Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:
Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostępny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacji Legimi na:
Deerfoot on the Prairies
Edward S. Ellis
Illustrator: J. Steeple Davis
CHAPTER I WESTWARD BOUND.
CHAPTER II THE FIRST CAMP.
CHAPTER III THIEVES OF THE NIGHT.
CHAPTER IV AN ACQUAINTANCE.
CHAPTER V A CLOSE CALL.
CHAPTER VI A MISHAP.
CHAPTER VII JACK HALLOWAY.
CHAPTER VIII GOOD SEED.
CHAPTER IX A BATTLE ROYAL.
CHAPTER X WHIRLWIND.
CHAPTER XI PHYSICIAN AND PATIENT.
CHAPTER XII A HURRIED FLIGHT.
CHAPTER XIII A STARTLING AWAKENING.
CHAPTER XIV SHOSHONE CALLERS.
CHAPTER XV A QUESTION OF SKILL AND COURAGE.
CHAPTER XVI WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY.
CHAPTER XVII IN THE MOUNTAINS.
CHAPTER XVIII INDIAN CHIVALRY.
CHAPTER XIX A CALAMITY.
CHAPTER XX OLD FRIENDS.
CHAPTER XXI PRESSING NORTHWARD.
CHAPTER XXII A CHANGE OF PLAN.
CHAPTER XXIII THE MONARCH OF THE SOLITUDES.
CHAPTER XXIV A MEMORABLE ENCOUNTER.
CHAPTER XXV THROUGH THE GREAT DIVIDE.
CHAPTER XXVI PARTING COMPANY.
CHAPTER XXVII DOWN THE COLUMBIA.
CHAPTER XXVIII AT LAST.
Deerfoot and Whirlwind.
ONE morning in early spring, at the beginning of the last century, a party of four persons left the frontier town of Woodvale, in southern Ohio, and started on their long journey across the continent.
Do you need an introduction to the little company? Hardly, and yet it is well to recall them to mind.
First of all was our old friend Deerfoot, the Shawanoe, to whom we bade good-bye at the close of the story “Deerfoot in the Forest,” with a hint of the important expedition upon which he had decided to enter with his companions. He was mounted on a tough, wiry pony that had been presented to him by his friend Simon Kenton, and which, in honor of the famous ranger, the new owner had named “Simon.”
This horse was provided with a bridle, but that was all. Deerfoot, one of the finest of horsemen, never used a saddle. He said the bare back of a well-conditioned steed was more pleasant than a seat of leather, and he had never yet bestrode an animal that could displace him. On this trip the Indian youth carried as his principal weapon the handsome rifle presented by General William H. Harrison, Governor of Indiana Territory. Deerfoot had not yielded a bit of his faith in his bow, but that implement would not prove so handy as the other in an excursion on horseback. Besides, his three companions had begged him to leave his bow at home, and he was quite willing to do so.
Deerfoot was dressed as he has been before described, but he carried a long, heavy blanket that was strapped to the back of his horse and served in lieu of a saddle. The powder horn and bullet pouch suspended from his neck were as full as they could carry. He looked so graceful on his animal that many expressions of admiration were heard from the people of Woodvale who had gathered to see the start. Deerfoot did not seem to hear any of the compliments, though some were addressed directly to him. He was never pleased with anything of that nature.
Little need be said of Mul-tal-la, the Blackfoot, who had come from the neighborhood of the Rocky Mountains on an exploring expedition of his own, and was now to return with the Shawanoe as his comrade. The sturdy, shaggy horse, which he had obtained through the help also of Simon Kenton, was accoutred like the one ridden by Deerfoot. The blanket strapped to his back was the one brought by the owner from that far-off region, and served him also as a saddle. The Blackfoot, like nearly all the Indians of the Northwest, was an excellent horseman. Through some whim, which no one understood, Mul-tal-la had named his animal “Bug,” a title so unromantic that for a long time it was never heard without causing a smile from his companions. Sometimes Mul-tal-la also grinned, but nothing could induce him to change the name.
