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Henry did not awake the next day after his usual fashion, that is with all his faculties and senses alert, for the strain on him had been so great that the process required a minute or two.  Then he looked around the little fortress which so aptly could be called a hole in the wall.  Many dried leaves had been brought in and placed in five heaps, the fifth for Shif’less Sol when he should come.  The dressed deer, rolled in leaves, lay at the far end.  The little stream was trickling away, singing its eternal pleasant song, and a bright shaft of sunlight, entering, illuminated one part of the cave but left the other in cool dusk.

Silent Tom sat by the side of the door watching, his rifle on his knees.  Nothing that moved in the foliage in front of them could escape his eyes.  Long Jim was slicing the cooked venison with his hunting knife, and Paul, sitting on his own particular collection of leaves with his back against the wall, was polishing his hatchet.  It looked more like a friendly group of hunters than a band fighting to escape death by torture.  And despite the real fact the sense of comfort was strong.

Henry knew by the sunlight that the rain had passed and that a warm clear day was at hand.  He inferred, too, that nothing had happened while he slept, and rising he drank at the stream, after which he bathed his face, and resumed his buckskin clothing which had dried.

“Good sleep,” said Paul.

“Fine,” said Henry.

“You showed great judgment in choosing your inn.”

“I knew that I would find here friends, a bed, water, food and a roof.”

“Everything, in fact, except fire.”

“Which we can do without for a while.”

“But I would say that the special pride of the inn is the roof.  Certainly no rain seems to have got through it last night.”

“It’s fifteen or twenty feet thick, and you will notice that the ceiling has been sculptured by a great artist.”

Henry had seen it before, but he observed it more closely now, with all its molded ridges and convolutions.

“Nature does work well, sometimes,” he said.

Long Jim handed him strips of venison.

“Eat your breakfast,” he said.  “I’m sorry, Mr. Visitor, that I kin offer you only one thing to eat, but as you came late an’ we haven’t much chance to git anythin’ else you’ll hev to put up with it.  But thar’s plenty uv water.  You kin drink all day long, ef you like.”

Henry accepted the venison, ate heartily, drank again, and went to the door where Silent Tom was watching.

“Look through the little crack thar,” said Tom, “an’ you kin see everythin’ that’s to be seen without bein’ seen.”

Henry took a long and comprehensive look.  He saw the thick foliage down the slope, and the equally thick foliage on the other side.  It looked beautiful in its deep green, still heavy with the rain drops of the night before, despite a brilliant sun that was rising.  The wind had died down to a gentle murmur.

“Anything stirring, Tom?” he asked.

“Nothin’ fur some time.  ‘Bout an hour ago I caught the shine o’ a red blanket ‘mong them trees over thar, four hundred yards or so from us an’ too fur fur a shot.”

“Do you think they’ll try to rush us?”

Silent Tom shook his head.

“Not ’less they’re pushed,” he replied. “’Pears to me they’ll settle down to a long siege.  They know we’re after thar cannon an’ they mean to see that we don’t git near ’em.  Ef they could keep us holed up here fur two or three weeks they’d willin’ enough spare twenty warriors or so fur the job.”

“But why are such important men as Red Eagle and Blackstaffe left here?”

“Mebbe, they thought they’d git at us an’ finish us in a day or two.  Look at that, Henry.  What do you make it out to be?”

“It’s a spot of white in the foliage, and it’s coming nearer.  They want to talk with us.  Somebody has hoisted a piece of old cloth on a gun barrel and is approaching.  It’s Braxton Wyatt.”

“Yes, I see him, an’ he’s within range now.  May I send a bullet squar’ly through his head, Henry?”

“No, no!  You mustn’t do that!  We’ll observe all the rules of war, whether they do or not.  There’s Blackstaffe behind Wyatt, and two more Indians.  Let them come within a hundred yards, Tom, then hail ’em.  Paul, you do the talking, but say I’m not here.”

The two renegades and the two Indians came on with confidence, until they were halted by Tom’s loud command.

The four stopped and Wyatt called out: 

“We want to talk with you and it’s better for you to do it.”

“It may or may not be better for us,” said Paul.  “We’re the best judges of that.  But what do you want?”

