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THE SHADOWY FIGURE
After Braxton Wyatt and the Indians had fled, their canoe proceeded steadily up the stream. Henry Ware, with his head only projecting, and sheltered fully by the boat, swam on. He heard neither shots nor the sound of men running through the bushes along the bank in pursuit. Nor did he expect to hear either. He had calculated well the power of hidden danger and superstition, and, confident of complete victory, he finally steered the boat toward the farther shore, bringing it under the overhanging boughs, about a mile from the point where Braxton Wyatt's canoe had been. As the prow struck the soft soil and he rose from the water, Paul came forward to meet him. Paul carried in his hands a rifle that he had just reloaded.
"It was a success, Henry, more thorough even than we had hoped," Paul said.
"Yes," replied Henry as he stood up, a dripping water god. "Fortune was surely good to us. I have not been pursued, and I know it is because the Indians did not dare to follow. They will certainly flee as fast as they can to their own country, and meanwhile we are the gainer by one fine big boat, which I think is not empty."
"No, it is not," said Mr. Pennypacker, appearing from the bushes, "but I will never again enter into such another enterprise. It may suit young foresters like you two, but it is not for me, an old man and a schoolmaster."
"Still, we have turned back a scouting party which might have carried dangerous information," said Henry, "and I propose that we now look and see what is in our new boat."
The spoils were richer than they had expected. They found two extra rifles of good make, a large quantity of powder and bullets, some blankets and much food.
"We can use all these things," said Henry, "and we'll go to Wareville in this big canoe, tying our own little one behind. When we get there we'll contribute the rifles and other things to the general store."
"Where they may be welcome enough," said Mr. Pennypacker. "Well, you lads achieved this deed, while I filled the rŰle of spectator and well-wisher. I am very glad, however, that you have secured this boat. It is a great improvement upon our own small one."
The schoolmaster was a fine paddler, and he insisted that Henry and Paul rest, while he showed his skill. He was anxious, he said, to do his own part in the return, and this offered him the only chance. Henry and Paul acquiesced and he paddled stoutly on for a long time. But before morning he gave in, and the lads relieved him. Paul had slept for an hour or two, but Henry had remained wide awake.
The river now flowed very slowly, and with but little opposition from the current, they were able to make good time. Both were full of eager anticipation. By the following night they ought to reach Wareville, the snug home of theirs that they had not seen in so long a time.
"I wonder if they will know us," said Henry.
"Not at first sight. Of that I am sure," replied Paul. "It seems to me, Henry, that you have grown at least six inches since we were last at Wareville."
"You haven't been any sluggard yourself, Paul, so far as growth is concerned. They may or may not know us, but I feel quite certain that they won't believe everything we tell them, although every word will be gospel truth."
"No, it's not likely, and yet sooner or later we can bring the witnesses. I suppose they'll find it hardest to believe about Wyoming. I wish myself that it wasn't true."
Paul shuddered at the black memory.
"But we've already struck back for it," said Henry. "It caused the destruction of the Iroquois power."
Then both were silent. The schoolmaster, lying on a roll of the captured blankets, slept soundly. His breathing was steady and rhythmic, and the two youths glanced at him.
"At any rate we're bringing him back," said Paul. "They'll be glad to see him at Wareville. I've no doubt they gave him up for dead long ago."
The day came with a splendid sun shining on the green world. The spring had been very rainy, and the summer thus far had rejoiced in frequent showers. Hence no brown had yet appeared in the foliage, and the world looked fresh and young. Although they were now approaching Wareville the forest was unbroken, and no sound of civilization came to their ears. Henry told Paul, who was very tired, to go to sleep as he could paddle the boat alone. Paul lay down on the blankets beside the schoolmaster, and in a couple of minutes was off to slumberland.
