The Free Rangers

by Joseph A. Altsheler

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Chapter II. A Forest Envoy

A group of men were seated in a pleasant valley, where the golden beams of the sun sifted in myriads through the green leaves.

They were about fifty in number and all were white. Most of them were dressed in Old World fashion, doublets, knee breeches, hose, and cocked hats. Nearly all were dark; olive faces, black hair, and black pointed beards, but now and then one had fair hair, and eyes of a cold, pale blue. Manner, speech, looks, and dress, alike differentiated them from the borderers. They were not the kind of men whom one would expect to find in these lonely woods in the heart of North America.

The leader of the company - and obviously he was such - was one of the few who belonged to the blonde type. His eyes were of the chilly, metallic blue, and his hair, long and fair, curled at the ends. His dress, of some fine, black cloth, was scrupulously neat and clean, and a silver-hilted small sword swung at his belt. He was not more than thirty.

The fair man was leaning lazily but gracefully against the trunk of a tree, and he talked in a manner that seemed indolent and careless, but which was neither to a youth in buckskins who sat opposite him, a striking contrast in appearance. This youth was undeniably of the Anglo-Saxon type, large and wellbuilt, with a broad, full forehead, but with eyes set too close together. He was tanned almost to the darkness of an Indian.

"You tell me, Senior Wyatt," said Don Francisco Alvarez, the leader of the Spanish band, that the new settlers in Kaintock* have twice driven off the allied tribes, and that, if they are left alone another year or two, they will go down so deep in the soil that they can never be uprooted. Is it not so?"

[*An early French and Spanish name for Kentucky.]

"It is so," replied Braxton Wyatt, the renegade. The tribes have failed twice in a great effort. Every man among these settlers is, a daring and skillful fighter, and many of the boys -and many of the women, too. But if white troops and cannon are sent against them their forts must fall."

The Spaniard was idly whipping the grass stems with a little switch. Now he narrowed his metallic, blue eyes, and gazed directly into those of Braxton Wyatt.

"And you, Senior Wyatt?" he said, speaking his slow, precise English. "Nothing premeditated is done without a motive. You are of these people who live in Kaintock, their blood is your blood; why then do you wish to have them destroyed?"

A deep flush broke its way through the brown tan on the face of Braxton Wyatt, and his eyes fell before the cold gaze of the Spaniard. But he raised them again in a moment. Braxton Wyatt was not a coward, and he never permitted a guilty conscience to bother him.

"I did belong to them," he replied, "but my tastes led me away. I have felt that all this mighty valley should belong to the Indians who have inhabited it so long, but, if the white people come, it should be those who are true and loyal to their kings, not these rebels of the colonies."

Francisco Alvarez smiled cynically, and once more surveyed Braxton Wyatt, with a rapid, measuring glance.

"You speak my sentiments, Senior Wyatt," he said, "and you speak them in a language that I scarcely expected."

"I had a schoolmaster even in the wilderness," said Braxton Wyatt. "And I may tell you, too, as proof of my faith that I would be hanged at once should I return to the settlements."

"I do not doubt your faith. I was merely curious about your motives. I am sure also that you can be of great help to us." He spoke in a patronizing manner, and Braxton Wyatt moved slightly in anger, but restrained his speech.

"I may say," continued the Spaniard, "that His Excellency Bernardo Galvez, His Most Catholic Majesty's Governor of his loyal province of Louisiana, has been stirred by the word that comes to him of these new settlements of the rebel Americans in the land of the Ohio: The province of Louisiana is vast, and it may be that it includes the country on either side of the Ohio. The French, our predecessors, claimed it, and now that all the colonists east of the mountains are busy fighting their king, it may be easy to take it from them, as one would snip off a skirt with a pair of scissors. That is why I and this faithful band are so far north in these woods."

Braxton Wyatt nodded.

"And a wise thing, too," he said. "I am strong with the tribes. The great chief, Yellow Panther, of the Miamis and the great chief, Red Eagle, of the Shawnees are both my friends. I know how they feel. The Spanish in New Orleans are far away. Their settlements do not spread. They come rather to hunt and trade. But the Americans push farther and farther. They build their homes and they never go back. Do you wonder then that the warriors wish your help?"

Francisco Alvarez smiled again. It was a cold but satisfied smile and he rubbed one white hand over the other.

