On Into The Wilderness





Great as the shock of the sudden attack and his narrow escape was, Ree

gave only a little yell of surprise and anger, and ran in the direction

from which the shot had come, drawing his pistol as he went. He found no

one. Though utterly regardless of the danger he might be in by thus

exposing himself, he made a careful search.



"Land o' livin', boy, ye'll be meat for the redskins before ye've crossed

the frontier, if ye don't be keerful!" cried the woodsman, quickly coming

up, springing from tree to tree, and thus always keeping their protecting

trunks between himself and the point from which the mysterious shot had

been fired. "What is the varmint pepperin' away at ye so, for?"



"I haven't the least idea, for I don't know who it is," Ree answered.



But he was glad the woodsman's frank manner left no room to suspect him

of treachery, although there had been grounds for this suspicion in the

circumstance of the shot having been fired just as his own rifle and that

of his friend had been discharged.



John had remained on guard beside Jerry and the cart, watchful for any

sign of their strange enemy, completely mystified by the attack.

Presently he joined Ree and the hunter who were searching for the trail

of the would-be assassin. Tracks were found at last (high up on the rocky

hillside)--those of a white man, for he wore boots; but they were very

faint and Ree declared he would waste no time in attempting to follow

them.



"But I do believe, John," he said, "that the shot which wounded North

Wind was intended for me, and the fellow who shot, then, fired again

to-day."



"You are thinking of Big Pete; I know you are!" John answered. "But I am

sure you are mistaken, Ree. Why it was miles and miles away that North

Wind was shot, and there hasn't been a day since then but what we could

have both been killed, perhaps, by some one hidden along the road."



The woodsman, when he had heard the story, coincided with John's opinion

and Ree said nothing more, though he was not convinced that he was

wrong.



The brisk talk of the stranger turned the boys' thoughts to other

subjects as the journey was resumed. He was by no means a disagreeable

fellow. His real name was "Thomas Trout," he said, but he was everywhere

known as "Tom Fish." He had tramped over all the hills and valleys for

miles around and seemed to know the country thoroughly. He accepted the

boys' invitation to eat dinner with them, and gave a share of the pounded

parched corn he carried in a pouch at his belt, in return for venison and

coarse corn bread, John having baked the latter on a flat stone beside

their camp-fire, the previous night.



When in the afternoon, Tom Fish left the boys he told them they would be

likely to see him at Fort Pitt, and gave them many directions as to where

they had better "put up" while at Pittsburgh, as he called the place,

such being its new name at that time.



John declared he would not sleep a wink that night, but remain on guard

until morning. "For we must be prudent," he said, in a very sober tone,

which from him sounded so funny that Ree laughed outright.



And yet John was probably as prudent a boy as Ree; for the latter was so

almost entirely fearless that he rushed into danger in a way not prudent

at all, and many severe lessons which he learned afterward did not make

him cautious as he should have been.



The night passed without one disturbing incident and the rising sun found

the boys on their way once more; before its setting they reached

Pittsburg.



"Fort Pitt," as they were accustomed to call the straggling hamlet, stood

at the foot of the hills at the confluence of the Allegheny and

Monongahela rivers. Because of its location it was an important place and

even at the time of which this is written (1790) was a point much

frequented by traders, trappers and hunters.



It was with a feeling of awe, that Ree and John drove into the town, and

noticed its old fort, its brick and log buildings and general air of

pioneer hospitality. People stared at them, and some called to them in

the familiar way of the border; but everyone was good-natured and helpful

and almost before the boys knew it their horse had been unhitched and fed

and they themselves were eating supper in a long, low brick building

which served as a sort of public house.



From the first it had been the young travelers' intention to sell their

horse and cart at Fort Pitt and secure passage for themselves and goods

on some flat-boat going down the river. They spoke of the settlement

which General Putnam and others had made at a place they called Marietta

(still known by that name) as their destination, and gave a general idea

of their plans to the men who talked with them as they gathered about the

big fire-place in the evening. They found they would probably be able to

secure transportation down the Ohio within a few days, in company with a

party of emigrants who had been building boats for the trip, expecting to

go to Kentucky.



When the young travelers started out next morning to find a purchaser for

old Jerry, however, they discovered that at that time of year, the demand

for such property was far from brisk. As they walked along the main

street or road, they chanced upon Tom Fish, who hailed them in his rough,

but happy way, and they told him just how they were situated.



"Don't sell the nag, then; come right along with me. I'll show you the

way into a country full of Injuns and game enough to suit ye, in short

order; an' ye won't have to pay no passage down river. Why, there's jes

the spot ye're lookin' for west o' here--rivers an' little lakes, an'

fish an' game--no end o' game. Good place for tradin' too; Injun towns

every forty rods or so."



