OCR Interpretation

The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, December 06, 1903, Image 2

Image and text provided by University of California, Riverside; Riverside, CA

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1903-12-06/ed-1/seq-2/

What is OCR?

Thumbnail for

Indian lodges of which were in plain
view beyond the intervening horse
. Measured by the sense which takes
cognizance of pauses it seemed no more
than a. moment between the stamping
out of breath and Its gaspinr recovery.
But in the Interval the scene had shifted
from ; the open savanna to a thinly set
grove of oaks, with the stream brawling
through the midst'
To the biggest of the trees I was
tightly bound and a little way apart a
fire, newly kindled, smoked and blazejj up
fitfully. By the light of the flre a"«%od
score of the Cherokees were gathering
deadfalls and dry branches to heap be- ,
side me. and from the camp below, tha
"Follow * me, step < for : step, or you are
a dead man!" he commanded; and so,'
pacing backward, he led the fellow, 1 with
the hulking body of him for a shield and
mask, out of the circle of firelight and
into the safer shadows : of the forest. .-¦
; When I had made a creeping detour, to
loin him he still had his man by the col
tf»BS"s"H~lfls~Ms'tttti •
' ¦¦. •
I saw not what to do; should have
done nothing, I dare say, , till the man
had walked fair upon us. But Richard
was quicker witted. • : . \
"Give " me '. your sword !" he muttered ;
"mine will be too long to 'shorten upon."
and when the Englishman's = next stride
would have kicked us out of- hiding Dick
rose up before him like the ; devil in . a
play, gripped him by the collar and laid
his sword's point at his throat.
But my dear lad was rash only for
himself. "Now who is daft?" he retort
ed. "The Catawba himself could never
run ' that gauntlet and " come through
"Mayhap," I admitted. "But yet — " :
He cut me offin the midst wlndingan
arm about my head by way of an ex
tinguisher. One of the redcoat troopers
lounging before the great fire had risen
and was coming straight for our hiding
ing rascals may not be so drowsy as
they look." (
He nodded, and we backed away, to
make another circuit which fetched us
out on the up-valley side of the encamp
ment Here we could look, down into
a smaller glade or bottom meadow on
the stream where the horses of the band
were cropping bush grass. It was the
sight of these and of Margery's black
mare among them that set me thinking
of a plckeerlng venture to the full as
harebrained as that from which I had
but now dissuaded Richard Jennifer.
"We- shall need another mount and
Mistress Margery's saddle," I said. "Lie
you. close here whilst I play, the horse
thief on these reavers."
¦. So, having first gagged the poor devil
with his own neckerchief, we stripped
him quickly; and I as quickly donned the
borrowed uniform and became, at least in
outward semblance, a light-horse trooper
of that king whose service I had once for
sworn. • ; The items of small-clothes,
Waistcoat and head-gear fitted me pass
ing well, but when it came to the boots
we stuck fast and I was forced to wear
my Town foot-covering.
The change made.— and you may be
lieve no playhouse actor of them air ever
doffed or donned 'a costume quicker— we
bound our .luckless captive hand and
foot pinned him face downward in the
sward, and so leaving him with only .his
boots for a memento-^— happily for him
the night was no more than goose-flesh
cool— we raced back , to our; peeping
place on the skirting: of the camp
. Here Dick . wrung my hand, calling
himself all the . knaves unspeakable for
letting me take a risk which he was
pleased to call his own; and .with, that I
stepped out into' the firelight and was
fair afoot In the enemy's camp.
"Bay, quick! what to do with him.
Jack?' he demanded when I came up;
and now my-' slower wit came into play.
"Out of this to some safer dressing
room, and I'll show you," said I; and
forthwith we marched our prize up the
valley a long musket-shot or more.
When the soldier had leave to speak
he. begged lustily for his life, as you
would guess; but we gave him a short
shrift If the plan I had in mind Should
have a fighting chance for success it
must be set in train before this trooper
should be missed. .
lar and was emphasizing the need for
silence by sundry prickings with the
Ferara. ¦ ¦.•-.;„„•¦/
' Now some such long-range marking
down as this was what I had been ang
ling for. '; So" I came to attention and sa
luted in soldierly fashion,; thereby rais
ing a great laugh among my. pseudo-com
rades around the trooper fire— a laugh
that pointed shrewdly to < the baronet
captain's lack of proper discipline. But
that is. neither here nor/ t therer Having
my master's : order for It . I climbed to'
the foot of ,the j powder rock.