Henry paddled on. Before him was a long reach of the river almost without current and the prow cut the still water, leaving behind it a long trailing wake of liquid gold. Henry had never seen a finer sun. Beneath it forest and river were vivid and intense. Birds of many kinds chattered and sang in the boughs. Battle and danger seemed far away. Peace and beauty were to attend their coming home and he was glad. His strong arms swept the paddle through the water for a long time. The action was purely mechanical. His muscles were so thoroughly trained and hardened that he was not conscious of action. He was watching instead for the first sign of Wareville's presence, and a little before noon he saw it, a thin spire of smoke rising high, until it stopped like the point of a spearhead against the sky. He knew at once that it hung over Wareville, and his heart throbbed. He loved the great wilderness with an intensity that few men felt for their own acres, but he had been away a long time, a time, moreover, so crowded with events that it seemed far greater than reality.
He did not yet awaken Paul and the schoolmaster, but, putting more power in his arms, he sent the boat on more swiftly. When he turned a point where a little peninsula, covered with forest, jutted into the river, he let the paddle swing idly for a minute or two and listened. A steady thudding sound, as regular as the beat of a drum, though slower, came to his ears. It was the woodsman's ax, and, for a moment, Henry flinched as if he himself lay beneath the blade. That ax was eating into his beloved forest, and a hundred more axes were doing the same. Then he recovered himself. The hundred axes might eat on, the hundred might become a thousand, and the thousand ten thousand, but they could eat only the edge of his wilderness which stretched away thousands of miles in every direction. The trees, and with them the deer and the bear, would be there long beyond his time, though he might live to be a hundred, and beyond that of the generation after. He took comfort in the thought, and once more felt deep content.
It was not solely as a hunter and scout that Henry loved the wilderness. Forest and river and lake touched far deeper springs in his nature. They were for him full of beauty and majesty. Green forest in spring and red forest in autumn alike appealed to him. Brooks, rivers and lakes were alive. When duty did not call he could sit perfectly motionless for hours, happy to see the wilderness and to feel that it was all about him.
He swung the paddle again, and the boat moved leisurely forward. The ring of the ax grew louder, and he heard others to the right and to the left. Presently something struck with a crash and, in spite of all his reasoning with himself, Henry sighed. A great tree cut through by the ax had fallen. Many others had gone in the same way, and many more would follow. The spire of smoke was attended now by smaller spires and Wareville could not be more than three miles away. He awakened Paul and the schoolmaster.
"We shall be at home in less than an hour," he said. "Listen to the axes!"
Paul glanced quickly at him. His fine and sensitive mind understood at once the inflection in Henry's voice, and he sympathized.
"But they are our own people," he said, "and they are making homes which we must help to defend."
"A stronghold in the wilderness, where man, woman and child may be safe from wild beast and savage," said the schoolmaster oracularly. "Ah, boys--boys! how much do I owe you! Truly I thought I should never see this comfortable little village again, and here I am, sound and whole, returning in triumph upon a captured vessel."
They saw at the right a cleared field, in which the young corn was growing amid the stumps, and on the left was the sheen of wheat also amid the stumps. Mr. Pennypacker rubbed his hands delightedly, but Henry was silent. Yet the feeling was brief with the youth. Thoughts of his people quickly crowded it out, and he swung the paddle more swiftly. The other two, who were now helping him, did likewise, and the boat doubled its pace. Through the thinned forest appeared the brown walls of a palisade, and Henry, putting a hand in the shape of a trumpet to his lips, uttered a long, mellow cry that the forest gave back in many echoes. Faces appeared on the palisade and three or four men, rifle on shoulder, approached the bank of the river. They did not know either Henry or Paul, but one of them exclaimed:
"Ef that ain't Mr. Pennypacker riz right up from the dead then I'm a ghost myself!"
"It is Mr. Pennypacker," said the schoolmaster joyfully, "and I'm no more of a ghost than you are. I've come back from captivity, bringing with me two of those who saved me, young citizens of this village, Henry Ware and Paul Cotter."
