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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lost Trail - Chapter 11. A Primitive Fort
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The Lost Trail - Chapter 11. A Primitive Fort Post by :milette Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :May 2012 Read :476

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The Lost Trail - Chapter 11. A Primitive Fort

CHAPTER XI. A PRIMITIVE FORT

The sharp repulse of the Indians delayed rush which, as has been said, could ended only in the discomfiture of the defenders. The occurrence proved that the first warriors to scale the walls were certain to share the fate of him who had already made the attempt.

With such knowledge it would be unnatural to expect any Shawanoe or Miami to throw himself into the breach, since, as a rule, men are not anxious to sacrifice themselves for others.

The brief respite thus afforded Jack and Otto enabled them to make a closer survey of the shelter which had presented itself so providentially to them. They found little not apparent to their terrified gaze when they scrambled within. There were the four walls and nothing more. With that morbid interest in trifling things which often manifests itself in the most critical moments, Otto counted the logs on each of the four sides.

"Dere be nine dere," said he, indicating the western side, "ten dere, and nine and ten on de other sides."

"That must be right," remarked Jack, "for I make them the same."

"Tis funny dat we bofe counts dem at de same tine, when each one is not doing it togedder."

The only entrance to the enclosure, as it seems proper to call it, was the one used by the boys. Nothing to suggest a door, or any purpose of making one, was to be seen on any side of the walls.

It was not impossible that some hunters, who had encamped in the vicinity, had started the structure with the intention of roofing it over, and of providing some original means of ingress and egress which was not apparent to the little garrison.

Convinced that they would not be disturbed for some time to come, Jack hastily searched for loopholes, with which it would seem the structure ought to have been provided, but nothing of the kind was discovered.

Whoever had hewn and put together the logs, had done so with admirable skill. The gaps in the ends had been cut with a nicety that made a perfect fit in every case. Had the house been completed, it certainly would have been a substantial one.

While the absence of loop-holes removed to a great extent the fear of treacherous shots from the outside, yet in another respect it was an annoyance. The boys could see nothing of their assailants. The sense of hearing and conjecture it lelf were all that were left to inform them of what was going on so near them.

It was not to be supposed that the Indians, after driving the youths into shelter, would leave them undisturbed. The death of one of their warriors was enough to rouse the passion of revenge to the highest point--a necessity which, as shown by the incidents already narrated, did not exist.

When Jack and Otto were given a little time for reflection, they were forced to see that their situation was hopeless. Every advantage was with their enemies, who, if they chose to save themselves the risk of a determined assault, had only to wait. Without food or water, with no means of leaving the place, the hour must surely come when exhausted nature would compel this little garrison to yield.

The boy's were many miles from the settlements on either side of the river, and there was no means of sending word to their friends of the dire strait in which they were placed. Even could such message reach Coatesville, or the cabins on the other side of the Mississippi, several days must necessarily elapse before assistance could arrive.

Jack Carleton's thoughts naturally turned to Deerfoot the Shawanoe. He had heard so many stories of his wonderful woodcraft and skill that he leaned upon him, when he was present to lean upon; but, hopeful as was the nature of the young Kentuckian, he could gather no crumbs of comfort in that direction.

Deerfoot had crossed the river in the Miami canoe, and could not be expected to return until under cover of darkness. Even then he must be powerless. There are limits to all human skill, and what greater folly than to expect him to release two boys, shut in a log enclosure, and surrounded by a score or less of vigilant Indian warriors.

But it was not the nature of either Jack or Otto, to yield without a struggle. So long as they could fight off the dread end, so long they would put, forth every effort to do so.

For fifteen minutes after the discharge of gun absolute silence prevailed. Not the slightest rustling told of the crouching savages without. The boys leaned against the logs of waited and listened.

During the interval, the young Kentuckian became filled with irresistible curiosity to learn what their enemies were doing. It was certain they were plotting mischief, but he could form no idea of its nature.

How was he to gain the coveted knowledge? Manifestly there was but the one way.

"Otto," he said in a low voice, "I'm going to climb up the logs and look over."

"And got your head blown off, dot's vot you does!" exclaimed his horrified friend.

"I'll come to that sooner or later any way," was the reply; "but I'm not going to be shot; I'm not such a dunce as that; I mean to take one glance over the logs, and will draw back so quickly that no one will get a chance to shoot me."

Otto protested, but, seeing it was useless, gave over and made the sensible suggestion that, instead of climbing up the wall and thereby probably making known what he was doing, he should stand on the shoulders of Otto. That would give him enough elevation, and the lad added:

"If I sees any noise vot I don't like, den I drops you so quick dot you vill bump the ground so hard dot it bulges out mit China on de other side."