Here the bare sight of all the stored
up, devastation set me athlrst with a
fierce longing for leave to snap a pistol
"Ho," Jack Warden!" he called, making
a speaking trumpet of his hands to lift
the hail above the chanting of the Indian
dancers. "Have a look at that shelter
whilst you are over, there and make sure
'twill shed rain' if the weather shifts," '
On the bare hillside beneath the pow
der magazine I made no doubt I was in
plainest view from the great fire, and
the proof of this conclusion came shortly
in a bellowing hail from Falconnet
From the hillside just below tnls pow
der rock I could look back upon the camp
en enfilade, as an artilleryman would
say. Nearest at hand was the half-moon
of Indian lodges with the hollow of the
crescent facing the stream, and a cal
dron fire burning in the midst. Around
the fire a ring of warriors naked to the
breech-clout kept time in a slow shuf
fling dance to a monotonous chanting;
and for onlookers there was an outer
ring of squatting figures — the visiting
Tuckaseges, as I supposed.
Beyond the Indian lodges, and a little
higher up the gentle slope of the savan
na, were the troop shelters; and beyond
these, half concealed in the fringing of
the boundary forest, was the tepee lodge
of the women. .
"What say you. Jack? Shall we rush
them? There's naught else for it." And
then, with a gritting oatn: "Oh. damn
this cursed chilling:"
I whispered bacK that we would wait
till he was better fit. He was loth to
admit the necesity. but as it chanced,
the momentary delay saved our lives in
that strait. While we paused, hugging
the shadows in the crooking elbow, the
gloomy d«?pths beyond the Sentries were
suddenly starred with flaring flambeaux
lightir.g the way for a hasting rabble of
savages; and had we been entangled in
the struggle with the two sentinels we
should have been taken red-handed.
As it was. we had to make the quick
est play to save ourselves. In the same
breath we both remembered the narrow
eid^ passage Just behind in which we
were nigii to losing our way. and into
this we plunged, reckless of possible pit
falls. We were no more than safely out
of the main corridor when the runners,
some score of them, as we guessed,
trooped past our covert in full cry. leav
ing us half smothered in the smoky trail
of their pitch-pine flambeaux.
"Now what a-devil has set this hor
net's nest of theirs abuzz bo suddenly?".
I whispered, when the smoke-choke gave
us liberty to speak without coughing to
betray ourselves.
"Our pony-riding Tuckaseges. doubt
less." was Richard's ready answer. "By
all the chances, they should have met
the Great Bear and his peace-offering out
yonder on the trace — which same they
did not. So when they bring this tale to
camp there is the devil to pay and no
pitch hot. God help our tough old
Ephraim and the Catawba if these blood
hounds win out in time to overtake
"Aye." said I: and then we crept out
of the dodge-hole and made ready to go
about our business with the sentries.
But when we came to peer again
around the crooking elbow it would seem
that the hurrying search party had
fought our battle for us. The watch lire
was there to light a little circle in the
gloom, but the watchers were Rone. We
chanced a guess that they had joineu the
hue and cry. and so we- pressed forward,
past the handful of embers and into the
pit-black depths beyond.
Twenty "paces further on it came to
playing blind man's buff with the rocky
walls again, and measured by the trip
pings and stumblings 'twas a long Sab
bath day's journey to that final turn in
thi great earth-burrow whence we could
se? the glimmering of the enemy's camp
fires in the sunken valley.
"Now God be praised!" quoth Richard
most fervently. "Another hour In this
cursed kennel" with the fever on me and
I should be a yammering loose-wit And
I. too. was glad enough to see the stars
again, and to be at large beneath them.
Emerging from the subterranean way.
we held to the camp side of the stream"
making an ample circuit to the left to
come down upon the enemy s position from
the wooded slope behind the encamp
ment We met no let or hindrance, in
this approach. Secure in their strong
hold, the Indians had no patroU out; and
as for the Englishmen, every mother's
?on of them, it seemed, was basking in
the light of a great fire built before the
pine-bought shelters.
