The Shades of the Wilderness by Joseph A. Altsheler
Chapter V. The Dangerous Road
The road led in the general direction of Lee's army and Harry knew that if he followed it long enough he was bound to reach his commander, but the two words "long enough" might defeat everything. Undoubtedly a Federal force was near, or the farmer and his wife would not be signaling from the roof of their house.
A plucky couple they were and he gave them all credit, but he was aware that while he had secured breakfast from them they had put the wolves upon his trail. There were high hills on both the right and left of the road, and, as he galloped along he examined them through his glasses for flags answering the signal on the house. But he saw nothing and the thickness of the forest indicated that even if the signals were made there it was not likely he could see them.
Now he wisely restrained the speed of his horse, so full of strength and spirit that it seemed willing to run on forever, and brought him down to a walk. He had an idea that he would soon be pursued, and then a fresh horse would be worth a dozen tired ones.
The road continued to run between high, forested hills, splendid for ambush, and Harry saw what a danger it was not to have knowledge of the country. He understood how the Union forces in the South were so often at a loss on ground that was strange to them.
The road now curved a little to the left, and a few hundred yards ahead another from the east merged with it. Along this road the forest was thinner, and upon it, but some distance away, he saw bobbing heads in caps, twenty, perhaps, in number. He knew at once that they were the enemy, called by the signal, and leaning forward he spoke in the ear of his good horse.
"You and I haven't known each other long," he said, "but we're good friends. I paid honest and sufficient money for you, when I could have ridden away on you without paying a cent. I know you have a powerful frame and that your speed is great. I really believe you're the fastest runner in all this part of the state. Now, prove it!"
The horse stretched out his neck, and the road flew behind him, his body working like a mighty machine perfectly attuned, even to its minutest part. Harry's words had met a true response. He heard a cry on the cross road, and the bobbing heads came forward much faster. Either they had seen him or they had heard the swift beat of his horse's hoofs. Loud shouts arose, but he saw the uniforms of the men, and he knew that they belonged to the Northern army.
He went past the junction of the roads, as if he were flying, but he was not a bit too soon, as he heard the crack of rifles, and bullets struck in the earth behind him. He knew that they would follow, hang on persistently, but he had supreme confidence in the speed and strength of his horse, and youth rode triumphant. It was youth more than anything else that made him raise himself a little in his saddle, look back to his pursuers and fling to them a long, taunting cry, just as Henry Ware more than once had taunted his Indian pursuers before disappearing in a flight that their swiftest warriors could not match.
But the little band of Union troopers clung to the chase. They too had good horses, and they knew that the man before them was a Southern messenger, and in those hot July days of 1863 all military messages carried on the roads north of the Potomac were important. The fate of an army or a nation might turn upon any one of them, and the lieutenant who led the little Union troop was aware of it. He was a man of intelligence and a consuming desire to overtake the lone horseman lay hold of him. He knew, as well as any general, that since Gettysburg the fate of the South was verily trembling in the balance, and the slightest weight somewhere might decide the scales. So he resolved to hang on through everything and the chances were in his favor. It was his own country. The Federal troops were everywhere, and any moment he might have aid in cutting off the fugitive.
When Harry eased his horse's flight he saw the troop, very distant but still pursuing, and he read the mind of the Union leader. He was saving his mounts, trailing merely, in the hope that Harry would exhaust his own horse, after which he and his men would come on at great speed.
Harry looked down at his horse and saw that he was heaving with his great effort. He knew that he had made a mistake in driving him so hard at first, and with the courage of which only a young veteran would have been capable he brought the animal almost to a walk, and resolutely kept him there, while the enemy gained. When they were almost within rifle shot he increased his speed again, but he did not seek for the present to increase his gain.
As long as their bullets could not reach him his horse should merely go stride for stride with theirs, and when the last stretch was reached, he would send forward the brave animal at his utmost speed. His were the true racing tactics drawn from his native state. He had no doubt of his ability to leave his pursuers far behind when the time came, but his true danger was from interference. He too knew that many Union cavalry troops were abroad, and he watched on either flank for them as he rode on. At the crest of every little hill he swept the whole country, but as yet he saw nothing but peaceful farmhouses.
The day was clear and bright, not so warm as its predecessors, and he calculated by the sun that he was going straight toward Lee. He knew that a great army always marched slowly, and he was able to reckon with accuracy just how far the Army of Northern Virginia had come since Gettysburg. He should reach it in the morning, with full information about the Potomac, and the best place for a crossing.
