Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Lost Trail - 6/42 -
The lead mines of Missouri attracted notice a early as 1720, and Saint Genevieve, its oldest town, was founded in 1755. At the breaking out of the Revolution, St. Louis contained nearly a thousand inhabitants, the country at that time belonging to Spain, and a considerable fur trade was carried on with the Indians.
Among those who crossed the Mississippi was the widow Carleton. Her friends believed that if she removed forever from the scene of her great affliction she might recover; but if she remained she must soon succumb. She suffered herself to be persuaded, and went in the company of those who promised to give her the tenderest attention and care.
Her decision was not made until the little company, that had spent weeks in preparation, was on the eve of starting. It thus became necessary for Jack to stay behind to look after certain interests of both, his purpose being to follow in the course of a few weeks.
The long journey westward was made in safety, a thriving settlement begun, and young Otto Relstaub, the son of a hard-hearted, penurious German, was sent back over the trail, according to promise, to guide Jack Carleton, who was impatiently awaiting him. The next morning after his arrival the two started westward, all their earthly effects packed upon the single horse.
They took turns in riding the animal. Accustomed as they were to constant activity, they would have enjoyed the journey on foot much more than on horseback. At first both walked, but, after their animal had run away several times, his capture causing much delay, trouble, and roiling of temper, they concluded that a change would have to be made if they expected ever to reach their destination.
One afternoon, when Otto was riding considerably in advance of his friend, he was fired upon by Indians, narrowly escaping with his life. The incidents immediately following have already been told the reader.
It was yet early in the evening when Deerfoot the Shawanoe acted upon the request of Otto, that some more convenient spot should be selected in which to continue their talk.
Inasmuch as the destination of the boys lay to the westward, it seemed to Jack Carleton that, the wisest thing to do was to enter the canoe, and allow the young Shawanoe to paddle them across; but he held the gifts and skill of the wonderful warrior in such high estimation that he feared a hint of the kind might not be received with favor.
Deerfoot led the way through the wood until a depression was reached, where considerable undergrowth grew. He came to a stop and seemed to be looking around in the darkness, which to the others was impenetrable.
"Let a fire be kindled," said he.
Only a few minutes were needed to gather all the fuel required. It was heaped against the trunk of a tree, and as each carried a flint and steel, a bright roaring blaze was soon under way.
Had Jack and Otto been alone, they would have been troubled by the fear that their campfire would be seen by prowling enemies but the air of unconcern on the part of the Shawanoe infused into them a feeling of confidence which drove away all fear.
Enough branches and leaves were piled together to afford them the best sort of couch. Not one had it blanket with him, and had the weather been cold, they must have suffered not a little. The boys had lost theirs when their horse ran away the last time, and Deerfoot had not brought any with him, though one remained in his canoe.
Fortunately the night was not only mild, but scarcely a breath of air was stirring. The fire radiated all the heat needed to make each comfortable. They assumed easy postures on the ground, and, as the reflection lit up each countenance, they looked curiously at one another, as if seeking more intimate knowledge of their appearance.
Deerfoot and Jack have already been sufficiently referred to, and a little attention is due to the honest German youth, who has his part to play in the following pages.
Otto was about a year younger than his friend, and bore very little resemblance to him. Jack possessed a certain rugged grace, and, while he was not handsome, his face showed intelligence with mental strength, sustained by bounding youth, and a physical vigor which was perfect.
Otto was a head shorter than Jack, and his growth seemed to run mostly to breadth. His short legs bowed outward at the knees, and a curve seemed necessary in order to preserve the harmony of general expanse.
His face was very wide, the small twinkling eyes fax apart, and the funny pug nose inclined in the same direction. His neck was short, and hair long and thick. His dress was similar to that worn by Jack Carleton, except that everything, even to the shoes, were of the coarsest possible nature.
Jacob Relstaub, the father of Otto, was not merely penurious, but he was miserly and mean. Jack Carleton knew him so well that he was certain there would be serious trouble with the lad if he showed himself in the little frontier town without the valuable horse which had run away and swam the river.
