Again A Hidden Enemy





The boys were early astir the following morning. As soon as they were up

Capt. Pipe's wife placed a dish of boiled corn, like hominy, before them,

and this was their breakfast. A little later, telling Capt. Pipe of the

great amount of work they had to do, the lads bade him good-bye, the

chief giving them each a pouch of parched corn, and sending an Indian to

take them in a canoe across the lake.



It was two hours past noon when Tom Fish suddenly started up from the

broiled turkey with which he was regaling himself, as he heard some one

approach, and discovered Ree and John returning. He greeted them gladly,

but not in his usual hilarious fashion, and they could not but notice how

unlike himself he was as he carved for them some juicy slices from the

fine young gobbler he had cooked. Yet he listened with interest to Ree's

account of their trip, John often breaking in with such jolly comment as:

"You should have heard those Indians talk! Why they beat a quilting bee

for gabbling, except that they didn't all talk at once."



"But they are real orators," added Ree quite soberly. "I've heard that an

Indian has three ambitions--to be a mighty hunter, a great warrior and a

grand orator; and there are some splendid speakers among the Delawares."



"The's some red-handed, bloody murderers among 'em, too, I kin tell ye,"

Tom Fish growled. "I got no rest whilst ye was gone, a thinkin' of it."



"Has anything happened, Tom?" asked Ree, struck by his friends grave

manner.



"Cheer up, Thomas, cheer up!" cried John. "You've been about as cheerful

company as a box of indigo ever since you saw that--that hideous thing at

Big Buffalo's belt."



"Well, it's a wonder the' didn't nothing happen, an' somethin's goin' to

happen, I know," the hunter replied to Ree's question, ignoring John's

bantering, as he often did. "That Buffalo varmint means harm. I've been

thinkin' it all over an' the' ain't no two ways about it. If I ain't a

sight mistaken, I seen him peekin' down from the hill back there, not a

half hour ago--either him or some dirty Mingo; I didn't exactly see him,

but I heard some one, an' I'd a' peppered away at him if you kittens

hadn' 'a been gone an' me not knowin' just where ye might be. So I've

been thinkin' it all over, an' mighty sorry I am I ever piloted ye into

this hostyle kentry. The's only one thing to do, an' that's to take what

stuff ye kin an' get back to Pittsburg fast as yer legs kin take ye. Now

as fer me, I kin take care of myself, but I'll see ye part way anyhow,

an' I'd go clear back with ye if I didn't have somethin' very important

to 'tend to."



Ree could not help but smile at Tom's drooping spirits, though the

discouraging talk made it necessary for him to appear really more

cheerful than he felt, as he realized that Big Buffalo really seemed

anxious to cause trouble. But he shook his head at John, as he saw the

latter about to scold Tom for bringing them into this part of the

wilderness only to advise them to leave it; for his chum's face showed

that he was not pleased with Tom's manner.



"There is just one thing to be done," Ree exclaimed.



"An' that's get right back--" Tom Fish was saying.



But the youthful leader of the party interrupted: "Go back? No, sir! The

one thing to do is to go forward, and take our goods with us without

further loss of time. We will get a good, stout cabin up and then we'll

be better prepared for trouble if it comes. And that prowler, you heard,

Tom, must have been the same cowardly wretch who shot old Jerry. We must

watch for him. We cannot be too careful, but if he is the same fellow who

fired on us and nearly killed Black Eagle's son, 'way back on the

Pennsylvania border, I think I can guess who it is, and I can tell you,

he is a coward. But let's get to work."



"I like yer spunk, lad, an' I like you, but what I want to say is, that

Tom Trout as some calls Fish, will stick by ye till ye get some sort of a

shack throwed up, anyhow."



"Bully for you, Tom! And bully for you, too, Ree," exclaimed John

springing up to begin whatever task awaited him. "I was beginning to get

away down in the mouth, the way Tom was talking a minute ago."



"We must take the goods out of the cart and pack them in convenient shape

for carrying," Ree directed, without further ado. "By dragging a few

things forward a hundred rods or so, then coming back for more and so on,

we should reach the river in a couple of days."



And so all fell to work with a will. The cart did not contain a heavy

load, as it would have been impossible for old Jerry to have hauled it

through the woods, up hills, across streams and boggy places. But when it

came to carrying forward everything except the cart, which must be

abandoned, without the aid of a horse, the task was found to be a most

laborious one.



The unpacking and rearranging consumed so much time that darkness had

come on before the last bundle of the merchandise and provisions had been

carried forward to the first stopping place, a little way beyond the top

of the bluff, in the valley below which the camp had been.



While John and Tom erected a shelter for the night, for the wind was cold

and raw, Ree returned to the valley to procure coals with which to start

a fire at the new camp. He found it necessary to enliven the dying embers

with a few fresh sticks of wood, and as he stooped over to blow greater

life into the struggling blaze which started up, he heard a rustling in

the leaves on the hill behind him, in the direction opposite that in

which his friends were. Like a flash he sprang away from the fire into

the half-darkness which filled the valley. He was in the nick of time. A

rifle cracked and a bullet threw up the ashes and sent the sparks flying

where his head had been just a second before.



With the speed of the wind Ree ran in the direction from which the shot

had come, his own rifle cocked and ready. He thought he heard some one

making off in the darkness as he reached the top of the hill, but whether

white man or Indian--Delaware or Mingo, he could not tell. He called out

a command to halt, but no attention was given his order for the uncertain

sound of fleeing footsteps continued. He chanced a shot in the direction

of the unknown enemy, although he realized it would probably do no good.



While he reloaded his rifle Ree stepped behind a tree, and a few seconds

later John came running up. As it was too dark to continue the chase,

both boys returned to camp, stopping in the ravine to secure a fire brand

to start a blaze to prepare their supper. In vain did John ask questions

as to whom Ree believed the would-be murderer was; they could not be

answered, for, as Ree said, he had not seen the person.



Tom Fish, disconsolate as he well could be, sat on a big bundle of

merchandise as the boys rejoined him.



"It's sure death to stay here, lads," were the first words he said, and

his tone was not calculated to make the young travelers comfortable; but

resolving to look on the brighter side, Ree cheerily answered:



"A man is in some danger wherever he is. We will all feel better when we

smell some venison on the hot coals. And just wait till we get our cabin

built! We are going to get some beans and late squashes from the Indians,

and bake some corn bread, and have a regular old-fashioned Connecticut

supper!"



"Did ye hit him, d'ye think, Ree?" asked Tom, brightening up.



"No, but he scared him into eleven kinds of fits," John answered for his

friend, catching the spirit of the latter's courage and enthusiasm.



"It ain't that I am caring for myself. Tom Fish, or Tom Trout didn't ever

lose a wink o' sleep bein' afraid he couldn't look out for number one,"

the woodsman went on. "But after--after that--thing we saw the other

day--but I guess we've got our appetites left," he said, suddenly

changing the subject.



It was not long until the supper was ready and eaten and all did feel

much the better for it, as Ree had predicted. The ordinary noises of the

forest, the howling of wolves, in pursuit of some poor deer, perhaps, the

far-away shriek of a panther balked of its prey, it may have been, gave

them little concern. Though the darkness was intense and enemies might

draw very near without being observed, the boys believed they had made

peace with the Indians and the presence of four-footed enemies did not

worry them.



Tom Fish felt very differently about the matter of the Indians'

friendship, but he kept these thoughts to himself for the time being, and

though there are far more comfortable places than a camp in a great

wilderness on a cold November night, the lads from Connecticut would have

been entirely happy had it not been for the mystery of the strange

prowler, the thought that several times they had been secretly fired

upon, and that there was no knowing when another attack might be made in

which the aim of the dastardly assailant need be but a trifle better to

end the life of one or both of them, perhaps.



Yet, even these gloomy facts could not dispel the good spirits which

accompany good health and the hopefulness of youth. Even Tom seemed to

forget his dark forebodings as he was persuaded to tell a number of

stories of his own adventures. Quite comfortable, therefore, though on

the alert to catch the first sound of danger's coming, the little party

sat for an hour or two beneath the rude shelter which had been erected,

while the firelight performed its fantastic feats around them.



Tom volunteered to remain on guard the first part of the night, and crept

out at the back of their little house of poles and brush, that he might

not be observed, should anyone be watching. Then, softly through the

darkness he made his way to a convenient tree against which he leaned, in

the dark shadows. Ree and John, wrapped in their blankets on their beds

of deerskins spread over the autumn leaves, were soon asleep.



A heavy snow was sifting through the swaying branches of the trees when

Tom called Ree and the latter went on watch. This change in the weather

gave the quick-witted sentinel an idea. With the first streak of dawn he

called John to prepare breakfast, then hurried back to the valley where

their cart had been left, taking care to observe that there were no

tracks of any human creature along the way. From the box of the abandoned

two-wheeled wagon he secured two good sized boards and carried them to

camp.



John watched in open-mouthed astonishment as he saw Ree coming up with

the lumber, but in a minute or two he discovered what his friend designed

to do. With no other tools than an axe and auger he soon built a sled

large and strong enough to carry all their goods.



Ree's idea proved an excellent one. The snow-fall was just enough to make

a sled run smoothly, and by a little after sunrise "all the property of

Kingdom and Jerome, Indian traders and home-seekers," as John expressed

it, was piled upon the pair of runners which the senior member of the

firm had contrived, and they and Tom Fish were steadily drawing it toward

their long-sought destination.



"We must reach the Cuyahoga river by night," Ree urged, and his own

determination gave strength to himself and his companions. Up hill and

down hill they hurried, tugging, perspiring, making the best speed

possible through the silent forest.



And as the sun burst through a sea of gray-black clouds, and shone

brilliantly just before night's coming, it seemed an omen of good to the

little party in the wilderness, for at almost the same moment, Ree,

running on a head a little way, cried: "Here we are!"



Before the daylight closed, the site of the cabin, work on which was to

begin the next day, had been selected on the long irregular mound close

to the river, which has already been described.



Ree called attention to the natural advantages of the place--its sides

sloping down in three directions while on the fourth side and thirty feet

below was the river. It was a point which could be defended in case of an

attack, and the additional fact of the natural clearing and fertile lands

surrounding it, made the place seem most desirable.



"The's only one thing the matter with this location," said Tom Fish,

surveying the mound from the semi-circular valley around it, as the

twilight settled down. "The's likely to be ague in a place like this, it

bein' so nigh the water. It's a mighty good thing to steer clear of, ague

is."



"But there are so many natural advantages," Ree persisted, "and our cabin

will be well up in the air and the sunlight."



"That's a good point, Ree," John put in, "but think of it--we will have

to carry all our firewood up that hill."



"I'll carry the wood if you play out, old chap," was the answer and the

matter ended by Ree having his own way, as was generally the case, not

because he was selfish or obstinate, but because he was sure he was right

before he made up his mind, and because he had that born spirit of

leadership which gave himself and all others confidence in his decisions

and actions.



Although careful observation during the day had failed to reveal any sign

of their prowling foe, whoever he might be, Ree and John agreed to divide

the guard duty of the night between them. Ree took the first watch and

reported all quiet when John relieved him at midnight.



When daylight came John went a little way up the wooded hillside opposite

the mound to pick up some dry wood for their fire. Suddenly he stopped

and a startled look came upon his face. There in the snow were

foot-prints made by moccasined feet. They followed the trail the sled had

made the day before, up to the very edge of the clearing in which their

camp was made.



There, John found, as he guardedly investigated, they circled off to one

side a little way, hovered about, here and there, then re-crossed the

sled's track and disappeared in the woods. What could it mean? Instantly

he remembered that the foot-prints of the person who had several times

fired upon their camp, had been made by boots. He hurried to the camp

mentally ejaculating: "What will Tom Fish say of this?"



Tom was still asleep, but Ree had commenced the breakfast. "It is too

bad," he said, thinking aloud, as he learned of John's discovery. "I

suppose we ought to follow those tracks if only for safety's sake, and

find out who made them, but I do hate to lose the time when we ought to

be getting a cabin built."



The discovery was pointed out to Tom when he awoke a little later.



"A prowlin' Mingo!" the old hunter exclaimed as he inspected the

foot-prints. "Kittens both, the's trouble brewin'. It's a wonder the

varmint didn't shoot. I don't see what he's up to, always doggin' us this

way! But I'll tell ye what I'll do. You lads get yer axes an' go to work,

an' I'll foller up them tracks. An' bust my galluses, kittens both, I'll

give the varmint a dose as'll make him think of his pore ol' granddad, if

I ketch him!"



Tom's suggestion found favor at once, though the boys could not explain

the varying moods of their friend, which made him cool and courageous one

day and dejected and fearful another. But breakfast being over, Tom set

out.



"Be careful," Ree called after him. "Don't get yourself or us into any

row with the Delawares, unnecessarily." The hunter made no answer.





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