Chapter XXVIII. An Underground Storehouse
 

To the Indians, as some of my young readers must know, many wampum belts were speech belts, usually given as a present when some great message was delivered. Consequently, White Buffalo looked the belts over with great interest, certain that they were connected with matters of great importance.

"Pontiac is as powerful as White Buffalo supposed," said he presently.

Dave and Barringford did not reply, for they had pushed on to another chamber of the cave. Here was an additional sight that made both cry out with wonder.

"Didn't expect nuthin' like this, did you, Dave?" queried Barringford.

"Not in the least," answered the young hunter.

The chamber was not very large, but it was literally filled with rifles and pistols of various sizes and makes, some still bright, and others much rusted from water and dampness. To the collection were added several swords, one with a scabbard and the others without. There were also a large number of powder horns and bullet pouches, and other soldier equipments.

"Where did all this stuff come from?" went on Dave. "It looks like part of an army outfit."

"Thet's jest wot it is, lad."

"And it must have belonged to our army."

"Right ag'in."

"If Pontiac was in command of the Indians at the time of General Braddock's defeat, do you suppose he had some of the red men bring this stuff here?"

"That's a question. Either the stuff came from thet place, or else from some other battle later on. One thing is sartin, there's a fairly good quantity on it and it ought to be restored."

"What had we best do--tell the commander at Fort Pitt?"

"I reckon thet would be the proper thing to do, Dave."

"I suppose Pontiac thinks to use these guns some day," went on the young pioneer. "He wanted to hide them until the time came to dig up the hatchet once more."

"White Buffalo's brother must be right," came from the Indian chief. "In a war the guns would give the Indians much power."

"Maybe Pontiac told the Indians he would make guns and swords by magic," said Dave suddenly.

"It is not impossible," returned White Buffalo gravely. "The magicians have brought forth powder by magic."

"And so can Pontiac!" shouted Barringford, who had moved to one corner of the chamber. "Reckon this is a bad place fer a torch," and he held back the flame,

"What have you discovered now, Sam?"

"Five half-kegs o' powder."

As he spoke the old frontiersman pointed to a rocky shelf whereon rested the five half-kegs, covered with a piece of heavy drugget, often used in colonial days in place of rubber cloth.

"Full too," said Dave, after lifting one. "Sam, this stuff is worth a good bit of money."

"Perhaps we'll git a reward if we return it to the government," was the answer.

"It ought to be returned, whether we get a reward or not."

"Exactly as I think."

There was a narrow passageway behind the chamber and Sam Barringford squeezed into this.

"Don't reckon I can make it," he panted presently. "Seems like I was a leetle too hefty. Dave, do you want to try it? Might be an opening to the outside world, an' if there is, we won't have to go through thet water ag'in."

Taking the torch, Dave pushed into the opening, which gradually grew smaller and smaller until he had to crawl on his hands and knees.

"Tight fit, eh?" called the old frontiersman after him.

"Yes, but it may be larger further on," answered the young pioneer, as he continued to advance.

Fortunately the passageway was dry, so he had nothing to fear from water. He progressed fully fifty feet, when he saw a large opening beyond.

"I'm coming to another room!" he shouted back.

But a sharp stone over a foot high barred his further progress. The stone appeared to be rather loose, and he fancied he could push it out ahead of him. Laying down the torch, he caught hold of the stone and soon had it turned from its resting place.

"What are you doing?" called Barringford.

"Getting a stone out of my way."

"You jest be careful how you loosen up these stones," returned the old frontiersman quickly. "The dirt don't seem to be none too hard, an'--"

Whatever else Sam Barringford said was lost upon Dave, for at that moment down came a quantity of dirt on the young pioneer which almost buried him. He attempted to back out the way he had come, but just as he was about to move, more dirt fell in that direction, followed by half a dozen large stones. Then, to avoid being completely caught, he pushed on ahead and by tight squeezing forced his way into the chamber beyond.

The fall of stones and dirt was as dismaying as it was perilous. Looking into the passageway, torch in hand, Dave saw that it was now completely choked. To get out by the way he had come was impossible. He was virtually entombed alive!

A shiver went over him and he called to Sam Barringford with all the power of his youthful lungs. To his intense dismay, no answer came back, showing that the fall of dirt and stones had been greater than anticipated.

"They'll surely try to dig me out," he thought. "But it may take a whole day, and in the meantime--"

He did not finish, but his heart sank within him. He examined the passageway once more and shouted as before. He fancied he heard an answer, but was not certain.

Looking about him, the young pioneer saw that he was in a cavern not over twenty feet square. Beyond was a tall split in the rocks which seemed to run upwards.

"That may lead to daylight," he thought. "Anyway, I might as well try it as stay here."

His torch was now burning so low he could no longer hold it. He looked around for something else with which to continue the light, but nothing was at hand. He rested the torch on a rock, and a few minutes later it fluttered up and went out, leaving him in total darkness.

It was a truly horrible situation and Dave's heart sank like a lump of lead in his bosom. For the time being all hope of escape appeared to be cut off. He shouted again and again, but could get no reply.

"Of course they'll do their best to dig me out," he reasoned, "but they have no tools, and the passageway was very small anyway. If the rocks are wedged in, all the power they can bring to bear won't budge them."

He felt around the chamber and soon found himself at the split in the rocks. He entered it for a distance of a few yards and then came back to the point from which he had started.

"It would be foolish to go into that in the dark," he thought. "I might fall into some ugly hole, or have worse luck. I'll stay here and see what comes."

He sat down and gave himself up to his reflections. They were rather bitter. He now realized how tired he was, and not long after this sank into merciful slumber.

When Dave awoke all was still dark around him. How long he had slept he could not tell, but he knew it must have been for some time, for he felt wonderfully refreshed. Getting up, he stretched himself, and his eyes roved around the chamber.

A single streak of light caught his eye, coming from the split he had failed to examine. He approached the split once more and saw that the light was stronger a short distance beyond, so strong in fact that he could see the surface of the rocks and dirt.

"It must be morning, and that must lead to the outer world," he told himself. "Can it be possible I have spent the whole night down here?"

The dampness had made him stiff in the joints, but to this he paid no attention. His one thought was to reach the top of the earth again. Feeling his way with care, he entered the split in the rocks and slowly climbed from one projection to another. The rocks came to an end amid the roots of a large tree, and in a few minutes more Dave was pulling himself up among the roots and into the open air.

The glorious sunshine struck full in his face as he emerged, to find himself on something of a sweeping hill, dotted here and there with trees and brushwood. His heart gave a leap for joy. Inwardly he thanked God for his safe deliverance from perils underground.

"Now to find my way back to the waterfall and let Sam and White Buffalo know that I am safe," he told himself. "But first I had better mark this spot, so that I can find it again."

With his hunting knife he started to make a blaze upon the tree. It was easily done, and he turned around to make certain of the locality.

Then, like lightning from a clear sky, came an attack as sudden as it was unexpected. Two forms leaped from behind some neighboring bushes. They were Indians and one held a tomahawk in his hand. With the flat of this he struck Dave a blow on the head, knocking him down.

"Don't!" gasped the young pioneer, when a second blow descended, giving him a shock he could not withstand. He stretched out his arms, and then rolled over on his back, senseless.

[Illustration: "'Tis one of the English," said the taller of the Indians.]

"'Tis one of the English," said the taller of the Indians, in his native language. "We were right to set a watch here."

"And what shall be done with him?" questioned the second. "Pontiac cares not for the scalp of a stripling."

"It shall be for Pontiac to answer," was the reply. "Bind him to yonder tree. There may be more to come forth, like foxes from their holes."

Without ceremony Dave's limp body was dragged into a thicket and fastened to a tree. Then the two Indians went back to renew their watch. This continued for the best part of an hour.

At the end of that time three other Indians appeared, including Foot-in-His-Mouth. The latter listened intently to what had happened.

"The fight is over," he said. "Two Indians are dead, and a white man and a Delaware squaw named White Buffalo have retreated in the direction of Fort Pitt. Let us away from here without delay, for I must report this new happening to Pontiac."

"And the stripling, what of him?"

"Bring him along."

Dave was just returning to his senses when the Indians shook him roughly. A scalping knife was brandished before his eyes, and he was given to understand that he must either walk with them or suffer death.

"Where are you going to take me?" he asked, when he felt strong enough to speak.

This question the Indians would not answer. But two of them shoved him roughly, and he was compelled to walk to where a number of horses were in waiting. With his hands tied behind him, and his head aching severely, he was mounted on one of the animals, and the entire party set off northward through the forest.

"If only Sam was here," thought the young pioneer dismally. He did not know that a fierce hand-to-hand conflict had taken place near the waterfall, and that Barringford and White Buffalo had barely escaped with their lives, yet such was a fact.

The ride was a rough and hard one for Dave, and long before it came to an end he was ready to sink into a faint from exhaustion. Every time he reeled in the saddle one of the red men would shove him up roughly, or prick him with the end of a scalping knife.

At last the Indians called a halt at the foot of a small cliff. They dismounted and forced Dave to the ground, and the entire party ascended to the top of the cliff. Here was a well-defined path, and along this they journeyed for a short distance, coming out presently at a point where there was a small sheet of water, fed by several brooks. On the edge of the pond--it can scarcely be called a lake--was an Indian village containing perhaps a hundred inhabitants. It was known as Shanorison, and here dwelt an aged chief named Mamuliekala, looked up to by many of the red men because he had once made a trip to Boston and to England. Mamuliekala never ceased to tell of the wonders of the land across the ocean, but only a handful of the red men believed all he said, contending that the English and the rolling of the ship on the ocean had cast a spell over his mind, so that his eyes had deceived him.

Having been brought into Shanorison, Dave was brought before one of the under chiefs, and his captors told their tale. The talking was in a dialect the young pioneer could not understand, and he was asked no questions. Then one of the Indians took him by the arm and led him away.

"What are you going to do with me?" asked the youth.

"Hold white young man a prisoner," was the answer.

"What for?"

"The white young man must tell Pontiac how he came into the cave under the waterfall."

"Did you see any other white people there?"

"Moon Head cannot answer that question," said the Indian.

In the center of the village was a small and rather dirty wigwam, and in this Dave was placed. His hands were kept fastened behind him, and also tied to a short post in the center of the shelter.

"If the young man attempts to escape, he will be killed like a dog," said the Indian, on departing.

"When will Pontiac be here?" called Dave after him, but to this the red man made no reply. He stalked away, letting the flap of the wigwam close after him.

If Dave felt sick in body, he was doubly so in mind. The expedition to the east had come to a sudden and unexpected termination, and what was to be the real end of the adventure there was no telling. Certain it was that Pontiac would be very angry when he learned that the secret he and his followers had guarded so closely was known to the English, and Dave felt that it might go very hard with him in consequence.

"Perhaps they'll burn me at the stake, or do something equally bad," he thought dismally. "I must say, I wish I was out of it. I wonder if I can't manage to escape?"