They turned the head of the boat to the bank and the whole population poured forth to meet them. Henry and Paul were greeted half with laughter and half with tears by their parents--border stoicism was compelled to melt away at this moment--and then they blushed at the words that were said about them. Their stature and strength attracted the attention of everybody. The borderers could not fail to note the ease and grace of their movements, the lightness with which they walked, and the dexterity with which they pulled the big boat upon the bank. It was evident that these two youths were far above the average of their kind, that naturally of a high quality they had been trained in a school that brought forth every merit. Henry towered above his own father, who no longer looked upon him as one to whom he should give tasks and reproofs. And the admiration with which they were regarded increased when the schoolmaster told how he had been rescued by them and their comrades.
Henry sat that night in his father's house, and told long and true tales of their great wanderings and of danger and escape on land and water. He and Paul had eaten hugely, there was no escape, and he felt that he must sit quiet for a while. He was loth to talk of himself, but there was no escape from that either, and his story was so vivid, so full that it fairly told itself. As he spoke of the great journey and its myriad events between New Orleans and the Great Lakes, the crowd in the big room thickened. No one was willing to lose a word of the magic tale, and it was past midnight when he lay down on the blankets and sought sleep.
The next day and the next were passed in further welcome, but when Henry sought the blankets the third night he became conscious that the first flush of the return was over. The weather had turned very hot--it was now July--and the walls and ceiling of the room seemed to press upon him and suffocate him. He drew deep and long breaths, but there was not air enough to fill a chest that had long been used to the illimitable outside. It was very still in the room. He longed to hear the boughs of trees waving over him. He felt that only such a sound or the trickle of running water could soothe him to sleep. Yet he would make another effort. He closed his eyes and for a half hour lay motionless. Then, angry, he opened them again, as wide awake as ever. He listened, but he could hear no sound in either the house or the village.
Henry Ware rose to his feet, slipped on his clothing, and went to the window. He looked forth upon a sleeping village. The houses, built of solid logs, stood in ordered rows, gray and silent. Nothing stirred anywhere. He took his rifle from the hooks, and leaped lightly out of the window. Then he slipped cautiously among the houses, scaled the palisade and darted into the forest.
He lay down by the side of a cold spring about a mile from the village. The bank of turf was soft and cool, and the little stream ran over the pebbles with a faint sighing sound. The thick leaves that hung overhead rustled beneath the south wind, and played a pleasant tune. Henry felt a great throb of joy. His chest expanded and the blood leaped in every vein. He threw himself down upon the bank and grasped the turf with both hands. It seemed to him that like Antśus of old he felt strength flowing back into his body through every finger tip. He could breathe here easily and naturally. What a wonderful thing the forest was! How its beauty shone in the moonlight! The trees silvered with mist stood in long rows, and the friendly boughs and leaves, moving before the wind, never ceased to sing their friendly song to him.
Deep peace came over him. Lying on his side and soothed by the forest and flowing water his eyelids drooped of their own accord. Presently he slept, breathing deeply and regularly, and drawing the fresh air into his veins. But he awoke before daylight and reŽntered the village and his father's house without being seen by anyone. To the questions of his parents he said that he had slept well, and he ate his breakfast with an appetite that he had not known since he came within the palisade.
The news that Henry and Paul had brought of the great invasion threatened by an allied Indian and British force disturbed Wareville. Yet the settlers felt much safer when they learned that the redoubtable George Rogers Clark intended a counterstroke. More than twenty of the most stalwart colonists volunteered to go to Louisville and join Clark for the blow. Henry told his father that he and Paul would return with them.
"I suppose it is your nature," said Mr. Ware, "but do you not think, Henry, that you have already suffered enough hardship and danger for the sake of the border?"
"No, Father, I do not," replied Henry. "Not as long as hardship and danger are to be suffered. And I know, too, that it is my nature. I shall live all my life in the forest."
Mr. Ware said nothing more. He knew that words were useless. That question had been threshed out between them long ago. But he gave him an affectionate farewell, and, a week after their arrival in Wareville, Henry and Paul departed again for the North, the whole population of Wareville waving them good-by as they embarked upon the river.
But the two youths were far from being alone. A score of strong men, mostly young, were with them in four boats, and they carried an ample supply of arms and ammunition. Mr. Pennypacker wanted to go back with them, but he was dissuaded from undertaking the task.