Favored by a dense thlcketing of laurel,
we made a near-hand reconnaissance of
the little wipwam which held our dear
lady. As I have 'said, this was pitched
in the thinning of the forest which cov
ered the steep slope behind the encamp
ment and so P was P th* farthest removed
from the stream, and from the Indian
lodges disposed in a half-moon at the
water's edge. Here all was quiet as the
crave, and the clamor of the Indian
camp came softened by the distance to a
low monotonous humming like the buz
zing of a beehive. The Hap °* .I"* 8 * 6 ?**
lodge was closely drawn and the Wt of
fire before it had burned out to a heap
of white-ashed embers. , „,»...
"They are safe as yet. thank God.
says Richard, heaving a most palpable
sigh of relief. Then, with the fever in
his veins to whip his natural ardor into
hasty action: "'Twill be hours before
Eph and the Catawba can come in by
your upper ravine. Jack, and we shall
never have . a better chance than % this.
Hold you quiet here, whilst I — '
But I laid fast hold of him and would
not hear to any such a foolhardy mar
ring of Ephraim Yeate's plan.
•'Heavens, boy! are you gone clean
mad?" I would say. V 'Twill be risky
enough with midnight in our favor; with
the camp well asleep, and that great
fire burned down to give us something
less than broad daylight to work in!'"
He turned upon me like a pettish
child. "Oh. to the devil with your stum
bling-blocks. John Ireton! You are al
ways for holding back. By heaven! I'll
6wear you have no drop of lover s blood
in your veins!"
"So you have said before. But let that
pass; we must bide by our promise to
Yeates. which was not to interfere un
less Margery stood in present peril.
Moreover, we should learn the lay of the
land better while we have the firelight
to help. When ¦ the time for action
comes we must be able to make the play
with our eyes shut if need be. Come."
'Twas like pulling sound teeth to get
him away, but he yielded at length and
we crept on to have some better sight
of the troop camp. We had it; had a
glimpse of the Baronet-captain playing
loo with his. lieutenant and another. The
tableau at the fire gave us better cour
age. The men had laid their arms aside
and were sprawling at their ease; and
while the arch scoundrel was . in the
gaming mood Margery had less to fear
from him.
I said as much to Dick, , and for an
swer he pointed to the flask of usque
baugh which was at that moment mak
ing the round of the loop layers.
"I know Frank Falconnet better than
you do. Jack, for I have known him
later. He is all kinds of a villain sober,
but he is a fiend incarnate with ¦« the
liquor in him. 'Tls lucky we are here.
If- he. do but drink enough Margery la
like to have need — "
"Hist!" said I; some of these loung-
. Dick pressed closer to me, and I could
feel him drinking in deep draughts of
the grateful outer air.
"What new wonder Is thisT" he would
ask. with something akin to awe in his
voice; but we must needs grope this way
and that to feel out the answer with our
finger tips.
When the answer was found, the mys
tery of the lost trail was solved most
simply.' As we made out, we were in a
deep crevice cut crosswise by the stream,
which, issuing from a yawning cavern
In the farther wall, was quickly engulfed
again by that lower archway' we had Just
traversed. In some -. upheaval of- the
earthquake age a huge slice of the moun
tain's face had split off and settled away
from the parent cliff to leave a deep
cleit open to the sky.- One end of this
crevice chasm — that toward the upland
valley — was choked and filled by the de
bris of later landslides, but tne lower
fn>i was open.
Through this lower end, as we made
no doubt, the powder train had come,
turning from the Indian path in the
gorge up the bed of the barrier stream,
turning again at the outer cavern muutu
to squeeze in single tile between the
thickly matted undergrowth and the
cliff's face, and so to pass around the
split-off mass and come into the crevice
how the sharp eyes of the old hunter,
and those of the Catawba as well, had
missed the rinding of this squeezing
place where the cavalcade had left the
utream bed, wo could never guess; but
on the chance that we might yet need to
know all the crooks and turnings of this
outlet we felt our way quite around the
masking cliff and down to the stream's
edge In the gorge.
That done we were ready for a farther
advance, and clambering back into the
crevice we once more too* the stream for
"our guide and were presently deep in the
natural tunnel piercing the mountain
proper. This extension of the subter
ranean waterway proved to be a noble
cavern, wide ana high enough to pass a
loaded wain, as we determined by toss
ing pebles against the arching roof. None
the less, 'twas full of crooks and wind-
Ings; and in the saarpest elbow of them
all. where we were like to lose our way
by blundering Into one of the many
branching side passages, Richard stopped
me with a hand thrust back.
