The Scouts of the Valley by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter XVIII. Henry's Slide
Henry Ware, lingering at the edge of the clearing, his body hidden behind one of the great tree trunks, had been watching the scene with a fascinated interest that would not let him go. He knew that his work there was done already. Everything would be utterly destroyed by the flames which, driven by the wind, leaped from one half-ruined building to another. Braxton Wyatt and his band would have enough to do sheltering themselves from the fierce winter, and the settlements could rest for a while at least. Undeniably he felt exultation as be witnessed the destructive work of his hand. The border, with its constant struggle for-life and terrible deeds, bred fierce passions.
In truth, although he did not know it himself, he stayed there to please his eye and heart. A new pulse beat triumphantly every time a timber, burned through, fell in, or a crash came from a falling roof. He laughed inwardly as the flames disclosed the dismay on the faces of the Iroquois and Tories, and it gave him deep satisfaction to see Braxton Wyatt, his gaudy little sword at his thigh, stalking about helpless. It was while he was looking, absorbed in such feelings, that the warrior of the alert eye saw him and gave the warning shout.
Henry turned in an instant, and darted away among the trees, half running, half sliding over the smooth, icy covering of the snow. After him came warriors and some Tories who had put on their snowshoes preparatory to the search through the forest for shelter. Several bullets were fired, but he was too far away for a good aim. He heard one go zip against a tree, and another cut the surface of the ice near him, but none touched him, and he sped easily on his snowshoes through the frozen forest. But Henry was fully aware of one thing that constituted his greatest danger. Many of these Iroquois had been trained all their lives to snowshoes, while he, however powerful and agile, was comparatively a beginner. He glanced back again and saw their dusky figures running among the trees, but they did not seem to be gaining. If one should draw too near, there was his rifle, and no man, white or red, in the northern or southern forests, could use it better. But for the present it was not needed. He pressed it closely, almost lovingly, to his side, this best friend of the scout and frontiersman.
He had chosen his course at the first leap. It was southward, toward the lake, and he did not make the mistake of diverging from his line, knowing that some part of the wide half circle of his pursuers would profit by it.
Henry felt a great upward surge. He had been the victor in what he meant to achieve, and he was sure that he would escape. The cold wind, whistling by, whipped his blood and added new strength to his great muscles. His ankles were not chafed or sore, and he sped forward on the snowshoes, straight and true. Whenever he came to a hill the pursuers would gain as he went up it, but when he went down the other side it was he who gained. He passed brooks, creeks, and once a small river, but they were frozen over, many inches deep, and he did not notice them. Again it was a lake a mile wide, but the smooth surface there merely increased his speed. Always he kept a wary look ahead for thickets through which he could not pass easily, and once he sent back a shout of defiance, which the Iroquois answered with a yell of anger.
He was fully aware that any accident to his snowshoes would prove fatal, the slipping of the thongs on his ankles or the breaking of a runner would end his flight, and in a long chase such an accident might happen. It might happen, too, to one or more of the Iroquois, but plenty of them would be left. Yet Henry had supreme confidence in his snowshoes. He had made them himself, he had seen that every part was good, and every thong had been fastened with care.
The wind which bad been roaring so loudly at the time of the fire sank to nothing. The leafless trees stood up, the branches unmoving. The forest was bare and deserted. All the animals, big and little, had gone into their lairs. Nobody witnessed the great pursuit save pursuers and pursued. Henry kept his direction clear in his mind, and allowed the Iroquois to take no advantage of a curve save once. Then he came to a thicket so large that he was compelled to make a considerable circle to pass it. He turned to the right, hence the Indians on the right gained, and they sent up a yell of delight. He replied defiantly and increased his speed.
But one of the Indians, a flying Mohawk, had come dangerously near-near enough, in fact, to fire a bullet that did not miss the fugitive much. It aroused Henry's anger. He took it as an indignity rather than a danger, and he resolved to avenge it. So far as firing was concerned, he was at a disadvantage. He must stop and turn around for his shot, while the Iroquois, without even checking speed, could fire straight at the flying target, ahead.
Nevertheless, he took the chance. He turned deftly on the snowshoes, fired as quick as lightning at the swift Mohawk, saw him fall, then Whirled and resumed his flight. He had lost ground, but he had inspired respect. A single man could not afford to come too near to a marksman so deadly, and the three or four who led dropped back with the main body.
