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

A WELCOME VOICE

Dense bushes fringed a bluff looking down on the Muskingum River. In these, concealed from view, lay a boy of fifteen. His face was worn and thin. His moccasins and leggins were frayed from much running through undergrowth. He was peering through the branches to a bend in the river. He had lain there hours, watching. That morning, a canoe containing two savages came up past him. The Indians were paddling vigorously. Why their haste? That was what the boy would know.

The reader has guessed the lad’s name and so will readily understand that Rodney Allison concluded if the Indians were being pursued it was by white men.

Ah! was it? Yes, surely that was the shadow of a canoe. Now he could see its sides under the overhanging branches which concealed its occupants from his view.

“An’ all tin twins o’ thim great at shenannegan,
An’ all o’ thim born in pairs.
Pat an’ Terry, Tom an’ Tim,
Peter, Mary Ann ”

“Halloa!”

“There’s one of ’em coming down through the bushes now, Nick,” exclaimed a man in the stern of the canoe.

“I never could sing that song without interruption, Chevalier.”

The speaker had shipped his paddle and grasped his rifle, saying as he did so: “Look out, boys, the voice is white but there may be red shenannegan behind it.”

Rodney Allison leaped to the beach below in full view of the party. There he stood, panting and staring as though at a ghost.

“I say, sonny, if ye’ve objections to our looks now’s the time to put ’em on file,” said Nick.

“Dominick Ferguson! I thought you were dead!” gasped the boy.

Aisy now, don’t feel so bad bekase I’m not. Whereabout did ye find the handle o’ me name, lad?”

“So you’re not the man the Indians killed, that day down on the Ohio, when they captured me?”

“Do I look loike I was?” Then dawning comprehension showed in the man’s face. “Ah reckon poor Job Armistead was the unfortnit one; he never showed up. May your name be Allison?” he asked.

“It is. Have you room in the canoe for one more?”

“We’ll make room,” spoke two of the men at the same moment, turning the craft to shore. Thus, after long months of captivity and days of fleeing through a country infested with warlike savages, Rodney Allison came back to his own people.

“You must have seen my father, then, Mr. Ferguson?” said the boy as he stepped into the canoe.

“Sure; found him expectin’ ye an’ he was nigh crazy. You ought to heard him call us cowards an’ knaves fer leavin’ ye. He wanted to start right off alone to bring ye back, an’ would, but we told him thar were others in his family to think about.”

“Where is he now, and have you any news from Charlottesville?”

“He went back to Virginny an’ give up the enterprise down on the Kanawha. Saw a man the other day who said he heard yer father had joined the men under Lewis. Now if he’d come along with us we’d had a family gatherin’ right out here in the woods. The family’s well, I reckon, or yer dad wouldn’t hev gone sojerin’.”

The next day the expedition left the river and began a march toward an Indian settlement known as Wappatomica Town. In the order of this march the division under Captain Wood went ahead, much to the disgust of some of the men with Morgan, for they were greedy for glory, and a chance to win laurels and the consequent promotions.

As they were marching through a part of the country through which Rodney had passed in his flight, he remarked to Ferguson, “I don’t envy the fellows on ahead when they come to a place about a mile from here. If I know anything about Indians, they’ll lie in wait for us there,” and he described a locality where he had hidden from a party of savages, one of the critical experiences in his flight.

“Me lad, you come with Ferguson,” and Rodney was conducted by him to Morgan and introduced.

“Well, my boy, if you got out alive we ought to be able to get in.”

“Captain Morgan, from where I lay in hiding that day a dozen men could shoot down fifty marching below.”

“This lad, Captain, knows what he’s talking about. The chief of the village where he was captive was the redskin that shot ye through the neck and chased ye an’ threw his hatchet at yer head.”

“Yes, Ahneota said the Great Spirit turned the tomahawk aside so that you might live to persecute the Indians.”

“I hope the old rascal was right. I think, young man, we’ll need you for scout duty.”

“Askin’ yer pardon, Captain, but the lad’s had his share o’ risk, to my thinkin’.”

“Nick, we are here to do something. Every man must do the best he can. This boy can do that work better than you or I. If you were the best man would ye shirk it?”

“I’ll go, Captain,” replied Ferguson, “but don’t send the boy.”

“I want to do what I can, Captain Morgan,” said Rodney.

“I can tell ’em, Ferguson, I can tell ’em,” and the look of approval Morgan gave the boy as he spoke was one for which Rodney Allison would have stormed an Indian town alone and single handed.

“Now, young man, you run ahead and warn Wood. Tell him Morgan sent ye.”

Rodney ran forward with alacrity, proud of the responsibility that had been placed on him. He had not gone far before he discovered that the place of ambush was much nearer than he had thought, an error wholly excusable, considering the conditions under which he had first seen the country.

He ran at top speed, but was too late, otherwise he might have been among the men who fell under the volley which a band of about fifty Indians, lying in ambush at the very place indicated by the boy, poured into the ranks of Captain Wood’s men.

Rodney hesitated and then ran forward, joining in the melee.

A moment later there was yelling and commotion behind, and Morgan and his men came running to their support. A heavy hand was laid on the boy’s shoulder, and Captain Morgan demanded of him, “Do you know of any place where we can get behind the red devils and dislodge ’em?”

“This way, Captain,” and Rodney ran to the right. He recalled the way he had left the hiding place. Up that bluff they might attack the Indians in the rear.

“Come on, boys,” Morgan shouted, and a rush was made upon the heels of young Allison.

A shot from above warned them that the Indians had discovered their approach. Rodney heard the bullet singing. The next instant Morgan seized him by the shoulder, saying, “Go back! You are ordered to the rear;” then, with a yell, the leader charged up the hill, his men close at his back. The charge dislodged the Indians and they fled.