"Perhaps it is best that I stay in Wareville," he said regretfully. "I am really a man of peace and not of war, although war has looked for me more than once."
Their boats now had oars instead of paddles, and with the current in their favor they moved rapidly toward the north. They also had a favoring breeze behind them and Henry and Paul, who were in the first boat, felt their hearts swell with the prospect of action. They were so habituated now to an eventful life that a week of rest seemed a long time to them. Already they were pining to be with George Rogers Clark on the great expedition.
"How many men do you think Colonel Clark will be able to gather?" asked Ethan Burke, one of the stoutest of the Wareville contingent.
"I don't know, but his name is something to conjure with," replied Henry. "He ought to get together six or seven hundred at least, and that many men, experienced in the woods, will make a formidable force."
They rowed down the river for three or four days, stopping at intervals to beat up the woods for marauding Indian bands. They found no traces of an enemy. Henry surmised that the experience of Braxton Wyatt's party had been a warning, and that possibly also the chiefs had learned of Clark's plan. The news that he was coming would alone suffice to put an end for the time to the Indian raids.
The voyage continued in unbroken peace until they entered the Ohio. Here they were assailed by a summer storm of great severity and one of the boats, struck by lightning, narrowly escaped sinking. A rower was knocked senseless, but nobody was seriously injured, and by great efforts, they got the boat into condition to resume the journey.
The little fleet came to the Falls, and turned in to the southern shore, where the main settlement of Louisville now stood. Several spires of smoke rose, and they knew that no Indian disaster had befallen. As they drew nearer they saw many boats along the bank, far more than the inhabitants of a little village could use.
"A big force has gathered already," said Henry. "Ah, see there!"
A boat shot out from the mass and came rapidly toward them.
"Don't you know them?" said Henry to Paul.
"My eyes may be dim from old age," replied Paul, "and perhaps I only guess, but I should say that the one nearest us is a shiftless character whom I used to know in my youth, a man who, despite his general worthlessness and incapacity, had a certain humorous and attractive quality of mind that endeared him to his friends."
"I am of the opinion that you are right," said Henry, looking under his hand, "and the second, I think, is a voluble person named Thomas Ross, who has talked a wide circle of acquaintances nearly to death."
"Even so, and the third is a long thin fellow, one James Hart, noted for his aversion to the delicacies of the table and his dismissal of cookery as a triviality unworthy of the consideration of a serious man. Am I right, Mr. Ware?"
"You are right, Mr. Cotter. Hey you, Sol, how have you been?"
His voice rose in a mellow peal across the waters, and three shouts simultaneous and joyous came back.
"Hey, Henry!" cried Shif'less Sol in a voice that could have been heard a mile. "We're mighty glad to see you, an' we're mighty glad that you've brought such good company with you."
In a few more moments their boat was alongside and there was a mighty shaking of hands. The three knew all the Wareville men and Shif'less Sol said the reŽnforcement would be very welcome.
"But we've got an army already," he said. "You just come and see it."
As they tied their boats to the bank Henry noticed many tents along the sloping shore. One larger than the rest was surmounted by the new flag of the United States.
"That's Colonel Clark's tent," said Shif'less Sol, noticing the direction of his eyes, "but the Colonel won't sleep in a tent many more nights. We start soon up the Ohio and all these are to be left behind."
Henry was received that very day in the Colonel's tent. Clark, apt to grow sluggish and careless in idleness, was now all energy and keenness. The confidence of the borderer in him was not misplaced. Henry left his comrades behind when he was summoned to the Colonel's presence, but when he entered the big tent he saw others there whom he knew. A tall man, much bronzed by weather, blue of eyes and gentle of manner, greeted him warmly.
"It's pleasant to see you again, young Mr. Ware," he said, "an' it's still more pleasant to know that we're to serve together under Colonel Clark."
Daniel Boone, as gentle of speech as a woman, held out his hand and Henry fairly blushed with pride as he grasped it. Another man, darkened by weather like Boone, was Abe Thomas, also a celebrated scout, and there were yet others whose names were household words all along the border.
"Sit down, Mr. Ware, sit down," said Colonel Clark genially. "We're to hold a council of war, and we felt that it would not be complete without you."
Henry experienced another throb of gratified pride, but as he was much the youngest present he spoke only when he was addressed directly. The debate was long and earnest. Colonel Clark had assembled between six and seven hundred good men, and he intended to go with this force up the Ohio to the mouth of the Licking. There they would be joined by another force under Colonel Benjamin Logan coming down the Licking. The united army after camping on the north shore of the Ohio, on the site of the present city of Cincinnati, would march straight for the Indian country. Boone, Henry Ware and other accomplished scouts would go ahead and guard against ambush. It was dark when the council ended, and when they prepared to leave, Clark said in his most sanguine tones:
"If we do not strike a blow that will pay back Bird's and with interest then I'm not fit to lead. Our Indian friends will find that though they may destroy a village or two of ours their own villages will have to pay for it. And this great invasion that they've been planning will have to wait for another time."
"We'll strike, and you're the man to lead us," said the others.
It was night now and they stepped forth into the darkness. Henry passed among the tents toward the edge of the woods where his comrades were camped, and he saw a tall figure moving in the shadow of the trees. He would not have looked twice at the figure had not something familiar about it attracted his attention. It was the height, the breadth of the shoulders, and a certain haughty poise of the head that struck him all at once with the intensity of conviction. His friends had left him, going their respective ways, but Henry immediately darted toward the shadow.
The tall and dusky figure melted away immediately among the trees, but the young forest runner pursued at his utmost speed. He did not doubt. It was no figment of fancy. It was the great chief himself spying with incredible daring upon his enemies. If he were permitted to escape, the advance of Clark would be surrounded with numberless dangers. The fertile brain and the invincible spirit of the great Wyandot would plant an ambush at every turn. The thought made Henry increase his speed.
The figure flitted away among the oaks and beeches. Henry might have called for help earlier, but he was now too far away for anyone to hear, and, confident in his own strength and skill, he pressed on. The shadow was running eastward, and the way grew rough. Yet he did not lose sight of it flitting there among the trees. There was no swifter runner than he, but the distance between them did not decrease. It seemed to him that it remained always the same.
"Stop or I shoot," he cried.
The shadow did not stop and, raising his rifle, he fired. The figure never wavered for an instant, but continued its rapid and even flight, until it reached the crest of a little hill. There it suddenly turned about, leveled a rifle and fired in its turn. The bullet burned Henry's cheek and for a moment he hesitated, but only for a moment. Reloading his own rifle he continued the pursuit, the figure running steadily eastward, the gap between them remaining the same.
The fugitive reached Beargrass Creek, darted swiftly through the water, climbed the opposite bank and was again among the trees. Henry crossed also and hung on with tenacity. He knew that Timmendiquas had probably reloaded also, but in the excitement and rush of the moment, he did not think of another return bullet. When he did recall the fact, as the chase lengthened, he felt sure that the chief would not stop to fight at close quarters. He could not afford to risk his life in an encounter with a single person, when he was the very keystone of the great Indian campaign.
The chase still led northward through the deep woods that ran down to the shore of the Ohio. Strive as he would Henry could not gain. He did not forget that Timmendiquas had twice saved his life, but he in return had spared that of Timmendiquas, and now greater things were at stake than the feeling that one brave soul has for another. The light grew worse in the shadow of the giant trees and only at times could he see the flitting figure distinctly. At last was he able to secure what he considered a good aim, and he pulled the trigger a second time.
Henry was an unerring marksman, perhaps the finest on all the border. The target at that moment was good, a shaft of clear moonlight falling directly upon the broad chest, and yet the bullet clipped a bush three feet away. Henry was conscious that, at the supreme instant when his finger pressed the trigger, he had been shaken by a sudden emotion. The muzzle of the rifle which bore directly upon the body of the chief had shifted just a little, and he was not surprised when the bullet went wide.