“You know me, Paul Cotter,” said Wyatt, who recognized the voice, “and you know I keep my word.  Now, we have you fellows shut up there.  All we’ve got to do is to wait until your food gives out, which’ll be very soon, and then you’ll drop into our hands like an apple from a tree.”

“Oh, no,” said Paul airily.  “We’ve always had this place in mind for some such use as the present, and from time to time we’ve been stocking it up with food.  We could live here a year in comfort.  Long Jim is cooking deer steaks now, and the smoke is going out through a hole, which leads clear through the hill.  If you’ll go around to the other side, about a mile from here, you’ll see the smoke.”

Paul merely followed the Indian fashion of taunting one’s enemies.  He believed that in the forest it was best to follow its ways.

“Aren’t you going, Braxton?” he called.  “Long Jim is letting the fire die down and if you don’t hurry around there you won’t see the smoke.”

“You think you’re smart, Paul Cotter,” Braxton Wyatt called back in anger.  “You’ve read too many books.  Drop your high and mighty ways and come down to facts.”

“Well, what do you want?  You’re in our front yard and we have the right to shoot you, but we won’t do it until you tell what you’re doing there.”

“As I said, we’ve got you shut up.  We’re sure that you haven’t food for more than two or three days.  Surrender and we’ll spare your lives and take you as prisoners to the British at Detroit ­that is, all except Henry Ware.”

“And why except Henry?”

“He has done so much against the warriors that I don’t think we could induce them to spare him.”

“But what makes you think he’s here?”

Wyatt hesitated and he and Blackstaffe spoke together a few moments in a low voice.  Then he replied: 

“One of our largest and strongest warriors was strangled nearly to death last night.  Nobody could have done it but Ware.”

Paul laughed loud.

“And so that’s your evidence!” he cried.  “Well, you’re mistaken.  I did that myself.  I was needing a little exercise and so I went out, found this warrior in the grass and manhandled him.  Then I came back feeling a lot better.”

Wyatt’s face blazed.

“You lie, Paul Cotter,” he exclaimed.  “You couldn’t do such a thing!”

“Oh, yes, I could,” said Paul merrily, “but you’re losing your temper again, Braxton.  You should never call anybody a liar when you’re within range of his gun.  No, we’re not going to shoot.  We always respect a flag of truce, though we doubt whether you would.  Now, I want to ask you what have we ever done to make you think we’d betray a comrade like Henry?  Are you judging us by yourself?  You might have a thousand warriors out there and our answer would be the same.  Try to take us and see what will happen.  We give you just two minutes to get out of range.”

Wyatt, Blackstaffe and the two Indians retired hurriedly.  Long Jim uttered an indignant exclamation.

“What’s the matter with you, Jim?” asked Henry.

“I’ve been insulted.”

“Insulted?  What do you mean?”

“To think anybody could have reckoned that me an’ the others would be mean enough to give you up jest to save our own hides!”

Henry’s eyes twinkled.

“I know you wouldn’t give me up, Jim, but how do you know, if our places had been changed, that I wouldn’t have given you up?”

“You’re talkin’ like Shif’less Sol,” said Long Jim in the utmost good humor.  “Now I wonder whar that ornery, long-legged cuss is.”

“Not so far away, it’s safe to say.  He’ll be hanging around, ready to help whenever help is needed most.”

“That’s shore.  Thar’s a heap o’ good in Shif’less Sol, though it don’t always ’pear on the surface.  Wish he wuz here.  Now, what’s next, Henry?”

“Waiting, waiting, and then more waiting.”

“You don’t think they’ll give it up an’ go away?”

“Not for two or three days anyhow, and I think it likely also that they’ll make another general attack.”

“An’ you think, too, that they’ve all gone some distance out of rifle shot?”

“Not a doubt of it, but why do you ask, Jim?”

“You see a lot uv dead wood layin’ in the bushes not twenty feet from the door uv our manshun.  I’d like to drag it in an’ cook that thar deer afore it sp’ils.  We’ve some wood already, but we need more.  I think we could manage so most uv the smoke would go out in front an’ we wouldn’t choke.  Ef we’re held here fur a long time we’ll need that thar deer.”

“Go ahead, Jim, and get it.  We three will cover you with our rifles.”

