Part 6 out of 6
done. Look at that damned burning arrow. If it doesn't blow out the
Fort will go."
The arrow was visible, but it seemed a mere spark. It alternately
paled and glowed. One moment it almost went out, and the next it
gleamed brightly. To the men, compelled to look on and powerless to
prevent the burning of the now apparently doomed block-house, that
spark was like the eye of Hell.
"Ho, the Fort," yelled Col. Zane with all the power of his strong
lungs. "Ho, Silas, the roof is on fire!"
Pandemonium had now broken out among the Indians. They could be
plainly seen in the red glare thrown by the burning cabin. It had
been a very dry season, the rough shingles were like tinder, and the
inflammable material burst quickly into great flames, lighting up
the valley as far as the edge of the forest. It was an awe-inspiring
and a horrible spectacle. Columns of yellow and black smoke rolled
heavenward; every object seemed dyed a deep crimson; the trees
assumed fantastic shapes; the river veiled itself under a red glow.
Above the roaring and crackling of the flames rose the inhuman
yelling of the savages. Like demons of the inferno they ran to and
fro, their naked painted bodies shining in the glare. One group of
savages formed a circle and danced hands-around a stump as gayly as
a band of school-girls at a May party. They wrestled with and hugged
one another; they hopped, skipped and jumped, and in every possible
way manifested their fiendish joy.
The British took no part in this revelry. To their credit it must be
said they kept in the background as though ashamed of this horrible
fire-war on people of their own blood.
"Why don't they fire the cannon?" impatiently said Col. Zane. "Why
don't they do something?"
"Perhaps it is disabled, or maybe they are short of ammunition,"
"The block-house will burn down before our eyes. Look! The
hell-hounds have set fire to the fence. I see men running and
"I see something on the roof of the block-house," cried Jonathan.
"There, down towards the east end of the roof and in the shadow of
the chimney. And as I'm a living sinner it's a man crawling towards
that blazing arrow. The Indians have not discovered him yet. He is
still in the shadow. But they'll see him. God! What a nervy thing to
do in the face of all those redskins. It is almost certain death!"
"Yes, and they see him," said the Colonel.
With shrill yells the Indians bounded forward and aimed and fired
their rifles at the crouching figure of the man. Some hid behind the
logs they had rolled toward the Fort; others boldly faced the steady
fire now pouring from the portholes. The savages saw in the movement
of that man an attempt to defeat their long-cherished hope of
burning the Fort. Seeing he was discovered, the man did not
hesitate, nor did he lose a second. Swiftly he jumped and ran toward
the end of the roof where the burning arrow, now surrounded by
blazing shingles, was sticking in the roof. How he ever ran along
that slanting roof and with a pail in his hand was incomprehensible.
In moments like that men become superhuman. It all happened in an
instant. He reached the arrow, kicked it over the wall, and then
dashed the bucket of water on the blazing shingles. In that single
instant, wherein his tall form was outlined against the bright light
behind him, he presented the fairest kind of a mark for the Indians.
Scores of rifles were levelled and discharged at him. The bullets
pattered like hail on the roof of the block-house, but apparently
none found their mark, for the man ran back and disappeared.
"It was Clarke!" exclaimed Col. Zane. "No one but Clarke has such
light hair. Wasn't that a plucky thing?"
"It has saved the block-house for to-night," answered Jonathan.
"See, the Indians are falling back. They can't stand in the face of
that shooting. Hurrah! Look at them fall! It could not have happened
better. The light from the cabin will prevent any more close attacks
for an hour and daylight is near."
The sun rose red. Its ruddy rays peeped over the eastern hills,
kissed the tree-tops, glinted along the stony bluffs, and chased
away the gloom of night from the valley. Its warm gleams penetrated
the portholes of the Fort and cast long bright shadows on the walls;
but it brought little cheer to the sleepless and almost exhausted
defenders. It brought to many of the settlers the familiar old
sailor's maxim: "Redness 'a the morning, sailor's warning." Rising
in its crimson glory the sun flooded the valley, dyeing the river,
the leaves, the grass, the stones, tingeing everything with that
awful color which stained the stairs, the benches, the floor, even
the portholes of the block-house.
Historians call this the time that tried men's souls. If it tried
the men think what it must have been to those grand, heroic women.
Though they had helped the men load and fire nearly forty-eight
hours; though they had worked without a moment's rest and were now
ready to succumb to exhaustion; though the long room was full of
stifling smoke and the sickening odor of burned wood and powder, and
though the row of silent, covered bodies had steadily lengthened,
the thought of giving up never occurred to the women. Death there
would be sweet compared to what it would be at the hands of the
At sunrise Silas Zane, bare-chested, his face dark and fierce,
strode into the bastion which was connected with the blockhouse. It
was a small shedlike room, and with portholes opening to the river
and the forest. This bastion had seen the severest fighting. Five
men had been killed here. As Silas entered four haggard and
powder-begrimed men, who were kneeling before the portholes, looked
up at him. A dead man lay in one corner.
"Smith's dead. That makes fifteen," said Silas. "Fifteen out of
forty-two, that leaves twenty-seven. We must hold out. Len, don't
expose yourselves recklessly. How goes it at the south bastion?"
"All right. There's been firin' over there all night," answered one
of the men. "I guess it's been kinder warm over that way. But I
ain't heard any shootin' for some time."
"Young Bennet is over there, and if the men needed anything they
would send him for it," answered Silas. "I'll send some food and
water. Anything else?"
"Powder. We're nigh out of powder," replied the man addressed. "And
we might jes as well make ready fer a high old time. The red devils
hadn't been quiet all this last hour fer nothin'."
Silas passed along the narrow hallway which led from the bastion
into the main room of the block-house. As he turned the corner at
the head of the stairway he encountered a boy who was dragging
himself up the steps.
"Hello! Who's this? Why, Harry!" exclaimed Silas, grasping the boy
and drawing him into the room. Once in the light Silas saw that the
lad was so weak he could hardly stand. He was covered with blood. It
dripped from a bandage wound tightly about his arm; it oozed through
a hole in his hunting shirt, and it flowed from a wound over his
temple. The shadow of death was already stealing over the pallid
face, but from the grey eyes shone an indomitable spirit, a spirit
which nothing but death could quench.
"Quick!" the lad panted. "Send men to the south wall. The redskins
are breakin' in where the water from the spring runs under the
"Where are Metzar and the other men?"
