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Danger








From: Far Past The Frontier

As Ree spoke, a war whoop sounded clear and strong, instantly followed by
a weird, chanting song. In a minute or two this ceased, and then with
fiercer war whoops than before, broke out afresh. Quickly the young
pioneers floated nearer the scene of these warlike outbursts, and soon
ran the nose of their canoe upon the gravelly beach. With fast-beating
hearts they climbed the little bank which rose gradually a few feet back
from the shore.

The boys had approached so quietly, and the Indians were so intent on
the war dance that their coming had not been discovered. And well
might the lads pause in uncertainty as to the manner of the reception
they would receive; for now they came into full view of the assembled
savages--half-naked warriors in paint and fighting costume, forming a
circle and dancing and yelling like the wild barbarians they were, while
old men and young braves and squaws and children looked on in savage
rapture. Before either boy could speak Big Buffalo espied them and
leaped forward brandishing a tomahawk.

Instinctively Ree seized his rifle in both hands, ready for instant
action. John did the same, and with an ugly leer the Indian paused. His
action had attracted attention, however, and at this critical juncture
Capt. Pipe discovered the presence of the visitors, and called angrily to
Buffalo to put up his weapon.

The chief was in full war costume himself, making anything but a
peaceable appearance as he met the boys half way, when they obeyed his
signal to approach. But without a word he conducted them to a place in
the circle of spectators gathered around the forty or fifty warriors, and
at once the dance went on as though there had been no interruption.

With terrible gestures of their arms and throwing their bodies into all
sorts of warlike attitudes, the Indians danced about in a circle,
striking their feet down with great force as they kept time to the
beating of two rude drums and the uncanny song they sang. With a war
whoop a dance was begun and continued for about two minutes, the
outlandish music making the forest ring. Then the singing and dancing
stopped and the Indians walked more slowly around the circle.

In a minute or so another war-cry would sound and the fierce, weird music
and dance would be resumed. Then some old Indian among the spectators
would clap his hands, signifying that he wished to speak. The dance would
cease and the dancers walk slowly 'round again, while a speech was made.
The address would occupy only a half minute or a minute perhaps, and then
with another of the horrifying war cries the dancing and singing were
started afresh.

Ree and John might have been a thousand miles away for all the attention
that was given them at first.

"Perhaps it is merely a festival dance," John whispered to his chum.

"No, it would be given in the evening if that were true," was the answer.
"It means the warpath, I am sure."

John was replying that, whether merely for entertainment or for war, the
dance was enough to scarce a civilized person into a trance, when Capt.
Pipe suddenly clapped his hands and, as the music ceased, stepped forward
and spoke. All the other speeches had been made in the Delaware tongue,
but the first man of the tribe now spoke partly in English. This was for
the purpose of giving them to understand just what was going on, the boys
were quite certain, and frequently the chief pointed toward them.

In substance Capt. Pipe said that the whites were encroaching too far
upon the lands of the Indians and preparations were being made for a
great union of tribes to drive the "Long Knives" back. He promised to
lead a large party of his people to join with other Delawares and the
Wyandots, Shawnees and Miamies in a war which, he boastfully said, would
secure to the Indians again the forests in which the Palefaces had
already settled. He referred to the defeat of the whites eight years
before and the burning of Col. Crawford, and said there would be scalps
and plunder for every warrior who accompanied him.

John found himself wondering whether the Indians might not undertake to
whet their appetites for blood by killing himself and Ree. It was of the
terrible torture of Col. Crawford which Ree was thinking, and he found it
hard to keep from hating the savages before him, horrible and cruel in
their war paint.

And could he have looked but a few months into the future and have seen
the awful carnage in which Capt. Pipe and his braves had a prominent
part, at the defeat of General St. Clair near Fort Jefferson, in what is
now Mercer County, Ohio, he could not have restrained his hatred as he
did. He knew in after years what that battle was, and knew that the
Indians boasted that their arms ached from their work with the scalping
knife.

The frightful dance went on when Capt. Pipe had finished speaking, his
words inspiring the warriors with new vigor who now whirled around the
circle with great rapidity, going through all the motions of attacking,
vanquishing and scalping an enemy. At a call from the chief, other
warriors, who were standing by, sprang into the ring, joining in the
singing and contortions of faces and bodies with furious energy. More and
more followed as from among the dancers Capt. Pipe called from time to
time, urging all who wished to win renown as warriors, and to hang scalps
of the hated whites at their belts, to join him.

