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- The Lost Trail - 40/42 -
signal the youth was waiting.
While in this attitude, which might have been accepted as indicating the most heroic courage, Deerfoot saw the lump or Adam's apple rise sink in his throat, precisely as if he were to swallow something. It was done twice, and was a sign of weakness on the part of Arorara.
The consuming anger of Deerfoot burned out like a flash of powder. Hatred became contempt; enmity turned to scorn, and the mortal peril of the warrior vanished.
"Who now is the dog?" asked Deerfoot in English, with a curl of his lip. "Arorara is brave when he stands before the youths who have no weapons; he then speaks with the double tongue; he cannot utter the truth. Arorara has his tomahawk and knife, Deerfoot has his; let them fight and see whose scalp shall remain."
"Don't you do dot, old Roarer," exclaimed Otto Relstaub, stepping forward in much excitement; "if you does, den you won't be old Roarer not any more, as nefer vose-yaw! Dunderation!"
"Let them alone," commanded Jack Carleton, catching his arm and drawing him back; "don't interfere."
"Don't you sees?" asked Otto, turning his head and speaking in a whisper; "I want to scare old Roarer."
"There's no call for doing that, for he's so seared now he can't speak; he won't fight Deerfoot."
Arorara possessed less courage than Tecumseh, who, when challenged by Deerfoot in almost the same manner, would have fought him to the death had not others interposed. The Shawanoe was now in mortal terror of such an encounter.
"Deerfoot and Arorara are brothers," said he, swallowing again the lump that rose in his throat; "they belong to the same totem; they are Shawanoes; the Great Spirit would frown to see them harm each other."
The words were spoken in Shawanoe, but Jack and Otto saw, from the looks and manner of the elder warrior, that he was subdued and could not be forced into a struggle with the lithe and willowy youth.
It was not flattering to the pride of the young Kentuckian and his companion that while Arorara felt no fear of them jointly, he was terrified by the bearing of Deerfoot, who voluntarily relinquished the advantage he possessed in the hope that it would induce the other to fight.
The abject words of Arorara caused a reaction in the feelings of Deerfoot. His conscience condemned him for his outburst of passion, and had the situation permitted, he would have prostrated himself in prayer and begged the forgiveness of the Great Spirit whom he had offended.
But nothing in his face or voice or manner betrayed the change.
He remained standing in front of the deerskin, which was thrown back, so that the light from the camp-fire shone against the gloom beyond; his left hand held the knife with the same rigid grasp, and the limbs, which in the American Indian rarely show much muscular development, were as drawn as steel.
The squaw clasped the sleeping infant to her husky bosom and glared at Deerfoot, like a lioness at bay. Had he advanced to do harm to her offspring, she would have sprang upon him with the fierceness of that beast and defended the little one to the death. Had the youth assailed Man-not-Afraid-of-Thunder, probably she would have sat an interested spectator of the scene until it became clear which way it was going, when she might have wrapped her baby in bison-skin, placed him carefully away, and taken a part in the struggle.
The Osage resumed the deliberate puffing of his pipe, but glanced from one face to the other of the two Shawanoes. Stolid and lazy as he was, by nature and training, he could not help feeling stirred by the curious scene.
Jack Carleton and Otto were on their feet, studying the two countenances with equal intentness. Both were cheered by the consciousness that danger no longer threatened them, and that whatever followed must accord with the fact that Deerfoot the Shawanoe was master of the situation.
"My brother speaks with a single tongue," said Deerfoot, replying to the cringing words of Arorara: "the Great Spirit will frown when be sees two brothers fighting each other. Deerfoot has slain more than one Shawanoe and has spared others; he will spare Arorara; he may sit down beside the Osage warrior and smoke pipe with him."
Immediately the youth shoved his knife in place, and for the first time seemed to become aware that he stood in the presence of others. He bestowed no attention on Wish-o-wa-tum or his squaw, but addressed his young friends.
"Let my brothers go from this lodge and make their way homeward; Arorara will not pursue them."
"Arorara will do them no harm," said the individual in as cringing manner as before.
"No, he will not, for Deerfoot will watch and slay Arorara if he seeks to do so," quietly remarked the youth, who, in every sense of the word, continued master of the situation.
"Let us do vot he tells us," suggested Otto, moving awkwardly toward the door.
Deerfoot stepped slightly aside, to make room for them, and Jack accepted the movement as an invitation for them to pass out. Otto held back so as to permit the other to go first, and he followed close behind him. Otto did not glance at or speak to either. He had his misgivings concerning not only Arorara, but the Osage, who might resent this invasion of his castle. Like the finely trained Indian, he "took no chances."
Jack and Otto were intensely interested in the situation, but they did not forget themselves. The former, as be passed out, picked up his own rifle, while Otto took the one belonging to the Indian, who was left at liberty to hunt the gun left on the clearing by the German lad when he prepared to start his camp-fire for the evening. Thus each boy was furnished with the weapon which is indispensable to the ranger of the woods.
Every one can understand the reluctance of the two to walk from the lodge with their turned upon their foe. With all their confidence in the prowess of Deerfoot, they felt a misgiving which was sure to distress them, so long as the enemies were in sight. On reaching the outside, therefore, they turned about, walked slowly backwards, and watched the wigwam.
The deerskin being drawn aside, they could the figure of the young Shawanoe, who had stepped back in front of it. Just beyond was partly visible the subdued Shawanoe, he and his conqueror obscuring the squaw, still further away, while Man-not-Afraid-of-Thunder was out of range.
"I think that little place saw more surprises, this evening than it will ever see again," said Jack Carleton, bending his head with the purpose of gaining a better view; "in fact it has been a series of surprise parties from the beginning."
"Yaw, dot ish vot I dinks all a'while, but mine gracious!"
Hitherto it had been the running vines, growing close to the ground, which caused overturnings of Otto, but now it was another obstruction in the shape of a tree trunk, over which Jack stepped, taking care however, to say nothing to his companion concerning it. The smaller sticks lying near made it look as if the trunk served to help the squaw of Man-not-Afraid-of-Thunder, when she was breaking or cutting wood for the wigwam.
Be that as it may, the heels of Otto struck it and he went over on his back, with hat and gun flying and shoes pointed upward.
"I dinks dot vos a pig vine," he said, clambering to his feet and shaking himself together again.
"You're getting to be the best fellow at tumbling I ever saw," said Jack, suppressing, as well as he could, his laughter.
"Dot ish so," assented the victim, too good-natured to find fault after his fortunate escape.
By this time, they were so far from the Osage lodge that very little could be seen of the interior, and they turned round and walked side by side.
"It seems like a dream," remarked the young Kentuckian; "a few minutes ago, there was no escape for us, and now I cannot think we are in the least danger."
"Who dinks dot de Shawanoes comes over der river after us?" asked Otto.
"Nobody besides Deerfoot: there isn't anything that he doesn't think of that is worth thinking about."
"Den vy he leaves us, when we leaves him?"
"I've asked myself that question, Otto; it must be that, after we parted, he learned something which told him the Shawanoes had crossed the Mississippi after us. He changed his course and came to our help, and it's mighty fortunate he did so."
"I guess dot ish so; we will asks him when we don't see him."
"I have my doubt about seeing him again."
"How ish dot?"
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