"Dead! Killed last night. I've been there alone all night. I kept on
shootin'. Then I gets plugged here under the chin. Knowin' it's all
up with me I deserted my post when I heard the Injuns choppin' on the
fence where it was on fire last night. But I only--run--because--they're
"Wetzel, Bennet, Clarke!" yelled Silas, as he laid the boy on the
Almost as Silas spoke the tall form of the hunter confronted him.
Clarke and the other men were almost as prompt.
"Wetzel, run to the south wall. The Indians are cutting a hole
through the fence."
Wetzel turned, grabbed his rifle and an axe and was gone like a
"Sullivan, you handle the men here. Bessie, do what you can for this
brave lad. Come, Bennet, Clarke, we must follow Wetzel," commanded
Mrs. Zane hastened to the side of the fainting lad. She washed away
the blood from the wound over his temple. She saw that a bullet had
glanced on the bone and that the wound was not deep or dangerous.
She unlaced the hunting shirt at the neck and pulled the flaps
apart. There on the right breast, on a line with the apex of the
lung, was a horrible gaping wound. A murderous British slug had
passed through the lad. From the hole at every heart-beat poured the
dark, crimson life-tide. Mrs. Zane turned her white face away for a
second; then she folded a small piece of linen, pressed it tightly
over the wound, and wrapped a towel round the lad's breast.
"Don't waste time on me. It's all over," he whispered. "Will you
call Betty here a minute?"
Betty came, white-faced and horror-stricken. For forty hours she had
been living in a maze of terror. Her movements had almost become
mechanical. She had almost ceased to hear and feel. But the light in
the eyes of this dying boy brought her back to the horrible reality
of the present.
"Oh, Harry! Harry! Harry!" was all Betty could whisper.
"I'm goin', Betty. And I wanted--you to say a little prayer for
me--and say good-bye to me," he panted.
Betty knelt by the bench and tried to pray.
"I hated to run, Betty, but I waited and waited and nobody came, and
the Injuns was getting' in. They'll find dead Injuns in piles out
there. I was shootin' fer you, Betty, and every time I aimed I
thought of you."
The lad rambled on, his voice growing weaker and weaker and finally
ceasing. The hand which had clasped Betty's so closely loosened its
hold. His eyes closed. Betty thought he was dead, but no! he still
breathed. Suddenly his eyes opened. The shadow of pain was gone. In
its place shone a beautiful radiance.
"Betty, I've cared a lot for you--and I'm dyin'--happy because I've
fought fer you--and somethin' tells me--you'll--be saved. Good-bye."
A smile transformed his face and his gray eyes gazed steadily into
hers. Then his head fell back. With a sigh his brave spirit fled.
Hugh Bennet looked once at the pale face of his son, then he ran
down the stairs after Silas and Clarke. When the three men emerged
from behind Capt. Boggs' cabin, which was adjacent to the
block-house, and which hid the south wall from their view, they were
two hundred feet from Wetzel. They heard the heavy thump of a log
being rammed against the fence; then a splitting and splintering of
one of the six-inch oak planks. Another and another smashing blow
and the lower half of one of the planks fell inwards, leaving an
aperture large enough to admit an Indian. The men dashed forward to
the assistance of Wetzel, who stood by the hole with upraised axe.
At the same moment a shot rang out. Bennet stumbled and fell
headlong. An Indian had shot through the hole in the fence. Silas
and Alfred sheered off toward the fence, out of line. When within
twenty yards of Wetzel they saw a swarthy-faced and athletic savage
squeeze through the narrow crevice. He had not straightened up
before the axe, wielded by the giant hunter, descended on his head,
cracking his skull as if it were an eggshell. The savage sank to the
earth without even a moan. Another savage naked and powerful,
slipped in. He had to stoop to get through. He raised himself, and
seeing Wetzel, he tried to dodge the lightning sweep of the axe. It
missed his head, at which it had been aimed, but struck just over
the shoulders, and buried itself in flesh and bone. The Indian
uttered an agonizing yell which ended in a choking, gurgling sound
as the blood spurted from his throat. Wetzel pulled the weapon from
the body of his victim, and with the same motion he swung it around.
This time the blunt end met the next Indian's head with a thud like
that made by the butcher when he strikes the bullock to the ground.
The Indian's rifle dropped, his tomahawk flew into the air, while
his body rolled down the little embankment into the spring. Another
and another Indian met the same fate. Then two Indians endeavored to
get through the aperture. The awful axe swung by those steel arms,
dispatched both of than in the twinkling of an eye. Their bodies
stuck in the hole.
Silas and Alfred stood riveted to the spot. Just then Wetzel in all
his horrible glory was a sight to freeze the marrow of any man. He
had cast aside his hunting shirt in that run to the fence and was
now stripped to the waist. He was covered with blood. The muscles of
his broad back and his brawny arms swelled and rippled under the
brown skin. At every swing of the gory axe he let out a yell the
like of which had never before been heard by the white men. It was
the hunter's mad yell of revenge. In his thirst for vengeance he had
forgotten that he was defending the Fort with its women and its
children; he was fighting because he loved to kill.
Silas Zane heard the increasing clamor outside and knew that
hundreds of Indians were being drawn to the spot. Something must be
done at once. He looked around and his eyes fell on a pile of
white-oak logs that had been hauled inside the Fort. They had been
placed there by Col. Zane, with wise forethought. Silas grabbed
Clarke and pulled him toward the pile of logs, at the same time
communicating his plan. Together they carried a log to the fence and
dropped it in front of the hole. Wetzel immediately stepped on it
and took a vicious swing at an Indian who was trying to poke his
rifle sideways through the hole. This Indian had discharged his
weapon twice. While Wetzel held the Indians at bay, Silas and Clarke
piled the logs one upon another, until the hole was closed. This
effectually fortified and barricaded the weak place in the stockade
fence. The settlers in the bastions were now pouring such a hot fire
into the ranks of the savage that they were compelled to retreat out
While Wetzel washed the blood from his arms and his shoulders Silas
and Alfred hurried back to where Bennet had fallen. They expected to
find him dead, and were overjoyed to see the big settler calmly
sitting by the brook binding up a wound in his shoulder.
"It's nothin' much. Jest a scratch, but it tumbled me over," he
said. "I was comin' to help you. That was the wust Injun scrap I
ever saw. Why didn't you keep on lettin' 'em come in? The red
varmints would'a kept on comin' and Wetzel was good fer the whole
tribe. All you'd had to do was to drag the dead Injuns aside and
give him elbow room."