There was one respect in which the dress of the German differed from that of the American. Instead of wearing a cap, he was furnished with a hat something similar to those seen in some portions of the Tyrol. It had a brim of moderate width, and the crown gradually tapered until it attained a height of six inches, where it ended in it point. The thrifty mother possessed a secret of imparting a stiffness to the head gear which caused it to keep its shape, except when limp from moisture.
Such youths as Otto and Jack are always blessed with the most vigorous appetites, but they had eaten during the afternoon and were well content to wait until the morrow. As for Deerfoot, it made little difference to him whether he had partaken since the rising of the sun, for he had been taught from his infancy to hold every propensity of his nature in the sternest check. Oft-times he went hungry for no other purpose than that of self-discipline.
"How was it you came to meet Otto?" asked Jack of the dusky youth, who, assuming an easy position on the ground, was examining his bow. He looked up, smiled faintly, and hesitated a moment before answering.
"Two suns ago Deerfoot came upon a log cabin. It was raining and cold, and he was a long ways from home. He saw the glimmer of a light and reached for the latch-string, but it was pulled in. He knocked on the door and it was opened by the man who lived there. Deerfoot asked that he might stay till morning, but the pale face called him an Indian dog, and said that if he did not hasten away he would shoot him--"
"Don't you know who dot vos?" interrupted Otto, whose face seemed to grow wider with its immense grin.
"How should I know." asked Jack, in turn.
"Dot was mine fader. I dinks yon vosn't such a fool dot you wouldn't know dot right away."
"I knew that he was the stingiest man in Kentucky, but I didn't suppose you spelled his name 'h-o-g."'
"Dot's just de way to spell it," said Otto, slapping his friend on the shoulder and laughing as though pleased beyond measure. "Wait till you don't know him as well as I don't."
"Deerfoot turned to walk away," continued the young Shawanoe; "he had slept many times in the wood, and he was not afraid, but he had not taken many steps when some one called him. It was too dark to see, but the voice was of a boy. While Deerfoot waited he threw a heavy, blanket over his shoulders and made Deerfoot walk back to the cabin. He asked him to enter the window where the father could not see him, and he told Deerfoot he would place him in his bed and he should have food."
The narrator paused in his story and glanced toward Otto Relstaub. Jack, with a laugh, looked at the stubby youngster, who was blushing deeply and holding one hand over his face, the fingers spread so far apart that he could see the others. Otto was also smiling, and his hand could not begin to hide it, so that each side of his mouth wits in sight.
"Deerfoot was too proud to receive the offer of the boy, but he took the blanket."
"And mine gracious!" struck in the lad again; "didn't mine fader whip me for dat? He proke up three hickory sticks onto me and kept me dancing out of de cabin and in again, and over the roof, till I vos so disgusted as nefer vos."
"How did you explain the absence of the blanket?" asked Jack.
"I told mine fader I didn't know not any nodings apout it, and he whipped me 'cause I didn't know vot I did know, and, when Deerfoot brought pack de blanket next day, den he knows dat I lied and he whipped some more as nefer pefore."
Jack Carleton threw back his bead and laughed, though he took care that he made little noise in doing so; but the face of the Shawanoe was grave. His refined nature could see nothing mirthful in the cruel punishment inflicted upon the boy because he did a kindness to a stranger of another race. The brutal father had only to thank the Christian restraint of Deerfoot that he was not pierced by an arrow from his bow for his conduct.
The Shawanoe did not need explain that the little act of Otto had secured his lasting gratitude. The latter was not one to seek his company or intrude himself upon him; but he was ready to do the young German any service in his power.
A few days before, when Deerfoot was returning from the direction of the Mississippi, he met Otto on horseback. The latter told him he was going to Coatesville to bring back a young friend, whose mother was in the new settlement. For some reason, which the Shawanoe did not make known, he could not accompany Otto, or he would have done so; but he gave him full directions and numerous suggestions, every
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 20 30 40 42
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything