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Title: The Missouri Outlaws
Author: Aimard, Gustave, 1818-1883
Language: English
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THE MISSOURI OUTLAWS

by

GUSTAVE AIMARD

Author of "Prairie Flower," "Indian Scout," etc., etc.

Translated by Percy B. St. John



London
John And Robert Maxwell
Milton House, Shoe Lane, Fleet Street
and
35, St. Bride Street, Ludgate Circus.
1877



NOTICE.

Gustave Aimard was the adopted son of one of the most powerful Indian
tribes, with whom he lived for more than fifteen years in the heart of
the prairies, sharing their dangers and their combats, and accompanying
them everywhere, rifle in one hand and tomahawk in the other. In turn
squatter, hunter, trapper, warrior, and miner, Gustave Aimard has
traversed America from the highest peaks of the Cordilleras to the
ocean shores, living from hand to mouth, happy for the day, careless
of the morrow. Hence it is that Gustave Aimard only describes his
own life. The Indians of whom he speaks he has known--the manners he
depicts are his own.



PREFACE


Very few of the soul-stirring narratives written by GUSTAVE AIMARD
are equal in freshness and vigour to "The Missouri Outlaws," hitherto
unpublished in this country. The characters of the Squatter, the real,
restless, unconquerable American, who is always going ahead, and of
his wife and daughter, are admirably depicted, while his eccentric
brother is a perfect gem of description. The great interest, however,
of the narrative is centred in Tom Mitchell, the mysterious outlaw,
whose fortunes excite the readers' imagination to the utmost. There
can be no doubt he is one of the most original characters depicted by
the versatile pen of the great French novelist. In addition to being
a story of adventure, "The Missouri Outlaws" is also a love tale, and
abounds in tender pathos, the interest of which is well sustained in
"The Prairie Flower" and in its sequel, "The Indian Scout."

PERCY B. ST. JOHN.

London: _February, 1877._



CONTENTS


       I. THE GOOD SHIP PATRIOT
      II. SAMUEL DICKSON GIVES ADVICE TO HIS BROTHER
     III. A QUEER CUSTOMER
      IV. AN ALLIANCE OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE
       V. A GREAT MEDICINE COUNCIL
      VI. SAMUEL DICKSON HUNTS A MOOSE DEER
     VII. JOSHUA DICKSON BECOMES MASTER OF THE VALLEY
    VIII. DIANA DICKSON AND HER FOE
      IX. THEY MAKE AN ACQUAINTANCE
       X. WHO THE STRANGER WAS
      XI. EXPLANATIONS
     XII. HOW THE THREE TRAVELLERS WENT TO GEORGE CLINTON'S
    XIII. TOM MITCHELL
     XIV. SAMUEL AND JOSHUA
      XV. NEW CHARACTERS
     XVI. TOM MITCHELL AS REDRESSER OF WRONGS
    XVII. A DIPLOMATIC CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO RASCALS
   XVIII. THE PRISONER
     XIX. IN WHICH TOM MITCHELL DISCOVERS THAT HONESTY
          IS A GOOD SPECULATION
      XX. A STRANGE CHASE
     XXI. CAPTAIN TOM MITCHELL, THE AVENGER
    XXII. A DESPERATE STRUGGLE



THE MISSOURI OUTLAWS



CHAPTER I.

THE GOOD SHIP PATRIOT.


On the 4th of August, 1801, a little after eight o'clock at night, just
as the last rays of the setting sun disappeared behind the heights
of Dorchester, gilding as they did so the summits of certain islands
scattered at the entrance to Boston Bay, some idlers of both sexes,
collected on Beacon Hill, at the foot of the lighthouse, saw a large
vessel making for the harbour.

At first it seemed as if the ship would be compelled to desist from her
design, as the wind was slightly contrary; but, by a series of skilful
manoeuvres, it at last passed by the danger which threatened, the sails
were one by one taken in and furled, and finally the anchor was cast
beside one of the many vessels in port.

A few minutes later nothing was to be seen on deck save one man walking
up and down doing duty as watch for the time being.

The vessel had, under cover of a dense fog, escaped from Brest, slipped
past the English cruisers, and finally, after many dangers, reached its
destination.

Descending into the cabin, we find two men seated at a table upon which
were glasses, bottles, pipes, and tobacco, conversing and smoking.

These were Captain Pierre Durand, a young man, with regular but rather
effeminate features, and yet a look of frank honesty, to which his
sparkling eyes, his broad forehead, his long waving hair, gave an
appearance of singular energy. Though every inch a sailor, there was a
refinement about him not generally found in his class.

His companion was a handsome and haughty young man, of about
two-and-twenty, of moderate height, but with very broad shoulders; he
was evidently of powerful make, with nerves of steel. His complexion
was olive; his hair long wavy black; his eyes were large and bold; the
expression of his countenance sombre and thoughtful, while at this
early age many a wrinkle caused by thought or suffering was to be
observed.

There had evidently been a warm discussion, for the captain was walking
up and down, a frown upon his brow. Suddenly, however, he reseated
himself and held out his hand across the table.

"I was wrong. Do not be vexed," he said.

"I am not angry, my good Pierre," he answered.

"Then why sulk with your friend?"

"I do not sulk, heaven knows; I am simply sad. You have reopened a
wound I thought forever closed," the other added with a sigh.

"Well, then, in heaven's name, if it be so," cried the captain, "let us
talk about something else--and above all, let us drink. This old rum is
a sovereign remedy for the blues. Your health, my friend."

Both drank after touching glasses, and then silence again ensued.

"Now, my dear Oliver," resumed the captain, "at last we are safe in
Boston. We leave tomorrow. What do you intend to do?"

"You remember our conversation at Brest?"

"I have not forgotten it, but I never seriously entertained the idea.
We had dined rather copiously."

"We were very sober. There were two bottles on the table, one empty
and the other nearly full. I then told you that though I had only just
returned to France after an absence of ten years, I was compelled to
leave at a moment's notice, and to leave without raising any suspicion.
I wanted to depart without anyone being able to obtain the slightest
clue; you remember," he added.

"I do, and I told you that I would run the blockade that very night, if
the weather turned out as bad as I expected. Did I keep my promise?"

"With all the loyalty of your honest heart. I also told you I intended
remaining in America."

"It is to that madcap resolution I object," said the captain
emphatically. "Why not stay with me? You are an excellent sailor--you
shall be my chief officer."

"No, my friend. I can accept nothing which can ever tempt me to return
to France," he answered.

"How you suffer!" sighed his friend.

"Horribly. Come, my friend, as we shall part for ever tomorrow, I will
tell you my history."

"Not if it makes you suffer."

"I will be brief. Sad as my story is, it is not very long."

"Go on," replied Captain Durand, filling up two more glasses of rum,
and lighting a fresh cigar for himself.

"I will not sermonise, but begin at the beginning. I was born in Paris,
but might be English, German, or even Russian, for all I know. I am
simply aware that my birthplace was Paris, in the house of a doctor,
where my mother took refuge. It was in the Rue St. Honoré I first
saw the light but, as soon as I could be removed, was sent to the
Foundling. There I remained four years, until a loving young couple,
who had lost their only child, adopted me. They were poor, and lived on
the third floor of a wretched old house, in the Rue Plumet, where, I
must own, I had enough, but of very coarse, food."

"One day, however, fortune knocked at the door. My adopted mother was,
and still is, one of the handsomest women in Paris. By accident an old
friend, a distant relation, a man of high position, found her out. He
at once procured a lucrative appointment for my supposed parent, and
we moved to a splendid residence in the Faubourg du Roule. The friend,
who lived close by, at once began to visit us every evening, and, by a
curious coincidence, the husband always found business which required
his absence. He never returned until a quarter of an hour after the
other had left."

"Accommodating husband," sneered Durand.

"Just so. But, unfortunately for me, I became older, curious, was
always turning up when not wanted, and saying things which were not
required. It was decided that I was an incorrigible scamp, and must be
sent away."

"My adopted mother had relations at Dunkirk, and I was packed off to
them to be sent to sea as cabin boy. Then only did I discover that
these people were not my parents. My supposed mother coldly kissed me,
told me to be a good boy and gave me ten sous; my father, who escorted
me to the ramshackle vehicle which traded between Paris and Calais,
told me to remember this, that society never having done anything for
me, I was to do nothing for society; the only virtues to which men ever
owed success were, he said, selfishness and ingratitude. He further
added, 'Good-bye, we shall never meet again.'"

"He turned his back and left me. This was my first young sorrow, and I
felt it very much."

"I feel for you," said the captain; "your story is very much like my
own."

"These people, knowing me then to be very delicate, hoped that the
hardy profession they had selected for me would kill me. They were
mistaken."

"As I see," answered Durand.

"I was first boy on board a herring boat, where I had to endure the
brutality and insolence of a low drunkard, who never spoke except with
an oath from his mouth, accompanying it with a blow from his cane. My
apprenticeship was one long terror. Sometimes a whaler, sometimes a cod
fisher, sometimes a slaver. I have been five or six times round the
world; abandoned on the wildest coast of America, I was a long time
prisoner; shipwrecked on an island in the Pacific, I wonder I did not
die of misery and despair."

"Poor Oliver!"

"But bad as was my life, I everywhere in savage lands found some
friend; but in France, from which I was ignominiously expelled eleven
years ago, I found on my return two implacable foes--Calumny and
Hatred. I was a very sharp boy, and trusted wholly to strangers.
I could not help hearing many things I should not have heard. I
discovered the secret of my birth, who were my father and mother,
their exact names, and their position in society. One day, in a moment
of frenzy--and you know I am extremely violent--I was foolish enough
to let out the fact that I knew all. From that day a vow was made to
accomplish my ruin; the most calumnious reports pursued me; I was
accused behind my back and in the dark of the most horrible crimes. It
is to me still a wonder how I have escaped all the ambushes laid for
me. My foes hesitated at nothing. They tried to assassinate me. Is it
not horrible? Well, having failed in the ordinary way, they bribed the
captain of a ship I had joined to maroon me on the coast of New Mexico,
where dwell the most ferocious Indian tribes."

"And the captain did this?"

"Pardieu!" cried Oliver; "He was a poor man, and the father of a
family. I was cast on shore stupefied by laudanum. When I recovered the
ship was already out of sight. I expected to be killed by the savages
or to die of hunger. How neither happened is too long a story to tell
now. But the end of all is, I have determined on an eternal exile.
Never again will I place myself in the power of my foes, who live rich,
happy, and respected in France."

"You will establish yourself in Boston?"

"No! I have done with civilised life; I shall now try that of the
desert. It is my intention to bury myself in the wilds until I find
an Indian tribe that will welcome me. I will ask them to receive me
as a warrior. I thoroughly understand the manners and customs of the
aborigines, and shall easily make friends."

"I believe," observed the captain, "that you are right in this
particular. You are young, brave, and intelligent; therefore you will
succeed even in this mad project. But mark my word, you may live five,
perhaps ten years with the Indians; but at last you will weary of this
existence--what will you do then?"

"Who knows? Experience will have ripened my reason, perhaps killed my
grief, even deadened the hatred which burns within my heart. I may even
learn to forgive those who have made me suffer. That in itself is a
sort of vengeance."

"But you will never come to that," said his friend.

The young man rose without making any reply, and went on deck.

Next day, as soon as the usual formalities had been gone through, the
captain landed in his boat with his young friend. Both were silent
before the sailors. Very soon they were threading their way along the
crowded quays. Boston was by no means the really magnificent town which
now excite universal admiration, but it was already a very busy and
important commercial emporium.

The Americans, with their restless activity, had hastened to clear away
all signs of the War of Independence; the town had grown quite young
again, and assumed that gay and lively physiognomy which belongs to
great commercial centres, where almost everybody can find the means of
living.

As soon as they were alone the captain spoke.

"When, my friend, do you propose to start?" he said.

"Tonight, two hours before the setting of the sun. I burn with a fierce
desire to breathe the air of the great savannahs, to feel free from the
trammels of civilisation," he answered.

"Well, my friend, I must leave you now, but promise to wait breakfast
for me, and to do nothing until you have seen me again," insisted the
captain.

"I was about to ask you to join me. Where shall we breakfast?"

The captain indicated a hotel at no great distance, after which he
hurried away to wait on the consignees.

"What on earth can Pierre mean," muttered Oliver to himself, "by my
doing nothing until we meet again? Probably he will try once more to
change my resolution. He ought to know that once I make up my mind I
never falter. He is a good fellow, the only man who has ever been my
sincere and devoted friend--the only being in the world I am sorry to
part from."

Musing thus Oliver strolled about, looking listlessly at the streets,
the shops, and particularly selecting those which, by-and-by, he would
have to visit for the purpose of his outfit, which he would have to
purchase after breakfast.

An hour later the two men met in front of the hotel. Both were exact to
a minute. They ordered breakfast in a private room. As soon as they had
finished the captain opened the ball.

"Now let us chat," he said.

"With the greatest of pleasure," replied Oliver. "Nothing is more
agreeable after a meal than to enjoy a cigar, a cup of coffee, and a
friend's company."

"And yet you have determined to deprive yourself of these luxuries
forever," replied Durand.

"Man is ever insatiable. The unknown always did and always will attract
him. He will ever quit the substance for the shadow. The fable is
right. But let us talk of something else. Serious conversation after
eating is folly," observed Oliver.

"You are quite right--some more rum in your coffee? It is an excellent
thing. What do you think I have been doing since I saw you?"

"It is impossible for me to guess," cried Oliver.

The captain rose, went to the window, and gave a short whistle. After
this, he returned to his seat, Oliver staring at him while he sipped
his coffee.

Five minutes elapsed, and then in came several men, carrying various
packets, which they placed on a side table, and went out without
speaking.

"What does it mean?" cried Oliver, in comic astonishment.

"Then something can rouse you?" cried Durand, smiling.

"No, only I wondered."

"Never mind. You still intend going off tonight?" asked the captain.

"Certainly," said Oliver rising; "that reminds me--"

"One moment. We are old friends, and there should be no secrets between
us," urged Durand.

"There shall be none," answered Oliver.

"Have you much money?" asked Durand.

"Do you want to lend me any?" cried Oliver.

"No matter if I did. But still I want an answer," urged Durand.

"I have eleven thousand francs in gold sewn in my belt, and in a bag
fastened round my neck diamonds worth a hundred and twenty thousand
more. Besides this I have about eighty guineas in English money for
immediate expenses. Are you satisfied?"

"Perfectly," said the captain laughing, "and now listen to me."

"Then it appears you are not quite satisfied?" cried Oliver, in his
turn surprised.

"Don't be in a hurry. I wish to interest you if I can."

"I will wait your pleasure," observed Oliver, smiling at the other's
hesitation.

"It is useless," said Durand, "for me to feign a gaiety I do not feel.
I feel more like weeping than laughing. The mere idea of this long,
perhaps eternal, separation makes my heart bleed. I think that the hand
now in mine I shall never shake again."

"Don't be downhearted. Perhaps we may meet sooner than either of us
expect," retorted Oliver.

"I hope you may be a true prophet. Still I cannot help shuddering at
the thought of your starting off amidst people whose language you do
not even know."

"There you are mistaken," responded Oliver; "as well as French, I speak
English, Spanish, and Dutch, with about five Indian dialects, which I
picked up at different times."

"It is a wonder," mused the other, "that, placed as you have been, you
should have had the time."

"Before I became a cabin boy I could read and write a little. After a
time I spent every moment of leisure in study."

"I remember," sighed Durand, "I never met you without you were reading.
What will you do for books now?"

"What book is more interesting than that in which God has written on
the plains, on the mountains, on the minutest blade of grass?" replied
Oliver with enthusiasm. "Believe me, my friend, the sacred book of
Nature has pages too interesting to ever weary us; from them you always
find consolation, hope, encouragement. But," he added with a smile, "I
have two books with me which, in my opinion, epitomise all great human
thoughts, make man better, and even restore his courage, when bowed
down by the heavy weight of misfortune. I have these books by heart,
and yet I read them over again."

And he laid on the table two books bound in black morocco.

"What!" cried the amazed captain, "'The Imitation of Jesus Christ' and
'Montaigne'!"

"Yes. 'The Imitation of Jesus Christ' and 'Montaigne,' the most
complete and sincere books ever written, for they tell the story of
doubt and belief. They tell the rival story of all the philosophers
who have existed since the creation of the world. With these two books
and the magnificent spectacle of Nature around me have I not a whole
library?"

"I cannot make you out. You overwhelm me," said the captain; "but
I have not the courage to contradict you. You are too much for me.
Go forth, seek the unknown, for alone that will comprehend you. You
are one of those whom adversity purifies and renders great; you will
often feel inclined to fall by the way in the gigantic combat you are
about to undertake against the world. But fail is not a word in your
dictionary. Even death, when it comes, will not conquer you."

"All the more that death is but a transformation, a purification of
brutal matter by Divine agency. But," he remarked with a smile, "I
think we are talking about very serious matters very foreign to our
subject. Let us return to business, for the hour of our departure is
rapidly approaching."

At this moment the tramp of horses was heard, and the captain again ran
to the window.

"Hilloa!" cried the young man; "Another of your mysterious walks! Do
explain yourself."

"All right," he replied, reseating himself, "there is no reason for
circumlocution between friends. The truth must be told. I had hoped to
lend you money, and I know that had you have required it, you would
have borrowed it."

"Certainly, without hesitation, my friend."

"Of course, as I find you are very much better off than myself, I
withdraw the proposition; but I had already provided your outfit."

"What can you mean? Provided my outfit!"

"Yes! I mean to say that there is not a single thing required for your
journey that is not ready. Look!"

And both rising, the captain opened the parcels which had been left on
a side table.

"Look here," said the captain; "this is a real Kentucky rifle, the
only gun fit for a hunter; I have tried it. This is a ball pouch, with
mould and everything necessary to make others when needed; this is
your powder horn, which is full, while here are two small canisters
to replenish with; this is a 'necessary,' as we sailors call it,
containing spoon, fork, cup, knife, and other trifles; this is a
leather belt; this is a game bag, with gaiters, riding boots, a cloak,
and four rugs."

"My dear friend," said Oliver, deeply moved, "you have been ruining
yourself."

"Get out of that and wait a little longer. As you seriously wish to
adopt savage life, at all events you must be rigged out accordingly,"
he added, laughing. "This is a hunting knife, which you put in your
belt; these pistols are to be placed in the holsters; that sword is
perhaps one of the best cavalry swords I have ever seen. What, more!
Oh, yes. This portmanteau, which is neither too large nor too small,
in which you will find shirts and other necessaries. Then some pipes,
tobacco, flint and steel, and a dozen boxes of preserves, in case you
may someday be short of provisions. I think, on my honour, that is all.
No, I had forgotten: paper, pens, ink, and pencils. And now my watch as
a last remembrance."

"This I must refuse. Your watch is too useful to yourself."

"My friend, every time you look at it you will think of me," said the
captain.

And the two Frenchmen embraced.

"I accept," replied Oliver, with deep emotion.

"Now I know," continued the captain, "you are really my friend; and now
let me see you dressed up as a true traveller, while I put the other
things back into their parcels."

"But before I don my new prairie costume, I have something else to
buy," cried Oliver.

"What!" cried the captain, "I thought surely I had forgotten nothing."

"Do you think, my dear friend, that I am going to carry all this on my
back. I don't want to look like a comic Robinson Crusoe, and, besides,
it is more than I could do. I must have a horse."

The captain burst out laughing.

"Look out of window, my dear friend," he said, "and then you shall
decide whether or not I forgot anything."

Oliver approached the window, and saw two magnificent horses admirably
caparisoned.

"What do you think of those animals?" asked the captain.

"They are both splendid; above all, the black one--a true horse of the
prairies--a mustang."

"You seem to know all about it."

"I have seen them often enough," replied the young man; "the owner of
this one should be proud."

"It is yours," said Durand.

"What do you mean?"

"I bought it for you," was the simple reply.

"Pierre! Pierre! I repeat, you are ruined."

"Hush; I may as well add that under the saddles I have placed double
pockets, which contain many things I have forgotten."

"But there are two horses," he cried.

"One for you and one for myself. At all events, I must see you fairly
on your way."

Oliver made no reply, but turned away to dress in order to hide his
emotion. When he was in full costume his friend burst out laughing, and
told him he looked like a Calabrian bandit.

"And now which way do we go?" asked the captain.

"Straight forward," replied Oliver.

"Yes," cried the captain, "just so, as you are going round the world."

In two hours, after a hearty and warm shake of the hand, they parted.
They were too deeply moved to speak.



CHAPTER II.

SAMUEL DICKSON GIVES ADVICE TO HIS BROTHER.


On the same day on which the _Patriot_ anchored in the Bay of
Massachusetts an interesting event took place between seven and eight
in the morning in a pretty village named Northampton, at no great
distance from Boston.

Everybody was excited. A crowd of men, women, and children pressed
around a number of waggons, each drawn by six horses. They stood in
front of a brick house, the only inn of the village. Four magnificent
saddle horses, with very handsome harness, were held by a young
intelligent-looking Negro, who at the same time smoked a short pipe.

The crowd was very excited, but very decorous and quiet--as a New
England crowd always is--waiting simply for an explanation.

Suddenly the sharp trot of a horse was heard at the entrance of the
street. This served to create a new sensation in the crowd.

"Samuel Dickson!" cried the people; "At last he has come. Now he will
make them listen to reason."

The new arrival was a man of middle age, with a pleasant countenance,
delicate and intelligent features, clothed in the dress of a rich
farmer, and in those parts was looked up to as a most important
individual.

He made his way carefully through the crowd, bowing on either hand, and
rather puzzled at the ovation he was receiving.

"Ah! Ah! That is you, massa," said a Negro, with a chuckle, as he
approached the inn door.

"Sandy, is that you? Then I suppose the others are inside," he
remarked, as he dismounted and handed him the bridle.

"Yes, Massa Samuel, dem all dere."

"I am glad of it," he replied, "for I have come a long way to see them.
Look after my horse, he is rather fresh."

Then, bowing once more to the crowd, Samuel Dickson entered the inn,
closing the door behind him.

In a large and comfortable room six persons, two women and four men,
were seated at one of those copious breakfasts which are never seen
to such perfection as in America. Upon benches round the room sat
about twenty persons in a humbler station in life, amongst others two
coloured young women, who were eating from bowls and plates placed on
their knees.

Those at the table were the members of the family--father, mother,
daughter, and three sons. Those around were the servants.

Joshua Dickson, the head of the family, was in reality a man of
fifty-five, not, however, looking more than forty. He was a man of
rude manners, but frank, honest expression. He was six feet high, as
powerful as Hercules, a true type of those hardy pioneers who opened
up the forests of the New World, drove back the Indians, and founded
stations in the desert, which in time became rich and flourishing towns.

His sons were named Harry, Sam, and Jack, aged respectively thirty,
twenty-eight, and twenty-six. They were all three as tall as their
father, and about as Herculean--true Americans, with no thought of the
past, only looking to the future.

Susan Dickson, the mother of this trio of giants, was a woman of about
fifty--small, elegant, but extremely active, with delicate features
and a pre-possessing physiognomy. She looked much younger than she
really was--thanks to her really admirable complexion and the singular
brightness of her eyes. She must have been rarely beautiful in her
youth.

Diana, the child of her old age, as she loved to call her, was
scarcely sixteen, was the idol of the family, the guardian angel of
the fireside; her father and brothers actually worshipped her. It
was something wonderful to see their rude natures bending like reeds
before the slightest wish of this delicate child, and obeying her most
fantastic orders without a murmur.

Diana was a charming brunette, with blue and dreamy eyes, slight and
flexible form; she was pale; a look of profound melancholy was to be
remarked on her countenance, giving to her physiognomy that angelic
expression rarely found except in the Madonnas of Titien. This sadness,
which all the family saw with sorrow, had only been in existence a few
days. When questioned on the subject, even by her mother, she had no
answer to give.

"It is nothing at all," she said, "only a slight feeling of sickness,
which will soon pass away."

Hearing this, all had ceased to question her, though all felt uneasy,
and slightly annoyed at her reticence. Still, as she was the spoiled
child of the family, no one had the heart to blame her or pester her
with questions. They had seduced her to govern them unquestioned that
it appeared hard now to want to curb her will.

The entrance of the stranger into the hall where the emigrants were
breakfasting like persons who knew the value of time, caused no small
stir; they ceased eating, and, glancing at one another, whispered
amongst themselves. The stranger, leaning on his riding whip, looked at
them with an odd kind of smile.

The chief of the family, though himself somewhat surprised, was the
first to recover himself. He rose, held out his hand, and spoke in what
he intended should be a jovial tone. The attempt was a failure.

"My good brother," he said, "this is indeed a surprise. I really did
not expect to see you; but sit down beside my wife and have some
breakfast."

"Thank you; I am not hungry."

"Then excuse me if I finish my meal," continued the emigrant.

"Brother," presently said Samuel, "for a man of your age you are acting
in an extraordinary manner."

"I don't think so," replied the other.

"Let me ask you where are you going?"

"Northward, to the great lakes."

"What is the meaning of this?"

"My friend, I am told there is good land to be had but for the taking."

"May I ask who put this silly idea in your head?"

"No one. It is a splendid country, with splendid forests, water in
abundance, a delicious climate, though rather cold, and land for
nothing."

"Have you seen this beautiful country?"

"No; but I know all about it."

"Do you?" sneered the other; "Well, beware of the creeks."

"Never you fear. Wherever there is water there are bridges."

"Of course; and now may I ask, what have you done with your magnificent
southern property?" the other asked.

"I have sold it, slaves and all, keeping only such as were willing to
follow me. I brought away all that could travel--my wife, my sons, my
daughter, my furniture, my horses, all I wanted."

"May I without offence ask you this question: Were you not very well
where you were? Did you not find the land excellent?"

"I was well off, and the land was excellent."

"Were you unable to sell your produce?"

"I had an admirable market," was the answer.

"Then," cried Samuel, angrily, "what in the devil's name do you mean by
giving it up and going to a land where you will find nothing but wild
beasts, brutal savages, and a hard and rigorous climate?"

The bold adventurer, driven into his last intrenchment, made no reply,
only scratching his head in search of a reply. His wife here interfered.

"What is the use," she said, smiling, "asking for reasons which do
not exist? Joshua is going for the love of change--nothing more. All
our lives, as you well know, we have been roaming hither and thither.
As soon as we are once comfortably settled anywhere, then we begin to
think it time to be off."

"Yes! Yes! I know my brother's vagabond habits. But when he is in one
of his mad fits, why do you not interfere?" he cried, impetuously.

"Brother, you don't know what it is to be married to a wanderer," she
said.

"Good!" cried Joshua, laughing.

"But if you don't find this beautiful country?" asked Samuel.

"I will embark on one of the rivers."

"And where will you land?"

"I have not the slightest idea. But there, do not be uneasy, I shall
find a place."

"Then," said Samuel, gazing at him with perfect amazement in his looks,
"you are determined?"

"I am determined."

"Then, as we shall never meet again, come and spend a few days at my
house," urged Samuel.

"I am very sorry to decline, but I cannot go back. If I were to waste a
day, it would be a serious loss of time and money. I must reach my new
settlement in time for the sowing."

Samuel Dickson, putting his hands behind his back, walked across the
room with great strides, backwards and forwards, watching his niece
curiously under his eyes.

He several times struck the ground with his riding whip, muttering to
himself all the time. Diana sat with her hands crossed on her knees,
the teardrops falling from her eyes.

Suddenly the farmer appeared to have made up his mind. Turning round,
he laid his heavy hand on his brother's shoulder.

"Joshua!" he said, "It is clear to me that you are mad, and that I
alone in the family possess any common sense; never, God forgive you,
did more crooked notion enter the head of an honest man. You won't come
to my house? Very good. I will then ask you one thing, which, if you
refuse, I shall never forgive you."

"You know how much I love you."

"I know you say so; but this is the favour I ask: don't start until you
see me again."

"Hem! But--"

"I must get home on important business at once. My house is but twenty
miles distant; I shall soon be back."

"But when?" cautiously asked the emigrant.

"Tomorrow, or the next day at the latest."

"That is a long delay," continued Joshua.

"I do not deny it. But as your paradise, your El Dorado, your beautiful
country will not probably run away, you are bound to reach it sooner
or later. Besides," urged Samuel, "it is important, very important, we
should meet again."

"As you will, my brother," sighed Joshua; "I give you my word to wait
until the day after tomorrow at seven o'clock in the morning--no later."

"That will suit me admirably," cried the farmer; "so good-bye for the
present."

And with a bow to all, and a smile to Diana, he hurried out of the room.

The crowd still patiently surrounded the inn and received him with a
loud shout. He, however, took no notice, but rode off.

"We could not very well refuse, Susan," said the farmer to his wife.

"He is your brother," she replied.

"Our only relative," murmured Diana.

"True. Diana is right. Children, unharness the animals: we will stop
here tonight."

And, to the great surprise of the gaping crowd, who hung about after
the fashion of idlers, the horses of the emigrants were unyoked and
taken to a shed, the waggons placed under cover, without the curious
knowing the reason why.

On the morning of the second day Joshua Dickson, shortly after sunrise,
was overlooking the horses being fed by his sons and servants, when a
great noise was heard in the street, as of many waggons, and then there
was a sharp knocking at the door of the inn.

Joshua hastily left the stables and took his way to the great room of
the hotel.

He came face to face with Samuel Dickson, who had just been admitted by
the sleepy innkeeper.

"Hilloa!" cried Joshua, "Is that you, my brother?"

"Who else do you suppose it is?" cried Samuel.

"Well, but I did not expect you so early."

"Well," said Samuel, drily, "I was afraid you might give me the slip,
so I came early."

"An excellent idea, brother," said Mrs. Dickson, who now entered.

"And knowing how anxious my brother is to reach the promised land, I
would not keep him waiting."

"Quite right," coolly replied Joshua; "and now about this important
business?"

"Look out of window," drily answered Samuel.

Joshua obeyed, and saw five heavily-laden waggons, drawn each by
horses, with about twelve hired men.

"Well," coolly observed Joshua, "what may be the meaning of all this?"

"It means," answered the farmer, "that as you have found yourself such
a fool, it becomes my duty, as your elder brother, to come and look
after you. I have sold up everything, and invested part, as you see."

"Oh, my brother!" cried Joshua, with tears in his eyes.

"Am I not your only relative? Wherever you go, I shall go--only there
will now be two fools, but I am the bigger of the two. I talk like a
wise man and act like a foolish child."

Uncle Samuel was adored by all the family, everyone was delighted,
while Diana was radiant.

"Oh, my good uncle," she said, warmly embracing him, "it is for me you
do this."

"Do you think," he whispered, "I ever meant to desert my niece?"

Two hours later the double caravan started on its way.



CHAPTER III.

A QUEER CUSTOMER.


It was the beginning of the month of October, and some sharp frosts
had rid the land of mosquitoes and gnats, which during the hot season
abound in myriads near watercourses and beneath the leafy arches of the
virgin forest, being one of its worst scourges.

A few minutes after the rising of the sun a traveller, mounted on a
magnificent horse, wearing the costume of a prairie hunter, and whose
general appearance indicated a white man, emerged at a walking pace
from a high thicket, and entered upon a vast prairie, at that day
almost unknown to the trappers themselves, those hardy explorers of
the desert--and which was not far from the Rocky Mountains, in the
centre of the Indian country, and nearly two thousand miles from any
settlement.

This traveller was Oliver. He had, we see, already travelled a long
distance.

Two months only had elapsed, during which, going always straight before
him, he had traversed all the provinces of the young American republic,
never stopping except to rest himself and horse; then he had passed the
frontier and entered the desert.

Then he was happy. For the first time in his life he was free and
unfettered, having cut himself off forever, as he thought, from the
heavy trammels of civilisation.

Oliver had at once begun his apprenticeship as a hunter, and a rude
apprenticeship it is, causing many of the boldest and bravest to
retreat. But Oliver was no ordinary man; he was young, of rare vigour
and address, and, above all, possessed that iron will which nothing
stops, and which is the secret of great deeds; that leonine courage
which laughs at danger, and that indomitable pride which made him,
he thought, the equal of any living being. He therefore considered
nothing impossible, that is to say, he felt he could not only do what
anyone else had ever done, but even more, if he were called upon by
extraordinary circumstances to try.

During two months he had met with numerous adventures. He had fought
many a battle, and braved dangers before which the bravest might have
retreated--perils of all kinds, from man, beast, and Nature herself.

A victor in every case, his audacity had increased, his energy had
redoubled. His apprentice days were over, and he now felt himself a
true runner of the woods, that is to say, a man whom no appalling
sight, whom no dreadful catastrophe, would terrify--in fact, one who
was only to be moved by the majestic aspect of nature.

He had paused as he left the thicket to examine the scene.

Before him was a valley through which flowed two rivers, which after
some time joined and fell into the Missouri, whose vast lake surface
appeared like a white vapoury line on the distant horizon. Upon a
promontory projecting into the first river was a superb bosquet of
palms and magnolias; the latter, shaped like a perfect cone, stood in
lustrous verdure against the dazzling whiteness of the flowers, which,
despite the season, were still blooming. These flowers were so large
that Oliver could see them a mile off.

The great majority of these magnolias were over a hundred feet high;
many were very much more.

To the right was a wood of poplars, overrun with vines of enormous
size, which wholly concealed the trunks. They then ran to the top of
the tree, then redescending along the branches, passed from one tree
to another, mixing up with piquot, a kind of creeper which hung in
garlands and festoons from every bough.

The young man could not take his eyes off the magnificent spectacle.
Suddenly he started, as he made out a thin column of smoke rising from
the centre of the magnolia thicket.

Now the presence of smoke denotes fire, and fire indicates human
beings. In nine cases out of ten, in the desert, such human beings are
enemies.

It is a harsh word, but it is certain that the most cruel enemy of man
in the desert, his most terrible adversary, is his fellow man.

The sight of this smoke roused no excited feelings in the bosom of our
adventurer; he simply saw that his weapons were in order, and rode
straight for the magnolia valley. As it happened, a narrow path led
exactly in that direction.

No matter whether he was to meet friends or foes, he was not sorry to
see a human face; for a week, not a white man, Métis, or Indian had
fallen across his path, and, despite himself, this complete silence and
absolute solitude began to tell upon him, though he would not own it
even to himself.

He had passed over about one-third of the distance which separated him
from the thicket, and was only a pistol shot away, when he suddenly
stopped, under the influence of strange emotion.

A rich and harmonious voice rose from amidst the trees, singing with
the most perfect accent a song with French words. These words came
clear and distinct to his ears; the surprise of the young man may be
conceived when he recognised the "Marseillaise." This magnificent
work, sung in the desert by an invisible being, amidst that grand
scenery, and repeated as it were by the echoes of the savannah, assumed
to him gigantic proportions.

Despite himself, Oliver felt the tears come to his eyes; he pressed
his hand upon his chest, as if to repress the wild beatings of his
heart; in a second all his past came rushing tumultuously before him.
Once more he saw in his mind's eye that France from which he believed
himself forever separated, and felt how vain must ever be the effort to
repudiate one's country.

Led on by the irresistible charm, he entered the thicket just as the
singer gave forth in his rich and stentorian voice the last couplets.

He pushed aside some branches that checked his progress, and found
himself face to face with a young man, who, seated on the grass by the
riverside, near a glowing fire, was dipping biscuit in the water with
one hand, while with the other, in which he held a knife, he dipped
into a tin containing sardines.

Lifting up his head as the other approached, the unknown nodded his
head.

"Welcome to my fireside, my friend," he said in French, with a gay
smile; "if you are hungry, eat; if you are cold, warm yourself."

"I accept your offer," replied Oliver, good-humouredly, as he leaped
from his horse, and removing the bridle, hoppled him near the unknown.

He then seated himself by the fire, and opening his saddlebags, shared
his provisions with his new friend, who frankly accepted this very
welcome addition to his own very modest repast.

The unknown was a tall young fellow about six feet high, well and
solidly built; his colour, which was very dark, arose from his being of
a mixed race, called from the colour of their skin Bois brulé, under
which general appellation we have half-castes of all kinds.

The features of this young man, rather younger if anything than our
hero, were intelligent and sympathetic with a very open look; his open
forehead, shaded by curly light chestnut hair, his prominent nose, his
large mouth, furnished with magnificent teeth, his fair rich beard,
completed a physiognomy by no means vulgar.

His costume was that of all the trappers and hunters of high northern
latitudes: mitasses of doeskin, waistcoat of the same, over which was
thrown a blouse of blue linen, ornamented with white and red threads;
a cap of beaver fur, and Indian moccasins and leggings reaching to
the knee; from his belt of rattlesnake skin hung a long knife, called
langue de boeuf, a hatchet, a bison powder horn, a ball bag, and a pipe
of red-stone clay with a cherrywood tube; such was the complete costume
of the person upon whom Oliver had so singularly fallen. Close to his
hand on the grass was a Kentucky rifle and game bag, which doubtless he
used to carry his provisions in.

"Faith," cried the adventurer, when his appetite was satisfied, "I have
to thank fortune for meeting you in this way, my friend."

"Such meetings are rare in the desert. And now allow me to ask you a
question."

"Ten if you like--nay, fifty."

"Well, then, how was it that the moment you saw me you addressed me in
French?" he asked.

"For a very simple reason. In the first place, all the runners of the
woods, trappers, and prairie hunters, are French, or at all events,
ninety-five out of every hundred," he answered.

"Then of course you are French?"

"And Norman as well. My grandfather was born at Domfront. You know the
proverb, Domfront, city of evil. You enter it at twelve, and are hung
before one."

"I am also French," said Oliver.

"So I perceive. But to continue. My grandfather was, as I have said,
from Domfront, but my father was born in Canada, as I was, so that I am
a Frenchman born in America. Still we have the old country on the other
side of the water, and all who come from it are received with open arms
by us poor exiles. There are brave and noble hearts in Canada; if they
only knew it in France they would not be so ungrateful and disdainful
towards us, who never did anything to justify their cruel desertion."

"True," said Oliver, "France was very much in the wrong after you had
shed so much blood for her."

"Which we would do again tomorrow," replied the Canadian. "Is not
France our mother, and do we not always forgive our mother? The
English were awfully taken in when the country was handed over to
them; three-fourths of the population emigrated, those who remained in
the towns persisted in speaking French, which no Englishman can speak
without dislocating his jaws, and all would insist upon being governed
by their old French laws.[1] You see, therefore, that the insulars are
merely nominally our masters, but that in reality we are still free,
and French."

"Our country must have been deeply rooted in your hearts to cause you
to speak thus," said Oliver.

"We are a brave people," cried the stranger.

"I am sure of it," responded Oliver.

"Thank you," replied the stranger, "you cause me great pleasure."

"Now that we know one another as countrymen, suppose we make more
intimate acquaintance?"

"I ask nothing better. If you like, I will tell you my history as
briefly as possible."

"I am attention," said Oliver.

"My father was a baby when Canada was definitively abandoned in 1758
by the French, an act which was perpetrated without consulting the
population of New France. Had the mother country have done so, it would
have been met by a flat refusal. But I will avoid politics, and speak
only of my family."

"Good. I hate politics."

"So do I. Well, one day my grandfather Berger, after being absent a
week, came to his home in Québec in company with an Indian in his full
war paint. The first thing he saw, standing by the side of the cradle
in which lay my father, was my grandmother, her arms raised in the
air, with a heavy iron-dog, with which she was menacing an English
soldier; my grandmother was a brave and courageous woman."

"So it seems."

"A true daughter of Caudebec, handsome, attractive, and good, adored
by her husband, and respected by all who knew her. It appears that
the English soldier had seen her through the open door. He at once
entered with a conquering air, and began to make love to the pretty
young person he had noticed performing her maternal office. It was
an unfortunate idea for him. My grandfather lifted him up and threw
him through the window on to the stones outside. He was dead. My
grandfather then turned round and spoke of something else."

"A tough old gentleman!"

"Pretty solid. He even had Indian blood--"

"You spoke of Domfront."

"Yes; but his father, having come to America with Comtesse de Villiers,
married in Canada. He shortly after returned to France with his wife.
There she died, unable to bear the climate!"

"Very natural," said Oliver.

"Before dying she made her husband promise to send his son to Canada."

"But," continued Oliver, "the finale of your history."

"As soon as that matter was settled, my grandfather embraced his
wife, offered the Indian a seat, and began smoking his pipe. He then
explained that he meant to leave Canada."

"'This,' he said, 'is Kouha-hande, my mother's brother, the first
sachem of his nation. He has offered me a shelter with his warriors,
and has come with some of his warriors to escort us. Will you remain
a Frenchwoman and follow me, or will you stay here and become an
Englishwoman?'"

"'I am your wife, and shall follow you wherever you go, with my little
one on my back,' she answered."

"'My sister will be loved and respected in our tribe as she deserves to
be,' remarked the Indian, who had hitherto smoked his pipe in silence."

"'I know it, my cousin,' she said."

"No further words passed. My grandmother began at once to pack up. Two
hours later the house was empty; my grandparents had left without even
shutting the door behind them. Before sunset they were making their way
up the Lawrence, in the canoes of Kouha-hande."

"The river was crowded with fugitives. After a journey of four days
my grandfather reached the tribe of the Hurons-Bisons, of which our
relative Kouha-hande was the first sachem. Many other Canadians sought
refuge in the same place, and were hospitably received by the Indians.
I need say nothing more save that we have lived there ever since."

"And your grandfather?"

"Still lives, as does my father, though I have recently lost my mother
and grandmother. I have a sister much younger than myself. She remains
in the village to nurse my grandfather. My father is at this moment
with the Hudson Bay Company."

At this moment there was a peculiar rustling in the bushes at no great
distance.

"Be quiet," whispered the Canadian in the ear of his new friend, and
before the other could in any way interfere with him, he seized his gun
and disappeared in the high grass, crawling on his hands and knees.

Then a shot was heard.


[1] This is history as told by a Frenchman. As a matter of fact, the
French Canadians remained where they were, until they became the most
loyal subjects the British Crown possesses.--Editor.



CHAPTER IV.

AN ALLIANCE OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE.


Hearing this unexpected shot, Oliver was in the act of rushing to
assist his friend, whom he supposed attacked by some wild beast, when
the hearty and joyous voice of the Canadian was heard.

"Don't disturb yourself, my friend," he cried, "I have only been
providing our dinner."

And next minute he reappeared, carrying on his back a doe, which he
hung to one of the lower branches of the magnolia, and then began to
open.

"Handsome beast, is it not?" he said. "I believe the rascal was
listening. He paid dear for his curiosity."

"A fine beast and cleverly killed," replied Oliver, helping to skin the
animal.

"It is a pity to spoil a good skin. I am a pretty good shot, but you
should see my father shoot a tiger in the eye."

"That," cried Oliver, "seems extraordinary."

"I have seen him do it twenty times, and still more difficult things,"
said the other. "But such deadly certainty is pure habit. We live by
our guns--but to finish my story."

"Go on, my friend."

"My father was a child when we left Canada. He is now about
forty-eight. My grandfather taught him to be a hunter, and to bind
him to the tribe he married him when very young to a charming young
Indian, a relative of Kouha-hande, and my mother in consequence. We are
mere children. I am only twenty, and my sister but fifteen, lovely as
the breath of dawn, and whose real name is Angela, my father's wish.
But the Indians call her Evening Dew. That is all. I am a hunter. I
hate the English and the North Americans, who are worse than John Bull
himself, and I love the French, whose countryman I am."

"You are quite right. Few native-born Frenchmen are such strong
patriots as you. But now for your name."

"Have I not told you? My name is Pierre Berger, but the Indians, in
their mania for such names, call me Bright-eye, I hardly know why."

"Of course because of your admirable power of shooting."

"Well, perhaps you are right. I am a pretty good hand," said the young
man, modestly. "And now, my friend, I have to add that I reached here
yester evening at sundown, and that I am waiting for a friend, who will
be here shortly. It is now your turn to tell me your history, unless,
indeed, you have any motives for remaining silent, in which case a
man's secrets are his own."

"I have no secrets, especially from you, my dear Bright-eye, and the
proof is that if you will listen, I will tell you who I am and why I
came into this country."

"I shall be delighted to hear your story," cried the Canadian, with
evident delight.

From the very first moment when he saw the hunter and came to speak
to him, Oliver felt himself attracted towards him by one of those
movements of attraction or irresistible sympathy which spring from
intuition of the heart.

He had therefore, during his conversation, determined if possible to
make him a friend.

He thereupon told him his story in its most minute details, the
Canadian listening with the most profound and sustained attention,
without interrupting him by a single remark. He appeared sincerely
interested in the numerous incidents of a life wretched from its
commencement, and yet which the young man told frankly and simply,
without bitterness, but with an impartiality which indicated the
grandeur and nobility of his nature.

"Sad story, indeed," he cried, when the other had concluded; "how you
must have suffered from the unjust hatred of these people! Alone in the
world, without any to interest himself in you; surrounded by hostile or
indifferent people; compelled to suffer from dark and insidious foes;
capable of great things--young, strong, and intelligent, yet reduced to
fly into the desert, and separate yourself from your fellows. Pardon if
my cruel curiosity has reopened the wound which long since should have
been cauterised."

He paused, keenly watching the other's face.

"Will you be my friend?" he suddenly cried. "I already feel for you an
affection I can scarcely explain."

"Thanks," cried Oliver, warmly, "I accept your offer with delight."

"Then it is agreed: from henceforth we are brothers."

"I swear it," resumed Oliver.

"We shall henceforth be two to fight the battle of the world."

"I thank heaven we have met."

"Never to part again. You have no family. I will find you one, brother,
and this family will love you," he added.

"Heartily accept my thanks, Bright-eye," exclaimed Oliver; "life
already seems changed, and I feel as if happiness were yet possible in
this world."

"There can be no doubt about it. Believe me, it depends on yourself.
Look upon the past only as a dream, and think only of the future."

"I will do so," returned Oliver, with a sigh.

"And now to business. Young as I am, you will soon find that I enjoy a
certain amount of reputation among the Indians and trappers. Very few
would dare to attack me. I was educated in an Indian village, and, as I
believe I have already told you, I am here to keep an appointment with
a young Indian, my friend and relative. This Indian I now expect every
moment, and I shall introduce you to him. Instead of one friend, you
will have two devoted brothers. Now then," he added, laughing, "are you
not fortunate?"

"I am convinced of it," said Oliver.

"When we have finished our business in these parts--and you may help us
in this business--we will return to my tribe, of which you shall become
a member."

"I am wholly in your hands, Bright-eye," he said; "I make no
resistance. I only thank you."

"No thanks. I am useful to you today; you may be as useful, or more so,
tomorrow."

"Very well. But what is the affair that detains you here, to which you
just alluded?" asked Oliver.

"I must say that I do not know, though frankly I have my own
suspicions. My friend has not thought proper to explain as yet, but
simply gave me a rendezvous here, saying that I might prove useful.
That was enough for me, and, as you see, I am here. It would be an
act of indiscretion on my part to tell you anything I had not been
directly told. Besides, I may be mistaken, and speak to you of a wholly
different matter from the true one."

"You are quite right."

"To pass the time I will prepare supper."

"And while doing so tell what manner of man your friend is."

"He is a young man like ourselves, grandson of Kouha-hande. He is
himself a chief, and a noted brave. Though young, his reputation is
immense. He is tall, athletic, and even elegant of face. His features
are handsome, even to effeminacy. His glance, gentle in repose as that
of a dove, is, when his anger is aroused, so terrible that few can face
it. His physical force is stupendous, his cunning sublime. But you will
soon judge for yourself. His enemies call him Kristikam-Seksenan, or
Black Thunder; his friends call him Numank-Charake, the brave man, in
consequence of his mighty deeds."

"You have simply been describing a hero," said Oliver.

"You shall judge for yourself," smiled the other.

"I am extremely anxious to do so."

"You will soon have the opportunity. It is now five o'clock. In a few
minutes he will be here."

"What, after making an appointment so long ago, you expect him to keep
it to the minute!"

"Yes; it is the politeness of the desert, from which nothing absolves
but death."

"A summary excuse, truly," said Oliver.

"Listen," cried Bright-eye.

Oliver listened, and distinctly heard in the distance the trampling
of a horse, which suddenly ceased, to be followed by the cry of the
goshawk.

Bright-eye responded with a similar cry, and with such perfection that
the Frenchman mechanically raised his head in search of the bird.

Then the sound of a horse galloping recommenced, the bushes parted
violently, and a horseman bounded into the clearing, checking his steed
so artistically that next moment he stood like a centaur rooted to the
ground.

The rider was very much as Bright-eye had described him. There was
about him, moreover, an air of grandeur, a majesty which inspired
respect without repelling sympathy. One glance sufficed to fix him as a
man of superior nature.

It was the first time Oliver, since his journey on the prairies, had
seen an Indian so near, and under such favourable circumstances. He at
once formed a friendly opinion of him.

The chief bowed, and then pointed to the sun gilding the summits of the
trees.

"It is five o'clock. Here is Numank-Charake."

"I say welcome, chief. I know your extreme punctuality. Supper is
ready."

"Good," said the chief, alighting from his horse with one bound.

Bright-eye then placed his hands on his friend's shoulders.

"Let my brother listen. The hunter is my friend."

"Numank-Charake has read it in the eyes of Bright-eye," replied the
Indian, turning to Oliver; "I put my hand on my heart, what will my
brother give me in return?"

"My hand and my heart; that is," he added, with a smile, "all that is
not Bright-eye's."

"I accept my share; henceforth we are three in one, one in three.
Numank-Charake was once the Bounding Panther. Let that name be the name
of my brother."

They shook hands. All was done. According to the customs of the country
they were brothers, and held everything in common.

Almost on the threshold of his desert life, Oliver found himself
associated with two men noted as the most honest and doughty champions
of the prairie.



CHAPTER V.

A GREAT MEDICINE COUNCIL.


For some time the three men, of such different birth, race, and
manners, remained silent. It was a solemn moment. Their meeting
appeared to them providential.

Above all was the young Frenchman absorbed in his reflections. Alone an
hour or two ago, he was now one of a formidable trio.

All the time the Canadian went on with his cooking, while the chief
gave fodder to the horses.

"Supper is ready," suddenly cried Bright-eye, laughing, "let us eat."

And all three seated themselves around a magnificent roast leg of
venison _à la boucanière._

We must hasten to remark that nearly all Indian tribes on the borders
of Canada understand and speak French, at all events, they did at the
time of which we speak. This was the more fortunate as Oliver did not
know one word of Huron.

The guests did honour to the feast, that is to say, they left nothing
but the bones.

The meal, which was washed down by several draughts of French brandy,
was merry, enlivened by jokes and witticisms. The Indians are always
thus among themselves. It is only when in the presence of the whites,
whom they hate, that they are grave, silent, and sullen, never
unbending except under the influence of drink, when their conduct is
that of beings under the influence of delirium tremens.

Brandy, or rather spirit in every shape and form, is doing the work of
extermination for the American.

As soon as the repast was finished, they began to smoke, speaking of
indifferent things. It was the design neither of Bright-eye nor Oliver
to hurry the young chief. Indian etiquette is excessively severe on
this point. It is a proof of intense ill breeding to question a chief,
or even a simple warrior, when he appears anxious for silence.

And yet the sun had disappeared from the horizon; night had spread over
the desert, blotting out the landscape, and mixing up forms in the most
fantastic and strange manner. The sky, of a deep blue, was dotted with
stars. The moon, in its second quarter, began to show itself above the
trees, floating in ether, and spreading on every side its silvery rays,
that lit the prairie here and there with fantastic gleams. The night
wind shivered through the branches of the trees producing plaintive and
melodious sounds, like those of the Æolian harp.

The sombre dwellers in the desert, roused by the setting of the sun,
moved slowly about in the darkness, breaking the silence occasionally
by their wild brays, their sharp barks, and their deep roars. Under
every blade of grass murmured the never silent world of grasshoppers.

The night was cold. It was the period of the great autumn hunts.
Several white frosts had already cooled the earth, soon the temperature
would be below zero. The rivers and streams would be frozen, and snow
would cover the desert as with a shroud.

The adventurers, after throwing on an armful of dry wood to revive the
flame, had wrapped themselves in their ponchos, and, sheltered by the
trees, continued smoking silently.

"This is the hour of the second watch," suddenly observed Numank,
drawing from his belt the medicine calumet, which is only used by
chiefs in council; "the blue jay has sung twice, all rests around us.
Will my pale friends sleep or listen to the voice of a friend?"

"Sleep is for women and children," replied Bright-eye; "men remain
awake when a friend desires to speak of serious things. Speak."

"We listen," added Oliver, bowing.

"I will speak, since my friends desire it; but as what I have to say is
grave, it will not be a talk but a medicine council."

"Let it be so," said Bright-eye.

Numank rose, bowed to the four cardinal points, speaking some
indistinct words; then he seated himself on his hams again, stuffed
his calumet with moriche, a kind of sacred tobacco only used in great
ceremonies. Then having burnt some in the fire as an oblation, he took
a medicine stick, and with it lifted a burning coal to the bowl of the
calumet.

The chief then gave several puffs, and then, still holding the bowl in
his hand, presented the stem to Bright-eye. The hunter gave several
puffs, as did Oliver in his turn; it then came back to the chief, this
going on until the last morsel of tobacco was consumed.

Then Numank-Charake rose, bent again to the four cardinal points of the
heavens, shook the ashes into the fire, and spoke.

"Wacondah, master of life," he said, "you who know all, inspire my
words."

This formality over he replaced his calumet and sat down.

Some minutes elapsed, during which he remained wrapped in deep thought.
Then he raised his head, before bowed on his chest, bowed to his
audience, and began.

"Eight moons ago," he said, "I had just returned from an expedition
against the Piekanns. After presenting the scalps taken by myself and
young men to the sachems, and receiving their thanks, I was going to
my wigwam to visit my father, detained at home by old wounds, when I
suddenly saw a young girl leaning against the ark of the first man.
The young girl was about fifteen, tall, elegant, and beautiful. I
had long loved her without ever revealing the secret of my heart. On
this occasion she seemed to wait for me, and saw me approach with a
melancholy glance."

Bright-eye's eyes glistened, despite his self-control.

"When I was near her the young girl spread out her arms towards me,
and then made a step forward. I paused, and waited. 'Numank is a great
warrior,' she said, modestly lowering her eyes; 'his hut is lined with
the scalps of his foes, he has rich skins of every kind of beast, his
ball never misses; happy will be the woman whom he loves.'"

"On hearing these words, I was deeply moved, and seizing the hand of
the young girl, 'Onoura--beautiful child,' I said in her ear, 'I have
a little bird in my heart which is always singing and repeating your
name. Does this bird sing in your heart?' She smiled, looked at me from
under her eyelashes, and murmured, 'Night and day he whispers tender
words in my ear, and repeats the name of the warrior who loves me. Does
not Numank-Charake find his hut very solitary during the long winter
nights, when the wind howls in the forest and the snow covers the
earth?' 'My heart has long flown out to you,' I cried, warmly, 'from
the first hour that I saw you amidst your companions. Do you love me?'
'For life,' she said, blushing deeply. 'Good,' said I, 'then I will
attempt a new expedition to win the marriage presents, and ask you
of your father. You will wait for me, Onoura?' 'I will wait for you,
Numank. Am I not your slave for life?' and she gently pressed my hand.
I then took a wampum off my neck, and placed it on hers. She kissed
it, her eyes full of tears, and taking a gold ring from the thumb of
her left hand, she placed it on one of my fingers. I allowed her to do
so with a smile. 'You love me,' she said; 'nothing shall ever separate
us,' and before I could say another word she fled as does the gazelle
before the hunter. I followed her with my eyes as long as I could, and
then when she had disappeared round a corner I thoughtfully took my way
to my father's hut."

The chief paused. After a few minutes the Canadian, finding that the
other was not disposed to continue, touched him gently on the arm.

"Why did Numank-Charake show such want of confidence in his brother?"
asked the Canadian, reproachfully.

"What does my brother Bright-eye mean?" asked the chief, with slight
embarrassment.

"My brother knows what I mean," said the Canadian, with great
animation. "Born almost the same day, brought up together, having made
our first trails together on the prairies, as also our first expedition
against the Sioux and Piekanns, our hearts melted into one, I thought
we had no secrets. I know who is the woman whom my brother loves, but
why let me guess all about it, instead of telling me? Have I done
anything to offend?"

"Oh, Bright-eye, don't think that," cried the young man, eagerly; "but
love delights in mystery."

"And yet it likes to confide its sorrows and its joys to the heart of
a friend. On that very same night when she had this interview with the
chief, Evening Dew--Nouma Hawa--on her return to her hut, told her
brother all. Her heart overflowed with joy, and she could not repress
her feelings."

"Then Evening Dew owned her love to Bright-eye?"

"Am I not her brother, and your best friend?"

"True. Let my brother forgive me; I was wrong not to place confidence
in him. Perhaps I was fearful he might disapprove of it."

"On the contrary, it carries out my dearest wishes, and binds us more
and more to one another."

"My brother is better than I am, his heart is better; he will pardon
the weakness of a friend."

"On one condition," said the hunter, laughing; "that Numank-Charake has
no more secrets."

"I promise you," continued the chief, in a low, sad tone; "what I have
now to say is very terrible. But the friends of Numank-Charake must
know all. Two moons had elapsed since I and Evening Dew had spoken. I
had not been able to carry out my projects. One day I again met her
near the ark of the first man. 'The chief has forgotten his promise,'
she said. 'No,' I replied; 'tomorrow I will keep it.' I left her with
only a few more words. Next day I began to carry out my promise. I
prepared everything, even the usual ceremonies were carried out--those
you know so well."

"One moment," interrupted Oliver. "Bright-eye, brought up in your
villages, knows all about them, but I, as a mere stranger, know not
what you mean. As I mean to live with you, I should like to know a
little."

"My brother is right," said the chief; "I will tell him the whole
expedition. Before starting, the turf was taken off a considerable
square of earth, the mould being made soft and pliable with the hands.
It was then surrounded by stakes. When all was ready I went in and sat
at the end opposed to the direction in which the enemy lived. After
singing and praying, I put on the edge of the open space two little
white stones."

"After waiting half an hour in prayer, asking the Wacondah to guide
me right, the village crier, or hachesto, approached. I gave him my
orders. He turned and invited all the great warriors to smoke; then in
their turn the inferior warriors were invited. After all had smoked,
everyone examined the result of the ko-sau-ban-zich-egass. The white
stones had fallen in the direction of a well-known path."

"And what was the result?" asked Bright-eye.

"The Wacondah favoured his children. The path led towards the land of
our hereditary foes, the Sioux of the West."

"Good," said the hunter.

"Our party consisted of a hundred and fifty warriors, the picked men of
the nation, armed with guns. Every man carried the offerings to be cast
away on the field of battle, and hidden, if possible, in the entrails
of our foes."

"A pious custom," said Bright-eye.

Oliver looked at the Canadian, wondering whether he spoke seriously or
not. But there was no doubt of his good faith.

"Two days later we started. A small band of twenty presently joined us,
commanded by Tubash-Shah, the Cheat. My brother knows this restless and
ambitious chief. I offered to yield the command to him. My warriors
would not consent. Misunderstandings soon arose. Crossing some vast
prairies, we began to feel great thirst, and Tubash at once violated
the laws of war. I knew that water was not far off. The greater number
of the elder warriors, who had to walk, were exhausted by heat and
fatigue. Tubash sent out mounted scouts, and private signals were
agreed on. Soon a small river was discovered. Those who got first to it
fired guns, but before the detachments and the laggers had got up to
the river, the sufferings of most of us were excessive. Some vomited
blood, others were delirious. The expedition was a failure. Next day
desertions began among the warriors of Tubash, he setting the first
example. Soon I had only five-and-twenty men left. They offered to
follow me to the end of the world. But what could I do? With despair in
my soul I turned homeward. Halfway our scouts gave the alarm. An hour
later we were engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict with the Sioux. Their
party, six times as numerous as ours, was luckily composed chiefly of
young warriors on their first warpath. Our defence was so desperate,
that the Sioux yielded and fled. We were masters of the field, but out
of four-and-twenty only ten were alive, and these were badly wounded."

"It would be too terrible to tell the story of our sufferings on the
way home. We found that all was known about the expedition. But all
the sachems acclaimed us, the more that I brought back the scalps of
eighteen Sioux who had fallen on the field of battle. But if my honour
was safe, my happiness was lost. Evening Dew was gone."

"My sister abducted?" cried Bright-eye.

"No," said the other, sadly, "not abducted. She went away of her own
accord."

"Of her own accord?" repeated the hunter.

"During the absence of Bright-eye and myself, a paleface came to the
village. This man, it appears, for your father and grandfather refused
any explanation, is a relative of my brother. After remaining a week he
went away, accompanied by your father. Evening Dew followed, weeping
bitterly. Still she offered no resistance to the orders of her father.
Three days after your father returned to his tribe. He was alone. What
had become of the lovely young girl none could tell me. I made the most
minute inquiries without any result. Not knowing what else to do, I
then sent a warrior to my brother to appoint a meeting. Here I am, my
friend--what am I to do?"

"I tell you, chief, that your extraordinary story is inexplicable to
me. I cannot advise."

"Allow me to speak," said Oliver, "I am wholly disinterested in the
matter. I can therefore speak with that calmness which suits neither of
you at this moment."

"Speak!" cried the two young men.

"My advice is, to start at daybreak for the village. The father of
Bright-eye may have reasons for refusing explanations to the chief.
Family matters are sacred. But the brother of Evening Dew has a right
to demand a full explanation. I am certain it will be given to him by
his father, who can have no reason for being mysterious with him. Let
us then away to the village. Successful or not, we shall know what to
do. In every case, my dear friend and brother, count on me."

"What says the chief?" asked Bright-eye.

"The chief thanks Bounding Panther," replied the young man, warmly;
"his heart is loyal, and his soul generous. His advice is good and
should be followed. With two such friends, the redskin warrior is
certain of success."

The conversation then continued for some time on a subject always
interesting to a lover and a brother. Then, after throwing a pile
of dry wood on the fire, the three men rolled themselves in their
blankets, and lay down on the ground.

The two wood rangers lay face downwards, according to Indian custom.
As for Oliver, he lay on his side with his feet to the fire. At the
first hoot of an owl--the first bird which announces the rising of
the sun--the chief wakened his companions, and ten minutes later they
started on their journey.



CHAPTER VI.

SAMUEL DICKSON HUNTS A MOOSE DEER.


The traveller who for the first time reaches the Rocky Mountains is
amazed at the pile of hills above hills, called by the early discoverer
the Sierra of the River of the Wind, that immense reservoir whence
flows so many great streams, some flowing into the Atlantic, others
into the Pacific.

We now transport our readers to a fork formed by a rather extensive
stream, flowing from the Mountains of the Wind, just before it joins
the Missouri, in the centre of a vast and delicious valley.

This charming spot, enchanting in its aspect, was covered by scattered
thickets, young trees, fat pasturages, and watered by many rills, which
fell in all directions in silver cascades from the mountains, and
finally lost themselves in the Missouri.

This unknown Eden, buried in the mountains, had been discovered by a
hardy explorer, and already the hand of man was at work destroying its
savage grandeur. In a word, the squatters were at work.

Squatters are generally men of restless habits, greedy of exertions, no
matter what they may be, impatient of control, and sworn enemies of the
peaceful and regular life of the great centres of population. Gifted
with the courage of a lion, of a will--or, rather, obstinacy--which
nothing can conquer, these men of indomitable energy, in whose hearts
ferment the most violent passions, are the true pioneers of the desert
and the vanguard of civilisation in the New World.

Accustomed to place themselves above the law, as soon as the tide of
civilisation always rising reaches them, they abandon without regret
all they possess--houses and land--and snatching up their hatchets,
bury themselves gaily still further in the desert, until they find
another suitable site, on which they squat.

There is no one to contest their claim. At all events, to do so would
be a rather imprudent enterprise, for they at once appeal to their
rifle, and make that the legal arbitrator.

Joshua Dickson was a true specimen of a squatter; his whole life had
been one long pilgrimage across the States of the Union. Weary of
rambling within the purlieus of civilisation, where he always felt
uneasy, one day, as we have already recorded, he came to a final
resolution, and, abandoning all that he possessed, he started with his
family and servants in search of a land where none before had ever set
their foot.

We cannot relate all the incidents of his journey without guide or
map. They would fill a volume. We come to the point. One night they
had fixed their camp near a very narrow and wooded gorge. It appearing
to be rather a difficult spot to travel in the dark, and there being
no hurry, they had halted by a small stream, in the midst of a green
prairie, which offered admirable pasturage for their beasts and horses.

Before daybreak, while his companions still slept, Samuel Dickson rose,
took his rifle, and advanced in the direction of the defile, with the
double object of examining the locality and of shooting, if possible,
two or three head of game for the morning repast, provisions being rare
in camp, so much so that the night before they had gone to bed almost
without supper.

Harry Dickson, who acted as sentry, alone saw him go out, but as his
uncle did not speak, he did not venture to make any observation.

Samuel Dickson went away with his rifle on his shoulder, whistling
"Yankee Doodle," and shortly after disappeared in the tall grass
without his nephew being able to make out in what direction he had gone.

Seen by the light of morn the defile was not so choked up by trees and
bushes as it had seemed in the dusk of the evening; the entrance only
was marked by a curtain of young trees, which would easily succumb to
a few blows of a hatchet.

The American pushed forward, cutting a passage with his bowie knife,
resolved to reach the extremity of the defile, in order to examine it
thoroughly and report to his brother.

Suddenly a moose deer bounded across his path.

"There is a demon who does not suffer from rheumatism. How he runs! But
remember, my friend, that's your breakfast."

With which words he took to his heels, and, catching sight of the deer,
followed him up through the dense undergrowth, without being able to
get a shot at him. This went on for about twenty minutes, during which,
his rifle at full cock, he never looked to the right or left. Suddenly
the moose deer stood still, as if he sniffed another enemy in the
direction in which he was going.

The American lost no time, but took steady aim for a second or two and
fired.

The stricken deer bounded into the air, and then once more took to its
heels.

But the hunter was determined not to lose him. Unhappily, however, in
his eagerness, he did not look before him, and just as he thought the
deer began to droop, while he increased his speed his foot slipped and
he went head over heels, falling a height of about fifteen feet, to
alight upon a kind of pavement of hard flint stones.

The fall was so heavy that the American not only was bruised all over,
but fainted.

A feeling of coolness suddenly came over him, and caused him to open
his eyes.

He looked wildly around him, and saw a young man of about
seven-and-twenty, in the costume of a trapper, his handsome face bent
over him with a look of deep solicitude, while he bathed his face with
a handkerchief soaked with water.

"Are you better, Mr. Samuel?" said the other.

"Hem!" cried the American; "Am I mad?"

"Not in the least, Master Samuel, at least, that I am aware of," was
the reply.

"But what has happened?" cried the other, with an awful grimace.

"A very simple thing: you shot a deer, and in your eagerness to catch
him you did not notice that you were on the summit of an eminence, and
so rolled over, to the detriment of your bones."

"A very simple thing!" groaned the other; "You speak very complacently,
Master George. Is anything broken?"

"Nothing. I examined you carefully--nothing but bruises, of that I am
sure."

"Cursed deer! If I only had secured it. But the brute escaped me after
all."

"No, my friend. You are too good a shot to miss your aim. There lies
your game, quite dead."

"Thank goodness! That is lucky. But oh! Oh! I feel as if I had received
a severe beating. Help me up."

"But had you not better rest a while?"

"Go to the deuce. I am not a whining sniggler, like my niece," he
began; "by the way," he added, "that puts me in mind! Young man--"

"Allow me to help you up--take my arm. I am strong; so lean as heavily
as you like. There, you are all right. Your rifle will serve you as a
staff."

Thanks to the assistance of the young man, the American contrived to
stand on his legs, making horrible grimaces and groaning all the time.

"I wish my brother had been anywhere, with his mad notion of
emigration," he said, grumbling; "but that is not the immediate
question. Will you answer me?"

"I am quite ready. You cannot carry the deer--shall I hang it up in
safety until you send for it?"

"Will you answer me?" cried Samuel, ferociously.

"You have not yet asked me any question," said the young man, gently.

The American looked at him with considerable anger in his glance; then
his muscles relaxing, he burst out laughing.

"Forgive me, George," he said, offering his hand. "I am an old fool.
I am trying to get up a quarrel with you, instead of thanking you for
your kindness. In truth, I believe you have saved my life."

"You exaggerate, Mr. Samuel," replied the other.

"Between you and me, I don't think so. What would have become of me,
fainting in the desert?"

"Chance brought me here."

"Oh, yes! Chance has very broad shoulders," answered the American: "I
suppose it brought you out here."

The young man held down his head and blushed.

"Well, well, I won't tease you, George," cried Samuel; "you are a noble
and generous fellow, and I loved your father."

"As you do his son," responded the other.

"I suppose it is so. But this being understood, let us talk like two
old friends."

"I am at your command."

"Always the same eternal chorus. Now I do not want to dive into your
secrets, but without going beyond the limits of politeness, allow me to
ask you one simple question," said Samuel.

"Ask; and if it be in my power, I will answer truthfully," replied the
other.

"Hem! You are confoundedly close. First let us sit down. I am all aches
and pains."

The young man gently led him to a soft mound of turf, helped him to be
seated, and followed his example.

"Now I am good for an hour. Let us chat."

"I am your most obedient servant to command."

"How is it, Mr. George Clinton," began the old man, with a sly look,
"that three months ago I left you at Boston at the head of a large
house of business, and that I now find you dressed like a runner of the
woods, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, just ready to
save my life."

"If my journey served me no other purpose, I am thankful--still I own
there is another motive."

"I am glad to hear you say so. May I ask its nature?"

"Well, Master Samuel," began Clinton, "I am young, vigorous, and
passionately fond of field sports; I am a good shot, and very much
inclined for a free and independent life. Many times while at Boston
chance brought me in contact with persons who have accomplished
wonderful journeys into the almost unknown interior of our vast
continent, and who brought back astounding accounts of what they saw;
my curiosity was aroused, and I felt within myself a strong desire to
attempt one of these expeditions in search of the unknown."

"Or the ideal," smiled the American.

"If you like it. As long as my father was alive I kept my ideas to
myself, but as soon as my actions were quite free my old ideas were
revived. An opportunity presented itself which I eagerly embraced.
Confiding my house of business to a trustworthy partner, I started."

"You had a definite object, I suppose?"

"No; I went wherever chance or my feelings urged me," the other
answered.

"My young friend," said Dickson, laughing, "chance plays too great a
part in all this. You will excuse me if I don't believe a word of your
story."

"You are not generous, sir."

"I am not generous?"

"You will not believe that a young man could give way to his
adventurous instincts; and yet you, a wise man, very much older than
I am, you, whose position was settled, I find you here, without being
able to give the slightest explanation of your conduct."

"Well answered, George. You hit me hard, but you know I am an old
fool. I am so, as sure as fate. Yes, my friend, I am mad enough for a
straitjacket. But at the same time, I can see that you will not make me
your confidant."

"I assure you--" began Clinton.

"What is the use of holding out any longer? You must rely on me in the
end; but when you do come to me with the truth, it will be my turn."

"You are not angry with me?"

"No, my boy: keep your secrets; but remember I am your friend. Keep
your own counsel then, if you will--it concerns only yourself. But
remember, whenever you want me, I am ready," he answered.

"I know not how to thank you."

"What nonsense! You owe me nothing. It is I who am your debtor. But
it is getting late, and I must return to the camp, where they must be
getting anxious. Thanks to my rest I feel not only able to walk, but to
carry the confounded deer."

"Wait, however, while I clean and skin him. It will then be easier."

"You are quite right. Be quick, as we are short of food."

"But the country is enormously rich in game, and what a beautiful spot!"

"It certainly is," replied Samuel, after which his young friend soon
prepared the game so as to be easily carried.

"And now take my arm while I lead you through the defile, which is the
only way out of the valley."

And so they started, Samuel walking much better than he expected,
though suffering much.

"One favour," said the young man, after a time.

"What is it, my friend?" asked Samuel.

"Say not one word of our meeting."

"Since you wish it, I will be strictly silent on the subject. Like
other people I know, I will invent some sort of story--it is not
difficult."

The young man smiled, and shook him heartily by the hand. Then Samuel
Dickson walked away in the direction of the camp, while George busied
himself in the valley.



CHAPTER VII.

JOSHUA DICKSON BECOMES MASTER OF THE VALLEY.


After Samuel had walked some distance he found that he had
miscalculated his strength. He was very weak about the ankle, and the
way being rude and his load heavy, he could scarcely get along at all.
Still he would not abandon the deer, knowing as he did how short of
provisions they were in the camp.

Wiping the cold perspiration off his brow, the brave American resumed
his journey.

The sufferings he endured it would be impossible to describe; at length
he became scarcely able to drag one foot before the other; every now
and then he had to stop, as the blood rushed to his head and myriad
sparkles flashed before his eyes. He seemed to have the vertigo, his
mouth was parched, his chest panting, his temples throbbing, and his
eyes almost starting from his head.

When he had staggered to within five hundred feet of the camp he was
utterly exhausted, and fell insensible on the grass, where he remained
inert and motionless for a quarter of an hour. Luckily, as he roused
himself, he found a small rivulet flowing at his feet. In this he
bathed his hands and face, and felt better.

But he could walk no farther; that he knew was impossible. He, however,
suspected they were looking for him, and if they heard him would
come to his assistance. His voice was powerless to reach them. There
remained his rifle. Still seated on the ground, he loaded and fired
three times in succession.

He had not long to wait before he saw his brother and nephews running
towards him.

He was too weak to enter upon any explanations, but one nephew taking
up the deer and the other their uncle, they at once made for the camp,
where Mrs. Dickson and Diana anxiously awaited them.

When they saw the hunter they believed him dead.

Joshua had a great deal of difficulty in persuading them that he had
only fainted, and was in no danger.

The Americans, especially the hunters and trappers, have great
experience in wounds and bruises.

The sick man was at once carried to a covered waggon, placed upon a
mattress, and stripped.

"Heavens!" cried Joshua, as he examined the numerous black bruises,
"Poor Samuel has indeed had a bad fall. I wonder he was not killed
outright."

"Fortunate nothing is broken," said the eldest son.

"So it is," replied the father; "and now let us do the best we can for
him while your mother cooks the deer meat for breakfast. It was for us
poor Sam risked his life. Get the camphorated brandy and some wool, and
don't forget to tell your mother to cook the game. She is rather apt to
burn venison, which does not improve its flavour. While you are about
it bring the rum bottle--a little poured down his throat will do him
good. Above all, be quick."

Having given these orders, Joshua bathed his brother's forehead with
cold water, passed burnt feathers under his nose, and did everything
which could be done under the circumstances. Still the sick man never
moved.

"Let us try the rum," he said, as his son returned.

And as he spoke, he forced open the other's teeth with the blade of his
knife, and putting the neck of the bottle to his mouth, let the liquor
slip through.

Samuel smacked his lips and opened his eyes.

"That is something like. And now to work."

The two men then, dipping the wool in camphorated brandy, began to rub
the bruises.

Such a remedy, so roughly employed, was very soon quite efficacious.
The sick man sat up, howling furiously, and trying to escape from their
clutches.

But the two men, believing in the remedy, continued, and, despite all
their victim could say, despite his prayers, howls, and curses, he
finally had to submit to the treatment for half an hour.

"There you are," cried Joshua; "now try and sleep."

"Go to old Nick!" roared Samuel; "I'm skinned alive."

"You are as fussy as a woman. We scarcely touched you. Tonight we shall
do it again perfectly, and tomorrow you will be quite well," said
Joshua.

Samuel shuddered, but said nothing; shortly after he, however,
slept soundly. At night the two men came again, and, despite his
lamentations, protestations, and prayers, continued to rub him as
before, with all the vigour of which their hands and arms were capable.

Then Joshua told his brother to go to sleep, promising if in the
morning he was not quite well to give him one more dose.

But Samuel was up first, and when they came to find him, he was
dressed, singing "Yankee Doodle."

His brother was delighted, and while wishing him joy, highly eulogised
his remedy, the very mention of which caused Samuel to shudder.

He was then questioned as to his adventure, which he related, leaving
out all mention, however, of George Clinton. They were at breakfast,
and everyone listened with avidity. The ladies especially, who were
weary of their journey, heard the description of the beautiful valley
with extreme delight.

"To conclude, I beg to remark," Samuel wound up by saying, "that I
never saw a spot better suited for a settlement."

"We shall see," drily remarked Joshua.

Samuel knew his brother well, and was well aware how he should be
treated.

"As for myself," he added, with indifference, "I don't care where or
when we stop. As we have gone so far in the desert, what matters fifty
leagues more or less? Let us then go ahead. Push on by all means, even
as far as the Bay of Hudson."

"I don't want to go as far as that," cried Joshua; "if the valley's
anything like what you say, perhaps we may stop."

"Well, perhaps it may not suit you. Everybody, you know, to their
taste," continued Samuel.

"I shall judge for myself," replied Joshua.

"If we are to stop here all day," Samuel urged, quite satisfied, "I and
Harry will fetch the deerskin."

"Why not go with me?" said his brother.

"I shall be delighted with your company."

"Then, by Jove, we'll all go. It will be a walk. Harry, Sam, Jack, tell
Sandy to be ready for a start. Let the camp be raised. Tonight we will
camp in the valley and examine it at our ease."

"You raise the camp for so small a journey?" said Mrs. Dickson.

"Does it displease you, mistress?"

"No. But it is a useless fatigue for horses and men."

"I shall do as I think proper," said the squatter, drily, as he went to
hurry his men.

Samuel Dickson and the ladies smiled. They knew now they would stop in
the valley.

An hour later the whole caravan took its way in the direction of the
defile, preceded by a dozen of the hired men and others with hatchets,
to act as pioneers.

Though he declared his health was quite restored, Samuel Dickson,
instead of riding on horseback, clambered into a waggon with his
sister-in-law and niece, with whom he gaily discoursed.

Every now and then the old farmer looked sideways at the countenance of
his pale and thoughtful niece, smiled to himself, and rubbed his hands
with intense satisfaction.

Neither mother nor daughter could make out his pantomime, but after a
few trials they knew it was useless to question him, and so let him
chuckle to himself.

Joshua Dickson, without allowing it to be seen, had been very much
struck by what his brother had said. Instead, therefore, of riding
beside the caravan as usual, he had gone on in front.

Presently, as if no longer able to resist the impulse of curiosity
which was devouring him, he signed to his three sons to follow, and
next minute the four men were off at a hard gallop and were soon lost
in the defile.

"The fish is in the net," said Samuel Dickson, with a hearty laugh.

"Is the valley so beautiful as you say?" asked Mrs. Dickson.

"Much more so. It is simply a terrestrial paradise. If you were to
hunt for months you would never find a more agreeable or advantageous
position. Everything is to be found in abundance, wood, water, pasture,
and above all, game."

"If Joshua would only settle."

"A good deal depends on you."

"I have not the influence you suppose over my husband. You know his
vagabond humour."

"He will remain here if you wish him to."

"I hope you are right," replied the wife, with a sigh.

"Chut! Here he comes. Attention, this is the decisive moment,"
whispered Samuel, as Joshua came up.

"Holloa!" he cried, "I have come from the valley."

"Did you find the deerskin I left behind?"

"Deerskin be--" was the excited answer; "I had no time to think of it.
But what a delicious valley! I never saw anything so beautiful in all
my life."

"It is certainly pretty fair, but not worthy of such frantic eulogy,"
said Samuel.

"What a man you are!" cried Joshua; "You must always disagree with me.
The moment I like a thing you must depreciate it."

"Do you then mean to make some stay in the valley?" asked Mrs. Dickson,
innocently enough.

"Some stay, mistress!" cried the husband; "What are you dreaming about?
I mean to take the whole valley. It belongs to no one now. It shall
therefore be ours--that is, mine and my brother's."

"I want very little," said Samuel.

"You shall have your right share, no more and no less. Do you think I
would cheat you?"

"Far from me be such a thought."

"But, my dear," said the wife, "pray think."

"I have thought," he replied, abruptly; "and my resolution is
irrevocable. So thoroughly have I made up my mind that I have come back
alone, leaving the children at work."

"At work!" cried Samuel.

"Yes; they are cutting down trees and clearing the ground. This will be
so much gained, as the season is far advanced, and we have not a moment
to lose if we would have our settlement quite ready for the winter."

All this while the caravan was advancing, and by degrees had got
halfway through the defile.

"This narrow way might easily be stopped," said Joshua.

"Very useful idea, as many redskins are about."

"But we are very numerous."

"Yes; but if we are attacked we have no neighbours to help us, and must
count only on ourselves alone."

"We shall be sufficient," drily responded Joshua.

"I hope so, and yet I doubt if the Indians leave us in peaceable
possession if game is as abundant as I believe."

"Bah! Who cares? If the Indians come we will give them such a reception
as shall astonish them."

"Who lives longest will see the most. It is best to be prudent,"
responded Samuel.

The squatter, half angry at his brother's manner, gave up the
conversation, and, spurring his horse, disappeared.

"Now," said Samuel, with a smile, as the other rode off, "you may be
satisfied. Joshua is sufficiently annoyed at my opposition to become
seriously obstinate. Nothing will make him change his mind now."

"Perhaps you went a little too far."

"Not a bit, I only stimulated him."

"But what you said about the Indians made me seriously uneasy. Are
there any about?"

"I suppose so, as we are in the very centre of their territory. They
may not attack us if let alone."

"But this valley may belong to them."

"Then we shall have to negotiate with the tribe to which the place
belongs. We shall buy it of the redskins--a thing done every day."

"You ought to know Joshua better by this time. He will take the land,
and refuse all compromises."

"I know him; but should the contingency come, we must make him listen
to reason. But look, we are entering on the confines of this garden of
Eden, which henceforth will be all our own," cried Samuel.

"What a magnificent country!" cried the squatter's wife.

Miss Diana, despite her sadness and habit of concentrated thought,
could not restrain an exclamation of surprise at the sight of the grand
spectacle before her.

"Don't be too enthusiastic," said Samuel. "Here is Joshua."

A hundred paces off Joshua had halted, his sons beside him on
horseback, gun in hand. The squatter held the American flag in his
right hand. As soon as all the waggons were in the valley he signed to
everybody to advance.

All the serving men and women surrounded the squatter. His wife,
daughter, and Samuel remained in the waggon.

The squatter, making his horse prance, waved the American flag over his
head, then he planted the staff in the earth, and cried in a loud firm
voice:

"I take possession of this wild territory by the right of the first
occupant I proclaim myself its sole lord and master, and if anyone,
white or black, dares to claim it, I will defend myself to the last
gasp."

"Hurrah! Long live America!" cried all.

"My friends," continued the trapper, "we are now at home. This valley
which we shall soon cultivate and bring to prosperity and civilisation,
is the Valley of the Deer."

"Long live the Valley of the Deer!" cried all.

The squatter then headed the caravan, and led it to the spot he had
selected for a settlement. It was twelve o'clock. At a little after two
the ancient trees were falling beneath the axes of the Americans.



CHAPTER VIII.

DIANA DICKSON AND HER FOE.


The activity of the North Americans is prodigious; they have a peculiar
way of handling the axe which is marvellous. Their mode of procedure is
almost incomprehensible, and goes beyond anything the imagination can
conceive.

Fifty American woodmen will in a month clear the whole of a vast forest
tract.

They always begin with the idea, a very logical one, though a proud
one, that the modest plantation they commence may in time become an
important town, and they act accordingly. The land is divided into
lots, paths traced by the axe stand for streets, large open spaces
represent squares, while notched trees indicate where the houses,
shops, workshops, and other buildings are to be.

As soon as this is all settled they go to work with feverish haste, and
trees of vast dimensions fall with a rapidity which is simply amazing.

Then they build the stables and sheds, then the blacksmith's forge, the
carpenter's shop, and the water sawmill, of which the workmen at once
take possession.

The earth, still encumbered by the roots of trees, is dug up and sown
at once. Everything goes on at the same time with the utmost regularity
and industry.

In a few days the landscape is completely changed, and there, where had
existed a virgin forest, with all its deep and impenetrable mysteries,
suddenly arises, as if by means of the enchanted wand, the embryo of
a town, which ten years later will be a rich flourishing emporium of
commerce, and of which the population, coming from all parts of the
world, will perhaps be fifty or sixty thousand.

But the squatter, the founder of the new city, will have disappeared,
without leaving a trace behind. Nobody knows anything about him,
not even his name. His work done, he will have taken his melancholy
departure, frightened to see the desert so populated, and that
civilisation from which he had fled so near; he probably has fled out
West in search of a new virgin land, which he will transform like the
first, without deriving any more advantage from it, finally to end his
days, shot in some miserable Indian ambuscade, or killed by the claws
of a grizzly, or perhaps dies of misery and hunger in some unknown
corner of the prairie.

Joshua Dickson did not act differently from his fellows; after dividing
the valley into two, and handing over half to his brother, he fixed his
residence near the fork of the two rivers. Samuel Dickson fixed his
residence at the other end of the valley, near the river called the
Deer River.

Everybody then set to work, and with such rapidity that before three
weeks were over the principal buildings were finished. The houses,
built with trees from the trunks of which the bark had not been
removed, piled one upon the other, and fastened together by iron clamps
and long wooden nails, looked comfortable with their glass windows
furnished inside with strong shutters, and their mud and brick chimneys
from which the smoke already escaped in a bluish cloud.

All the servants and hired men had erected themselves, not exactly
houses, but bark huts. They were, however, only temporary residences,
soon to be replaced by more solid and eligible residences.

The ordinary means of defence so necessary in an Indian country had not
been neglected; a solid double stockade of young trees surrounded the
camp; the centre of this rampart was occupied by a ditch ten feet wide
and fifteen deep.

There were several drawbridges, which were raised every night, by means
of which only could the settlement be reached; near every one of these
was a redoubt of stone, surmounted by stakes, behind which, in case
of attack, the garrison could place themselves. All the houses were
moreover loopholed.

Every night some twenty formidable dogs of the race formerly used by
the Spaniards to hunt down the Indians, and until lately kept to track
Negro slaves by the Americans, that is to say, bloodhounds, were let
loose.

One morning, shortly after sunrise, Miss Diana, accompanied by her own
enormous and favourite dog, quitted the Point, her father's habitation,
for the residence of Samuel Dickson.

Very busy each about their own affairs, the brothers were often two
days without seeing each other, the more so that their respective
residences were quite three miles apart.

Joshua Dickson, whose activity was immense, struck with amazement at
sight of the magnificent waterpower at his door, and which he little
suspected was the Missouri, had asked himself one day where these
waters flowed to. He came at last to the conclusion that on its way to
the sea it must run through some state of the Union.

Then, imbued with that commercial spirit which is innate in the
Americans, he at once saw the value of the river as available for the
carriage of his produce, as well as to obtain supplies for the colony.
He therefore resolved to make a journey down the river, and reach the
first settlement, and this as soon as the heavier labours were over.

Now with the squatter to resolve was to act, and even before anything
else was finished he had set to work to construct a canoe sufficiently
large to carry four persons, with victuals for a long journey, and
strong enough to bear a voyage of some hundreds of miles.

The boat had been finished the night before, and Joshua Dickson, eager
to begin his journey, had sent his daughter over to Dickson Point, to
confer with his brother as to what was to be done in his absence. But
neither Samuel nor Diana knew anything of Joshua's projects.

Joshua was one of those men who, without being deceitful, was very
reticent, and never told his thoughts.

Diana, like a true heroine, traversed the faintly traced paths which
led to her uncle's house, a hunting knife in her belt, and light gun
in her hand. For further safety she was accompanied by Dardar, a large
black and white dog, something between a wolf and a Newfoundland,
terribly ferocious, and of mighty strength, as tall as a good-sized
donkey, and who would have tackled a bear in defence of his mistress,
whom he obeyed with the docility of a child.

With such a guardian Diana had nothing to fear from man or beast;
moreover, the country was too little known to the squatters to allow a
young girl to go out quite unprotected in the country, however short
the distance.

Contrary to her usual mood, the young girl was quite joyous; her
freedom, which allowed her to give free vent to her thoughts, had
driven away the tinge of sadness which generally clouded her beautiful
face.

She went along careless and dreaming through the fields, playing with
Dardar, who, proud of the charge he was set to guard, ran wildly before
her, dashing into the bushes and thickets with an intelligent glance
that was almost human.

The young girl soon reached the river, where a kind of ferryboat had
been provided by means of which to cross the river, here neither broad
nor deep. In a few minutes Diana was across and within sight of her
uncle's residence.

Inside the log hut, which was extensive, were seated two men, with a
bottle of whisky before them. These were Samuel Dickson himself and
George.

Two horses, still saddled and smoking, were fastened in the court. They
must have been on a long journey.

"You are a pretty fellow to make me gallop about in this way in search
of you. I am not very handsome, but I am not ugly enough to frighten
you."

"I simply did not see you."

"No nonsense. Do you think to keep me in ignorance of your motive in
coming this way?"

The young man blushed deeply.

"Do you know my brother Joshua?" asked Samuel.

"I met him once or twice in Boston, but I do not think he ever noticed
me," said George Clinton.

"Shall I introduce you to him?" said Samuel. "He has his faults, but he
is a very worthy man."

"I don't think it would be wise just now."

"I don't think," continued the American, "that you have waited to be
introduced to my niece."

"Sir," cried the young man, dropping his glass.

"Ah, ah!" cried the American, laughing, "That is the way you break my
crockery. These lovers, these lovers. Do you think to cheat an old
opossum like me? You love my pretty niece, which is very natural; you
are a good fellow, and together will make an excellent couple."

