Two hours after Flat Nose left the Indian village several Ottawas came in to announce the coming of Pontiac. At once there was a fresh stir and everything possible was done to give the great chief a proper reception. When he appeared the head of the Wyandot tribe went forward to greet him, and both sat down in front of the main log cabin of the village to smoke and to talk.
The conference lasted but a short quarter of an hour, and then Pontiac had himself conducted to the hut in which Dave was a prisoner.
"The white young man is sorry to be a prisoner," he said slowly, and gazing searchingly into the young pioneer's eyes.
"I am sorry," answered Dave simply. "I do not understand it. Are not the English and the red men now at peace with each other?"
"'Tis true, but the white young man has not treated the Indians fairly."
"What have I done that was wrong?"
[Illustration: "The white man is sorry to be a prisoner," he said slowly]
"The white young man has the eyes of a hawk; he has seen into places that are dark and secret. Such sights are not good for him."
"If you mean the cave under the waterfall, let me ask, why did you have those guns and pistols, and the powder, that belong to the English, stored there?"
"The English owe the poor Indians much--they will not pay. Hence the Indians thought it no more than fair to keep the goods."
Not wishing to anger the great chief too much, Dave did not reply to this.
"The white young man has the eyes of a hawk and the cunning of a fox," continued Pontiac. "He is no trapper, no hunter, no trader, but a spy."
"A spy!" cried Dave, a light breaking in upon him. "So you take me to be a spy?"
"And Pontiac is right. 'Tis useless to deny it. The young man would spy upon the Indians and then go and tell the great English general of what he has seen. He is a snake in the grass, close to the trail of Pontiac and his followers."
"I am not a spy, Chief Pontiac. My father is a trader and I help him at his trading-post on the Ohio, that is all."
Pontiac waved his hand. "The wind can blow a lie away, but the truth is like a rock that the wind cannot stir. Pontiac's followers have watched the white youth, and he knows."
"Chief Pontiac is mistaken, I give him my word upon it," answered Dave. And then he added. "What do you propose to do with me?"
"That remains to be seen. In war times the English and the French put a spy to death. It may be that Pontiac will be more merciful. But first the white young man must tell all he knows."
"Of the secrets of the Indians, and of their plans."
"I know next to nothing. I understand but little of the language."
"And what of the plans of the English?"
"You mean of our soldiers?"
"Of the soldiers and of those who command them."
"I know absolutely nothing about our soldiers. I was in the army at the fall of Montreal, but after that I was mustered out and I went back to my regular work on the farm, and to hunting and fishing."
"You were at the fort at Niagara."
"Yes, I was there, too, before I went down the St. Lawrence."
"And still you say you are not a spy? The fox is sly, but not so sly as Pontiac supposed." "I tell you, once for all, I am not a spy, Chief Pontiac."
The celebrated Indian chief drew himself up and gave Dave a long, earnest look. He evidently saw that the young pioneer meant what he said. He was about to speak, to offer Dave a chance to return home. But then he remembered what had happened at the underground storehouse, and hesitated.
"Pontiac will see the white young man again," he said briefly, and left as abruptly as he had come.
The conversation made Dave more uneasy in mind than before. He had not thought that the red men would consider him a spy. If they continued to do that, it might go extra hard with him in the near future. Pontiac had said that the French and the English put a spy to death, but he had not added that the Indians frequently took a spy and tortured him most cruelly, yet such was a fact. Only two years before a spy had been caught by the Indians near the Great Lakes, and it was a matter of record that the red men had placed him upon the ground flat on his back and built a fire upon his breast, leaving him to burn slowly to death! The thought of this sent a cold shiver down Dave's backbone.
"I hope they don't torture me!" he muttered. "Oh, anything but that!" There was no consolation in the thought that Pontiac had said he might be more merciful than the French or English. He knew how cruel all red men could be when their evil passions were aroused.
When Pontiac came away from his interview with Dave, he was beyond a doubt in a quandary. His plans against the English were many, and evidently he was much worried, thinking Dave knew much more than was the fact. It had galled him to let the summer pass without striking the cherished blow, but he had great hopes for the summer to come; and history has already recorded what he did shortly after the time of which I am now writing.
Pontiac was in deep thought when a young brave came to him and said two French hunters wished to speak to him. Thinking they might have news of value, he consented to the interview, and was soon in conversation with Jean Bevoir and Jacques Valette.
Of Bevoir Pontiac had heard several times. He knew the French trader to be a two-faced rascal, and probably he despised him accordingly, for, judged solely by Indian standards, Pontiac was an upright and honest man. His duplicity was only that of the red man when on the war-path. In his personal dealing he would not have cheated a fellow Indian or a white man out of a farthing.
Jean Bevoir was not long in coming to the point.
He said he had heard that Dave Morris had been made a prisoner by the Indians. If Pontiac wanted to get rid of the young fellow he, Bevoir, would take him off his hands and be glad to do it.
"But what will my French friend do with this Morris?" asked Pontiac.
"Leave that to me," answered Bevoir. "I'll take good care that he does not bother you again."
By skillful questioning Pontiac managed to learn a great deal of what was in Bevoir's mind, and he saw at once that the Frenchman was indeed an enemy to the young pioneer. Then Valette began to talk, saying Morris should never cross the path of the Indians again, once he and Bevoir got their hands upon him.
"Pontiac wishes him to live," said the chief shrewdly.
"He shall not die," said Bevoir. "But we shall take care that he comes not to this neighborhood again."
Pontiac said he would think it over. He felt certain that Bevoir and Valette were up to some foul deed, and was half inclined to send them from the village.
"While Pontiac thinks it over can I speak to the prisoner?" asked Jean Bevoir.
After some hesitation Pontiac allowed him to see Dave, and soon the two were face to face in the hut. Pontiac wished to set a spy to listen to what was said, but another matter claimed his attention.
"Jean Bevoir!" cried Dave. "What brings you to this place?"
"Not so loud!" answered Jean Bevoir in a whisper. "Morris, I am your friend, believe me."
"My friend?" ejaculated the young pioneer.
"Oui! Listen! The Indians wish to kill you. I wish to save you. If I do that, will you--you--"
"Will you promise to go to your father and tell him I have saved you?"
"Why do you want that?"
"We are now enemies. I wish to be friends. He will be a friend to one who saves his son's life."
"Perhaps, Bevoir." Dave's head was in a whirl. "But this,--of you! I can scarcely believe it! And then that attack on the pack-train!"
"Was Hector Bergerac's work! I can prove it! Come, shall I save you or not?"
"Yes, save me if you can," muttered Dave.
"And you will tell your father of it?"
"Then listen. Here is a sharp hunting knife. See, I will stick it between the logs, so that you may cut your cords with it. To-night when you hear the owl hoot, free yourself and steal from the hut, if you can. Follow the hoot of the owl and I will be there with swift horses."
"And then?" asked the young pioneer.
"We will away, straight for your father's trading-post." Jean Bevoir paused a moment. "It may be I can persuade Pontiac to give you up. If I can, so much the better. But if not, remember what I have told you. If Pontiac asks you if you will go with me, say yes."
"I may be shot down if I try to escape in the dark."
"You must take the risk." Bevoir came closer. "They mean to burn you at the stake, to-morrow at noon,--I heard the talk an hour ago," he went on, in a low tone.
"I'll escape if I can," said Dave; and a moment later Jean Bevoir left him.
The young pioneer's thoughts were in a tumult. He did not believe in Bevoir, yet what the man said might possibly be true. He did not wish to be tortured by the Indians.
"I'd rather run my chances with Bevoir," he told himself. "I'll have the knife, and perhaps I can pick up a gun or a pistol. He may be sick of hiding himself, and he knows father will treat him kindly if he really does save me."
Dave had not seen Jacques Valette, and he fancied he was to meet Jean Bevoir alone. It would be dark, and perhaps he could slip away from the Frenchman as well as from the Indians. Anyway, the plan appeared to be worth trying.
Pontiac had expected to remain at the village over night, but at sunset a messenger came for him to meet some other chiefs several miles away. He departed hastily, leaving Dave in charge of Foot-in-His-Mouth and the Wyandots.
When Jean Bevoir saw Pontiac depart he was glad that he had spoken to Dave about escaping. He felt certain the young pioneer would fall into the trap. He and Valette left the camp together, and at once summoned Flat Nose and the other Indians who were in their employ.
"Once let me get Dave Morris in my power and all will be well," said Jean Bevoir exultantly. He was in such high spirits he could scarcely wait for night to come,
"Where will you take him?" questioned Valette.
"To the westward, where I know we shall be safe."
"And after that?"
"I shall negotiate with James Morris," chuckled Bevoir. "Oh, but I shall bring him to terms!"
At last it grew dark. There was a promise of a storm in the air and soon the snow began to come down. This did not suit Bevoir, for it would make tracking easy, but as this could not be avoided, he determined to make the best of it. Should it continue to snow, the tracks made during the night would soon be obliterated.
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