Read CHAPTER XIV of Rodney‚ the Ranger With Daniel Morgan on Trail and Battlefield , free online book, by John V. Lane, on ReadCentral.com.

HORNETS WITH AND WITHOUT WINGS

During Francois’s visit a runner came in with the report that two Indians, descending the Ohio River in a canoe, had been fired upon and killed by the whites. Inflamed by the brandy they had drank, and infuriated by the report, several of the younger men blacked their faces, set up a war post and danced around it in the firelight like demons, yelling and throwing their hatchets into the post. The following morning a party of them set out for revenge.

On such occasions Rodney kept in hiding as much as possible and his mind was dark with forebodings, so that he would wake in the night from dreams of torture and find himself wet with perspiration.

A little later Logan himself came to the village, pleading that the Indians dig up the hatchet and unite in a war of revenge upon the whites for the outrage committed against him. He was a distinguished looking Indian, straight and tall, a typical chieftain of the better sort. Ahneota pleaded the necessity of delay, but, that being of no avail, urged him to secure the services of Cornstalk, the wise and wily Shawnee chief.

Rodney sympathized with the Indians until a returning party brought back scalps torn from the heads of women and children as well as from men, and then his heart sickened and he looked on them with trembling to see if among them he could discover that of his father.

Having no rifle, the boy armed himself with the bow, this being his only defence in case of attack, though he knew it would be of little use against savages armed with rifles. One day, in the latter part of July, he was strolling through the forest not far from the village when he heard voices.

During his captivity Rodney had learned to stalk game and this training he now put to use. Stealthily approaching, he saw a group of strange Indians, and with them Caughnega. The latter had set up, in a little opening among the trees, his wigwam of skins, in which he was accustomed to perform certain of the rites of a “medicine man.” The boy knew that Caughnega’s fame was not confined to the local tribes, and at once concluded these Indians had come to consult him, probably as to what the spirits, good and evil, might have to say respecting the approaching war.

Evidently Caughnega had begun his work, for he was now ready to enter his wigwam. Silence came upon the group waiting patiently outside. After quite a long wait a medley of sounds issued from the interior of the wigwam in which Caughnega was shut and the structure itself rocked as if in a gale. Knowing that Indians can mimic the sounds of all animals and birds with which they are acquainted, the boy had no doubt these sounds were made by Caughnega himself. If so, he was certainly an artist, and the assembled group sat around awestruck, for they had no doubt the noises were made by the spirits.

After the disturbance subsided, Caughnega came out and, standing before them, addressed them, telling what, he said, the spirits had told him. The message incited the savages to great ardour, which they manifested by brandishing their tomahawks and yelling.

“So this is the work that villain is doing unknown to Ahneota,” thought Rodney. Just then he espied a large nest of hornets suspended to a limb overhanging the group. He recognized the nest as that of a variety of hornet which is large and valiant. The spirit of mischief entered the boy and, taking careful aim, he shot an arrow, which struck and tore away a portion of the paper nest.

Now a hornet does not hold a council of war when disturbed, but instantly attacks, like an Indian, the first object that presents itself, and in this instance Caughnega was the first target.

He stood, his back toward the nest, pouring out the words of the message in sonorous tones. Suddenly this flow of language was punctuated by a blood-curdling yell, as one of those winged bullets struck him just behind the left ear. About the same moment others in the group were hit. Yells and back somersaults were mingled for a moment, and then those doughty warriors fled as never from the face of a white man.

Rodney lay on the ground in convulsions of silent laughter.

On returning to the village the boy related his story to the old chief, who listened gravely and at the end said, “The Great Spirit will be angry.”

“Do you believe the ‘medicine man’ can talk with him?” asked Rodney, incredulously.

“Ahneota knows the ways of the birds and the beaver, but the ways of the spirits he does not know. I see the medicine lodge tremble and hear voices; they are not the voices of Indians.”

Rodney did not dare to argue the matter, and there was silence for a long time. In the flickering firelight the old chief’s face was ghastly.

The boy fell into an unpleasant reverie. Soon would come the moment when he must flee, for to remain, he was sure, would mean his death. The difficulties of escape, because of the uprising among the Indians, had greatly increased.

“Between here and La Belle Riviere are many Mingoes, Delawares and Shawnees. Little Knife cannot fly nor leap from tree to tree like panther. He must be brother of Ahneota.”

The boy was startled. It seemed to him that the Indian had been reading his thoughts.

“The paleface comes and Ahneota’s brother must take his scalp. That Little Knife cannot do,” Rodney replied.

Silence of many minutes followed. Rodney became uneasy and was about to leave when the chief, taking a stick in his trembling hand, drew it over the sand and began to describe the country which lay between them and the Ohio River.

“Before another moon,” he said, “the palefaces will come in many canoes to the Indians’ country. Little Knife will run to meet them. He will not be the brother of the chief. He must go to his people. He must go like the fox.”

The following day Ahneota called in several men of the village and Rodney. Then, giving his rifle to the boy, he said: “Little Knife has been brother of Ahneota, has brought him meat when he starved. He must have gun to bring more meat, for the chief is old and cannot hunt.”

The Indians did not look pleased, for the rifle was a valuable one and much coveted. One said, “White blood must be washed away,” but, as the old chief made no reply, they went away.

As the boy started to leave the lodge the Indian lifted his head and said, “When Little Knife points the old chief’s gun at man, let him not see the colour of skin.”

Rodney now began to store up, against the emergency he knew was approaching, a stock of dried venison, and hominy and parched corn. His experience when surrounded by hostile savages had taught him the difficulty of securing food on the march.

As he lay in the shadow of a bush one day he noticed a little worm travelling along a twig. It was the variety commonly called an “inch worm,” which advances by pulling its rear up to its forward feet, its back in a curve, and then thrusts forward its length. As the boy watched its laborious progress he thought, “If one may only keep going he’ll get there in time,” and somehow he felt encouraged. Had he not thought it his duty to remain and care for the old chief he would have set forth that very hour.

As he came near the village several guns were fired in quick succession down at the creek and he knew a party of savages had returned from one of their raids!

The inmates of the village hurried down to meet the newcomers, but the boy lagged behind. Soon they came running back and formed two lines. Some captive must run the gauntlet!

The prisoner was a man of forty years or more. His hair was long and matted and his arms were bound. Evidently his captors had found him a difficult subject with whom to deal. In running the gauntlet he could not ward off the blows, his arms being tied, but he delivered one well directed kick that doubled a brave up in agony. He got through, but was horribly beaten. All the while he was yelling at the savages in derision, calling them old women and apparently doing everything in his power to enrage them.

A post was set in the ground in front of the encampment, and the prisoner was led out and tied to it. On the way he kicked an Indian, who in his rage would have killed him on the spot, had not another interfered. Sudden death in preference to torture was evidently what the captive sought, but it was not to be granted.

Thinking Ahneota might prevent the torture, which now seemed inevitable, Rodney hurried to the chief’s lodge. Within, it was almost dark and he could but dimly see the figure of the man seated on a bear skin, his back against a bale of furs. His head was inclined forward, his chin on his breast.

“Ahneota!” called the boy loudly in his excitement, but there was no answer.

Thinking the Indian slept, the boy grasped him by the arm to wake him.

Ahneota had passed to the “happy hunting ground!”