The Hunters of the Hills

by Joseph A. Altsheler

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter IV. The Intelligent Canoe

Lennox, Willet and Tayoga fell asleep, one by one, and the Onondaga was the last to close his eyes. Then the three, wrapped in their blankets, lay in complete darkness on the stone shelf, with the canoe beside them. They were no more than the point of a pin in the vast wilderness that stretched unknown thousands of miles from the Hudson to the Pacific, apparently as lost to the world as the sleepers in a cave ages earlier, when the whole earth was dark with forest and desert.

Although the storm could not reach them it beat heavily for long hours while they slept. The sweep of the rain maintained a continuous driving sound. Boughs cracked and broke beneath it. The waters of the river, swollen by the floods of tributary creeks and brooks, rose fast, bearing upon their angry surface the wreckage of trees, but they did not reach the stone shelf upon which the travelers lay.

Tayoga awoke before the morning, while it was yet so dark that his trained eyes could see but dimly the figures of his comrades. He sat up and listened, knowing that he must depend for warning upon his hearing, which had been trained to extreme acuteness by the needs of forest life. All three of them were great wilderness trailers and scouts, but Tayoga was the first of the three. Back of him lay untold generations that had been compelled to depend upon the physical senses and the intuition that comes from their uttermost development and co-ordination. Now, Tayoga, the product of all those who had gone before, was also their finest flower.

He had listened at first, resting on his elbow, but after a minute or two he sat up. He heard the rushing of the rain, the crack of splintering boughs, the flowing of the rising river, and the gurgling of its waters as they lapped against the stone shelf. They would not enter it he knew, as he had observed that the highest marks of the floods lay below them.

The sounds made by the rain and the river were steady and unchanged. But the intuition that came from the harmonious working of senses, developed to a marvelous degree, sounded a warning note. A danger threatened. He did not know what the danger was nor whence it would come, but the soul of the Onondaga was alive and every nerve and muscle in his body was attuned for any task that might lie before him. He looked at his sleeping comrades. They did not stir, and their long, regular breathing told him that no sinister threat was coming to them.

But Tayoga never doubted. The silent and invisible warning, like a modern wireless current, reached him again. Now, he knelt at the very edge of the shelf, and drew his long hunting knife. He tried to pierce the darkness with his eyes, and always he looked up the stream in the direction in which they had come. He strained his ears too to the utmost, concentrating the full powers of his hearing upon the river, but the only sounds that reached him were the flowing of the current, the bubbling of the water at the edges, and its lapping against a tree or bush torn up by the storm and floating on the surface of the stream.

The Onondaga stepped from the shelf, finding a place for his feet in crevices below, the water rising almost to his knees, and leaned farther forward to listen. One hand held firmly to a projection of stone above and the other clasped the knife.

Tayoga maintained the intense concentration of his faculties, as if he had drawn them together in an actual physical way, until they bore upon one point, and he poured so much strength and vitality into them that he made the darkness thin away before his eyes and he heard noises of the water that had not come to him before.

A broken bough, a bush and a sapling washed past. Then came a tree, and deflecting somewhat from the current it floated toward the shelf. Leaning far over and extending the hand that held the knife, Tayoga struck. When the blade came back it was red and the young Onondaga uttered a tremendous war whoop that rang and echoed in the confines of the stony hollow.

Lennox and Willet sprang to their feet, all sleep driven away at once, and instinctively grasped their rifles.

"What is it, Tayoga?" exclaimed the startled Willet.

"The attack of the savage warriors," replied the Onondaga. "One came floating on a tree. He thought to slay us as we slept and take away our scalps, but the river that brought him living has borne him away dead."

"And so they know we're here," said the hunter, "and your watchfulness has saved us. Well, Tayoga, it's one more deed for which we have to thank you, but I think you'd better get back on the shelf. They can fire from the other side, farther up, and although it would be at random, a bullet or two might strike here."

The Onondaga swung himself back and all three flattened themselves against the rock. After Tayoga's triumphant shout there was no sound save those of the river and the rain. But Robert expected it. He knew the horde would be quiet for a while, hoping for a surprise the second time after the first one had failed.

"It was bold," he said, "for a single warrior to come floating down the stream in search of us."

"But it would have succeeded if Tayoga hadn't been awake," said the hunter. "One warrior could have knifed us all at his leisure."

"Where do you think they are now?"