"Softly!" he cautioned; "here are their
Just beyond the crooking elbow the
dull red glow from a tiny fire gone to
coals showed us two Indian sentries*set
to keep the pass. Dick drew his clay
more, but he was chilling again, and tne
hand that grasped the yreat blade was
shaking as with a palsy. Yet he would
mutter, as the teetn-chatterlng suffered
WASTREL. ' \ v
twinkllnjr •*¦» shining down , upon us
from a narrow. breadth of sky. -
'twas thus we met their onslaught
In such a fray as that which followed
'tis the trivial, things that leave their
mark upon the memory. For one. I re
call the curious thrill of raastertBlghliLt
gave me to feel the ¦ play of Jennifer's
great shoulder muscles against my back
In his plying of the heavy claymore- For*
another. I remember the alcTtentng qualm
I had when the warm blood of my sec
ond — or mayhap *tw*a the third — gushed
out upon my sword hand, and I remem
ber, too. how the impaled one. driven In
upon the blade by the pressure of his
fellows behind, would lay hold of the
.sharp steel and try in the death throe to
Withdraw it
But after that sickening qualm I re
call only this; that I could not free the
sword for another thrust, and while I
tugged and fought for space they drag
, ged me down and burled me. these fierce
tribesmen, piling so thick upon me that
sight and sound and breath went out to
gether, and I was but an atom crushed
to earth beneath the human avalanche.
"Make the round again and tell the
men 'twill be ten gold Joes and a double
allowance of liquor to the man who first
¦claps eyes on any one of the four."
• The subaltern went to carry out t$»
order.' arid Falconnet fell to pacing back,
and forth the little wigwam. I
could see his face at tne turn where the
firelight fell upon him; 'twas the face
' of a villain at his worst, namely, a vil
lain half in liquor. There was 'a lurk
ing devil of pas3ion peering out of tho
sensuous eyes; and ever and anon he
'stopped as to listen for some sound with
in the captives' lodge.
When the lieutenant returned to make
his report, he was given another order to
cap the first
"Your line is, too close drawn and too
conspicuous," said the captain shortly.
"Move the men out fifty paces in ad
vance, and bid them take cover."
"They will scarce bo within hail of
each other at that." says the lieutenant.
"Near enough, with ten gold pieces to
sharpen their eyesight. Go you with
them and hold them to their work."
The line was presently extended as
the order ran. each link in the cordon
chain advancing fifty paces on its front
into the forest. Dick fetched a deep
sigh of relief; and I thought less of the
thin-leafed cover and the scarlet coat of
Falconnet had resumed the pacing of
his sentry beat before the lodge, but
when his men were out of sight and
hearing he stopped "short and stole on
tiptoe to lay his ear to the flap.
"So you are awake. Miss Margery?
Send your woman out. I would speak
with you— alone."
There was no reply, but w» could both
hear the low. anguished voice of our
dear lady praying for help in this her
hour of trial. Dick inched aside to giv«
me room, freeing his weapon, as I did
mine. We were not overqulet about It,
but the captain of horse "was too hot
upon his own devil's business to look
behind, him. i *:«. '¦""'
Having no answer from within, h»
stooped to loose the flap. It was pegged
down on the inside. He arose and whip
ped out his sword. The firelight fall upon
his face again and we saw it as it had
been the face of a foul fiend from the
"Open!" he commanded; and when
there was neither reply nor obedience h»
cut the flap free .with his sword and flung
it back. «V
The two women within the wigwam
were on their knees before a little cruci
fix hanging on the lodge, wall. So much
we saw as we broke cover and ran In
upon the despoiler. Then the battle
madness came upon us, and I. for one.
saw nausht but the tense-drawn face of
the swordsman fighting for his life— a
face in which the hot flush of evil pas
sion had given place to the ashen gray-
Ing of fear.
We drove at him together, Dick and I.
and so must needs fall afoul of each
other clumsily, giving him time to spring
back and so miss the claymore stroke
which else would have shorn him to the
middle. Then eniued as pretty a pieco
of blade work as any master of the old
cut-and-thrust school could wish to see:
and through It all this king's captain ct 4
horse seemed to bear a charmed life.
