Edward Ellis.

The Boy Hunters of Kentucky



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"It will be odd if I find Hua-awa-oma there," he said to himself, while stealthily picking his way. "I wonder what he would say if I should walk up to him and offer my hand? I am afraid he wouldn't be so kind as he was a while ago."

The boy was stepping in this guarded manner, as wide awake as ever, when, like Will, his toe caught in one of the running vines close to the ground, and he stumbled forward. He did not fall, though he came very near doing so. His head was thrown forward and downward in his effort to check himself.

No accident could have been more fortunate for it saved Jack's life. At the very instant of stumbling he heard the twang of a bow-string, and the missile which was aimed at him, whizzed over his shoulder and was buried in the trunk of a tree beyond.

In obedience to a thought that came like an inspiration to him, the boy allowed himself to fall forward on his hands and knees, where he remained motionless for several seconds. Turning his head he saw the arrow that had missed him by a hair's-breadth with its head buried deep in the bark, while the feathered shaft was still quivering from the force of the impact.

The missile was fired by Arowaka, who, in returning to camp, caught sight of his enemy in front of him. Seeing him fall at the moment the arrow left his hand, and failing to note where it went, the young savage thought the lad had been fatally pierced by the shaft. Whipping out his knife, he ran forward with the intention of taking the scalp from his victim.

He had but a short distance to go when he caught sight of the white boy, who, instead of lying on the ground in his death struggles, was kneeling on one knee, with his cocked rifle levelled at the head of the young Wyandot.

The latter, with a terrified "Hoof!" stopped as if shot, and stood transfixed, absolutely unable to stir. He saw he was at the mercy of his foe, who he did not believe would spare his life for a dozen seconds.

"Arowaka, you're mine!" said Jack, slowly rising to his feet, but keeping his gun levelled.

The words seemed to rouse the senses of the Indian youth, who dropped his bow, folded his arms, and, throwing his shoulders back as he faced his conqueror, said in a low, firm voice-

"Arowaka ready! He die like warrior!"

There was a heroism in the pose and words of the youthful Wyandot which thrilled Jack Gedney. Almost any one would have started to run, or, seeing there was no hope in doing so, would have begged for mercy. The Indian did neither, but, the son of a sachem as he was, he proved that he could die like the bravest of his people.

But, bless your heart, Jack had not the least wish to harm him. The law of the border would have told him to shoot him, since the action of the Indian proved him to be a mortal enemy, and one who, unwilling to show mercy himself, did not deserve that any should be shown to him.

Jack would have done his utmost to slay the young savage had they met in mortal combat, but the check came before that point was reached.

And, again, he was touched by the cool daring of Arowaka.

Hardly were the words spoken by the Indian when Jack lowered his gun, softly letting down the hammer, and said, with a smile-

"Arowaka, let us be friends."

As he spoke, he stepped forward and offered his hand to the young Wyandot.

You would have been entertained could you have seen the face of Arowaka when he grasped the meaning of the words and actions of his conqueror. The paint smeared over his countenance could not hide the expressions of bewilderment, of wonder, and then of delight, that succeeded each other so quickly that he extended his own hand, and shook that of Jack with a warmth of pressure which made him wince.

"Arowaka love Jack."

There was no mistaking the depth of feeling that prompted these words, spoken in a low voice, in which there was a quaver that was not there when he declared himself ready to die.

The Indian felt that the youth who had overthrown him in the wrestling bout, and whose death he had treacherously attempted, had now given back his own life to him. That stratum of gratitude which, though hidden deeper in some hearts than others, nevertheless is there, and can be reached, had been found by Jack. The burning hatred of Arowaka for the youth was now turned to love.

The American might feel an enmity for ever toward the Caucasian, but against this single member of that race he could never know aught but deep affection.

I tell you, boys and girls, there is nothing like kindness and charity in winning the hearts of your enemies. Make the test, and prove it for yourselves.

At the moment the two youths of different blood stood with hands clasped and looking in each other's face, a third party silently pressed forward into sight.

He was Hua-awa-oma, the chieftain, and father of Arowaka.

He must have been surprised by the sight, knowing how resentful his son felt towards the white youth for overthrowing him, but the explanation was quickly made.

It seemed that Hua-awa-oma and his son had started out on a scout together (a number of warriors being similarly employed), when the former decided to return to camp. He directed his son to take a different route from his own, and thus it came about that they met as they did in the vicinity of the war party.

Arowaka dropped the hand of his new friend, and turning to his father, told him the story.

Of course, Jack did not understand a word spoken, but the language of the American Indian is largely made up of gesture, and our young friend was sure of the general run of the story.

He-who-Fights-Without-Falling (which, you know, was the meaning in English of the name of Hua-awa-oma) looked straight in the face of the narrator while he was speaking, but did not utter a word. Jack, however, noted the gleam of his eye, and he knew that whatever it might mean, it signified no harm to him.

The story was a brief one; but as the Christian kindness of Jack went home to the heart of the son, so did the touching narrative thereof stir the deepest feelings of the swarthy heathen who had wrenched the hair from the head of more than one quivering victim, and sunk his tomahawk into the brain of more than one poor wretch pleading for mercy.

When Arowaka ceased, his parent turned towards Jack and reached out his hand.

"Brave Yenghese-great warrior-Hua-awa-oma love him; no Wyandot hurt Jack-no hurt people of Jack!"

The meaning of the last remark was not fully understood by the lad until years afterwards. I will tell you about it later on.

"I am glad that Hua-awa-oma is a friend to me. I love Arowaka, and we shall never try to hurt each other. I will do anything I can for Hua-awa-oma or for Arowaka."

And now followed such a singular proceeding, that I must take another chapter to tell you about it.

CHAPTER XVII.
A FRIEND AT COURT

Tim American race is noted for its stoicism. An Indian warrior undergoing a painful death will not please his enemies by showing suffering, but will die with words of defiance on his lips, and scorning the rage of his persecutors.

Many have thought that these people are lacking in affection for their offspring, but this is a mistake. Among their wigwams in the depth of the wilderness, where the eye of no stranger can see them, they will pet and fondle their little ones with as much evidence of love as their civilised brethren. They are strict and often cruel in training their young, but they hold them as closely to their hearts as the tenderest parent ever held his boy or girl.

So it was with the Wyandot chieftain. He was harsh with his son, whom he had taken on the war-path for the first time, but Hua-awa-oma would have given his life to save that of Arowaka. He would not have blamed him had he succeeded in driving the arrow through the heart of Jack Gedney, for the lad was trained for such treacherous deeds; but Arowaka failed, and then the white boy spared his life.

This was an act beyond the reach of the American Indian, and, alas! I must say, it was beyond the reach of many a white man, but it won the gratitude of the chieftain. Having assured Jack of this fact, he now looked at him, and said in his abrupt way-

"Jack teach Arowaka how wrestle."

Jack laughed. The chief admired his skill as shown earlier in the day, and he wanted him to teach the dusky youth some of the tricks by which the white lad was able to lay his antagonist on his back.

Jack was glad to do so. Leaning his gun against the nearest tree, Arowaka doing the same with his bow, he stepped towards him, smiling and saying-

"Arowaka will soon see, for he is strong."

The Indian lad was as much pleased as he, for he was sure of learning more than he had ever known about the art of wrestling-enough to enable him to beat any of his friends who dared engage in a contest with him.

Jack was shrewd. When he locked arms with Arowaka he could have flung him at once to the earth, but he took good care not to do so. He made several feints, but checked himself before the lad went down. Then he showed him how to make those feints, how to trip his opponent, and, indeed, he did his utmost to teach him everything that he had learned from his own father.

Arowaka was an apt pupil. He was lithe, sinewy, and eager to learn, and with such conditions a boy is sure to pick up the art with great quickness. After this had continued some time, Jack said-

"Now look out! See whether you can keep me from throwing you just as I did this morning the first time I tried."

The two locked their arms more rigidly than before, and the struggle looked like a fierce one. Hua-awa-oma watched it with the closest interest. Back and forth twisted the boys, like a couple of enemies locked in deadly embrace, and struggling for their lives.

All at once the heels of Jack went up in the air and he fell flat on his back, with Arowaka, across him. The chief was so delighted that he broke into laughter. Was there ever an apter pupil than his own son?

Now I must tell you the truth. Jack Gedney was guilty of a gross deception. All that furious twisting and swinging back and forth was pretence on his part. He could have thrown Arowaka with a little more effort than he put forth in the morning, but he deliberately allowed him to throw him, and he did it, too, in such a manner that neither the youth nor his parent suspected it was not a fair victory.

Jack climbed to his feet, and with a sheepish look brushed the leaves from his clothing.