He arrived at the crest of a hill higher than the others, and saw the Union troop, about a quarter of a mile behind, stop beside a clump of tall trees. Their action surprised Harry, who had thought they would never quit as long as they could find his trail. To his further surprise he saw one of the men dismount and begin to climb the tallest of the trees. Then he brought his glasses into play.
He saw the climber go up, up, until he had reached the last bough that would support him. Then he drew some thing from his pocket which he unrolled and began to wave rapidly. It was a flag and through his powerful glasses Harry clearly saw the Stars and Stripes. It was evident that they were signaling, but when one signals one usually signals to somebody. His breath shortened for a moment. He believed that the man in the tree was talking with his flag about the fugitive. Where was the one to whom he was talking?
He looked to both left and right, searching the fields and the forests, and saw nothing. Then, as he was sweeping his glasses again in a half curve he caught a glimpse of something straight ahead that made the great pulse in his throat beat hard. About a mile in front of him another man in a tree was waving a flag and beneath the tree were horsemen.
Harry knew now that the two flags were talking about the Confederate messenger between. The one behind said: "Look out! He's young, riding a bay horse and he's coming directly toward you," to which the one in front replied, "We're waiting. He can't escape us. There are fields with high fences on either side of the road and if he manages to break through the fence he's an easy capture in the soft and muddy ground there."
Harry thought hard and fast, while the two flags talked so contemptuously about him. The fields were unquestionably deep with mud from the heavy rains, but he must try them. It was lucky that he had seen the flags while both forces were out of rifle shot. He decided for the western side, sprang from his horse and threw down a few rails. In a half minute he was back on his horse, leaped him over the fence, and struck across the field.
It had been lately plowed and the going was uncommonly heavy. It would be just as heavy however for his pursuers, and his luck in seeing their signals would put him out of range before they reached the field. But it was a wide field and his horse's feet sank so deep in the mud that he dismounted and led him. When he was two-thirds of the way across a shout told him that the two forces had met, and had discovered the ruse of the fugitive. It did not take much intelligence to understand what he had done, because he was yet in plain sight, and a few of the cavalrymen took pot shots at him, their bullets falling far short. Harry in his excited condition laughed at these attempts. Almost anything was a triumph now. He shook his fist at them and regretted that he could not send back a defiant shot.
The cavalrymen conferred a little. Then a part pursued across the field, and two detachments rode along its side, one to the north and the other to the south. Harry understood. If the mud held him back sufficiently they might pass around the field and catch him on the other side. He continued to lead his horse, encouraging him with words of entreaty and praise.
"Come on!" he cried. "You won't let a little mud bother you. You wouldn't let yourself be overtaken by a lot of half-bred horses not fit to associate with you?"
The brave animal responded nobly, and what had been the far edge of the field was rapidly coming nearer. Beyond it lay woods. But the flanking movement threatened. The two detachments were passing around the field on firm ground, and Harry knew that he and his good horse must hasten. He talked to him continually, boasting about him, and together they reached the fence, which he threw down in all haste. Then he led his weary horse out of the mud, sprang upon his back and galloped into the bushes.
He knew that the horses passing around the field on firm ground would be fresh, and that he must find temporary hiding, at least as soon as he could. He was in deep thickets now and he galloped on, careless how the bushes scratched him and tore his uniform. The Union cavalry would surely follow, but he wanted a little breathing time for his horse, and in eight or ten minutes he stopped in the dense undergrowth. The horse panted so hard that any one near would have heard him, but there was no other sound in the thicket. The rest was valuable for both. Harry was able to concentrate his mind and consider, while the panting of the horse gradually ceased, and he breathed with regularity. The young lieutenant patted him on the nose and whispered to him consolingly.
"Good, old boy," he said, "you've brought me safely so far. I knew that I could trust you."
Then he stood quite still, with his hand stroking the horse's nose to keep him silent. He had heard the first sounds of search. To his right was the distant beat of hoofs and men's voices. Evidently they were going to make a thorough search for him, and he decided to resume his flight, even at the risk of being heard.
He led the horse again, because the forest was so dense that one could scarcely ride in it, and he thought, for a while, that he had thrown off the pursuit, but the voices came again, and now on his left. They had never relaxed the hunt for an instant. They had a good leader, and Harry admitted that in his place he would have done the same.