There was no punctilio of the code nf
honor in this duel a 1'outrance. Knowing
our time was short we fought as men
who flsrht with halters round their necks:
not to decide a nice point at issue, but
to kill this accursed villain as we would
kill a mad dosr or a venomous reptile
whose living on Imperiled the life and
honor of the woman we loved.
Thrice, while I held him in play, Dick
rushed In to end it with a scythe-sweep
of the broadsword; and thrice the Scot
tish death was turned aslae by the flash
ing circle of steel wherewith the mar*
striving shrewdly to gain time made shift
to shield himself.
Yet it was r.ot in flesh and blood to
fend the double onslaught for more than
some brief minute or two. Play as he
would — and no schlazermelster.of my old
field marshal's .picked troop could best
him at this game of parry and defense —
he must give ground step by step; slow
ly at the pressing of the Ferrara and In
quick backward leaps" wfien the great
broadsword hit at him.
For the first few bouts he withstood
us in jrrtm silence. "But now Richard cut
In ajraln. and the claymore stroke.
less skillfully turned aside, brought
him to his knees. This broke his
bull courage somewhat, and though
he was afoot and on guard before
my point could reach him, he began to
bellow lustily for help.
As you woald suppo«», the call wan
all unneeded. At the first elash ofstee^i
the troopers were up and swarming to
the rescue; and now on all sides came
the trampling rash of the in-closins cor
don line.
Had ' Falconnet held his ground a mo
ment longer he would have had us fast .'
In the Jaws of the trooper trap; but 'tis
the fatal flaw in mere brute courage that
tt will break at the pinch. No sooner
did the volunteer captain catch a glimpse
of his up-coming reinforcements than
he must needs show us a clean pair of
heels, running like a craven coward and
shouting madly to. his men to close with
os and cut us down.
"After him!" roared Dick, who was by
now as rage-mad as any berserker; and
with a cut and thrust to right aad left
for the nipping trapjaws we were out
and away in chase.
Now yon may mark this as you will:
that while the devil hath need of his
bond-servant he will keep the villain
breath of life In his vassal. Three bounds
beyond the closing trapjaws fetched us.
pursued and pursuers, to the open camp
field: and here the devil's miracle was
wrought Out of the forest fringe, out
of the skirting undergrowth, out of the
very earn, as it seemed, uprose a yell-
Ing mob of Cherokees— the detachment
.we had met in the cavern returned in
the very nick of time to cut us off from
the pursuit and to ring us In a whooping
circle of death.
"Back to back, lad!" I shouted; and
I here confess to you. my dears, that,
had I loved my sweet lady less, no earth
ly power could have driven me into that
dismal stifling place. All my life long I
have had a most unspeakable horror of
low-roofed caverns and squeezing pas-
Bases that cramp a man for breath and
for the room to draw it in; and when the
suffocating madness came upon me, as it
did when we were well jammed In this
cursed horror-hole, I was right glad to
have my love for Margery to make an
outward eeemlng man of me; glad, too,
that my dear lad was close behind to
shame me Into going on.
Yet. after all. the passage through the
throat of the rock dragon was vastly
more terrifying than difficult. Once well
•within the closely <lrawn upper lip we
could brace our backs against the roof
an" so have a purchase for the foothold.
Better still, when we had passed a pike's
length beyond the lip the breathing space
above the water grew wider and higher
till at length we could stand erect and
come abreast to lock arms and push on
Bide by side.
From that the etrea.ra broadened and
grew shallower with every step, and pres
ently we could bear it on ahead babbling
over the etones like any peaceful wood
land brook. Then suddenly the dank and
noisome air of the cavern gave place to
the pine-scented breath of the forest; and.
looking straight up, we could see the
We found the highest part of the arch
after come blind groping, and making
lowly obeisance to the gods of the under
world, began a snail -like progress into
the gurgling throat of the spewing rock
••No." said he. stubbornly. "Walt but
a minute and the fever will be on me;
then 1 shall be fighting-fit for anything
that comes."
So we waited, and I could hear his teeth
clicking like castanets. Having had a
tertian fever more than once in the Turk
ish campaigning. I had a fellow-feeling
for the i>oor lad. knowing well how the
thought of a p'unge into cold water
•would make him shrink.
In a little time he felt for my hand and
grs»5p*d it.
"I'm warm enough now. In all con
eciojice." be e&M. and •with that we
slipped ir.to the stream.