Timmendiquas stopped, raised his own rifle, but fired straight up into the air. Then uttering a long whoop which the night gave back in clear echoes, he rushed directly to the river, and sprang far out into the dark waters. Henry was too astonished to move for a few moments. Then he, too, ran to the bank. He saw far out a dark head moving swiftly toward the northern shore. He might have reloaded, and even yet he might have taken a third shot with tolerable accuracy, but he made no effort to do so. He stood there, silent and motionless, watching the black head grow smaller and smaller until at last it was lost in the darkness that hung over the northern bank. But though hidden now he knew that the great chief had reached the far shore. In fancy he could see him as he walked into the woods, the glistening drops falling from his tall figure. Timmendiquas and he must fight on opposing sides, but real enemies they could never be. He felt that they were sure to meet again in conflict, and this would be the great decisive struggle. Timmendiquas himself knew that it was so, or he would not have come to look with his own eyes upon the force of Clark.
Henry walked slowly back toward the little settlement. He waded the waters of Beargrass Creek, and soon saw the log cabins again. He and his comrades, when the ground was not wet, slept in neither a cabin nor a tent, but spread their blankets on the turf under a mighty beech. The four were already waiting for him there, and, in the darkness, they did not notice any unusual expression on Henry's face. He sat down beside them and said quietly:
"I have just seen Timmendiquas."
"What!" exclaimed four voices together.
"I have just seen Timmendiquas. Moreover, I fired twice at him and he fired once at me. All three bullets missed."
Then Shif'less Sol, experienced and wise, raised himself up on his blanket, looked at Henry, and said in a tone of conviction:
"Henry Ware, you an' Timmendiquas together might miss with one bullet, but miss with three is impossible. I believe that you've seen him ez you say so, but I don't believe that you two missed three times."
"We fired three times, as I said, and I should add that Timmendiquas fired a fourth time also, but he must have been aiming at a star, as he pointed his rifle straight upward."
"Ah!" said four voices together again, but now the four understood.
"I think," said Henry, "that he came to see for himself what Colonel Clark is doing. Now he is gone with the facts. I came here merely to tell you first, and I leave at once to tell the Colonel next."
He found Colonel Clark still in the council tent, but alone and poring over a rude map. A burning wick in a basin of tallow scarcely dispelled the darkness, but Henry could see that the commander's face was knit and anxious. He turned expectantly to the youth.
"You have some news of importance or you would not come back at this hour," he said.
"I have," replied Henry. "When I left this tent I passed through the edge of the woods and I saw a figure there. It was that of an Indian, a chief whom I have seen before. It was Timmendiquas, the great Wyandot, the bravest, wisest and most daring of all the Western chiefs. I pursued him, fired at him, but missed. It was evidently not his object to fight anyone here. He sprang into the Ohio, swam to the northern shore, and no doubt is now on his way to his own people."
Colonel Clark gazed thoughtfully at the flickering candle and did not speak for a long time.
"I am glad you saw him," he said finally. "We know now that the allied tribes will be on their guard. They may meet us in force many days before we reach the Indian towns. Timmendiquas is a born leader, energetic and wary. Well, well hasten our own departure, and try to strike before they're ready. What do you say to that, my lad?"
"My opinion is worth little, but I would say that we ought to strike as soon as we can."
"I don't think a man among us will take any other view. We can leave with seven hundred men now, and we'll meet Logan with three hundred more at the mouth of the Licking. Then we shall have the largest white force ever gathered in the West, and it will be strange if we do not pay some of the debt we owe to the Indians and their allies. I wish, Mr. Ware, that you and your friends would march with Boone on the southern bank of the river. It is only a wish, however, as I have agreed that you should choose your own method of helping us."
"It is just what we should wish most to do," said Henry, "and we shall be with Mr. Boone when he crosses to the other side."
Henry walked back to the big beech and found his comrades yet wide awake and glad to hear that they would march in thirty-six hours.
"We'll be back in the thick of it," said Shif'less Sol, "an' I'm thinkin', Henry, that we'll have all we kin do."
"No doubt," said Henry.
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