The country grew rougher, being so steep and hilly that it was not easy of cultivation, and hence remained clothed in dense forest and undergrowth. Twice more Harry heard the sound of pursuing voices and hoofs, and then the noise of running water came to his ears. Twenty yards farther and he came to a creek flowing between high banks, on which the forest grew so densely that the sun was scarcely able to reach the water below.
The creek at first seemed to be a bar to his advance, but thinking it over he led his horse carefully down into the stream, mounted him and rode with the current, which was not more than a foot deep. Fortunately the creek had a soft bottom and there was no ringing of hoofs on stones.
He went slowly, lest the water splash too much, and kept a wary watch on the banks above, which were growing higher. He did not know where the creek led, but it offered both a road and concealment, and it seemed that Providence had put it there for his especial help.
He rode in the bed of the stream fully an hour, and then emerged from the hills into a level and comparatively bare country. It was a region utterly unknown to him, but with his splendid idea of direction and the sun to guide him he knew his straight course to Lee. The country before him seemed to be given up wholly to grass, as he noticed neither corn nor wheat. He saw several farm hands, but decided to keep away from them. That was no country for the practice of horsemanship by a lone Confederate soldier, nor did he like to be the fox in a fox hunt.
Yet the fox he was. He chose a narrow road leading between cedars, and when he had advanced upon it a few hundred yards he heard the sound of a trumpet behind him, and at the edge of the woods that he had left. He saw horsemen in blue emerging and he had no doubt that they were the same men whom he had eluded in the thickets.
"Their pursuit of me is getting to be a habit," he said to himself with the most intense annoyance. "It's a good thing, my brave horse, that you've had a long rest."
He shook up the reins and began to gallop. He heard a faint shout in the distance and saw the troopers in pursuit. But he did not fear them now. Numerous fences would prevent them from flanking him, and he saw that the road led on, straight and level. He shook the reins again and the horse lengthened his stride.
He felt so exultant that he laughed. It would be easy enough now to distance this Union troop. Then the laugh died suddenly on his lips. A bullet whistled so near his face that it almost took away his breath. An elderly farmer standing in his own door had fired it, and Harry snatched one of the pistols from his own belt, remembering then with rage that it could not be fired. He shouted to his horse and made him run faster.
A bullet struck the pommel of his saddle and glanced off. A boy in an orchard had fired it. A load of bird-shot, a handful it seemed to Harry, flew about his ears. A bent old man who ought to have been sitting on a porch in a rocking chair had discharged it from the edge of a wood. A squirrel hunter on a hill took a pot shot at him and missed.
Harry was furious with anger. Decidedly this was no place for a visitor from the South. He did not detect the faintest sign of hospitality. Men and women alike seemed to dislike him. A powerful virago hurled a stone at his head, which would have struck him senseless had it not missed, and a farmer standing by a fence had a shotgun cocked and ready to be fired as he passed, but Harry, snatching one of the useless pistols from his belt, hurled it at him with all his might. It struck the man a glancing blow on the head, felling him as if he had been shot, and then Harry, thinking quickly, acted with equal quickness.
He reined in his horse with such suddenness that he nearly shot from the saddle. Then he leaped down, seized the shotgun from under the hands of the fallen man, sprang on his horse and was away again, sending back a cry of defiance.
Harry had never before in his life been so furious. To be hunted thus by a whole countryside, as if he were a mad dog, was intolerable. It was not only a threat to one's life, it was also an insult to one's dignity to be treated as an animal. Although he was armed now the insult continued. The call of the trumpet sounded almost without ceasing, and the Union troopers uttered many shouts as do those who chase the fox, although Harry knew that their cries were intended to rouse the farmers who might head him off.
The chase grew hotter, but he felt better with the shotgun. It was a fine double-barreled weapon of the latest make, and he hoped that it was loaded with buckshot. He was a sharpshooter, and he could give a good account of any one who came too near.
Yet with the trumpet shrilling continually behind him the huntsmen gathered fast on either flank. It was yet the day when nearly every house in America, outside a town, contained a rifle, and bullets fired from a distance began to patter around Harry and his horse. The riflemen were too far away to be reached with the shotgun, and it seemed inevitable to him that in time a bullet would strike him. He was truly the fox, and he knew that nothing could save him but forest.