Now Henry made his greatest effort. He wished to leave the foe far behind, to shake off his pursuit entirely. He bounded over the ice and snow with great leaps, and began to gain. Yet he felt at last the effects of so strenuous a flight. His breath became shorter; despite the intense cold, perspiration stood upon his face, and the straps that fastened the snowshoes were chafing his ankles. An end must come even to such strength as his. Another backward look, and he saw that the foe was sinking into the darkness. If he could only increase his speed again, be might leave the Iroquois now. He made a new call upon the will, and the body responded. For a few minutes his speed became greater. A disappointed shout arose behind him, and several shots were fired. But the bullets fell a hundred yards short, and then, as he passed over a little hill and into a wood beyond, he was hidden from the sight of his pursuers.
Henry knew that the Iroquois could trail him over the snow, but they could not do it at full speed, and he turned sharply off at an angle. Pausing a second or two for fresh breath, he continued on his new course, although not so fast as before. He knew that the Iroquois would rush straight ahead, and would not discover for two or three minutes that they were off the trail. It would take them another two or three minutes to recover, and he would make a gain of at least five minutes. Five minutes had saved the life of many a man on the border.
How precious those five minutes were! He would take them all. He ran forward some distance, stopped where the trees grew thick, and then enjoyed the golden five, minute by minute. He had felt that he was pumping the very lifeblood from his heart. His breath had come painfully, and the thongs of the snowshoes were chafing his ankles terribly. But those minutes were worth a year. Fresh air poured into his lungs, and the muscles became elastic once more. In so brief a space be had recreated himself.
Resuming his flight, he went at a steady pace, resolved not to do his utmost unless the enemy came in sight. About ten minutes later he heard a cry far behind him, and he believed it to be a signal from some Indian to the others that the trail was found again. But with so much advantage he felt sure that he was now quite safe. He ran, although at decreased speed, for about two hours more, and then he sat down on the upthrust root of a great oak. Here he depended most upon his ears. The forest was so silent that he could hear any noise at a great distance, but there was none. Trusting to his ears to warn him, he would remain there a long time for a thorough rest. He even dared to take off his snowshoes that he might rub his sore ankles, but he wrapped his heavy blanket about his body, lest he take deep cold in cooling off in such a temperature after so long a flight.
He sat enjoying a half hour, golden like the five minutes, and then he saw, outlined against the bright, moonlit sky, something that told him he must be on the alert again. It was a single ring of smoke, like that from a cigar, only far greater. It rose steadily, untroubled by wind until it was dissipated. It meant "attention!" and presently it was followed by a column of such rings, one following another beautifully. The column said: " The foe is near." Henry read the Indian signs perfectly. The rings were made by covering a little fire with a blanket for a moment and then allowing the smoke to ascend. On clear days such signals could be seen a distance of thirty miles or more, and he knew that they were full of significance.
Evidently the Iroquois party had divided into two or more bands. One had found his trail, and was signaling to the other. The party sending up the smoke might be a half mile away, but the others, although his trail was yet hidden from them, might be nearer. It was again time for flight.
He swiftly put on the snowshoes, neglecting no thong or lace, folded the blanket on his back again, and, leaving the friendly root, started once more. He ran forward at moderate speed for perhaps a mile, when he suddenly heard triumphant yells on both right and left. A strong party of Iroquois were coming up on either side, and luck had enabled them to catch him in a trap.
They were so near that they fired upon him, and one bullet nicked his glove, but he was hopeful that after his long rest he might again stave them off. He sent back no defiant cry, but, settling into determined silence, ran at his utmost speed. The forest here was of large trees, with no undergrowth, and he noticed that the two parties did not join, but kept on as they had come, one on the right and the other on the left. This fact must have some significance, but he could not fathom it. Neither could he guess whether the Indians were fresh or tired, but apparently they made no effort to come within range of his rifle.
Presently he made a fresh spurt of speed, the forest opened out, and then both bands uttered a yell full of ferocity and joy, the kind that savages utter only when they see their triumph complete.
Before, and far below Henry, stretched a vast, white expanse. He had come to the lake, but at a point where the cliff rose high like a mountain, and steep like a wall. The surface of the lake was so far down that it was misty white like a cloud. Now he understood the policy of the Indian bands in not uniting. They knew that they would soon reach the lofty cliffs of the lake, and if he turned to either right or left there was a band ready to seize him.
Henry's heart leaped up and then sank lower than ever before in his life. It seemed that he could not escape from so complete a trap, and Braxton Wyatt was not one who would spare a prisoner. That was perhaps the bitterest thing of all, to be taken and tortured by Braxton Wyatt. He was there. He could hear his voice in one of the bands, and then the courage that never failed him burst into fire again.
The Iroquois were coming toward him, shutting him out from retreat to either right or left, but not yet closing in because of his deadly rifle. He gave them a single look, put forth his voice in one great cry of defiance, and, rushing toward the edge of the mighty cliff, sprang boldly over.
As Henry plunged downward he heard behind him a shout of amazement and chagrin poured forth from many Iroquois throats, and, taking a single glance backward, he caught a glimpse of dusky faces stamped with awe. But the bold youth had not made a leap to destruction. In the passage of a second he had calculated rapidly and well. While the cliff at first glance seemed perpendicular, it could not be so. There was a slope coated with two feet of snow, and swinging far back on the heels of his snowshoes, he shot downward like one taking a tremendous slide on a toboggan. Faster and faster he went, but deeper and deeper he dug his shoes into the snow, until he lay back almost flat against its surface. This checked his speed somewhat, but it was still very great, and, preserving his self-control perfectly, he prayed aloud to kindly Providence to save him from some great boulder or abrupt drop.
The snow from his runners flew in a continuous shower behind him as he descended. Yet he drew himself compactly together, and held his rifle parallel with his body. Once or twice, as he went over a little ridge, he shot clear of the snow, but he held his body rigid, and the snow beyond saved him from a severe bruise. Then his speed was increased again, and all the time the white surface of the lake below, seen dimly through the night and his flight, seemed miles away.
He might never reach that surface alive, but of one thing lie was sure. None of the Iroquois or Tories had dared to follow. Braxton Wyatt could have no triumph over him. He was alone in his great flight. Once a projection caused him to turn a little to one side. He was in momentary danger of turning entirely, and then of rolling head over heels like a huge snowball, but with a mighty effort he righted himself, and continued the descent on the runners, with the heels plowing into the ice and the snow.
Now that white expanse which had seemed so far away came miles nearer. Presently he would be there. The impossible had become possible, the unattainable was about to be attained. He gave another mighty dig with his shoes, the last reach of the slope passed behind him, and he shot out on the frozen surface of the lake, bruised and breathless, but without a single broken bone.
The lake was covered with ice a foot thick, and over this lay frozen snow, which stopped Henry forty or fifty yards from the cliff. There he lost his balance at last, and fell on his side, where he lay for a few moments, weak, panting, but triumphant.
When he stood upright again he felt his body, but he had suffered nothing save some bruises, that would heal in their own good time. His deerskin clothing was much torn, particularly on the back, where he had leaned upon the ice and snow, but the folded blanket had saved him to a considerable extent. One of his shoes was pulled loose, and presently he discovered that his left ankle was smarting and burning at a great rate. But he did not mind these things at all, so complete was his sense of victory. He looked up at the mighty white wall that stretched above him fifteen hundred feet, and he wondered at his own tremendous exploit. The wall ran away for miles, and the Iroquois could not reach him by any easier path. He tried to make out figures on the brink looking down at him, but it was too far away, and he saw only a black line.
He tightened the loose shoe and struck out across the lake. He was far away from "The Alcove," and he did not intend to go there, lest the Iroquois, by chance, come upon his trail and follow it to the refuge. But as it was no more than two miles across the lake at that point, and the Iroquois would have to make a great curve to reach the other side, he felt perfectly safe. He walked slowly across, conscious all the time of an increasing pain in his left ankle, which must now be badly swollen, and he did not stop until he penetrated some distance among low bills. Here, under an overhanging cliff with thick bushes in front, he found a partial shelter, which he cleared out yet further. Then with infinite patience he built a fire with splinters that he cut from dead boughs, hung his blanket in front of it on two sticks that the flame might not be seen, took off his snowshoes, leggins, and socks, and bared his ankles. Both were swollen, but the left much more badly than the other. He doubted whether he would be able to walk on the following day, but he rubbed them a long time, both with the palms of his hands and with snow, until they felt better. Then he replaced his clothing, leaned back against the faithful snowshoes which had saved his life, however much they had hurt his ankles, and gave himself up to the warmth of the fire.
It was very luxurious, this warmth and this rest, after so long and terrible a flight, and he was conscious of a great relaxation, one which, if he yielded to it completely, would make his muscles so stiff and painful that he could not use them. Hence he stretched his arms and legs many times, rubbed his ankles again, and then, remembering that he had venison, ate several strips.
He knew that he had taken a little risk with the fire, but a fire he was bound to have, and he fed it again until he had a great mass of glowing coals, although there was no blaze. Then he took down the blanket, wrapped himself in it, and was soon asleep before the fire. He slept long and deeply, and although, when he awoke, the day had fully come, the coals were not yet out entirely. He arose, but such a violent pain from his left ankle shot through him that he abruptly sat down again. As he bad feared, it had swollen badly during the night, and he could not walk.
In this emergency Henry displayed no petulance, no striving against unchangeable circumstance. He drew up more wood, which he had stacked against the cliff, and put it on the coals. He hung up the blanket once more in order that it might hide the fire, stretched out his lame leg, and calmly made a breakfast off the last of his venison. He knew be was in a plight that might appall the bravest, but be kept himself in hand. It was likely that the Iroquois thought him dead, crushed into a shapeless mass by his frightful slide of fifteen hundred feet, and he had little fear of them, but to be unable to walk and alone in an icy wilderness without food was sufficient in itself. He calculated that it was at least a dozen miles to "The Alcove," and the chances were a hundred to one against any of his comrades wandering his way. He looked once more at his swollen left ankle, and he made a close calculation. It would be three days, more likely four, before he could walk upon it. Could he endure hunger that long? He could. He would! Crouched in his nest with his back to the cliff, he had defense against any enemy in his rifle and pistol. By faithful watching he might catch sight of some wandering animal, a target for his rifle and then food for his stomach. His wilderness wisdom warned him that there was nothing to do but sit quiet and wait.
He scarcely moved for hours. As long as he was still his ankle troubled him but little. The sun came out, silver bright, but it had no warmth. The surface of the lake was shown only by the smoothness of its expanse; the icy covering was the same everywhere over hills and valleys. Across the lake he saw the steep down which he had slid, looming white and lofty. In the distance it looked perpendicular, and, whatever its terrors, it had, beyond a doubt, saved his life. He glanced down at his swollen ankle, and, despite his helpless situation, he was thankful that he had escaped so well.
About noon he moved enough to throw up the snowbanks higher all around himself in the fashion of an Eskimos house. Then he let the fire die except some coals that gave forth no smoke, stretched the blanket over his head in the manner of a roof, and once more resumed his quiet and stillness. He was now like a crippled animal in its lair, but he was warm, and his wound did not hurt him. But hunger began to trouble him. He was young and so powerful that his frame demanded much sustenance. Now it cried aloud its need! He ate two or three handfuls of snow, and for a few moments it seemed to help him a little, but his hunger soon came back as strong as ever. Then he tightened his belt and sat in grim silence, trying to forget that there was any such thing as food.
The effort of the will was almost a success throughout the afternoon, but before night it failed. He began to have roseate visions of Long Jim trying venison, wild duck, bear, and buffalo steaks over the coals. He could sniff the aroma, so powerful had his imagination become, and, in fancy, his month watered, while its roof was really dry. They were daylight visions, and he knew it well, but they taunted him and made his pain fiercer. He slid forward a little to the mouth of his shelter, and thrust out his rifle in the hope that be would see some wild creature, no matter what; he felt that be could shoot it at any distance, and then he would feast!
He saw nothing living, either on earth or in the air, only motionless white, and beyond, showing but faintly now through the coming twilight, the lofty cliff that had saved him.
He drew back into his lair, and the darkness came down. Despite his hunger, he slept fairly well. In the night a little snow fell at times, but his blanket roof protected him, and he remained dry and warm. The new snow was, in a way, a satisfaction, as it completely hid his trail from the glance of any wandering Indian. He awoke the next morning to a gray, somber day, with piercing winds from the northwest. He did not feel the pangs of hunger until he had been awake about a half hour, and then they came with redoubled force. Moreover, he bad become weaker in the night, and, added to the loss of muscular strength, was a decrease in the power of the will. Hunger was eating away his mental as well as his physical fiber. He did not face the situation with quite the same confidence that he felt the day before. The wilderness looked a little more threatening.
His lips felt as if he were suffering from fever, and his shoulders and back were stiff. But he drew his belt tighter again, and then uncovered his left ankle. The swelling had gone down a little, and he could move it with more freedom than on the day before, but he could not yet walk. Once more he made his grim calculation. In two days he could certainly walk and hunt game or make a try for "The Alcove," so far as his ankle was concerned, but would hunger overpower him before that time? Gaining strength in one direction, he was losing it in another.
