Thursday, November 8, 2007



I was born under the Blue Ridge, and under that side
which is blue in the evening light, in a wild land of game
and forest and rushing waters. There, on the borders of
a creek that runs into the Yadkin River, in a cabin that
was chinked with red mud, I came into the world a subject
of King George the Third, in that part of his realm
known as the province of North Carolina.
The cabin reeked of corn-pone and bacon, and the odor
of pelts. It had two shakedowns, on one of which I slept
under a bearskin. A rough stone chimney was reared outside,
and the fireplace was as long as my father was tall.
There was a crane in it, and a bake kettle; and over it
great buckhorns held my father's rifle when it was not
in use. On other horns hung jerked bear's meat and
venison hams, and gourds for drinking cups, and bags of
seed, and my father's best hunting shirt; also, in a
neglected corner, several articles of woman's attire from
pegs. These once belonged to my mother. Among them
was a gown of silk, of a fine, faded pattern, over which I
was wont to speculate. The women at the Cross-Roads,
twelve miles away, were dressed in coarse butternut wool
and huge sunbonnets. But when I questioned my father
on these matters he would give me no answers.
My father was--how shall I say what he was? To
this day I can only surmise many things of him. He was
a Scotchman born, and I know now that he had a slight
Scotch accent. At the time of which I write, my early
childhood, he was a frontiersman and hunter. I can see
him now, with his hunting shirt and leggings and moccasins;
his powder horn, engraved with wondrous scenes;
his bullet pouch and tomahawk and hunting knife. He
was a tall, lean man with a strange, sad face. And he
talked little save when he drank too many ``horns,'' as
they were called in that country. These lapses of my
father's were a perpetual source of wonder to me,--and,
I must say, of delight. They occurred only when a passing
traveller who hit his fancy chanced that way, or,
what was almost as rare, a neighbor. Many a winter
night I have lain awake under the skins, listening to a
flow of language that held me spellbound, though I understood
scarce a word of it.
``Virtuous and vicious every man must be,
Few in the extreme, but all in a degree.''
The chance neighbor or traveller was no less struck with
wonder. And many the time have I heard the query, at
the Cross-Roads and elsewhere, ``Whar Alec Trimble got
his larnin'?''
The truth is, my father was an object of suspicion to
the frontiersmen. Even as a child I knew this, and
resented it. He had brought me up in solitude, and I was
old for my age, learned in some things far beyond my
years, and ignorant of others I should have known. I
loved the man passionately. In the long winter evenings,
when the howl of wolves and ``painters'' rose as the wind
lulled, he taught me to read from the Bible and the ``Pilgrim's
Progress.'' I can see his long, slim fingers on the
page. They seemed but ill fitted for the life he led.
The love of rhythmic language was somehow born into
me, and many's the time I have held watch in the cabin day
and night while my father was away on his hunts, spelling
out the verses that have since become part of my life.
As I grew older I went with him into the mountains,
often on his back; and spent the nights in open camp
with my little moccasins drying at the blaze. So I learned
to skin a bear, and fleece off the fat for oil with my
hunting knife; and cure a deerskin and follow a trail. At
seven I even shot the long rifle, with a rest. I learned
to endure cold and hunger and fatigue and to walk in
silence over the mountains, my father never saying a
word for days at a spell. And often, when he opened
his mouth, it would be to recite a verse of Pope's in a
way that moved me strangely. For a poem is not a poem
unless it be well spoken.
In the hot days of summer, over against the dark
forest the bright green of our little patch of Indian corn
rippled in the wind. And towards night I would often
sit watching the deep blue of the mountain wall and
dream of the mysteries of the land that lay beyond.
And by chance, one evening as I sat thus, my father reading
in the twilight, a man stood before us. So silently
had he come up the path leading from the brook that we
had not heard him. Presently my father looked up from
his book, but did not rise. As for me, I had been staring
for some time in astonishment, for he was a better-looking
man than I had ever seen. He wore a deerskin hunting
shirt dyed black, but, in place of a coonskin cap with the
tail hanging down, a hat. His long rifle rested on the
ground, and he held a roan horse by the bridle.
``Howdy, neighbor?'' said he.
I recall a fear that my father would not fancy him. In
such cases he would give a stranger food, and leave him
to himself. My father's whims were past understanding.
But he got up.
``Good evening,'' said he.
The visitor looked a little surprised, as I had seen many
do, at my father's accent.
``Neighbor,'' said he, ``kin you keep me over night?''
``Come in,'' said my father.
We sat down to our supper of corn and beans and
venison, of all of which our guest ate sparingly. He, too, was
a silent man, and scarcely a word was spoken during the
meal. Several times he looked at me with such a kindly
expression in his blue eyes, a trace of a smile around his
broad mouth, that I wished he might stay with us always.
But once, when my father said something about Indians,
the eyes grew hard as flint. It was then I remarked,
with a boy's wonder, that despite his dark hair he had
yellow eyebrows.
After supper the two men sat on the log step, while I
set about the task of skinning the deer my father had
shot that day. Presently I felt a heavy hand on my
``What's your name, lad?'' he said.
I told him Davy.
``Davy, I'll larn ye a trick worth a little time,'' said he,
whipping out a knife. In a trice the red carcass hung
between the forked stakes, while I stood with my mouth
open. He turned to me and laughed gently.
``Some day you'll cross the mountains and skin twenty
of an evening,'' he said. ``Ye'll make a woodsman sure.
You've got the eye, and the hand.''
This little piece of praise from him made me hot all over.
``Game rare?'' said he to my father.
``None sae good, now,'' said my father.
``I reckon not. My cabin's on Beaver Creek some forty
mile above, and game's going there, too.''
``Settlements,'' said my father. But presently, after a
few whiffs of his pipe, he added, ``I hear fine things of
this land across the mountains, that the Indians call the
Dark and Bluidy Ground.''
``And well named,'' said the stranger.
``But a brave country,'' said my father, ``and all
tramped down with game. I hear that Daniel Boone
and others have gone into it and come back with marvellous
tales. They tell me Boone was there alone three
months. He's saething of a man. D'ye ken him?''
The ruddy face of the stranger grew ruddier still.
``My name's Boone,'' he said.
``What!'' cried my father, ``it wouldn't be Daniel?''
``You've guessed it, I reckon.''
My father rose without a word, went into the cabin,
and immediately reappeared with a flask and a couple of
gourds, one of which he handed to our visitor.
``Tell me aboot it,'' said he.
That was the fairy tale of my childhood. Far into the
night I lay on the dewy grass listening to Mr. Boone's
talk. It did not at first flow in a steady stream, for he
was not a garrulous man, but my father's questions presently
fired his enthusiasm. I recall but little of it, being
so small a lad, but I crept closer and closer until I could
touch this superior being who had been beyond the Wall.
Marco Polo was no greater wonder to the Venetians than
Boone to me.
He spoke of leaving wife and children, and setting out
for the Unknown with other woodsmen. He told how,
crossing over our blue western wall into a valley beyond,
they found a ``Warrior's Path'' through a gap across
another range, and so down into the fairest of promised
lands. And as he talked he lost himself in the tale of it,
and the very quality of his voice changed. He told of a
land of wooded hill and pleasant vale, of clear water running
over limestone down to the great river beyond, the
Ohio--a land of glades, the fields of which were pied with
flowers of wondrous beauty, where roamed the buffalo in
countless thousands, where elk and deer abounded, and
turkeys and feathered game, and bear in the tall brakes of
cane. And, simply, he told how, when the others had left
him, he stayed for three months roaming the hills alone
with Nature herself.
``But did you no' meet the Indians?'' asked my father.
``I seed one fishing on a log once,'' said our visitor,
laughing, ``but he fell into the water. I reckon he was
My father nodded comprehendingly,--even admiringly.
``And again!'' said he.
``Wal,'' said Mr. Boone, ``we fell in with a war party
of Shawnees going back to their lands north of the great
river. The critters took away all we had. It was hard,''
he added reflectively; ``I had staked my fortune on the
venter, and we'd got enough skins to make us rich. But,
neighbor, there is land enough for you and me, as black
and rich as Canaan.''
`` `The Lord is my shepherd,' '' said my father, lapsing
into verse. `` `The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not
want. He leadeth me into green pastures, and beside
still waters.' ''
For a time they were silent, each wrapped in his own
thought, while the crickets chirped and the frogs sang.
From the distant forest came the mournful hoot of an owl.
``And you are going back?'' asked my father, presently.
``Aye, that I am. There are many families on the Yadkin
below going, too. And you, neighbor, you might
come with us. Davy is the boy that would thrive in that
My father did not answer. It was late indeed when
we lay down to rest, and the night I spent between waking
and dreaming of the wonderland beyond the mountains,
hoping against hope that my father would go. The
sun was just flooding the slopes when our guest arose to
leave, and my father bade him God-speed with a heartiness
that was rare to him. But, to my bitter regret, neither
spoke of my father's going. Being a man of understanding,
Mr. Boone knew it were little use to press. He
patted me on the head.
``You're a wise lad, Davy,'' said he. ``I hope we shall
meet again.''
He mounted his roan and rode away down the slope,
waving his hand to us. And it was with a heavy heart
that I went to feed our white mare, whinnying for food in
the lean-to.
And so our life went on the same, but yet not the same.
For I had the Land of Promise to dream of, and as I went
about my tasks I conjured up in my mind pictures of its
beauty. You will forgive a backwoods boy,--self-centred,
for lack of wider interest, and with a little
imagination. Bear hunting with my father, and an
occasional trip on the white mare twelve miles to the
Cross-Roads for salt and other necessaries, were the only
diversions to break the routine of my days. But at the
Cross-Roads, too, they were talking of Kaintuckee. For
so the Land was called, the Dark and Bloody Ground.
The next year came a war on the Frontier, waged by
Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia. Of this likewise
I heard at the Cross-Roads, though few from our part
seemed to have gone to it. And I heard there, for
rumors spread over mountains, that men blazing in the new
land were in danger, and that my hero, Boone, was gone
out to save them. But in the autumn came tidings of a
great battle far to the north, and of the Indians suing for
The next year came more tidings of a sort I did not
understand. I remember once bringing back from the
Cross-Roads a crumpled newspaper, which my father read
again and again, and then folded up and put in his pocket.
He said nothing to me of these things. But the next time
I went to the Cross-Roads, the woman asked me:--
``Is your Pa for the Congress?''
``What's that?'' said I.
``I reckon he ain't,'' said the woman, tartly. I recall
her dimly, a slattern creature in a loose gown and bare
feet, wife of the storekeeper and wagoner, with a swarm
of urchins about her. They were all very natural to me
thus. And I remember a battle with one of these urchins
in the briers, an affair which did not add to the love of
their family for ours. There was no money in that country,
and the store took our pelts in exchange for what we
needed from civilization. Once a month would I load
these pelts on the white mare, and make the journey by
the path down the creek. At times I met other settlers
there, some of them not long from Ireland, with the brogue
still in their mouths. And again, I saw the wagoner with
his great canvas-covered wagon standing at the door,
ready to start for the town sixty miles away. 'Twas he
brought the news of this latest war.
One day I was surprised to see the wagoner riding up
the path to our cabin, crying out for my father, for he
was a violent man. And a violent scene followed. They
remained for a long time within the house, and when they
came out the wagoner's face was red with rage. My
father, too, was angry, but no more talkative than usual.
``Ye say ye'll not help the Congress?'' shouted the
``I'll not,'' said my father.
``Ye'll live to rue this day, Alec Trimble,'' cried the
man. ``Ye may think ye're too fine for the likes of us,
but there's them in the settlement that knows about ye.''
With that he flung himself on his horse, and rode away.
But the next time I went to the Cross-Roads the woman
drove me away with curses, and called me an aristocrat.
Wearily I tramped back the dozen miles up the creek,
beside the mare, carrying my pelts with me; stumbling on
the stones, and scratched by the dry briers. For it was
autumn, the woods all red and yellow against the green
of the pines. I sat down beside the old beaver dam to
gather courage to tell my father. But he only smiled
bitterly when he heard it. Nor would he tell me what
the word ARISTOCRAT meant.
That winter we spent without bacon, and our salt gave
out at Christmas. It was at this season, if I remember
rightly, that we had another visitor. He arrived about
nightfall one gray day, his horse jaded and cut, and he
was dressed all in wool, with a great coat wrapped about
him, and high boots. This made me stare at him. When
my father drew back the bolt of the door he, too, stared
and fell back a step.
``Come in,'' said he.
``D'ye ken me, Alec?'' said the man.
He was a tall, spare man like my father, a Scotchman,
but his hair was in a cue.
``Come in, Duncan,'' said my father, quietly. ``Davy,
run out for wood.''
Loath as I was to go, I obeyed. As I came back dragging
a log behind me I heard them in argument, and in
their talk there was much about the Congress, and a
woman named Flora Macdonald, and a British fleet sailing
``We'll have two thousand Highlanders and more to
meet the fleet. And ye'll sit at hame, in this hovel ye've
made yeresel'' (and he glanced about disdainfully) ``and
no help the King?'' He brought his fist down on the pine
``Ye did no help the King greatly at Culloden, Duncan,''
said my father, dryly.
Our visitor did not answer at once.
``The Yankee Rebels 'll no help the House of Stuart,''
said he, presently. ``And Hanover's coom to stay. Are
ye, too, a Rebel, Alec Ritchie?''
I remember wondering why he said RITCHIE.
``I'll no take a hand in this fight,'' answered my father.
And that was the end of it. The man left with scant
ceremony, I guiding him down the creek to the main trail.
He did not open his mouth until I parted with him.
``Puir Davy,'' said he, and rode away in the night,
for the moon shone through the clouds.
I remember these things, I suppose, because I had nothing
else to think about. And the names stuck in my memory,
intensified by later events, until I began to write a diary.
And now I come to my travels. As the spring drew on
I had had a feeling that we could not live thus forever,
with no market for our pelts. And one day my father
said to me abruptly:--
``Davy, we'll be travelling.''
``Where?'' I asked.
``Ye'll ken soon enough,'' said he. ``We'll go at crack
o' day.''
We went away in the wild dawn, leaving the cabin
desolate. We loaded the white mare with the pelts, and my
father wore a woollen suit like that of our Scotch visitor,
which I had never seen before. He had clubbed his hair.
But, strangest of all, he carried in a small parcel the silk
gown that had been my mother's. We had scant other
We crossed the Yadkin at a ford, and climbing the hills
to the south of it we went down over stony traces, down
and down, through rain and sun; stopping at rude cabins
or taverns, until we came into the valley of another river.
This I know now was the Catawba. My memories of that
ride are as misty as the spring weather in the mountains.
But presently the country began to open up into broad fields,
some of these abandoned to pines. And at last, splashing
through the stiff red clay that was up to the mare's
fetlocks, we came to a place called Charlotte Town. What
a day that was for me! And how I gaped at the houses
there, finer than any I had ever dreamed of! That was
my first sight of a town. And how I listened openmouthed
to the gentlemen at the tavern! One I recall
had a fighting head with a lock awry, and a negro servant
to wait on him, and was the principal spokesman. He,
too, was talking of war. The Cherokees had risen on the
western border. He was telling of the massacre of a
settlement, in no mild language.
``Sirs,'' he cried, ``the British have stirred the redskins
to this. Will you sit here while women and children are
scalped, and those devils'' (he called them worse names)
``Stuart and Cameron go unpunished?''
My father got up from the corner where he sat, and
stood beside the man.
``I ken Alec Cameron,'' said he.
The man looked at him with amazement.
``Ay?'' said he, ``I shouldn't think you'd own it. Damn
him,'' he cried, ``if we catch him we'll skin him alive.''
``I ken Cameron,'' my father repeated, ``and I'll gang
with you to skin him alive.''
The man seized his hand and wrung it.
``But first I must be in Charlestown,'' said my father.
The next morning we sold our pelts. And though the
mare was tired, we pushed southward, I behind the saddle.
I had much to think about, wondering what was to become
of me while my father went to skin Cameron. I had not
the least doubt that he would do it. The world is a storybook
to a lad of nine, and the thought of Charlestown filled
me with a delight unspeakable. Perchance he would leave
me in Charlestown.
At nightfall we came into a settlement called the
Waxhaws. And there being no tavern there, and the mare
being very jaded and the roads heavy, we cast about for a
place to sleep. The sunlight slanting over the pine forest
glistened on the pools in the wet fields. And it so
chanced that splashing across these, swinging a milk-pail
over his head, shouting at the top of his voice, was a redheaded
lad of my own age. My father hailed him, and he
came running towards us, still shouting, and vaulted the
rails. He stood before us, eying me with a most
mischievous look in his blue eyes, and dabbling in the red
mud with his toes. I remember I thought him a queerlooking
boy. He was lanky, and he had a very long face
under his tousled hair.
My father asked him where he could spend the night.
``Wal,'' said the boy, ``I reckon Uncle Crawford might
take you in. And again he mightn't.''
He ran ahead, still swinging the pail. And we, following,
came at length to a comfortable-looking farmhouse.
As we stopped at the doorway a stout, motherly woman
filled it. She held her knitting in her hand.
``You Andy!'' she cried,'' have you fetched the milk?''
Andy tried to look repentant.
``I declare I'll tan you,'' said the lady. ``Git out this
instant. What rascality have you been in?''
``I fetched home visitors, Ma,'' said Andy.
``Visitors!'' cried the lady. ``What 'll your Uncle
Crawford say? And she looked at us smiling, but with
no great hostility.
``Pardon me, Madam,'' said my father, ``if we seem to
intrude. But my mare is tired, and we have nowhere to
Uncle Crawford did take us in. He was a man of
substance in that country,--a north of Ireland man by birth,
if I remember right.
I went to bed with the red-headed boy, whose name was
Andy Jackson. I remember that his mother came into
our little room under the eaves and made Andy say his
prayers, and me after him. But when she was gone out,
Andy stumped his toe getting into bed in the dark and
swore with a brilliancy and vehemence that astonished
It was some hours before we went to sleep, he plying me
with questions about my life, which seemed to interest
him greatly, and I returning in kind.
``My Pa's dead,'' said Andy. ``He came from a part of
Ireland where they are all weavers. We're kinder poor
relations here. Aunt Crawford's sick, and Ma keeps house.
But Uncle Crawford's good, an' lets me go to Charlotte
Town with him sometimes.''
I recall that he also boasted some about his big brothers,
who were away just then.
Andy was up betimes in the morning, to see us start.
But we didn't start, because Mr. Crawford insisted that
the white mare should have a half day's rest. Andy, being
hustled off unwillingly to the ``Old Field'' school, made
me go with him. He was a very headstrong boy.
I was very anxious to see a school. This one was only
a log house in a poor, piny place, with a rabble of boys
and girls romping at the door. But when they saw us
they stopped. Andy jumped into the air, let out a warwhoop,
and flung himself into the midst, scattering them
right and left, and knocking one boy over and over. ``I'm
Billy Buck!'' he cried. ``I'm a hull regiment o' Rangers.
Let th' Cherokees mind me!''
``Way for Sandy Andy!'' cried the boys. ``Where'd
you get the new boy, Sandy?''
``His name's Davy,'' said Andy, ``and his Pa's goin' to
fight the Cherokees. He kin lick tarnation out'n any o'
Meanwhile I held back, never having been thrown with
so many of my own kind.
``He's shot painters and b'ars,'' said Andy. ``An'
skinned 'em. Kin you lick him, Smally? I reckon not.''
Now I had not come to the school for fighting. So I
held back. Fortunately for me, Smally held back also.
But he tried skilful tactics.
``He kin throw you, Sandy.''
Andy faced me in an instant.
``Kin you?'' said he.
There was nothing to do but try, and in a few seconds
we were rolling on the ground, to the huge delight of
Smally and the others, Andy shouting all the while and
swearing. We rolled and rolled and rolled in the mud,
until we both lost our breath, and even Andy stopped
swearing, for want of it. After a while the boys were
silent, and the thing became grim earnest. At length, by
some accident rather than my own strength, both his
shoulders touched the ground. I released him. But he
was on his feet in an instant and at me again like a wildcat.
``Andy won't stay throwed,'' shouted a boy. And
before I knew it he had my shoulders down in a puddle.
Then I went for him, and affairs were growing more
serious than a wrestle, when Smally, fancying himself safe,
and no doubt having a grudge, shouted out:--
``Tell him he slobbers, Davy.''
Andy DID slobber. But that was the end of me, and the
beginning of Smally. Andy left me instantly, not without
an intimation that he would come back, and proceeded
to cover Smally with red clay and blood. However, in the
midst of this turmoil the schoolmaster arrived, haled both
into the schoolhouse, held court, and flogged Andrew with
considerable gusto. He pronounced these words afterwards,
with great solemnity:--
``Andrew Jackson, if I catch ye fightin' once more, I'll
be afther givin' ye lave to lave the school.''
I parted from Andy at noon with real regret. He was
the first boy with whom I had ever had any intimacy.
And I admired him: chiefly, I fear, for his fluent use of
profanity and his fighting qualities. He was a merry lad,
with a wondrous quick temper but a good heart. And
he seemed sorry to say good-by. He filled my pockets
with June apples--unripe, by the way--and told me to
remember him when I got TILL Charlestown.
I remembered him much longer than that, and usually
with a shock of surprise.
Down and down we went, crossing great rivers by ford
and ferry, until the hills flattened themselves and the
country became a long stretch of level, broken by the
forests only; and I saw many things I had not thought
were on the earth. Once in a while I caught glimpses of
great red houses, with stately pillars, among the trees.
They put me in mind of the palaces in Bunyan, their
windows all golden in the morning sun; and as we jogged
ahead, I pondered on the delights within them. I saw
gangs of negroes plodding to work along the road, an
overseer riding behind them with his gun on his back;
and there were whole cotton fields in these domains blazing
in primrose flower,--a new plant here, so my father
said. He was willing to talk on such subjects. But on
others, and especially our errand to Charlestown, he would
say nothing. And I knew better than to press him.
One day, as we were crossing a dike between rice
swamps spread with delicate green, I saw the white tops
of wagons flashing in the sun at the far end of it. We
caught up with them, the wagoners cracking their whips
and swearing at the straining horses. And lo! in front
of the wagons was an army,--at least my boyish mind
magnified it to such. Men clad in homespun, perspiring
and spattered with mud, were straggling along
the road by fours, laughing and joking together. The
officers rode, and many of these had blue coats and buff
waistcoats,--some the worse for wear. My father was
pushing the white mare into the ditch to ride by, when
one hailed him.
``Hullo, my man,'' said he, ``are you a friend to Congress?''
``I'm off to Charlestown to leave the lad,'' said my
father, ``and then to fight the Cherokees.''
``Good,'' said the other. And then, ``Where are you
``Upper Yadkin,'' answered my father. ``And you?''
The officer, who was a young man, looked surprised.
But then he laughed pleasantly.
``We're North Carolina troops, going to join Lee in
Charlestown,'' said he. ``The British are sending a fleet
and regiments against it.''
``Oh, aye,'' said my father, and would have passed on.
But he was made to go before the Colonel, who plied him
with many questions. Then he gave us a paper and
dismissed us.
We pursued our journey through the heat that shimmered
up from the road, pausing now and again in the
shade of a wayside tree. At times I thought I could bear
the sun no longer. But towards four o'clock of that day
a great bank of yellow cloud rolled up, darkening the
earth save for a queer saffron light that stained everything,
and made our very faces yellow. And then a wind
burst out of the east with a high mournful note, as from
a great flute afar, filling the air with leaves and branches
of trees. But it bore, too, a savor that was new to me,--
a salt savor, deep and fresh, that I drew down into my
lungs. And I knew that we were near the ocean. Then
came the rain, in great billows, as though the ocean itself
were upon us.
The next day we crossed a ferry on the Ashley River, and
rode down the sand of Charlestown neck. And my most
vivid remembrance is of the great trunks towering half a
hundred feet in the air, with a tassel of leaves at the top,
which my father said were palmettos. Something lay heavy
on his mind. For I had grown to know his moods by a sort
of silent understanding. And when the roofs and spires
of the town shone over the foliage in the afternoon sun,
I felt him give a great sigh that was like a sob.
And how shall I describe the splendor of that city?
The sandy streets, and the gardens of flower and shade,
heavy with the plant odors; and the great houses with
their galleries and porticos set in the midst of the gardens,
that I remember staring at wistfully. But before long we
came to a barricade fixed across the street, and then to
another. And presently, in an open space near a large
building, was a company of soldiers at drill.
It did not strike me as strange then that my father
asked his way of no man, but went to a little ordinary in
a humbler part of the town. After a modest meal in a
corner of the public room, we went out for a stroll. Then,
from the wharves, I saw the bay dotted with islands, their
white sand sparkling in the evening light, and fringed
with strange trees, and beyond, of a deepening blue,
the ocean. And nearer,--greatest of all delights to me,
--riding on the swell was a fleet of ships. My father
gazed at them long and silently, his palm over his eyes.
``Men-o'-war from the old country, lad,'' he said after a
while. ``They're a brave sight.''
``And why are they here?'' I asked.
``They've come to fight,'' said he, ``and take the town
again for the King.''
It was twilight when we turned to go, and then I saw
that many of the warehouses along the wharves were
heaps of ruins. My father said this was that the town
might be the better defended.
We bent our way towards one of the sandy streets where
the great houses were. And to my surprise we turned in
at a gate, and up a path leading to the high steps of one
of these. Under the high portico the door was open, but
the house within was dark. My father paused, and the
hand he held to mine trembled. Then he stepped across
the threshold, and raising the big polished knocker that
hung on the panel, let it drop. The sound reverberated
through the house, and then stillness. And then, from
within, a shuffling sound, and an old negro came to the
door. For an instant he stood staring through the dusk,
and broke into a cry.
``Marse Alec!'' he said.
``Is your master at home?'' said my father.
Without another word he led us through a deep hall,
and out into a gallery above the trees of a back garden,
where a gentleman sat smoking a long pipe. The old
negro stopped in front of him.
``Marse John,'' said he, his voice shaking, ``heah's Marse
Alec done come back.''
The gentleman got to his feet with a start. His pipe
fell to the floor, and the ashes scattered on the boards and
lay glowing there.
``Alec!'' he cried, peering into my father's face, ``Alec!
You're not dead.''
``John,'' said my father, ``can we talk here?''
``Good God!'' said the gentleman, ``you're just the same.
To think of it--to think of it! Breed, a light in the
There was no word spoken while the negro was gone,
and the time seemed very long. But at length he returned,
a silver candlestick in each hand.
``Careful,'' cried the gentleman, petulantly, ``you'll drop
He led the way into the house, and through the hall to
a massive door of mahogany with a silver door-knob. The
grandeur of the place awed me, and well it might. Boylike,
I was absorbed in this. Our little mountain cabin
would almost have gone into this one room. The candles
threw their flickering rays upward until they danced on
the high ceiling. Marvel of marvels, in the oval left clear
by the heavy, rounded cornice was a picture.
The negro set down the candles on the marble top of a
table. But the air of the room was heavy and close, and
the gentleman went to a window and flung it open. It
came down instantly with a crash, so that the panes rattled
``Curse these Rebels,'' he shouted, ``they've taken our
window weights to make bullets.''
Calling to the negro to pry open the window with a
walking-stick, he threw himself into a big, upholstered
chair. 'Twas then I remarked the splendor of his
clothes, which were silk. And he wore a waistcoat all
sewed with flowers. With a boy's intuition, I began to
dislike him intensely.
``Damn the Rebels!'' he began. ``They've driven his
Lordship away. I hope his Majesty will hang every
mother's son of 'em. All pleasure of life is gone, and
they've folly enough to think they can resist the fleet.
And the worst of it is,'' cried he, ``the worst of it is, I'm
forced to smirk to them, and give good gold to their
government.'' Seeing that my father did not answer, he
asked: ``Have you joined the Highlanders? You were
always for fighting.''
``I'm to be at Cherokee Ford on the twentieth,'' said my
father. ``We're to scalp the redskins and Cameron, though
'tis not known.''
``Cameron!'' shrieked the gentleman. ``But that's the
other side, man! Against his Majesty?''
``One side or t'other,'' said my father, `` 'tis all one
against Alec Cameron.''
The gentleman looked at my father with something like
terror in his eyes.
``You'll never forgive Cameron,'' he said.
``I'll no forgive anybody who does me a wrong,'' said
my father.
``And where have you been all these years, Alec?'' he
asked presently. ``Since you went off with--''
``I've been in the mountains, leading a pure life,'' said
my father. ``And we'll speak of nothing, if you please,
that's gone by.''
``And what will you have me do?'' said the gentleman,
``Little enough,'' said my father. ``Keep the lad till
I come again. He's quiet. He'll no trouble you greatly.
Davy, this is Mr. Temple. You're to stay with him till
I come again.''
``Come here, lad,'' said the gentleman, and he peered
into my face. ``You'll not resemble your mother.''
``He'll resemble no one,'' said my father, shortly.
``Good-by, Davy. Keep this till I come again.'' And
he gave me the parcel made of my mother's gown. Then
he lifted me in his strong arms and kissed me, and strode
out of the house. We listened in silence as he went down
the steps, and until his footsteps died away on the path.
Then the gentleman rose and pulled a cord hastily. The
negro came in.
``Put the lad to bed, Breed,'' said he.
``Whah, suh?''
``Oh, anywhere,'' said the master. He turned to me.
``I'll be better able to talk to you in the morning, David,''
said he.
I followed the old servant up the great stairs, gulping
down a sob that would rise, and clutching my mother's
gown tight under my arm. Had my father left me alone
in our cabin for a fortnight, I should not have minded.
But here, in this strange house, amid such strange
surroundings, I was heartbroken. The old negro was very kind.
He led me into a little bedroom, and placing the candle on
a polished dresser, he regarded me with sympathy.
``So you're Miss Lizbeth's boy,'' said he. ``An' she
dade. An' Marse Alec rough an' hard es though he been
bo'n in de woods. Honey, ol' Breed'll tek care ob you.
I'll git you one o' dem night rails Marse Nick has, and
some ob his'n close in de mawnin'.''
These things I remember, and likewise sobbing myself
to sleep in the four-poster. Often since I have wished
that I had questioned Breed of many things on which I
had no curiosity then, for he was my chief companion in
the weeks that followed. He awoke me bright and early
the next day
``Heah's some close o' Marse Nick's you kin wear, honey,''
he said.
``Who is Master Nick?'' I asked.
Breed slapped his thigh.
``Marse Nick Temple, Marsa's son. He's 'bout you
size, but he ain' no mo' laik you den a Jack rabbit's laik
an' owl. Dey ain' none laik Marse Nick fo' gittin' into
trouble-and gittin' out agin.''
``Where is he now?'' I asked.
``He at Temple Bow, on de Ashley Ribber. Dat's de
Marsa's barony.''
``His what?''
``De place whah he lib at, in de country.''
``And why isn't the master there?''
I remember that Breed gave a wink, and led me out of
the window onto a gallery above the one where we had
found the master the night before. He pointed across the
dense foliage of the garden to a strip of water gleaming in
the morning sun beyond.
``See dat boat?'' said the negro. ``Sometime de Marse
he tek ar ride in dat boat at night. Sometime gentlemen
comes heah in a pow'ful hurry to git away, out'n de harbor
whah de English is at.''
By that time I was dressed, and marvellously uncomfortable
in Master Nick's clothes. But as I was going out of
the door, Breed hailed me.
``Marse Dave,''--it was the first time I had been called
that,--``Marse Dave, you ain't gwineter tell?''
``Tell what?'' I asked.
``Bout'n de boat, and Marsa agwine away nights.''
``No,'' said I, indignantly.
``I knowed you wahn't,'' said Breed. ``You don' look
as if you'd tell anything.''
We found the master pacing the lower gallery. At
first he barely glanced at me, and nodded. After a
while he stopped, and began to put to me many questions
about my life: when and how I had lived. And to some
of my answers he exclaimed, ``Good God!'' That was
all. He was a handsome man, with hands like a woman's,
well set off by the lace at his sleeves. He had finecut
features, and the white linen he wore was most becoming.
``David,'' said he, at length, and I noted that he lowered
his voice, ``David, you seem a discreet lad. Pay attention
to what I tell you. And mark! if you disobey me, you
will be well whipped. You have this house and garden to
play in, but you are by no means to go out at the front of
the house. And whatever you may see or hear, you are
to tell no one. Do you understand?''
``Yes, sir,'' I said.
``For the rest,'' said he, ``Breed will give you food, and
look out for your welfare.''
And so he dismissed me. They were lonely days after
that for a boy used to activity, and only the damp garden
paths and lawns to run on. The creek at the back of the
garden was stagnant and marshy when the water fell, and
overhung by leafy boughs. On each side of the garden
was a high brick wall. And though I was often tempted
to climb it, I felt that disobedience was disloyalty to my
father. Then there was the great house, dark and lonely
in its magnificence, over which I roamed until I knew
every corner of it.
I was most interested of all in the pictures of men and
women in quaint, old-time costumes, and I used during the
great heat of the day to sit in the drawing-room and study
these, and wonder who they were and when they lived.
Another amusement I had was to climb into the deep
windows and peer through the blinds across the front garden
into the street. Sometimes men stopped and talked
loudly there, and again a rattle of drums would send me
running to see the soldiers. I recall that I had a poor
enough notion of what the fighting was all about. And
no wonder. But I remember chiefly my insatiable longing
to escape from this prison, as the great house soon became
for me. And I yearned with a yearning I cannot express
for our cabin in the hills and the old life there.
I caught glimpses of the master on occasions only, and
then I avoided him; for I knew he had no wish to see
me. Sometimes he would be seated in the gallery, tapping
his foot on the floor, and sometimes pacing the garden
walks with his hands opening and shutting. And one
night I awoke with a start, and lay for a while listening
until I heard something like a splash, and the scraping of
the bottom-boards of a boat. Irresistibly I jumped out
of bed, and running to the gallery rail I saw two dark
figures moving among the leaves below. The next morning
I came suddenly on a strange gentleman in the gallery.
He wore a flowered dressing-gown like the one I had seen
on the master, and he had a jolly, round face. I stopped
and stared.
``Who the devil are you?'' said he, but not unkindly.
``My name is David Trimble,'' said I, ``and I come from
the mountains.''
He laughed.
``Mr. David Trimble-from-the-mountains, who the devil
am I?''
``I don't know, sir,'' and I started to go away, not
wishing to disturb him.
``Avast!'' he cried. ``Stand fast. See that you
remember that.''
``I'm not here of my free will, sir, but because my
father wishes it. And I'll betray nothing.''
Then he stared at me.
``How old did you say you were?'' he demanded.
``I didn't say,'' said I.
``And you are of Scotch descent?'' said he.
``I didn't say so, sir.''
``You're a rum one,'' said he, laughing again, and he
disappeared into the house.
That day, when Breed brought me my dinner on my
gallery, he did not speak of a visitor. You may be sure I
did not mention the circumstance. But Breed always told
me the outside news.
``Dey's gittin' ready fo' a big fight, Marse Dave,'' said
he. ``Mister Moultrie in the fo't in de bay, an' Marse
Gen'l Lee tryin' for to boss him. Dey's Rebels. An'
Marse Admiral Parker an' de King's reg'ments fixin' fo' to
tek de fo't, an' den Charlesto'n. Dey say Mister Moultrie
ain't got no mo' chance dan a treed 'possum.''
``Why, Breed?'' I asked. I had heard my father talk of
England's power and might, and Mister Moultrie seemed
to me a very brave man in his little fort.
``Why!'' exclaimed the old negro. ``You ain't neber
read no hist'ry books. I knows some of de gentlemen
wid Mister Moultrie. Dey ain't no soldiers. Some is
fine gentlemen, to be suah, but it's jist foolishness to fight
dat fleet an' army. Marse Gen'l Lee hisself, he done
sesso. I heerd him.''
``And he's on Mister Moultrie's side?'' I asked.
``Sholy,'' said Breed. ``He's de Rebel gen'l.''
``Then he's a knave and a coward!'' I cried with a boy's
indignation. ``Where did you hear him say that?'' I
demanded, incredulous of some of Breed's talk.
``Right heah in dis house,'' he answered, and quickly
clapped his hand to his mouth, and showed the whites of
his eyes. ``You ain't agwineter tell dat, Marse Dave?''
``Of course not,'' said I. And then: ``I wish I could
see Mister Moultrie in his fort, and the fleet.''
``Why, honey, so you kin,'' said Breed.
The good-natured negro dropped his work and led the
way upstairs, I following expectant, to the attic. A
rickety ladder rose to a kind of tower (cupola, I suppose it
would be called), whence the bay spread out before me
like a picture, the white islands edged with the whiter
lacing of the waves. There, indeed, was the fleet, but far
away, like toy ships on the water, and the bit of a fort
perched on the sandy edge of an island. I spent most of
that day there, watching anxiously for some movement.
But none came.
That night I was again awakened. And running into
the gallery, I heard quick footsteps in the garden. Then
there was a lantern's flash, a smothered oath, and all was
dark again. But in the flash I had seen distinctly three
figures. One was Breed, and he held the lantern; another
was the master; and the third, a stout one muffled in a
cloak, I made no doubt was my jolly friend. I lay long
awake, with a boy's curiosity, until presently the dawn
broke, and I arose and dressed, and began to wander about
the house. No Breed was sweeping the gallery, nor was
there any sign of the master. The house was as still as a
tomb, and the echoes of my footsteps rolled through the
halls and chambers. At last, prompted by curiosity and
fear, I sought the kitchen, where I had often sat with
Breed as he cooked the master's dinner. This was at the
bottom and end of the house. The great fire there was
cold, and the pots and pans hung neatly on their hooks,
untouched that day. I was running through the wet
garden, glad to be out in the light, when a sound
stopped me.
It was a dull roar from the direction of the bay. Almost
instantly came another, and another, and then several
broke together. And I knew that the battle had begun.
Forgetting for the moment my loneliness, I ran into the
house and up the stairs two at a time, and up the ladder
into the cupola, where I flung open the casement and
leaned out.
There was the battle indeed,--a sight so vivid to me
after all these years that I can call it again before me
when I will. The toy men-o'-war, with sails set, ranging
in front of the fort. They looked at my distance to be
pressed against it. White puffs, like cotton balls, would
dart one after another from a ship's side, melt into a cloud,
float over her spars, and hide her from my view. And then
presently the roar would reach me, and answering puffs
along the line of the fort. And I could see the mortar
shells go up and up, leaving a scorched trail behind, curve
in a great circle, and fall upon the little garrison. Mister
Moultrie became a real person to me then, a vivid picture
in my boyish mind--a hero beyond all other heroes.
As the sun got up in the heavens and the wind fell, the
cupola became a bake-oven. But I scarcely felt the heat.
My whole soul was out in the bay, pent up with the men in
the fort. How long could they hold out? Why were they
not all killed by the shot that fell like hail among them?
Yet puff after puff sprang from their guns, and the sound
of it was like a storm coming nearer in the heat. But at
noon it seemed to me as though some of the ships were
sailing. It was true. Slowly they drew away from the
others, and presently I thought they had stopped again.
Surely two of them were stuck together, then three were
fast on a shoal. Boats, like black bugs in the water, came
and went between them and the others. After a long time
the two that were together got apart and away. But the
third stayed there, immovable, helpless.
Throughout the afternoon the fight, kept on, the little
black boats coming and going. I saw a mast totter and
fall on one of the ships. I saw the flag shot away from
the fort, and reappear again. But now the puffs came
from her walls slowly and more slowly, so that my heart
sank with the setting sun. And presently it grew too
dark to see aught save the red flashes. Slowly,
reluctantly, the noise died down until at last a great silence
reigned, broken only now and again by voices in the
streets below me. It was not until then that I realized
that I had been all day without food--that I was alone
in the dark of a great house.
I had never known fear in the woods at night. But now
I trembled as I felt my way down the ladder, and groped
and stumbled through the black attic for the stairs.
Every noise I made seemed louder an hundred fold than
the battle had been, and when I barked my shins, the pain
was sharper than a knife. Below, on the big stairway,
the echo of my footsteps sounded again from the empty
rooms, so that I was taken with a panic and fled downward,
sliding and falling, until I reached the hall.
Frantically as I tried, I could not unfasten the bolts on the
front door. And so, running into the drawing-room, I
pried open the window, and sat me down in the embrasure
to think, and to try to quiet the thumpings of my heart.
By degrees I succeeded. The still air of the night and
the heavy, damp odors of the foliage helped me. And I
tried to think what was right for me to do. I had promised
the master not to leave the place, and that promise
seemed in pledge to my father. Surely the master would
come back--or Breed. They would not leave me here
alone without food much longer. Although I was young,
I was brought up to responsibility. And I inherited a
conscience that has since given me much trouble.
From these thoughts, trying enough for a starved lad,
I fell to thinking of my father on the frontier fighting
the Cherokees. And so I dozed away to dream of him.
I remember that he was skinning Cameron,--I had often
pictured it,--and Cameron yelling, when I was awakened
with a shock by a great noise.
I listened with my heart in my throat. The noise
seemed to come from the hall,--a prodigious pounding.
Presently it stopped, and a man's voice cried out:--
``Ho there, within!''
My first impulse was to answer. But fear kept me
``Batter down the door,'' some one shouted.
There was a sound of shuffling in the portico, and the
same voice:--
``Now then, all together, lads!''
Then came a straining and splitting of wood, and with
a crash the door gave way. A lantern's rays shot through
the hall.
``The house is as dark as a tomb,'' said a voice.
``And as empty, I reckon,'' said another. ``John
Temple and his spy have got away.''
``We'll have a search,'' answered the first voice.
They stood for a moment in the drawing-room door,
peering, and then they entered. There were five of them.
Two looked to be gentlemen, and three were of rougher
appearance. They carried lanterns.
``That window's open,'' said one of the gentlemen.
``They must have been here to-day. Hello, what's this?''
He started back in surprise.
I slid down from the window-seat, and stood facing
them, not knowing what else to do. They, too, seemed
equally confounded.
``It must be Temple's son,'' said one, at last. ``I had
thought the family at Temple Bow. What's your name,
my lad?''
``David Trimble, sir,'' said I.
``And what are you doing here?'' he asked more sternly.
``I was left in Mr. Temple's care by my father.''
``Oho!'' he cried. ``And where is your father?''
``He's gone to fight the Cherokees,'' I answered soberly.
``To skin a man named Cameron.''
At that they were silent for an instant, and then the
two broke into a laugh.
``Egad, Lowndes,'' said the gentleman, ``here is a fine
mystery. Do you think the boy is lying?''
The other gentleman scratched his forehead.
``I'll have you know I don't lie, sir,'' I said, ready to
``No,'' said the other gentleman. ``A backwoodsman
named Trimble went to Rutledge with credentials from
North Carolina, and has gone off to Cherokee Ford to
join McCall.''
``Bless my soul!'' exclaimed the first gentleman. He
came up and laid his hand on my shoulder, and said:--
``Where is Mr. Temple?''
``That I don't know, sir.''
``When did he go away?''
I did not answer at once.
``That I can't tell you, sir.''
``Was there any one with him?''
``That I can't tell you, sir.''
``The devil you can't!'' he cried, taking his hand away.
``And why not?''
I shook my head, sorely beset.
``Come, Mathews,'' cried the gentleman called Lowndes.
``We'll search first, and attend to the lad after.''
And so they began going through the house, prying into
every cupboard and sweeping under every bed. They
even climbed to the attic; and noting the open casement
in the cupola, Mr. Lowndes said:--
``Some one has been here to-day.''
``It was I, sir,'' I said. ``I have been here all day.''
``And what doing, pray?'' he demanded.
``Watching the battle. And oh, sir,'' I cried, ``can you
tell me whether Mister Moultrie beat the British?''
``He did so,'' cried Mr. Lowndes. ``He did, and
He stared at me. I must have looked my pleasure.
``Why, David,'' says he, ``you are a patriot, too.''
``I am a Rebel, sir,'' I cried hotly.
Both gentlemen laughed again, and the men with them.
``The lad is a character,'' said Mr. Lowndes.
We made our way down into the garden, which they
searched last. At the creek's side the boat was gone, and
there were footsteps in the mud.
``The bird has flown, Lowndes,'' said Mr. Mathews.
``And good riddance for the Committee,'' answered that
gentleman, heartily. ``He got to the fleet in fine season
to get a round shot in the middle. David,'' said
he, solemnly, ``remember it never pays to try to be two
things at once.''
``I'll warrant he stayed below water,'' said Mr. Mathews.
``But what shall we do with the lad?''
``I'll take him to my house for the night,'' said Mr.
Lowndes, ``and in the morning we'll talk to him. I
reckon he should be sent to Temple Bow. He is connected
in some way with the Temples.''
``God help him if he goes there,'' said Mr. Mathews,
under his breath. But I heard him.
They locked up the house, and left one of the men to
guard it, while I went with Mr. Lowndes to his residence.
I remember that people were gathered in the streets as we
passed, making merry, and that they greeted Mr. Lowndes
with respect and good cheer. His house, too, was set
in a garden and quite as fine as Mr. Temple's. It was
ablaze with candles, and I caught glimpses of fine gentlemen
and ladies in the rooms. But he hurried me through
the hall, and into a little chamber at the rear where a
writing-desk was set. He turned and faced me.
``You must be tired, David,'' he said.
I nodded.
``And hungry? Boys are always hungry.''
``Yes, sir.''
``You had no dinner?''
``No, sir,'' I answered, off my guard.
``Mercy!'' he said. ``It is a long time since breakfast.''
``I had no breakfast, sir.''
``Good God!'' he said, and pulled the velvet handle
of a cord. A negro came.
``Is the supper for the guests ready?''
``Yes, Marsa.''
``Then bring as much as you can carry here,'' said the
gentleman. ``And ask Mrs. Lowndes if I may speak
with her.''
Mrs. Lowndes came first. And such a fine lady she
was that she frightened me, this being my first experience
with ladies. But when Mr. Lowndes told her my story,
she ran to me impulsively and put her arms about me.
``Poor lad!'' she said. ``What a shame!''
I think that the tears came then, but it was small
wonder. There were tears in her eyes, too.
Such a supper as I had I shall never forget. And she
sat beside me for long, neglecting her guests, and talking
of my life. Suddenly she turned to her husband, calling
him by name.
``He is Alec Ritchie's son,'' she said, ``and Alec has
gone against Cameron.''
Mr. Lowndes did not answer, but nodded.
``And must he go to Temple Bow?''
``My dear,'' said Mr. Lowndes, ``I fear it is our duty
to send him there.''
In the morning I started for Temple Bow on horseback
behind one of Mr. Lowndes' negroes. Good Mrs.
Lowndes had kissed me at parting, and tucked into my
pocket a parcel of sweetmeats. There had been a few
grave gentlemen to see me, and to their questions I had
replied what I could. But tell them of Mr. Temple I
would not, save that he himself had told me nothing.
And Mr. Lowndes had presently put an end to their
``The lad knows nothing, gentlemen,'' he had said,
which was true.
``David,'' said he, when he bade me farewell, ``I see
that your father has brought you up to fear God.
Remember that all you see in this life is not to be imitated.''
And so I went off behind his negro. He was a merry
lad, and despite the great heat of the journey and my
misgivings about Temple Bow, he made me laugh. I was
sad at crossing the ferry over the Ashley, through thinking
of my father, but I reflected that it could not be long
now ere I saw him again. In the middle of the day we
stopped at a tavern. And at length, in the abundant
shade of evening, we came to a pair of great ornamental
gates set between brick pillars capped with white balls,
and turned into a drive. And presently, winding through
the trees, we were in sight of a long, brick mansion
trimmed with white, and a velvet lawn before it all
flecked with shadows. In front of the portico was a
saddled horse, craning his long neck at two panting hounds
stretched on the ground. A negro boy in blue clutched
the bridle. On the horse-block a gentleman in white
reclined. He wore shiny boots, and he held his hat in his
hand, and he was gazing up at a lady who stood on the
steps above him.
The lady I remember as well--Lord forbid that I
should forget her. And her laugh as I heard it that
evening is ringing now in my ears. And yet it was not
a laugh. Musical it was, yet there seemed no pleasure
in it: rather irony, and a great weariness of the
amusements of this world: and a note, too, from a vanity never
ruffled. It stopped abruptly as the negro pulled up his
horse before her, and she stared at us haughtily.
``What's this?'' she said.
``Pardon, Mistis,'' said the negro, ``I'se got a letter
from Marse Lowndes.''
``Mr. Lowndes should instruct his niggers,'' she said.
``There is a servants' drive.'' The man was turning his
horse when she cried: ``Hold! Let's have it.''
He dismounted and gave her the letter, and I jumped
to the ground, watching her as she broke the seal, taking
her in, as a boy will, from the flowing skirt and tightlaced
stays of her salmon silk to her high and powdered
hair. She must have been about thirty. Her face was
beautiful, but had no particle of expression in it, and was
dotted here and there with little black patches of plaster.
While she was reading, a sober gentleman in black silkbreeches
and severe coat came out of the house and stood
beside her.
``Heigho, parson,'' said the gentleman on the horseblock,
without moving, ``are you to preach against loo or
lansquenet to-morrow?''
``Would it make any difference to you, Mr. Riddle?''
Before he could answer there came a great clatter behind
them, and a boy of my own age appeared. With a leap he
landed sprawling on the indolent gentleman's shoulders,
nearly upsetting him.
``You young rascal!'' exclaimed the gentleman, pitching
him on the drive almost at my feet; then he fell back again
to a position where he could look up at the lady.
``Harry Riddle,'' cried the boy, ``I'll ride steeplechases
and beat you some day.''
``Hush, Nick,'' cried the lady, petulantly, ``I'll have no
nerves left me.'' She turned to the letter again, holding
it very near to her eyes, and made a wry face of impatience.
Then she held the sheet out to Mr. Riddle.
``A pretty piece of news,'' she said languidly. ``Read
it, Harry.
The gentleman seized her hand instead. The lady
glanced at the clergyman, whose back was turned, and
shook her head.
``How tiresome you are!'' she said.
``What's happened?'' asked Mr. Riddle, letting go as
the parson looked around.
``Oh, they've had a battle,'' said the lady, ``and
Moultrie and his Rebels have beat off the King's fleet.''
``The devil they have!'' exclaimed Mr. Riddle, while
the parson started forwards. ``Anything more?''
``Yes, a little.'' She hesitated. ``That husband of
mine has fled Charlestown. They think he went to the
fleet.'' And she shot a meaning look at Mr. Riddle, who
in turn flushed red. I was watching them.
``What!'' cried the clergyman, ``John Temple has run
``Why not,'' said Mr. Riddle. ``One can't live between
wind and water long. And Charlestown's--uncomfortable
in summer.''
At that the clergyman cast one look at them--such a
look as I shall never forget--and went into the house.
``Mamma,'' said the boy, ``where has father gone? Has
he run away?''
``Yes. Don't bother me, Nick.''
``I don't believe it,'' cried Nick, his high voice shaking.
``I'd--I'd disown him.''
At that Mr. Riddle burst into a hearty laugh.
``Come, Nick,'' said he, ``it isn't so bad as that. Your
father's for his Majesty, like the rest of us. He's merely
gone over to fight for him.'' And he looked at the lady
and laughed again. But I liked the boy.
As for the lady, she curled her lip. ``Mr. Riddle, don't
be foolish,'' she said. ``If we are to play, send your horse
to the stables.'' Suddenly her eye lighted on me. ``One
more brat,'' she sighed. ``Nick, take him to the nursery,
or the stable. And both of you keep out of my sight.''
Nick strode up to me.
``Don't mind her. She's always saying, `Keep out of
my sight.' '' His voice trembled. He took me by the
sleeve and began pulling me around the house and into a
little summer bower that stood there; for he had a
masterful manner.
``What's your name?'' he demanded.
``David Trimble,'' I said.
``Have you seen my father in town?''
The intense earnestness of the question surprised an
answer out of me.
``Where?'' he demanded.
``In his house. My father left me with your father.''
``Tell me about it.''
I related as much as I dared, leaving out Mr. Temple's
double dealing; which, in truth, I did not understand.
But the boy was relentless.
``Why,'' said he, ``my father was a friend of Mr.
Lowndes and Mr. Mathews. I have seen them here drinking
with him. And in town. And he ran away?''
``I do not know where he went,'' said I, which was the
He said nothing, but hid his face in his arms over the
rail of the bower. At length he looked up at me fiercely.
``If you ever tell this, I will kill you,'' he cried. ``Do
you hear?''
That made me angry.
``Yes, I hear,'' I said. ``But I am not afraid of you.''
He was at me in an instant, knocking me to the floor,
so that the breath went out of me, and was pounding me
vigorously ere I recovered from the shock and astonishment
of it and began to defend myself. He was taller
than I, and wiry, but not so rugged. Yet there was a
look about him that was far beyond his strength. A look
that meant, NEVER SAY DIE. Curiously, even as I fought
desperately I compared him with that other lad I had
known, Andy Jackson. And this one, though not so
powerful, frightened me the more in his relentlessness.
Perhaps we should have been fighting still had not some
one pulled us apart, and when my vision cleared I saw
Nick, struggling and kicking, held tightly in the hands of
the clergyman. And it was all that gentleman could do
to hold him. I am sure it was quite five minutes before he
forced the lad, exhausted, on to the seat. And then there
was a defiance about his nostrils that showed he was
undefeated. The clergyman, still holding him with one hand,
took out his handkerchief with the other and wiped his brow.
I expected a scolding and a sermon. To my amazement
the clergyman said quietly:--
``Now what was the trouble, David?''
``I'll not be the one to tell it, sir,'' I said, and trembled
at my temerity.
The parson looked at me queerly.
``Then you are in the right of it,'' he said. ``It is as
I thought; I'll not expect Nicholas to tell me.''
``I will tell you, sir,'' said Nicholas. ``He was in the
house with my father when--when he ran away. And I
said that if he ever spoke of it to any one, I would kill him.''
For a while the clergyman was silent, gazing with a
strange tenderness at the lad, whose face was averted.
``And you, David?'' he said presently.
``I--I never mean to tell, sir. But I was not to be
``Quite right, my lad,'' said the clergyman, so kindly
that it sent a strange thrill through me. Nicholas looked
up quickly.
``You won't tell?'' he said.
``No,'' I said.
``You can let me go now, Mr. Mason,'' said he. Mr.
Mason did. And he came over and sat beside me, but
said nothing more.
After a while Mr. Mason cleared his throat.
``Nicholas,'' said he, ``when you grow older you will
understand these matters better. Your father went away
to join the side he believes in, the side we all believe in--
the King's side.
``Did he ever pretend to like the other side?'' asked
Nick, quickly.
``When you grow older you will know his motives,''
answered the clergyman, gently. ``Until then; you must
trust him.''
``You never pretended,'' cried Nick.
``Thank God I never was forced to do so,'' said the
clergyman, fervently.
It is wonderful that the conditions of our existence may
wholly change without a seeming strangeness. After
many years only vivid snatches of what I saw and heard
and did at Temple Bow come back to me. I understood
but little the meaning of the seigniorial life there. My
chief wonder now is that its golden surface was not more
troubled by the winds then brewing. It was a new life to
me, one that I had not dreamed of.
After that first falling out, Nick and I became
inseparable. Far slower than he in my likes and dislikes, he
soon became a passion with me. Even as a boy, he did
everything with a grace unsurpassed; the dash and daring
of his pranks took one's breath; his generosity to those he
loved was prodigal. Nor did he ever miss a chance to score
those under his displeasure. At times he was reckless
beyond words to describe, and again he would fall sober
for a day. He could be cruel and tender in the same
hour; abandoned and freezing in his dignity. He had
an old negro mammy whose worship for him and his
possessions was idolatry. I can hear her now calling and
calling, ``Marse Nick, honey, yo' supper's done got
cole,'' as she searched patiently among the magnolias.
And suddenly there would be a shout, and Mammy's
turban go flying from her woolly head, or Mammy herself
would be dragged down from behind and sat upon.
We had our supper, Nick and I, at twilight, in the
children's dining room. A little white room, unevenly
panelled, the silver candlesticks and yellow flames
fantastically reflected in the mirrors between the deep windows,
and the moths and June-bugs tilting at the lights. We
sat at a little mahogany table eating porridge and cream
from round blue bowls, with Mammy to wait on us.
Sometimes there floated in upon us the hum of revelry
from the great drawing-room where Madame had her
company. Often the good Mr. Mason would come in
to us (he cared little for the parties), and talk to us of
our day's doings. Nick had his lessons from the clergyman
in the winter time.
Mr. Mason took occasion once to question me on what
I knew. Some of my answers, in especial those relating
to my knowledge of the Bible, surprised him. Others
made him sad.
``David,'' said he, ``you are an earnest lad, with a head
to learn, and you will. When your father comes, I shall
talk with him.'' He paused--``I knew him,'' said he, ``I
knew him ere you were born. A just man, and upright,
but with a great sorrow. We must never be hasty in our
judgments. But you will never be hasty, David,'' he
added, smiling at me. ``You are a good companion for
Nicholas and I slept in the same bedroom, at a corner of
the long house, and far removed from his mother. She
would not be disturbed by the noise he made in the mornings.
I remember that he had cut in the solid shutters of
that room, folded into the embrasures, ``Nicholas Temple,
His Mark,'' and a long, flat sword. The first night in that
room we slept but little, near the whole of it being occupied
with tales of my adventures and of my life in the
mountains. Over and over again I must tell him of the
``painters'' and wildcats, of deer and bear and wolf. Nor
was he ever satisfied. And at length I came to speak of
that land where I had often lived in fancy--the land
beyond the mountains of which Daniel Boone had told.
Of its forest and glade, its countless herds of elk and
buffalo, its salt-licks and Indians, until we fell asleep from
sheer exhaustion.
``I will go there,'' he cried in the morning, as he hurried
into his clothes; ``I will go to that land as sure as my
name is Nick Temple. And you shall go with me,
``Perchance I shall go before you,'' I answered, though
I had small hopes of persuading my father.
He would often make his exit by the window, climbing
down into the garden by the protruding bricks at the
corner of the house; or sometimes go shouting down the
long halls and through the gallery to the great stairway,
a smothered oath from behind the closed bedroom doors
proclaiming that he had waked a guest. And many days
we spent in the wood, playing at hunting game--a poor
enough amusement for me, and one that Nick soon tired
of. They were thick, wet woods, unlike our woods of the
mountains; and more than once we had excitement
enough with the snakes that lay there.
I believe that in a week's time Nick was as conversant
with my life as I myself. For he made me tell of it again
and again, and of Kentucky. And always as he listened
his eyes would glow and his breast heave with excitement.
``Do you think your father will take you there, David,
when he comes for you?''
I hoped so, but was doubtful.
``I'll run away with you,'' he declared. ``There is no
one here who cares for me save Mr. Mason and Mammy.''
And I believe he meant it. He saw but little of his
mother, and nearly always something unpleasant was
coupled with his views. Sometimes we ran across her in
the garden paths walking with a gallant,--oftenest Mr.
Riddle. It was a beautiful garden, with hedge-bordered
walks and flowers wondrously massed in color, a high
brick wall surrounding it. Frequently Mrs. Temple and
Mr. Riddle would play at cards there of an afternoon, and
when that musical, unbelieving laugh of hers came floating
over the wall, Nick would say:--
``Mamma is winning.''
Once we heard high words between the two, and running
into the garden found the cards scattered on the
grass, and the couple gone.
Of all Nick's escapades,--and he was continually in
and out of them,--I recall only a few of the more serious.
As I have said, he was a wild lad, sobered by none of the
things which had gone to make my life, and what he took
into his head to do he generally did,--or, if balked, flew
into such a rage as to make one believe he could not live.
Life was always war with him, or some semblance of a
struggle. Of his many wild doings I recall well the
time when--fired by my tales of hunting--he went out
to attack the young bull in the paddock with a bow and
arrow. It made small difference to the bull that the arrow
was too blunt to enter his hide. With a bellow that
frightened the idle negroes at the slave quarters, he started
for Master Nick. I, who had been taught by my father
never to run any unnecessary risk, had taken the precaution
to provide as large a stone as I could comfortably
throw, and took station on the fence. As the furious
animal came charging, with his head lowered, I struck him
by a good fortune between the eyes, and Nicholas got over.
We were standing on the far side, watching him pawing
the broken bow, when, in the crowd of frightened negroes,
we discovered the parson beside us.
``David,'' said he, patting me with a shaking hand, ``I
perceive that you have a cool head. Our young friend
here has a hot one. Dr. Johnson may not care for
Scotch blood, and yet I think a wee bit of it is not to be
I wondered whether Dr. Johnson was staying in the
house, too.
How many slaves there were at Temple Bow I know
not, but we used to see them coming home at night in
droves, the overseers riding beside them with whips and
guns. One day a huge Congo chief, not long from Africa,
nearly killed an overseer, and escaped to the swamp. As
the day fell, we heard the baying of the bloodhounds hot
upon his trail. More ominous still, a sound like a rising
wind came from the direction of the quarters. Into our
little dining-room burst Mrs. Temple herself, slamming the
door behind her. Mr. Mason, who was sitting with us,
rose to calm her.
``The Rebels!'' she cried. ``The Rebels have taught
them this, with their accursed notions of liberty and
equality. We shall all be murdered by the blacks because
of the Rebels. Oh, hell-fire is too good for them. Have
the house barred and a watch set to-night. What shall we
``I pray you compose yourself, Madame,'' said the
clergyman. ``We can send for the militia.''
``The militia!'' she shrieked; ``the Rebel militia! They
would murder us as soon as the niggers.''
``They are respectable men,'' answered Mr. Mason, ``and
were at Fanning Hall to-day patrolling.''
``I would rather be killed by whites than blacks,'' said
the lady. ``But who is to go for the militia?''
``I will ride for them,'' said Mr. Mason. It was a dark,
lowering night, and spitting rain.
``And leave me defenceless!'' she cried. ``You do not
stir, sir.''
``It is a pity,'' said Mr. Mason--he was goaded to it, I
suppose--`` 'tis a pity Mr. Riddle did not come to-night.''
She shot at him a withering look, for even in her fear
she would brook no liberties. Nick spoke up:--
``I will go,'' said he; ``I can get through the woods to
Fanning Hall--''
``And I will go with him,'' I said.
``Let the brats go,'' she said, and cut short Mr. Mason's
expostulations. She drew Nick to her and kissed him.
He wriggled away, and without more ado we climbed out
of the dining-room windows into the night. Running
across the lawn, we left the lights of the great house
twinkling behind us in the rain. We had to pass the
long line of cabins at the quarters. Three overseers with
lanterns stood guard there; the cabins were dark, the
wretches within silent and cowed. Thence we felt with
our feet for the path across the fields, stumbled over a sty,
and took our way through the black woods. I was at
home here, and Nick was not to be frightened. At
intervals the mournful bay of a bloodhound came to us from a
``Suppose we should meet the Congo chief,'' said Nick,
The idea had occurred to me.
``She needn't have been so frightened,'' said he, in
scornful remembrance of his mother's actions.
We pressed on. Nick knew the path as only a boy can.
Half an hour passed. It grew brighter. The rain ceased,
and a new moon shot out between the leaves. I seized
his arm.
``What's that?'' I whispered.
``A deer.''
But I, cradled in woodcraft, had heard plainly a man
creeping through the underbrush beside us. Fear of the
Congo chief and pity for the wretch tore at my heart.
Suddenly there loomed in front of us, on the path, a great,
naked man. We stood with useless limbs, staring at him.
Then, from the trees over our heads, came a chittering
and a chattering such as I had never heard. The big
man before us dropped to the earth, his head bowed,
muttering. As for me, my fright increased. The chattering
stopped, and Nick stepped forward and laid his hand on
the negro's bare shoulder.
``We needn't be afraid of him now, Davy,'' he said. ``I
learned that trick from a Portuguese overseer we had last
``You did it!'' I exclaimed, my astonishment overcoming
my fear.
``It's the way the monkeys chatter in the Canaries,'' he
said. ``Manuel had a tame one, and I heard it talk. Once
before I tried it on the chief, and he fell down. He thinks
I'm a god.''
It must have been a weird scene to see the great negro
following two boys in the moonlight. Indeed, he came
after us like a dog. At length we were in sight of the
lights of Fanning Hall. The militia was there. We were
challenged by the guard, and caused sufficient amazement
when we appeared in the hall before the master, who was
a bachelor of fifty.
`` 'Sblood, Nick Temple!'' he cried, ``what are you
doing here with that big Congo for a dog? The sight of
him frightens me.''
The negro, indeed, was a sight to frighten one. The
black mud of the swamps was caked on him, and his flesh
was torn by brambles.
``He ran away,'' said Nick; ``and I am taking him
``You--you are taking him home!'' sputtered Mr.
``Do you want to see him act?'' said Nick. And
without waiting for a reply he filled the hall with a dozen
monkeys. Mr. Fanning leaped back into a doorway, but
the chief prostrated himself on the floor. ``Now do you
believe I can take him home?'' said Nick.
`` 'Swounds!'' said Mr. Fanning, when he had his
breath. ``You beat the devil, Nicholas Temple. The
next time you come to call I pray you leave your
travelling show at home.
``Mamma sent me for the militia,'' said Nick.
``She did!'' said Mr. Fanning, looking grim. ``An
insurrection is a bad thing, but there was no danger for two
lads in the woods, I suppose.''
``There's no danger anyway,'' said Nick. ``The niggers
are all scared to death.''
Mr. Fanning burst out into a loud laugh, stopped
suddenly, sat down, and took Nick on his knee. It was an
incongruous scene. Mr. Fanning almost cried.
``Bless your soul,'' he said, ``but you are a lad. Would
to God I had you instead of--''
He paused abruptly.
``I must go home,'' said Nick; ``she will be worried.''
``SHE will be worried!'' cried Mr. Fanning, in a burst
of anger. Then he said: ``You shall have the militia.
You shall have the militia.'' He rang a bell and sent his
steward for the captain, a gawky country farmer, who
gave a gasp when he came upon the scene in the hall.
``And mind,'' said Nick to the captain, ``you are to
keep your men away from him, or he will kill one of them.''
The captain grinned at him curiously.
``I reckon I won't have to tell them to keep away,''
said he.
Mr. Fanning started us off for the walk with pockets
filled with sweetmeats, which we nibbled on the way back.
We made a queer procession, Nick and I striding ahead
to show the path, followed by the now servile chief, and
after him the captain and his twenty men in single file.
It was midnight when we saw the lights of Temple Bow
through the trees. One of the tired overseers met us near
the kitchen. When he perceived the Congo his face lighted
up with rage, and he instinctively reached for his whip.
But the chief stood before him, immovable, with arms
folded, and a look on his face that meant danger.
``He will kill you, Emory,'' said Nick; ``he will kill you
if you touch him.
Emory dropped his hand, limply.
``He will go to work in the morning,'' said Nick; ``but
mind you, not a lash.''
``Very good, Master Nick,'' said the man; ``but who's
to get him in his cabin?''
``I will,'' said Nick. He beckoned to the Congo, who
followed him over to quarters and went in at his door
without a protest.
The next morning Mrs. Temple looked out of her
window and saw the militiamen on the lawn.
``Pooh!'' she said, ``are those butternuts the soldiers
that Nick went to fetch?''
After that my admiration for Nick Temple increased
greatly, whether excited by his courage and presence
of mind, or his ability to imitate men and women and
creatures, I know not. One of our amusements, I recall,
was to go to the Congo's cabin to see him fall on his face,
until Mr. Mason put a stop to it. The clergyman let us
know that we were encouraging idolatry, and he himself
took the chief in hand.
Another incident comes to me from those bygone days.
The fear of negro insurrections at the neighboring
plantations being temporarily lulled, the gentry began to
pluck up courage for their usual amusements. There
were to be races at some place a distance away, and Nick
was determined to go. Had he not determined that
I should go, all would have been well. The evening
before he came upon his mother in the garden. Strange
to say, she was in a gracious mood and alone.
``Come and kiss me, Nick,'' she said. ``Now, what do
you want?''
``I want to go to the races,'' he said.
``You have your pony. You can follow the coach.''
``David is to ride the pony,'' said Nick, generously.
``May I go in the coach?''
``No,'' she said, ``there is no room for you.''
Nicholas flared up. ``Harry Riddle is going in the
coach. I don't see why you can't take me sometimes.
You like him better than me.''
The lady flushed very red.
``How dare you, Nick!'' she cried angrily. ``What has
Mr. Mason been putting into your head?''
``Nothing,'' said Nick, quite as angrily. ``Any one can
see that you like Harry. And I WILL ride in the coach.''
``You'll not,'' said his mother.
I had heard nothing of this. The next morning he
led out his pony from the stables for me to ride, and
insisted. And, supposing he was to go in the coach, I
put foot in the stirrup. The little beast would scarce
stand still for me to mount.
``You'll not need the whip with her,'' said Nick, and led
her around by the side of the house, in view of the portico,
and stood there at her bridle. Presently, with a great
noise and clatter of hoofs, the coach rounded the drive,
the powdered negro coachman pulling up the four horses
with much ceremony at the door. It was a wondrous
great vehicle, the bright colors of its body flashing in the
morning light. I had examined it more than once, and
with awe, in the coach-house. It had glass windows and
a lion on a blue shield on the door, and within it was all
salmon silk, save the painted design on the ceiling. Great
leather straps held up this house on wheels, to take the
jolts of the road. And behind it was a platform. That
morning two young negroes with flowing blue coats
stood on it. They leaped to the ground when the coach
stopped, and stood each side of the door, waiting for my
lady to enter.
She came down the steps, laughing, with Mr. Riddle,
who was in his riding clothes, for he was to race that day.
He handed her in, and got in after her. The coachman
cracked his whip, the coach creaked off down the drive, I
in the trees one side waiting for them to pass, and
wondering what Nick was to do. He had let go my bridle,
folded his whip in his hand, and with a shout of ``Come
on, Davy,'' he ran for the coach, which was going slowly,
caught hold of the footman's platform, and pulled himself up.
What possessed the footman I know not. Perchance
fear of his mistress was greater than fear of his young
master; but he took the lad by the shoulders--gently, to
be sure--and pushed him into the road, where he fell and
rolled over. I guessed what would happen. Picking himself
up, Nick was at the man like a hurricane, seizing him
swiftly by the leg. The negro fell upon the platform,
clutching wildly, where he lay in a sheer fright, shrieking
for mercy, his cries rivalled by those of the lady within.
The coachman frantically pulled his horses to a stand, the
other footman jumped off, and Mr. Harry Riddle came
flying out of the coach door, to behold Nicholas beating
the negro with his riding-whip.
``You young devil,'' cried Mr. Riddle, angrily, striding
forward, ``what are you doing?''
``Keep off, Harry,'' said Nicholas. ``I am teaching this
nigger that he is not to lay hands on his betters.'' With
that he gave the boy one more cut, and turned from him
``What is it, Harry?'' came in a shrill voice from
within the coach.
``It's Nick's pranks,'' said Mr. Riddle, grinning in spite
of his anger; ``he's ruined one of your footmen. You
little scoundrel,'' cried Mr. Riddle, advancing again,
``you've frightened your mother nearly to a swoon.''
``Serves her right,'' said Nick.
``What!'' cried Mr. Riddle. ``Come down from there
Nick raised his whip. It was not that that stopped
Mr. Riddle, but a sign about the lad's nostrils.
``Harry Riddle,'' said the boy, ``if it weren't for you,
I'd be riding in this coach to-day with my mother. I
don't want to ride with her, but I will go to the races.
If you try to take me down, I'll do my best to kill you,''
and he lifted the loaded end of the whip.