It was in his favor that the country was so broken and wooded so heavily, and fixing his eyes on trees a half-mile ahead he raced for them. If none of this yelling pack dragged him down he felt sure that he might escape again in the forest. The trees swiftly came nearer, but the shots on either flank increased. More than ever he felt like the fox with the hounds all about him, and just one slender chance to reach the burrow ahead.
He felt his horse shake and knew that he had been hit. Yet the brave animal ran on as well as ever, despite the triumphant shout behind, which showed that he must be leaving a trail of blood. But the woods, thick and inviting, were near, and he believed that he would reach them. The horse shook again, much more violently than before, and then fell to his knees. Harry leaped off, still clutching the shotgun, just as the brave animal fell over on his side and began to breathe out his life.
He heard again that shout of triumph, but he was one who never gave up. He had alighted easily on his feet. The trees were not more than fifteen yards away and he disappeared among them as bullets clipped bark and twigs about him.
He breathed a deep sigh of thankfulness when he entered the forest. It was so dense, and there was so much undergrowth that the horsemen could not follow him there. If they came on foot, and spread out, as they must, to hunt him, he had the double-barreled shotgun and it was a deadly weapon. The fox had suddenly become the panther, alert, powerful, armed with claws that killed.
Harry went deep into the thickets before he sat down. He had no doubt that they would follow him, but at present he was out of their sight and hearing. He felt a mixture of elation and sadness, elation over his temporary escape, and sadness over the loss of his gallant horse. But one could not dwell long on regrets at such a time, and, advancing a little farther, he sat down among the densest bushes that he could find with the shotgun across his knees.
Now Harry saw that the horse had really done all that it was possible for him to do. He had brought him to the wood, and within he would have been a drawback. A man on foot could conceal himself far more easily. Everything favored him. There were bushes and vines everywhere and he could be hidden like a deer in its covert.
He looked up at the sun shining through the tops of the trees and saw that he had kept to his true course. His flight had taken him directly toward Lee at a much faster pace than he would have come otherwise. The enemy had driven him on his errand at double speed. He felt that he could spare a little time now, while he waited to see what the pursuit would do.
His feeling of exultation was now unalloyed. Deep in the forest with his foes looking for him in vain, the spirit of Henry Ware was once more strong within him. He was the reincarnation of the great hunter. He lay so still, clasping the shotgun, that the little creatures of the woods were deceived. A squirrel ran up the trunk of an oak six feet away, and stood fearlessly in a fork with his bushy tail curved over his back. A small gray bird perched on a bough just over Harry's head and poured out a volume of song. Farther away sounded the tap tap of a woodpecker on the bark of a dead tree.
Harry, although he did not move, was watching and listening with intense concentration, but his ears now would be his surest signals. He could not see deep in the thickets, but he could hear any movement in the underbrush a hundred yards away. So far there was nothing but the hopping of a rabbit. The bird over his head sang on. There was no wind among the branches, not even the flutter of leaves to distract his attention from anything that might come on the ground.
He rejoiced in this period of rest, of the nerves, rather than purely physical. He had been keyed so high that now he relaxed entirely, and soon lay perfectly flat, but with the shotgun still clasped in his arms. He had a soft couch. Under him were the dead leaves of last year, and over him was the pleasant gloom of thick foliage, already turning brown. The bird sang on. His clear and beautiful note came from a point directly over his head, but Harry could not see his tiny body among the leaves. He became, for a little while, more interested in trying to see him than in hearing his pursuers.
It was annoying that such a volume of sound should come from a body that could be hidden by a leaf. If a man could shout in proportion to his own size he might be heard eight to ten miles away. It was an interesting speculation and he pursued it. While he was pursuing it his mind relaxed more and more and traveled farther and farther away from his flight and hiding. Then his heavy eyelids pulled down, and, while his pursuers yet searched the thickets for him, he slept.
But his other self, which men had thought of as far back as Socrates, kept guard. When he had slept an hour a tiny voice in his ear, no louder than the ticking of a watch, told him to awake, that danger was near. He obeyed the call, sleep was lifted from him and he opened his eyes. But with inherited caution he did not move. He still lay flat in his covert, trusting to his ears, and did not make a leaf move about him.
His ears told him that leaves were rustling not very far away, not more than a hundred feet. His power of hearing was great, and the forest seemed to make it uncommonly sensitive and delicate.
