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THE PAGES OF A BOOK
None of the five knew how far they were down the lake, but they were able to guide their course by the sun, and, keeping the low bank of forest far beyond gunshot on their right, they moved before a favoring wind. The schoolmaster regained his strength fast. He was old, but a temperate life in the open air reŽnforced by plenty of exercise, had kept him wiry and strong. Now he sat up and listened to the long tale of the adventures of the five, whom he had not seen for many months previous to their great journey to New Orleans.
"You have done well--you have done more than well," he said. "You have performed magnificent deeds. It is a beautiful land for which we fight, and, although our enemies are many and terrible and we suffer much, we shall surely triumph in the end. Bird with his cannon was compelled to go back. He could have battered down the palisade walls of any of the stations, but he feared the gathering of the white hunters and fighters. Above all he feared the coming of George Rogers Clark, the shield of the border."
Henry's heart throbbed at the name of Clark, renowned victor of Vincennes and Kaskaskia.
"Clark!" he exclaimed. "Is he in Kentucky?"
"There or to the northward. It is said that he is gathering a force to attack the Indian villages."
"If it could only be true!" said Paul.
The others echoed the wish.
Henry remained silent, but for a long time he was very thoughtful. The news that Wareville was untouched by the raid had relieved him immensely, and he was very hopeful also that George Rogers Clark was coming again to the rescue. The name of Clark was one with which to conjure. It would draw all the best men of the border and moreover it would cause Timmendiquas, Caldwell and their great force to turn aside. Once more hope was in the ascendant. Meanwhile, the sparkling breeze blew them southward, and the eyes of all grew brighter. Fresh life poured into the veins of the schoolmaster, and he sat up, looking with pleasure at the rippling surface of the lake.
"It reminds me in a way of the time when we fled from the place of the giant bones," he said, "and I hope and believe that our flight will end as happily."
"That looks like a long time ago, Mr. Pennypacker," said Tom Ross, "an' we hev traveled a mighty lot since. I reckon that we've been to places that I never heard uv until Paul told about 'em, Troy and Rome an' Alexander--"
"Tom," broke in Shif'less Sol, "you're gettin' mixed. Troy's dead, an' we may hev got close to Rome, but we never did ackshally reach the town. An' ez fur Alexander, that wuz a man an' not a city."
"It don't make no difference," replied Tom, not at all abashed. "What do all them old names amount to anyhow? Like ez not the people that lived in 'em got mixed about 'em themselves."
Mr. Pennypacker smiled.
"It doesn't make any difference about Rome and Troy," he said. "You've been all the way down to New Orleans and you've fought in the East with the Continental troops. Your adventures have been fully as wonderful as those of Ulysses, and you have traveled a greater distance."
They sailed on all through the day, still seeing that low shore almost like a cloud bank on their right, but nothing save water ahead of them. Henry was sure that it was not above sixty miles across the lake, but he calculated that they had been blown about a great deal in the storm, and for all they knew the island might have been far out of their course.
It was evident that they could not reach the south shore before dusk, and they turned in toward the land. Shif'less Sol hailed the turning of the boat's course with delight.
"Boats are all right fur travelin'," he said, "when the wind's blowin' an' you've a sail. A lazy man like me never wants nothin' better, but when the night comes on an' you need to sleep, I want the land. I never feel the land heavin' an' pitchin' under me, an' it gives me more of a safe an' home feelin'."
"Watch, everybody, for a landing place," said Henry, "and Paul, you steer."
The green shore began to rise, showing a long unbroken wall of forest, but the dusk was coming too, and all of them were anxious to make land. Presently, they were only three or four hundred yards from the coast and they skimmed rapidly along it, looking for an anchorage. It was full night before Henry's sharp eyes saw the mouth of a creek almost hidden by tall grass, and, taking down the sail, they pulled the boat into it. They tied their craft securely to a tree, and the night passed without alarm.
They resumed the voyage early the next morning, and that day reached the southern coast of the lake. Here they reluctantly left the boat. They might have found a river emptying into the lake down which they could have gone a hundred or more miles further, but they were not sufficiently acquainted with this part of the country to spend their time in hunting for it. They drew their good little craft as far as they could among the weeds and bushes that grew at the water's edge.