Mrs. Temple's beautiful face had by this time been
thrust out of the door.
``For the love of heaven, Harry, let him come in with
us. We're late enough as it is.''
Mr. Riddle turned on his heel. He tried to glare at
Nick, but he broke into a laugh instead.
``Come down, Satan,'' says he. ``God help the woman
you love and the man you fight.''
And so Nicholas jumped down, and into the coach.
The footman picked himself up, more scared than injured,
and the vehicle took its lumbering way for the racecourse,
I following.
I have seen many courses since, but none to equal that
in the gorgeous dress of those who watched. There had
been many, many more in former years, so I heard people
say. This was the only sign that a war was in progress,--
the scanty number of gentry present,--for all save the
indifferent were gone to Charlestown or elsewhere. I recall
it dimly, as a blaze of color passing: merrymaking,
jesting, feasting,--a rare contrast, I thought, to the sight I
had beheld in Charlestown Bay but a while before. Yet
so runs the world,--strife at one man's home, and peace
and contentment at his neighbor's; sorrow here, and rejoicing
not a league away.
Master Nicholas played one prank that evening that
was near to costing dear. My lady Temple made up a
party for Temple Bow at the course, two other coaches to
come and some gentlemen riding. As Nick and I were
running through the paddock we came suddenly upon
Mr. Harry Riddle and a stout, swarthy gentleman standing
together. The stout gentleman was counting out big
gold pieces in his hand and giving them to Mr. Riddle.
``Lucky dog!'' said the stout gentleman; ``you'll ride
back with her, and you've won all I've got.'' And he dug
Mr. Riddle in the ribs.
``You'll have it again when we play to-night, Darnley,''
answered Mr. Riddle, crossly. ``And as for the seat in
the coach, you are welcome to it. That firebrand of a lad
is on the front seat.''
``D--n the lad,'' said the stout gentleman. ``I'll take
it, and you can ride my horse. He'll--he'll carry you,
I reckon.'' His voice had a way of cracking into a mellow laugh.
At that Mr. Riddle went off in a towering bad humor,
and afterwards I heard him cursing the stout gentleman's
black groom as he mounted his great horse. And then
he cursed the horse as it reared and plunged, while the
stout gentleman stood at the coach door, cackling at his
discomfiture. The gentleman did ride home with Mrs.
Temple, Nick going into another coach. I afterwards
discovered that the gentleman had bribed him with a
guinea. And Mr. Riddle more than once came near
running down my pony on his big charger, and he swore at
me roundly, too.
That night there was a gay supper party in the big
dining room at Temple Bow. Nick and I looked on from
the gallery window. It was a pretty sight. The long
mahogany board reflecting the yellow flames of the candles,
and spread with bright silver and shining dishes
loaded with dainties, the gentlemen and ladies in brilliant
dress, the hurrying servants,--all were of a new and
strange world to me. And presently, after the ladies were
gone, the gentlemen tossed off their wine and roared over
their jokes, and followed into the drawing-room. This I
noticed, that only Mr. Harry Riddle sat silent and morose,
and that he had drunk more than the others.
``Come, Davy,'' said Nick to me, ``let's go and watch
them again.''
``But how?'' I asked, for the drawing-room windows
were up some distance from the ground, and there was no
gallery on that side.
``I'll show you,'' said he, running into the garden.
After searching awhile in the dark, he found a ladder
the gardener had left against a tree; after much straining,
we carried the ladder to the house and set it up under one
of the windows of the drawing-room. Then we both
clambered cautiously to the top and looked in.
The company were at cards, silent, save for a low
remark now and again. The little tables were ranged
along by the windows, and it chanced that Mr. Harry
Riddle sat so close to us that we could touch him. On
his right sat Mr. Darnley, the stout gentleman, and in
the other seats two ladies. Between Mr. Riddle and Mr.
Darnley was a pile of silver and gold pieces. There was
not room for two of us in comfort at the top of the ladder,
so I gave place to Nick, and sat on a lower rung. Presently
I saw him raise himself, reach in, and duck quickly.
``Feel that,'' he whispered to me, chuckling and holding
out his hand.
It was full of money.
``But that's stealing, Nick,'' I said, frightened.
``Of course I'll give it back,'' he whispered indignantly.
Instantly there came loud words and the scraping of
chairs within the room, and a woman's scream. I heard
Mr. Riddle's voice say thickly, amid the silence that
``Mr. Darnley, you're a d--d thief, sir.''
``You shall answer for this, when you are sober, sir,''
said Mr. Darnley.
Then there came more scraping of chairs, all the company
talking excitedly at once. Nick and I scrambled to
the ground, and we did the very worst thing we could
possibly have done,--we took the ladder away.
There was little sleep for me that night. I had first of
all besought Nick to go up into the drawing-room and
give the money back. But some strange obstinacy in
him resisted.
`` 'Twill serve Harry well for what he did to-day,''
said he.
My next thought was to find Mr. Mason, but he was
gone up the river to visit a sick parishioner. I had seen
enough of the world to know that gentlemen fought for
less than what had occurred in the drawing-room that
evening. And though I had neither love nor admiration
for Mr. Riddle, and though the stout gentleman was no
friend of mine, I cared not to see either of them killed for
a prank. But Nick would not listen to me, and went to
sleep in the midst of my urgings.
``Davy,'' said he, pinching me, ``do you know what
you are?''
``No,'' said I.
``You're a granny,'' he said. And that was the last
word I could get out of him. But I lay awake a long
time, thinking. Breed had whiled away for me one hot
morning in Charlestown with an account of the gentry
and their doings, many of which he related in an awed
whisper that I could not understand. They were wild
doings indeed to me. But strangest of all seemed the
duels, conducted with a decorum and ceremony as rigorous
as the law.
``Did you ever see a duel, Breed?'' I had asked.
``Yessah,'' said Breed, dramatically, rolling the whites
of his eyes.
``Whah? Down on de riveh bank at Temple Bow in
de ea'ly mo'nin'! Dey mos' commonly fights at de
Breed had also told me where he was in hiding at the
time, and that was what troubled me. Try as I would, I
could not remember. It had sounded like Clam Shell.
That I recalled, and how Breed had looked out at the
sword-play through the cracks of the closed shutters,
agonized between fear of ghosts within and the drama
without. At the first faint light that came into our
window I awakened Nick.
``Listen,'' I said; ``do you know a place called Clam
He turned over, but I punched him persistently until
he sat up.
``What the deuce ails you, Davy?'' he asked, rubbing
his eyes. ``Have you nightmare?''
``Do you know a place called Clam Shell, down on the
river bank, Nick?''
``Why,'' he replied, ``you must be thinking of Cram's
``What's that?'' I asked.
``It's a house that used to belong to Cram, who was an
overseer. The niggers hated him, and he was killed in
bed by a big black nigger chief from Africa. The niggers
won't go near the place. They say it's haunted.''
``Get up,'' said I; ``we're going there now.''
Nick sprang out of bed and began to get into his clothes.
``Is it a game?'' he asked.
``Yes.'' He was always ready for a game.
We climbed out of the window, and made our way in
the mist through the long, wet grass, Nick leading. He
took a path through a dark forest swamp, over logs that
spanned the stagnant waters, and at length, just as the
mist was growing pearly in the light, we came out at a
tumble-down house that stood in an open glade by the
river's bank.
``What's to do now?'' said Nick.
``We must get into the house,'' I answered. But I
confess I didn't care for the looks of it.
Nick stared at me.
``Very good, Davy,'' he said; ``I'll follow where you
It was a Saturday morning. Why I recall this I do not
know. It has no special significance.
I tried the door. With a groan and a shriek it gave
way, disclosing the blackness inside. We started back
involuntarily. I looked at Nick, and Nick at me. He was
very pale, and so must I have been. But such was the
respect we each held for the other's courage that neither
dared flinch. And so I walked in, although it seemed as
if my shirt was made of needle points and my hair stood
on end. The crackings of the old floor were to me like
the shots in Charlestown Bay. Our hearts beating wildly,
we made our way into a farther room. It was like walking
into the beyond.
``Is there a window here?'' I asked Nick, my voice
sounding like a shout.
``Yes, ahead of us.''
Groping for it, I suddenly received a shock that set me
reeling. Human nature could stand no more. We both
turned tail and ran out of the house as fast as we could,
and stood in the wet grass, panting. Then shame came.
``Let's open the window first,'' I suggested. So we
walked around the house and pried the solid shutter from
its fastenings. Then, gathering our courage, we went in
again at the door. In the dim light let into the farther
room we saw a four-poster bed, old and cheap, with ragged
curtains. It was this that I had struck in my groping.
``The chief killed Cram there,'' said Nick, in an awed
voice, ``in that bed. What do you want to do here,
``Wait,'' I said, though I had as little mind to wait as
ever in my life. ``Stand here by the window.''
We waited there. The mist rose. The sun peeped
over the bank of dense green forest and spread rainbow
colors on the still waters of the river. Now and again
a fish broke, or a great bird swooped down and slit the
surface. A far-off snatch of melody came to our ears,--
the slaves were going to work. Nothing more. And
little by little grave misgivings gnawed at my soul of the
wisdom of coming to this place. Doubtless there were
many other spots.
``Davy,'' said Nick, at last, ``I'm sorry I took that
money. What are we here for?''
``Hush!'' I whispered; ``do you hear anything?''
I did, and distinctly. For I had been brought up in
the forest.
``I hear voices,'' he said presently, ``coming this way.''
They were very clear to me by then. Emerging from
the forest path were five gentlemen. The leader, more
plainly dressed than the others, carried a leather case.
Behind him was the stout figure of Mr. Darnley, his face
solemn; and last of all came Mr. Harry Riddle, very pale,
but cutting the tops of the long grass with a switch.
Nick seized my arm.
``They are going to fight,'' said he.
``Yes,'' I replied, ``and we are here to stop them, now.''
``No, not now,'' he said, holding me still. ``We'll have
some more fun out of this yet.''
``Fun?'' I echoed.
``Yes,'' he said excitedly. ``Leave it to me. I shan't
let them fight.''
And that instant we changed generals, David giving
place to Nicholas.
Mr. Riddle retired with one gentleman to a side of the
little patch of grass, and Mr. Darnley and a friend to
another. The fifth gentleman took a position halfway
between the two, and, opening the leather case, laid it
down on the grass, where its contents glistened.
``That's Dr. Ball,'' whispered Nick. And his voice
shook with excitement.
Mr. Riddle stripped off his coat and waistcoat and
ruffles, and his sword-belt, and Mr. Darnley did the same.
Both gentlemen drew their swords and advanced to the
middle of the lawn, and stood opposite one another, with
flowing linen shirts open at the throat, and bared heads.
They were indeed a contrast. Mr. Riddle, tall and white,
with closed lips, glared at his opponent. Mr. Darnley cut
a merrier figure,--rotund and flushed, with fat calves and
short arms, though his countenance was sober enough.
All at once the two were circling their swords in the air,
and then Nick had flung open the shutter and leaped
through the window, and was running and shouting
towards the astonished gentlemen, all of whom wheeled to
face him. He jingled as he ran.
``What in the devil's name now?'' cried Mr. Riddle,
angrily. ``Here's this imp again.''
Nicholas stopped in front of him, and, thrusting his
hand in his breeches pocket, fished out a handful of gold
and silver, which he held out to the confounded Mr.
``Harry,'' said he, ``here's something of yours I found
last night.''
``You found?'' echoed Mr. Riddle, in a strange voice,
amidst a dead silence. ``You found where?''
``On the table beside you.''
``And where the deuce were you?'' Mr. Riddle demanded.
``In the window behind you,'' said Nick, calmly.
This piece of information, to Mr. Riddle's plain
discomfiture, was greeted with a roar of laughter, Mr. Darnley
himself laughing loudest. Nor were these gentlemen
satisfied with that. They crowded around Mr. Riddle and
slapped him on the back, Mr. Darnley joining in with the
rest. And presently Mr. Riddle flung away his sword,
and laughed, too, giving his hand to Mr. Darnley.
At length Mr. Darnley turned to Nick, who had stood
all this while behind them, unmoved.
``My friend,'' said he, seriously, ``such is your regard
for human life, you will probably one day--be a pirate or
an outlaw. This time we've had a laugh. The next time
somebody will be weeping. I wish I were your father.''
``I wish you were,'' said Nick.
This took Mr. Darnley's breath. He glanced at the
other gentlemen, who returned his look significantly. He
laid his hand kindly on the lad's head.
``Nick,'' said he, ``I wish to God I were your father.''
After that they all went home, very merry, to breakfast,
Nick and I coming after them. Nick was silent until we
reached the house.
``Davy,'' said he, then, ``how old are you?''
``Ten,'' I answered. ``How old did you believe me?''
``Eighty,'' said he.
The next day, being Sunday, we all gathered in the
little church to hear Mr. Mason preach. Nick and I sat
in the high box pew of the family with Mrs. Temple, who
paid not the least attention to the sermon. As for me,
the rhythm of it held me in fascination. Mr. Mason had
written it out and that afternoon read over this part of it
to Nick. The quotation I recall, having since read it many
times, and the gist of it was in this wise:--
``And he said unto him, `What thou wilt have thou
wilt have, despite the sin of it. Blessed are the stolid,
and thrice cursed he who hath imagination,--for that
imagination shall devour him. And in thy life a sin shall
be presented unto thee with a great longing. God, who is
in heaven, gird thee for that struggle, my son, for it will
surely come. That it may be said of you, ``Behold, I have
refined thee, but not with silver, I have chosen thee in the
furnace of affliction.'' Seven days shalt thou wrestle with
thy soul; seven nights shall evil haunt thee, and how thou
shalt come forth from that struggle no man may know.' ''
A week passed, and another Sunday came,--a Sunday so
still and hot and moist that steam seemed to rise from the
heavy trees,--an idle day for master and servant alike.
A hush was in the air, and a presage of we knew not
what. It weighed upon my spirits, and even Nick's,
and we wandered restlessly under the trees, seeking for
About two o'clock a black line came on the horizon, and
slowly crept higher until it broke into giant, fantastic
shapes. Mutterings arose, but the sun shone hot as ever.
``We're to have a hurricane,'' said Nick. ``I wish we
might have it and be done with it.''
At five the sun went under. I remember that Madame
was lolling listless in the garden, daintily arrayed in fine
linen, trying to talk to Mr. Mason, when a sound startled
us. It was the sound of swift hoof beats on the soft
Mrs. Temple got up, an unusual thing. Perchance she
was expecting a message from some of the gentlemen; or
else she may well have been tired of Mr. Mason. Nick
and I were before her, and, running through the house,
arrived at the portico in time to see a negro ride up on a
horse covered with lather.
It was the same negro who had fetched me hither from
Mr. Lowndes. And when I saw him my heart stood still
lest he had brought news of my father.
``What's to do, boy?'' cried Nicholas to him.
The boy held in his hand a letter with a great red seal.
``Fo' Mistis Temple,'' he said, and, looking at me queerly,
he took off his cap as he jumped from the horse. Mistress
Temple herself having arrived, he handed her the letter.
She took it, and broke the seal carelessly.
``Oh,'' she said, ``it's only from Mr. Lowndes. I
wonder what he wishes now.''
Every moment of her reading was for me an agony, and
she read slowly. The last words she spoke aloud:--
`` `If you do not wish the lad, send him to me, as Kate
is very fond of him.' So Kate is very fond of him,'' she
repeated. And handing the letter to Mr. Mason, she
added, ``Tell him, Parson.''
The words burned into my soul and seared it. And to
this day I tremble with anger as I think of them. The
scene comes before me: the sky, the darkened portico,
and Nicholas running after his mother crying: ``Oh,
mamma, how could you! How could you!''
Mr. Mason bent over me in compassion, and smoothed
my hair.
``David,'' said he, in a thick voice, ``you are a brave
boy, David. You will need all your courage now, my
son. May God keep your nature sweet!''
He led me gently into the arbor and told me how,
under Captain Baskin, the detachment had been ambushed
by the Cherokees; and how my father, with Ensign Calhoun
and another, had been killed, fighting bravely. The
rest of the company had cut their way through and reached
the settlements after terrible hardships.
I was left an orphan.
I shall not dwell here on the bitterness of those
moments. We have all known sorrows in our lives,--great
sorrows. The clergyman was a wise man, and did not
strive to comfort me with words. But he sat there under
the leaves with his arm about me until a blinding bolt
split the blackness of the sky and the thunder rent our
ears, and a Caribbean storm broke over Temple Bow with
all the fury of the tropics. Then he led me through the
drenching rain into the house, nor heeded the wet
himself on his Sunday coat.
A great anger stayed me in my sorrow. I would no
longer tarry under Mrs. Temple's roof, though the world
without were a sea or a desert. The one resolution to
escape rose stronger and stronger within me, and I determined
neither to eat nor sleep until I had got away. The
thought of leaving Nick was heavy indeed; and when he
ran to me in the dark hall and threw his arms around me,
it needed all my strength to keep from crying aloud.
``Davy,'' he said passionately, ``Davy, you mustn't
mind what she says. She never means anything she says
--she never cares for anything save her pleasure. You
and I will stay here until we are old enough to run away
to Kentucky. Davy! Answer me, Davy!''
I could not, try as I would. There were no words that
would come with honesty. But I pulled him down on the
mahogany settle near the door which led into the back
gallery, and there we sat huddled together in silence,
while the storm raged furiously outside and the draughts
banged the great doors of the house. In the lightning
flashes I saw Nick's face, and it haunted me afterwards
through many years of wandering. On it was written a
sorrow for me greater than my own sorrow. For God
had given to this lad every human passion and compassion.
The storm rolled away with the night, and Mammy
came through the hall with a candle.
``Whah is you, Marse Nick? Whah is you, honey?
You' suppah's ready.''
And so we went into our little dining room, but I would
not eat. The good old negress brushed her eyes with her
apron as she pressed a cake upon me she had made herself,
for she had grown fond of me. And presently we
went away silently to bed.
It was a long, long time before Nick's breathing told
me that he was asleep. He held me tightly clutched to
him, and I know that he feared I would leave him. The
thought of going broke my heart, but I never once wavered
in my resolve, and I lay staring into the darkness,
pondering what to do. I thought of good Mr. Lowndes
and his wife, and I decided to go to Charlestown. Some
of my boyish motives come back to me now: I should be
near Nick; and even at that age,--having lived a life of
self-reliance,--I thought of gaining an education and of
rising to a place of trust. Yes, I would go to Mr.
Lowndes, and ask him to let me work for him and so
earn my education.
With a heavy spirit I crept out of bed, slowly
disengaging Nick's arm lest he should wake. He turned over
and sighed in his sleep. Carefully I dressed myself, and
after I was dressed I could not refrain from slipping to
the bedside to bend over him once again,--for he was
the only one in my life with whom I had found true
companionship. Then I climbed carefully out of the window,
and so down the corner of the house to the ground.
It was starlight, and a waning moon hung in the sky.
I made my way through the drive between the black
shadows of the forest, and came at length to the big
gates at the entrance, locked for the night. A strange
thought of their futility struck me as I climbed the rail
fence beside them, and pushed on into the main road, the
mud sucking under my shoes as I went. As I try now to
cast my memory back I can recall no fear, only a vast
sense of loneliness, and the very song of it seemed to be
sung in never ending refrain by the insects of the night.
I had been alone in the mountains before. I have crossed
great strips of wilderness since, but always there was love
to go back to. Then I was leaving the only being in the
world that remained to me.
I must have walked two hours or more before I came to
the mire of a cross-road, and there I stood in a quandary
of doubt as to which side led to Charlestown.
As I lingered a light began to tremble in the heavens.
A cock crew in the distance. I sat down on a fallen log
to rest. But presently, as the light grew, I heard shouts
which drew nearer and deeper and brought me to my feet
in an uncertainty of expectation. Next came the rattling
of chains, the scramble of hoofs in the mire, and here was
a wagon with a big canvas cover. Beside the straining
horses was a great, burly man with a red beard, cracking
his long whip, and calling to the horses in a strange
tongue. He stopped still beside his panting animals
when he saw me, his high boots sunk in the mud.
``Gut morning, poy,'' he said, wiping his red face with
his sleeve; ``what you do here?''
``I am going to Charlestown,'' I answered.
``Ach!'' he cried, ``dot is pad. Mein poy, he run
avay. You are ein gut poy, I know. I vill pay ein gut
price to help me vit mein wagon--ja.''
``Where are you going?'' I demanded, with a sudden
``Up country--pack country. You know der Proad
No, I did not. But a longing came upon me for the
old backwoods life, with its freedom and self-reliance,
and a hatred for this steaming country of heat and violent
storms, and artificiality and pomp. And I had a desire,
even at that age, to make my own way in the world.
``What will you give me?'' I asked.
At that he put his finger to his nose.
``Thruppence py the day.''
I shook my head. He looked at me queerly.
``How old you pe,--twelve, yes?''
Now I had no notion of telling him. So I said: ``Is
this the Charlestown road?''
``Fourpence!'' he cried, ``dot is riches.''
``I will go for sixpence,'' I answered.
``Mein Gott!'' he cried, ``sixpence. Dot is robbery.''
But seeing me obdurate, he added: ``I vill give it,
because ein poy I must have. Vat is your name,--Tavid?
You are ein sharp poy, Tavid.''
And so I went with him.
In writing a biography, the relative value of days and
years should hold. There are days which count in space
for years, and years for days. I spent the time on the
whole happily with this Dutchman, whose name was Hans
Koppel. He talked merrily save when he spoke of the
war against England, and then contemptuously, for he
was a bitter English partisan. And in contrast to this
he would dwell for hours on a king he called Friedrich
der Grosse, and a war he waged that was a war; and
how this mighty king had fought a mighty queen at
Rossbach and Leuthen in his own country,--battles that were
``And you were there, Hans?'' I asked him once.
``Ja,'' he said, ``but I did not stay.''
``You ran away?''
``Ja,'' Hans would answer, laughing, ``run avay. I
love peace, Tavid. Dot is vy I come here, and now,''
bitterly, ``and now ve haf var again once.''
I would say nothing; but I must have looked my
disapproval, for he went on to explain that in Saxe-Gotha,
where he was born, men were made to fight whether they
would or no; and they were stolen from their wives at
night by soldiers of the great king, or lured away by fair
Travelling with incredible slowness, in due time we
came to a county called Orangeburg, where all were
Dutchmen like Hans, and very few spoke English. And
they all thought like Hans, and loved peace, and hated
the Congress. On Sundays, as we lay over at the taverns,
these would be filled with a rollicking crowd of fiddlers
and dancers, quaintly dressed, the women bringing their
children and babies. At such times Hans would be drunk,
and I would have to feed the tired horses and mount
watch over the cargo. I had many adventures, but none
worth the telling here. And at length we came to Hans's
farm, in a prettily rolling country on the Broad River.
Hans's wife spoke no English at all, nor did the brood of
children running about the house. I had small fancy for
staying in such a place, and so Hans paid me two crowns
for my three weeks' service; I think, with real regret,
for labor was scarce in those parts, and though I was
young, I knew how to work. And I could at least have
guided his plough in the furrow and cared for his cattle.
It was the first money I had earned in my life, and a
prouder day than many I have had since.
For the convenience of travellers passing that way, Hans
kept a tavern,--if it could have been dignified by such a
name. It was in truth merely a log house with
shakedowns, and stood across the rude road from his log
farmhouse. And he gave me leave to sleep there and to work
for my board until I cared to leave. It so chanced that
on the second day after my arrival a pack-train came
along, guided by a nettlesome old man and a strong,
black-haired lass of sixteen or thereabouts. The old man,
whose name was Ripley, wore a nut-brown hunting shirt
trimmed with red cotton; and he had no sooner slipped
the packs from his horses than he began to rail at Hans,
who stood looking on.
``You damned Dutchmen be all Tories, and worse,'' he
cried; ``you stay here and till your farms while our boys
are off in the hill towns fighting Cherokees. I wish the
devils had every one of your fat sculps. Polly Ann,
water the nags.''
Hans replied to this sally with great vigor, lapsing
into Dutch. Polly Ann led the scrawny ponies to the
trough, but her eyes snapped with merriment as she
listened. She was a wonderfully comely lass, despite her
loose cotton gown and poke-bonnet and the shoepacks on
her feet. She had blue eyes, the whitest, strongest of
teeth, and the rosiest of faces.
``Gran'pa hates a Dutchman wuss'n pizen,'' she said to
me. ``So do I. We've all been burned out and sculped
up river--and they never give us so much as a man or a
measure of corn.''
I helped her feed the animals, and tether them, and
loose their bells for the night, and carry the packs
under cover.
``All the boys is gone to join Rutherford and lam the
Indians,'' she continued, ``so Gran'pa and I had to go to
the settlements. There wahn't any one else. What's
your name?'' she demanded suddenly.
I told her.
She sat down on a log at the corner of the house, and
pulled me down beside her.
``And whar be you from?''
I told her. It was impossible to look into her face and
not tell her. She listened eagerly, now with compassion,
and now showing her white teeth in amusement. And
when I had done, much to my discomfiture, she seized me
in her strong arms and kissed me.
``Poor Davy,'' she cried, ``you ain't got a home. You
shall come home with us.''
Catching me by the hand, she ran like a deer across the
road to where her grandfather was still quarrelling
violently with Hans, and pulled him backward by the
skirts of his hunting shirt. I looked for another and
mightier explosion from the old backwoodsman, but to my
astonishment he seemed to forget Hans's existence, and
turned and smiled on her benevolently.
``Polly Ann,'' said he, ``what be you about now?''
``Gran'pa,'' said she, ``here's Davy Trimble, who's a
good boy, and his pa is just killed by the Cherokees along
with Baskin, and he wants work and a home, and he's
comin' along with us.''
``All right, David,'' answered Mr. Ripley, mildly, ``ef
Polly Ann says so, you kin come. Whar was you
I told him on the upper Yadkin.
``You don't tell me,'' said he. ``Did ye ever know Dan'l
``I did, indeed, sir,'' I answered, my face lighting up.
``Can you tell me where he is now?''
``He's gone to Kaintuckee, them new settlements, fer
good. And ef I wasn't eighty years old, I'd go thar, too.''
``I reckon I'll go thar when I'm married,'' said Polly
Ann, and blushed redder than ever. Drawing me to her,
she said, ``I'll take you, too, Davy.''
``When you marry that wuthless Tom McChesney,''
said her grandfather, testily.
``He's not wuthless,'' said Polly, hotly. ``he's the best
man in Rutherford's army. He'll git more sculps then
any of 'em,--you see.''
``Tavy is ein gut poy,'' Hans put in, for he had
recovered his composure. ``I wish much he stay mit
As for me, Polly Ann never consulted me on the
subject--nor had she need to. I would have followed her to
kingdom come, and at the thought of reaching the mountains
my heart leaped with joy. We all slept in the one
flea-infested, windowless room of the ``tavern'' that night;
and before dawn I was up and untethered the horses, and
Polly Ann and I together lifted the two bushels of alum
salt on one of the beasts and the ploughshare on the other.
By daylight we had left Hans and his farm forever.
I can see the lass now, as she strode along the trace by
the flowing river, through sunlight and shadow, straight
and supple and strong. Sometimes she sang like a bird,
and the forest rang. Sometimes she would make fun of
her grandfather or of me; and again she would be silent
for an hour at a time, staring ahead, and then I knew she
was thinking of that Tom McChesney. She would wake
from those reveries with a laugh, and give me a push to
send me rolling down a bank.
``What's the matter, Davy? You look as solemn as a
wood-owl. What a little wiseacre you be!''
Once I retorted, ``You were thinking of that Tom
``Ay, that she was, I'll warrant,'' snapped her grandfather.
Polly Ann replied, with a merry peal of laughter,
``You are both jealous of Tom--both of you. But,
Davy, when you see him you'll love him as much as I
``I'll not,'' I said sturdily.
``He's a man to look upon--''
``He's a rip-roarer,'' old man Ripley put in. ``Ye're daft
about him.''
``That I am,'' said Polly, flushing and subsiding; ``but
he'll not know it.''
As we rose into the more rugged country we passed
more than one charred cabin that told its silent story of
Indian massacre. Only on the scattered hill farms women
and boys and old men were working in the fields, all save
the scalawags having gone to join Rutherford. There were
plenty of these around the taverns to make eyes at Polly
Ann and open love to her, had she allowed them; but
she treated them in return to such scathing tirades that
they were glad to desist--all but one. He must have
been an escaped redemptioner, for he wore jauntily a
swanskin three-cornered hat and stained breeches of a fine
cloth. He was a bold, vain fellow.
``My beauty,'' says he, as we sat at supper, ``silver and
Wedgwood better become you than pewter and a
``And I reckon a rope would sit better on your neck
than a ruff,'' retorted Polly Ann, while the company
shouted with laughter. But he was not the kind to
become discomfited.
``I'd give a guinea to see you in silk. But I vow your
hair looks better as it is.''
``Not so yours,'' said she, like lightning; `` 'twould look
better to me hanging on the belt of one of them red
In the morning, when he would have lifted the pack
of alum salt, Polly Ann gave him a push that sent him
sprawling. But she did it in such good nature withal
that the fellow mistook her. He scrambled to his feet,
flung his arm about her waist, and kissed her. Whereupon
I hit him with a sapling, and he staggered and let
her go.
``You imp of hell!'' he cried, rubbing the bump. He
made a vicious dash at me that boded no good, but I
slipped behind the hominy block; and Polly Ann, who
was like a panther on her feet, dashed at him and gave
him a buffet in the cheek that sent him reeling again.
After that we were more devoted friends than ever.
We travelled slowly, day by day, until I saw the
mountains lift blue against the western sky, and the sight of
them was like home once more. I loved them; and
though I thought with sadness of my father, I was on
the whole happier with Polly Ann than I had been in the
lonely cabin on the Yadkin. Her spirits flagged a little
as she drew near home, but old Mr. Ripley's rose.
``There's Burr's,'' he would say, ``and O'Hara's and
Williamson's,'' marking the cabins set amongst the stumpdotted
corn-fields. ``And thar,'' sweeping his hand at a
blackened heap of logs lying on the stones, ``thar's whar
Nell Tyler and her baby was sculped.''
``Poor Nell,'' said Polly Ann, the tears coming into her
eyes as she turned away.
``And Jim Tyler was killed gittin' to the fort. He
can't say I didn't warn him.''
``I reckon he'll never say nuthin', now,'' said Polly
It was in truth a dismal sight,--the shapeless timbers,
the corn, planted with such care, choked with weeds, and
the poor utensils of the little family scattered and broken
before the door-sill. These same Indians had killed my
father; and there surged up in my breast that hatred of
the painted race felt by every backwoods boy in my time.
Towards the end of the day the trace led into a
beautiful green valley, and in the middle of it was a stream
shining in the afternoon sun. Then Polly Ann fell
entirely silent. And presently, as the shadows grew purple,
we came to a cabin set under some spreading trees on a
knoll where a woman sat spinning at the door, three
children playing at her feet. She stared at us so earnestly
that I looked at Polly Ann, and saw her redden and pale.
The children were the first to come shouting at us, and
then the woman dropped her wool and ran down the slope
straight into Polly Ann's arms. Mr. Ripley halted the
horses with a grunt.
The two women drew off and looked into each other's
faces. Then Polly Ann dropped her eyes.
``Have ye--?'' she said, and stopped.
``No, Polly Ann, not one word sence Tom and his Pa
went. What do folks say in the settlements?''
Polly Ann turned up her nose.
``They don't know nuthin' in the settlements,'' she
``I wrote to Tom and told him you was gone,'' said the
older woman. ``I knowed he'd wanter hear.''
And she looked meaningly at Polly Ann, who said
nothing. The children had been pulling at the girl's
skirts, and suddenly she made a dash at them. They
scattered, screaming with delight, and she after them.
``Howdy, Mr. Ripley?'' said the woman, smiling a
``Howdy, Mis' McChesney?'' said the old man, shortly.
So this was the mother of Tom, of whom I had heard
so much. She was, in truth, a motherly-looking person,
her fleshy face creased with strong character.
``Who hev ye brought with ye?'' she asked, glancing
at me.
``A lad Polly Ann took a shine to in the settlements,''
said the old man. ``Polly Ann! Polly Ann!'' he cried
sharply, ``we'll hev to be gittin' home.'' And then, as
though an afterthought (which it really was not), he
added, ``How be ye for salt, Mis' McChesney?''
``So-so,'' said she.
``Wal, I reckon a little might come handy,'' said he.
And to the girl who stood panting beside him, ``Polly,
give Mis' McChesney some salt.''
Polly Ann did, and generously,--the salt they had
carried with so much labor threescore and ten miles from
the settlements. Then we took our departure, the girl
turning for one last look at Tom's mother, and at the
cabin where he had dwelt. We were all silent the rest
of the way, climbing the slender trail through the forest
over the gap into the next valley. For I was jealous of
Tom. I am not ashamed to own it now.
In the smoky haze that rises just before night lets her
curtain fall, we descended the farther slope, and came to
Mr. Ripley's cabin.
Polly Ann lived alone with her grandfather, her
father and mother having been killed by Indians some
years before. There was that bond between us, had we
needed one. Her father had built the cabin, a large one
with a loft and a ladder climbing to it, and a sleeping
room and a kitchen. The cabin stood on a terrace that
nature had levelled, looking across a swift and shallow
stream towards the mountains. There was the truck
patch, with its yellow squashes and melons, and cabbages
and beans, where Polly Ann and I worked through the hot
mornings; and the corn patch, with the great stumps of
the primeval trees standing in it. All around us the
silent forest threw its encircling arms, spreading up the
slopes, higher and higher, to crown the crests with the little
pines and hemlocks and balsam fir.
There had been no meat save bacon since the McChesneys
had left, for of late game had become scarce, and old
Mr. Ripley was too feeble to go on the long hunts. So
one day, when Polly Ann was gone across the ridge, I took
down the long rifle from the buckhorns over the hearth,
and the hunting knife and powder-horn and pouch beside
it, and trudged up the slope to a game trail I discovered.
All day I waited, until the forest light grew gray, when a
buck came and stood over the water, raising his head and
stamping from time to time. I took aim in the notch of
a sapling, brought him down, cleaned and skinned and
dragged him into the water, and triumphantly hauled one
of his hams down the trail. Polly Ann gave a cry of joy
when she saw me.
``Davy,'' she exclaimed, ``little Davy, I reckoned you
was gone away from us. Gran'pa, here is Davy back, and
he has shot a deer.''
``You don't say?'' replied Mr. Ripley, surveying me
and my booty with a grim smile.
``How could you, Gran'pa?'' said Polly Ann, reproachfully.
``Wal,'' said Mr. Ripley, ``the gun was gone, an' Davy.
I reckon he ain't sich a little rascal after all.''
Polly Ann and I went up the next day, and brought
the rest of the buck merrily homeward. After that I
became the hunter of the family; but oftener than not I
returned tired and empty-handed, and ravenously hungry.
Indeed, our chief game was rattlesnakes, which we killed
by the dozens in the corn and truck patches.
As Polly Ann and I went about our daily chores, we
would talk of Tom McChesney. Often she would sit idle
at the hand-mill, a light in her eyes that I would have
given kingdoms for. One ever memorable morning,
early in the crisp autumn, a grizzled man strode up the
trail, and Polly Ann dropped the ear of corn she was
husking and stood still, her bosom heaving. It was Mr.
McChesney, Tom's father--alone.
``No, Polly Ann,'' he cried, ``there ain't nuthin'
happened. We've laid out the hill towns. But the Virginna
men wanted a guide, and Tom volunteered, and so he ain't
come back with Rutherford's boys.''
Polly Ann seized him by the shoulders, and looked him
in the face.
``Be you tellin' the truth, Warner McChesney?'' she
said in a hard voice.
``As God hears me,'' said Warner McChesney, solemnly.
``He sent ye this.''
He drew from the bosom of his hunting shirt a soiled
piece of birch bark, scrawled over with rude writing.
Polly seized it, and flew into the house.
The hickories turned a flaunting yellow, the oaks a
copper-red, the leaves crackled on the Catawba vines, and
still Tom McChesney did not come. The Cherokees were
homeless and houseless and subdued,--their hill towns
burned, their corn destroyed, their squaws and children
wanderers. One by one the men of the Grape Vine
settlement returned to save what they might of their
crops, and plough for the next year--Burrs, O'Haras,
Williamsons, and Winns. Yes, Tom had gone to guide
the Virginia boys. All had tales to tell of his prowess,
and how he had saved Rutherford's men from ambush at
the risk of his life. To all of which Polly Ann listened
with conscious pride, and replied with sallies.
``I reckon I don't care if he never comes back,'' she
would cry. ``If he likes the Virginny boys more than
me, there be others here I fancy more than him.''
Whereupon the informant, if he were not bound in
matrimony, would begin to make eyes at Polly Ann. Or,
if he were bolder, and went at the wooing in the more
demonstrative fashion of the backwoods--Polly Ann had a
way of hitting him behind the ear with most surprising
One windy morning when the leaves were kiting over
the valley we were getting ready for pounding hominy,
when a figure appeared on the trail. Steadying the hood
of her sunbonnet with her hand, the girl gazed long and
earnestly, and a lump came into my throat at the thought
that the comer might be Tom McChesney. Polly Ann
sat down at the block again in disgust.
``It's only Chauncey Dike,'' she said.
``Who's Chauncey Dike?'' I asked.
``He reckons he's a buck,'' was all that Polly Ann
Chauncey drew near with a strut. He had very long
black hair, a new coonskin cap with a long tassel, and a
new blue-fringed hunting shirt. What first caught my
eye was a couple of withered Indian scalps that hung by
their long locks from his girdle. Chauncey Dike was
certainly handsome.
``Wal, Polly Ann, are ye tired of hanging out fer Tom?''
he cried, when a dozen paces away.
``I wouldn't be if you was the only one left ter choose,''
Polly Ann retorted.
Chauncey Dike stopped in his tracks and haw-hawed
with laughter. But I could see that he was not very much
``Wal,'' said he, ``I 'low ye won't see Tom very soon.
He's gone to Kaintuckee.''
``Has he?'' said Polly Ann, with brave indifference.
``He met a gal on the trail--a blazin' fine gal,'' said
Chauncey Dike. ``She was goin' to Kaintuckee. And
Tom--he 'lowed he'd go 'long.''
Polly Ann laughed, and fingered the withered pieces of
skin at Chauncey's girdle.
``Did Tom give you them sculps?'' she asked innocently.
Chauncey drew up stiffly.
``Who? Tom McChesney? I reckon he ain't got none to
give. This here's from a big brave at Noewee, whar the
Virginny boys was surprised.'' And he held up the one
with the longest tuft. ``He'd liked to tomahawked me
out'n the briers, but I throwed him fust.''
``Shucks,'' said Polly Ann, pounding the corn, ``I reckon
you found him dead.''
But that night, as we sat before the fading red of the
backlog, the old man dozing in his chair, Polly Ann put
her hand on mine.
``Davy,'' she said softly, ``do you reckon he's gone to
How could I tell?
The days passed. The wind grew colder, and one
subdued dawn we awoke to find that the pines had fantastic
white arms, and the stream ran black between white banks.
All that day, and for many days after, the snow added
silently to the thickness of its blanket, and winter was
upon us. It was a long winter and a rare one. Polly
Ann sat by the little window of the cabin, spinning the
flax into linsey-woolsey. And she made a hunting shirt
for her grandfather, and another little one for me which
she fitted with careful fingers. But as she spun, her wheel
made the only music--for Polly Ann sang no more. Once
I came on her as she was thrusting the tattered piece of birch
bark into her gown, but she never spoke to me more of
Tom McChesney. When, from time to time, the snow
melted on the hillsides, I sometimes surprised a deer there
and shot him with the heavy rifle. And so the months
wore on till spring.
The buds reddened and popped, and the briers grew
pink and white. Through the lengthening days we toiled
in the truck patch, but always as I bent to my work
Polly Ann's face saddened me--it had once been so
bright, and it should have been so at this season. Old
Mr. Ripley grew querulous and savage and hard to please.
In the evening, when my work was done, I often lay on
the banks of the stream staring at the high ridge (its
ragged edges the setting sun burned a molten gold),
and the thought grew on me that I might make my way
over the mountains into that land beyond, and find Tom
for Polly Ann. I even climbed the watershed to the
east as far as the O'Hara farm, to sound that big
Irishman about the trail. For he had once gone to Kentucky,
to come back with his scalp and little besides. O'Hara,
with his brogue, gave me such a terrifying notion of the
horrors of the Wilderness Trail that I threw up all thought
of following it alone, and so I resolved to wait until I
heard of some settlers going over it. But none went
from the Grape Vine settlement that spring.
War was a-waging in Kentucky. The great Indian
nations were making a frantic effort to drive from their
hunting grounds the little bands of settlers there, and
these were in sore straits.
So I waited, and gave Polly Ann no hint of my intention.
Sometimes she herself would slip away across the notch
to see Mrs. McChesney and the children. She never took
me with her on these journeys, but nearly always when
she came back at nightfall her eyes would be red, and I
knew the two women had been weeping together. There
came a certain hot Sunday in July when she went on this
errand, and Grandpa Ripley having gone to spend the
day at old man Winn's, I was left alone. I remember I
sat on the squared log of the door-step, wondering whether,
if I were to make my way to Salisbury, I could fall in
with a party going across the mountains into Kentucky.
And wondering, likewise, what Polly Ann would do without
me. I was cleaning the long rifle,--a labor I loved,
--when suddenly I looked up, startled to see a man standing
in front of me. How he got there I know not. I
stared at him. He was a young man, very spare and
very burned, with bright red hair and blue eyes that had
a kind of laughter in them, and yet were sober. His
buckskin hunting shirt was old and stained and frayed
by the briers, and his leggins and moccasins were wet
from fording the stream. He leaned his chin on the
muzzle of his gun.
``Folks live here, sonny?'' said he.
I nodded.
``Whar be they?''
``Out,'' said I.
``Comin' back?'' he asked.
``To-night,'' said I, and began to rub the lock.
``Be they good folks?'' said he.
``Yes,'' I answered.
``Wal,'' said he, making a move to pass me, ``I reckon
I'll slip in and take what I've a mind to, and move on.''
Now I liked the man's looks very much, but I did not
know what he would do. So I got in his way and clutched
the gun. It was loaded, but not primed, and I emptied
a little powder from the flask in the pan. At that he
``You're a good boy, sonny,'' he said. ``Do you reckon
you could hit me if you shot?''
``Yes,'' I said. But I knew I could scarcely hold the
gun out straight without a rest.
``And do you reckon I could hit you fust?'' he asked.
At that I laughed, and he laughed.
``What's your name?''
I told him.
``Who do you love best in all the world?'' said he.
It was a queer question. But I told him Polly Ann
``Oh!'' said he, after a pause. ``And what's SHE like?''
``She's beautiful,'' I said; ``she's been very kind to me.
She took me home with her from the settlements when I
had no place to go. She's good.''
``And a sharp tongue, I reckon,'' said he.
``When people need it,'' I answered.
``Oh!'' said he. And presently, ``She's very merry,
I'll warrant.''
``She used to be, but that's gone by,'' I said.
``Gone by!'' said he, his voice falling, ``is she sick?''
``No,'' said I, ``she's not sick, she's sad.''
``Sad?'' said he. It was then I noticed that he had a
cut across his temple, red and barely healed. ``Do you
reckon your Polly Ann would give me a little mite to
This time I jumped up, ran into the house, and got down
some corn-pone and a leg of turkey. For that was the
rule of the border. He took them in great bites, but
slowly, and he picked the bones clean.
``I had breakfast yesterday morning,'' said he, ``about
forty mile from here.''
``And nothing since?'' said I, in astonishment.
``Fresh air and water and exercise,'' said he, and sat
down on the grass. He was silent for a long while, and
so was I. For a notion had struck me, though I hardly
dared to give it voice.
``Are you going away?'' I asked at last.
He laughed.
``Why?'' said he.
``If you were going to Kaintuckee--'' I began, and
faltered. For he stared at me very hard.
``Kaintuckee!'' he said. ``There's a country! But
it's full of blood and Injun varmints now. Would you
leave Polly Ann and go to Kaintuckee?''
``Are you going?'' I said.
``I reckon I am,'' he said, ``as soon as I kin.''
``Will you take me?'' I asked, breathless. ``I--I
won't be in your way, and I can walk--and--shoot
At that he bent back his head and laughed, which made
me redden with anger. Then he turned and looked at me
more soberly.
``You're a queer little piece,'' said he. ``Why do you
want to go thar?''
``I want to find Tom McChesney for Polly Ann,'' I
He turned away his face.
``A good-for-nothing scamp,'' said he.
``I have long thought so,'' I said.
He laughed again. It was a laugh that made me want
to join him, had I not been irritated.
``And he's a scamp, you say. And why?''
``Else he would be coming back to Polly Ann.''
``Mayhap he couldn't,'' said the stranger.
``Chauncey Dike said he went off with another girl
into Kaintuckee.''
``And what did Polly Ann say to that?'' the stranger
``She asked Chauncey if Tom McChesney gave him the
scalps he had on his belt.''
At that he laughed in good earnest, and slapped his
breech-clouts repeatedly. All at once he stopped, and
stared up the ridge.
``Is that Polly Ann?'' said he.
I looked, and far up the trail was a speck.
``I reckon it is,'' I answered, and wondered at his
eyesight. ``She travels over to see Tom McChesney's Ma
once in a while.''
He looked at me queerly.
``I reckon I'll go here and sit down, Davy,'' said he,
``so's not to be in the way.'' And he walked around the
corner of the house.
Polly Ann sauntered down the trail slowly, as was her
wont after such an occasion. And the man behind the
house twice whispered with extreme caution, ``How near
is she?'' before she came up the path.
``Have you been lonesome, Davy?'' she said.
``No,'' said I, ``I've had a visitor.''
``It's not Chauncey Dike again?'' she said. ``He
doesn't dare show his face here.''
``No, it wasn't Chauncey. This man would like to have
seen you, Polly Ann. He--'' here I braced myself,--``he
knew Tom McChesney. He called him a good-for-nothing scamp.''
``He did--did he!'' said Polly Ann, very low. ``I
reckon it was good for him I wasn't here.''
I grinned.
``What are you laughing at, you little monkey,'' said
Polly Ann, crossly. `` 'Pon my soul, sometimes I reckon
you are a witch.''
``Polly Ann,'' I said, ``did I ever do anything but good
to you?''
She made a dive at me, and before I could escape caught
me in her strong young arms and hugged me.
``You're the best friend I have, little Davy,'' she
``I reckon that's so,'' said the stranger, who had risen
and was standing at the corner.
Polly Ann looked at him like a frightened doe. And
as she stared, uncertain whether to stay or fly, the color
surged into her cheeks and mounted to her fair forehead.
``Tom!'' she faltered.
``I've come back, Polly Ann,'' said he. But his voice
was not so clear as a while ago.
Then Polly Ann surprised me.
``What made you come back?'' said she, as though she
didn't care a minkskin. Whereat Mr. McChesney shifted
his feet.
``I reckon it was to fetch you, Polly Ann.''
``I like that!'' cried she. ``He's come to fetch me,
Davy.'' That was the first time in months her laugh had
sounded natural. ``I heerd you fetched one gal acrost
the mountains, and now you want to fetch another.''
``Polly Ann,'' says he, ``there was a time when you
knew a truthful man from a liar.''
``That time's past,'' retorted she; ``I reckon all men are
liars. What are ye tom-foolin' about here for, Tom
McChesney, when yere Ma's breakin' her heart? I wonder
ye come back at all.''
``Polly Ann,'' says he, very serious, ``I ain't a boaster.
But when I think what I come through to git here, I wonder
that I come back at all. The folks shut up at Harrod's
said it was sure death ter cross the mountains now.
I've walked two hundred miles, and fed seven times, and
my sculp's as near hangin' on a Red Stick's belt as I ever
want it to be.''
``Tom McChesney,'' said Polly Ann, with her hands on
her hips and her sunbonnet tilted, ``that's the longest
speech you ever made in your life.''
I declare I lost my temper with Polly Ann then, nor
did I blame Tom McChesney for turning on his heel and
walking away. But he had gone no distance at all before
Polly Ann, with three springs, was at his shoulder.
``Tom!'' she said very gently.
He hesitated, stopped, thumped the stock of his gun on
the ground, and wheeled. He looked at her doubtingly,
and her eyes fell to the ground.
``Tom McChesney,'' said she, ``you're a born fool with
``Thank God for that,'' said he, his eyes devouring her.
``Ay,'' said she. And then, ``You want me to go to
Kaintuckee with you?''
``That's what I come for,'' he stammered, his assurance
all run away again.
``I'll go,'' she answered, so gently that her words were
all but blown away by the summer wind. He laid his
rifle against a stump at the edge of the corn-field, but she
bounded clear of him. Then she stood, panting, her eyes
``I'll go,'' she said, raising her finger, ``I'll go for one
``What's that?'' he demanded.
``That you'll take Davy along with us.''
This time Tom had her, struggling like a wild thing in
his arms, and kissing her black hair madly. As for me,
I might have been in the next settlement for all they
cared. And then Polly Ann, as red as a holly berry,
broke away from him and ran to me, caught me up, and
hid her face in my shoulder. Tom McChesney stood looking
at us, grinning, and that day I ceased to hate him.
``There's no devil ef I don't take him, Polly Ann,'' said
he. ``Why, he was a-goin' to Kaintuckee ter find me for
``What?'' said she, raising her head.
``That's what he told me afore he knew who I was.
He wanted to know ef I'd fetch him thar.''
``Little Davy!'' cried Polly Ann.
The last I saw of them that day they were going off up
the trace towards his mother's, Polly Ann keeping ahead
of him and just out of his reach. And I was very, very
happy. For Tom McChesney had come back at last, and
Polly Ann was herself once more.
As long as I live I shall never forget Polly Ann's
She was all for delay, and such a bunch of coquetry as I
have never seen. She raised one objection after another;
but Tom was a firm man, and his late experiences in the
wilderness had made him impatient of trifling. He had
promised the Kentucky settlers, fighting for their lives in
their blockhouses, that he would come back again. And
a resolute man who was a good shot was sorely missed in
the country in those days.
It was not the thousand dangers and hardships of the
journey across the Wilderness Trail that frightened Polly
Ann. Not she. Nor would she listen to Tom when he
implored her to let him return alone, to come back for her
when the redskins had got over the first furies of their
hatred. As for me, the thought of going with them into
that promised land was like wine. Wondering what the
place was like, I could not sleep of nights.
``Ain't you afeerd to go, Davy?'' said Tom to me.
``You promised Polly Ann to take me,'' said I,
``Davy,'' said he, ``you ain't over handsome. 'Twouldn't
improve yere looks to be bald. They hev a way of
takin' yere ha'r. Better stay behind with Gran'pa Ripley
till I kin fetch ye both.''
``Tom,'' said Polly Ann, ``you kin just go back alone
if you don't take Davy.''
So one of the Winn boys agreed to come over to stay
with old Mr. Ripley until quieter times.
The preparations for the wedding went on apace that
week. I had not thought that the Grape Vine settlement
held so many people. And they came from other
settlements, too, for news spread quickly in that country,
despite the distances. Tom McChesney was plainly a
favorite with the men who had marched with Rutherford.
All the week they came, loaded with offerings, turkeys
and venison and pork and bear meat--greatest delicacy
of all--until the cool spring was filled for the feast.
From thirty miles down the Broad, a gaunt Baptist
preacher on a fat white pony arrived the night before.
He had been sent for to tie the knot.
Polly Ann's wedding-day dawned bright and fair, and
long before the sun glistened on the corn tassels we were
up and clearing out the big room. The fiddlers came
first--a merry lot. And then the guests from afar began
to arrive. Some of them had travelled half the night.
The bridegroom's friends were assembling at the McChesney
place. At last, when the sun was over the stream,
rose such Indian war-whoops and shots from the ridge
trail as made me think the redskins were upon us. The
shouts and hurrahs grew louder and louder, the quickening
thud of horses' hoofs was heard in the woods, and
there burst into sight of the assembly by the truck patch
two wild figures on crazed horses charging down the path
towards the house. We scattered to right and left. On
they came, leaping logs and brush and ditches, until one
of them pulled up, yelling madly, at the very door, the
foam-flecked sides of his horse moving with quick heaves.
It was Chauncey Dike, and he had won the race for the
bottle of ``Black Betty,''--Chauncey Dike, his long, black
hair shining with bear's oil. Amid the cheers of the
bride's friends he leaped from his saddle, mounted a stump
and, flapping his arms, crowed in victory. Before he had
done the vanguard of the groom's friends were upon us,
pell-mell, all in the finest of backwoods regalia,--new
hunting shirts, trimmed with bits of color, and all armed
to the teeth--scalping knife, tomahawk, and all. Nor
had Chauncey Dike forgotten the scalp of the brave who
leaped at him out of the briers at Neowee.
Polly Ann was radiant in a white linen gown, woven
and sewed by her own hands. It was not such a gown as
Mrs. Temple, Nick's mother, would have worn, and yet
she was to me an hundred times more beautiful than that
lady in all her silks. Peeping out from under it were
the little blue-beaded moccasins which Tom himself had
brought across the mountains in the bosom of his hunting
shirt. Polly Ann was radiant, and yet at times so
rapturously shy that when the preacher announced himself
ready to tie the knot she ran into the house and hid in the
cupboard--for Polly Ann was a child of nature. Thence,
coloring like a wild rose, she was dragged by a boisterous
bevy of girls in linsey-woolsey to the spreading maple of
the forest that stood on the high bank over the stream.
The assembly fell solemn, and not a sound was heard
save the breathing of Nature in the heyday of her time.
And though I was happy, the sobs rose in my throat.
There stood Polly Ann, as white now as the bleached linen
she wore, and Tom McChesney, tall and spare and broad,
as strong a figure of a man as ever I laid eyes on. God
had truly made that couple for wedlock in His leafy temple.
The deep-toned words of the preacher in prayer broke
the stillness. They were made man and wife. And then
began a day of merriment, of unrestraint, such as the
backwoods alone knows. The feast was spread out in the
long grass under the trees--sides of venison, bear meat,
corn-pone fresh baked by Mrs. McChesney and Polly Ann
herself, and all the vegetables in the patch. There was
no stint, either, of maple beer and rum and ``Black Betty,''
and toasts to the bride and groom amidst gusts of laughter
``that they might populate Kaintuckee.'' And Polly Ann
would have it that I should sit by her side under the maple.
The fiddlers played, and there were foot races and
shooting matches. Ay, and wrestling matches in the
severe manner of the backwoods between the young bucks,
more than one of which might have ended seriously were
it not for the high humor of the crowd. Tom McChesney
himself was in most of them, a hot favorite. By a trick
he had learned in the Indian country he threw Chauncey
Dike (no mean adversary) so hard that the backwoods
dandy lay for a moment in sleep. Contrary to the custom
of many, Tom was not in the habit of crowing on such
occasions, nor did he even smile as he helped Chauncey to
his feet. But Polly Ann knew, and I knew, that he was
thinking of what Chauncey had said to her.
So the long summer afternoon wore away into twilight,
and the sun fell behind the blue ridges we were to cross.
Pine knots were lighted in the big room, the fiddlers set
to again, and then came jigs and three and four handed
reels that made the puncheons rattle,--chicken-flutter
and cut-the-buckle,--and Polly Ann was the leader now,
the young men flinging the girls from fireplace to window
in the reels, and back again; and when, panting and
perspiring, the lass was too tired to stand longer, she dropped
into the hospitable lap of the nearest buck who was
perched on the bench along the wall awaiting his chance.
For so it went in the backwoods in those days, and long
after, and no harm in it that ever I could see.
Well, suddenly, as if by concert, the music stopped,
and a shout of laughter rang under the beams as Polly
Ann flew out of the door with the girls after her, as swift
of foot as she. They dragged her, a struggling captive,
to the bride-chamber which made the other end of the
house, and when they emerged, blushing and giggling and
subdued, the fun began with Tom McChesney. He gave
the young men a pretty fight indeed, and long before they
had him conquered the elder guests had made their escape
through door and window.
All night the reels and jigs went on, and the feasting
and drinking too. In the fine rain that came at dawn
to hide the crests, the company rode wearily homeward
through the notches.
Some to endure, and many to quail,
Some to conquer, and many to fail,
Toiling over the Wilderness Trail.
As long as I live I shall never forget the morning we
started on our journey across the Blue Wall. Before
the sun chased away the filmy veil of mist from the
brooks in the valley, the McChesneys, father, mother, and
children, were gathered to see us depart. And as they
helped us to tighten the packsaddles Tom himself had
made from chosen tree-forks, they did not cease lamenting
that we were going to certain death. Our scrawny horses
splashed across the stream, and we turned to see a gaunt
and lonely figure standing apart against the sun, stern and
sorrowful. We waved our hands, and set our faces
towards Kaintuckee.
Tom walked ahead, rifle on shoulder, then Polly Ann;
and lastly I drove the two shaggy ponies, the instruments
of husbandry we had been able to gather awry on their
packs,--a scythe, a spade, and a hoe. I triumphantly
carried the axe.
It was not long before we were in the wilderness, shut
in by mountain crags, and presently Polly Ann forgot
her sorrows in the perils of the trace. Choked by briers
and grapevines, blocked by sliding stones and earth, it
rose and rose through the heat and burden of the day
until it lost itself in the open heights. As the sun was
wearing down to the western ridges the mischievous
sorrel mare turned her pack on a sapling, and one of the
precious bags burst. In an instant we were on our knees
gathering the golden meal in our hands. Polly Ann baked
journeycakes on a hot stone from what we saved under the
shiny ivy leaves, and scarce had I spancelled the horses
ere Tom returned with a fat turkey he had shot.
``Was there ever sech a wedding journey!'' said Polly
Ann, as we sat about the fire, for the mountain air was
chill. ``And Tom and Davy as grave as parsons. Ye'd
guess one of you was Rutherford himself, and the other
Mr. Boone.''
No wonder he was grave. I little realized then the
task he had set himself, to pilot a woman and a lad into a
country haunted by frenzied savages, when single men
feared to go this season. But now he smiled, and patted
Polly Ann's brown hand.
``It's one of yer own choosing, lass,'' said he.
``Of my own choosing!'' cried she. ``Come, Davy,
we'll go back to Grandpa.''
Tom grinned.
``I reckon the redskins won't bother us till we git by
the Nollichucky and Watauga settlements,'' he said.
``The redskins!'' said Polly Ann, indignant; ``I reckon
if one of 'em did git me he'd kiss me once in a while.''
Whereupon Tom, looking more sheepish still, tried to
kiss her, and failed ignominiously, for she vanished into
the dark woods.
``If a redskin got you here,'' said Tom, when she had
slipped back, ``he'd fetch you to Nick-a-jack Cave.''
``What's that?'' she demanded.
``Where all the red and white and yellow scalawags over
the mountains is gathered,'' he answered. And he told of
a deep gorge between towering mountains where a great
river cried angrily, of a black cave out of which a black
stream ran, where a man could paddle a dugout for miles
into the rock. The river was the Tennessee, and the
place the resort of the Chickamauga bandits, pirates of
the mountains, outcasts of all nations. And Dragging
Canoe was their chief.
It was on the whole a merry journey, the first part of
it, if a rough one. Often Polly Ann would draw me to
her and whisper: ``We'll hold out, Davy. He'll never
now.'' When the truth was that the big fellow was going
at half his pace on our account. He told us there was no
fear of redskins here, yet, when the scream of a painter or
the hoot of an owl stirred me from my exhausted slumber,
I caught sight of him with his back to a tree, staring into
the forest, his rifle at his side. The day was dawning.
``Turn about's fair,'' I expostulated.
``Ye'll need yere sleep, Davy,'' said he, ``or ye'll never
grow any bigger.
``I thought Kaintuckee was to the west,'' I said, ``and
you're making north.'' For I had observed him day after
day. We had left the trails. Sometimes he climbed
tree, and again he sent me to the upper branches, whence
I surveyed a sea of tree-tops waving in the wind, and
looked onward to where a green velvet hollow lay nestling
on the western side of a saddle-backed ridge.
``North!'' said Tom to Polly Ann, laughing. ``The
little devil will beat me at woodcraft soon. Ay, north,
Davy. I'm hunting for the Nollichucky Trace that leads
to the Watauga settlement.''
It was wonderful to me how he chose his way through
the mountains. Once in a while we caught sight of a
yellow blaze in a tree, made by himself scarce a month
gone, when he came southward alone to fetch Polly Ann.
Again, the tired roan shied back from the bleached bones
of a traveller, picked clean by wolves. At sundown, when
we loosed our exhausted horses to graze on the wet grass
by the streams, Tom would go off to look for a deer or
turkey, and often not come back to us until long after
darkness had fallen.
``Davy'll take care of you, Polly Ann,'' he would say
as he left us.
And she would smile at him bravely and say, ``I reckon
I kin look out for Davy awhile yet.''
But when he was gone, and the crooning stillness set in
broken only by the many sounds of the night, we would
sit huddled together by the fire. It was dread for him
she felt, not for herself. And in both our minds rose
red images of hideous foes skulking behind his brave
form as he trod the forest floor. Polly Ann was not the
woman to whimper.
And yet I have but dim recollections of this journey.
It was no hardship to a lad brought up in woodcraft. Fear
of the Indians, like a dog shivering with the cold, was a
deadened pain on the border.
Strangely enough it was I who chanced upon the
Nollichucky Trace, which follows the meanderings of that
river northward through the great Smoky Mountains.
It was made long ago by the Southern Indians as they
threaded their way to the Hunting Lands of Kaintuckee,
and shared now by Indian traders. The path was redolent
with odors, and bright with mountain shrubs and flowers,--
the pink laurel bush, the shining rhododendron, and the
grape and plum and wild crab. The clear notes of the
mountain birds were in our ears by day, and the music of
the water falling over the ledges, mingled with that of
the leaves rustling in the wind, lulled us to sleep at night.
High above us, as we descended, the gap, from naked crag
to timber-covered ridge, was spanned by the eagle's flight.
And virgin valleys, where future generations were to be
born, spread out and narrowed again,--valleys with a
deep carpet of cane and grass, where the deer and elk and
bear fed unmolested.
It was perchance the next evening that my eyes fell
upon a sight which is one of the wonders of my boyish
memories. The trail slipped to the edge of a precipice,
and at our feet the valley widened. Planted amidst
giant trees, on a shining green lawn that ran down to the
racing Nollichucky was the strangest house it has ever
been my lot to see--of no shape, of huge size, and built
of logs, one wing hitched to another by ``dog alleys''
(as we called them); and from its wide stone chimneys
the pearly smoke rose upward in the still air through the
poplar branches. Beyond it a setting sun gilded the cornfields,
and horses and cattle dotted the pastures. We stood
for a while staring at this oasis in the wilderness, and to
my boyish fancy it was a fitting introduction to a
delectable land.
``Glory be to heaven!'' exclaimed Polly Ann.
``It's Nollichucky Jack's house,'' said Tom.
``And who may he be?'' said she.
``Who may he be!'' cried Tom; ``Captain John Sevier,
king of the border, and I reckon the best man to sweep
out redskins in the Watauga settlements.''
``Do you know him?'' said she.
``I was chose as one of his scouts when we fired the
Cherokee hill towns last summer,'' said Tom, with pride. ``Thar
was blood and thunder for ye! We went down the Great
War-path which lies below us, and when we was through
there wasn't a corn-shuck or a wigwam or a war post left.
We didn't harm the squaws nor the children, but there
warn't no prisoners took. When Nollichucky Jack strikes
I reckon it's more like a thunderbolt nor anything else.''
``Do you think he's at home, Tom?'' I asked, fearful
that I should not see this celebrated person.
``We'll soon l'arn,'' said he, as we descended. ``I heerd
he was agoin' to punish them Chickamauga robbers by
Just then we heard a prodigious barking, and a dozen
hounds came charging down the path at our horses' legs,
the roan shying into the truck patch. A man's voice,
deep, clear, compelling, was heard calling:--
``Vi! Flora! Ripper!''
I saw him coming from the porch of the house, a tall
slim figure in a hunting shirt--that fitted to perfection--
and cavalry boots. His face, his carriage, his quick
movement and stride filled my notion of a hero, and my instinct
told me he was a gentleman born.
``Why, bless my soul, it's Tom McChesney!'' he cried,
ten paces away, while Tom grinned with pleasure at the
recognition ``But what have you here?''
``A wife,'' said Tom, standing on one foot.
Captain Sevier fixed his dark blue eyes on Polly Ann
with approbation, and he bowed to her very gracefully.
``Where are you going, Ma'am, may I ask?'' he said.
``To Kaintuckee,'' said Polly Ann.
``To Kaintuckee!'' cried Captain Sevier, turning to
Tom. ``Egad, then, you've no right to a wife,--and to
such a wife,'' and he glanced again at Polly Ann. ``Why,
McChesney, you never struck me as a rash man. Have
you lost your senses, to take a woman into Kentucky this
``So the forts be still in trouble?'' said Tom.
``Trouble?'' cried Mr. Sevier, with a quick fling of his
whip at an unruly hound, ``Harrodstown, Boonesboro,
Logan's Fort at St. Asaph's,--they don't dare stick their
noses outside the stockades. The Indians have swarmed
into Kentucky like red ants, I tell you. Ten days ago,
when I was in the Holston settlements, Major Ben Logan
came in. His fort had been shut up since May, they were
out of powder and lead, and somebody had to come. How
did he come? As the wolf lopes, nay, as the crow flies
over crag and ford, Cumberland, Clinch, and all, forty
miles a day for five days, and never saw a trace--for the
war parties were watching the Wilderness Road.'' And
he swung again towards Polly Ann. ``You'll not go to
Kaintuckee, ma'am; you'll stay here with us until the
redskins are beaten off there. He may go if he likes.''
``I reckon we didn't come this far to give out, Captain
Sevier,'' said she.
``You don't look to be the kind to give out, Mrs.
McChesney,'' said he. ``And yet it may not be a matter
of giving out,'' he added more soberly. This mixture of
heartiness and gravity seemed to sit well on him. ``Surely
you have been enterprising, Tom. Where in the name
of the Continental Congress did you get the lad?''
``I married him along with Polly Ann,'' said Tom.
``That was the bargain, and I reckon he was worth it.''
``I'd take a dozen to get her,'' declared Mr. Sevier, while
Polly Ann blushed. ``Well, well, supper's waiting us,
and cider and applejack, for we don't get a wedding
party every day. Some gentlemen are here whose word
may have more weight and whose attractions may be
greater than mine.''
He whistled to a negro lad, who took our horses, and
led us through the court-yard and the house to the lawn
at the far side of it. A rude table was set there under
a great tree, and around it three gentlemen were talking.
My memory of all of them is more vivid than it might
be were their names not household words in the Western
country. Captain Sevier startled them.
``My friends,'' said he, ``if you have despatches for
Kaintuckee, I pray you get them ready over night.''
They looked up at him, one sternly, the other two
``What the devil do you mean, Sevier?'' said the stern
``That my friend, Tom McChesney, is going there with
his wife, unless we can stop him,'' said Sevier.
``Stop him!'' thundered the stern gentleman, kicking
back his chair and straightening up to what seemed to
me a colossal height. I stared at him, boylike. He
had long, iron-gray hair and a creased, fleshy face and
sunken eyes. He looked as if he might stop anybody
as he turned upon Tom. ``Who the devil is this Tom
McChesney?'' he demanded.
Sevier laughed.
``The best scout I ever laid eyes on,'' said he. ``A
deadly man with a Deckard, an unerring man at choosing
a wife'' (and he bowed to the reddening Polly Ann),
``and a fool to run the risk of losing her.''
``Tut, tut,'' said the iron gentleman, who was the
famous Captain Evan Shelby of King's Meadows, ``he'll
leave her here in our settlements while he helps us fight
Dragging Canoe and his Chickamauga pirates.''
``If he leaves me, ``said Polly Ann, her eyes flashing,
``that's an end to the bargain. He'll never find me more.''
Captain Sevier laughed again.
``There's spirit for you,'' he cried, slapping his whip
against his boot.
At this another gentleman stood up, a younger counterpart
of the first, only he towered higher and his shoulders
were broader. He had a big-featured face, and pleasant
eyes--that twinkled now--sunken in, with fleshy creases
at the corners.
``Tom McChesney,'' said he, ``don't mind my father.
If any man besides Logan can get inside the forts, you
can. Do you remember me?''
``I reckon I do, Mr. Isaac Shelby,'' said Tom, putting
a big hand into Mr. Shelby's bigger one. ``I reckon I
won't soon forget how you stepped out of ranks and
tuk command when the boys was runnin', and turned
the tide.''
He looked like the man to step out of ranks and take
``Pish!'' said Mr. Isaac Shelby, blushing like a girl;
``where would I have been if you and Moore and Findley
and the rest hadn't stood 'em off till we turned round?''
By this time the third gentleman had drawn my attention.
Not by anything he said, for he remained silent,
sitting with his dark brown head bent forward, quietly
gazing at the scene from under his brows. The instant
he spoke they turned towards him. He was perhaps forty,
and broad-shouldered, not so tall as Mr. Sevier.
``Why do you go to Kaintuckee, McChesney?'' he asked.
``I give my word to Mr. Harrod and Mr. Clark to come
back, Mr. Robertson,'' said Tom.
``And the wife? If you take her, you run a great risk
of losing her.''
``And if he leaves me,'' said Polly Ann, flinging her
head, ``he will lose me sure.''
The others laughed, but Mr. Robertson merely smiled.
``Faith,'' cried Captain Sevier, ``if those I met coming
back helter-skelter over the Wilderness Trace had been of
that stripe, they'd have more men in the forts now.''
With that the Captain called for supper to be served
where we sat. He was a widower, with lads somewhere
near my own age, and I recall being shown about the place
by them. And later, when the fireflies glowed and the
Nollichucky sang in the darkness, we listened to the talk
of the war of the year gone by. I needed not to be told
that before me were the renowned leaders of the Watauga
settlements. My hero worship cried it aloud within me.
These captains dwelt on the border-land of mystery,
conquered the wilderness, and drove before them its savage
tribes by their might. When they spoke of the Cherokees
and told how that same Stuart--the companion of
Cameron--was urging them to war against our people, a
fierce anger blazed within me. For the Cherokees had
killed my father.
I remember the men,--scarcely what they said: Evan
Shelby's words, like heavy blows on an anvil; Isaac
Shelby's, none the less forceful; James Robertson
compelling his listeners by some strange power. He
was perchance the strongest man there, though none of
us guessed, after ruling that region, that he was to repeat
untold hardships to found and rear another settlement
farther west. But best I loved to hear Captain Sevier,
whose talk lacked not force, but had a daring, a humor,
a lightness of touch, that seemed more in keeping with
that world I had left behind me in Charlestown. Him I
loved, and at length I solved the puzzle. To me he was
Nick Temple grown to manhood
I slept in the room with Captain Sevier's boys, and one
window of it was of paper smeared with bear's grease,
through which the sunlight came all bleared and yellow
in the morning. I had a boy's interest in affairs, and I
remember being told that the gentlemen were met here
to discuss the treaty between themselves and the great
Oconostota, chief of the Cherokees, and also to consider
the policy of punishing once for all Dragging Canoe and
his bandits at Chickamauga.
As we sat at breakfast under the trees, these gentlemen
generously dropped their own business to counsel Tom,
and I observed with pride that he had gained their regard
during the last year's war. Shelby's threats and Robertson's
warnings and Sevier's exhortations having no effect
upon his determination to proceed to Kentucky, they began
to advise him how to go, and he sat silent while they
talked. And finally, when they asked him, he spoke of
making through Carter's Valley for Cumberland Gap and
the Wilderness Trail.
``Egad,'' cried Captain Sevier, ``I have so many times
found the boldest plan the safest that I have become a
coward that way. What do you say to it, Mr. Robertson?''
Mr. Robertson leaned his square shoulders over the
``He may fall in with a party going over,'' he answered,
without looking up.
Polly Ann looked at Tom as if to say that the whole
Continental Army could not give her as much protection.
We left that hospitable place about nine o'clock, Mr.
Robertson having written a letter to Colonel Daniel
Boone,--shut up in the fort at Boonesboro,--should we
be so fortunate as to reach Kaintuckee: and another to a
young gentleman by the name of George Rogers Clark,
apparently a leader there. Captain Sevier bowed over
Polly Ann's hand as if she were a great lady, and wished
her a happy honeymoon, and me he patted on the head
and called a brave lad. And soon we had passed beyond
the corn-field into the Wilderness again.
Our way was down the Nollichucky, past the great bend
of it below Lick Creek, and so to the Great War-path, the
trail by which countless parties of red marauders had
travelled north and south. It led, indeed, northeast
between the mountain ranges. Although we kept a watch
by day and night, we saw no sign of Dragging Canoe or
his men, and at length we forded the Holston and came to
the scattered settlement in Carter's Valley.
I have since racked my brain to remember at whose
cabin we stopped there. He was a rough backwoodsman
with a wife and a horde of children. But I recall that a
great rain came out of the mountains and down the valley.
We were counting over the powder gourds in our packs,
when there burst in at the door as wild a man as has ever
been my lot to see. His brown beard was grown like a
bramble patch, his eye had a violet light, and his hunting
shirt was in tatters. He was thin to gauntness, ate
ravenously of the food that was set before him, and throwing
off his soaked moccasins, he spread his scalded feet to the
blaze, and the steaming odor of drying leather filled the
``Whar be ye from?'' asked Tom.
For answer the man bared his arm, then his shoulder,
and two angry scars, long and red, revealed themselves,
and around his wrists were deep gouges where he had been
``They killed Sue,'' he cried, ``sculped her afore my
very eyes. And they chopped my boy outen the hickory
withes and carried him to the Creek Nation. At a place
where there was a standin' stone I broke loose from three
of 'em and come here over the mountains, and I ain't had
nothin', stranger, but berries and chainey brier-root for
ten days. God damn 'em!'' he cried, standing up and
tottering with the pain in his feet, ``if I can get a
``Will you go back?'' said Tom.
``Go back!'' he shouted, ``I'll go back and fight 'em
while I have blood in my body.''
He fell into a bunk, but his sorrow haunted him even in
his troubled sleep, and his moans awed us as we listened.
The next day he told us his story with more calmness. It
was horrible indeed, and might well have frightened a less
courageous woman than Polly Ann. Imploring her not
to go, he became wild again, and brought tears to her eyes
when he spoke of his own wife. ``They tomahawked her,
ma'am, because she could not walk, and the baby beside
her, and I standing by with my arms tied.''
As long as I live I shall never forget that scene, and
how Tom pleaded with Polly Ann to stay behind, but she
would not listen to him.
``You're going, Tom?'' she said.
``Yes,'' he answered, turning away, ``I gave 'em my
``And your word to me?'' said Polly Ann.
He did not answer.
We fixed on a Saturday to start, to give the horses time
to rest, and in the hope that we might hear of some relief
party going over the Gap. On Thursday Tom made a
trip to the store in the valley, and came back with a
Deckard rifle he had bought for the stranger, whose name
was Weldon. There was no news from Kaintuckee, but
the Carter's Valley settlers seemed to think that matters
were better there. It was that same night, I believe, that
two men arrived from Fort Chiswell. One, whose name
was Cutcheon, was a little man with a short forehead and
a bad eye, and he wore a weather-beaten blue coat of
military cut. The second was a big, light-colored, fleshy
man, and a loud talker. He wore a hunting shirt and
leggings. They were both the worse for rum they had
had on the road, the big man talking very loud and
``Afeard to go to Kaintuckee!'' said he. ``I've met a
parcel o' cowards on the road, turned back. There ain't
nothin' to be afeard of, eh, stranger?'' he added, to Tom,
who paid no manner of attention to him. The small man
scarce opened his mouth, but sat with his head bowed
forward on his breast when he was not drinking. We passed
a dismal, crowded night in the room with such companions.
When they heard that we were to go over the
mountains, nothing would satisfy the big man but to go
with us.
``Come, stranger,'' said he to Tom, ``two good rifles such
as we is ain't to be throwed away.''
``Why do you want to go over?'' asked Tom. ``Be ye a
Tory?'' he demanded suspiciously.
``Why do you go over?'' retorted Riley, for that
was his name. ``I reckon I'm no more of a Tory than
``Whar did ye come from?'' said Tom.
``Chiswell's mines, taking out lead for the army o'
Congress. But there ain't excitement enough in it.''
``And you?'' said Tom, turning to Cutcheon and eying
his military coat.
``I got tired of their damned discipline,'' the man
answered surlily. He was a deserter.
``Look you,'' said Tom, sternly, ``if you come, what I
say is law.''
Such was the sacrifice we were put to by our need of
company. But in those days a man was a man, and scarce
enough on the Wilderness Trail in that year of '77. So
we started away from Carter's Valley on a bright Saturday
morning, the grass glistening after a week's rain, the
road sodden, and the smell of the summer earth heavy.
Tom and Weldon walked ahead, driving the two horses,
followed by Cutcheon, his head dropped between his
shoulders. The big man, Riley, regaled Polly Ann.
``My pluck is,'' said he, ``my pluck is to give a redskin
no chance. Shoot 'em down like hogs. It takes a good
un to stalk me, Ma'am. Up on the Kanawha I've had
hand-to-hand fights with 'em, and made 'em cry quits.''
``Law!'' exclaimed Polly Ann, nudging me, ``it was a
lucky thing we run into you in the valley.''
But presently we left the road and took a mountain
trail,--as stiff a climb as we had yet had. Polly Ann went
up it like a bird, talking all the while to Riley, who blew
like a bellows. For once he was silent.
We spent two, perchance three, days climbing and
descending and fording. At night Tom would suffer
none to watch save Weldon and himself, not trusting
Riley or Cutcheon. And the rascals were well content
to sleep. At length we came, to a cabin on a creek, the
corn between the stumps around it choked with weeds,
and no sign of smoke in the chimney. Behind it slanted
up, in giant steps, a forest-clad hill of a thousand feet,
and in front of it the stream was dammed and lined with
``Who keeps house?'' cried Tom, at the threshold.
He pushed back the door, fashioned in one great slab
from a forest tree. His welcome was an angry whir, and
a huge yellow rattler lay coiled within, his head reared to
strike. Polly Ann leaned back.
``Mercy,'' she cried, ``that's a bad sign.''
But Tom killed the snake, and we made ready to use
the cabin that night and the next day. For the horses
were to be rested and meat was to be got, as we could
not use our guns so freely on the far side of Cumberland
Gap. In the morning, before he and Weldon left, Tom
took me around the end of the cabin.
``Davy,'' said he, ``I don't trust these rascals. Kin you
shoot a pistol?''
I reckoned I could.
He had taken one out of the pack he had got from
Captain Sevier and pushed it between the logs where the
clay had fallen out. ``If they try anything,'' said he,
``shoot 'em. And don't be afeard of killing 'em.'' He
patted me on the back, and went off up the slope with
Weldon. Polly Ann and I stood watching them until
they were out of sight.
About eleven o'clock Riley and Cutcheon moved off
to the edge of a cane-brake near the water, and sat there
for a while, talking in low tones. The horses were belled
and spancelled near by, feeding on the cane and wild
grass, and Polly Ann was cooking journey-cakes on a
``What makes you so sober, Davy?'' she said.
I didn't answer.
``Davy,'' she cried, ``be happy while you're young. 'Tis
a fine day, and Kaintuckee's over yonder.'' She picked
up her skirts and sang:--
``First upon the heeltap,
Then upon the toe.''
The men by the cane-brake turned and came towards
``Ye're happy to-day, Mis' McChesney,'' said Riley.
``Why shouldn't I be?'' said Polly Ann; ``we're all a-goin'
to Kaintuckee.''
``We're a-goin' back to Cyarter's Valley,'' said Riley, in
his blustering way. ``This here ain't as excitin' as I
thought. I reckon there ain't no redskins nohow.''
``What!'' cried Polly Ann, in loud scorn, ``ye're a-goin'
to desert? There'll be redskins enough by and by, I'll
warrant ye.''
``How'd you like to come along of us,'' says Riley;
``that ain't any place for wimmen, over yonder.''
``Along of you!'' cried Polly Ann, with flashing eyes.
``Do you hear that, Davy?''
I did. Meanwhile the man Cutcheon was slowly walking
towards her. It took scarce a second for me to make
up my mind. I slipped around the corner of the house,
seized the pistol, primed it with a trembling hand, and came
back to behold Polly Ann, with flaming cheeks, facing
them. They did not so much as glance at me. Riley
held a little back of the two, being the coward. But
Cutcheon stood ready, like a wolf.
I did not wait for him to spring, but, taking the best aim
I could with my two hands, fired. With a curse that echoed
in the crags, he threw up his arms and fell forward,
writhing, on the turf.
``Run for the cabin, Polly Ann,'' I shouted, ``and bar
the door.''
There was no need. For an instant Riley wavered, and
then fled to the cane.
Polly Ann and I went to the man on the ground, and
turned him over. His eyes slid upwards. There was a
bloody froth on his lips.
``Davy!'' cried she, awestricken, ``Davy, ye've killed
I grew dizzy and sick at the thought, but she caught
me and held me to her. Presently we sat down on the
door log, gazing at the corpse. Then I began to reflect,
and took out my powder gourd and loaded the pistol.
``What are ye a-doing?'' she said.
``In case the other one comes back,'' said I.
``Pooh,'' said Polly Ann, ``he'll not come back.'' Which
was true. I have never laid eyes on Riley to this day.
``I reckon we'd better fetch it out of the sun,'' said she,
after a while. And so we dragged it under an oak, covered
the face, and left it.
He was the first man I ever killed, and the business by
no means came natural to me. And that day the journeycakes
which Polly Ann had made were untasted by
us both. The afternoon dragged interminably. Try as
we would, we could not get out of our minds the Thing
that lay under the oak.
It was near sundown when Tom and Weldon appeared
on the mountain side carrying a buck between them.
Tom glanced from one to the other of us keenly. He was
very quick to divine.
``Whar be they?'' said he.
``Show him, Davy,'' said Polly Ann.
I took him over to the oak, and Polly Ann told him the
story. He gave me one look, I remember, and there was
more of gratitude in it than in a thousand words. Then
he seized a piece of cold cake from the stone.
``Which trace did he take?'' he demanded of me.
But Polly Ann hung on his shoulder.
``Tom, Tom!'' she cried, ``you beant goin' to leave
us again. Tom, he'll die in the wilderness, and we must
git to Kaintuckee.''
* * * * * * *
The next vivid thing in my memory is the view of the
last barrier Nature had reared between us and the
delectable country. It stood like a lion at the gateway,
and for some minutes we gazed at it in terror from
Powell's Valley below. How many thousands have
looked at it with sinking hearts! How many weaklings
has its frown turned back! There seemed to be engraved
upon it the dark history of the dark and bloody land
beyond. Nothing in this life worth having is won for the
asking; and the best is fought for, and bled for, and died
for. Written, too, upon that towering wall of white rock,
in the handwriting of God Himself, is the history of the
indomitable Race to which we belong.
For fifty miles we travelled under it, towards the Gap,
our eyes drawn to it by a resistless fascination. The sun
went over it early in the day, as though glad to leave
the place, and after that a dark scowl would settle there.
At night we felt its presence, like a curse. Even Polly
Ann was silent. And she had need to be now. When it
was necessary, we talked in low tones, and the bell-clappers
on the horses were not loosed at night. It was here, but
four years gone, that Daniel Boone's family was attacked,
and his son killed by the Indians.
We passed, from time to time, deserted cabins and
camps, and some places that might once have been called
settlements: Elk Garden, where the pioneers of the last
four years had been wont to lay in a simple supply of
seed corn and Irish potatoes; and the spot where Henderson
and his company had camped on the way to establish
Boonesboro two years before. And at last we struck the
trace that mounted upward to the Gateway itself.
And now we had our hands upon the latch, and God
alone knew what was behind the gate. Toil, with a
certainty, but our lives had known it. Death, perchance.
But Death had been near to all of us, and his presence did
not frighten. As we climbed towards the Gap, I recalled
with strange aptness a quaint saying of my father's that
Kaintuckee was the Garden of Eden, and that men were
being justly punished with blood for their presumption.
As if to crown that judgment, the day was dark and
lowering, with showers of rain from time to time. And when
we spoke,--Polly Ann and I,--it was in whispers. The
trace was very narrow, with Daniel Boone's blazes, two
years old, upon the trees; but the way was not over steep.
Cumberland Mountain was as silent and deserted as when
the first man had known it.
Alas, for the vanity of human presage! We gained the
top, and entered unmolested. No Eden suddenly dazzled
our eye, no splendor burst upon it. Nothing told us, as
we halted in our weariness, that we had reached the
Promised Land. The mists weighed heavily on the evergreens
of the slopes and hid the ridges, and we passed that night
in cold discomfort. It was the first of many without a
The next day brought us to the Cumberland, tawny and
swollen from the rains, and here we had to stop to fell
trees to make a raft on which to ferry over our packs.
We bound the logs together with grapevines, and as we
worked my imagination painted for me many a red face
peering from the bushes on the farther shore. And when
we got into the river and were caught and spun by the
hurrying stream, I hearkened for a shot from the farther
bank. While Polly Ann and I were scrambling to get the
raft landed, Tom and Weldon swam over with the horses.
And so we lay the second night dolefully in the rain. But
not so much as a whimper escaped from Polly Ann. I
have often told her since that the sorest trial she had was
the guard she kept on her tongue,--a hardship indeed for
one of Irish inheritance. Many a pull had she lightened
for us by a flash of humor.
The next morning the sun relented, and the wine of his
dawn was wine indeed to our flagging hopes. Going
down to wash at the river's brink, I heard a movement in
the cane, and stood frozen and staring until a great, bearded
head, black as tar, was thrust out between the stalks and
looked at me with blinking red eyes. The next step revealed
the hump of the beast, and the next his tasselled
tail lashing his dirty brown quarters. I did not tarry
longer, but ran to tell Tom. He made bold to risk a shot
and light a fire, and thus we had buffalo meat for some
days after.
We were still in the mountains. The trail led down the
river for a bit through the worst of canebrakes, and every
now and again we stopped while Tom and Weldon scouted.
Once the roan mare made a dash through the brake, and,
though Polly Ann burst through one way to head her off
and I another, we reached the bank of Richland Creek in
time to see her nose and the top of her pack above the
brown water. There was nothing for it but to swim after
her, which I did, and caught her quietly feeding in the
cane on the other side. By great good fortune the other
horse bore the powder.
``Drat you, Nancy,'' said Polly Ann to the mare, as she
handed me my clothes, ``I'd sooner carry the pack myself
than be bothered with you.''
``Hush,'' said I, ``the redskins will get us.''
Polly Ann regarded me scornfully as I stood bedraggled
before her.
``Redskins!'' she cried. ``Nonsense! I reckon it's all
talk about redskins.''
But we had scarce caught up ere we saw Tom standing
rigid with his hand raised. Before him, on a mound bared
of cane, were the charred remains of a fire. The sight of
them transformed Weldon. His eyes glared again, even as
when we had first seen him, curses escaped under his
breath, and he would have darted into the cane had not
Tom seized him sternly by the shoulder. As for me, my
heart hammered against my ribs, and I grew sick with
listening. It was at that instant that my admiration for
Tom McChesney burst bounds, and that I got some real
inkling of what woodcraft might be. Stepping silently
between the tree trunks, his eyes bent on the leafy loam,
he found a footprint here and another there, and suddenly
he went into the cane with a sign to us to remain. It
seemed an age before he returned. Then he began to
rake the ashes, and, suddenly bending down, seized
something in them,--the broken bowl of an Indian
``Shawnees!'' he said; ``I reckoned so.'' It was at
length the beseeching in Polly Ann's eyes that he answered.
``A war party--tracks three days old. They took
To take poplar was our backwoods expression for
embarking in a canoe, the dugouts being fashioned from the
great poplar trees.
I did not reflect then, as I have since and often, how
great was the knowledge and resource Tom practised that
day. Our feeling for him (Polly Ann's and mine) fell
little short of worship. In company ill at ease, in the
forest he became silent and masterful--an unerring
woodsman, capable of meeting the Indian on his own
footing. And, strangest thought of all, he and many I
could name who went into Kentucky, had escaped, by a
kind of strange fate, being born in the north of Ireland.
This was so of Andrew Jackson himself.
The rest of the day he led us in silence down the trace,
his eye alert to penetrate every corner of the forest, his
hand near the trigger of his long Deckard. I followed in
boylike imitation, searching every thicket for alien form
and color, and yearning for stature and responsibility.
As for poor Weldon, he would stride for hours at a time
with eyes fixed ahead, a wild figure,--ragged and fringed.
And we knew that the soul within him was torn with
thoughts of his dead wife and of his child in captivity.
Again, when the trance left him, he was an addition to
our little party not to be despised.
At dark Polly Ann and I carried the packs across a
creek on a fallen tree, she taking one end and I the
other. We camped there, where the loam was trampled
and torn by countless herds of bison, and had only
parched corn and the remains of a buffalo steak for
supper, as the meal was mouldy from its wetting, and
running low. When Weldon had gone a little distance
up the creek to scout, Tom relented from the sternness
which his vigilance imposed and came and sat down on a
log beside Polly Ann and me.
`` 'Tis a hard journey, little girl,'' he said, patting her;
``I reckon I done wrong to fetch you.''
I can see him now, as the twilight settled down over
the wilderness, his honest face red and freckled, but
aglow with the tenderness it had hidden during the
day, one big hand enfolding hers, and the other on my
``Hark, Davy!'' said Polly Ann, ``he's fair tired of us
already. Davy, take me back.''
``Hush, Polly Ann,'' he answered; delighted at her
raillery. ``But I've a word to say to you. If we come
on to the redskins, you and Davy make for the cane as
hard as you kin kilter. Keep out of sight.''
``As hard as we kin kilter!'' exclaimed Polly Ann,
indignantly. ``I reckon not, Tom McChesney. Davy
taught me to shoot long ago, afore you made up your
mind to come back from Kaintuckee.''
Tom chuckled. ``So Davy taught you to shoot,'' he
said, and checked himself. ``He ain't such a bad one
with a pistol,''--and he patted me,--``but I allow ye'd
better hunt kiver just the same. And if they ketch ye,
Polly Ann, just you go along and pretend to be happy, and
tear off a snatch of your dress now and then, if you get
a chance. It wouldn't take me but a little time to run
into Harrodstown or Boone's Station from here, and
fetch a party to follow ye.''
Two days went by,--two days of strain in sunlight, and
of watching and fitful sleep in darkness. But the
Wilderness Trail was deserted. Here and there a lean-to
--silent remnant of the year gone by--spoke of the
little bands of emigrants which had once made their way
so cheerfully to the new country. Again it was a child's
doll, the rags of it beaten by the weather to a rusty hue.
Every hour that we progressed seemed to justify the
sagacity and boldness of Tom's plan, nor did it appear
to have entered a painted skull that a white man would
have the hardihood to try the trail this year. There
were neither signs nor sounds save Nature's own, the
hoot of the wood-owl, the distant bark of a mountain
wolf, the whir of a partridge as she left her brood.
At length we could stand no more the repression that
silence and watching put upon us, and when a rotten
bank gave way and flung Polly Ann and the sorrel mare
into a creek, even Weldon smiled as we pulled her, bedraggled
and laughing, from the muddy water. This was after
we had ferried the Rockcastle River.
Our trace rose and fell over height and valley, until
we knew that we were come to a wonderland at last.
We stood one evening on a spur as the setting sun
flooded the natural park below us with a crystal light
and, striking a tall sycamore, turned its green to gold.
We were now on the hills whence the water ran down
to nourish the fat land, and I could scarce believe that
the garden spot on which our eyes feasted could be the
scene of the blood and suffering of which we had heard.
Here at last was the fairyland of my childhood, the country
beyond the Blue Wall.
We went down the river that led into it, with awes
as though we were trespassers against God Himself,--as
though He had made it too beautiful and too fruitful
for the toilers of this earth. And you who read this
an hundred years hence may not believe the marvels
of it to the pioneer, and in particular to one born and
bred in the scanty, hard soil of the mountains. Nature
had made it for her park,--ay, and scented it with her
own perfumes. Giant trees, which had watched generations
come and go, some of which mayhap had been saplings
when the Norman came to England, grew in groves,--
the gnarled and twisted oak, and that godsend to the
settlers, the sugar-maple; the coffee tree with its
drooping buds; the mulberry, the cherry, and the plum; the
sassafras and the pawpaw; the poplar and the sycamore,
slender maidens of the forest, garbed in daintier colors,--
ay, and that resplendent brunette with the white flowers,
the magnolia; and all underneath, in the green shade,
enamelled banks which the birds themselves sought to
At length, one afternoon, we came to the grove of wild
apple trees so lovingly spoken of by emigrants as the
Crab Orchard, and where formerly they had delighted
to linger. The plain near by was flecked with the brown
backs of feeding buffalo, but we dared not stop, and
pressed on to find a camp in the forest. As we walked
in the filtered sunlight we had a great fright, Polly
Ann and I. Shrill, discordant cries suddenly burst from
the branches above us, and a flock of strange, green birds
flecked with red flew over our heads. Even Tom, intent
upon the trail, turned and laughed at Polly Ann as she
stood clutching me.
``Shucks,'' said he, ``they're only paroquets.''
We made our camp in a little dell where there was short
green grass by the brookside and steep banks overgrown
with brambles on either hand. Tom knew the place, and
declared that we were within thirty miles of the station.
A giant oak had blown down across the water, and, cutting
out a few branches of this, we spread our blankets
under it on the turf. Tethering our faithful beasts, and
cutting a quantity of pea-vine for their night's food, we
lay down to sleep, Tom taking the first watch.
I had the second, for Tom trusted me now, and glorying
in that trust I was alert and vigilant. A shy moon peeped
at me between the trees, and was fantastically reflected in
the water. The creek rippled over the limestone, and an
elk screamed in the forest far beyond. When at length
I had called Weldon to take the third watch, I lay down
with a sense of peace, soothed by the sweet odors of the
I awoke suddenly. I had been dreaming of Nick Temple
and Temple Bow, and my father coming back to me
there with a great gash in his shoulder like Weldon's. I
lay for a moment dazed by the transition, staring through
the gray light. Then I sat up, the soft stamping and
snorting of the horses in my ears. The sorrel mare had
her nose high, her tail twitching, but there was no other
sound in the leafy wilderness. With a bound of returning
sense I looked for Weldon. He had fallen asleep on the
bank above, his body dropped across the trunk of the oak.
I leaped on the trunk and made my way along it, stepping
over him, until I reached and hid myself in the great roots
of the tree on the bank above. The cold shiver of the
dawn was in my body as I waited and listened. Should
I wake Tom? The vast forest was silent, and yet in its
shadowy depths my imagination drew moving forms. I
The light grew: the boles of the trees came out, one by
one, through the purple. The tangled mass down the
creek took on a shade of green, and a faint breath came
from the southward. The sorrel mare sniffed it, and
stamped. Then silence again,--a long silence. Could it
be that the cane moved in the thicket? Or had my eyes
deceived me? I stared so hard that it seemed to rustle
all over. Perhaps some deer were feeding there, for it was
no unusual thing, when we rose in the morning, to hear
the whistle of a startled doe near our camping ground.
I was thoroughly frightened now,--and yet I had the
speculative Scotch mind. The thicket was some one hundred
and fifty yards above, and on the flooded lands at a
bend. If there were Indians in it, they could not see the
sleeping forms of our party under me because of a bend in
the stream. They might have seen me, though I had kept
very still in the twisted roots of the oak, and now I was
cramped. If Indians were there, they could determine
our position well enough by the occasional stamping and
snorting of the horses. And this made my fear more
probable, for I had heard that horses and cattle often
warned pioneers of the presence of redskins.
Another thing: if they were a small party, they would
probably seek to surprise us by coming out of the cane
into the creek bed above the bend, and stalk down the
creek. If a large band, they would surround and
overpower us. I drew the conclusion that it must be a small
party--if a party at all. And I would have given a shot
in the arm to be able to see over the banks of the creek.
Finally I decided to awake Tom.
It was no easy matter to get down to where he was
without being seen by eyes in the cane. I clung to the
under branches of the oak, finally reached the shelving
bank, and slid down slowly. I touched him on the
shoulder. He awoke with a start, and by instinct seized
the rifle lying beside him.
``What is it, Davy?'' he whispered.
I told what had happened and my surmise. He glanced
then at the restless horses and nodded, pointing up at the
sleeping figure of Weldon, in full sight on the log. The
Indians must have seen him.
Tom picked up the spare rifle.
``Davy,'' said he, ``you stay here beside Polly Ann,
behind the oak. You kin shoot with a rest; but don't
shoot,'' said he, earnestly, ``for God's sake don't shoot
unless you're sure to kill.''
I nodded. For a moment he looked at the face of Polly
Ann, sleeping peacefully, and the fierce light faded from
his eyes. He brushed her on the cheek and she awoke
and smiled at him, trustfully, lovingly. He put his finger
to his lips.
``Stay with Davy,'' he said. Turning to me, he added:
``When you wake Weldon, wake him easy. So.'' He
put his hand in mine, and gradually tightened it. ``Wake
him that way, and he won't jump.''
Polly Ann asked no questions. She looked at Tom,
and her soul was in her face. She seized the pistol from
the blanket. Then we watched him creeping down the
creek on his belly, close to the bank. Next we moved
behind the fallen tree, and I put my hand in Weldon's.
He woke with a sigh, started, but we drew him down behind
the log. Presently he climbed cautiously up the bank
and took station in the muddy roots of the tree. Then
we waited, watching Tom with a prayer in our hearts.
Those who have not felt it know not the fearfulness of
waiting for an Indian attack.
At last Tom reached the bend in the bank, beside some
red-bud bushes, and there he stayed. A level shaft of
light shot through the forest. The birds, twittering,
awoke. A great hawk soared high in the blue over our
heads. An hour passed. I had sighted the rifle among
the yellow leaves of the fallen oak an hundred times.
But Polly Ann looked not once to the right or left. Her
eyes and her prayers followed the form of her husband.
Then, like the cracking of a great drover's whip, a
shot rang out in the stillness, and my hands tightened
over the rifle-stock. A piece of bark struck me in the
face, and a dead leaf fluttered to the ground. Almost
instantly there was another shot, and a blue wisp of smoke
rose from the red-bud bushes, where Tom was. The horses
whinnied, there was a rustle in the cane, and silence.
Weldon bent over.
``My God!'' he whispered hoarsely, ``he hit one. Tom
hit one.''
I felt Polly Ann's hand on my face.
``Davy dear,'' she said, ``are ye hurt?''
``No,'' said I, dazed, and wondering why Weldon had
not been shot long ago as he slumbered. I was burning
to climb the bank and ask him whether he had seen the
Indian fall.
Again there was silence,--a silence even more awful
than before. The sun crept higher, the magic of his rays
turning the creek from black to crystal, and the birds
began to sing again. And still there was no sign of the
treacherous enemy that lurked about us. Could Tom get
back? I glanced at Polly Ann. The same question was
written in her yearning eyes, staring at the spot where the
gray of his hunting shirt showed through the bushes at
the bend. Suddenly her hand tightened on mine. The
hunting shirt was gone!
After that, in the intervals when my terror left me, I tried
to speculate upon the plan of the savages. Their own
numbers could not be great, and yet they must have
known from our trace how few we were. Scanning the
ground, I noted that the forest was fairly clean of
undergrowth on both sides of us. Below, the stream ran
straight, but there were growths of cane and briers.
Looking up, I saw Weldon faced about. It was the obvious
But where had Tom gone?
Next my eye was caught by a little run fringed with
bushes that curved around the cane near the bend. I
traced its course, unconsciously, bit by bit, until it reached
the edge of a bank not fifty feet away.
All at once my breath left me. Through the tangle of
bramble stems at the mouth of the run, above naked brown
shoulders there glared at me, hideously streaked with red,
a face. Had my fancy lied? I stared again until my eyes
were blurred, now tortured by doubt, now so completely
convinced that my fingers almost released the trigger,--
for I had thrown the sights into line over the tree. I
know not to this day whether I shot from determination
or nervousness. My shoulder bruised by the kick, the
smoke like a veil before my face, it was some moments
ere I knew that the air was full of whistling bullets; and
then the gun was torn from my hands, and I saw Polly Ann
ramming in a new charge.
``The pistol, Davy,'' she cried.
One torture was over, another on. Crack after crack
sounded from the forest--from here and there and everywhere,
it seemed--and with a song that like a hurtling
insect ran the scale of notes, the bullets buried themselves
in the trunk of our oak with a chug. Once in a while I
heard Weldon's answering shot, but I remembered my
promise to Tom not to waste powder unless I were sure.
The agony was the breathing space we had while they
crept nearer. Then we thought of Tom, and I dared not
glance at Polly Ann for fear that the sight of her face
would unnerve me.
Then a longing to kill seized me, a longing so strange
and fierce that I could scarce be still. I know now that
it comes in battle to all men, and with intensity to the
hunted, and it explained to me more clearly what followed.
I fairly prayed for the sight of a painted form,
and time after time my fancy tricked me into the notion
that I had one. And even as I searched the brambles at
the top of the run a puff of smoke rose out of them, a
bullet burying itself in the roots near Weldon, who fired in
return. I say that I have some notion of what possessed
the man, for he was crazed with passion at fighting the
race which had so cruelly wronged him. Horror-struck, I
saw him swing down from the bank, splash through the
water with raised tomahawk, and gain the top of the run.
In less time than it takes me to write these words he had
dragged a hideous, naked warrior out of the brambles, and
with an avalanche of crumbling earth they slid into the
waters of the creek. Polly Ann and I stared transfixed
at the fearful fight that followed, nor can I give any
adequate description of it. Weldon had struck through the
brambles, but the savage had taken the blow on his gunbarrel
and broken the handle of the tomahawk, and it was
man to man as they rolled in the shallow water, locked in
a death embrace. Neither might reach for his knife,
neither was able to hold the other down, Weldon's curses
surcharged with hatred. the Indian straining silently save
for a gasp or a guttural note, the white a bearded madman,
the savage a devil with a glistening, paint-streaked
body, his features now agonized as his muscles strained
and cracked, now lighted with a diabolical joy. But the
pent-up rage of months gave the white man strength.
Polly Ann and I were powerless for fear of shooting
Weldon, and gazed absorbed at the fiendish scene with
eyes not to be withdrawn. The tree-trunk shook. A
long, bronze arm reached out from above, and a painted
face glowered at us from the very roots where Weldon
had lain. That moment I took to be my last, and in it I
seemed to taste all eternity, I heard but faintly a noise
beyond. It was the shock of the heavy Indian falling on
Polly Ann and me as we cowered under the trunk, and
even then there was an instant that we stood gazing at
him as at a worm writhing in the clay. It was she who
fired the pistol and made the great hole in his head, and so
he twitched and died. After that a confusion of shots,
war-whoops, a vision of two naked forms flying from tree to
tree towards the cane, and then--God be praised--Tom's
voice shouting:--
``Polly Ann! Polly Ann!''
Before she had reached the top of the bank Tom had her
in his arms, and a dozen tall gray figures leaped the six
feet into the stream and stopped. My own eyes turned
with theirs to see the body of poor Weldon lying face
downward in the water. But beyond it a tragedy awaited
me. Defiant, immovable, save for the heaving of his naked
chest, the savage who had killed him stood erect with folded
arms facing us. The smoke cleared away from a gleaming
rifle-barrel, and the brave staggered and fell and died as
silent as he stood, his feathers making ripples in the
stream. It was cold-blooded, if you like, but war in those
days was to the death, and knew no mercy. The tall
backwoodsman who had shot him waded across the stream,
and in the twinkling of an eye seized the scalp-lock and
ran it round with his knife, holding up the bleeding trophy
with a shout. Staggering to my feet, I stretched myself,
but I had been cramped so long that I tottered and would
have fallen had not Tom's hand steadied me.
``Davy!'' he cried. ``Thank God, little Davy! the
varmints didn't get ye.''
``And you, Tom?'' I answered, looking up at him,
bewildered with happiness.
``They was nearer than I suspicioned when I went off,''
he said, and looked at me curiously. ``Drat the little
deevil,'' he said affectionately, and his voice trembled,
``he took care of Polly Ann, I'll warrant.''
He carried me to the top of the bank, where we were
surrounded by the whole band of backwoodsmen.
``That he did!'' cried Polly Ann, ``and fetched a
redskin yonder as clean as you could have done it, Tom.''
``The little deevil!'' exclaimed Tom again.
I looked up, burning with this praise from Tom (for I
had never thought of praise nor of anything save his
happiness and Polly Ann's). I looked up, and my eyes were
caught and held with a strange fascination by fearless
blue ones that gazed down into them. I give you but a
poor description of the owner of these blue eyes, for
personal magnetism springs not from one feature or another.
He was a young man,--perhaps five and twenty as I now
know age,--woodsman-clad, square-built, sun-reddened.
His hair might have been orange in one light and sandcolored
in another. With a boy's sense of such things
I knew that the other woodsmen were waiting for him to
speak, for they glanced at him expectantly.
``You had a near call, McChesney,'' said he, at length;
``fortunate for you we were after this band,--shot some
of it to pieces yesterday morning.'' He paused, looking
at Tom with that quality of tribute which comes naturally
to a leader of men. ``By God,'' he said, ``I didn't
think you'd try it.''
``My word is good, Colonel Clark,'' answered Tom,
Young Colonel Clark glanced at the lithe figure of
Polly Ann. He seemed a man of few words, for he did
not add to his praise of Tom's achievement by complimenting
her as Captain Sevier had done. In fact, he said nothing
more, but leaped down the bank and strode into the
water where the body of Weldon lay, and dragged it out
himself. We gathered around it silently, and two great
tears rolled down Polly Ann's cheeks as she parted the
hair with tenderness and loosened the clenched hands.
Nor did any of the tall woodsmen speak. Poor Weldon!
The tragedy of his life and death was the tragedy of
Kentucky herself. They buried him by the waterside, where
he had fallen.
But there was little time for mourning on the border.
The burial finished, the Kentuckians splashed across the
creek, and one of them, stooping with a shout at the mouth
of the run, lifted out of the brambles a painted body with
drooping head and feathers trailing.
``Ay, Mac,'' he cried, ``here's a sculp for ye.''
``It's Davy's,'' exclaimed Polly Ann from the top of
the bank; ``Davy shot that one.''
``Hooray for Davy,'' cried a huge, strapping backwoodsman
who stood beside her, and the others laughingly took
up the shout. ``Hooray for Davy. Bring him over,
Cowan.'' The giant threw me on his shoulder as though
I had been a fox, leaped down, and took the stream in
two strides. I little thought how often he was to carry
me in days to come, but I felt a great awe at the strength
of him, as I stared into his rough features and his veined
and weathered skin. He stood me down beside the Indian's
body, smiled as he whipped my hunting knife from
my belt, and said, ``Now, Davy, take the sculp.''
Nothing loath, I seized the Indian by the long scalplock,
while my big friend guided my hand, and amid
laughter and cheers I cut off my first trophy of war.
Nor did I have any other feeling than fierce hatred of the
race which had killed my father.
Those who have known armies in their discipline will
find it difficult to understand the leadership of the border.
Such leadership was granted only to those whose force and
individuality compelled men to obey them. I had my
first glimpse of it that day. This Colonel Clark to whom
Tom delivered Mr. Robertson's letter was perchance the
youngest man in the company that had rescued us, saving
only a slim lad of seventeen whom I noticed and envied,
and whose name was James Ray. Colonel Clark, so I
was told by my friend Cowan, held that title in Kentucky
by reason of his prowess.
Clark had been standing quietly on the bank while I
had scalped my first redskin. Then he called Tom
McChesney to him and questioned him closely about our
journey, the signs we had seen, and, finally, the news
in the Watauga settlements. While this was going on
the others gathered round them.
``What now?'' asked Cowan, when he had finished.
``Back to Harrodstown,'' answered the Colonel, shortly.
There was a brief silence, followed by a hoarse murmur
from a thick-set man at the edge of the crowd, who shouldered
his way to the centre of it.
``We set out to hunt a fight, and my pluck is to clean
up. We ain't finished 'em yet.''
The man had a deep, coarse voice that was a piece with
his roughness.
``I reckon this band ain't a-goin' to harry the station
any more, McGary,'' cried Cowan.
``By Job, what did we come out for? Who'll take the
trail with me?''
There were some who answered him, and straightway
they began to quarrel among themselves, filling the
woods with a babel of voices. While I stood listening to
these disputes with a boy's awe of a man's quarrel, what
was my astonishment to feel a hand on my shoulder. It
was Colonel Clark's, and he was not paying the least
attention to the dispute.
``Davy,'' said he, ``you look as if you could make a fire.''
``Yes, sir,'' I answered, gasping.
``Well,'' said he, ``make one.''
I lighted a piece of punk with the flint, and, wrapping
it up in some dry brush, soon had a blaze started. Looking
up, I caught his eye on me again.
``Mrs. McChesney,'' said Colonel Clark to Polly Ann,
``you look as if you could make johnny-cake. Have you
any meal?''
``That I have,'' cried Polly Ann, ``though it's fair
mouldy. Davy, run and fetch it.''
I ran to the pack on the sorrel mare. When I returned
Mr. Clark said:--
``That seems a handy boy, Mrs. McChesney.''
``Handy!'' cried Polly Ann, ``I reckon he's more than
handy. Didn't he save my life twice on our way out
``And how was that?'' said the Colonel.
``Run and fetch some water, Davy,'' said Polly Ann,
and straightway launched forth into a vivid description
of my exploits, as she mixed the meal. Nay, she went so
far as to tell how she came by me. The young Colonel
listened gravely, though with a gleam now and then in
his blue eyes. Leaning on his long rifle, he paid no
manner of attention to the angry voices near by,--which
conduct to me was little short of the marvellous.
``Now, Davy,'' said he, at length, ``the rest of your
``There is little of it, sir,'' I answered. ``I was born
in the Yadkin country, lived alone with my father, who
was a Scotchman. He hated a man named Cameron,
took me to Charlestown, and left me with some kin of his
who had a place called Temple Bow, and went off to
fight Cameron and the Cherokees.'' There I gulped.
``He was killed at Cherokee Ford, and--and I ran
away from Temple Bow, and found Polly Ann.''
This time I caught something of surprise on the
Colonel's face.
``By thunder, Davy,'' said he, ``but you have a clean
gift for brief narrative. Where did you learn it?''
``My father was a gentleman once, and taught me to
speak and read,'' I answered, as I brought a flat piece of
limestone for Polly Ann's baking.
``And what would you like best to be when you grow
up, Davy?'' he asked.
``Six feet,'' said I, so promptly that he laughed.
``Faith,'' said Polly Ann, looking at me comically, ``he
may be many things, but I'll warrant he'll never be that.''
I have often thought since that young Mr. Clark
showed much of the wisdom of the famous king of Israel
on that day. Polly Ann cooked a piece of a deer which
one of the woodsmen had with him, and the quarrel died
of itself when we sat down to this and the johnny-cake.
By noon we had taken up the trace for Harrodstown,
marching with scouts ahead and behind. Mr. Clark
walked mostly alone, seemingly wrapped in thought. At
times he had short talks with different men, oftenest
--I noted with pride--with Tom McChesney. And
more than once when he halted he called me to him, my
answers to his questions seeming to amuse him. Indeed,
I became a kind of pet with the backwoodsmen, Cowan
often flinging me to his shoulder as he swung along. The
pack was taken from the sorrel mare and divided among
the party, and Polly Ann made to ride that we might move
the faster.
It must have been the next afternoon, about four, that
the rough stockade of Harrodstown greeted our eyes as
we stole cautiously to the edge of the forest. And the
sight of no roofs and spires could have been more welcome
than that of these logs and cabins, broiling in the
midsummer sun. At a little distance from the fort, a
silent testimony of siege, the stumpy, cleared fields were
overgrown with weeds, tall and rank, the corn choked.
Nearer the stockade, where the keepers of the fort might
venture out at times, a more orderly growth met the eye.
It was young James Ray whom Colonel Clark singled
to creep with our message to the gates. At six,
when the smoke was rising from the stone chimneys
behind the palisades, Ray came back to say that all was
well. Then we went forward quickly, hands waved a
welcome above the logs, the great wooden gates swung
open, and at last we had reached the haven for which we
had suffered so much. Mangy dogs barked at our feet, men
and women ran forward joyfully to seize our hands and
greet us.
And so we came to Kaintuckee.
The old forts like Harrodstown and Boonesboro and
Logan's at St. Asaph's have long since passed away.
It is many, many years since I lived through that summer
of siege in Harrodstown, the horrors of it are faded and
dim, the discomforts lost to a boy thrilled with a new
experience. I have read in my old age the books of
travellers in Kentucky, English and French, who wrote much
of squalor and strife and sin and little of those
qualities that go to the conquest of an empire and the
making of a people. Perchance my own pages may be
colored by gratitude and love for the pioneers amongst
whom I found myself, and thankfulness to God that we
had reached them alive.
I know not how many had been cooped up in the little
fort since the early spring, awaiting the chance to go
back to their weed-choked clearings. The fort at Harrodstown
was like an hundred others I have since seen, but
sufficiently surprising to me then. Imagine a great
parallelogram made of log cabins set end to end, their common
outside wall being the wall of the fort, and loopholed. At
the four corners of the parallelogram the cabins jutted
out, with ports in the angle in order to give a flanking
fire in case the savages reached the palisade. And then
there were huge log gates with watch-towers on either sides
where sentries sat day and night scanning the forest line.
Within the fort was a big common dotted with forest
trees, where such cattle as had been saved browsed on
the scanty grass. There had been but the one scrawny
horse before our arrival.
And the settlers! How shall I describe them as they
crowded around us inside the gate? Some stared at us
with sallow faces and eyes brightened by the fever, yet
others had the red glow of health. Many of the men wore
rough beards, unkempt, and yellow, weather-worn hunting
shirts, often stained with blood. The barefooted women
wore sunbonnets and loose homespun gowns, some of linen
made from nettles, while the children swarmed here and
there and everywhere in any costume that chance had
given them. All seemingly talking at once, they plied us
with question after question of the trace, the Watauga
settlements, the news in the Carolinys, and how the war
``A lad is it, this one,'' said an Irish voice near me,
``and a woman! The dear help us, and who'd 'ave thought
to see a woman come over the mountain this year! Where
did ye find them, Bill Cowan?''
``Near the Crab Orchard, and the lad killed and sculped
a six-foot brave.''
``The Saints save us! And what'll be his name?''
``Davy,'' said my friend.
``Is it Davy? Sure his namesake killed a giant, too.''
``And is he come along, also?'' said another. His shy
blue eyes and stiff blond hair gave him a strange appearance
in a hunting shirt.
``Hist to him! Who will ye be talkin' about, Poulsson?
Is it King David ye mane?''
There was a roar of laughter, and this was my
introduction to Terence McCann and Swein Poulsson. The fort
being crowded, we were put into a cabin with Terence and
Cowan and Cowan's wife--a tall, gaunt woman with a
sharp tongue and a kind heart--and her four brats, ``All
hugemsmug together,'' as Cowan said. And that night
we supped upon dried buffalo meat and boiled nettle-tops,
for of such was the fare in Harrodstown that summer.
``Tom McChesney kept his faith.'' One other man
was to keep his faith with the little community--George
Rogers Clark. And I soon learned that trustworthiness
is held in greater esteem in a border community than anywhere
else. Of course, the love of the frontier was in
the grain of these men. But what did they come back to?
Day after day would the sun rise over the forest and beat
down upon the little enclosure in which we were penned.
The row of cabins leaning against the stockade marked the
boundaries of our diminutive world. Beyond them,
invisible, lurked a relentless foe. Within, the greater souls
alone were calm, and a man's worth was set down to a
hair's breadth. Some were always to be found squatting
on their door-steps cursing the hour which had seen them
depart for this land; some wrestled and fought on the
common, for a fist fight with a fair field and no favor was
a favorite amusement of the backwoodsmen. My big
friend, Cowan, was the champion of these, and often of an
evening the whole of the inhabitants would gather near
the spring to see him fight those who had the courage to
stand up to him. His muscles were like hickory wood, and
I have known a man insensible for a quarter of an hour
after one of his blows. Strangely enough, he never fought
in anger, and was the first to the spring for a gourd of
water after the fight was over. But Tom McChesney was
the best wrestler of the lot, and could make a wider leap
than any other man in Harrodstown.
Tom's reputation did not end there, for he became one
of the two breadwinners of the station. I would better
have said meatwinners. Woe be to the incautious who,
lulled by a week of fancied security, ventured out into the
dishevelled field for a little food! In the early days of
the siege man after man had gone forth for game, never
to return. Until Tom came, one only had been successful,--
that lad of seventeen, whose achievements were the
envy of my boyish soul, James Ray. He slept in the cabin
next to Cowan's, and long before the dawn had revealed
the forest line had been wont to steal out of the gates
on the one scrawny horse the Indians had left them, gain
the Salt River, and make his way thence through the water
to some distant place where the listening savages could
not hear his shot. And now Tom took his turn. Often
did I sit with Polly Ann till midnight in the sentry's
tower, straining my ears for the owl's hoot that warned us
of his coming. Sometimes he was empty-handed, but
sometimes a deer hung limp and black across his saddle, or
a pair of turkeys swung from his shoulder.
``Arrah, darlin','' said Terence to Polly Ann, `` 'tis yer
husband and James is the jools av the fort. Sure I niver
loved me father as I do thim.''
I would have given kingdoms in those days to have
been seventeen and James Ray. When he was in the fort
I dogged his footsteps, and listened with a painful yearning
to the stories of his escapes from the roving bands.
And as many a character is watered in its growth by heroworship,
so my own grew firmer in the contemplation of
Ray's resourcefulness. My strange life had far removed
me from lads of my own age, and he took a fancy to me,
perhaps because of the very persistence of my devotion
to him. I cleaned his gun, filled his powder flask, and
ran to do his every bidding.
I used in the hot summer days to lie under the elm tree
and listen to the settlers' talk about a man named Henderson,
who had bought a great part of Kentucky from the
Indians, and had gone out with Boone to found Boonesboro
some two years before. They spoke of much that I
did not understand concerning the discountenance by Virginia
of these claims, speculating as to whether Henderson's
grants were good. For some of them held these
grants, and others Virginia grants--a fruitful source of
quarrel between them. Some spoke, too, of Washington
and his ragged soldiers going up and down the old colonies
and fighting for a freedom which there seemed little
chance of getting. But their anger seemed to blaze most
fiercely when they spoke of a mysterious British general
named Hamilton, whom they called ``the ha'r buyer,'' and
who from his stronghold in the north country across the
great Ohio sent down these hordes of savages to harry us.
I learned to hate Hamilton with the rest, and pictured
him with the visage of a fiend. We laid at his door every
outrage that had happened at the three stations, and put
upon him the blood of those who had been carried off to
torture in the Indian villages of the northern forests.
And when--amidst great excitement--a spent runner
would arrive from Boonesboro or St. Asaph's and beg Mr.
Clark for a squad, it was commonly with the first breath
that came into his body that he cursed Hamilton.
So the summer wore away, while we lived from hand
to mouth on such scanty fare as the two of them shot and
what we could venture to gather in the unkempt fields
near the gates. A winter of famine lurked ahead, and
men were goaded near to madness at the thought of clearings
made and corn planted in the spring within reach of
their hands, as it were, and they might not harvest it.
At length, when a fortnight had passed, and Tom and Ray
had gone forth day after day without sight or fresh sign
of Indians, the weight lifted from our hearts. There were
many things that might yet be planted and come to maturity
before the late Kentucky frosts.
The pressure within the fort, like a flood, opened the
gates of it, despite the sturdily disapproving figure of a
young man who stood silent under the sentry box, leaning
on his Deckard. He was Colonel George Rogers Clark,[1]
Commander-in-chief of the backwoodsmen of Kentucky,
whose power was reenforced by that strange thing called
an education. It was this, no doubt, gave him command
of words when he chose to use them.
[1] It appears that Mr. Clark had not yet received the title of
Colonel, though he held command.--EDITOR.
``Faith,'' said Terence, as we passed him, `` 'tis a foine
man he is, and a gintleman born. Wasn't it him gathered
the Convintion here in Harrodstown last year that chose
him and another to go to the Virginia legislatoor? And
him but a lad, ye might say. The divil fly away wid his
caution! Sure the redskins is as toired as us, and gone
home to the wives and childher, bad cess to thim.''
And so the first day the gates were opened we went
into the fields a little way; and the next day a little
farther. They had once seemed to me an unexplored and
forbidden country as I searched them with my eyes from the
sentry boxes. And yet I felt a shame to go with Polly
Ann and Mrs. Cowan and the women while James Ray
and Tom sat with the guard of men between us and the
forest line. Like a child on a holiday, Polly Ann ran
hither and thither among the stalks, her black hair flying
and a song on her lips.
``Soon we'll be having a little home of our own, Davy,''
she cried; ``Tom has the place chose on a knoll by the
river, and the land is rich with hickory and pawpaw. I
reckon we may be going there next week.''
Caution being born into me with all the strength of a
vice, I said nothing. Whereupon she seized me in her
strong hands and shook me.
``Ye little imp!'' said she, while the women paused in
their work to laugh at us.
``The boy is right, Polly Ann,'' said Mrs. Harrod,
``and he's got more sense than most of the men in the fort.''
``Ay, that he has,'' the gaunt Mrs. Cowan put in, eying
me fiercely, while she gave one of her own offsprings a
slap that sent him spinning.
Whatever Polly Ann might have said would have been
to the point, but it was lost, for just then the sound of a
shot came down the wind, and a half a score of women
stampeded through the stalks, carrying me down like a
reed before them. When I staggered to my feet Polly
Ann and Mrs. Cowan and Mrs. Harrod were standing
alone. For there was little of fear in those three.
``Shucks!'' said Mrs. Cowan, ``I reckon it's that Jim
Ray shooting at a mark,'' and she began to pick nettles
``Vimmen is a shy critter,'' remarked Swein Poulsson,
coming up. I had a shrewd notion that he had run with
the others.
``Wimmen!'' Mrs. Cowan fairly roared. ``Wimmen!
Tell us how ye went in March with the boys to fight the
varmints at the Sugar Orchard, Swein!''
We all laughed, for we loved him none the less. His
little blue eyes were perfectly solemn as he answered:--
``Ve send you fight Injuns mit your tongue, Mrs. Cowan.
Then we haf no more troubles.''
``Land of Canaan!'' cried she, ``I reckon I could do
more harm with it than you with a gun.''
There were many such false alarms in the bright days
following, and never a bullet sped from the shadow of the
forest. Each day we went farther afield, and each night
trooped merrily in through the gates with hopes of homes
and clearings rising in our hearts--until the motionless
figure of the young Virginian met our eye. It was then
that men began to scoff at him behind his back, though
some spoke with sufficient backwoods bluntness to his
face. And yet he gave no sign of anger or impatience.
Not so the other leaders. No sooner did the danger seem
past than bitter strife sprang up within the walls. Even
the two captains were mortal enemies. One was Harrod,
a tall, spare, dark-haired man of great endurance,--a
type of the best that conquered the land for the nation;
the other, that Hugh McGary of whom I have spoken,
coarse and brutal, if you like, but fearless and a leader of
men withal.
A certain Sunday morning, I remember, broke with a
cloud-flecked sky, and as we were preparing to go afield
with such ploughs as could be got together (we were to
sow turnips) the loud sounds of a quarrel came from the
elm at the spring. With one accord men and women and
children flocked thither, and as we ran we heard McGary's
voice above the rest. Worming my way, boylike, through
the crowd, I came upon McGary and Harrod glaring at
each other in the centre of it.
``By Job! there's no devil if I'll stand back from my
clearing and waste the rest of the summer for the fears of
a pack of cowards. I'll take a posse and march to Shawanee
Springs this day, and see any man a fair fight that
tries to stop me.''
``And who's in command here?'' demanded Harrod.
``I am, for one,'' said McGary, with an oath, ``and my
corn's on the ear. I've held back long enough, I tell you,
and I'll starve this winter for you nor any one else.''
Harrod turned.
``Where's Clark?'' he said to Bowman.
``Clark!'' roared McGary, ``Clark be d--d. Ye'd think
he was a woman.'' He strode up to Harrod until their
faces almost touched, and his voice shook with the
intensity of his anger. ``By G--d, you nor Clark nor any one
else will stop me, I say!'' He swung around and faced
the people. ``Come on, boys! We'll fetch that corn, or
know the reason why.''
A responding murmur showed that the bulk of them
were with him. Weary of the pent-up life, longing for
action, and starved for a good meal, the anger of his many
followers against Clark and Harrod was nigh as great as
his. He started roughly to shoulder his way out, and
whether from accident or design Captain Harrod slipped
in front of him, I never knew. The thing that followed
happened quickly as the catching of my breath. I saw
McGary powdering his pan, and Harrod his, and felt the
crowd giving back like buffalo. All at once the circle
had vanished, and the two men were standing not five
paces apart with their rifles clutched across their bodies,
each watching, catlike, for the other to level. It was a
cry that startled us--and them. There was a vision of a
woman flying across the common, and we saw the dauntless
Mrs. Harrod snatching her husband's gun from his
resisting hands. So she saved his life and McGary's.
At this point Colonel Clark was seen coming from the
gate. When he got to Harrod and McGary the quarrel
blazed up again, but now it was between the three of
them, and Clark took Harrod's rifle from Mrs. Harrod
and held it. However, it was presently decided that
McGary should wait one more day before going to his
clearing, whereupon the gates were opened, the picked
men going ahead to take station as a guard, and soon we
were hard at work, ploughing here and mowing there,
and in another place putting seed in the ground: in the
cheer of the work hardships were forgotten, and we paused
now and again to laugh at some sally of Terence McCann's
or odd word of Swein Poulsson's. As the day wore on
to afternoon a blue haze--harbinger of autumn--settled
over fort and forest. Bees hummed in the air as they
searched hither and thither amongst the flowers, or shot
straight as a bullet for a distant hive. But presently a
rifle cracked, and we raised our heads.
``Hist!'' said Terence, ``the bhoys on watch is that
warlike! Whin there's no redskins to kill they must be
wastin' good powdher on a three.''
I leaped upon a stump and scanned the line of sentries
between us and the woods; only their heads and shoulders
appeared above the rank growth. I saw them looking
from one to another questioningly, some shouting
words I could not hear. Then I saw some running; and
next, as I stood there wondering, came another crack, and
then a volley like the noise of a great fire licking into
dry wood, and things that were not bees humming round
about. A distant man in a yellow hunting shirt stumbled,
and was drowned in the tangle as in water. Around me
men dropped plough-handles and women baskets, and as
we ran our legs grew numb and our bodies cold at a
sound which had haunted us in dreams by night--the warwhoop.
The deep and guttural song of it rose and fell
with a horrid fierceness. An agonized voice was in my
ears, and I halted, ashamed. It was Polly Ann's.
``Davy!'' she cried, ``Davy, have ye seen Tom?''
Two men dashed by. I seized one by the fringe of his
shirt, and he flung me from my feet. The other leaped me
as I knelt.
``Run, ye fools!'' he shouted. But we stood still, with
yearning eyes staring back through the frantic forms for
a sight of Tom's.
``I'll go back!'' I cried, ``I'll go back for him. Do you
run to the fort.'' For suddenly I seemed to forget my fear,
nor did even the hideous notes of the scalp halloo disturb
me. Before Polly Ann could catch me I had turned and
started, stumbled,--I thought on a stump,--and fallen
headlong among the nettles with a stinging pain in my leg.
Staggering to my feet, I tried to run on, fell again, and
putting down my hand found it smeared with blood. A
man came by, paused an instant while his eye caught me,
and ran on again. I shall remember his face and name
to my dying day; but there is no reason to put it down
here. In a few seconds' space as I lay I suffered all the
pains of captivity and of death by torture, that cry of
savage man an hundred times more frightful than savage
beast sounding in my ears, and plainly nearer now by
half the first distance. Nearer, and nearer yet--and then
I heard my name called. I was lifted from the ground,
and found myself in the lithe arms of Polly Ann.
``Set me down!'' I screamed, ``set me down!'' and
must have added some of the curses I had heard in the
fort. But she clutched me tightly (God bless the memory
of those frontier women!), and flew like a deer toward
the gates. Over her shoulder I glanced back. A spare
three hundred yards away in a ragged line a hundred
red devils were bounding after us with feathers flying
and mouths open as they yelled. Again I cried to her to
set me down; but though her heart beat faster and her
breath came shorter, she held me the tighter. Second by
second they gained on us, relentlessly. Were we near the
fort? Hoarse shouts answered the question, but they
seemed distant--too distant. The savages were gaining,
and Polly Ann's breath quicker still. She staggered, but
the brave soul had no thought of faltering. I had a sight
of a man on a plough horse with dangling harness coming
up from somewhere, of the man leaping off, of ourselves
being pitched on the animal's bony back and clinging
there at the gallop, the man running at the side. Shots
whistled over our heads, and here was the brown fort.
Its big gates swung together as we dashed through the
narrowed opening. Then, as he lifted us off, I knew that
the man who had saved us was Tom himself. The gates
closed with a bang, and a patter of bullets beat against
them like rain.
Through the shouting and confusion came a cry in a
voice I knew, now pleading, now commanding.
``Open, open! For God's sake open!''
``It's Ray! Open for Ray! Ray's out!''
Some were seizing the bar to thrust it back when the
heavy figure of McGary crushed into the crowd beside it.
``By Job, I'll shoot the man that touches it!'' he
shouted, as he tore them away. But the sturdiest of them
went again to it, and cursed him. And while they fought
backward and forward, the lad's mother, Mrs. Ray, cried
out to them to open in tones to rend their hearts. But
McGary had gained the bar and swore (perhaps wisely)
that he would not sacrifice the station for one man.
Where was Ray?
Where was Ray, indeed? It seemed as if no man might
live in the hellish storm that raged without the walls: as
if the very impetus of hate and fury would carry the ravages
over the stockade to murder us. Into the turmoil at
the gate came Colonel Clark, sending the disputants this
way and that to defend the fort, McGary to command one
quarter, Harrod and Bowman another, and every man that
could be found to a loophole, while Mrs. Ray continued
to run up and down, wringing her hands, now facing one
man, now another. Some of her words came to me,
shrilly, above the noise.
``He fed you--he fed you. Oh, my God, and you are
grateful--grateful! When you were starving he risked
his life--''
Torn by anxiety for my friend, I dragged myself into
the nearest cabin, and a man was fighting there in the halflight
at the port. The huge figure I knew to be my friend
Cowan's, and when he drew back to load I seized his arm,
shouting Ray's name. Although the lead was pattering
on the other side of the logs, Cowan lifted me to the port.
And there, stretched on the ground behind a stump, within
twenty feet of the walls, was James. Even as I looked
the puffs of dust at his side showed that the savages knew
his refuge. I saw him level and fire, and then Bill Cowan
set me down and began to ram in a charge with tremendous
Was there no way to save Ray? I stood turning this
problem in my mind, subconsciously aware of Cowan's
movements: of his yells when he thought he had made a
shot, when Polly Ann appeared at the doorway. Darting
in, she fairly hauled me to the shake-down in the far corner.
``Will ye bleed to death, Davy?'' she cried, as she
slipped off my legging and bent over the wound. Her
eye lighting on a gourdful of water on the puncheon
table, she tore a strip from her dress and washed and
bound me deftly. The bullet was in the flesh, and gave
me no great pain.
``Lie there, ye imp!'' she commanded, when she had
``Some one's under the bed,'' said I, for I had heard a
In an instant we were down on our knees on the hard
dirt floor, and there was a man's foot in a moccasin! We
both grabbed it and pulled, bringing to life a person with
little blue eyes and stiff blond hair.
``Swein Poulsson!'' exclaimed Polly Ann, giving him
an involuntary kick, ``may the devil give ye shame!''
Swein Poulsson rose to a sitting position and clasped
his knees in his hands.
``I haf one great fright,'' said he.
``Send him into the common with the women in yere
place, Mis' McChesney,'' growled Cowan, who was loading.
``By tam!'' said Swein Poulsson, leaping to his feet,
``I vill stay here und fight. I am prave once again.''
Stooping down, he searched under the bed, pulled out his
rifle, powdered the pan, and flying to the other port, fired.
At that Cowan left his post and snatched the rifle from
Poulsson's hands.
``Ye're but wasting powder,'' he cried angrily.
``Then, by tam, I am as vell under the bed,'' said
Poulsson. ``Vat can I do?''
I had it.
``Dig!'' I shouted; and seizing the astonished Cowan's
tomahawk from his belt I set to work furiously chopping
at the dirt beneath the log wall. ``Dig, so that James can
get under.''
Cowan gave me the one look, swore a mighty oath, and
leaping to the port shouted to Ray in a thundering voice
what we were doing.
``Dig!'' roared Cowan. ``Dig, for the love of God, for
he can't hear me.''
The three of us set to work with all our might, Poulsson
making great holes in the ground at every stroke, Polly
Ann scraping at the dirt with the gourd. Two feet below
the surface we struck the edge of the lowest log, and then
it was Poulsson who got into the hole with his hunting
knife--perspiring, muttering to himself, working as one
possessed with a fury, while we scraped out the dirt from
under him. At length, after what seemed an age of staring
at his legs, the ground caved on him, and he would
have smothered if we had not dragged him out by the
heels, sputtering and all powdered brown. But there was
the daylight under the log.
Again Cowan shouted at Ray, and again, but he did not
understand. It was then the miracle happened. I have
seen brave men and cowards since, and I am as far as ever
from distinguishing them. Before we knew it Poulsson
was in the hole once more--had wriggled out of it on the
other side, and was squirming in a hail of bullets towards
Ray. There was a full minute of suspense--perhaps two
--during which the very rifles of the fort were silent
(though the popping in the weeds was redoubled), and
then the barrel of a Deckard was poked through the hole.
After it came James Ray himself, and lastly Poulsson, and
a great shout went out from the loopholes and was taken
up by the women in the common.
* * * * * * *
Swein Poulsson had become a hero, nor was he willing
to lose any of the glamour which was a hero's right. As
the Indians' fire slackened, he went from cabin to cabin,
and if its occupants failed to mention the exploit (some
did fail so to do, out of mischief), Swein would say:--
``You did not see me safe James, no? I vill tell you
Joost how.
It never leaked out that Swein was first of all under
the bed, for Polly Ann and Bill Cowan and myself swore
to keep the secret. But they told how I had thought of
digging the hole under the logs--a happy circumstance
which got me a reputation for wisdom beyond my years.
There was a certain Scotchman at Harrodstown called
McAndrew, and it was he gave me the nickname ``Canny
Davy,'' and I grew to have a sort of precocious fame
in the station. Often Captain Harrod or Bowman or
some of the others would pause in their arguments and
say gravely, ``What does Davy think of it?'' This was
not good for a boy, and the wonder of it is that it did not
make me altogether insupportable. One effect it had on
me--to make me long even more earnestly to be a man.
The impulse of my reputation led me farther. A
fortnight of more inactivity followed, and then we ventured
out into the fields once more. But I went with the guard
this time, not with the women,--thanks to a whim the
men had for humoring me.
``Arrah, and beant he a man all but two feet,'' said
Terence, ``wid more brain than me an' Bill Cowan and
Poulsson togither? 'Tis a fox's nose Davy has for the
divils, Bill. Sure he can smell thim the same as you an'
me kin see the red paint on their faces.''
``I reckon that's true,'' said Bill Cowan, with solemnity,
and so he carried me off.
At length the cattle were turned out to browse greedily
through the clearing, while we lay in the woods by the
forest and listened to the sound of their bells, but when
they strayed too far, I was often sent to drive them back.
Once when this happened I followed them to the shade
at the edge of the woods, for it was noon, and the sun
beat down fiercely. And there I sat for some time watching
them as they lashed their sides with their tails and
pawed the ground, for experience is a good master.
Whether or not the flies were all that troubled them I
could not tell, and no sound save the tinkle of their bells
broke the noonday stillness. Making a circle I drove
them back toward the fort, much troubled in mind. I
told Cowan, but he laughed and said it was the flies.
Yet I was not satisfied, and finally stole back again to the
place where I had found them. I sat a long time hidden
at the edge of the forest, listening until my imagination
tricked me into hearing those noises which I feared and
yet longed for. Trembling, I stole a little farther in the
shade of the woods, and then a little farther still. The
leaves rustled in the summer's breeze, patches of
sunlight flickered on the mould, the birds twittered, and the
squirrels scolded. A chipmunk frightened me as he flew
chattering along a log. And yet I went on. I came
to the creek as it flowed silently in the shade, stepped in,
and made my way slowly down it, I know not how far,
walking in the water, my eye alert to every movement
about me. At length I stopped and caught my breath.
Before me, in a glade opening out under great trees, what
seemed a myriad of forked sticks were piled against one
another, three by three, and it struck me all in a heap
that I had come upon a great encampment. But the
skeletons of the pyramid tents alone remained. Where
were the skins? Was the camp deserted?
For a while I stared through the brier leaves, then I
took a venture, pushed on, and found myself in the midst
of the place. It must have held near a thousand warriors.
All about me were gray heaps of ashes, and bones of deer
and elk and buffalo scattered, some picked clean, some
with the meat and hide sticking to them. Impelled by a
strong fascination, I went hither and thither until a sound
brought me to a stand--the echoing crack of a distant rifle.
On the heels of it came another, then several together, and
a faint shouting borne on the light wind. Terrorized, I
sought for shelter. A pile of brush underlain by ashes was
by, and I crept into that. The sounds continued, but
seemed to come no nearer, and my courage returning, I got
out again and ran wildly through the camp toward the
briers on the creek, expecting every moment to be tumbled
headlong by a bullet. And when I reached the briers,
what between panting and the thumping of my heart I
could for a few moments hear nothing. Then I ran on
again up the creek, heedless of cover, stumbling over logs
and trailing vines, when all at once a dozen bronze forms
glided with the speed of deer across my path ahead.
They splashed over the creek and were gone. Bewildered
with fear, I dropped under a fallen tree. Shouts were
in my ears, and the noise of men running. I stood up,
and there, not twenty paces away, was Colonel Clark himself
rushing toward me. He halted with a cry, raised his
rifle, and dropped it at the sight of my queer little figure
covered with ashes.
``My God!'' he cried, ``it's Davy.''
``They crossed the creek,'' I shouted, pointing the way,
``they crossed the creek, some twelve of them.''
``Ay,'' he said, staring at me, and by this time the rest
of the guard were come up. They too stared, with different
exclamations on their lips,--Cowan and Bowman and
Tom McChesney and Terence McCann in front.
``And there's a great camp below,'' I went on,
``deserted, where a thousand men have been.''
``A camp--deserted?'' said Clark, quickly.
``Yes,'' I said, ``yes.'' But he had already started
forward and seized me by the arm.
``Lead on,'' he cried, ``show it to us.'' He went ahead
with me, travelling so fast that I must needs run to keep
up, and fairly lifting me over the logs. But when we
came in sight of the place he darted forward alone and went
through it like a hound on the trail. The others followed
him, crying out at the size of the place and poking among
the ashes. At length they all took up the trail for a way
down the creek. Presently Clark called a halt.
``I reckon that they've made for the Ohio,'' he said.
And at this judgment from him the guard gave a cheer
that might almost have been heard in the fields around the
fort. The terror that had hovered over us all that long
summer was lifted at last.
You may be sure that Cowan carried me back to the
station. ``To think it was Davy that found it!'' he cried
again and again, ``to think it was Davy found it!''
``And wasn't it me that said he could smell the divils,''
said Terence, as he circled around us in a mimic war dance.
And when from the fort they saw us coming across the
fields they opened the gates in astonishment, and on hearing
the news gave themselves over to the wildest rejoicing.
For the backwoodsmen were children of nature. Bill
Cowan ran for the fiddle which he had carried so carefully
over the mountain, and that night we had jigs and reels
on the common while the big fellow played ``Billy of the
Wild Woods'' and ``Jump Juba,'' with all his might, and
the pine knots threw their fitful, red light on the wild
scenes of merriment. I must have cut a queer little figure
as I sat between Cowan and Tom watching the dance, for
presently Colonel Clark came up to us, laughing in his
quiet way.
``Davy,'' said he, ``there is another great man here who
would like to see you,'' and led me away wondering. I went
with him toward the gate, burning all over with pride at
this attention, and beside a torch there a broad-shouldered
figure was standing, at sight of whom I had a start of
``Do you know who that is, Davy?'' said Colonel Clark.
``It's Mr. Daniel Boone,'' said I.
``By thunder,'' said Clark, ``I believe the boy IS a
wizard,'' while Mr. Boone's broad mouth was creased into
a smile, and there was a trace of astonishment, too, in his
kindly eye.
``Mr. Boone came to my father's cabin on the Yadkin
once,'' I said; ``he taught me to skin a deer.''
``Ay, that I did,'' exclaimed Mr. Boone, ``and I said
ye'd make a woodsman sometime.''
Mr. Boone, it seemed, had come over from Boonesboro
to consult with Colonel Clark on certain matters, and had
but just arrived. But so modest was he that he would
not let it be known that he was in the station, for fear of
interrupting the pleasure. He was much the same as I
had known him, only grown older and his reputation now
increased to vastness. He and Clark sat on a door log
talking for a long time on Kentucky matters, the strength
of the forts, the prospect of new settlers that autumn, of
the British policy, and finally of a journey which Colonel
Clark was soon to make back to Virginia across the
mountains. They seemed not to mind my presence. At length
Colonel Clark turned to me with that quiet, jocose way he
had when relaxed.
``Davy,'' said he, ``we'll see how much of a general you
are. What would you do if a scoundrel named Hamilton
far away at Detroit was bribing all the redskins he could
find north of the Ohio to come down and scalp your men?''
``I'd go for Hamilton,'' I answered.
``By God!'' exclaimed Clark, striking Mr. Boone on
the knee, ``that's what I'd do.''
Mr. Boone's visit lasted but a day. I was a great deal
with Colonel Clark in the few weeks that followed before
his departure for Virginia. He held himself a little aloof
(as a leader should) from the captains in the station,
without seeming to offend them. But he had a fancy for
James Ray and for me, and he often took me into the
woods with him by day, and talked with me of an
``I'm going away to Virginia, Davy,'' he said; ``will
you not go with me? We'll see Williamsburg, and come
back in the spring, and I'll have you a little rifle made.''
My look must have been wistful.
``I can't leave Polly Ann and Tom,'' I answered.
``Well,'' he said, ``I like that. Faith to your friends is
a big equipment for life.''
``But why are you going?'' I asked.
``Because I love Kentucky best of all things in the
world,'' he answered, smiling.