He knew that the rustling of the leaves was made by a man walking. By and by he heard his footfalls, and he knew that he wore heavy boots, or his feet would not have crushed down in such a decisive manner. He was looking for something, too, because the footfalls did not go straight on, but veered about.
Harry was well aware that it was a Union soldier, and that he was the object of his search. He was a clumsy man, not used to forests, because Harry heard him stumble twice, when his feet caught on vines. Nor was any comrade near, or he would have called to him for the sake of companionship. Harry judged that he was originally a mill hand, and he did not feel the least alarm about him, laughing a little at his clumsiness and awkwardness, as he trod heavily among the bushes, tripped again on the vines, and came so near falling that he could hear the rifle rattle when it struck a tree. He did not have the slightest fear of the man, and at last, raising his head, he took a look.
All his surmises were justified. He saw a great hulking youth of heavy and dull countenance, carrying a rifle awkwardly, his place obviously around some town and not in the depths of a forest, looking for a wary enemy, who knew more of the wilderness than he could ever learn in all his life. Harry saw that he was perspiring freely and that he looked more like the hunted than the hunter. His eyes expressed bewilderment. He was obviously lonely and apprehensive, not because he was a coward, but because the situation was so strange to him.
Besides his rifle he carried a large knapsack, so much distended that Harry knew it to be full of food. It was this that decided him. A soldier, like an army, must travel on his stomach, and he wanted that knapsack. Moreover he meant to get it. He leveled his shotgun and called in a low tone, but a tone so sharp that it could be heard distinctly by the one to whom it was addressed:
"Throw up your hands at once!"
The man threw them up so abruptly that the rifle fell from his shoulder into the bushes, and he turned around, staring face toward the point from which the command had come. Harry saw at once that he was of foreign birth, probably. The features inclined to the Slav type, although Slavs were not then common in this country, even in the mill towns of the North.
"Are you an American?" asked Harry, standing up.
"All but two years of my life."
"The first two years then, as I see you speak good English. What's your name?"
"Do you think that anybody named Michael Stanislav has the right to interfere in the quarrel of the Northern and Southern states? Don't the Stanislavs have trouble enough in the country where the Stanislavs grow?"
The big youth stared at him without understanding.
"Do you know who I am?" asked Harry, severely.
"The running rebel that we all look for."
"Rebels don't run. Besides, there are no rebels. Anyway I'm not the man you're looking for. My name is Robin Hood."
"Yes, Robin Hood! Didn't you ever hear of him?"
"Then you have the honor of hearing of him and meeting him at the same time. As I said, my name is Robin Hood and my trade is that of a benevolent robber. I lie around in the greenwood, and I don't work. I've a lot of followers, Friar Tuck and others, but they're away for a while. They're as much opposed to work as I am. That's why they're my followers. We're the friends of the poor, because they have nothing we want, and we're the enemies of the rich because they have a lot we do want and that we often take. Still, we couldn't get along very well, if there were no rich for us to rob. It's like taking sugar water from a maple tree. We won't take too much, because it would kill the tree and we want to take its sugar water again, and many times. Do you understand?"
"Yes," replied the big youth, but Harry knew he didn't. Harry meanwhile was listening keenly to all that was passing in the forest, and he was sure that no other soldier had wandered near. It was perhaps partly a feeling of loneliness on his own part that caused him to linger in his talk with Michael Stanislav.
"Michael," he continued, "you appreciate our respective positions, don't you?"
"Ah!" said Michael, in a puzzled voice.
"I've explained carefully to you that I'm Robin Hood, and you at the present moment represent the rich."
"I am not rich. Before I turn soldier I work in a mill at Bridgeport."
"That's all very well, but you can't get out of it by referring to your past. Just now you are a proxy of the rich, and it's my duty to rob you."
The mouth of the big fellow expanded into a wide grin.
"You won't rob me," he said. "I have not a cent."
"But I'm going to rob you just the same. Don't you dare to drop a hand toward the pistols in your belt. If you do I'll blow your head off. I'm covering you with a double-barreled shotgun. Each barrel contains about twenty buckshot, and at close range their blast would be so terrific that you'd make an awful looking corpse."
"I hold up my hands a long time. Don't want to be any kind of a corpse."
"That's the good boy. Steady now. Don't move a muscle. I'm going to rob you. It's a brief and painless operation, much easier than pulling a tooth."