Wetzel joined them at this moment, and they hurried back to the
block-house. The firing had ceased on the bluff. They met Sullivan
at the steps of the Fort. He was evidently coming in search of them.
"Zane, the Indians and the Britishers are getting ready for more
determined and persistent effort than any that has yet been made,"
"How so?" asked Silas.
"They have got hammers from the blacksmith's shop, and they boarded
my boat and found a keg of nails. Now they are making a number of
ladders. If they make a rush all at once and place ladders against
the fence we'll have the Fort full of Indians in ten minutes. They
can't stand in the face of a cannon charge. We _must_ use the
"Clarke, go into Capt. Boggs' cabin and fetch out two kegs of
powder," said Silas.
The young man turned in the direction of the cabin, while Silas and
the others ascended the stairs.
"The firing seems to be all on the south side," said Silas, "and is
not so heavy as it was."
"Yes, as I said, the Indians on the river front are busy with their
new plans," answered Sullivan.
"Why does not Clarke return?" said Silas, after waiting a few
moments at the door of the long room. "We have no time to lose. I
want to divide one keg of that powder among the men."
Clarke appeared at the moment. He was breathing heavily as though he
had run up the stairs, or was laboring under a powerful emotion. His
face was gray.
"I could not find any powder!" he exclaimed. "I searched every nook
and corner in Capt. Boggs' house. There is no powder there."
A brief silence ensued. Everyone in the block-house heard the young
man's voice. No one moved. They all seemed waiting for someone to
speak. Finally Silas Zane burst out:
"Not find it? You surely could not have looked well. Capt. Boggs
himself told me there were three kegs of powder in the storeroom. I
will go and find it myself."
Alfred did not answer, but sat down on a bench with an odd numb
feeling round his heart. He knew what was coming. He had been in the
Captain's house and had seen those kegs of powder. He knew exactly
where they had been. Now they were not on the accustomed shelf, nor
at any other place in the storeroom. While he sat there waiting for
the awful truth to dawn on the garrison, his eyes roved from one end
of the room to the other. At last they found what they were seeking.
A young woman knelt before a charcoal fire which she was blowing
with a bellows. It was Betty. Her face was pale and weary, her hair
dishevelled, her shapely arms blackened with charcoal, but
notwithstanding she looked calm, resolute, self-contained. Lydia was
kneeling by her side holding a bullet-mould on a block of wood.
Betty lifted the ladle from the red coals and poured the hot metal
with a steady hand and an admirable precision. Too much or too
little lead would make an imperfect ball. The little missile had to
be just so for those soft-metal, smooth-bore rifles. Then Lydia
dipped the mould in a bucket of water, removed it and knocked it on
the floor. A small, shiny lead bullet rolled out. She rubbed it with
a greasy rag and then dropped it in a jar. For nearly forty hours,
without sleep or rest, almost without food, those brave girls had
been at their post.
Silas Zane came running into the room. His face was ghastly, even
his lips were white and drawn.
"Sullivan, in God's name, what can we do? The powder is gone!" he
cried in a strident voice.
"Gone?" repeated several voices.
"Gone?" echoed Sullivan. "Where?"
"God knows. I found where the kegs stood a few days ago. There were
marks in the dust. They have been moved."
"Perhaps Boggs put them here somewhere," said Sullivan. "We will
"No use. No use. We were always careful to keep the powder out of
here on account of fire. The kegs are gone, gone."
"Miller stole them," said Wetzel in his calm voice.
"What difference does that make now?" burst out Silas, turning
passionately on the hunter, whose quiet voice in that moment seemed
so unfeeling. "They're gone!"
In the silence which ensued after these words the men looked at each
other with slowly whitening faces. There was no need of words. Their
eyes told one another what was coming. The fate which had overtaken
so many border forts was to be theirs. They were lost! And every man
thought not of himself, cared not for himself, but for those
innocent children, those brave young girls and heroic women.
A man can die. He is glorious when he calmly accepts death; but when
he fights like a tiger, when he stands at bay his back to the wall,
a broken weapon in his hand, bloody, defiant, game to the end, then
he is sublime. Then he wrings respect from the souls of even his
bitterest foes. Then he is avenged even in his death.
But what can women do in times of war? They help, they cheer, they
inspire, and if their cause is lost they must accept death or worse.
Few women have the courage for self-destruction. "To the victor
belong the spoils," and women have ever been the spoils of war.
No wonder Silas Zane and his men weakened in that moment. With only
a few charges for their rifles and none for the cannon how could
they hope to hold out against the savages? Alone they could have
drawn their tomahawks and have made a dash through the lines of
Indians, but with the women and the children that was impossible.
"Wetzel, what can we do? For God's sake, advise us!" said Silas
hoarsely. "We cannot hold the Fort without powder. We cannot leave
the women here. We had better tomahawk every woman in the
block-house than let her fall into the hands of Girty."
"Send someone fer powder," answered Wetzel.
"Do you think it possible," said Silas quickly, a ray of hope
lighting up his haggard features. "There's plenty of powder in Eb's
cabin. Whom shall we send? Who will volunteer?"
Three men stepped forward, and others made a movement.
"They'd plug a man full of lead afore he'd get ten foot from the
gate," said Wetzel. "I'd go myself, but it wouldn't do no good. Send
a boy, and one as can run like a streak."
"There are no lads big enough to carry a keg of powder. Harry
Bennett might go," said Silas. "How is he, Bessie?"
"He is dead," answered Mrs. Zane.
Wetzel made a motion with his hands and turned away. A short,
intense silence followed this indication of hopelessness from him.
The women understood, for some of them covered their faces, while
"I will go."
It was Betty's voice, and it rang clear and vibrant throughout the
room. The miserable women raised their drooping heads, thrilled by
that fresh young voice. The men looked stupefied. Clarke seemed
turned to stone. Wetzel came quickly toward her.
"Impossible!" said Sullivan.
Silas Zane shook his head as if the idea were absurd.