``And what are you going to do?'' I insisted.
``Ah,'' he said, ``that I can't tell even to you.''
``To catch Hamilton?'' I ventured at random.
He looked at me queerly.
``Would you go along, Davy?'' said he, laughing now.
``Would you take Tom?''
``Among the first,'' answered Colonel Clark, heartily.
We were seated under the elm near the spring, and at
that instant I saw Tom coming toward us. I jumped up,
thinking to please him by this intelligence, when Colonel
Clark pulled me down again.
``Davy,'' said he, almost roughly, I thought, ``remember
that we have been joking. Do you understand?--joking.
You have a tongue in your mouth, but sense enough in
your head, I believe, to hold it.'' He turned to Tom.
``McChesney, this is a queer lad you brought us,'' said
``He's a little deevil,'' agreed Tom, for that had become
a formula with him.
It was all very mysterious to me, and I lay awake many
a night with curiosity, trying to solve a puzzle that was
none of my business. And one day, to cap the matter,
two woodsmen arrived at Harrodstown with clothes frayed
and bodies lean from a long journey. Not one of the
hundred questions with which they were beset would they
answer, nor say where they had been or why, save that
they had carried out certain orders of Clark, who was
locked up with them in a cabin for several hours.
The first of October, the day of Colonel Clark's
departure, dawned crisp and clear. He was to take with
him the disheartened and the cowed, the weaklings who
loved neither work nor exposure nor danger. And before
he set out of the gate he made a little speech to the
assembled people.
``My friends,'' he said, ``you know me. I put the
interests of Kentucky before my own. Last year when
I left to represent her at Williamsburg there were some
who said I would desert her. It was for her sake I made
that journey, suffered the tortures of hell from scalded
feet, was near to dying in the mountains. It was for her
sake that I importuned the governor and council for
powder and lead, and when they refused it I said to them,
`Gentlemen, a country that is not worth defending is not
worth claiming.' ''
At these words the settlers gave a great shout, waving
their coonskin hats in the air.
``Ay, that ye did,'' cried Bill Cowan, ``and got the
``I made that journey for her sake, I say,'' Colonel
Clark continued, ``and even so I am making this one.
I pray you trust me, and God bless and keep you while
I am gone.''
He did not forget to speak to me as he walked between
our lines, and told me to be a good boy and that
he would see me in the spring. Some of the women shed
tears as he passed through the gate, and many of us
climbed to sentry box and cabin roof that we might see
the last of the little company wending its way across the
fields. A motley company it was, the refuse of the station,
headed by its cherished captain. So they started back
over the weary road that led to that now far-away land of
civilization and safety.
During the balmy Indian summer, when the sharper lines
of nature are softened by the haze, some came to us from
across the mountains to make up for the deserters. From
time to time a little group would straggle to the gates of
the station, weary and footsore, but overjoyed at the sight
of white faces again: the fathers walking ahead with
watchful eyes, the women and older children driving the
horses, and the babies slung to the pack in hickory withes.
Nay, some of our best citizens came to Kentucky swinging
to the tail of a patient animal. The Indians were still
abroad, and in small war parties darted hither and thither
with incredible swiftness. And at night we would gather
at the fire around our new emigrants to listen to the
stories they had to tell,--familiar stories to all of us.
Sometimes it had been the gobble of a wild turkey that
had lured to danger, again a wood-owl had cried strangely
in the night.
Winter came, and passed--somehow. I cannot dwell
here on the tediousness of it, and the one bright spot it
has left in my memory concerns Polly Ann. Did man,
woman, or child fall sick, it was Polly Ann who nursed
them. She had by nature the God-given gift of healing,
knew by heart all the simple remedies that backwoods
lore had inherited from the north of Ireland or borrowed
from the Indians. Her sympathy and loving-kindness
did more than these, her never tiring and ever cheerful
watchfulness. She was deft, too, was Polly Ann, and
spun from nettle bark many a cut of linen that could
scarce be told from flax. Before the sap began to run
again in the maples there was not a soul in Harrodstown
who did not love her, and I truly believe that most of
them would have risked their lives to do her bidding.
Then came the sugaring, the warm days and the freezing
nights when the earth stirs in her sleep and the taps drip
from red sunrise to red sunset. Old and young went to
the camps, the women and children boiling and graining,
the squads of men posted in guards round about. And
after that the days flew so quickly that it seemed as if the
woods had burst suddenly into white flower, and it was
spring again. And then--a joy to be long remembered
--I went on a hunting trip with Tom and Cowan and
three others where the Kentucky tumbles between its
darkly wooded cliffs. And other wonders of that strange
land I saw then for the first time: great licks, trampled
down for acres by the wild herds, where the salt water
oozes out of the hoofprints. On the edge of one of these
licks we paused and stared breathless at giant bones
sticking here and there in the black mud, and great skulls of
fearful beasts half-embedded. This was called the Big
Bone Lick, and some travellers that went before us had
made their tents with the thighs of these monsters of a
past age.
A danger past is oft a danger forgotten. Men went out
to build the homes of which they had dreamed through the
long winter. Axes rang amidst the white dogwoods and
the crabs and redbuds, and there were riotous log-raisings
in the clearings. But I think the building of Tom's house
was the most joyous occasion of all, and for none in the
settlement would men work more willingly than for him
and Polly Ann. The cabin went up as if by magic. It
stood on a rise upon the bank of the river in a grove of
oaks and hickories, with a big persimmon tree in front of
the door. It was in the shade of this tree that Polly Ann
sat watching Tom and me through the mild spring days
as we barked the roof, and none ever felt greater joy and
pride in a home than she. We had our first supper on
a wide puncheon under the persimmon tree on the few
pewter plates we had fetched across the mountain, the
blue smoke from our own hearth rising in the valley until
the cold night air spread it out in a line above us, while
the horses grazed at the river's edge.
After that we went to ploughing, an occupation which
Tom fancied but little, for he loved the life of a hunter
best of all. But there was corn to be raised and fodder
for the horses, and a truck-patch to be cleared near the
One day a great event happened,--and after the manner
of many great events, it began in mystery. Leaping on
the roan mare, I was riding like mad for Harrodstown to
fetch Mrs. Cowan. And she, when she heard the summons,
abandoned a turkey on the spit, pitched her brats out of
the door, seized the mare, and dashing through the gates
at a gallop left me to make my way back afoot. Scenting
a sensation, I hurried along the wooded trace at a dog
trot, and when I came in sight of the cabin there was Mrs.
Cowan sitting on the step, holding in her long but motherly
arms something bundled up in nettle linen, while Tom
stood sheepishly by, staring at it.
``Shucks,'' Mrs. Cowan was saying loudly, ``I reckon
ye're as little use to-day as Swein Poulsson,--standin'
there on one foot. Ye anger me--just grinning at it
like a fool--and yer own doin'. Have ye forgot how
to talk?''
Tom grinned the more, but was saved the effort of a
reply by a loud noise from the bundle.
``Here's another,'' cried Mrs. Cowan to me. ``Ye
needn't act as if it was an animal. Faith, yereself was like
that once, all red an' crinkled. But I warrant ye didn't
have the heft,'' and she lifted it, judicially. ``A grand
baby,'' attacking Tom again, ``and ye're no more worthy
to be his father than Davy here.''
Then I heard a voice calling me, and pushing past Mrs.
Cowan, I ran into the cabin. Polly Ann lay on the log
bedstead, and she turned to mine a face radiant with a
happiness I had not imagined.
``Oh, Davy, have ye seen him? Have ye seen little
Tom? Davy, I reckon I'll never be so happy again.
Fetch him here, Mrs. Cowan.''
Mrs. Cowan, with a glance of contempt at Tom and me,
put the bundle tenderly down on the coarse brown sheet
beside her.
Poor little Tom! Only the first fortnight of his
existence was spent in peace. I have a pathetic memory
of it all--of our little home, of our hopes for it, of our
days of labor and nights of planning to make it complete.
And then, one morning when the three of us were turning
over the black loam in the patch, while the baby slept
peacefully in the shade, a sound came to our ears that
made us pause and listen with bated breath. It was the
sound of many guns, muffled in the distant forest. With
a cry Polly Ann flew to the hickory cradle under the tree,
Tom sprang for the rifle that was never far from his side,
while with a kind of instinct I ran to catch the spancelled
horses by the river. In silence and sorrow we fled through
the tall cane, nor dared to take one last look at the
cabin, or the fields lying black in the spring sunlight. The
shots had ceased, but ere we had reached the little clearing
McCann had made they began again, though as distant as
before. Tom went ahead, while I led the mare and Polly
Ann clutched the child to her breast. But when we came
in sight of the fort across the clearings the gates were
closed. There was nothing to do but cower in the thicket,
listening while the battle went on afar, Polly Ann trying
to still the cries of the child, lest they should bring death
upon us. At length the shooting ceased; stillness reigned;
then came a faint halloo, and out of the forest beyond us a
man rode, waving his hat at the fort. After him came
others. The gates opened, and we rushed pell-mell across
the fields to safety.
The Indians had shot at a party shelling corn at
Captain Bowman's plantation, and killed two, while the others
had taken refuge in the crib. Fired at from every brake,
James Ray had ridden to Harrodstown for succor, and
the savages had been beaten off. But only the foolhardy
returned to their clearings now. We were on the edge of
another dreaded summer of siege, the prospect of banishment
from the homes we could almost see, staring us in
the face, and the labors of the spring lost again. There
was bitter talk within the gates that night, and many
declared angrily that Colonel Clark had abandoned us.
But I remembered what he had said, and had faith in him.
It was that very night, too, I sat with Cowan, who had
duty in one of the sentry boxes, and we heard a voice
calling softly under us. Fearing treachery, Cowan cried out
for a sign. Then the answer came back loudly to open to
a runner with a message from Colonel Clark to Captain
Harrod. Cowan let the man in, while I ran for the captain,
and in five minutes it seemed as if every man and
woman and child in the fort were awake and crowding
around the man by the gates, their eager faces reddened
by the smoking pine knots. Where was Clark? What
had he been doing? Had he deserted them?
``Deserted ye!'' cried the runner, and swore a great
oath. Wasn't Clark even then on the Ohio raising a
great army with authority from the Commonwealth of
Virginia to rid them of the red scourge? And would
they desert him? Or would they be men and bring from
Harrodstown the company he asked for? Then Captain
Harrod read the letter asking him to raise the company,
and before day had dawned they were ready for the word
to march--ready to leave cabin and clearing, and wife
and child, trusting in Clark's judgment for time and
place. Never were volunteers mustered more quickly
than in that cool April night by the gates of Harrodstown
``And we'll fetch Davy along, for luck,'' cried Cowan,
catching sight of me beside him.
``Sure we'll be wanting a dhrummer b'y,'' said McCann.
And so they enrolled me.
``Davy, take care of my Tom,'' cried Polly Ann.
I can see her now, standing among the women by the
great hewn gateposts, with little Tom in her arms,
holding him out to us as we filed by. And the vision of
his little, round face haunted Tom and me for many weary
miles of our tramp through the wilderness. I have often
thought since that that march of the volunteer company
to join Clark at the Falls of the Ohio was a superb
example of confidence in one man, and scarce to be equalled
in history.
In less than a week we of Captain Harrod's little
company stood on a forest-clad bank, gazing spellbound at the
troubled waters of a mighty river. That river was the
Ohio, and it divided us from the strange north country
whence the savages came. From below, the angry voice
of the Great Falls cried out to us unceasingly. Smoke
rose through the tree-tops of the island opposite, and
through the new gaps of its forest cabins could be seen.
And presently, at a signal from us, a big flatboat left its
shore, swung out and circled on the polished current, and
grounded at length in the mud below us. A dozen tall
boatmen, buckskin-clad, dropped the big oars and leaped
out on the bank with a yell of greeting. At the head of
them was a man of huge frame, and long, light hair falling
down over the collar of his hunting shirt. He wrung
Captain Harrod's hand.
``That there's Simon Kenton, Davy,'' said Cowan, as we
stood watching them.
I ran forward for a better look at the backwoods
Hercules, the tales of whose prowess had helped to while
away many a winter's night in Harrodstown Station. Bigfeatured
and stern, yet he had the kindly eye of the most
indomitable of frontier fighters, and I doubted not the
truth of what was said of him--that he could kill any
redskin hand-to-hand.
``Clark's thar,'' he was saying to Captain Harrod. ``God
knows what his pluck is. He ain't said a word.''
``He doesn't say whar he's going?'' said Harrod.
``Not a notion,'' answered Kenton. ``He's the greatest
man to keep his mouth shut I ever saw. He kept at the
governor of Virginny till he gave him twelve hundred
pounds in Continentals and power to raise troops. Then
Clark fetched a circle for Fort Pitt, raised some troops
thar and in Virginny and some about Red Stone, and
come down the Ohio here with 'em in a lot of flatboats.
Now that ye've got here the Kentucky boys is all in. I
come over with Montgomery, and Dillard's here from the
Holston country with a company.''
``Well,'' said Captain Harrod, ``I reckon we'll report.''
I went among the first boat-load, and as the men strained
against the current, Kenton explained that Colonel Clark
had brought a number of emigrants down the river
with him; that he purposed to leave them on this island
with a little force, that they might raise corn and
provisions during the summer; and that he had called the
place Corn Island.
``Sure, there's the Colonel himself,'' cried Terence
McCann, who was in the bow, and indeed I could pick
out the familiar figure among the hundred frontiersmen
that gathered among the stumps at the landing-place. As
our keel scraped they gave a shout that rattled in the
forest behind them, and Clark came down to the waterside.
``I knew that Harrodstown wouldn't fail me,'' he said,
and called every man by name as we waded ashore.
When I came splashing along after Tom he pulled me
from the water with his two hands.
``Colonel,'' said Terence McCann, ``we've brought ye a
dhrummer b'y.''
``We'd have no luck at all without him,'' said Cowan,
and the men laughed.
``Can you walk an hundred miles without food, Davy?''
asked Colonel Clark, eying me gravely.
``Faith he's lean as a wolf, and no stomach to hinder
him,'' said Terence, seeing me look troubled. ``I'll not
be missing the bit of food the likes of him would eat.''
``And as for the heft of him,'' added Cowan, ``Mac and
I'll not feel it.''
Colonel Clark laughed. ``Well, boys,'' he said, ``if
you must have him, you must. His Excellency gave me
no instructions about a drummer, but we'll take you,
In those days he was a man that wasted no time,
was Colonel Clark, and within the hour our little
detachment had joined the others, felling trees and shaping
the log-ends for the cabins. That night, as Tom and
Cowan and McCann and James Ray lay around their fire,
taking a well-earned rest, a man broke excitedly into the
light with a kettle-shaped object balanced on his head,
which he set down in front of us. The man proved to be
Swein Poulsson, and the object a big drum, and he
straightway began to beat upon it a tattoo with improvised
``A Red Stone man,'' he cried, ``a Red Stone man, he
have it in the flatboat. It is for Tavy.''
``The saints be good to us,'' said Terence, ``if it isn't
the King's own drum he has.'' And sure enough, on the
head of it gleamed the royal arms of England, and on the
other side, as we turned it over, the device of a regiment.
They flung the sling about my neck, and the next day,
when the little army drew up for parade among the stumps,
there I was at the end of the line, and prouder than any
man in the ranks. And Colonel Clark coming to my end
of the line paused and smiled and patted me kindly on
the cheek.
``Have you put this man on the roll, Harrod?'' says he.
``No, Colonel,'' answers Captain Harrod, amid the
laughter of the men at my end.
``What!'' says the Colonel, ``what an oversight! From
this day he is drummer boy and orderly to the Commanderin-
chief. Beat the retreat, my man.''
I did my best, and as the men broke ranks they crowded
around me, laughing and joking, and Cowan picked me
up, drum and all, and carried me off, I rapping furiously
the while.
And so I became a kind of handy boy for the whole
regiment from the Colonel down, for I was willing and
glad to work. I cooked the Colonel's meals, roasting the
turkey breasts and saddles of venison that the hunters
brought in from the mainland, and even made him journeycake,
a trick which Polly Ann had taught me. And
when I went about the island, if a man were loafing, he
would seize his axe and cry, ``Here's Davy, he'll tell the
Colonel on me.'' Thanks to the jokes of Terence McCann,
I gained an owl-like reputation for wisdom amongst these
superstitious backwoodsmen, and they came verily to
believe that upon my existence depended the success of the
campaign. But day after day passed, and no sign from
Colonel Clark of his intentions.
``There's a good lad,'' said Terence. ``He'll be telling
us where we're going.''
I was asked the same question by a score or more, but
Colonel Clark kept his own counsel. He himself was
everywhere during the days that followed, superintending
the work on the blockhouse we were building, and eying
the men. Rumor had it that he was sorting out the
sheep from the goats, silently choosing those who were to
remain on the island and those who were to take part in
the campaign.
At length the blockhouse stood finished amid the yellow
stumps of the great trees, the trunks of which were in its
walls. And suddenly the order went forth for the men
to draw up in front of it by companies, with the families
of the emigrants behind them. It was a picture to fix
itself in a boy's mind, and one that I have never forgotten.
The line of backwoodsmen, as fine a lot of men as I
ever wish to see, bronzed by the June sun, strong and
tireless as the wild animals of the forest, stood expectant
with rifles grounded. And beside the tallest, at the end
of the line, was a diminutive figure with a drum hung in
front of it. The early summer wind rustled in the forest,
and the never ending song of the Great Falls sounded
from afar. Apart, square-shouldered and indomitable,
stood a young man of twenty-six.
``My friends and neighbors,'' he said in a firm voice,
``there is scarce a man standing among you to-day who
has not suffered at the hands of savages. Some of you
have seen wives and children killed before your eyes--
or dragged into captivity. None of you can to-day call
the home for which he has risked so much his own. And
who, I ask you, is to blame for this hideous war? Whose
gold is it that buys guns and powder and lead to send the
Shawnee and the Iroquois and Algonquin on the warpath?''
He paused, and a hoarse murmur of anger ran along the
``Whose gold but George's, by the grace of God King
of Great Britain and Ireland? And what minions distribute
it? Abbott at Kaskaskia, for one, and Hamilton
at Detroit, the Hair Buyer, for another!''
When he spoke Hamilton's name his voice was nearly
drowned by imprecations.
``Silence!'' cried Clark, sternly, and they were silent.
``My friends, the best way for a man to defend himself is
to maim his enemy. One year since, when you did me the
honor to choose me Commander-in-chief of your militia
in Kentucky, I sent two scouts to Kaskaskia. A dozen
years ago the French owned that place, and St. Vincent,
and Detroit, and the people there are still French. My
men brought back word that the French feared the Long
Knives, as the Indians call us. On the first of October I
went to Virginia, and some of you thought again that I
had deserted you. I went to Williamsburg and wrestled
with Governor Patrick Henry and his council, with Mr.
Jefferson and Mr. Mason and Mr. Wythe. Virginia had no
troops to send us, and her men were fighting barefoot with
Washington against the armies of the British king. But
the governor gave me twelve hundred pounds in paper,
and with it I have raised the little force that we have
here. And with it we will carry the war into Hamilton's
country. On the swift waters of this great river
which flows past us have come tidings to-day, and God
Himself has sent them. To-morrow would have been too
late. The ships and armies of the French king are on
their way across the ocean to help us fight the tyrant,
and this is the news that we bear to the Kaskaskias.
When they hear this, the French of those towns will not
fight against us. My friends, we are going to conquer an
empire for liberty, and I can look onward,'' he cried in a
burst of inspired eloquence, sweeping his arm to the
northward toward the forests on the far side of the Ohio,
``I can look onward to the day when these lands will be
filled with the cities of a Great Republic. And who
among you will falter at such a call?''
There was a brief silence, and then a shout went up
from the ranks that drowned the noise of the Falls, and
many fell into antics, some throwing their coonskin hats
in the air, and others cursing and scalping Hamilton in
mockery, while I pounded on the drum with all my might.
But when we had broken ranks the rumor was whispered
about that the Holston company had not cheered, and
indeed the rest of the day these men went about plainly
morose and discontented,--some saying openly (and with
much justice, though we failed to see it then) that they
had their own families and settlements to defend from the
Southern Indians and Chickamauga bandits, and could
not undertake Kentucky's fight at that time. And when
the enthusiasm had burned away a little the disaffection
spread, and some even of the Kentuckians began to murmur
against Clark, for faith or genius was needful to
inspire men to his plan. One of the malcontents from
Boonesboro came to our fire to argue.
``He's mad as a medicine man, is Clark, to go into that
country with less than two hundred rifles. And he'll
force us, will he? I'd as lief have the King for a master.''
He brought every man in our circle to his feet,--Ray,
McCann, Cowan, and Tom. But Tom was nearest, and
words not coming easily to him he fell on the Boonesboro
man instead, and they fought it out for ten minutes
in the firelight with half the regiment around them. At
the end of it, when the malcontents were carrying their
champion away, they were stopped suddenly at the sight
of one bursting through the circle into the light, and a
hush fell upon the quarrel. It was Colonel Clark.
``Are you hurt, McChesney?'' he demanded.
``I reckon not much, Colonel,'' said Tom, grinning, as
he wiped his face.
``If any man deserts this camp to-night,'' cried Colonel
Clark, swinging around, ``I swear by God to have him
chased and brought back and punished as he deserves.
Captain Harrod, set a guard.''
I pass quickly over the rest of the incident. How the
Holston men and some others escaped in the night in
spite of our guard, and swam the river on logs. How at
dawn we found them gone, and Kenton and Harrod and
brave Captain Montgomery set out in pursuit, with Cowan
and Tom and Ray. All day they rode, relentless, and
the next evening returned with but eight weary and sullen
fugitives of all those who had deserted.
The next day the sun rose on a smiling world, the
polished reaches of the river golden mirrors reflecting
the forest's green. And we were astir with the light,
preparing for our journey into the unknown country.
At seven we embarked by companies in the flatboats,
waving a farewell to those who were to be left behind.
Some stayed through inclination and disaffection: others
because Colonel Clark did not deem them equal to the
task. But Swein Poulsson came. With tears in his
little blue eyes he had begged the Colonel to take him,
and I remember him well on that June morning, his
red face perspiring under the white bristles of his hair
as he strained at the big oar. For we must needs pull
a mile up the stream ere we could reach the passage in
which to shoot downward to the Falls. Suddenly Poulsson
dropped his handle, causing the boat to swing
round in the stream, while the men damned him.
Paying them no attention, he stood pointing into the
blinding disk of the sun. Across the edge of it a piece
was bitten out in blackness.
``Mein Gott!'' he cried, ``the world is being ended just
``The holy saints remember us this day!'' said McCann,
missing a stroke to cross himself. ``Will ye pull,
ye damned Dutchman? Or we'll be the first to slide into
hell. This is no kind of a place at all at all.''
By this time the men all along the line of boats had
seen it, and many faltered. Clark's voice could be heard
across the waters urging them to pull, while the bows swept
across the current. They obeyed him, but steadily the
blackness ate out the light, and a weird gloaming
overspread the scene. River and forest became stern, the
men silent. The more ignorant were in fear of a cataclysm,
the others taking it for an omen.
``Shucks!'' said Tom, when appealed to, ``I've seed it
afore, and it come all right again.''
Clark's boat rounded the shoal: next our turn came,
and then the whole line was gliding down the river, the
rising roar of the angry waters with which we were soon
to grapple coming to us with an added grimness. And
now but a faint rim of light saved us from utter darkness.
Big Bill Cowan, undaunted in war, stared at me
with fright written on his face.
``And what 'll ye think of it, Davy?'' he said.
I glanced at the figure of our commander in the boat
ahead, and took courage.
``It's Hamilton's scalp hanging by a lock,'' I answered,
pointing to what was left of the sun. ``Soon it will be
off, and then we'll have light again.''
To my surprise he snatched me from the thwart and
held me up with a shout, and I saw Colonel Clark turn
and look back.
``Davy says the Ha'r Buyer's sculp hangs by the lock,
boys, he shouted, pointing at the sun.
The word was cried from boat to boat, and we could
see the men pointing upwards and laughing. And then,
as the light began to grow, we were in the midst of the
tumbling waters, the steersmen straining now right, now
left, to keep the prows in the smooth reaches between
rock and bar. We gained the still pools below, the sun
came out once more and smiled on the landscape, and the
spirits of the men, reviving, burst all bounds.
Thus I earned my reputation as a prophet
Four days and nights we rowed down the great river, our
oars double-manned, for fear that our coming might be
heralded to the French towns. We made our first camp on a
green little island at the mouth of the Cherokee, as we
then called the Tennessee, and there I set about cooking a
turkey for Colonel Clark, which Ray had shot. Chancing
to look up, I saw the Colonel himself watching me.
``How is this, Davy?'' said he. ``I hear that you have
saved my army for me before we have met the enemy.''
``I did not know it, sir,'' I answered.
``Well,'' said he, ``if you have learned to turn an evil
omen into a good sign, you know more than some generals.
What ails you now?''
``There's a pirogue, sir,'' I cried, staring and pointing.
``Where?'' said he, alert all at once. ``Here, McChesney,
take a crew and put out after them.''
He had scarcely spoken ere Tom and his men were
rowing into the sunset, the whole of our little army watching
from the bank. Presently the other boat was seen
coming back with ours, and five strange woodsmen stepped
ashore, our men pressing around them. But Clark flew
to the spot, the men giving back.
``Who's the leader here?'' he demanded.
A tall man stepped forward.
``I am,'' said he, bewildered but defiant.
``Your name?''
``John Duff,'' he answered, as though against his will.
``Your business?''
``Hunters,'' said Duff; ``and I reckon we're in our
``I'll judge of that,'' said our Colonel. ``Where are
you from?''
``That's no secret, neither. Kaskasky, ten days gone.''
At that there was a murmur of surprise from our
companies. Clark turned.
``Get your men back,'' he said to the captains, who
stood about them. And all of them not moving: ``Get
your men back, I say. I'll have it known who's in command
At that the men retired. ``Who commands at
Kaskaskia?'' he demanded of Duff.
``Monseer Rocheblave, a Frenchy holding a British
commission,'' said Duff. ``And the British Governor
Abbott has left Post St. Vincent and gone to Detroit
Who be you?'' he added suspiciously. ``Be you Rebels?''
``Colonel Clark is my name, and I am in the service of
the Commonwealth of Virginia.''
Duff uttered an exclamatory oath and his manner
changed. ``Be you Clark?'' he said with respect. ``And
you're going after Kaskasky? Wal, the mility is prime,
and the Injun scouts is keeping a good lookout. But,
Colonel, I'll tell ye something: the Frenchies is etarnal
afeard of the Long Knives. My God! they've got the
notion that if you ketch 'em you'll burn and scalp 'em
same as the Red Sticks.''
``Good,'' was all that Clark answered.
``I reckon I don't know much about what the Rebels is
fighting for,'' said John Duff; ``but I like your looks,
Colonel, and wharever you're going there'll be a fight.
Me and my boys would kinder like to go along.''
Clark did not answer at once, but looked John Duff
and his men over carefully.
``Will you take the oath of allegiance to Virginia and
the Continental Congress?'' he asked at length.
``I reckon it won't pizen us,'' said John Duff.
``Hold up your hands,'' said Clark, and they took the
oath. ``Now, my men,'' said he, ``you will be assigned to
companies. Does any one among you know the old French
trail from Massacre to Kaskaskia?''
``Why,'' exclaimed John Duff, ``why, Johnny Saunders
here can tread it in the dark like the road to the grogshop.''
John Saunders, loose limbed, grinning sheepishly,
shuffled forward, and Clark shot a dozen questions at him one
after another. Yes, the trail had been blazed the Lord
knew how long ago by the French, and given up when
they left Massacre.
``Look you,'' said Clark to him, ``I am not a man to
stand trifling. If there is any deception in this, you will
be shot without mercy.''
``And good riddance,'' said John Duff. ``Boys, we're
Rebels now. Steer clear of the Ha'r Buyer.''
For one more day we floated downward on the face of
the waters between the forest walls of the wilderness, and
at length we landed in a little gully on the north shore of
the river, and there we hid our boats.
``Davy,'' said Colonel Clark, ``let's walk about a bit.
Tell me where you learned to be so silent?''
``My father did not like to be talked to,'' I answered,
``except when he was drinking.''
He gave me a strange look. Many the stroll I took
with him afterwards, when he sought to relax himself
from the cares which the campaign had put upon him.
This night was still and clear, the west all yellow with the
departing light, and the mists coming on the river. And
presently, as we strayed down the shore we came upon a
strange sight, the same being a huge fort rising from the
waterside, all overgrown with brush and saplings and tall
weeds. The palisades that held its earthenwork were rotten
and crumbling, and the mighty bastions of its corners
sliding away. Behind the fort, at the end farthest from the
river, we came upon gravelled walks hidden by the rank
growth, where the soldiers of his most Christian Majesty
once paraded. Lost in thought, Clark stood on the parapet,
watching the water gliding by until the darkness hid it,
--nay, until the stars came and made golden dimples upon
its surface. But as we went back to the camp again he told
me how the French had tried once to conquer this vast
country and failed, leaving to the Spaniards the endless
stretch beyond the Mississippi called Louisiana, and this
part to the English. And he told me likewise that this
fort in the days of its glory had been called Massacre, from a
bloody event which had happened there more than threescore
years before.
``Threescore years!'' I exclaimed, longing to see the
men of this race which had set up these monuments only
to abandon them.
``Ay, lad,'' he answered, ``before you or I were born,
and before our fathers were born, the French missionaries
and soldiers threaded this wilderness. And they called
this river `La Belle Riviere,'--the Beautiful River.''
``And shall I see that race at Kaskaskia?'' I asked,
``That you shall,'' he cried, with a force that left no
doubt in my mind.
In the morning we broke camp and started off for the
strange place which we hoped to capture. A hundred
miles it was across the trackless wilds, and each man was
ordered to carry on his back provisions for four days only.
``Herr Gott!'' cried Swein Poulsson, from the bottom
of a flatboat, whence he was tossing out venison flitches,
``four day, und vat is it ve eat then?''
``Frenchies, sure,'' said Terence; ``there'll be plenty av
thim for a season. Faith, I do hear they're tinder as
``You'll no set tooth in the Frenchies,'' the pessimistic
McAndrew put in, ``wi' five thousand redskins aboot, and
they lying in wait. The Colonel's no vera mindful of that,
I'm thinking.''
``Will ye hush, ye ill-omened hound!'' cried Cowan,
angrily. ``Pitch him in the crick, Mac!''
Tom was diverted from this duty by a loud quarrel
between Captain Harrod and five men of the company who
wanted scout duty, and on the heels of that came another
turmoil occasioned by Cowan's dropping my drum into the
water. While he and McCann and Tom were fishing it
out, Colonel Clark himself appeared, quelled the mutiny
that Harrod had on his hands, and bade the men sternly to
get into ranks.
``What foolishness is this?'' he said, eying the dripping
``Sure, Colonel,'' said McCann, swinging it on his back,
``we'd have no heart in us at Kaskasky widout the rattle
of it in our ears. Bill Cowan and me will not be feeling
the heft of it bechune us.''
``Get into ranks,'' said the Colonel, amusement
struggling with the anger in his face as he turned on his heel.
His wisdom well knew when to humor a man, and when
to chastise.
``Arrah,'' said Terence, as he took his place, ``I'd as
soon l'ave me gun behind as Davy and the dhrum.''
Methinks I can see now, as I write, the long file of
woodsmen with their swinging stride, planting one foot
before the other, even as the Indian himself threaded the
wilderness. Though my legs were short, I had both
sinew and training, and now I was at one end of the line
and now at the other. And often with a laugh some giant
would hand his gun to a neighbor, swing me to his shoulder,
and so give me a lift for a weary mile or two; and
perchance whisper to me to put down my hand into the
wallet of his shirt, where I would find a choice morsel
which he had saved for his supper. Sometimes I trotted
beside the Colonel himself, listening as he talked to this
man or that, and thus I got the gravest notion of the
daring of this undertaking, and of the dangers ahead of us.
This north country was infested with Indians, allies of the
English and friends of the French their subjects; and the
fact was never for an instant absent from our minds that
our little band might at any moment run into a thousand
warriors, be overpowered and massacred; or, worst of all,
that our coming might have been heralded to Kaskaskia.
For three days we marched in the green shade of the
primeval wood, nor saw the sky save in blue patches here
and there. Again we toiled for hours through the coffeecolored
waters of the swamps. But the third day brought
us to the first of those strange clearings which the French
call prairies, where the long grass ripples like a lake in
the summer wind. Here we first knew raging thirst, and
longed for the loam-specked water we had scorned, as our
tired feet tore through the grass. For Saunders, our
guide, took a line across the open in plain sight of any
eye that might be watching from the forest cover. But
at length our column wavered and halted by reason of
some disturbance at the head of it. Conjectures in our
company, the rear guard, became rife at once.
``Run, Davy darlin,' an' see what the throuble is,'' said
Nothing loath, I made my way to the head of the
column, where Bowman's company had broken ranks and
stood in a ring up to their thighs in the grass. In the
centre of the ring, standing on one foot before our angry
Colonel, was Saunders.
``Now, what does this mean?'' demanded Clark; ``my
eye is on you, and you've boxed the compass in this last
Saunders' jaw dropped.
``I'm guiding you right,'' he answered, with that
sullenness which comes to his kind from fear, ``but a man will
slip his bearings sometimes in this country.''
Clark's eyes shot fire, and he brought down the stock
of his rifle with a thud.
``By the eternal God!'' he cried, ``I believe you are a
traitor. I've been watching you every step, and you've
acted strangely this morning.''
``Ay, ay,'' came from the men round him.
``Silence!'' cried Clark, and turned again to the
cowering Saunders. ``You pretend to know the way to
Kaskaskia, you bring us to the middle of the Indian country
where we may be wiped out at any time, and now you
have the damned effrontery to tell me that you have lost
your way. I am a man of my word,'' he added with a
vibrant intensity, and pointed to the limbs of a giant tree
which stood at the edge of the distant forest. ``I will
give you half an hour, but as I live, I will leave you
hanging there.''
The man's brown hand trembled as he clutched his rifle
`` 'Tis a hard country, sir,'' he said. ``I'm lost. I swear
it on the evangels.''
``A hard country!'' cried Clark. ``A man would have
to walk over it but once to know it. I believe you are a
damned traitor and perjurer,--in spite of your oath, a
British spy.
Saunders wiped the sweat from his brow on his buckskin sleeve.
``I reckon I could get the trace, Colonel, if you'd let me
go a little way into the prairie.''
``Half an hour,'' said Clark, ``and you'll not go alone.''
Sweeping his eye over Bowman's company, he picked out
a man here and a man there to go with Saunders. Then
his eye lighted on me. ``Where's McChesney?'' he said.
``Fetch McChesney.''
I ran to get Tom, and seven of them went away, with
Saunders in the middle, Clark watching them like a hawk,
while the men sat down in the grass to wait. Fifteen
minutes went by, and twenty, and twenty-five, and Clark
was calling for a rope, when some one caught sight of the
squad in the distance returning at a run. And when they
came within hail it was Saunders' voice we heard,
shouting brokenly:--
``I've struck it, Colonel, I've struck the trace. There's a
pecan at the edge of the bottom with my own blaze on it.''
``May you never be as near death again,'' said the
Colonel, grimly, as he gave the order to march.
The fourth day passed, and we left behind us the patches
of forest and came into the open prairie,--as far as the
eye could reach a long, level sea of waving green. The
scanty provisions ran out, hunger was added to the pangs
of thirst and weariness, and here and there in the
straggling file discontent smouldered and angry undertone was
heard. Kaskaskia was somewhere to the west and north;
but how far? Clark had misled them. And in addition
it were foolish to believe that the garrison had not been
warned. English soldiers and French militia and Indian
allies stood ready for our reception. Of such was the
talk as we lay down in the grass under the stars on the
fifth night. For in the rank and file an empty stomach is
not hopeful.
The next morning we took up our march silently with
the dawn, the prairie grouse whirring ahead of us. At
last, as afternoon drew on, a dark line of green edged the
prairie to the westward, and our spirits rose. From
mouth to mouth ran the word that these were the woods
which fringed the bluff above Kaskaskia itself. We
pressed ahead, and the destiny of the new Republic for
which we had fought made us walk unseen. Excitement
keyed us high; we reached the shade, plunged into it, and
presently came out staring at the bastioned corners of a
fort which rose from the centre of a clearing. It had
once defended the place, but now stood abandoned and
dismantled. Beyond it, at the edge of the bluff, we halted,
astonished. The sun was falling in the west, and below
us was the goal for the sight of which we had suffered so
much. At our feet, across the wooded bottom, was the
Kaskaskia River, and beyond, the peaceful little French
village with its low houses and orchards and gardens
colored by the touch of the evening light. In the centre
of it stood a stone church with its belfry; but our searching
eyes alighted on the spot to the southward of it, near
the river. There stood a rambling stone building with
the shingles of its roof weathered black, and all around it
a palisade of pointed sticks thrust in the ground, and with
a pair of gates and watch-towers. Drooping on its staff
was the standard of England. North and south of the
village the emerald common gleamed in the slanting light,
speckled red and white and black by grazing cattle. Here
and there, in untidy brown patches, were Indian settlements,
and far away to the westward the tawny Father of
Waters gleamed through the cottonwoods.
Through the waning day the men lay resting under the
trees, talking in undertones. Some cleaned their rifles,
and others lost themselves in conjectures of the attack.
But Clark himself, tireless, stood with folded arms gazing
at the scene below, and the sunlight on his face illumined
him (to the lad standing at his side) as the servant of
destiny. At length, at eventide, the sweet-toned bell of the
little cathedral rang to vespers,--a gentle message of
peace to war. Colonel Clark looked into my upturned
``Davy, do you know what day this is?'' he asked.
``No, sir,'' I answered.
``Two years have gone since the bells pealed for the
birth of a new nation--your nation, Davy, and mine--
the nation that is to be the refuge of the oppressed of
this earth--the nation which is to be made of all peoples,
out of all time. And this land for which you and I shall
fight to-night will belong to it, and the lands beyond,'' he
pointed to the west, ``until the sun sets on the sea again.''
He put his hand on my head. ``You will remember this
when I am dead and gone,'' he said.
I was silent, awed by the power of his words.
Darkness fell, and still we waited, impatient for the
order. And when at last it came the men bustled hither
and thither to find their commands, and we picked our
way on the unseen road that led down the bluff, our hearts
thumping. The lights of the village twinkled at our feet,
and now and then a voice from below was caught and
borne upward to us. Once another noise startled us,
followed by an exclamation, ``Donnerblitzen'' and a volley
of low curses from the company. Poor Swein Poulsson
had loosed a stone, which had taken a reverberating flight
We reached the bottom, and the long file turned and
hurried silently northward, searching for a crossing. I
try to recall my feelings as I trotted beside the tall forms
that loomed above me in the night. The sense of protection
they gave me stripped me of fear, and I was not
troubled with that. My thoughts were chiefly on Polly
Ann and the child we had left in the fort now so far to
the south of us, and in my fancy I saw her cheerful, ever
helpful to those around her, despite the load that must
rest on her heart. I saw her simple joy at our return. But
should we return? My chest tightened, and I sped along the
ranks to Harrod's company and caught Tom by the wrist.
``Davy,'' he murmured, and, seizing my hand in his
strong grip, pulled me along with him. For it was not
given to him to say what he felt; but as I hurried to keep
pace with his stride, Polly Ann's words rang in my ears,
``Davy, take care of my Tom,'' and I knew that he, too,
was thinking of her.
A hail aroused me, the sound of a loud rapping, and I
saw in black relief a cabin ahead. The door opened,
a man came out with a horde of children cowering at his
heels, a volley of frightened words pouring from his mouth
in a strange tongue. John Duff was plying him with
questions in French, and presently the man became calmer
and lapsed into broken English.
``Kaskaskia--yes, she is prepare. Many spy is gone
out--cross la riviere. But now they all sleep.''
Even as he spoke a shout came faintly from the distant
``What is that?'' demanded Clark, sharply.
The man shrugged his shoulders. ``Une fete des negres,
peut-etre,--the negro, he dance maybe.''
``Are you the ferryman?'' said Clark.
``Oui--I have some boat.''
We crossed the hundred and fifty yards of sluggish
water, squad by squad, and in the silence of the night
stood gathered, expectant, on the farther bank. Midnight
was at hand. Commands were passed about, and men ran
this way and that, jostling one another to find their places
in a new order. But at length our little force stood in
three detachments on the river's bank, their captains
repeating again and again the part which each was to
play, that none might mistake his duty. The two larger
ones were to surround the town, while the picked force
under Simon Kenton himself was to storm the fort.
Should he gain it by surprise and without battle, three
shots were to be fired in quick succession, the other
detachments were to start the war-whoop, while Duff and some
with a smattering of French were to run up and down the
streets proclaiming that every habitan who left his house
would be shot. No provision being made for the drummer
boy (I had left my drum on the heights above), I chose
the favored column, at the head of which Tom and Cowan
and Ray and McCann were striding behind Kenton and
Colonel Clark. Not a word was spoken. There was a kind
of cow-path that rose and fell and twisted along the riverbank.
This we followed, and in ten minutes we must have
covered the mile to the now darkened village. The starlight
alone outlined against the sky the houses of it as we
climbed the bank. Then we halted, breathless, in a street,
but there was no sound save that of the crickets and the
frogs. Forward again, and twisting a corner, we beheld
the indented edge of the stockade. Still no hail, nor had
our moccasined feet betrayed us as we sought the river
side of the fort and drew up before the big river gates of
it. Simon Kenton bore against them, and tried the little
postern that was set there, but both were fast. The spikes
towered a dozen feet overhead.
``Quick!'' muttered Clark, ``a light man to go over
and open the postern.''
Before I guessed what was in his mind, Cowan seized
``Send the lad, Colonel,'' said he.
``Ay, ay,'' said Simon Kenton, hoarsely.
In a second Tom was on Kenton's shoulders, and they
passed me up with as little trouble as though I had been my
own drum. Feverishly searching with my foot for Tom's
shoulder, I seized the spikes at the top, clambered over
them, paused, surveyed the empty area below me, destitute
even of a sentry, and then let myself down with the aid
of the cross-bars inside. As I was feeling vainly for
the bolt of the postern, rays of light suddenly shot my
shadow against the door. And next, as I got my hand on
the bolt-head, I felt the weight of another on my shoulder,
and a voice behind me said in English:--
``In the devil's name!''
I gave the one frantic pull, the bolt slipped, and caught
again. Then Colonel Clark's voice rang out in the night:--
``Open the gate! Open the gate in the name of
Virginia and the Continental Congress!''
Before I could cry out the man gave a grunt, leaned
his gun against the gate, and tore my fingers from the
bolt-handle. Astonishment robbed me of breath as he
threw open the postern.
``In the name of the Continental Congress,'' he cried,
and seized his gun. Clark and Kenton stepped in
instantly, no doubt as astounded as I, and had the man in
their grasp.
``Who are you?'' said Clark.
``Name o' Skene, from Pennsylvanya,'' said the man,
``and by the Lord God ye shall have the fort.''
``You looked for us?'' said Clark.
``Faith, never less,'' said the Pennsylvanian. ``The
one sentry is at the main gate.''
``And the governor?''
``Rocheblave?'' said the Pennsylvanian. ``He sleeps
yonder in the old Jesuit house in the middle.''
Clark turned to Tom McChesney, who was at his elbow.
``Corporal!'' said he, swiftly, ``secure the sentry at the
main gate! You,'' he added, turning to the Pennsylvanian,
``lead us to the governor. But mind, if you
betray me, I'll be the first to blow out your brains.''
The man seized a lantern and made swiftly over the
level ground until the rubble-work of the old Jesuit house
showed in the light, nor Clark nor any of them stopped to
think of the danger our little handful ran at the mercy of
a stranger. The house was silent. We halted, and Clark
threw himself against the rude panels of the door, which
gave to inward blackness. Our men filled the little passage,
and suddenly we found ourselves in a low-ceiled
room in front of a great four-poster bed. And in it,
upright, blinking at the light, were two odd Frenchified
figures in tasselled nightcaps. Astonishment and anger
and fear struggled in the faces of Monsieur de Rocheblave
and his lady. A regard for truth compels me to
admit that it was madame who first found her voice, and
no uncertain one it was.
First came a shriek that might have roused the garrison.
``Villains! Murderers! Outragers of decency!'' she
cried with spirit, pouring a heap of invectives, now in
French, now in English, much to the discomfiture of our
backwoodsmen, who peered at her helplessly.
``Nom du diable!'' cried the commandant, when his lady's
breath was gone, ``what does this mean?''
``It means, sir,'' answered Clark, promptly, ``that you
are my prisoner.''
``And who are you?'' gasped the commandant.
``George Rogers Clark, Colonel in the service of the
Commonwealth of Virginia.'' He held out his hand
restrainingly, for the furious Monsieur Rocheblave made an
attempt to rise. ``You will oblige me by remaining in
bed, sir, for a moment.''
``Coquins! Canailles! Cochons!'' shrieked the lady.
``Madame,'' said Colonel Clark, politely, ``the
necessities of war are often cruel.''
He made a bow, and paying no further attention to
the torrent of her reproaches or the threats of the helpless
commandant, he calmly searched the room with the lantern,
and finally pulled out from under the bed a metal
despatch box. Then he lighted a candle in a brass
candlestick that stood on the simple walnut dresser, and
bowed again to the outraged couple in the four-poster.
``Now, sir,'' he said, ``you may dress. We will retire.''
``Pardieu!'' said the commandant in French, ``a
hundred thousand thanks.''
We had scarcely closed the bedroom door when three
shots were heard.
``The signal!'' exclaimed Clark.
Immediately a pandemonium broke on the silence of the
night that must have struck cold terror in the hearts of
the poor Creoles sleeping in their beds. The war-whoop,
the scalp halloo in the dead of the morning, with the
hideous winding notes of them that reached the bluff beyond
and echoed back, were enough to frighten a man from his
senses. In the intervals, in backwoods French, John Duff
and his companions were heard in terrifying tones crying
out to the habitans to venture out at the peril of their lives.
Within the fort a score of lights flew up and down like
will-o'-the-wisps, and Colonel Clark, standing on the steps
of the governor's house, gave out his orders and despatched
his messengers. Me he sent speeding through the village
to tell Captain Bowman to patrol the outskirts of the
town, that no runner might get through to warn Fort
Chartres and Cohos, as some called Cahokia. None stirred
save the few Indians left in the place, and these were
brought before Clark in the fort, sullen and defiant, and
put in the guard-house there. And Rocheblave, when
he appeared, was no better, and was put back in his house
under guard.
As for the papers in the despatch box, they revealed I
know not what briberies of the savage nations and plans
of the English. But of other papers we found none,
though there must have been more. Madame Rocheblave
was suspected of having hidden some in the inviolable
portions of her dress.
At length the cocks crowing for day proclaimed the
morning, and while yet the blue shadow of the bluff was
on the town, Colonel Clark sallied out of the gate and
walked abroad. Strange it seemed that war had come to
this village, so peaceful and remote. And even stranger
it seemed to me to see these Arcadian homes in the midst
of the fierce wilderness. The little houses with their
sloping roofs and wide porches, the gardens ablaze with
color, the neat palings,--all were a restful sight for our
weary eyes. And now I scarcely knew our commander.
For we had not gone far ere, timidly, a door opened and
a mild-visaged man, in the simple workaday smock that
the French wore, stood, hesitating, on the steps. The odd
thing was that he should have bowed to Clark, who was
dressed no differently from Bowman and Harrod and
Duff; and the man's voice trembled piteously as he spoke.
It needed not John Duff to tell us that he was pleading
for the lives of his family.
``He will sell himself as a slave if your Excellency will
spare them,'' said Duff, translating.
But Clark stared at the man sternly.
``I will tell them my plans at the proper time,'' he said
and when Duff had translated this the man turned and
went silently into his house again, closing the door behind
him. And before we had traversed the village the same
thing had happened many times. We gained the fort
again, I wondering greatly why he had not reassured these
simple people. It was Bowman who asked this question,
he being closer to Clark than any of the other captains.
Clark said nothing then, and began to give out directions
for the day. But presently he called the Captain aside.
``Bowman,'' I heard him say, ``we have one hundred
and fifty men to hold a province bigger than the whole of
France, and filled with treacherous tribes in the King's
pay. I must work out the problem for myself.''
Bowman was silent. Clark, with that touch which made
men love him and die for him, laid his hand on the
Captain's shoulder.
``Have the men called in by detachments,'' he said, ``and
fed. God knows they must be hungry,--and you.''
Suddenly I remembered that he himself had had
nothing. Running around the commandant's house to the
kitchen door, I came unexpectedly upon Swein Poulsson,
who was face to face with the linsey-woolsey-clad figure
of Monsieur Rocheblave's negro cook. The early sun cast
long shadows of them on the ground.
``By tam,'' my friend was saying, ``so I vill eat. I am
choost like an ox for three days, und chew grass. Prairie
grass, is it?''
``Mo pas capab', Michie,'' said the cook, with a terrified
roll of his white eyes.
``Herr Gott!'' cried Swein Poulsson, ``I am red face.
Aber Herr Gott, I thank thee I am not a nigger. Und
my hair is bristles, yes. Davy'' (spying me), ``I thank
Herr Gott it is not vool. Let us in the kitchen go.''
``I am come to get something for the Colonel's
breakfast,'' said I, pushing past the slave, through the open
doorway. Swein Poulsson followed, and here I struck another
contradiction in his strange nature. He helped me light the
fire in the great stone chimney-place, and we soon had a pot
of hominy on the crane, and turning on the spit a piece of
buffalo steak which we found in the larder. Nor did a
mouthful pass his lips until I had sped away with a
steaming portion to find the Colonel. By this time the
men had broken into the storehouse, and the open place
was dotted with their breakfast fires. Clark was standing
alone by the flagstaff, his face careworn. But he
smiled as he saw me coming.
``What's this?'' says he.
``Your breakfast, sir,'' I answered. I set down the
plate and the pot before him and pressed the pewter spoon
into his hand.
``Davy,'' said he.
``Sir?'' said I.
``What did you have for your breakfast?''
My lip trembled, for I was very hungry, and the rich
steam from the hominy was as much as I could stand. Then
the Colonel took me by the arms, as gently as a woman
might, set me down on the ground beside him, and taking
a spoonful of the hominy forced it between my lips. I
was near to fainting at the taste of it. Then he took a
bit himself, and divided the buffalo steak with his own
hands. And when from the camp-fires they perceived the
Colonel and the drummer boy eating together in plain sight
of all, they gave a rousing cheer.
``Swein Poulsson helped get your breakfast, sir, and
would eat nothing either,'' I ventured.
``Davy,'' said Colonel Clark, gravely, ``I hope you will
be younger when you are twenty.''
``I hope I shall be bigger, sir,'' I answered gravely.
Never before had such a day dawned upon Kaskaskia.
With July fierceness the sun beat down upon the village,
but man nor woman nor child stirred from the darkened
houses. What they awaited at the hands of the Long
Knives they knew not,--captivity, torture, death perhaps.
Through the deserted streets stalked a squad of
backwoodsmen headed by John Duff and two American
traders found in the town, who were bestirring themselves
in our behalf, knocking now at this door and anon at that.
``The Colonel bids you come to the fort,'' he said, and
was gone.
The church bell rang with slow, ominous strokes, far
different from its gentle vesper peal of yesterday. Two
companies were drawn up in the sun before the old Jesuit
house, and presently through the gate a procession came,
grave and mournful. The tone of it was sombre in the
white glare, for men had donned their best (as they
thought) for the last time,--cloth of camlet and Cadiz
and Limbourg, white cotton stockings, and brass-buckled
shoes. They came like captives led to execution. But
at their head a figure held our eye,--a figure that spoke
of dignity and courage, of trials borne for others. It was
the village priest in his robes. He had a receding forehead
and a strong, pointed chin; but benevolence was in the
curve of his great nose. I have many times since seen his
type of face in the French prints. He and his flock halted
before our young Colonel, even as the citizens of Calais in
a bygone century must have stood before the English king.
The scene comes back to me. On the one side, not
the warriors of a nation that has made its mark in war,
but peaceful peasants who had sought this place for its
remoteness from persecution, to live and die in harmony
with all mankind. On the other, the sinewy advance
guard of a race that knows not peace, whose goddess of
liberty carries in her hand a sword. The plough might
have been graven on our arms, but always the rifle.
The silence of the trackless wilds reigned while Clark
gazed at them sternly. And when he spoke it was with
the voice of a conqueror, and they listened as the conquered
listen, with heads bowed--all save the priest.
Clark told them first that they had been given a false
and a wicked notion of the American cause, and he spoke
of the tyranny of the English king, which had become
past endurance to a free people. As for ourselves, the
Long Knives, we came in truth to conquer, and because
of their hasty judgment the Kaskaskians were at our
mercy. The British had told them that the Kentuckians
were a barbarous people, and they had believed.
He paused that John Duff might translate and the gist
of what he had said sink in. But suddenly the priest
had stepped out from the ranks, faced his people, and was
himself translating in a strong voice. When he had
finished a tremor shook the group. But he turned calmly
and faced Clark once more.
``Citizens of Kaskaskia,'' Colonel Clark went on, ``the
king whom you renounced when the English conquered
you, the great King of France, has judged for you and the
French people. Knowing that the American cause is just,
he is sending his fleets and regiments to fight for it against
the British King, who until now has been your sovereign.''
Again he paused, and when the priest had told them
this, a murmur of astonishment came from the boldest.
``Citizens of Kaskaskia, know you that the Long Knives
come not to massacre, as you foolishly believed, but to
release from bondage. We are come not against you,
who have been deceived, but against those soldiers of the
British King who have bribed the savages to slaughter
our wives and children. You have but to take the oath
of allegiance to the Continental Congress to become free,
even as we are, to enjoy the blessings of that American
government under which we live and for which we fight.''
The face of the good priest kindled as he glanced at
Clark. He turned once more, and though we could not
understand his words, the thrill of his eloquence moved
us. And when he had finished there was a moment's
hush of inarticulate joy among his flock, and then such
transports as moved strangely the sternest men in our
ranks. The simple people fell to embracing each other
and praising God, the tears running on their cheeks. Out
of the group came an old man. A skullcap rested on his
silvered hair, and he felt the ground uncertainly with his
gold-headed stick.
``Monsieur,'' he said tremulously ``you will pardon an
old man if he show feeling. I am born seventy year ago
in Gascon. I inhabit this country thirty year, and last
night I think I not live any longer. Last night we make
our peace with the good God, and come here to-day to die.
But we know you not,'' he cried, with a sudden and
surprising vigor; ``ha, we know you not! They told us
lies, and we were humble and believed. But now we are
Americains,'' he cried, his voice pitched high, as he pointed
with a trembling arm to the stars and stripes above him.
``Mes enfants, vive les Bostonnais! Vive les Americains!
Vive Monsieur le Colonel Clark, sauveur de Kaskaskia!''
The listening village heard the shout and wondered.
And when it had died down Colonel Clark took the
old Gascon by the hand, and not a man of his but saw
that this was a master-stroke of his genius.
``My friends,'' he said simply, ``I thank you. I would not
force you, and you will have some days to think over the
oath of allegiance to the Republic. Go now to your homes,
and tell those who are awaiting you what I have said. And
if any man of French birth wish to leave this place, he may
go of his own free will, save only three whom I suspect are
not our friends.''
They turned, and in an ecstasy of joy quite pitiful to see
went trooping out of the gate. But scarce could they have
reached the street and we have broken ranks, when we
saw them coming back again, the priest leading them as
before. They drew near to the spot where Clark stood,
talking to the captains, and halted expectantly.
``What is it, my friends?'' asked the Colonel.
The priest came forward and bowed gravely.
``I am Pere Gibault, sir,'' he said, ``cure of Kaskaskia.''
He paused, surveying our commander with a clear eye.
``There is something that still troubles the good citizens.''
``And what is that, sir?'' said Clark.
The priest hesitated.
``If your Excellency will only allow the church to be
opened--'' he ventured.
The group stood wistful, fearful that their boldness had
displeased, expectant of reprimand.
``My good Father,'' said Colonel Clark, ``an American
commander has but one relation to any church. And that
is'' (he added with force) ``to protect it. For all
religions are equal before the Republic.''
The priest gazed at him intently.
``By that answer,'' said he, ``your Excellency has made
for your government loyal citizens in Kaskaskia.''
Then the Colonel stepped up to the priest and took him
likewise by the hand.
``I have arranged for a house in town,'' said he.
``Monsieur Rocheblave has refused to dine with me there. Will
you do me that honor, Father?''
``With all my heart, your Excellency,'' said Father
Gibault. And turning to the people, he translated what the
Colonel had said. Then their cup of happiness was indeed
full, and some ran to Clark and would have thrown their
arms about him had he been a man to embrace. Hurrying
out of the gate, they spread the news like wildfire, and
presently the church bell clanged in tones of unmistakable
``Sure, Davy dear, it puts me in mind of the Saints' day
at home,'' said Terence, as he stood leaning against a picket
fence that bordered the street, ``savin' the presence of the
naygurs and thim red divils wid blankets an' scowls as wud
turrn the milk sour in the pail.''
He had stopped beside two Kaskaskia warriors in scarlet
blankets who stood at the corner, watching with silent
contempt the antics of the French inhabitants. Now and again
one or the other gave a grunt and wrapped his blanket
more tightly about him.
``Umrrhh!'' said Terence. ``Faith, I talk that langwidge
mesilf when I have throuble.'' The warriors stared at
him with what might be called a stoical surprise. ``Umrrh!
Does the holy father praych to ye wid thim wurrds, ye
haythens? Begorra, 'tis a wondher ye wuddent wash
yereselves,'' he added, making a face, ``wid muddy wather
to be had for the askin'.''
We moved on, through such a scene as I have seldom
beheld. The village had donned its best: women in cap
and gown were hurrying hither and thither, some laughing
and some weeping; grown men embraced each other;
children of all colors flung themselves against Terence's
legs,--dark-haired Creoles, little negroes with woolly
pates, and naked Indian lads with bow and arrow. Terence
dashed at them now and then, and they fled screaming
into dooryards to come out again and mimic him when he
had passed, while mothers and fathers and grandfathers
smiled at the good nature in his Irish face. Presently he
looked down at me comically.
``Why wuddent ye be doin' the like, Davy?'' he asked.
``Amusha! 'tis mesilf that wants to run and hop and skip
wid the childher. Ye put me in mind of a wizened old man
that sat all day makin' shoes in Killarney,--all savin' the
fringe he had on his chin.''
``A soldier must be dignified,'' I answered.
``The saints bar that wurrd from hiven,'' said Terence,
trying to pronounce it. ``Come, we'll go to mass, or me
mother will be visitin' me this night.''
We crossed the square and went into the darkened church,
where the candles were burning. It was the first church I
had ever entered, and I heard with awe the voice of the
priest and the fervent responses, but I understood not a
word of what was said. Afterwards Father Gibault
mounted to the pulpit and stood for a moment with his
hand raised above his flock, and then began to speak.
What he told them I have learned since. And this I
know, that when they came out again into the sunlit
square they were Americans. It matters not when they
took the oath.
As we walked back towards the fort we came to a little
house with a flower garden in front of it, and there stood
Colonel Clark himself by the gate. He stopped us with a
motion of his hand.
``Davy,'' said he, ``we are to live here for a while, you
and I. What do you think of our headquarters?'' He
did not wait for me to reply, but continued, ``Can you
suggest any improvement?''
``You will be needing a soldier to be on guard in front,
sir,'' said I.
``Ah,'' said the Colonel, ``McChesney is too valuable a
man. I am sending him with Captain Bowman to take
``Would you have Terence, sir?'' I ventured, while
Terence grinned. Whereupon Colonel Clark sent him to
report to his captain that he was detailed for orderly duty
to the commanding officer. And within half an hour he
was standing guard in the flower garden, making grimaces
at the children in the street. Colonel Clark sat at a
table in the little front room, and while two of Monsieur
Rocheblave's negroes cooked his dinner, he was busy with
a score of visitors, organizing, advising, planning, and
commanding. There were disputes to settle now that
alarm had subsided, and at noon three excitable gentlemen
came in to inform against a certain Monsieur Cerre,
merchant and trader, then absent at St. Louis. When at
length the Colonel had succeeded in bringing their
denunciations to an end and they had departed, he looked at me
comically as I stood in the doorway.
``Davy,'' said he, ``all I ask of the good Lord is that He
will frighten me incontinently for a month before I die.''
``I think He would find that difficult, sir,'' I answered.
``Then there's no hope for me,'' he answered, laughing,
``for I have observed that fright alone brings a man into
a fit spiritual state to enter heaven. What would you
say of those slanderers of Monsieur Cerre?''
Not expecting an answer, he dipped his quill into the
ink-pot and turned to his papers.
``I should say that they owed Monsieur Cerre money,''
I replied.
The Colonel dropped his quill and stared. As for me,
I was puzzled to know why.
``Egad,'' said Colonel Clark, ``most of us get by hard
knocks what you seem to have been born with.'' He fell
to musing, a worried look coming on his face that was no
stranger to me later, and his hand fell heavily on the loose
pile of paper before him. ``Davy,'' says he, ``I need a
``What would that be, sir,'' I asked.
``A John Law, who will make something out of
nothing, who will make money out of this blank paper, who
will wheedle the Creole traders into believing they are
doing us a favor and making their everlasting fortune by
advancing us flour and bacon.''
``And doesn't Congress make money, sir?'' I asked.
``That they do, Davy, by the ton,'' he replied, ``and so
must we, as the rulers of a great province. For mark me,
though the men are happy to-day, in four days they will
be grumbling and trying to desert in dozens.''
We were interrupted by a knock at the door, and there
stood Terence McCann.
``His riverence!'' he announced, and bowed low as the
priest came into the room.
I was bid by Colonel Clark to sit down and dine with
them on the good things which Monsieur Rocheblave's
cook had prepared. After dinner they went into the little
orchard behind the house and sat drinking (in the
French fashion) the commandant's precious coffee which
had been sent to him from far-away New Orleans. Colonel
Clark plied the priest with questions of the French towns
under English rule: and Father Gibault, speaking for his
simple people, said that the English had led them easily
to believe that the Kentuckians were cutthroats.
``Ah, monsieur,'' he said, ``if they but knew you! If
they but knew the principles of that government for which
you fight, they would renounce the English allegiance, and
the whole of this territory would be yours. I know them,
from Quebec to Detroit and Michilimackinac and Saint
Vincennes. Listen, monsieur,'' he cried, his homely face
alight; ``I myself will go to Saint Vincennes for you. I
will tell them the truth, and you shall have the post for
the asking.''
``You will go to Vincennes!'' exclaimed Clark; ``a
hard and dangerous journey of a hundred leagues!''
``Monsieur,'' answered the priest, simply, ``the journey
is nothing. For a century the missionaries of the Church
have walked this wilderness alone with God. Often they
have suffered, and often died in tortures--but gladly.''
Colonel Clark regarded the man intently.
``The cause of liberty, both religious and civil, is our
cause,'' Father Gibault continued. ``Men have died for
it, and will die for it, and it will prosper. Furthermore,
Monsieur, my life has not known many wants. I have
saved something to keep my old age, with which to buy
a little house and an orchard in this peaceful place. The
sum I have is at your service. The good Congress will
repay me. And you need the money.''
Colonel Clark was not an impulsive man, but he felt
none the less deeply, as I know well. His reply to this
generous offer was almost brusque, but it did not deceive
the priest.
``Nay, monsieur,'' he said, ``it is for mankind I give it,
in remembrance of Him who gave everything. And
though I receive nothing in return, I shall have my
reward an hundred fold.''
In due time, I know not how, the talk swung round
again to lightness, for the Colonel loved a good story, and
the priest had many which he told with wit in his quaint
French accent. As he was rising to take his leave, Pere
Gibault put his hand on my head.
``I saw your Excellency's son in the church this
morning,'' he said.
Colonel Clark laughed and gave me a pinch.
``My dear sir,'' he said, ``the boy is old enough to be
my father.''
The priest looked down at me with a puzzled expression
in his brown eyes.
``I would I had him for my son,'' said Colonel Clark,
kindly; ``but the lad is eleven, and I shall not be twentysix
until next November.''
``Your Excellency not twenty-six!'' cried Father
Gibault, in astonishment. ``What will you be when you
are thirty?''
The young Colonel's face clouded.
``God knows!'' he said.
Father Gibault dropped his eyes and turned to me with
native tact.
``What would you like best to do, my son?'' he asked.
``I should like to learn to speak French,'' said I, for I
had been much irritated at not understanding what was
said in the streets.
``And so you shall,'' said Father Gibault; ``I myself
will teach you. You must come to my house to-day.''
``And Davy will teach me,'' said the Colonel.
But I was not immediately to take up the study of
French. Things began to happen in Kaskaskia. In the
first place, Captain Bowman's company, with a few scouts,
of which Tom was one, set out that very afternoon for the
capture of Cohos, or Cahokia, and this despite the fact
that they had had no sleep for two nights. If you will
look at the map,[1] you will see, dotted along the bottoms
and the bluffs beside the great Mississippi, the string
of villages, Kaskaskia, La Prairie du Rocher, Fort
Chartres, St. Philip, and Cahokia. Some few miles from
Cahokia, on the western bank of the Father of Waters,
was the little French village of St. Louis, in the Spanish
territory of Louisiana. From thence eastward stretched
the great waste of prairie and forest inhabited by roving
bands of the forty Indian nations. Then you come to
Vincennes on the Wabash, Fort St. Vincent, the English
and Canadians called it, for there were a few of the
latter who had settled in Kaskaskia since the English
[1] The best map which the editor has found of this district is
in vol. VI, Part 11, of Winsor's ``Narrative and Critical History
of America,'' p. 721.
We gathered on the western skirts of the village to
give Bowman's company a cheer, and every man, woman,
and child in the place watched the little column as it
wound snakelike over the prairie on the road to Fort
Chartres, until it was lost in the cottonwoods to the westward.
Things began to happen in Kaskaskia. It would have
been strange indeed if things had not happened. One
hundred and seventy-five men had marched into that territory
out of which now are carved the great states of Ohio,
Indiana, and Illinois, and to most of them the thing was a
picnic, a jaunt which would soon be finished. Many had
left families in the frontier forts without protection.
The time of their enlistment had almost expired.
There was a store in the village kept by a great citizen,
--not a citizen of Kaskaskia alone, but a citizen of the
world. This, I am aware, sounds like fiction, like an
attempt to get an effect which was not there. But it is
true as gospel. The owner of this store had many others
scattered about in this foreign country: at Vincennes,
at St. Louis, where he resided, at Cahokia. He knew
Michilimackinac and Quebec and New Orleans. He had
been born some thirty-one years before in Sardinia, had
served in the Spanish army, and was still a Spanish
subject. The name of this famous gentleman was Monsieur
Francois Vigo, and he was the Rothschild of the country
north of the Ohio. Monsieur Vigo, though he merited it,
I had not room to mention in the last chapter. Clark
had routed him from his bed on the morning of our arrival,
and whether or not he had been in the secret of frightening
the inhabitants into making their wills, and then
throwing them into transports of joy, I know not.
Monsieur Vigo's store was the village club. It had
neither glass in the window nor an attractive display of
goods; it was merely a log cabin set down on a weedy,
sun-baked plot. The stuffy smell of skins and furs came
out of the doorway. Within, when he was in Kaskaskia,
Monsieur Vigo was wont to sit behind his rough walnut
table, writing with a fine quill, or dispensing the news of
the villages to the priest and other prominent citizens, or
haggling with persistent blanketed braves over canoeloads
of ill-smelling pelts which they brought down from
the green forests of the north. Monsieur Vigo's clothes
were the color of the tobacco he gave in exchange; his
eyes were not unlike the black beads he traded, but
shrewd and kindly withal, set in a square saffron face
that had the contradiction of a small chin. As the days
wore into months, Monsieur Vigo's place very naturally
became the headquarters for our army, if army
it might be called. Of a morning a dozen would be
sitting against the logs in the black shadow, and in the
midst of them always squatted an unsavory Indian squaw.
A few braves usually stood like statues at the corner, and
in front of the door another group of hunting shirts.
Without was the paper money of the Continental Congress,
within the good tafia and tobacco of Monsieur Vigo.
One day Monsieur Vigo's young Creole clerk stood
shrugging his shoulders in the doorway. I stopped.
``By tam!'' Swein Poulsson was crying to the clerk, as
he waved a worthless scrip above his head. ``Vat is
This definition the clerk, not being a Doctor Johnson,
was unable to give offhand.
``Vat are you, choost? Is it America?'' demanded
Poulsson, while the others looked on, some laughing,
some serious. ``And vich citizen are you since you are
ours? You vill please to give me one carrot of tobacco.''
And he thrust the scrip under the clerk's nose.
The clerk stared at the uneven lettering on the scrip
with disdain.
``Money,'' he exclaimed scornfully, ``she is not money.
Piastre--Spanish dollare--then I give you carrot.''
``By God!'' shouted Bill Cowan, ``ye will take
Virginny paper, and Congress paper, or else I reckon we'll
have a drink and tobacey, boys, take or no take.''
``Hooray, Bill, ye're right,'' cried several of our men.
``Lemme in here,'' said Cowan. But the frightened
Creole blocked the doorway.
``Sacre'!'' he screamed, and then, ``Voleurs!''
The excitement drew a number of people from the
neighborhood. Nay, it seemed as if the whole town was
ringed about us.
``Bravo, Jules!'' they cried, ``garde-tu la porte. A bas
les Bostonnais! A bas les voleurs!''
``Damn such monkey talk,'' said Cowan, facing them
suddenly. I knew him well, and when the giant lost his
temper it was gone irrevocably until a fight was over.
``Call a man a squar' name.''
``Hey, Frenchy,'' another of our men put in, stalking
up to the clerk, ``I reckon this here store's ourn, ef we've
a mind to tek it. I 'low you'll give us the rum and the
'bacey. Come on, boys!''
In between him and the clerk leaped a little, robin-like
man with a red waistcoat, beside himself with rage.
Bill Cowan and his friends stared at this diminutive
Frenchman, open-mouthed, as he poured forth a veritable
torrent of unintelligible words, plentifully mixed with
sacres, which he ripped out like snarls. I would as soon
have touched him as a ball of angry bees or a pair of
fighting wildcats. Not so Bill Cowan. When that worthy
recovered from his first surprise he seized hold of
some of the man's twisting arms and legs and lifted him
bodily from the ground, as he would have taken a perverse
and struggling child. There was no question of a
fight. Cowan picked him up, I say, and before any one
knew what happened, he flung him on to the hot roof of
the store (the eaves were but two feet above his head),
and there the man stuck, clinging to a loose shingle,
purpling and coughing and spitting with rage. There was a
loud gust of guffaws from the woodsmen, and oaths like
whip-cracks from the circle around us, menacing growls
as it surged inward and our men turned to face it. A
few citizens pushed through the outskirts of it and ran
away, and in the hush that followed we heard them
calling wildly the names of Father Gibault and Clark and
of Vigo himself. Cowan thrust me past the clerk into the
store, where I stood listening to the little man on the
roof, scratching and clutching at the shingles, and
coughing still.
But there was no fight. Shouts of ``Monsieur Vigo!
Voici Monsieur Vigo!'' were heard, the crowd parted
respectfully, and Monsieur Vigo in his snuff-colored suit
stood glancing from Cowan to his pallid clerk. He was
not in the least excited.