Jim stole forth, and making a number of trips under the muzzles of his comrades, brought in a plentiful supply of wood.  It was not until he was returning with his last load that the Indians noticed him.  Then they sent up a war cry, and fired several distant shots.  But it was too late.  Long Jim was safely inside the next moment, and the warriors, knowing how deadly were the rifles that guarded him, were afraid to return to the attack.

“Him that does at once what he oughter do don’t have to do it when it’s too late,” said Long Jim.  “I’m goin’ to build a fire close to the door, where most uv the smoke will go out.  Ef it gits too strong fur us we’ll jest hev to put it out.  But ef things work smooth I mean to cook that deer.”

They cut up the deer in slices with their big hunting knives.  Then they heaped the dry wood near the door and cut off many shavings and splinters, building up the heap at least part of the way outside, in such a position that they were sure the wind would take the smoke and most of the heat down the valley.  Then Long Jim, feeling that the rest of the task was his, and having a certain pride, lighted the heap with his flint and steel.  It blazed up rapidly, and, as they had hoped, the wind carried nearly all the smoke out of the mouth of the cave.

The dry wood burned rapidly and a great mass of coals soon gathered.  It was very hot in the cave, but liberal applications of the cold water enabled them to stand it.  Meanwhile all except the one on guard were busy broiling big steaks on the ends of sticks and laying them away on the leaves.  The whole place was filled with the pleasant aroma.

“Warriors!” said Tom Ross, who happened to be on guard at that particular moment.  “They’ve seen our smoke, an’ mebbe our fire, an’ they don’t understan’ it.”

“You see that they keep on failing to understand it,” said Henry, “and if curiosity makes any of them too curious just give him a hint.”

The three went on with their cooking, “storing up like Noah against the flood,” Paul said, knowing that Silent Tom would keep a watch beyond which no warrior could pass.

“Our beautiful stone house will need a good airing after all this is over,” said Paul.  “Smoke will gather and ashes too are flying about.  But it’s a grand cooking.”

“So it is,” said Long Jim, who was in his element.  “That wuz shorely a fine fat deer.  You kin pile more on that shelf in the rock, thar, Paul.  Wrap the dry leaves ‘roun’ ’em, too.  They’re clean an’ good.  I guess that old-timer uv yourn that you’ve told us about often ­’Lysses, wuzn’t it?”

“Yes, Ulysses.”

“That’s right.  Well, old ‘Lysses in them roamings uv his, lastin’ a thousand years or some sech time, would hev been glad to come upon a place like this to rest his wanderin’ an’ sleepy head.  I’ve a notion uv my own too, Paul.”

“What is it?”

“That Greece ain’t the land it’s cracked up to be.  I’ve never heard you tell uv any rivers thar like the Ohio or Missip.  I ain’t heard you say anythin’ about the grand forests like ourn, an’ all the hundreds an’ thousands uv branches an’ creeks an’ springs.”

“No, Jim, it’s a dry country, mostly bare.”

“Then the wilderness here fur me.  I like a big woods, a thousand miles every way, an’ the leaves so thick you kin hardly see the sky above in spring.  I don’t see what the herds of buff’ler found thar to live on.”

“They didn’t have our kind of buffalo.”

“Ef they didn’t hev our kind they didn’t hev any kind.”

Paul did not argue the question with him, because it was useless to talk to Long Jim about ancient glories, when modern glories that he considered so much greater were before his eyes.  Moreover, Paul himself had a love of the greenwood, and the deep streams, so numerous.

“Maybe you’re right, Jim,” he said.

“I guess I am,” returned Long Jim emphatically.  “An’ I don’t think so much uv them old Greek fighters ’long side the fellers that fight the warriors nowadays in these woods.  You rec’lect we talked that over once before.  Now, how would A-killus, all in his brass armor with his shinin’ sword an’ long spear come out try in’ to stalk an’ Injun camp.  Why, they’d hear his armor rattlin’ a quarter uv a mile away, an’, even ef they didn’t, he’d git his long spear so tangled up in the bushes an’ vines that he couldn’t move ‘less he left it behind him.  An’ s’pos’n’ he had to run fur it an’ come to a creek or a river, which he would shorely soon do, ez thar are so many in this country, an’ then he’d have to jump in with ’bout a hundred pounds uv brass armor on.  Why, he’d go right to the bottom an’ stick down so deep in the mud that the Injuns would hev to dive fur his scalp.”

“There’s no doubt of the fact that this country would not have suited Achilles.”

“Not by a long shot, nor would it hev suited any other uv them fellers, be they Greek or be they Trojan.  S’pose the Injuns didn’t git after ’em, then think uv huntin’ the buff’ler with your long spear, an’ your hundred pounds uv brass clothes on.  Why, the Shawnees an’ Miamis are a heap more sensible than them old Greeks wuz.  An’, think what it would be on a real hot day to hev to wear our metal suits!  Paul, I’m givin’ thanks ev’ry few minutes that I wuzn’t born in them times.”

“A movement in the woods opposite!” announced Henry, who was on watch now.

“Tell us about it,” said Long Jim.  “I’m too busy to stop my work and look.”

“I can see warriors stirring among the trees and bushes.  They can’t understand our smoke, and they’re all looking at it.”

“Maybe they take it for a signal,” said Paul.  “Almost anyone would do so.”

“That’s true,” said Henry.  “It looks natural.  Well, let ’em wonder.  Meanwhile we’ll go on with the provisioning of our army.”

“‘Tain’t such a terrible task,” said Long Jim.  “Me bein’ the best cook in the world, it’ll all be done in a couple uv hours more, an’ bein’ sparin’ we kin hold out on it two or three weeks ef we hev to.”

“I don’t think it will be that long,” said Henry confidently.  “In fact we mustn’t let it be too long.  We’ve got to be out and away, following that red army with the cannon.”

They continued their work without interruption, although at intervals they saw the Indians on the far slope, well out of range, but attentively watching the smoke that came from the mouth of the cavern.  When the task was nearly over Long Jim took a good long look at them.  Then he laughed deeply and a long time, doubling over with merriment.

“’Scuse me, Henry,” he said, “but this life is so full uv jokes.  I enjoy it all the time, ev’ry minnit uv it.  A little while ago I wuz laughin’ at the notion of A-killus with a hundred pounds or more uv brass on him, runnin’ away from the warriors, jumpin’ in a creek an’ stickin’ in the mud at the bottom clean down to his waist.”

“That was the joke then, Jim, what’s the joke now?”

“It’s them Injuns out thar.  They know we’re here, an’ that thar’s a kind uv long narrow mouth to this bee-yu-ti-ful stone house uv ourn.  They see smoke comin’ out uv it, an’ they don’t understand it.  They wonder ef fire hez busted right out uv the bowels uv the earth an’ burnt us all up, an’ ag’in they’re ‘fraid to come an’ see lest they meet rifle bullets ez well ez smoke.  I pity them red fellers.”

“I think that pity is wasted on men who want to kill us and take our scalps.”

“It ain’t that.  I know they want to do them things to us, but I know, too, that they ain’t goin’ to do ’em.  It’s ’cause they’re so onsartain in thar minds.  Onsartainness is the greatest uv all troubles.  Keeps you so you can’t eat an’ sleep, nor keep still neither.  Jest plum’ w’ars you out.  Ef you know what you’re goin’ to do you’re all right, but ef you don’t you’re all wrong.  That’s the reason I feel sorry fur them Injun fellers, lookin’ at our smoke an’ a-guessin’, an’ a-guessin’, an’ a-guessin’ an’ never guessin’ right.  We’ll be all through in a half-hour an’ then we kin let the fire die.”

“Right glad I’ll be, too,” said Paul, who was standing near the door for air, and glad they all were when the last of the deer was cooked, and the last of the coals were shoved out to die among the green bushes.  While the work was going on they had frequently thrown water from the little stream over themselves to check the heat, but now they took their blankets and standing in a line at the far end of the cavern swept out all the smoke save that which lingered in the crannies until, in its own good time, it too departed.

Then all sat down near the door.  A lucky turn of the wind sent the pure sweet air, crisp with the touch of spring, pouring into their cavern.  It was like the breath of Heaven, taking away the sting of smoke from nostrils and throat.  The place itself soon filled entirely with a new atmosphere, vital and strong.  Then, one by one, they bathed their eyes and faces at the rill, and soon they were all gathered together again at the door, feeling as if they had been re-created.  Indians were still visible on the opposite slope, and pity swelled once more in Long Jim’s heart.