"They must be crouched in the shelter of rocks. If they had nothing over them the storm would take the fighting spirit for the time out of savages, even wild for scalps. I'm mighty glad we have the canoe. It holds the food we need for a siege, and if the chance for escape comes it will bear us away. I think, Tayoga, I can see a figure stirring among the boulders on the other side farther up."

"I see two," said the Onondaga, "and doubtless there are others whom we cannot see. Keep close, my friends, I think they are going to fire."

A dozen rifles were discharged from a point about a hundred yards away, the exploding powder making red dots in the darkness, the bullets rattling on the stone cliff or sending up little spurts of water from the river. The volley was followed by a shrill, fierce war whoop, and then nothing was heard but the flowing of the river and the rushing of the rain.

"You are not touched?" said Tayoga, and Robert and Willet quickly answered in the negative.

"They don't know just which way to aim their guns," said Willet, "and so long as we keep quiet now they won't learn. That shout of yours, Tayoga, was not enough to tell them."

"But they must remember about where the hollow is, although they can't pull trigger directly upon it, owing to the darkness and storm," said Robert.

"That about sums it up, my boy," said the hunter. "If they do a lot of random firing the chances are about a hundred to one they won't hit us, and the Indians don't have enough ammunition to waste that way."

"I don't suppose we can launch the canoe and slip away in it?"

"No, it would be swamped by the rain and the flood. It's likely, too, that they're on watch for us farther down the stream."

"Then this is our home and fortress for an indefinite time, and, that being the case, I'm going to make myself as easy as I can."

He drew the blanket under his body again and lay on his elbow, but he held his rifle before him, ready for battle at an instant's notice. His feeling of comfort returned and with it the sense of safety. The bullets of the savages had gone so wild and the darkness was so deep that their shelter appeared to him truly as a fortress which no numbers of besiegers could storm.

"Do you think they'll try floating down the stream on trees or logs again, Tayoga?" he asked.

"No, the danger is too great," replied the Onondaga. "They know now that we're watching."

An hour passed without any further sign from the foe. The rain decreased somewhat in violence, but, as the wind rose, its rush and sweep made as much sound as ever. Then the waiting was broken by scattering shots, accompanied by detached war whoops, as if different bands were near. From their shelter they watched the red dots that marked the discharges from the rifles, but only one bullet came near them, and after chipping a piece of stone over their heads it dropped harmlessly to the floor.

"That was the one chance out of a hundred," said Willet, "and now we're safe from the next ninety-nine bullets."

"I trust the rule will work," said Robert.

"I wish you'd hold my left hand in a firm grip," said Willet.

"I will, but why?" returned the youth.

"If I get a chance I'm going to drag up some of that dead and floating wood and lay it along the edge of the shelf. In the dark the savages can't pick us off, but we'll need a barrier in the morning."

"You're right, Dave, of course. I'm sorry I didn't think of it myself."

"One of us thought of it, and that's enough. Hold my hand hard, Robert. Don't let your grip slip."

By patient waiting and help from the others Willet was able to draw up two logs of fair size, and some smaller pieces which they placed carefully on the edge of the stone shelf. Lying flat behind them, they would be almost hidden, and now they could await the coming of daylight with more serenity.

A long time passed. The three ate strips of the deer meat, and Robert even slept for a short while. He awoke to find a further decrease in the rain, although the river was still rising, and Tayoga and Willet were of the opinion that it would stop soon, a belief that was justified in an hour. Robert soon afterward saw the clouds move away, and disclose a strip of dark blue sky, into which the stars began to come one by one.

"The night will grow light soon," said Tayoga, "then it will darken again for a little time before the coming of the day."

"And we've built our breastwork none too soon," said Willet. "There'll be so many stars by and by that those fellows can pick out our place and send their bullets to it. What do you think, Tayoga? Is it just a band taking the chance to get some scalps, or are they sent out by the Governor General of Canada to do wicked work in the forest and then be disowned if need be?"

"I cannot tell," replied the Onondaga. "Much goes on in the land of Onontio at Stadacona (Quebec). He talks long in whispers with the northern chiefs, and often he does not let his left ear know what the right ear hears. Onontio moves in the night, while Corlear sleeps."

"That may be so, Tayoga, but whether it's so or not I like our straightforward English and American way best. We may blunder along for a while and lose at first, but to be open and honest is to be strong."

"I did not say the ways of Corlear would prevail. It is not the talk of Corlear that will keep the Hodenosaunee faithful to the English side, but it is the knowledge of the fifty sachems that when Onontio is speaking in a voice of honey he is to be trusted the least."