``Come in, my frens,'' he said; ``it is too hot in the
sun.'' And he set the example by stepping over the sill
on to the hard-baked earth of the floor within. Then he
spied me. ``Ah,'' he said, ``the boy of Monsieur le
Colonel! And how are you called, my son?'' he added,
patting me kindly.
``Davy, sir,'' I answered.
``Ha,'' he said, ``and a brave soldier, no doubt.''
I was flattered as well as astonished by this attention.
But Monsieur Vigo knew men, and he had given them
time to turn around. By this time Bill Cowan and some
of my friends had stooped through the doorway, followed
by a prying Kaskaskian brave and as many Creoles as
could crowd behind them. Monsieur Vigo was surprisingly calm.
``It make hot weather, my frens,'' said he. ``How can
I serve you, messieurs?''
``Hain't the Congress got authority here?'' said one.
``I am happy to say,'' answered Monsieur Vigo, rubbing
his hands, ``for I think much of your principle.''
``Then,'' said the man, ``we come here to trade with
Congress money. Hain't that money good in Kaskasky?''
There was an anxious pause. Then Monsieur Vigo's
eyes twinkled, and he looked at me.
``And what you say, Davy?'' he asked.
``The money would be good if you took it, sir,'' I said,
not knowing what else to answer.
``Sapristi!'' exclaimed Monsieur Vigo, looking hard at
me. ``Who teach you that?''
``No one, sir,'' said I, staring in my turn.
``And if Congress lose, and not pay, where am I, mon
petit maitre de la haute finance?'' demanded Monsieur
Vigo, with the palms of his hands outward.
``You will be in good company, sir,'' said I.
At that he threw back his head and laughed, and Bill
Cowan and my friends laughed with him.
``Good company--c'est la plupart de la vie,'' said
Monsieur Vigo. ``Et quel garcon--what a boy it is!''
``I never seed his beat fer wisdom, Mister Vigo,'' said
Bill Cowan, now in good humor once more at the prospect
of rum and tobacco. And I found out later that he and
the others had actually given to me the credit of this
coup. ``He never failed us yet. Hain't that truth, boys?
Hain't we a-goin' on to St. Vincent because he seen the
Ha'r Buyer sculped on the Ohio?''
The rest assented so heartily but withal so gravely,
that I am between laughter and tears over the remembrance of it.
``At noon you come back,'' said Monsieur Vigo. ``I
think till then about rate of exchange, and talk with your
Colonel. Davy, you stay here.''
I remained, while the others filed out, and at length I
was alone with him and Jules, his clerk.
``Davy, how you like to be trader?'' asked Monsieur
It was a new thought to me, and I turned it over in my
mind. To see the strange places of the world, and the
stranger people; to become a man of wealth and influence
such as Monsieur Vigo; and (I fear I loved it best) to
match my brains with others at a bargain,--I turned it
all over slowly, gravely, in my boyish mind, rubbing the
hard dirt on the floor with the toe of my moccasin. And
suddenly the thought came to me that I was a traitor to
my friends, a deserter from the little army that loved me
so well.
``Eh bien?'' said Monsieur Vigo.
I shook my head, but in spite of me I felt the tears
welling into my eyes and brushed them away shamefully.
At such times of stress some of my paternal Scotch crept
into my speech.
``I will no be leaving Colonel Clark and the boys,'' I
cried, ``not for all the money in the world.''
``Congress money?'' said Monsieur Vigo, with a queer
It was then I laughed through my tears, and that
cemented the friendship between us. It was a lifelong
friendship, though I little suspected it then.
In the days that followed he never met me on the street
that he did not stop to pass the time of day, and ask me
if I had changed my mind. He came every morning to
headquarters, where he and Colonel Clark sat by the
hour with brows knit. Monsieur Vigo was as good as
his word, and took the Congress money, though not at
such a value as many would have had him. I have often
thought that we were all children then, and knew nothing
of the ingratitude of republics. Monsieur Vigo took the
money, and was all his life many, many thousand dollars
the poorer. Father Gibault advanced his little store, and
lived to feel the pangs of want. And Colonel Clark?
But I must not go beyond the troubles of that summer,
and the problems that vexed our commander. One night
I missed him from the room where we slept, and walking
into the orchard found him pacing there, where the moon
cast filmy shadows on the grass. By day as he went
around among the men his brow was unclouded, though
his face was stern. But now I surprised the man so
strangely moved that I yearned to comfort him. He had
taken three turns before he perceived me.
``Davy,'' he said, ``what are you doing here?''
``I missed you, sir,'' I answered, staring at the furrows
in his face.
``Come!'' he said almost roughly, and seizing my hand,
led me back and forth swiftly through the wet grass for I
know not how long. The moon dipped to the uneven
line of the ridge-pole and slipped behind the stone
chimney. All at once he stopped, dropped my hand, and
smote both of his together.
``I WILL hold on, by the eternal!'' he cried. ``I will let
no American read his history and say that I abandoned
this land. Let them desert! If ten men be found who
will stay, I will hold the place for the Republic.''
``Will not Virginia and the Congress send you men,
sir?'' I asked wonderingly.
He laughed a laugh that was all bitterness.
``Virginia and the Continental Congress know little
and care less about me,'' he answered. ``Some day you
will learn that foresight sometimes comes to men, but
never to assemblies. But it is often given to one man to
work out the salvation of a people, and be destroyed for
it. Davy, we have been up too long.''
At the morning parade, from my wonted place at the
end of the line, I watched him with astonishment, reviewing
the troops as usual. For the very first day I had
crossed the river with Terence, climbed the heights to the
old fort, and returned with my drum. But no sooner had
I beaten the retreat than the men gathered here and there
in groups that smouldered with mutiny, and I noted that
some of the officers were amongst these. Once in a while
a sentence like a flaming brand was flung out. Their time
was up, their wives and children for all they knew sculped
by the red varmints, and, by the etarnal, Clark or no man
living could keep them.
``Hi,'' said one, as I passed, ``here's Davy with his
drum. He'll be leadin' us back to Kaintuck in the
``Ay, ay,'' cried another man in the group, ``I reckon
he's had his full of tyranny, too.''
I stopped, my face blazing red.
``Shame on you for those words!'' I shouted shrilly.
``Shame on you, you fools, to desert the man who would
save your wives and children. How are the redskins to
be beaten if they are not cowed in their own country?''
For I had learned much at headquarters.
They stood silent, astonished, no doubt, at the sight of
my small figure a-tremble with anger. I heard Bill
Cowan's voice behind me.
``There's truth for ye,'' he said, ``that will slink home
when a thing's half done.''
``Ye needn't talk, Bill Cowan; it's well enough for ye.
I reckon your wife'd scare any redskin off her clearin'.''
``Many the time she scart me,'' said Bill Cowan.
And so the matter went by with a laugh. But the
grumbling continued, and the danger was that the French
would learn of it. The day passed, yet the embers blazed
not into the flame of open mutiny. But he who has seen
service knows how ominous is the gathering of men here
and there, the low humming talk, the silence when a
dissenter passes. There were fights, too, that had to be
quelled by company captains, and no man knew when the
loud quarrel between the two races at Vigo's store would
grow into an ugly battle.
What did Clark intend to do? This was the question
that hung in the minds of mutineer and faithful alike.
They knew the desperation of his case. Without money,
save that which the generous Creoles had advanced upon
his personal credit; without apparent resources; without
authority, save that which the weight of his character
exerted,--how could he prevent desertion? They eyed him
as he went from place to place about his business,--erect,
thoughtful, undisturbed. Few men dare to set their will
against a multitude when there are no fruits to be won.
Columbus persisted, and found a new world; Clark persisted,
and won an empire for thoughtless generations to
That night he slept not at all, but sat, while the candles
flickered in their sockets, poring over maps and papers.
I dared not disturb him, but lay the darkness through
with staring eyes. And when the windows on the orchard
side showed a gray square of light, he flung down the
parchment he was reading on the table. It rolled up of
itself, and he pushed back his chair. I heard him call my
name, and leaping out of bed, I stood before him.
``You sleep lightly, Davy,'' he said, I think to try me.
I did not answer, fearing to tell him that I had been
awake watching him.
``I have one friend, at least,'' said the Colonel.
``You have many, sir,'' I answered, ``as you will find
when the time comes.''
``The time has come,'' said he; ``to-day I shall be able to
count them. Davy, I want you to do something for me.''
``Now, sir?'' I answered, overjoyed.
``As soon as the sun strikes that orchard,'' he said,
pointing out of the window. ``You have learned how to
keep things to yourself. Now I want you to impart them
to others. Go out, and tell the village that I am going
``That you are going away, sir?'' I repeated.
``That I am going away,'' he said, ``with my army,
(save the mark!), with my army and my drummer boy
and my paper money. Such is my faith in the loyalty of
the good people of these villages to the American cause,
that I can safely leave the flag flying over their heads
with the assurance that they will protect it.''
I stared at him doubtfully, for at times a pleasantry
came out of his bitterness.
``Ay,'' he said, ``go! Have you any love for me?''
``I have, sir,'' I answered.
``By the Lord, I believe you,'' he said, and picking up
my small hunting shirt, he flung it at me. ``Put it on,
and go when the sun rises.''
As the first shaft of light over the bluff revealed the
diamonds in the orchard grass I went out, wondering.
SUSPECTING would be a better word for the nature I had
inherited. But I had my orders. Terence was pacing
the garden, his leggings turned black with the dew. I
looked at him. Here was a vessel to disseminate.
``Terence, the Colonel is going back to Virginia with
the army.''
``Him!'' cried Terence, dropping the stock of his
Deckard to the ground. ``And back to Kaintuckee!
Arrah, 'tis a sin to be jokin' before a man has a bit in his
sthummick. Bad cess to yere plisantry before breakfast.''
``I'm telling you what the Colonel himself told me,'' I
answered, and ran on. ``Davy, darlin'!'' I heard him
calling after me as I turned the corner, but I looked not
There was a single sound in the street. A thin,
bronzed Indian lad squatted against the pickets with his
fingers on a reed, his cheeks distended. He broke off
with a wild, mournful note to stare at me. A wisp of
smoke stole from a stone chimney, and the smell that
corn-pone and bacon leave was in the air. A bolt was
slammed back, a door creaked and stuck, was flung open,
and with a ``Va t'en, mechant!'' a cotton-clad urchin was
cast out of the house, and fled into the dusty street.
Breathing the morning air in the doorway, stood a young
woman in a cotton gown, a saucepan in hand. She had
inquisitive eyes, a pointed, prying nose, and I knew her to
be the village gossip, the wife of Jules, Monsieur Vigo's
clerk. She had the same smattering of English as her
husband. Now she stood regarding me narrowly between
half-closed lids.
``A la bonne heure! Que fais-tu donc? What do you do
so early?''
``The garrison is getting ready to leave for Kentucky
to-day,'' I answered.
``Ha! Jules! Ecoute-toi! Nom de dieu! Is it true what
you say?''
The visage of Jules, surmounted by a nightcap and
heavy with sleep, appeared behind her.
``Ha, e'est Daveed!'' he said. ``What news have you?''
I repeated, whereupon they both began to lament.
``And why is it?'' persisted Jules.
``He has such faith in the loyalty of the Kaskaskians,''
I answered, parrot-like.
``Diable!'' cried Jules, ``we shall perish. We shall be
as the Acadians. And loyalty--she will not save us, no.''
Other doors creaked. Other inhabitants came in varied
costumes into the street to hear the news, lamenting. If
Clark left, the day of judgment was at hand for them,
that was certain. Between the savage and the Briton
not one stone would be left standing on another. Madame
Jules forgot her breakfast, and fled up the street with the
tidings. And then I made my way to the fort, where the
men were gathering about the camp-fires, talking excitedly.
Terence, relieved from duty, had done the work here.
``And he as little as a fox, wid all that in him,'' he
cried, when he perceived me walking demurely past the
sentry. ``Davy, dear, come here an' tell the b'ys am I a
``Davy's monstrous cute,'' said Bill Cowan; ``I reckon
he knows as well as me the Colonel hain't a-goin' to do no
such tomfool thing as leave.''
``He is,'' I cried, for the benefit of some others, ``he's
fair sick of grumblers that haven't got the grit to stand
by him in trouble.''
``By the Lord!'' said Bill Cowan, ``and I'll not blame
him.'' He turned fiercely, his face reddening. ``Shame
on ye all yere lives,'' he shouted. ``Ye're making the
best man that ever led a regiment take the back trail.
Ye'll fetch back to Kaintuck, and draw every redskin in
the north woods suckin' after ye like leaves in a harricane
wind. There hain't a man of ye has the pluck of
this little shaver that beats the drum. I wish to God
McChesney was here.''
He turned away to cross the parade ground, followed
by the faithful Terence and myself. Others gathered
about him: McAndrew, who, for all his sourness, was
true; Swein Poulsson, who would have died for the
Colonel; John Duff, and some twenty more, including
Saunders, whose affection had not been killed, though
Clark had nearly hanged him among the prairies.
``Begob!'' said Terence, ``Davy has inflooence wid his
Excellency. It's Davy we'll sind, prayin' him not to
lave the Frinch alone wid their loyalty.''
It was agreed, and I was to repeat the name of every
man that sent me.
Departing on this embassy, I sped out of the gates of
the fort. But, as I approached the little house where
Clark lived, the humming of a crowd came to my ears,
and I saw with astonishment that the street was blocked.
It appeared that the whole of the inhabitants of Kaskaskia
were packed in front of the place. Wriggling my
way through the people, I had barely reached the gate
when I saw Monsieur Vigo and the priest, three Creole
gentlemen in uniform, and several others coming out of
the door. They stopped, and Monsieur Vigo, raising his
hand for silence, made a speech in French to the people.
What he said I could not understand, and when he had
finished they broke up into groups, and many of them
departed. Before I could gain the house, Colonel Clark
himself came out with Captain Helm and Captain Harrod.
The Colonel glanced at me and smiled.
``Parade, Davy,'' he said, and walked on.
I ran back to the fort, and when I had gotten my drum
the three companies were falling into line, the men
murmuring in undertones among themselves. They were
brought to attention. Colonel Clark was seen to come
out of the commandant's house, and we watched him
furtively as he walked slowly to his place in front of the
line. A tremor of excitement went from sergeant to
drummer boy. The sentries closed the big gates of the
The Colonel stood for a full minute surveying us
calmly,--a disquieting way he had when matters were at
a crisis. Then he began to talk.
``I have heard from many sources that you are dissatisfied,
that you wish to go back to Kentucky. If that be so,
I say to you, `Go, and God be with you.' I will hinder
no man. We have taken a brave and generous people
into the fold of the Republic, and they have shown their
patriotism by giving us freely of their money and stores.''
He raised his voice. ``They have given the last proof of
that patriotism this day. Yes, they have come to me and
offered to take your places, to finish the campaign which
you have so well begun and wish to abandon. To-day I
shall enroll their militia under the flag for which you
have fought.''
When he had ceased speaking a murmur ran through
the ranks.
``But if there be any,'' he said, ``who have faith in me
and in the cause for which we have come here, who have
the perseverance and the courage to remain, I will reenlist
them. The rest of you shall march for Kentucky,''
he cried, ``as soon as Captain Bowman's company can be
relieved at Cahokia. The regiment is dismissed.''
For a moment they remained in ranks, as though
stupefied. It was Cowan who stepped out first, snatched
his coonskin hat from his head, and waved it in the air.
``Huzzay for Colonel Clark!'' he roared. "I'll foller
him into Canady, and stand up to my lick log.''
They surrounded Bill Cowan, not the twenty which
had flocked to him in the morning, but four times twenty,
and they marched in a body to the commandant's house
to be reenlisted. The Colonel stood by the door, and
there came a light in his eyes as he regarded us. They
cheered him again.
``Thank you, lads,'' he said; ``remember, we may have
to whistle for our pay.''
``Damn the pay! " cried Bill Cowan, and we echoed the
``We'll see what can be done about land grants,'' said
the Colonel, and he turned away.
At dusk that evening I sat on the back door-step, by the
orchard, cleaning his rifle. The sound of steps came from
the little passage behind me, and a hand was on my head.
``Davee,'' said a voice (it was Monsieur Vigo's), ``do
you know what is un coup d'e'tat?''
``No, sir.''
``Ha! You execute one to-day. Is it not so, Monsieur
le Colonel?''
``I reckon he was in the secret,'' said Colonel Clark.
``Did you think I meant to leave Kaskaskia, Davy?''
``No, sir.''
``He is not so easy fool,'' Monsieur Vigo put in. ``He
tell me paper money good if I take it. C'est la haute
Colonel Clark laughed.
``And why didn't you think I meant to leave?'' said
``Because you bade me go out and tell everybody,'' I
answered. ``What you really mean to do you tell no
``Nom du bon Dieu!'' exclaimed Monsieur Vigo.
Yesterday Colonel Clark had stood alone, the enterprise
for which he had risked all on the verge of failure.
By a master-stroke his ranks were repleted, his position
recovered, his authority secured once more.
Few men recognize genius when they see it. Monsieur
Vigo was not one of these.
I should make but a poor historian, for I have not
stuck to my chronology. But as I write, the vivid
recollections are those that I set down. I have forgotten two
things of great importance. First, the departure of
Father Gibault with several Creole gentlemen and a spy
of Colonel Clark's for Vincennes, and their triumphant
return in August. The sacrifice of the good priest had
not been in vain, and he came back with the joyous news
of a peaceful conquest. The stars and stripes now waved
over the fort, and the French themselves had put it there.
And the vast stretch of country from that place westward
to the Father of Waters was now American.
And that brings me to the second oversight. The
surprise and conquest of Cahokia by Bowman and his men
was like that of Kaskaskia. And the French there were
loyal, too, offering their militia for service in the place
of those men of Bowman's company who would not
reenlist. These came to Kaskaskia to join our home-goers,
and no sooner had the hundred marched out of the gate
and taken up their way for Kentucky than Colonel Clark
began the drilling of the new troops.
Captain Leonard Helm was sent to take charge of
Vincennes, and Captain Montgomery set out across the
mountains for Williamsburg with letters praying the
governor of Virginia to come to our assistance.
For another cloud had risen in the horizon: another
problem for Clark to face of greater portent than all the
others. A messenger from Captain Bowman at Cohos
came riding down the street on a scraggly French pony,
and pulled up before headquarters. The messenger was
Sergeant Thomas McChesney, and his long legs almost
reached the ground on either side of the little beast.
Leaping from the saddle, he seized me in his arms, set me
down, and bade me tell Colonel Clark of his arrival.
It was a sultry August morning. Within the hour
Colonel Clark and Tom and myself were riding over the
dusty trace that wound westward across the common lands
of the village, which was known as the Fort Chartres
road. The heat-haze shimmered in the distance, and
there was no sound in plain or village save the tinkle of a
cowbell from the clumps of shade. Colonel Clark rode
twenty paces in front, alone, his head bowed with thinking.
``They're coming into Cahokia as thick as bees out'n
a gum, Davy,'' said Tom; ``seems like there's thousands of
'em. Nothin' will do 'em but they must see the Colonel,--
the varmints. And they've got patience, they'll wait
thar till the b'ars git fat. I reckon they 'low Clark's
got the armies of Congress behind him. If they knowed,''
said Tom, with a chuckle, ``if they knowed that we'd only
got seventy of the boys and some hundred Frenchies in
the army! I reckon the Colonel's too cute for 'em.''
The savages in Cahokia were as the leaves of the forest.
Curiosity, that mainspring of the Indian character, had
brought the chiefs, big and little, to see with their own
eyes the great Captain of the Long Knives. In vain had
the faithful Bowman put them off. They would wait.
Clark must come. And Clark was coming, for he was
not the man to quail at such a crisis. For the crux of
the whole matter was here. And if he failed to impress
them with his power, with the might of the Congress for
which he fought, no man of his would ever see Kentucky
As we rode through the bottom under the pecan trees
we talked of Polly Ann, Tom and I, and of our little home
by the Salt River far to the southward, where we would
live in peace when the campaign was over. Tom had
written her, painfully enough, an affectionate scrawl,
which he sent by one of Captain Linn's men. And I, too,
had written. My letter had been about Tom, and how
he had become a sergeant, and what a favorite he was
with Bowman and the Colonel. Poor Polly Ann! She
could not write, but a runner from Harrodstown who was
a friend of Tom's had carried all the way to Cahokia, in
the pocket with his despatches, a fold of nettle-bark linen.
Tom pulled it from the bosom of his hunting shirt to
show me, and in it was a little ring of hair like unto the
finest spun red-gold. This was the message Polly Ann had
sent,--a message from little Tom as well.
At Prairie du Rocher, at St. Philippe, the inhabitants
lined the streets to do homage to this man of strange
power who rode, unattended and unafraid, to the council
of the savage tribes which had terrorized his people of
Kentucky. From the ramparts of Fort Chartres (once
one of the mighty chain of strongholds to protect a new
France, and now deserted like Massacre), I gazed for the
first time in awe at the turgid flood of the Mississippi, and
at the lands of the Spanish king beyond. With never
ceasing fury the river tore at his clay banks and worried
the green islands that braved his charge. And my
boyish fancy pictured to itself the monsters which might
lie hidden in his muddy depths.
We lay that night in the open at a spring on the bluffs,
and the next morning beheld the church tower of Cahokia.
A little way from the town we perceived an odd gathering
on the road, the yellowed and weathered hunting shirts
of Bowman's company mixed with the motley dress of the
Creole volunteers. Some of these gentlemen wore the costume
of coureurs du bois, others had odd regimental coats and
hats which had seen much service. Besides the military
was a sober deputation of citizens, and hovering behind
the whole a horde of curious, blanketed braves, come to
get a first glimpse of the great white captain. So escorted,
we crossed at the mill, came to a shady street that faced the
little river, and stopped at the stone house where Colonel
Clark was to abide.
On that day, and for many days more, that street was
thronged with warriors. Chiefs in gala dress strutted up
and down, feathered and plumed and blanketed, smeared
with paint, bedecked with rude jewellery,--earrings and
bracelets. From the remote forests of the north they had
come, where the cold winds blow off the blue lakes; from
the prairies to the east; from the upper running waters,
where the Mississippi flows clear and undefiled by the
muddy flood; from the villages and wigwams of the sluggish
Wabash; and from the sandy, piny country between
the great northern seas where Michilimackinac stands
guard alone,--Sacs and Foxes, Chippeways and Maumies
and Missesogies, Puans and Pottawattomies, chiefs and
medicine men.
Well might the sleep of the good citizens be disturbed,
and the women fear to venture to the creek with their
linen and their paddles!
The lives of these people hung in truth upon a slender
thing--the bearing of one man. All day long the great
chiefs sought an audience with him, but he sent them word
that matters would be settled in the council that was to
come. All day long the warriors lined the picket fence in
front of the house, and more than once Tom McChesney
roughly shouldered a lane through them that timid visitors
might pass. Like a pack of wolves, they watched narrowly
for any sign of weakness. As for Tom, they were to him
as so many dogs.
``Ye varmints!'' he cried, ``I'll take a blizz'rd at ye if
ye don't keep the way clear.''
At that they would give back grudgingly with a chorus
of grunts, only to close in again as tightly as before. But
they came to have a wholesome regard for the sun-browned
man with the red hair who guarded the Colonel's privacy.
The boy who sat on the door-step, the son of the great Pale
Face Chief (as they called me), was a never ending source
of comment among them. Once Colonel Clark sent for
me. The little front room of this house was not unlike
the one we had occupied at Kaskaskia. It had bare walls,
a plain table and chairs, and a crucifix in the corner. It
served as dining room, parlor, bedroom, for there was a
pallet too. Now the table was covered with parchments
and papers, and beside Colonel Clark sat a grave gentleman
of about his own age. As I came into the room
Colonel Clark relaxed, turned toward this gentleman, and
``Monsieur Gratiot, behold my commissary-general, my
strategist, my financier.'' And Monsieur Gratiot smiled.
He struck me as a man who never let himself go sufficiently
to laugh.
``Ah,'' he said, ``Vigo has told me how he settled the
question of paper money. He might do something for the
Congress in the East.''
``Davy is a Scotchman, like John Law,'' said the Colonel,
``and he is a master at perceiving a man's character and
``What would you call me, at a venture, Davy?'' asked
Monsieur Gratiot.
He spoke excellent English, with only a slight accent.
``A citizen of the world, like Monsieur Vigo,'' I answered
at a hazard.
``Pardieu!'' said Monsieur Gratiot, ``you are not far
away. Like Monsieur Vigo I keep a store here at Cahokia.
Like Monsieur Vigo, I have travelled much in my day. Do
you know where Switzerland is, Davy?''
I did not.
``It is a country set like a cluster of jewels in the heart
of Europe,'' said Monsieur Gratiot, ``and there are mountains
there that rise among the clouds and are covered with
perpetual snows. And when the sun sets on those snows
they are rubies, and the skies above them sapphire.''
``I was born amongst the mountains, sir,'' I answered,
my pulse quickening at his description, ``but they were
not so high as those you speak of.''
``Then,'' said Monsieur Gratiot, ``you can understand
a little my sorrow as a lad when I left it. From
Switzerland I went to a foggy place called London, and
thence I crossed the ocean to the solemn forests of the
north of Canada, where I was many years, learning the
characters of these gentlemen who are looking in upon us.''
And he waved his arm at the line of peering red faces by
the pickets. Monsieur Gratiot smiled at Clark. ``And
there's another point of resemblance between myself and
Monsieur Vigo.''
``Have you taken the paper money?'' I demanded.
Monsieur Gratiot slapped his linen breeches. ``That I
have,'' and this time I thought he was going to laugh.
But he did not, though his eyes sparkled. ``And do
you think that the good Congress will ever repay me,
``No, sir,'' said I.
``Peste!'' exclaimed Monsieur Gratiot, but he did not
seem to be offended or shaken.
``Davy,'' said Colonel Clark, ``we have had enough of
predictions for the present. Fetch this letter to Captain
Bowman at the garrison up the street.'' He handed me
the letter. ``Are you afraid of the Indians?''
``If I were, sir, I would not show it,'' I said, for he had
encouraged me to talk freely to him.
``Avast!'' cried the Colonel, as I was going out. ``And
why not?''
``If I show that I am not afraid of them, sir, they will
think that you are the less so.''
``There you are for strategy, Gratiot,'' said Colonel
Clark, laughing. ``Get out, you rascal.''
Tom was more concerned when I appeared.
``Don't pester 'em, Davy,'' said he; ``fer God's sake don't
pester 'em. They're spoilin' fer a fight. Stand back thar,
ye critters,'' he shouted, brandishing his rifle in their faces.
``Ugh, I reckon it wouldn't take a horse or a dog to scent
ye to-day. Rank b'ar's oil! Kite along, Davy.''
Clutching the letter tightly, I slipped between the
narrowed ranks, and gained the middle of the street, not
without a quickened beat of my heart. Thence I sped, dodging
this group and that, until I came to the long log house
that was called the garrison. Here our men were stationed,
where formerly a squad from an English regiment was
quartered. I found Captain Bowman, delivered the letter,
and started back again through the brown, dusty
street, which lay in the shade of the great forest trees that
still lined it, doubling now and again to avoid an idling
brave that looked bent upon mischief. For a single
mischance might set the tide running to massacre.
I was nearing the gate again, the dust flying from my
moccasined feet, the sight of the stalwart Tom giving me
courage again. Suddenly, with the deftness of a panther,
an Indian shot forward and lifted me high in his arms.
To this day I recall my terror as I dangled in mid-air,
staring into a hideous face. By intuition I kicked him in the
stomach with all my might, and with a howl of surprise
and rage his fingers gripped into my flesh. The next
thing I remember was being in the dust, suffocated by that
odor which he who has known it can never forget. A
medley of discordant cries was in my ears. Then I was
snatched up, bumped against heads and shoulders, and
deposited somewhere. Now it was Tom's face that was
close to mine, and the light of a fierce anger was in his
blue eyes.
``Did they hurt ye, Davy?'' he asked.
I shook my head. Before I could speak he was at the
gate again, confronting the mob of savages that swayed
against the fence, and the street was filled with running
figures. A voice of command that I knew well came from
behind me. It was Colonel Clark's.
``Stay where you are, McChesney!'' he shouted, and
Tom halted with his hand on the latch.
``With your permission, I will speak to them,'' said
Monsieur Gratiot, who had come out also.
I looked up at him, and he was as calm as when he had
joked with me a quarter of an hour since.
``Very well,'' said Clark, briefly.
Monsieur Gratiot surveyed them scornfully.
``Where is the Hungry Wolf, who speaks English?'' he said.
There was a stir in the rear ranks, and a lean savage
with abnormal cheek bones pushed forward.
``Hungry Wolf here,'' he said with a grunt.
``The Hungry Wolf knew the French trader at
Michilimackinac,'' said Monsieur Gratiot. ``He knows that the
French trader's word is a true word. Let the Hungry
Wolf tell his companions that the Chief of the Long Knives
is very angry.''
The Hungry Wolf turned, and began to speak. His
words, hoarse and resonant, seemed to come from the
depths of his body. Presently he paused, and there came
an answer from the fiend who had seized me. After that
there were many grunts, and the Hungry Wolf turned again.
``The North Wind mean no harm,'' he answered. ``He
play with the son of the Great White Chief, and his belly
is very sore where the Chief's son kicked him.''
``The Chief of the Long Knives will consider the
offence,'' said Monsieur Gratiot, and retired into the house
with Colonel Clark. For a full five minutes the Indians
waited, impassive. And then Monsieur Gratiot reappeared,
``The Chief of the Long Knives is mercifully inclined to
forgive,'' he said. ``It was in play. But there must be no
more play with the Chief's son. And the path to the
Great Chief's presence must be kept clear.''
Again the Hungry Wolf translated. The North Wind
grunted and departed in silence, followed by many of his
friends. And indeed for a while after that the others kept
a passage clear to the gate.
As for the son of the Great White Chief, he sat for a
long time that afternoon beside the truck patch of the
house. And presently he slipped out by a byway into the
street again, among the savages. His heart was bumping
in his throat, but a boyish reasoning told him that he must
show no fear. And that day he found what his Colonel
had long since learned to be true that in courage is the
greater safety. The power of the Great White Chief was
such that he allowed his son to go forth alone, and feared
not for his life. Even so Clark himself walked among
them, nor looked to right or left.
Two nights Colonel Clark sat through, calling now on
this man and now on that, and conning the treaties which
the English had made with the various tribes--ay, and
French and Spanish treaties too--until he knew them all
by heart. There was no haste in what he did, no
uneasiness in his manner. He listened to the advice of Monsieur
Gratiot and other Creole gentlemen of weight, to the
Spanish officers who came in their regimentals from St. Louis
out of curiosity to see how this man would treat with the
tribes. For he spoke of his intentions to none of them,
and gained the more respect by it. Within the week the
council began; and the scene of the great drama was a
field near the village, the background of forest trees. Few
plays on the world's stage have held such suspense, few
battles such excitement for those who watched. Here was the
spectacle of one strong man's brain pitted against the
combined craft of the wilderness. In the midst of a stretch
of waving grass was a table, and a young man of six-andtwenty
sat there alone. Around him were ringed the
gathered tribes, each chief in the order of his importance
squatted in the inner circle, their blankets making patches
of bright color against the green. Behind the tribes was
the little group of hunting shirts, the men leaning on the
barrels of their long rifles, indolent but watchful. Here
and there a gay uniform of a Spanish or Creole officer, and
behind these all the population of the village that dared to
show itself.
The ceremonies began with the kindling of the council
fire,--a rite handed down through unknown centuries of
Indian usage. By it nations had been made and unmade,
broad lands passed, even as they now might pass. The
yellow of its crackling flames was shamed by the summer
sun, and the black smoke of it was wafted by the south
wind over the forest. Then for three days the chiefs
spoke, and a man listened, unmoved. The sound of these
orations, wild and fearful to my boyish ear, comes back
to me now. Yet there was a cadence in it, a music of
notes now falling, now rising to a passion and intensity
that thrilled us.
Bad birds flying through the land (the British agents)
had besought them to take up the bloody hatchet. They
had sinned. They had listened to the lies which the bad
birds had told of the Big Knives, they had taken their
presents. But now the Great Spirit in His wisdom had
brought themselves and the Chief of the Big Knives together.
Therefore (suiting the action to the word) they
stamped on the bloody belt, and rent in pieces the emblems
of the White King across the water. So said the
interpreters, as the chiefs one after another tore the
miniature British flags which had been given them into bits.
On the evening of the third day the White Chief rose in
his chair, gazing haughtily about him. There was a deep
``Tell your chiefs,'' he said, ``tell your chiefs that
to-morrow I will give them an answer. And upon the manner
in which they receive that answer depends the fate of
your nations. Good night.''
They rose and, thronging around him, sought to take
his hand. But Clark turned from them.
``Peace is not yet come,'' he said sternly. ``It is time
to take the hand when the heart is given with it.''
A feathered headsman of one of the tribes gave back
with dignity and spoke.
``It is well said by the Great Chief of the Pale Faces,''
he answered; ``these in truth are not the words of a man
with a double tongue.''
So they sought their quarters for the night, and
suspense hung breathless over the village.
There were many callers at the stone house that
evening,--Spanish officers, Creole gentlemen, an English
Canadian trader or two. With my elbow on the sill of
the open window I watched them awhile, listening with a
boy's eagerness to what they had to say of the day's doings.
They disputed amongst themselves in various degrees
of English as to the manner of treating the red man,--
now gesticulating, now threatening, now seizing a rolled
parchment treaty from the table. Clark sat alone, a little
apart, silent save a word now and then in a low tone to
Monsieur Gratiot or Captain Bowman. Here was an odd
assortment of the races which had overrun the new world.
At intervals some disputant would pause in his talk to
kill a mosquito or fight away a moth or a June-bug, but
presently the argument reached such a pitch that the
mosquitoes fed undisturbed.
``You have done much, sir,'' said the Spanish
commandant of St. Louis, ``but the savage, he will never be
content without present. He will never be won without
Clark was one of those men who are perforce listened
to when they begin to speak.
``Captain de Leyba,'' said he, ``I know not what may be
the present policy of his Spanish Majesty with McGillivray
and his Creeks in the south, but this I do believe,''
and he brought down his fist among the papers, ``that
the old French and Spanish treaties were right in principle.
Here are copies of the English treaties that I have
secured, and in them thousands of sovereigns have been
thrown away. They are so much waste paper. Gentlemen,
the Indians are children. If you give them presents,
they believe you to be afraid of them. I will deal with
them without presents; and if I had the gold of the Bank
of England stored in the garrison there, they should not
touch a piece of it.''
But Captain de Leyba, incredulous, raised his eyebrows
and shrugged.
``Por Dios,'' he cried, ``whoever hear of one man
and fifty militia subduing the northern tribes without a
After a while the Colonel called me in, and sent me
speeding across the little river with a note to a certain
Mr. Brady, whose house was not far away. Like many
another citizen of Cahokia, Mr. Brady was terror-ridden.
A party of young Puan bucks had decreed it to be their
pleasure to encamp in Mr. Brady's yard, to peer through
the shutters into Mr. Brady's house, to enjoy themselves
by annoying Mr. Brady's family and others as much as
possible. During the Indian occupation of Cahokia this
band had gained a well-deserved reputation for mischief;
and chief among them was the North Wind himself,
whom I had done the honor to kick in the stomach.
To-night they had made a fire in this Mr. Brady's flowergarden,
over which they were cooking venison steaks.
And, as I reached the door, the North Wind spied me,
grinned, rubbed his stomach, made a false dash at me that
frightened me out of my wits, and finally went through
the pantomime of scalping me. I stood looking at him
with my legs apart, for the son of the Great Chief must
not run away. And I marked that the North Wind
had two great ornamental daubs like shutter-fastenings
painted on his cheeks. I sniffed preparation, too, on his
followers, and I was sure they were getting ready for
some new deviltry. I handed the note to Mr. Brady
through the crack of the door that he vouchsafed to me,
and when he had slammed and bolted me out, I ran into
the street and stood for some time behind the trunk of a
big hickory, watching the followers of the North Wind.
Some were painting themselves, others cleaning their
rifles and sharpening their scalping knives. All jabbered
unceasingly. Now and again a silent brave passed, paused
a moment to survey them gravely, grunted an answer to
something they would fling at him, and went on. At
length arrived three chiefs whom I knew to be high in
the councils. The North Wind came out to them, and
the four blanketed forms stood silhouetted between me
and the fire for a quarter of an hour. By this time I was
sure of a plot, and fled away to another tree for fear of
detection. At length stalked through the street the
Hungry Wolf, the interpreter. I knew this man to be
friendly to Clark, and I acted on impulse. He gave a
grunt of surprise when I halted before him. I made up
my mind.
``The son of the Great Chief knows that the Puans
have wickedness in their hearts to-night,'' I said; ``the
tongue of the Hungry Wolf does not lie.''
The big Indian drew back with another grunt, and the
distant firelight flashed on his eyes as on polished black
``Umrrhh! Is the Pale Face Chief's son a prophet?''
``The anger of the Pale Face Chief and of his countrymen
is as the hurricane,'' I said, scarce believing my own
ears. For a lad is imitative by nature, and I had not
listened to the interpreters for three days without profit.
The Hungry Wolf grunted again, after which he was
silent for a long time. Then he said:--
``Let the Chief of the Long Knives have guard
tonight.'' And suddenly he was gone into the darkness.
I waded the creek and sped to Clark. He was alone
now, the shutters of the room closed. And as I came in
I could scarce believe that he was the same masterful man
I had seen at the council that day, and at the conference
an hour gone. He was once more the friend at whose
feet I sat in private, who talked to me as a companion and
a father.
``Where have you been, Davy?'' he asked. And then,
``What is it, my lad?''
I crept close to him and told him in a breathless
undertone, and I knew that I was shaking the while. He
listened gravely, and when I had finished laid a firm hand
on my head.
``There,'' he said, ``you are a brave lad, and a canny.''
He thought a minute, his hand still resting on my head,
and then rose and led me to the back door of the house.
It was near midnight, and the sounds of the place were
stilling, the crickets chirping in the grass.
``Run to Captain Bowman and tell him to send ten men
to this door. But they must come man by man, to escape
detection. Do you understand?'' I nodded and was
starting, but he still held me. ``God bless you, Davy,
you are a brave boy.''
He closed the door softly and I sped away, my
moccasins making no sound on the soft dirt. I reached the
garrison, was challenged by Jack Terrill, the guard, and
brought by him to Bowman's room. The Captain sat,
undressed, at the edge of his bed. But he was a man of
action, and strode into the long room where his company
was sleeping and gave his orders without delay.
Half an hour later there was no light in the village.
The Colonel's headquarters were dark, but in the kitchen
a dozen tall men were waiting.
So far as the world knew, the Chief of the Long Knives
slept peacefully in his house. And such was his sense
of power that not even a sentry paced the street without.
For by these things is the Indian mind impressed. In the
tiny kitchen a dozen men and a boy tried to hush their
breathing, and sweltered. For it was very hot, and the
pent-up odor of past cookings was stifling to men used to
the open. In a corner, hooded under a box, was a lighted
lantern, and Tom McChesney stood ready to seize it at
the first alarm. On such occasions the current of time
runs sluggish. Thrice our muscles were startled into
tenseness by the baying of a hound, and once a cock crew
out of all season. For the night was cloudy and pitchy
black, and the dawn as far away as eternity.
Suddenly I knew that every man in the room was on
the alert, for the skilled frontiersman, when watchful, has a
sixth sense. None of them might have told you what he had
heard. The next sound was the faint creaking of Colonel
Clark's door as it opened. Wrapping a blanket around
the lantern, Tom led the way, and we massed ourselves
behind the front door. Another breathing space, and
then the war-cry of the Puans broke hideously on the night,
and children woke, crying, from their sleep. In two
bounds our little detachment was in the street, the fire
spouting red from the Deckards, faint, shadowy forms
fading along the line of trees. After that an uproar of
awakening, cries here and there, a drum beating madly
for the militia. The dozen flung themselves across the
stream, I hot in their wake, through Mr. Brady's gate,
which was open; and there was a scene of sweet tranquillity
under the lantern's rays,--the North Wind and his friends
wrapped in their blankets and sleeping the sleep of the
``Damn the sly varmints,'' cried Tom, and he turned
over the North Wind with his foot, as a log.
With a grunt of fury the Indian shed his blanket and
scrambled to his feet, and stood glaring at us through his
paint. But suddenly he met the fixed sternness of
Clark's gaze, and his own shifted. By this time his
followers were up. The North Wind raised his hands to
heaven in token of his innocence, and then spread his
palms outward. Where was the proof?
``Look!'' I cried, quivering with excitement; ``look,
their leggings and moccasins are wet!''
``There's no devil if they beant!'' said Tom, and there
was a murmur of approval from the other men.
``The boy is right,'' said the Colonel, and turned to
Tom. ``Sergeant, have the chiefs put in irons.'' He
swung on his heel, and without more ado went back to
his house to bed. The North Wind and two others were
easily singled out as the leaders, and were straightway
escorted to the garrison house, their air of injured
innocence availing them not a whit. The militia was
dismissed, and the village was hushed once more.
But all night long the chiefs went to and fro, taking
counsel among themselves. What would the Chief of the
Pale Faces do?
The morning came with a cloudy, damp dawning.
Within a decent time (for the Indian is decorous) blanketed
deputations filled the archways under the trees and waited
there as the minutes ran into hours. The Chief of the
Long Knives surveyed the morning from his door-step, and
his eyes rested on a solemn figure at the gate. It was
the Hungry Wolf. Sorrow was in his voice, and he bore
messages from the twenty great chiefs who stood beyond.
They were come to express their abhorrence of the night's
doings, of which they were as innocent as the deer of the
``Let the Hungry Wolf tell the chiefs,'' said Colonel
Clark, briefly, ``that the council is the place for
And he went back into the house again.
Then he bade me run to Captain Bowman with an order
to bring the North Wind and his confederates to the
council field in irons.
The day followed the promise of the dawn. The
clouds hung low, and now and again great drops struck
the faces of the people in the field. And like the heavens,
the assembly itself was charged with we knew not what.
Was it peace or war? As before, a white man sat with
supreme indifference at a table, and in front of him three
most unhappy chiefs squatted in the grass, the shame of
their irons hidden under the blanket folds. Audacity is
truly a part of the equipment of genius. To have rescued
the North Wind and his friends would have been child's
play; to have retired from the council with threats of
war, as easy.
And yet they craved pardon.
One chief after another rose with dignity in the ring and
came to the table to plead. An argument deserving
mention was that the North Wind had desired to test the
friendship of the French for the Big Knives,--set forth
without a smile. To all pleaders Colonel Clark shook his
head. He, being a warrior, cared little whether such
people were friends or foes. He held them in the hollow
of his hand. And at length they came no more.
The very clouds seemed to hang motionless when he
rose to speak, and you who will may read in his memoir
what he said. The Hungry Wolf caught the spirit of it,
and was eloquent in his own tongue, and no word of it was
lost. First he told them of the causes of war, of the
thirteen council fires with the English, and in terms that
the Indian mind might grasp, and how their old father,
the French King, had joined the Big Knives in this righteous
``Warriors,'' said he, ``here is a bloody belt and a white
one; take which you choose. But behave like men.
Should it be the bloody path, you may leave this town in
safety to join the English, and we shall then see which of
us can stain our shirts with the most blood. But, should
it be the path of peace as brothers of the Big Knives and
of their friends the French, and then you go to your homes
and listen to the bad birds, you will then no longer deserve
to be called men and warriors,--but creatures of two
tongues, which ought to be destroyed. Let us then part
this evening in the hope that the Great Spirit will bring
us together again with the sun as brothers.''
So the council broke up. White man and red went
trooping into town, staring curiously at the guard which
was leading the North Wind and his friends to another
night of meditation. What their fate would be no man
knew. Many thought the tomahawk.
That night the citizens of the little village of Pain Court,
as St. Louis was called, might have seen the sky reddened
in the eastward. It was the loom of many fires at Cahokia,
and around them the chiefs of the forty tribes--all save
the three in durance vile--were gathered in solemn talk.
Would they take the bloody belt or the white one? No
man cared so little as the Pale Face Chief. When their
eyes were turned from the fitful blaze of the logs, the gala
light of many candles greeted them. And above the sound
of their own speeches rose the merrier note of the fiddle.
The garrison windows shone like lanterns, and behind these
Creole and backwoodsman swung the village ladies in the
gay French dances. The man at whose bidding this
merrymaking was held stood in a corner watching with
folded arms, and none to look at him might know that
he was playing for a stake.
The troubled fires of the Indians had died to embers
long before the candles were snuffed in the garrison house
and the music ceased.
The sun himself was pleased to hail that last morning of
the great council, and beamed with torrid tolerance upon
the ceremony of kindling the greatest of the fires. On
this morning Colonel Clark did not sit alone, but was
surrounded by men of weight,--by Monsieur Gratiot and
other citizens, Captain Bowman and the Spanish officers.
And when at length the brush crackled and the flames
caught the logs, three of the mightiest chiefs arose. The
greatest, victor in fifty tribal wars, held in his hand the
white belt of peace. The second bore a long-stemmed
pipe with a huge bowl. And after him, with measured
steps, a third came with a smoking censer,--the sacred
fire with which to kindle the pipe. Halting before Clark,
he first swung the censer to the heavens, then to the earth,
then to all the spirits of the air,--calling these to witness
that peace was come at last,--and finally to the Chief of
the Long Knives and to the gentlemen of dignity about
his person. Next the Indian turned, and spoke to his
brethren in measured, sonorous tones. He bade them
thank that Great Spirit who had cleared the sky and
opened their ears and hearts that they might receive the
truth,--who had laid bare to their understanding the lies
of the English. Even as these English had served the Big
Knives, so might they one day serve the Indians. Therefore
he commanded them to cast the tomahawk into the
river, and when they should return to their land to drive
the evil birds from it. And they must send their wise men
to Kaskaskia to hear the words of wisdom of the Great
White Chief, Clark. He thanked the Great Spirit for
this council fire which He had kindled at Cahokia.
Lifting the bowl of the censer, in the eyes of all the
people he drew in a long whiff to bear witness of peace.
After him the pipe went the interminable rounds of the
chiefs. Colonel Clark took it, and puffed; Captain Bowman
puffed,--everybody puffed.
``Davy must have a pull,'' cried Tom; and even the
chiefs smiled as I coughed and sputtered, while my friends
roared with laughter. It gave me no great notion of the
fragrance of tobacco. And then came such a hand-shaking
and grunting as a man rarely sees in a lifetime.
There was but one disquieting question left: What was
to become of the North Wind and his friends? None
dared mention the matter at such a time. But at length,
as the day wore on to afternoon, the Colonel was seen to
speak quietly to Captain Bowman, and several backwoodsmen
went off toward the town. And presently a silence
fell on the company as they beheld the dejected three
crossing the field with a guard. They were led before
Clark, and when he saw them his face hardened to sternness.
``It is only women who watch to catch a bear sleeping,''
he said. ``The Big Knives do not kill women. I shall give
you meat for your journey home, for women cannot hunt.
If you remain here, you shall be treated as squaws. Set
the women free.''
Tom McChesney cast off their irons. As for Clark, he
began to talk immediately with Monsieur Gratiot, as
though he had dismissed them from his mind. And their
agitation was a pitiful thing to see. In vain they pressed
about him, in vain they even pulled the fringe of his shirt
to gain his attention. And then they went about among
the other chiefs, but these dared not intercede. Uneasiness
was written on every man's face, and the talk went
haltingly. But Clark was serenity itself. At length with
a supreme effort they plucked up courage to come again to
the table, one holding out the belt of peace, and the other
the still smouldering pipe.
Clark paused in his talk. He took the belt, and flung
it away over the heads of those around him. He seized
the pipe, and taking up his sword from the table drew it,
and with one blow clave the stem in half. There was no
anger in either act, but much deliberation.
``The Big Knives,'' he said scornfully, ``do not treat
with women.''
The pleading began again, the Hungry Wolf interpreting
with tremors of earnestness. Their lives were spared,
but to what purpose, since the White Chief looked with
disfavor upon them? Let him know that bad men from
Michilimackinac put the deed into their hearts.
``When the Big Knives come upon such people in the
wilderness,'' Clark answered, ``they shoot them down that
they may not eat the deer. But they have never talked
of it.''
He turned from them once more; they went away in a
dejection to wring our compassion, and we thought the
matter ended at last. The sun was falling low, the people
beginning to move away, when, to the astonishment of all,
the culprits were seen coming back again. With them
were two young men of their own nation. The Indians
opened up a path for them to pass through, and they came
as men go to the grave. So mournful, so impressive withal,
that the crowd fell into silence again, and the Colonel
turned his eyes. The two young men sank down on the
ground before him and shrouded their heads in their
``What is this?'' Clark demanded.
The North Wind spoke in a voice of sorrow:--
``An atonement to the Great White Chief for the sins
of our nation. Perchance the Great Chief will deign to
strike a tomahawk into their heads, that our nation may
be saved in war by the Big Knives.'' And the North
Wind held forth the pipe once more.
``I have nothing to say to you,'' said Clark.
Still they stood irresolute, their minds now bereft of
expedients. And the young men sat motionless on the
ground. As Clark talked they peered out from under
their blankets, once, twice, thrice. He was still talking
to the wondering Monsieur Gratiot. But no other voice
was heard, and the eyes of all were turned on him in
amazement. But at last, when the drama had risen to the pitch
of unbearable suspense, he looked down upon the two
miserable pyramids at his feet, and touched them. The
blankets quivered.
``Stand up,'' said the Colonel, ``and uncover.''
They rose, cast the blankets from them, and stood with
a stoic dignity awaiting his pleasure. Wonderful, finelimbed
men they were, and for the first time Clark's eyes
were seen to kindle.
``I thank the Great Spirit,'' said he, in a loud voice,
``that I have found men among your nation. That I have
at last discovered the real chiefs of your people. Had they
sent such as you to treat with me in the beginning all
might have been well. Go back to your people as their
chiefs, and tell them that through you the Big Knives
have granted peace to your nation.''
Stepping forward, he grasped them each by the hand,
and, despite training, joy shone in their faces, while a
long-drawn murmur arose from the assemblage. But
Clark did not stop there. He presented them to Captain
Bowman and to the French and Spanish gentlemen present,
and they were hailed by their own kind as chiefs of their
nation. To cap it all our troops, backwoodsmen and
Creole militia, paraded in line on the common, and fired a
salute in their honor.
Thus did Clark gain the friendship of the forty tribes
in the Northwest country.
We went back to Kaskaskia, Colonel Clark, Tom,
and myself, and a great weight was lifted from our
A peaceful autumn passed, and we were happy save
when we thought of those we had left at home. There is
no space here to tell of many incidents. Great chiefs
who had not been to the council came hundreds of leagues
across wide rivers that they might see with their own eyes
this man who had made peace without gold, and these had
to be amused and entertained.
The apples ripened, and were shaken to the ground by
the winds. The good Father Gibault, true to his promise,
strove to teach me French. Indeed, I picked up much of
that language in my intercourse with the inhabitants of
Kaskaskia. How well I recall that simple life,--its
dances, its songs, and the games with the laughing boys
and girls on the common! And the good people were
very kind to the orphan that dwelt with Colonel Clark,
the drummer boy of his regiment.
But winter brought forebodings. When the garden
patches grew bare and brown, and the bleak winds from
across the Mississippi swept over the common, untoward
tidings came like water dripping from a roof, bit by bit.
And day by day Colonel Clark looked graver. The messengers
he had sent to Vincennes came not back, and the
coureurs and traders from time to time brought rumors
of a British force gathering like a thundercloud in the
northeast. Monsieur Vigo himself, who had gone to
Vincennes on his own business, did not return. As for
the inhabitants, some of them who had once bowed to us
with a smile now passed with faces averted.
The cold set the miry roads like cement, in ruts and
ridges. A flurry of snow came and powdered the roofs
even as the French loaves are powdered.
It was January. There was Colonel Clark on a runt
of an Indian pony; Tom McChesney on another, riding
ahead, several French gentlemen seated on stools in a twowheeled
cart, and myself. We were going to Cahokia,
and it was very cold, and when the tireless wheels bumped
from ridge to gully, the gentlemen grabbed each other as
they slid about, and laughed.
All at once the merriment ceased, and looking forward
we saw that Tom had leaped from his saddle and was
bending over something in the snow. These chanced to
be the footprints of some twenty men.
The immediate result of this alarming discovery was
that Tom went on express to warn Captain Bowman, and
the rest of us returned to a painful scene at Kaskaskia.
We reached the village, the French gentlemen leaped
down from their stools in the cart, and in ten minutes the
streets were filled with frenzied, hooded figures. Hamilton,
called the Hair Buyer, was upon them with no less
than six hundred, and he would hang them to their own
gateposts for listening to the Long Knives. These were but
a handful after all was said. There was Father Gibault,
for example. Father Gibault would doubtless be exposed
to the crows in the belfry of his own church because he
had busied himself at Vincennes and with other matters.
Father Gibault was human, and therefore lovable. He
bade his parishioners a hasty and tearful farewell, and he
made a cold and painful journey to the territories of his
Spanish Majesty across the Mississippi.
Father Gibault looked back, and against the gray of the
winter's twilight there were flames like red maple leaves.
In the fort the men stood to their guns, their faces flushed
with staring at the burning houses. Only a few were
burned,--enough to give no cover for Hamilton and his
six hundred if they came.
But they did not come. The faithful Bowman and his
men arrived instead, with the news that there had been
only a roving party of forty, and these were now in full
Father Gibault came back. But where was Hamilton?
This was the disquieting thing.
One bitter day, when the sun smiled mockingly on the
powdered common, a horseman was perceived on the Fort
Chartres road. It was Monsieur Vigo returning from
Vincennes, but he had been first to St. Louis by reason of
the value he set upon his head. Yes, Monsieur Vigo had
been to Vincennes, remaining a little longer than he
expected, the guest of Governor Hamilton. So Governor
Hamilton had recaptured that place! Monsieur Vigo
was no spy, hence he had gone first to St. Louis.
Governor Hamilton was at Vincennes with much of King
George's gold, and many supplies, and certain Indians
who had not been at the council. Eight hundred in all,
said Monsieur Vigo, using his fingers. And it was
Governor Hamilton's design to march upon Kaskaskia and
Cahokia and sweep over Kentucky; nay, he had already
sent certain emissaries to McGillivray and his Creeks and
the Southern Indians with presents, and these were to press
forward on their side. The Governor could do nothing
now, but would move as soon as the rigors of winter had
somewhat relented. Monsieur Vigo shook his head and
shrugged his shoulders. He loved les Americains. What
would Monsieur le Colonel do now ?
Monsieur le Colonel was grave, but this was his usual
manner. He did not tear his hair, but the ways of the
Long Knives were past understanding. He asked many
questions. How was it with the garrison at Vincennes?
Monsieur Vigo was exact, as a business man should be.
They were now reduced to eighty men, and five hundred
savages had gone out to ravage. There was no chance,
then, of Hamilton moving at present? Monsieur Vigo
threw up his hands. Never had he made such a trip, and
he had been forced to come back by a northern route.
The Wabash was as the Great Lakes, and the forests grew
out of the water. A fox could not go to Vincennes in this
weather. A fish? Monsieur Vigo laughed heartily. Yes,
a fish might.
``Then,'' said Colonel Clark, ``we will be fish.''
Monsieur Vigo stared, and passed his hand from his
forehead backwards over his long hair. I leaned forward
in my corner by the hickory fire.
``Then we will be fish,'' said Colonel Clark. ``Better
that than food for the crows. For, if we stay here, we
shall be caught like bears in a trap, and Kentucky will be
at Hamilton's mercy.''
``Sacre'!'' exclaimed Monsieur Vigo, ``you are mad,
mon ami. I know what this country is, and you cannot
get to Vincennes.''
``I WILL get to Vincennes,'' said Colonel Clark, so gently
that Monsieur Vigo knew he meant it. ``I will SWIM to
Monsieur Vigo raised his hands to heaven. The three
of us went out of the door and walked. There was a
snowy place in front of the church all party-colored like
a clown's coat,--scarlet capotes, yellow capotes, and blue
capotes, and bright silk handkerchiefs. They surrounded
the Colonel. Pardieu, what was he to do now? For the
British governor and his savages were coming to take
revenge on them because, in their necessity, they had declared
for Congress. Colonel Clark went silently on his way to
the gate; but Monsieur Vigo stopped, and Kaskaskia heard,
with a shock, that this man of iron was to march against
The gates of the fort were shut, and the captains
summoned. Undaunted woodsmen as they were, they were
lukewarm, at first, at the idea of this march through the
floods. Who can blame them? They had, indeed, sacrificed
much. But in ten minutes they had caught his enthusiasm
(which is one of the mysteries of genius). And
the men paraded in the snow likewise caught it, and swung
their hats at the notion of taking the Hair Buyer.
`` 'Tis no news to me,'' said Terence, stamping his feet
on the flinty ground; ``wasn't it Davy that pointed him
out to us and the hair liftin' from his head six months
``Und you like schwimmin', yes ?'' said Swein Poulsson,
his face like the rising sun with the cold.
``Swimmin', is it?'' said Terence, ``sure, the divil made
worse things than wather. And Hamilton's beyant.''
``I reckon that'll fetch us through,'' Bill Cowan put in
It was a blessed thing that none of us had a bird's-eye
view of that same water. No man of force will listen when
his mind is made up, and perhaps it is just as well. For
in that way things are accomplished. Clark would not
listen to Monsieur Vigo, and hence the financier had,
perforce, to listen to Clark. There were several miracles
before we left. Monsieur Vigo, for instance, agreed to pay
the expenses of the expedition, though in his heart he
thought we should never get to Vincennes. Incidentally,
he was never repaid. Then there were the French--yesterday,
running hither and thither in paroxysms of fear;
to-day, enlisting in whole companies, though it were easier
to get to the wild geese of the swamps than to Hamilton.
Their ladies stitched colors day and night, and presented
them with simple confidence to the Colonel in the church.
Twenty stands of colors for 170 men, counting those who
had come from Cahokia. Think of the industry of it, of
the enthusiasm behind it! Twenty stands of colors!
Clark took them all, and in due time it will be told how
the colors took Vincennes. This was because Colonel
Clark was a man of destiny.
Furthermore, Colonel Clark was off the next morning
at dawn to buy a Mississippi keel-boat. He had her rigged
up with two four-pounders and four swivels, filled her
with provisions, and called her the Willing. She was the
first gunboat on the Western waters. A great fear came
into my heart, and at dusk I stole back to the Colonel's
house alone. The snow had turned to rain, and Terence
stood guard within the doorway.
``Arrah,'' he said, ``what ails ye, darlin'?''
I gulped and the tears sprang into my eyes; whereupon
Terence, in defiance of all military laws, laid his gun
against the doorpost and put his arms around me, and I
confided my fears. It was at this critical juncture that
the door opened and Colonel Clark came out.
``What's to do here?'' he demanded, gazing at us
``Savin' your Honor's prisence,'' said Terence, ``he's
afeard your Honor will be sending him on the boat. Sure,
he wants to go swimmin' with the rest of us.''
Colonel Clark frowned, bit his lip, and Terence seized
his gun and stood to attention.
``It were right to leave you in Kaskaskia,'' said the
Colonel; ``the water will be over your head.''
``The King's drum would be floatin' the likes of him,''
said the irrepressible Terence, ``and the b'ys would be
that lonesome.''
The Colonel walked away without a word. In an hour's
time he came back to find me cleaning his accoutrements
by the fire. For a while he did not speak, but busied himself
with his papers, I having lighted the candles for him.
Presently he spoke my name, and I stood before him.
``I will give you a piece of advice, Davy,'' said he. ``If
you want a thing, go straight to the man that has it.
McChesney has spoken to me about this wild notion of
yours of going to Vincennes, and Cowan and McCann and
Ray and a dozen others have dogged my footsteps.''
``I only spoke to Terence because he asked me, sir,'' I
answered. ``I said nothing to any one else.''
He laid down his pen and looked at me with an odd
``What a weird little piece you are,'' he exclaimed; ``you
seem to have wormed your way into the hearts of these
men. Do you know that you will probably never get to
Vincennes alive?''
``I don't care, sir,'' I said. A happy thought struck
me. ``If they see a boy going through the water, sir--''
I hesitated, abashed.
``What then?'' said Clark, shortly.
``It may keep some from going back,'' I finished.
At that he gave a sort of gasp, and stared at me the
``Egad,'' he said, ``I believe the good Lord launched
you wrong end to. Perchance you will be a child when
you are fifty.''
He was silent a long time, and fell to musing. And I
thought he had forgotten.
``May I go, sir?'' I asked at length.
He started.
``Come here,'' said he. But when I was close to him
he merely laid his hand on my shoulder. ``Yes, you may
go, Davy.''
He sighed, and presently turned to his writing again,
and I went back joyfully to my cleaning.
On a certain dark 4th of February, picture the
village of Kaskaskia assembled on the river-bank in capote
and hood. Ropes are cast off, the keel-boat pushes her
blunt nose through the cold, muddy water, the oars churn
up dirty, yellow foam, and cheers shake the sodden air.
So the Willing left on her long journey: down the
Kaskaskia, into the flood of the Mississippi, against many
weary leagues of the Ohio's current, and up the swollen
Wabash until they were to come to the mouth of the
White River near Vincennes. There they were to await us.
Should we ever see them again? I think that this was
the unspoken question in the hearts of the many who were
to go by land.
The 5th was a mild, gray day, with the melting snow
lying in patches on the brown bluff, and the sun making
shift to pierce here and there. We formed the regiment
in the fort,--backwoodsman and Creole now to fight for
their common country, Jacques and Pierre and Alphonse;
and mother and father, sweetheart and wife, waiting to
wave a last good-by. Bravely we marched out of the
gate and into the church for Father Gibault's blessing.
And then, forming once more, we filed away on the road
leading northward to the ferry, our colors flying, leaving
the weeping, cheering crowd behind. In front of the tall
men of the column was a wizened figure, beating madly on
a drum, stepping proudly with head thrown back. It was
Cowan's voice that snapped the strain.
``Go it, Davy, my little gamecock!'' he cried, and the
men laughed and cheered. And so we came to the bleak
ferry landing where we had crossed on that hot July
night six months before.
We were soon on the prairies, and in the misty rain that
fell and fell they seemed to melt afar into a gray and
cheerless ocean. The sodden grass was matted now and unkempt.
Lifeless lakes filled the depressions, and through them we
waded mile after mile ankle-deep. There was a little
cavalcade mounted on the tiny French ponies, and sometimes
I rode with these; but oftenest Cowin or Tom would
fling me; drum and all, on his shoulder. For we had
reached the forest swamps where the water is the color of
the Creole coffee. And day after day as we marched, the
soft rain came out of the east and wet us to the skin.
It was a journey of torments, and even that first part of
it was enough to discourage the most resolute spirit.
Men might be led through it, but never driven. It is
ever the mind which suffers through the monotonies of
bodily discomfort, and none knew this better than Clark
himself. Every morning as we set out with the wet hide
chafing our skin, the Colonel would run the length of the
regiment, crying:--
``Who gives the feast to-night, boys?''
Now it was Bowman's company, now McCarty's, now
Bayley's. How the hunters vied with each other to supply
the best, and spent the days stalking the deer cowering
in the wet thickets. We crossed the Saline, and on the
plains beyond was a great black patch, a herd of buffalo.
A party of chosen men headed by Tom McChesney was
sent after them, and never shall I forget the sight of the
mad beasts charging through the water.
That night, when our chilled feet could bear no more,
we sought out a patch of raised ground a little firmer than
a quagmire, and heaped up the beginnings of a fire with
such brush as could be made to burn, robbing the naked
thickets. Saddle and steak sizzled, leather steamed and
stiffened, hearts and bodies thawed; grievances that men
had nursed over miles of water melted. Courage sits
best on a full stomach, and as they ate they cared not
whether the Atlantic had opened between them and
Vincennes. An hour agone, and there were twenty cursing
laggards, counting the leagues back to Kaskaskia.
``C'etait un vieux sauvage
Tout noir, tour barbouilla,
Ouich' ka!
Avec sa vieill' couverte
Et son sac a tabac.
Ouich' ka!
Ah! ah! tenaouich' tenaga,
Tenaouich' tenaga, ouich' ka!''
So sang Antoine, dit le Gris, in the pulsing red light.
And when, between the verses, he went through the
agonies of a Huron war-dance, the assembled regiment
howled with delight. Some men know cities and those
who dwell in the quarters of cities. But grizzled Antoine
knew the half of a continent, and the manners of trading
and killing of the tribes thereof.
And after Antoine came Gabriel, a marked contrast--
Gabriel, five feet six, and the glare showing but a faint
dark line on his quivering lip. Gabriel was a patriot,--
a tribute we must pay to all of those brave Frenchmen
who went with us. Nay, Gabriel had left at home on his
little farm near the village a young wife of a fortnight.
And so his lip quivered as he sang:--
``Petit Rocher de la Haute Montagne,
Je vien finir ici cette campagne!
Ah! doux echos, entendez mes soupirs;
En languissant je vais bientot mouir!''
We had need of gayety after that, and so Bill Cowan
sang ``Billy of the Wild Wood,'' and Terence McCann
wailed an Irish jig, stamping the water out of the spongy
ground amidst storms of mirth. As he desisted, breathless
and panting, he flung me up in the firelight before
the eyes of them all, crying:--
``It's Davy can bate me!''
``Ay, Davy, Davy!'' they shouted, for they were in
the mood for anything. There stood Colonel Clark in
the dimmer light of the background. ``We must keep
'em screwed up, Davy,'' he had said that very day.
There came to me on the instant a wild song that my
father had taught me when the liquor held him in dominance.
Exhilarated, I sprang from Terence's arms to the
sodden, bared space, and methinks I yet hear my shrill,
piping note, and see my legs kicking in the fling of it.
There was an uproar, a deeper voice chimed in, and here
was McAndrew flinging his legs with mine:--
``I've faught on land, I've faught at sea,
At hame I faught my aunty, O;
But I met the deevil and Dundee
On the braes o' Killiecrankie, O.
An' ye had been where I had been,
Ye wad na be sae cantie, O;
An' ye had seen what I ha'e seen
On the braes o' Killiecrankie, O.''
In the morning Clark himself would be the first off
through the gray rain, laughing and shouting and waving
his sword in the air, and I after him as hard as I could
pelt through the mud, beating the charge on my drum
until the war-cries of the regiment drowned the sound of
it. For we were upon a pleasure trip--lest any man
forget,--a pleasure trip amidst stark woods and brown plains
flecked with ponds. So we followed him until we came
to a place where, in summer, two quiet rivers flowed
through green forests--the little Wabashes. And now!
Now hickory and maple, oak and cottonwood, stood shivering
in three feet of water on what had been a league of
dry land. We stood dismayed at the crumbling edge of
the hill, and one hundred and seventy pairs of eyes were
turned on Clark. With a mere glance at the running
stream high on the bank and the drowned forest beyond,
he turned and faced them.
``I reckon you've earned a rest, boys,'' he said. ``We'll
have games to-day.''
There were some dozen of the unflinching who needed
not to be amused. Choosing a great poplar, these he set
to hollowing out a pirogue, and himself came among the
others and played leap-frog and the Indian game of ball
until night fell. And these, instead of moping and quarrelling,
forgot. That night, as I cooked him a buffalo steak,
he drew near the fire with Bowman.
``For the love of God keep up their spirits, Bowman,''
said the Colonel; ``keep up their spirits until we get them
across. Once on the farther hills, they cannot go back.''
Here was a different being from the shouting boy who
had led the games and the war-dance that night in the
circle of the blaze. Tired out, we went to sleep with the
ring of the axes in our ears, and in the morning there
were more games while the squad crossed the river to the
drowned neck, built a rough scaffold there, and notched a
trail across it; to the scaffold the baggage was ferried,
and the next morning, bit by bit, the regiment. Even
now the pains shoot through my body when I think of
how man after man plunged waist-deep into the icy water
toward the farther branch. The pirogue was filled with
the weak, and in the end of it I was curled up with my
Heroism is a many-sided thing. It is one matter to
fight and finish, another to endure hell's tortures hour
after hour. All day they waded with numbed feet vainly
searching for a footing in the slime. Truly, the agony of
a brave man is among the greatest of the world's tragedies
to see. As they splashed onward through the treetrunks,
many a joke went forth, though lips were drawn
and teeth pounded together. I have not the heart to
recall these jokes,--it would seem a sacrilege. There were
quarrels, too, the men striving to push one another from
the easier paths; and deeds sublime when some straggler
clutched at the bole of a tree for support, and was helped
onward through excruciating ways. A dozen held tremblingly
to the pirogue's gunwale, lest they fall and drown.
One walked ahead with a smile, or else fell back to lend
a helping shoulder to a fainting man.
And there was Tom McChesney. All day long I
watched him, and thanked God that Polly Ann could not
see him thus. And yet, how the pride would have leaped
within her! Humor came not easily to him, but charity
and courage and unselfishness he had in abundance.
What he suffered none knew; but through those awful
hours he was always among the stragglers, helping the
weak and despairing when his strength might have taken
him far ahead toward comfort and safety. ``I'm all right,
Davy,'' he would say, in answer to my look as he passed
me. But on his face was written something that I did
not understand.
How the Creole farmers and traders, unused even to the
common ways of woodcraft, endured that fearful day and
others that followed, I know not. And when a tardy justice
shall arise and compel the people of this land to raise
a shaft in memory of Clark and those who followed him,
let not the loyalty of the French be forgotten, though it
be not understood.
At eventide came to lurid and disordered brains the
knowledge that the other branch was here. And, mercifully,
it was shallower than the first. Holding his rifle
high, with a war-whoop Bill Cowan plunged into the
stream. Unable to contain myself more, I flung my
drum overboard and went after it, and amid shouts and
laughter I was towed across by James Ray.
Colonel Clark stood watching from the bank above, and
it was he who pulled me, bedraggled, to dry land. I ran
away to help gather brush for a fire. As I was heaping
this in a pile I heard something that I should not have
heard. Nor ought I to repeat it now, though I did not
need the flames to send the blood tingling through my
``McChesney,'' said the Colonel, ``we must thank our
stars that we brought the boy along. He has grit, and as
good a head as any of us. I reckon if it hadn't been for
him some of them would have turned back long ago.''
I saw Tom grinning at the Colonel as gratefully as
though he himself had been praised.
The blaze started, and soon we had a bonfire. Some
had not the strength to hold out the buffalo meat to the
fire. Even the grumblers and mutineers were silent,
owing to the ordeal they had gone through. But presently,
when they began to be warmed and fed, they talked
of other trials to be borne. The Embarrass and the big
Wabash, for example. These must be like the sea itself.
``Take the back trail, if ye like,'' said Bill Cowan, with
a loud laugh. ``I reckon the rest of us kin float to
Vincennes on Davy's drum.''
But there was no taking the back trail now; and well
they knew it. The games began, the unwilling being
forced to play, and before they fell asleep that night they
had taken Vincennes, scalped the Hair Buyer, and were
far on the march to Detroit.
Mercifully, now that their stomachs were full, they had
no worries. Few knew the danger we were in of being
cut off by Hamilton's roving bands of Indians. There
would be no retreat, no escape, but a fight to the death.
And I heard this, and much more that was spoken of in
low tones at the Colonel's fire far into the night, of which
I never told the rank and file,--not even Tom McChesney.