"Your logic is good," he said, "and these reasons have occurred to me, also, but my master, Bernardo Galvez, the Governor, is troubled. We love not England and there is a party among us -a party at present in power -which wishes to help the Americans in order that we may damage England, but I, if I could choose the way would have no part in it. As surely as we help the rebels we will also create rebels against ourselves."

"You are far from New Orleans," said Braxton Wyatt, "It would take long for a messenger to go and come, and meanwhile you could act as you think best."

"It is so," said the Spaniard. "Our presence here is unknown to all save the chiefs and yourself. In this wilderness, a thousand miles from his superior, one must act according to his judgment, and I should like to see these rebel settlements crushed."

He spoke to himself rather than to Wyatt, and again his eyes narrowed. Blue eyes are generally warm and sympathetic, but his were of the cold, metallic shade that can express cruelty so well. He plucked, too, at his short, light beard, and Braxton Wyatt read his thoughts. The renegade felt a thrill of satisfaction. Here was a man who could be useful.

"How far is it from this place to the land of the Miamis and the Shawnees?" asked Alvarez.

"It must be six or seven hundred miles, but bands of both tribes are now hunting much farther west. One Shawnee party that I know of is even now west of the Mississippi."

Francisco Alvarez frowned slightly.

"It is a huge country," he said. " These great distances, annoy me. Still, one must travel them. Ah, what is it now?"

He was looking at Braxton Wyatt, as he spoke, and he saw a sudden change appear upon his face, a look of recognition and then of mingled hate and rage. The renegade was staring Northward, and the eyes of Alvarez followed his.

The Spaniard saw a man or rather a youth approaching, a straight, slender, but tall and compact figure, and a face uncommon in the wilderness, fine, delicate, with the eyes of a dreamer, and seer, but never weak. The youth came on steadily, straight toward the Spanish camp.

"Paul Cotter!" exclaimed Braxton Wyatt. "How under the sun did he come here!"

"Some one you know?" said Alvarez who heard the words.

"Yes, from the settlements of which we speak," replied Wyatt quickly and in a low tone. He had no time to add more, because Paul was now in the Spanish camp, and was gravely saluting the leader, whom he had recognized instantly to be such by his dress and manner. Francisco Alvarez rose to his feet, and politely returned the salute. He saw at once a quality in the stranger that was not wholly of the wilderness. Braxton Wyatt nodded, but Paul took no notice whatever of him. A flush broke again through the tan of the renegade's face.

"Be seated," said Alvarez, and Paul sat down on a little grassy knoll.

"You are Captain Francisco Alvarez of the Spanish forces at New Orleans?"

"You have me truly," replied the Spaniard smiling and shrugging his shoulders, "although I cannot surmise how you became aware of my presence here. But the domains of my master, the king, extend far, and his servants must travel far, also, to do his will."

Paul understood the implication in his words, but he, too' had the gift of language and diplomacy, and he did not reply to it. Stirred by deep curiosity, the Spanish soldiers were gathering a little nearer, but Alvarez waved back all but Wyatt.

"I am glad to find you here, Captain Alvarez," said Paul with a gravity beyond his years; indeed, as he spoke, his face was lighted up by that same singular look of exaltation that had passed more than once over the face of the shiftless one. "And I am glad because I have come for a reason, one of the greatest of all reasons. I want to say something, not for myself, but for others."

"Ah, an ambassador, I see," said Francisco Alvarez with a light touch of irony.

But Paul took no notice of the satire. He was far too much in earnest, and he resumed in tones impressive in their solemnity:

"I am from one of the little white villages in the Kentucky woods far to the eastward. There we have fought the wilderness and twice we have driven back strong forces of the allied tribes, although they came with great resolution and were helped moreover by treachery."

Braxton Wyatt moved angrily and was about to speak, but Paul, never glancing in his direction, went on steadily:

"These settlements cannot be uprooted now. They may be damaged. They may be made to suffer great loss and grief, but the vanguard of our people will never turn back. Neither warrior nor king can withstand it."

Now Paul's look was wholly that of the prophet.

As he said the last words, "neither warrior nor king can withstand it," his face was transfigured. He did not see the Spaniard before him, nor Braxton Wyatt, the renegade, nor the surrounding woods, but he saw instead great states and mighty cities.

The Spaniard, despite his displeasure, was impressed by the words of the youth, but he took hold of himself bodily, as it were, and shook off the spell. A challenging light sprang into his cold blue eyes.

"I do not know so much about warriors," he said, "but kings may be and are able to do what they will. If my master should choose to, put forth his strength, even to send his far-extended arm into these woods, to what would your tiny settlements amount? A pinch of sand before a puff of wind. Whiff! You are gone. Nor could your people east of the mountains help you, because they, on bended knee, will soon be receiving their own lesson from the King of England."

Francisco Alvarez snapped his fingers, as if Paul and his people were annihilated by a single derisive gesture. Paul reddened and a dangerous flash came into his eyes. But the natural diplomatist in him took control, and he replied with the utmost calmness:

"It may be so, but it is not a question that should arise. The King of Spain is at peace with us. We even hear, deep in the woods as we are, that he may take our part against England. France already is helping us. So I have come to ask you to take no share in plots against us, not to listen to evil counsels, and not to turn ear to traitors, who, having been traitors to one people, can readily be traitors to another."

Braxton Wyatt leaped to his feet, his face blazing with wrath, and his hand flew to the hilt of the knife at his belt.

"Now this is more than I will stand!" he exclaimed, "you cannot ignore me, Paul Cotter, until such time you choose, and then call me foul names!"

The Spaniard smiled. The sight of Braxton Wyatt's wrath pleased him, but he put out his hand in a detaining gesture.

"Sit down!" he said in -a tone so sharp that Wyatt obeyed. "This is no time for personal quarrels. As I see it, an embassy has come to us and we must discuss matters of state. Is it not so, Senior, Senior..."

"Cotter! Paul Cotter is my name."

Paul felt the sneer in the Spaniard's last words, but he hid his resentment.

"Then your proposition is this," continued Alvarez, "that I and my men have nothing to do with the Indians, that we make no treaty, no agreement with them, that we abandon this country and go back to New Orleans. This you propose despite the fact that the region in which we now are belongs to Spain."

"I would not put it in quite that fashion," replied Paul calmly. "I suggest instead that you be our friend. It is natural for the white races to stand together. I suggest that you send away, also, the messenger of the tribes who comes seeking your help to slaughter women and children."

Braxton Wyatt half rose, but again he was put down by the restraining gesture of Francisco Alvarez.

"No personal quarrels, as I stated before," said the Spaniard, "but to you, Senior Cotter, I wish to say that I have heard your words, but it seems to me they are without weight. I do not agree with you that the settlements of the Americans cannot be uprooted. Nor am I sure that your title to Kaintock is good. It was claimed in the beginning by France, and justly, but a great war gave it by might though not by right to England. Now Spain has succeeded to France. Here, throughout all this vast region, there is none to dispute her title. To the east of the Mississippi great changes are going on, and it may be that Kaintock, also, will revert to my master, the king."

He waved his hand in a gesture of finality, and a look of satisfaction came into Braxton Wyatt's eyes. The renegade glanced triumphantly at Paul, but Paul's face remained calm.

"You would not proceed to any act of hostility in conjunction with the tribes, when Spain and the colonies are at peace?" said Paul to the Spaniard.

Francisco Alvarez frowned, and assumed a haughty look.

"I make neither promises nor prophecies," he said.

"I have spoken courteously to you, Senior Cotter, although you are a trespasser on the Spanish domain. I have given you the hospitality of our camp, but I cannot answer questions pertaining to the policy of my government."

Paul, for the first time, showed asperity. He, too, drew himself up with a degree of haughtiness, and he looked Don Francisco Alvarez squarely in the eyes, as he replied:

"I did not come here to ask questions. I came merely to say that our nations are at peace, and to urge you not to help savages in a war upon white people."

"I do not approve of rebels," said Alvarez.

Paul was silent. He felt instinctively that his mission had failed. Something cold and cruel about the Spaniard repelled him, and he believed, too, that Braxton Wyatt had not been without a sinister influence.

Alvarez arose and walked over to his camp-fire. Braxton Wyatt followed him and whispered rapidly to the Spaniard. Paul, persistent and always hopeful, was putting down his anger and trying to think of other effective words that he might use. But none would come into his head, and he, too, rose.

"I am sorry that we cannot agree, Captain Alvarez," he said with the grave courtesy that became him so well, "and therefore I will bid you, good day."

A thin smile passed over the face of the Spaniard, and the blue eyes shed a momentary, metallic gleam.

"I pray you not to be in haste, Senior Cotter." he said. "Be our guest for a while."

"I must go," replied Paul, "although I thank you for the courtesy."

"But, we cannot part with you now," said the Spaniard, "you are on Spanish soil. Others of you kind may be near, also, and you and they have come uninvited. I would know more about it."