"That's two good boats we've got hid on the water ways," said Shif'less Sol, "besides a half dozen canoes scattered here an' thar, an' mebbe we'll find 'em an' use 'em some day."
"This cost us nothin'," said Jim Hart, "so I reckon we ain't got any right to grieve, 'cause we're givin' up what we never paid fur."
They took out of the boat all the supplies that they could conveniently carry, and then started toward the southwest. The course to Kentucky now led through the heart of the Indian country. Between them and the Ohio lay the great Indian villages of Chillicothe, Piqua and many others, and the journey in any event would be dangerous. But the presence of the old schoolmaster was likely to make it more so, since he could not travel with any approach to the speed and skill of the others. Yet no one thought, for a moment, of blaming him. They were happy to have rescued him, and, moreover, he had brought them the good news that Wareville was untouched by the Bird invasion. Yet speed was vital. The scattered stations must be warned against the second and greater expedition under Caldwell and Timmendiquas. Mr. Pennypacker himself perceived the fact and he urged them to go on and leave him. He felt sure that with a rifle and plenty of ammunition he could reach Wareville in safety.
"You can give me a lot of food," he said, "and doubtless I shall be able to shoot some game. Now go ahead and leave me. Many lives may depend upon it."
They only laughed, but Shif'less Sol and Henry, who had been whispering together, announced a plan.
"This here expedition is goin' to split," said the shiftless one. "Henry is the fastest runner an' the best woodsman of us all. I hate to admit that he's better than me, but he is, an' he's goin' on ahead. Now you needn't say anything, Mr. Pennypacker, about your makin' trouble, 'cause you don't. We'd make Henry run on afore, even ef you wuzn't with us. That boy needs trainin' down, an' we intend to see that he gits the trainin'."
There was nothing more to be said and the rest was done very quietly and quickly. A brief farewell, a handshake for everyone, and he was gone.
Henry had never been in finer physical condition, and the feeling of responsibility seemed to strengthen him also in both body and mind. In one way he was sorry to leave his comrades and in another he was glad. Alone he would travel faster, and in the wilderness he never feared the loneliness and the silence. A sense, dead or atrophied in the ordinary human being, came out more strongly in him. It seemed to be a sort of divination or prescience, as if messages reached him through the air, like the modern wireless.
He went southward at a long walk half a run for an hour or two before he stopped. Then he stood on the crest of a little hill and saw the deep woods all about him. There was no sign of his comrades whom he had left far behind, nor was there any indication of human life save himself. Yet he had seldom seen anything that appealed to him more than this bit of the wilderness. The trees, oak, beech and elm, were magnificent. Great coiling grape vines now and then connected a cluster of trees, but there was little undergrowth. Overhead, birds chattered and sang among the leaves, and far up in the sky a pair of eagles were speeding like black specks toward the lake. Henry inhaled deep breaths. The odors of the woods came to him and were sweet in his nostrils. All the wilderness filled him with delight. A black bear passed and climbed a tree in search of honey. Two deer came in sight, but the human odor reached them and they fled swiftly away, although they were in no danger from Henry.
Then he, too, resumed his journey, and sped swiftly toward the south through the unbroken forest. He came after a while to marshy country, half choked with fallen wood from old storms. He showed his wonderful agility and strength. He leaped rapidly from one fallen log to another and his speed was scarcely diminished. Now and then he saw wide black pools, and once he crossed a deep creek on a fallen tree. Night found him yet in this marshy region, but he was not sorry as he had left no trail behind, and, after looking around some time, he found a little oasis of dry land with a mighty oak tree growing in the center. Here he felt absolutely secure, and, making his supper of dried venison, he lay down under the boughs of the oak, with one blanket beneath him and another above him and was soon in a deep and dreamless sleep.
He awoke about midnight to find a gorgeous parade of the moon and all the stars, and he lay for a while watching them through the leaves of the oak. Powerful are nature and habit, and Henry's life was in accordance with both. Lying alone at midnight on that little knoll in the midst of a great marsh in the country of wary and cruel enemies, he was thankful that it had been given to him to be there, and that his lot had been cast among the conditions that surrounded him.
He heard a slight noise to the left of him, but he knew that it was only another hungry bear stealing about. There was a light splash in the pool at the foot of the knoll, but it was only a large fish leaping up and making a noise as it fell back. Far to the south something gleamed fitfully among the trees, but it was only marsh fire. None of these things disturbed him, and knowing that the wilderness was at peace he laid his head back on the turf and fell asleep again. At break of day he was up and away, and until afternoon he sped toward the south in the long running walk which frontiersmen and Indians could maintain for hours with ease. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon, he stopped as suddenly as if he had come to a river's brink. He had struck a great trail, not a path made by three or four persons but by hundreds. He could see their road a hundred yards wide. Here so many feet had trodden that the grass was yet thinner than elsewhere; there lay the bones of deer, eaten clean and thrown away. Further on was a feather trimmed and dyed that had fallen from a scalp lock, and beyond that, a blanket discarded as too old and ragged lay rotting.
These were signs that spoke to Henry as plainly as if the words themselves were uttered. A great wilderness army had passed that way and for a while he was in doubt. Was it the force of Bird coming back to the North? But it was undoubtedly a trail several weeks old. Everything indicated it. The bones had been bleached by the sun, the feather was beaten partly into the earth by rain, and the tattered old blanket had been pawed and torn still further by wolves. But none of these things told what army it might be. He hunted, instead, for some low place that might have been soft and marshy when the warriors passed, and which, when it dried, would preserve the outline of a footstep. He advanced a full mile, following the broad trail which was like an open road to him until he came to such a place. Then he kneeled and examined it critically. In a half dozen places he saw held in the hard earth the outline of footsteps. They would have been traces of footsteps to most people and nothing more, but he knew that every one of them pointed to the south. A mile further on and in another low place he had full verification of that, which, in fact, he already knew. Here the prints were numerous. Chance had brought him upon the trail of Timmendiquas, and he resolved, for the present, to follow it.
Henry came to this determination because it was extremely important to know the location and plans of the invading army. More news of an attack would not be nearly so valuable as the time and place at which the attack was to be delivered. The course seemed plain to him and he followed the broad trail with speed and ardor, noting all along the indications that the army took no care to conceal itself or hide its trail. Why should it? There was nothing in these woods powerful enough to meet the Anglo-Indian combination.
For four days and for a part of every night he followed without a break. He saw the trail grow fresher, and he judged that he was moving at least twice as fast as the army. He could see where English or Tory boots had crushed down the grass and he saw also the lighter imprints of moccasins. He passed numerous camps marked by ashes, bones of deer, buffalo, bear and smaller animals, and fragments of old worn-out garments, such as an army casts away as it goes along. He read in these things unlimited confidence on the part of both Indians and white men.
An unusually large camp had been made at one place and some bark shelters had been thrown up. Henry inferred that the army had spent two or three days here, and he could account for the fact only on the ground that some division of counsels had occurred. Perhaps the weather had been stormy meanwhile, and the bark shelters had been constructed for the officers and chiefs.
He spent a night in this camp and used one of the shelters, as it began to rain heavily just after dark. It was a little place, but it kept him dry and he watched with interest as the wind and rain drove across the opening and through the forest. He was as close and snug as a bear in its lair, but the storm was heavy with thunder and vivid with lightning. The lightning was uncommonly bright. Frequently the wet boughs and trees stood out in the glare like so much carving, and Henry was forced to shut his dazzled eyes. But he was neither lonely nor afraid. He recognized the tremendous power of nature, but it seemed to him that he had his part here, and the whole was to him a majestic and beautiful panorama.
Henry remembered the fight that he and his comrades had had at the deserted village, and he found some similarity in his present situation, but he did not anticipate the coming of another enemy, and, secure in the belief, he slept while the storm still blew. When morning came, the rain had ceased. He replenished his food supplies with a deer that he had shot by the way and he cooked a little on one of the heaps of stones that the Indians had used for the same purpose. When he had eaten he glanced at the other bark shelters and he saw the name of Braxton Wyatt cut on one of them. Henry shuddered with aversion. He had seen so much of death and torture done on the border that he could not understand how Simon Girty, Braxton Wyatt and their like could do such deeds upon their own countrymen. But he felt that the day was coming fast when many of them would be punished.