Willet laughed.

"I understand, Tayoga," he said. "You're for us not because you have so much faith in Corlear, but because you have less in Onontio. Well, it's a good enough reason, I suppose. But all Frenchmen are not tricksters. Most of 'em are brave, and when they're friends they're good and true. About all I've got to say against 'em is that they're willing to shut their eyes to the terrible things their allies do in their name. But I've had a lot to do with 'em on the border, and you can get to like 'em. Now, that St. Luc we met was a fine upstanding man."

"But if an enemy, an enemy to be dreaded," said Tayoga with his usual gravity.

"I wouldn't mind that if it came to war. In such cases the best men make the best enemies, I suppose. He had a sharp eye. I could see how he measured us, and reckoned us up, but he looked most at Robert here."

"His sharp eye recognized that I was the most important of the three," said Robert lightly.

"Every fellow is mighty important to himself," said Willet, "and he can't get away from it. Tayoga, do you think you see figures moving on the other bank there, up the stream?"

"Two certainly, others perhaps, Great Bear," replied the Onondaga. "I might reach one with my rifle."

"Don't try it, Tayoga. We're on the defense, and we'll let 'em make all the beginnings. The sooner they shoot away their ammunition the better it will be for us. I think they'll open fire pretty soon now, because the night is growing uncommon bright. The stars are so big and shining, and there are so many of them they all look as if they had come to a party. Flatten yourselves down, boys! I can see a figure kneeling by a bowlder and that means one shot, if not more."

They lay close and Robert was very thankful now for the logs they had dragged up from the water, as they afforded almost complete shelter. The crouching warrior farther up the stream fired, and his bullet struck the hollow above their heads.

"A better aim than they often show," said Willet.

More shots were fired, and one buried itself in the log in front of Robert. He heard the thud made by the bullet as it entered, and once more he was thankful for their rude breastwork. But it was the only one that struck so close and presently the savages ceased their fire, although the besieged three were still able to see them in the brilliant moonlight among the bowlders.

"They're getting a bit too insolent," said the hunter. "Maybe they think it's a shorter distance from them to us than it is from us to them, and that our bullets would drop before they got to 'em. I think, Tayoga, I'll prove that it's not so."

"Choose the man at the edge of the water," said Tayoga. "He has fired three shots at us, and we should give him at least one in return."

"I'll pay the debt, Tayoga."

Robert saw the warrior, his head and shoulders and painted chest appearing above the stone. The distance was great for accuracy, but the light was brilliant, and the rifle of the hunter rose to his shoulder. The muzzle bore directly upon the naked chest, and when Willet pulled the trigger a stream of fire spurted from the weapon.

The savage uttered a cry, shot forward and fell into the stream. His lifeless body tossed like dead wood on the swift current, reappeared and floated by the little fortress of the three. Robert shuddered as he saw the savage face again, and then he saw it no more.

The savages uttered a shout of grief and rage over the loss of the warrior, but the besieged were silent. Willet, as he reloaded his rifle, gave it an affectionate little pat or two.

"It's a good weapon," he said, "and with a fair light I was sure I wouldn't miss. We've given 'em fair warning that they've got a nest of panthers here to deal with, and that when they attack they're taking risks. Can you see any of 'em now, Tayoga?"

"All have taken to cover. There is not one among them who is willing to face again the rifle of the Great Bear."

Willet smiled with satisfaction at the compliment. He was proud of his sharp-shooting, and justly so, but he said modestly:

"I had a fair target, and it will do for a warning. I think we can look for another long rest now."

The dark period that precedes the dawn came, and then the morning flashed over the woods. Robert, from the hollow, looking across the far shore, saw lofty, wooded hills and back of them blue mountains. Beads of rain stood on the leaves, and the wilderness seemed to emerge, fresh and dripping, from a glorious bath. Pleasant odors of the wild came to him, and now he felt the sting of imprisonment there among the rocks. He wished they could go at once on their errand. It was a most unfortunate chance to have been found there by the Indians and to be held indefinitely in siege. The flooded river would have borne them swiftly in their canoe toward the St. Lawrence.

"Mourning, Robert?" said Willet who noticed his face.

"For the moment, yes," admitted young Lennox, "but it has passed. I wanted to be going on this lively river and through the green wood, but since I have to wait I can do it."

"I feel the same way about it, and we're lucky to have such a fort as the one we are in. I think the savages will hang on here for a long while. Indians always have plenty of time. That's why they're more patient than white men. Like as not we won't get a peep out of them all the morning."