The woodsman then went on to tell the boys that several years earlier, a

fort, known as Fort Laurens, had been erected on the Tuscarawas river, in

the woods beyond Pittsburg. He was planning to go in that direction, for

a purpose he did not state, and would willingly act as guide. He

cautioned the boys, however, that there was little sign of a broken road

for them to travel upon and that Fort Laurens had long been abandoned

because of the hostility of the savages. But the confidence of the young

traders that they could make friends with the Indians, and Tom's glowing

accounts of the country of which he spoke, caused them to look with favor

upon his proposition.



"We will think about this matter," said Ree, "and let you know. You will

be here a day or two?"



"Yaas, a day or two," said Tom Fish. "But don't let me influence ye; it's

mighty reesky business you kittens is bent on."



"It seems to me like a good plan," Ree reflected aloud, when he and John

were alone. "If we went to General Putnam's settlement we would still

feel that we must go up the Muskingum river to reach the Indians and

profitable trading, and would have to build a raft or buy a boat to carry

our goods. Moreover, people here say that within a few years the country

all about Pittsburg will be settled up and that land will become

valuable."



"Whatever you say suits me," said John with a laugh; and then and there

Ree gave him a talking to for being so ready to accept the judgment of

another, instead of having thoughts and opinions of his own.



But one or two ridiculously low offers the boys received for their horse

and cart, and the discovery that they could not find room on the boat

down the Ohio except at a fancy price, resulted in their decision to join

Tom Fish. They talked all day of the subject, but when they went to bed

that night, they knew that not for many months to come would they sleep

again within the borders of civilization.



A frosty November morning ushered in another day, and early as they were

astir Ree and John found the little town wide awake. Tom Fish was

sky-larking all about saying good-bye to friends, and just a little under

the influence of whiskey. It seemed that everybody knew him; and people

having found out from Tom what they had not already found out from

others, about the venturesome lads from Connecticut, quite an assemblage

gathered to wish the travelers good luck.



A repeated suggestion which had been made to the boys was that they

should abandon their cart and take with them only such goods as they

could carry by using old Jerry as a pack-horse. It was true that for a

portion of the distance they proposed to travel, there was a rough road,

but beyond Fort McIntosh, at the mouth of the Beaver river, they would

have no road but the rough Indian trail. But Tom Fish said he "reckoned

old Colonel Boquet's road was still there," and that they should take the

cart; and they did so.



Tom had joined the boys as their clumsy vehicle creaked along a muddy

street, a little more serious than usual, because of some news he had

heard, he said, but boastful as ever.



"I was talkin' to a big seven-footer in the tavern last night," he

said--"A feller that had a grudge ag'in' me once. He never liked me till

I threw him over a house one day;--threw him clean over a house. It makes

me larff!"



John laughed, too, at this, but he said: "Tom Fish, you weigh a good

three stone (forty-two) more than I do, but I believe I could throw you

in a wrestle. When we stop for dinner, I am going to put you on your

back!"



A laugh long and loud came from the woodsman's throat. "Why, what a

playful kitten ye be!" he exclaimed. "Why, I could toss ye up in the air

and ketch ye nigh a dozen times whilst ye were only thinkin' of throwin'

me."



"I'd like to see you try it," cried John.



"Put aside your nonsense, you two, until noon, now do," Ree laughingly

urged, "and tell us, Tom, of that Colonel Boquet whose road we are to

follow."



"Waal, that's quite a yarn," said Tom Fish. "But le' me see now; le' me

see. It was back when I was jes a young buck, 'long 'bout '64, that this

Colonel Boquet, who was a mighty decent citizen for a Frenchman, made up

his mind to get a whack at the pesky Injuns which had been killin' an'

scalpin' an' burnin' an' robbin' all along the border of Pennsylvania an'

Virginia an' Lord knows where all.



"Waal, the state of Pennsylvania an' the state of Virginia helped him

with sojers an' he mustered scouts enough so that in all he had nigh onto

2,000 men. He marched 'em straight into the woods, the whole caboodle on

'em, clearin' a road as he went, an' takin' along a lot o' sheep an'

cows, and provender for the sojers without end. He went straight along

till he come to the Muskingum river, an' there he camped out, makin' a

show with all his men an' pack-horses an' everything, that scared the

Mingoes an' the Delawares half to death for fear he'd stay right there

an' build a town amongst 'em.



"They was willin' to do most anything to get rid of him, an' there was

only one thing that he would hear to. He give 'em jes' ten days to trot

into his camp every prisoner they had in all their towns far an' near,

an' told 'em that if ary a one was held back, he'd march on every pesky

village an' knock 'em sky high an' burn 'em down.



"Waal! them Injuns was so scared, they commenced gettin' their prisoners

together right off, and they trotted two hundred on 'em up to the front

door of Colonel Boquet's tent inside them ten days. An' there was doin's

for sartin then!--Pow wows among the sojers who found all sorts of

relations that the Delawares or the Wyandots or the pesky Mingoes had

carried off, an' pow wows among the men, an' the women an' the children

that was brought out o' their captivity like the Children of Israel.



"Then Colonel Boquet marched 'em all back to Fort Pitt an' he sent for me

an' told me what he'd done, an' asked me what I thought on it. I was

scoutin' out of Fort Pitt then, and I jes' shook his hand an' says:

'Colonel Boquet ye're a reg'lar rip-snorter.'"



"Did you ever hear of the terrible Captain Archer, the outlaw of war

times?" asked the fun-loving John, inventing the name to see what Tom

would say; for he had his own opinion as to Colonel Boquet having asked

Thomas Fish what he thought of that Indian expedition.



"Cap. Archer? Old Cap. Archer! Well I rayther guess I knew him, an' if he

ain't forgot it, he carries a little lead pill out of my old steel bottle

of Injun medicine, clean to this day. Yaas, many a scrimmage I had with

old Cap. Archer."



John was for carrying his questioning further, though he could hardly

keep from laughing, but Ree shook his head, unwilling to make fun of one

who was so kind to them.



The travelers made excellent progress that morning, finding a very fair

road for that rough country, along the river. They met occasional

settlers and hunters and whether he knew them or not, Tom Fish always

stopped to talk and always asked whether everything was quiet along the

border. Many shook their heads, and spoke gloomily of the outlook for

peace with the Indians remaining long unbroken.



From a couple of friendly Indians they met, Ree secured a quarter of

venison in exchange for a cheap trinket, and although he accompanied the

performance with a great deal of bragging, Tom did show the boys that he

was a past-master in the art of broiling venison steaks. The fine dinner

they had as a result, set his tongue wagging more than ever, however, and

John Jerome was more than anxious to take some of the vanity out of him.



They had camped upon a hillside sloping down to the river--the Ohio. The

day had come on bright and warm as Indian summer could be, and John had

thrown off his coat.



"Now, Mr. Fish," he said with a laugh, "You see the river down there?

I've been thinking there may be some one of the same name as yourself in

that water, and I've a mind to send you to visit your relations."



The merry laugh of the hunter rang shrill and clear.



"Be ye? Oh, be ye?" he cried, jumping to his feet. "If it wa'n't fer

hurtin' ye, I'd throw ye clean across to yon hillside!" and he pointed to

a spot nearly a mile away, across the river.



"It's a good thing for you there are so many leaves on the ground to

break your fall," John answered, rolling up his sleeves.



"Don't wrestle so much with your mouths," Ree admonished them.



"Why, I could handle both of ye; come on, the two of ye to onc't!" the

hunter cried.



But the next moment he found in John, alone, about as much of a task as

he cared to undertake. For two minutes they heaved and tugged, John's

wiry frame seeming to be all around the woodsman, who was by no means

clumsy, though he could not put him down. Then they broke apart and for a

minute made feints at one another, each hoping to secure an advantage.



At last the hunter's arms shot out, his hands seized John's arms so

quickly, and he lifted the boy off his feet and keeled him over with such

dexterity, that the lad lay sprawling on his back almost before he knew

what was happening.



The glee of Tom Fish was quite ridiculous. He danced about and almost

screamed with laughter.



"It is your turn, Ree," said John good-naturedly.



"Whenever our friend is ready," Ree responded.



"Come on! Come on!" Tom cried. "Oh, what frisky kittens ye be!"



Peter Piper, the half-breed, had taught Return Kingdom a trick or two at

wrestling. And now he allowed the hunter to lift him off the ground, then

he let his muscles relax, his dead weight falling in his opponent's arms.

Suddenly getting his feet to the ground in this way, he sprang against

the hunter's muscular frame with such rapidity of thought and motion that

he was able by a tremendous lightning-like effort to jerk one of the

man's legs from under him, sending him down, while he, himself, came

uppermost.



"Ye're pretty fair," Tom Fish muttered; but it was plain to be seen that

something he very little expected had happened to him.





On Guard On Lonely Mountain Roads facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback