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|BOOK 1:The Boarderland|
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
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 went.
"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 any
where 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 hero-worship, 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,1Commander-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.
"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 again.
"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."
"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 war-whoop. 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 half-light 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 energy.
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 finished.
"Some one's under the bed," said I, for I had heard a movement.
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
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 remembrance.
"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."