You remember the grief of Victor Shelton was so depressing over the death of his father that he surely would have gone into a decline but for the ardor roused by this proposed excursion to the Pacific. The prospect was so fascinating that he came out of the dark clouds that gathered about him, and was the most enthusiastic of the four.
George was almost as deeply stirred and in as high spirits as his brother, but now and then a tremor of fear passed over him when he thought of what they would have to pass through before their return. He would have shrunk and probably turned back but for Deerfoot. There was no person in the world in whom he had such faith as in the young Shawanoe; but there is a limit to human attainment, and it might be that his dusky friend would soon reach his when the four turned their faces westward.
George had named his horse “Jack,” while Victor called his “Prince.” All were quite similar to one another, being strong, sturdy, docile and enduring, but none was specially gifted in the way of speed. More than likely they would meet many of their kind among the Indians which would be their superior in fleetness. But, if danger threatened, our friends would not rely upon their horses for safety.
Now, in setting out on so long a journey, which of necessity must last many months, our friends had to carry some luggage with them. This was made as light as possible, but pared to the utmost there was enough to require a fifth horse. While of the same breed as the others, he was of stronger build and best fitted for burdens. He was the gift of Ralph Genther, who, you may recall, was beaten in the turkey shoot by Deerfoot. It was Genther who named him “Zigzag.”
“’Cause,” explained the donor, “if you let him to go as he pleases, he’ll make the crookedest track in creation; he will beat a ram’s horn out of sight.”
Excepting his blanket, Mul-tal-la had no luggage which he did not wear on his person. It must be admitted that the American Indian as a rule is much lacking in that virtue which is said to be next to godliness. Despite the romance that is often thrown around the red man, it is generally more pleasant to view him at a distance. Close companionship with him is by no means pleasant.
I need hardly say that it was not so with Deerfoot. He was as dainty as any lady with his person. Kenton, Boone and others had laughed at him many times because of his care in bathing and the frequency with which he plunged into icy cold water for no other reason than for tidiness and health. The material of which his hunting shirt and leggings were made allowed them to be worn a long time without showing the effects, but underneath them was underclothing kept scrupulously clean by Deerfoot’s own hands. Only his close friends knew of his care in this respect, and some of them looked upon it as a weakness approaching effeminacy. And you and I esteem him all the more for these traits, which harmonized with the nobility of his character.
So it was that in the large package secured to the back of Zigzag was considerable that Deerfoot himself had wrapped up, and with the modesty of a girl carefully screened from prying eyes. Aunt Dinah, had she been permitted, would have loaded down two horses with articles for the twins, who, she declared, could not possibly get on without them. As it was, it is enough to say that the boys were far better remembered than they would have been if left to themselves. As Victor expressed it when he saw her gathering and tying up the goods, they had enough to last them for a journey round the world.
The start was made early on Monday morning, when the sun was shining bright and the opening spring stirred every heart into life and filled it with thankfulness to the Giver of All Good. Men, women and children had gathered in the clearing to the north of the settlement to see the party start and to wish them good speed on their journey. Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la had ridden in from the Shawanoe’s home the day before, so that the start might be made from the settlement.
There were the laughing, the jesting, the merry and earnest expressions, with here and there a moist eye, when the travelers were seen seated on their horses and pausing for the final words. The one most to be pitied in all the group was Aunt Dinah, who was bravely trying to hide her real feelings under an expansive smile, in which there was not a shadow of mirth or pleasantry. She stood on the outer edge of the boisterous group, her folded hands under her apron, her eyes fixed on the boys, who were laughing, shaking hands and exchanging wishes and jests with their friends.
Suddenly the colored woman walked forward, pushing her way through the throng to the side of Deerfoot. Then she drew a piece of old-fashioned blue writing paper from under her apron and handed it up to him. He looked smilingly down at her, and she, without saying anything, walked back to the fringe of people and faced around again.