Now he began to grow angry with himself. The light inroad that famine made upon his will was telling. It seemed incredible that he, so powerful, so skillful, so self reliant, so long used to the wilderness and to every manner of hardship, should be held there in a snowbank by a bruised ankle to die like a crippled rabbit. His comrades could not be more than ten miles away. He could walk. He would walk! He stood upright and stepped out into the snow, but pain, so agonizing that he could scarcely keep from crying out, shot through his whole body, and he sank back into the shelter, sure not to make such an experiment again for another full day.
The day passed much like its predecessor, except that he took down the blanket cover of his snow hut and kindled up his fire again, more for the sake of cheerfulness than for warmth, because he was not suffering from cold. There was a certain life and light about the coals and the bright flame, but the relief did not last long, and by and by he let it go out. Then be devoted himself to watching the heavens and the surface of the snow. Some winter bird, duck or goose, might be flying by, or a wandering deer might be passing. He must not lose any such chance. He was more than ever a fierce creature of prey, sitting at the mouth of his den, the rifle across his knee, his tanned face so thin that the cheek bones showed high and sharp, his eyes bright with fever and the fierce desire for prey, and the long, lean body drawn forward as if it were about to leap.
He thought often of dragging himself down to the lake, breaking a hole in the ice, and trying to fish, but the idea invariably came only to be abandoned. He had neither hook nor bait. In the afternoon he chewed the edge of his buckskin hunting shirt, but it was too thoroughly tanned and dry. It gave back no sustenance. He abandoned the experiment and lay still for a long time.
That night he had a slight touch of frenzy, and began to laugh at himself. It was a huge joke! What would Timmendiquas or Thayendanegea think of him if they knew how he came to his end? They would put him with old squaws or little children. And how Braxton Wyatt and his lieutenant, the squat Tory, would laugh! That was the bitterest thought of all. But the frenzy passed, and he fell into a sleep which was only a succession of bad dreams. He was running the gauntlet again among the Shawnees. Again, kneeling to drink at the clear pool, he saw in the water the shadow of the triumphant warrior holding the tomahawk above him. One after another the most critical periods of his life were lived over again, and then he sank into a deep torpor, from which he did not rouse himself until far into the next day.
Henry was conscious that he was very weak, but he seemed to have regained much of his lost will. He looked once more at the fatal left ankle. It had improved greatly. He could even stand upon it, but when he rose to his feet he felt a singular dizziness. Again, what he had gained in one way he had lost in another. The earth wavered. The smooth surface of the lake seemed to rise swiftly, and then to sink as swiftly. The far slope down which he had shot rose to the height of miles. There was a pale tinge, too, over the world. He sank down, not because of his ankle, but because he was afraid his dizzy head would make him fall.
The power of will slipped away again for a minute or two. He was ashamed of such extraordinary weakness. He looked at one of his hands. It was thin, like the band of a man wasted with fever, and the blue veins stood out on the back of it. He could scarcely believe that the hand was his own. But after the first spasm of weakness was over, the precious will returned. He could walk. Strength enough to permit him to hobble along had returned to the ankle at last, and mind must control the rest of his nervous system, however weakened it might be. He must seek food.
He withdrew into the farthest recess of his covert, wrapped the blanket tightly about his body, and lay still for a long time. He was preparing both mind and body for the supreme effort. He knew that everything hung now on the surviving remnants of his skill and courage.
Weakened by shock and several days of fasting, he had no great reserve now except the mental, and he used that to the utmost. It was proof of his youthful greatness that it stood the last test. As he lay there, the final ounce of will and courage came. Strength which was of the mind rather than of the body flowed back into his veins; he felt able to dare and to do; the pale aspect of the world went away, and once more he was Henry Ware, alert, skillful, and always triumphant.
Then he rose again, folded the blanket, and fastened it on his shoulders. He looked at the snowshoes, but decided that his left ankle, despite its great improvement, would not stand the strain. He must break his way through the snow, which was a full three feet in depth. Fortunately the crust had softened somewhat in the last two or three days, and he did not have a covering of ice to meet.