He deftly removed the two pistols and the accompanying ammunition from the man's belt, placing them in his own. His belt of cartridges he put on the ground beside the fallen rifle, and then as he felt a glow of triumph he passed the well-filled knapsack from the stalwart shoulders of the other to his own shoulders, equally stalwart.
"Is everything in it first class, Michael?" he demanded with much severity.
"The best. Our army feeds well."
"It's a good thing for you that it's so. Robin Hood is never satisfied with anything second class, and he's likely to be offended if you offer it to him. On the whole, Michael, I think I like you and I'm glad you came this way. But do you care for good advice?"
"That's right. Say 'sir' to me. It pleases my robber's heart. Then, my advice to you is never again to go into the woods alone. All the forest looks alike to those who don't know it, and you're lost in a minute. Besides, it's filled with strange and terrible creatures, Robin Hood--that's me, though I have some redeeming qualities--the Erymanthean boar, the Hydra-headed monster, Medusa of the snaky locks, Cyclops, Polyphemus with one awful eye, the deceitful Sirens, the Old Man of the Mountain, Wodin and Osiris, and, last and most terrible of all, the Baron Munchausen."
A flicker of fear appeared in the eyes of the captive.
"But I'll see that none of these monsters hurt you," said Harry consolingly. "The open is directly behind you, about a mile. Right about! Wheel! Well done! Now, you won't see me again, but you'll hear me giving commands. Forward, march! Quit stumbling! No true forester ever does! Nor is it necessary for you to run into more than three trees! Keep going! No, don't curve! Go straight ahead, and remember that if you look back I shoot!"
Michael walked swiftly enough. He deemed that on the whole he had fared well. The great brigand, Robin Hood, had spared his life and he had lost nothing. The army would replace his weapons and ammunition and he was glad enough to escape from that terrible forest, even if he were driven out of it.
Harry watched him until he was out of sight, and then picking up the rifle and belt of cartridges he fled on soundless feet deeper into the forest. Two or three hundred yards away he stopped and heard a great shouting. Michael, no longer covered by a gun, had realized that something untoward had happened to him, and he was calling to his comrades. Harry did not know whether Michael would still call the man who had held him up, Robin Hood, nor did he care. He had secured an excellent rifle which would be much more useful to him than a shotgun, and his course still led straight toward the point where he should find Lee's army on the march. He felt that he ought to throw away the shotgun, as two weapons were heavy, but he could not make up his mind to do so.
A hundred yards farther and he heard replies to Michael's shouts, and then several shots, undoubtedly fired by the Union troops themselves, as signals of alarm. He laughed to himself. Could such men as these overtake one who was born to the woods, the great grandson of Henry Ware, the most gifted of the borderers, who in the woods had not only a sixth sense, but a seventh as well? And his great grandson had inherited many of his qualities.
Harry, in the forest, felt only contempt for these youths of Central Europe who could not tell one point of the compass from another. He guided his own course by the sun, and continued at a good pace until he could hear shouts and shots no longer. Then in the dense woods, where the shadows made a twilight, he came to a tiny stream flowing from under a rock. He knelt and drank of the cool water, and then he opened Michael's knapsack. It was truly well filled, and he ate with deep content. Then he drank again and rested by the side of the pool.
As he reflected over his journey Harry concluded that Providence had watched over him so far, but there was much yet to do before he reached Lee. Providence had a strange way of watching over a man for a while, and then letting him go. He would neglect no precaution. The forest would not continue forever and then he must take his chances in the open.
Still burning with the desire to be the first to reach Lee, he put the rifle and the shotgun on either shoulder, and set off at as rapid a pace as the thickets would permit. But he soon stopped because a sound almost like that of a wind, but not a wind, came to his ears. There was a breeze blowing directly toward him, but he paid no attention to it, because to him most breezes were pleasant and friendly. But the other sound had in it a quality that was distinctly sinister like the hissing of a snake.
Harry paused in wonder and alarm. All his instincts warned him that a new danger was at hand. The breath of the wind suddenly grew hot, and sparks carried by it blew past him. He knew, in an instant, that the forest was on fire behind him and that tinder dry, it would burn fast and furious. Changing from a walk to a run, he sped forward as swiftly as he could, while the flames suddenly sprang high, waved and leaped forward in chase.