"Let me go, brother, let me go?" pleaded Betty as she placed her
little hands softly, caressingly on her brother's bare arm. "I know
it is only a forlorn chance, but still it is a chance. Let me take
it. I would rather die that way than remain here and wait for
"Silas, it ain't a bad plan," broke in Wetzel. "Betty can run like a
deer. And bein' a woman they may let her get to the cabin without
Silas stood with arms folded across his broad chest. As he gazed at
his sister great tears coursed down his dark cheeks and splashed on
the hands which so tenderly clasped his own. Betty stood before him
transformed; all signs of weariness had vanished; her eyes shone
with a fateful resolve; her white and eager face was surpassingly
beautiful with its light of hope, of prayer, of heroism.
"Let me go, brother. You know I can run, and oh! I will fly today.
Every moment is precious. Who knows? Perhaps Capt. Boggs is already
near at hand with help. You cannot spare a man. Let me go."
"Betty, Heaven bless and save you, you shall go," said Silas.
"No! No! Do not let her go!" cried Clarke, throwing himself before
them. He was trembling, his eyes were wild, and he had the
appearance of a man suddenly gone mad.
"She shall not go," he cried.
"What authority have you here?" demanded Silas Zane, sternly. "What
right have you to speak?"
"None, unless it is that I love her and I will go for her," answered
"Stand back!" cried Wetzel, placing his powerful hard on Clarke's
breast and pushing him backward. "If you love her you don't want to
have her wait here for them red devils," and he waved his hand
toward the river. "If she gets back she'll save the Fort. If she
fails she'll at least escape Girty."
Betty gazed into the hunter's eyes and then into Alfred's. She
understood both men. One was sending her out to her death because he
knew it would be a thousand times more merciful than the fate which
awaited her at the hands of the Indians. The other had not the
strength to watch her go to her death. He had offered himself rather
than see her take such fearful chances.
"I know. If it were possible you would both save me," said Betty,
simply. "Now you can do nothing but pray that God may spare my life
long enough to reach the gate. Silas, I am ready."
Downstairs a little group of white-faced men were standing before
the gateway. Silas Zane had withdrawn the iron bar. Sullivan stood
ready to swing in the ponderous gate. Wetzel was speaking with a
clearness and a rapidity which were wonderful under the
"When we let you out you'll have a clear path. Run, but not very
fast. Save your speed. Tell the Colonel to empty a keg of powder in
a table cloth. Throw it over your shoulder and start back. Run like
you was racin' with me, and keep on comin' if you do get hit. Now
The huge gate creaked and swung in. Betty ran out, looking straight
before her. She had covered half the distance between the Fort and
the Colonel's house when long taunting yells filled the air.
"Squaw! Waugh! Squaw! Waugh!" yelled the Indians in contempt.
Not a shot did they fire. The yells ran all along the river front,
showing that hundreds of Indians had seen the slight figure running
up the gentle slope toward the cabin.
Betty obeyed Wetzel's instructions to the letter. She ran easily and
not at all hurriedly, and was as cool as if there had not been an
Indian within miles.
Col. Zane had seen the gate open and Betty come forth. When she
bounded up the steps he flung open that door and she ran into his
"Betts, for God's sake! What's this?" he cried.
"We are out of powder. Empty a keg of powder into a table cloth.
Quick! I've not a second to lose," she answered, at the same time
slipping off her outer skirt. She wanted nothing to hinder that run
for the block-house.
Jonathan Zane heard Betty's first words and disappeared into the
magazine-room. He came out with a keg in his arms. With one blow of
an axe he smashed in the top of the keg. In a twinkling a long black
stream of the precious stuff was piling up in a little hill in the
center of the table. Then the corners of the table cloth were caught
up, turned and twisted, and the bag of powder was thrown over
"Brave girl, so help me God, you are going to do it!" cried Col.
Zane, throwing open the door. "I know you can. Run as you never ran
in all your life."
Like an arrow sprung from a bow Betty flashed past the Colonel and
out on the green. Scarcely ten of the long hundred yards had been
covered by her flying feet when a roar of angry shouts and yells
warned Betty that the keen-eyed savages saw the bag of powder and
now knew they had been deceived by a girl. The cracking of rifles
began at a point on the bluff nearest Col. Zane's house, and
extended in a half circle to the eastern end of the clearing. The
leaden messengers of Death whistled past Betty. They sped before her
and behind her, scattering pebbles in her path, striking up the
dust, and ploughing little furrows in the ground. A quarter of the
distance covered! Betty had passed the top of the knoll now and she
was going down the gentle slope like the wind. None but a fine
marksman could have hit that small, flitting figure. The yelling and
screeching had become deafening. The reports of the rifles blended
in a roar. Yet above it all Betty heard Wetzel's stentorian yell. It
lent wings to her feet. Half the distance covered! A hot, stinging
pain shot through Betty's arm, but she heeded it not. The bullets
were raining about her. They sang over her head; hissed close to her
ears, and cut the grass in front of her; they pattered like hail on
the stockade-fence, but still untouched, unharmed, the slender brown
figure sped toward the gate. Three-fourths of the distance covered!
A tug at the flying hair, and a long, black tress cut off by a
bullet, floated away on the breeze. Betty saw the big gate swing;
she saw the tall figure of the hunter; she saw her brother. Only a
few more yards! On! On! On! A blinding red mist obscured her sight.
She lost the opening in the fence, but unheeding she rushed on.
Another second and she stumbled; she felt herself grasped by eager
arms; she heard the gate slam and the iron bar shoot into place;
then she felt and heard no more.
Silas Zane bounded up the stairs with a doubly precious burden in
his arms. A mighty cheer greeted his entrance. It aroused Alfred
Clarke, who had bowed his head on the bench and had lost all sense
of time and place. What were the women sobbing and crying over? To
whom belonged that white face? Of course, it was the face of the
girl he loved. The face of the girl who had gone to her death. And
he writhed in his agony.
Then something wonderful happened. A warm, living flush swept over
that pale face. The eyelids fluttered; they opened, and the dark
eyes, radiant, beautiful, gazed straight into Alfred's.
Still Alfred could not believe his eyes. That pale face and the
wonderful eyes belonged to the ghost of his sweetheart. They had
come back to haunt him. Then he heard a voice.
"O-h! but that brown place burns!"
Alfred saw a bare and shapely arm. Its beauty was marred by a cruel
red welt. He heard that same sweet voice laugh and cry together.
