On the Trail of Pontiac by Edward Stratemeyer
Chapter XXX. In the Camp of the Enemy
To Dave, in the dark and foul-smelling wigwam, the time passed slowly. His mind was busy, wondering what the Indians meant to do with him. That they were enraged over the discovery of the underground storehouse was very evident. He heard them talking earnestly among themselves, but what was said, or what conclusion was reached, he could not ascertain.
Late in the evening an Indian girl brought him something to eat and a jug of water. She was rather handsome, with her glossy hair and deep dreamy eyes, and Dave wanted very much to question her. But she could speak no English, and merely shook her head and smiled when he spoke to her.
"I don't think she would try to harm me," he mused. "Wonder if I could get her to aid me?" But this last question remained unanswered, for the young pioneer never saw the Indian maiden again.
Having slipped to the bottom of the post, he fell into a troubled sleep, from which he was rudely awakened by a light kick in the side. An Indian stood there, gazing at him speculatively.
"White young man stand up and come along," grunted the red man, and released him from the post.
With stiff arms and shoulders, and knees that did not wish to move, Dave walked from the wigwam. It was early morning, and near a small camp-fire were assembled Foot-in-His-Mouth, Mamuliekala, and several others. They were eating the first meal of the day, and Dave was given a fair share of the food. When he started to talk, he was told to keep silent, and after that saw it would be useless, for the present, to say more.
The meal over, the Indians brought forth a number of horses, and soon the whole party were leaving the village, being followed by a number of braves Dave had not seen before. It was cold and raw, and the wind blew freely and more than once came a flurry of snow.
By the middle of the afternoon the party reached another village called White Bear Spring, tradition telling that a white bear had once had his den close to the spring which fed the brook that was at hand. There was but a small collection of wigwams here, and the place seemed more than half asleep when Dave and his captors came in.
While on horseback the young pioneer's hands had remained free, so that he might guide the steed through the forest and along the river bank. But now, when he dismounted, his hands were again bound behind him.
"White young man try to run away, Indian kill," said Foot-in-His-Mouth, with a frown, and after that Dave was allowed to move around the camp-fire as pleased him. But if he tried to edge toward the boundary of the village he was at once ordered back in a manner that left no room for dispute.
"They don't intend to let me get away," he thought dismally. "And yet, what good will it do them to carry me off?"
It was easy to ask himself this question, but no answer could be reached, and at length he had to give it up. He noticed that some Indians were sent out as guards and he knew that the red men were fearful that somebody had followed them.
The night was passed at White Bear Spring, and the following day the Indians split up into two parties, one moving back to the southward and the other continuing to the north. With the latter contingent went Dave and Foot-in-His-Mouth. The Indian had a long talk with Mamuliekala, and Dave saw a string of wampum passed from the old magician to the other. He also heard Pontiac's name mentioned.
A hard journey on foot now followed. The trail was over rocks and uneven ground, and more than once the young pioneer slipped and fell. The Indians were in no good humor and often pushed and struck him, urging him forward. They did not stop for dinner, and the day's tramp was not concluded until an hour after sunset, when they reached a small valley, wherein flowed a stream on its way to Lake Erie.
The coming of Foot-in-His-Mouth to this place was hailed with delight by the Indians who had erected a village there. Here were a number of huts and log cabins, showing that the red men had gone into winter quarters. Dave was thrust into a hut and told to make himself comfortable on a bundle of robes that were both dirty and full of vermin. He was given a scant supper, and in the morning his breakfast was no more substantial, and even worse cooked.
Several days followed in which nothing out of the ordinary occurred. Dave was occasionally given the freedom of the camp, at which times two braves were set to watch him. At other times, and during the night, he was forced to keep in the hut, while a red man, young or old, sat on guard at the doorway.
Winter was now coming forward rapidly, and one morning, he awoke to find the ground covered with snow to a depth of several inches. Some additional Indians had come in during the night, and the village was full of life in consequence.
Among the newcomers was Flat Nose, the rascal who had aided Jean Bevoir and Jacques Valette to make the raid on the Morris pack-train. Flat Nose listened with interest to all the other red men had to tell him, and looked at Dave when the young pioneer was eating his dinner. Then Flat Nose left the camp in a hurry, stating that he would be back the next day.