Each addition to the whirling, shrieking, blood-thirsty band was greeted
with thunderous whoops and in the end nearly one hundred and fifty braves
were going through all the barbarous awe-inspiring motions of the horrid
celebration.

Well might Ree and John feel alarm for their own safety; but they looked
upon the terrifying scene quite calmly, notwithstanding that, as their
passions were kindled and their savage patriotism aroused by the fervor
of the dance, the Indians gave them many a glance which was far from
friendly.

There were two things which Ree could not help but notice as the revel
continued; one was that Big Buffalo had not joined the dancers, the other
that Gentle Maiden kept her eyes downcast or looked away across the lake,
not once turning toward her father's painted braves. He could not help
thinking it strange that the Buffalo had not signified his intention of
joining the warriors, and sincerely wished the unfriendly fellow had done
so. There was no other Indian whom he had so much reason to dislike, nor
one whose absence was so greatly to be desired.

For more than two hours the dance went on, interrupted only when some
one--usually an old Indian whose fighting days were past--clapped his
hands as a signal that he wished to make a speech. But at last Capt. Pipe
called a halt and stepped out from among the dancers. With a fierce look
toward Big Buffalo he demanded to know of him why he would not join the
war party.

Ree and John could not understand all that was said, but they saw plainly
that the chief was angry. In substance the reason of Big Buffalo was that
it would not do for all the strong men to leave the village; that some
one must remain to provide meat for the women and children, and to
protect the town.

Capt. Pipe heard these excuses with a scowl black as a thunder cloud. His
giant frame stretched itself to its greatest height and his voice was
filled with contempt as he flung forth but one word:

"Squaw!"

Perhaps the chief thought, as Ree was at that moment thinking, that the
Buffalo's main reason for wishing to remain at home, was that he might be
near Gentle Maiden. But had the truth been made known, it would have been
shown that the treacherous rascal had other and more wicked reasons in
his heart, as the young settlers were destined soon to learn.

With a wave of his arm Capt. Pipe dispersed his followers as Big Buffalo
made no reply to his contemptuous outburst. The Indians threw themselves
on the ground to rest, or went away to their lodges to more fully prepare
for the warpath, and the chief, turning to Ree and John, motioned to them
to follow. He led the boys to his cabin and his wife placed food before
them. When they had eaten, Capt. Pipe produced pipes and all three
smoked. It was a silent compact of peace, and pleased indeed were the
Paleface lads that the Indian showed this disposition.

Though it was not this act of friendship which made him bold, for he
would have spoken in the same way under other circumstances, Ree quietly
asked Capt. Pipe why he had determined to go on the warpath.

The chief made no answer.

"It is wrong," Ree continued gravely. "You are living here in happiness
and security. No Palefaces have molested you. Your people are contented;
they have but to step into the forests for an abundance of game; but to
approach the waters for all the fish they may desire. The ground yields
rich returns from the labor of the planting season. The Delawares are
well fed and well clothed. Why, then, should they give up the hunt and
the pleasures of their present pursuits to take up the hatchet? Why
should they seek the lives of others, whether white men or redmen? They
will only bring sorrow and weeping to their own villages, and sorrow and
weeping in many a Paleface home for those who never return. More than
this, Chief Hopocon, the Great Spirit looks with unhappy eyes upon his
children who go on the warpath not in defense of their own, but to kill
and murder those who have not harmed them."

Knowing Ree even well as he did, John was surprised to hear him speak
thus fluently and strongly, but he greatly feared his friend had been
unwise in speaking so boldly.

For a few seconds Capt. Pipe did not answer. And then he said:

"The young brother speaks well, but he does not know. His heart is right,
but he does not know. With the young men who have come among us as
traders and hunters we have no quarrel. They will remain here. They will
send no word of the war dance to the forts. Other Palefaces are crowding
further and further. Faster and faster, they are driving the people of
the forest before them. The young brother does not know this. The young
brother does not know of the word which every day the runners bring,
which tells of the crowding of the Long Knives more and more upon the
forest. Now must they be warned to come no further. Now must they be
driven back to the eastward. Else the setting sun will be the home of the
Delawares. Too long--too long, have the hands of Hopocon and his warriors
been idle; too long--too long, have the Delawares borne in silence."

