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- On the Trail of Pontiac - 20/40 -
sight of another form, that of a white man leaning against a fallen tree, with a gun clutched tightly in his stiffened hands.
"Baptiste Masson!" he muttered, naming a rough French hunter and trapper who, in years gone by, had worked for Jean Bevoir. "As I thought. It was a plot between the Wanderers and the French! They mean to drive me from the Ohio if they possibly can. Masson, eh? Can it be that Jean Bevoir, and Valette, and Bergerac were in it, too? More than likely."
The Frenchman was dead, and James Morris did not hesitate to take his gun and ammunition. He also searched the fellow's pockets, but found nothing of value, nor any clew which might lead to the identity of his companions in the outrage. A further hunt through the forest revealed where something of a struggle had taken place between two white men on foot, but both were gone, and the trail was lost in an adjacent brook, down which one had fled and the other had likely followed, at least for a distance.
The fact that he did not find the body of Sam Barringford gave James Morris hope. If the old frontiersman was not seriously wounded it was more than likely he was on the trail of those who had attacked the pack-train, with a view to finding out where they were going, or to ascertain exactly who was responsible for the affair.
"I know Sam will do what he can," he thought, and with this small degree of comfort he loaded his steed with such things as he could carry and started on the return to the trading-post.
It was a hard journey, and he did not reach the Ohio until long after nightfall. He found the post being guarded by five frontiersmen and eight Indians, who had been hastily called together as soon as Henry and Jadwin appeared.
"Father!" cried Dave joyfully, as he ran to meet his parent. "I am glad you are back safe."
"Has Henry come?"
"Yes, and I made him lie down, he was so weak. What an awful fight it must have been! Did you discover who did it?"
"Partly. One of the dead redskins was a Wanderer, and a dead white man was that good-for-nothing Baptiste Masson I have often mentioned to you."
"The fellow who traveled with Jean Bevoir?"
"The same. I am inclined to think that the attack was organized by Flat Nose, of the Wanderers, and Bevoir. If you'll remember, Jadwin said Flat Nose, Bevoir, and Valette were very friendly."
"What about Sam?"
"I couldn't find any trace of him, although I looked around pretty well."
"Sam carried fifty pounds of the money you sent for. Henry has the rest of it safe."
"I am glad of that. But I wish I knew about Sam. He may have run himself into a regular hornet's nest."
Nothing had happened to disturb those at the post itself, and James Morris lost no time in sending out two white men and two Indians, with horses to bring in what was left on the trail of his belongings.
It was found that Henry was not seriously wounded, and after a good night's sleep the youth felt much better. His mind was now clearer, and he related all the particulars of the attack as far as he knew them.
"I should judge there must have been, at least, six white men and twenty Indians," he said.
"They ran from tree to tree and had us at a disadvantage from the very start. I should have been shot dead if I hadn't got behind one of the horses. The redskins set up a fearful din after the white men shot off their guns. I was afraid every one of us would be killed and scalped."
"Thank God that you escaped!" murmured James Morris, and Dave breathed a silent amen. The following day found James Morris more impatient than ever to learn what had become of Sam Barringford. He wanted to go on a search for the old frontiersman, yet he did not deem it advisable to leave the trading-post, fearing that an attack might come during his absence.
"I will go out for you," said Jadwin "I'd do 'most anything fer Sam Barringford. We have hunted and fit Injuns fer twenty-five years and more."
"And I'll go with Tony," put in Ira Sanderson. "I think we can hit the trail if any white men can."
The matter was talked over for fully an hour, and Dave took in what was said with deep interest.
"Father, let them go, and let me go with them," he said. "You know what I think of Sam. If he is in trouble, I want to aid him if it can possibly be done."
"You'll be safer here, Dave."
"Perhaps, but let me go, won't you?"
Dave continued to plead, and in the end it was settled that he should accompany Tony Jadwin and Ira Sanderson on the scouting tour. The three were to go on horseback, and were to return inside of four or five days, unless a turn of circumstances made it necessary to stay away longer.
"You take good care of yourself, Dave," said Henry, who was sitting on a bench with his head bound up. "Those Indians are on the warpath, and they mean business."
"Well, I'll mean business too, if I get a chance at them," replied the youth, with a short laugh.
From Henry it was learned that all at the Morris homestead were well. The twins were now able to walk and were very cute. In spite of all that had been done to learn something of their parentage, the mystery surrounding their identity was as thick as ever. A few inquiries had been made concerning them, but nobody had come forward to claim the pair.
"I reckon they are going to be Sam's twins after all," said Henry. "That is, unless something has happened to Sam. If he's dead--but no, I can't think that, can you?"
"I cannot," answered Dave soberly. "He's our best chum, isn't he? Oh, he must be alive!" He paused a moment. "But if he isn't, I reckon we'll have to keep the twins for him."
"Of course we'll have to keep the twins. My, but they are funny little chaps! Nell thinks the world of them, and mother and Rodney are just about as bad. I think, behind it all, the folks would rather keep them than have somebody come and take them away," concluded Henry.
Preparations for the departure were soon complete, and the party left the trading-post in the morning, long before the sun was up. It had been decided that they should go straight to the spot where the attack had taken place, and from that point do their best to learn what had become of Sam Barringford, and of the men who had run away with the goods.
"Remember, my son, to keep out of danger if you can possibly do so," was James Morris' final warning. "I would rather lose my goods a dozen times over than have anything serious happen to you."
"I'll do my best," answered Dave; and a moment later he rode away, little dreaming of the surprises in store for him.
THE TRAIL THROUGH THE FOREST
It can truthfully be said that at the time of which I write, no hunter on the trail was more keen-eyed among the whites than Antonio Jadwin, who had been chosen as leader of the little expedition.
Tony Jadwin, as he was familiarly called, was English by birth, but had come to America while but a child of four. His folks had settled on the frontier, and both had been massacred in an uprising when the lad was less than sixteen. Tony had at once started in as a hunter and trapper on his own responsibility, and from that day to the present time had managed to earn for himself a comfortable if not a luxurious living.
He took to all sorts of shooting, trapping, and fishing as the proverbial duck takes to water, and could follow a deer trail almost in the dark. He had brought down all sorts of game, and his left shoulder showed deep scars dating back to a fierce face-to-face fight with a bear, in which he had, after a tough struggle, come off victorious.
Having arrived at the scene of the attack, Jadwin took a close survey of the situation, going over the ground far more observantly than had James Morris. Nothing escaped his keen eyes, and he quickly announced that Henry had probably been right in his estimate of the number of the enemy. He also pointed out Barringford's footsteps, and declared that the old frontiersman had most likely followed the others, after the pack-train was overhauled and looted.
It was nightfall by the time all these observations were made, and the three decided to go into camp at a convenient spot, not far away. While Dave prepared supper the others dug a large grave, and into this the bodies of Cass and Lampton were placed, and a stone was set up to mark the spot.
Jadwin would not allow all to sleep at once, declaring that a watch was necessary. "I'll stay awake a few hours, and then call Ira," said he, "and then Ira can call Dave." And so it was arranged.
Dave was tired by the hard journey, and it was not long before he was sound asleep. He did not awaken until four in the morning, when Sanderson aroused him.
"Why didn't you call me before?" he cried, leaping up. "I want to do my full share of duty while I am out with you."
"It's all right, lad," answered the other. "I'm not very sleepy myself, but a couple of hours won't do me any harm."
A brook was close by, and at this Dave took a washing up, which made him wide-awake. Then he began to gather some sticks with which to start up a blaze in order to cook the morning meal.
He had taken up half a dozen sticks when a sound not very far away caught his ears. He was on the alert instantly, thinking it might perhaps be some
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