On and on, through rain and water, we marched until
we drew near to the river Embarrass. Drew near, did I
say? ''Sure, darlin','' said Terence, staring comically
over the gray waste, ``we've been in it since Choosd'y.''
There was small exaggeration in it. In vain did our feet
seek the deeper water. It would go no higher than our
knees, and the sound which the regiment made in marching
was like that of a great flatboat going against the
current. It had been a sad, lavender-colored day, and
now that the gloom of the night was setting in, and not
so much as a hummock showed itself above the surface,
the Creoles began to murmur. And small wonder!
Where was this man leading them, this Clark who had
come amongst them from the skies, as it were? Did he
know, himself? Night fell as though a blanket had been
spread over the tree-tops, and above the dreary splashing
men could be heard calling to one another in the darkness.
Nor was there any supper ahead. For our food was gone,
and no game was to be shot over this watery waste. A
cold like that of eternal space settled in our bones. Even
Terence McCann grumbled.
``Begob,'' said he, `` 'tis fine weather for fishes, and the
birrds are that comfortable in the threes. 'Tis no place
for a baste at all, at all.''
Sometime in the night there was a cry. Ray had found
the water falling from an oozy bank, and there we dozed
fitfully until we were startled by a distant boom.
It was Governor Hamilton's morning gun at Fort
Sackville, Vincennes.
There was no breakfast. How we made our way,
benumbed with hunger and cold, to the banks of the Wabash,
I know not. Captain McCarty's company was set to making
canoes, and the rest of us looked on apathetically as
the huge trees staggered and fell amidst a fountain of
spray in the shallow water. We were but three leagues
from Vincennes. A raft was bound together, and Tom
McChesney and three other scouts sent on a desperate
journey across the river in search of boats and provisions,
lest we starve and fall and die on the wet flats. Before
he left Tom came to me, and the remembrance of his
gaunt face haunted me for many years after. He drew
something from his bosom and held it out to me, and I
saw that it was a bit of buffalo steak which he had saved.
I shook my head, and the tears came into my eyes.
``Come, Davy,'' he said, ``ye're so little, and I beant
Again I shook my head, and for the life of me I could
say nothing.
``I reckon Polly Ann'd never forgive me if anything
was to happen to you,'' said he.
At that I grew strangely angry.
``It's you who need it,'' I cried, ``it's you that has to do
the work. And she told me to take care of you.''
The big fellow grinned sheepishly, as was his wont.
`` 'Tis only a bite,'' he pleaded, `` 'twouldn't only make
me hungry, and''--he looked hard at me--``and it might
be the savin' of you. Ye'll not eat it for Polly Ann's
sake?'' he asked coaxingly.
" 'Twould not be serving her,'' I answered indignantly.
``Ye're an obstinate little deevil!'' he cried, and,
dropping the morsel on the freshly cut stump, he stalked away.
I ran after him, crying out, but he leaped on the raft that
was already in the stream and began to pole across. I
slipped the piece into my own hunting shirt.
All day the men who were too weak to swing axes sat
listless on the bank, watching in vain for some sight of the
Willing. They saw a canoe rounding the bend instead,
with a single occupant paddling madly. And who should
this be but Captain Willing's own brother, escaped from
the fort, where he had been a prisoner. He told us that a
man named Maisonville, with a party of Indians, was in
pursuit of him, and the next piece of news he had was in
the way of raising our despair a little. Governor Hamilton's
astonishment at seeing this force here and now would
be as great as his own. Governor Hamilton had said,
indeed, that only a navy could take Vincennes this year.
Unfortunately, Mr. Willing brought no food. Next in
order came five Frenchmen, trapped by our scouts, nor had
they any provisions. But as long as I live I shall never
forget how Tom McChesney returned at nightfall, the
hero of the hour. He had shot a deer; and never did
wolves pick an animal cleaner. They pressed on me a
choice piece of it, these great-hearted men who were
willing to go hungry for the sake of a child, and when I
refused it they would have forced it down my throat.
Swein Poulsson, he that once hid under the bed, deserves
a special tablet to his memory. He was for giving me all
he had, though his little eyes were unnaturally bright and
the red had left his cheeks now.
``He haf no belly, only a leedle on his backbone!'' he
``Begob, thin, he has the backbone,'' said Terence.
``I have a piece,'' said I, and drew forth that which Tom
had given me.
They brought a quarter of a saddle to Colonel Clark,
but he smiled at them kindly and told them to divide it
amongst the weak. He looked at me as I sat with my
feet crossed on the stump.
``I will follow Davy's example,'' said he.
At length the canoes were finished and we crossed the
river, swimming over the few miserable skeletons of the
French ponies we had brought along. We came to a
sugar camp, and beyond it, stretching between us and
Vincennes, was a sea of water. Here we made our camp,
if camp it could be called. There was no fire, no food,
and the water seeped out of the ground on which we lay.
Some of those even who had not yet spoken now openly
said that we could go no farther. For the wind had
shifted into the northwest, and, for the first time since we
had left Kaskaskia we saw the stars gleaming like scattered
diamonds in the sky. Bit by bit the ground hardened,
and if by chance we dozed we stuck to it. Morning
found the men huddled like sheep, their hunting shirts
hard as boards, and long before Hamilton's gun we were
up and stamping. Antoine poked the butt of his rifle
through the ice of the lake in front of us.
``I think we not get to Vincennes this day,'' he said.
Colonel Clark, who heard him, turned to me.
``Fetch McChesney here, Davy,'' he said. Tom came.
``McChesney,'' said he, ``when I give the word, take
Davy and his drum on your shoulders and follow me.
And Davy, do you think you can sing that song you gave
us the other night?''
``Oh, yes, sir,'' I answered.
Without more ado the Colonel broke the skim of ice,
and, taking some of the water in his hand, poured powder
from his flask into it and rubbed it on his face until he
was the color of an Indian. Stepping back, he raised his
sword high in the air, and, shouting the Shawanee warwhoop,
took a flying leap up to his thighs in the water.
Tom swung me instantly to his shoulder and followed,
I beating the charge with all my might, though my
hands were so numb that I could scarce hold the sticks.
Strangest of all, to a man they came shouting after us.
``Now, Davy!'' said the Colonel.
``I've faught on land, I've faught at sea,
At hame I faught my aunty, O;
But I met the deevil and Dundee
On the braes o' Killiecrankie, O.''
I piped it at the top of my voice, and sure enough the
regiment took up the chorus, for it had a famous swing.
``An' ye had been where I had been,
Ye wad na be sae cantie, O;
An' ye had seen what I ha'e seen'
On the braes o' Killiecrankie, O.''
When their breath was gone we heard Cowan shout that
he had found a path under his feet,--a path that was on
dry land in the summer-time. We followed it, feeling
carefully, and at length, when we had suffered all that we
could bear, we stumbled on to a dry ridge. Here we
spent another night of torture, with a second backwater
facing us coated with a full inch of ice.
And still there was nothing to eat.
To lie the night on adamant, pierced by the needles
of the frost; to awake shivering and famished, until the
meaning of an inch of ice on the backwater comes to your
mind,--these are not calculated to put a man into an
equable mood to listen to oratory. Nevertheless there
was a kind of oratory to fit the case. To picture the
misery of these men is well-nigh impossible. They stood
sluggishly in groups, dazed by suffering, and their faces
were drawn and their eyes ringed, their beards and hair
matted. And many found it in their hearts to curse Clark
and that government for which he fought.
When the red fire of the sun glowed through the bare
branches that morning, it seemed as if the campaign had
spent itself like an arrow which drops at the foot of the
mark. Could life and interest and enthusiasm be infused
again in such as these? I have ceased to marvel how it
was done. A man no less haggard than the rest, but with
a compelling force in his eyes, pointed with a blade to the
hills across the river. They must get to them, he said,
and their troubles would be ended. He said more, and
they cheered him. These are the bare facts. He picked
a man here, and another there, and these went silently to
a grim duty behind the regiment.
``If any try to go back, shoot them down!'' he cried.
Then with a gun-butt he shattered the ice and was the
first to leap into the water under it. They followed, some
with a cheer that was most pitiful of all. They followed
him blindly, as men go to torture, but they followed him,
and the splashing and crushing of the ice were sounds to
freeze my body. I was put in a canoe. In my day I have
beheld great suffering and hardship, and none of it compared
to this. Torn with pity, I saw them reeling through
the water, now grasping trees and bushes to try to keep
their feet, the strongest breaking the way ahead and
supporting the weak between them. More than once Clark
himself tottered where he beat the ice at the apex of the
line. Some swooned and would have drowned had they
not been dragged across the canoe and chafed back to
consciousness. By inches the water shallowed. Clark
reached the high ground, and then Bill Cowan, with a man
on each shoulder. Then others endured to the shallows
to fall heavily in the crumbled ice and be dragged out
before they died. But at length, by God's grace, the whole
regiment was on the land. Fires would not revive some,
but Clark himself seized a fainting man by the arms and
walked him up and down in the sunlight until his blood
ran again.
It was a glorious day, a day when the sap ran in the
maples, and the sun soared upwards in a sky of the palest
blue. All this we saw through the tracery of the leafless
branches,--a mirthless, shivering crowd, crept through
a hell of weather into the Hair Buyer's very lair. Had he
neither heard nor seen?
Down the steel-blue lane of water between the ice came
a canoe. Our stunted senses perceived it, unresponsive.
A man cried out (it was Tom McChesney); now some of
them had leaped into the pirogue, now they were returning.
In the towed canoe two fat and stolid squaws and a
pappoose were huddled, and beside them--God be praised!
--food. A piece of buffalo on its way to town, and in the
end compartment of the boat tallow and bear's grease lay
revealed by two blows of the tomahawk. The kettles--
long disused--were fetched, and broth made and fed in
sips to the weakest, while the strongest looked on and
smiled in an agony of self-restraint. It was a fearful
thing to see men whose legs had refused service struggle
to their feet when they had drunk the steaming, greasy
mixture. And the Colonel, standing by the river's edge,
turned his face away--down-stream. And then, as often,
I saw the other side of the man. Suddenly he looked at
me, standing wistful at his side.
``They have cursed me,'' said he, by way of a question,
``they have cursed me every day.'' And seeing me silent,
he insisted, ``Tell me, is it not so, Davy?''
``It is so,'' I said, wondering that he should pry, ``but
it was while they suffered. And--and some refrained.''
``And you?'' he asked queerly.
``I--I could not, sir. For I asked leave to come.''
``If they have condemned me to a thousand hells,'' said
he, dispassionately, ``I should not blame them.'' Again
he looked at me. ``Do you understand what you have
done?'' he asked.
``No, sir,'' I said uneasily.
``And yet there are some human qualities in you,
Davy. You have been worth more to me than another
I stared.
``When you grow older, if you ever do, tell your
children that once upon a time you put a hundred men to
shame. It is no small thing.''
Seeing him relapse into silence, I did not speak. For
the space of half an hour he stared down the river, and I
knew that he was looking vainly for the Willing.
At noon we crossed, piecemeal, a deep lake in the canoes,
and marching awhile came to a timber-covered rise which
our French prisoners named as the Warriors' Island. And
from the shelter of its trees we saw the steely lines of a
score of low ponds, and over the tops of as many ridges
a huddle of brown houses on the higher ground.
And this was the place we had all but sold our lives to
behold! This was Vincennes at last! We were on the
heights behind the town,--we were at the back door, as
it were. At the far side, on the Wabash River, was the
front door, or Fort Sackville, where the banner of England
snapped in the February breeze.
We stood there, looking, as the afternoon light flooded
the plain. Suddenly the silence was broken.
``Hooray for Clark!'' cried a man at the edge of the
``Hooray for Clark!''--it was the whole regiment this
time. From execration to exaltation was but a step, after
all. And the Creoles fell to scoffing at their sufferings and
even forgot their hunger in staring at the goal. The
backwoodsmen took matters more stolidly, having acquired long
since the art of waiting. They lounged about, cleaning
their guns, watching the myriad flocks of wild ducks and
geese casting blue-black shadows on the ponds.
``Arrah, McChesney,'' said Terence, as he watched the
circling birds, ``Clark's a great man, but 'tis more riverince
I'd have for him if wan av thim was sizzling on the end of
me ramrod.''
``I'd sooner hev the Ha'r Buyer's sculp,'' said Tom.
Presently there was a drama performed for our delectation.
A shot came down the wind, and we perceived that
several innocent Creole gentlemen, unconscious of what the
timber held, were shooting the ducks and geese. Whereupon
Clark chose Antoine and three of our own Creoles
to sally out and shoot likewise--as decoys. We watched
them working their way over the ridges, and finally saw
them coming back with one of the Vincennes sportsmen.
I cannot begin to depict the astonishment of this man when
he reached the copse, and was led before our lean, squareshouldered
commander. Yes, monsieur, he was a friend
of les Americains. Did Governor Hamilton know that a
visit was imminent? Pardieu (with many shrugs and
outward gestures of the palms), Governor Hamilton had
said if the Long Knives had wings or fins they might reach
him now--he was all unprepared.
``Gentlemen,'' said Colonel Clark to Captains Bowman
and McCarty and Williams, ``we have come so far by
audacity, and we must continue by audacity. It is of no
use to wait for the gunboat, and every moment we run
the risk of discovery. I shall write an open letter to the
inhabitants of Vincennes, which the prisoner shall take into
town. I shall tell them that those who are true to the
oath they swore to Father Gibault shall not be molested
if they remain quietly in their houses. Let those who are
on the side of the Hair Buyer General and his King go to
the fort and fight there.''
He bade me fetch the portfolio he carried, and with
numbed fingers wrote the letter while his captains stared
in admiration and amazement. What a stroke was this!
There were six hundred men in the town and fort,--soldiers,
inhabitants, and Indians,--while we had but 170, starved
and weakened by their incredible march. But Clark was
not to be daunted. Whipping out his field-glasses, he took
a stand on a little mound under the trees and followed the
fast-galloping messenger across the plain; saw him enter
the town; saw the stir in the streets, knots of men riding
out and gazing, hands on foreheads, towards the place
where we were. But, as the minutes rolled into hours,
there was no further alarm. No gun, no beat to quarters
or bugle-call from Fort Sackville. What could it mean?
Clark's next move was an enigma, for he set the men to
cutting and trimming tall sapling poles. To these were
tied (how reverently!) the twenty stands of colors which
loving Creole hands had stitched. The boisterous day was
reddening to its close as the Colonel lined his little army in
front of the wood, and we covered the space of four thousand.
For the men were twenty feet apart and every
tenth carried a standard. Suddenly we were aghast as
the full meaning of the inspiration dawned upon us. The
command was given, and we started on our march toward
Vincennes. But not straight,--zigzagging, always keeping
the ridges between us and the town, and to the watching
inhabitants it seemed as if thousands were coming to crush
them. Night fell, the colors were furled and the saplings
dropped, and we pressed into serried ranks and marched
straight over hill and dale for the lights that were beginning
to twinkle ahead of us.
We halted once more, a quarter of a mile away. Clark,
himself had picked fourteen men to go under Lieutenant
Bayley through the town and take the fort from the other
side. Here was audacity with a vengeance. You may be
sure that Tom and Cowan and Ray were among these, and
I trotted after them with the drum banging against my
Was ever stronghold taken thus?
They went right into the town, the fourteen of them,
into the main street that led directly to the fort. The
simple citizens gave back, stupefied, at sight of the tall,
striding forms. Muffled Indians stood like statues as we
passed, but these raised not a hand against us. Where
were Hamilton, Hamilton's soldiers and savages? It was
as if we had come a-trading.
The street rose and fell in waves, like the prairie over
which it ran. As we climbed a ridge, here was a little
log church, the rude cross on the belfry showing dark
against the sky. And there, in front of us, flanked by
blockhouses with conical caps, was the frowning mass of
Fort Sackville.
``Take cover,'' said Williams, hoarsely. It seemed
The men spread hither and thither, some at the corners
of the church, some behind the fences of the little gardens.
Tom chose a great forest tree that had been left standing,
and I went with him. He powdered his pan, and I laid
down my drum beside the tree, and then, with an impulse
that was rare, Tom seized me by the collar and drew me
to him.
``Davy,'' he whispered, and I pinched him. ``Davy, I
reckon Polly Ann'd be kinder surprised if she knew where
we was. Eh?''
I nodded. It seemed strange, indeed, to be talking
thus at such a place. Life has taught me since that it
was not so strange, for however a man may strive and
suffer for an object, he usually sits quiet at the
consummation. Here we were in the door-yard of a peaceful cabin,
the ground frozen in lumps under our feet, and it seemed
to me that the wind had something to do with the lightness
of the night.
``Davy,'' whispered Tom again, ``how'd ye like to see
the little feller to home?''
I pinched him again, and harder this time, for I was at
a loss for adequate words. The muscles of his legs were
as hard as the strands of a rope, and his buckskin breeches
frozen so that they cracked under my fingers.
Suddenly a flickering light arose ahead of us, and another,
and we saw that they were candles beginning to twinkle
through the palings of the fort. These were badly set,
the width of a man's hand apart. Presently here comes a
soldier with a torch, and as he walked we could see from
crack to crack his bluff face all reddened by the light,
and so near were we that we heard the words of his
``O, there came a lass to Sudbury Fair,
With a hey, and a ho, nonny-nonny!
And she had a rose in her raven hair,
With a hey, and a ho, nonny-nonny!''
``By the etarnal!'' said Tom, following the man along
the palings with the muzzle of his Deckard, ``by the
etarnal! 'tis like shootin' beef.''
A gust of laughter came from somewhere beyond. The
burly soldier paused at the foot of the blockhouse.
``Hi, Jem, have ye seen the General's man? His Honor's
in a 'igh temper, I warrant ye.''
It was fortunate for Jem that he put his foot inside the
blockhouse door.
``Now, boys!''
It was Williams's voice, and fourteen rifles sputtered out
a ragged volley.
There was an instant's silence, and then a score of
voices raised in consternation,--shouting, cursing,
commanding. Heavy feet pounded on the platform of the
blockhouse. While Tom was savagely jamming in powder
and ball, the wicket gate of the fort opened, a man came
out and ran to a house a biscuit's throw away, and ran
back again before he was shot at, slamming the gate after
him. Tom swore.
``We've got but the ten rounds,'' he said, dropping his
rifle to his knee. ``I reckon 'tis no use to waste it.''
``The Willing may come to-night,'' I answered.
There was a bugle winding a strange call, and the roll
of a drum, and the running continued.
``Don't fire till you're sure, boys,'' said Captain Williams.
Our eyes caught sight of a form in the blockhouse port,
there was an instant when a candle flung its rays upon a
cannon's flank, and Tom's rifle spat a rod of flame. A red
blot hid the cannon's mouth, and behind it a man staggered
and fell on the candle, while the shot crunched its way
through the logs of the cottage in the yard where we
stood. And now the battle was on in earnest, fire darting
here and there from the black wall, bullets whistling
and flying wide, and at intervals cannon belching, their
shot grinding through trees and houses. But our men
waited until the gunners lit their matches in the cannonports,--
it was no trick for a backwoodsman.
At length there came a popping right and left, and we
knew that Bowman and McCarty's men had swung into
position there.
An hour passed, and a shadow came along our line,
darting from cover to cover. It was Lieutenant Bayley,
and he sent me back to find the Colonel and to tell him
that the men had but a few rounds left. I sped through
the streets on the errand, spied a Creole company waiting
in reserve, and near them, behind a warehouse, a knot of
backwoodsmen, French, and Indians, lighted up by a
smoking torch. And here was Colonel Clark talking to a
big, blanketed chief. I was hovering around the skirts of
the crowd and seeking for an opening, when a hand pulled
me off my feet.
``What'll ye be afther now?'' said a voice, which was
``Let me go,'' I cried, ``I have a message from
Lieutenant Bayley.''
``Sure,'' said Terence, ``a man'd think ye had the Hair
Buyer's sculp in yere pocket. The Colonel is treatymakin'
with Tobacey's Son, the grreatest Injun in these
``I don't care.''
``Hist!'' said Terence.
``Let me go,'' I yelled, so loudly that the Colonel
turned, and Terence dropped me like a live coal. I
wormed my way to where Clark stood. Tobacco's Son
was at that moment protesting that the Big Knives were
his brothers, and declaring that before morning broke he
would have one hundred warriors for the Great White
Chief. Had he not made a treaty of peace with Captain
Helm, who was even then a prisoner of the British
general in the fort?
Colonel Clark replied that he knew well of the fidelity
of Tobacco's Son to the Big Knives, that Tobacco's Son
had remained stanch in the face of bribes and presents
(this was true). Now all that Colonel Clark desired of
Tobacco's Son besides his friendship was that he would
keep his warriors from battle. The Big Knives would
fight their own fight. To this sentiment Tobacco's Son
grunted extreme approval. Colonel Clark turned to me.
``What is it, Davy?'' he asked.
I told him.
``Tobacco's Son has dug up for us King George's
ammunition,'' he said. ``Go tell Lieutenant Bayley that
I will send him enough to last him a month.''
I sped away with the message. Presently I came back
again, upon another message, and they were eating,--
those reserves,--they were eating as I had never seen
men eat but once, at Kaskaskia. The baker stood by
with lifted palms, imploring the saints that he might have
some compensation, until Clark sent him back to his shop
to knead and bake again. The good Creoles approached
the fires with the contents of their larders in their hands.
Terence tossed me a loaf the size of a cannon ball, and
``Fetch that wan to wan av the b'ys,'' said he.
I seized as much as my arms could hold and scurried
away to the firing line once more, and, heedless of whistling
bullets, darted from man to man until the bread was
exhausted. Not a one but gave me a ``God bless you, Davy,''
ere he seized it with a great hand and began to eat in
wolfish bites, his Deckard always on the watch the while.
There was no sleep in the village. All night long,
while the rifles sputtered, the villagers in their capotes--
men, women, and children--huddled around the fires.
The young men of the militia begged Clark to allow
them to fight, and to keep them well affected he sent
some here and there amongst our lines. For our Colonel's
strength was not counted by rifles or men alone: he
fought with his brain. As Hamilton, the Hair Buyer,
made his rounds, he believed the town to be in possession
of a horde of Kentuckians. Shouts, war-whoops, and bursts
of laughter went up from behind the town. Surely a great
force was there, a small part of which had been sent to
play with him and his men. On the fighting line, when
there was a lull, our backwoodsmen stood up behind their
trees and cursed the enemy roundly, and often by these
taunts persuaded the furious gunners to open their ports
and fire their cannon. Woe be to him that showed an
arm or a shoulder! Though a casement be lifted ever so
warily, a dozen balls would fly into it. And at length,
when some of the besieged had died in their anger, the
ports were opened no more. It was then our sharpshooters
crept up boldly to within thirty yards of them--nay, it
seemed as if they lay under the very walls of the fort.
And through the night the figure of the Colonel himself
was often seen amongst them, praising their markmanship,
pleading with every man not to expose himself without
cause. He spied me where I had wormed myself behind
the foot-board of a picket fence beneath the cannon-port
of a blockhouse. It was during one of the breathing spaces.
``What's this?'' said he to Cowan, sharply, feeling me
with his foot.
``I reckon it's Davy, sir,'' said my friend, somewhat
sheepishly. ``We can't do nothin' with him. He's been
up and down the line twenty times this night.''
``What doing?'' says the Colonel.
``Bread and powder and bullets,'' answered Bill.
``But that's all over,'' says Clark.
``He's the very devil to pry,'' answered Bill. ``The
first we know he'll be into the fort under the logs.''
``Or between them,'' says Clark, with a glance at the
open palings. ``Come here, Davy.''
I followed him, dodging between the houses, and when
we had got off the line he took me by the two shoulders
from behind.
``You little rascal,'' said he, shaking me, ``how am I to
look out for an army and you besides? Have you had anything
to eat?''
``Yes, sir,'' I answered.
We came to the fires, and Captain Bowman hurried up
to meet him.
``We're piling up earthworks and barricades,'' said the
Captain, ``for the fight to-morrow. My God! if the
Willing would only come, we could put our cannon into
Clark laughed.
``Bowman,'' said he, kindly, ``has Davy fed you yet?''
``No,'' says the Captain, surprised, ``I've had no time
to eat.''
``He seems to have fed the whole army,'' said the
Colonel. He paused. ``Have they scented Lamothe or
``Devil a scent!'' cried the Captain, ``and we've scoured
wood and quagmire. They tell me that Lamothe has a
very pretty force of redskins at his heels.''
``Let McChesney go,'' said Clark sharply, ``McChesney
and Ray. I'll warrant they can find 'em.''
Now I knew that Maisonville had gone out a-chasing
Captain Willing's brother,--he who had run into our
arms. Lamothe was a noted Indian partisan and a dangerous
man to be dogging our rear that night. Suddenly
there came a thought that took my breath and set my
heart a-hammering. When the Colonel's back was turned
I slipped away beyond the range of the firelight, and I
was soon on the prairie, stumbling over hummocks and
floundering into ponds, yet going as quietly as I could,
turning now and again to look back at the distant glow or
to listen to the rifles popping around the fort. The night
was cloudy and pitchy dark. Twice the whirring of
startled waterfowl frightened me out of my senses, but
ambition pricked me on in spite of fear. I may have gone
a mile thus, perchance two or three, straining every sense,
when a sound brought me to a stand. At first I could not
distinguish it because of my heavy breathing, but presently
I made sure that it was the low drone of human
voices. Getting down on my hands and knees, I crept
forward, and felt the ground rising. The voices had
ceased. I gained the crest of a low ridge, and threw
myself flat. A rattle of musketry set me shivering, and in
an agony of fright I looked behind me to discover that I
could not be more than four hundred yards from the fort.
I had made a circle. I lay very still, my eyes watered
with staring, and then--the droning began again. I
went forward an inch, then another and another down the
slope, and at last I could have sworn that I saw dark blurs
against the ground. I put out my hand, my weight went
after, and I had crashed through a coating of ice up to my
elbow in a pool. There came a second of sheer terror, a
hoarse challenge in French, and then I took to my heels
and flew towards the fort at the top of my speed.
I heard them coming after me, leap and bound, and
crying out to one another. Ahead of me there might have
been a floor or a precipice, as the ground looks level at
night. I hurt my foot cruelly on a frozen clod of earth,
slid down the washed bank of a run into the Wabash,
picked myself up, scrambled to the top of the far side, and
had gotten away again when my pursuer shattered the ice
behind me. A hundred yards more, two figures loomed
up in front, and I was pulled up choking.
``Hang to him, Fletcher!'' said a voice.
``Great God!'' cried Fletcher, ``it's Davy. What are
ye up to now?''
``Let me go!'' I cried, as soon as I had got my wind.
As luck would have it, I had run into a pair of daredevil
young Kentuckians who had more than once tasted the
severity of Clark's discipline,--Fletcher Blount and Jim
Willis. They fairly shook out of me what had happened,
and then dropped me with a war-whoop and started for
the prairie, I after them, crying out to them to beware of
the run. A man must indeed be fleet of foot to have
escaped these young ruffians, and so it proved. When I
reached the hollow there were the two of them fighting
with a man in the water, the ice jangling as they shifted
their feet.
``What's yere name?'' said Fletcher, cuffing and
kicking his prisoner until he cried out for mercy.
``Maisonville,'' said the man, whereupon Fletcher gave
a war-whoop and kicked him again.
``That's no way to use a prisoner,'' said I, hotly.
``Hold your mouth, Davy,'' said Fletcher, ``you didn't
ketch him.''
``You wouldn't have had him but for me,'' I retorted.
Fletcher's answer was an oath. They put Maisonville
between them, ran him through the town up to the firing
line, and there, to my horror, they tied him to a post and
used him for a shield, despite his heart-rending yells. In
mortal fear that the poor man would be shot down, I was
running away to find some one who might have influence
over them when I met a lieutenant. He came up and
ordered them angrily to unbind Maisonville and bring him
before the Colonel. Fletcher laughed, whipped out his
hunting knife, and cut the thongs; but he and Willis had
scarce got twenty paces from the officer before they seized
poor Maisonville by the hair and made shift to scalp him.
This was merely backwoods play, had Maisonville but
known it. Persuaded, however, that his last hour was
come, he made a desperate effort to clear himself, whereupon
Fletcher cut off a piece of his skin by mistake.
Maisonville, making sure that he had been scalped, stood
groaning and clapping his hand to his head, while the two
young rascals drew back and stared at each other.
``What's to do now?'' said Willis.
``Take our medicine, I reckon,'' answered Fletcher,
grimly. And they seized the tottering man between
them, and marched him straightway to the fire where
Clark stood.
They had seen the Colonel angry before, but now they
were fairly withered under his wrath. And he could have
given them no greater punishment, for he took them from
the firing line, and sent them back to wait among the
reserves until the morning.
``Nom de Dieu!'' said Maisonville, wrathfully, as he
watched them go, ``they should hang.''
``The stuff that brought them here through ice and
flood is apt to boil over, Captain,'' remarked the Colonel,
``If you please, sir,'' said I, ``they did not mean to cut
him, but he wriggled.''
Clark turned sharply.
``Eh?'' said he, ``did you have a hand in this, too?''
``Peste!'' cried the Captain, ``the little ferret--you
call him--he find me on the prairie. I run to catch him
with some men and fall into the crick--'' he pointed to
his soaked leggings, ``and your demons, they fall on top
of me.''
``I wish to heaven you had caught Lamothe instead,
Davy,'' said the Colonel, and joined despite himself in the
laugh that went up. Falling sober again, he began to
question the prisoner. Where was Lamothe? Pardieu,
Maisonville could not say. How many men did he have,
etc., etc.? The circle about us deepened with eager
listeners, who uttered exclamations when Maisonville,
between his answers, put up his hand to his bleeding head.
Suddenly the circle parted, and Captain Bowman came
``Ray has discovered Lamothe, sir,'' said he. ``What
shall we do?''
``Let him into the fort,'' said Clark, instantly.
There was a murmur of astonished protest.
``Let him into the fort!'' exclaimed Bowman.
``Certainly,'' said the Colonel; ``if he finds he cannot
get in, he will be off before the dawn to assemble the
``But the fort is provisioned for a month,'' Bowman
expostulated; ``and they must find out to-morrow how
weak we are.''
``To-morrow will be too late,'' said Clark.
``And suppose he shouldn't go in?''
``He will go in,'' said the Colonel, quietly.
``Withdraw your men, Captain, from the north side.''
Captain Bowman departed. Whatever he may have
thought of these orders, he was too faithful a friend of
the Colonel's to delay their execution. Murmuring,
swearing oaths of astonishment, man after man on the
firing line dropped his rifle at the word, and sullenly
retreated. The crack, crack of the Deckards on the south
and east were stilled; not a barrel was thrust by the
weary garrison through the logs, and the place became
silent as the wilderness. It was the long hour before the
dawn. And as we lay waiting on the hard ground, stiff
and cold and hungry, talking in whispers, somewhere
near six of the clock on that February morning the great
square of Fort Sackville began to take shape. There was
the long line of the stockade, the projecting blockhouses
at each corner with peaked caps, and a higher capped
square tower from the centre of the enclosure, the banner
of England drooping there and clinging forlorn to its
staff, as though with a presentiment. Then, as the light
grew, the close-lipped casements were seen, scarred with
our bullets. The little log houses of the town came out,
the sapling palings and the bare trees,--all grim and
gaunt at that cruel season. Cattle lowed here and there,
and horses whinnied to be fed.
It was a dirty, gray dawn, and we waited until it had
done its best. From where we lay hid behind log house
and palings we strained our eyes towards the prairie to see
if Lamothe would take the bait, until our view was ended
at the fuzzy top of a hillock. Bill Cowan, doubled up
behind a woodpile and breathing heavily, nudged me.
``Davy, Davy, what d'ye see!''
Was it a head that broke the line of the crest? Even
as I stared, breathless, half a score of forms shot up and
were running madly for the stockade. Twenty more
broke after them, Indians and Frenchmen, dodging, swaying,
crowding, looking fearfully to right and left. And
from within the fort came forth a hubbub,--cries and
scuffling, orders, oaths, and shouts. In plain view of our
impatient Deckards soldiers manned the platform, and we
saw that they were flinging down ladders. An officer in
a faded scarlet coat stood out among the rest, shouting
himself hoarse. Involuntarily Cowan lined his sights
across the woodpile on this mark of color.
Lamothe's men, a seething mass, were fighting like
wolves for the ladders, fearful yet that a volley might
kill half of them where they stood. And so fast did they
scramble upwards that the men before them stepped on
their fingers. All at once and by acclamation the fierce
war-whoops of our men rent the air, and some toppled in
sheer terror and fell the twelve feet of the stockade at
the sound of it. Then every man in the regiment, Creole
and backwoodsman, lay back to laugh. The answer of
the garrison was a defiant cheer, and those who had
dropped, finding they were not shot at, picked themselves
up again and gained the top, helping to pull the ladders
after them. Bowman's men swung back into place, the
rattle and drag were heard in the blockhouse as the
cannon were run out through the ports, and the battle which
had held through the night watches began again with
redoubled vigor. But there was more caution on the side of
the British, for they had learned dearly how the
Kentuckians could measure crack and crevice.
There followed two hours and a futile waste of
ammunition, the lead from the garrison flying harmless here
and there, and not a patch of skin or cloth showing.
``If I am obliged to storm, you may depend upon such
treatment as is justly due to a murderer. And beware of
destroying stores of any kind, or any papers or letters that
are in your possession; or of hurting one house in the town.
For, by Heaven! if you do, there shall be no mercy shown
``To Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton.''
So read Colonel Clark, as he stood before the log fire
in Monsieur Bouton's house at the back of the town, the
captains grouped in front of him.
``Is that strong enough, gentlemen?'' he asked.
``To raise his hair,'' said Captain Charleville.
Captain Bowman laughed loudly.
``I reckon the boys will see to that,'' said he.
Colonel Clark folded the letter, addressed it, and turned
gravely to Monsieur Bouton.
``You will oblige me, sir,'' said he, ``by taking this to
Governor Hamilton. You will be provided with a flag of
Monsieur Bouton was a round little man, as his name
suggested, and the men cheered him as he strode soberly
up the street, a piece of sheeting tied to a sapling and
flung over his shoulder. Through such humble agencies
are the ends of Providence accomplished. Monsieur
Bouton walked up to the gate, disappeared sidewise
through the postern, and we sat down to breakfast. In
a very short time Monsieur Bouton was seen coming back,
and his face was not so impassive that the governors
message could not be read thereon.
`` 'Tis not a love-letter he has, I'll warrant,'' said
Terence, as the little man disappeared into the house.
So accurately had Monsieur Bouton's face betrayed the
news that the men went back to their posts without
orders, some with half a breakfast in hand. And soon
the rank and file had the message.
``Lieutenant-Governor Hamilton begs leave to acquaint
Colonel Clark that he and his garrison are not disposed to be
awed into any action unworthy of British subjects.''
Our men had eaten, their enemy was within their grasp
and Clark and all his officers could scarce keep them from
storming. Such was the deadliness of their aim that
scarce a shot came back, and time and again I saw men
fling themselves in front of the breastworks with a warwhoop,
wave their rifles in the air, and cry out that they
would have the Ha'r Buyer's sculp before night should
fall. It could not last. Not tuned to the nicer courtesies
of warfare, the memory of Hamilton's war parties, of
blackened homes, of families dead and missing, raged
unappeased. These were not content to leave vengeance in
the Lord's hands, and when a white flag peeped timorously
above the gate a great yell of derision went up from riverbank
to river-bank. Out of the poster n stepped the officer
with the faded scarlet coat, and in due time went back
again, haughtily, his head high, casting contempt right
and left of him. Again the postern opened, and this time
there was a cheer at sight of a man in hunting shirt and
leggings and coonskin cap. After him came a certain
Major Hay, Indian-enticer of detested memory, the
lieutenant of him who followed--the Hair Buyer himself.
A murmur of hatred arose from the men stationed there;
and many would have shot him where he stood but for
``The devil has the grit,'' said Cowan, though his eyes
It was the involuntary tribute. Lieutenant-Governor
Hamilton stared indifferently at the glowering backwoodsmen
as he walked the few steps to the church.
Not so Major Hay. His eyes fell. There was Colonel
Clark waiting at the door through which the good Creoles
had been wont to go to worship, bowing somewhat ironically
to the British General. It was a strange meeting
they had in St. Xavier's, by the light of the candles on
the altar. Hot words passed in that house of peace, the
General demanding protection for all his men, and our
Colonel replying that he would do with the Indian partisans
as he chose.
``And whom mean you by Indian partisans?'' the
undaunted governor had demanded.
``I take Major Hay to be one of them,'' our Colonel had
It was soon a matter of common report how Clark had
gazed fixedly at the Major when he said this, and how the
Major turned pale and trembled. With our own eyes we
saw them coming out, Major Hay as near to staggering
as a man could be, the governor blushing red for shame
of him. So they went sorrowfully back to the gate.
Colonel Clark stood at the steps of the church, looking
after them.
``What was that firing?'' he demanded sharply. ``I
gave orders for a truce.''
We who stood by the church had indeed heard firing in
the direction of the hills east of the town, and had wondered
thereat. Perceiving a crowd gathered at the far
end of the street, we all ran thither save the Colonel, who
directed to have the offenders brought to him at Monsieur
Bouton's. We met the news halfway. A party of Canadians
and Indians had just returned from the Falls of
the Ohio with scalps they had taken. Captain Williams
had gone out with his company to meet them, had lured
them on, and finally had killed a number and was returning
with the prisoners. Yes, here they were! Williams
himself walked ahead with two dishevelled and frightened
coureurs du bois, twoscore at least of the townspeople of
Vincennes, friends and relatives of the prisoners, pressing
about and crying out to Williams to have mercy on them.
As for Williams, he took them in to the Colonel, the towns
people pressing into the door-yard and banking in front of
it on the street. Behind all a tragedy impended, nor can
I think of it now without sickening.
The frightened Creoles in the street gave back against
the fence, and from behind them, issuing as a storm-cloud
came the half of Williams' company, yelling like madmen.
Pushed and jostled ahead of them were four Indians
decked and feathered, the half-dried scalps dangling from
their belts, impassive, true to their creed despite the
indignity of jolts and jars and blows. On and on pressed
the mob, gathering recruits at every corner, and when
they reached St. Xavier's before the fort half the regiment
was there. Others watched, too, from the stockade,
and what they saw made their knees smite together with
fear. Here were four bronzed statues in a row across the
street, the space in front of them clear that their partisans
in the fort might look and consider. What was passing
in the savage mind no man might know. Not a lip
trembled nor an eye faltered when a backwoodsman, his
memory aflame at sight of the pitiful white scalps on their
belts, thrust through the crowd to curse them. Fletcher
Blount, frenzied, snatched his tomahawk from his side.
``Sink, varmint!'' he cried with a great oath. ``By the
etarnal! we'll pay the H'ar Buyer in his own coin. Sound
your drums!'' he shouted at the fort. ``Call the garrison
fer the show.''
He had raised his arm and turned to strike when the
savage put up his hand, not in entreaty, but as one man
demanding a right from another. The cries, the curses,
the murmurs even, were hushed. Throwing back his
head, arching his chest, the notes of a song rose in the
heavy air. Wild, strange notes they were, that struck
vibrant chords in my own quivering being, and the song
was the death-song. Ay, and the life-song of a soul
which had come into the world even as mine own. And
somewhere there lay in the song, half revealed, the awful
mystery of that Creator Whom the soul leaped forth to
meet: the myriad green of the sun playing with the
leaves, the fish swimming lazily in the brown pool, the
doe grazing in the thicket, and a naked boy as free from
care as these; and still the life grows brighter as strength
comes, and stature, and power over man and beast; and
then, God knows what memories of fierce love and fiercer
wars and triumphs, of desires gained and enemies
conquered,--God, who has made all lives akin to something
which He holds in the hollow of His hand; and then--
the rain beating on the forest crown, beating, beating,
The song ceased. The Indian knelt in the black
mud, not at the feet of Fletcher Blount, but on the
threshold of the Great Spirit who ruleth all things.
The axe fell, yet he uttered no cry as he went before his
So the four sang, each in turn, and died in the sight of
some who pitied, and some who feared, and some who
hated, for the sake of land and women. So the four went
beyond the power of gold and gewgaw, and were dragged
in the mire around the walls and flung into the yellow
waters of the river.
Through the dreary afternoon the men lounged about
and cursed the parley, and hearkened for the tattoo,--
the signal agreed upon by the leaders to begin the
fighting. There had been no command against taunts and
jeers, and they gathered in groups under the walls to
indulge themselves, and even tried to bribe me as I sat
braced against a house with my drum between my knees
and the sticks clutched tightly in my hands.
``Here's a Spanish dollar for a couple o' taps, Davy,''
shouted Jack Terrell.
``Come on, ye pack of Rebel cutthroats!'' yelled a man
on the wall.
He was answered by a torrent of imprecations. And so
they flung it back and forth until nightfall, when out
comes the same faded-scarlet officer, holding a letter in his
hand, and marches down the street to Monsieur Bouton's.
There would be no storming now, nor any man suffered
to lay fingers on the Hair Buyer.
* * * * * * *
I remember, in particular, Hamilton the Hair Buyer.
Not the fiend my imagination had depicted (I have since
learned that most villains do not look the part), but a man
with a great sorrow stamped upon his face. The sun rose
on that 25th of February, and the mud melted, and
one of our companies drew up on each side of the gate.
Downward slid the lion of England, the garrison drums
beat a dirge, and the Hair Buyer marched out at the head
of his motley troops.
Then came my own greatest hour. All morning I had
been polishing and tightening the drum, and my pride
was so great as we fell into line that so much as a smile
could not be got out of me. Picture it all: Vincennes in
black and white by reason of the bright day; eaves and
gables, stockade line and capped towers, sharply drawn,
and straight above these a stark flagstaff waiting for our
colors; pigs and fowls straying hither and thither,
unmindful that this day is red on the calendar. Ah! here
is a bit of color, too,--the villagers on the side streets to
see the spectacle. Gay wools and gayer handkerchiefs
there, amid the joyous, cheering crowd of thrice-changed
``Vive les Bostonnais! Vive les Americains! Vive
Monsieur le Colonel Clark! Vive le petit tambour!''
``Vive le petit tambour!'' That was the drummer boy,
stepping proudly behind the Colonel himself, with a soul
lifted high above mire and puddle into the blue above.
There was laughter amongst the giants behind me, and
Cowan saying softly, as when we left Kaskaskia, ``Go it,
Davy, my little gamecock!'' And the whisper of it was
repeated among the ranks drawn up by the gate.
Yes, here was the gate, and now we were in the fort,
and an empire was gained, never to be lost again. The
Stars and Stripes climbed the staff, and the folds were
caught by an eager breeze. Thirteen cannon thundered
from the blockhouses--one for each colony that had
braved a king.
There, in the miry square within the Vincennes fort,
thin and bronzed and travel-stained, were the men who
had dared the wilderness in ugliest mood. And yet none
by himself would have done it--each had come here compelled
by a spirit stronger than his own, by a master mind
that laughed at the body and its ailments.
Colonel George Rogers Clark stood in the centre of the
square, under the flag to whose renown he had added
three stars. Straight he was, and square, and selfcontained.
No weakening tremor of exultation softened his
face as he looked upon the men by whose endurance he
had been able to do this thing. He waited until the
white smoke of the last gun had drifted away on the
breeze, until the snapping of the flag and the distant
village sounds alone broke the stillness.
``We have not suffered all things for a reward,'' he
said, ``but because a righteous cause may grow. And
though our names may be forgotten, our deeds will be
remembered. We have conquered a vast land that our
children and our children's children may be freed from
tyranny, and we have brought a just vengeance upon our
enemies. I thank you, one and all, in the name of the
Continental Congress and of that Commonwealth of
Virginia for which you have fought. You are no longer
Virginians, Kentuckians, Kaskaskians, and Cahokians--
you are Americans.''
He paused, and we were silent. Though his words
moved us strongly, they were beyond us.
``I mention no deeds of heroism, of unselfishness, of
lives saved at the peril of others. But I am the debtor
of every man here for the years to come to see that he
and his family have justice from the Commonwealth and
the nation.''
Again he stopped, and it seemed to us watching that he
smiled a little.
``I shall name one,'' he said, ``one who never lagged,
who never complained, who starved that the weak might
be fed and walk. David Ritchie, come here.''
I trembled, my teeth chattered as the water had never
made them chatter. I believe I should have fallen but
for Tom, who reached out from the ranks. I stumbled
forward in a daze to where the Colonel stood, and the
cheering from the ranks was a thing beyond me. The
Colonel's hand on my head brought me to my senses.
``David Ritchie,'' he said, ``I give you publicly the
thanks of the regiment. The parade is dismissed.''
The next thing I knew I was on Cowan's shoulders, and
he was tearing round and round the fort with two companies
at his heels.
``The divil,'' said Terence McCann, ``he dhrummed us
over the wather, an' through the wather; and faix, he
would have dhrummed the sculp from Hamilton's head
and the Colonel had said the worrd.''
``By gar!'' cried Antoine le Gris, ``now he drum us on
to Detroit.''
Out of the gate rushed Cowan, the frightened villagers
scattering right and left. Antoine had a friend who lived
in this street, and in ten minutes there was rum in the
powder-horns, and the toast was ``On to Detroit!''
Colonel Clark was sitting alone in the commanding
officer's room of the garrison. And the afternoon sun,
slanting through the square of the window, fell upon the
maps and papers before him. He had sent for me. I
halted in sheer embarrassment on the threshold, looked up
at his face, and came on, troubled.
``Davy,'' he said, ``do you want to go back to
``I should like to stay to the end, Colonel, ``I
``The end?'' he said. ``This is the end.''
``And Detroit, sir?'' I returned.
``Detroit!'' he cried bitterly, ``a man of sense measures
his force, and does not try the impossible. I could as
soon march against Philadelphia. This is the end, I say;
and the general must give way to the politician. And
may God have mercy on the politician who will try to
keep a people's affection without money or help from
He fell back wearily in his chair, while I stood
astonished, wondering. I had thought to find him elated
with victory.
``Congress or Virginia,'' said he, ``will have to pay
Monsieur Vigo, and Father Gibault, and Monsieur Gratiot,
and the other good people who have trusted me. Do you
think they will do so?''
``The Congress are far from here,'' I said.
``Ay,'' he answered, ``too far to care about you and me,
and what we have suffered.''
He ended abruptly, and sat for a while staring out of
the window at the figures crossing and recrossing the
muddy parade-ground.
``Tom McChesney goes to-night to Kentucky with
letters to the county lieutenant. You are to go with
him, and then I shall have no one to remind me when I
am hungry, and bring me hominy. I shall have no financier,
no strategist for a tight place.'' He smiled a little,
sadly, at my sorrowful look, and then drew me to him and
patted my shoulder. ``It is no place for a young lad,--
an idle garrison. I think,'' he continued presently, ``I
think you have a future, David, if you do not lose your
head. Kentucky will grow and conquer, and in twenty
years be a thriving community. And presently you will
go to Virginia, and study law, and come back again. Do
you hear?
``Yes, Colonel.''
``And I would tell you one thing,'' said he, with force;
``serve the people, as all true men should in a republic.
But do not rely upon their gratitude. You will remember
``Yes, Colonel.''
A long time he paused, looking on me with a
significance I did not then understand. And when he spoke
again his voice showed no trace of emotion, save in the
note of it.
``You have been a faithful friend, Davy, when I needed
loyalty. Perhaps the time may come again. Promise
me that you will not forget me if I am--unfortunate.''
``Unfortunate, sir!'' I exclaimed.
``Good-by, Davy,'' he said, ``and God bless you. I have
work to do.''
Still I hesitated. He stared at me, but with kindness.
``What is it, Davy?'' he asked.
``Please, sir,'' I said, ``if I might take my drum?''
At that he laughed.
``You may,'' said he, ``you may. Perchance we may
need it again.''
I went out from his presence, vaguely troubled, to find
Tom. And before the early sun had set we were gliding
down the Wabash in a canoe, past places forever dedicated
to our agonies, towards Kentucky and Polly Ann.
``Davy,'' said Tom, ``I reckon she'll be standin' under
the 'simmon tree, waitin' fer us with the little shaver in
her arms.''
And so she was.
The Eden of one man may be the Inferno of his
neighbor, and now I am to throw to the winds, like leaves of a
worthless manuscript, some years of time, and introduce
you to a new Kentucky,--a Kentucky that was not for
the pioneer. One page of this manuscript might have
told of a fearful winter, when the snow lay in great drifts
in the bare woods, when Tom and I fashioned canoes or
noggins out of the great roots, when a new and feminine
bit of humanity cried in the bark cradle, and Polly Ann
sewed deer leather. Another page--nay, a dozen--could
be filled with Indian horrors, ambuscades and massacres.
And also I might have told how there drifted into this land,
hitherto unsoiled, the refuse cast off by the older colonies.
I must add quickly that we got more than our share
of their best stock along with this.
No sooner had the sun begun to pit the snow hillocks
than wild creatures came in from the mountains, haggard
with hunger and hardship. They had left their homes in
Virginia and the Carolinas in the autumn; an unheralded
winter of Arctic fierceness had caught them in its grip.
Bitter tales they told of wives and children buried among
the rocks. Fast on the heels of these wretched ones
trooped the spring settlers in droves; and I have seen
whole churches march singing into the forts, the preacher
leading, and thanking God loudly that He had delivered
them from the wilderness and the savage. The little
forts would not hold them; and they went out to hew
clearings from the forest, and to build cabins and stockades.
And our own people, starved and snowbound, went
out likewise,--Tom and Polly Ann and their little family
and myself to the farm at the river-side. And while the
water flowed between the stumps over the black land, we
planted and ploughed and prayed, always alert, watching
north and south, against the coming of the Indians.
But Tom was no husbandman. He and his kind were
the scouts, the advance guard of civilization, not tillers
of the soil or lovers of close communities. Farther and
farther they went afield for game, and always they grumbled
sorely against this horde which had driven the deer
from his cover and the buffalo from his wallow.
Looking back, I can recall one evening when the long
summer twilight lingered to a close. Tom was lounging
lazily against the big persimmon tree, smoking his pipe,
the two children digging at the roots, and Polly Ann,
seated on the door-log, sewing. As I drew near, she
looked up at me from her work. She was a woman upon
whose eternal freshness industry made no mar.
``Davy,'' she exclaimed, ``how ye've growed! I thought
ye'd be a wizened little body, but this year ye've shot up
like a cornstalk.''
``My father was six feet two inches in his moccasins,''
I said.
``He'll be wallopin' me soon,'' said Tom, with a grin.
He took a long whiff at his pipe, and added thoughtfully,
``I reckon this ain't no place fer me now, with all the
settler folks and land-grabbers comin' through the Gap.''
``Tom,'' said I, ``there's a bit of a fall on the river here.''
``Ay,'' he said, ``and nary a fish left.''
``Something better,'' I answered; ``we'll put a dam
there and a mill and a hominy pounder.''
``And make our fortune grinding corn for the settlers,''
cried Polly Ann, showing a line of very white teeth. ``I
always said ye'd be a rich man, Davy.''
Tom was mildly interested, and went with us at
daylight to measure the fall. And he allowed that he would
have the more time to hunt if the mill were a success.
For a month I had had the scheme in my mind, where
the dam was to be put, the race, and the wondrous wheel
rimmed with cow horns to dip the water. And fixed on
the wheel there was to be a crank that worked the pounder
in the mortar. So we were to grind until I could arrange
with Mr. Scarlett, the new storekeeper in Harrodstown,
to have two grinding-stones fetched across the mountains.
While the corn ripened and the melons swelled and
the flax flowered, our axes rang by the river's side; and
sometimes, as we worked, Cowan and Terrell and McCann
and other Long Hunters would come and jeer goodnaturedly
because we were turning civilized. Often
they gave us a lift.
It was September when the millstones arrived, and I
spent a joyous morning of final bargaining with Mr.
Myron Scarlett. This Mr. Scarlett was from Connecticut,
had been a quartermaster in the army, and at much
risk brought ploughs and hardware, and scissors and
buttons, and broadcloth and corduroy, across the
Alleghanies, and down the Ohio in flatboats. These he sold
at great profit. We had no money, not even the worthless
scrip that Congress issued; but a beaver skin was
worth eighteen shillings, a bearskin ten, and a fox or a
deer or a wildcat less. Half the village watched the
barter. The rest lounged sullenly about the land court.
The land court--curse of Kentucky! It was just a
windowless log house built outside the walls, our temple
of avarice. The case was this: Henderson (for whose
company Daniel Boone cut the wilderness road) believed
that he had bought the country, and issued grants therefor.
Tom held one of these grants, alas, and many others
whom I knew. Virginia repudiated Henderson. Keenfaced
speculators bought acre upon acre and tract upon
tract from the State, and crossed the mountains to extort.
Claims conflicted, titles lapped. There was the court set
in the sunlight in the midst of a fair land, held by the
shameless, thronged day after day by the homeless and
the needy, jostling, quarrelling, beseeching. Even as I
looked upon this strife a man stood beside me.
``Drat 'em,'' said the stranger, as he watched a hawkeyed
extortioner in drab, for these did not condescend to
hunting shirts, ``drat 'em, ef I had my way I'd wring the
neck of every mother's son of 'em.''
I turned with a start, and there was Mr. Daniel Boone.
``Howdy, Davy,'' he said; ``ye've growed some sence
ye've ben with Clark.'' He paused, and then continued in
the same strain: `` 'Tis the same at Boonesboro and up
thar at the Falls settlement. The critters is everywhar,
robbin' men of their claims. Davy,'' said Mr. Boone,
earnestly, ``you know that I come into Kaintuckee when
it waren't nothin' but wilderness, and resked my life time
and again. Them varmints is wuss'n redskins,--they've
robbed me already of half my claims.''
``Robbed you!'' I exclaimed, indignant that he, of all
men, should suffer.
``Ay,'' he said, ``robbed me. They've took one claim
after another, tracts that I staked out long afore they
heerd of Kaintuckee.'' He rubbed his rifle barrel with
his buckskin sleeve. ``I get a little for my skins, and a
little by surveyin'. But when the game goes I reckon
I'll go after it.''
``Where, Mr. Boone?'' I asked.
``Whar? whar the varmints cyant foller. Acrost the
Mississippi into the Spanish wilderness.''
``And leave Kentucky?'' I cried.
``Davy,'' he answered sadly, ``you kin cope with 'em.
They tell me you're buildin' a mill up at McChesney's, and
I reckon you're as cute as any of 'em. They beat me.
I'm good for nothin' but shootin' and explorin'.''
We stood silent for a while, our attention caught by a
quarrel which had suddenly come out of the doorway.
One of the men was Jim Willis,--my friend of Clark's
campaign,--who had a Henderson claim near Shawanee
Springs. The other was the hawk-eyed man of whom
Mr. Boone had spoken, and fragments of their curses
reached us where we stood. The hunting shirts surged
around them, alert now at the prospect of a fight; men
came running in from all directions, and shouts of ``Hang
him! Tomahawk him!'' were heard on every side. Mr.
Boone did not move. It was a common enough spectacle
for him, and he was not excitable. Moreover, he knew
that the death of one extortioner more or less would have
no effect on the system. They had become as the fowls
of the air.
``I was acrost the mountain last month,'' said Mr.
Boone, presently, ``and one of them skunks had stole
Campbell's silver spoons at Abingdon. Campbell was out
arter him for a week with a coil of rope on his saddle.
But the varmint got to cover.''
Mr. Boone wished me luck in my new enterprise, bade
me good-by, and set out for Redstone, where he was to
measure a tract for a Revolutioner. The speculator having
been rescued from Jim Willis's clutches by the sheriff,
the crowd good-naturedly helped us load our stones between
pack-horses, and some of them followed us all the
way home that they might see the grinding. Half of
McAfee's new station had heard the news, and came over
likewise. And from that day we ground as much corn as
could be brought to us from miles around.
Polly Ann and I ran the mill and kept the accounts.
Often of a crisp autumn morning we heard a gobblegobble
above the tumbling of the water and found a
wild turkey perched on top of the hopper, eating his fill.
Some of our meat we got that way. As for Tom, he was
off and on. When the roving spirit seized him he made
journeys to the westward with Cowan and Ray. Generally
they returned with packs of skins. But sometimes
soberly, thanking Heaven that their hair was left growing
on their heads. This, and patrolling the Wilderness Road
and other militia duties, made up Tom's life. No sooner
was the mill fairly started than off he went to the
Cumberland. I mention this, not alone because I remember
well the day of his return, but because of a certain
happening then that had a heavy influence on my after life.
The episode deals with an easy-mannered gentleman
named Potts, who was the agent for a certain Major
Colfax of Virginia. Tom owned under a Henderson
grant; the Major had been given this and other lands for
his services in the war. Mr. Potts arrived one rainy
afternoon and found me standing alone under the little
lean-to that covered the hopper. How we served him,
with the aid of McCann and Cowan and other neighbors,
and how we were near getting into trouble because of the
prank, will be seen later. The next morning I rode into
Harrodstown not wholly easy in my mind concerning the
wisdom of the thing I had done. There was no one to
advise me, for Colonel Clark was far away, building a fort
on the banks of the Mississippi. Tom had laughed at the
consequences; he cared little about his land, and was for
moving into the Wilderness again. But for Polly Ann's
sake I wished that we had treated the land agent less
cavalierly. I was soon distracted from these thoughts by the
sight of Harrodstown itself.
I had no sooner ridden out of the forest shade when I
saw that the place was in an uproar, men and women
gathering in groups and running here and there between
the cabins. Urging on the mare, I cantered across the
fields, and the first person I met was James Ray.
``What's the matter?'' I asked.
``Matter enough! An army of redskins has crossed the
Ohio, and not a man to take command. My God,'' cried
Ray, pointing angrily at the swarms about the land office,
``what trash we have got this last year! Kentucky can
go to the devil, half the stations be wiped out, and not a
thrip do they care.''
``Have you sent word to the Colonel?'' I asked.
``If he was here,'' said Ray, bitterly, ``he'd have half of
'em swinging inside of an hour. I'll warrant he'd send
'em to the right-about.''
I rode on into the town, Potts gone out of my mind.
Apart from the land-office crowds, and looking on in
silent rage, stood a group of the old settlers,--tall, lean,
powerful, yet impotent for lack of a leader. A contrast
they were, these buckskin-clad pioneers, to the ill-assorted
humanity they watched, absorbed in struggles for the
very lands they had won.
``By the eternal!'' said Jack Terrell, ``if the yea'th
was ter swaller 'em up, they'd keep on a-dickerin in hell.''
``Something's got to be done,'' Captain Harrod put in
gloomily; ``the red varmints'll be on us in another day.
In God's name, whar is Clark?''
``Hold!'' cried Fletcher Blount, ``what's that?''
The broiling about the land court, too, was suddenly
hushed. Men stopped in their tracks, staring fixedly at
three forms which had come out of the woods into the
``Redskins, or there's no devil!'' said Terrell.
Redskins they were, but not the blanketed kind that
drifted every day through the station. Their war-paint
gleamed in the light, and the white edges of the
feathered head-dresses caught the sun. One held up in
his right hand a white belt,--token of peace on the
``Lord A'mighty!'' said Fletcher Blount, ``be they
``Chickasaws, by the headgear,'' said Terrell. ``Davy,
you've got a hoss. Ride out and look em over.''
Nothing loath, I put the mare into a gallop, and I passed
over the very place where Polly Ann had picked me up
and saved my life long since. The Indians came on at a
dog trot, but when they were within fifty paces of me they
halted abruptly. The chief waved the white belt around
his head.
``Davy!'' says he, and I trembled from head to foot.
How well I knew that voice!
``Colonel Clark!'' I cried, and rode up to him. ``Thank
God you are come, sir,'' said I, ``for the people here are
land-mad, and the Northern Indians are crossing the
He took my bridle, and, leading the horse, began to walk
rapidly towards the station.
``Ay,'' he answered, ``I know it. A runner came to
me with the tidings, where I was building a fort on the
Mississippi, and I took Willis here and Saunders, and
I glanced at my old friends, who grinned at me through
the berry-stain on their faces. We reached a ditch through
which the rain of the night before was draining from
the fields Clark dropped the bridle, stooped down, and
rubbed his face clean. Up he got again and flung the
feathers from his head, and I thought that his eyes
twinkled despite the sternness of his look.
``Davy, my lad,'' said he, ``you and I have seen some
strange things together. Perchance we shall see stranger
A shout went up, for he had been recognized. And
Captain Harrod and Ray and Terrell and Cowan (who had
just ridden in) ran up to greet him and press his hand.
He called them each by name, these men whose loyalty
had been proved, but said no word more nor paused in his
stride until he had reached the edge of the mob about the
land court. There he stood for a full minute, and we
who knew him looked on silently and waited.
The turmoil had begun again, the speculators calling out
in strident tones, the settlers bargaining and pushing, and
all clamoring to be heard. While there was money to be
made or land to be got they had no ear for the public
weal. A man shouldered his way through, roughly, and
they gave back, cursing, surprised. He reached the door,
and, flinging those who blocked it right and left, entered.
There he was recognized, and his name flew from mouth
to mouth.
He walked up to the table, strewn with books and
``Silence!'' he thundered. But there was no need,--
they were still for once. ``This court is closed,'' he cried
``while Kentucky is in danger. Not a deed shall be
signed nor an acre granted until I come back from the
Ohio. Out you go!''
Out they went indeed, judge, brokers, speculators--
the evicted and the triumphant together. And when the
place was empty Clark turned the key and thrust it into
his hunting shirt. He stood for a moment on the step,
and his eyes swept the crowd.
``Now,'' he said, ``there have been many to claim this
land--who will follow me to defend it?''
As I live, they cheered him. Hands were flung up
that were past counting, and men who were barely rested
from the hardships of the Wilderness Trail shouted their
readiness to go. But others slunk away, and were found
that morning grumbling and cursing the chance that had
brought them to Kentucky. Within the hour the news
had spread to the farms, and men rode in to Harrodstown
to tell the Colonel of many who were leaving the plough
in the furrow and the axe in the wood, and starting off
across the mountaills in anger and fear. The Colonel
turned to me as he sat writing down the names of the
``Davy,'' said he, ``when you are grown you shall not
stay at home, I promise you. Take your mare and ride as
for your life to McChesney, and tell him to choose ten
men and go to the Crab Orchard on the Wilderness Road.
Tell him for me to turn back every man, woman, and child
who tries to leave Kentucky.''
I met Tom coming in from the field with his rawhide
harness over his shoulders. Polly Ann stood calling him
in the door, and the squirrel broth was steaming on the
table. He did not wait for it. Kissing her, he flung
himself into the saddle I had left, and we watched him
mutely as he waved back to us from the edge of the woods.
* * * * * * *
In the night I found myself sitting up in bed, listening
to a running and stamping near the cabin.
Polly Ann was stirring. ``Davy,'' she whispered, ``the
stock is oneasy.''
We peered out of the loophole together and through
the little orchard we had planted. The moon flooded the
fields, and beyond it the forest was a dark blur. I can
recall the scene now, the rude mill standing by the waterside,
the twisted rail fences, and the black silhouettes of
the horses and cattle as they stood bunched together
Behind us little Tom stirred in his sleep and startled us.
That very evening Polly Ann had frightened him into
obedience by telling him that the Shawanees would get
What was there to do? McAfee's Station was four
miles away, and Ray's clearing two. Ray was gone with
Tom. I could not leave Polly Ann alone. There was
nothing for it but to wait.
Silently, that the children might not be waked and
lurking savage might not hear, we put the powder and
bullets in the middle of the room and loaded the guns and
pistols. For Polly Ann had learned to shoot. She took the
loopholes of two sides of the cabin, I of the other two, and
then began the fearful watching and waiting which the
frontier knows so well. Suddenly the cattle stirred again,
and stampeded to the other corner of the field. There
came a whisper from Polly Ann.
``What is it?'' I answered, running over to her.
``Look out,'' she said; ``what d'ye see near the mill?''
Her sharp eyes had not deceived her, for mine perceived
plainly a dark form skulking in the hickory grove. Next,
a movement behind the rail fence, and darting back to my
side of the house I made out a long black body wriggling
at the edge of the withered corn-patch. They were
surrounding us. How I wished that Tom were home!
A stealthy sound began to intrude itself upon our ears.
Listening intently, I thought it came from the side of the
cabin where the lean-to was, where we stored our wood in
winter. The black shadow fell on that side, and into a
patch of bushes; peering out of the loophole, I could
perceive nothing there. The noise went on at intervals.
All at once there grew on me, with horror, the discovery
that there was digging under the cabin.
How long the sound continued I know not,--it might
have been an hour, it might have been less. Now I
thought I heard it under the wall, now beneath the
puncheons of the floor. The pitchy blackness within
was such that we could not see the boards moving, and
therefore we must needs kneel down and feel them from
time to time. Yes, this one was lifting from its bed on
the hard earth beneath. I was sure of it. It rose an
inch--then an inch more. Gripping the handle of my
tomahawk, I prayed for guidance in my stroke, for the
blade might go wild in the darkness. Upward crept the
board, and suddenly it was gone from the floor. I swung
a full circle--and to my horror I felt the axe plunging
into soft flesh and crunching on a bone. I had missed
the head! A yell shattered the nights the puncheon fell
with a rattle on the boards, and my tomahawk was gone
from my hand. Without, the fierce war-cry of the
Shawanees that I knew so well echoed around the log walls,
and the door trembled with a blow. The children awoke,
There was no time to think; my great fear was that the
devil in the cabin would kill Polly Ann. Just then I
heard her calling out to me.
``Hide!'' I cried, ``hide under the shake-down! Has
he got you?''
I heard her answer, and then the sound of a scuffle that
maddened me. Knife in hand, I crept slowly about,
and put my fingers on a man's neck and side. Next
Polly Ann careened against me, and I lost him again.
``Davy, Davy,'' I heard her gasp, ``look out fer the
It was too late. The puncheon rose under me, I
stumbled, and it fell again. Once more the awful changing
notes of the war-whoop sounded without. A body bumped
on the boards, a white light rose before my eyes, and a
sharp pain leaped in my side. Then all was black again,
but I had my senses still, and my fingers closed around
the knotted muscles of an arm. I thrust the pistol in my
hand against flesh, and fired. Two of us fell together, but
the thought of Polly Ann got me staggering to my feet
again, calling her name. By the grace of God I heard her
``Are ye hurt, Davy?''
``No,'' said I, ``no. And you?''
We drifted together. 'Twas she who had the presence
of mind.
``The chest--quick, the chest!''
We stumbled over a body in reaching it. We seized
the handles, and with all our strength hauled it athwart
the loose puncheon that seemed to be lifting even then.
A mighty splintering shook the door.
``To the ports!'' cried Polly Ann, as our heads knocked
To find the rifles and prime them seemed to take an
age. Next I was staring through the loophole along a
barrel, and beyond it were three black forms in line on
a long beam. I think we fired--Polly Ann and I--at
the same time. One fell. We saw a comedy of the beam
dropping heavily on the foot of another, and he limping
off with a guttural howl of rage and pain. I fired a pistol
at him, but missed him, and then I was ramming a powder
charge down the long barrel of the rifle. Suddenly there
was silence,--even the children had ceased crying.
Outside, in the dooryard, a feathered figure writhed like a
snake towards the fence. The moon still etched the
picture in black and white.
Shots awoke me, I think, distant shots. And they
sounded like the ripping and tearing of cloth for a wound.
'Twas no new sound to me.
``Davy, dear,'' said a voice, tenderly.
Out of the mist the tear-stained face of Polly Ann bent
over me. I put up my hand, and dropped it again with a
cry. Then, my senses coming with a rush, the familiar
objects of the cabin outlined themselves: Tom's winter
hunting shirt, Polly Ann's woollen shift and sunbonnet on
their pegs; the big stone chimney, the ladder to the loft,
the closed door, with a long, jagged line across it where
the wood was splintered; and, dearest of all, the chubby
forms of Peggy and little Tom playing on the trundlebed.
Then my glance wandered to the floor, and on the
puncheons were three stains. I closed my eyes.
Again came a far-off rattle, like stones falling from a
great height down a rocky bluff.
``What's that?'' I whispered.
``They're fighting at McAfee's Station,'' said Polly Ann.
She put her cool hand on my head, and little Tom climbed
up on the bed and looked up into my face, wistfully calling
my name.
``Oh, Davy,'' said his mother, ``I thought ye were never
coming back.''
``And the redskins?'' I asked.
She drew the child away, lest he hurt me, and shuddered.
``I reckon 'twas only a war-party,'' she answered. ``The
rest is at McAfee's. And if they beat 'em off--'' she
stopped abruptly.
``We shall be saved,'' I said.
I shall never forget that day. Polly Ann left my side
only to feed the children and to keep watch out of the
loopholes, and I lay on my back, listening and listening to
the shots. At last these became scattered. Then, though
we strained our ears, we heard them no more. Was the
fort taken? The sun slid across the heavens and shot
narrow blades of light, now through one loophole and now
through another, until a ray slanted from the western wall
and rested upon the red-and-black paint of two dead
bodies in the corner. I stared with horror.
``I was afeard to open the door and throw 'em out,''
said Polly Ann, apologetically.
Still I stared. One of them had a great cleft across his
``But I thought I hit him in the shoulder,'' I exclaimed.
Polly Ann thrust her hand, gently, across my eyes.
``Davy, ye mustn't talk,'' she said; ``that's a dear.''
Drowsiness seized me. But I resisted.
``You killed him, Polly Ann,'' I murmured, ``you?''
``Hush,'' said Polly Ann.
And I slept again.
``They was that destitute,'' said Tom, `` 'twas a pity to
see 'em.''
``And they be grand folks, ye say?'' said Polly
``Grand folks, I reckon. And helpless as babes on
the Wilderness Trail. They had two niggers--his
nigger an' hers--and they was tuckered, too, fer a
``Lawsy!'' exclaimed Polly Ann. ``Be still, honey!''
Taking a piece of corn-pone from the cupboard, she bent
over and thrust it between little Peggy's chubby fingers
``Be still, honey, and listen to what your Pa says. Whar
did ye find 'em, Tom?''
`` 'Twas Jim Ray found 'em,'' said Tom. ``We went
up to Crab Orchard, accordin' to the Colonel's orders
and we was thar three days. Ye ought to hev seen the
trash we turned back, Polly Ann! Most of 'em was
scared plum' crazy, and they was fer gittin 'out 'n
Kaintuckee at any cost. Some was fer fightin' their way
through us.''
``The skulks!'' exclaimed Polly Ann. ``They tried to
kill ye? What did ye do?''
Tom grinned, his mouth full of bacon.
``Do?'' says he; ``we shot a couple of 'em in the legs
and arms, and bound 'em up again. They was in a
t'arin' rage. I'm more afeard of a scar't man,--a real
scar't man--nor a rattler. They cussed us till they
was hoarse. Said they'd hev us hung, an' Clark, too.
Said they hed a right to go back to Virginny if they hed
a mind.''
``An' what did ye say?'' demanded Polly Ann, pausing
in her work, her eyes flashing with resentment. ``Did ye
tell 'em they was cowards to want to settle lands, and not
fight for 'em? Other folks' lands, too.''
``We didn't tell 'em nothin','' said Tom; ``jest sent 'em
kitin' back to the stations whar they come from.''
``I reckon they won't go foolin' with Clark's boys again,''
said Polly Ann, resuming a vigorous rubbing of the skillet.
``Ye was tellin' me about these fine folks ye fetched home.''
She tossed her head in the direction of the open door, and
I wondered if the fine folks were outside.
