Part 5 out of 6
"Myeerah has always loved him. She will love his sister."
"And I will love you," said Betty. "I will love you because you have
saved him. Ah! Myeerah, yours has been wonderful, wonderful love."
"My sister is loved," whispered Myeerah. "Myeerah saw the look in
the eyes of the great hunter. It was the sad light of the moon on
the water. He loves you. And the other looked at my sister with eyes
like the blue of northern skies. He, too, loves you."
"Hush!" whispered Betty, trembling and hiding her face. "Hush!
Myeerah, do not speak of him."
He following afternoon the sun shone fair and warm; the sweet smell
of the tan-bark pervaded the air and the birds sang their gladsome
songs. The scene before the grim battle-scarred old fort was not
without its picturesqueness. The low vine-covered cabins on the hill
side looked more like picture houses than like real habitations of
men; the mill with its burned-out roof--a reminder of the
Indians--and its great wheel, now silent and still, might have been
from its lonely and dilapidated appearance a hundred years old.
On a little knoll carpeted with velvety grass sat Isaac and his
Indian bride. He had selected this vantage point because it afforded
a fine view of the green square where the races and the matches were
to take place. Admiring women stood around him and gazed at his
wife. They gossiped in whispers about her white skin, her little
hands, her beauty. The girls stared with wide open and wondering
eyes. The youngsters ran round and round the little group; they
pushed each other over, and rolled in the long grass, and screamed
It was to be a gala occasion and every man, woman and child in the
settlement had assembled on the green. Col. Zane and Sam were
planting a post in the center of the square. It was to be used in
the shooting matches. Capt. Boggs and Major McColloch were arranging
the contestants in order. Jonathan Zane, Will Martin, Alfred
Clarke--all the young men were carefully charging and priming their
rifles. Betty was sitting on the black stallion which Col. Zane had
generously offered as first prize. She was in the gayest of moods
and had just coaxed Isaac to lift her on the tall horse, from which
height she purposed watching the sports. Wetzel alone did not seem
infected by the spirit of gladsomeness which pervaded. He stood
apart leaning on his long rifle and taking no interest in the
proceedings behind him. He was absorbed in contemplating the forest
on the opposite shore of the river.
"Well, boys, I guess we are ready for the fun," called Col. Zane,
cheerily. "Only one shot apiece, mind you, except in case of a tie.
Now, everybody shoot his best."
The first contest was a shooting match known as "driving the nail."
It was as the name indicated, nothing less than shooting at the head
of a nail. In the absence of a nail--for nails were scarce--one was
usually fashioned from a knife blade, or an old file, or even a
piece of silver. The nail was driven lightly into the stake, the
contestants shot at it from a distance as great as the eyesight
permitted. To drive the nail hard and fast into the wood at one
hundred yards was a feat seldom accomplished. By many hunters it was
deemed more difficult than "snuffing the candle," another border
pastime, which consisted of placing in the dark at any distance a
lighted candle, and then putting out the flame with a single rifle
ball. Many settlers, particularly those who handled the plow more
than the rifle, sighted from a rest, and placed a piece of moss
under the rife-barrel to prevent its spring at the discharge.
The match began. Of the first six shooters Jonathan Zane and Alfred
Clarke scored the best shots. Each placed a bullet in the half-inch
circle round the nail.
"Alfred, very good, indeed," said Col. Zane. "You have made a
decided improvement since the last shooting-match."
Six other settlers took their turns. All were unsuccessful in
getting a shot inside the little circle. Thus a tie between Alfred
and Jonathan had to be decided.
"Shoot close, Alfred," yelled Isaac. "I hope you beat him. He always
won from me and then crowed over it."
Alfred's second shot went wide of the mark, and as Jonathan placed
another bullet in the circle, this time nearer the center, Alfred
had to acknowledge defeat.
"Here comes Miller," said Silas Zane. "Perhaps he will want a try."
Col. Zane looked round. Miller had joined the party. He carried his
rifle and accoutrements, and evidently had just returned to the
settlement. He nodded pleasantly to all.
"Miller, will you take a shot for the first prize, which I was about
to award to Jonathan?" said Col. Zane.
"No. I am a little late, and not entitled to a shot. I will take a
try for the others," answered Miller.
At the arrival of Miller on the scene Wetzel had changed his
position to one nearer the crowd. The dog, Tige, trotted closely at
his heels. No one heard Tige's low growl or Wetzel's stern word to
silence him. Throwing his arm over Betty's pony, Wetzel apparently
watched the shooters. In reality he studied intently Miller's every
"I expect some good shooting for this prize," said Col. Zane, waving
a beautifully embroidered buckskin bullet pouch, which was one of
Jonathan having won his prize was out of the lists and could compete
no more. This entitled Alfred to the first shot for second prize. He
felt he would give anything he possessed to win the dainty trifle
which the Colonel had waved aloft. Twice he raised his rifle in his
exceeding earnestness to score a good shot and each time lowered the
barrel. When finally he did shoot the bullet embedded itself in the
second circle. It was a good shot, but he knew it would never win
"A little nervous, eh?" remarked Miller, with a half sneer on his
Several young settlers followed in succession, but their aims were
poor. Then little Harry Bennet took his stand. Harry had won many
prizes in former matches, and many of the pioneers considered him
one of the best shots in the country.
"Only a few more after you, Harry," said Col. Zane. "You have a good
"All right, Colonel. That's Betty's prize and somebody'll have to do
some mighty tall shootin' to beat me," said the lad, his blue eyes
flashing as he toed the mark.
Shouts and cheers of approval greeted his attempt. The bullet had
passed into the wood so close to the nail that a knife blade could
not have been inserted between.
Miller's turn came next. He was a fine marksman and he knew it. With
the confidence born of long experience and knowledge of his weapon,
he took a careful though quick aim and fired. He turned away
satisfied that he would carry off the coveted prize. He had nicked
But Miller reckoned without his host. Betty had seen the result of
his shot and the self-satisfied smile on his face. She watched
several of the settlers make poor attempts at the nail, and then,
convinced that not one of the other contestants could do so well as
Miller, she slipped off the horse and ran around to where Wetzel was
standing by her pony.
"Lew, I believe Miller will win my prize," she whispered, placing
her hand on the hunter's arm. "He has scratched the nail, and I am
sure no one except you can do better. I do not want Miller to have
anything of mine."
"And, little girl, you want me to shoot fer you," said Lewis.
"Yes, Lew, please come and shoot for me."
It was said of Wetzel that he never wasted powder. He never entered
into the races and shooting-matches of the settlers, yet it was well
known that he was the fleetest runner and the most unerring shot on
the frontier. Therefore, it was with surprise and pleasure that Col.
Zane heard the hunter say he guessed he would like one shot anyway.
Miller looked on with a grim smile. He knew that, Wetzel or no
Wetzel, it would take a remarkably clever shot to beat his.
"This shot's for Betty," said Wetzel as he stepped to the mark. He
fastened his keen eyes on the stake. At that distance the head of
the nail looked like a tiny black speck. Wetzel took one of the
locks of hair that waved over his broad shoulders and held it up in
front of his eyes a moment. He thus ascertained that there was not
any perceptible breeze. The long black barrel started slowly to
rise--it seemed to the interested onlookers that it would never
reach a level and when, at last, it became rigid, there was a single
second in which man and rifle appeared as if carved out of stone.
Then followed a burst of red flame, a puff of white smoke, a clear
Many thought the hunter had missed altogether. It seemed that the
nail had not changed its position; there was no bullet hole in the
white lime wash that had been smeared round the nail. But on close
inspection the nail was found to have been driven to its head in the
"A wonderful shot!" exclaimed Col. Zane. "Lewis, I don't remember
having seen the like more than once or twice in my life."
Wetzel made no answer. He moved away to his former position and
commenced to reload his rifle. Betty came running up to him, holding
in her hand the prize bullet pouch.
"Oh, Lew, if I dared I would kiss you. It pleases me more for you to
have won my prize than if any one else had won it. And it was the
finest, straightest shot ever made."
"Betty, it's a little fancy for redskins, but it'll be a keepsake,"
answered Lewis, his eyes reflecting the bright smile on her face.
Friendly rivalry in feats that called for strength, speed and daring
was the diversion of the youth of that period, and the pioneers
conducted this good-natured but spirited sport strictly on its
merits. Each contestant strove his utmost to outdo his opponent. It
was hardly to be expected that Alfred would carry off any of the
laurels. Used as he had been to comparative idleness he was no match
for the hardy lads who had been brought up and trained to a life of
action, wherein a ten mile walk behind a plow, or a cord of wood
chopped in a day, were trifles. Alfred lost in the foot-race and the
sackrace, but by dint of exerting himself to the limit of his
strength, he did manage to take one fall out of the best wrestler.
He was content to stop here, and, throwing himself on the grass,
endeavored to recover his breath. He felt happier today than for
some time past. Twice during the afternoon he had met Betty's eyes
and the look he encountered there made his heart stir with a strange
feeling of fear and hope. While he was ruminating on what had
happened between Betty and himself he allowed his eyes to wander
from one person to another. When his gaze alighted on Wetzel it
became riveted there. The hunter's attitude struck him as singular.
Wetzel had his face half turned toward the boys romping near him and
he leaned carelessly against a white oak tree. But a close observer
would have seen, as Alfred did, that there was a certain alertness
in that rigid and motionless figure. Wetzel's eyes were fixed on the
western end of the island. Almost involuntarily Alfred's eyes sought
the same direction. The western end of the island ran out into a
long low point covered with briars, rushes and saw-grass. As Alfred
directed his gaze along the water line of this point he distinctly
saw a dark form flit from one bush to another. He was positive he
had not been mistaken. He got up slowly and unconcernedly, and
strolled over to Wetzel.
"Wetzel, I saw an object just now," he said in a low tone. "It was
moving behind those bushes at the head of the island. I am not sure
whether it was an animal or an Indian."
"Injuns. Go back and be natur'l like. Don't say nothin' and watch
Miller," whispered Wetzel.
Much perturbed by the developments of the last few moments, and
wondering what was going to happen, Alfred turned away. He had
scarcely reached the others when he heard Betty's voice raised in
"I tell you I did swim my pony across the river," cried Betty. "It
was just even with that point and the river was higher than it is
"You probably overestimated your feat," said Miller, with his
disagreeable, doubtful smile. "I have seen the river so low that it
could be waded, and then it would be a very easy matter to cross.
But now your pony could not swim half the distance."
"I'll show you," answered Betty, her black eyes flashing. She put
her foot in the stirrup and leaped on Madcap.
"Now, Betty, don't try that foolish ride again," implored Mrs. Zane.
"What do you care whether strangers believe or not? Eb, make her
Col. Bane only laughed and made no attempt to detain Betty. He
rather indulged her caprices.
"Stop her!" cried Clarke.
"Betty, where are you goin'?" said Wetzel, grabbing at Madcap's
bridle. But Betty was too quick for him. She avoided the hunter, and
with a saucy laugh she wheeled the fiery little pony and urged her
over the bank. Almost before any one could divine her purpose she
had Madcap in the water up to her knees.
"Betty, stop!" cried Wetzel.
She paid no attention to his call. In another moment the pony would
be off the shoal and swimming.
"Stop! Turn back, Betty, or I'll shoot the pony," shouted Wetzel,
and this time there was a ring of deadly earnestness in his voice.
With the words he had cocked and thrown forward the long rifle.
Betty heard, and in alarm she turned her pony. She looked up with
great surprise and concern, for she knew Wetzel was not one to
"For God's sake!" exclaimed Colonel Zane, looking in amazement at
the hunter's face, which was now white and stern.
"Why, Lew, you do not mean you would shoot Madcap?" said Betty,
reproachfully, as she reached the shore.
All present in that watching crowd were silent, awaiting the
hunter's answer. They felt that mysterious power which portends the
revelation of strange events. Col. Zane and Jonathan knew the
instant they saw Wetzel that something extraordinary was coming. His
face had grown cold and gray; his lips were tightly compressed; his
eyes dilated and shone with a peculiar lustre.
"Where were you headin' your pony?" asked Wetzel.
"I wanted to reach that point where the water is shallow," answered
"That's what I thought. Well, Betty, hostile Injuns are hidin' and
waitin' fer you in them high rushes right where you were makin'
fer," said Wetzel. Then he shouldered his rifle and walked rapidly
"Oh, he cannot be serious!" cried Betty. "Oh, how foolish am I."
"Get back up from the river, everybody," commanded Col. Zane.
"Col. Zane," said Clarke, walking beside the Colonel up the bank, "I
saw Wetzel watching the island in a manner that I thought odd, under
the circumstances, and I watched too. Presently I saw a dark form
dart behind a bush. I went over and told Wetzel, and he said there
were Indians on the island."
"This is most d--n strange," said Col. Zane, frowning heavily.
"Wetzel's suspicions, Miller turns up, teases Betty attempting that
foolhardy trick, and then--Indians! It may be a coincidence, but it
"Col. Zane, don't you think Wetzel may be mistaken?" said Miller,
coming up. "I came over from the other side this morning and I did
not see any Indian sign. Probably Wetzel has caused needless
"It does not follow that because you came from over the river there
are no Indians there," answered Col. Zane, sharply. "Do you presume
to criticise Wetzel's judgment?"
"I saw an Indian!" cried Clarke, facing Miller with blazing eyes.
"And if you say I did not, you lie! What is more, I believe you know
more than any one else about it. I watched you. I saw you were
uneasy and that you looked across the river from time to time.
Perhaps you had better explain to Col. Zane the reason you taunted
his sister into attempting that ride."
With a snarl more like that of a tiger than of a human being, Miller
sprang at Clarke. His face was dark with malignant hatred, as he
reached for and drew an ugly knife. There were cries of fright from
the children and screams from the women. Alfred stepped aside with
the wonderful quickness of the trained boxer and shot out his right
arm. His fist caught Miller a hard blow on the head, knocking him
down and sending the knife flying in the air.
It had all happened so quickly that everyone was as if paralyzed.
The settlers stood still and watched Miller rise slowly to his feet.
"Give me my knife!" he cried hoarsely. The knife had fallen at the
feet of Major McColloch, who had concealed it with his foot.
"Let this end right here," ordered Col. Zane. "Clarke, you have made
a very strong statement. Have you anything to substantiate your
"I think I have," said Clarke. He was standing erect, his face white
and his eyes like blue steel. "I knew him at Ft. Pitt. He was a liar
and a drunkard there. He was a friend of the Indians and of the
British. What he was there he must be here. It was Wetzel who told
me to watch him. Wetzel and I both think he knew the Indians were on
"Col. Zane, it is false," said Miller, huskily. "He is trying to put
you against me. He hates me because your sister--"
"You cur!" cried Clarke, striking at Miller. Col. Zane struck up the
infuriated young man's arm.
"Give us knives, or anything," panted Clarke.
"Yes, let us fight it out now," said Miller.
"Capt. Boggs, take Clarke to the block-house. Make him stay there if
you have to lock him up," commanded Col. Zane. "Miller, as for you,
I cannot condemn you without proof. If I knew positively that there
were Indians on the island and that you were aware of it, you would
be a dead man in less time than it takes to say it. I will give you
the benefit of the doubt and twenty-four hours to leave the Fort."
The villagers dispersed and went to their homes. They were inclined
to take Clarke's side. Miller had become disliked. His drinking
habits and his arrogant and bold manner had slowly undermined the
friendships he had made during the early part of his stay at Ft.
Henry; while Clarke's good humor and willingness to help any one,
his gentleness with the children, and his several acts of heroism
had strengthened their regard.
"Jonathan, this looks like some of Girty's work. I wish I knew the
truth," said Col. Zane, as he, his brothers and Betty and Myeerah
entered the house. "Confound it! We can't have even one afternoon of
enjoyment. I must see Lewis. I cannot be sure of Clarke. He is
evidently bitter against Miller. That would have been a terrible
fight. Those fellows have had trouble before, and I am afraid we
have not seen the last of their quarrel."
"If they meet again--but how can you keep them apart?" said Silas.
"If Miller leaves the Fort without killing Clarke he'll hide around
in the woods and wait for a chance to shoot him."
"Not with Wetzel here," answered Col. Zane. "Betty, do you see what
your--" he began, turning to his sister, but when he saw her white
and miserable face he said no more.
"Don't mind, Betts. It wasn't any fault of yours," said Isaac,
putting his arm tenderly round the trembling girl. "I for another
believe Clarke was right when he said Miller knew there were Indians
over the river. It looks like a plot to abduct you. Have no fear for
Alfred. He can take care of himself. He showed that pretty well."
An hour later Clarke had finished his supper and was sitting by his
window smoking his pipe. His anger had cooled somewhat and his
reflections were not of the pleasantest kind. He regretted that he
lowered himself so far as to fight with a man little better than an
outlaw. Still there was a grim satisfaction in the thought of the
blow he had given Miller. He remembered he had asked for a knife and
that his enemy and he be permitted to fight to the death. After all
to have ended, then and there, the feud between them would have been
the better course; for he well knew Miller's desperate character,
that he had killed more than one white man, and that now a fair
fight might not be possible. Well, he thought, what did it matter?
He was not going to worry himself. He did not care much, one way or
another. He had no home; he could not make one without the woman he
loved. He was a Soldier of Fortune; he was at the mercy of Fate, and
he would drift along and let what came be welcome. A soft footfall
on the stairs and a knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.
"Come in," he said.
The door opened and Wetzel strode into the room.
"I come over to say somethin' to you," said the hunter taking the
chair by the window and placing his rifle over his knee.
"I will be pleased to listen or talk, as you desire," said Alfred.
"I don't mind tellin' you that the punch you give Miller was what he
deserved. If he and Girty didn't hatch up that trick to ketch Betty,
I don't know nothin'. But we can't prove nothin' on him yet. Mebbe
he knew about the redskins; mebbe he didn't. Personally, I think he
did. But I can't kill a white man because I think somethin'. I'd
have to know fer sure. What I want to say is to put you on your
guard against the baddest man on the river."
"I am aware of that," answered Alfred. "I knew his record at Ft.
Pitt. What would you have me do?"
"Keep close till he's gone."
"That would be cowardly."
"No, it wouldn't. He'd shoot you from behind some tree or cabin."
"Well, I'm much obliged to you for your kind advice, but for all
that I won't stay in the house," said Alfred, beginning to wonder at
the hunter's earnest manner.
"You're in love with Betty, ain't you?"
The question came with Wetzel's usual bluntness and it staggered
Alfred. He could not be angry, and he did not know what to say. The
hunter went on:
"You needn't say so, because I know it. And I know she loves you and
that's why I want you to look out fer Miller."
"My God! man, you're crazy," said Alfred, laughing scornfully. "She
cares nothing for me."
"That's your great failin', young feller. You fly off'en the handle
too easy. And so does Betty. You both care fer each other and are
unhappy about it. Now, you don't know Betty, and she keeps
"For Heaven's sake! Wetzel, if you know anything tell me. Love her?
Why, the words are weak! I love her so well that an hour ago I would
have welcomed death at Miller's hands only to fall and die at her
feet defending her. Your words set me on fire. What right have you
to say that? How do you know?"
The hunter leaned forward and put his hand on Alfred's shoulder. On
his pale face was that sublime light which comes to great souls when
they give up a life long secret, or when they sacrifice what is best
beloved. His broad chest heaved: his deep voice trembled.
"Listen. I'm not a man fer words, and it's hard to tell. Betty loves
you. I've carried her in my arms when she was a baby. I've made her
toys and played with her when she was a little girl. I know all her
moods. I can read her like I do the moss, and the leaves, and the
bark of the forest. I've loved her all my life. That's why I know
she loves you. I can feel it. Her happiness is the only dear thing
left on earth fer me. And that's why I'm your friend."
In the silence that followed his words the door opened and closed
and he was gone.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Betty awoke with a start. She was wide awake in a second. The
moonbeams came through the leaves of the maple tree near her window
and cast fantastic shadows on the wall of her room. Betty lay quiet,
watching the fairy-like figures on the wall and listening intently.
What had awakened her? The night was still; the crow of a cock in
the distance proclaimed that the hour of dawn was near at hand. She
waited for Tige's bark under her window, or Sam's voice, or the
kicking and trampling of horses in the barn--sounds that usually
broke her slumbers in the morning. But no such noises were
forthcoming. Suddenly she heard a light, quick tap, tap, and then a
rattling in the corner. It was like no sound but that made by a
pebble striking the floor, bounding and rolling across the room.
There it was again. Some one was tossing stones in at her window.
She slipped out of bed, ran, and leaned on the window-sill and
looked out. The moon was going down behind the hill, but there was
light enough for her to distinguish objects. She saw a dark figure
crouching by the fence.
"Who is it?" said Betty, a little frightened, but more curious.
"Sh-h-h, it's Miller," came the answer, spoken in low voice.
The bent form straightened and stood erect. It stepped forward under
Betty's window. The light was dim, but Betty recognized the dark
face of Miller. He carried a rifle in his hand and a pack on his
"Go away, or I'll call my brother. I will not listen to you," said
Betty, making a move to leave the window.
"Sh-h-h, not so loud," said Miller, in a quick, hoarse whisper.
"You'd better listen. I am going across the border to join Girty. He
is going to bring the Indians and the British here to burn the
settlement. If you will go away with me I'll save the lives of your
brothers and their families. I have aided Girty and I have influence
with him. If you won't go you'll be taken captive and you'll see all
your friends and relatives scalped and burned. Quick, your answer."
"Never, traitor! Monster! I'd be burned at the stake before I'd go a
step with you!" cried Betty.
"Then remember that you've crossed a desperate man. If you escape
the massacre you will beg on your knees to me. This settlement is
doomed. Now, go to your white-faced lover. You'll find him cold. Ha!
Ha! Ha!" and with a taunting laugh he leaped the fence and
disappeared in the gloom.
Betty sank to the floor stunned, horrified. She shuddered at the
malignity expressed in Miller's words. How had she ever been
deceived in him? He was in league with Girty. At heart he was a
savage, a renegade. Betty went over his words, one by one.
"Your white-faced lover. You will find him cold," whispered Betty.
"What did he mean?"
Then came the thought. Miller had murdered Clarke. Betty gave one
agonized quiver, as if a knife had been thrust into her side, and
then her paralyzed limbs recovered the power of action. She flew out
into the passage-way and pounded on her brother's door.
"Eb! Eb! Get up! Quickly, for God's sake!" she cried. A smothered
exclamation, a woman's quick voice, the heavy thud of feet striking
the floor followed Betty's alarm. Then the door opened.
"Hello, Betts, what's up?" said Col. Zane, in his rapid voice.
At the same moment the door at the end of the hall opened and Isaac
"Eb, Betty, I heard voices out doors and in the house. What's the
"Oh, Isaac! Oh, Eb! Something terrible has happened!" cried Betty,
"Then it is no time to get excited," said the Colonel, calmly. He
placed his arm round Betty and drew her into the room. "Isaac, get
down the rifles. Now, Betty, time is precious. Tell me quickly,
"I was awakened by a stone rolling on the floor. I ran to the window
and saw a man by the fence. He came under my window and I saw it was
Miller. He said he was going to join Girty. He said if I would go
with him he would save the lives of all my relatives. If I would not
they would all be killed, massacred, burned alive, and I would be
taken away as his captive. I told him I'd rather die before I'd go
with him. Then he said we were all doomed, and that my white-faced
lover was already cold. With that he gave a laugh which made my
flesh creep and ran on toward the river. Oh! he has murdered Mr.
"Hell! What a fiend!" cried Col. Zane, hurriedly getting into his
clothes. "Betts, you had a gun in there. Why didn't you shoot him?
Why didn't I pay more attention to Wetzel's advice?"
"You should have allowed Clarke to kill him yesterday," said Isaac.
"Like as not he'll have Girty here with a lot of howling devils.
What's to be done?"
"I'll send Wetzel after him and that'll soon wind up his ball of
yarn," answered Col. Zane.
"Please--go--and find--if Mr. Clarke--"
"Yes, Betty, I'll go at once. You must not lose courage, Betty. It's
quite probable that Miller has killed Alfred and that there's worse
"I'll come, Eb, as soon as I have told Myeerah. She is scared half
to death," said Isaac, starting for the door.
"All right, only hurry," said Col. Zane, grabbing his rifle. Without
wasting more words, and lacing up his hunting shirt as he went he
ran out of the room.
The first rays of dawn came streaking in at the window. The chill
gray light brought no cheer with its herald of the birth of another
day. For what might the morning sun disclose? It might shine on a
long line of painted Indians. The fresh breeze from over the river
might bring the long war whoop of the savage.
No wonder Noah and his brother, awakened by the voice of their
father, sat up in their little bed and looked about with frightened
eyes. No wonder Mrs. Zane's face blanched. How many times she had
seen her husband grasp his rifle and run out to meet danger!
"Bessie," said Betty. "If it's true I will not be able to bear it.
It's all my fault."
"Nonsense! You heard Eb say Miller and Clarke had quarreled before.
They hated each other before they ever saw you."
A door banged, quick footsteps sounded on the stairs, and Isaac came
rushing into the room. Betty, deathly pale, stood with her hands
pressed to her bosom, and looked at Isaac with a question in her
eyes that her tongue could not speak.
"Betty, Alfred's badly hurt, but he's alive. I can tell you no more
now," said Isaac. "Bessie, bring your needle, silk linen,
liniment--everything you need for a bad knife wound, and come
Betty's haggard face changed as if some warm light had been
reflected on it; her lips moved, and with a sob of thankfulness she
fled to her room.
Two hours later, while Annie was serving breakfast to Betty and
Myeerah, Col. Zane strode into the room.
"Well, one has to eat whatever happens," he said, his clouded face
brightening somewhat. "Betty, there's been bad work, bad work. When
I got to Clarke's room I found him lying on the bed with a knife
sticking in him. As it is we are doubtful about pulling him
"May I see him?" whispered Betty, with pale lips.
"If the worst comes to the worst I'll take you over. But it would do
no good now and would surely unnerve you. He still has a fighting
"Did they fight, or was Mr. Clarke stabbed in his sleep?"
"Miller climbed into Clarke's window and knifed him in the dark. As
I came over I met Wetzel and told him I wanted him to trail Miller
and find if there is any truth in his threat about Girty and the
Indians. Sam just now found Tige tied fast in the fence corner back
of the barn. That explains the mystery of Miller's getting so near
the house. You know he always took pains to make friends with Tige.
The poor dog was helpless; his legs were tied and his jaws bound
fast. Oh, Miller is as cunning as an Indian! He has had this all
planned out, and he has had more than one arrow to his bow. But, if
I mistake not he has shot his last one."
"Miller must be safe from pursuit by this time," said Betty.
"Safe for the present, yes," answered Col. Zane, "but while Jonathan
and Wetzel live I would not give a snap of my fingers for Miller's
chances. Hello, I hear some one talking. I sent for Jack and the
The Colonel threw open the door. Wetzel, Major McColloch, Jonathan
and Silas Zane were approaching. They were all heavily armed. Wetzel
was equipped for a long chase. Double leggins were laced round his
legs. A buckskin knapsack was strapped to his shoulders.
"Major, I want you and Jonathan to watch the river," said Col. Zane.
"Silas, you are to go to the mouth of Yellow Creek and reconnoiter.
We are in for a siege. It may be twenty-four hours and it may be ten
days. In the meantime I will get the Fort in shape to meet the
attack. Lewis, you have your orders. Have you anything to suggest?"
"I'll take the dog," answered Wetzel. "He'll save time for me. I'll
stick to Miller's trail and find Girty's forces. I've believed all
along that Miller was helpin' Girty, and I'm thinkin' that where
Miller goes there I'll find Girty and his redskins. If it's night
when I get back I'll give the call of the hoot-owl three times,
quick, so Jack and the Major will know I want to get back across the
"All right, Lewis, we'll be expecting you any time," said Col. Zane.
"Betty, I'm goin' now and I want to tell you somethin'," said
Wetzel, as Betty appeared. "Come as far as the end of the path with
"I'm sorry you must go. But Tige seems delighted," said Betty,
walking beside Wetzel, while the dog ran on before.
"Betty, I wanted to tell you to stay close like to the house, fer
this feller Miller has been layin' traps fer you, and the Injuns is
on the war-path. Don't ride your pony, and stay home now."
"Indeed, I shall never again do anything as foolish as I did
yesterday. I have learned my lesson. And Oh! Lew, I am so grateful
to you for saving me. When will you return to the Fort?"
"Mebbe never, Betty."
"Oh, no. Don't say that. I know all this Indian talk will blow over,
as it always does, and you will come back and everything will be all
"I hope it'll be as you say, Betty, but there's no tellin', there's
"You are going to see if the Indians are making preparations to
besiege the Fort?"
"Yes, I am goin' fer that. And if I happen to find Miller on my way
I'll give him Betty's regards."
Betty shivered at his covert meaning. Long ago in a moment of
playfulness, Betty had scratched her name on the hunter's rifle.
Ever after that Wetzel called his fatal weapon by her name.
"If you were going simply to avenge I would not let you go. That
wretch will get his just due some day, never fear for that."
"Betty, 'taint likely he'll get away from me, and if he does there's
Jonathan. This mornin' when we trailed Miller down to the river bank
Jonathan points across the river and says: 'You or me,' and I says:
'Me,' so it's all settled."
"Will Mr. Clarke live?" said Betty, in an altered tone, asking the
question which was uppermost in her mind.
"I think so, I hope so. He's a husky young chap and the cut wasn't
bad. He lost so much blood. That's why he's so weak. If he gets well
he'll have somethin' to tell you."
"Lew, what do you mean?" demanded Betty, quickly.
"Me and him had a long talk last night and--"
"You did not go to him and talk of me, did you?" said Betty,
They had now reached the end of the path. Wetzel stopped and dropped
the butt of his rifle on the ground. Tige looked on and wagged his
tail. Presently the hunter spoke.
"Yes, we talked about you."
"Oh! Lewis. What did--could you have said?" faltered Betty.
"You think I hadn't ought to speak to him of you?"
"I do not see why you should. Of course you are my good friend, but
he--it is not like you to speak of me."
"Fer once I don't agree with you. I knew how it was with him so I
told him. I knew how it was with you so I told him, and I know how
it is with me, so I told him that too."
"With you?" whispered Betty.
"Yes, with me. That kind of gives me a right, don't it, considerin'
it's all fer your happiness?"
"With you?" echoed Betty in a low tone. She was beginning to realize
that she had not known this man. She looked up at him. His eyes were
misty with an unutterable sadness.
"Oh, no! No! Lew. Say it is not true," she cried, piteously. All in
a moment Betty's burdens became too heavy for her. She wrung her
little hands. Her brother's kindly advice, Bessie's warnings, and
old Grandmother Watkins' words came back to her. For the first time
she believed what they said--that Wetzel loved her. All at once the
scales fell from her eyes and she saw this man as he really was. All
the thousand and one things he had done for her, his simple
teaching, his thoughtfulness, his faithfulness, and his watchful
protection--all came crowding on her as debts that she could never
pay. For now what could she give this man to whom she owed more than
her life? Nothing. It was too late. Her love could have reclaimed
him, could have put an end to that solitary wandering, and have made
him a good, happy man.
