenge her son and kill the white squaw,
the latter followed her completely round the square, using her
cowhide with a dexterity and an effect, as she leaned over her
saddle, that drew bursts of laughter and approval from the warriors
eagerly gazing on the scene. At one moment, there was a manifestation
of a desire to carry out the wishes of the crone and kill Mrs.
Headley, and several voices were loud in the expression, but suddenly
then stood forth the Pottowatomie of the preceding evening, the
antagonist of Mrs. Elmsley, who, from his commanding appearance,
not less than by the prestige of his bravery imparted by the numerous
fresh scalps at his side, soon made himself an object of attention.
None of the chiefs were present.

"The white squaw shall not be killed," he pronounced, as he held
up his tomahawk authoritatively; "she is brave like a Pottowatomie
warrior. See here," holding up first five and then two fingers--"so
many balls have hit her, and yet she is here, on horseback, as if
nothing had happened. What Indian would have courage to do that?
Speak!"

"Pwau-na-shig lies," returned the beldam, whom Mrs. Headley had
now ceased to punish, yet who, panting from the speed she had used
in her flight, was almost inarticulate, thereby provoking the
greater mass of the Indians knowing its cause to increased mirth--"the
white squaw has no wounds--where are they--she cannot show them.
If she had wounds she could not sit on her horse; but she has killed
my son, and I demand her blood. Let her be given up to my tomahawk."

A loud and confused murmur burst from many of the group, influenced
by the words of the last speaker. Mrs. Headley sat her horse with
indifference, patting his head gently with the whip, yet looking
earnestly towards Pwau-na-shig, upon whom she now altogether relied.

"The mother of Tuh-qua-quod is a foolish old woman, and knows not
what she says," vociferated the tall warrior; "do you doubt the
word of Pwau-na-shig--see here," and he took from his pouch and
held up to view between his finger and thumb the bullet which had
been extracted the preceding evening. "That," he said, "I saw taken
from her flesh with my own eyes--she did not move--she made no
sign, of pain--she was like a warrior's wife; but you shall see
what Pwau-na-shig says is true."

He approached Mrs. Headley, who, comprehending his object, shifted
her rein to the whip hand, and calmly extended her left arm. Where
it had been cut open, the sleeve of her riding habit was fastened
from the wrist to the shoulder by narrow dark ribbons, which had
been sewn on the previous evening by Mrs. Elmsley, and these the
Pottowatomie proceeded to untie; then turned back the sleeve, as
well as the snow--white linen of the upper arm, soiled only with
her own blood, until the whole was revealed.

Apparently as much struck by the brilliancy and symmetry of the
limb as Pwau-na-shig himself had been, the warriors--even those
who had been most clamorous in support of the demand of the old
squaw--were now unanimous in their low expressions of admiration;
nor was this sentiment at all lessened when, following from the
wrist the rich contour of the swelling arm, it finally rested upon
the wound she herself had divested of its slight drapery. The
incision made by the penknife of Mr. McKenzie, at least three,
inches in length, had assumed a slight character of inflammation,
and contrasting as it did with the astounding whiteness of
every other portion of the limb, gave it the appearance of being
much more severe than it really was. But it was not the wound
alone that enlisted the feelings of the Indians in favor of Mrs.
Headley. Connected with that was the coolness she had evinced
throughout the whole affair from the persevering flogging of the
harridan, who sought her scalp, to the graceful unconcern with
which she sat her horse when she must have known that it was then
a question under discussion whether her life should be taken or
not. This, with the fact of the wound which they then saw, and
their no longer doubt of the existence of many others, were undeniable
evidences of her heroism, and at that moment Mrs. Headley was
regarded by these wild people with a higher respect than she had
ever commanded in the palmiest days of her husband's influence with
the race.

"No kill him," said Pwau-na-shig, exultingly, as he remarked the
effect produced on his companions--"white chiefs wife good warrior."

"No, no kill him," answered another voice, in broken English also.
"Dam fine squaw--wish had him wife--get brave papoose."

A general expression of assent came from the band, when Mrs. Headley,
whose sleeve had again been rudely tied by Pwau-na-shig, fearing
that if she remained longer another reaction might take place,
pressed the hand of the Indian with a warmth of gratitude that
brought the strong fire into his eye and the warm blood into his
cheek, turned her horse's head, and cantered out of the fort,
followed by the wild ravings of the beldam, who tore her long and
matted grey hair and stamped her feet in fury at the disappointment.
In a few minutes she was again at the door of Mr. McKenzie, and
alighted in the arms of her husband, who, alarmed at her long
absence, was in the act of leaving the house in search of her when
she arrived.

"There come Elmsley and Winnebeg, but unaccompanied," remarked
Captain Headley, when, in reply to his inquiry as to the cause of
her long absence, she said she would tell him later. "I fear that
they have been unable to prevail upon Maria to leave the new home
of her election."