'Twas n disaprKiintrnent of the grateful
sort to find the water no more than mld
thi>rh de*r>. The current was swift and
strong, but with the pebbly bottom to
give pood footing 'twas possible to stem
it slowly. laying hold of each other for
the letter breast of the flood we felt our
way warily to the middle of the pool; felt
for tho low-epruns cavern arch, and for
that scanty lifting of ft where we hoped
to find head room between stone above
and stream below.
"As ready as a man with a shaking
ague can be," he gritted out. "This dog's
work we have been doing of late has
brought my old curse upon me and I am
like to rattle rny teeth loose."
"Let me go alone, then. Another cold
plunge may be the death of you."
So taid the old backwoodsman : but nei
ther Dick nor I would agree to this in'
toto. Dick argued that while we were
killing time in the roundabout advance
Tre should be leaving Margery wholly at
the mercy of the Baronet, and that every
hour of delay was full of hideous menace
to her. Hence he proposed that three
of us should carry out the hunter's
plan, leaving the fourth to take the
hint given by the charred stick
and the swimming ambush crew, and
bo penetrating to the valley by the stream
cavern, be at hand to strike a blow for
our dear lady's honor In case of need.
" 'Tis a thing to be done, and I am with
you. Dick." said I. This was before Eph
raim Yeates could object. "Should there
be need for any, two blades will be better
than one. If it comes to blows and we
are kitted or taken, Yeates and the chief
must make the shift to do without our
As you would guess, the old hunter de
murred to this halving: of our slender
fore*, but we overpersuaded him. If all
went well, we were to rendezvous on the
scene of action to carry out the plan of
rescue. But if our adventure should prove
disastrous, Yeates and Uncanoola were to
bide their time, striking in when and how
they might.
Touching this contingency, I drew the
o!d man aside for a word in private.
"If ought befall us, Ephraim— if we
should be nabbed as we are like to be—
you are not to let any hope of helping us
lessen by a feather's weight the rescue
chant* of the women. You'll promise me
"Sarlain sure; ye can rest easy on that,
C&p'n John. But don't ye go for to let
that rampaging boy of our'n upsot the fat
In the ili-p with any o" his foolishness.
He's '.ovesick. he Is; and there ain't noth
tnjj'n this world so ridic'lous foolish «a
lovesick boy— less'n 'tis a lovesick gal."
I premised on my part and so we went
our separate ways in the gathering dark
ness; though not until the lashings of
the racks had been cut and the powder
and lead, pave fuch Epoil of both as Eph
rahTi Yeates a.nd Uncanoola would re
serve, tad been errilled into the river. As
for the bodies of the dead Indians, the
old hunter said he would let them ride
til! h» should come to some convenient
cha?m for a sepulcher; but I mistrusted
that he and the Catawba would scalp and
leavt them, once we were safely out of
sis l>".
At the Darting we took the river's edge
for St. Richard and 1. keeping well under
tlie l:ar.k and working our way cautiously
down the gorge until we were stopped by
the pouring cross-torrent of the under
ground tributary. Here we turned short
to the left along the margin of the bar
rier stream, and tracing Its course across
th*> rrorc<». came presently to the northern
cliff at the lip of the spewing cavern
But now the night was fully come and
in the wooded defile we could place ous
sclves only- by the sense of touch. :-.;"¦¦
"Are you ready, Dick?" said I.
Hi? face, commonly a leather mask to
hide the man behind it, was now ablaze
with the fire of zealotry; and. truly, In
these, hl« Fpasm-flts of supplication, he
stood for all that is most awe-Inspiring
and unnerving, asking but a little stretch
of the Imagination to figure him as one
of those old iron-hard prophets of denun
ciation come back to earth to be herald of
the wrath of God.
'Twas close upon actual nightfall when
the eld. man rose from his knees and. with
the rMr.g. put off the beadsman and put
on the Ehrewd old Indian fighter. Fol
lowed some hurried counselings as to how
we should proceed, and in these the hun
ter f.et the pace for us as his age and vast
experience in woodcraft gave him leave.
His plan had all the merit of simplicity.