Deerfoot opened the slip and saw some writing in pencil. During the years when George and Victor Shelton struggled, with more or less success, to obtain a common-school education, Aunt Dinah had managed to pick up a bit here and there of elementary knowledge. She had spent a long time the night before, groaning in spirit, often sharpening her stub of a pencil, which, of course, she frequently thrust into her mouth, rubbing out and re-writing, perspiring and toiling with might and main to put together a message for the young Shawanoe’s eyes alone. Not until the other members of the household had long been sunk in slumber did she get the missive in final shape.
Some of the letters were turned backward, all curiously twisted, the lines irregular and the writing grotesque, but the youth to whom the paper was passed made out the following:
“Mister Dearfut—i feal orful bad 2 hav u go orf with them preshus babiz—pleas tak gud car of em, and bring em back rite side up—
“i’ll pra 4 u and the babiz evry nite and mornin, and if i doan forgot in de midle ob de da. i’ll pra speshully 4 u, cause as long as ure all rite, they’ll B all rite.
“p.s.—u’ll fine rapped in paper in de top bundel sum caik dat am 4 u speshully, but u may let de oders hab 1 bite if u feels like it—member dat i’m prayin 4 u.
“p.s.—Doan eet 2 mutch ob de caik 2 wunst, or it’ll maik yo syck—it’ll B jus’ like you 2 gib it awl to de oders, but doan you doot! Eet mose ob it yosellf.
“p.s.—De caik am 4 yo speshully. Ise prayin’ 4 yo.
“p.s.—Doan forgot Ise prayin’ 4 yo. De caik am 4 yo.
“p.s.—De caik am yo’s—Ise prayin’ 4 yo.”
There was not the ghost of a smile on the face of the Shawanoe while carefully tracing the meaning of this crude writing. He gently refolded the paper, reached one hand within his hunting shirt, and, drawing out his Bible, put the folded paper between the leaves and replaced the book. Then, heedless of the clamor around him, he looked over the heads of the people at the lonely woman standing a little way off and watching him with manifest embarrassment.
Turning the head of his horse toward her, he deftly directed him through the throng and halted at the side of Aunt Dinah. She was so confused that she was on the point of making off, for nearly everyone was looking at the two, the action of Deerfoot having drawn attention to the couple. Leaning over his horse he extended his palm.
“Good-bye, Aunt Dinah.”
She bashfully reached up her big hard hand. He held it for a few moments, and, looking down in the ebon countenance, spoke in a low voice:
“Deerfoot thanks you; he is glad that you will pray to the Great Spirit for him, for he needs your prayers. Your promise is sweet to Deerfoot.”
Aunt Dinah did not speak, for with every eye upon her and the Indian she could not think of a syllable to say. While she was trying to do so, Deerfoot did something which no one ever saw him do before, and which was so strange that it hushed every voice. He leaned still farther from the back of his horse and deliberately touched his lips to the cheek of the colored woman. Then he straightened up, and, without a word, started his animal on a brisk walk to the northward, the others falling into line behind him.
IT was inevitable that, during the weeks and months spent by Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la together, they talked often and long about the journey to the Northwest. At night in the depth of the forest, by the crackling camp-fire, or when lolling in the cavern home of the young Shawanoe, it was the one theme in which both, and especially the younger, was absorbingly interested.
You need hardly be reminded that a hundred years ago the immense territory west of the Mississippi was an unknown region. Teeming to-day with a bustling, progressive people numbering millions, covered with large cities and towns, grid-ironed by railways, honeycombed with mines, humming with industry, and the seat of future empire, it was at the opening of the nineteenth century a vast solitude, the home of the wild Indian and wild animal.
A few daring hunters and trappers had penetrated for a little way into the “Louisiana Purchase,” and they carried on a disjointed barter with the red men, but the fragmentary knowledge brought back by them scarcely pierced the shell of general ignorance. Captains Lewis and Clark had not yet made their famous journey across the continent, but they were getting ready to do so, for President Jefferson’s heart was wrapped up in developing the largest real estate transaction ever made.