``Oh, ay,'' said Tom, ``they was comin' this way, from
the Carolinys. Jim Ray went out to look for a deer, and
found 'em off 'n the trail. By the etarnal, they WAS
tuckered. HE was the wust, Jim said, lyin' down on a bed of
laurels she and the niggers made. She has sperrit, that
woman. Jim fed him, and he got up. She wouldn't eat
nothin', and made Jim put him on his hoss. She walked.
I can't mek out why them aristocrats wants to come to
Kaintuckee. They're a sight too tender.''
``Pore things!'' said Polly Ann, compassionately. ``So
ye fetched 'em home.''
``They hadn't a place ter go,'' said he, ``and I reckoned
'twould give 'em time ter ketch breath, an' turn around.
I told 'em livin' in Kaintuck was kinder rough.''
``Mercy!'' said Polly Ann, ``ter think that they was
use' ter silver spoons, and linen, and niggers ter wait on
'em. Tom, ye must shoot a turkey, and I'll do my best
to give 'em a good supper.'' Tom rose obediently, and
seized his coonskin hat. She stopped him with a word.
``Mayhap--mayhap Davy would know 'em. He's been
to Charlestown with the gentry there.''
``Mayhap,'' agreed Tom. ``Pore little deevil,'' said he,
``he's hed a hard time.''
``He'll be right again soon,'' said Polly Ann. ``He's
been sleepin' that way, off and on, fer a week.'' Her
voice faltered into a note of tenderness as her eyes
rested on me.
``I reckon we owe Davy a heap, Polly Ann,'' said he.
I was about to interrupt, but Polly Ann's next remark
arrested me.
``Tom,'' said she, ``he oughter be eddicated.''
``Eddicated!'' exclaimed Tom, with a kind of dismay.
``Yes, eddicated,'' she repeated. ``He ain't like you
and me. He's different. He oughter be a lawyer, or
Tom reflected.
``Ay,'' he answered, ``the Colonel says that same
thing. He oughter be sent over the mountain to git
``And we'll be missing him sore,'' said Polly Ann, with
a sigh.
I wanted to speak then, but the words would not
``Whar hev they gone?'' said Tom.
``To take a walk,'' said Polly Ann, and laughed. ``The
gentry has sech fancies as that. Tom, I reckon I'll fly
over to Mrs. McCann's an' beg some of that prime bacon
she has.''
Tom picked up his ride, and they went out together.
I lay for a long time reflecting. To the strange guests
whom Tom in the kindness of his heart had brought back
and befriended I gave little attention. I was overwhelmed
by the love which had just been revealed to me. And so
I was to be educated. It had been in my mind these
many years, but I had never spoken of it to Polly Ann.
Dear Polly Ann! My eyes filled at the thought that she
herself had determined upon this sacrifice.
There were footsteps at the door, and these I heard, and
heeded not. Then there came a voice,--a woman's voice,
modulated and trained in the perfections of speech and
in the art of treating things lightly. At the sound of that
voice I caught my breath.
``What a pastoral! Harry, if we have sought for virtue
in the wilderness, we have found it.''
``When have we ever sought for virtue, Sarah?''
It was the man who answered and stirred another chord
of my memory.
``When, indeed!'' said the woman; `` 'tis a luxury that
is denied us, I fear me.''
``Egad, we have run the gamut, all but that.''
I thought the woman sighed.
``Our hosts are gone out,'' she said, ``bless their simple
souls! 'Tis Arcady, Harry, `where thieves do not break
in and steal.' That's Biblical, isn't it?'' She paused, and
joined in the man's laugh. ``I remember--'' She stopped
``Thieves!'' said he, ``not in our sense. And yet a
fortnight ago this sylvan retreat was the scene of murder
and sudden death.''
``Yes, Indians,'' said the woman; ``but they are beaten
off and forgotten. Troubles do not last here. Did you
see the boy? He's in there, in the corner, getting well of
a fearful hacking. Mrs. McChesney says he saved her
and her brats.''
``Ay, McChesney told me,'' said the man. ``Let's have
a peep at him.''
In they came, and I looked on the woman, and would
have leaped from my bed had the strength been in me.
Superb she was, though her close-fitting travelling gown
of green cloth was frayed and torn by the briers, and the
beauty of her face enhanced by the marks of I know not
what trials and emotions. Little, dark-pencilled lines
under the eyes were nigh robbing these of the haughtiness
I had once seen and hated. Set high on her hair was a
curving, green hat with a feather, ill-suited to the wilderness.
I looked on the man. He was as ill-equipped as she.
A London tailor must have cut his suit of gray. A single
band of linen, soiled by the journey, was wound about his
throat, and I remember oddly the buttons stuck on his
knees and cuffs, and these silk-embroidered in a criss-cross
pattern of lighter gray. Some had been torn off. As for
his face, 'twas as handsome as ever, for dissipation sat
well upon it.
My thoughts flew back to that day long gone when a
friendless boy rode up a long drive to a pillared mansion.
I saw again the picture. The horse with the craning neck,
the liveried servant at the bridle, the listless young
gentleman with the shiny boots reclining on the horse-block,
and above him, under the portico, the grand lady whose
laugh had made me sad. And I remembered, too, the
wild, neglected lad who had been to me as a brother,
warm-hearted and generous, who had shared what he
had with a foundling, who had wept with me in my first
great sorrow. Where was he?
For I was face to face once more with Mrs. Temple and
Mr. Harry Riddle!
The lady started as she gazed at me, and her tired eyes
widened. She clutched Mr. Riddle's arm.
``Harry!'' she cried, ``Harry, he puts me in mind of--
of some one--I cannot think.''
Mr. Riddle laughed nervously.
``There, there, Sally,'' says he, ``all brats resemble
somebody. I have heard you say so a dozen times.''
She turned upon him an appealing glance.
``Oh!'' she said, with a little catch of her breath, ``is
there no such thing as oblivion? Is there a place in the
world that is not haunted? I am cursed with memory.''
``Or the lack of it,'' answered Mr. Riddle, pulling out
a silver snuff-box from his pocket and staring at it
ruefully. ``Damme, the snuff I fetched from Paris is gone,
all but a pinch. Here is a real tragedy.''
``It was the same in Rome,'' the lady continued,
unheeding, ``when we met the Izards, and at Venice that
nasty Colonel Tarleton saw us at the opera. In London
we must needs run into the Manners from Maryland. In
``In Paris we were safe enough,'' Mr. Riddle threw in
``And why?'' she flashed back at him.
He did not answer that.
``A truce with your fancies, madam,'' said he.
``Behold a soul of good nature! I have followed you through
half the civilized countries of the globe--none of them
are good enough. You must needs cross the ocean again,
and come to the wilds. We nearly die on the trail, are
picked up by a Samaritan in buckskin and taken into the
bosom of his worthy family. And forsooth, you look at
a backwoods urchin, and are nigh to swooning.''
``Hush, Harry,'' she cried, starting forward and peering
into my face; ``he will hear you.''
``Tut!'' said Harry, ``what if he does? London and
Paris are words to him. We might as well be speaking
French. And I'll take my oath he's sleeping.''
The corner where I lay was dark, for the cabin had no
windows. And if my life had depended upon speaking, I
could have found no fit words then.
She turned from me, and her mood changed swiftly.
For she laughed lightly, musically, and put a hand on his
``Perchance I am ghost-ridden,'' she said.
``They are not ghosts of a past happiness, at all events,''
he answered.
She sat down on a stool before the hearth, and clasping
her fingers upon her knee looked thoughtfully into the
embers of the fire. Presently she began to speak in a low,
even voice, he looking down at her, his feet apart, his
hand thrust backward towards the heat.
``Harry,'' she said, ``do you remember all our
contrivances? How you used to hold my hand in the garden
under the table, while I talked brazenly to Mr. Mason?
And how jealous Jack Temple used to get?'' She
laughed again, softly, always looking at the fire.
``Damnably jealous!'' agreed Mr. Riddle, and yawned.
``Served him devilish right for marrying you. And he
was a blind fool for five long years.''
``Yes, blind,'' the lady agreed. ``How could he have
been so blind? How well I recall the day he rode after
us in the woods.''
`` 'Twas the parson told, curse him!'' said Mr. Riddle.
``We should have gone that night, if your courage had
``My courage!'' she cried, flashing a look upwards,
``my foresight. A pretty mess we had made of it without
my inheritance. 'Tis small enough, the Lord knows. In
Europe we should have been dregs. We should have
starved in the wilderness with you a-farming.''
He looked down at her curiously.
``Devilish queer talk,'' said he, ``but while we are in it,
I wonder where Temple is now. He got aboard the
King's frigate with a price on his head. Williams told
me he saw him in London, at White's. Have--have
you ever heard, Sarah?''
She shook her head, her glance returning to the ashes.
``No,'' she answered.
``Faith,'' says Mr. Riddle, ``he'll scarce turn up here.''
She did not answer that, but sat motionless.
``He'll scarce turn up here, in these wilds,'' Mr. Riddle
repeated, ``and what I am wondering, Sarah, is how the
devil we are to live here.''
``How do these good people live, who helped us when
we were starving?''
Mr. Riddle flung his hand eloquently around the cabin.
There was something of disgust in the gesture.
``You see!'' he said, ``love in a cottage.''
``But it is love,'' said the lady, in a low tone.
He broke into laughter.
``Sally,'' he cried, ``I have visions of you gracing the
board at which we sat to-day, patting journey-cakes on
the hearth, stewing squirrel broth with the same pride
that you once planned a rout. Cleaning the pots and
pans, and standing anxious at the doorway staring
through a sunbonnet for your lord and master.''
``My lord and master!'' said the lady, and there was
so much of scorn in the words that Mr. Riddle winced.
``Come,'' he said, ``I grant now that you could make
pans shine like pier-glasses, that you could cook bacon to
a turn--although I would have laid an hundred guineas
against it some years ago. What then? Are you to be
contented with four log walls? With the intellectual
companionship of the McChesneys and their friends?
Are you to depend for excitement upon the chances of
having the hair neatly cut from your head by red fiends?
Come, we'll go back to the Rue St. Dominique, to the
suppers and the card parties of the countess. We'll be rid of
regrets for a life upon which we have turned our backs
She shook her head, sadly.
``It's no use, Harry,'' said she, ``we'll never be rid of
``We'll never have a barony like Temple Bow, and races
every week, and gentry round about. But, damn it, the
Rebels have spoiled all that since the war.''
``Those are not the regrets I mean,'' answered Mrs.
``What then, in Heaven's name?'' he cried. ``You
were not wont to be thus. But now I vow you go beyond
me. What then?''
She did not answer, but sat leaning forward over the
hearth, he staring at her in angry perplexity. A sound
broke the afternoon stillness,--the pattering of small,
bare feet on the puncheons. A tremor shook the woman's
shoulders, and little Tom stood before her, a quaint figure
in a butternut smock, his blue eyes questioning. He
laid a hand on her arm.
Then a strange thing happened. With a sudden impulse
she turned and flung her arms about the boy and strained
him to her, and kissed his brown hair. He struggled, but
when she released him he sat very still on her knee,
looking into her face. For he was a solemn child. The lady
smiled at him, and there were two splashes like raindrops
on her fair cheeks.
As for Mr. Riddle, he went to the door, looked out, and
took a last pinch of snuff.
``Here is the mistress of the house coming back,'' he
cried, ``and singing like the shepherdess in the opera.''
It was Polly Ann indeed. At the sound of his mother's
voice, little Tom jumped down from the lady's lap and
ran past Mr. Riddle at the door. Mrs. Temple's thoughts
were gone across the mountains.
``And what is that you have under your arm?'' said Mr.
Riddle, as he gave back.
``I've fetched some prime bacon fer your supper, sir,''
said Polly Ann, all rosy from her walk; ``what I have
ain't fit to give ye.''
Mrs. Temple rose.
``My dear,'' she said, ``what you have is too good for
us. And if you do such a thing again, I shall be very
``Lord, ma'am,'' exclaimed Polly Ann, ``and you use' ter
dainties an' silver an' linen! Tom is gone to try to git a
turkey for ye.'' She paused, and looked compassionately
at the lady. ``Bless ye, ma'am, ye're that tuckered from
the mountains! 'Tis a fearsome journey.''
``Yes,'' said the lady, simply, ``I am tired.''
``Small wonder!'' exclaimed Polly Ann. ``To think
what ye've been through--yere husband near to dyin'
afore yere eyes, and ye a-reskin' yere own life to save him
--so Tom tells me. When Tom goes out a-fightin' red-skins
I'm that fidgety I can't set still. I wouldn't let him
know what I feel fer the world. But well ye know the
pain of it, who love yere husband like that.''
The lady would have smiled bravely, had the strength
been given her. She tried. And then, with a shudder,
she hid her face in her hands.
``Oh, don't!'' she exclaimed, ``don't!''
Mr. Riddle went out.
``There, there, ma'am,'' she said, ``I hedn't no right ter
speak, and ye fair worn out.'' She drew her gently into
a chair. ``Set down, ma'am, and don't ye stir tell supper's
ready.'' She brushed her eyes with her sleeve, and, stepping
briskly to my bed, bent over me. ``Davy,'' she said,
``Davy, how be ye?''
It was the lady's voice. She stood facing us, and never
while I live shall I forget that which I saw in her eyes.
Some resemblance it bore to the look of the hunted deer,
but in the animal it is dumb, appealing. Understanding
made the look of the woman terrible to behold,--understanding,
ay, and courage. For she did not lack this last
quality. Polly Ann gave back in a kind of dismay, and I
``Yes,'' I answered, ``I am David Ritchie.''
``You--you dare to judge me!'' she cried.
I knew not why she said this.
``To judge you?'' I repeated.
``Yes, to judge me,'' she answered. ``I know you,
David Ritchie, and the blood that runs in you. Your
mother was a foolish--saint'' (she laughed), ``who
lifted her eyebrows when I married her brother, John
Temple. That was her condemnation of me, and it stung
me more than had a thousand sermons. A doting saint,
because she followed your father into the mountain wilds
to her death for a whim of his. And your father. A
Calvinist fanatic who had no mercy on sin, save for that
particular weakness of his own--''
``Stop, Mrs. Temple!'' I cried, lifting up in bed. And
to my astonishment she was silenced, looking at me in
amazement. ``You had your vengeance when I came to
you, when you turned from me with a lift of your shoulders
at the news of my father's death. And now--''
``And now?'' she repeated questioningly.
``Now I thought you were changed,'' I said slowly, for
the excitement was telling on me.
``You listened!'' she said.
``I pitied you.''
``Oh, pity!'' she cried. ``My God, that you should
pity me!'' She straightened, and summoned all the
spirit that was in her. ``I would rather be called a name
than have the pity of you and yours.''
``You cannot change it, Mrs. Temple,'' I answered, and
fell back on the nettle-bark sheets. ``You cannot change
it,'' I heard myself repeating, as though it were another's
voice. And I knew that Polly Ann was bending over me
and calling me.
* * * * * * *
``Where did they go, Polly Ann?'' I asked.
``Acrost the Mississippi, to the lands of the Spanish
King,'' said Polly Ann.
``And where in those dominions?'' I demanded.
``John Saunders took 'em as far as the Falls,'' Polly
Ann answered. ``He 'lowed they was goin' to St. Louis.
But they never said a word. I reckon they'll be hunted
as long as they live.''
I had thought of them much as I lay on my back
recovering from the fever,--the fever for which Mrs. Temple
was to blame. Yet I bore her no malice. And many
other thoughts I had, probing back into childhood memories
for the solving of problems there.
``I knowed ye come of gentlefolks, Davy,'' Polly Ann
had said when we talked together.
So I was first cousin to Nick, and nephew to that
selfish gentleman, Mr. Temple, in whose affectionate care I
had been left in Charlestown by my father. And my
father? Who had he been? I remembered the speech that
he had used and taught me, and how his neighbors had
dubbed him ``aristocrat.'' But Mrs. Temple was gone,
and it was not in likelihood that I should ever see her
Two years went by, two uneventful years for me, two
mighty years for Kentucky. Westward rolled the tide
of emigrants to change her character, but to swell her
power. Towns and settlements sprang up in a season and
flourished, and a man could scarce keep pace with the
growth of them. Doctors came, and ministers, and lawyers;
generals and majors, and captains and subalterns of
the Revolution, to till their grants and to found families.
There were gentry, too, from the tide-waters, come to
retrieve the fortunes which they had lost by their patriotism.
There were storekeepers like Mr. Scarlett, adventurers
and ne'er-do-weels who hoped to start with a clean slate,
and a host of lazy vagrants who thought to scratch the
soil and find abundance.
I must not forget how, at the age of seventeen, I
became a landowner, thanks to my name being on the roll
of Colonel Clark's regiment. For, in a spirit of munificence,
the Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia had
awarded to every private in that regiment one hundred
and eight acres of land on the Ohio River, north of the
Falls. Sergeant Thomas McChesney, as a reward for his
services in one of the severest campaigns in history,
received a grant of two hundred and sixteen acres! You
who will may look at the plat made by William Clark,
Surveyor for the Board of Commissioners, and find sixteen
acres marked for Thomas McChesney in Section 169, and
two hundred more in Section 3. Section 3 fronted the Ohio
some distance above Bear Grass Creek, and was, of course,
on the Illinois shore. As for my own plots, some miles in
the interior, I never saw them. But I own them to this
I mention these things as bearing on the story of my
life, with which I must get on. And, therefore, I may
not dwell upon this injustice to the men who won an
empire and were flung a bone long afterwards.
It was early autumn once more, and such a busy week
we had had at the mill, that Tom was perforce obliged to
remain at home and help, though he longed to be gone
with Cowan and Ray a-hunting to the southwest. Up
rides a man named Jarrott, flings himself from his horse,
passes the time of day as he watches the grinding, helps
Tom to tie up a sack or two, and hands him a paper.
``What's this?'' says Tom, staring at it blankly.
``Ye won't blame me, Mac,'' answers Mr. Jarrott,
somewhat ashamed of his role of process-server. `` 'Tain't
none of my doin's.''
``Read it, Davy,'' said Tom, giving it to me.
I stopped the mill, and, unfolding the paper, read. I
remember not the quaint wording of it, save that it was
ill-spelled and ill-writ generally. In short, it was a
summons for Tom to appear before the court at Danville on a
certain day in the following week, and I made out that a
Mr. Neville Colfax was the plaintiff in the matter, and
that the suit had to do with land.
``Neville Colfax!'' I exclaimed, ``that's the man for
whom Mr. Potts was agent.''
``Ay, ay,'' said Tom, and sat him down on the mealbags.
``Drat the varmint, he kin hev the land.''
``Hev the land?'' cried Polly Ann, who had come in
upon us. ``Hev ye no sperrit, Tom McChesney?''
``There's no chance ag'in the law,'' said Tom,
hopelessly. ``Thar's Perkins had his land tuck away last
year, and Terrell's moved out, and twenty more I
could name. And thar's Dan'l Boone, himself. Most
the rich bottom he tuck up the critters hev got away
from him.''
``Ye'll go to Danville and take Davy with ye and fight
it,'' answered Polly Ann, decidedly. ``Davy has a word
to say, I reckon. 'Twas he made the mill and scar't that
Mr. Potts away. I reckon he'll git us out of this fix.''
Mr. Jarrott applauded her courage.
``Ye have the grit, ma'am,'' he said, as he mounted his
horse again. ``Here's luck to ye!''
The remembrance of Mr. Potts weighed heavily upon
my mind during the next week. Perchance Tom would
have to pay for this prank likewise. 'Twas indeed a
foolish, childish thing to have done, and I might have known
that it would only have put off the evil day of reckoning.
Since then, by reason of the mill site and the business we
got by it, the land had become the most valuable in that
part of the country. Had I known Colonel Clark's
whereabouts, I should have gone to him for advice and
comfort. As it was, we were forced to await the issue
without counsel. Polly Ann and I talked it over many
times while Tom sat, morose and silent, in a corner. He
was the pioneer pure and simple, afraid of no man, red or
white, in open combat, but defenceless in such matters as
`` 'Tis Davy will save us, Tom,'' said Polly Ann, ``with
the l'arnin' he's got while the corn was grindin'.''
I had, indeed, been reading at the mill while the hopper
emptied itself, such odd books as drifted into Harrodstown.
One of these was called ``Bacon's Abridgment'';
it dealt with law and it puzzled me sorely.
``And the children,'' Polly Ann continued,--``ye'll not
make me pick up the four of 'em, and pack it to Louisiana,
because Mr. Colfax wants the land we've made for
There were four of them now, indeed,--the youngest
still in the bark cradle in the corner. He bore a no less
illustrious name than that of the writer of these chronicles.
It would be hard to say which was the more troubled,
Tom or I, that windy morning we set out on the Danville
trace. Polly Ann alone had been serene,--ay, and smiling
and hopeful. She had kissed us each good-by impartially.
And we left her, with a future governor of
Kentucky on her shoulder, tripping lightly down to the
mill to grind the McGarrys' corn.
When the forest was cleared at Danville, Justice was
housed first. She was not the serene, inexorable dame
whom we have seen in pictures holding her scales above
the jars of earth. Justice at Danville was a somewhat
high-spirited, quarrelsome lady who decided matters
oftenest with the stroke of a sword. There was a certain
dignity about her temple withal,--for instance, if a judge
wore linen, that linen must not be soiled. Nor was it
etiquette for a judge to lay his own hands in chastisement
on contemptuous persons, though Justice at Danville had
more compassion than her sisters in older communities
upon human failings.
There was a temple built to her ``of hewed or sawed
logs nine inches thick''--so said the specifications.
Within the temple was a rude platform which served as a
bar, and since Justice is supposed to carry a torch in her
hand, there were no windows,--nor any windows in the
jail next door, where some dozen offenders languished on
the afternoon that Tom and I rode into town.
There was nothing auspicious in the appearance of
Danville, and no man might have said then that the place
was to be the scene of portentous conventions which were
to decide the destiny of a State. Here was a sprinkling
of log cabins, some in the building, and an inn, by courtesy
so called. Tom and I would have preferred to sleep in
the woods near by, with our feet to the blaze; this was
partly from motives of economy, and partly because Tom,
in common with other pioneers, held an inn in contempt.
But to come back to our arrival.
It was a sunny and windy afternoon, and the leaves
were flying in the air. Around the court-house was a
familiar, buzzing scene,--the backwoodsmen, lounging
against the wall or brawling over their claims, the sleek
agents and attorneys, and half a dozen of a newer type.
These were adventurous young gentlemen of family, some
of them lawyers and some of them late officers in the
Continental army who had been rewarded with grants of land.
These were the patrons of the log tavern which stood
near by with the blackened stumps around it, where there
was much card-playing and roistering, ay, and even
duelling, of nights.
``Thar's Mac,'' cried a backwoodsman who was sitting
on the court-house steps as we rode up. ``Howdy, Mac;
be they tryin' to git your land, too?''
``Howdy, Mac,'' said a dozen more, paying a tribute to
Tom's popularity. And some of them greeted me.
``Is this whar they take a man's land away?'' says Tom,
jerking his thumb at the open door.
Tom had no intention of uttering a witticism, but his
words were followed by loud guffaws from all sides, even
the lawyers joining in.
``I reckon this is the place, Tom,'' came the answer.
``I reckon I'll take a peep in thar,'' said Tom, leaping
off his horse and shouldering his way to the door. I
followed him, curious. The building was half full. Two
elderly gentlemen of grave demeanor sat on stools behind
a puncheon table, and near them a young man was writing.
Behind the young man was a young gentleman who
was closing a speech as we entered, and he had spoken
with such vehemence that the perspiration stood out on
his brow. There was a murmur from those listening, and
I saw Tom pressing his way to the front.
``Hev any of ye seen a feller named Colfax?'' cries
Tom, in a loud voice. ``He says he owns the land I
settled, and he ain't ever seed it.''
There was a roar of laughter, and even the judges smiled.
``Whar is he?'' cries Tom; ``said he'd be here to-day.''
Another gust of laughter drowned his words, and then
one of the judges got up and rapped on the table. The
gentleman who had just made the speech glared mightily,
and I supposed he had lost the effect of it.
``What do you mean by interrupting the court?'' cried
the judge. ``Get out, sir, or I'll have you fined for
Tom looked dazed. But at that moment a hand was
laid on his shoulder, and Tom turned.
``Why,'' says he, ``thar's no devil if it ain't the Colonel.
Polly Ann told me not to let 'em scar' me, Colonel.''
``And quite right, Tom,'' Colonel Clark answered,
smiling. He turned to the judges. ``If your Honors
please,'' said he, ``this gentleman is an old soldier of
mine, and unused to the ways of court. I beg your
Honors to excuse him.''
The judges smiled back, and the Colonel led us out of
the building.
``Now, Tom,'' said he, after he had given me a nod and
a kind word, ``I know this Mr. Colfax, and if you will
come into the tavern this evening after court, we'll see
what can be done. I have a case of my own at present.''
Tom was very grateful. He spent the remainder of
the daylight hours with other friends of his, shooting at a
mark near by, serenely confident of the result of his case
now that Colonel Clark had a hand in it. Tom being one
of the best shots in Kentucky, he had won two beaver
skins before the early autumn twilight fell. As for me,
I had an afternoon of excitement in the court, fascinated
by the marvels of its procedures, by the impassioned
speeches of its advocates, by the gravity of its judges.
Ambition stirred within me.
The big room of the tavern was filled with men in
heated talk over the day's doings, some calling out for
black betty, some for rum, and some demanding apple
toddies. The landlord's slovenly negro came in with
candles, their feeble rays reenforcing the firelight and
revealing the mud-chinked walls. Tom and I had barely
sat ourselves down at a table in a corner, when in came
Colonel Clark. Beside him was a certain swarthy gentleman
whom I had noticed in the court, a man of some
thirty-five years, with a fine, fleshy face and coal-black
hair. His expression was not one to give us the hope of
an amicable settlement,--in fact, he had the scowl of a
thundercloud. He was talking quite angrily, and seemed
not to heed those around him.
``Why the devil should I see the man, Clark?'' he was
The Colonel did not answer until they had stopped in
front of us.
``Major Colfax,'' said he, ``this is Sergeant Tom
McChesney, one of the best friends I have in Kentucky. I
think a vast deal of Tom, Major. He was one of the few
that never failed me in the Illinois campaign. He is as
honest as the day; you will find him plain-spoken if he
speaks at all, and I have great hopes that you will agree.
Tom, the Major and I are boyhood friends, and for the
sake of that friendship he has consented to this meeting.''
``I fear that your kind efforts will be useless, Colonel,''
Major Colfax put in, rather tartly. ``Mr. McChesney not
only ignores my rights, but was near to hanging my agent.''
``What?'' says Colonel Clark.
I glanced at Tom. However helpless he might be in a
court, he could be counted on to stand up stanchly in a
personal argument. His retorts would certainly not be
brilliant, but they surely would be dogged. Major Colfax
had begun wrong.
``I reckon ye've got no rights that I know on,'' said
Tom. ``I cleart the land and settled it, and I have a
better right to it nor any man. And I've got a grant
fer it.''
``A Henderson grant!'' cried the Major; `` 'tis so much
worthless paper.''
``I reckon it's good enough fer me,'' answered Tom. ``It
come from those who blazed their way out here and druv
the redskins off. I don't know nothin' about this
newfangled law, but 'tis a queer thing to my thinkin' if them
that fit fer a place ain't got the fust right to it.''
Major Colfax turned to Colonel Clark with marked
``I told you it would be useless, Clark,'' said he. ``I
care not a fig for a few paltry acres, and as God hears me
I'm a reasonable man.'' (He did not look it then.)
``But I swear by the evangels I'll let no squatter have the
better of me. I did not serve Virginia for gold or land,
but I lost my fortune in that service, and before I know
it these backwoodsmen will have every acre of my grant.
It's an old story,'' said Mr. Colfax, hotly, ``and why the
devil did we fight England if it wasn't that every man
should have his rights? By God, I'll not be frightened or
wheedled out of mine. I sent an agent to Kentucky to
deal politely and reasonably with these gentry. What
did they do to him? Some of them threw him out neck
and crop. And if I am not mistaken,'' said Major Colfax,
fixing a piercing eye upon Tom, ``if I am not mistaken, it
was this worthy sergeant of yours who came near to hanging
him, and made the poor devil flee Kentucky for his
This remark brought me near to an untimely laugh at
the remembrance of Mr. Potts, and this though I was
far too sober over the outcome of the conference. Colonel
Clark seized hold of a chair and pushed it under Major
``Sit down, gentlemen, we are not so far apart,'' said
the Colonel, coolly. The slovenly negro lad passing at
that time, he caught him by the sleeve. ``Here, boy,
a bowl of toddy, quick. And mind you brew it strong.
Now, Tom,'' said he, ``what is this fine tale about a
`` 'Twan't nothin','' said Tom.
``You tell me you didn't try to hang Mr. Potts!''
cried Major Colfax.
``I tell you nothin','' said Tom, and his jaw was set
more stubbornly than ever.
Major Colfax glanced at Colonel Clark.
``You see!'' he said a little triumphantly.
I could hold my tongue no longer.
``Major Colfax is unjust, sir,'' I cried. `` 'Twas Tom
saved the man from hanging.''
``Eh?'' says Colonel Clark, turning to me sharply.
``So you had a hand in this, Davy. I might have guessed
as much.''
``Who the devil is this?'' says Mr. Colfax.
``A sort of ward of mine,'' answers the Colonel.
``Drummer boy, financier, strategist, in my Illinois
campaign. Allow me to present to you, Major, Mr. David
Ritchie. When my men objected to marching through
ice-skimmed water up to their necks, Mr. Ritchie showed
them how.''
``God bless my soul!'' exclaimed the Major, staring at
me from under his black eyebrows, ``he was but a
``With an old head on his shoulders,'' said the Colonel,
and his banter made me flush.
The negro boy arriving with the toddy, Colonel Clark
served out three generous gourdfuls, a smaller one for me.
``Your health, my friends, and I drink to a peaceful
``You may drink to the devil if you like,'' says Major
Colfax, glaring at Tom.
``Come, Davy,'' said Colonel Clark, when he had taken
half the gourd, ``let's have the tale. I'll warrant you're
behind this.''
I flushed again, and began by stammering. For I had
a great fear that Major Colfax's temper would fly into bits
when he heard it.
``Well, sir,'' said I, ``I was grinding corn at the mill
when the man came. I thought him a smooth-mannered
person, and he did not give his business. He was just
for wheedling me. `And was this McChesney's mill?'
said he. `Ay,' said I. `Thomas McChesney?' `Ay,'
said I. Then he was all for praise of Thomas McChesney.
`Where is he?' said he. `He is at the far pasture,' said
I,' and may be looked for any moment.' Whereupon he
sits down and tries to worm out of me the business of the
mill, the yield of the land. After that he begins to talk
about the great people he knows, Sevier and Shelby and
Robertson and Boone and the like. Ay, and his intimates,
the Randolphs and the Popes and the Colfaxes in Virginia.
'Twas then I asked him if he knew Colonel Campbell of Abingdon.''
``And what deviltry was that?'' demanded the Colonel,
as he dipped himself more of the toddy.
``I'll come to it, sir. Yes, Colonel Campbell was his
intimate, and ranted if he did not tarry a week with him
at Abingdon on his journeys. After that he follows me
to the cabin, and sees Polly Ann and Tom and the children
on the floor poking a 'possum. `Ah,' says he, in his softest
voice, `a pleasant family scene. And this is Mr. McChesney?'
`I'm your man,' says Tom. Then he praised the
mill site and the land all over again. ` 'Tis good enough
for a farmer,' says Tom. `Who holds under Henderson's
grant,' I cried. ` 'Twas that you wished to say an hour
ago,' and I saw I had caught him fair.''
``By the eternal!'' cried Colonel Clark, bringing down
his fist upon the table. ``And what then?''
I glanced at Major Colfax, but for the life of me I could
make nothing of his look.
``And what did your man say?'' said Colonel Clark.
``He called on the devil to bite me, sir,'' I answered.
The Colonel put down his gourd and began to laugh.
The Major was looking at me fixedly.
``And what then?'' said the Colonel.
``It was then Polly Ann called him a thief to take
away the land Tom had fought for and paid for and
tilled. The man was all politeness once more, said that
the matter was unfortunate, and that a new and good
title might be had for a few skins.''
``He said that?'' interrupted Major Colfax, half rising
in his chair. ``He was a damned scoundrel.''
``So I thought, sir,'' I answered.
``The devil you did!'' said the Major.
``Tut, Colfax,'' said the Colonel, pulling him by the
sleeve of his greatcoat, ``sit down and let the lad finish.
And then?''
``Mr. Boone had told me of a land agent who had made
off with Colonel Campbell's silver spoons from Abingdon,
and how the Colonel had ridden east and west after him
for a week with a rope hanging on his saddle. I began
to tell this story, and instead of the description of Mr.
Boone's man, I put in that of Mr. Potts,--in height some
five feet nine, spare, of sallow complexion and a green
Major Colfax leaped up in his chair.
``Great Jehovah!'' he shouted, ``you described the
wrong man.''
Colonel Clark roared with laughter, thereby spilling
some of his toddy.
``I'll warrant he did so,'' he cried; ``and I'll warrant
your agent went white as birch bark. Go on, Davy.''
``There's not a great deal more, sir,'' I answered,
looking apprehensively at Major Colfax, who still stood.
``The man vowed I lied, but Tom laid hold of him and
was for hurrying him off to Harrodstown at once.''
``Which would ill have suited your purpose,'' put in the
Colonel. ``And what did you do with him?''
``We put him in a loft, sir, and then I told Tom that
he was not Campbell's thief at all. But I had a craving
to scare the man out of Kentucky. So I rode off to the
neighbors and gave them the tale, and bade them come
after nightfall as though to hang Campbell's thief, which
they did, and they were near to smashing the door trying
to get in the cabin. Tom told them the rascal had
escaped, but they must needs come in and have jigs and
toddies until midnight. When they were gone, and we
called down the man from the loft, he was in such a state
that he could scarce find the rungs of the ladder with his
feet. He rode away into the night, and that was the last
we heard of him. Tom was not to blame, sir.''
Colonel Clark was speechless. And when for the
moment he would conquer his mirth, a glance at Major
Colfax would set him off again in laughter. I was
puzzled. I thought my Colonel more human than of old.
``How now, Colfax?'' he cried, giving a poke to the
Major's ribs; ``you hold the sequel to this farce.''
The Major's face was purple,--with what emotion I
could not say. Suddenly he swung full at me.
``Do you mean to tell me that you were the general of
this hoax--you?'' he demanded in a strange voice.
``The thing seemed an injustice to me, sir,'' I replied in
self-defence, ``and the man a rascal.''
``A rascal!'' cried the Major, ``a knave, a poltroon, a
simpleton! And he came to me with no tale of having
been outwitted by a stripling.'' Whereupon Major Colfax
began to shake, gently at first, and presently he was in
such a gale of laughter that I looked on him in amazement,
Colonel Clark joining in again. The Major's eye
rested at length upon Tom, and gradually he grew calm.
``McChesney,'' said he, ``we'll have no bickerings in
court among soldiers. The land is yours, and to-morrow
my attorney shall give you a deed of it. Your hand,
The stubbornness vanished from Tom's face, and there
came instead a dazed expression as he thrust a great, hard
hand into the Major's.
`` 'Twan't the land, sir,'' he stammered; ``these
varmints of settlers is gittin' thick as flies in July. 'Twas
Polly Ann. I reckon I'm obleeged to ye, Major.''
``There, there,'' said the Major, ``I thank the Lord I
came to Kentucky to see for myself. Damn the land. I
have plenty more,--and little else.'' He turned quizzically
to Colonel Clark, revealing a line of strong, white
teeth. ``Suppose we drink a health to your drummer
boy,'' said he, lifting up his gourd.
`` 'Tis what ye've a right to, Davy,'' said Polly Ann,
and she handed me a little buckskin bag on which she had
been sewing. I opened it with trembling fingers, and
poured out, chinking on the table, such a motley collection
of coins as was never seen,--Spanish milled dollars,
English sovereigns and crowns and shillings, paper issues
of the Confederacy, and I know not what else. Tom
looked on with a grin, while little Tom and Peggy
reached out their hands in delight, their mother vigorously
blocking their intentions.
``Ye've earned it yerself,'' said Polly Ann, forestalling
my protest; `` 'tis what ye got by the mill, and I've laid
it by bit by bit for yer eddication.''
``And what do you get?'' I cried, striving by feigned
anger to keep the tears back from my eyes. ``Have you
no family to support?''
``Faith,'' she answered, ``we have the mill that ye gave
us, and the farm, and Tom's rifle. I reckon we'll fare
better than ye think, tho' we'll miss ye sore about the
I picked out two sovereigns from the heap, dropped
them in the bag, and thrust it into my hunting shirt.
``There,'' said I, my voice having no great steadiness,
``not a penny more. I'll keep the bag for your sake,
Polly Ann, and I'll take the mare for Tom's.''
She had had a song on her lips ever since our coming
back from Danville, seven days agone, a song on her lips
and banter on her tongue, as she made me a new hunting
shirt and breeches for the journey across the mountains.
And now with a sudden movement she burst into tears
and flung her arms about my neck.
``Oh, Davy, 'tis no time to be stubborn,'' she sobbed,
``and eddication is a costly thing. Ever sence I found ye
on the trace, years ago, I've thought of ye one day as a
great man. And when ye come back to us so big and
l'arned, I'd wish to be saying with pride that I helped
``And who else, Polly Ann?'' I faltered, my heart
racked with the parting. ``You found me a homeless
waif, and you gave me a home and a father and mother.''
``Davy, ye'll not forget us when ye're great, I know
ye'll not. Tis not in ye.''
She stood back and smiled at me through her tears.
The light of heaven was in that smile, and I have
dreamed of it even since age has crept upon me. Truly,
God sets his own mark on the pure in heart, on the
I glanced for the last time around the rude cabin,
every timber of which was dedicated to our sacrifices and
our love: the fireplace with its rough stones, on the pegs
the quaint butternut garments which Polly Ann had
stitched, the baby in his bark cradle, the rough bedstead
and the little trundle pushed under it,--and the very
homely odor of the place is dear to me yet. Despite the
rigors and the dangers of my life here, should I ever
again find such happiness and peace in the world? The
children clung to my knees; and with a ``God bless ye,
Davy, and come back to us,'' Tom squeezed my hand
until I winced with pain. I leaped on the mare, and
with blinded eyes rode down the familiar trail, past the
mill, to Harrodsburg.
There Mr. Neville Colfax was waiting to take me
across the mountains.
There is a story in every man's life, like the kernel in
the shell of a hickory nut. I am ill acquainted with the
arts of a biographer, but I seek to give in these pages
little of the shell and the whole of the kernel of mine.
'Twould be unwise and tiresome to recount the journey
over the bare mountains with my new friend and
benefactor. He was a strange gentleman, now jolly enough
to make me shake with laughter and forget the sorrow of
my parting, now moody for a night and a day; now he
was all sweetness, now all fire; now he was abstemious,
now self-indulgent and prodigal. He had a will like
flint, and under it a soft heart. Cross his moods, and he
hated you. I never thought to cross them, therefore he
called me Davy, and his friendliness grew with our journey.
His anger turned against rocks and rivers, landlords
and emigrants, but never against me. And for
this I was silently thankful.
And how had he come to take me over the mountains,
and to put me in the way of studying law? Mindful of
the kernel of my story, I have shortened the chapter to
tell you out of the proper place. Major Colfax had made
Tom and me sup with himself and Colonel Clark at the
inn in Danville. And so pleased had the Major professed
himself with my story of having outwitted his agent, that
he must needs have more of my adventures. Colonel
Clark gave him some, and Tom,--his tongue loosed by
the toddy,--others. And the Colonel added to the debt
I owed him by suggesting that Major Colfax take me to
Virginia and recommend me to a lawyer there.
``Nay,'' cried the Major, ``I will do more. I like the
lad, for he is modest despite the way you have paraded
him. I have an uncle in Richmond, Judge Wentworth,
to whom I will take him in person. And when the
Judge has done with him, if he is not flayed and tattooed
with Blackstone, you may flay and tattoo me.''
Thus did I break through my environment. And it
was settled that I should meet the Major in seven days at
Once in the journey did the Major make mention of a
subject which had troubled me.
``Davy,'' said he, ``Clark has changed. He is not the
same man he was when I saw him in Williamsburg
demanding supplies for his campaign.''
``Virginia has used him shamefully, sir,'' I answered,
and suddenly there came flooding to my mind things I
had heard the Colonel say in the campaign.
``Commonwealths have short memories,'' said the Major,
``they will accept any sacrifice with a smile. Shakespeare,
I believe, speaks of royal ingratitude--he knew not
commonwealths. Clark was close-lipped once, not given
to levity and--to toddy. There, there, he is my friend
as well as yours, and I will prove it by pushing his cause
in Virginia. Is yours Scotch anger? Then the devil
fend me from it. A monarch would have given him fifty
thousand acres on the Wabash, a palace, and a sufficient
annuity. Virginia has given him a sword, eight thousand
wild acres to be sure, repudiated the debts of his army,
and left him to starve. Is there no room for a genius
in our infant military establishment?''
At length, as Christmas drew near, we came to Major
Colfax's seat, some forty miles out of the town of
Richmond. It was called Neville's Grange, the Major's
grandfather having so named it when he came out from England
some sixty years before. It was a huge, rambling, draughty
house of wood,--mortgaged, so the Major cheerfully
informed me, thanks to the patriotism of the family. At
Neville's Grange the Major kept a somewhat roisterous
bachelor's hall. The place was overrun with negroes and
dogs, and scarce a night went by that there was not
merrymaking in the house with the neighbors. The
time passed pleasantly enough until one frosty January
morning Major Colfax had a twinge of remembrance,
cried out for horses, took me into Richmond, and presented
me to that very learned and decorous gentleman, Judge
My studies began within the hour of my arrival.
I shall burden no one with the dry chronicles of a
law office. The acquirement of learning is a slow process
in life, and perchance a slower one in the telling. I lacked
not application during the three years of my stay in
Richmond, and to earn my living I worked at such odd
tasks as came my way.
The Judge resembled Major Colfax in but one trait:
he was choleric. But he was painstaking and cautious,
and I soon found out that he looked askance upon any one
whom his nephew might recommend. He liked the
Major, but he vowed him to be a roisterer and spendthrift,
and one day, some months after my advent, the
Judge asked me flatly how I came to fall in with Major
Colfax. I told him. At the end of this conversation he
took my breath away by bidding me come to live with
him. Like many lawyers of that time, he had a little
house in one corner of his grounds for his office. It stood
under great spreading trees, and there I was wont to sit
through many a summer day wrestling with the authorities.
In the evenings we would have political arguments, for
the Confederacy was in a seething state between the
Federalists and the Republicans over the new Constitution,
now ratified. Between the Federalists and the Jacobins,
I would better say, for the virulence of the French
Revolution was soon to be reflected among the parties on our
side. Kentucky, swelled into an unmanageable territory,
was come near to rebellion because the government was
not strong enough to wrest from Spain the free navigation
of the Mississippi.
And yet I yearned to go back, and looked forward
eagerly to the time when I should have stored enough in
my head to gain admission to the bar. I was therefore
greatly embarrassed, when my examinations came, by an
offer from Judge Wentworth to stay in Richmond and
help him with his practice. It was an offer not to be
lightly set aside, and yet I had made up my mind. He
flew into a passion because of my desire to return to a
wild country of outlaws and vagabonds.
``Why, damme,'' he cried, ``Kentucky and this pretty
State of Franklin which desired to chip off from North
Carolina are traitorous places. Disloyal to Congress!
Intriguing with a Spanish minister and the Spanish governor
of Louisiana to secede from their own people and
join the King of Spain. Bah!'' he exclaimed, ``if our new
Federal Constitution is adopted I would hang Jack Sevier
of Franklin and your Kentuckian Wilkinson to the highest
trees west of the mountains.''
I can see the little gentleman as he spoke, his black
broadcloth coat and lace ruffles, his hand clutching the
gold head of his cane, his face screwed up with indignation
under his white wig. It was on a Sunday, and he
was standing by the lilac bushes on the lawn in front of
his square brick house.
``David,'' said he, more calmly, ``I trust I have taught
you something besides the law. I trust I have taught you
that a strong Federal government alone will be the salvation
of our country.''
``You cannot blame Kentucky greatly, sir,'' said I,
feeling that I must stand up for my friends. ``The
Federal government has done little enough for its people,
and treated them to a deal of neglect. They won that
western country for themselves with no Federal nor Virginia
or North Carolina troops to help them. No man
east of the mountains knows what that fight has been.
No man east of the mountains knows the horror of that
Indian warfare. This government gives them no protection
now. Nay, Congress cannot even procure for them
an outlet for their commerce. They must trade or perish.
Spain closes the Mississippi, arrests our merchants, seizes
their goods, and often throws them into prison. No
wonder they scorn the Congress as weak and impotent.''
The Judge stared at me aghast. It was the first time
I had dared oppose him on this subject
``What,'' he sputtered, ``what? You are a Separatist,
--you whom I have received into the bosom of my
family!'' Seizing the cane at the middle, he brandished
it in my face.
``Don't misunderstand me, sir,'' said I. ``You have
given me books to read, and have taught me what may
be the destiny of our nation on this continent. But you
must forgive a people whose lives have been spent in a
fierce struggle for their homes, whose families have
nearly all lost some member by massacre, who are separated
by hundreds of miles of wilderness from you.''
He looked at me speechless, and turned and walked
into the house. I thought I had sinned past forgiveness,
and I was beyond description uncomfortable, for he had
been like a parent to me. But the next morning, at half
after seven, he walked into the little office and laid down
some gold pieces on my table. Gold was very scarce in
those days.
``They are for your journey, David,'' said he. ``My
only comfort in your going back is that you may grow up
to put some temperance into their wild heads. I have a
commission for you at Jonesboro, in what was once the
unspeakable State of Franklin. You can stop there on
your way to Kentucky.'' He drew from his pocket a
great bulky letter, addressed to ``Thomas Wright,
Esquire, Barrister-at-law in Jonesboro, North Carolina.''
For the good gentleman could not bring himself to write
It was late in September of the year 1788 when I set
out on my homeward way--for Kentucky was home to
me. I was going back to Polly Ann and Tom, and visions
of that home-coming rose before my eyes as I rode. In a
packet in my saddle-bags were some dozen letters which
Mr. Wrenn, the schoolmaster at Harrodstown, had writ
at Polly Ann's bidding. I have the letters yet. For Mr.
Wrenn was plainly an artist, and had set down on the
paper the words just as they had flowed from her heart.
Ay, and there was news in the letters, though not
surprising news among those pioneer families whom God
blessed so abundantly. Since David Ritchie McChesney
(I mention the name with pride) had risen above the
necessities of a bark cradle, two more had succeeded him,
a brother and a sister. I spurred my horse onward, and
thought impatiently of the weary leagues between my
family and me.
I have often pictured myself on that journey. I was
twenty-one years of age, though one would have called me
older. My looks were nothing to boast of, and I was
grown up tall and weedy, so that I must have made quite
a comical sight, with my long legs dangling on either side
of the pony. I wore a suit of gray homespun, and in
my saddle-bags I carried four precious law books, the
stock in trade which my generous patron had given me.
But as I mounted the slopes of the mountains my spirits
rose too at the prospect of the life before me. The woods
were all aflame with color, with wine and amber and gold,
and the hills wore the misty mantle of shadowy blue so
dear to my youthful memory. As I left the rude taverns
of a morning and jogged along the heights, I watched the
vapors rise and troll away from the valleys far beneath,
and saw great flocks of ducks and swans and cackling
geese darkening the air in their southward flight. Strange
that I fell in with no company, for the trail leading into
the Tennessee country was widened and broadened
beyond belief, and everywhere I came upon blackened
fires and abandoned lean-tos, and refuse bones gnawed by
the wolves and bleached by the weather. I slept in some
of these lean-tos, with my fire going brightly, indifferent
to the howl of wolves in chase or the scream of a panther
pouncing on its prey. For I was born of the wilderness.
It had no terrors for me, nor did I ever feel alone. The
great cliffs with their clinging, gnarled trees, the vast
mountains clothed in the motley colors of the autumn,
the sweet and smoky smell of the Indian summer,--all
were dear to me.
As I drew near to Jonesboro my thoughts began to
dwell upon that strange and fascinating man who had
entertained Polly Ann and Tom and me so lavishly on
our way to Kentucky,--Captain John Sevier. For he
had made a great noise in the world since then, and the
wrath of such men as my late patron was heavy upon him.
Yes, John Sevier, Nollichucky Jack, had been a king in
all but name since I had seen him, the head of such
a principality as stirred the blood to read about. It
comprised the Watauga settlement among the mountains
of what is now Tennessee, and was called prosaically (as
is the wont of the Anglo-Saxon) the free State of
Franklin. There were certain conservative and
unimaginative souls in this mountain principality who for
various reasons held their old allegiance to the State of
North Carolina. One Colonel Tipton led these loyalist
forces, and armed partisans of either side had for some
years ridden up and down the length of the land, burning
and pillaging and slaying. We in Virginia had heard of
two sets of courts in Franklin, of two sets of legislators.
But of late the rumor had grown persistently that
Nollichucky Jack was now a kind of fugitive, and that he had
passed the summer pleasantly enough fighting Indians in
the vicinity of Nick-a-jack Cave.
It was court day as I rode into the little town of
Jonesboro, the air sparkling like a blue diamond over the
mountain crests, and I drew deep into my lungs once
more the scent of the frontier life I had loved so well.
In the streets currents of excited men flowed and backed
and eddied, backwoodsmen and farmers in the familiar
hunting shirts of hide or homespun, and lawyers in dress
less rude. A line of horses stood kicking and switching
their tails in front of the log tavern, rough carts and
wagons had been left here and there with their poles on the
ground, and between these, piles of skins were heaped up
and bags of corn and grain. The log meeting-house was
deserted, but the court-house was the centre of such a
swirling crowd as I had often seen at Harrodstown.
Now there are brawls and brawls, and I should have
thought with shame of my Kentucky bringing-up had I
not perceived that this was no ordinary court day, and
that an unusual excitement was in the wind.
Tying my horse, and making my way through the press
in front of the tavern door, I entered the common room,
and found it stifling, brawling and drinking going on
apace. Scarce had I found a seat before the whole room
was emptied by one consent, all crowding out of the door
after two men who began a rough-and-tumble fight in the
street. I had seen rough-and-tumble fights in Kentucky,
and if I have forborne to speak of them it is because there
always has been within me a loathing for them. And so
I sat quietly in the common room until the landlord came.
I asked him if he could direct me to Mr. Wright's house,
as I had a letter for that gentleman. His answer was to
grin at me incredulously.
``I reckoned you wah'nt from these parts,'' said he.
``Wright's-out o' town.''
``What is the excitement?'' I demanded.
He stared at me.
``Nollichucky Jack's been heah, in Jonesboro, young
man,'' said he.
``What,'' I exclaimed, ``Colonel Sevier?''
``Ay, Sevier,'' he repeated. ``With Martin and Tipton
and all the Caroliny men right heah, having a council of
mility officers in the court-house, in rides Jack with his
frontier boys like a whirlwind. He bean't afeard of 'em,
and a bench warrant out ag'in him for high treason.
Never seed sech a recklessness. Never had sech a jamboree
sence I kept the tavern. They was in this here
room most of the day, and they was five fights before they
set down to dinner.''
``And Colonel Tipton?'' I said.
``Oh, Tipton,'' said he, ``he hain't afeard neither, but he
hain't got men enough.''
``And where is Sevier now?'' I demanded.
``How long hev you ben in town?'' was his answer.
I told him.
``Wal,'' said he, shifting his tobacco from one sallow
cheek to the other, ``I reckon he and his boys rud out
just afore you come in. Mark me,'' he added, ``when I
tell ye there'll be trouble yet. Tipton and Martin and the
Caroliny folks is burnin' mad with Chucky Jack for the
murder of Corn Tassel and other peaceful chiefs. But
Jack hez a wild lot with him,--some of the Nollichucky
Cave traders, and there's one young lad that looks like he
was a gentleman once. I reckon Jack himself wouldn't
like to get into a fight with him. He's a wild one.
Great Goliah,'' he exclaimed, running to the door, ``ef
thar ain't a-goin' to be another fight! Never seed sech
a day in Jonesboro.''
I likewise ran to the door, and this fight interested me.
There was a great, black-bearded mountaineer-farmerdesperado
in the midst of a circle, pouring out a torrent
of abuse at a tall young man.
``That thar's Hump Gibson,'' said the landlord, genially
pointing out the black-bearded ruffian, ``and the young
lawyer feller hez git a jedgment ag'in him. He's got
spunk, but I reckon Hump'll t'ar the innards out'n him
ef he stands thar a great while.''
``Ye'll git jedgment ag'in me, ye Caroliny splinter, will
ye?'' yelled Mr. Gibson, with an oath. ``I'll pay Bill
Wilder the skins when I git ready, and all the pinhook
lawyers in Washington County won't budge me a mite.''
``You'll pay Bill Wilder or go to jail, by the eternal,''
cried the young man, quite as angrily, whereupon I
looked upon him with a mixture of admiration and
commiseration, with a gulping certainty in my throat that I
was about to see murder done. He was a strange young
man, with the rare marked look that would compel even
a poor memory to pick him out again. For example, he
was very tall and very slim, with red hair blown every
which way over a high and towering forehead that
seemed as long as the face under it. The face, too, was
long, and all freckled by the weather. The blue eyes
held me in wonder, and these blazed with such prodigious
wrath that, if a look could have killed, Hump
Gibson would have been stricken on the spot. Mr. Gibson
was, however, very much alive.
``Skin out o' here afore I kill ye,'' he shouted, and he
charged at the slim young man like a buffalo, while the
crowd held its breath. I, who had looked upon cruel
sights in my day, was turning away with a kind of sickening
when I saw the slim young man dodge the rush. He
did more. With two strides of his long legs he reached
the fence, ripped off the topmost rail, and his huge
antagonist, having changed his direction and coming at him
with a bellow, was met with the point of a scantling in the
pit of his stomach, and Mr. Gibson fell heavily to the
ground. It had all happened in a twinkling, and there
was a moment's lull while the minds of the onlookers
needed readjustment, and then they gave vent to ecstasies
of delight.
``Great Goliah!'' cried the landlord, breathlessly, ``he
shet him up jest like a jack-knife.''
Awe-struck, I looked at the tall young man, and he
was the very essence of wrath. Unmindful of the plaudits,
he stood brandishing the fence-rail over the great,
writhing figure on the ground. And he was slobbering.
I recall that this fact gave a twinge to something in my
``Come on, Hump Gibson,'' he cried, ``come on!''--at
which the crowd went wild with pure joy. Witticisms flew.
``Thought ye was goin' to eat 'im up, Hump?'' said a
``Ye ain't hed yer meal yet, Hump,'' reminded another.
Mr. Hump Gibson arose slowly out of the dust, yet he
did not stand straight.
``Come on, come on!'' cried the young lawyer-fellow,
and he thrust the point of the rail within a foot of Mr.
Gibson's stomach.
``Come on, Hump!'' howled the crowd, but Mr. Gibson
stood irresolute. He lacked the supreme test of courage
which was demanded on this occasion. Then he turned
and walked away very slowly, as though his pace might
mitigate in some degree the shame of his retreat. The
young man flung away the fence-rail, and, thrusting aside
the overzealous among his admirers, he strode past me
into the tavern, his anger still hot.
``Hooray fer Jackson!'' they shouted. ``Hooray fer
Andy Jackson!''
Andy Jackson! Then I knew. Then I remembered a
slim, wild, sandy-haired boy digging his toes in the red
mud long ago at the Waxhaws Settlement. And I recalled
with a smile my own fierce struggle at the schoolhouse
with the same boy, and how his slobbering had been my
salvation. I turned and went in after him with the
landlord, who was rubbing his hands with glee.
``I reckon Hump won't come crowin' round heah any
more co't days, Mr. Jackson,'' said our host.
But Mr. Jackson swept the room with his eyes and
then glared at the landlord so that he gave back.
``Where's my man?'' he demanded.
``Your man, Mr. Jackson?'' stammered the host.
``Great Jehovah!'' cried Mr. Jackson, ``I believe he's
afraid to race. He had a horse that could show heels to
my Nancy, did he? And he's gone, you say?''
A light seemed to dawn on the landlord's countenance.
``God bless ye, Mr. Jackson!'' he cried, ``ye don't mean
that young daredevil that was with Sevier?''
``With Sevier?'' says Jackson.
``Ay,'' says the landlord; ``he's been a-fightin with
Sevier all summer, and I reckon he ain't afeard of nothin'
any more than you. Wait--his name was Temple--
Nick Temple, they called him.''
``Nick Temple!'' I cried, starting forward.
``Where's he gone?'' said Mr. Jackson. ``He was
going to bet me a six-forty he has at Nashboro that his
horse could beat mine on the Greasy Cove track. Where's
he gone?''
``Gone!'' said the landlord, apologetically, ``Nollichucky
Jack and his boys left town an hour ago.''
``Is he a man of honor or isn't he?'' said Mr. Jackson,
``Lord, sir, I only seen him once, but I'd stake my oath
on it.
``Do you mean to say Mr. Temple has been here--
Nicholas Temple?'' I said.
The bewildered landlord turned towards me helplessly.
``Who the devil are you, sir?'' cried Mr. Jackson.
``Tell me what this Mr. Temple was like,'' said I.
The landlord's face lighted up.
``Faith, a thoroughbred hoss,'' says he; ``sech nostrils,
and sech a gray eye with the devil in it fer go--yellow
ha'r, and ez tall ez Mr. Jackson heah.''
``And you say he's gone off again with Sevier?''
``They rud into town'' (he lowered his voice, for the
room was filling), ``snapped their fingers at Tipton and
his warrant, and rud out ag'in. My God, but that was
like Nollichucky Jack. Say, stranger, when your Mr.
Temple smiled--''
``He is the man!'' I cried; ``tell me where to find him.''
Mr. Jackson, who had been divided between astonishment
and impatience and anger, burst out again.
``What the devil do you mean by interfering with my
business, sir?
``Because it is my business too,'' I answered, quite as
testily; ``my claim on Mr. Temple is greater than yours.''
``By Jehovah!'' cried Jackson, ``come outside, sir,
come outside!''
The landlord backed away, and the men in the tavern
began to press around us expectantly.
``Gallop into him, Andy!'' cried one.
``Don't let him git near no fences, stranger,'' said
Mr. Jackson turned on this man with such truculence
that he edged away to the rear of the room.
``Step out, sir,'' said Mr. Jackson, starting for the door
before I could reply. I followed perforce, not without
misgivings, the crowd pushing eagerly after. Before
we reached the dusty street Jackson began pulling off his
coat. In a trice the shouting onlookers had made a ring,
and we stood facing each other, he in his shirt-sleeves.
``We'll fight fair,'' said he, his lips wetting.
``Very good,'' said I, ``if you are still accustomed to
this hasty manner. You have not asked my name, my
standing, nor my reasons for wanting Mr. Temple.''
I know not whether it was what I said that made him
stare, or how I said it.
``Pistols, if you like,'' said he.
``No,'' said I; ``I am in a hurry to find Mr. Temple. I
fought you this way once, and it's quicker.''
``You fought me this way once?'' he repeated. The
noise of the crowd was hushed, and they drew nearer to
``Come, Mr. Jackson,'' said I, ``you are a lawyer and a
gentleman, and so am I. I do not care to be beaten to a
pulp, but I am not afraid of you. And I am in a hurry.
If you will step back into the tavern, I will explain to you
my reasons for wishing to get to Mr. Temple.''
Mr. Jackson stared at me the more.
``By the eternal,'' said he, ``you are a cool man. Give
me my coat,'' he shouted to the bystanders, and they
helped him on with it. ``Now,'' said he, as they made to
follow him, ``keep back. I would talk to this gentleman.
By the heavens,'' he cried, when he had gained the room,
``I believe you are not afraid of me. I saw it in your
Then I laughed.
``Mr. Jackson,'' said I, ``doubtless you do not remember
a homeless boy named David whom you took to your
uncle's house in the Waxhaws--''
``I do,'' he exclaimed, ``as I live I do. Why, we slept
``And you stumped your toe getting into bed and
swore,'' said I.
At that he laughed so heartily that the landlord came
running across the room.
``And we fought together at the Old Fields School.
Are you that boy?'' and he scanned me again. ``By God,
I believe you are.'' Suddenly his face clouded once more.
``But what about Temple?'' said he.
``Ah,'' I answered, ``I come to that quickly. Mr.
Temple is my cousin. After I left your uncle's house
my father took me to Charlestown.''
``Is he a Charlestown Temple?'' demanded Mr.
Jackson. ``For I spent some time gambling and horseracing
with the gentry there, and I know many of them.
I was a wild lad'' (I repeat his exact words), ``and I ran up
a bill in Charlestown that would have filled a folio volume.
Faith, all I had left me was the clothes on my back and a
good horse. I made up my mind one night that if I
could pay my debts and get out of Charlestown I would
go into the back country and study law and sober down.
There was a Mr. Braiden in the ordinary who staked me
two hundred dollars at rattle-and-snap against my horse.
Gad, sir, that was providence. I won. I left Charlestown
with honor, I studied law at Salisbury in North Carolina,
and I have come here to practise it.''
``You seem to have the talent,'' said I, smiling at the
remembrance of the Hump Gibson incident.
``That is my history in a nutshell,'' said Mr. Jackson.
``And now,'' he added, ``since you are Mr. Temple's cousin
and friend and an old acquaintance of mine to boot, I will
tell you where I think he is.''
``Where is that?'' I asked eagerly.
``I'll stake a cowbell that Sevier will stop at the Widow
Brown's,'' he replied. ``I'll put you on the road. But
mind you, you are to tell Mr. Temple that he is to come
back here and race me at Greasy Cove.''
``I'll warrant him to come,'' said I.
Whereupon we left the inn together, more amicably
than before. Mr. Jackson had a thoroughbred horse
near by that was a pleasure to see, and my admiration of
his mount seemed to set me as firmly in Mr. Jackson's
esteem again as that gentleman himself sat in the saddle.
He was as good as his word, rode out with me some distance
on the road, and reminded me at the last that Nick
was to race him.
It was not to my credit that I should have lost the
trail, after Mr. Jackson put me straight. But the night
was dark, the country unknown to me, and heavily
wooded and mountainous. In addition to these things
my mind ran like fire. My thoughts sometimes flew back
to the wondrous summer evening when I trod the
Nollichucky trace with Tom and Polly Ann, when I first
looked down upon the log palace of that prince of the
border, John Sevier. Well I remembered him, broadshouldered,
handsome, gay, a courtier in buckskin.
Small wonder he was idolized by the Watauga settlers,
that he had been their leader in the struggle of Franklin
for liberty. And small wonder that Nick Temple should
be in his following.
Nick! My mind was in a torment concerning him.
What of his mother? Should I speak of having seen her?
I went blindly through the woods for hours after the
night fell, my horse stumbling and weary, until at length
I came to a lonely clearing on the mountain side, and a
fierce pack of dogs dashed barking at my horse's heels.
There was a dark cabin ahead, indistinct in the starlight,
and there I knocked until a gruff voice answered me and
a tousled man came to the door. Yes, I had missed the
trail. He shook his head when I asked for the Widow
Brown's, and bade me share his bed for the night. No, I
would go on, I was used to the backwoods. Thereupon
he thawed a little, kicked the dogs, and pointed to where
the mountain dipped against the star-studded sky. There
was a trail there which led direct to the Widow Brown's,
if I could follow it. So I left him.
Once the fear had settled deeply of missing Nick at the
Widow Brown's, I put my mind on my journey, and
thanks to my early training I was able to keep the trail.
It doubled around the spurs, forded stony brooks in diagonals,
and often in the darkness of the mountain forest I
had to feel for the blazes on the trees. There was no
making time. I gained the notch with the small hours of
the morning, started on with the descent, crisscrossing,
following a stream here and a stream there, until at length
the song of the higher waters ceased and I knew that I
was in the valley. Suddenly there was no crown-cover
over my head. I had gained the road once more, and I
followed it hopefully, avoiding the stumps and the deep
wagon ruts where the ground was spongy.
The morning light revealed a milky mist through which
the trees showed like phantoms. Then there came stains
upon the mist of royal purple, of scarlet, of yellow like a
mandarin's robe, peeps of deep blue fading into azure as
the mist lifted. The fiery eye of the sun was cocked
over the crest, and beyond me I saw a house with its logs
all golden brown in the level rays, the withered cornstalks
orange among the blackened stumps. My horse stopped
of his own will at the edge of the clearing. A cock crew,
a lean hound prostrate on the porch of the house rose to
his haunches, sniffed, growled, leaped down, and ran to
the road and sniffed again. I listened, startled, and
made sure of the distant ring of many hoofs. And yet I
stayed there, irresolute. Could it be Tipton and his men
riding from Jonesboro to capture Sevier? The hoofbeats
grew louder, and then the hound in the road gave
tongue to the short, sharp bark that is the call to arms.
Other dogs, hitherto unseen, took up the cry, and turning
in my saddle I saw a body of men riding hard at me
through the alley in the forest. At their head, on a
heavy, strong-legged horse, was one who might have
stood for the figure of turbulence, and I made no doubt
that this was Colonel Tipton himself,--Colonel Tipton,
once secessionist, now champion of the Old North State
and arch-enemy of John Sevier. At sight of me he reined
up so violently that his horse went back on his haunches,
and the men behind were near overriding him.
``Look out, boys,'' he shouted, with a fierce oath,
``they've got guards out!'' He flung back one hand to
his holster for a pistol, while the other reached for the
powder flask at his belt. He primed the pan, and, seeing
me immovable, set his horse forward at an amble, his pistol
at the cock.
``Who in hell are you?'' he cried.
``A traveller from Virginia,'' I answered.
``And what are you doing here?'' he demanded, with
another oath.
``I have just this moment come here,'' said I, as calmly
as I might. ``I lost the trail in the darkness.''
He glared at me, purpling, perplexed.
``Is Sevier there?'' said he, pointing at the house.
``I don't know,'' said I.
Tipton turned to his men, who were listening.
``Surround the house,'' he cried, ``and watch this
I rode on perforce towards the house with Tipton and
three others, while his men scattered over the corn-field
and cursed the dogs. And then we saw in the open door
the figure of a woman shading her eyes with her hand.
We pulled up, five of us, before the porch in front of her.
``Good morning, Mrs. Brown,'' said Tipton, gruffly.
``Good morning, Colonel,'' answered the widow.
Tipton leaped from his horse, flung the bridle to a
companion, and put his foot on the edge of the porch to
mount. Then a strange thing happened. The lady
turned deftly, seized a chair from within, and pulled it
across the threshold. She sat herself down firmly, an
expression on her face which hinted that the late lamented
Mr. Brown had been a dominated man. Colonel Tipton
stopped, staggering from the very impetus of his charge,
and gazed at her blankly.
``I have come for Colonel Sevier,'' he blurted. And
then, his anger rising, ``I will have no trifling, ma'am.
He is in this house.''
``La! you don't tell me,'' answered the widow, in a tone
that was wholly conversational.
``He is in this house,'' shouted the Colonel.
``I reckon you've guessed wrong, Colonel,'' said the
There was an awkward pause until Tipton heard a titter
behind him. Then his wrath exploded.
``I have a warrant against the scoundrel for high
treason,'' he cried, ``and, by God, I will search the house
and serve it.''
Still the widow sat tight. The Rock of Ages was
neither more movable nor calmer than she.
``Surely, Colonel, you would not invade the house of an
unprotected female.''
The Colonel, evidently with a great effort, throttled his
wrath for the moment. His new tone was apologetic but
``I regret to have to do so, ma'am,'' said he, ``but both
sexes are equal before the law.''
``The law!'' repeated the widow, seemingly tickled
at the word. She smiled indulgently at the Colonel.
``What a pity, Mr. Tipton, that the law compels you to
arrest such a good friend of yours as Colonel Sevier.
What self-sacrifice, Colonel Tipton! What nobility!''
There was a second titter behind him, whereat he swung
round quickly, and the crimson veins in his face looked
as if they must burst. He saw me with my hand over
my mouth.
``You warned him, damn you!'' he shouted, and turning
again leaped to the porch and tried to squeeze past
the widow into the house.
``How dare you, sir?'' she shrieked, giving him a
vigorous push backwards. The four of us, his three men
and myself, laughed outright. Tipton's rage leaped its
bounds. He returned to the attack again and again, and
yet at the crucial moment his courage would fail him and
he would let the widow thrust him back. Suddenly I
became aware that there were two new spectators of this
comedy. I started and looked again, and was near to
crying out at sight of one of them. The others did cry
out, but Tipton paid no heed.
Ten years had made his figure more portly, but I knew
at once the man in the well-fitting hunting shirt, with the
long hair flowing to his shoulders, with the keen, dark
face and courtly bearing and humorous eyes. Yes, humorous
even now, for he stood, smiling at this comedy played
by his enemy, unmindful of his peril. The widow saw
him before Tipton did, so intent was he on the struggle.
``Enough!'' she cried, ``enough, John Tipton!''
Tipton drew back involuntarily, and a smile broadened
on the widow's face. ``Shame on you for doubting a lady's
word! Allow me to present to you--Colonel Sevier.''
Tipton turned, stared as a man might who sees a ghost,
and broke into such profanity as I have seldom heard.
``By the eternal God, John Sevier,'' he shouted, ``I'll
hang you to the nearest tree!''
Colonel Sevier merely made a little ironical bow and
looked at the gentleman beside him.
``I have surrendered to Colonel Love,'' he said.
Tipton snatched from his belt the pistol which he might
have used on me, and there flashed through my head the
thought that some powder might yet be held in its pan.
We cried out, all of us, his men, the widow, and myself,--
all save Sevier, who stood quietly, smiling. Suddenly,
while we waited for murder, a tall figure shot out of the
door past the widow, the pistol flew out of Tipton's hand,
and Tipton swung about with something like a bellow, to
face Mr. Nicholas Temple.
Well I knew him! And oddly enough at that time
Riddle's words of long ago came to me, ``God help the
woman you love or the man you fight.'' How shall I
describe him? He was thin even to seeming frailness,--
yet it was the frailness of the race-horse. The golden
hair, sun-tanned, awry across his forehead, the face the
same thin and finely cut face of the boy. The gray eyes
held an anger that did not blaze; it was far more dangerous
than that. Colonel John Tipton looked, and as I live
he recoiled.
``If you touch him, I'll kill you,'' said Mr. Temple.
Nor did he say it angrily. I marked for the first time
that he held a pistol in his slim fingers. What Tipton
might have done when he swung to his new bearings is
mere conjecture, for Colonel Sevier himself stepped up on
the porch, laid his hand on Temple's arm, and spoke to him
in a low tone. What he said we didn't hear. The
astonishing thing was that neither of them for the moment
paid any attention to the infuriated man beside them. I
saw Nick's expression change. He smiled,--the smile
the landlord had described, the smile that made men and
women willing to die for him. After that Colonel Sevier
stooped down and picked up the pistol from the floor of
the porch and handed it with a bow to Tipton, butt first.
Tipton took it, seemingly without knowing why, and at
that instant a negro boy came around the house, leading a
horse. Sevier mounted it without a protest from any one.
``I am ready to go with you, gentlemen,'' he said.