Capt. Pipe spoke with emphasis but not violently. As he concluded he rose
slowly to his feet. Ree and John followed his example, and with meaning
in his gesture far greater than words could have expressed, the chieftain
motioned to them to depart.

With shoulders thrown back, head erect as proud and dignified as the
Indians whom he felt had thus insulted him Ree turned to leave the cabin.
But John had no such feeling, nor was he so quick to see that Capt. Pipe
was offended by the words of one whom he probably considered a mere boy.
He saw only that the object of their visit was not likely to be
accomplished and turning to the Indian said: "Capt. Pipe, we wanted to
buy a little more land, and we need a horse."

With an impatient, violent sweep of his right hand, the chief touched
John's shoulder with his left, and pointed across the lake in the
direction of the cabin by the river.

Even in this brief time Ree's temper had cooled, and with proud dignity
he turned and offered Capt. Pipe his hand. The Indian took it and also
shook hands with John. His manner was haughty but not altogether
unfriendly. The boys still felt that they had nothing to fear from him as
they walked away.

Fishing Bird was near by as usual, as the lads went down to the water's
edge. He was naked to the waist and was bedecked with paint and feathers.
He looked really fierce as he strode up to shove off the canoe, not in
his customary happy mood, but with cool indifference. He spoke to Ree in
an undertone as the canoe glided free of the beach.

It was late in the day, and this fact taken in connection with the
unpleasant events of the afternoon caused the boys to decide to go
directly to their cabin rather than to go on to the Tuscarawas river upon
which the Indians were accustomed to travel toward the Ohio, and which
the lads had planned to explore.

"What did Fishing Bird say to you, Ree?" asked John as they reached
mid-lake.

"He said we should watch out for Big Buffalo."

"Thunderation! I wonder if he isn't jealous of Big Buffalo that he is
always warning us against him? He must know that we know the old rogue
doesn't like us, and that is all there is of it!"

"Oh, I guess Fishing Bird means well; and I'm sorry enough that Big
Buffalo isn't going with the war party. It may be that the chief's
daughter has something to do with his remaining at home, but I do not
think Fishing Bird is jealous. As for us, why the Buffalo has no reason
to hate us on the girl's account. We never even spoke to her."

"But she has spoken to you, Ree."

"Never."

"Yes, she has--with her eyes."

"What nonsense!" Ree ejaculated. "Big Buffalo is ugly by disposition and
has never forgotten the mistake I made when I overlooked him and supposed
Fishing Bird to be in command of the hunting party I met that time they
made me prisoner."

Presently the talk drifted to other subjects, especially to the
disposition of the furs that had accumulated, and the plan to take them
to Detroit now seemed the best to follow.

"But after all," Ree suggested, "we may be able to get a horse from the
Delawares when Capt. Pipe and his men have gone."

"No, he is going to take all the horses. They will dance and feast
to-night, and to-morrow they start," John answered.

"How do you know that?"

For a moment there was no answer; and then in a hesitating way, "Gentle
Maiden told me," John confessed.

"Oh, ho! You've been making love behind my back, have you? When did you
talk with her?"

"Why, there was no love about it!" exclaimed John with some pretense of
indignation. "We were only talking as anybody has a right to talk. It was
while they were dancing. And Ree, she speaks better English than her
father. The missionaries among the Moravians who were massacred several
years ago, taught her. And she thinks it was right that Col. Crawford was
burned because of that massacre, too."

"I guess you have talked to the Indian girl before to-day, haven't you?
Why didn't you tell me?"

"She spoke to me first, and I--I didn't think you would be interested."

Ree smiled but said no more. The canoe grated on the lake shore toward
their home, and the boys took up their task of carrying it overland to
the river.

"We will write some letters to send home from Pittsburg; for I still hope
we will be able to take our furs there," said Ree, as they tramped
along.

But in those days of more than one hundred years ago, as at the present
time, none could tell what changes another sunrise would bring; and
neither Ree nor John dreamed of the terrible danger which was closing in
around them, the story of which is told in "Two Boy Pioneers".





Next: Spring

Previous: The Hatred Of Big Buffalo



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