Now that we had the horses, Richard's
notion of an approach from the head of
the sunken valley became at once the
most hopeful of any. So Ephraim Yeates
proposed that we betake ourselves to the
mountain top and to the head of that ra
vine which the Catawba and I had dis
covered. Here we should leave the horses
veil hidden and secured, make our way
down the ravine and, with the stream for
a guide, follow the sunken valley to the
camp at Its lower end. Once on the
ground without having given the alarm,
we might hope to free the captives under
cover of the darkness; and our retreat
up the valley would be far less hazardous
than any open flight by way of the unex
plored rea<i the r»owder train had used.
raddles to balance -as they might: and to
the pommel of that saddle which bore the
trunk of the five-feathered chieftain, Un
canoola had knotted the grisly head by
its sca.l<>-lock~ to dangle and roll about
with every restless movement of the
horse a hideous death-mask that seemed
to mop end mow and stare fearsomely at
us with its wide open glassy eyes.
With this background fit for the stag
ing of a scene in Dante Alighieri's
tragic comedy.the looming mountains, the
upper air graying on* to dusk, and the
solemn forest aisles full of lurking shad
ows, you are to picture the old frontiers
man, bareheaded and on his knees, pour-
Ing forth his soul in all ' the sonorous
phrase of Holy Writ, now in thanksgiv
ing;, and now in most terrible beseeching*
that all the vials of heaven's wrath might
be poured out upon our enemies.
said I; and with that we fell. to rmVinlng
like a pair of doubling foxes through the
wood on the steep slope behind the lodge.
striving with might and main to gain
the laurel thicket whence we had made
our first* reconnolssance before the con
verging ilnes of the redcoat cordon
should close and shut us out.
We did it by the skin of our teeth,
diving to cover through the closing gap
not a second too soon. When we were
in and hugging the bare ground under
the scanty ' leafing of laurel. I take no
shame in saying that I would have given
a king's ransom to be at large again.
Had there been but one of us the, covert
would have been cramped enough; and I
was "painfully "conscious that my bor
rowed coat of sear let was but a poor
thing, to' hide in. .
To , make it worse, . Falconnet, who
had lagged behind /at . the fire, was now
heaping fresh fuel r on, and this reviving
of the blaze made the place as light as
day. -^ With : the nearest links in the red
coat chain no more than a pike's length
at our ; backs', : we dared not - stir or
breathe a word; and. all in all, w*. might
have been \ taken like rats in a trap had
any one of the sentries • on our. side of
the circle" chanced to look behind him.
Having repaired the fire to his liking,
the- troop captain came up to- pass a
word or two with his lieutenant. They
spoke guardedly together, but we could
hear — could not help hearing.
"You have seen nothing, Gordon 7"
"Nothing, as yet"
"Good-by, Jack; go while you can.
You'll be liko to meet Eph and Catawba
coming in. Turn them back and tell them
to bide their time."
"But. you 7* I would say.
"My place is inside of that soldier
cordon. our friend is drawing about his
dove-cote. I shall be at* hand when she
needs me, as I promised."
"Aye, so you may be; but not alone;"
While we looked the Cherokees scat
tered like a company of trained gillies
to beat us out of cover; and when the
hunt was fairly up the baronet-captain
set hi* men in marching order to sur
roun.l the wiswam of the captives.
As yet there ¦. was tlnie for a swift
retreat up the valley, or at least for the
choosing of Fonio battlefield of our own
where, the enemy need not outnumber us
twenty to one; and again I urged Richard
to bestir himself. But it was the sight
of Fnlconnet'a troops deploying to sur
round tho tepee-lodge, and not any word
of mine, that broke his merriment In the
At a bound he was up and handing me
my sword. BQSHKHHBHh *
My plan to cut her out was simple
enough. Trusting to the darkness — the
horse meadow was far enough from the
dre3 to make a murky twilight of the
ruddy glow— I thought to lead the mare
quietly away up the stream and. thus on
to the foot of that -ravine by which we
hoped to climb to the old borderer's ren
dezvous on the plateau. But when all
wan ready and I sought to' set this plan
in action, an unforeseen obstacle barred
the way. To keep the horses from stray
ing upfthe valley an Indian sentry line
was strung above the grazing meadow,
and into this I blundered, like any un
llcked knave of a raw recruit.