"Yes, Betty, it's time to tell it. I've loved you always," he said
She covered her face and sobbed. Wetzel put his arm round her and
drew her to him until the dark head rested on his shoulder. Thus
they stood a moment.
"Don't cry, little one," he said, tenderly. "Don't grieve fer me. My
love fer you has been the only good in my life. It's been happiness
to love you. Don't think of me. I can see you and Alfred in a happy
home, surrounded by bright-eyed children. There'll be a brave lad
named fer me, and when I come, if I ever do, I'll tell him stories,
and learn him the secrets of the woods, and how to shoot, and things
I know so well."
"I am so wretched--so miserable. To think I have been so--so blind,
and I have teased you--and--it might have been--only now it's too
late," said Betty, between her sobs.
"Yes, I know, and it's better so. This man you love rings true. He
has learnin' and edication. I have nothin' but muscle and a quick
eye. And that'll serve you and Alfred when you are in danger. I'm
goin' now. Stand here till I'm out of sight."
"Kiss me goodbye," whispered Betty.
The hunter bent his head and kissed her on the brow. Then he turned
and with a rapid step went along the bluff toward the west. When he
reached the laurel bushes which fringed the edge of the forest he
looked back. He saw the slender gray clad figure standing motionless
in the narrow path. He waved his hand and then turned and plunged
into the forest. The dog looked back, raised his head and gave a
long, mournful howl. Then, he too disappeared.
A mile west of the settlement Wetzel abandoned the forest and picked
his way down the steep bluff to the river. Here he prepared to swim
to the western shore. He took off his buckskin garments, spread them
out on the ground, placed his knapsack in the middle, and rolling
all into a small bundle tied it round his rifle. Grasping the rifle
just above the hammer he waded into the water up to his waist and
then, turning easily on his back he held the rifle straight up,
allowing the butt to rest on his breast. This left his right arm
unhampered. With a powerful back-arm stroke he rapidly swam the
river, which was deep and narrow at this point. In a quarter of an
hour he was once more in his dry suit.
He was now two miles below the island, where yesterday the Indians
had been concealed, and where this morning Miller had crossed.
Wetzel knew Miller expected to be trailed, and that he would use
every art and cunning of woodcraft to elude his pursuers, or to lead
them into a death-trap. Wetzel believed Miller had joined the
Indians, who had undoubtedly been waiting for him, or for a signal
from him, and that he would use them to ambush the trail.
Therefore Wetzel decided he would try to strike Miller's tracks far
west of the river. He risked a great deal in attempting this because
it was possible he might fail to find any trace of the spy. But
Wetzel wasted not one second. His course was chosen. With all
possible speed, which meant with him walking only when he could not
run, he traveled northwest. If Miller had taken the direction Wetzel
suspected, the trails of the two men would cross about ten miles
from the Ohio. But the hunter had not traversed more than a mile of
the forest when the dog put his nose high in the air and growled.
Wetzel slowed down into a walk and moved cautiously onward, peering
through the green aisles of the woods. A few rods farther on Tige
uttered another growl and put his nose to the ground. He found a
trail. On examination Wetzel discovered in the moss two moccasin
tracks. Two Indians had passed that point that morning. They were
going northwest directly toward the camp of Wingenund. Wetzel stuck
close to the trail all that day and an hour before dusk he heard the
sharp crack of a rifle. A moment afterward a doe came crashing
through the thicket to Wetzel's right and bounding across a little
brook she disappeared.
A tree with a bushy, leafy top had been uprooted by a storm and had
fallen across the stream at this point. Wetzel crawled among the
branches. The dog followed and lay down beside him. Before darkness
set in Wetzel saw that the clear water of the brook had been roiled;
therefore, he concluded that somewhere upstream Indians had waded
into the brook. Probably they had killed a deer and were getting
their evening meal.
Hours passed. Twilight deepened into darkness. One by one the stars
appeared; then the crescent moon rose over the wooded hill in the
west, and the hunter never moved. With his head leaning against the
log he sat quiet and patient. At midnight he whispered to the dog,
and crawling from his hiding place glided stealthily up the stream.
Far ahead from the dark depths of the forest peeped the flickering
light of a camp-fire. Wetzel consumed a half hour in approaching
within one hundred feet of this light. Then he got down on his hands
and knees and crawled behind a tree on top of the little ridge which
had obstructed a view of the camp scene.
From this vantage point Wetzel saw a clear space surrounded by pines
and hemlocks. In the center of this glade a fire burned briskly. Two
Indians lay wrapped in their blankets, sound asleep. Wetzel pressed
the dog close to the ground, laid aside his rifle, drew his
tomahawk, and lying flat on his breast commenced to work his way,
inch by inch, toward the sleeping savages. The tall ferns trembled
as the hunter wormed his way among them, but there was no sound, not
a snapping of a twig nor a rustling of a leaf. The nightwind sighed
softly through the pines; it blew the bright sparks from the burning
logs, and fanned the embers into a red glow; it swept caressingly
over the sleeping savages, but it could not warn them that another
wind, the Wind-of-Death, was near at hand.
A quarter of an hour elapsed. Nearer and nearer; slowly but surely
drew the hunter. With what wonderful patience and self-control did
this cold-blooded Nemesis approach his victims! Probably any other
Indian slayer would have fired his rifle and then rushed to combat
with a knife or a tomahawk. Not so Wetzel. He scorned to use powder.
He crept forward like a snake gliding upon its prey. He slid one
hand in front of him and pressed it down on the moss, at first
gently, then firmly, and when he had secured a good hold he slowly
dragged his body forward the length of his arm. At last his dark
form rose and stood over the unconscious Indians, like a minister of
Doom. The tomahawk flashed once, twice in the firelight, and the
Indians, without a moan, and with a convulsive quivering and
straightening of their bodies, passed from the tired sleep of nature
to the eternal sleep of death.
Foregoing his usual custom of taking the scalps, Wetzel hurriedly
left the glade. He had found that the Indians were Shawnees and he
had expected they were Delawares. He knew Miller's red comrades
belonged to the latter tribe. The presence of Shawnees so near the
settlement confirmed his belief that a concerted movement was to be
made on the whites in the near future. He would not have been
surprised to find the woods full of redskins. He spent the remainder
of that night close under the side of a log with the dog curled up
Next morning Wetzel ran across the trail of a white man and six
Indians. He tracked them all that day and half of the night before
he again rested. By noon of the following day he came in sight of
the cliff from which Jonathan Zane had watched the sufferings of
Col. Crawford. Wetzel now made his favorite move, a wide detour, and
came up on the other side of the encampment.
From the top of the bluff he saw down into the village of the
Delawares. The valley was alive with Indians; they were working like
beavers; some with weapons, some painting themselves, and others
dancing war-dances. Packs were being strapped on the backs of
ponies. Everywhere was the hurry and bustle of the preparation for
war. The dancing and the singing were kept up half the night.
At daybreak Wetzel was at his post. A little after sunrise he heard
a long yell which he believed announced the arrival of an important
party. And so it turned out. Amid thrill yelling and whooping, the
like of which Wetzel had never before heard, Simon Girty rode into
Wingenund's camp at the head of one hundred Shawnee warriors and two
hundred British Rangers from Detroit. Wetzel recoiled when he saw
the red uniforms of the Britishers and their bayonets. Including
Pipe's and Wingenund's braves the total force which was going to
march against the Fort exceeded six hundred. An impotent frenzy
possessed Wetzel as he watched the orderly marching of the Rangers
and the proud bearing of the Indian warriors. Miller had spoken the
truth. Ft. Henry vas doomed.
"Tige, there's one of them struttin' turkey cocks as won't see the
Ohio," said Wetzel to the dog.
Hurriedly slipping from round his neck the bullet-pouch that Betty
had given him, he shook out a bullet and with the point of his knife
he scratched deep in the soft lead the letter W. Then he cut the
bullet half through. This done he detached the pouch from the cord
and running the cord through the cut in the bullet he bit the lead.
He tied the string round the neck of the dog and pointing eastward
he said: "Home."
The intelligent animal understood perfectly. His duty was to get
that warning home. His clear brown eyes as much as said: "I will not
fail." He wagged his tail, licked the hunter's hand, bounded away
and disappeared in the forest.
Wetzel rested easier in mind. He knew the dog would stop for
nothing, and that he stood a far better chance of reaching the Fort
in safety than did he himself.
With a lurid light in his eyes Wetzel now turned to the Indians. He
would never leave that spot without sending a leaden messenger into
the heart of someone in that camp. Glancing on all sides he at
length selected a place where it was possible he might approach near
enough to the camp to get a shot. He carefully studied the lay of
the ground, the trees, rocks, bushes, grass,--everything that could
help screen him from the keen eye of savage scouts. When he had
marked his course he commenced his perilous descent. In an hour he
had reached the bottom of the cliff. Dropping flat on the ground, he
once more started his snail-like crawl. A stretch of swampy ground,
luxuriant with rushes and saw-grass, made a part of the way easy for
him, though it led through mud, and slime, and stagnant water. Frogs
and turtles warming their backs in the sunshine scampered in alarm
from their logs. Lizards blinked at him. Moccasin snakes darted
wicked forked tongues at him and then glided out of reach of his
tomahawk. The frogs had stopped their deep bass notes. A
swamp-blackbird rose in fright from her nest in the saw-grass, and
twittering plaintively fluttered round and round over the pond. The
flight of the bird worried Wetzel. Such little things as these might
attract the attention of some Indian scout. But he hoped that in the
excitement of the war preparations these unusual disturbances would
escape notice. At last he gained the other side of the swamp. At the
end of the cornfield before him was the clump of laurel which he had
marked from the cliff as his objective point. The Indian corn was
now about five feet high. Wetzel passed through this field unseen.
He reached the laurel bushes, where he dropped to the ground and lay
quiet a few minutes. In the dash which he would soon make to the
forest he needed all his breath and all his fleetness. He looked to
the right to see how far the woods was from where he lay. Not more
than one hundred feet. He was safe. Once in the dark shade of those
trees, and with his foes behind him, he could defy the whole race of
Delawares. He looked to his rifle, freshened the powder in the pan,
carefully adjusted the flint, and then rose quietly to his feet.