He pushed his way for the first time from the lair under the cliff, his rifle held in his ready hands, in order that he might miss no chance at game. To an ordinary observer there would have been no such chance at all. It was merely a grim white wilderness that might have been without anything living from the beginning. But Henry, the forest runner, knew better. Somewhere in the snow were lairs much like the one that he had left, and in these lairs were wild animals. To any such wild animal, whether panther or bear, the hunter would now have been a fearsome object, with his hollow cheeks, his sunken fiery eyes, and his thin lips opening now and then, and disclosing the two rows of strong white teeth.
Henry advanced about a rod, and then he stopped, breathing hard, because it was desperate work for one in his condition to break his way through snow so deep. But his ankle stood the strain well, and his courage increased rather than diminished. He was no longer a cripple confined to one spot. While be stood resting, he noticed a clump of bushes about half a rod to his left, and a hopeful idea came to him.
He broke his way slowly to the bushes, and then he searched carefully among them. The snow was not nearly so thick there, and under the thickest clump, where the shelter was best, he saw a small round opening. In an instant all his old vigorous life, all the abounding hope which was such a strong characteristic of his nature, came back to him. Already he had triumphed over Indians, Tories, the mighty slope, snow, ice, crippling, and starvation.
He laid the rifle on the snow and took the ramrod in his right hand. He thrust his left hand into the hole, and when the rabbit leaped for life from his warm nest a smart blow of the ramrod stretched him dead at the feet of the hunter. Henry picked up the rabbit. It was large and yet fat. Here was food for two meals. In the race between the ankle and starvation, the ankle had won.
He did not give way to any unseemly elation. He even felt a momentary sorrow that a life must perish to save his own, because all these wild things were his kindred now. He returned by the path that he had broken, kindled his fire anew, dexterously skinned and cleaned his rabbit, then cooked it and ate half, although he ate slowly and with intervals between each piece. How delicious it tasted, and how his physical being longed to leap upon it and devour it, but the power of the mind was still supreme. He knew what was good for himself, and he did it. Everything was done in order and with sobriety. Then he put the rest of the rabbit carefully in his food pouch, wrapped the blanket about his body, leaned back, and stretched his feet to the coals.
What an extraordinary change had come over the world in an hour! He had not noticed before the great beauty of the lake, the lofty cliffs on the farther shore, and the forest clothed in white and hanging with icicles.
The winter sunshine was molten silver, pouring down in a flood.
It was not will now, but actuality, that made him feel the strength returning to his frame. He knew that the blood in his veins had begun to sparkle, and that his vitality was rising fast. He could have gone to sleep peacefully, but instead he went forth and hunted again. He knew that where the rabbit had been, others were likely to be near, and before he returned he had secured two more. Both of these he cleaned and cooked at once. When this was done night had come, but he ate again, and then, securing all his treasures about him, fell into the best sleep that he had enjoyed since his flight.
He felt very strong the next morning, and he might have started then, but he was prudent. There was still a chance of meeting the Iroquois, and the ankle might not stand so severe a test. He would rest in his nest for another day, and then he would be equal to anything. Few could lie a whole day in one place with but little to do and with nothing passing before the eyes, but it was a part of Henry's wilderness training, and he showed all the patience of the forester. He knew, too, as the hours went by, that his strength was rising all the while. To-morrow almost the last soreness would be gone from his ankle and then he could glide swiftly over the snow, back to his comrades. He was content. He had, in fact, a sense of great triumph because he had overcome so much, and here was new food in this example for future efforts of the mind, for future victories of the will over the body. The wintry sun came to the zenith, then passed slowly down the curve, but all the time the boy scarcely stirred. Once there was a flight of small birds across the heavens, and he watched them vaguely, but apparently he took no interest. Toward night he stood up in his recess and flexed and tuned his muscles for a long time, driving out any stiffness that might come through long lack of motion. Then he ate and lay down, but he did not yet sleep.
The night was clear, and he looked away toward the point where he knew "The Alcove" lay. A good moon was now shining, and stars by the score were springing out. Suddenly at a point on that far shore a spark of red light appeared and twinkled. Most persons would have taken it for some low star, but Henry knew better. It was fire put there by human hand for a purpose, doubtless a signal, and as he looked a second spark appeared by the first, then a third, then a fourth. He uttered a great sigh of pleasure. It was his four friends signaling to him somewhere in the vast unknown that they were alive and well, and beckoning him to come. The lights burned for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then all went out together. Henry turned over on his side and fell sound asleep. In the morning he put on his snowshoes and started.