"I regret to say it cannot be so," sighed George.

"Why so?" cried Samuel.

"I see you are so good, I can no longer refuse to enlighten you."

"That is right. Confess, for I am your true friend."

"What I have to say," began George, "is not much. I met Miss Diana at
Boston at Mrs. Marshall's, where your niece stayed for some months last
year. I was on very good terms with your relative."

"Yes, yes; my cousin," said Samuel.

"Need I say that from the first moment I saw her I loved your niece? My
visits to Mrs. Marshall, once only occasional, became so frequent that
the lady began to have suspicion of my intentions. She at once called
me on one side, and while giving me every credit for loyalty and worth,
she told me not to prosecute my attentions, as Diana's father would
never consent to our marriage. Despite all my entreaties, however,
she would give me no reason, until at last, yielding to my earnest
entreaties, she explained that many years before there had been such a
quarrel between my father and Joshua Dickson that any alliance between
our families must ever prove impossible."

Samuel listened with extreme anxiety.

"You see yourself that I am right," said the young man.

"You are mistaken," cried the other; "the matter is rather serious, I
allow. I really had forgotten that old affair. But don't ask me any
questions; all I say is, have courage. Circumstances will probably
alter, and believe me that in Samuel Dickson you will have a sincere
friend."

"I should be only too glad to help."

"When I am on your side nothing is difficult. Now to breakfast. But how
did you know of my brother's coming out here?" suddenly cried Samuel.

"Miss Diana told me herself."

"Oh, oh! Then I wonder no longer. To breakfast."

"I hope, Master Samuel, you will excuse me," began the other, taking up
his hunter's cap.

"Sit down; if my niece were here you would not go."

"Can I come in?" suddenly said a soft voice at the door, a voice that
made George start.

This sudden coincidence utterly overcame the old man's gravity, and,
throwing himself back in his chair, he screamed with laughter, while
Diana stood transfixed in the doorway, and George Clinton simply turned
his cap round in his hand without being able to articulate a word.

It was Dardar who ended the scene.

The dog had remained outside for a moment or two, and then, seeing the
door open, had rushed right into the middle of the room; seeing George
Clinton he rushed at him, wagging his tail first, and then, leaping up,
his paws on either shoulder, he licked his face with a joyous whine.

"By heavens!" cried the squatter, "The fellow is lucky. Everyone likes
him, even that precious Dardar, and yet he despairs. Come in, Sly
Boots, and kiss your uncle."

She did not require twice asking.

"You are welcome, mademoiselle," he said, with mock politeness. "I
suppose I need not introduce you to yonder tall young fellow?"

"I have known the gentleman some time," replied the young girl, holding
out her hand, which George took and kissed.

"That's right," cried Samuel, rubbing his hands; "all goes well. And
now once more I say, to breakfast. I am dying with hunger. We can talk
while we eat, and you, Diana, can explain your early visit. I suppose
you have not come three miles in the dew to kiss your old uncle?"

"Why not?" she said, with a smile.

"And you expected to meet nobody," he answered. But seeing that Diana
blushed, he continued, "But no more delay," and seated himself.

The beginning of the meal was rather constrained, from the peculiar
position of the young people. But the ice was soon broken; the squatter
was merry and humorous; he avoided any pointed allusions, and the
conversation, at first very meagre, soon became very pleasant.

When Samuel heard the object of Diana's visit, he promised to go over
in the evening, and then questioned George as to his travels.

George at once proceeded to tell his story with so much wit and humour
as to amuse uncle and niece.

"Now," said Samuel, when breakfast was over, "listen to me. You are two
charming young people, whom I love, and whose happiness I desire. But
you must let me act in my own way. I know my brother well, and can do
as I like with him. Look upon me as an ally, but commit no imprudence.
Instead now of going with my niece, you must stop here. If you were
seen together, we cannot say what might happen. At all times my house
is open to you. Come as often as you like, but remember, courage and
prudence, Diana, kiss me again, and then farewell."

"My darling uncle," she cried, embracing him.

"Oh, yes, very dear, because I do what you like."

"Au revoir, George," she continued.

"But when shall I see you again? Time appears so long."

"Already he grumbles," cried Samuel.

"Pardon me, but I love her so much."

"And do I not love you?" she said, naively.

"I am mad," he answered, tenderly, kissing her hand a second time as he
spoke.

Then Diana went out, guarded by Dardar.

"Now," said Samuel, as soon as they were alone, "you must enter into
fuller explanations, and explain where you have pitched your tent. I
hope you are in no difficulty."

"Be easy on that point. I have a hut in a charming situation about
twelve miles off. Will you come and see it?" added George Clinton.

"At once, if you like," cried Samuel.

"At once let it be, I am not alone; I have two faithful servants and a
Canadian hunter, whom I engaged in Boston. I have books, arms, horses,
dogs--everything that a man can wish for."

"Delighted to hear it. Let us start."

Five minutes later they were galloping through the forest.



CHAPTER IX.

THEY MAKE AN ACQUAINTANCE.


That part of the valley towards which they were going had undergone
no change. The squatters had had no time to visit it, and it retained
all its original beauty and primitive majesty. George Clinton
appeared fully to know his way, entering at full gallop on the most
out-of-the-way and rugged paths, followed by Samuel Dickson, who was in
a charming humour, and appeared delighted to explore this part of his
domains, for all on that side of the valley was his present from his
brother.

"You ride as if you had known the country ten years at least," he said.

"I came here about a month before you, but I have been everywhere with
Charbonneau."

"Who may Charbonneau be?"

"My hunter, a great big Canadian, as long as a fishing rod, as thin as
a nail, and as honest as a Newfoundland dog. I got him out of a very
great scrape, and he has been devoted to me ever since."

"Lucky for you."

"More than you think. This fellow was brought up in an Indian tribe;
his life has been spent more or less in the desert. He has friends
everywhere with trappers, with white and half-caste hunters; speaks all
the most difficult redskin dialects, and despite his youth--he is not
more than three-and-twenty--enjoys a great reputation on the prairie.
He is called Keen-hand, because of his prodigious dexterity."

"An excellent servant," said Samuel.

"And a capital companion--always gay and contented; whichever way
things go, he is always so philosophical I cannot but admire him. He is
a perfect study. As an instance, he declared some time ago no squatter
would ever see this place and go further."

"He was not far wrong. He is a sharp youth."

"You are right; but you shall judge for yourself."

"Then he has told you all about this country?" asked Samuel.

"In what way?" said George.

"I suppose he described the situation of the valley--its distance from
all habitations?"

"Don't you know?" cried George.

"I know nothing. We have been travelling in the dark, and should all be
glad of information."

"In the first place, two rivers cross the valley; that near you flows
from the mountains of the Wind; the other, into which it discharges its
waters, is the Missouri."

"Heavens! The Missouri! Then it runs through part of the United States.
We are at home."

"Very nearly, though you are surrounded by red men, who, though very
warlike, are generally friendly to the whites. Still, if you know the
redskins you will not depend on them."

"Too true; and what nations are they?" he asked.

"Sioux and Dakotas, Piekanns, Crows, Hurons of the great lakes, with
some Assiniboins and Mandans. A few others of no account are scattered
about," he answered.

"A pretty lot; and no help near."

"Help is nearer than you think. About fifty miles distant is a fort
belonging to one of the great fur companies. It has a garrison of fifty
whites--Americans and Canadians, soldiers and hunters."

"Fifty miles is nothing," said Samuel.

"In a civilised country, yes; but in the desert it is as bad as fifty
leagues," responded Clinton.

"I did not think of that," granted the squatter; "well, then, on the
other side, what neighbours have we?"

"Some squatters, like yourselves, who have been two years on the
Missouri. You are halfway between the two."

"Have these squatters much cultivated land?"

"They have been going ahead lately. It is already almost a village;
soon it will be a town. But anyway, on one side or the other you are
separated from men of your own colour by several Indian nations, whose
villages it would be dangerous to visit, except in large numbers. In
fact your only open route is the Missouri."

"That is something; but, if easy to go down, it is hard to ascend."

"Besides, both sides swarm with redskins."

"Hum! My dear George, that spoils all. What could put it into the mad
head of my brother to bring us here? He is a lunatic; for the matter of
that, so am I."

George could not help laughing.

"Laugh away, you young rascal," said the squatter; "but if we have to
leave our bones here?"

"I hope it will not be so," replied George.

"Jehoshaphat! So do I. Your information is not pleasant; still I thank
you. It is best to know the worst."

While speaking they kept on at as rapid a pace as the state of the
ground allowed. They had left the forest, and had come out upon a green
prairie, when suddenly they heard a gun fired.

"What is that?" cried the squatter.

"Charbonneau. I know the sound. Wait a minute."

And Clinton fired his rifle in the air.

Next instant there was a rush from out of a thicket, and two
magnificent dogs of the same breed as Dardar came rushing out of a
thicket, and, leaping at the young man to beg a caress, continued at
the same time to growl at the squatter.

"Down, dogs, down!" cried the young man. "Down, I say, Nadeje, miss,
and you the same, Drack; don't be mischievous. This gentleman, my
fine fellows, is a friend; go and welcome him, to show what brave and
intelligent beasts you are."

As if they had understood what their master said, the two dogs ceased
to growl, and, going straight to Samuel Dickson, leaped up at him in
the most friendly way. The squatter, a great dog fancier, was very
much struck by their beauty, and at once caressed them with many a
word of praise, which pleased both, but especially Miss Nadeje; she
was a magnificent animal, with an almost pure white skin, spotted only
here and there with black, and at once took the squatter under her
guardianship.

Almost at the same moment a man appeared in the full costume of a
hunter, a man with rather angular but very intelligent features; in his
hand was the still-smoking gun. He bowed, and called off the dogs.

"Pardieu!" he cried, "That was a lucky shot of mine."

"Were you hunting?" asked the other, shaking hands.

"At this hour it were folly, and I am not yet mad. Sport is only good
morning and evening, is it not?"

"That is my opinion," replied the squatter.

"Mr. Samuel Dickson, one of my best friends," said George, "and I hope
soon one of yours."

"I hope so; I like his looks," laughed Charbonneau.

"Thank you," said the squatter.

"It is quite unnecessary, only I don't say the same to everybody. But I
have known you some time."

"If not hunting, what were you doing?" asked George.

"Something has happened at the wigwam. Three travellers, two white
hunters and an Indian chief, have reached your house, and demanded
hospitality," he replied.

"Of course you did not refuse?"

"Of course I did not. Besides, two of the hunters are my friends, and
the other is likely to become so."

"You know you are welcome to act; still, why look for me?"

"Well, I did not exactly look for you, but I wanted to give you
warning; of course, I knew where you had gone."

The young man blushed, while the old man laughed.

"Now, then," cried Clinton, "let us go home."

"Wait one moment. About fifty yards in my rear the dogs opened cry. I
ran and found--"

"A bear?" exclaimed the squatter.

"No, I would not have minded that. It was not a bear, but a man. He
was lying insensible on the ground, his skull split open from a heavy
fall, and a shot wound in his left arm. His horse was grazing close by.
He appeared to be a traveller traitorously shot by an Indian. I thought
I heard an explosion; at all events, the wretch fled before the dogs,
just as he was about to rob the unfortunate."

"You assisted him?"

"How could I help it? I could not let him die like a skunk on the road;
and yet it would have been wiser."

"Charbonneau!" cried the young man, "Is that really you?"

"You know me well, Master George. Well, despite myself, I don't like
the look of this man, though he is handsome enough. He has a terrible
expression, and you know it takes something to move me. Still, I feel
an invincible repugnance for this man, whom I never saw before. The
dogs were like myself; I had the greatest difficulty to prevent them
tearing him to pieces. Nadeje was like a mad creature; she wanted to
strangle him. Do you know, Master George, dogs never make a mistake?"

"A very good thing," said George Clinton; "but the man is wounded,
likely to die. We are bound to succour him."

"I know it, and have done so. I have seen to him as I would to myself
or one of my dogs. Still, Master George, mark my words, it is a bitter
foe you shelter under your roof."

"It may be so, but we must do our duty."

"As you please. Still I shall watch him."

"Where is he?"

"Just under yonder cluster of oaks, which you see from here. It was
after dressing his wound I fired a shot on chance."

"Did he say nothing?" asked George.

"He is still quite insensible."

"Let us join him, and if the dogs are so ill-disposed towards the
stranger, watch them carefully."

"All right, Master George. Be quiet, dogs," said the hunter, turning
back, followed by the two great dogs, the others making up the rear.

The cluster of oaks was soon reached; the wounded man still lay without
life; the dogs howled, but, at a sign from Keen-hand, they stood back
silent.

George and Samuel alighted, and examined the man.

He was a tall, well made, even elegant man of about thirty or
thirty-five; he was deadly pale; his features were well chiselled
and delicate; his long, jet black hair fell in waving curls on his
shoulders; a black crisp beard hid the lower part of his face; his
mouth, large and slightly open, showed magnificent teeth of dazzling
whiteness; his strong and aquiline nose gave a terribly hard expression
to his face, while his eyes, far too close together, and which were
shut, were shaded by long lashes, and crowned by heavy eyebrows that
almost touched.

The very sight of the man inspired instinctive repulsion, something
like a chill, that sensation of terror and disgust which one feels at
the sight of a reptile; still the man was handsome and elegant; he was
well dressed, and his weapons were superior; his horse was extremely
valuable.

He was, to all appearance, a prince among adventurers.

"Hum!" muttered Samuel Dickson, who was the first to speak; "I don't
like his look at all."

"No more do I," said George; "still, we cannot let him die."

"Certainly not, since Providence has sent him here. Are we far from
your hut?" replied Samuel.

"Not far off, are we, Charbonneau? But, then, how can we carry him?"
continued George; "I don't see anything except a litter."

"Too long. Leave all to me. I will mount his horse; you can hand him up
to me; I will then carry him in my arms to the wigwam--what say you?"

"Admirable!" cried George, as Charbonneau mounted and stood still,
awaiting his burden.

George and Samuel then placed him before the guide. Charbonneau pressed
his head against his chest, and started.

Going slowly, they were an hour on the journey.

The wigwam, as the hunter called it, was a charming habitation built of
wood, upon the summit of an eminence, round which ran a silver stream,
lined with well-constructed palisades.

"Your house is delicious," said Samuel Dickson, examining the
residence. "You should be very comfortable."

"My good friend, I want for nothing except happiness."

"Are you going to have the blues again?" said Samuel.

"You know I hardly dare hope," replied George.

"You are very foolish. When you are rich, young, and loved, Master
George, you ought to hope for the best."

"You are very cruel to joke with me."

"I do not joke, I only try to inspire you with courage. But, look, here
are your guests coming to meet you, while your servants seem to me to
be rather muddled and mixed," observed Samuel.

"It is the first time they have ever seen strangers."

"Then," said Samuel, laughing, "they will have a change today."

Three persons were advancing in the direction of the advancing troop.
They were Bright-eye, Numank-Charake, the Huron chief, and Oliver.

They bowed ceremoniously to Clinton, who renewed the invitation given
by Charbonneau; and then alighting, the wounded man was carried by
Bright-eye and Oliver to the best bedroom, placed on the master's
own couch, and at once attended to by one of the domestics, who knew
something of medicine.

"What a disagreeable face!" murmured Oliver.

"He does not look pleasant," said Bright-eye.

"'Tis the face of a traitor," said the Indian chief, sententiously; "he
should have been allowed to die."

"Hum!" cried Keen-hand; "There are others of my opinion."

"Let my brother watch carefully," remarked the Indian.

"Be not uneasy," smiled Charbonneau.

"In my opinion," said Bright-eye, "this man is one of the outlaws of
the desert. I have seen him somewhere before. I must not only think
over the matter, but put the master of the house on his guard."

Meanwhile the four men rejoined Clinton and Samuel Dickson in the
drawing room, where copious refreshments awaited them.



CHAPTER X.

WHO THE STRANGER WAS.


As soon as the farmer had taken some slight refreshment and assured
himself as to the comfortable position in which he was placed, he took
his leave. The day was far advanced, and he had to meet his brother on
a matter of business.

On leaving George, the squatter bent low on his horse, and after one
last glance at the hut:

"Beware, my friend," he said, "of the wounded man. I think him an
unmitigated rascal. Get rid of him."

"I will take your advice. I do not like him myself, and as soon as he
can travel he shall surely go."

And, after mutual promises to meet again, the two friends parted, and
Samuel rode off in hot haste. George watched him until he was quite out
of sight.

He then sighed. The departure of Samuel had broken the last link
between the charming events of the morning and the more matter-of-fact
events of the evening. He now gloomily turned on his heel, and found
himself face to face with the three travellers accompanied by Keen-hand.

"You are not going?" he cried.

"No," answered Bright-eye; "on the contrary, if you will allow us, we
intend remaining some little time."

"You will give me great satisfaction," continued Clinton, "use my house
entirely as your own."

The hunters bowed courteously.

"We have come to meet you," said Oliver, "because, having something to
say, we prefer the open air."

"Yes," continued Bright-eye, "though the wounded man whom you have
so generously entertained is as yet incapable of listening, your
servants--"

"Are discreet and devoted," observed Clinton.

"We know that, and have taken no precautions against them."

"You would have been very unwise to do so. Morris and Stephen knew me
from my birth. They love me as if I were a child of their own. I have
no secrets from them and should be sorry to wound their feelings."

"I was prepared for that objection," said Keen-hand, "and was therefore
careful to warn them."

"You have done well, Charbonneau, as I would not for the world offend
those worthy fellows. And now, gentlemen, follow me, and I will take
you where you can speak openly without fear of being overheard."

Saying which George moved away from the house and led them to a
hillock, wholly without trees, overlooking the river, and whence he
could see a long way.

"This is my observatory," he said, smiling.

"Admirably well chosen," replied Oliver.

On the invitation of Clinton everyone seated himself on the grass,
and lit his pipe; then Bright-eye, who appeared general spokesman,
addressed their host.

"We have learned from Keen-hand that you have not long left the cities
of the United States to visit for a time the prairies of the Far West."

"I have no reason for making any secret of the matter."

"Everyone is master of his own actions," continued Bright-eye, "and we
have no right to inquire in any way into your affairs. We only desire
to indicate you as new to prairie customs."

"I am not very learned in the matter, and am therefore wholly guided by
my hunter, who, despite his youth, is an old runner of the woods. But
as I see no motive for this conversation, I should be glad if it were
abridged."

"One question first--Are you prepared as a dweller in the desert to
submit to its habits and customs?" asked Bright-eye.

"As long as they are just and reasonable," said the other, "I pledge my
word to be guided by them."

"We find that your friend here described you well."

"Still you must be aware that you are keeping me waiting."

"Two words will explain," said Bright-eye; "we demand the body of the
wounded man yonder."

"What to do?" cried Clinton.

"To apply Lynch law to him," coldly replied the hunter.

The young man shuddered, a livid pallor spread over his countenance; he
looked at the hunters, who nodded their heads, with a glance of horror.

"What do you mean, gentlemen?" he cried; "Do you intend to torture this
man, whose life hangs on a thread?"

"It is our right and our duty, not to torture him, but to try him, and
execute the sentence, whatever it may be, at once."

"This is terrible!" cried the young man.

"You do not know him. If, for reasons best known to ourselves, we
feigned not to know him, now that your friend has left we will tell you
who the wretch is."

"No matter who he is," cried Clinton, fiercely, "all I know is that he
is wounded and under the protection of my roof."

"Your sentiments of humanity do you honour," said Bright-eye,
ironically; "they are well suited to civilised society, where the law
defends you. In the desert they have no meaning. Every moment menaced
with death, you must cut down your murderous foes without mercy."

"Better be victim than executioner," said George.

"If you like to present your breast to the enemies, that is your
lookout; we beg to differ from you."

"But, gentlemen--" said Clinton, haughtily.

"You made a promise. Do you or do you not intend to be bound by it?"
asked Bright-eye.

"This is your return for my hospitality."

"You are unjust, sir; we are but the instruments of public opinion,
about to accomplish a painful duty, guided by our conscience and our
sense of right. Do you give this man up to us, yes or no?" he continued.

"Take him, if you insist; but as on your private authority you judge
this man, I will defend him."

"We are delighted to hear it."

"When do you intend trying this man who is dangerously wounded and
nearly insensible?"

"He is not so ill as he pretends to be," replied Bright-eye; "and we
intend trying him at once."

"Come, then, for the matter is getting wearisome," said George.

All returned to the house. Oliver and Numank had not spoken, but their
firm step, their knitted brows, their flashing eyes, sufficiently
indicated that they fully agreed with Bright-eye in his intentions.

When they entered the room where the wounded man lay he was quite
conscious; his face, of an earthy pallor, had two red spots on the
cheeks; the pearly sweat fell heavily from his brow; his eyes were half
closed, but he could clearly see through his lashes. His attitude was
that of a tiger at bay, unaware from what side danger was likely to
come.

Bright-eye looked at him with such pertinacity that after a time he was
compelled to open his eyes.

The Canadian smiled, whispered to Keen-hand, who nodded his head, and
soon left the hut.

"Gentlemen," said Bright-eye in a loud tone, "we will at once proceed
to instal the head of the court of Judge Lynch."

"You are the chief," said the others.

"I accept. You will be the accusers. I shall at once take my seat, as
we are here to judge this man."

"You forget I am here to defend him," remarked Clinton.

"You are quite right," replied Bright-eye; "pray therefore attend
carefully to the accusations I am about to make against him; you can
then undertake his defence, if, indeed, when you know all, you care to
do so."

The wounded man had appeared motionless and insensible to all around
him, but on hearing the generous words of the young man, spoken in a
gentle voice, he seemed to shiver all over, and, raising himself a
little, looked keenly at George Clinton, with a glance of gratitude.

Bright-eye meanwhile reflected a moment, folded his arms, and throwing
back his head spoke:

"Prisoner," he said, "you are before a terrible tribunal. Judge
Lynch has been appointed to condemn you if guilty, to absolve you if
innocent. Prepare yourself to hear and answer the charges made against
you."

"I do not acknowledge the jurisdiction of Judge Lynch," said the man;
"you are a tribunal of assassins."

"As you please," replied the Canadian; "but your silence will be
treated as a confession of guilt."

The accused shuddered.

"Why, instead of leaving me to die in the prairie, was I brought here?"
he asked; "Is hospitality a mere trick?"

"The man is right," cried George; "I cannot suffer such things to pass
under my roof. I protest, in the name of humanity, against all that is
being done. You dishonour me by acting in this manner here."

"The jurisdiction of Judge Lynch is universal in the desert," was the
cold reply; "none can check it. This man is an outlaw of the prairies,
a man of blood and crime. Louis Querehard, Paul Sambrun, Tom Mitchell,
and half a dozen aliases--you see we know you well--eleven days ago you
basely attacked an old man in charge of a young girl; you killed the
old man from behind at the Elk's Leap. Where is the young girl?"

"Base calumny," cried the wounded man, sitting up suddenly; "I know not
what you mean. I killed no old man."

"I repeat that you killed the old man and stole away the girl. I have
the proofs," he answered.

The wounded man sat biting his lips with rage.

"This morning," continued Bright-eye, "you quarrelled with one of your
accomplices, while crossing this valley, and fell from the treachery of
your fellow bandit."

"Falsehood!" cried the wounded man.

"We shall soon see," said the Canadian, coldly, and putting his fingers
to his lips he uttered a shrill whistle.

A noise was heard and several men entered. These were Keen-hand, two
servants of Clinton, and a prisoner--a man of wretched, mean, and
ignoble appearance.

"This is your accomplice," said Bright-eye.

"I don't know him," replied the wounded man.

"You don't know me?" cried the other; "Really now, have you already
forgotten poor Camotte?"

"You declare this man unknown to you?" said the judge. "Well, be it so.
Now, fellow," to the man Camotte, "will you confess?"

"Caray, yes," said the prisoner, "anything you like."

"Speak then," responded Bright-eye: "we wait."

"Miserable wretch," asked the wounded man, "are you a traitor?"

"My good sir, I object to be hung," he answered.

"It is useless to question that rascal," said the wounded man. "I will
tell you all you want to know; but before we go any further it must be
on one condition."

"We decline to accept conditions," was the reply.

"Then beware. I alone know where the young girl is concealed. Refuse my
conditions and my secret dies with me."

"It is true," said Camotte, in answer to a look from Bright-eye.

"What are your conditions?" resumed the judge.

"My life, liberty, and three hours' start," said the outlaw; "also the
company of my friend Camotte yonder," he added, with a sneer, as that
individual shivered; "further, I require my horse, arms, and my valise.
On these conditions you shall have the young girl: I swear it."

"Anything else?" continued the judge.

"One moment," observed George; "I ask for him eight days to recover
from his wound, during which time he shall remain here under my
guardianship and yours."

"We consent," said Bright-eye, gloomily; "now speak."

"The girl is concealed twelve miles away, in the Cavern of the Elk. I
was going there with food when I was shot. Make haste."

Scarcely had he finished ere Oliver and the chief disappeared.

"Beware of my vengeance," cried Bright-eye, "if you have spoken
falsely."

"I have spoken the truth," said the wounded man, and fainted.



CHAPTER XI.

EXPLANATIONS.


We must go back a little in order to explain how the three hunters were
driven to seek hospitality in the hut of George Clinton, and what were
the motives of the deadly hatred they had vowed against the wounded,
almost dying, man.

At the time of which we write nearly the whole American continent,
north and south, was owned by Spain, which ruled her provinces with a
yoke of iron, closed to all other nations with as much jealousy as ever
was shown by China.

The United States alone stood free, independent.

The newly enfranchised people were, however, well aware that as long as
the rest of the land was not free their work was unfinished.

Besides, it became necessary to give employment to the restless spirits
let loose by the close of the war.

The Government at once set to work. The territory of the new republic
was already immense, but thinly peopled, almost unknown, and occupied
in many instances by wandering Indian tribes. These must first be got
rid of.

The activity of the Americans is known. They rushed off into the
desert, they erected forts to awe the redskins; hardy pioneers
traversed the prairies and established settlements in the very heart of
the Indian country.

Every encouragement was given to emigrants from Europe, who were
received most hospitably.

The Government was favoured by circumstances; it was a rising power
while Spain was falling to pieces.

The American Government at once offered to buy Louisiana of France,
and meanwhile sent out small companies of free corps to attack the
frontier of the Spanish colonies. But alongside those recognised by
the authorities were other bands, men isolated from all civilisation,
having no control to fear, recruited from the scum which froths up
during troublous times; these bands made war on their own account,
pillaged friend and foe, burned haciendas, and allied themselves with
the redskins, taking their dress in order the more readily to carry out
their nefarious designs.

Among these bands was one more formidable than all the others of sad
and monstrous celebrity.

This troop of two hundred desperadoes, called themselves outlaws, and,
it was believed, though no one exactly knew their headquarters, were
established on the Missouri, whence they carried their depredations far
and near.

Powerfully organised, submitting to strict discipline, this band had
spies in every direction, who kept them well informed, not only as to
the number and strength of caravans about to cross the desert, with
their destination, but as to the expeditions sent out by Government
against themselves. By these means they were always on their guard and
never taken by surprise.

The chief of this terrible band was said to have only been six years
in America, and yet he knew all the secrets of the desert; he was as
clever as the most cunning and astute runner of the woods, quite equal
to any redskin in deceit. He was supposed to be a Frenchman, though he
spoke English, Spanish, and many Indian languages equally well. He was
called Querehard, Sambrun, Magnaud, Tom Mitchell, and various other
names.

But none knew his real one, though some did whisper that he was the
chief of a certain fearful band who had played so terrible a part
during the Reign of Terror.

Many asserted that he was not so bad as he was painted--that, in
fact, though chief of this fearful crew, he always tried to prevent
bloodshed, that he never allowed women and children to be ill-treated.

He was said to be very generous, and had as many friends as enemies.

Whatever the truth, Tom Mitchell was a kind of hero; the American and
Spanish Governments had placed a price upon his head; but no one ever
ventured to try for the reward of ten thousand dollars.

After the medicine council we have recorded, Numank-Charake and his two
friends continued their journey.

On the seventh day, an hour before the setting of the sun, they reached
a village built in the fork of two rivers.

The village was surrounded by lofty palisades, with a ditch full of
water, and drawbridges.

The travellers came up just as these were being removed.

They were warmly received by an eager crowd.

Since his landing in America this was the first time Oliver had entered
a real village of redskins.

He was surprised to find it so superior to what he expected. Instead of
ordinary bison tents, or huts made with hurdles, mud, and thatch, it
consisted of admirably constructed Canadian cabins.

These cabins stood in rows, with small gardens in front, while here and
there were some real Indian wigwams.

Those Canadians who had retreated with their families to the tribe
of Bison Hurons had introduced these habits. Hence the rather hybrid
character of the village, which was half Canadian and half Indian.

Reaching the centre of the village Numank left his companions, while
Bright-eye pointed out a most comfortable looking cabin and declared it
to be his home.

At the entrance stood two men leaning on their rifles. One, nearly a
centenarian, but still robust and very tall, had a large white beard;
his eyes still shone brightly, his complexion was the colour of brick,
while his ropy muscles could be seen through his parchment skin. His
expression was gentle and full of courage. This was the grandfather of
the hunter, an old soldier of Montcalm.

The second was Bright-eye's father, whom he resembled in every
particular except age and height.

"They indeed appear a noble couple," whispered Oliver.

"Come with me," was the laconic reply.

In a few minutes they were at the door of the cabin. Bright-eye
dismounted and took off his fur cap.

"I am back after a long absence. Give me your blessing."

"Take it with all our hearts," cried the two old men.

They then shook hands cordially, Oliver looking on with a deep sigh of
envy and regret.

"He at all events has a family," he said.

"Come nearer, my friend," cried Bright-eye; and when Oliver stood
beside him, he added, "this is Oliver, my friend. Eight days ago we met
in the savannah, and we have never parted since. He loves me and I love
him; he is a brave man and a most excellent hunter; our friend, the
redskin, calls him Bounding Panther."