"You did that well," said he; "when you go back to your people there will be no youth that you cannot master. Now let me show you something else."

Jack carefully instructed him in the method of flinging an antagonist over his shoulders. Arowaka soon caught the idea, but when, in his confidence, he offered to engage in a trial with his teacher, the latter laughed, and shook his head.

"No; I have never been tossed that way, and I don't want you to drive my head into the ground."

It really looked as if he was afraid of Arowaka, but you know he was not. He was wise, however, in making Arowaka think so.

To please Hua-awa-oma, the youths once more locked arms. It would have awakened suspicion had Jack allowed the other to beat him again, but he went as near to it as was prudent. He struggled long, and when the two went down, it was side by side. Then, when they tried it again, he threw Arowaka fairly.

Once more, and for the last time, they assailed each other, Jack, by what seemed a failure to catch a feint of the other, falling under him. The boys rose to their feet, and the smiling chieftain shook hands with both. Not only that, but he patted Jack on the shoulder and said-

"Brave boy! Hua-awa-oma friend-Jack come with Hua-awa-oma."

The lad was a little startled by this invitation to enter the Indian camp with the sachem. He would have much preferred to join his friends and go home, but he was afraid to object, and he knew that he would be safe so long as in the company of Hua-awa-oma.

"I will go with my friend the great chief," he said, picking up his gun, and pausing for the sachem to lead the way.

He-who-Fights-Without-Falling stepped off, followed by Jack and Arowaka, the two youths walking side by side. It was the arrival of this little party which caused such a sensation in camp, and which you will agree, was the most important of the three that took place.

That which astonished the Wyandots was the evidence that the third boy who approached did not do so as a captive. Unlike the others, he came as the friend and guest of their own chief, one of the most famous leaders of the Wyandot tribe. Not only that, but Hua-awa-oma was an implacable foe of the settlers along the Ohio and in Kentucky.

No wonder, therefore, that the warriors were astonished.

Will and George were as much amazed as was Jack to see them. They rose from the log, and the elder said-

"Well, they have got us all at last; we may as well give up now."

"Why, boys, I am not a prisoner. This is the chief and his son, and they are friends of mine."

The faces of the brothers lightened, but they did not feel sure that Jack was not mistaken. He read their doubts, and added-

"There is no mistake about it; I have been out in the wood yonder teaching Arowaka how to wrestle, and the chief was so pleased that he asked me to come into camp with him."

"How do you know what he means to do with you?" asked George.

"I have no fear about that," was the reply of Jack. "I showed mercy to his son when he didn't expect it, and the chief is grateful."

"We are glad to know that you are safe," said Will, speaking in a low voice, so that none of the Wyandots should overhear him; "but the chief has no reason to spare George and me."

"I am sure he will; any way, you can depend on one thing: I shall not accept my freedom unless he gives you yours. I'll stand by you all the way through."

"There is no need of that," replied Will, touched by the devotion of his friend. "I know you will do all you can to get Hua-awa-oma to let us go, but if he refuses it won't help matters by your staying behind."

"I'll show you how it will help matters," said Jack, more determinedly than before; "but while they are having their confab, tell me, Will, how came you to be here?"

The elder brother gave the particulars of his mishap, just as you learned them long ago. When he was through, George told his experience, which is also familiar to you. And then Jack related how Arowaka had so nearly taken his life, and how he spared him when he was helpless.

"It was no more than either of you would have done had you stood in my shoes."

"But it is a good deal more than any Indian would do for either of us," said Will.

"There can be no doubt of that. I never saw any one so grateful as Hua-awa-oma. I wouldn't be afraid to trust myself among a thousand Wyandots so long as he was with me."

"I wonder what they are talking about?" whispered George, glancing sideways at the Indians.

There had been so many arrivals within the last half-hour that the party now numbered eighteen. Some of these had bows and arrows, but the majority were armed with the rifle. It proved as Jack had declared. Although the chief had gone out with his son, each carrying the rude weapon, yet the moment Hua-awa-oma entered camp, one of his warriors passed a fine gun to him, taking the bow in exchange.

This occurrence left no doubt that the theory as expressed by young Gedney was the correct one.

The moment the chief joined the party, all gathered around him, and for several minutes the conversation was spirited. Nearly every one took part, but the manner and looks of Hua-awa-oma showed that he was master there: no warrior dared to dispute any command uttered by him.

George had no more than time to express his wonderment over the subject of the conversation when the chief finished and turned toward the three boys, who were still sitting on the log, anxious indeed to hear what he had to say.

