Chapter XIX. The Trail Through the Forest
 

It can truthfully be said that at the time of which I write, no hunter on the trail was more keen-eyed among the whites than Antonio Jadwin, who had been chosen as leader of the little expedition.

Tony Jadwin, as he was familiarly called, was English by birth, but had come to America while but a child of four. His folks had settled on the frontier, and both had been massacred in an uprising when the lad was less than sixteen. Tony had at once started in as a hunter and trapper on his own responsibility, and from that day to the present time had managed to earn for himself a comfortable if not a luxurious living.

He took to all sorts of shooting, trapping, and fishing as the proverbial duck takes to water, and could follow a deer trail almost in the dark. He had brought down all sorts of game, and his left shoulder showed deep scars dating back to a fierce face-to-face fight with a bear, in which he had, after a tough struggle, come off victorious.

Having arrived at the scene of the attack, Jadwin took a close survey of the situation, going over the ground far more observantly than had James Morris. Nothing escaped his keen eyes, and he quickly announced that Henry had probably been right in his estimate of the number of the enemy. He also pointed out Barringford's footsteps, and declared that the old frontiersman had most likely followed the others, after the pack-train was overhauled and looted.

It was nightfall by the time all these observations were made, and the three decided to go into camp at a convenient spot, not far away. While Dave prepared supper the others dug a large grave, and into this the bodies of Cass and Lampton were placed, and a stone was set up to mark the spot.

Jadwin would not allow all to sleep at once, declaring that a watch was necessary. "I'll stay awake a few hours, and then call Ira," said he, "and then Ira can call Dave." And so it was arranged.

Dave was tired by the hard journey, and it was not long before he was sound asleep. He did not awaken until four in the morning, when Sanderson aroused him.

"Why didn't you call me before?" he cried, leaping up. "I want to do my full share of duty while I am out with you."

"It's all right, lad," answered the other. "I'm not very sleepy myself, but a couple of hours won't do me any harm."

A brook was close by, and at this Dave took a washing up, which made him wide-awake. Then he began to gather some sticks with which to start up a blaze in order to cook the morning meal.

He had taken up half a dozen sticks when a sound not very far away caught his ears. He was on the alert instantly, thinking it might perhaps be some wild animal. A dozen paces away was his gun, and he dropped the firewood and caught up the weapon.

Hardly had he done so, when he saw the form of a burly French hunter stealing through the forest toward the spot where the attack had been made on the pack-train. Fortunately, the Frenchman did not look toward Dave, so he and his companions, and their steeds, were not discovered.

"That fellow is up to no good, that is certain," thought the youth, and lost no time in arousing his companions.

"A Frenchman, eh?" said Jadwin. "More'n likely one of the crowd come back to see if he can't take away what was left of the loot."

Making no noise, they followed the Frenchman, who was dressed in the conventional garb of the hunters of the Great Lakes. The newcomer moved forward swiftly, and they had all they could do to keep up with him.

The spot reached, the Frenchman gazed around with evident dismay. Probably he had expected to see what had been left of the pack-train still there.

"Gone!" he muttered, in his native tongue. "I have had my trip of thirty miles for nothing."

After a careful look around, he returned to the forest, and set off at a quick pace in the direction from whence he had come.

"Shall we leap upon him and make him a prisoner?" asked Dave, in a whisper.

"No," replied Jadwin shortly. "Keep quiet."

Dave now understood what was in the trapper's mind, and kept still, and in a moment more the Frenchman was out of sight, moving swiftly to the northwest.

"I will follow him on foot and blaze the trail with my hunting knife," said Jadwin, to Dave and Sanderson. "You can come after me with the horses. He will probably go straight to where the rest of the rascals are in camp."

In a minute Jadwin was off and the others were not slow to follow. As before mentioned, the trail led to the northwest, through an unusually thick growth of sycamores and hemlocks. Fortunately the way was well defined, being used by many wild beasts, in their trips between the Ohio and the Great Lakes.

The French hunter and trapper was a rapid walker, and Tadwin did not catch sight of the fellow for two hours after starting on the trail. Then he located the man sitting on a slight knoll, resting. He at once halted and kept his position until the Frenchman moved again, when he followed as before.

During the entire day the following was kept up in this fashion. Late in the afternoon the Frenchman stopped to prepare himself a meal, building a tiny fire between some stones for that purpose. Seeing this, Jadwin walked back a short distance and there met Dave and Sanderson, who had followed his blazed trail without difficulty.

"He's a good walker," was Dave's comment, as the three partook of food themselves. "How much further do you think he'll go to-night?"

At this query Jadwin shrugged his shoulders. "Tell you that, Dave, after he goes to sleep," he answered dryly.

The horses were tethered, and all three stole forward to take another look at the stranger. To their surprise he had sunk back in some bushes beside his little fire and was fast asleep.

"He is not going very much further to-night," whispered Dave. "Just listen to him snore!"

A consultation was held, and Dave was for stealing up while the man slept and seeing if his pockets contained anything which might lead to his identity. Jadwin and Sanderson were willing, and watched the young pioneer with deep interest as he moved slowly forward, screening himself by the very bushes that served the sleeping man as bed and pillow.

The Frenchman slept soundly, so the youth ran but a small risk of awakening him. With great caution he searched one pocket after another, finding a small amount of silver and several letters. With these he returned to Jadwin and Sanderson, and the three withdrew to look over the communications.

Tony Jadwin could read a little French, and in his labored manner he spelt out the two letters Dave had captured. By these they learned that the Frenchman was named Louis Glotte and that he belonged at Detroit, the settlement taken from the French by the English after the fall of Montreal. Both spoke of money to be made out of the English and were signed "Jean."

"That must mean Jean Bevoir!" cried Dave. "This Glotte must be another of Bevoir's rascally companions."

"To be sure," put in Sanderson, "And Bevoir must mean the attack that was made on the pack-train."

"I think he will rejoin Bevoir by to-morrow sure," said Tony Jadwin. "And then we may learn what has become of Sam."

While one or another remained on guard during the night the others slept. Dave, it must be admitted, was impatient to learn what had really become of his old frontier friend, and it was some time before he could bring himself to slumber. Near at hand was an owl hooting weirdly through the night. Under ordinary circumstances they would have scared the bird away, but now they did not dare, for fear of arousing Louis Glotte's suspicions.

The sun was just coming up when Sanderson called softly to the others. "He's moving," said the hunter, and in a few minutes Jadwin took to the trail as before, and the others came after with the horses.

The way was now more difficult than ever, and they had numerous small streams to cross. Then they came to a river, and before Jadwin could catch sight of the Frenchman again the fellow was in a canoe and hurrying to the other side.

"Now we are in a pickle truly," declared Dave. "How are we to get to the other side without a boat?"

"Wait until he's out of sight and I will show you," answered Jadwin.

Louis Glotte soon disappeared among the bushes, and then Jadwin led the way to where a fallen tree lay. "Tie up the horses," he ordered, and it was done. Next the tree trunk was pushed into the stream and all straddled it. By means of rude paddles cut from tree boughs they ferried themselves to the opposite shore.

"Wait! I see something!" murmured Dave, after having gone through the bushes which lined the water's edge.

"So I do see something," came from Jadwin. "Lay low until I investigate, boys."

Dave and Sanderson secreted themselves in the bushes and waited. Tony Jadwin disappeared and it was the best part of half an hour before he returned.

"Just as I thought," he said. "The Frenchmen and the Indians have a village back there, on the bank of a creek that flows into this river. Jean Bevoir is there, and also Jacques Valette, and I rather think all the stolen goods are there also."