The second volume of the Colonial Frontiers series—more adventures of the border wars
During the eighteenth century the American frontier traversed the eastern woodlands, mountains and lakes of the continent. The 'flaming border' was a hostile land populated by the tribes of the Shawnees, Wyandots, Delaware's and others—fierce warrior peoples determined to maintain their dominance to stem the encroachment of the early European pioneers. These settlers were a new people, determined to cut back the wilderness, to create communities and farm the fertile soil. Ever since the 'white man' had set foot in the New World the dispute had raged in seemingly endless bloodshed. The French and their Indian allies had fought and lost their bid for the continent, but still the war between 'white' and 'red' raged. The border moved inexorably Westward and the land about the great Ohio and Mississippi Rivers was where the struggle would continue. Among the vanguard of the white men were intrepid backwoodsmen, scouts, trappers, hunters and those who—for adventure or vengeance—brought the fight to their Indian and renegade foes. Among these are this series' principal characters, Henry Ware, Paul Cotter and their companions. These novels by Joseph Altsheler—sometimes referred to as 'The Young Trailers' series—chronicle these extraordinary times as the background to the adventures of these remarkable young men. Altsheler was well regarded for high adventure set in American history and accurately encompassing actual personalities and real events. This Leonaur collection is available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket. Altsheler's 'Civil War' series and his 'French and Indian War' series are also available from Leonaur.
This second volume contains novels three and four of the series—The Keepers of the Trail and The Eyes of the Woods.
He was racing along a low ridge from which the rain had run rapidly, leaving fairly firm ground. Once more he disturbed the thickets. Startled wild animals sprang up as the giant young figure sped past. A rabbit leaped from under his raised foot. A huge owl looked down with red, distended eyes at the flying youth, and, in the face of the unknown, using the wisdom that is the owl’s own, flew heavily away from the forest. Some pigeons, probably a part of the same flock that he had seen, rose with a whirr from a bough and streamed off in a black line among the trees. The undergrowth was filled with whimperings, and little rustlings, and Henry, who felt so closely akin to wild life, would have told them now if he could that they were in no danger. It was he, not they, who was being pursued. <br>
He caught a glimpse of a dusky figure aiming a rifle. Quickly he bent low and the bullet whistled over his head. Catching his own rifle by the barrel he swung the stock heavily and the red trailer lay still in the undergrowth. A little farther on a second fired at him, and now he sent his own bullet in reply. The warrior fell back with a cry of pain to which his pursuing comrades answered, and Henry for a third time sent forth his fierce, defiant shout. Those whom he had met must have been hunters coming in.<br>
He reloaded his rifle, running, and kept a wary eye as he passed into the canebrake. But he believed now that he had left behind the outermost fringe of the scouts and trailers. He would encounter nobody lying in ambush, and, after making his way for a long time through the dense thickets, he sat down on a little mound to rest and observe.<br>
He knew that the nearest of the warriors was at least four or five hundred yards away, and that none could come within rifle shot without his knowledge. So, he sat quite still, taking deep breaths, and was without apprehension. He was not really weary, the long swinging run had not been much more than exercise, but he wanted to look about and see the nature of the land.<br>
The canebrake extended a great distance, but he saw far beyond it the black shadow of forest, in the interminable depths of which he might easily lose himself if the pursuit continued. Whether it continued or not was a matter of sheer indifference to him. He had drawn them far enough, but if they wished to go farther he would be the hunted again, although it might be dangerous for the hunters.<br>
He saw the crests of the cane waving a little, and, rising, he resumed the race on easy foot, passing through the canebrake, and entering the forest, in which there was much rough, rocky ground. Here he leaped lightly from stone to stone, until he knew the trail was broken beyond the possibility of finding, when he sat down between two great upthrust roots of an oak and leaned back against turf and trunk together. He knew that the green of his deerskins blended perfectly with the grass, and he felt so thoroughly convinced that the pursuit had stopped that he decided to remain there for the night.<br>
He unrolled the blanket from his back, put it about his shoulders, and then he laughed again at the successful trick that he had played upon these fierce red warriors. It had been an easy task, too. Save the two hasty shots from the trailers he had never been in serious danger, and now, as he rested comfortably, he ate a little more of the dried venison from his knapsack. Then he fell asleep.<br>
The hours of the night passed peacefully. The soft turf supported his back, and only his head was against the trunk of the tree. It was a comfortable position for a seasoned forest runner. Toward morning the wind rose and began to sing through the spring foliage. Its song grew louder, and before it was yet dawn Henry awoke and listened to it. Like the Indian he heard the voice of the Great Spirit in the wind, and now it came to him with a warning note.<br>
He stretched his limbs a little and stood up, his hand on the hammer of his rifle. The darkness that precedes the dawn covered the woods, but he could see some distance into it, and he saw nothing. He listened a long time, and as the dusk began to thin away before the sun he heard a low chant. He knew that it was an Indian song, a song of triumph, coming from the south, and for a while he was puzzled.<br>
Clearly, this was no part of the great war band, which lay to the north of him, and he concluded that it must be a small expedition which had already gone into the South and which was now returning. But he did not like the character of the song. It indicated victory and he thrilled with horror and repulsion. The triumph must be over people of his own race.<br>
The blood in every vein grew hot with anger, and the pulses in his temples beat so hard that for a while it made a little singing in his head. The great figure stiffened and a menacing look came into his eyes.<br>
The chant was fast growing louder and the singers would pass within a few feet of his tree. He slipped aside, turning away a hundred yards or so, and crouched behind dense bushes. The singers came on, about twenty warriors in single file, Shawnees by their paint, and the first three brandished aloft three hideous trophies. Henry had more than suspected, but the reality made him shudder.<br>
The three scalps were obviously those of white people, and the first, long, thick, blonde and fine, was that of a woman. The warrior who waved it aloft, as he chanted, wore only the breech cloth, his naked body painted in many colours, and he exulted as he displayed his trophy, so fine to his savage heart.<br>
A mighty rage seized Henry. For a moment his eyes were clouded by the red mist that danced before them. The song of the wind before the dawn had aroused him to his coming danger, but there was nothing to tell the triumphant savage that his hour was at hand.<br>
The red mist cleared away from the great youth’s eyes. The blood lately so hot in his veins became as cold as ice, and the pulses in his temples sank to their normal beat. Mind and nerves were completely attuned and he was a perfect instrument of vengeance. The rifle rose to his shoulder and he looked down the sights at a tiny bear painted in blue directly over the warrior’s heart. Then he pulled the trigger and so deadly was his aim that the savage sank down without a cry, and the scalp fell and lay upon his own body, the long hair reddening fast with the blood that flowed from the warrior’s heart.