CHAPTER XVIII.
CONCLUSION

The Wyandot leader seemed to think he could speak the English tongue well enough without asking the help of the warrior who had shown such excellent knowledge of it. Stepping forward in front of the boys, he took the hand of Jack, and said, while the rest kept silence-

"Hua-awa-oma is friend-Jack can go."

Now was the critical moment. The boy looked up in the face of the chief, and replied-

"Hua-awa-oma is a great chief; Jack loves him. Hua-awa-oma will let my brothers go with me; if he does not, the heart of Jack will always be sad."

It was clear that the sachem had not meant to set the brothers free, but he proved his gratitude to Jack by granting his request at once, thus saving a painful scene.

"Will do-will do-for Jack."

"Thank you, thank you," said Jack, bowing his head low, and finding it hard to keep from shouting for joy.

Poor Will and George were so delighted that they never stopped to say a word about their rifles, and when Jack started to leave the camp they were close at his heels.

"Wait," called the chief, and the boys stopped, not without some fear that the leader had changed his mind.

But he had not. He nodded to one of his warriors, who promptly trotted forward, carrying the two guns, and handing one to Will and the other to George. The latter smiled when he noticed that he had them wrong, but that was of no account.

"Come on," said Jack, who waved a "good-bye" to the chief and the son, the former smiling and the latter replying with a similar salute. A few minutes later the young hunters were out of sight in the wood.

They were so eager to get away from camp that they did not stop or speak until they reached the top of the ridge, where they had parted company more than an hour before.

When they came to a standstill they were so over-running with delight that they laughed, and shook hands over and over again.

"May I yell?" asked George, looking as if he was on the point of exploding with his suppressed happiness.

"No; they would hear it. Some of the warriors would think we were crowing over them, and they might start after us."

"But Hua-awa-oma wouldn't let 'em. However, I guess they won't hear me; I can't help it."

Throwing himself on the ground, the youngest member of the party buried his face in the leaves, and shouted with might and main. His voice was so muffled that the sounds could not have been heard more than twenty feet away, so it was safe to believe that it did not reach the ears of any of the Wyandots, who, had their chief allowed it, would have been eager to tomahawk all three lads.

After this ebullition had passed the young hunters were able to talk more coolly. It is not necessary that I should record all their expressions of delight, which, while natural in those of their years, can be imagined by you without help from me.

"Now, what are we to do?" asked Will.

"We are out of danger from the Wyandots," replied his brother, "and we might as well go on our hunt."

"We have father's permission to stay away a couple of nights," added Will; "but, somehow or other, after what we have passed through, I don't feel much like it."

"I think we had better go home."

The change in the weather of which I have spoken was more marked than an hour before. The sky was so clouded that the sun was out of sight, and the air was chilly. Will looked up at the cold vapour overhead, as though he supposed that was the reason for Jack's wish to go home.

"That isn't it," he hastened to say, reading their thoughts; "but I am afraid we are not by a long way through with those Indians yet."

The boys were surprised.

"Hua-awa-oma," he explained, "has come up towards the Ohio to make an attack on some of the cabins. I don't believe he will go back until he has done so."

"If that is the case, the most likely ones to suffer will be yours and ours."

Jack nodded his head.

"It is a queer kind of gratitude that Hua-awa-oma has for you if he burns down your home, and kills your father and mother. I don't expect mercy for any of us, for he wouldn't have let us go except for you."

"What I mean is this," explained Jack: "I have heard Simon Kenton speak of Hua-awa-oma as one of the worst Indians in Kentucky. We know that he has twenty warriors at least with him, and, as I said, they are not likely to go home without striking a blow. Hua-awa-oma himself will not harm any of my folk."

"But he may claim that he didn't know they were yours."

"He can't do that, for he already knows it; but he may let another party go down there while he and the rest attack your home."

The brothers could not help feeling thankful to the Wyandot leader for sparing their lives, but their respect for him was much lessened by the opinion that Jack expressed. However, the danger startled Will and George, and drove away all wish on their part to continue their hunting jaunt. There would be plenty of time in the future in which to resume their sport in the woods.

"We mustn't wait on the road," said Will, gravely; "let us hurry."

Something cold struck the hand of George. He glanced downward, and saw that it was a snow-flake.

"A snow-storm is coming, sure," said Jack, "and if we don't hasten we shall lose our way."



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