He began the great trail anew upon turf, now soft and springy from the rain, and, refreshed by the long night's sleep in the bark shelter, he went rapidly. Eight or ten miles beyond the camp the trail made an abrupt curve to the eastward. Perhaps they were coming to some large river of which the Indian scouts knew and the turn was made in order to reach a ford, but he followed it another hour and there was no river. The nature of the country also indicated that no great stream could be at hand, and Henry believed that it signified a change of plan, a belief strengthened by a continuation of the trail toward the east as he followed it hour by hour. What did it mean? Undoubtedly it was something of great significance to his enterprise, but now he grew more wary. Since the course of the army was changed bands of Indians might be loitering behind, and he must take every precaution lest he run into one of them. He noticed from time to time small trails coming into the larger one, and he inferred that they were hunting parties sent off from the main body and now returning.
The trail maintained the change and still bore toward the east. It had been obliterated to some extent by the rains, but it was as wide as ever, and Henry knew that no division had taken place. But he was yet convinced that some subject of great importance had been debated at the place of the long camp. On the following day he saw two warriors, and he lay in the bush while they passed only twenty yards away, close enough for him to see that they were Miamis. They were proceeding leisurely, perhaps on a hunting expedition, and it was well for them that they did not search at this point for any enemy. The most formidable figure on all the border lay in the thicket with both rifle and pistol ready. Henry heard them talking, but he had no wish for an encounter even with the advantage of ambush and surprise on his side. He was concerned with far more important business.
The two Indians looked at the broad trail, but evidently they knew all about it, as it did not claim more than a half minute's attention. Then they went northward, and when Henry was sure that they were a mile or two away, he resumed his pursuit, a single man following an army. Now all his wonderful skill and knowledge and developed power of intuition came into play. Soon he passed the point where the trail had been made fainter by the latest rains, and now it became to his eyes broad and deep. He came to a place where many fires had been built obviously for cooking, and the ashes of the largest fires were near the center of the camp. A half circle of unburned logs lay around these ashes. As the logs were not sunk in the ground at all they had evidently been drawn there recently, and Henry, sitting down on one of them, began to study the problem.
On the other side of the ashes where no logs lay were slight traces in the earth. It seemed to him that they had been made by heels, and he also saw at one place a pinch of brown ashes unlike the white ashes left by the fire. He went over, knelt down and smelled of the brown pinch. The odor was faint, very faint, but it was enough to tell him that it had been made by tobacco. A pipe had been smoked here, not to soothe the mind or body, but for a political purpose. At once his knowledge and vivid imagination reconstructed the whole scene. An important council had been held. The logs had been drawn up as seats for the British and Tory officers. Opposite them on the bare ground the chiefs, after their custom, had sat in Turkish fashion, and the pipe had been passed from one to another until the circle was complete. It must have been a most vital question or they would not have smoked the pipe. He came back to the logs and found in one of them a cut recently made. Someone had been indulging in the western custom of whittling with a strong clasp knife and he had no doubt that it was Braxton Wyatt who had cut his name with the same knife on the bark shelter. It would take one whittling casually a long time to make so deep a cut. Then they had debated there for two or three hours. This meant that the leaders were in doubt. Perhaps Timmendiquas and Caldwell had disagreed. If it could only be true! Then the little stations would have time to renew their breath and strength before another great attack could be made.
He sat on the log and concentrated his mind with great intensity upon the problem. He believed that the master mind in the council had been that of Timmendiquas. He also had inspired the change of route and perhaps Caldwell, Girty and Wyatt had tried to turn him back. Doubtless the course of Timmendiquas had been inspired by news from the South. Would the trail turn again?
He renewed the eager pursuit. He followed for a full day, but it still ran toward the east, and was growing fresher much faster than before. He argued from this fact that the speed of the army had slackened greatly. On the day after that, although the course of the main body was unchanged he saw where a considerable band had left it and gone northward. What did this mean? The band could not have numbered less than fifty. It must be making for some one of the great Indian towns, Chillicothe or Piqua. Once more the reader of the wilderness page translated. They had received news from the South, and it was not such as they wished. The Indian towns had been threatened by something, and the band had gone to protect or help them.
Shortly before nightfall he noticed another trail made by perhaps twenty warriors coming from the south and joining that of the main body. The briers and grass were tangled considerably, and, as he looked closely, his eyes caught a tint of red on the earth. It was only a spot, and once more the wilderness reader read what was printed in his book. This band had brought wounded men with it, and the tribes were not fighting among themselves. They had encountered the Kentuckians, hunters perhaps, or a larger force maybe, and they had not escaped without damage. Henry exulted, not because blood had been shed, but because some prowling band intent upon scalps had met a check.