Wetzel's keen gaze, as he swept it from left to right, took in every
detail of the camp. He was almost in the village. A tepee stood not
twenty feet from his hiding-place. He could have tossed a stone in
the midst of squaws, and braves, and chiefs. The main body of
Indians was in the center of the camp. The British were lined up
further on. Both Indians and soldiers were resting on their arms and
waiting. Suddenly Wetzel started and his heart leaped. Under a maple
tree not one hundred and fifty yards distant stood four men in
earnest consultation. One was an Indian. Wetzel recognized the
fierce, stern face, the haughty, erect figure. He knew that long,
trailing war-bonnet. It could have adorned the head of but one
chief--Wingenund, the sachem of the Delawares. A British officer,
girdled and epauletted, stood next to Wingenund. Simon Girty, the
renegade, and Miller, the traitor, completed the group.
Wetzel sank to his knees. The perspiration poured from his face. The
mighty hunter trembled, but it was from eagerness. Was not Girty,
the white savage, the bane of the poor settlers, within range of a
weapon that never failed? Was not the murderous chieftain, who had
once whipped and tortured him, who had burned Crawford alive, there
in plain sight? Wetzel revelled a moment in fiendish glee. He passed
his hands tenderly over the long barrel of his rifle. In that moment
as never before he gloried in his power--a power which enabled him
to put a bullet in the eye of a squirrel at the distance these men
were from him. But only for an instant did the hunter yield to this
feeling. He knew too well the value of time and opportunity.
He rose again to his feet and peered out from under the shading
laurel branches. As he did so the dark face of Miller turned full
toward him. A tremor, like the intense thrill of a tiger when he is
about to spring, ran over Wetzel's frame. In his mad gladness at
being within rifle-shot of his great Indian foe, Wetzel had
forgotten the man he had trailed for two days. He had forgotten
Miller. He had only one shot--and Betty was to be avenged. He
gritted his teeth. The Delaware chief was as safe as though he were
a thousand miles away. This opportunity for which Wetzel had waited
so many years, and the successful issue of which would have gone so
far toward the fulfillment of a life's purpose, was worse than
useless. A great temptation assailed the hunter.
Wetzel's face was white when he raised the rifle; his dark eye,
gleaming vengefully, ran along the barrel. The little bead on the
front sight first covered the British officer, and then the broad
breast of Girty. It moved reluctantly and searched out the heart of
Wingenund, where it lingered for a fleeting instant. At last it
rested upon the swarthy face of Miller.
"Fer Betty," muttered the hunter, between his clenched teeth as he
pressed the trigger.
The spiteful report awoke a thousand echoes. When the shot broke the
stillness Miller was talking and gesticulating. His hand dropped
inertly; he stood upright for a second, his head slowly bowing and
his body swaying perceptibly. Then he plunged forward like a log,
his face striking the sand. He never moved again. He was dead even
before he struck the ground.
Blank silence followed this tragic denouement. Wingenund, a cruel
and relentless Indian, but never a traitor, pointed to the small
bloody hole in the middle of Miller's forehead, and then nodded his
head solemnly. The wondering Indians stood aghast. Then with loud
yells the braves ran to the cornfield; they searched the laurel
bushes. But they only discovered several moccasin prints in the
sand, and a puff of white smoke wafting away upon the summer breeze.
Alfred Clarke lay between life and death. Miller's knife-thrust,
although it had made a deep and dangerous wound, had not pierced any
vital part; the amount of blood lost made Alfred's condition
precarious. Indeed, he would not have lived through that first day
but for a wonderful vitality. Col. Zane's wife, to whom had been
consigned the delicate task of dressing the wound, shook her head
when she first saw the direction of the cut. She found on a closer
examination that the knife-blade had been deflected by a rib, and
had just missed the lungs. The wound was bathed, sewed up, and
bandaged, and the greatest precaution taken to prevent the sufferer
from loosening the linen. Every day when Mrs. Zane returned from the
bedside of the young man she would be met at the door by Betty, who,
in that time of suspense, had lost her bloom, and whose pale face
showed the effects of sleepless nights.
"Betty, would you mind going over to the Fort and relieving Mrs.
Martin an hour or two?" said Mrs. Zane one day as she came home,
looking worn and weary. "We are both tired to death, and Nell Metzar
was unable to come. Clarke is unconscious, and will not know you,
besides he is sleeping now."
Betty hurried over to Capt. Boggs' cabin, next the blockhouse, where
Alfred lay, and with a palpitating heart and a trepidation wholly
out of keeping with the brave front she managed to assume, she
knocked gently on the door.
"Ah, Betty, 'tis you, bless your heart," said a matronly little
woman who opened the door. "Come right in. He is sleeping now, poor
fellow, and it's the first real sleep he has had. He has been raving
crazy forty-eight hours."
"Mrs. Martin, what shall I do?" whispered Betty.
"Oh, just watch him, my dear," answered the elder woman.
"If you need me send one of the lads up to the house for me. I shall
return as soon as I can. Keep the flies away--they are
bothersome--and bathe his head every little while. If he wakes and
tries to sit up, as he does sometimes, hold him back. He is as weak
as a cat. If he raves, soothe him by talking to him. I must go now,
Betty was left alone in the little room. Though she had taken a seat
near the bed where Alfred lay, she had not dared to look at him.
Presently conquering her emotion, Betty turned her gaze on the bed.
Alfred was lying easily on his back, and notwithstanding the warmth
of the day he was covered with a quilt. The light from the window
shone on his face. How deathly white it was! There was not a vestige
of color in it; the brow looked like chiseled marble; dark shadows
underlined the eyes, and the whole face was expressive of weariness
There are times when a woman's love is all motherliness. All at once
this man seemed to Betty like a helpless child. She felt her heart
go out to the poor sufferer with a feeling before unknown. She
forgot her pride and her fears and her disappointments. She
remembered only that this strong man lay there at death's door
because he had resented an insult to her. The past with all its
bitterness rolled away and was lost, and in its place welled up a
tide of forgiveness strong and sweet and hopeful. Her love, like a
fire that had been choked and smothered, smouldering but never
extinct, and which blazes up with the first breeze, warmed and
quickened to life with the touch of her hand on his forehead.
An hour passed. Betty was now at her ease and happier than she had
been for months. Her patient continued to sleep peacefully and
dreamlessly. With a feeling of womanly curiosity Betty looked around
the room. Over the rude mantelpiece were hung a sword, a brace of
pistols, and two pictures. These last interested Betty very much.
They were portraits; one of them was a likeness of a sweet-faced
woman who Betty instinctively knew was his mother. Her eyes lingered
tenderly on that face, so like the one lying on the pillow. The
other portrait was of a beautiful girl whose dark, magnetic eyes
challenged Betty. Was this his sister or--someone else? She could
not restrain a jealous twinge, and she felt annoyed to find herself
comparing that face with her own. She looked no longer at that
portrait, but recommenced her survey of the room. Upon the door hung
a broad-brimmed hat with eagle plumes stuck in the band. A pair of
hightopped riding-boots, a saddle, and a bridle lay on the floor in
the corner. The table was covered with Indian pipes, tobacco
pouches, spurs, silk stocks, and other articles.
Suddenly Betty felt that some one was watching her. She turned
timidly toward the bed and became much frightened when she
encountered the intense gaze from a pair of steel-blue eyes. She
almost fell from the chair; but presently she recollected that
Alfred had been unconscious for days, and that he would not know who
was watching by his bedside.
"Mother, is that you?" asked Alfred, in a weak, low voice.
"Yes, I am here," answered Betty, remembering the old woman's words
about soothing the sufferer.
"But I thought you were ill."
"I was, but I am better now, and it is you who are ill."
"My head hurts so."
"Let me bathe it for you."
"How long have I been home?"
Betty bathed and cooled his heated brow. He caught and held her
hands, looking wonderingly at her the while.
"Mother, somehow I thought you had died. I must have dreamed it. I
am very happy; but tell me, did a message come for me to-day?"
Betty shook her head, for she could not speak. She saw he was living
in the past, and he was praying for the letter which she would
gladly have written had she but known.
"No message, and it is now so long."
"It will come to-morrow," whispered Betty.
"Now, mother, that is what you always say," said the invalid, as he
began to toss his head wearily to and fro. "Will she never tell me?
It is not like her to keep me in suspense. She was the sweetest,
truest, loveliest girl in all the world. When I get well, mother, I
ant going to find out if she loves me."
"I am sure she does. I know she loves you," answered Betty.
"It is very good of you to say that," he went on in his rambling
talk. "Some day I'll bring her to you and we'll make her a queen
here in the old home. I'll be a better son now and not run away from
home again. I've given the dear old mother many a heartache, but
that's all past now. The wanderer has come home. Kiss me good-night,
Betty looked down with tear-blurred eyes on the haggard face.
Unconsciously she had been running her fingers through the fair hair
that lay so damp over his brow. Her pity and tenderness had carried
her far beyond herself, and at the last words she bent her head and
kissed him on the lips.
"Who are you? You are not my mother. She is dead," he cried,
starting up wildly, and looking at her with brilliant eyes.
Betty dropped the fan and rose quickly to her feet. What had she
done? A terrible thought had flashed into her mind. Suppose he were
not delirious, and had been deceiving her. Oh! for a hiding-place,
or that the floor would swallow her. Oh! if some one would only
Footsteps sounded on the stairs and Betty ran to the door. To her
great relief Mrs. Martin was coming up.
"You can run home now, there's a dear," said the old lady. "We have
several watchers for to-night. It will not be long now when he will
commence to mend, or else he will die. Poor boy, please God that he
gets well. Has he been good? Did he call for any particular young
lady? Never fear, Betty, I'll keep the secret. He'll never know you
were here unless you tell him yourself."
Meanwhile the days had been busy ones for Col. Zane. In anticipation
of an attack from the Indians, the settlers had been fortifying
their refuge and making the block-house as nearly impregnable as
possible. Everything that was movable and was of value they put
inside the stockade fence, out of reach of the destructive redskins.
All the horses and cattle were driven into the inclosure.
Wagon-loads of hay, grain and food were stored away in the
Never before had there been such excitement on the frontier. Runners
from Ft. Pitt, Short Creek, and other settlements confirmed the
rumor that all the towns along the Ohio were preparing for war. Not
since the outbreak of the Revolution had there been so much
confusion and alarm among the pioneers. To be sure, those on the
very verge of the frontier, as at Ft. Henry, had heretofore little
to fear from the British. During most of this time there had been
comparative peace on the western border, excepting those occasional
murders, raids, and massacres perpetrated by the different Indian
tribes, and instigated no doubt by Girty and the British at Detroit.