The troops advanced toward the town more cautiously, but found the Indians had deserted it, carrying away everything movable.

“Why ain’t we chasin’ ’em, I’d like to know?” asked an ensign with an important air.

“We first better find out whether they’re running or hiding,” replied Rodney, nettled at the fellow’s importance.

“Sensible remark,” said Captain Morgan, who had come up and heard the conversation. “You know something about this country, also about Indians. Suppose you slip along behind the trees an’ cross the creek half a mile up stream and see what ye can find. Don’t shoot unless obliged to and don’t hurry. Don’t leave shelter until you are sure there ain’t a redskin behind the trees in front.”

It was a perilous task, and some might blame Morgan for assigning the boy to it. As it has already appeared, he would ask no one to attempt that which he wouldn’t do himself, and the conclusion must be that he thought the boy the best one he could send on the duty which some one must do.

The boy had listened to Ahneota’s descriptions of Indian methods in battle and knew they would have scouts out. He believed the main body would simply cross the stream and lie in wait for the troops and attack them crossing so as to throw them into confusion. They would, however, send men to reconnoitre the main body of the troops, and these scouts, assigned to a task similar to his, were the ones he must avoid, a difficult thing to do, as will be readily understood.

Rodney made his way with extreme caution until he caught a glimpse of an Indian stealthily advancing toward the main body of troops; then, believing that Indian would be the only one sent from that quarter and having eluded the redskin, he went hastily forward to the creek, crossing it at a narrow place fully half a mile above where the savages had crossed.

Making his way down toward the ambush was nerve-racking work, but finally the boy was rewarded by discovering a sentinel on guard.

The Indians were waiting just where he had supposed. Now to get back without meeting the scout he had passed! At last the feat was accomplished without a glimpse of a savage on the way. On his arrival he found the troops getting ready to advance, for another scout, sent out at the same time as he, had returned with the report that he found no Indians and that they must have fled.

“Well, they are there,” exclaimed Rodney, and he told what he had seen.

“The youngster’s got redskins on the brain, I calc’late,” drawled one fellow, at which the boy got very red in the face.

Captain Morgan here appeared, saying, “You’re back at last. What d’ye see?”

When the boy described what he had done Morgan promptly said, “You did your duty, my boy,” and proceeded to act on the information. A guard was posted to make sure the savages did not recross and make an attack, for it was found they were in considerable force.

After several days, during which skirmishes were fought and the Indians beaten, the savages sued for peace and were asked to give hostages.

Rodney did not believe they wanted peace. They had been too angry to be satisfied with no worse defeat than this. His opinion proved correct and, the troops being short of provisions, a retreat began, everything belonging to the savages being first destroyed even to the corn, of which the troops took for their own use all they could carry. In fact, before they got back to Wheeling, they were obliged to live on one ear per day to each soldier, very short rations for men marching and fighting, as the savages dogged their footsteps and inflicted considerable losses on them.

There were times on the retreat when it seemed the troops would be cut off and annihilated. In this struggle Rodney bore his part so well as to win the approval of his associates. One day on the retreat, when the boy and the “Chevalier” were acting as flankers, scouting ahead and outside the main body, Rodney saved his companion’s life.

The “Chevalier” was not familiar with Indian methods of fighting and held them in contempt. He and the boy had several arguments about the matter, the former contending that a savage was dangerous only when one was running away from him.

In the work they were now assigned to, it was a part of wisdom to screen one’s self behind trees, advancing quickly from one to another.

The “Chevalier” declared he was not out in that country for the “fun of dodging.” Rodney, however, adhered to the practice, luckily for both.

The “Chevalier” was striding along as though an enemy were not within a hundred miles, when the lad’s trained eye caught sight of the heel of a savage, who was kneeling behind a big tree and waiting for his foe to pass. The “Chevalier” was walking on, his head up, and in three paces would have exposed himself to the redskin’s rifle.

Rodney yelled an alarm and took a quick shot at the Indian’s heel, the only part of him exposed.

“Jump behind a tree and hold your fire,” the boy had cried, for, if he missed the savage, he would need the protection of the “Chevalier’s” rifle before he could reload. But his shot went true, as a howl from the savage bore witness.

Startled by the cry and the report of the rifle, the “Chevalier,” for once, moved quickly to cover, and, between the two, they compelled the Indian to surrender. He had a painful wound in his ankle and finally, after being disarmed, was left behind, though some of the men wanted to kill him.

The “Chevalier” extended his hand to Rodney, saying, “I have you to thank for my poor existence. You did ill trying to do well, but of course you didn’t know it. Perhaps I will find a way to repay.”

The man spoke seriously, not in a spirit of banter, and Rodney wondered. When he told one of the men later what the “Chevalier” had said, the fellow remarked: “So the Chevalier was solemn, was he? Kain’t be possible his mightiness is sufferin’ from liver complaint with only one ear o’ corn a day.”

All were glad to be back at Wheeling, where Major McDonald decided to wait for the arrival of Governor Dunmore. The governor finally arrived in all the pomp of war and with enough men to raise the total number to about twelve hundred.

Up to the time of his arrival it had been supposed that he would take his army down the Ohio River and join that of General Lewis before making an attack on the Indians. Now he announced that the army would proceed in boats down the Ohio to the Hockhocking River and up that river to the falls, whence he would march across country to the Indian towns on the Scioto River. He sent messengers to General Lewis ordering him to join the main body at that point.

“If the redskins learn what’s up they’ll have a chance to wipe Lewis off the earth,” remarked one frontiersman in Rodney’s hearing.

The Indians did learn Dunmore’s plan and almost succeeded in defeating the division under Lewis.