"You mean that you will detain me?" said Paul in surprise.

The Spaniard delicately stroked his pointed beard, "Perhaps that is the word," he replied. "As I said, you have trespassed upon our domain, and must hold you, for a time, at least. I know not what plot is afoot."

"As a prisoner?"

"If you wish to call it so."

"And yet there is no war between your country and mine!"

The Spaniard delicately stroked his pointed beard again.

Paul looked at him accusingly, and Francisco Alvarez unable to sustain his straight gaze, turned his eyes aside. But Braxton Wyatt's face was full of triumph, although he kept silent. Paul thought rapidly. It seemed to him a traitorous design and he did not doubt that Wyatt had instigated it, but he must submit at present. He was powerless inside a ring of fifty soldiers. Without a word, he sat down again on the little grassy knoll and it pleased Alvarez to affect a great politeness, and to play with his prisoner as a cat with a mouse. He insisted that he eat and he made his men bring him the tenderest of food, deer meat and wild turkey, and fish, freshly caught. Finally he opened a flask and poured wine in a small silver cup.

"It is the wine of Xeres, Senior Cotter," he said, "and you can judge how precious it is, as it must be a full five thousand miles from- its birthplace."

He handed the little cup in grandiose manner to Paul, and Paul, meeting his humor, accepted it in like fashion. He had not tasted wine often in his life and he found it a strong fluid, but, in this crisis, it strengthened him and put a new sparkle in his blood.

"Thanks," he said as he politely returned the empty cup, and resumed his seat on the knoll. Then Alvarez walked aside, and talked again in whispers with the renegade.

Wyatt urged that Paul be held indefinitely. He would not talk at first, but they must get from him the fullest details about the settlements in Kentucky, the weak points, where to attack and when. If the settlements were left alone they would certainly spread all over Kentucky and in time across the Mississippi into the Spanish domain. Spain was far away, and she could not drive them back. But the Spaniards could urge on the tribes again, and with a hidden hand, send them arms and ammunition. White men with cannon could even join the warriors, and Spain might convincingly say that she knew nothing of it.

The words of the renegade pleased Francisco Alvarez. Deep down in his crafty heart he loved intrigue and cunning.

"Yes, we'll hold him," he said. "He is a trespasser here, although I will admit that he is not the kind of person that I expected to find in the heart of this vast wilderness."

He glanced at Paul, who was sitting on the knoll, calm and apparently unconcerned, his fine features at rest, his blue eyes lazily regarding the forest. The blue of Paul's eyes was different from the blue of the eyes of Alvarez. The blue of his was deep, warm, and sympathetic.

"Is it likely that Cotter is alone?" Alvarez asked of Wyatt.

"Not at all," replied the renegade. "He has friends, and I warn you that they are able and dangerous. We must be on our watch against them."

"What friends?" asked the Spaniard incredulously.

"There is a group. They are five. Where one of them is, the other four are not likely to be far away. There is Cotter's comrade, Henry Ware, a little older, and larger and stronger, wonderful in the woods! He surpasses the Indians themselves in cunning and craft. Then comes Sol Hyde, whom they call the shiftless one, but swift and cunning, and much to be dreaded. Look out for him when he is pretending to be most harmless. And then Tom Ross, who has been a hunter and guide all his life, and the one they call Long Jim, the swiftest runner in the wilderness. Oh, I know them all!"

"Perhaps you have had cause to know them well," said the Spaniard in a sardonic tone - he was a keen reader of character, and he understood Braxton Wyatt.

But Braxton Wyatt ignored the taunt in his anxiety.

"They must not be taken too lightly," he said. "They are somewhere in these woods, and, Captain, I warn you once more against them."

The Spaniard smiled in his superior way, and, turning to his men, began to give directions for the camp that night. Sunset was not far away, and they would remain in the glade. His was too strong a force to fear attack in that isolated region, but Alvarez posted sentinels, and ordered the others to sleep, when the time came, in a wide ring about the fire. Within the ring he and Paul and Wyatt sat, and the Spaniard, maintaining his light, ironic humor, talked much. Paul, if addressed directly by Alvarez, always answered, but he persistently ignored the renegade. Such a being filled him with horror, and once, when Wyatt gave him a look of deadly hate, Paul shot back one of his own, fully a match for it. But that was all.