Now all kinds of rumors were afloat: Washington was defeated; a
close alliance between England and the confederated western tribes
had been formed; Girty had British power and wealth back of him.
These and many more alarming reports travelled from settlement to
The death of Col. Crawford had been a terrible shock to the whole
country. On the border spread an universal gloom, and the low,
sullen mutterings of revengeful wrath. Crawford had been so
prominent a man, so popular, and, except in his last and fatal
expedition, such an efficient leader that his sudden taking off was
almost a national calamity. In fact no one felt it more keenly than
did Washington himself, for Crawford was his esteemed friend.
Col. Zane believed Ft. Henry had been marked by the British and the
Indians. The last runner from Ft. Pitt had informed him that the
description of Miller tallied with that of one of the ten men who
had deserted from Ft. Pitt in 1778 with the tories Girth, McKee, and
Elliott. Col. Zane was now satisfied that Miller was an agent of
Girty and therefore of the British. So since all the weaknesses of
the Fort, the number of the garrison, and the favorable conditions
for a siege were known to Girty, there was nothing left for Col.
Zane and his men but to make a brave stand.
Jonathan Zane and Major McColloch watched the river. Wetzel had
disappeared as if the earth had swallowed him. Some pioneers said he
would never return. But Col. Zane believed Wetzel would walk into
the Fort, as he had done many times in the last ten years, with full
information concerning the doings of the Indians. However, the days
passed and nothing happened. Their work completed, the settlers
waited for the first sign of an enemy. But as none came, gradually
their fears were dispelled and they began to think the alarm had
been a false one.
All this time Alfred Clarke was recovering his health and strength.
The day came when he was able to leave his bed and sit by the
window. How glad it made him feel to look out on the green woods and
the broad, winding river; how sweet to his ears were the songs of
the birds; how soothing was the drowsy hum of the bees in the
fragrant honeysuckle by his window. His hold on life had been slight
and life was good. He smiled in pitying derision as he remembered
his recklessness. He had not been in love with life. In his gloomy
moods he had often thought life was hardly worth the living. What
sickly sentiment! He had been on the brink of the grave, but he had
been snatched back from the dark river of Death. It needed but this
to show him the joy of breathing, the glory of loving, the sweetness
of living. He resolved that for him there would be no more drifting,
no more purposelessness. If what Wetzel had told him was true, if he
really had not loved in vain, then his cup of happiness was
overflowing. Like a far-off and almost forgotten strain of music
some memory struggled to take definite shape in his mind; but it was
so hazy, so vague, so impalpable, that he could remember nothing
Isaac Zane and his Indian bride called on Alfred that afternoon.
"Alfred, I can't tell you how glad I am to see you up again," said
Isaac, earnestly, as he wrung Alfred's hand. "Say, but it was a
tight squeeze! It has been a bad time for you."
Nothing could have been more pleasing than Myeerah's shy yet
eloquent greeting. She gave Alfred her little hand and said in her
figurative style of speaking, "Myeerah is happy for you and for
others. You are strong like the West Wind that never dies."
"Myeerah and I are going this afternoon, and we came over to say
good-bye to you. We intend riding down the river fifteen miles and
then crossing, to avoid running into any band of Indians."
"And how does Myeerah like the settlement by this time?"
"Oh, she is getting on famously. Betty and she have fallen in love
with each other. It is amusing to hear Betty try to talk in the
Wyandot tongue, and to see Myeerah's consternation when Betty gives
her a lesson in deportment."
"I rather fancy it would be interesting, too. Are you not going back
to the Wyandots at a dangerous time?"
"As to that I can't say. I believe, though, it is better that I get
back to Tarhe's camp before we have any trouble with the Indians. I
am anxious to get there before Girty or some of his agents."
"Well, if you must go, good luck to you, and may we meet again."
"It will not be long, I am sure. And, old man," he continued, with a
bright smile, "when Myeerah and I come again to Ft. Henry we expect
to find all well with you. Cheer up, and good-bye."
All the preparations had been made for the departure of Isaac and
Myeerah to their far-off Indian home. They were to ride the Indian
ponies on which they had arrived at the Fort. Col. Zane had given
Isaac one of his pack horses. This animal carried blankets,
clothing, and food which insured comparative comfort in the long
ride through the wilderness.
"We will follow the old trail until we reach the hickory swale,"
Isaac was saying to the Colonel, "and then we will turn off and make
for the river. Once across the Ohio we can make the trip in two
"I think you'll make it all right," said Col. Zane.
"Even if I do meet Indians I shall have no fear, for I have a
protector here," answered Isaac as he led Myeerah's pony to the
"Good-bye, Myeerah; he is yours, but do not forget he is dear to
us," said Betty, embracing and kissing the Indian girl.
"My sister does not know Myeerah. The White Eagle will return."
"Good-bye, Betts, don't cry. I shall come home again. And when I do
I hope I shall be in time to celebrate another event, this time with
you as the heroine. Good-bye. Goodbye."
The ponies cantered down the road. At the bend Isaac and Myeerah
turned and waved their hands until the foliage of the trees hid them
"Well, these things happen naturally enough. I suppose they must be.
But I should much have preferred Isaac staying here. Hello! What the
deuce is that? By Lord! It's Tige!"
The exclamation following Col. Zane's remarks had been called forth
by Betty's dog. He came limping painfully up the road from the
direction of the river. When he saw Col. Zane he whined and crawled
to the Colonel's feet. The dog was wet and covered with burrs, and
his beautiful glossy coat, which had been Betty's pride, was
dripping with blood.
"Silas, Jonathan, come here," cried Col. Zane. "Here's Tige, back
without Wetzel, and the poor dog has been shot almost to pieces.
What does it mean?"
"Indians," said Jonathan, coming out of the house with Silas, and
Mrs. Zane and Betty, who had heard the Colonel's call.
"He has come a long way. Look at his feet. They are torn and
bruised," continued Jonathan. "And he has been near Wingenund's
camp. You see that red clay on his paws. There is no red clay that I
know of round here, and there are miles of it this side of the
"What is the matter with Tige?" asked Betty.
"He is done for. Shot through, poor fellow. How did he ever reach
home?" said Silas.
"Oh, I hope not! Dear old Tige," said Betty as she knelt and
tenderly placed the head of the dog in her lap. "Why, what is this?
I never put that there. Eb, Jack, look here. There is a string
around his neck," and Betty pointed excitedly to a thin cord which
was almost concealed in the thick curly hair.
"Good gracious! Eb, look! It is the string off the prize bullet
pouch I made, and that Wetzel won on Isaac's wedding day. It is a
message from Lew," said Betty.
"Well, by Heavens! This is strange. So it is. I remember that
string. Cut it off, Jack," said Col. Zane.
When Jonathan had cut the string and held it up they all saw the
lead bullet. Col. Zane examined it and showed them what had been
rudely scratched on it.
"A letter W. Does that mean Wetzel?" asked the Colonel.
"It means war. It's a warning from Wetzel--not the slightest doubt
of that," said Jonathan. "Wetzel sends this because he knows we are
to be attacked, and because there must have been great doubt of his
getting back to tell us. And Tige has been shot on his way home."
This called the attention to the dog, which had been momentarily
forgotten. His head rolled from Betty's knee; a quiver shook his
frame; he struggled to rise to his feet, but his strength was too
far spent; he crawled close to Betty's feet; his eyes looked up at
her with almost human affection; then they closed, and he lay still.
Tige was dead.
"It is all over, Betty. Tige will romp no more. He will never be
forgotten, for he was faithful to the end. Jonathan, tell the Major
of Wetzel's warning, and both of you go back to your posts on the
river. Silas, send Capt. Boggs to me."
An hour after the death of Tige the settlers were waiting for the
ring of the meeting-house bell to summon them to the Fort.
Supper at Col. Zane's that night was not the occasion of
good-humored jest and pleasant conversation. Mrs. Zane's face wore a
distressed and troubled look; Betty was pale and quiet; even the
Colonel was gloomy; and the children, missing the usual cheerfulness
of the evening meal, shrank close to their mother.
Darkness slowly settled down; and with it came a feeling of relief,
at least for the night, for the Indians rarely attacked the
settlements after dark. Capt. Boggs came over and he and Col. Zane
conversed in low tones.
"The first thing in the morning I want you to ride over to Short
Creek for reinforcements. I'll send the Major also and by a
different route. I expect to hear tonight from Wetzel. Twelve times
has he crossed that threshold with the information which made an
Indian surprise impossible. And I feel sure he will come again."
"What was that?" said Betty, who was sitting on the doorstep.
"Sh-h!" whispered Col. Zane, holding up his finger.
The night was warm and still. In the perfect quiet which followed
the Colonel's whispered exclamation the listeners heard the beating
of their hearts. Then from the river bank came the cry of an owl;
low but clear it came floating to their ears, its single melancholy
note thrilling them. Faint and far off in the direction of the
island sounded the answer.
"I knew it. I told you. We shall know all presently," said Col.
Zane. "The first call was Jonathan's, and it was answered."
The moments dragged away. The children had fallen asleep on the
bearskin rug. Mrs. Zane and Betty had heard the Colonel's voice, and
sat with white faces, waiting, waiting for they knew not what.
A familiar, light-moccasined tread sounded on the path, a tall
figure loomed up from the darkness; it came up the path, passed up
the steps, and crossed the threshold.
"Wetzel!" exclaimed Col. Zane and Capt. Boggs. It was indeed the
hunter. How startling was his appearance! The buckskin hunting coat
and leggins were wet, torn and bespattered with mud; the water ran
and dripped from him to form little muddy pools on the floor; only
his rifle and powder horn were dry. His face was ghastly white
except where a bullet wound appeared on his temple, from which the
blood had oozed down over his cheek. An unearthly light gleamed from
his eyes. In that moment Wetzel was an appalling sight.
"Col. Zane, I'd been here days before, but I run into some Shawnees,
and they gave me a hard chase. I have to report that Girty, with
four hundred Injuns and two hundred Britishers, are on the way to
"My God!" exclaimed Col. Zane. Strong man as he was the hunter's
words had unnerved him.
The loud and clear tone of the church-bell rang out on the still
night air. Only once it sounded, but it reverberated among the
hills, and its single deep-toned ring was like a knell. The
listeners almost expected to hear it followed by the fearful
war-cry, that cry which betokened for many desolation and death.