He followed the ruddy trail until it emerged into the broader one and then to a point beside it, where a cluster of huge oaks flung a pleasant shade. Here the wounds of the warriors had been bandaged, as fragments of deerskin lay about. One of them had certainly suffered a broken arm or leg, because pieces of stout twigs with which they had made splints lay under one of the trees.
The next day he turned another page in his book, and read about the great feast the army had held. He reached one of the little prairies so common in that region. Not many days before it had been a great berry field, but now it was trampled, and stripped. Seven or eight hundred warriors had eaten of the berries and they had also eaten of much solid food. At the far edge of the prairie just within the shade of the forest he found the skeletons of three buffaloes and several deer, probably shot by the hunters on that very prairie. A brook of fine clear water flowed by, and both banks were lined with footsteps. Here the warriors after eating heavily had come to drink. Many of the trees near by contained the marks of hatchet strokes, and Henry read easily that the warriors had practiced there with their tomahawks, perhaps for prizes offered by their white leaders. Cut in the soft bark of a beech he read the words "Braxton Wyatt." So he had been at work with the clasp knife again, and Henry inferred that the young renegade was worried and nervous or he would not have such uneasy hands.
Most of the heavier footprints, those that turned out, were on one side of the camp and Henry read from this the fact that the English and Tories had drawn somewhat apart, and that the differences between them and the Indians had become greater. He concentrated his mind again upon the problem, and at length drew his conclusion from what he had read.
The doubts of Timmendiquas concerning his allies were growing stronger, so Henry construed. The great Wyandot chief had been induced with difficulty to believe that the soldiers of the British king would repay their red allies, and would defend the Indian villages if a large force from Kentucky were sent against them. The indications that such a force was moving or would move must be growing stronger. Doubtless the original turn to the eastward had been in order to deflect the attack against the settlements on the upper Ohio, most probably against Fort Henry. Now it was likely that the second plan had been abandoned for a third. What would that third be?
He slept that night in a dense covert about half a mile from the camp, and he was awakened once by the howling of wolves. He knew that they were prowling about the deserted camp in search of remnants of food, and he felt sure that others also were following close behind the Indian army, in order to obtain what they might leave at future camps. Perhaps they might trail him too, but he had his rifle and pistol and, unafraid, he went to sleep again.
The broad trail led the next day to a river which Henry reached about noon. It was fordable, but the army had not crossed. It had stopped abruptly at the brink and then had marched almost due north. Henry read this chapter easily and he read it joyfully. The dissatisfaction among the Indian chiefs had reached a climax, and the river, no real obstacle in itself, had served as the straw to turn them into a new course. Timmendiquas had boldly led the way northward and from Kentucky. He, Red Eagle, Yellow Panther and the rest were going to the Indian villages, and Caldwell and the other white men were forced either to go with them or return to Detroit. He followed the trail for a day and a half, saw it swing in toward the west, and theory became certainty. The army was marching toward Chillicothe and Piqua.
After this last great turn Henry studied the trail with the utmost care. He had read much there, but he intended to read every word that it said. He noticed that the division, the British and Tories on one side and the Indians on the other, continued, and he was quite sure now that he would soon come upon some important development.
He found the next day that for which he was looking. The army had camped in another of the little prairies, and the Indians had held a great dance. The earth, trampled heavily over a regulated space, showed it clearly. Most of the white men had stayed in one group on the right. Here were the deep traces of military boot heels such as the officers might wear.
Again his vivid imagination and power of mental projection into the dark reconstructed the whole scene. The Indians, Wyandots, Shawnees, Miamis and the others, had danced wildly, whirling their tomahawks about their heads, their naked bodies painted in many colors, their eyes glaring with the intoxication of the dance. Timmendiquas and the other chiefs had stood here looking on; over there, on the right, Caldwell and his officers had stood, and few words had passed between officers and chiefs.