Night came on fast. The red sun shot down. Darkness fell upon the forest, and swept up to the circling rim of the camp fire. Chill came into the air. The Spaniards shivered and crept a little nearer to the coals. Talk ceased, and, out of the illimitable for st, came the low, moaning sound of the wind among the leaves. The great stars sprang out, and shone with a thin, pale light on the wilderness.

Francisco Alvarez was a brave man, but he was born on sunny plains where he basked in warmth and the eye ranged far. Now, despite himself, he felt a chill that was uncanny. The forest, thick and black, spread away, he knew, for hundreds of miles, and neither city nor town broke it. A fervent imagination leaped up and peopled it with weird beings. Nor would imagination go down before will and knowledge. Boughs twisted themselves into fantastic, hideous shapes, and the moan of the wind was certainly like the cry of a soul in torment.

Don Francisco Alvarez shivered and the shiver became a shudder. He looked across the fire at his prisoner, but Paul seemed unconscious of the forest and the night, and the demon spell of the two. The lad sat immovable. Upon his face was the dreamy, mystic look that so often came there. He seemed to be gazing far beyond the Spaniard and the renegade into some greater future. Francisco Alvarez, brave man though he was, felt awe. He rose impatiently, kicked a coal deeper into the fire, looked once more at Paul, who was yet silent, and spoke sharply to the sentinels. Then he returned to his place, and said to Paul:

"We offer you the hospitality of the forest and an extra blanket if you wish it."

"It's a hospitality to which I'm used," replied Paul, "and I don't need the extra blanket, although I thank you for the offer."

He took his own blanket from the little pack at his back, wrapped himself in it, pillowed his head on the knoll, and closed his eyes. Francisco Alvarez looked at him for some minutes, and could not tell whether he was sleeping or waking, but he thought that he slept. His long, regular breathing and the expression of his face, as peaceful as that of a little child, indicated it. The night grew chillier. The great stars remained pale and cold, and the forest continued to whine, as that strange, wandering breeze slipped through the leaves. Francisco Alvarez of the sunny plains wished that it would stop. It got upon his nerves, and the feeling it gave him was singularly like that of an evil conscience. He saw his men fall to sleep one by one, and he heard their heavy breathing. Braxton Wyatt also wrapped himself in his blanket and soon slumbered. The fire sank, the coals crumbled, and with soft little hisses, fell together. The circling rim of darkness crept up closer and closer, and the trunks of the trees became ghostly in, the shadows.

Alvarez saw his sentinels at either side of the camp, to right and left, walking back and forth, and he knew also that they would watch well. Time passed. The night darkened and then a wan moon came out, casting a ghostly, gray shadow over the measureless black forest. The great stars, pale and cold, danced in a dusky blue. Faint moans came out of the depths of the wilderness, as a stray wind wandered here and there among the leaves. Francisco Alvarez, resolute and self contained though he was, could not sleep. He had taken a bold step in holding the messenger of peace, and, although one might do much a thousand wilderness miles from the seat of his authority, he was nevertheless anxious to have the full support of Bernardo Galvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana.

Royalist to the marrow, he wished the colonists to be defeated by their mother country, and he wished, moreover, that Spain might make secure a title to all the immense regions in the valley. If he could skillfully commit Spain to a quarrel with the settlers much might be done for the cause in which his heart was enlisted.

He foresaw the truth of Paul's warning that in a little while nothing could uproot the settlers in Kentucky. A blow at them, if it would destroy, must fall quickly, and he meant that the blow should be given.

His anxiety weighed heavily upon him and the wilderness at night grew more uncanny. Sleep refused to come. The coals sank lower. One by one they gleamed with the last fitful sparks of dying fire and then went out. The two sentinels, one to the right and one to the left, had sat down now upon fallen logs, but Alvarez knew that they were still watching with care - they would not dare to do otherwise. All the rest but Alvarez slept.

The Spaniard looked at Braxton Wyatt as he lay in his blanket, one arm under his head, and his lip curled. He despised him, and yet he could be very useful. He would have to work with him and he must treat him at least with superficial politeness. Then he looked at the prisoner. Paul, too, slept soundly, his fine face thrown into relief in the wan moonlight, every sensitive feature revealed. Alvarez wondered again that he should find a youth of such classic countenance and cultivated mind in the deep forest. The wandering breeze ceased, and the wilderness fell into silence so deep and heavy that it preyed upon the nerves of the Spaniard. Then, out of the stillness came a long, plaintive note, wailing, but musical, full of a quality that made it seem to Alvarez weird and ominous.