Morning found the settlers, with the exception of Col. Zane, his
brother Jonathan, the negro Sam, and Martin Wetzel, all within the
Fort. Col. Zane had determined, long before, that in the event of
another siege, he would use his house as an outpost. Twice it had
been destroyed by fire at the hands of the Indians. Therefore,
surrounding himself by these men, who were all expert marksmen, Col.
Zane resolved to protect his property and at the same time render
valuable aid to the Fort.
Early that morning a pirogue loaded with cannon balls, from Ft. Pitt
and bound for Louisville, had arrived and Captain Sullivan, with his
crew of three men, had demanded admittance. In the absence of Capt.
Boggs and Major McColloch, both of whom had been dispatched for
reinforcements, Col. Zane had placed his brother Silas in command of
the Fort. Sullivan informed Silas that he and his men had been fired
on by Indians and that they sought the protection of the Fort. The
services of himself and men, which he volunteered, were gratefully
All told, the little force in the block-house did not exceed
forty-two, and that counting the boys and the women who could handle
rifles. The few preparations had been completed and now the settlers
were awaiting the appearance of the enemy. Few words were spoken.
The children were secured where they would be out of the way of
flying bullets. They were huddled together silent and frightened;
pale-faced but resolute women passed up and down the length of the
block-house; some carried buckets of water and baskets of food;
others were tearing bandages; grim-faced men peered from the
portholes; all were listening for the war-cry.
They had not long to wait. Before noon the well-known whoop came
from the wooded shore of the river, and it was soon followed by the
appearance of hundreds of Indians. The river, which was low, at once
became a scene of great animation. From a placid, smoothly flowing
stream it was turned into a muddy, splashing, turbulent torrent. The
mounted warriors urged their steeds down the bank and into the
water; the unmounted improvised rafts and placed their weapons and
ammunition upon them; then they swam and pushed, kicked and yelled
their way across; other Indians swam, holding the bridles of the
pack-horses. A detachment of British soldiers followed the Indians.
In an hour the entire army appeared on the river bluff not three
hundred yards from the Fort. They were in no hurry to begin the
attack. Especially did the Indians seem to enjoy the lull before the
storm, and as they stalked to and fro in plain sight of the
garrison, or stood in groups watching the Fort, they were seen in
all their hideous war-paint and formidable battle-array. They were
exultant. Their plumes and eagle feathers waved proudly in the
morning breeze. Now and then the long, peculiarly broken yell of the
Shawnees rang out clear and strong. The soldiers were drawn off to
one side and well out of range of the settlers' guns. Their red
coats and flashing bayonets were new to most of the little band of
men in the block-house.
"Ho, the Fort!"
It was a strong, authoritative voice and came from a man mounted on
a black horse.
"Well, Girty, what is it?" shouted Silas Zane.
"We demand unconditional surrender," was the answer.
"You will never get it," replied Silas.
"Take more time to think it over. You see we have a force here large
enough to take the Fort in an hour."
"That remains to be seen," shouted some one through porthole.
An hour passed. The soldiers and the Indians lounged around on the
grass and walked to and fro on the bluff. At intervals a taunting
Indian yell, horrible in its suggestiveness came floating on the
air. When the hour was up three mounted men rode out in advance of
the waiting Indians. One was clad in buckskin, another in the
uniform of a British officer, and the third was an Indian chief
whose powerful form was naked except for his buckskin belt and
"Will you surrender?" came in the harsh and arrogant voice of the
"Never! Go back to your squaws!" yelled Sullivan.
"I am Capt. Pratt of the Queen's Rangers. If you surrender I will
give you the best protection King George affords," shouted the
"To hell with lying George! Go back to your hair-buying Hamilton and
tell him the whole British army could not make us surrender," roared
"If you do not give up, the Fort will be attacked and burned. Your
men will be massacred and your women given to the Indians," said
"You will never take a man, woman or child alive," yelled Silas. "We
remember Crawford, you white traitor, and we are not going to give
up to be butchered. Come on with your red-jackets and your
red-devils. We are ready."
"We have captured and killed the messenger you sent out, and now all
hope of succor must be abandoned. Your doom is sealed."
"What kind of a man was he?" shouted Sullivan.
"A fine, active young fellow," answered the outlaw.
"That's a lie," snapped Sullivan, "he was an old, gray haired man."
As the officer and the outlaw chief turned, apparently to consult
their companion, a small puff of white smoke shot forth from one of
the portholes of the block-house. It was followed by the ringing
report of a rifle. The Indian chief clutched wildly at his breast,
fell forward on his horse, and after vainly trying to keep his seat,
slipped to the ground. He raised himself once, then fell backward
and lay still. Full two hundred yards was not proof against Wetzel's
deadly smallbore, and Red Fox, the foremost war chieftain of the
Shawnees, lay dead, a victim to the hunter's vengeance. It was
characteristic of Wetzel that he picked the chief, for he could have
shot either the British officer or the renegade. They retreated out
of range, leaving the body of the chief where it had fallen, while
the horse, giving a frightened snort, galloped toward the woods.
Wetzel's yell coming quickly after his shot, excited the Indians to
a very frenzy, and they started on a run for the Fort, discharging
their rifles and screeching like so many demons.
In the cloud of smoke which at once enveloped the scene the Indians
spread out and surrounded the Fort. A tremendous rush by a large
party of Indians was made for the gate of the Fort. They attacked it
fiercely with their tomahawks, and a log which they used as a
battering-ram. But the stout gate withstood their united efforts,
and the galling fire from the portholes soon forced them to fall
back and seek cover behind the trees and the rocks. From these
points of vantage they kept up an uninterrupted fire.
The soldiers had made a dash at the stockade-fence, yelling derision
at the small French cannon which was mounted on top of the
block-house. They thought it a "dummy" because they had learned that
in the 1777 siege the garrison had no real cannon, but had tried to
utilize a wooden one. They yelled and hooted and mocked at this
piece and dared the garrison to fire it. Sullivan, who was in charge
of the cannon, bided his time. When the soldiers were massed closely
together and making another rush for the stockade-fence Sullivan
turned loose the little "bulldog," spreading consternation and
destruction in the British ranks.
"Stand back! Stand back!" Capt. Pratt was heard to yell. "By God!
there's no wood about that gun."
After this the besiegers withdrew for a breathing spell. At this
early stage of the siege the Indians were seen to board Sullivan's
pirogue, and it was soon discovered they were carrying the cannon
balls from the boat to the top of the bluff. In their simple minds
they had conceived a happy thought. They procured a white-oak log
probably a foot in diameter, split it through the middle and
hollowed out the inside with their tomahawks. Then with iron chains
and bars, which they took from Reihart's blacksmith shop, they bound
and securely fastened the sides together. They dragged the
improvised cannon nearer to the Fort, placed it on two logs and
weighted it down with stones. A heavy charge of powder and ball was
then rammed into the wooden gun. The soldiers, though much
interested in the manoeuvre, moved back to a safe distance, while
many of the Indians crowded round the new weapon. The torch was
applied; there was a red flash--boom! The hillside was shaken by the
tremendous explosion, and when the smoke lifted from the scene the
naked forms of the Indians could be seen writhing in agony on the
ground. Not a vestige of the wooden gun remained. The iron chains
had proved terrible death-dealing missiles to the Indians near the
gun. The Indians now took to their natural methods of warfare. They
hid in the long grass, in the deserted cabins, behind the trees and
up in the branches. Not an Indian was visible, but the rain of
bullets pattered steadily against the block-house. Every bush and
every tree spouted little puffs of white smoke, and the leaden
messengers of Death whistled through the air.
After another unsuccessful effort to destroy a section of the
stockade-fence the soldiers had retired. Their red jackets made them
a conspicuous mark for the sharp-eyed settlers. Capt. Pratt had been
shot through the thigh. He suffered great pain, and was deeply
chagrined by the surprising and formidable defense of the garrison
which he had been led to believe would fall an easy prey to the
King's soldiers. He had lost one-third of his men. Those who were
left refused to run straight in the face of certain death. They had
not been drilled to fight an unseen enemy. Capt. Pratt was compelled
to order a retreat to the river bluff, where he conferred with
Inside the block-house was great activity, but no confusion. That
little band of fighters might have been drilled for a king's
bodyguard. Kneeling before each porthole on the river side of the
Fort was a man who would fight while there was breath left in him.
He did not discharge his weapon aimlessly as the Indians did, but
waited until he saw the outline of an Indian form, or a red coat, or
a puff of white smoke; then he would thrust the rifle-barrel
forward, take a quick aim and fire. By the side of every man stood a
heroic woman whose face was blanched, but who spoke never a word as
she put the muzzle of the hot rifle into a bucket of water, cooled
the barrel, wiped it dry and passed it back to the man beside her.
Silas Zane had been wounded at the first fire. A glancing ball had
struck him on the head, inflicting a painful scalp wound. It was now
being dressed by Col. Zane's wife, whose skilled fingers were
already tired with the washing and the bandaging of the injuries
received by the defenders. In all that horrible din of battle, the
shrill yells of the savages, the hoarse shouts of the settlers, the
boom of the cannon overhead, the cracking of rifles and the
whistling of bullets; in all that din of appalling noise, and amid
the stifling smoke, the smell of burned powder, the sickening sight
of the desperately wounded and the already dead, the Colonel's brave
wife had never faltered. She was here and there; binding the wounds,
helping Lydia and Betty mould bullets, encouraging the men, and by
her example, enabling those women to whom border war was new to bear
up under the awful strain.
Sullivan, who had been on top of the block-house, came down the
ladder almost without touching it. Blood was running down his bare
arm and dripping from the ends of his fingers.
"Zane, Martin has been shot," he said hoarsely. "The same Indian who
shot away these fingers did it. The bullets seem to come from some
elevation. Send some scout up there and find out where that damned
Indian is hiding."
"Martin shot? God, his poor wife! Is he dead?" said Silas.
"Not yet. Bennet is bringing him down. Here, I want this hand tied
up, so that my gun won't be so slippery."