At the very moment Jack made ready to avail himself of his friend's support, they heard a movement on the part of the Indians, the meaning of which was not understood.

A number of them seemed to be moving heavily over the ground, as though carrying some weighty body or marching in military step. The boys listened closely, but it was impossible to tell what it meant.

The noise added to Jack's curiosity, and, leaning his gun against the logs, he said"

"Help me up, Otto; I'm bound to find out what all that is about."

It was an easy matter to mount the shoulders of his young friend, whose strength would have supported double his weight. Jack found, as he anticipated, that he would be able to look over the logs without difficulty. Steadying himself by placing his hand against the wall, he slowly raised his head until almost on a level with the top, when he quietly looked over.

No movement of the kind was expected by the Indians, and the face was withdrawn before any one of them could fire.

Under such circumstances, a person can see a great deal in an exceedingly brief space of time. Jack Carleton learned much about that which had excited his curiosity.

Inasmuch as the walls had been put up from material cut in the immediate vicinity, a number of stumps surrounded the structure, beside which a single unused log was lying. It had been cut entirely off at the base, several of the lower limbs trimmed, but most of the bushy top remained. It looked as if the builders had been interrupted while at work, or they had voluntarily abandoned it for something else.

Some six or eight warriors had lifted this log from the ground and were laboriously hearing it In the direction of the fort (if the name can be permitted). Others were moving hither and thither, as though they enjoyed viewing the job more than assisting with it. One of them caught sight of the face of the young Kentuckian and brought his gun to his shoulder; but, quick as he was, he was just a moment too late. When he was ready to fire, the target was gone.

"They're going to batter down the logs!" exclaimed Jack, dropping lightly to the ground, and taking possession of his gun; "they're carrying a log toward us, and mean to hammer these down about our heads."

"What for they don't want to do dot?"

"It seems to me it would be a good plan for them to tumble our house about our heads."

"I don't dink they doos dots," persisted the German, and he proved to be right in his surmise.

With great labor the warriors bore the heavy tree forward, so that the larger end was against the side of the fort. Then, instead of using it as a battering ram, they lifted it higher until, with an exertion that must have been very great, it was raised even with the log wall. A combined effort rested the butt on the support, the trunk sloping downward, until the top reached the ground, probably thirty feet away.

As the butt was a foot in diameter, it will be seen that the work must have been very onerous to the American Indian, who hates physical labor as much as does the tramp of modern times.

Having accomplished what must be admitted to be quite a feat, the toilers rested, while the boys looked up at the jagged end on the logs, suggesting the head of some monster peering down upon them, and speculated as to the meaning of the movement.

"Dot is so to help dem climbs to de top," said Otto, "or maybe they will runs him across and play I see-saw.'

"It is to cover up some mischief on their part."

"If we only knowed when dey don't stands right under him, we would shove off de end off and let him drop onto dem and mash 'em all!"

"It would take a good deal more strength than we have to do that," said Jack. "I would like to take another peep over the edge, but it won't do, because they will be on the lookout for us."

"Dot's vot I didn't dink some times ago," maid Otto, meaning a little different from what his words implied.

It was yet early in the day, and the boys could not but feel that the crisis was sure to come long before night. The temperature was mild and pleasant, no clouds floating in the space of clear sky visible overhead. The friends kept their loaded and cocked guns in their hands all the while and moved to and fro, in the circumscribed space, on the alert for the first demonstration from the red men, distressed by the consciousness that their cunning enemies were sure to do the very thing which was least expected.

Jack Carleton noticed that whenever he stood with his back against the logs, he could see the upper portions of the trees which grew close to the structure. It occurred to him that some of the daring warriors were liable to turn the fact to account. It would take no great skill for one or two of them to climb into the limbs, from which they would command a portion of the interior. No better opportunity could be asked--in case they were not discovered by the lads--to fire down upon them.

"I've been dinking of dot," replied Otto, when the matter was mentioned; "and I dinks dot iss de tree yonder, and py gracious dere is an Indian 'mong de limbs!"

This startling declaration was the truth. The friends were standing at the eastern end of the structure, so that they looked in the direction of the river, where towered a bushy oak, fully twenty feet of the upper portion being in sight. Something was among the branches, though the object could not be seen distinctly. Fortunate it was that both were gazing toward the point when their suspicion was first awakened.

"Yes, it is an Indian, as sure as I live!" added Jack, in an excited manner. "Rash fool! He has sealed his fate, for I couldn't want a fairer target. Leave him to me!"

"All right; I leaves him!"

The young Kentuckian was sure of his man, even though he was only partially revealed, when the rifle was pointed. He took careful aim, but while in the act of pressing the trigger, he lowered the weapon, with the whispered exclamation.

"Great heavens! It is Deerfoot the Shawanoe!"

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