Then he came back to life and hope. With one bound he sprang to a
"God, what a woman!" he said between his teeth, as he thrust the
It was indeed not a time for inaction. The Indians, realizing they
had been tricked and had lost a golden opportunity, rushed at the
Fort with renewed energy. They attacked from all sides and with the
persistent fury of savages long disappointed in their hopes. They
were received with a scathing, deadly fire. Bang! roared the cannon,
and the detachment of savages dropped their ladders and fled. The
little "bull dog" was turned on its swivel and directed at another
rush of Indians. Bang! and the bullets, chainlinks, and bits of iron
ploughed through the ranks of the enemy. The Indians never lived who
could stand in the face of well-aimed cannon-shot. They fell back.
The settlers, inspired, carried beyond themselves by the heroism of
a girl, fought as they had never fought before. Every shot went to a
redskin's heart, impelled by the powder for which a brave girl had
offered her life, guided by hands and arms of iron, and aimed by
eyes as fixed and stern as Fate, every bullet shed the life-blood of
Slowly and sullenly the red men gave way before that fire. Foot by
foot they retired. Girty was seen no more. Fire, the Shawnee chief,
lay dead in the road almost in the same spot where two days before
his brother chief, Red Fox, had bit the dust. The British had long
When night came the exhausted and almost famished besiegers sought
rest and food.
The moon came out clear and beautiful, as if ashamed at her
traitor's part of the night before, and brightened up the valley,
bathing the Fort, the river, and the forest in her silver light.
Shortly after daybreak the next morning the Indians, despairing of
success, held a pow-wow. While they were grouped in plain view of
the garrison, and probably conferring over the question of raising
the siege, the long, peculiar whoop of an Indian spy, who had been
sent out to watch for the approach of a relief party, rang out. This
seemed a signal for retreat. Scarcely had the shrill cry ceased to
echo in the hills when the Indians and the British, abandoning their
dead, moved rapidly across the river.
After a short interval a mounted force was seen galloping up the
creek road. It proved to be Capt. Boggs, Swearengen, and Williamson
with seventy men. Great was the rejoicing. Capt. Boggs had expected
to find only the ashes of the Fort. And the gallant little garrison,
although saddened by the loss of half its original number, rejoiced
that it had repulsed the united forces of braves and British.
Peace and quiet reigned ones more at Ft. Henry. Before the glorious
autumn days had waned, the settlers had repaired the damage done to
their cabins, and many of them were now occupied with the fall
plowing. Never had the Fort experienced such busy days. Many new
faces were seen in the little meeting-house. Pioneers from Virginia,
from Ft. Pitt, and eastward had learned that Fort Henry had repulsed
the biggest force of Indians and soldiers that Governor Hamilton and
his minions could muster. Settlers from all points along the river
were flocking to Col. Zane's settlement. New cabins dotted the
hillside; cabins and barns in all stages of construction could be
seen. The sounds of hammers, the ringing stroke of the axe, and the
crashing down of mighty pines or poplars were heard all day long.
Col. Zane sat oftener and longer than ever before in his favorite
seat on his doorstep. On this evening he had just returned from a
hard day in the fields, and sat down to rest a moment before going
to supper. A few days previous Isaac Zane and Myeerah had come to
the settlement. Myeerah brought a treaty of peace signed by Tarhe
and the other Wyandot chieftains. The once implacable Huron was now
ready to be friendly with the white people. Col. Zane and his
brothers signed the treaty, and Betty, by dint of much persuasion,
prevailed on Wetzel to bury the hatchet with the Hurons. So
Myeerah's love, like the love of many other women, accomplished more
than years of war and bloodshed.
The genial and happy smile never left Col. Zane's face, and as he
saw the well-laden rafts coming down the river, and the air of
liveliness and animation about the growing settlement, his smile
broadened into one of pride and satisfaction. The prophecy that he
had made twelve years before was fulfilled. His dream was realized.
The wild, beautiful spot where he had once built a bark shack and
camped half a year without seeing a white man was now the scene of a
bustling settlement; and he believed he would live to see that
settlement grow into a prosperous city. He did not think of the
thousands of acres which would one day make him a wealthy man. He
was a pioneer at heart; he had opened up that rich new country; he
had conquered all obstacles, and that was enough to make him
"Papa, when shall I be big enough to fight bars and bufflers and
Injuns?" asked Noah, stopping in his play and straddling his
"My boy, did you not have Indians enough a short time ago?"
"But, papa, I did not get to see any. I heard the shooting and
yelling. Sammy was afraid, but I wasn't. I wanted to look out of the
little holes, but they locked us up in the dark room."
"If that boy ever grows up to be like Jonathan or Wetzel it will be
the death of me," said the Colonel's wife, who had heard the lad's
"Don't worry, Bessie. When Noah grows to be a man the Indians will
Col. Zane heard the galloping of a horse and looking up saw Clarke
coming down the road on his black thoroughbred. The Colonel rose and
walked out to the hitching-block, where Clarke had reined in his
"Ah, Alfred. Been out for a ride?"
"Yes, I have been giving Roger a little exercise."
"That's a magnificent animal. I never get tired watching him move.
He's the best bit of horseflesh on the river. By the way, we have
not seen much of you since the siege. Of course you have been busy.
Getting ready to put on the harness, eh? Well, that's what we want
the young men to do. Come over and see us."
"I have been trying to come. You know how it is with me--about
Betty, I mean. Col. Zane, I--I love her. That's all."
"Yes, I know, Alfred, and I don't wonder at your fears. But I have
always liked you, and now I guess it's about time for me to put a
spoke in your wheel of fortune. If Betty cares for you--and I have a
sneaking idea she does--I will give her to you."
"I have nothing. I gave up everything when I left home."
"My lad, never mind about that," said the Colonel, laying his hand
on Clarke's knee. "We don't need riches. I have so often said that
we need nothing out here on the border but honest hearts and strong,
willing hands. These you have. That is enough for me and for my
people, and as for land, why, I have enough for an army of young
men. I got my land cheap. That whole island there I bought from
Cornplanter. You can have that island or any tract of land along the
river. Some day I shall put you at the head of my men. It will take
you years to cut that road through to Maysville. Oh, I have plenty
of work for you."
"Col. Zane, I cannot thank you," answered Alfred, with emotion. "I
shall try to merit your friendship and esteem. Will you please tell
your sister I shall come over in the morning and beg to see her
"That I will, Alfred. Goodnight."
Col. Zane strode across his threshold with a happy smile on his
face. He loved to joke and tease, and never lost an opportunity.
"Things seem to be working out all right. Now for some fun with Her
Highness," he said to himself.