Twelve miles away was a trading-post, which in years gone by had been erected by a Frenchman named Camboyne. The Frenchman had been slain by some Indians, and for three years the post had been deserted, many white hunters and many red men believing it to be haunted. But some Indians who had not heard the story of ghosts came along once and stopped at the post, and after that Indians and whites came and went as pleased them. But everybody was afraid to do any harm to the place, or to take permanent possession, and there the dilapidated building stood until about the time of the Revolution, when a windstorm razed it to the ground.
To the so-called haunted post went Flat Nose, where he joined half a dozen of his followers of the Wanderers.
"What has become of our white brothers, Bevoir and Valette?" he asked of a fellow warrior, in his native tongue.
"They have gone away, but will be back before the sun is down," was the answer. "Why does Flat Nose ask the question?"
"I bring news of importance. The Wyandots have in their village the son of James Morris, he who has settled upon the Ohio."
"A prisoner, or to trade?"
"A prisoner. Where he was captured they will not tell, but Flat Nose thinks it must have been miles from here."
"Was Pontiac of the Ottawas at the village?" asked the other Indian.
"He was looked for by sunset. That is why I have hurried to see Jean Bevoir and his men. They may wish to question the Wyandots and Pontiac concerning young Morris."
"And what about word to fall upon the whites and slay them?"
"The time is not yet ripe, such was the word given to me by Foot-in-His-Mouth. Many of the Indians are not yet ready for the war."
"Bah! we shall never be ready!" cried the other red man in disgust, and turned away.
For the rest of the day Flat Nose waited impatiently for the coming of Bevoir and Jacques Valette. When at last he saw them approaching he ran to meet them.
As best he could he related what he had seen and heard at the Indian village. Jacques Valette listened in moody silence, but ere Flat Nose had finished a crafty look came into Jean Bevoir's face.
"Ha, it will be a master stroke!" he cried, in French. "A master stroke--if only I can get this Dave Morris in my power! Flat Nose did well to tell me."
"Perhaps we shall burn our fingers" growled Jacques Valette, who was none the brighter for having drank several glasses of liquor that afternoon.
"No, no, Jacques! Not if we keep our wits about us. I must find out why they have made him their prisoner!"
"And what think you to do then?" asked Valette, exhibiting some interest at last.
"Think? Can you not see? If Pontiac will only turn the youth over to our tender mercies, we shall hold all of the Morrises in our power."
"I see not how."
"Jacques, you are growing stupid. 'Tis as clear as glass. We are becoming hard pressed. Glotte has disappeared and Bergerac has deserted us and gone over to the enemy--"
"He should have his neck wrung for him!" muttered Valette.
"I agree. He has most likely told them everything. The English are in power--"
"But not for long, Jean, not for long!"
"About that I am not so sure. The news from France would seem to point to the fact that our country will give up everything for the sake of peace. Half of the red men are already the friends of the English, and more will follow, if France does nothing to aid Pontiac and his followers."
"Pontiac is strong--he will strike a terrible blow when all his plans are complete."
"I think that myself. But he is not yet ready, and when he is, he may find the English too strong for him. And if Pontiac fails, what will become of us? We shall be hunted down, smoked out, tracked to our final stopping place--and hanged!"
"You are a true comforter, upon my word!"
"I am not one to throw dust into my own eyes, Jacques. Can I not see what is taking place around us? Even many of our old friends shun us, not only our own countrymen, but also the Indians. They see how the wind is blowing."
"With this Dave Morris in your power, what will you do?" questioned Jacques Valette after a pause, during which Jean Bevoir began to walk up and down nervously.
"With him in our power, we shall be safe. Yes, we may even dictate terms to James Morris, the father. He will do anything to save his son--his only child."
"You mean that you will make him promise not to prosecute us?"
"Yes, and more, perhaps."
Jean Bevoir closed one eye suggestively.
"Leave that to me, Jacques. The plan is not yet clear in my mind. But one thing is certain: James Morris will do anything to save his son from harm."
"But what of that Henry Morris, and that old hunter, Barringford?"
"Both will do as James Morris wishes, for one is his nephew and the other a very close friend of the family."
"You may not be able to handle Pontiac."
"That, of course, remains to be seen. It is possible he may be glad enough to get rid of the prisoner. The game is worth the trying," went on Jean Bevoir. "And if Pontiac will not give Morris up, I have another plan," he added suddenly.
"What is that?"
"Time enough to speak of it if Pontiac refuses my request, Jacques. But I must not lose time here. Every hour may count. Will you go to the village with me, or remain with Flat Nose?"
"I will go along," answered Jacques Valette; and soon the wily pair set out on their mission.