“Now they’re a-guessin’, an’ a-guessin’, an’ a-guessin’ ag’in,” he said, “an’ a-guessin’ wrong ev’ry time.  A little while ago our smoke bothered ‘em, an’ now they’re bothered ’cause thar ain’t no smoke.  They’re wonderin’ ef the volcano that busted right under us hez quit so soon, an’ whether we’re all charred ruins, or real live fellers with rifles in our hands that kin shoot an’ hit.  That I call a state uv mind that would draw pity from anybody.”

“Whatever it is,” said Paul, “they’ll not guess what has really happened, and ac our army of four is now provisioned indefinitely, we can bid them defiance.”

“I like them words ‘bid them defiance,’” said Long Jim.  “Ef I met ‘defiance’ all by itself I wouldn’t know what it meant, but speakin’ ez you do, Paul, an’ with all the surroundin’s you give it I understan’ it, an’ it sounds mighty fine.  Braxton Wyatt, I bid you defiance; Blackstaffe, I bid you defiance; Red Eagle, I bid you defiance, an’ I bid defiance to ev’ry warrior an’ renegade in all these woods, east uv the Missip, west uv the Missip, north uv the Ohio an’ south uv the Ohio.”

“But not the lightning, Jim,” said Paul.  “Ajax did that and got hurt.”

“You needn’t tell me that, Paul.  I don’t need the example of no Ajax to teach me sense.  I ain’t defyin’ no lightnin’, past, present or future.  I know lightnin’, an’ I’ve too much respeck fur it.  It’s about the only thing that kin hit you an’ you can’t hit back.”

“The Indians have retreated further into the woods,” said Henry.  “They’re probably lying down and resting.  They won’t do anything today, but tonight they’ll act.  They have every incentive to finish their task here as soon as they can and join the main force.  When dark comes we must watch two by two.”

Night came slowly, the great sun blazing in red and gold in the west.  Henry, with all his lore of the forest and wilderness, never failed to observe a brilliant sunset, and while he watched against an ambush he also watched the deep, rich colors as they faded.  The wind had blown gently all day long, but now with the coming of the darkness it swelled into the song which he alone heard, that playing of the breeze upon the leaves, which his supersense translated into notes and bars and harmonies.  Whenever he heard it he was uplifted and exalted in a singular manner, as if the distant heralds were already blowing the trumpets of victory.  He was sure now of success.

He and Long Jim kept the first watch, which would last until some time after midnight, and he chose it for himself, because he felt certain the attack would come before it was over.  Paul and Tom went to sleep on the leaves inside, but he and Jim lay down just within the door, where they could see some distance and yet remain well sheltered.  Now and then they exchanged a word or two.

“It’s eyes an’ ears both, Henry,” said Long Jim.  “Uv course, they’ll come a-creepin’, an’ a-slidin’, an’ I reckon it’ll be ears that’ll tell us fust they’re a-knockin’ at our front door.”

“Right, Jim.  Our ears have saved us more than once, and they’re going to do it again.  I’ve an idea that they’ll spread out and approach from different points.”

“I think it likely.  Red Eagle, their leader, is a chief uv sense, and he’ll scatter his forces so we won’t be able to concentrate our fire.”

They waited a long time, the wind meanwhile blowing steadily, and playing its song upon the leaves.  There was no other sound, but, when it was nearly midnight, a long howl, inexpressibly dreary and weird, came out of the depths of the forest.

“That’s a mighty lonely wolf,” whispered Long Jim.

“Listen!” Henry whispered back.  “That’s no wolf.  It’s Shif’less Sol.”

“Mebbe it’s so, but he’s shorely howlin’ like the king of all wolves.”

Long Jim was right.  Perhaps no wolf had ever before howled with such vigor and endurance.  The long yelping, whining note filled the whole valley and quivered on the air.  It rose and sank and rose again, and it was uncanny enough to make any ordinary hearer shiver to his bones.

“Now what in thunder does he mean by sech an awful howl ez that?” whispered Long Jim.

“I know,” replied Henry, with a flash of intuition.  “He’s hanging somewhere on the outskirts of the Indian camp, and he’s warning us that the attack is at hand.”

“Uv course!  Uv course!  I might ‘a’ knowed.  That thar Shif’less Sol is one uv the smartest men the world hez ever seed, an’ while part uv our band is inside a big part uv it is outside, a-helpin’ us.”