As the Colonel surveyed the pleasant home scene he felt he had
nothing more to wish for. The youngsters were playing with a shaggy
little pup which had already taken Tige's place in their fickle
affections. His wife was crooning a lullaby as she gently rocked the
cradle to and fro. A wonderful mite of humanity peacefully slumbered
in that old cradle. Annie was beginning to set the table for the
evening meal. Isaac lay with a contented smile on his face, fast
asleep on the couch, where, only a short time before, he had been
laid bleeding and almost dead. Betty was reading to Myeerah, whose
eyes were rapturously bright as she leaned her head against her
sister and listened to the low voice.
"Well, Betty, what do you think?" said Col. Zane, stopping before
"What do I think?" retorted Betty. "Why, I think you are very rude
to interrupt me. I am reading to Myeerah her first novel."
"I have a very important message for you."
"For me? What! From whom?"
Betty ran through a list of most of her acquaintances, but after
each name her brother shook his head.
"Oh, well, I don't care," she finally said. The color in her cheeks
had heightened noticeably.
"Very well. If you do not care, I will say nothing more," said Col.
At this juncture Annie called them to supper. Later, when Col. Zane
sat on the doorstep smoking, Betty came and sat beside him with her
head resting against his shoulder. The Colonel smoked on in silence.
Presently the dusky head moved restlessly.
"Eb, tell me the message," whispered Betty.
"Message? What message?" asked Col. Zone. "What are you talking
"Do not tease--not now. Tell me." There was an undercurrent of
wistfulness in Betty's voice which touched the kindhearted brother.
"Well, to-day a certain young man asked me if he could relieve me of
the responsibility of looking after a certain young lady."
"Wait a moment. I told him I would be delighted."
"Eb, that was unkind."
"Then he asked me to tell her he was coming over to-morrow morning
to fix it up with her."
"Oh, horrible!" cried Betty. "Were those the words he used?"
"Betts, to tell the honest truth, he did not say much of anything.
He just said: 'I love her,' and his eyes blazed."
Betty uttered a half articulate cry and ran to her room. Her heart
was throbbing. What could she do? She felt that if she looked once
into her lover's eyes she would have no strength. How dared she
allow herself to be so weak! Yet she knew this was the end. She
could deceive him no longer. For she felt a stir in her heart,
stronger than all, beyond all resistance, an exquisite agony, the
sweet, blind, tumultuous exultation of the woman who loves and is
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Bess, what do you think?" said Col. Zane, going into the kitchen
next morning, after he had returned from the pasture. "Clarke just
came over and asked for Betty. I called her. She came down looking
as sweet and cool as one of the lilies out by the spring. She said:
'Why, Mr. Clarke, you are almost a stranger. I am pleased to see
you. Indeed, we are all very glad to know you have recovered from
your severe burns.' She went on talking like that for all the world
like a girl who didn't care a snap for him. And she knows as well as
I do. Not only that, she has been actually breaking her heart over
him all these months. How did she do it? Oh, you women beat me all
"Would you expect Betty to fall into his arms?" asked the Colonel's
worthy spouse, indignantly.
"Not exactly. But she was too cool, too friendly. Poor Alfred looked
as if he hadn't slept. He was nervous and scared to death. When
Betty ran up stairs I put a bug in Alfred's ear. He'll be all right
now, if he follows my advice."
"Humph! What did Colonel Ebenezer Zane tell him?" asked Bessie, in
"Oh, not much. I simply told him not to lose his nerve; that a woman
never meant 'no'; that she often says it only to be made say 'yes.'
And I ended up with telling him if she got a little skittish, as
thoroughbreds do sometimes, to try a strong arm. That was my way."
"Col. Zane, if my memory does not fail me, you were as humble and
beseeching as the proudest girl could desire."
"I beseeching? Never!"
"I hope Alfred's wooing may go well. I like him very much. But I'm
afraid. Betty has such a spirit that it is quite likely she will
refuse him for no other reason than that he built his cabin before
he asked her."
"Nonsense. He asked her long ago. Never fear, Bess, my sister will
come back as meek as a lamb."
Meanwhile Betty and Alfred were strolling down the familiar path
toward the river. The October air was fresh with a suspicion of
frost. The clear notes of a hunter's horn came floating down from
the hills. A flock of wild geese had alighted on the marshy ground
at the end of the island where they kept up a continual honk! honk!
The brown hills, the red forest, and the yellow fields were now at
the height of their autumnal beauty. Soon the November north wind
would thrash the trees bare, and bow the proud heads of the daisies
and the goldenrod; but just now they flashed in the sun, and swayed
back and forth in all their glory.
"I see you limp. Are you not entirely well?" Betty was saying.
"Oh, I am getting along famously, thank you," said Alfred. "This one
foot was quite severely burned and is still tender."
"You have had your share of injuries. I heard my brother say you had
been wounded three times within a year."
"Jonathan told of the axe wound; then the wound Miller gave you, and
finally the burns. These make three, do they not?"
"Yes, but you see, all three could not be compared to the one you
forgot to mention."
"Let us hurry past here," said Betty, hastening to change the
subject. "This is where you had the dreadful fight with Miller."
"As Miller did go to meet Girty, and as he did not return to the
Fort with the renegade, we must believe he is dead. Of course, we do
not know this to be actually a fact. But something makes me think
so. Jonathan and Wetzel have not said anything; I can't get any
satisfaction on that score from either; but I am sure neither of
them would rest until Miller was dead."
"I think you are right. But we may never know. All I can tell you is
that Wetzel and Jack trailed Miller to the river, and then they both
came back. I was the last to see Lewis that night before he left on
Miller's trail. It isn't likely I shall forget what Lewis said and
how he looked. Miller was a wicked man; yes, a traitor."
"He was a bad man, and he nearly succeeded in every one of his
plans. I have not the slightest doubt that had he refrained from
taking part in the shooting match he would have succeeded in
abducting you, in killing me, and in leading Girty here long before
he was expected."
"There are many things that may never be explained, but one thing
Miller did always mystify us. How did he succeed in binding Tige?"
"To my way of thinking that was not so difficult as climbing into my
room and almost killing me, or stealing the powder from Capt. Boggs'
"The last, at least, gave me a chance to help," said Betty, with a
touch of her odd roguishness.
"That was the grandest thing a woman ever did," said Alfred, in a
"Oh, no, I only ran fast."