"He is welcome," said the old man; "all Frenchmen are our brothers;
as long as he chooses to remain there is a hut to shelter him and a
quarter of venison for his food."

"Well spoken, father," said his son, shaking hands with the young
Frenchman; "we are French here. Welcome."

"Messieurs," replied Oliver, with a bow and a smile, "it is not with
words we answer such words, but by acts."

"We welcome you as a second son; come in."

The horses were now taken away by a young Indian, and the whole party
entered the house.

The hut, which was built with logs, was whitewashed both in and out,
and had four windows.

Oliver entered a rather large hall, lit by two of the windows, with a
plank flooring, and a roof supported by heavy beams; at one end was a
large chimney, near the kitchen a table, some seats and chairs, two
oaken dressers covered by utensils in brown earthenware, and a large
old-fashioned clock composed the furniture.

Two doors led, one into the kitchen, the other into the guests' room,
which was pointed out to Oliver.

There were three other rooms, one occupied by the two old men, one by
Bright-eye, and one by his sister when at home.

All were furnished alike; a bed, a little table, several boxes, two or
three chairs; some hideously coloured prints from Epinal were fixed
on the walls, also pipes of all sorts and sizes, a French long gun, a
powder horn, lead pouch, game bag, hatchet, a knife with its deerskin
belt, that was all.

It was one floor, except a large loft above.

Behind the house there was stabling for six horses, a yard with fowls,
a rather large garden, well enclosed and full of choice vegetables. It
was the old man who took care of the garden as child's play.

When, having made some slight change in his toilette, Oliver returned
to the hall dinner was on the table.

"Have you had good hunting lately?" asked Bright-eye.

"Not very good. Game gets scarce. Still I made three hundred and
seventy dollars in a fortnight," he replied.

"Pretty fair; and what was your game?"

"The blue fox, near Hudson's Bay," continued the other; "I have been
home three weeks. But you say nothing of your sister."

"I am not in the habit of questioning you, father."

"The boy is right," said the old man; "it is your place to speak."

"I suppose," cried the hunter, "Angela is in the village."

"No, my son, she is absent," continued the old man, "and I am sorry for
it, as she was the joy of the house."

"Where is she then, father?" asked Bright-eye.

"About five days' march, with our cousin Lagrenay, the squatter of the
Wind River. His wife has been ill, he is alone; having no one to take
care of her, he came here and asked for Angela to stay a few days."

"My dear father, our cousin Lagrenay's settlement is a long way off, in
the heart of the Indian country."

"You are right," said his father; "I fear I have acted with too great
haste. I will fetch her home tomorrow."

"I will go with you, father."

"It is unnecessary. Your health, sir," addressing Oliver; "is it long
since you left France?"

"Many thanks. I have been in America two months."

"Though so far off news is welcome. How is the king?"

"There is no longer any king," said Oliver, gravely; "France is now a
republic like America."

While the stupefaction which this news caused was still at its height
Numank-Charake entered.

"Welcome; be seated and eat," said the old man.

"I came neither to eat nor to drink," replied the young Indian, sadly.
"I came to tell you that your child, Evening Dew, has been carried off
by Tom Mitchell, the outlaw, and that we must at once save her."



CHAPTER XII.

HOW THE THREE TRAVELLERS WENT TO GEORGE CLINTON'S.


This terrible revelation fell like a thunderclap upon the four
personages who sat at table. There was for some minutes a silence
caused by perfect stupor.

"You are indeed a sinister messenger, chief," said the old man,
bitterly; "whence do you get this news?"

"Perhaps you are mistaken," gasped the father.

"Listen," said the chief, sadly, "and you shall hear what has passed in
a few words."

"First sit down and break bread," cried the old man; "we are friends
and relatives, and this awful catastrophe affects you as well as us."

"You say truly," responded the young chief, seating himself.

"Eat and drink," said the old man; "then we will talk."

The meal continued, to the great astonishment of Oliver. He could
not understand the calm and sang-froid of these four men in presence
of such an awful event. He was half inclined to accuse them even of
coldness of heart.

He knew nothing of that Indian etiquette, more severe than that of any
other country, which requires this apparent coldness. He soon, however,
discovered how much he was mistaken, and how deeply all these brave and
loyal hearts were wounded by the fatal incident.

The repast was sad and gloomy. Nobody spoke. They ate as if it were a
duty which must be done.

After the hasty repast was over there was silence.

"You have come, sir," said the old man, addressing Oliver, "at an
unfortunate moment; pardon us if we seem rude and inhospitable. But
evil has fallen on us."

"You told me, sir," replied the young man, "that I was to become a
member of your family. Let me, then, share your sorrows as well as your
joys. I feel more on the subject than you think, being Bright-eye's
brother."

"Thank you; you are one of us," said the old man.

"You are my second son," cried the father.

"I thank you, and hope to prove myself deserving."

Everybody now rose from table, filled his pipe and lighted it, and
then, the repast having in the meantime been cleared away, seated
themselves by the fire.

"Chief," said the old man, "the time has come. We are ready to listen
to you with the deepest attention."

Rising and bowing to all, the chief, who affected stoical gravity, but
who had great difficulty in controlling his voice, spoke--

"Lagrenay's wife was never ill. Evening Dew was carried off by Tom
Mitchell from the squatters."

"Are you quite positive?" asked the grandfather.

"I am positive. The news was brought to me just now by a courier in
whom I have every confidence. He saw all that happened without himself
being seen."

A deep silence prevailed. None interrupted the old man.

"Allow me," he said, "to speak frankly to you, chief. You are my
relative; I remember your birth, and love you."

"My father is good, and knows I love him," replied the chief.

"I know it; but pardon me if I speak very plainly. There is a
hesitation in your words which alarms me excessively. I am sure you
have not told us all you think."

The chief bowed his head.

"I knew I was right," cried the old man; "you know far more than you
choose to say."

"No skin covers my heart, my blood runs red and clear in my veins; the
Wacondah sees and judges me. Let my father explain himself frankly.
I ought only to speak after him. His head is white with the snows of
wisdom. He is wise."

"Good, Numank-Charake, you are a great brave, despite your youth. Soon
you will be renowned in council. I know the motives which shut your
mouth. You love her."

The young man started.

"Do not deny it," said the old man. "I know it, as does my son, and we
rejoice both of us. She will be happy with one who is both strong and
brave. Not knowing our sentiments towards you, you have nobly hesitated
to accuse a near relative. You have acted well. But time presses, and
not a moment is to be lost. We know our cousin as well, or perhaps
better, than you do. We know also that falsehood never soiled your
lips. To keep further silence would be to commit a bad action--to make
yourself almost the accomplice of the ravishers. Speak out, then, like
a man."

"I obey," replied the young man, respectfully.

"And hide nothing, I pray," added François Berger.

"I will tell you everything," he said, "as you know my heart is given
to Evening Dew. I love her; her love is my joy, her voice my happiness.
On my return to the village, after my unfortunate expedition, Evening
Dew was no longer in her father's wigwam. I asked news of everybody; I
even ventured to ask you. Your answer filled me with discouragement.
I returned to my hut heartbroken with despair. My grandfather had
pity on me. Kouha-hande loves me, and spoke like a wise man. 'Go,' he
said, 'find Bright-eye at the spot agreed on; he is the brother of
Evening Dew; he will grieve with you, and perhaps give you good advice.
During his absence I will watch. If necessary, I will go to the hut of
the white man on the Wind River. Adieu, my son, and may the Wacondah
accompany you,' I obeyed my father. I put on my travelling moccasins,
took my gun, provisions, all that a hunter requires, and started. But
my soul was sorrowful; a sad presentiment froze me to the marrow of my
bones; Wacondah sent it."

"Courage, child," said the old man, kindly. "Wacondah is powerful and
just; He tries those whom He loves."

"Two hours ago I returned to the village of my nation. I was very
sad and uneasy. Without a word I left my comrades and friends, and
rushed to my wigwam. My father's father awaited me. He was gloomy and
thoughtful, and rose as I entered. I guessed at once what I had to
expect. This is what I learned. Kouha-hande is a sachem whose words are
not to be doubted. For two days, hid in the thickets, he watched the
hut of the squatter of the River of the Wind. The second day, before
the rising of the moon, there was a sharp whistle near the habitation,
and a man appeared. He was very pale, wore the costume of the hunter
of the prairies, and carried a rifle. At the distance the sachem could
not make out his features. Almost immediately, however, a second person
appeared on the scene, coming from the inside of the hut, and this was
the squatter himself."

"Are you sure of what you say?" asked the old man.

"Kouha-hande knew him," replied the chief.

"Go on," gloomily remarked old Berger.

"The two men approached each other, spoke for a long time in a low
tone, and then separated, after exchanging one phrase, which the
sachem heard distinctly. This phrase, which seemed to summarise their
conversation, was--"

"'You swear upon your honour that she will be quite safe and respected
in every way,' said the squatter."

"'As if she were my own sister or daughter, I swear unto you,' replied
the hunter."

"The two men then parted. That was all. Two hours passed away. Just
about the time when the blue jay begins its first song, the sachem, who
had remained still in his hiding place, his eye and ear on the strain,
heard a noise approaching rapidly, like that of a number of people
who, fearing no surprise, thought it useless to take any precautions.
They soon came in sight. They were no less than thirty palefaces, armed
with rifles. They surrounded the hut and attacked it on all sides."

"The squatter and his servants defended themselves like people taken by
surprise--that is, feebly."

"The assailants soon entered the hut. My grandfather now heard a great
tumult inside. But he was alone, could do no good, and therefore
remained in his hiding place. At the end of an hour the men came out,
escorting a fainting female, who was wrapped in a frazada. Satisfied
with the result of their expedition, they went off without even closing
the doors behind them. Kouha-hande waited some little time, and then,
convinced that the assailants had departed, went into the wigwam."

"All was in disorder. The furniture was overthrown and broken; the
squatter, his wife, and servants, tied and gagged, lay on the floor.
The sachem hastened to stir up the fire, then he lighted some torches,
after which he set all the people at liberty. Even then for some time
they were unable to move or speak."

"The squatter's wife wept, wrung her hands, and bitterly reproached her
husband with his cowardice, which had been the cause of the abduction
of her niece."

"And what did he say?" asked Berger.

"Nothing," said the chief; "he was overwhelmed, appeared struck by
stupor, remaining utterly motionless. Presently he seemed to recover
his spirits. Kouha-hande then offered to start in pursuit of the
ravishers, but the squatter refused, alleging that the trail was
no doubt by this time so cleverly concealed as to render pursuit
impossible. He left the punishment of the villains in the hands of
God. The sachem, seeing plainly that he was not wanted, went away. But
Kouha-hande was determined to reach to the bottom of the dark scheme;
instead of returning to his village, he followed the abductors."

"These, having apparently no fear of pursuit, had left ample traces
of their passage in the forest, and took not the slightest precaution
to conceal their route in a straight line through the forest. It led
direct to the Missouri. The sachem at once saw through the whole thing.
These hunters, the sachem declared, could only be the redoubtable
outlaws commanded by the extraordinary chief before whom all trembled,
white and red, in the prairie."

"Tom Mitchell," groaned the old man.

"Himself," said the chief. "The sachem, after exploring the two banks
of the river for many miles, came back to the village of his nation,
and told me what he had seen. This is my story. Have I well said?"

"You have," cried François Berger; "but let me speak. I am the only
one person in fault. I should never have separated from my daughter.
It is my duty to go in search of her. I will find her or perish in the
attempt."

He attempted to rise, but Oliver checked him.

"Pardon me, sir," he said, gently, "if I interfere in so delicate and
grave a matter. The friendship I bear your son, the cordial way in
which you have received me, compel me to feel as if I were personally
concerned in the matter. May I therefore be allowed to speak a few
words?"

"Speak," said the old hunter.

"Sir," replied the young man, modestly, "I have listened to every word
as recorded by the chief, and I believe every word as recorded by him.
It appears to me, therefore, in examining the facts, that the attack
of the hunters, arranged with the squatter himself, his repugnance and
refusal to pursue them, point either to treachery or a strange mystery,
which it would be wise to clear up."

"Unfortunately," said the old man, "we share your opinion. The
treachery is too flagrant to be doubted."

"You believe in treachery," urged Oliver.

"Base and cowardly treachery," cried Berger, striking the table.

"Be assured, then," continued Oliver, "and you will be a better judge
of the correctness of my opinion than I am, your enemies, whoever they
may be, have spies around you, spies employed to watch your movements,
and to report them at once. You Will not have been ten minutes on the
trail of the ravishers ere they would be on your track."

"Quite true," said the old man; "what is to be done?"

"A very simple thing, and one which I am very much surprised you have
not thought of before. We have only reached the village two hours ago;
I, as a stranger, am unknown to anybody, nobody troubles himself in any
way about me. Whither I go matters to no one. With your permission,
at nightfall I will start in company with Bright-eye. If our early
departure is noticed, we can easily give some reason. It is you who
are watched, and no one else. None, knowing the indomitable energy of
your character, will believe that you have allowed anyone else to go in
search of your daughter. We shall be three men, two of whom know the
desert well. The trail of one man is easy to follow, but not of three
wary hunters ever on their guard, at all events, without the spies be
discovered and killed. This is my opinion, and, frankly, I think it
good."

"You have spoken well," repeated the grandfather; "what you say is
just. We are proud to have you for a friend, and we thank you. It is
not necessary to reflect long without owning you are right. It would be
folly to contest the matter, my son, and I, therefore, gladly confide
to you the task of finding our child. Go, as you propose, this evening
at the setting of the moon, my grandson, the chief, and yourself."

"And you will succeed," said the father.

"I hope so, sir," responded the Frenchman; "rely upon it, I shall do
all I can for my new sister."

"My son was fortunate to meet you. God bless you all."

The two young people simply thanked Oliver by looks. It was eleven
o'clock at night when they started, without being noticed. We already
know how they met the outlaw.



CHAPTER XIII.

TOM MITCHELL.


The sun had long since gone down, the night was dark and cloudy, not
a star shone in the sky. George Clinton, seated on a bench before
his door, awaited the return of Keen-hand and his two dogs, who had
accompanied the three travellers a short distance; the two serving men
had gone to bed.

George Clinton, half an hour before, had satisfied himself that his
wounded guest slept soundly.

His eyes fixed on vacancy, the young man was dreaming, giving way to
soft and melancholy reverie; his soul, borne on the wings of fancy, was
far away; it was wandering in the realms of space after the beloved,
after the idolised young girl, for whom he had sacrificed and abandoned
everything, and the mention of whose name made him quiver with delight.

Suddenly he was awakened from his Elysian dream by an almost superhuman
cry of anguish.

The young man started as if he had received an electric shock; he
turned pale, clutched the barrel of his rifle, and then listened,
trying in vain to pierce the intense darkness which wrapped all nature
as in a winding sheet.

Some minutes passed, during which there was not a breath in the air,
not the slightest sound. George Clinton breathed more freely, wiping
the sweat from his brow.

"Heaven be praised," he said, "I was mistaken."

Scarcely had he uttered these words, which he hardly believed, when the
same frightful cry was repeated.

"It is a terrible warning," he cried; "some fearful crime is being
accomplished. I cannot hesitate."

And, without another thought, he darted off in the direction whence
came the lugubrious sound.

Almost ere George had quite disappeared in the darkness a shrill
whistle, modulated in a certain way, was twice repeated; then a heavy
black mass appeared crawling on the earth; this dark mass stopped at
short intervals, and then again advanced. This strange phenomenon was
soon followed by a second, a third, another, in all ten.

In a few minutes all were round the hut. Then a second whistle was
heard, a signal of course, as they all rose and revealed ten armed
men. They were ferocious-looking beings, with sinister features--true
bandits of the prairies.

"We are the masters," said one; "the serving men sleep, the master is
away, let us waste no time."

"Do you know where he is?" asked a second.

"I pretty well guess. The place is familiar to me. But let us be
careful. I don't want to be caught."

"Be satisfied; Versenca and Jonathan never left their post, and Paddy
is on the watch. All is safe."

"I am not more timid than another, but I like to be sure."

"We are losing time, and should act."

"Quite so, Sleepy; but I want to know why the captain, who must have
heard our signal, is still quiet?"

"But you know the captain is wounded."

"True, but he is no puling girl to be affected for long by a wound. Let
us go in and find him."

"'Tis useless, I am here," said a grave voice.

And a man leaning on his rifle and walking with some difficulty
appeared before them in the doorway.

"The captain!" they all cried.

"Silence, boys," with an imperious gesture; "I am happy to see that you
have not forgotten me."

"Forgotten you!" cried Versenca, boldly; "Do we not follow wherever you
go? Are we not devoted to you body and soul?"

"Quite right," said the captain, with a bitter smile; "let us say no
more about it. I am here, and all is well."

"And now, captain, we await your orders."

"Right! And how many are here?"

"Ten here ready to obey--three on the watch."

"Have you horses?--but of course, I need not ask. Bring them up and let
us be off."

"With empty pockets?" cried Sleepy.

"What do you want?" asked the captain.

"Want!" exclaimed Sleepy, shrugging his shoulders; "Why, is not this
wigwam very rich, and the owner absent? There can be no two opinions as
to what should be done."

"Comrades," said Tom Mitchell, "the owner of this home found me wounded
in the prairie and took me in."

"We know that--what then?"

"What then! Not only did George Clinton shelter me beneath his roof,
but saved my life from the lynchers."

"Thank goodness," said Versenca, "that induced him to leave the hut by
the exercise of cunning."

"Without violence, I hope," said Tom.

"Quite so; sent him on a false trail, that is all."

"Then you are agreed with me--no pillage."

"No pillage!" cried all; "Let us go."

None had entered the house, and now, on the order of the chief, they
turned to go. George Clinton was before them.

"Gentlemen," he cried, standing resolutely before them, "what is the
meaning of this visit in my absence?"

"Confound the fools who did not warn us."

"I was never far. I have heard nearly all."

"Much good may it do you; and now let us pass."

"On the contrary; I decline to let you pass," said Clinton.

"Good!" said Sleepy, rubbing his hands together; "After all there will
be some broken bones here."

"Perhaps," continued Oliver, clutching his rifle.

"Ah! Ah! So the fun is going to begin," said the outlaw.

"Silence," cried the captain, sternly; "silence, and fall back." As
soon as they had obeyed he advanced to Clinton.

"As you have heard our conversation," he said, "why do you try and
oppose our free departure?"

"Because, as you know, I am answerable for your person. I promised you
should not leave my house until you were quite cured of your wounds."

"Your solicitude for my health is charming," said the captain,
ironically, "and I really know not how to thank you."

"I take little interest in you. My honour is concerned."

"You are not polite, while I try to be courteous. I will therefore
simply remark that strength is on my side. Still I should be sorry to
proceed to extremities."

"Menaces are useless. Will you return to the house?"

"The demand is ridiculous," cried the captain.

"How so?" said a voice, and at the same time two magnificent dogs
bounded to where Clinton stood.

There was a moment of profound stupefaction on the part of the outlaws,
who saw this succour arrive.

Tom Mitchell, however, stooped towards Sleepy and whispered a few words
in his ear. The man nodded, turned away and disappeared.

"Beware!" said the captain; "I have hesitated to attack one man. But if
blood is shed it is your fault."

"We shall see," said Keen-hand, appearing beside his master, "you are
ten and we are five. What do you think?"

"Nothing," replied the chief, laughing; "but you seem to forget that we
have the advantage of the situation. If we like we can take possession
of the hut, whence I fancy my good friend will find it difficult to
dislodge us."

"Without counting that we are master of the person of the owner of the
wigwam," cried Versenca, triumphantly.

It was true. Assisted by the sentinels whom the outlaw had brought up
behind, he had been seized.

He was at once taken inside and then secured with his servants, whom
the noise had at last aroused.

But even this had not been done without a struggle. The two splendid
dogs on seeing their master attacked had flown at the throats of the
bandits, had knocked two down and throttled them in a minute; then,
obedient to a whistle from Charbonneau, they had darted into a thicket,
whence came a discharge of firearms. The three young men had returned.

The outlaws retreated into the hut, prepared to defend themselves to
the last gasp. Battle was imminent.

"Stop," cried the voice of Oliver, "stop, for heaven's sake," and
rushing forward he added, "Captain Tom Mitchell, I demand safety for
myself and friends, and a truce until this unfortunate affair can be
settled amicably. Speak."

"I consent at once," said the captain, frankly; "what has happened was
not of my doing. Down with your arms. Let all retain their positions.
As for you, sir, you may advance, you are entirely under the protection
of my honour."

"I am here," replied Oliver, advancing.

The two men went into the house and seated themselves at a table near
an open window.

"I am prepared to listen," said the captain; "I suppose you think I
deceived you, or the young girl was gone."

"It was our opinion, sir."

"Don't be in the least uneasy," said the captain, "I only secured the
girl as a hostage for my own safety."

"A hostage!" replied Oliver.

"Yes. I have an important question to treat of with her tribe. But let
us speak of our own affairs."

"I don't understand you."

"I will explain, and you will find that all that has taken place today
has been caused by yourself."

"Really," cried Oliver, "I understand you less and less."

"I have no doubt you are astonished," said the captain; "but we can
come to an explanation in a few words, M. Oliver."

"You know my name."

"And a great many other things besides, as you will soon know,"
continued the other, coldly; "but let me explain. For reasons which it
is unnecessary to mention, I had deep interest in making acquaintance
with two new arrivals in this country, you, sir, and Mr. George
Clinton. My plan of introduction was rough. My wound, which I inflicted
on myself, and which is only a scratch, deceived you all. I am now
personally acquainted with you both, and I am delighted. Still, things
looked ugly for me--but what is the use of a battle in which half of
us would be massacred? I want nothing of the kind. I have important
business to transact and must go. In this instance I count wholly on
you."

"On me, sir! By what title?"

"I cannot explain. I have promised to restore Evening Dew, and I will
keep my promise. Just now she serves as a hostage. She is treated with
the utmost deference and respect. Now let me pass at once. Delay is
useless."

"But, sir--can I--" stammered Oliver.

"Save an outlaw, a man with a price on his head!" said the other,
bitterly; "But I am not what I seem. One day--"

But Oliver was thinking, and, after some minutes of reflection, said,
"It shall be as you wish."

"Thank you; and now away to your friends and take George Clinton with
you," said the captain.

Oliver went out with the young American and soon returned.

"You are free to return with your companions," he said, on re-entering
the hut; "I give you my word."

"Farewell until we meet again. We part friends."

"I have no hatred against you, but I sincerely hope we shall never meet
again."

"It shall be as Providence wills," was the reply.

Five minutes later the outlaws were galloping away, and soon
disappeared in the darkness.

"Who is this man?" murmured Oliver, sadly; "Is he one of those enemies
who pursue me everywhere?"

At that moment his friends came up and his thoughts went into a
different channel. Still he did not easily forget his interview with
that extraordinary man, who seemed to know him, and by whom he was
really fascinated.



CHAPTER XIV.

SAMUEL AND JOSHUA.


After leaving George Clinton, Samuel Dickson went at once to the
residence of his brother Joshua.

The sun was still high in the heavens when he reached the settlement;
his brother was in sight, galloping towards him.

"Come along," he cried, shaking hands; "I was so impatient to see you,
I really could not wait any longer."

"I hope there is nothing wrong, brother," said Samuel.

"Nothing at all. Everything is going for the best."

"I am glad to hear it. I was rather uneasy."

"I am sorry to hear that. But why are you so late?"

"I had to go on a small journey. There was no hurry."

"You are wrong, Sam. But here you are, and all is well. But had you
come sooner it would have been better."

"Well, here I am, so out with the news."

"I have to speak of important things, and I have to ask your advice,
who are wisdom itself."

"Awfully wise," cried Samuel, laughing, "when in the end I only carry
out all your insane ideas."

"True! But still you were generally right. The fact is, if you speak
words of wisdom, and then act a little the other way, it is simply out
of love for me. I know it, my brother. I am not ungrateful, and love
you dearly."

"I don't doubt your affection. But you alarm me."

"Why?" said Joshua, laughing.

"Whenever you talk like this, I smell a rat, in the shape of some awful
scheme, some diabolical plot."

"I see you are not to be easily deceived," said Joshua; "but come in,
let us eat, and then talk. The matter of which I wish to speak is of
general interest."

"As you will; but still I am monstrously afraid."

"I know you are a great coward," cried Joshua.

At this moment they reached the house, alighted, and, giving the horses
to the servants, entered the parlour, escorted by Dardar, who had come
to meet them.

The two ladies received Samuel cordially.

"Here he is at last, Susan," said her husband.

"He has been anxious about you all day," cried Susan.

"Then he has some mad scheme. But we shall see presently. Good evening,
Diana, my dear. You look well."

"A truce to compliments," cried Joshua; "to supper."

They now entered the dining room, where the whole household was
collected, men, women, and children. Of course, enormous quantities of
meat, bread, and vegetables adorned the board. The repast was truly
Homeric.

After dinner the servants retired, and the ladies would have done the
same, but Joshua detained them.

The ladies seated themselves with a rather uneasy glance. He poured out
a stiff glass for himself and brother and drank his off.

"Thank heaven!" he began, "We are now solidly established in our new
dwelling, and it is time to speak of business."

"Hilloa! Talk business now? It is late. Why can we not put off our
business arrangements until tomorrow?"

"You forget, my brother, I sent for you on purpose--"

"I remember--well, go on, I am at your orders."

"Harry, have you obeyed my orders?" asked Joshua.

"Yes, father," replied the young man.

"All right," continued the squatter, refilling his glass. "Your health,
all of you. In an hour, I'm off."

"Off!" cried the ladies, in great alarm.

"Hem!" said Samuel; "If you are not satisfied here, I am."

"I don't want to drag you into my affairs," replied Joshua, coolly.
"But I shall not be long away. It is only a journey."

"I thought," exclaimed Samuel, "he was as mad as ever; will you explain
the object of this journey or exploration?"

"One which you will highly approve, my brother," he went on. "I desire
to open up commercial relations."

"Very good idea. But what is your precise motive?"

"I have said enough. I think my object serious."

"Well, if you have no more to say, stop at home."

"Will you tell me why?" asked Joshua.

"Because your voyage is utterly useless. All the information you can
desire to obtain I can give you in ten minutes."

"You!" cried Joshua, wildly.

"Certainly!" said Samuel, modestly; "I can, and will do so, if you will
be good enough to listen to me."

"I shall only be too happy. Still I don't understand!"

"That is unnecessary. You must know that I have obtained my information
from hunters and redskins."

"Hunters! Redskins!" cried Joshua.

"Don't you know they swarm about here? I never go out without meeting
some of them. So I say stop at home."

"Explain yourself, brother," said Joshua, sulkily.

"Well, you think yourself very far from all white folk. You are very
much mistaken. Learn, then, that though we are in the centre of the
most warlike tribes of Indians, you have new forts not very far off,
including a fur station."

"Can it be possible?" exclaimed Joshua.

"And my friend and brother, are you aware what magnificent river runs
at your own door? The Missouri!"

Joshua bowed his head on his chest and was silent, while Samuel rubbed
his hands and smiled slyly.

"What do you think of the information?" he said at last.

"If you are certain of what you say, it is excellent."

"Then you give up the idea of your journey?"

"Certainly not. Admitting that all you tell me be true, it is of the
highest importance for me to visit the fur station and all other
settlements above and below us on the river, in order to become
friendly, and prevent rivalry."

"What rivalry?" half screamed Samuel.

"Any that might arise. Of course they will soon know all about me and
might interrupt my commercial speculations."

"A fool will have his own way," cried his brother.

"Abuse is not argument, my brother," said Joshua.

"I apologise; but you are determined to go. I see you are; then heaven
protect all in your absence."

"Will you take no advice?" ventured Susan.

"I have made up my mind," he replied; "I never alter."

"But, father," cried Diana, "what are we to do during your absence? You
leave us wholly undefended."

"Silence, daughter," said the squatter, smiling; "don't be so tragical.
I do not leave you undefended, as you say. Your uncle will watch over
you. Your brother Henry commands in my absence. You have a fort. What
more is wanted?"

"How do you mean to travel?" asked Susan.

"In the boat I launched today, with Sam, Jack, and two servants. I do
not take away many defenders."

"But you are not here to lead."

"That is enough," he cried; "I have decided. Besides, it would be
absurd not to visit my new neighbourhood."

No more was said. The squatter was escorted by all to the riverside. He
bade them all adieu, kissed his wife and daughter, shook hands with his
brother, gave his son Henry some last directions, entered the boat,
and was off in a very few minutes, whistling "Yankee Doodle," perhaps
in reality to hide his strong emotion from his two sons.



CHAPTER XV.

NEW CHARACTERS.


We now visit a beautiful gold-sanded strand on the right banks of the
Missouri, about fifty miles from the new settlement in Moose Deer
Valley, and about equidistant from the strong fort already established
by the fur company.

This strand, which was only reached by a narrow defile between two
perpendicular mountains, was exactly opposite an island of which it
was impossible to make out the dimensions, which, however, were very
considerable.

Lights shone like will-o'-the-wisps in a fog; the island, which was
thickly wooded, communicated with the mainland by means of a dangerous
ford, full of holes and whirlpools. It was too dangerous to be
adventured in by any but those who knew it. The island, moreover, was
guarded by two eminences overlooking the ford, and which commanded the
approach against any enemy if well defended. On the other side the
island was inaccessible.

This island was the refuge, the fortress of the terrible outlaws of the
Missouri, with whom we have made acquaintance.

Originally it had been selected by the Government as an outpost, but
the partisans had first taken it and made it impregnable.

As the outlaws rarely interfered with citizens of the United States,
generally very poor in those regions, the Government, well aware of
its impotence to dislodge the pirates, pretended to look upon them as
irregular troops doing service.

But the outlaws knew that if the authorities only had the chance they
would be exterminated.

But that part of America was little peopled, and few except trappers
and wanderers knew anything of its capacities. The outlaws, therefore,
to a certain extent, were pretty certain of impunity for all their
actions for the time.