"Now the division will become more complete," said Henry to himself, as he followed the trail anew into the forest, and he was so sure of it that he felt no surprise when, within a mile, it split abruptly. The greater trail continued to the west, the smaller turned abruptly to the north, and this was the one that contained the imprints of the military boot heels. Once more he read his text with ease. Timmendiquas and Caldwell had parted company. The English and Tories were returning to Detroit. Timmendiquas, hot with wrath because his white allies would not help him, was going on with the warriors to the defense of their villages.
Without beholding with his own eyes a single act of this army he had watched the growth of the quarrel between red and white and he had been a witness to its culmination. But all these movements had been influenced by some power of which he knew nothing. It was his business to discover the nature of this power, and he would follow the Indian trail a little while longer.
Henry had not suffered for food. Despite the passage of the Indian army the country was so full of game that he was able to shoot what he wished almost when he wished, but he felt that he was now coming so near to the main body that he could not risk a shot which might be heard by outlying hunters or skirmishers. He also redoubled his care and rarely showed himself on the main trail, keeping to the woods at the side, where he would be hidden, an easy matter, as except for the little prairies the country was covered with exceedingly heavy forest.
The second day after the parting of the two forces he saw smoke ahead, and he believed that it was made by the rear guard. It was a thin column rising above the trees, but the foliage was so heavy and the underbrush so dense that he was compelled to approach very close before he saw that the fire was not made by Indians, but by a group of white men, Simon Girty, Blackstaffe, Quarles, Braxton Wyatt and others, about a dozen in all. They had cooked their noonday meal at a small fire and were eating it apparently in perfect confidence of security. The renegades sat in the dense forest. Underbrush grew thickly to the very logs on which they were sitting, and, as Henry heard the continuous murmur of their voices, he resolved to learn what they were saying. He might discover then the nature of the menace that had broken up or deferred the great invasion. He knew well the great danger of such an attempt but he was fully resolved to make it.
Lying down in the bushes and grass he drew himself slowly forward. His approach was like that of a wild animal stalking its prey. He lay very close to the earth and made no sound that was audible a yard away, pulling himself on, foot by foot. Yet his patience conquered, and presently he lay in the thickest of the undergrowth not far from the renegades, and he could hear everything they said. Girty was speaking, and his words soon showed that he was in no pleasant mood.
"Caldwell and the other English were too stiff," he said. "I don't like Timmendiquas because he doesn't like me, but the English oughtn't to forget that an alliance is for the sake of the two parties to it. They should have come with Timmendiquas and his friends to their villages to help them."
"And all our pretty plans are broken up," said Braxton Wyatt viciously. "If we had only gone on and struck before they could recover from Bird's blows we might have swept Kentucky clean of every station."
"Timmendiquas was right," said Girty. "We have to beware of that fellow at the Falls. He's dangerous. His is a great name. The Kentucky riflemen will come to the call of the man who took Kaskaskia and Vincennes."
The prone figure in the bushes started. He was reading further into this most interesting of all volumes. What could the "Falls" mean but the Falls of the Ohio at the brand new settlement of Louisville, and the victor of Vincennes and Kaskaskia was none other than the great George Rogers Clark, the sword of the border. He understood. Clark's name was the menace that had turned back Timmendiquas. Undoubtedly the hero was gathering a new force and would give back Bird's blows. Timmendiquas wished to protect his own, but the English had returned to Detroit. The prone figure in the bushes rejoiced without noise.
"What will be the result of it all?" asked Blackstaffe, his tone showing anxiety.
Girty--most detested name in American history, next to that of Benedict Arnold--considered. The side of his face was turned to Henry, and the bold youth wished that they were standing in the open, face to face, arms in hand. But he was compelled to lie still and wait. Nor could he foresee that Girty, although he was not destined to fall in battle, should lose everything, become an exile, go blind and that no man should know when he met death or where his body lay. The renegade at length replied:
"It means that we cannot now destroy Kentucky without a supreme effort. Despite all that we do, despite all our sieges and ambuscades, new men continually come over the mountains. Every month makes them stronger, and yet only this man Clark and a few like him have saved them so far. If Caldwell and a British force would make a campaign with us, we might yet crush Clark and whatever army he may gather. We may even do it without Caldwell. In this vast wilderness which the Indians know so well it is almost impossible for a white army to escape ambush. I am, for that reason, in favor of going on and joining Timmendiquas. I want a share in the victory that our side will win at the Indian towns. I am sure that the triumph will be ours."