“Wake up Paul and Tom and tell ’em the time has come.”

In an instant all four were crouching beside the opening, their rifles ready.  The extra rifle that Henry had brought in was lying loaded at his feet, and all the while the wolf on the far ridge, moving from place to place, whined and howled incessantly.  Despite Henry’s knowledge of its source it made his hair rise a little, and a quiver ran along his spine.  What then must be its effect upon red men, who were so much more superstitious than white men?  They might think it the spirit of some great forgotten warrior that had gone into a wolf which was now giving warning.

Nevertheless he listened with all the power of his hearing for what might happen closer by, and presently he heard a rustling in the grass that was not caused by the wind.  A moment later, and the rustling came from a second point and then a third.  As he had surmised, Red Eagle had spread out his men until they were advancing like the spokes of a wheel toward a hub, the hub being the mouth of the cavern.  And from the far ridge the warning cry of the wolf never ceased to come.

“Do you hear them creeping?” whispered Henry to Ross.

Silent Tom nodded and shoved forward the muzzle of his rifle.

“They’ll be on us in a minute,” he whispered back.

Paul and Long Jim had heard and they too made ready with their rifles.  But all of them relied now on Henry, whose hearing was keenest.  The faint, sliding sounds ceased, and he knew that the warriors had stopped to listen for their enemies, hoping to catch them off guard.  The howling of the wolf also ceased suddenly, and the wind was again supreme.

At least ten minutes passed in almost intolerable waiting, and then Henry heard the renewal of the faint sliding sounds, coming from many points.

“Be ready,” he whispered to his comrades.  “When they’re near enough they’ll all jump up, utter a mighty yell and rush for us.”

The rustlings came closer, then they ceased all at once, there was a half minute of breathless silence, and the air was rent by a tremendous war whoop, as twenty warriors, springing up, rushed for the opening.  Henry fired straight at the heart of the first man, and snatching up the second rifle sent a bullet through another.  The other three fired with deadly aim and all the assailants fell back, save one who, standing on the very edge of the opening, whirled his tomahawk preparatory to letting it go straight at Henry’s head.  But a moment before it could leave his hand a rifle cracked somewhere and he fell dead, shot through the head, his figure lying directly across the entrance.  From the other Indians came a yell of rage and dismay, and then after a groan or two somewhere in the grass, all were gone.

But the four were reloading with feverish haste.  Henry, however, found time to say to Silent Tom Ross: 

“Thank you for the shot that saved me.”

Tom shook his head.

“’Twuzn’t me,” he said.

“Then you, Paul.”

“I shot at an Indian, but not that one.  It was a warrior ten yards away.”

“Then it must hev been you, Jim.”

“It wuzn’t, though.  I wuz too busy with a warrior off thar to the left.  When that feller wuz about to throw his tomahawk I’d done fired.”

“And so it was none of you.  Then I’m to be thankful that we’ve a friend outside.  Nobody but Shif’less Sol could have fired that shot.”

“An’ jest in time,” said Long Jim.  “Good old Sol.  He’s settin’ off somewhar in the bushes now, laughin’ at the trick he’s played ’em.”

“They’ll look for him,” said Henry, “but whenever they come to a place he won’t be there.”

“They can’t besiege us here,” said Paul, “and catch Shif’less Sol at the same time.  But I think we ought to remove the body of that fallen warrior at the door.  I don’t like to see it there.”

“Neither do I,” said Long Jim, and stepping forward he lifted the slain man in his arms and tossed him as far as he could down the side of the hill.  They heard the body rolling and crashing some distance through the grass and bushes, and they shuddered.

“I hated to do it,” said Long Jim, “but it had to be done.  Besides, they’ll get it now and take it away.”

“You look for no other attempt tonight?” said Paul.

“No,” said Henry.  “They’ve lost too many men.  They may try to starve us out.”

“Now you an’ Jim take your naps,” said Silent Tom, “while me an’ Paul keep the watch till day.”

“All right,” said Henry, “but I want to wait eight or ten minutes.”

“What fur?”

“You’ll see ­or rather you’ll hear.”

Before the appointed time had passed the long howling note of a wolf came from a point a quarter of a mile or more away.

“Shif’less Sol is safe,” said Henry, and five minutes later he and Long Jim were sound asleep.