It may be said that Deerfoot pumped the Blackfoot dry. Had that enterprising traveler kept a diary of his journeyings and experiences from the time he and his companion started eastward, it would not have told the Shawanoe more than he gained from his friend by his continuous questioning. Deerfoot traced with a pencil on a sheet of paper a rude map of the western country, based wholly on the information gained from his guest. He made many changes and corrections before he completed and filed it away, as may be said, for future use.
Several important facts were thus established, and these you must bear in mind in order to understand the incidents I have set out to relate.
In the first place, the home of the Blackfeet Indians a century ago was not to the westward but on the east of the Rocky Mountains, as it is to-day. In order to reach the Pacific Coast one had to climb over that great range and enter the country of the Flatheads and numerous other tribes. Mul-tal-la had proved his enterprise as an explorer by doing this several years previous to making his longer journey to the eastward.
When Mul-tal-la left home he and his companion rode southward until well into the present State of Colorado. Then they turned east, passing through what is now Kansas and Missouri, crossing the Mississippi and entering the fringe of civilization, for they were fairly within the Northwest Territory organized a number of years before.
Deerfoot planned to take this route in reverse. Where the Blackfoot was impressed by everything he saw, he had retained an excellent recollection of the route, and this knowledge was sure to be of great help to Deerfoot and his friends. The course to be followed may be roughly outlined thus:
A little to the north of Woodvale the party would turn westward, crossing the present States of Indiana and Illinois to St. Louis. Thence they would follow the course of the Missouri to where it makes its abrupt bend northward. At that point they intended to leave it and push westward until the time came to head due north and make for the Blackfoot country. This in a general way was the route upon which took place most of the incidents recorded in the following pages.
When the border settlement dropped out of sight, the company fell into what may be called the line of march. Deerfoot was in the lead, next rode the Blackfoot, then Zigzag the pack horse, and last George Shelton, with Victor bringing up the rear. The rule was to advance in Indian file except when they reached the plains, where the topography permitted them to bunch together. In fact this lining out of the horsemen was necessary most of the time, for the trails used by them did not allow two to ride abreast. However, it permitted free conversation, so long as there was no necessity for silence.
Deerfoot led the way over a well-marked trail which was familiar to him, for he had traversed it often by day and by night. As was his custom at such times, he rode for hours without speaking a syllable. There was no call for this, but it was his habit. He heard the chat of the boys to the rear, George continually turning his head to address or listen to his brother. Deerfoot did not care, for no danger threatened any of them, and he was pleased that the couple, especially Victor, were in such overflowing spirits.
The Blackfoot showed the same peculiarity as the leader, and which it may be said is characteristic of the American race—that of silence and reserve when on the march, even while there is perfect freedom to converse. The Shawanoe would not have objected had his friends called to him, but they did not do so.
At the end of half an hour the trail, which led directly through the woods, became so level and open that Deerfoot struck his horse into a gentle trot. Bug did the same, but Zigzag did not seem to think it was expected of him, and continued plodding forward at his usual sluggish gait. The load, however, which he carried was not burdensome, and George Shelton shouted to him in so startling a voice that Zigzag broke into a trot so vigorous that it threatened to displace his pack. It is not impossible that the animal was planning for that, but the burden had been secured too well to fall.
Suddenly Zigzag swerved to the right and pushed among the trees. A sharp order from George brought him back, and then he displayed a tendency to wabble to the left. To convince him that no nonsense would be permitted, George galloped nigh enough to deliver a resounding whack on his haunch with the stock of his gun. After that Zigzag conducted himself properly.
“It seems strange, George,” said Victor, as well as his jolting horse would permit, “that only a few months ago we were in danger of our lives in this very place, and now we needn’t have the least fear.”
