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- On the Trail of Pontiac - 30/40 -
happening. Many small animals were brought in by both Dave and Henry, and Barringford varied the sport by laying low a wildcat that came one night to rob them of some of the meat.
When the start for the trading-post was begun, they found their steeds loaded down with the trophies of the chase. Consequently, progress was slow, and it took one day longer than they had expected to reach the Ohio.
"Back again, I see!" cried James Morris cheerily. "And safe and sound, too! I am glad to see it."
"We've had a powerfully good trip," answered Barringford. "Two buffalo, an' no end o' small game."
"That is certainly fine. Boys, I reckon you are proud of the haul."
"We are," answered Dave promptly, and Henry nodded. "Have you seen anything of Hector Bergerac?" he continued.
"Yes, he is here now. He has told me his story, and told me all about Jean Bevoir, Jacques Valette, and that redskin they call Flat Nose. Hector Bergerac wants to cut the whole crowd, and I am going to help him to do it."
The weather had threatened a change, and inside of a week after Dave and his companions returned to the trading-post there was a heavy frost, and, two days later, a touch of ice.
"I think winter is coming now," said James Morris. "And if anybody is going to start for home he'll have to do it soon."
"I shouldn't mind taking the trip," answered Dave. "It seems an age since I saw Uncle Joe and the others."
The matter was talked over for several days, and it was finally agreed that Dave should go eastward this time, in company with Barringford and White Buffalo and his braves. Henry would remain with his uncle, and so would the others at the trading-post. Only a few horses were to be taken along, and in the spring Dave and Barringford were to purchase ten additional steeds, and bring along a well-guarded pack-train containing goods to the value of eight hundred pounds. The trading-post was now doing well, and it looked as if, sooner or later, the Morrises would make a small fortune out of it.
The departure was made in a keen, frosty air, which was as clear as it was invigorating. Henry and Dave's father accompanied those who were going as far as the burn-over on the Kinotah, and then watched them out of sight around a bend of the trail.
"It looks a bit familiar to me now," said Dave to Barringford, as they rode along under the big trees.
"I suppose in a few years more there will be a regular road here, just as there now is from Fort Pitt eastward."
"Like as not, lad, onless the redskins upset everything again."
"They have been very quiet lately."
"Yes, Dave, but thet may be the calm afore a storm, as sailor men call it. I don't believe in trustin' a quiet Injun."
"White Buffalo is good enough when he is quiet," answered the youth, with a merry glance at the chief mentioned, who was riding a short distance to the rear.
"True, but a few good Injuns don't make a basketful," answered Barringford, using a form of speech he had heard once when down East.
The weather proved fine until Fort Pitt was gained. Here the party put up for two days, the commandant of the stronghold being glad to meet those who might bring news.
"All is quiet here," said the officer. "There was something of a plan to attack us during the summer, but it fell through, why I don't exactly know. I think the Indians are waiting for the French to help them."
"Will they do that?" asked Dave.
"I don't think so. The French are having their hands full in the old country."
When the party left Fort Pitt the sky was overcast, and that night came a light fall of snow. They had been told that there had been a landslide on the route, and that they had better take another trail, one leading around to the northward.
"This trail bring party to Indian village of Ninalicmic," announced White Buffalo.
"Are they much of a tribe?" asked Dave.
"Only a handful. But my white brothers must beware of the Ninalicmics. They are of the magicians, and do great wonders."
"They are a branch of the magicians who live up near the lakes," put in Barringford. "I've heard of them, but I thought they had cleared out long ago."
When they came close to the village, they heard a strange beating of Indian tom-toms and a loud shouting and clapping of hands.
"Some kind of dance going on," said Barringford. "Reckon as how I'll go in advance and see if it's safe to break in on 'em."
"Let me go with you," said Dave.
The others were halted, and Dave, Barringford, and White Buffalo went forward on foot, keeping themselves out of sight behind a row of bushes and a series of low rocks.
Before them was a fair-sized glade, in the midst of which was located the Indian village, consisting of a dozen or more wigwams, all of good dimensions and each gaudily painted with many signs and symbols. In front of several of the wigwams were erected posts on which hung strips of feathers and other strips of bear's claws and wampum belts that were new to Dave's eyes.
In the center of the village was a cleared space, and here a bright campfire was burning. On each side sat several Indians, all smeared with various colored paints and greases. Other red men were dancing around the fire, keeping time to the tom-toms and chanting in a low, monotonous tone.
"Big medicine men and magicians," said White Buffalo. "Make much magic."
Dave looked at his old Indian friend and saw, to his astonishment, that White Buffalo was ill at ease, if not actually nervous. Had he been alone, it is likely that he would have turned on his heel and hurried away.
"What be they a-saying?" demanded Barringford, after listening to the chant. "I never heard sech gibberish in my life afore."
"Much magic," answered White Buffalo. "Magic make the Indians strong to fight their white enemies."
"Oh, so that's it, eh? Do they believe in it, White Buffalo?"
"Magic is magic," returned the old chief simply.
"Does it mean digging up the war hatchet?"
"White Buffalo cannot tell, for he is not in their secrets. But if the hatchet should be dug up--ha!"
White Buffalo stopped short, for the flap of one of the wigwams had opened and a tall Indian had stepped outside. The red man was naked to the waist and painted with rings and blotches of several colors. On his head he carried something of a crown of black feathers with brass ornaments dangling over each ear. As he came out, those around the fire set up a yell of welcome.
"Who is it?" questioned Dave, in a whisper.
"Pontiac, the great chief of the Ottawas," answered White Buffalo. And then he added hastily, as Pontiac threw up his arms and swept them around in a circle: "Let us go, let us not stay! It is not safe! Pontiac will make great magic! Let us go ere it is too late!"
THE TRAIL OF PONTIAC
The fright of such a brave chief as White Buffalo may seem strange to my young readers, but it must be remembered that among the Indians the art of magic was considered the blackest art of all, and a magician was looked upon as something far out of the ordinary. The art was somewhat similar to that of the voodoos of the South, and the fakirs of India, and a real magician was looked up to and obeyed where a common medicine man would be ignored.
It is said, upon fairly good authority, that Pontiac belonged to the magicians of the Great Lakes. This has already been mentioned, but nothing has been said of how he practiced the black art. Much that was recorded has been lost, so some things can only be surmised. But his doings had a strong hold on all who came in contact with him, making his friends stick to him closer than ever, and causing many of his enemies to drop their antagonism and sue for peace.
"Don't you get afraid of him, White Buffalo," whispered Barringford. "His magic is all humbug."
"No! no! it is true!" insisted the Indian chief. He caught Dave by the hand. "Come! If Dave is caught watching, he will surely lose his life!"
"I shall stay, if Sam stays," said the youth. "We'll take good care that we are not discovered."
"You can go back to the others," went on Barringford. But at this White Buffalo demurred, and in the end remained to see the weird performance.
The dance of the magicians lasted fully a quarter of an hour. Then came a low chant, and a conference followed. Strange strings of beads were exchanged, and finally Pontiac made an address, in an Indian dialect of which neither Barringford nor Dave could understand a word.
White Buffalo listened to the address with keen interest. His first fright over, he was now fairly calm, and when Pontiac stopped and prepared to
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