Chapter XXIX. Pontiac's Trail Once More
 

The fight between the Indians and the party under Barringford and White Buffalo had been short and sharp. Finding they could not open the passageway to the chamber in which Dave was, as they supposed, entombed alive, the old frontiersman and the Indian chief had returned to the outer world, hoping to find another entrance to the cave. In the midst of the search the enemy had fallen upon them, and the slaughter of the Indians under White Buffalo had occurred.

Pontiac's braves had suffered also, but to what extent Barringford and White Buffalo could not tell. Barringford was wounded in both the thigh and the back, but fortunately neither hurt was serious. White Buffalo received a bullet through the forearm and a cut from a tomahawk, yet with the adroitness of his race he managed to flee with the old frontiersman, and both, after much difficulty, managed to elude their pursuers.

"We must return to Fort Pitt and tell the commander there of what has happened," said Barringford, and White Buffalo agreed. Their horses were gone, so they had to return on foot, the journey taking them two days.

Fort Pitt, it may be mentioned here, was at the time commanded by Captain Simeon Ecuyer, a brave officer, of Swiss birth, who had served the colonies well for years. He listened to Barringford's tale with close attention and keen interest.

"I have suspected something of this sort for a long while," he said. "It was known that many guns and pistols were stolen at the time of General Braddock's defeat, and also during the battles further to the north. I will send out a party at once, and if we can capture the Indians I will see to it that justice is done."

"Bring along picks and spades," said the old frontiersman. "We must save Dave Morris, if the deed is possible."

A company eighteen strong and fully armed left the fort that very noon. Two sharpshooters were in advance, but none of the enemy put in an appearance. Arriving at the waterfall, they found the spot totally deserted. Roaming the forest were two of the horses and these were easily captured, and, later on, one more animal was secured.

"Well, this beats anything I have ever seen!" declared the lieutenant who was in command of the soldiers, after following Barringford into the cave. "It's a perfect treasure house."

"Pray do me the kindness to lose no time in clearing out that passageway," responded Barringford, and under his directions the soldiers set to work with picks and spades and various other entrenching tools to remove the fallen rocks and dirt.

It was a hard task, but inside of three hours the way was cleared and Barringford crawled through, followed by White Buffalo.

"Gone!" murmured the old frontiersman, with a sigh of relief. "I am mighty glad of it."

"White Buffalo glad too," returned the Indian chief simply. "Let us look for his trail."

Plenty of torches were at hand and also a lantern, making the rocky chamber almost as bright as day. With ease the Indian chief traced Dave's footsteps to the split in the rocks, and then hauled himself out through the opening by the tree roots, followed by Barringford.

"This is the way he got out," said the old frontiersman. "But why didn't he return to the waterfall?"

"Fight here," was the red man's answer, pointing to the footprints in the soil. "Two Indians come up behind Dave. Come!"

They left the vicinity, and soon both reached the conclusion that the young pioneer had been carried away a prisoner.

"But where did they take him to?" questioned Barringford.

"We must follow the trail," was all White Buffalo could answer.

A conference was held with the lieutenant, and it was decided that the whole party should follow the trail.

"We can come back to the cave for the goods later," said Lieutenant Peterson. "We certainly must rescue young Morris and make an example of those who have carried him off."

It was no light task to follow the Indian trail through the woods. With all the cuteness of which they were capable, the followers of Pontiac had taken to a shallow stream for over quarter of a mile, and before the trail could be discovered again night came on. They tried to keep up the hunt with torches, but it was of no avail.

"Beaten," muttered Barringford, and his eyes grew moist. "Poor Dave! What will become of him?"

With the coming of morning the lieutenant decided to return to the waterfall. An examination was made, and it was found to be an easy task to make the water flow in another direction, thus leaving the main entrance to the cave a dry one. Without delay the things inside were removed, and loaded on horses. In this manner everything was sooner or later removed to Fort Pitt.

"I shall report to the authorities without delay," said Captain Ecuyer. "More than likely you will be well rewarded for this discovery." But no reward was ever received.

"Never mind the reward," answered Barringford. "I want to find Dave Morris."

"At present I cannot send out another detachment, Barringford. But I will do so in a few days."