Colonel Tipton slipped his pistol back into his belt,
stepped down from the porch, and leaped into his saddle,
and he and his men rode off into the stump-lined alley in
the forest that was called a road. Nick stood beside the
widow, staring after them until they had disappeared.
``My horse, boy!'' he shouted to the gaping negro, who
vanished on the errand.
``What will you do, Mr. Temple?'' asked the widow.
``Rescue him, ma'am,'' cried Nick, beginning to pace up
and down. ``I'll ride to Turner's. Cozby and Evans
are there, and before night we shall have made Jonesboro
too hot to hold Tipton and his cutthroats.''
``La, Mr. Temple,'' said the widow, with unfeigned
admiration, ``I never saw the like of you. But I know
John Tipton, and he'll have Colonel Sevier started for
North Carolina before our boys can get to Jonesboro.''
``Then we'll follow,'' says Nick, beginning to pace
again. Suddenly, at a cry from the widow, he stopped
and stared at me, a light in his eye like a point of steel.
His hand slipped to his waist.
``A spy,'' he said, and turned and smiled at the lady,
who was watching him with a kind of fascination; ``but
damnably cool,'' he continued, looking at me. ``I wonder
if he thinks to outride me on that beast? Look you,
sir,'' he cried, as Mrs. Brown's negro came back struggling
with a deep-ribbed, high-crested chestnut that was
making half circles on his hind legs, ``I'll give you to the
edge of the woods, and lay you a six-forty against a pair
of moccasins that you never get back to Tipton.''
``God forbid that I ever do,'' I answered fervently.
``What,'' he exclaimed, ``and you here with him on
this sneak's errand!''
``I am here with him on no errand,'' said I. ``He and his
crew came on me a quarter of an hour since at the edge
of the clearing. Mr. Temple, I am here to find you, and
to save time I will ride with you.''
``Egad, you'll have to ride like the devil then,'' said
he, and he stooped and snatched the widow's hand and
kissed it with a daring gallantry that I had thought to
find in him. He raised his eyes to hers.
``Good-by, Mr. Temple, she said,--there was a tremor
in her voice,--``and may you save our Jack!''
He snatched the bridle from the boy, and with one
leap he was on the rearing, wheeling horse. ``Come on,''
he cried to me, and, waving his hat at the lady on the
porch, he started off with a gallop up the trail in the
opposite direction from that which Tipton's men had
All that I saw of Mr. Nicholas Temple on that ride to
Turner's was his back, and presently I lost sight of that.
In truth, I never got to Turner's at all, for I met him
coming back at the wind's pace, a huge, swarthy, determined
man at his side and four others spurring after, the
spume dripping from the horses' mouths. They did not
so much as look at me as they passed, and there was
nothing left for me to do but to turn my tired beast and
follow at any pace I could make towards Jonesboro.
It was late in the afternoon before I reached the
town, the town set down among the hills like a caldron
boiling over with the wrath of Franklin. The news of
the capture of their beloved Sevier had flown through the
mountains like seeds on the autumn wind, and from north,
south, east, and west the faithful were coming in, cursing
Tipton and Carolina as they rode.
I tethered my tired beast at the first picket, and was no
sooner on my feet than I was caught in the hurrying
stream of the crowd and fairly pushed and beaten towards
the court-house. Around it a thousand furious men were
packed. I heard cheering, hoarse and fierce cries, threats
and imprecations, and I knew that they were listening to
oratory. I was suddenly shot around the corner of a
house, saw the orator himself, and gasped.
It was Nicholas Temple. There was something aweimpelling
in the tall, slim, boyish figure that towered above
the crowd, in the finely wrought, passionate face, in the
voice charged with such an anger as is given to few men.
``What has North Carolina done for Franklin?'' he
cried. ``Protected her? No. Repudiated her? Yes.
You gave her to the Confederacy for a war debt, and the
Confederacy flung her back. You shook yourselves free
from Carolina's tyranny, and traitors betrayed you again.
And now they have betrayed your leader. Will you
avenge him, or will you sit down like cowards while they
hang him for treason?''
His voice was drowned, but he stood immovable with
arms folded until there was silence again.
``Will you rescue him?'' he cried, and the roar rose
again. ``Will you avenge him? By to-morrow we shall
have two thousand here. Invade North Carolina, humble
her, bring her to her knees, and avenge John Sevier!''
Pandemonium reigned. Hats were flung in the air,
rifles fired, shouts and curses rose and blended into one
terrifying note. Gradually, in the midst of this mad
uproar, the crowd became aware that another man was
standing upon the stump from which Nicholas Temple
had leaped. ``Cozby!'' some one yelled, ``Cozby!'' The
cry was taken up. ``Huzzay for Cozby! He'll lead us
into Caroliny.'' He was the huge, swarthy man I had
seen riding hard with Nick that morning. A sculptor
might have chosen his face and frame for a type of the
iron-handed leader of pioneers. Will was supreme in the
great features,--inflexible, indomitable will. His hunting
shirt was open across his great chest, his black hair
fell to his shoulders, and he stood with a compelling hand
raised for silence. And when he spoke, slowly, resonantly,
men fell back before his words.
``I admire Mr. Temple's courage, and above all his
loyalty to our beloved General,'' said Major Cozby. ``But
Mr. Temple is young, and the heated counsels of youth
must not prevail. My friends, in order to save Jack
Sevier we must be moderate.''
His voice, strong as it was, was lost. ``To hell with
moderation!'' they shouted. ``Down with North Carolina!
We'll fight her!''
He got silence again by the magnetic strength he had
in him.
``Very good,'' he said, ``but get your General first. If
we lead you across the mountains now, his blood will be
upon your heads. No man is a better friend to Jack
Sevier than I. Leave his rescue to me, and I will get
him for you.'' He paused, and they were stilled perforce.
``I will get him for you,'' he repeated slowly, ``or North
Carolina will pay for the burial of James Cozby.''
There was an instant when they might have swung
either way.
``How will ye do it?'' came in a thin, piping voice from
somewhere near the stump. It may have been this that
turned their minds. Others took up the question,
``How will ye do it, Major Cozby?''
``I don't know,'' cried the Major, ``I don't know. And
if I did know, I wouldn't tell you. But I will get
Nollichucky Jack if I have to burn Morganton and rake the
General out of the cinders!''
Five hundred hands flew up, five hundred voices cried,
``I'm with ye, Major Cozby!'' But the Major only shook
his head and smiled. What he said was lost in the roar.
Fighting my way forward, I saw him get down from the
stump, put his hand kindly on Nick's shoulder, and lead
him into the court-house. They were followed by a score
of others, and the door was shut behind them.
It was then I bethought myself of the letter to Mr.
Wright, and I sought for some one who would listen to
my questions as to his whereabouts. At length the
man himself was pointed out to me, haranguing an excited
crowd of partisans in front of his own gate. Some twenty
minutes must have passed before I could get any word
with him. He was a vigorous little man, with black eyes
like buttons, he wore brown homespun and white stockings,
and his hair was clubbed. When he had yielded
the ground to another orator, I handed him the letter.
He drew me aside, read it on the spot, and became all
hospitality at once. The town was full, and though he
had several friends staying in his house I should join
them. Was my horse fed? Dinner had been forgotten
that day, but would I enter and partake? In short, I
found myself suddenly provided for, and I lost no time
in getting my weary mount into Mr. Wright's little
stable. And then I sat down, with several other gentlemen,
at Mr. Wright's board, where there was much guessing
as to Major Cozby's plan.
``No other man west of the mountains could have
calmed that crowd after that young daredevil Temple had
stirred them up,'' declared Mr. Wright.
I ventured to say that I had business with Mr. Temple.
``Faith, then, I will invite him here,'' said my host.
``But I warn you, Mr. Ritchie, that he is a trigger set on
the hair. If he does not fancy you, he may quarrel with
you and shoot you. And he is in no temper to be trifled
with to-day.''
``I am not an easy person to quarrel with,'' I answered.
``To look at you, I shouldn't say that you were,'' said
he. ``We are going to the court-house, and I will see if
I can get a word with the young Hotspur and send him
to you. Do you wait here.''
I waited on the porch as the day waned. The tumult
of the place had died down, for men were gathering in
the houses to discuss and conjecture. And presently,
sauntering along the street in a careless fashion, his spurs
trailing in the dust, came Nicholas Temple. He stopped
before the house and stared at me with a fine insolence,
and I wondered whether I myself had not been too hasty
in reclaiming him. A greeting died on my lips.
``Well, sir,'' he said, ``so you are the gentleman who
has been dogging me all day.''
``I dog no one, Mr. Temple,'' I replied bitterly.
``We'll not quibble about words,'' said he. ``Would it
be impertinent to ask your business--and perhaps your
``Did not Mr. Wright give you my name?'' I exclaimed.
``He might have mentioned it, I did not hear. Is it
of such importance?''
At that I lost my temper entirely.
``It may be, and it may not,'' I retorted. ``I am David
He changed before my eyes as he stared at me, and
then, ere I knew it, he had me by both arms, crying
``David Ritchie! My Davy--who ran away from me
--and we were going to Kentucky together. Oh, I have
never forgiven you,''--the smile that there was no
resisting belied his words as he put his face close to mine
--``I never will forgive you. I might have known you--
you've grown, but I vow you're still an old man,--Davy,
you renegade. And where the devil did you run to?''
``Kentucky,'' I said, laughing.
``Oh, you traitor--and I trusted you. I loved you,
Davy. Do you remember how I clung to you in my
sleep? And when I woke up, the world was black. I
followed your trail down the drive and to the crossroads--''
``It was not ingratitude, Nick,'' I said; ``you were all
I had in the world.'' And then I faltered, the sadness of
that far-off time coming over me in a flood, and the
remembrance of his generous sorrow for me.
``And how the devil did you track me to the Widow
Brown's?'' he demanded, releasing me.
``A Mr. Jackson had a shrewd notion you were there.
And by the way, he was in a fine temper because you had
skipped a race with him.''
``That sorrel-topped, lantern-headed Mr. Jackson?''
said Nick. ``He'll be killed in one of his fine tempers.
Damn a man who can't keep his temper. I'll race him, of
course. And where are you bound now, Davy?''
``For Louisville, in Kentucky, at the Falls of the Ohio.
It is a growing place, and a promising one for a young
man in the legal profession to begin life.''
``When do you leave?'' said he.
``To-morrow morning, Nick,'' said I. ``You wanted once
to go to Kentucky; why not come with me?''
His face clouded.
``I do not budge from this town,'' said he, ``I do not
budge until I hear that Jack Sevier is safe. Damn Cozby!
If he had given me my way, we should have been forty
miles from here by this. I'll tell you. Cozby is even
now picking five men to go to Morganton and steal Sevier,
and he puts me off with a kind word. He'll not have me,
he says.''
``He thinks you too hot. It needs discretion and an
old head,'' said I.
``Egad, then, I'll commend you to him,'' said Nick.
``Now,'' I said, ``it's time for you to tell me something
of yourself, and how you chanced to come into this
`` 'Twas Darnley's fault,'' said Nick.
``Darnley!'' I exclaimed; ``he whom you got into the
duel with--'' I stopped abruptly, with a sharp twinge of
remembrance that was like a pain in my side. 'Twas
Nick took up the name.
``With Harry Riddle.'' He spoke quietly, that was
the terrifying part of it. ``David, I've looked for that
man in Italy and France, I've scoured London for him,
and, by God, I'll find him before he dies. And when I
do find him I swear to you that there will be no such
thing as time wasted, or mercy.''
I shuddered. In all my life I had never known such a
moment of indecision. Should I tell him? My conscience
would give me no definite reply. The question
had haunted me all the night, and I had lost my way in
consequence, nor had the morning's ride from the Widow
Brown's sufficed to bring me to a decision. Of what use
to tell him? Would Riddle's death mend matters?
The woman loved him, that had been clear to me; yet,
by telling Nick what I knew I might induce him to desist
from his search, and if I did not tell, Nick might some day
run across the trail, follow it up, take Riddle's life, and
lose his own. The moment, made for confession as it
was, passed.
``They have ruined my life,'' said Nick. ``I curse him,
and I curse her.''
``Hold!'' I cried; ``she is your mother.''
``And therefore I curse her the more,'' he said. ``You
know what she is, you've tasted of her charity, and you
are my father's nephew. If you have been without
experience, I will tell you what she is. A common--''
I reached out and put my hand across his mouth.
``Silence!'' I cried; ``you shall say no such thing. And
have you not manhood enough to make your own life for
``Manhood!'' he repeated, and laughed. It was a laugh
that I did not like. ``They made a man of me, my
parents. My father played false with the Rebels and fled
to England for his reward. A year after he went I was
left alone at Temple Bow to the tender mercies of the
niggers. Mr. Mason came back and snatched what was
left of me. He was a good man; he saved me an annuity
out of the estate, he took me abroad after the war on a
grand tour, and died of a fever in Rome. I made my
way back to Charlestown, and there I learned to gamble,
to hold liquor like a gentleman, to run horses and fight
like a gentleman. We were speaking of Darnley,'' he
``Yes, of Darnley,'' I repeated.
``The devil of a man,'' said Nick; ``do you remember
him, with the cracked voice and fat calves?''
At any other time I should have laughed at the recollection.
``Darnley turned Whig, became a Continental colonel,
and got a grant out here in the Cumberland country of
three thousand acres. And now I own it.''
``You own it!'' I exclaimed.
``Rattle-and-snap,'' said Nick; ``I played him for the
land at the ordinary one night, and won it. It is out here
near a place called Nashboro, where this wild, long-faced
Mr. Jackson says he is going soon. I crossed the mountains
to have a look at it, fell in with Nollichucky Jack, and
went off with him for a summer campaign. There's a man
for you, Davy,'' he cried, ``a man to follow through hellfire.
If they touch a hair of his head we'll sack the State
of North Carolina from Morganton to the sea.''
``But the land?'' I asked.
``Oh, a fig for the land,'' answered Nick; ``as soon as
Nollichucky Jack is safe I'll follow you into Kentucky.''
He slapped me on the knee. ``Egad, Davy, it seems like
a fairy tale. We always said we were going to Kentucky,
didn't we? What is the name of the place you are to
startle with your learning and calm by your example?''
``Louisville,'' I answered, laughing, ``by the Falls of
the Ohio.''
``I shall turn up there when Jack Sevier is safe and I
have won some more land from Mr. Jackson. We'll have
a rare old time together, though I have no doubt you can
drink me under the table. Beware of these sober men.
Egad, Davy, you need only a woolsack to become a fullfledged
judge. And now tell me how fortune has buffeted
It was my second night without sleep, for we sat
burning candles in Mr. Wright's house until the dawn, making
up the time which we had lost away from each other.
When left to myself, I was wont to slide into the
commonplace; and where my own dull life intrudes to clog
the action I cut it down here and pare it away there until
I am merely explanatory, and not too much in evidence. I
rode out the Wilderness Trail, fell in with other travellers,
was welcomed by certain old familiar faces at Harrodstown,
and pressed on. I have a vivid recollection of a beloved,
vigorous figure swooping out of a cabin door and scattering
a brood of children right and left. ``Polly Ann!''
I said, and she halted, trembling.
``Tom,'' she cried, ``Tom, it's Davy come back, ``and
Tom himself flew out of the door, ramrod in one hand and
rifle in the other. Never shall I forget them as they
stood there, he grinning with sheer joy as of yore, and
she, with her hair flying and her blue gown snapping
in the wind, in a tremor between tears and laughter. I
leaped to the ground, and she hugged me in her arms as
though I had been a child, calling my name again and
again, and little Tom pulling at the skirts of my coat. I
caught the youngster by the collar.
``Polly Ann,'' said I, ``he's grown to what I was when
you picked me up, a foundling.''
``And now it's little Davy no more,'' she answered,
swept me a courtesy, and added, with a little quiver in
her voice, ``ye are a gentleman now.''
``My heart is still where it was,'' said I.
``Ay, ay,'' said Tom, ``I'm sure o' that, Davy.''
I was with them a fortnight in the familiar cabin,
and then I took up my journey northward, heavy at
leaving again, but promising to see them from time to
time. For Tom was often at the Falls when he went
a-scouting into the Illinois country. It was, as of old,
Polly Ann who ran the mill and was the real breadwinner
of the family.
Louisville was even then bursting with importance, and
as I rode into it, one bright November day, I remembered
the wilderness I had seen here not ten years gone
when I had marched hither with Captain Harrod's company
to join Clark on the island. It was even then a
thriving little town of log and clapboard houses and
schools and churches, and wise men were saying of it--
what Colonel Clark had long ago predicted--that it
would become the first city of commercial importance
in the district of Kentucky.
I do not mean to give you an account of my struggles
that winter to obtain a foothold in the law. The time
was a heyday for young barristers, and troubles in those
early days grew as plentifully in Kentucky as corn. In
short, I got a practice, for Colonel Clark was here to
help me, and, thanks to the men who had gone to
Kaskaskia and Vincennes, I had a fairly large acquaintance
in Kentucky. I hired rooms behind Mr. Crede's
store, which was famed for the glass windows which had
been fetched all the way from Philadelphia. Mr. Crede
was the embodiment of the enterprising spirit of the
place, and often of an evening he called me in to see
the new fashionable things his barges had brought down
the Ohio. The next day certain young sparks would
drop into my room to waylay the belles as they came to
pick a costume to be worn at Mr. Nickle's dancing school,
or at the ball at Fort Finney.
The winter slipped away, and one cool evening in May
there came a negro to my room with a note from Colonel
Clark, bidding me sup with him at the tavern and meet
a celebrity.
I put on my best blue clothes that I had brought with
me from Richmond, and repaired expectantly to the tavern
about eight of the clock, pushed through the curious
crowd outside, and entered the big room where the
company was fast assembling. Against the red blaze in the
great chimney-place I spied the figure of Colonel Clark,
more portly than of yore, and beside him stood a gentleman
who could be no other than General Wilkinson.
He was a man to fill the eye, handsome of face,
symmetrical of figure, easy of manner, and he wore a suit of
bottle-green that became him admirably. In short, so
fascinated and absorbed was I in watching him as he
greeted this man and the other that I started as though
something had pricked me when I heard my name called
by Colonel Clark.
``Come here, Davy,'' he cried across the room, and I
came and stood abashed before the hero. ``General,
allow me to present to you the drummer boy of Kaskaskia
and Vincennes, Mr. David Ritchie.''
``I hear that you drummed them to victory through
a very hell of torture, Mr. Ritchie,'' said the General.
``It is an honor to grasp the hand of one who did such
service at such a tender age.''
General Wilkinson availed himself of that honor, and
encompassed me with a smile so benignant, so winning in
its candor, that I could only mutter my acknowledgment,
and Colonel Clark must needs apologize, laughing, for my
youth and timidity.
``Mr. Ritchie is not good at speeches, General,'' said
he, ``but I make no doubt he will drink a bumper to your
health before we sit down. Gentlemen,'' he cried, filling
his glass from a bottle on the table, ``a toast to General
Wilkinson, emancipator and saviour of Kentucky!''
The company responded with a shout, tossed off the
toast, and sat down at the long table. Chance placed me
between a young dandy from Lexington--one of several
the General had brought in his train--and Mr. Wharton,
a prominent planter of the neighborhood with whom I
had a speaking acquaintance. This was a backwoods
feast, though served in something better than the old
backwoods style, and we had venison and bear's meat
and prairie fowl as well as pork and beef, and breads that
came stinging hot from the Dutch ovens. Toasts to this
and that were flung back and forth, and jests and gibes,
and the butt of many of these was that poor Federal
government which (as one gentleman avowed) was like
a bantam hen trying to cover a nestful of turkey's eggs,
and clucking with importance all the time. This picture
brought on gusts of laughter.
``And what say you of the Jay?'' cried one; ``what
will he hatch?''
Hisses greeted the name, for Mr. Jay wished to enter
into a treaty with Spain, agreeing to close the river for
five and twenty years. Colonel Clark stood up, and
rapped on the table.
``Gentlemen,'' said he, ``Louisville has as her guest of
honor to-night a man of whom Kentucky may well be
proud [loud cheering]. Five years ago he favored
Lexington by making it his home, and he came to us with
the laurel of former achievements still clinging to his
brow. He fought and suffered for his country, and
attained the honorable rank of Major in the Continental
line. He was chosen by the people of Pennsylvania to
represent them in the august body of their legislature, and
now he has got new honor in a new field [renewed cheering].
He has come to Kentucky to show her the way to
prosperity and glory. Kentucky had a grievance [loud
cries of ``Yes, yes!'']. Her hogs and cattle had no market,
her tobacco and agricultural products of all kinds were
rotting because the Spaniards had closed the Mississippi
to our traffic. Could the Federal government open the
river? [shouts of ``No, no!'' and hisses]. Who opened it?
[cries of ``Wilkinson, Wilkinson!'']. He said to the
Kentucky planters, `Give your tobacco to me, and I will sell
it.' He put it in barges, he floated down the river, and, as
became a man of such distinction, he was met by Governorgeneral
Miro on the levee at New Orleans. Where is that
tobacco now, gentlemen?'' Colonel Clark was here
interrupted by such roars and stamping that he paused a
moment, and during this interval Mr. Wharton leaned
over and whispered quietly in my ear:--
``Ay, where is it?''
I stared at Mr. Wharton blankly. He was a man
nearing the middle age, with a lacing of red in his cheeks,
a pleasant gray eye, and a singularly quiet manner.
``Thanks to the genius of General Wilkinson,'' Colonel
Clark continued, waving his hand towards the smilingly
placid hero, ``that tobacco has been deposited in the King's
store at ten dollars per hundred,--a privilege heretofore
confined to Spanish subjects. Well might Wilkinson
return from New Orleans in a chariot and four to a grateful
Kentucky! This year we have tripled, nay, quadrupled,
our crop of tobacco, and we are here to-night to give
thanks to the author of this prosperity.'' Alas, Colonel
Clark's hand was not as steady as of yore, and he spilled
the liquor on the table as he raised his glass. ``Gentlemen,
a health to our benefactor.''
They drank it willingly, and withal so lengthily and
noisily that Mr. Wilkinson stood smiling and bowing for
full three minutes before he could be heard. He was a very
paragon of modesty, was the General, and a man whose
attitudes and expressions spoke as eloquently as his words.
None looked at him now but knew before he opened his
mouth that he was deprecating such an ovation.
``Gentlemen,--my friends and fellow-Kentuckians,'' he
said, ``I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your
kindness, but I assure you that I have done nothing
worthy of it [loud protests]. I am a simple, practical
man, who loves Kentucky better than he loves himself.
This is no virtue, for we all have it. We have the
misfortune to be governed by a set of worthy gentlemen who
know little about Kentucky and her wants, and think
less [cries of ``Ay, ay!'']. I am not decrying General
Washington and his cabinet; it is but natural that the
wants of the seaboard and the welfare and opulence of
the Eastern cities should be uppermost in their minds
[another interruption]. Kentucky, if she would prosper,
must look to her own welfare. And if any credit is due to
me, gentlemen, it is because I reserved my decision of
his Excellency, Governor-general Miro, and his people
until I saw them for myself. A little calm reason, a plain
statement of the case, will often remove what seems an
insuperable difficulty, and I assure you that Governorgeneral
Miro is a most reasonable and courteous gentleman,
who looks with all kindliness and neighborliness on
the people of Kentucky. Let us drink a toast to him
To him your gratitude is due, for he sends you word that
your tobacco will be received.''
``In General Wilkinson's barges,'' said Mr. Wharton
leaning over and subsiding again at once.
The General was the first to drink the toast, and he
sat down very modestly amidst a thunder of applause.
The young man on the other side of me, somewhat
flushed, leaped to his feet.
``Down with the Federal government!'' he cried; ``what
have they done for us, indeed? Before General Wilkinson
went to New Orleans the Spaniards seized our flat
boats and cargoes and flung our traders into prison, ay,
and sent them to the mines of Brazil. The Federal
government takes sides with the Indians against us. And
what has that government done for you, Colonel?'' he
demanded, turning to Clark, ``you who have won for
them half of their territory? They have cast you off like
an old moccasin. The Continental officers who fought in
the East have half-pay for life or five years' full pay.
And what have you?''
There was a breathless hush. A swift vision came to
me of a man, young, alert, commanding, stern under necessity,
self-repressed at all times--a man who by the very
dominance of his character had awed into submission the
fierce Northern tribes of a continent, who had compelled
men to follow him until the life had all but ebbed from
their bodies, who had led them to victory in the end. And
I remembered a boy who had stood awe-struck before this
man in the commandant's house at Fort Sackville. Ay,
and I heard again his words as though he had just spoken
them, ``Promise me that you will not forget me if I am
--unfortunate.'' I did not understand then. And now
because of a certain blinding of my eyes, I did not see him
clearly as he got slowly to his feet. He clutched the
table. He looked around him--I dare not say--vacantly.
And then, suddenly, he spoke with a supreme
anger and a supreme bitterness.
``Not a shilling has this government given me, he
cried. ``Virginia was more grateful; from her I have some
acres of wild land and--a sword.'' He laughed. ``A
sword, gentlemen, and not new at that. Oh, a grateful
government we serve, one careful of the honor of her
captains. Gentlemen, I stand to-day a discredited man because
the honest debts I incurred in the service of that government
are repudiated, because my friends who helped it,
Father Gibault, Vigo, and Gratiot, and others have never
been repaid. One of them is ruined.''
A dozen men had sprung clamoring to their feet before
he sat down. One, more excited than the rest, got the
ear of the company.
``Do we lack leaders?'' he cried. ``We have them
here with us to-night, in this room. Who will stop us?
Not the contemptible enemies in Kentucky who call
themselves Federalists. Shall we be supine forever? We
have fought once for our liberties, let us fight again.
Let us make a common cause with our real friends on the
far side of the Mississippi.''
I rose, sick at heart, but every man was standing. And
then a strange thing happened. I saw General Wilkinson
at the far end of the room; his hand was raised, and
there was that on his handsome face which might have
been taken for a smile, and yet was not a smile. Others
saw him too, I know not by what exertion of magnetism.
They looked at him and they held their tongues.
``I fear that we are losing our heads, gentlemen,'' he
said; ``and I propose to you the health of the first citizen
of Kentucky, Colonel George Rogers Clark.
I found myself out of the tavern and alone in the cool
May night. And as I walked slowly down the deserted
street, my head in a whirl, a hand was laid on my
shoulder. I turned, startled, to face Mr. Wharton, the
``I would speak a word with you, Mr. Ritchie,'' he
said. ``May I come to your room for a moment?''
``Certainly, sir,'' I answered.
After that we walked along together in silence, my
own mind heavily occupied with what I had seen and
heard. We came to Mr. Crede's store, went in at the
picket gate beside it and down the path to my own door,
which I unlocked. I felt for the candle on the table,
lighted it, and turned in surprise to discover that Mr.
Wharton was poking up the fire and pitching on a log of
wood. He flung off his greatcoat and sat down with his
feet to the blaze. I sat down beside him and waited,
thinking him a sufficiently peculiar man.
``You are not famous, Mr. Ritchie,'' said he, presently.
``No, sir,'' I answered.
``Nor particularly handsome,'' he continued, ``nor
conspicuous in any way.''
I agreed to this, perforce.
``You may thank God for it,'' said Mr. Wharton.
``That would be a strange outpouring, sir,'' said I.
He looked at me and smiled.
``What think you of this paragon, General Wilkinson?''
he demanded suddenly.
``I have Federal leanings, sir,'' I answered
``Egad,'' said he, ``we'll add caution to your lack of
negative accomplishments. I have had an eye on you
this winter, though you did not know it. I have made
inquiries about you, and hence I am not here to-night
entirely through impulse. You have not made a fortune
at the law, but you have worked hard, steered wide of
sensation, kept your mouth shut. Is it not so?''
Astonished, I merely nodded in reply.
``I am not here to waste your time or steal your sleep,''
he went on, giving the log a push with his foot, ``and I
will come to the point. When I first laid eyes on this
fine gentleman, General Wilkinson, I too fell a victim to
his charms. It was on the eve of this epoch-making trip
of which we heard so glowing an account to-night, and I
made up my mind that no Spaniard, however wily, could
resist his persuasion. He said to me, `Wharton, give me
your crop of tobacco and I promise you to sell it in spite
of all the royal mandates that go out of Madrid.' He
went, he saw, he conquered the obdurate Miro as he has
apparently conquered the rest of the world, and he actually
came back in a chariot and four as befitted him. A heavy
crop of tobacco was raised in Kentucky that year. I
helped to raise it,'' added Mr. Wharton, dryly. ``I gave
the General my second crop, and he sent it down. Mr.
Ritchie, I have to this day never received a piastre for
my merchandise, nor am I the only planter in this
situation. Yet General Wilkinson is prosperous.''
My astonishment somewhat prevented me from replying
to this, too. Was it possible that Mr. Wharton
meant to sue the General? I reflected while he paused.
I remembered how inconspicuous he had named me, and
hope died. Mr. Wharton did not look at me, but stared
into the fire, for he was plainly not a man to rail and rant.
``Mr. Ritchie, you are young, but mark my words, that
man Wilkinson will bring Kentucky to ruin if he is not
found out. The whole district from Crab Orchard to
Bear Grass is mad about him. Even Clark makes a fool
of himself--''
``Colonel Clark, sir!'' I cried.
He put up a hand.
``So you have some hot blood,'' he said. ``I know you
love him. So do I, or I should not have been there
tonight. Do I blame his bitterness? Do I blame--anything
he does? The treatment he has had would bring a
blush of shame to the cheek of any nation save a republic.
Republics are wasteful, sir. In George Rogers Clark they
have thrown away a general who might some day have
decided the fate of this country, they have left to stagnate
a man fit to lead a nation to war. And now he is ready
to intrigue against the government with any adventurer
who may have convincing ways and a smooth tongue.''
``Mr. Wharton,'' I said, rising, ``did you come here to
tell me this?''
But Mr. Wharton continued to stare into the fire.
``I like you the better for it, my dear sir,'' said he, ``and
I assure you that I mean no offence. Colonel Clark is
enshrined in our hearts, Democrats and Federalists alike.
Whatever he may do, we shall love him always. But
this other man,--pooh!'' he exclaimed, which was as
near a vigorous expression as he got. ``Now, sir, to the
point. I, too, am a Federalist, a friend of Mr. Humphrey
Marshall, and, as you know, we are sadly in the minority
in Kentucky now. I came here to-night to ask you to
undertake a mission in behalf of myself and certain other
gentlemen, and I assure you that my motives are not
wholly mercenary.'' He paused, smiled, and put the tips
of his fingers together. ``I would willingly lose every
crop for the next ten years to convict this Wilkinson of
treason against the Federal government.''
``Treason!'' I repeated involuntarily.
``Mr. Ritchie,'' answered the planter, ``I gave you
credit for some shrewdness. Do you suppose the Federal
government does not realize the danger of this situation
in Kentucky. They have tried in vain to open the
Mississippi, and are too weak to do it. This man Wilkinson
goes down to see Miro, and Miro straightway opens the
river to us through him. How do you suppose Wilkinson
did it? By his charming personality?''
I said something, I know not what, as the light began
to dawn on me. And then I added, ``I had not thought
about the General.''
``Ah,'' replied Mr. Wharton, ``just so. And now you
may easily imagine that General Wilkinson has come to
a very pretty arrangement with Miro. For a certain
stipulated sum best known to Wilkinson and Miro, General
Wilkinson agrees gradually to detach Kentucky from the
Union and join it to his Catholic Majesty's dominion of
Louisiana. The bribe--the opening of the river. What
the government could not do Wilkinson did by the lifting
of his finger.''
Still Mr. Wharton spoke without heat.
``Mind you,'' he said, ``we have no proof of this, and
that is my reason for coming here to-night, Mr. Ritchie.
I want you to get proof of it if you can.''
``You want me--'' I said, bewildered.
``I repeat that you are not handsome,''--I think he
emphasized this unduly,--``that you are self-effacing,
inconspicuous; in short, you are not a man to draw suspicion.
You might travel anywhere and scarcely be noticed,--I
have observed that about you. In addition to this you
are wary, you are discreet, you are painstaking. I ask
you to go first to St. Louis, in Louisiana territory, and
this for two reasons. First, because it will draw any
chance suspicion from your real objective, New Orleans;
and second, because it is necessary to get letters to New
Orleans from such leading citizens of St. Louis as Colonel
Chouteau and Monsieur Gratiot, and I will give you
introductions to them. You are then to take passage to
New Orleans in a barge of furs which Monsieur Gratiot
is sending down. Mind, we do not expect that you will
obtain proof that Miro is paying Wilkinson money. If
you do, so much the better; but we believe that both are
too sharp to leave any tracks. You will make a report,
however, upon the conditions under which our tobacco
is being received, and of all other matters which you may
think germane to the business in hand. Will you go?''
I had made up my mind.
``Yes, I will go,'' I answered.
``Good,'' said Mr. Wharton, but with no more
enthusiasm than he had previously shown; ``I thought I had
not misjudged you. Is your law business so onerous that
you could not go to-morrow?''
I laughed.
``I think I could settle what affairs I have by noon, Mr.
Wharton,'' I replied.
``Egad, Mr. Ritchie, I like your manner,'' said he; ``and
now for a few details, and you may go to bed.''
He sat with me half an hour longer, carefully reviewing
his instructions, and then he left me to a night of
By eleven o'clock the next morning I had wound up
my affairs, having arranged with a young lawyer of my
acquaintance to take over such cases as I had, and I was
busy in my room packing my saddle-bags for the journey.
The warm scents of spring were wafted through the open
door and window, smells of the damp earth giving forth
the green things, and tender shades greeted my eyes when
I paused and raised my head to think. Purple buds
littered the black ground before my door-step, and against
the living green of the grass I saw the red stain of a
robin's breast as he hopped spasmodically hither and
thither, now pausing immovable with his head raised, now
tossing triumphantly a wriggling worm from the sod.
Suddenly he flew away, and I heard a voice from the
street side that brought me stark upright.
``Hold there, neighbor; can you direct me to the
mansion of that celebrated barrister, Mr. Ritchie?''
There was no mistaking that voice--it was Nicholas
Temple's. I heard a laugh and an answer, the gate
slammed, and Mr. Temple himself in a long gray ridingcoat,
booted and spurred, stood before me.
``Davy,'' he cried, ``come out here and hug me. Why,
you look as if I were your grandmother's ghost.''
``And if you were,'' I answered, ``you could not have
surprised me more. Where have you been?''
``At Jonesboro, acting the gallant with the widow,
winning and losing skins and cow-bells and land at rattleand-
snap, horse-racing with that wild Mr. Jackson. Faith,
he near shot the top of my head off because I beat him at
Greasy Cove.''
I laughed, despite my anxiety.
``And Sevier?'' I demanded.
``You have not heard how Sevier got off?'' exclaimed
Nick. ``Egad, that was a crowning stroke of genius!
Cozby and Evans, Captains Greene and Gibson, and
Sevier's two boys whom you met on the Nollichucky rode
over the mountains to Morganton. Greene and Gibson
and Sevier's boys hid themselves with the horses in a
clump outside the town, while Cozby and Evans, disguised
as bumpkins in hunting shirts, jogged into the town with
Sevier's racing mare between them. They jogged into the
town, I say, through the crowds of white trash, and rode up
to the court-house where Sevier was being tried for his life.
Evans stood at the open door and held the mare and
gaped, while (Cozby stalked in and shouldered his way to
the front within four feet of the bar, like a big, awkward
countryman. Jack Sevier saw him, and he saw Evans
with the mare outside. Then, by thunder, Cozby takes a
step right up to the bar and cries out, `Judge, aren't you
about done with that man?' Faith, it was like judgment
day, such a mix-up as there was after that, and Nollichucky
Jack made three leaps and got on the mare, and in the
confusion Cozby and Evans were off too, and the whole
State of North Carolina couldn't catch 'em then.'' Nick
sighed. ``I'd have given my soul to have been there,'' he
``Come in,'' said I, for lack of something better.
``Cursed if you haven't given me a sweet reception,
Davy,'' said he. ``Have you lost your practice, or is
there a lady here, you rogue,'' and he poked into the
cupboard with his stick. ``Hullo, where are you going
now?'' he added, his eye falling on the saddle-bags.
I had it on my lips to say, and then I remembered Mr.
Wharton's injunction.
``I'm going on a journey,'' said I.
``When?'' said Nick.
``I leave in about an hour,'' said I.
He sat down. ``Then I leave too,'' he said.
``What do you mean, Nick?'' I demanded.
``I mean that I will go with you,'' said he.
``But I shall be gone three months or more,'' I protested.
``I have nothing to do,'' said Nick, placidly.
A vague trouble had been working in my mind, but
now the full horror of it dawned upon me. I was going
to St. Louis. Mrs. Temple and Harry Riddle were gone
there, so Polly Ann had avowed, and Nick could not help
meeting Riddle. Sorely beset, I bent over to roll up a
shirt, and refrained from answering.
He came and laid a hand on my shoulder.
``What the devil ails you, Davy?'' he cried. ``If it is
an elopement, of course I won't press you. I'm hanged
if I'll make a third.''
``It is no elopement,'' I retorted, my face growing hot
in spite of myself.
``Then I go with you,'' said he, ``for I vow you need
taking care of. You can't put me off, I say. But never
in my life have I had such a reception, and from my own
first cousin, too.''
I was in a quandary, so totally unforeseen was this
situation. And then a glimmer of hope came to me that
perhaps his mother and Riddle might not be in St. Louis
after all. I recalled the conversation in the cabin, and
reflected that this wayward pair had stranded on so many
beaches, had drifted off again on so many tides, that one
place could scarce hold them long. Perchance they had
sunk,--who could tell? I turned to Nick, who stood
watching me.
``It was not that I did not want you,'' I said, ``you
must believe that. I have wanted you ever since that
night long ago when I slipped out of your bed and ran
away. I am going first to St. Louis and then to New
Orleans on a mission of much delicacy, a mission that
requires discretion and secrecy. You may come, with all
my heart, with one condition only--that you do not ask
my business.''
``Done!'' cried Nick. ``Davy, I was always sure of
you; you are the one fixed quantity in my life. To St.
Louis, eh, and to New Orleans? Egad, what havoc we'll
make among the Creole girls. May I bring my nigger?
He'll do things for you too.''
``By all means,'' said I, laughing, ``only hurry.''
``I'll run to the inn,'' said Nick, ``and be back in ten
minutes.'' He got as far as the door, slapped his thigh,
and looked back. ``Davy, we may run across--''
``Who?'' I asked, with a catch of my breath.
``Harry Riddle,'' he answered; ``and if so, may God
have mercy on his soul!''
He ran down the path, the gate clicked, and I heard
him whistling in the street on his way to the inn.
After dinner we rode down to the ferry, Nick on the
thoroughbred which had beat Mr. Jackson's horse, and
his man, Benjy, on a scraggly pony behind. Benjy was a
small, black negro with a very squat nose, alert and
talkative save when Nick turned on him. Benjy had been
born at Temple Bow; he worshipped his master and all
that pertained to him, and he showered upon me all the
respect and attention that was due to a member of the
Temple family. For this I was very grateful. It would
have been an easier journey had we taken a boat down to
Fort Massac, but such a proceeding might have drawn too
much attention to our expedition. I have no space to
describe that trip overland, which reminded me at every
stage of the march against Kaskaskia, the woods, the
chocolate streams, the coffee-colored swamps flecked with
dead leaves,--and at length the prairies, the grass not
waist-high now, but young and tender, giving forth the
acrid smell of spring. Nick was delighted. He made me
recount every detail of my trials as a drummer boy, or
kept me in continuous spells of laughter over his own
escapades. In short, I began to realize that we were as
near to each other as though we had never been parted.
We looked down upon Kaskaskia from the self-same
spot where I had stood on the bluff with Colonel Clark,
and the sounds were even then the same,--the sweet
tones of the church bell and the lowing of the cattle. We
found a few Virginians and Pennsylvanians scattered in
amongst the French, the forerunners of that change which
was to come over this country. And we spent the night
with my old friend, Father Gibault, still the faithful
pastor of his flock; cheerful, though the savings of his lifetime
had never been repaid by that country to which he had
given his allegiance so freely. Travelling by easy stages,
on the afternoon of the second day after leaving Kaskaskia
we picked our way down the high bluff that rises above
the American bottom, and saw below us that yellow monster
among the rivers, the Mississippi. A blind monster
he seemed, searching with troubled arms among the
islands for his bed, swept onward by an inexorable force,
and on his heaving shoulders he carried great trees pilfered
from the unknown forests of the North.
Down in the moist and shady bottom we came upon the
log hut of a half-breed trapper, and he agreed to ferry us
across. As for our horses, a keel boat must be sent after
these, and Monsieur Gratiot would no doubt easily
arrange for this. And so we found ourselves, about five
o'clock on that Saturday evening, embarked in a wide
pirogue on the current, dodging the driftwood, avoiding
the eddies, and drawing near to a village set on a low
bluff on the Spanish side and gleaming white among the
trees. And as I looked, the thought came again like a
twinge of pain that Mrs. Temple and Riddle might be
there, thinking themselves secure in this spot, so removed
from the world and its doings.
``How now, my man of mysterious affairs?'' cried Nick,
from the bottom of the boat; ``you are as puckered as a
sour persimmon. Have you a treaty with Spain in your
pocket or a declaration of war? What can trouble you?''
``Nothing, if you do not,'' I answered, smiling.
``Lord send we don't admire the same lady, then,'' said
Nick. ``Pierrot,'' he cried, turning to one of the boatmen,
``il y a des belles demoiselles la, n'est-ce pas?''
The man missed a stroke in his astonishment, and the
boat swung lengthwise in the swift current.
``Dame, Monsieur, il y en a,'' he answered.
``Where did you learn French, Nick?'' I demanded.
``Mr. Mason had it hammered into me,'' he answered
carelessly, his eyes on the line of keel boats moored along
the shore. Our guides shot the canoe deftly between two
of these, the prow grounded in the yellow mud, and we
landed on Spanish territory.
We looked about us while our packs were being
unloaded, and the place had a strange flavor in that
year of our Lord, 1789. A swarthy boatman in a tow
shirt with a bright handkerchief on his head stared at
us over the gunwale of one of the keel boats, and spat
into the still, yellow water; three high-cheeked Indians,
with smudgy faces and dirty red blankets, regarded us
in silent contempt; and by the water-side above us was a
sled loaded with a huge water cask, a bony mustang
pony between the shafts, and a chanting negro dipping
gourdfuls from the river. A road slanted up the little
limestone bluff, and above and below us stone houses
could be seen nestling into the hill, houses higher on the
river side, and with galleries there. We climbed the
bluff, Benjy at our heels with the saddle-bags, and found
ourselves on a yellow-clay street lined with grass and
wild flowers. A great peace hung over the village, an
air of a different race, a restfulness strange to a
Kentuckian. Clematis and honeysuckle climbed the high
palings, and behind the privacy of these, low, big-chimneyed
houses of limestone, weathered gray, could be seen,
their roofs sloping in gentle curves to the shaded porches
in front; or again, houses of posts set upright in the
ground and these filled between with plaster, and so
immaculately whitewashed that they gleamed against the
green of the trees which shaded them. Behind the
houses was often a kind of pink-and-cream paradise of
flowering fruit trees, so dear to the French settlers.
There were vineyards, too, and thrifty patches of vegetables,
and lines of flowers set in the carefully raked mould.
We walked on, enraptured by the sights around us, by
the heavy scent of the roses and the blossoms. Here was
a quaint stone horse-mill, a stable, or a barn set uncouthly
on the street; a baker's shop, with a glimpse of the whitecapped
baker through the shaded doorway, and an appetizing
smell of hot bread in the air. A little farther on we
heard the tinkle of the blacksmith's hammer, and the man
himself looked up from where the hoof rested on his leather
apron to give us a kindly ``Bon soir, Messieurs,'' as we
passed. And here was a cabaret, with the inevitable porch,
from whence came the sharp click of billiard balls.
We walked on, stopping now and again to peer between
the palings, when we heard, amidst the rattling of a cart
and the jingling of bells, a chorus of voices:--
``A cheval, a cheval, pour aller voir ma mie,
Lon, lon, la!''
A shaggy Indian pony came ambling around the corner
between the long shafts of a charette. A bareheaded
young man in tow shirt and trousers was driving, and
three laughing girls were seated on the stools in the cart
behind him. Suddenly, before I quite realized what had
happened, the young man pulled up the pony, the girls
fell silent, and Nick was standing in the middle of the
road, with his hat in his hand, bowing elaborately.
``Je vous salue, Mesdemoiselles,'' he cried, ``mes anges
a char-a-banc. Pouvez-vous me diriger chez Monsieur
``Sapristi!'' exclaimed the young man, but he laughed.
The young women stood up, giggling, and peered at Nick
over the young man's shoulder. One of them wore a fresh
red-and-white calamanco gown. She had a complexion of
ivory tinged with red, raven hair, and dusky, long-lashed,
mischievous eyes brimming with merriment.
``Volontiers, Monsieur,'' she answered, before the others
could catch their breath, ``premiere droite et premiere
gauche. Allons, Gaspard!'' she cried, tapping the young
man sharply on the shoulder, ``es tu fou?''
Gaspard came to himself, flicked the pony, and they
went off down the road with shouts of laughter, while
Nick stood waving his hat until they turned the corner.
``Egad,'' said he, ``I'd take to the highway if I could
be sure of holding up such a cargo every time. Off
with you, Benjy, and find out where she lives,'' he cried,
and the obedient Benjy dropped the saddle-bags as though
such commands were not uncommon.
``Pick up those bags, Benjy,'' said I, laughing.
Benjy glanced uncertainly at his master.
``Do as I tell you, you black scalawag,'' said Nick, ``or
I'll tan you. What are you waiting for?''
``Marse Dave--'' began Benjy, rolling his eyes in discomfiture.
``Look you, Nick Temple,'' said I, ``when you shipped
with me you promised that I should command. I can't
afford to have the town about our ears.
``Oh, very well, if you put it that way,'' said Nick.
``A little honest diversion-- Pick up the bags, Benjy,
and follow the parson.''
Obeying Mademoiselle's directions, we trudged on until
we came to a comfortable stone house surrounded by
trees and set in a half-block bordered by a seven-foot
paling. Hardly had we opened the gate when a tall
gentleman of grave demeanor and sober dress rose from his
seat on the porch, and I recognized my friend of Cahokia
days, Monsieur Gratiot. He was a little more portly, his
hair was dressed now in an eelskin, and he looked every
inch the man of affairs that he was. He greeted us kindly
and bade us come up on the porch, where he read my letter
of introduction.
``Why,'' he exclaimed immediately, giving me a
cordial grasp of the hand, ``of course. The strategist, the
John Law, the reader of character of Colonel Clark's
army. Yes, and worse, the prophet, Mr. Ritchie.''
``And why worse, sir?'' I asked.
``You predicted that Congress would never repay me
for the little loan I advanced to your Colonel.''
``It was not such a little loan, Monsieur,'' I said.
``N'importe,'' said he; ``I went to Richmond with my
box of scrip and promissory notes, but I was not ill
repaid. If I did not get my money, I acquired, at least, a
host of distinguished acquaintances. But, Mr. Ritchie,
you must introduce me to your friend;
``My cousin. Mr. Nicholas Temple,'' I said.
Monsieur Gratiot looked at him fixedly.
``Of the Charlestown Temples?'' he asked, and a
sudden vague fear seized me.
``Yes,'' said Nick, ``there was once a family of that name.''
``And now?'' said Monsieur Gratiot, puzzled.
``Now,'' said Nick, ``now they are become a worthless
lot of refugees and outlaws, who by good fortune have
escaped the gallows.''
Before Monsieur Gratiot could answer, a child came
running around the corner of the house and stood, surprised,
staring at us. Nick made a face, stooped down, and
twirled his finger. Shouting with a terrified glee, the boy
fled to the garden path, Nick after him.
``I like Mr. Temple,'' said Monsieur Gratiot, smiling.
``He is young, but he seems to have had a history.''
``The Revolution ruined many families--his was one,''
I answered, with what firmness of tone I could muster.
And then Nick came back, carrying the shouting youngster
on his shoulders. At that instant a lady appeared
in the doorway, leading another child, and we were
introduced to Madame Gratiot.
``Gentlemen,'' said Monsieur Gratiot, ``you must make
my house your home. I fear your visit will not be as
long as I could wish, Mr. Ritchie,'' he added, turning to
me, ``if Mr. Wharton correctly states your business.
I have an engagement to have my furs in New Orleans
by a certain time. I am late in loading, and as there is a
moon I am sending off my boats to-morrow night. The
men will have to work on Sunday.''
``We were fortunate to come in such good season,''
I answered.
After a delicious supper of gumbo, a Creole dish,
of fricassee, of creme brule, of red wine and fresh wild
strawberries, we sat on the porch. The crickets chirped
in the garden, the moon cast fantastic shadows from the
pecan tree on the grass, while Nick, struggling with his
French, talked to Madame Gratiot; and now and then
their gay laughter made Monsieur Gratiot pause and
smile as he talked to me of my errand. It seemed strange
to me that a man who had lost so much by his espousal of
our cause should still be faithful to the American
republic. Although he lived in Louisiana, he had never
renounced the American allegiance which he had taken
at Cahokia. He regarded with no favor the pretensions
of Spain toward Kentucky. And (remarkably enough)
he looked forward even then to the day when Louisiana
would belong to the republic. I exclaimed at this.
``Mr. Ritchie,'' said he, ``the most casual student of
your race must come to the same conclusion. You have
seen for yourself how they have overrun and conquered
Kentucky and the Cumberland districts, despite a hideous
warfare waged by all the tribes. Your people will not be
denied, and when they get to Louisiana, they will take it,
as they take everything else.''
He was a man strong in argument, was Monsieur
Gratiot, for he loved it. And he beat me fairly.
``Nay,'' he said finally, ``Spain might as well try to
dam the Mississippi as to dam your commerce on it. As
for France, I love her, though my people were exiled to
Switzerland by the Edict of Nantes. But France is rotten
through the prodigality of her kings and nobles, and she
cannot hold Louisiana. The kingdom is sunk in debt.''
He cleared his throat. ``As for this Wilkinson of whom
you speak, I know something of him. I have no doubt
that Miro pensions him, but I know Miro likewise, and
you will obtain no proof of that. You will, however,
discover in New Orleans many things of interest to your
government and to the Federal party in Kentucky.
Colonel Chouteau and I will give you letters to certain
French gentlemen in New Orleans who can be trusted.
There is Saint-Gre, for instance, who puts a French
Louisiana into his prayers. He has never forgiven
O'Reilly and his Spaniards for the murder of his father in
sixty-nine. Saint-Gre is a good fellow,--a cousin of the
present Marquis in France,--and his ancestors held many
positions of trust in the colony under the French regime.
He entertains lavishly at Les Iles, his plantation on the
Mississippi. He has the gossip of New Orleans at his
tongue's tip, and you will be suspected of nothing save a
desire to amuse yourselves if you go there.'' He paused
interrupted by the laughter of the others. ``When
strangers of note or of position drift here and pass on to
New Orleans, I always give them letters to Saint-Gre. He
has a charming daughter and a worthless son.''
Monsieur Gratiot produced his tabatiere and took a
pinch of snuff. I summoned my courage for the topic
which had trembled all the evening on my lips.
``Some years ago, Monsieur Gratiot, a lady and a
gentleman were rescued on the Wilderness Trail in
Kentucky. They left us for St. Louis. Did they come here?''
Monsieur Gratiot leaned forward quickly.
``They were people of quality?'' he demanded.
``And their name?''
``They--they did not say.''
``It must have been the Clives,'' he cried ``it can have
been no other. Tell me--a woman still beautiful,
commanding, of perhaps eight and thirty? A woman who
had a sorrow?--a great sorrow, though we have never
learned it. And Mr. Clive, a man of fashion, ill content
too, and pining for the life of a capital?''
``Yes,'' I said eagerly, my voice sinking near to a
whisper, ``yes--it is they. And are they here?''
Monsieur Gratiot took another pinch of snuff. It
seemed an age before he answered:--
``It is curious that you should mention them, for I gave
them letters to New Orleans,--amongst others, to Saint-
Gre. Mrs. Clive was--what shall I say?--haunted.
Monsieur Clive talked of nothing but Paris, where they
had lived once. And at last she gave in. They have
gone there.''
``To Paris?'' I said, taking breath.
``Yes. It is more than a year ago,'' he continued,
seeming not to notice my emotion; ``they went by way of
New Orleans, in one of Chouteau's boats. Mrs. Clive
seemed a woman with a great sorrow.''
Sunday came with the soft haziness of a June morning,
and the dew sucked a fresh fragrance from the blossoms
and the grass. I looked out of our window at the orchard,
all pink and white in the early sun, and across a patch of
clover to the stone kitchen. A pearly, feathery smoke
was wafted from the chimney, a delicious aroma of Creole
coffee pervaded the odor of the blossoms, and a cottonclad
negro a pieds nus came down the path with two
steaming cups and knocked at our door. He who has
tasted Creole coffee will never forget it. The effect of it
was lost upon Nick, for he laid down the cup, sighed, and
promptly went to sleep again, while I dressed and went
forth to make his excuses to the family. I found Monsieur
and Madame with their children walking among the
flowers. Madame laughed.
``He is charming, your cousin,'' said she. ``Let him
sleep, by all means, until after Mass. Then you must
come with us to Madame Chouteau's, my mother's. Her
children and grandchildren dine with her every Sunday.''
``Madame Chouteau, my mother-in-law, is the queen
regent of St. Louis, Mr. Ritchie,'' said Monsieur Gratiot,
gayly. ``We are all afraid of her, and I warn you that
she is a very determined and formidable personage. She
is the widow of the founder of St. Louis, the Sieur
Laclede, although she prefers her own name. She rules us
with a strong hand, dispenses justice, settles disputes, and
--sometimes indulges in them herself. It is her right.''
``You will see a very pretty French custom of submission
to parents,'' said Madame Gratiot. ``And afterwards
there is a ball.''
``A ball!'' I exclaimed involuntarily.
``It may seem very strange to you, Mr. Ritchie, but we
believe that Sunday was made to enjoy. They will have
time to attend the ball before you send them down the
river?'' she added mischievously, turning to her husband.
``Certainly,'' said he, ``the loading will not be finished
before eight o'clock.''
Presently Madame Gratiot went off to Mass, while I
walked with Monsieur Gratiot to a storehouse near the
river's bank, whence the skins, neatly packed and
numbered, were being carried to the boats on the sweating
shoulders of the negroes, the half-breeds, and the
Canadian boatmen,--bulky bales of yellow elk, from the
upper plains of the Missouri, of buffalo and deer and bear,
and priceless little packages of the otter and the beaver
trapped in the green shade of the endless Northern forests,
and brought hither in pirogues down the swift river by
the red tribesmen and Canadian adventurers.
Afterwards I strolled about the silent village. Even
the cabarets were deserted. A private of the Spanish
Louisiana Regiment in a dirty uniform slouched behind
the palings in front of the commandant's quarters,--a
quaint stone house set against the hill, with dormer
windows in its curving roof, with a wide porch held by eight
sturdy hewn pillars; here and there the muffled figure
of a prowling Indian loitered, or a barefooted negress
shuffled along by the fence crooning a folk-song. All
the world had obeyed the call of the church bell save
these--and Nick. I bethought myself of Nick, and made
my way back to Monsieur Gratiot's.
I found my cousin railing at Benjy, who had extracted
from the saddle-bags a wondrous gray suit of London cut
in which to array his master. Clothes became Nick's
slim figure remarkably. This coat was cut away smartly,
like a uniform, towards the tails, and was brought in at
the waist with an infinite art.
``Whither now, my conquistador?'' I said.
``To Mass,'' said he.
``To Mass!'' I exclaimed; ``but you have slept through
the greater part of it.''
``The best part is to come,'' said Nick, giving a final
touch to his neck-band. Followed by Benjy's adoring
eyes, he started out of the door, and I followed him
perforce. We came to the little church, of upright logs and
plaster, with its crudely shingled, peaked roof, with its
tiny belfry crowned by a cross, with its porches on each
side shading the line of windows there. Beside the
church, a little at the back, was the cure's modest house
of stone, and at the other hand, under spreading trees, the
graveyard with its rough wooden crosses. And behind
these graves rose the wooded hill that stretched away
towards the wilderness.
What a span of life had been theirs who rested here!
Their youth, perchance, had been spent amongst the
crooked streets of some French village, streets lined by
red-tiled houses and crossing limpid streams by quaint
bridges. Death had overtaken them beside a monster
tawny river of which their imaginations had not
conceived, a river which draws tribute from the remote
places of an unknown land,--a river, indeed, which,
mixing all the waters, seemed to symbolize a coming race
which was to conquer the land by its resistless flow, even
as the Mississippi bore relentlessly towards the sea.
These were my own thoughts as I listened to the tones
of the priest as they came, droningly, out of the door,
while Nick was exchanging jokes in doubtful French with
some half-breeds leaning against the palings. Then we
heard benches scraping on the floor, and the congregation
began to file out.
Those who reached the steps gave back, respectfully,
and there came an elderly lady in a sober turban, a black
mantilla wrapped tightly about her shoulders, and I made
no doubt that she was Monsieur Gratiot's mother-in-law,
Madame Chouteau, she whom he had jestingly called the
queen regent. I was sure of this when I saw Madame
Gratiot behind her. Madame Chouteau indeed had the
face of authority, a high-bridged nose, a determined chin,
a mouth that shut tightly. Madame Gratiot presented
us to her mother, and as she passed on to the gate
Madame Chouteau reminded us that we were to dine with
her at two.
After her the congregation, the well-to-do and the poor
alike, poured out of the church and spread in merry
groups over the grass: keel boatmen in tow shirts and
party-colored worsted belts, the blacksmith, the shoemaker,
the farmer of a small plot in the common fields in large
cotton pantaloons and light-wove camlet coat, the more
favored in skull-caps, linen small-clothes, cotton stockings,
and silver-buckled shoes,--every man pausing, dipping
into his tabatiere, for a word with his neighbor. The
women, too, made a picture strange to our eyes, the matrons
in jacket and petticoat, a Madras handkerchief flung about
their shoulders, the girls in fresh cottonade or calamanco.
All at once cries of `` 'Polyte! 'Polyte!'' were heard,
and a nimble young man with a jester-like face hopped
around the corner of the church, trundling a barrel. Behind
'Polyte came two rotund little men perspiring freely,
and laden down with various articles,--a bird-cage with
two yellow birds, a hat-trunk, an inlaid card box, a roll of
scarlet cloth, and I know not what else. They deposited
these on the grass beside the barrel, which 'Polyte had set
on end and proceeded to mount, encouraged by the shouts
of his friends, who pressed around the barrel
``It's an auction,'' I said.
But Nick did not hear me. I followed his glance to
the far side of the circle, and my eye was caught by a red
ribbon, a blush that matched it. A glance shot from
underneath long lashes,--but not for me. Beside the girl,
and palpably uneasy, stood the young man who had been
called Gaspard.
``Ah,'' said I, ``your angel of the tumbrel.''
But Nick had pulled off his hat and was sweeping her a
bow. The girl looked down, smoothing her ribbon,
Gaspard took a step forward, and other young women near us
tittered with delight. The voice of Hippolyte rolling his
r's called out in a French dialect:--
``M'ssieurs et Mesdames, ce sont des effets d'un pauvre
officier qui est mort. Who will buy?'' He opened the
hat-trunk, produced an antiquated beaver with a gold
cord, and surveyed it with a covetousness that was admirably
feigned. For 'Polyte was an actor. ``M'ssieurs, to
own such a hat were a patent of nobility. Am I bid
twenty livres?''
There was a loud laughter, and he was bid four.
``Gaspard,'' cried the auctioneer, addressing the young
man of the tumbrel, ``Suzanne would no longer hesitate if
she saw you in such a hat. And with the trunk, too.
Ah, mon Dieu, can you afford to miss it?''
The crowd howled, Suzanne simpered, and Gaspard
turned as pink as clover. But he was not to be bullied.
The hat was sold to an elderly person, the red cloth
likewise; a pot of grease went to a housewife, and there was
a veritable scramble for the box of playing cards; and at
last Hippolyte held up the wooden cage with the fluttering
yellow birds.
``Ha!'' he cried, his eyes on Gaspard once more, ``a
gentle present--a present to make a heart relent. And
Monsieur Leon, perchance you will make a bid, although
they are not gamecocks.''
Instantly, from somewhere under the barrel, a cock crew.
Even the yellow birds looked surprised, and as for 'Polyte,
he nearly dropped the cage. One elderly person crossed
himself. I looked at Nick. His face was impassive, but
suddenly I remembered his boyhood gift, how he had
imitated the monkeys, and I began to shake with inward
laughter. There was an uncomfortable silence.
``Peste, c'est la magie!'' said an old man at last,
searching with an uncertain hand for his snuff.
``Monsieur,'' cried Nick to the auctioneer, ``I will make
a bid. But first you must tell me whether they are cocks
or yellow birds.''
``Parbleu,'' answered the puzzled Hippolyte, ``that I do
not know, Monsieur.''
Everybody looked at Nick, including Suzanne.
``Very well,'' said he, ``I will make a bid. And if they
turn out to be gamecocks, I will fight them with Monsieur
Leon behind the cabaret. Two livres!''
There was a laugh, as of relief.
``Three!'' cried Gaspard, and his voice broke.
Hippolyte looked insulted.
``M'ssieurs,'' he shouted, ``they are from the Canaries.
Diable, un berger doit etre genereux.''
Another laugh, and Gaspard wiped the perspiration
from his face.
``Five!'' said he.
``Six!'' said Nick, and the villagers turned to him in
wonderment. What could such a fine Monsieur want
with two yellow birds?
``En avant, Gaspard,'' said Hippolyte, and Suzanne shot
another barbed glance in our direction.
``Seven,'' muttered Gaspard.
``Eight!'' said Nick, immediately.
``Nine,'' said Gaspard.
``Ten,'' said Nick.
``Ten,'' cried Hippolyte, ``I am offered ten livres for the
yellow birds. Une bagatelle! Onze, Gaspard! Onze!
onze livres, pour l'amour de Suzanne!''
But Gaspard was silent. No appeals, entreaties, or
taunts could persuade him to bid more. And at length
Hippolyte, with a gesture of disdain, handed Nick the cage,
as though he were giving it away.
``Monsieur,'' he said, ``the birds are yours, since there
are no more lovers who are worthy of the name. They
do not exist.''
``Monsieur,'' answered Nick, ``it is to disprove that
statement that I have bought the birds. Mademoiselle,''
he added, turning to the flushing Suzanne, ``I pray that
you will accept this present with every assurance of my
humble regard.''
Mademoiselle took the cage, and amidst the laughter
of the village at the discomfiture of poor Gaspard, swept
Nick a frightened courtesy,--one that nevertheless was
full of coquetry. And at that instant, to cap the situation,
a rotund little man with a round face under a linen biretta
grasped Nick by the hand, and cried in painful but sincere
``Monsieur, you mek my daughter ver' happy. She want
those bird ever sence Captain Lopez he die. Monsieur, I
am Jean Baptiste Lenoir, Colonel Chouteau's miller, and
we ver' happy to see you at the pon'.''
``If Monsieur will lead the way,'' said Nick, instantly,
taking the little man by the arm.
``But you are to dine at Madame Chouteau's,'' I expostulated.
``To be sure,'' said he. ``Au revoir, Monsieur. Au revoir,
Mademoiselle. Plus tard, Mademoiselle; nous danserons plus
``What devil inhabits you?'' I said, when I had got him
started on the way to Madame Chouteau's.
``Your own, at present, Davy,'' he answered, laying a
hand on my shoulder, ``else I should be on the way to the
pon' with Lenoir. But the ball is to come,'' and he
executed several steps in anticipation. ``Davy, I am sorry
for you.''
``Why?'' I demanded, though feeling a little selfcommiseration
``You will never know how to enjoy yourself,'' said he,
with conviction.
Madame Chouteau lived in a stone house, wide and low,
surrounded by trees and gardens. It was a pretty tribute
of respect her children and grandchildren paid her that day,
in accordance with the old French usage of honoring the
parent. I should like to linger on the scene, and tell how
Nick made them all laugh over the story of Suzanne Lenoir
and the yellow birds, and how the children pressed around
him and made him imitate all the denizens of wood and
field, amid deafening shrieks of delight.
``You have probably delayed Gaspard's wooing another
year, Mr. Temple. Suzanne is a sad coquette,'' said Colonel
Auguste Chouteau, laughing, as we set out for the ball.
The sun was hanging low over the western hills as we
approached the barracks, and out of the open windows
came the merry, mad sounds of violin, guitar, and flageolet,
the tinkle of a triangle now and then, the shouts of
laughter, the shuffle of many feet over the puncheons.
Within the door, smiling and benignant, unmindful of the
stifling atmosphere, sat the black-robed village priest
talking volubly to an elderly man in a scarlet cap, and several
stout ladies ranged along the wall: beyond them, on a
platform, Zeron, the baker, fiddled as though his life
depended on it, the perspiration dripping from his brow,
frowning, gesticulating at them with the flageolet and the
triangle. And in a dim, noisy, heated whirl the whole
village went round and round and round under the low
ceiling in the valse, young and old, rich and poor, high
and low, the sound of their laughter and the scraping of
their feet cut now and again by an agonized squeak from
Zeron's fiddle. From time to time a staggering, panting
couple would fling themselves out, help themselves liberally
to pink sirop from the bowl on the side table, and
then fling themselves in once more, until Zeron stopped
from sheer exhaustion, to tune up for a pas de deux.
Across the room, by the sirop bowl, a pair of red ribbons
flaunted, a pair of eyes sent a swift challenge, Zeron and
his assistants struck up again, and there in a corner was
Nick Temple, with characteristic effrontery attempting a
pas de deux with Suzanne. Though Nick was ignorant,
he was not ungraceful, and the village laughed and admired.
And when Zeron drifted back into a valse he seized Suzanne's
plump figure in his arms and bore her, unresisting,
like a prize among the dancers, avoiding alike the fat and
unwieldy, the clumsy and the spiteful. For a while the
tune held its mad pace, and ended with a shriek and a snap
on a high note, for Zeron had broken a string. Amid a
burst of laughter from the far end of the room I saw Nick
stop before an open window in which a prying Indian was
framed, swing Suzanne at arm's length, and bow abruptly
at the brave with a grunt that startled him into life.
``Va-t'en, mechant!'' shrieked Suzanne, excitedly.
Poor Gaspard! Poor Hippolyte! They would gain
Suzanne for a dance only to have her snatched away at
the next by the slim and reckless young gentleman in the
gray court clothes. Little Nick cared that the affair soon
became the amusement of the company. From time to
time, as he glided past with Suzanne on his shoulder, he
nodded gayly to Colonel Chouteau or made a long face at
me, and to save our souls we could not help laughing.
``The girl has met her match, for she has played shuttlecock
with all the hearts in the village,'' said Monsieur
Chouteau. ``But perhaps it is just as well that Mr. Temple
is leaving to-night. I have signed a bon, Mr. Ritchie, by
which you can obtain money at New Orleans. And do
not forget to present our letter to Monsieur de Saint Gre.
He has a daughter, by the way, who will be more of a
match for your friend's fascinations than Suzanne.''
The evening faded into twilight, with no signs of
weariness from the dancers. And presently there stood beside
us Jean Baptiste Lenoir, the Colonel's miller.
``B'soir, Monsieur le Colonel,'' he said, touching his skullcap,
``the water is very low. You fren','' he added, turning
to me, ``he stay long time in St. Louis?''
``He is going away to-night,--in an hour or so,'' I
answered, with thanksgiving in my heart.
``I am sorry,'' said Monsieur Lenoir, politely, but his
looks belied his words. ``He is ver' fond Suzanne. Peut etre
he marry her, but I think not. I come away from
France to escape the fine gentlemen; long time ago they
want to run off with my wife. She was like Suzanne.''
``How long ago did you come from France, Monsieur?''
I asked, to get away from an uncomfortable subject.
``It is twenty years,'' said he, dreamily, in French. ``I
was born in the Quartier Saint Jean, on the harbor of the
city of Marseilles near Notre Dame de la Nativite.'' And
he told of a tall, uneven house of four stories, with a high
pitched roof, and a little barred door and window at the
bottom giving out upon the rough cobbles. He spoke of
the smell of the sea, of the rollicking sailors who surged
through the narrow street to embark on his Majesty's menof-
war, and of the King's white soldiers in ranks of four
going to foreign lands. And how he had become a farmer,
the tenant of a country family. Excitement grew on
him, and he mopped his brow with his blue rumal
``They desire all, the nobles,'' he cried, ``I make the
land good, and they seize it. I marry a pretty wife, and
Monsieur le Comte he want her. L'bon Dieu,'' he added
bitterly, relapsing into French. ``France is for the King
and the nobility, Monsieur. The poor have but little chance
there. In the country I have seen the peasants eat roots,
and in the city the poor devour the refuse from the houses
of the rich. It was we who paid for their luxuries, and
with mine own eyes I have seen their gilded coaches ride
down weak men and women in the streets. But it cannot
last. They will murder Louis and burn the great
chateaux. I, who speak to you, am of the people, Monsieur,
I know it.''
The sun had long set, and with flint and tow they were
touching the flame to the candles, which flickered transparent
yellow in the deepening twilight. So absorbed had
I become in listening to Lenoir's description that I had
forgotten Nick. Now I searched for him among the promenading
figures, and missed him. In vain did I seek for
a glimpse of Suzanne's red ribbons, and I grew less and
less attentive to the miller's reminiscences and arraignments
of the nobility. Had Nick indeed run away with
his daughter?
The dancing went on with unabated zeal, and through
the open door in the fainting azure of the sky the summer
moon hung above the hills like a great yellow orange.
Striving to hide my uneasiness, I made my farewells to
Madame Chouteau's sons and daughters and their friends,
and with Colonel Chouteau I left the hall and began to
walk towards Monsieur Gratiot's, hoping against hope that
Nick had gone there to change. But we had scarce reached
the road before we could see two figures in the distance,
hazily outlined in the mid-light of the departed sun and
the coming moon. The first was Monsieur Gratiot himself,
the second Benjy. Monsieur Gratiot took me by the
``I regret to inform you, Mr. Ritchie,'' said he, politely,
``that my keel boats are loaded and ready to leave. Were
you on any other errand I should implore you to stay with
``Is Temple at your house?'' I asked faintly.
``Why, no,'' said Monsieur Gratiot; ``I thought he was
with you at the ball.''
``Where is your master?'' I demanded sternly of Benjy.
``I ain't seed him, Marse Dave, sence I put him inter
dem fine clothes 'at he w'ars a-cou'tin'.''
``He has gone off with the girl,'' put in Colonel
Chouteau, laughing.
``But where?'' I said, with growing anger at this lack
of consideration on Nick's part.
``I'll warrant that Gaspard or Hippolyte Beaujais will
know, if they can be found,'' said the Colonel. ``Neither
of them willingly lets the girl out of his sight.''
As we hurried back towards the throbbing sounds of
Zeron's fiddle I apologized as best I might to Monsieur
Gratiot, declaring that if Nick were not found within the
half-hour I would leave without him. My host protested
that an hour or so would make no difference. We were
about to pass through the group of loungers that loitered
by the gate when the sound of rapid footsteps
arrested us, and we turned to confront two panting and
perspiring young men who halted beside us. One was
Hippolyte Beaujais, more fantastic than ever as he faced
the moon, and the other was Gaspard. They had plainly

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