“All due to Deerfoot,” replied George; “the whole cause of the trouble was Red Wolf, when he started to climb that rope and it broke with him; that also broke up the plotting; with their leader gone they had no heart to try anything further in that line.”
“I spoke to Deerfoot about it, and he says the cause was more than that. Tecumseh means well, and is determined to make his warriors keep the treaty of Greenville. He did not know all the mischief Red Wolf was up to, and was in a fury when he learned it. About that time, too, Tecumseh got a hint from Governor Harrison through Simon Kenton that no more such doings would be tolerated, and he took the hint. No harm would come to us if we rode alone into any of the Shawanoe or Miami or Wyandot villages. But,” added Victor, “I’d feel a good deal better to have Deerfoot with us.”
“He’ll be as much a stranger as we after we get out of this country.”
“Still he’s an Indian and knows better than anyone else how to handle those of his race. Mul-tal-la is sure to be of good service, too.”
“Have you any idea how long we shall be gone?”
“No; and I don’t care. I feel as if I should like to spend several years on the other side of the Mississippi.”
“You’ll get homesick before that. I had a talk with Deerfoot last night and found he doesn’t expect to start on the return before next spring.”
“Will it take us as long as that to reach the Blackfoot country?”
“Of course not, but Deerfoot means to look upon the Pacific Ocean before he comes back, and that, as he figures it, is about a thousand miles beyond the Blackfoot country. According to what Mul-tal-la says, the biggest mountains in the world lie just west of his country, and we have got to climb over or get through them some way. What do you think of the plan?”
“It tickles me half to death. I wonder whether Deerfoot would care if I threw up my hat and yelled.”
“I’m sure I don’t know.”
“Well, here goes, anyway!”
And what did the irrepressible youth do but fling his cap a dozen feet above his head and emit a whoop of which Tecumseh would not have been ashamed. Both Deerfoot and Mul-tal-la looked wonderingly around, and each smiled. The Shawanoe’s smile grew broader when Victor made a grasp to catch his cap as it came down, but missed it and it fell to the earth.
“Plague take it!” exclaimed the lad, slipping out of the saddle without stopping his horse, and running back to recover his headgear.
While he was doing so Deerfoot emitted a war-whoop himself, and struck the heels of his moccasins against the ribs of Simon, who instantly broke into a gallop. Bug was hardly a moment behind him, and Zigzag, for a wonder, caught the infection. George saw what their leader was up to, and he pretended he could not restrain his own horse. The shouts he sent out while seeming to do his best frightened Jack into a gallop, and Prince proved that he did not mean to be left behind.
Thus when Victor had snatched his cap from the ground, replaced it on his head and turned to trot the necessary few paces, he saw the whole line in a gallop, with his own horse several rods in advance of him.
“Whoa! Plague take you! Whoa! Don’t you hear me?” shouted the indignant lad, breaking into a desperate run.
There could be no doubt that all the animals as well as their riders heard the command, which was loud enough to penetrate the woods for half a mile. Prince being the nearest, surely must have noted the order, but he seemed to think that, inasmuch as the horses ahead of him increased their speed, it was proper for him to do the same. At any rate he did it, and succeeded so well that his owner saw the space widening between them.
By this time Victor knew that Deerfoot was at the bottom of it all. No man can do his best when laughing or shouting, and the pursuer ceased his call and bent all his energies to overtaking the fleeing horses. He thought the leader would soon show some consideration for him and slacken his pace, but the Shawanoe seemed to be stern and unsympathizing that forenoon, for he maintained the gallop, with the others doing the same, and the task of the running youngster loomed up as impossible.
It wouldn’t do to get mad and sulk, for no one would pay any attention to him—least of all Deerfoot, who liked fun as well as anybody. Besides, the exercise promised to do the youth a world of good.
But fortune came to his relief when least expected. Victor had traveled this trail so often that he knew it almost as well as Deerfoot. He remembered it made a sharp curve to the left not far in advance. When he caught sight of the young Shawanoe, therefore, calmly galloping around the bend, the lad dived among the trees and sped at a reckless rate.