"It seems the best policy to me," said Braxton Wyatt. "Timmendiquas does not like me any more than he does you, but the Indians appreciate our help. I suppose we'd better follow at once."
"Take it easy," said Girty. "There's no hurry. We can overtake Timmendiquas in a day, and we are quite sure that there are no Kentuckians in the woods. Besides, it will take Clark a considerable time to assemble a large force at the Falls, and weeks more to march through the forest. You will have a good chance then, Braxton, to show your skill as a forest leader. With a dozen good men hanging on his flank you ought to cause Mr. Clark much vexation."
"It could be done," replied Wyatt, "but there are not many white men out here fighting on our side. In the East the Tories are numerous, and I had a fine band there, but it was destroyed in that last fight at the big Indian town."
"Your old playmate, Henry Ware, had something to do with that, did he not?" asked Girty, not without a touch of sarcasm.
"He did," replied Wyatt venomously, "and it's a good thing that he's now a prisoner at Detroit. He and those friends of his could be both the eyes and ears of Clark. It would have been better if Timmendiquas had let the Indians make an end to him. Only in that manner could we be sure that he would always be out of the way."
"I guess you're right," said Girty.
The prone figure in the bushes laughed silently, a laugh that did not cause the movement of a single muscle, but which nevertheless was full of heartfelt enjoyment. What would Wyatt and Girty have thought if they had known that the one of whom they were talking, whom they deemed a prisoner held securely at Detroit, was lying within ten feet of them, as free as air and with weapons of power?
Henry had heard enough and he began to creep away, merely reversing the process by which he had come. It was a harder task than the first, but he achieved it deftly, and after thirty yards he rose to his feet, screening himself behind the trunk of an oak. He could still see the renegades, and the faint murmur of their voices yet reached him. That old temptation to rid the earth of one of these men who did so much harm came back to him, but knowing that he had other work to do he resisted it, and, passing in a wide circle about them, followed swiftly on the trail of Timmendiquas.
He saw the Indian camp that night, pitched in a valley. Numerous fires were burning and discipline was relaxed somewhat, but so many warriors were about that there was no opportunity to come near. He did not wish, however, to make any further examination. Merely to satisfy himself that the army had made no further change in its course was enough. After lingering a half hour or so he turned to the north and traveled rapidly a long time, having now effected a complete circuit since he left his comrades. It was his purpose now to rejoin them, which he did not believe would prove a very difficult task. Shif'less Sol, the leader in his absence, was to come with the party down the bank of the Scioto, unless they found Indians in the way. Their speed would be that of the slowest of their number, Mr. Pennypacker, and he calculated that he would meet them in about three days.
Bearing in toward the right he soon struck the banks of the Scioto and followed the stream northward all the next day. He saw several Indian canoes upon the river, but he was so completely hidden by the dense foliage on the bank that he was safe from observation. It was not a war party, the Indians were merely fishing. Some of the occupants of the boats were squaws. It was a pleasant and peaceful occupation, and for a few moments Henry envied them, but quickly dismissing such thoughts he proceeded northward again at the old running walk.
On the afternoon of the second day Henry lay in the bushes and uttered their old signal, the cry of the wolf repeated with certain variations, and as unmistakable as are the telegrapher's dots and dashes of to-day. There was no answer. He had expected none. It was yet too soon, according to his calculations, but he would not risk their passing him through an unexpected burst of speed. All that afternoon and the next morning he repeated the signal at every half hour. Still the same silence. Nothing stirred in the great woods, but the leaves and bushes swaying before the wind. Several times he examined the Scioto, but he saw no more Indians.
About noon of the third day when he uttered the signal an answer, very faint, came from a point far to the west. At first he was not sure of the variations, the sound had traveled such a great distance, but having gone in that direction a quarter of a mile, he repeated it. Then it came back, clear and unmistakable. Once more he read his book with ease. Shif'less Sol and the others were near by and they would await him. His pulse leaped with delight. He would be with these brave comrades again and he would bring them good news.
He advanced another two or three hundred yards and repeated the cry. The answer instantly came from a point very near at hand. Then he pressed boldly through the bushes and Shif'less Sol walked forward to meet him followed by the others, all gaunt with travel, but strong and well.
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