Had I been armed, .the warrior who
rose before me phantom-like In the lau
rel edging, of the meadow would have
had a most sharp- pointed answer to his
challenge. As it was — I had left my
sword with Jennifer because the cap
tured trooper whose understudy I was
had left his sword in camp— I tried to
parley with the sentry. He knew no
word of English, nor I of Cherokee; but
that deadlock was speedily broken. A
guttural call summoned others of the
horsekeepers, and one among them who
spoke a. little English.
"Ugh! What-for take white squaw
horse?" he demanded.
" 'Tls the captain's order," I replied,
lying boldly to fit the crisis. i_;
• At that they gave me room; and had I
hastened I had doubtless gone at large
without more ado. But at this very apex
point of hazard I must needs play out
the part of unalarra to the fool's envoi,
taking time to part the mare's forelock
under the headstall, and looking leisure
ly to the lacings of the saddle girth.
This foolhardy delay cost me. all, and
more, than all. I was still fiddle-fad
dling with the girth strap, the bet
ter to impose Tipon my Indian
horse guards when suddenly there arose
a yelling hubbub of laughter in the
camp behind. 1 turned to look and
beheld a thing laughable enough, no
doubt, and yet It broke no bubble of
mirth in me. Half-way from the nearest
forest fringe to the. great fire a man,
white of skin and clothed only in a pair
of trooyer boots, was running swiftly
for cover to the nearest pine bough
.-shelter, shouting like an escaped Bed
lamite as he fled. It asked for no sec
ond glance, this apparition of the yell
ing madman:- 'twas our captive soldier,
foot ]<y>*e and racing In to raise the hue
and Ay. .' ¦
Now you may always count upon this
failing in a cautious man— that in a
crisis he ,1s like to do the unwisest thing
that offers.' This cutting out of Mar
gery's mare was none so vital, a matter
that I should have risked the marring
of Ephraim Yeates' plan upon it. Yet.
having done this- very thing, I must
needs make a bad matter infinitely worse.
Instead of mounting, to ride a churge
through the camp, and so to draw the
pursuit after me toward the cavern en
trance, .13 I should. I "lapped the mare
to send her bounding through the guard
line, snatched a saddle from its oak
branch peg to hurl It In ths faces of the
{•entry group, and, darting aside, plung
ed inta the laurel thicket to come by
running where I could and creeping
where I must to that place where I bad
left Richard Jennifer.
All hot and exasperated, as I was, 'twas
something less than cooling to find Dick
n-double on the ground, holding his tides
and. laughing like a yokel at his first
"Oh, ho. ho! did you — did you twig
him.^Jack?" he gasped. "Saw you ever
s>uch a ralncins puss-in-boots since tae
Lord made you? .Ah' ha! ha!"
"The devil. take ycur ill-timed humor!"
1 cried. '.'Up with you, man, and let u»
vanish while we may." '
By this time the cam? was in a pretty
ferment, as you would jruess — our late
captive having had spacs enough to tell
his tale. Drunk or 'sober. Falconnet was
afoot and alert, shouting his orders to
the Englishmen, who were scrambling
for their arms, and to the Indians, who
came swarming up from the lodges.
As I had hoped to find them, .the sad
dles were hung upon the branches of the
nearest, trees, Margery's horse-furnish
ings among them. At first the black
mare was shy of me, but a gentling word
or,two won her over, and she let me take
?|er» by the forelock and lead her deeper
nto the herd where* I could saddle and
bridle her in greater safety.
But being otherwise enjoined, as I say,
I turned my back upon the temptation
and held to the business in hand, which
was to reach and recrosa the ' stream
higher up and so to come among the
But- since my dear lady would also
share the hazard of such a broadside. I
had no leave to blow myself and the
powder convoy to kingdom come, as I
thirsted to—^could not, you will say, hav
ing neither pistol to snap nor flint, and
steel to fire a train". Nay. nay. my dears,
I would pot have you think so lightly of
my invention. Had ; this been the only
obstacle, you may.be sure I should have
found a way to grind a Bring spark .out
of two bits of stone.
in the well-laid mine. For if these ene
mies of ours had planned their own un
doing they could never have given a des
perate foeman a,' better chance. To hold
the pine; boughs, of the rude shelter in
place , they, had ; piled ' a . great loose wall
of V atones ; around and over ' the cargo;
and the firing of the powder, heaped as
It was against the: backing cliff of the
boulder, . would . hurl theso_ weighting
stones in a murderous broadside upon
the camp across the stream.

xml | txt