"I am sorry for it," gravely returned his wife. "I must say her
choice is not exactly what I should have expected; but here they
are--we shall soon know. Well, Mr. Elmsley," she added, as that
officer ascended the veranda, followed by Winnebeg, "what news do
you bring of the truant?"

"I scarcely know whether to consider it good or bad," returned the
lieutenant, with an air of disappointment; "but I have not seen
Mrs. Ronayne. There seems to have been more method than madness
in her language to Wau-nan-gee of yesterday, for this morning she
departed with him to Detroit."

"Indeed," remarked Mrs. Headley; "you surprise me, Mr. Elmsley;
but does she perform that long journey on foot?"

"No; Winnebeg ascertained from his wife that she was mounted on
her own horse, and that Wau-nan-gee, having visited and returned
from. Hardscrabble during the night with a couple of trunks, she
had made up two large packages, which were tied to the back of her
saddle, while the youth strapped two others similarly prepared with
provisions, behind his own pony. Thus provided, and Wau-nan-gee
with his rifle on his shoulder and otherwise well armed, they set
out at daybreak.

"Poor Maria! what your eventful destiny will be, heaven only knows,"
sighed Mrs. Headley; "for not only the road but the course you
pursue is one beset with danger. But our lots are now cast in
different channels, and we have need of attention to ourselves.
Come in, Winnebeg, while I relate to you the somewhat narrow escape
I have again had from the tomahawk since you left this morning."

"Good God! what do you mean?" simultaneously exclaimed the two
officers. Winnebeg stared and looked as if he did not fully
comprehend.

"Oh! quite an adventure, I can assure you; and who do you think
was my devoted knight-errant?"

"What a subject to jest about, Ellen!" remarked her husband, half
reprovingly. "To whom do you allude?"

"Only the tall warrior who tried so desperately to get your wife's scalp,
Mr. Elmsley."

"What, Pwau-na-shig?"

"The same. You cannot imagine what a conquest I have made; but let
us go in--the story is too good not to be told to all, and I presume
both Mrs. Elmsley and her father are in."

"They are," said Captain Headley, as the lieutenant gave his arm
to conduct her into the house.

------

Little remains to be added to our tale. Of the incidents that
occurred to Wau-nan-gee and his charge, after their departure from
the camp of the Pottowatomies, we might, and may, speak hereafter;
but, as it is not essential to our present design, and would
necessarily occupy far more space than is consistent with the limits
we have been compelled to prescribe to ourselves for the detail of
the attack and partial massacre of the garrison of Fort Dearborn,
we forbear. We had always intended the facts connected with the
historical events of that period to be divided into a series of
three, like the Guardsmen, Mousquetaires, and Twenty Years After,
of Dumas. Two of these, embracing different epochs and circumstances,
we have completed in "Hardscrabble" and "Wau-nan-gee;" and whether
the third, on a different topic than that of war, and which, as we
have just observed, is not necessary to the others, ever finds
embodiment in the glowing language and thought of Nature, nursed
and strengthened in Nature's solitude, will much depend on the
interest with which its predecessors shall have been received.
Yet, whether we do so or not, we trust the sweet, the gentle Maria
Ronayne--the loadstone of attraction to all who knew her, will
have excited sufficient interest in those of her own sex who have
followed her in her hitherto chequered fate to induce in them a
desire to know more of the destiny to which she seemed to have been
born.

Of the other characters, scarcely less interesting, we can speak
with greater confidence. On the third day after the battle, the
prisoners, including Mr. McKenzie and the members of his household,
were removed from Chicago, and scattered about in small and separate
parties, at various intervals of distance from Mackinaw, then in
possession of the British. Here Mrs. Headley remained some time,
in order that she might recover sufficiently from her troublesome
wounds, when Winnebeg, in whose immediate charge she and her
husband were, learning that his people manifested impatience
at the indulgence shown to them, and with their usual fickleness
and inconsistency, desired to have them given up to their own
custody, paddled them, aided only by his squaw, from their village,
a distance of three hundred miles along the shores of Lake Michigan
to the post of Mackinaw, whence the prisoners, who had been received
with all the courtesy the knowledge of their position and the fame
of their deeds could not fail to inspire, by the gentlemanly
commander of that post, were subsequently transferred to the general
then commanding at Detroit.

And great was the curiosity of the young British officers then in
garrison at the latter post, to behold this noble and accomplished
woman, the reputation of whose coolness and courage, under the most
trying circumstances, had been widely circulated by her friend,
Mrs. Elmsley, who, with her father and husband, had some weeks
preceded her to the same quarter.

Little did we at the time, as we shared in the general and sincere
homage to her magnificence of person and brilliancy of character,
dream that a day would arrive when we should be the chronicler of
Mrs. Headley's glory, or have the pleasing task imposed upon us of
re-embodying, after death, the inimitable grace and fulness of
contour that then fired the glowing heart of the unformed boy of
fifteen for the ripened and heroic, although by no means bold or
masculine woman of forty.

THE END.





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+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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