A hundred horsemen were camped on the strand of which we have spoken;
their horses were picketed near their fodder, around the campfires
numerous groups were talking or sleeping, while on every hand walked
sentinels.

In a hut composed of whittled boughs and mud, a man sat on a buffalo's
head, consulting papers from a large pocketbook. Another man stood
respectfully by him, awaiting his orders. The first man was Captain Tom
Mitchell, the other was Camotte.

A sentinel kept guard in front of the cabin.

It was about four o'clock in the morning. The stars were beginning to
pale in the sky, the sky was covered by fleecy white clouds. Day was at
hand; a fog rose from the river, and covered the camp as with a funeral
pall. It was cold.

"I say," cried Tom, "I am frozen. Are you asleep, Camotte?"

"No, my lord."

"Then shove some wood on the fire, it's nearly out."

Camotte threw on some dry wood, which flared up.

"Something like," said Mitchell; "and now let us talk, Camotte. By the
way, I may as well ask you, are you very tired?"

"I am never too tired to serve you, Excellency," said the other.

"I knew you would say that," cried Mitchell; "true, I saved your life
twice, but we have been quits long ago."

"And yet I want to ask a favour."

"Anything, except leave me," replied Tom Mitchell.

"Never; it is something else. It is simply this; don't, your lordship,
give me such another mission. Whatever you may think, my master," cried
Camotte, warmly, "it is not pleasant to play the part of a traitor and
scoundrel."

"I think you did it very cleverly," laughed Tom; "there, you are an old
fool. Whom else could I trust? Having settled that very important fact,
any news on the island?"

"Evening Dew frets. You should send her home--all the more that it
makes some people talk," he added.

"Who has dared?" said Tom Mitchell, frowning.

"Stewart. But don't worry; I settled him by blowing his brains out, and
no one else has since made an observation."

"All right. What about the river?"

"Five men went down in a canoe yesterday. It was the squatter of the
valley, his two sons, and black servants."

"Where on earth could he be going to?" mused Tom.

"Well, we can find out by stopping him on his return."

"I'll see about it. Anything else?"

"Hum! You have had Major Ardenwood's letter asking an interview today?
Oh, yes! There are some Frenchmen at the fort, at all events, one of
them. Still I am aware that three strangers will accompany the major."

"Whom did you send out to inquire?"

"Tête de Plume. I could not send Versenca; in the first place, because
he was drunk; secondly, because I don't like him."

Then, after a pause, Tom whispered to Camotte, who listened with deep
and almost religious attention.

"And now," said Tom, "that you understand me, away."

Camotte went out. The worthy Mexican was the devoted friend, the alter
ego, and moreover the lieutenant of Tom Mitchell, who wholly confided
in him. Despite of events we have described before, Camotte was worthy
of his trust.

The chief of the outlaws quietly made some alterations in his toilette,
which was a little out of order from his long journey. He had just come
off a distant expedition. The booty had been at once transferred to the
island.

Having done this he drew the curtain that served as a door.

The camp no longer looked the same. The fire was out. The two eminences
were guarded by sharpshooters. A detachment of twenty men guarded the
entrance to the defile. The rest of the troop were ready to mount at a
sign.

Tom Mitchell looked about him with an air of satisfaction. Camotte had
executed all his orders faithfully.

At this moment the sun rose. It was like a theatrical scene. Light fell
suddenly upon everything.

"Oh!" cried the captain as a bugle sounded in the distance from the
defile, "I was just in time."

He stood erect in front of his hut, leaning on his cavalry sword, and
waited with sublime tranquillity.

After some few words had passed, four strangers, one in the uniform of
a major of the American army, came out from the defile, led by Camotte,
who walked respectfully in front of them, and made their way in the
direction of the captain.

"Good day, Captain Mitchell," said the major.

"You did me the honour to write," observed Mitchell.

"Well, I have some important business to talk about; but first allow
me to present to you these two gentlemen. They are French, and
consequently I cannot pronounce their names. Oh, I assure you they are
worthy gentlemen."

And the fat major laughed heartily.

The captain bowed to the two Frenchmen without speaking. One was a man
of about fifty, still young, and with apparently polished manners and
rather haughty mien; the other, much younger, was bronzed by the sun,
strong, and rather rough.

"This gentleman," continued the major, "is our own countryman, Mr.
Stoneweld, of Boston city."

"I think you know me," observed the apoplectic speaker.

"Who does not know Master Stoneweld, of the house of Stoneweld, Errard,
and Co., the richest shipowner in all Boston?"

The stout man smiled with an air of satisfaction.

"It seems you know one another," cried the major. "I am glad of it,
because everything will go smoothly."

"How so?" cried Tom Mitchell.

"My dear captain, these gentlemen want you; they came to me for that
purpose. Certainly their business must indeed be of an important
character," he added, "to induce them to make such an awful journey,
lasting over a month."

"It must be serious business," said the captain.

"The two French gentlemen bring letters from the Home Secretary."

"Indeed!"

"And Master Stoneweld one from General Jackson," added the major, "So
now I expect you will do the best you can."

"Have no fear."

"Of course not, though I know you are rather hot at times. As for
myself, I am choked with fog and hoarseness," he added.

"I am at the orders of these gentlemen," replied the captain. "I shall
be happy to do all in my power for them."

"Spoken like a man," said the major in a fidgety way. "But this seems
hardly the place for a serious conversation."

"I am sorry for it," replied Tom Mitchell coldly. "I was not told until
the last minute, and you must take me in the rough."

"Why not go over to the island?" suggested the major. "I dare say we
should be more at our ease--eh, captain?"

"I am sorry, major, but it would take too much time. Besides, I have
already provided refreshments here, if you will accept."

"With the greatest of pleasure," cried the major, coughing behind his
hand; "and yet these gentlemen have important matters to discuss, very
important matters," he added, complacently.

"What matter, major? Breakfast first, business afterwards."

"As you will," said the major, following him into the hut.

By the orders of Camotte, during this conversation a very copious
breakfast had been prepared. It was almost wholly composed of venison;
but flanking the solids were a number of long-necked bottles that at
once showed their Bordeaux and Burgundian origin, to say nothing of
some brands of Champagne so dear to Americans.

The major was so delighted that he said "Hum!" no less than three
times, and then spoke to the outlaw chief.

"Let them say what they like," he cried, "you are a man."

"I am proud to hear it," cried Tom. "Let us be seated."

The Frenchmen had hitherto said nothing. The elder now spoke. As the
captain invited them to commence breakfast, he said:

"Above all, sir, allow me to observe that before commencing business
you offer us bread and salt."

"You are my guests, gentlemen," said the captain, gravely; "you are
under the safeguard of my honour, that is enough."

"The major has indicated that we each wish to see you alone."

"Which means?" asked the outlaw.

"That I desire, as these conversations may probably be of very long
duration, to see you quite alone," he added.

"Sit down and eat," replied the outlaw. "After the repast you and
your companions will follow me to the island. Once more, are you not
satisfied?"

"Of course," cried the major; "if not, I go bail for you."

"Thank you, major; and now eat, drink, and be merry."



CHAPTER XVI.

TOM MITCHELL AS REDRESSER OF WRONGS.


The ice once broken, through the instrumentality of the Burgundy,
Bordeaux, and Champagne, all went on swimmingly.

Major Ardenwood, who, perhaps, alone of all those present had nothing
to conceal, and who was naturally a bon vivant, did all in his power to
make himself the convivial leader of this improvised party, composed
of so many various elements. He was warmly supported by the captain,
who showed all the best qualities of a true amphitrion, and treated his
guests with a generosity and courtesy which quite charmed them.

Of course not a word was said of the object for which they had met. In
fact, the subject was carefully avoided.

The major was the first to rise.

"The best of friends," he said, "must part. I am wanted at the fort,
and with your permission will retire."

"I thought," observed the captain of the outlaws, "your intention was
to wait for these gentlemen here."

"No; on reflection," replied the major, laughing, "I should only be in
their way. I will wait at the fort."

"I will escort them myself," said Tom Mitchell.

"That will be the better plan," continued the major. "Thanks for your
hospitality. The wines were excellent."

"I will send you a few baskets, major."

"Many thanks," cried the American, shaking hands, and then departing
under the guidance of Camotte.

"We can now go to the island," said the captain.

"On foot, on horseback, or do we swim?" said the young Frenchman.

"You will see. Follow me, gentlemen," replied Tom.

They did so, and found a boat ready for their reception. On the
invitation of the captain they all seated themselves.

"Now, gentlemen," said Tom Mitchell, with a smile, "you must pardon
me, but I must blindfold you. Fear nothing," he added, as he saw them
start. "It is the custom. No stranger has ever entered the island in
any other way. Besides, you are not obliged; only if you refuse you
must return."

"Do as you like," cried the elder Frenchman.

Some men who held pocket handkerchiefs now approached, and deftly bound
their eyes. The boat then started. In a few minutes they felt the boat
strike against another shore, and received a slight shock as it did so.

"Don't touch your bands," cried the captain; "wait a while."

They were then lifted up with every precaution by several men, who soon
put them down, removing the bandages.

Looking round, they found themselves in a vast chamber, furnished with
every regard to comfort and elegance.

The captain was alone, the men having left.

"Welcome, gentlemen," he said. "I hope the frank and cordial
hospitality I shall offer you will make you excuse this precaution."

The strangers merely bowed.

"I need not remind you, gentlemen," continued Tom Mitchell, "that
you are at home; but, in order not to detain you any longer than is
absolutely necessary, let us to business. Will you follow me, sir,
first?"

This was said to the younger Frenchman. As he spoke he opened a door
and the two passed out together.

The two other strangers remained alone. The Frenchman, with a frown,
began to walk up and down whistling; the American sat down.

As soon as Tom Mitchell had the other alone, he cried--

"Sir, tell me at once if I am mistaken."

"I see you have a good memory," replied the other, "and yet it is a
very long time ago since we met."

"Then I am not mistaken?" cried Tom Mitchell.

"Monsieur Maillard, my name is Pierre Durand."

"Who saved the life of myself and father," said Tom, shaking him by the
hand, "even though you knew--"

"I knew that your father an hour before had sat as president of the
grim tribunal of the Abbaye," replied the young Frenchman. "I knew the
intense hatred which was felt towards you; still, I drew you more dead
than alive from the river."

"You did more--you hid us and helped us to escape."

"It was tit for tat; your father once saved my life."

"But you paid your debt with usury. When I parted from you at New
York--I was sixteen then--I said, 'Whatever happens, my life, my
fortune, my honour is at your disposal.' I am ready to fulfil my
promise, so speak."

"I knew you would do all in your power," said Pierre Durand; "therefore
I have come. How is your father?"

"He has become an Indian, and wholly broken with everything in the
shape of civilisation," said Tom.

"Is he happy?" asked Durand.

"Yes. He was a man of conviction. His faults--his crimes if you
like--during the Reign of Terror were caused by his extreme sincerity.
In that time of awful and terrible commotion," continued Tom, "he acted
wholly conscientiously."

"I believe it, and therefore do not presume to be his judge. I am but
a weak and ordinary man," cried Durand; "when the time comes God will
judge these Titans of the revolution according to their merits and
convictions."

"Doubtless. I shall let him know of your coming; but why?"

"A question of life and death in connection with my best friend, a man
I love as a brother," cried Durand.

"Say no more. An express shall start at once."

"Have you received any letters signed '_An old friend_'?"

"Many! I presume, then, that you are that friend; but why not avow
yourself?"

"I could not."

"If all you tell me in those letters be true, it is an odious and
infamous action," cried Tom Mitchell.

"I know it is, and I have counted on you and your father to see that
justice be done," continued Durand.

"Count on me," said Tom. "I have seen your friend, and though he does
not like me, he won my heart at once."

"He will change his mind."

"But what can my father do in the matter?"

"Everything. You must now understand, my friend, that if I have
abandoned my ship in New York to the care of my mate, if I, who hate
dry land, have started on a journey through the desert, it must be for
powerful reasons."

"Doubtless. May I ask what they are?"

"Because, my friend, here in there is his most implacable, most
ruthless foe," cried Durand.

"Here!" exclaimed Tom.

"Yes--here, in this island, in that room," replied Pierre Durand,
pointing to the one they had left.

"Are you sure of his identity?" asked Mitchell.

"I have watched him for five years, followed in his track, known every
movement he has made," said Durand.

"And he does not know you?" cried Tom.

"He knows me very well. He came over in my ship; we are the best of
friends; he tried to buy me over."

"This is incredible," observed the outlaw.

"Yet true. I am his confidante, his devoted servant; I enter into all
his views, and he counts on me as a slave."

Both young men burst out laughing.

"Then you have come from New York together?"

"Not at all. We met at the fort two days ago, and as I am no longer
disguised," said Pierre Durand, "despite all his cunning, he knew me
not."

"Well, the matter is settled," said Tom Mitchell, in a whisper; "we
have our man here; he shall never leave."

"My friend," said Pierre Durand, gravely, "that is not the game we have
to play. He is as slippery as an eel."

"I don't think, if I made up my mind," said the outlaw chief, with a
sinister smile, "he would ever escape me."

"Well, there is a time for everything. In the first place, learn his
projects, so that we may unmask him. This will be all the more easy,"
said the sea captain, "in that we know who he is, while he is ignorant
of our designs."

"There is one thing worth mentioning," said the outlaw; "I, too, know
him well. He will be rather surprised presently."

"Be careful. One word might put him on his guard."

"Is not my whole life passed," continued the outlaw, sadly, "in
outdoing others in cunning and diplomacy?"

"True. I leave, then, everything to you."

"And now learn, my friend, that you are free as air, and absolute
master of my domains," he added, laughing. Then he picked three
flowers, and placing them in his buttonhole, said, "This will give
you free passage everywhere you like. Now for your two travelling
companions. But follow me."

He opened a door opposite that by which they had entered, and, crossing
several apartments, at last came to a room which overlooked a charming
and elegant garden.

"Here you are at home," he said; "come, go, do just as you like. At the
end of the garden you will find a door opening on the woods. We shall
dine at six. Be back by that time, and you will find the table laid
here. We can then explain all."

With these words the outlaw left his friend.

As soon as he had returned to his private room, Tom Mitchell, or
Maillard, son of the terrible judge of the Reign of Terror, sat down
before a table, wrote a few lines, sealed the letter carefully, and
then struck a gong.

At once Camotte appeared and took the letter.

"Send this letter to my father by express," he said; "let him kill his
horse, but let me have the answer."

"He shall be gone in five minutes."

"And now," continued Tom Mitchell, with a sarcastic smile, "send that
fat American in here."

Camotte bowed and retired. Next moment the great American shipowner
came in puffing and blowing.

"Sit down, sir," said Tom Mitchell.

The fat man obeyed with a grunt.

"I think it rather hard that a man like me--"

"Pardon me," said the captain, coldly; "allow me to remark, before you
go any further, that I have no need of you, and did not send for you.
You it is who, in the company of several other gentlemen, have come
to me. All of you have, I dare say, serious reasons for taking this
extraordinary step. I have in no way solicited the honour. All I can do
is to listen to each in his turn. I have seen one and settled with him;
if you have anything to say to me, speak."

This speech, pronounced in a clear, bold tone, not unmixed with
sarcasm, at once, as if by enchantment, calmed the irritation of the
fat man. At all events, it compelled him to dissimulate it. After,
therefore, mopping his head and face several times with a pocket
handkerchief, and coughing once or twice behind his hand, he spoke--

"I was angry, sir," he said, "and own it freely."

"Be pleased, sir, to come at once to business," continued Tom Mitchell;
"another person waits."

"You are, I believe, well acquainted with me?"

"I have known you a long time," remarked Tom.

"Sir, I have a nephew; he is the son of my wife's brother," began the
other, "a very near relative."

"Well, sir?"

"This nephew, though a charming youth," cried Stoneweld, "is mad,
utterly, hopelessly mad, sir."

"Really, sir," said the captain, "and have you come all this way to
tell me this piece of news?"

"Pardon me, sir. When I say that he is mad, I believe I exaggerate.
I should rather say that his intense folly has taken the form of
monomania. This charming young man, as I have the honour to tell you,
is in love, sir."

"A very natural matter at his age."

"But, sir," cried the shipowner, "he is in love with a young person in
no way suited to his station."

"Perhaps he does not think so."

"Of course, sir, it is not his opinion. But it is mine. I am a serious
man; I feel a great interest in him. Now that his father is dead I
am his legal guardian--though he repudiates me. Now, sir, would you
believe it," cried the fat man, "I had arranged with his aunt, my wife,
the most delicious marriage for him with a young girl--I may as well be
frank, a niece of my own?"

"And he wouldn't have her," said Tom.

"No, sir, he actually would not have her. Do you understand such folly
on his part?" cried the other.

"Well, it is strange. But what have I to do with it?"

"I will explain if you will allow me."

"I really should feel much obliged," urged Tom.

"After refusing contemptuously this eligible alliance, which united
every condition of age and fortune and position, what did the fool do?
Excuse me if in my anger I speak thus of a nephew I love. One fine
morning, without saying a word to anybody, he left his business to a
partner, and started off, sir--what for?"

"Well, how can I say?" asked Tom.

"In pursuit of this wretched girl without family or fortune, whose
parents had emigrated to the Indian frontier."

"Oh, oh!" said the captain, who began to feel interested, and who
listened with a gloomy frown.

"Yes, sir," said the fat man, too wrapped up in his narrative to notice
the other's looks, "so that my nephew must be somewhere here about this
neighbourhood, looking after his beauty, neglecting his affairs and
fortune Tor a girl he will certainly never marry."

"How do you know, sir?"

"At all events I will do everything in my power to prevent it," cried
the irate citizen of Boston.

"How will you set about it?"

"Sir, I have been told that you were the only man in these parts
capable of arresting a fugitive."

"You do me too much honour."

"I have a number of unclosed accounts, needless to explain, with his
father. Arrest the young man, sir!" cried the Bostonian; "Arrest him
and place him safely in my hands, and the sum of one thousand guineas
is yours."

As he spoke, the worthy shipowner pulled out an enormous pocketbook
from his coat and opened it.

"Excuse me, sir," said the captain, "do not let us be in quite such a
hurry. You have not quite finished."

"How so?" cried the American.

"You have forgotten," said the captain with simple frankness, "to tell
me the name of your foolish nephew."

"George Clinton, sir, a very fine lad, though I say it."

"I know him," retorted the captain, coldly.

"You know him!" exclaimed the shipowner, "Then the affair is settled.
You will have him arrested."

"Perhaps," said Tom Mitchell; "I will reflect on the affair, which is
not so easy as you may suppose."

"To you, the chief of the outlaws?"

"George Clinton is not alone. He has many and powerful friends on the
frontier."

"But I have plenty of money."

"I tell you, I will reflect. You will now return to the fort under
escort. In two days you shall have my answer."

"But allow me to pay you a deposit," cried the other.

"Keep your money for the present," said Tom, and striking a gong,
Camotte appeared as if by magic.

"But--" blustered the rich merchant.

"Not another word, sir. Wait patiently for my reply. I am your most
obedient servant."

And led away by Camotte, the rich shipowner of Boston went out
spluttering and perspiring as before.

"Now," said the captain to himself, with a sarcastic smile, "let us see
what the other fellow is made of."

He went to the door, and, entering the cavern, bowed to the Frenchman,
who was still walking up and down.

"Will you be good enough to come this way, Monsieur Hebrard," he said,
with an engaging smile.

The Frenchman looked at him with astonishment, but on a repetition of
the invitation went in.

The captain chuckled to himself at this evidence of the other's utter
surprise and bewilderment.

It was as if he had scored one.



CHAPTER XVII.

A DIPLOMATIC CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO RASCALS.


The two men looked at one another for some minutes in silence, just as
two clever duelists might have done before venturing on the attack. But
though each tried to read the other, their faces were like marble.

At a mute invitation from the outlaw, the stranger took a seat, and at
once commenced the conversation.

"Sir," he said, "it is a matter of surprise, that you, a perfect
stranger, should address me by a name--"

"Which is or has once been yours, monsieur," answered the outlaw chief,
with freezing politeness.

"That is quite possible. I do not deny it. When one travels in foreign
parts on important business, incognito--"

"Is adopted, I am aware, which only deceives fools and dupes," said the
outlaw, speaking slowly.

"What do you mean, sir?" cried the other.

"I recollect a certain Count de Mas d'Azyr, an excellent gentleman of
Languedoc, who had this mania."

The stranger shivered all over, and a lightning flash darted from
beneath his dark and heavy eyebrows.

"Well," continued the outlaw, with imperturbable sang-froid, "his noble
manners so thoroughly denounced him, despite the plebeian names he
chose to assume, that he was compelled at the end of a few minutes to
give up this absurd acting."

"Really, sir," cried the stranger, "I do not see the meaning or
relevance of your allusions."

"I permit myself no allusions," said the outlaw, with the utmost
suavity. "Very far from it. What matters it to me, I ask, whether you
call yourself Hebrard, Count de Mas d'Azyr, Philippe de Salnam, Jean
Lerou, or take any other alias?"

"Sir!" cried the other.

"Allow me, I pray, to conclude. In you I only recognise a person who
is very warmly recommended to me, who has need of my services, and at
whose disposition I therefore place myself at once--ready to serve him
if possible," he continued; "at all events we can talk, and I should be
glad to know in what way I can be of use."

"Sir," said the stranger, smiling, "you are agreeable and witty. I find
that people make mistakes in their idea of you."

"I am obliged by your high consideration," continued the outlaw; "still
this does not explain to me--"

"Who I am," cried the other, with feigned candour; "well, sir,
considering you have mentioned so many names--"

"You allow, then, that I was right."

"Certainly; you were quite right," answered the other, quickly; "I
therefore sincerely beg your pardon."

"It is not at all necessary."

"There is, however, one thing that I must confess puzzles me very
much," continued the envoy.

"May I, without offence, ask what that is?"

"No offence. I should certainly be only too glad to have an explanation
with you on the subject."

"If it depends upon me," the other said.

"It depends absolutely on you. I always thought I had a good memory. I
believe myself to be a very good physiognomist, but really I have no
recollection of you."

The outlaw burst into a roar of laughter.

"Which only proves," he added, when he recovered himself, "that I am
much more clever at incognito than you."

"Which means--"

"That not only have we met, monsieur, but that we have carried on a
long connection," said Tom.

"Many years ago?"

"Not at all, sir. I speak of very recent times, though I will allow
that our acquaintance commenced long ago."

"You astonish me," said the Frenchman.

"The matter is very easily explained. We have found ourselves connected
at different times, under four different names: I have told you yours,
I will now tell mine. Do you remember Louis Querehard? Do you recollect
François Magnaud, Paul Sambrun, and Pedro Lopez?"

"Perfectly," cried the other.

"Well, sir, those four individuals you now see present under the name
of Tom Mitchell, your very humble servant; though," he added, with
exquisite politeness, yet with a tint of irony, "I have several others
available on occasion."

"Well, sir," cried the stranger, "you have indeed taken me in. I was a
fool not to recognise you."

"Sir!" cried the outlaw.

"Let us call things by their names. It is by far the best plan. I am
indeed not to be forgiven for being taken in like any novice. I deserve
to be dismissed from the service of the Government which employs me,
and which believes me to be worthy of credit, as possessing a certain
amount of wit and diplomatic ability. Well, it is useless to discuss
the matter any longer. Give me your hand, sir," he cried; "you are my
master. We bear no malice."

"I only wanted to prove--" said the outlaw.

"That I was a fool--and I must say you have done so to my entire
satisfaction," he added, in a tone of complete good humour. "But
however unpleasant the shock is to my self-love, I am delighted at what
has happened."

"How so?" asked the outlaw, in the same tone.

"Because the ice is broken between us, and we can come to an
understanding; the more readily," he added, "that the matters I have
to speak of are the same as before."

"If that be so," said the outlaw, "we can easily come to terms."

"Is it not so? Now here is the affair in two words. The revolution
is over in France. Beneath the hand of the mighty man of genius
whose talent and patriotism have raised him to power, Government has
recovered its strength, society begins to breathe, the nation is once
more rising to its proper position amidst the people; New France has
entire faith in the man whose every step has hitherto been marked by
victory, which has definitively declared on his side."

"I presume," said the outlaw, quietly, "that you are speaking of the
General Bonaparte."

"Of no other. This great, this extraordinary man has, with his mighty
hand, put down the Jacobins and the mob, driving them back to their
original nothingness. He has chained forever the awful hydra of
revolution. You have, then, heard of him?"

"Most certainly," said the son of Maillard, coldly.

"I am glad to hear it. This great man, who is as mighty a politician
as he is a successful general, has followed, while slightly modifying
it, the line traced by the national convention of execrable memory with
regard to the Spanish colonies."

"Sir," said the son of the regicide, "you are hard upon fallen men,
upon vanquished enemies, who, if they were guilty of faults--of crimes
if you will--did very great and glorious things, giving the first
signal for social regeneration over the world."

"It is useless, sir," said the envoy, "to discuss that matter. My
convictions are very strong."

"Well, sir, if that be so," replied the outlaw, "let us return to the
General Bonaparte, and pray explain to me his new plans with regard to
the Spanish possessions in America."

"They are no new plans," observed the envoy; "only the old ones
modified to a certain extent."

"Modified in what way?"

"There are two capital points. In the first place he wishes a cordial
and frank alliance with the President of the United States, who
cordially approves the policy of the French Government, which will, in
the end, be to the advantage of America. Then he has given extensive
powers to numerous sure and accredited agents, who, though, are not
openly known because of the temporary Franco-Spanish alliance. Large
sums of money have been provided by means of which to overthrow that
species of Chinese wall with which Spain has surrounded its frontiers,
which none ever cross and return."

"Sir," said the outlaw, with a smile, "I have crossed them many a time
and oft, and yet here I am."

"It is precisely because of that fact that I am here."

"Ah! Ah!" said the outlaw, with a laugh; "After all, despite your
denials, you had seen through my incognito."

"Well, it is useless to deny it. I have long known you to be a man of
heart and action. I also know that by means of your vast connections
no one can more readily help us to revolutionise the colonies. Besides,
you are a Frenchman."

"I am of no country," replied the other.

"What, then, do you call yourself?"

"An outlaw," answered the chief, "and king of this island," drily; "an
outlaw, and nothing more."

"Well, be it so, sir. Still you are exactly the man I want. I
have need, for the execution of my plans, for the carrying out of
my projects, of a man who is bound by no locality, by no social
consideration. In fact, an outlaw."

The other bowed ironically.

"Now are you disposed to be the man?"

"First," said Tom Mitchell, "let me know what you want of me. I will
then give a decisive answer."

"Well, then," replied the envoy, "let us put diplomacy on one side, and
speak frankly and openly."

The outlaw leaned back and assumed something like the attitude of a
tiger about to spring.

"Sir," he said, with a most singular smile, "I was about to make the
very same proposition."

"Very good," replied Monsieur Hebrard; "that shows that we are
beginning to understand one another."

The captain bowed, without speaking.

"The Spanish colonies," continued M. Hebrard, "are already beginning
to feel the germs of revolutionary fermentation. Some devoted and
enterprising men, yourself among others, have gone into the cities and
towns of Mexico."

"All this I know; a truce to flattery."

"They have seen the zealous patriots, who are, however, but ill
prepared as yet for the revolution we ardently desire."

"Ill prepared indeed," cried Tom Mitchell.

"But overtopping all others is a man who has immense influence with the
Indian races. You know him."

"Ah, ah!" exclaimed Tom; "You mean Dolores, the priest."

"I mean no other. He is the only man upon whom we can count. We must
enter into serious relations with him."

"For what purpose?" asked the outlaw.

"In order that when the hour comes he may be ready to raise the
standard of revolt," cried the other, "and ready to draw the population
after him against Spanish despotism."

"Very good, sir. But it is a long way to Dolores, where lives the curé
Hidalgo. The road is one of the most dangerous I know. I doubt if any
agent, however clever, can reach him. Will you allow me to give you
sincere advice?"

"Speak; I am deeply interested."

"My own opinion is that it would be much better to despatch a light
vessel, schooner or brig, into the Gulf of Mexico. This vessel
could cruise along the coast, and, when opportunity offered, land a
confidential agent."

"You are quite right, sir," said the envoy, "I must say this means has
been tried with success."

"Well, what then?"

"The secret was betrayed by a traitor; in consequence, the Spanish
authorities are always on their guard."

"Hence you conclude--"

"That on reflection, and having experience as a guide, the difficult
road you describe is the best."

"Hum!" said the outlaw, and relapsed into silence.

The real meaning, the interesting point, of this conversation, so long,
had not been touched upon. The captain knew it well, and kept himself
in reserve. M. Hebrard was for some time afraid to enter upon a frank
and true explanation.

There was a deep silence; at last the captain determined to fire the
train, if he were blown up.

"Then you think I must go by land," he said.

"There is no choice," responded Hebrard.

"The conditions?" remarked Tom.

"One hundred thousand francs, not in notes, but in golden ounces,
stamped with the effigy of the King of Spain."

"That is tolerable, for a beginning."

"Then there will be as much more for the negotiations, or, as I see you
hesitate, at first one hundred and fifty thousand."

"Why at first?" asked Tom.

"Because your mission will be divided into two distinct parts," replied
the envoy, quietly.

"Let us thoroughly understand the first," continued the outlaw; "we
will talk of the second presently."

"Another hundred thousand on your return with despatches," continued
the diplomatist, warmly.

"Hum!" said Tom; "That makes--"

"Three hundred and fifty thousand francs (£14,000) for only the first
part of your mission," said Hebrard.

"It is very liberal. Now for the second mission," said Tom Mitchell,
watching the diplomatist with his wary eye.

He knew that the real thing was coming now; he was satisfied of this
from the other's uneasy manner.

"Hum!" said M. Hebrard, as if speaking to himself; "Three hundred and
fifty thousand francs is a pretty sum."

"Well, for the first part of the mission which you have explained to
me I don't say no. It is," he added, "a tough job, that I know. Still,
nothing risk, nothing have. Now for the second part."