"Then I'll take time by the forelock and let his father know what has happened."

"I believe I should do so, were I in your place."

Barringford had had his wounds washed and dressed, and, mounted on a fresh horse, he lost no time in riding back to the trading-post on the Ohio. White Buffalo did not go with him, stating he would renew the hunt for the lost trail.

It was Henry who met the old frontiersman at the stockade gate.

"What's wrong?" he questioned quickly. "Where is Dave?"

Before Barringford had time to answer, James Morris showed himself.

"Something has gone wrong!" he cried. "I can see it in your face. What is it?"

"We had a brush with the Indians,--part of Pontiac's party," said the old frontiersman.

"And Dave?"

"We think he was made a prisoner," went on Barringford, and then told his story in detail.

"And you say White Buffalo has gone out again to look for the lost trail?" questioned the trader.

"Yes. He'll find it, too, if it is to be done. I thought you'd like to know, so that you could go out with me and the soldiers."

"Yes! yes!"

"I'd like to go myself, Uncle James," put in Henry.

"One of us ought to remain at the post, Henry. I do not like to leave it in the hands of strangers."

"But they are not all strangers," pleaded Henry. "Some of the men we know very well. We can leave Sanderson in charge. He knows what to do, and so does Jadwin."

"Well, I'll see about it," said Mr. Morris.

As Barringford was hungry, a hasty meal was prepared for him, and then the Morrises had a talk with Sanderson, Jadwin, and some of the others. As a result, Sanderson said he would take charge of the trading-post for a week or longer, if necessary, and Jadwin said he would also remain close at hand, in case he was wanted.

This left Henry free to join Mr. Morris and Barringford in the hunt for Dave, and the young pioneer was not long in preparing himself for the expedition. Fresh horses were obtained, and the party set off early the following morning, when the sun had not yet shown itself over the rolling hills to the eastward.

The day had promised fair, but about noon the sky grew dark very suddenly, and soon after this came a flurry of snow, followed by a heavy wind which tore through the trees of the forest with a mighty roar, hurling more than one trunk to the ground. Broken branches fell in all directions, one hitting Henry on the head and scaring his steed so that the animal could scarcely be controlled.

"I must say I don't like this much!" panted the young pioneer, as he reined in the horse. "What is it, a tornado?"

"We'll have to get behind some rocks for the present," declared Barringford, and this was done. The fierce wind continued for half an hour longer and then subsided. More snow followed, but then came sunshine, as bright and fair as one would wish.

"Only a squall after all," said James Morris. "But it was heavy while it lasted."

When the party arrived at Fort Pitt they found the soldiers ready to go out once more. But nothing had been heard of White Buffalo, which all thought rather strange.

"Perhaps he has failed to recover the trail," said James Morris sorrowfully. "With all his sagacity, White Buffalo cannot do the impossible."

"Do you think it impossible to recover such a trail?" asked Lieutenant Peterson.

"He'll find it--if you give him time enough," put in Barringford confidently. "No Injun better nor White Buffalo on a trail."

"I believe that," said Henry. "He's as smart as they make 'em."

Two hours after this White Buffalo came in. He was plainly tired out, but his face brightened on seeing the whites he knew so well.

"White Buffalo has found the trail," he announced. "It leads to the village of Shanorison, where lives the old chief Mamuliekala, the Great Water Bear. Mamuliekala and Pontiac are like brothers. They have made Dave their prisoner."

"Do you know where Dave is now?"

"White Buffalo has not seen his white brother, but thinks Dave is at the village, or close to it. But we must hurry, for soon Pontiac and his braves will go northward, to the land of the Wyandots and the Ottawas."

"Will they take Dave, or kill him?" asked Henry.

At this the Indian chief shrugged his shoulders.

"Who can answer for the future?" he said briefly.

"Let us be on the way!" cried James Morris impatiently. "An hour lost may mean much to my son!"

"Did the Indians at the village see you?" questioned Captain Ecuyer of the Indian chief.

"No, White Buffalo showed not himself, for it would not have been wise."

While the soldiers were preparing for the new expedition, the Indian chief was given food and drink, after which he said he felt much better. He was provided with a fresh horse to mount, and said he would take a nap in the saddle, a common trick even among red men of to-day. This may appear strange to some of my young readers, but in our army it is well known that men have slept both in the saddle and while on the march!

When the soldiers were assembled, Captain Ecuyer addressed them briefly:

"Men," said he, "you are embarking on rather a dangerous mission. I am sorry I cannot be with you, but it is my duty to remain at the fort, for there may be a general uprising, of which we know nothing. I expect every man to obey Lieutenant Peterson thoroughly, and I want all to do their duty to the uttermost. If you can avoid bloodshed do so, but do not let Pontiac or his followers lead you into any trap. If you are needed at the fort I shall send a messenger after you, and then you must return with all possible speed, for, no matter what else happens, Fort Pitt must not be taken from us."

The men gave a little cheer, and in two minutes the line of march was taken up, some sharpshooters and Barringford leading the way, with James Morris and Henry not far behind. Once again they turned into the mighty forest, heading now directly for the village of Shanorison. Mr. Morris was very anxious to push ahead with all speed, but the soldiers would not go beyond their regular gait.

"Let us go ahead," said he at last, to Henry. "I cannot stand this suspense."

"I'm willing enough," answered his nephew. "Only let us take Sam along."

This was done, and despite the protests of the sharpshooters they were soon out of sight. A little later White Buffalo joined them, having taken the nap already mentioned.

The trail was just as difficult to follow as before, and more than once they had to halt in perplexity, for the thickets seemed impassable.

"You must have had your own troubles in following the trail," said Henry to White Buffalo, in admiration.

"Slow work, but sure," said the Indian chief, with a little smile. "White Buffalo is growing old--he cannot follow like one whose eyes are bright."

At last they reached the cliff. Not wishing to abandon their horses, they made a detour, coming up to the Indian village by what might be termed a back way. In a thicket they tethered their steeds and once on foot each inspected his weapon to see that it was ready for use.

"Don't want any trip-up this time," said Henry, to the flint-lock he carried. "You have played me tricks enough. After this I want you to behave yourself."

It was decided that James Morris and White Buffalo should go slightly in advance--the Indian chief to point out the different parts of the village. Luckily no dogs were near to betray their approach.

To their amazement they found the village practically abandoned, only the women and children and a few very old men being present. The old chief, Mamuliekala, was likewise gone.

"What can this mean?" questioned James Morris.

"It means that the braves have flown, as fly the birds at the coming of winter," answered White Buffalo.

"Let us set a watch and make sure."

Barringford and Henry were called up, and all moved slowly from one outskirt of the village to another. Then they marched forward boldly, arousing several sleeping dogs, who began to bark loudly.

A cry went up from one of the squaws who had a pappoose in her arms, and at this half a dozen squaws and two old men showed themselves.

"Where is Mamuliekala, the Great Water Bear?" asked White Buffalo sternly.

"He has gone on a journey," answered one of the old men, his eyes shifting uneasily as he spoke.

"And where is the white prisoner who was here?"

The old man hesitated and looked for aid from the other aged Indian.

"There was no white prisoner here," said the second old Indian.

"Are you so old that you cannot remember," said White Buffalo sternly. "The white prisoner was here. Where has he gone? Answer without delay!"

"Long Knife knows not. He has been sick and asleep. When he awoke Mamuliekala and many of the braves were gone."

This was all the old man would say, and the other aged Indian said he had been away in the woods, digging roots and herbs, for three days. The stories were probably not true, but nothing was to be gained by cross-examining the pair, and White Buffalo did not try it.

"Let us search the village, and question the squaws," said he, and this was done without delay. At first but little could be learned, but at last they made out that Pontiac had been there, and also Foot-in-His-Mouth, and both had gone off during the night with Mamuliekala, taking the braves and some young white person with them. One squaw said that Foot-in-His-Mouth had said the white young man was a runaway soldier and that Pontiac meant to take him to the Fort at Detroit and claim a reward for the service.

"It was a trick--if the story is true," said James Morris.

"True or not, they certainly have taken Dave away," answered Barringford. "And that being so, all we can do is to follow them."