"I would have given the world to have seen you, but I was lying on
the bench wishing I were dead. I did not have strength to look out
of a porthole. Oh! that horrible time! I can never forget it. I lie
awake at night and hear the yelling and shooting. Then I dream of
running over the burning roofs and it all comes back so vividly I
can almost feel the flames and smell the burnt wood. Then I wake up
and think of that awful moment when you were carried into the
blockhouse white, and, as I thought, dead."
"But I wasn't. And I think it best for us to forget that horrible
siege. It is past. It is a miracle that any one was spared. Ebenezer
says we should not grieve for those who are gone; they were heroic;
they saved the Fort. He says too, that we shall never again be
troubled by Indians. Therefore let us forget and be happy. I have
forgotten Miller. You can afford to do the same."
"Yes, I forgive him." Then, after a long silence, Alfred continued,
"Will you go down to the old sycamore?"
Down the winding path they went. Coming to a steep place in the
rocky bank Alfred jumped down and then turned to help Betty. But she
avoided his gaze, pretended to not see his outstretched hands, and
leaped lightly down beside him. He looked at her with perplexity and
anxiety in his eyes. Before he could speak she ran on ahead of him
and climbed down the bank to the pool. He followed slowly,
thoughtfully. The supreme moment had come. He knew it, and somehow
he did not feel the confidence the Colonel had inspired in him. It
had been easy for him to think of subduing this imperious young
lady; but when the time came to assert his will he found he could
not remember what he had intended to say, and his feelings were
divided between his love for her and the horrible fear that he
should lose her.
When he reached the sycamore tree he found her sitting behind it
with a cluster of yellow daisies in her lap. Alfred gazed at her,
conscious that all his hopes of happiness were dependent on the next
few words that would issue from her smiling lips. The little brown
hands, which were now rather nervously arranging the flowers, held
more than his life.
"Are they not sweet?" asked Betty, giving him a fleeting glance. "We
call them 'black-eyed Susans.' Could anything be lovelier than that
soft, dark brown?"
"Yes," answered Alfred, looking into her eyes.
"But--but you are not looking at my daisies at all," said Betty,
lowering her eyes.
"No, I am not," said Alfred. Then suddenly: "A year ago this very
day we were here."
"Here? Oh, yes, I believe I do remember. It was the day we came in
my canoe and had such fine fishing."
"Is that all you remember?"
"I can recollect nothing in particular. It was so long ago."
"I suppose you will say you had no idea why I wanted you to come to
this spot in particular."
"I supposed you simply wanted to take a walk, and it is very
"Then Col. Zane did not tell you?" demanded Alfred. Receiving no
reply he went on.
"Did you read my letter?"
"The letter old Sam should have given you last fall. Did you read
"Yes," answered Betty, faintly.
"Did your brother tell you I wanted to see you this morning?"
"Yes, he told me, and it made me very angry," said Betty, raising
her head. There was a bright red spot in each cheek. "You--you
seemed to think you--that I--well--I did not like it."
"I think I understand; but you are entirely wrong. I have never
thought you cared for me. My wildest dreams never left me any
confidence. Col. Zane and Wetzel both had some deluded notion that
"But they had no right to say that or to think it," said Betty,
passionately. She sprang to her feet, scattering the daisies over
the grass. "For them to presume that I cared for you is absurd. I
never gave them any reason to think so, for--for I--I don't."
"Very well, then, there is nothing more to be said," answered
Alfred, in a voice that was calm and slightly cold. "I'm sorry if
you have been annoyed. I have been mad, of course, but I promise you
that you need fear no further annoyance from me. Come, I think we
should return to the house."
And he turned and walked slowly up the path. He had taken perhaps a
dozen steps when she called him.
"Mr. Clarke, come back."
Alfred retraced his steps and stood before her again. Then he saw a
different Betty. The haughty poise had disappeared. Her head was
bowed. Her little hands were tightly pressed over a throbbing bosom.
"Well," said Alfred, after a moment.
"Why--why are you in such a hurry to go?"
"I have learned what I wanted to know. And after that I do not
imagine I would be very agreeable. I am going back. Are you coming?"
"I did not mean quite what I said," whispered Betty.
"Then what did you mean?" asked Alfred, in a stern voice.
"I don't know. Please don't speak so."
"Betty, forgive my harshness. Can you expect a man to feel as I do
and remain calm? You know I love you. You must not trifle any
longer. You must not fight any longer."
"But I can't help fighting."
"Look at me," said Alfred, taking her hands. "Let me see your eyes.
I believe you care a little for me, or else you wouldn't have called
me back. I love you. Can you understand that?"
"Yes, I can; and I think you should love me a great deal to make up
for what you made me suffer."
"Betty, look at me."
Slowly she raised her head and lifted the downcast eyes. Those
telltale traitors no longer hid her secret. With a glad cry Alfred
caught her in his arms. She tried to hide her face, but he got his
hand under her chin and held it firmly so that the sweet crimson
lips were very near his own. Then he slowly bent his head.
Betty saw his intention, closed her eyes and whispered.
"Alfred, please don't--it's not fair--I beg of you--Oh!"
That kiss was Betty's undoing. She uttered a strange little cry.
Then her dark head found a hiding place over his heart, and her
slender form, which a moment before had resisted so fiercely, sank
yielding into his embrace.
"Betty, do you dare tell me now that you do not care for me?" Alfred
whispered into the dusky hair which rippled over his breast.
Betty was brave even in her surrender. Her hands moved slowly upward
along his arms, slipped over his shoulders, and clasped round his
neck. Then she lifted a flushed and tearstained face with tremulous
lips and wonderful shining eyes.
"Alfred, I do love you--with my whole heart I love you. I never knew
The hours flew apace. The prolonged ringing of the dinner bell
brought the lovers back to earth, and to the realization that the
world held others than themselves. Slowly they climbed the familiar
path, but this time as never before. They walked hand in hand. From
the blur they looked back. They wanted to make sure they were not
dreaming. The water rushed over the fall more musically than ever
before; the white patches of foam floated round and round the shady
pool; the leaves of the sycamore rustled cheerily in the breeze. On
a dead branch a wood-pecker hammered industriously.
"Before we get out of sight of that dear old tree I want to make a
confession," said Betty, as she stood before Alfred. She was pulling
at the fringe on his hunting-coat.
"You need not make confessions to me."
"But this was dreadful; it preys on my conscience."