The diplomatist assumed an air of genial frankness that made the outlaw
shudder. He was at once on his guard.

"The Spaniards, as I have said," observed M. Hebrard, jauntily, "are
forever on the watch. No one, no matter what his position, is safe on
the frontiers. To go in or out is simply impossible."

"Diable!" cried Tom; "What you say is not calculated to give me much
confidence or hope."

"Excuse me, monsieur," said Hebrard, "we are playing a frank and open
game, I do not desire in any way to conceal the dangers that may await
you. I am only speaking in a general kind of way, certain that whatever
obstacles occur you will be right."

All this was verbiage; M. Hebrard was evidently only trying some method
of putting his real thoughts into words.

The outlaw, who expected what was coming, smiled.

"Unfortunately," said the diplomatist, who did not know what to say,
"the real danger is not on the other side."

The outlaw started up.

"You may well be surprised; the danger is here."

"What do you mean?" cried the outlaw.

"I will explain myself, if you will allow me. Of course," said M.
Hebrard, "the Spaniards are no more fools than we are."

"I was always of that opinion."

"They have started a countermine!"

"A countermine!" cried Tom. "What do you mean?"

"You will soon see. Knowing something of our designs, they have covered
the American frontiers with spies."

"It is certainly very clever," said the outlaw.

"Very clever," said the diplomatist, in a husky voice; "but then,
clever as they are, we know all about it, every detail."

"You do not mean to say so?" cried Tom Mitchell.

"Yes. And more than that, we know the chief of the whole gang of
spies," added Hebrard. "And much more than that, we know all his
secrets, cunning as he is."

"That is something," said Tom; "but now what you want is to catch him."

"Yes," said Hebrard, "that is the very thing; you yourself must see the
necessity of catching him before you start."

"I should think so; it is as plain as running water; but," added Tom
Mitchell, "it is not very easy to snap up such a rascal in the desert,
which simply is as full of such rogues and vagabonds as an anthill is
full of ants."


"Don't be uneasy on that point," cried Hebrard; "I shall easily put you
on his track."

"All right. Then all we have to do is to catch him?"

"Exactly so," said the other, with a sigh.

"And you will pay for this capture?"

"Very heavily, my excellent friend."

"Oh! Oh! Then you are very anxious to secure him?"

"Yes," continued the other, gloomily; "dead or alive; it matters not. I
should say, for information's sake, dead rather than alive."

"I like plain speaking. He is very much in your way?"

"Very much more than I can explain."

"And how much will you pay for this mission?"

"Alive, twenty-five thousand; dead, fifty thousand francs."

"It appears to me you prefer him dead. But never mind, give me the
information. His name and address."

"He is a Frenchman, who has taken the name of Oliver. In appearance
he is a hunter, a trapper, anything that comes uppermost. For greater
safety he has connected himself with an Indian tribe, and is to be
found about the Missouri."

"It is a very long way from the Mexican frontiers," observed the
outlaw, in a coldly sarcastic voice.

"True. But the fellow is cunning; his safety requires him to be
extremely cautious. Do you accept?"

"I accept on one condition," replied the other. "It is fully understood
that he is to be dead, mind."

"No matter, so that we have him."

"Well, then, we are agreed on four hundred thousand francs (£16,000)? I
shall want half down."

"I have the money in gold in my valises. I will pay it to you this
evening," replied the envoy.

"And now that this is settled, you are in no hurry?"

"None whatever."

"Well, I know pretty well where to find the man you are in search of. I
must say that, without suspecting the odious part he has been playing,
I have on the several occasions we have met him felt the greatest
repulsion."

"This is extraordinary."

"Well, you see, on the desert everybody knows everybody. But as I
wish to make no mistake, to commit no error in so grave and important
a matter, I should like you to be present at his arrest. Besides, it
would be more regular."

"Hum!" cried the other, with a look of considerable annoyance; "The
idea of further voyage in the desert--"

"Is not pleasant, I know," interrupted Tom; "but that is not necessary.
You shall remain quietly here."

"Then I consent. When do you expect to catch him?"

"In less than a week, unless I am very unfortunate."

"Then I can wholly depend on you?" cried Hebrard.

"I swear to you on my honour that it will not be my fault if at the end
of the time you are not face to face."

"I thank you in advance," said the envoy.

"There is nothing to be grateful for," replied the outlaw, with an odd
expression and smile.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE PRISONER.


That same day, about nine o'clock in the evening, the outlaw was seated
face to face with Captain Pierre Durand at a table covered with dishes,
plates, and empty bottles, which testified to the appetite of the two
men, and to the rude attack they had made upon everything in order to
satisfy it.

The two men were now smoking excellent cigars, while sipping, like true
amateurs, some mocha, served in real Japanese cups. Close at hand, in
addition, were bottles containing every conceivable kind of liquors and
spirits.

They had reached that precise period in the repast so prized by
gourmets, when, the mind elevated and the brain excited by succulent
food and generous libations, one feels a kind of happy state of being
that is simply charming.

For one whole quarter of an hour neither of the two men had spoken or
cared to speak.

It was the outlaw who first broke the charm.

"You are aware, my dear captain," he said, "that in half an hour I must
leave you and be off."

"Excuse me," cried Pierre Durand, starting, "if I believe a single word
of such a mad assertion."

"Yes, I am truly sorry to say, it is the exact fact. Doubtless you know
as well as I do, business before all."

"I have not the remotest idea of interfering with your affairs," cried
the sea captain, glumly.

"Then what do you mean?"

"That you are not going to leave me in the lurch."

"Still, when I tell you I must go," said the outlaw.

"All I mean is this, that if you go I go," cried Pierre.

"What! A night journey like this?" asked Tom.

"Night journey, day journey, it is all the same to me. I am an old
sailor," growled Pierre Durand; "and every kind of locomotion is
equally indifferent to me. Besides, I have known you a very long time,
haven't I? And I know what sort of trade you carry on," he added.

The outlaw kept his countenance.

"Of course, I shall not be surprised or scandalised at anything I see.
All I know is that here I should be bored to death, having nothing
to do. It would be a nice little change to join you in one of your
filibustering expeditions."

All this was said in a joking kind of way that excluded all idea of
giving offence.

"Well," said Tom Mitchell, smiling, "any way, you would find yourself
utterly disappointed."

"How is that?"

"I am not going to plunder, but to restore. Of course I don't pretend
it is my usual custom," said Tom.

"Very well," cried Pierre; "I think that will be much more funny. I
should like to join in the good work."

"But, my friend--" urged the outlaw.

"There is no but about it. I am a Breton, that is to say, as obstinate
as several mules," continued Pierre Durand; "and I mean to come,
unless, indeed, you tell me that my demand is in reality offensive and
intrusive."

"By no means," cried Tom; "come then. Who can resist anyone so
obstinate as you are, my friend?"

"You are a delightful fellow. I am ready."

"Not quite; there are conditions; at least, one."

"Pray let me know what it is."

"You must profit by the few minutes that remain to us to disguise
yourself, so as to be unrecognisable."

"To what purpose, in a country where nobody knows me?" cried Pierre
Durand; "Will you tell me a reason?"

"That is my secret. Will you consent? That is right. Now go there, and
you will find all things necessary."

Pierre Durand was about to leave the room, but the outlaw indicated
where everything was ready.

"There is another favour I must ask of you."

"Go ahead, nothing surprises me," said the captain, who, with
magnificent sang-froid had commenced his work.

"In case chance should bring us face to face with people we know,"
he said, earnestly, "you will still keep up your incognito, even if
you happen to see among these the face of the friend whom you have
travelled so far to see."

The captain, who was blacking his beard with soot and fat, having
already darkened his eyebrows, gave a start.

"Will he be there?" he asked.

"I do not say so. It is more than probable that he will not be there.
Still, I wish to exercise every precaution."

"Hum, still it appears very hard."

"Still, do you consent? Yes or no."

"I repeat what you just said. I suppose I must," said Pierre; "and as I
see you are in earnest, I promise, on my honour."

"Enough; then make haste."

After rendering his features and countenance utterly unrecognisable,
the captain threw off his outer clothes, and assumed the costume of a
planter of the frontier.

"What languages do you speak?" asked Tom.

"Nearly all civilised ones as easily as I do French," replied Durand;
"but, above all, English and Spanish."

"Very good," continued Tom; "then during our excursion I shall always
call you Don José Remero."

"Don José Remero be it."

"You must recollect that you are a captain in the Spanish navy, fled
from home after a fatal duel."

"All right," grinned Pierre.

"Do not forget to take weapons. I can strongly recommend this tison. It
is a perfect and choice rapier," said Tom; "have this long and pointed
knife in your right boot. You may want it when you least expect. Do you
ride?"

"Like a centaur," laughed the Frenchman.

"I am very glad to hear it; and now secure this carbine and this pair
of pistols," continued Tom.

"Why, I shall look like an arsenal."

"My friend, it is the custom of the country," said Tom; "no one thinks
of travelling in any other way."

"One does at Rome as Rome does. I'm your man," cried Pierre, laughing;
"what do you think of me?"

"Unrecognisable. I should not know you anywhere. You are clever; even
your accent is changed."

"That is always the first thing to be thought of," said Pierre Durand;
"and now what is the nature of the restitution?"

"We are going," replied the outlaw, with a smile, "to restore a young
girl to her friends and relatives."

"A young girl?" cried Durand.

"Yes--a most charming and interesting maiden, whom I captured the other
day. I can no longer resist her tender sorrow."

"Bah!" said the young sailor, with a grin.

"I swear to you, upon my honour," cried the outlaw, warmly, "that she
has been treated with the most profound respect and even tenderness."

"Spoken like an honest man," said the captain, warmly. "But may I ask
with what object you took her away?"

"I had a motive, which I fear me exists no longer. I even fear," he
said, gloomily, "I have entered upon a bad speculation. But it is
useless to discuss the matter anymore. Soon there shall be no mysteries
for you. Be seated again."

"Why?" asked the captain, puzzled at all these mysteries.

"She comes, and it is rather important I should say a few words to her
before we start on our journey."

"I am your humble servant to command."

Tom Mitchell struck a gong, and Camotte appeared.

"Have my orders been executed?" asked the outlaw.

"Yes, captain. The stranger is watched carefully, and yet without
creating suspicion," replied the lieutenant.

"Where is he now?"

"In his own room."

"If tomorrow he asks after me," said Tom Mitchell, "you will give him
the answer already agreed on."

"Yes, captain."

"What about the detachments?"

"Those have started within the hour, I shall start with the last as
soon as the moon rises," replied Camotte.

"Remember," said Tom, thoughtfully, "that tomorrow morning at sunrise,
if not before, you must be back."

"Be easy as to that, captain," said the other, significantly; "I shall
not leave the island without a chief just now."

"Humph!" observed the captain, suspiciously, "Is there anything fresh
in the air?"

"Nothing in appearance, much in reality."

"You can speak out here," said Tom Mitchell; "if you have anything to
say, say it without hesitation."

"About an hour ago, when I was going my round," said the matter-of-fact
and faithful Camotte, "I met that fellow Versenca at the water's edge;
he was wet through, and had evidently been swimming. When he saw me
he was utterly confounded, and then when I questioned him as to his
conduct he gave me a lot of silly reasons a child of five would have
seen through."

The captain reflected with a dark frown.

"Redouble your vigilance, my good Camotte," he said at last. "On the
first suspicion arrest him until I come back."

"For greater safety, captain," replied Camotte, "I shall take him with
me tonight, I can watch him."

"Mind he does not give you the slip. A traitor would be dangerous just
now. He is as cunning as an opossum."

"I know it, but two can play at the same game."

"Good. I leave it to you. Have Black Athol and Goliath saddled for us,
and Miss Lara for the prisoner, if safe."

"She is quite a lady's horse--an ambler. She will quite suit her
rider," replied Camotte.

"Mind you," continued Tom, "let the three be harnessed for
war--victuals, holsters, ammunition, and pistols."

"As a matter of course. When Black Athol and Goliath go out, I know you
are bent on mischief. What absence?"

"Three days at most," replied the captain; "and during that time never
leave the island."

"And you go alone?" asked Camotte, anxiously.

"With the gentleman, as I have already said."

"I think you should take Tête de Plume," said Camotte.

"Will you tell me why?" asked the captain, smiling.

"No one ever knows on an expedition what may happen," drily replied the
lieutenant, "and two are better than one."

"But I have told you, we are two already."

"Very good," he continued, "but you would be three."

"I tell you what it is, Camotte," said the captain, laughing, "you do
just as you like with me. Let him come."

"I thank you heartily," cried the delighted lieutenant.

"Above all, whatever happens, keep my absence a secret," said Tom
Mitchell; "that is above all essential."

"Your orders shall be obeyed in all things."

"And now bring in the prisoner," continued Tom. "By the way, have you
said anything to her?"

"Captain, you know I am no babbler," observed Camotte.

"Very true," said Tom, and then turning to Pierre, he added, laughing,
"that fellow does not put too much confidence in me."

"His manner is strange. Perhaps he distrusts me."

"No; Camotte is a bulldog for fidelity and discretion; but, like
bulldogs, he is both suspicious and jealous," replied Tom.

"I bear him no malice for his jealousy," said Pierre; "besides, I
myself always like those kind of men."

"Yes, they are indeed very precious," continued Tom; "unfortunately,
you have to give way to them a little."

"Well, when it is from pure devotion, nothing can be said."

At this moment the door opened, and a young girl entered the room,
effectually checking the conversation.

This young girl was Angela, or Evening Dew, whichever it may please the
reader to call her.

She gave a graceful curtsy, and then remained with downcast eyes before
the outlaw chief.

The two men rose from their seats and bowed respectfully.

"My sister is welcome," said the outlaw, smiling, and speaking in the
Indian tongue; "be seated."

"Evening Dew is a slave, and presumes not to sit down in the presence
of her master," responded the young girl, in a voice as melodious as
the song of a bird, but the tone of which was firm and distinct. "I
have said."

Evening Dew was a delicious child of seventeen at most, in whom the two
races, white and red, of both which she was the issue, seemed to have
vied which should produce the most wondrous chef d'oeuvre.

Her elegant and slight form, slightly bent forward with that serpentine
undulation which belongs to American women, her long hair, black as
the raven's wing, fell almost to her feet, and when loosened, might
have served her as a cloak. Her complexion had the golden tint of the
daughters of the sun; her great blue and dreamy eyes were fringed by
long velvet lashes; her mouth, revealing her vermilion lips, and a row
of dazzling white teeth, gave to her physiognomy that rare expression
scarcely ever found except in some virgin of Titian.

The sailor was dazzled at the really marvellous beauty of the young
girl. He had no idea that the whole continent of America could have
produced such a fairy.

The captain smiled at her reply.

"Evening Dew has no master here. She is with friends who will protect
her," he said, heartily.

"Friends!" she cried, clasping her hands together, while the pearly
tears went down her cheeks; "Is it possible?"

"I swear to you, young girl," he continued, "that what I say is true.
I have sent for you to apologise for what has happened, to demand
forgiveness for your cruel abduction."

"Oh, sir," she cried, in excellent French, "oh, sir, can I really
believe my ears! Is it true?"

"You would insult me by disbelieving," he replied, in the same
language; "tomorrow you will be with your friends."

"Thank you, sir, from my soul," she sobbed forth.

And before the captain could prevent her--before he suspected her
intention, the was on her knees kissing his hand.

Tom Mitchell respectfully raised her from the ground and led her to the
chair she had once refused.

"Then you are very unhappy here?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," she cried, "I have indeed been very unhappy; how, in fact,
could I be otherwise?"

"And yet," said the captain, with a frown, "I have given the most
strict orders with regard to your treatment."

"I beg most earnestly to acknowledge, sir, that I have been treated in
the most honourable fashion, that I have been surrounded by the most
delicate attentions. But oh, sir, I was a prisoner, alas! Far away
from those I love, and whom my absence plunges, like myself, in utter
despair."

"Pardon me, miss," said the chief, "my wrong towards you will soon be
repaired, I promise you."

"Then you are good indeed!"

"Tomorrow," he added, with considerable emotion, "you shall be restored
to the bosom of your family."

"Do that, sir," she cried, "and I will love you. Ever after you shall
be as a brother to me."

"I will endeavour to merit the title, Miss Angela," he said, softly;
"henceforth you will no longer curse me."

"Curse you who give me back to those I love! No, I will bless you from
the bottom of my heart," she cried, earnestly, "and, believe me, God
will amply reward you."

"I have a strong conviction that way myself," he said, smiling; "even
heaven could scarcely be deaf to your prayer."

The girl coloured deeply at these words, which were uttered with such
earnest conviction as caused her to bow her head.

The captain simply smiled softly.

"Are you tolerably strong, miss?" he asked.

"Why do you ask me this question?" she said.

"Because," he answered, "we have a very long journey to go before we
find your friends."

"What matters about fatigue, sir? I am already strong. The very idea
has restored my vigour."

"We shall have to undertake a long night journey," he continued,
"through the prairies, by very rough ways."

She clapped her pretty hands together joyously; a charming smile
lightened up her physiognomy, and then she cried out in a delighted and
proud accent--

"I have Indian blood in my veins, sir," she cried; "I am the daughter
of a brave Canadian hunter. Fear nothing for me. I am not a woman of
the towns, who, I am told, can neither walk nor run."

"They are very much like it," growled Pierre.

"Try me, put me to any proof, and you will see of what I am capable to
get back to my friends."

"Come, I see, at all events, that you are as brave and noble a woman as
you are beautiful. Come, it is time."

"Do we go directly?" she cried.

"Yes," was his smiling answer.

"One moment," she said; "give me time to thank God for having touched
your heart. Let me pray."

"Do as you wish," he replied, respectfully.

The young girl folded her arms across her breast, raised her looks
heavenward with an inspired air for some minutes. One could see by her
thoughtful brow, from the compression of her coraline lips, that she
was praying. Her face was radiant, her eyes were full of tears. She
seemed transfigurated.

The two men, despite their rude aspect and rough natures, stood
respectfully beside her, utterly cowed, overcome, crushed under the
weight of her purity and innocence. They stood before her hat in hand.

When her short and ardent prayer was over, the girl turned to them with
an ineffable smile.

"Now, gentlemen," she said, bowing to the two men who she saw were
henceforth her slaves, "I am quite ready."

The outlaw and his companion bowed and followed behind as she led the
way outside.

Camotte was there, as was also the valorous Tête de Plume, holding the
horses.

Tom Mitchell led Miss Angela to the mare Lara, which he had ordered to
be saddled, and held the stirrup respectfully.

"Mount," he said, just as if he had been speaking to a princess in her
own right.

Then, as soon as the outlaw had given some last whispered directions to
Camotte, they started, Tom Mitchell riding at the head of the little
band.

By the time the ford was passed over in safety the moon had risen in
the sky above the trees.

The four travellers were now safe on terra firma.

"Now, Miss Angela," said Tom Mitchell, gallantly, "place yourself
between this gentleman and myself. Good. And now, Tête de Plume, my
boy, take the rearguard, and, whatever you do, look out."

The four cavaliers dashed off at a hand gallop, and soon disappeared in
the windings of the defile.



CHAPTER XIX.

IN WHICH TOM MITCHELL DISCOVERS THAT HONESTY IS A GOOD SPECULATION.


We now direct our steps to one of the most savage and abrupt sites in
all the desert, before the rising of the sun.

Five men are crossing a narrow gorge in the mountains, the tops of
which are rocky and bare or covered with snow. Just now they are
rendered almost invisible by the dense fog which the sun's rays cannot
dissipate.

These five travellers came from the interior of the mornes, as the
hilly plains are called, and were bound for the plains, which they
began to make out a short distance before them, traversed, or rather
cut in two, by the extensive stream of the Missouri, the sandy waters
of which were half concealed by high grass, willow, and the cottonwood
trees that lined its shores.

The five wayfarers of whom we have spoken walked painfully over the
flints that paved the gorge, the dried-up bed of a torrent, which
itself had suddenly disappeared during one of the cataclysms so common
in that region.

Having reached the extremity of the gorge, they stopped, looked around,
and gave a sigh of satisfaction.

Their task had been a rude one. For far more than three hours they had
been stumbling in the midst of a whirlpool, nothing else, of flint
stones, which, at every step they took, slid under their feet like
mountain shingle.

Four of these men were whites, wearing the costume of hunters of the
prairies; the fifth was an Indian.

They were George Clinton, Oliver, Bright-eye, Keen-hand, and
Numank-Charake, the chief.

Now, then, let us ask how it came about that these five men should be
there at that early hour in a place so far from their home--a hundred
miles, in fact, from the regions they were in the habit of frequenting,
and why were George Clinton and Keen-hand members of this singular and
perhaps fortuitous group.

Of course we shall as soon as possible satisfy the legitimate curiosity
of our friend the reader.

"Oh!" said Keen-hand, "It is my opinion, friends and companions, that
the wisest thing to be done is to stop here."

"Why stop here?" cried Bright-eye, in far from a pleasant tone of
voice; "Explain yourself."

"For a hundred reasons, every one of which is better than the other,"
resumed Keen-hand.

"I should like to know the first," said the Canadian.

"Well, it is a very excellent one, I think. You and I and the chief are
used to these diabolical roads, which is far from being the case with
our companions, which you ought to have observed without telling a very
long time ago."

Both Oliver and Clinton tried to protest.

"No! No!" cried Bright-eye, in his frankest manner. "I am a brute. So
say no more about it, as I proclaim it myself. Let us camp at once."

"Here is an excellent place," cried Keen-hand.

The hunters had halted under a grove of gigantic gumtrees. A fire was
lighted, and each one, resting himself, prepared for the morning meal.

"Well, to tell the truth," said Oliver, gaily, "I will now confess that
I needed repose; I was simply done up."

"I could scarcely put one foot before the other," observed George
Clinton, who was stretched out on the grass.

"There!" cried Keen-hand; "Was I not right?"

"Well, considering that I have owned I was a brute," growled
Bright-eye, "are you not satisfied?"

"Perfectly!" said the guide.

Numank-Charake had in the meantime undertaken the office of cook, an
office he filled effectively.

A few minutes later all were eagerly devouring slices cut from a
quarter of venison which had been broiled upon the hot embers.

Then the gourds were opened and passed joyously from hand to hand.

These brave young men had walked all night through impracticable paths
which only hunters could overcome. They were literally famished.

But now they entered into the spirit of the thing rarely. Soon
everything had disappeared. All was eaten.

When the last mouthful had been washed down, and the very last drop of
brandy absorbed, each man in his turn gave a deep sigh of satisfaction.

"Now, then," remarked Bright-eye, looking obliquely at his companions,
"I think we may talk."

"Well, I am of opinion," said Keen-hand, gaily, "that after a hearty
meal, two things are agreeable--a pipe and talk."

This declaration, the justice and opportuneness of which everybody at
once recognised, was like a signal; instantly, pipes in red clay, with
cherry tree tubes, were drawn from their belts, stuffed, lighted, and
soon a cloud of blue smoke surrounded the head of every guest like a
glory.

"Now, then, Bright-eye," said Oliver, gaily, between two puffs, "fire
away as soon as you like."

"Messieurs, my friends," replied Bright-eye, "my heart is very sad.
Despite all I can do, I feel a kind of presentiment that this man, in
whom we have so trusted, is deceiving us."

Numank-Charake lifted up his head.

"I know the paleface chief," he said, in his guttural tones, shaking
his head in a way to give more emphasis to his words; "he is a man
whose tongue is not forked. His word is as gold--and my brother,
Bright-eye, is wrong."

"In the name of heaven, is it you who speak in that way, chief?"
asked the astonished hunter; "You, of all men in the world, so deeply
interested."

"Numank-Charake is a chief in his nation," quickly interrupted the
redskin, his words, which swelled his bosom, coming directly from his
heart; "the man who despises his enemies is not a brave warrior, but
exposes himself to the reproach of only vanquishing cowards."

"Well spoken, chief," said Keen-hand.

"The Grey Bear, the paleface chief, is ferocious, cruel, and a thief,
but he is brave and truthful."

Oliver and Clinton stared.

"What he has said he will do, he will do. What he has offered he will
give. Did we go openly to him? No! We hunted him like a wild beast
Wounded, dying, we wished to kill him. He escaped; thanks not to
cunning, but to audacity. He is a great chief."

The whites exchanged glances.

"Nothing would have been more easy for him than to laugh at our menaces
and to conceal himself from us. Instead of that, he has sent us a
collar--letter--in which he invites us to an interview, for the purpose
of ending the troubles which divide us."

"This may be a trick," said Oliver.

"No! It is neither the act of a false nor of a double-faced man. No! It
is the act of a brave and loyal warrior. That is my opinion. Whatever
may happen during the next few hours, I am convinced that if we have
confidence in him I shall be found right. I have said."

The chief relighted his pipe, which had gone out during his speech,
and from that moment he appeared to take no further part in the
conversation. Still he listened to what the others said.

"As far as I am concerned," observed Oliver, "I think the chief has
spoken well. I agree with him on every point. As far as I can judge,
this pirate or this outlaw, whichever you choose to call him, is
not a man like other men. There is something in him which is not at
all ordinary. In one word, he may, it is true, be a brigand, but,
certainly, his is a very lofty nature. Until further events, I, for
one, shall believe in his word."

"All this is very possible," observed Bright-eye, shaking his head
doubtingly, "but no one can deny that he is the captain of a monstrous
set of brigands."

"What does that prove?" said Oliver.

"Nothing that I know of. Still I am decidedly of opinion that his word
is not to be trusted."

"Then allow me to observe," said George Clinton, drily, "why are we
here?"

"Why, because one always lives in hope, despite our better reason.
Still we ought to be prudent."

"Though I am not quite of the opinion of Bright-eye," said Charbonneau,
"I think we should be wise not to rush headlong into a possible trap
which the bandits may be preparing for us. He is right as to the wisdom
of prudence."

"I, too, am an advocate for prudence," said George Clinton; "nothing
can be more wise than to take all proper precautions. That I fully
agree with. But do not act in such a way as to cause our loyalty to be
suspected, or our confidence in the man's word."

"That can be easily arranged, my friends," said Charbonneau, with a
cunning smile "let me alone, and, believe me, all will go well."

"My worthy friend, act just as you think proper. You, perhaps, more
than anyone, have experience of the desert, and nobody objects to your
taking every precaution."

"The best precaution," said the Indian chief, again speaking, "when you
deal with a loyal enemy is to have every faith in his word; to have no
suspicion of any kind in your mind."

"Very good, chief. It is very likely after all that you are right. I
will not discuss the matter with you, though I repeat I am very much
surprised to hear you speak thus. I only ask of you one thing--that is,
to remain neutral in this affair until the actual moment of action has
come."

"Numank-Charake loves Bright-eye; he is his brother. He will do
whatever the hunter wishes; still regretting that he is constrained to
act against his wishes," he answered.

"I take all the blame on myself," said Bright-eye; "and shall be the
first to own my error, if indeed I am found to be in error. A man can
say no more, even if he were speaking to his father."

The Indian said no more, but bowed his head in token of acquiescence.
But he smiled with such a keen and subtle irony that the hunter was so
deeply moved as to blush.

"I fear nothing for myself," he cried.

"Eh, what!" exclaimed Charbonneau, stretching out his arm towards the
river, "What is going on?"

Every eye was fixed upon the spot indicated by the hunter's sudden
exclamation.

"It is a canoe," said George Clinton.

"Manned by two men," observed Charbonneau.

"And those two men," said the chief, after one glance from his eagle
eye, "are two palefaces. He knows them well. One is the old hunter
called Sharpear, the other the son of my nation--Leave-no-trail."

"My father and my grandfather!" cried Bright-eye, in utter surprise.
"Surely, chief, you must be mistaken. Why should they come here?"

"Very likely," observed Oliver, gently, "the same motive leads them
here that has led us."

Meanwhile the canoe, impelled by vigorous arms, approached with extreme
rapidity, and soon was at no very great distance from the camp of the
hunters. Then it turned rapidly towards the shore, and its bow was soon
stuck in the sand.

Two men landed.

Numank-Charake had been right. These two men were indeed the father and
grandfather of the young hunter. They were coming to the encampment.

The five adventurers all leaped up, and eagerly rushed to meet the two
old men.

After the first compliments had passed and welcomes had been exchanged
with effusion between the newcomers and their friends, the Canadians
seated themselves by the fire, and, upon the invitation given, ate some
mouthfuls of fresh-cooked venison and drank some brandy.

"We have been to see our relative, Lagrenay, the squatter of the Wind
River," said the old man. "It appears he had received a very pressing
message from Tom Mitchell, the outlaw."

"Yes," said Bright-eye, "we were there when it was delivered. We know
all about it. But, as far as I am concerned, I am afraid--"

"Of what are you afraid, my son?" asked François Berger, in a rather
imperious tone of voice.

"That all this pretended facility and frankness on the part of the
pirate chief hides a snare."

The two old hunters exchanged a smile.

"Child, you are very much mistaken," said the grandfather. "Tom
Mitchell means exactly what he says. He has no intention, no motive for
laying any unworthy trap."

"I am certain of it," added the son.

Bright-eye had nothing to say to so positive an assertion. He silently
bowed his head.

"We have done all in our power to come here quickly, knowing we should
meet you," went on François Berger; "we are only too happy to be in
time."

"In time to do what?" asked Oliver.

"We will explain," said the elder of the two men; "when Tom Mitchell
comes we shall receive him."

"But that is our business?" cried Bright-eye.

"I know the message was addressed to you," said his father; "I am well
aware of it that it is our business, and, in fact, it is more proper
it should be so. At all events we have decided that it is to be so, so
that you will keep out of sight until the affair is finished."

"But," said Bright-eye, with considerable hesitation, "supposing there
was treachery?"

"My son," sententiously observed the old man, "prudence is wise, but
suspicion in certain cases is an insult. Think of that. Believe me when
I say that your father and I know better what we are about than you do."

"We shall certainly obey you," said Oliver, in the name of all. "We
shall remain at a distance during the interview, and only interfere
when called upon."