"Lennox feels the beauty of the day," said Tayoga, "and that's why he wants to leave the hollow and go into the woods. But if Lennox will only think he'll know that other days as fine will come."

The eye of the young Onondaga twinkled as he delivered his jesting advice.

"I'll be as patient as I can," replied Robert in the same tone, "but tomorrow is never as good as today. I wait like you and Dave only because I have to do so."

"In the woods you must do as the people who live there do," said the hunter philosophically. "They learn how to wait when they're young. We don't know how long we'll be here. A little more of the deer, Tayoga. It's close to the middle of the day now and we must keep our strength. I wish we had better water than that of a flooded and muddy river to drink, but it's water, anyhow."

They ate, drank and refreshed themselves and another long period of inaction followed. The warriors--at intervals--fired a few shots but they did no damage. Only one entered the hollow, and it buried itself harmlessly in their wooden barrier. They suffered from nothing except the soreness and stiffness that came from lying almost flat and so long in one position. The afternoon, cloudless and brilliant, waned, and the air in the recess grew warm and heavy. Had it not been for the necessity of keeping guard Robert could have gone to sleep again. The flood in the river passed its zenith and was now sinking visibly. No more trees or bushes came floating on the water. Willet showed disappointment over the failure of the besiegers to make any decided movement.

"I was telling you, Robert, a while ago," he said, "that Indians mostly have a lot of time, but I'm afraid the band that's cornered us here has got too much. They may send out a warrior or two to hunt, and the others may sit at a distance and wait a week for us to come out. At least it looks that way to a 'possum up a tree. What do you think of it, Tayoga?"

"The Great Bear is right," replied the Onondaga. "He is always right when he is not wrong."

"Come now, Tayoga, are you making game of me?"

"Not so, my brother, because the Great Bear is nearly always right and very seldom wrong. It is given only to Manitou never to be wrong."

"That's better, Tayoga. If I can keep up a high average of accuracy I'm satisfied."

Tayoga's English was always precise and a trifle bookish, like that of a man speaking a language he has learned in a school, which in truth was the case with the Onondaga. Like the celebrated Thayendanegea, the Mohawk, otherwise known as Joseph Brant, he had been sent to a white school and he had learned the English of the grammarian. Willet too spoke in a manner much superior to that of the usual scout and hunter.

"If the Indians post lines out of range and merely maintain a watch what will we do?" asked Robert. "I, for one, don't want to stay here indefinitely."

"Nor do any of us," replied Willet. "We ought to be moving. A long delay here won't help us. We've got to think of something."

The two, actuated by the same impulse, looked at Tayoga. He was very thoughtful and presently glanced up at the heavens.

"What does the Great Bear think of the sky?" he asked.

"I think it's a fine sky, Tayoga," Willet replied with a humorous inflection. "But I've always admired it, whether it's blue or gray or just black, spangled with stars."

Tayoga smiled.

"What does the Great Bear think of the sky?" he repeated. "Do the signs say to him that the coming night will be dark like the one that has just gone before?"

"They say it will be dark, Tayoga, but I don't believe we'll have the rain again."

"We do not want the rain, but we do want the dark. Tonight when the moon and stars fail to come we must leave the hollow."

"By what way, Tayoga?"

The Onondaga pointed to the river.

"We have the canoe," he said.

"But if they should hear or see us we'd make a fine target in it," said Robert.

"We won't be in it," said the Onondaga, "although our weapons and clothes will."

"Ah, I understand! We're to launch the canoe, put in it everything including our clothes, except ourselves, and swim by the side of it. Three good swimmers are we, Tayoga, and I believe we can do it."

The Onondaga looked at Willet, who nodded his approval.

"The chances will favor us, and we'd better try it," he said, "that is, if the night is dark, as I think it will be."

"Then it is agreed," said Robert.

"It is so," said Tayoga.

No more words were needed, and they strengthened their hearts for the daring attempt, waiting patiently for the afternoon to wane and die into the night, which, arrived moonless and starless and heavy with dark, as they had hoped and predicted. Just before, a little spasmodic firing came from the besiegers, but they did not deign to answer. Instead they waited patiently until the night was far advanced and then they prepared quickly for running the gauntlet, a task that would require the greatest skill, courage and presence of mind. Robert's heart beat hard. Like the others he was weary of the friendly hollow that had served them so well, and the murmuring of the river, as it flowed, invited them to come on and use it as the road of escape.