Wetzel was seen stalking from one porthole to another. His fearful
yell sounded above all the others. He seemed to bear a charmed life,
for not a bullet had so much as scratched him. Silas communicated to
him what Sullivan had said. The hunter mounted the ladder and went
up on the roof. Soon he reappeared, descended into the room and ran
into the west end of the block-house. He kneeled before a porthole
through which he pushed the long black barrel of his rifle. Silas
and Sullivan followed him and looked in the direction indicated by
his weapon. It pointed toward the bushy top of a tall poplar tree
which stood on the hill west of the Fort. Presently a little cloud
of white smoke issued from the leafy branches, and it was no sooner
seen than Wetzel's rifle was discharged. There was a great commotion
among the leaves, the branches swayed and thrashed, and then a dark
body plunged downward to strike on the rocky slope of the bluff and
roll swiftly out of sight. The hunter's unnatural yell pealed out.
"Great God! The man's crazy," cried Sullivan, staring at Wetzel's
"No, no. It's his way," answered Silas.
At that moment the huge frame of Bennet filled up the opening in the
roof and started down the ladder. In one arm he carried the limp
body of a young man. When he reached the floor he laid the body down
and beckoned to Mrs. Zane. Those watching saw that the young man was
Will Martin, and that he was still alive. But it was evident that he
had not long to live. His face had a leaden hue and his eyes were
bright and glassy. Alice, his wife, flung herself on her knees
beside him and tenderly raised the drooping head. No words could
express the agony in her face as she raised it to Mrs. Zane. In it
was a mute appeal, an unutterable prayer for hope. Mrs. Zane turned
sorrowfully to her task. There was no need of her skill here. Alfred
Clarke, who had been ordered to take Martin's place on top of the
block-house, paused a moment in silent sympathy. When he saw that
little hole in the bared chest, from which the blood welled up in an
awful stream, he shuddered and passed on. Betty looked up from her
work and then turned away sick and faint. Her mute lips moved as if
Alice was left alone with her dying husband. She tenderly supported
his head on her bosom, leaned her face against his and kissed the
cold, numb lips. She murmured into his already deaf ear the old
tender names. He knew her, for he made a feeble effort to pass his
arm round her neck. A smile illumined his face. Then death claimed
him. With wild, distended eyes and with hands pressed tightly to her
temples Alice rose slowly to her feet.
"Oh, God! Oh, God!" she cried.
Her prayer was answered. In a momentary lull in the battle was heard
the deadly hiss of a bullet as it sped through one of the portholes.
It ended with a slight sickening spat as the lead struck the flesh.
Then Alice, without a cry, fell on the husband's breast. Silas Zane
found her lying dead with the body of her husband clasped closely in
her arms. He threw a blanket over them and went on his wearying
round of the bastions.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The besiegers had been greatly harassed and hampered by the
continual fire from Col. Zane's house. It was exceedingly difficult
for the Indians, and impossible for the British, to approach near
enough to the Colonel's house to get an effective shot. Col. Zane
and his men had the advantage of being on higher ground. Also they
had four rifles to a man, and they used every spare moment for
reloading. Thus they were enabled to pour a deadly fire into the
ranks of the enemy, and to give the impression of being much
stronger in force than they really were.
About dusk the firing ceased and the Indians repaired to the river
bluff. Shortly afterward their camp-fires were extinguished and all
became dark and quiet. Two hours passed. Fortunately the clouds,
which had at first obscured the moon, cleared away somewhat and
enough light was shed on the scene to enable the watchers to discern
objects near by.
Col. Zane had just called together his men for a conference. He
suspected some cunning deviltry on part of the Indians.
"Sam, take what stuff to eat you can lay your hands on and go up to
the loft. Keep a sharp lookout and report anything to Jonathan or
me," said the Colonel.
All afternoon Jonathan Zane had loaded and fired his rifles in
sullen and dogged determination. He had burst one rifle and disabled
another. The other men were fine marksmen, but it was undoubtedly
Jonathan's unerring aim that made the house so unapproachable. He
used an extremely heavy, large bore rifle. In the hands of a man
strong enough to stand its fierce recoil it was a veritable cannon.
The Indians had soon learned to respect the range of that rifle, and
they gave the cabin a wide berth.
But now that darkness had enveloped the valley the advantage lay
with the savages. Col. Zane glanced apprehensively at the blackened
face of his brother.
"Do you think the Fort can hold out?" he asked in a husky voice. He
was a bold man, but he thought now of his wife and children.
"I don't know," answered Jonathan. "I saw that big Shawnee chief
today. His name is Fire. He is well named. He is a fiend. Girty has
a picked band."
"The Fort has held out surprisingly well against such combined and
fierce attacks. The Indians are desperate. You can easily see that
in the way in which they almost threw their lives away. The green
square is covered with dead Indians."
"If help does not come in twenty-four hours not one man will escape
alive. Even Wetzel could not break through that line of Indians. But
if we can hold the Indians off a day longer they will get tired and
discouraged. Girty will not be able to hold them much longer. The
British don't count. It's not their kind of war. They can't shoot,
and so far as I can see they haven't done much damage."
"To your posts, men, and every man think of the women and children
in the block-house."
For a long time, which seemed hours to the waiting and watching
settlers, not a sound could be heard, nor any sign of the enemy
seen. Thin clouds had again drifted over the moon, allowing only a
pale, wan light to shine down on the valley. Time dragged on and the
clouds grew thicker and denser until the moon and the stars were
totally obscured. Still no sign or sound of the savages.
"What was that?" suddenly whispered Col. Zane.
"It was a low whistle from Sam. We'd better go up," said Jonathan.
They went up the stairs to the second floor from which they ascended
to the loft by means of a ladder. The loft was as black as pitch. In
that Egyptian darkness it was no use to look for anything, so they
crawled on their hands and knees over the piles of hides and leather
which lay on the floor. When they reached the small window they made
out the form of the negro.
"What is it, Sam?" whispered Jonathan.
"Look, see thar, Massa Zane," came the answer in a hoarse whisper
from the negro and at the same time he pointed down toward the
Col. Zane put his head alongside Jonathan's and all three men peered
out into the darkness.
"Jack, can you see anything?" said Col. Zane.
"No, but wait a minute until the moon throws a light."
A breeze had sprung up. The clouds were passing rapidly over the
moon, and at long intervals a rift between the clouds let enough
light through to brighten the square for an instant.
"Now, Massa Zane, thar!" exclaimed the slave.
"I can't see a thing. Can you, Jack?"
"I am not sure yet. I can see something, but whether it is a log or
not I don't know."
Just then there was a faint light like the brightening of a firefly,
or like the blowing of a tiny spark from a stick of burning wood.
Jonathan uttered a low curse.
"D--n 'em! At their old tricks with fire. I thought all this quiet
meant something. The grass out there is full of Indians, and they
are carrying lighted arrows under them so as to cover the light. But
we'll fool the red devils this time"
"I can see 'em, Massa Zane."
"Sh-h-h! no more talk," whispered Col. Zane.
The men waited with cocked rifles. Another spark rose seemingly out
of the earth. This time it was nearer the house. No sooner had its
feeble light disappeared than the report of the negro's rifle awoke
the sleeping echoes. It was succeeded by a yell which seemed to come
from under the window. Several dark forms rose so suddenly that they
appeared to spring out of the ground. Then came the peculiar twang
of Indian bows. There were showers of sparks and little streaks of
fire with long tails like comets winged their parabolic flight
toward the cabin. Falling short they hissed and sputtered in the
grass. Jonathan's rifle spoke and one of the fleeing forms tumbled
to the earth. A series of long yells from all around the Fort
greeted this last shot, but not an Indian fired a rifle.
Fire-tipped arrows were now shot at the block-house, but not one
took effect, although a few struck the stockade-fence. Col. Zane had
taken the precaution to have the high grass and the clusters of
goldenrod cut down all round the Fort. The wisdom of this course now
became evident, for the wily savages could not crawl near enough to
send their fiery arrows on the roof of the block-house. This attempt
failing, the Indians drew back to hatch up some other plot to burn
"Look!" suddenly exclaimed Jonathan.
Far down the road, perhaps five hundred yards from the Fort, a point
of light had appeared. At first it was still, and then it took an
odd jerky motion, to this side and to that, up and down like a
"What the hell?" muttered Col. Zane, sorely puzzled. "Jack, by all
that's strange it's getting bigger."
Sure enough the spark of fire, or whatever it was, grew larger and
larger. Col. Zane thought it might be a light carried by a man on
horseback. But if this were true where was the clatter of the
horse's hoofs? On that rocky blur no horse could run noiselessly. It
could not be a horse. Fascinated and troubled by this new mystery
which seemed to presage evil to them the watchers waited with that
patience known only to those accustomed to danger. They knew that
whatever it was, it was some satanic stratagem of the savages, and
that it would come all too soon.
The light was now zigzagging back and forth across the road, and
approaching the Fort with marvelous rapidity. Now its motion was
like the wide swinging of a lighted lantern on a dark night. A
moment more of breathless suspense and the lithe form of an Indian
brave could be seen behind the light. He was running with almost
incredible swiftness down the road in the direction of the Fort.
Passing at full speed within seventy-five yards of the
stockade-fence the Indian shot his arrow. Like a fiery serpent
flying through the air the missile sped onward in its graceful
flight, going clear over the block-house, and striking with a
spiteful thud the roof of one of the cabins beyond. Unhurt by the
volley that was fired at him, the daring brave passed swiftly out of
Deeds like this were dear to the hearts of the savages. They were
deeds which made a warrior of a brave, and for which honor any
Indian would risk his life over and over again. The exultant yells
which greeted this performance proclaimed its success.
The breeze had already fanned the smouldering arrow into a blaze and
the dry roof of the cabin had caught fire and was burning fiercely.
"That infernal redskin is going to do that again," ejaculated
It was indeed true. That same small bright light could be seen
coming down the road gathering headway with every second. No doubt
the same Indian, emboldened by his success, and maddened with that
thirst for glory so often fatal to his kind, was again making the
effort to fire the block-house.
The eyes of Col. Zane and his companions were fastened on the light
as it came nearer and nearer with its changing motion. The burning
cabin brightened the square before the Fort. The slender, shadowy
figure of the Indian could be plainly seen emerging from the gloom.
So swiftly did he run that he seemed to have wings. Now he was in
the full glare of the light. What a magnificent nerve, what a
terrible assurance there was in his action! It seemed to paralyze
all. The red arrow emitted a shower of sparks as it was discharged.
This time it winged its way straight and true and imbedded itself in
the roof of the block-house.
Almost at the same instant a solitary rifle shot rang out and the
daring warrior plunged headlong, sliding face downward in the dust
of the road, while from the Fort came that demoniac yell now grown
"Wetzel's compliments," muttered Jonathan. "But the mischief is
Back to Full Books