“They ain’t so smart as they think they are! I’ll beat ’em yet—confound it!”
He thought surely his head had been lifted from his shoulders, for at that moment a projecting maple limb, not quite as high as his crown, slipped under his chin and almost hoisted him off his feet. He speedily found he was intact and had suffered little more than a shock to his feelings. He was quickly at it again and soon caught sight of Deerfoot rising and sinking with the motion of his horse and the others stringing behind him.
A moment later Victor leaped into the trail, recoiling just enough to let the leader pass him as he stood. But Deerfoot reined up and stared at him as if in wonder.
“Does my brother love to wander in the woods that he should leave his saddle?” was the innocent query of the dusky wag.
“You think you know a good deal, don’t you? Wait till I get a chance; I’ll pay you for this,” was the half-impatient answer.
“Deerfoot is so scared by the words of his brother that he may fall off his horse,” said the Shawanoe with mock alarm. “Will he not forgive Deerfoot because he did not stop when he heard his brother crying behind him?”
“You go on. I’ll catch you one of these days and make you sorry.”
With an expression of grief Deerfoot started forward again, his horse on a walk. Those behind had also stopped, and they now resumed the journey. The Shawanoe kept his eye to the rear until he saw Victor was in the saddle again, when his pace immediately rose to a trot and all were quickly jogging forward as before.
George tried to look sympathetic, but he could not, and his brother saw his shoulders shaking with laughter as he rode on, not daring to trust himself to speak. By this time the impulsive Victor had rallied from his partial anger, and decided that the best thing to do was to join in the general good-nature and merriment over his mishap.
Noon came and passed, but Deerfoot showed no intention of going into camp. He humored the animals by dropping to a walk. They were allowed to drink several times from the small streams crossed, and occasionally were given a breathing spell of fifteen or twenty minutes. The Shawanoe knew how to treat their kind and did not press them too hard. When these long pauses were made the riders dismounted, lolled at the side of the trail, talked together, but neither Deerfoot nor Mul-tal-la made reference to food for themselves, and the boys were too proud to hint anything of their hunger.
When the afternoon was well advanced the party came to an open space, crossed near the middle by a sparkling brook, which issued from under some mossy rocks to the right. Early as was the season, there was considerable growth of succulent grass, which offered the best kind of nourishment for the horses. Deerfoot announced that they would spend the night in this place, and, leaping from the back of Simon, plunged into the wood in quest of game, of which they had had more than one glimpse while on the road.
Meanwhile the Blackfoot and the boys relieved Zigzag of his load, removed the other saddle and bridles, and devoted themselves to gathering wood for the night. With such an abundance on every hand this was a light task. When the leaves were heaped up, with a mass of dry twigs loosely arranged on top and larger sticks above them, George Shelton took out the sun-glass which had been presented to him by one of his neighbors. The sun was still high enough for him to catch a few of the rays and concentrate them upon the leaves, which speedily broke into a smoking flame that soon spread into a roaring fire. The method was not much superior, after all, to the old-fashioned flint and steel, but the instrument was new so far as the present owner was concerned, and he liked to use it.
One of the most treasured presents to Victor was a good spyglass that had been used by one of General Wayne’s officers throughout the Revolutionary War, and afterward in the Indian campaigns in the West. The lad had not found a good chance as yet to employ it, but when its power was explained to Mul-tal-la he was delighted and declared it would prove beyond value to them while crossing the plains, and he spoke the truth.
The fire was no more than fairly going when the report of Deerfoot’s rifle sounded not far off in the woods. No one was surprised, for game was plenty, though it was not the most favorable season, and it was safe to rely upon the dusky youth for an unfailing supply of food whenever it could possibly be secured.
When a few minutes later Deerfoot came in sight he was carrying a big wild turkey, from which he had torn the feathers, plucked the inedible portions, and washed the rest in the clear water of the brook. All that remained to do was to broil the meat over the fire and coals as soon as they were ready.
Aunt Dinah had expressed an ardent wish to stow among the bundles of the packhorse some specimens of her best cookery in the way of bread and cake, but the brothers protested so vigorously that there was neither need nor room for anything of that kind that she refrained. There was, however, considerable salt, pepper and other condiments, though neither tea nor coffee.
Deerfoot broiled the turkey without help from the others. It was cut into pieces which he toasted on green sticks skewered through them, turned over in front of the blaze and laid for a few minutes over the blazing coals. When the first piece was ready he passed it to Victor.
“That’s ’cause he feels remorse for his meanness towards me,” reflected the lad, sprinkling salt on the juicy flesh and then sinking his sharp incisors into it, realizing, as many a youngster has realized before and since, that the best sauce for any sort of food is hunger.
The next portion went to George, the third to Mul-tal-la, and last of all Deerfoot provided for himself. This was his invariable rule, and all his friends knew it so well that they never protested.
Water was brought from the brook in one of the tin cups with which they were furnished, and all made a nourishing and palatable meal.
The last mouthful had been masticated to a pulp and swallowed when Deerfoot, without a word, rose gravely to his feet and walked to where the big pack of Zigzag lay. The corners of the huge parcel had been gathered, and were tied over the middle with big knots. Under these was so large a gap that Deerfoot readily thrust in his hand without undoing the fastening. Fumbling around for several minutes he brought out a goodly sized package wrapped about with coarse brown paper.
Every eye was upon him, for all were wondering what he was seeking and had found. He carefully unwrapped the paper and then took from within something about a foot in diameter, of circular shape, three or four inches in thickness, and bulging upward in the middle. It was of a dark-brown color, the interior so full of richness that it had burst the crust in one or two places and, pushing outward, gave a glimpse of the slightly browned wealth within. Raising the object in one hand, Deerfoot broke off a piece, whose craggy sides were of a golden yellow, creamy and light as a feather. Then the others identified it.
It was a “sugar cake,” specially prepared by Dinah, and in mixing and baking it she had excelled herself. It certainly was a triumph of skill, and, despite the meal just finished, the sight of the delicious richness—with which the brothers had become familiar many a time—made their mouths water.
Deerfoot acted as if nobody else was in the neighborhood. Having broken off the golden spongy chunk, he lifted it to his mouth, and it was a wonder how fast it disappeared. The Shawanoe certainly had a sweet tooth, for his eyes sparkled as he munched the soft delicacy. In a minute or two the first segment vanished, and he instantly set to work on the second, meanwhile looking longingly at the mangled original, as if grudging the time he had to wait before disposing of that.
“Well, did you ever?” whispered Victor. “Aunt Dinah made that on purpose for him, and we were dunces enough not to take what she offered us.”
Neither of the boys was unjust enough to attribute the salute which the young Shawanoe gave the colored woman to this cause, for they knew that was impossible, but it was a sight, nevertheless, to see the fellow place himself outside of the cake. When it was about one-fourth gone he seemed to become aware that he had companions. Looking up as if in astonishment, he broke and divided the major portion between the boys. Some was offered to the Blackfoot, but he shook his head. He had never tasted of such food, and, if he knew his own heart, never would give it a chance at his interior organization.
DEERFOOT could be a stern master when necessary. While it would have been no hardship for him and Mul-tal-la to divide the duties of sentinel each night, he meant that the boys should bear their part. They were big and strong enough to do so, and there was no reason why they should not. He informed them that George was to watch the camp for the first half of the night, or rather for an hour beyond the turn, when he was to awake Victor, who would take his place until daylight. This was to be the rule throughout the expedition, except when some exigency demanded the services of the elders.
Enough fuel had been gathered to last through the darkness. It was Deerfoot’s plan to avoid the Indian villages so far as was practical, although little or nothing was to be feared from meeting those of his own race. The Blackfoot had come in contact with many tribes on his long journey eastward, but excepting in two instances nothing of an unpleasant nature occurred. You have learned that the tribes which formed the confederacy crushed by “Mad Anthony” Wayne at Fallen Timber were now so peaceably inclined toward the white settlers that not much was to be feared from them.
And yet it was not wise to tempt them too far. An Indian loves a horse, and among the tribes were plenty of thieves who would run off the animals of our friends if the chance were offered. So the latter did not mean to offer the chance.
The air was crisp, for the spring was only fairly open, and the little company that gathered round the crackling blaze called their blankets into use. The animals were allowed to crop the grass near at hand, and to lie down when they chose. None was tethered, for they were not likely to wander off, and if they showed a disposition to do so the sentinel could easily prevent it.
The four lolled about the blaze after finishing their evening meal, talking mainly of the long journey and the experiences awaiting them. Mul-tal-la answered Deerfoot’s questions again, for though the Shawanoe was well informed, his inquiries were for the benefit of the boys, whose interest naturally was keen.
When the night was well advanced, Deerfoot, without any preliminary, drew his little Bible from his hunting shirt, and leaning forward so that the light fell upon the small print, read the Twenty-third Psalm, which, you remember, was one of his favorite chapters. His voice was low, musical and reverent, and no professional elocutionist could have given the sublime passage more impressively.
The three listened attentively, none speaking during the reading. It seemed to George and Victor that they had never felt the beauty and sweetness of the book whose utterances are sufficient for every condition of man and every state of the human mind. The surroundings, the great future which spread out so mysteriously before them, the certain dangers that impended, their utter helplessness and a sense of the all-protecting care of their Heavenly Father, filled their souls as never before.
It would be hard to fathom the imaginings and thoughts of the Blackfoot. He was sitting erect, with his blanket about his shoulders, only a few paces from the young Shawanoe, and kept his eyes upon the noble countenance as the precious words filled the stillness, the listener fearful that some syllable might escape him. He had learned much of the true God in his talks with the devout youth, and, like him, had fallen into the habit of praying morning and evening, and sometimes for a few moments in the busiest part of the day.
The brothers recalled that loved parent who had been lying in his grave for weeks, and remembered how he had prayed and how triumphantly he had passed away when the last solemn moment arrived, and both firmly resolved from that time forward so to live that there could be no question of the reunion that to both was the dearest, most joyous and thrilling hope that could possibly fill their hearts.
While the two sat beside each other, silent and listening, George gently reached out his hand. Victor saw the movement, and, taking the palm within his own, fervently pressed it. At the same moment the brothers looked into each other’s eyes. It was enough; volumes could have said no more.
Deerfoot finished, and, closing the book, returned it to its resting place over his heart. Then without a word he turned and knelt on the cool earth. Instinctively the three did the same and all prayed.
Not a word was heard, but heart spoke to heart, and all communed with Him whose ear is never closed against the petition of his children. Had either of the boys prayed aloud he would have stammered, for he could not have shaken off the question as to how his words impressed his companions. It is the impossibility in many cases of one freeing himself from this hindrance that makes the sentences of the petitioner halt and stumbling, because to a certain degree they are addressed to men rather than directly to the Father. The Blackfoot would have found it almost impossible to shape intelligently his sentences if he spoke aloud, but he could talk freely in his own way to his Maker. Deerfoot could have done far better than any of the others, for he would not have hesitated, but he preferred the silent petition, and rarely spoke his words unless he was asked to do so or a special necessity existed.
The others took their cue from him, and when they heard the gentle rustling which showed that he had resumed his sitting posture they did the same. Then he nodded to George, who, rifle in hand, walked softly out in the gloom to where the animals had lain down for the night, in the midst of the grass and near the rippling brook. As he did so he bade his friends good night, and they disposed of themselves in the usual way, each with his blanket wrapped about him and his feet turned toward the fire. Within ten minutes every one of the three was sunk in sweet, refreshing slumber.