The three took off all their clothing and disposed everything carefully in the canoe, laying the rifles on top where they could be reached with a single swift movement of the arm. Then they stared up and down the stream, and listened with all their powers of hearing. No savage was to be seen nor did anyone make a sound that reached the three, although Robert knew they lay behind the rocks not so very far away.

"They're not stirring, Tayoga," whispered the hunter. "Perhaps they think we don't dare try the river, and in this case as in most others the boldest way is the best. Take the other end of the canoe, and we'll lift it down gently."

He and the Onondaga lowered the canoe so slowly that it made no splash when it took the water, and then the three lowered themselves in turn, sinking into the stream to their throats.

"Keep close to the bank," whispered the hunter, "and whatever you do don't make any splash as you swim."

The three were on the side of the craft next to the cliff and their heads did not appear above its side. Then the canoe moved down the stream at just about the speed of the current, and no human hands appeared, nor was any human agency visible. It was just a wandering little boat, set adrift upon the wilderness waters, a light shell, but with an explorer's soul. It moved casually along, keeping nearest to the cliff, the safest place for so frail a structure, hesitating two or three times at points of rocks, but always making up its mind to go on once more, and see where this fine but strange river led.

Luckily it was very dark by the cliff. The shadows fell there like black blankets, and no eye yet rested upon the questing canoe which kept its way, idly exploring the reaches of the river. Gasna Gaowo, this bark canoe of red elm, was not large, but it was a noble specimen of its kind, a forest product of Onondaga patience and skill. On either side near the prow was painted in scarlet a great eagle's eye, and now the two large red eyes of the canoe gazed ahead into the darkness, seeking to pierce the unknown.

The canoe went on with a gentle, rocking motion made by the current, strayed now and then a little way from the cliff, but always came back to it. The pair of great red eyes stared at the cliff so close and at the other cliff farther away and at the middle of the stream, which was now tranquil and unruffled by the wreckage of the forest blown into the water by the storm. The canoe also looked into one or two little coves, and seeing nothing there but the river edge bubbling against the stone, went on, came to a curve, rounded it in an easy, sauntering but skillful fashion, and entered a straight reach of the stream.

So far the canoe was having a lone and untroubled journey. The river widening now and flowing between descending banks was wholly its own, but clinging to the habit it had formed when it started it still hung to the western bank. The night grew more and more favorable to the undiscovered voyage it wished to make. Masses of clouds gathered and hovered over that particular river, as if they had some especial object in doing so, and they made the night so dark that the red eyes of the canoe, great in size though they were, could see but a little way down the stream. Yet it kept on boldly and there was a purpose in its course. Often it seemed to be on the point of recklessly running against the rocky shore, but always it sheered off in time, and though its advance was apparently casual it was moving down the stream at a great rate.

The canoe had gone fully four hundred yards when an Abenaki warrior on the far side of the river caught a glimpse of a shadow moving in the shadow of the bank, and a sustained gaze soon showed to him that it was a canoe, and, in his opinion, a derelict, washed by the flood from some camp a long distance up the stream. He watched it for a little while, and was then confirmed in his opinion by its motion as it floated lazily with the current.

The darkness was not too great to keep the Abenaki from seeing that it was a good canoe, a fine shell of Iroquois make, and canoes were valuable. He had not been able to secure any scalp, which was a sad disappointment, and now Manitou had sent this stray craft to him as a consolation prize. He was not one to decline the gifts of the gods, and he ran along the edge of the cliff until he came to a low point well ahead of the canoe. Then he put his rifle on the ground, dropped lightly into the stream, and swam with swift sure strokes for the derelict.

As the warrior approached he saw that his opinion of the canoe was more than justified. It had been made with uncommon skill and he admired its strong, graceful lines. It was not often that such a valuable prize came to a man and asked to be taken. He reached it and put one hand upon the side. Then a heavy fist stretched entirely over the canoe and struck him such a mighty blow upon the jaw that he sank senseless, and when he revived two minutes later on a low bank where the current had cast him, he did not know what had happened to him.

Meanwhile the uncaptured canoe sailed on in lonely majesty down the stream.

"That was a shrewd blow of yours, Dave," said Robert. "You struck fairly upon his jaw bone."

"It's not often that I fight an Indian with my fists, and the chance having come I made the most of it," said the hunter. "He may have been a sentinel set to watch for just such an attempt as we are making, but it's likely they thought if we made a dash for it we'd be in the canoe."