"Only the howl of a wolf," muttered the Spaniard, who recognized the long-drawn cry. But it made him shiver a little, nevertheless. He alone was awake, except the sentinels, and he felt like a tiny, lost speck in all the vast wilderness. A second time came the cry of the wolf, and then it was repeated a third and a fourth time. After the fourth it ceased.

The four cries were so distinct, so equal in length, and repeated at such regular intervals that they seemed to Francisco Alvarez like set notes. He listened intently, but they did not come again. He glanced at the prisoner but Paul had not stirred, the moon's rays illuminating his face with a pale light. The renegade, too, slept soundly.

Alvarez wrapped himself in his blanket after the fashion of the others, and lay down, but still sleep would not come. He knew that it was far in the night and he wished to be rested and fresh for the next day, but he lay awake, nevertheless. A half hour passed, and then came that plaintive cry of the wolf again. As before, it seemed to be wonderfully distinct and full of character, but it was nearer now.

Francisco Alvarez raised himself on his elbow, and heard it a second and then a third and fourth time. After that only the heavy silence of the forest.

"The same as before," murmured the Spaniard to himself. "The wolf howled four times. What a coincidence! Bah, I'm becoming a superstitious fool!"

He resolutely closed his eyes and sought slumber once more. It was far past midnight now, and weary nature began at last her task. His nerves were soothed. A soft breeze fanned his eyelids with drowsy wing, the forest wavered, swam away, and he slept.

Red dawn was coming when Francisco Alvarez awoke. The fire was dead and cold, and the men around it yet slumbered. The two sentinels, one to the right and one to the left, still sat on the logs, backs toward him. He took one glance to see if the prisoner, too, slept, and then he leaped to his feet with a cry. The prisoner was not there! Nor was he anywhere in the camp.

"Up I up! you rascals!" shouted the Spaniard. "The boy is gone! escaped. Luiz, Pedro, in what manner have you watched!"

He rushed to the sentinel on the right, Luiz, and struck him sharply across the back with the flat of his sword.

"Wretch!" he cried, "you have slept!" and he struck him again.

Luiz did not stir, even under the sharp blow. He remained sitting on the log, back to his chief, shoulders bent forward, as if he were in a slumber too profound to be disturbed by anything short of a crash of thunder in his ear.

Alvarez, furious with anger, seized him by the shoulder and dragged him back. Then he uttered another cry, in which rage and surprise were mingled in equal portions. But Luiz, the sentinel, still said nothing. He could not. A gag was fixed firmly in his mouth, his arms were bound to his side, his legs to the tree on which he sat, and his rifle had been left standing between his knees and against his shoulder, as if held by one who watched. The unfortunate sentinel gazed up at his chief with wide-open, appealing eyes, and, leaving him with the men, who were now crowding around he ran to the other sentinel, Pedro, only to find him gagged and bound, exactly like his comrade. It was some minutes before either could speak, after they were cut loose and their gags removed, and then their tales were the same.

"I watched, I watched well, Captain," said Luiz, "by the Holy Virgin I swear it. I Never in this whole terrible night, not for a moment, have my eyes closed. I saw nothing, I heard nothing but a wolf howling in the forest, and then, long after midnight, I was suddenly seized from behind by powerful hands. I could not move, so strong were they. I was gagged and bound and I could see only the phantom figures of the men who did it. I know no more."

Pedro, with many supplications, repeated the tale, and Francisco Alvarez was forced to believe them, although he cursed them for carelessness, and promised them punishment.

Braxton Wyatt had remained silent, although his face showed deep disappointment. Presently, when the turmoil had died down, he said in a low voice to Alvarez:

"What was it that the sentinel said about hearing the howl of a wolf?"

"I heard it myself," replied Alvarez. "It was about midnight, when a wolf to the north howled four times. An hour or so later I heard it again, somewhat nearer and somewhat to the west, when it howled four times as before."

"Ah!" said Braxton Wyatt.

It was a short exclamation, but it was so full of significance that the Spaniard in surprise, asked him what he meant.

"Four cries," replied the renegade, "and he had four friends, of whom I told you to beware. I told you what they were, what cunning and skill they have, but you would not believe me and you must now! Cotter heard the four cries. He was not asleep and he understood!"

Braxton Wyatt, despite his annoyance at Paul's escape, felt a moment of triumph. His warning had come true. He had been wiser than this Spaniard who had patronized and insulted him.

"We will deal with these people yet," said Francisco Alvarez angrily as he turned away.

"I hope so," replied Braxton Wyatt.

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