"Very well, I will be your judge. Your punishment shall be slight."
"One day when you were lying unconscious from your wound, Bessie
sent me to watch you. I nursed you for hours; and--and--do not think
badly of me--I--I kissed you."
"My darling," cried the enraptured young man.
When they at last reached the house they found Col. Zane on the
"Where on earth have you been?" he said. "Wetzel was here. He said
he would not wait to see you. There he goes up the hill. He is
behind that laurel."
They looked and presently saw the tall figure of the hunter emerge
from the bushes. He stopped and leaned on his rifle. For a minute he
remained motionless. Then he waved his hand and plunged into the
thicket. Betty sighed and Alfred said:
"Poor Wetzel! ever restless, ever roaming."
"Hello, there!" exclaimed a gay voice. The lovers turned to see the
smiling face of Isaac, and over his shoulder Myeerah's happy face
beaming on them. "Alfred, you are a lucky dog. You can thank Myeerah
and me for this; because if I had not taken to the river and nearly
drowned myself to give you that opportunity you would not wear that
happy face to-day. Blush away, Betts, it becomes you mightily."
"Bessie, here they are!" cried Col. Zane, in his hearty voice. "She
is tamed at last. No excuses, Alfred, in to dinner you go."
Col. Zane pushed the young people up the steps before him, and
stopping on the threshold while he knocked the ashes from his pipe,
he smiled contentedly.
Betty lived all her after life on the scene of her famous exploit.
She became a happy wife and mother. When she grew to be an old lady,
with her grandchildren about her knee, she delighted to tell them
that when a girl she had run the gauntlet of the Indians.
Col. Zane became the friend of all redmen. He maintained a
trading-post for many years, and his dealings were ever kind and
honorable. After the country got settled he received from time to
time various marks of distinction from the State, Colonial, and
National governments. His most noted achievement was completed about
1796. President Washington, desiring to open a National road from
Fort Henry to Maysville, Kentucky, paid a great tribute to Col.
Zane's ability by employing him to undertake the arduous task. His
brother Jonathan and the Indian guide, Tomepomehala, rendered
valuable aid in blazing out the path through the wilderness. This
road, famous for many years as Zane's Trace, opened the beautiful
Ohio valley to the ambitious pioneer. For this service Congress
granted Col. Zane the privilege of locating military warrants upon
three sections of land, each a square mile in extent, which property
the government eventually presented to him. Col. Zane was the
founder of Wheeling, Zanesville, Martin's Ferry, and Bridgeport. He
died in 1811.
Isaac Zane received from the government a patent of ten thousand
acres of land on Mad river. He established his home in the center of
this tract, where he lived with the Wyandot until his death. A white
settlement sprang up, prospered, and grew, and today it is the
thriving city of Zanesfield.
Jonathan Zane settled down after peace was declared with the
Indians, found himself a wife, and eventually became an influential
citizen. However, he never lost his love for the wild woods. At
times he would take down the old rifle and disappear for two or
three days. He always returned cheerful and happy from these lonely
Wetzel alone did not take kindly to the march of civilization; but
then he was a hunter, not a pioneer. He kept his word of peace with
his old enemies, the Hurons, though he never abandoned his wandering
and vengeful quests after the Delawares.
As the years passed Wetzel grew more silent and taciturn. From time
to time he visited Ft. Henry, and on these visits he spent hours
playing with Betty's children. But he was restless in the
settlement, and his sojourns grew briefer and more infrequent as
time rolled on. True to his conviction that no wife existed on earth
for him, he never married. His home was the trackless wilds, where
he was true to his calling--a foe to the redman.
Wonderful to relate his long, black hair never adorned the walls of
an Indian's lodge, where a warrior might point with grim pride and
say: "No more does the Deathwind blow over the hills and vales." We
could tell of how his keen eye once again saw Wingenund over the
sights of his fatal rifle, and how he was once again a prisoner in
the camp of that lifelong foe, but that's another story, which,
perhaps, we may tell some day.
To-day the beautiful city of Wheeling rises on the banks of the
Ohio, where the yells of the Indians once blanched the cheeks of the
pioneers. The broad, winding river rolls on as of yore; it alone
remains unchanged. What were Indians and pioneers, forts and cities
to it? Eons of time before human beings lived it flowed slowly
toward the sea, and ages after men and their works are dust, it will
roll on placidly with its eternal scheme of nature.
Upon the island still stand noble beeches, oaks, and
chestnuts--trees that long ago have covered up their bullet-scars,
but they could tell, had they the power to speak, many a wild
thrilling tale. Beautiful parks and stately mansions grace the
island; and polished equipages roll over the ground that once knew
naught save the soft tread of the deer and the moccasin.
McColloch's Rock still juts boldly out over the river as deep and
rugged as when the brave Major leaped to everlasting fame. Wetzel's
Cave, so named to this day, remains on the side of the bluff
overlooking the creek. The grapevines and wild rose-bushes still
cluster round the cavern-entrance, where, long ago, the wily savage
was wont to lie in wait for the settler, lured there by the false
turkey-call. The boys visit the cave on Saturday afternoons and play
Not long since the writer spent a quiet afternoon there, listening
to the musical flow of the brook, and dreaming of those who had
lived and loved, fought and died by that stream one hundred and
twenty years ago. The city with its long blocks of buildings, its
spires and bridges, faded away, leaving the scene as it was in the
days of Fort Henry--unobscured by smoke, the river undotted by
pulling boats, and everywhere the green and verdant forest.
Nothing was wanting in that dream picture: Betty tearing along on
her pony; the pioneer plowing in the field; the stealthy approach of
the savage; Wetzel and Jonathan watching the river; the deer
browsing with the cows in the pasture, and the old fort, grim and
menacing on the bluff--all were there as natural as in those times
which tried men's souls.
And as the writer awoke to the realities of life, that his dreams
were of long ago, he was saddened by the thought that the labor of
the pioneer is ended; his faithful, heroic wife's work is done. That
beautiful country, which their sacrifices made ours, will ever be a
monument to them.
Sad, too, is the thought that the poor Indian is unmourned. He is
almost forgotten; he is in the shadow; his songs are sung; no more
will he sing to his dusky bride: his deeds are done; no more will he
boast of his all-conquering arm or of his speed like the Northwind;
no more will his heart bound at the whistle of the stag, for he
sleeps in the shade of the oaks, under the moss and the ferns.
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