On the Trail of Pontiac by Edward Stratemeyer
Chapter XXII. The Rock by the River
The Indians did not return, and in forty-eight hours the scare was over, and the hunters and trappers sallied forth from the trading-post as before, confident that Sanderson had been right,--that the enemy had thought the little garrison too strong for them.
But this was a mistake. Jean Bevoir and Flat Nose had been eager for the fight, but word had come in at the last moment that the attack must be put off, and such was the power of Pontiac and other great chiefs of that vicinity that Flat Nose obeyed. As it was impossible for the handful of Frenchmen under Bevoir to do anything alone the whole scheme fell through, and then Bevoir lost no time in getting back to where he had left the loot from the pack-train, claiming that which had been allotted to him and his men, and getting away further to the northwestward, where he felt tolerably safe from pursuit.
How far the conspiracy to fall upon the English on the frontier in the summer of 1762 was concocted by Pontiac will perhaps never be known. Some historians have contended that he was responsible for it in its entirety, while others have told us that the real Pontiac conspiracy was confined to the awful uprising which took place just one year later. But be that as it may, it is undoubtedly true that Pontiac hated the English intensely and that it galled him exceedingly to see them pushing further and further to the north and the west. His own lands around the Great Lakes were being invaded, and when his tribe went to the English for redress they got but scant attention.
The summer of 1762 proved to be one of anxiety and uncertainty for all on or near the frontier. To the northward the Iroquois, or Mingoes as they were commonly called, were held in check by Sir William Johnson, but in western New York and western Pennsylvania the Wyandots, the Shawanoes, and certain tribes of the Delawares did what they could to harass the pioneers, burning cabins and sheds at night, stealing crops and cattle, and occasionally murdering men, women, and children, or carrying the latter off into captivity. There were no battles, but the pioneers and frontiersmen retaliated, and as winter came on the feeling of bitterness increased. No one felt safe, and all wondered what new outrage would happen next.
The Delawares have been mentioned as taking part in these evil doings, and as White Buffalo and his followers were Delawares, it is but right that their standing should be explained. In years gone by the Delawares had been a mighty tribe, numbering over a hundred villages of importance. But internal strife had done its work, and now the villages were widely scattered, so that Delawares could be found from Virginia in the South to the Great Lakes in the North and as far west as the Mississippi. Those who remained near the eastern coast generally sided with the English, while the others either strove to remain neutral or threw in their fortunes with the French.
It must not be supposed that James Morris allowed matters to rest after it became known that no attack would be made upon the trading-post. He wished to recover the stolen goods and also the fifty pounds which had been taken from Sam Barringford by Jean Bevoir at the time the old frontiersman was a prisoner at the Wanderers' village.
An expedition was organized, consisting of the trader and seven whites and Indians, and they remained out the best part of a week, hunting for the Wanderers and for Bevoir and his companions. But the Wanderers had moved and Bevoir had likewise disappeared, and the trail was lost at the river bank.
"I suppose I can say good-by to both money and goods," said James Morris soberly. "I declare, it's too bad!"
"I'll try to make it right with ye about the money," said Barringford.
"No, Sam, I don't want you to do that. You did your best and it's not your fault that the money is gone, nor the goods either. But I'd give a few pounds to get hold of Bevoir and his crowd."
As the days went by it was decided by James Morris not to send to the East for more goods until late in the fall, the goods to be brought to the trading-post early in the spring. Louis Glotte was allowed his liberty and immediately disappeared.
Both Dave and Henry were very anxious to go out on a regular hunt with Barringford, and this was arranged for several weeks after it became positively known that all hostile whites and red men had left the neighborhood of the trading-post. The hunting tour was to last a week or ten days, and the young pioneers made their preparations accordingly.
"Sam, we must get a buffalo this trip," said Henry. "Nothing less will satisfy me."
"Easier said nor done, lad," answered the old frontiersman. "The hunters an' trappers have scart 'em putty far to the westward. Howsome-ever, we can try our best to lay one low."
"I want to get a bear," said Dave.
All were feeling in fine spirits when the start was made, and James Morris came out of the post to see them off. All were on horseback, for Barringford had said that a buffalo hunt was generally in the open where riding was fairly good.
"Now don't you get into any more trouble," were Mr. Morris' parting words. "We've had trouble enough to last us a lifetime."
"We'll do our best to steer clear of it," answered his son.
The evening of the first day found them in a territory that was entirely new to both Dave and Henry, although Barringford had been over the ground several times. Only some small game had been seen, not worth powder and shot, as the old frontiersman put it, and they made their evening meal from some fish which Henry managed to catch. While Barringford was preparing the fish, both of the young pioneers took a swim in the river, where the water was cool and refreshing.
"This is something like!" cried Dave, as he splashed around.
"You're right there," answered Henry. "Only I don't want any more wildcats tumbling down on my head from the trees," he continued, referring to an adventure which has already been told in "Marching on Niagara."
"I don't believe there are any wildcats around here, Henry. The place seems utterly deserted. I reckon we'll have to travel a day longer before we strike game. The old hunters have been over the ground too thoroughly."
"It's not half as bad as it will be, when more settlers come here."
"That is true."
The young pioneers felt in fine spirits, and as Barringford was slow in getting the evening meal prepared, Henry proposed a swimming match.
"I'll race you to yonder big rock and back!" he cried, pointing to a round stone resting on the opposite bank, under a thick, overhanging tree. "The best piece of fish in the pan to the one who wins!"
"Done!" returned Dave. "Are you ready to start?"
"Yes. But wait, let us call Sam, and he can start us." And he yelled to the old frontiersman.
"Want to race, eh?" said Barringford. "All right, if ye ain't too tired after sech a ride as we've had. All ready? Then go it, both on ye! Go!"
Away they went, side by side, each cutting the clear water with a firm, broad stroke, for both could swim well.
"It's goin' to be nip an' tuck, I reckon!" went on Barringford, as interested as if the youths were matched for a heavy purse. "I must say I don't know who to shout for! Do your best, both on ye! Now, Dave, that won't do!"
For Dave had fallen behind a few strokes. But Henry could not keep the speed at which he had started, and slowly but surely his cousin reached his side once more and then went a foot and more ahead.
"Henry, this won't do!" sang out the old frontiersman. "Don't you let Dave git the best on ye! Strike out an' make it a tie!"
Thus encouraged, and laughing to himself, Henry put on another spurt, and while Dave was still four yards from the big rock came up alongside as before.
"Now ye have it!" roared Barringford. "Keep the pace, both on ye! The feller to lose gits walloped, an' the winner gits the King's Cross an' a purse of a thousand pounds! Tech the rock fair an' squar', or I'll call the race off!" And Barringford slapped his thigh in high glee. To see such a contest took him back to his boyhood days, and he half wished he was in the race himself.
Both reached the rock at precisely the same time, and rested heavily on it for a second, so that Barringford might see that it was really and truly "teched," as he expressed it. It was somewhat over their heads, and in the water at their feet they could feel the sprawling roots of the tree behind it.
Then, exactly how it happened would be hard to tell, but without warning the great rock suddenly slipped from the river bank and went into the water with a loud splash, carrying the two swimmers down under it!
Barringford saw the catastrophe and for the instant he stood spellbound. It was as if the light of day had suddenly given way to the darkness of night. Both of his young friends were gone, carried to the bottom by that huge rock which had seemed such a safe point for the turn in the race.
The old frontiersman waited a few seconds--to him they seemed an eternity--and then, as neither Henry nor Dave reappeared, he plunged hastily into the river and swam in their direction with all his might and main. He was a good swimmer, and now desperation lent strength to his muscles.
He was in midstream when he saw a head bob up, and an instant later he recognized Henry. The youth was panting for breath.
"Henry!" he called out. "Henry! Whar is Dave!"
"I--I--don't know!" came with a gulp and a gasp. "That rock was--was almost the de--death of me!"
"Dave must be under it!" groaned the old frontiersman. "We must help him, or he'll be drowned!"
"Yes! yes!" Henry tried to catch his breath. "Oh, Sam, what shall we do?"
He tried to look down into the water, but the falling of the rock had dislodged a quantity of dirt also, and what had before been so clear was now muddy, so that little or nothing could be seen excepting the top of the stone, which now lay about six inches below the surface.
"Can't you see him at all?" queried Barringford, after a painful pause.
"I can't see anything. Oh, this is awful!"
"Dive an' take a look!" ordered the old frontiersman, and taking as good a breath as his condition would allow, Henry went down, to catch hold of the sprawling roots with his hands and try his best to locate the body of his cousin. But the muddy water made his eyes smart, and seeing was practically out of the question. More than this, the great rock was slowly sliding outward, to the deeper part of the stream, so he had to watch out for fear of being caught once more.
"Didn't see him?" asked Barringford, as he came closer.
"No, it's too rily."
"I'll go down myself."
Barringford was as good as his word, and went down without an effort, his water-soaked clothing aiding him to sink. He caught hold of the rock and the roots and strained his eyes in all directions. Then the rock began to move once more, and he had to get out of the way just as Henry had done.
"I'm afraid it's all up with the poor lad," he said, when he could speak. "If he's down there, he's drowned by this time."
"Don't let us give up, Sam," pleaded Henry, and started to go down once more, when the rock turned completely over, and a long tree root flew up close to the surface of the stream.
"There he is!" shouted Barringford, and swam forward. He was right, the tree root had brought up the body of Dave, and the young pioneer lay before them, his eyes closed and nothing giving any indication that he was still alive. Both swam to it, and in a second more they had it in their arms and were making for the shore with their burden.