"I thank you cordially," said the old man; "everything will go rightly,
I promise you."

And he waved his hand as if to dismiss them.

The five young men rose, bowed respectfully to the two old men, and
watched them as they walked slowly down to the banks of the river.

About two gunshots distance from the camp, or thereabouts, was a rather
thick wood, composed of oaks and gumtrees. The hunters entered the
wood, and soon afterwards disappeared under the forest.

Remaining alone, the old hunters lifted their Indian calumets and began
to smoke, without exchanging one single word.

This went on for about three-quarters of an hour--incessant smoking.
Suddenly, François Berger let fall his pipe, fell flat on his face, put
his ear to the ground, and listened.

"They come," he said, rising.

"I have heard them coming for some time," quietly replied the old
grandfather. "How many?"

"Not more than four."

"Just as I expected. He has acted in perfect good faith," said the old
man.

"Then you are quite determined?"

"Yes. The Indians are not in want of it, and I should not like to see
the Yankees or English profit by it."

"You are the master. You are the one to whom it belongs to a certain
extent," said the son.

"Yes; it is today my property. Besides, it should be kept up for the
support of a great cause. Tom Mitchell is a very different man from
what he appears," added the old man, gravely.

"That, of course, I know."

"Besides, I have another very strong motive for acting as I do, and
that is the establishment, on the very spot I allude to, of the Yankee
squatter."

"Yes. And, between you and me, father, these Yankees have very sharp
noses. They will find it out before long."

"Exactly so, my son. For my part, I prefer that Frenchmen should derive
the advantage."

At this moment a distant gunshot was heard.

"Here they come," said François Berger.

He then rose, placed his hand over his mouth like a funnel, and twice
imitated, with marvellous dexterity and perfection, the cry of the
water hawk.

A similar cry came in response, and almost immediately afterwards four
cavaliers, well mounted, appeared galloping through the high grass and
trees, and coming directly towards them.

The Canadians held their rifles in their hands, while the newcomers
showed no apparent arms. They had left their pistols in the holsters,
their sabres were in their scabbards, their rifles by their sides.

On coming within a short distance of the two old men the strangers
exchanged a few words in a low tone of voice, two of them slackened
their pace, while the others rushed forward with the rapidity of the
gazelle.

In another instant Angela, for it was herself, was in the arms of the
friends, answering by cries of joy and tears of happiness the sweet
caresses of her relatives and friends.

Tom Mitchell and his companions stood apart discreetly, and then,
when they saw that the first transports were over or becoming calmer,
approached.

"Welcome," said the old man, "welcome, gentlemen," holding out his two
hands.

"Have I kept my promise?" asked Tom Mitchell.

"Nobly; I solemnly declare it, and I thank you," cried Berger, with
deep emotion.

"You have worthily made up for the act you had done. Let us forget the
past," said the old man; "what can we do for you?"

"Nothing," he said, quietly.

"You exact no ransom whatever?"

"Why should I exaggerate, old hunter? I was drawn into committing a
bad action by a man whose name I will not mention. Though a pirate, I
am not so bad as I am painted. I have therefore sought to condone the
evil."

"Admirably spoken," said François Berger, again embracing his daughter.
"Go, darling, to your brother yonder."

"Allow me first to thank Captain Mitchell," she said, "for his extreme
kindness during my captivity."

"You bear me no malice?"

"None whatever," she said, "but eternal gratitude. You deserve it and
you have it."

Then with a gesture of adieu and a sweet smile on her adorable lips she
ran off in the direction of the forest.

The men waited until she was out of sight.

"I will now take my leave," said the outlaw.

"One moment," replied the old man; "the recompense which you refuse I
must force upon you."

He pulled forth a large folded parchment.

"This is the ransom of my daughter," he said: "it is a regular deed of
gift of the Valley of the Deer."

"What!" cried the outlaw, with singular emotion.

"Yes, and here on the map is a red mark, indicating the spot where what
you know of is concealed."

"Accept without scruple, captain," said François Berger; "it is ours
and ours alone to give."

"Since you wish it, gentlemen. I should show but ill grace to refuse,
the more that I value your gift highly."

"I only ask one thing in return," said the old man.

"I shall be ready to promise anything."

"You will use what I have given you only with an honourable--" he said,
with some hesitation.

"It shall be so, I promise you."

"And so we part friends; captain, your hand."

"Friends, yes," said the pirate; "and I hope the day may come when you
may try my friendship."

"Who knows? The day may come sooner than we expect."

"I shall be ready to shed the very last drop of my blood to defend or
avenge you or yours."



CHAPTER XX.

A STRANGE CHASE.


We know that Joshua Dickson had taken his departure from the valley,
leaving it in charge to Harry.

Harry was a fine young man, strong and intelligent, in whom his father
had every confidence.

He was the complete juvenile type of the American squatter and pioneer,
up to Indian devilries, riding like a centaur, and able to put a ball
in the eye of a panther at a hundred yards. His great passion was life
in the open air, and the pleasures of the chase in the forest or field.

One fine morning Harry, soon after the rising of the sun, galloped off
into the forest. He was bent on a journey to see a fine cutting that
was going to create meadows, and make room for sawmills on the banks of
the great Missouri.

He had nearly reached the spot, when he was startled by a whistle of a
peculiar kind, at no great distance.

At the same moment a horseman came in sight--a man of fifty, tall, thin
and gaunt, with parchment skin.

The horse was as bony as his master.

The man was dressed after the fashion of the ordinary American farmer,
and apparently carried no arms.

"Eh, eh," cried he, "you are out early. Were you looking for me?"

"No, M. Lagrenay; I was not even thinking of you."

"That is not polite. Why did you stop when I whistled?"

"Because I thought it the whistle of a serpent," he retorted. "But no
nonsense, I was looking for you."

"I was certain of it."

"Yes, I wanted to see you. I made your acquaintance I know not how. You
talk to me of things which do not please me, because they suggest evil
thoughts. I have come to say that henceforth we are strangers. Never
speak to me again."

"I suppose you will give me a reason for this odd decision."

"Think what you please. I have said my say."

"Then I assume that you reject my offers."

"Think and assume what you like," cried the young man, angrily; "only
keep out of my path."

"Then you have no passion for gold?" sighed the other.

"You take me for a ninny, old squatter. Gold does not grow in the
fields like mushrooms. Besides, you would have found it long ago if
real."

"I tell you the map indicating the exact spot," cried the old man, "was
stolen from me by the outlaws."

"You want to persuade me that you have known of this vast treasure for
years, and yet require a stranger to help you."

"I knew nothing of your having camped on the spot, and only offer you a
share in consequence."

"Go to the devil with your offers."

"Yes, you have my secret, and can use it yourself."

"Old man," cried the young giant, with rage in his eye, "beware how you
try my patience too much."

"Well, well, let us end this conversation. You will not listen to me.
Well and good. Only, before we part, remember this, when it is too
late, my friend," he added, with a sinister laugh, "you will repent.
That is all I say."

And turning round, he rode off.

"He is a pretty rascal," said the young man, as he rode off; "I believe
he has some villainy in hand."

At this moment a strong hollow grunting was heard, followed by another
at no great distance.

"There are jaguars about," said the American, in a low tone, stroking
his horse's ears to keep him quiet.

At that moment there was a fearful, a horrible cry, that rent the air,
a desperate shriek for assistance.

"The old squatter, and he is without arms," he cried; "the tigers have
doubtless attacked him."

And he set spurs to his horse, which, neighing and smarting with pain,
dashed in the desired direction.

In the centre of a clearing crossed by a narrow stream the squatter
knelt behind his horse, haggard with terror.

Close to him, on the branch of a gigantic gumtree, was a mighty jaguar,
licking his tongue before leaping.

"Save me," shrieked the agonised squatter.

"I will try," said Harry, dismounting, letting his horse loose, and
then going close up to the trembling wretch.

The tiger had not moved. He was watching his victim with a feline
glance.

"A noble beast," said the young man, with a smile; "I hope not to spoil
his beautiful skin."

Suddenly a further grunting was heard in the thicket. The jaguar,
without turning his head, responded in the same tone.

"By heavens! There are two of them. It seems almost a pity to part so
loving a couple," he said.

At the same moment the tiger leaped. As he did so he turned a
somersault. He was dead, shot in the eye.

"One," said the young man, drawing out his bowie knife.

At the same moment the second jaguar burst out, and with one bound
seized on the flanks of the horse.

Harry flew at her, knife in hand. The two rolled for a moment on the
ground. Then the man stood erect.

"That job's over," said the young man; "what a couple of noble beasts!
Get up. Heavens! He's fainted."

Then he took him in his arms, and carried him to the stream, where he
bathed his face until he recovered.

But he was then so ill, and his horse so lean, that it seemed
impossible he should ever reach home.

In this strait Harry acted with his usual generosity. He took the man
up behind him, and carried him home.

He then turned to go without a word.

"Young man," cried the squatter, "wait one moment. You have been my
friend. Now take my advice, keep good watch. I dare say no more, but be
ever on your guard."

Harry moved pensively away, but soon forgot the hint.



CHAPTER XXI.

CAPTAIN TOM MITCHELL, THE AVENGER.


The marriage of Evening Dew with Numank-Charake was to be celebrated
with unusual splendour. Invitations had been sent in all directions,
and, two days before the ceremony was to take place, numerous
deputations from all the tribes were collected around, and were
received with the splendid hospitality essential in such a case.

At least five hundred strange warriors had come.

Some hours later a new troop appeared on the verge of the plain; it was
very numerous, three hundred men at least, in the picturesque costume
of Mexican rancheros, all armed to the teeth, and admirably mounted.

Four cavaliers rode in front; these were Tom Mitchell, Pierre Durand
Camotte, and Tête de Plume. It was the full force of the outlaws. On
nearing the village two other men were seen; these were Clinton and
Charbonneau.

Nothing was omitted to give _éclat_ to such a reception. The most
renowned of the sachems, with the three Canadians, Bright-eye, and
Oliver, advanced to meet them, and give them a most cordial and sincere
welcome.

Captain Pierre Durand, who had given up his disguise, kept a little in
the background.

Having exchanged compliments, Tom ordered his men to camp outside, and
entered the village with the others.

As soon as all were collected in the hut of the Canadians, Tom Mitchell
closed the door carefully.

"Gentlemen," he said, in a low and solemn tone, "I owe you no
explanation for coming, but for coming in such force."

"You owe no explanation. You are welcome."

"Listen. Not a moment is to be lost. Spies are on all hands. You are
surrounded by treachery and traitors. You are all to be made the
victims of an execrable plot concocted by two wretches, Lagrenay and
Tubash-Shah."

All were stupefied. While the other spoke, Pierre Durand slipped into
Bright-eye's own room to rest.

"Yes. Tubash-Shah hates Numank; but that is not all. He loves your
gentle daughter, Evening Dew."

"Horrible!" cried the old man.

"The capture of Miss Angela was a thing arranged between Lagrenay and
Tubash-Shah, who thought to get her from me."

"Thanks to you, the plot is exploded."

"He still hopes to kill his rival, steal his wife, become possessor of
the treasure you know of," cried Tom Mitchell, "and become chief of the
tribe. With these schemes in their heads, Lagrenay and Tubash-Shah are
allies."

"It is a horrible plot. How did you discover it?"

"No matter; my spies have served me well. I knew the plan of the
conspirators, and hence have come in such force. I shall be able to
thwart them. Do you now attend to the immediate safety of the chiefs of
this nation and people."

"I will take measures at once."

"Above all, be cautious. You have to deal with desperate and cunning
rascals," urged Tom Mitchell.

The three Canadians, grandfather, father, and son, went out, leaving
behind only George Clinton and his friend.

"Now, Mr. Clinton," said the outlaw, "though we met under unpleasant
circumstances, we are friends."

"I see no reason why we should not be," he replied.

"I am happy to hear it," continued Tom Mitchell; "but before we go any
farther, allow me to say a word to this young Frenchman. In that room
you will find a friend."

"A friend!" cried Oliver; "Impossible! You know I have only recently
reached this country."

"Take my advice," said the outlaw, with a smile.

Oliver shrugged his shoulders, as if yielding to a foolish whim, and
went in to find himself face to face with Durand.

"Now," said the outlaw, "I have not told all; I have left out certain
matters which personally concern yourself. One moment, and you shall
judge for yourself. Excuse me if I have to touch upon a very tender
topic--that of love."

"Captain!" cried George.

"Pardon me. You love a charming girl, whom you have followed into the
desert with as much devotion as men show in the search of gold. To this
I have only to add that the girl is as beautiful and as good as an
angel."

George bowed his head to hide his confusion.

"Her father is against you, I know. But the important fact is that a
terrible calamity threatens her and you."

"Pray explain yourself," George cried.

"Do you think the redskins are blind? You forget them in your
calculation of future happiness."

"Explain yourself," continued the young man.

"I cannot at present. You are young in the desert, but you have clever
and devoted friends. Above all, you have Bright-eye, honest, devoted,
intelligent. Tell him all I have said, and to work. You have not a
moment to lose to save her."

At this moment the three Canadians came in at one door, Oliver and
Captain Durand at the other. Before anyone else could speak, Oliver
rushed forward.

"Captain," he said to the outlaw, "I can never thank you enough. I know
all. Command me in every way."

"I shall remind you of your promise."

"And my wretched persecutor--you will bring him to me?"

"Yes; and place in your hands papers to confound him," cried the
outlaw; "papers which prove your rank."

The conversation now became general. The two Canadians had been at
work, and warned all the sachems.

But everything had been done without exciting suspicion. All went on
just as usual in the village.

The preparations for the marriage continued.

The Canadians entertained their friends at a great banquet that night,
at which Numank was present, grave and proud, seated beside Angela, who
was charming, though blushing with downcast eyes, and never speaking a
word.

The formal ceremony of betrothal had taken place in the morning, so
that this was rather a friendly meeting than anything else.

There was, however, a magnificent exchange of presents.

Next day, just before the final ceremony, Tom Mitchell went off with a
hundred of his most resolute men.

Camotte remained in command of the others.

According to invariable Indian custom, the man who takes a wife takes
her seemingly by force; he snatches her up, puts her behind him, darts
off, and two days later comes back, slays a mare that has never foaled,
and all is over.

Numank, of course, would do the same.

At night the hut was surrounded by a party of Indians, and Angela
carried off, after a feeble resistance.

Then some shots were fired, and away sped Numank with his wife
surrounded by a powerful Indian escort.

This escort was almost wholly composed of strangers with Tubash.

The abductors had scarcely departed when Bright-eye came out of the hut
and whistled. He was at once surrounded by warriors.

"On," he said, in a menacing voice; "there is no time to lose."

And they darted away like a whirlwind, riding for some hours in the
direction taken by the bridal party.

Suddenly they were startled by flashes of light, followed by the report
of guns. A terrible combat was going on.

With a tremendous war cry the troop led by Bright-eye dashed in the
direction of the fight. It was time.

Numank-Charake, holding his wife on one arm, was fighting, surrounded
by the few warriors faithful to him.

Ten only of these could stand, and must have succumbed in five minutes
but for the unlooked-for succour.

The carnage was fearful. All fought desperately in silence. At last
every one of the treacherous escort was dead.

Tubash Shah escaped in the confusion.

Numank-Charake was more like a corpse than a live man, and had to be
carried on a litter.

They reached the village next day, from which all the rival tribes had
departed, leaving behind a bundle of arrows dipped in blood. It was a
formal declaration of war.

We turn elsewhere for a time.

It was night at the hut of the squatter Lagrenay. Everybody slept
except himself. Seated by the dying fire in a cane chair, his head in
his two hands, his elbows on the table, the squatter appeared at least
to be reading.

His huge and savage dog lay at his feet, listening for the faintest
sound from without.

Every now and then the old man looked at a clock, and then appeared to
read again until a sharp whistle was heard.

The dog and man leaped up, but suddenly Lagrenay bade the animal be
quiet, and went himself to open the door. He started back as two men
entered, strangers.

"I am Joshua Dickson," said the first, "and this is my brother Samuel.
You sent for my son; we have come in his place."

The old man professed to be glad to see his neighbours, and bade them
be seated. After some time wasted in circumlocution, he began to speak
of real business.

"You have established yourselves in the Valley of the Moose Deer," he
said, "a magnificent settlement."

"Well, what then?"

"That valley belongs to one of the most powerful tribes on the whole of
the Missouri," continued Lagrenay.

"No matter. Virgin soil belongs to the first comer."

"Perhaps. But that is not the question. This tribe have other lands of
which they take no account," went on the squatter, "and will probably
never claim, but they have special reasons for keeping the Valley of
the Deer sacred."

"Explain yourself," cried both.

"In that valley is buried the treasure of the nation."

"What treasure? Old shooter of muskrats!" cried Joshua; "There is no
treasure like mother earth."

"I mean a real treasure--gold, ingots, diamonds," said the old man, "to
the extent of many millions."

"So much the better," replied Joshua; "it is mine."

"Take care! The struggle will be terrible. Your adversaries are many
and brave; they have allied themselves with the outlaws of the desert,
and, moreover, have taken as their chief a fellow countryman, who
dearly covets your possessions."

"May I ask the name of my countryman?" inquired Samuel, in a bantering
tone of voice.

"His name is George Clinton," said Lagrenay.

"George Clinton!" exclaimed Joshua, amazed.

"You lie, miserable wretch!" said Samuel Dickson, rising; "George
Clinton is an honourable man, not a--"

"I have spoken the truth. Do as you please."

Then the door was burst open, and two men entered pushing forward a
third with blows of musket butts.

"Miserable wretch!" said one, seizing him by the throat, "I am George
Clinton, and you lie in your teeth."

Rock attempted to fly at the assailants, but Charbonneau brained him
with the butt end of his gun.

Lagrenay rose rifle in hand, but the two Americans disarmed him, and
forced him to reseat himself.

The prisoner brought in was Tubash-Shah. Behind the three men appeared
the dogs Nadeje and Drack.

"Gentlemen, we arrive in time. Thank heaven, we have brought with us
this wretch, who now will tell the truth."

And he looked at the Indian with a glance that made him shudder to the
marrow of his bones.

The two Americans were exceedingly surprised, while Lagrenay thought in
vain of some new subterfuge.

Roused by the noise made on the entrance of the three men, the wife
of Lagrenay had risen in haste, and, without waiting to dress, had
rushed into the room. She entered without being seen, and tremblingly
ensconced herself behind her husband.

Inside there was silence, but without the sound of many men.

None spoke for some time; everyone's breathing seemed oppressed.
Lagrenay, his teeth chattering, at last spoke.

"Will you explain this outrage?" he began.

"Silence!" cried George Clinton, in a terrible voice; "Speak only when
called upon for your defence. All I hope is that when you have heard of
what you are accused you may be able to give a satisfactory reply to
the charge."

"Accused--defend myself!" cried the old man.

"Yes, before Judge Lynch, who will decide between us," said Clinton,
coldly. "Listen, here come your judges."

As he spoke several men entered. Lagrenay felt himself lost. He was in
the hands of implacable foes.

Tubash-Shah, erect against the wall, appeared utterly indifferent. But
his every thought was intent on escape.

The sudden appearance of George Clinton had very much surprised Joshua
Dickson. All his rage was revived, and he was prepared to treat him
with severity and hatred. The idea of treason still rankled in his mind.

Two men had now seized upon the squatter, and, despite the cries of his
wife, were trying to carry him out.

At that moment Louis and François Berger entered.

"My cousins!" cried Lagrenay, "They would murder me!"

"Save my old man!" said the wife, pitifully.

"My friends and brothers," said Louis Berger, raising his hand, "this
man is my relative. Give him to me. Justice shall be done."

The squatter was released, and hid himself behind his two Canadian
cousins, trembling, nearly dead.

"Sirs," said Louis to the Americans, "you are the new squatters
established in the Moose Deer Valley?"

"We are," replied Joshua, rather doggedly.

"Then I have business with you. In the first place, by what right have
you squatted in that place?"

"Really, except that you have force on your side, I should not answer
so singular a question. Because I found it."

"I beg to inform you that it is private property. You are by no means
the first occupier."

"And who may he be?" asked Joshua, furiously.

"Myself. It was given me by the chiefs of the Huron tribe. A deed,
perfectly legal, exists."

"Can a man find no free land on earth?" he cried, "On the face of the
earth? You claim it, then?"

At this moment, when all were busy, Tubash saw his opportunity, and
ran. Two or three pursued, but the rest remained.

"Then," said Joshua, presently, "there is some truth in the story of
the gold treasure in the valley?"

"Yes, and I have recently ceded all my rights to Tom Mitchell, chief of
the outlaws."

"Then all I have to do is to go?" urged Joshua.

"I think the matter might be arranged," observed Louis. "Here is a
young man who loves your child. George Clinton, is it not so?"

"It is useless my persuading Joshua Dickson."

"By heavens!" cried Samuel, "But you shall. Here is a noble, young,
rich, brave--"

"But," cried Joshua, "what has that to do with it?"

"Sole owner of the Valley of the Deer," continued Louis Berger, drily;
"he bought it this morning."

"But--" still hesitated Joshua.

"To arms!" cried Tom Mitchell, rushing in, "To arms! Pardieu! You have
fallen into the trap."

"What is the matter?" cried the brothers.

"While you are wasting your time here, your plantation is attacked by
Indians," he responded, "who are burning and destroying all. Soon there
will be only ruins and ashes."

This terrible revelation fell like a thunderbolt upon all present in
that room.

Tom Mitchell--his dress torn, his face covered by powder and blood,
holding a smoking gun--summoned them.

George Clinton, without waiting a minute, darted away, followed by
Charbonneau and his dogs.

Above all, he would save her he loved from the fearful peril she was in
of falling into the hands of redskins.

"What is to be done?" cried Joshua.

"Never despair," said the outlaw. "Your sons and servants are fighting
like lions. We must join them."

"Come along," cried Samuel.

"Oh! Oh!" said Joshua, brandishing his rifle, "The rascally redskins
shall pay for this."

"Come, in the name of God!" cried the outlaw; "I have with me a party
ready for any amount of redskins."

At these words everybody mounted, and dashed through the darkness like
a legion of phantoms.

Four persons only remained in the silent and deserted hut--the two old
Canadians, Lagrenay, and his wife.

The old squatter had, during these exciting scenes, recovered his
equanimity. He believed himself saved.

As soon as they were alone, he and his wife began to place refreshments
on the table for their guests.

The two Canadians remained standing, leaning on their rifles, and not
noticing even the preparations.

"My dear relations," said Lagrenay, in an insinuating voice, "will you
honour me by accepting refreshments?"

"What does the man say?" asked François Berger.

"You have a long journey to go," continued Lagrenay, "you must be
extremely tired and want rest."

"What matter?" said the old man.

"Will you not empty a cup of whisky?" began the woman.

"Silence!" cried the hunter, striking the butt of his rifle on the
ground, "And listen."

The old man shuddered.

"Lagrenay," he went on, in a hollow voice, "I dragged you from the
hands of Judge Lynch, because I did not wish to see my cousin hanged;
you have dishonoured not only the name you bear, but the family to
which you belong; that family, poor as it has always been, has known
how to preserve its honour intact. That honour you have soiled, from
the base love of gold. Prepare to die."

"To die!" he murmured.

"My cousins, my dear cousins, you will not have the heart to kill my
poor old man," said his wife, clasping her hands and weeping; "thirty
years we have lived together. What shall I do when he is gone? Who will
support my miserable existence? Have mercy, in the name of the Lord. If
you kill him, I shall die."

"You shall not die," said François Berger; "my cousin will take care of
you for life."

"I," she said, with a gesture of horror, "accept the protection of the
murderers of my husband, eat the bread of assassins! I should choke
myself at the first mouthful. Have mercy, then, and shoot us together."

Louis Berger turned away his head. Even the inflexible old judge of the
reign of terror was moved.

Then he made a sign to his son, and both cocked their rifles.

"Stop!" said Lagrenay, in a firm and solemn voice; "I know your
inflexible will too well to ask my life of you. You have decided on
my death. Good. But I will not die at your hands. You say the honour
of the family requires that justice should be done. Well, it shall be
done. Still I could not die like a dog. Give me ten minutes to pray.
You will not refuse this?"

"Heaven forbid!" said the old man, "And may heaven have mercy on you
for all your sins."

"Thanks, cousins and friends," cried the squatter, "and now, wife, on
your knees. Let us beg forgiveness of our sins."

The two old men went out, tears in their eyes, and almost inclined to
be merciful. Stern will prevailed.

Five minutes later, a double shot was heard. They rushed in. Both lay
dead upon the floor.

Justice was done.

The two hunters kneeled down beside the bodies, and said a silent
prayer over them.

Then, in the room itself, they dug a grave, and, after some little
time, interred the husband and wife.

Then, dragging away by main force the wounded dog, they collected a lot
of brushwood and other fuel.

This they piled against the house and then fired. In a few minutes the
whole was in flames.

The dog got away, and plunged into the burning pile.

When all was over and nought remained but cinders and ashes, the two
men wiped away a tear and retired.



CHAPTER XXII.

A DESPERATE STRUGGLE.


Tom Mitchell had told the truth. The plantation of Joshua Dickson had
been attacked by a numerous party.

This is how it had come about.

Tubash-Shah and the squatter, Lagrenay, excited by a common hatred, had
come to an understanding.

The old wretch, whose whole thoughts were bent on the vast treasure
concealed in the valley, had promised the Indian, not only his share
of the gold, but the possession of a beautiful white girl, at least as
beautiful as Evening Dew.

He further suggested that as Numank-Charake would be sure to join
Clinton, he could kill him too.

He would then have the two most beautiful wives on the prairie.

The Indian was easily seduced by this radiant project, which the old
squatter fluttered before his eyes.

An alliance defensive and offensive was struck up.

It was Tubash-Shah who suggested the treacherous visit of the redskins
on the occasion of the great marriage.

In order to facilitate the attack on the settlement, old Lagrenay sent
a secret message to the squatters, who fell into the trap prepared for
them. Tubash-Shah was outside, waiting to take them, when he himself
was made prisoner.

This nearly spoiled all. But, after only half an hour's detention,
Tubash escaped.

He joined his expectant companions, and the plantation was at once
attacked on all sides by Indians.

But the Americans were on the watch, and received the redskins in a way
that rather surprised them.

Tom Mitchell, warned by his spies, had given them sufficient hints,
while himself preparing.

One hundred and fifty outlaws, under the orders of Tête de Plume, had
been secretly sent into the fort by George Clinton.

He had then, with Charbonneau, gone and concealed himself near
Lagrenay's hut.

Camotte had been sent to the village of the Huron Bisons to
Numank-Charake, and Bright-eye, to ask for the assistance of all the
warriors of the tribe who could be spared.

On the other hand, Tom Mitchell, at the head of his most daring
companions, had placed himself in a position to be at hand at anytime.
But if the defence had been well arranged, the attack was most fierce
and desperate; the redskins fought like demons; brave, well armed, and
counting on the vast superiority of their numbers, the Indians rushed
to the charge against the intrenchments with a ferocity quite unusual.

These intrenchments had been hastily thrown up, and could not long
resist such an attack.

Tubash-Shah, at the head of a picked band of warriors, did wonders. He
was a host in himself.

The struggle became at one time so desperate that Tom Mitchell
himself began to despair; then it was that he dashed off to the hut
of Lagrenay, and called to arms all who were collected together in
deliberation.

Then he started again at the head of the reinforcement, like a storm
cloud on the wing.

Again the combat seemed desperate.

The war cry of the American Indians and the hurrahs of the whites were
mixed with the fusillade.

Then a rush of horse was heard, an awful war whoop, and three hundred
warriors, led by Numank-Charake, Bright-eye, and Camotte, appeared on
the scene.

Tom Mitchell gave a cry of joy.

He divided his terrible cavaliers into three detachments, one commanded
by Numank and Bright-eye, gave half his outlaws to Oliver, and took the
rest under his own immediate orders.

Then at a given signal, the three troops rushed, with horrible yells
and cries, upon the astonished assailants.

Though taken aback, the brave redskins fronted both ways, and made a
most terrible defence.

Samuel Dickson and his brother meantime contrived to enter the
settlement, amid joyous acclamations.

It was time; the palisades and intrenchments were giving way, and the
Indians were rushing in.

The combat became now gigantic in its proportions. The redskins, led by
Tubash-Shah, fought with desperate valour.

He kept the _élite_ of his men together, and worked his way towards the
interior of the settlement.

Presently he drew forth his human thighbone whistle and darted for the
house. He had seen Diana.

The young girl, seeing the demon covered by blood and powder,
brandishing his hatchet, and forcing, with a hideous cry, his horse
towards the women, gave a desperate shriek of agonised terror.

"Ah, ah!" cried Tubash-Shah, in triumph; "The paleface girl. At last
she is mine."

He urged forward his horse, which reared with abject terror, and threw
his master heavily.

Dardar, the faithful dog, always in attendance on Diana, had seized the
warhorse by the nostrils.

He then let him go, and caught the Indian himself by the throat.

"Good dog," shouted George Clinton, as he ran up with Charbonneau,
Drack, and Nadeje.

The battle was over. The few Indians who were left threw down their
arms in despair.

"My daughter, oh, my daughter!" cried Joshua, who came rushing from the
inside of the house.

"She is here, sir," said Clinton.

"And her abductor?" he continued.

"Is dead," he answered, pointing to the corpse, which the dog was
worrying as he would have done a rat.

"My son, I thank you," said Joshua; "what do I not owe to you? Take
her."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days after M. Hebrard returned to the fort a wiser man. Oliver
proved his rank, name, and right to fortune, to the satisfaction of
everybody.

"Tell my relatives," he said, "that as long as they leave me alone, I
shall be quiet. Go, and let us never meet again."

A week later, after the marriage of George and Diana, Tom Mitchell,
Bright-eye, Oliver, and Captain Durand, started on the dangerous
expedition undertaken by the outlaw, and of which, probably, we shall
give some account at a future time.

[For further adventures of Bright-eye, see the "Prairie Flower," and
the "Indian Scout," same publishers.]





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