"It was great wisdom for us to swim," said Tayoga. "Another sentinel seeing the canoe may also think it was washed away somewhere and is merely floating on the waters. I can see a heap of underbrush that has gathered against a projecting point, and the current would naturally bring the canoe into it. Suppose we let it rest there until it seems to work free by the action of the water, and then go on down the river."

"It's a good idea, Tayoga, but it's a pretty severe test to remain under fire, so to speak, in order to deceive your enemy, when the road is open for you to run away."

"But we can do it, all three of us," said Tayoga, confidently.

A spit of high ground projected into the river and in the course of time enough driftwood brought by the stream and lodged there had made a raft of considerable width and depth, against which the canoe in its wandering course lodged. But it was evident that its stay in such a port would be but temporary, as the current continually pushed and sucked at it, and the light craft quivered and swayed continually under the action of the current.

The three behind the canoe thrust themselves back into the mass of vegetation, reckless of scratches, and were hidden completely for the time. Since he was no longer kept warm by the act of swimming Robert felt the chill of the water entering his bones. His physical desire to shiver he controlled by a powerful effort of the will, and, standing on the bottom with his head among the boughs, he remained quiet.

None of the three spoke and in a few minutes a warrior on the other side of the stream, watching in the bushes, saw the dim outline of the canoe in the darkness. He came to the edge of the water and looked at it attentively. It was apparent to him, as it had been to the other savage, that it was a stray canoe, and valuable, a fine prize for the taking. But he was less impulsive than the first man had been and at that point the river spread out to a much greater width. He did not know that his comrade was lying on the bank farther up in a half stunned condition, but he was naturally cautious and he stared at the canoe a long time. He saw that the action of the current would eventually work it loose from the raft, but he believed it would yet hang there for at least ten minutes. So he would have time to go back to his nearest comrade and return with him. Then one could enter the water and salvage the canoe, while the other stayed on the bank and watched. Having reached this wise conclusion he disappeared in the woods, seeking the second Indian, but before the two could come together the canoe had worked loose and was gone.

The three hidden in the bushes had watched the Indian as well as the dusk would permit and they read his mind. They knew that when he turned away he had gone for help and they knew equally well that it was time for the full power of the current to take effect.

"Shove it off, Tayoga," whispered Willet, "and I think we'd better help along with some strokes of our own."

"It is so," said Tayoga.

Now the wandering canoe was suddenly endowed with more life and purpose, or else the current grew much swifter. After an uneasy stay with the boughs, it left them quickly, sailed out toward the middle of the stream, and floated at great speed between banks that were growing high again. The friendly dark was also an increasing protection to the three who were steering it. The heavy but rainless clouds continued to gather over them, and the canoe sped on at accelerated speed in an opaque atmosphere. A mile farther and Willet suggested that they get into the canoe and paddle with all their might. The embarkation, a matter of delicacy and difficulty, was made with success, and then they used the paddles furiously.

The canoe, suddenly becoming a live thing, leaped forward in the water, and sped down the stream, as if it were the leader in a race. Far behind them rose a sudden war cry, and the three laughed.

"I suppose they've discovered in some way that we've fled," said Robert.

"That is so," said Tayoga.

"And they'll come down the river as fast as they can," said Willet, "but they'll do no more business with us. I don't want to brag, but you can't find three better paddlers in the wilderness than we are, and with a mile start we ought soon to leave behind any number of warriors who have to run through the woods and follow the windings of the stream."

"They cannot catch us now," said Tayoga, "and I will tell them so."

He uttered a war whoop so piercing and fierce that Robert was startled. It cut the air like the slash of a sword, but it was a long cry, full of varied meaning. It expressed satisfaction, triumph, a taunt for the foe, and then it died away in a sinister note like a threat for any who tried to follow. Willet laughed under his breath.

"That'll stir 'em, Tayoga," he said. "You put a little dart squarely in their hearts, and they don't like it. But they can squirm as much as they please, we're out of their reach now. Hark, they're answering!"

They heard a cry from the savage who had besieged them, but it was followed by a long silence. The three paddled with their utmost strength, the great muscles on their arms rising and falling with their exertions, and beads of perspiration standing out on their foreheads.

Hours passed. Mile after mile fell behind them. The darkness began to thin, and then the air was shot with golden beams from the rising sun. Willet, heaving an immense sigh of relief, laid his paddle across the canoe.

"The danger has passed," he said. "Now we'll land, put on our clothes and become respectable."

Return to the The Hunters of the Hills Summary Return to the Joseph A. Altsheler Library

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson