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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 15. The Fugitives Flying No Longer
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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 15. The Fugitives Flying No Longer Post by :ByronCourt Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :May 2012 Read :2611

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The Ranger; Or, The Fugitives Of The Border - Chapter 15. The Fugitives Flying No Longer

CHAPTER XV. THE FUGITIVES FLYING NO LONGER

The fugitives continued moving forward until morning, when, to guard against needless exposure, Kent again ran the canoe under the bank, and remained at rest the entire day. All suffered so much from hunger, that the hunter left the boat during the afternoon, and, after a few hours' absence, obtained a sufficient quantity of meat for them all. This was cooked after his usual cautious and expert fashion, and was thankfully partaken of by his companions.

Roland and the maid were resting on the sheltered bank of the river; none but Kent ventured out of sight of the spot during the day. For aught they knew there might be hordes of savages within hearing of their voices, scouring the woods in every direction in their search; it needed but the slightest inadvertency upon their part to insure their own destruction.

Leslie sat conversing with Rosalind, when Kent started up, and, glancing behind, stepped down the river-bank and peered out upon the stream. Leslie was beside him in an instant, and, as the two gazed out, the boat which they had seen pursuing them during the night came into view. It was coming up-stream, evidently returning from the chase. It now contained but three savages. Although Leslie had but little to fear, nevertheless he watched the boat with intense interest. Pausing a second, he glanced around, and exclaimed, in terror:

"As sure as heaven, they are heading toward this point."

Kent commanded, in a whisper:

"Get your shootin'-iron ready, and be ready yourself. They're comin' in below us."

The savages had landed a few hundred yards down-stream, and seemed to suspect the presence of no one. Suddenly one of them uttered a loud whoop. In a moment it was repeated, and an answer came, apparently from a distance. Ere long two savages approached the canoe, and, entering, the five again shoved out, and commenced paddling up-stream. Leslie asked Kent the meaning of these proceedings.

"Plain enough," he answered; "they left them two fellers on the shore last night, so that, if they passed us, they would see us when we came along, and they've been watching there ever since. If we'd gone a half a mile further, they'd have shot us; but as we happened to stop afore they got eyes on us, they've missed us, that's all."

(Illustration: Two savages were left on shore.)

At night they again set out, proceeding fearlessly. When morning again dawned, many miles were placed between Rosalind and her captors.

It is needless to dwell upon the further particulars of their homeward journey. Every day occupied was like its predecessor: pressing boldly forward when the shade of night favored them; proceeding more cautiously through the day; resting sometimes in the center of the stream, and then again approaching the shore for food; now a prey to some imaginary fear, and then thrilling with hope, when they finally glided into the fair Ohio. Safely they reached their destination unpursued, and fearing no enemy.

"Wonder who's in them pile of logs up thar," remarked Kent, glancing suspiciously at Leslie, when they were approaching the ruins of the house.

"Why, who would be there?" returned he, with well-feigned ignorance.

"Looks as though somebody had fitted it up. Hallo, here!" demanded Kent, battering against the structure.

At this summons George Leland stepped forth.

The meeting was such as can be easily imagined; joy complete filled the hearts of all; friend, brother, sister and lover were reunited; nothing was wanting to fill their cup of bliss. The old hunter, as soon as his brief salutation was over, withdrew to the background. Leaning on his rifle, he remarked that he was "goin' to look on and see the fun."

As soon as the emotion of all had subsided, they turned toward the hunter. They were without shelter and home, and something must be done at once.

Kent at once divined their thoughts and said: "Wal, sit down and I'll tell you what's to be done."

The three did as required, and Kent unfolded his plan.

"There's too much trouble for you in these parts; you must leave. Up the river some distance is quite a settlement, and there's the only place you can stay, what I propose is this: we must leave here as soon as possible, and let us do it _now_."

"More than once have I thought of the plan which Kent has given," said Leslie, "and I hope that it will be carried out at the earliest moment. Every hour passed here is an hour of peril."

"The matter is then settled," said George. "Let us prepare to pass our last night here; then to seek another home."

The shelter in which Leland had spent his time during the absence of the others was found to be commodious enough to accommodate all, and into it they went. The old hunter kept watch during the night, while the rest slept, and we doubt very much whether four happier, more hopeful beings ever were congregated.

At the earliest streak of morn, the hunter aroused the others, and they prepared to take their final departure. The canoe in which the three had come was found to be sufficiently capacious for the entire party. With a tear of regret for the old home, the fair Rosalind entered the canoe, and soon it was cutting the waters on its upward course.

It is not necessary in this place to dwell upon the particulars of their journey. They encountered nothing unusual or alarming until, in rounding a bend in the river, they were startled by the sight of an unusual object far up the stream. With the exception of Kent, all manifested considerable surprise and apprehension.

"What are we to encounter now?" asked Leslie, as he earnestly scrutinized the approaching object. "Are we never to be rid of these brutes?"

"It is undoubtedly one of their contrivances," added Leland, "and I'm afraid we shall have to take to the woods again to give it a go-by. How is it, Kent?"

The face of the hunter wore a quizzical look, and his only reply was a quiet smile. As he observed the looks of wonder his companions cast upon him, he became more thoughtful.

"This is bad business," said he, shaking his head; "_that is something I didn't expect to see."

The progress of the canoe by this time was checked, and it was drifting with the current. The two young men had no desire for a nearer approach to the apparently formidable contrivance.

"Can't either one of you two chaps make out what sort of ship that is coming down-stream?"

Both Leland and Leslie were considerably puzzled, when they saw Rosalind smile, as if enjoying their stupidity.

"If you can't tell, just ask the gal," added the hunter, bursting into a loud laugh.

"Why, George I thought you had lived long enough in the western country to recognize a _flat-boat_!"

"What dunces we both are. How could any one imagine that to be anything else than a genuine flat-boat? Let us approach it and make the acquaintance of those on board."

"Sart'in, boys," said the hunter, dipping his paddles deep into the water and impelling the canoe rapidly forward.

"A cheer for them!" exclaimed Leslie, rising in the boat and swinging his hat over his head.

How unspeakably thankful were the hearts of the fugitives, as their salutation was returned by more than one voice! Friends indeed were near, and their dangers were over.

A few moments later the canoe was beside the flat-boat.

"Thank God! thank God!" fervently uttered Leland, as he clasped his sister in his arms and realized that they were now safe, safe! For the first time in weeks he felt the sweet consciousness of safety.

"It is almost worth the sufferings we have undergone!" said he. "This sweet consciousness that we are really beyond the reach of our foes is an enjoyment that we have not experienced for a long time."

"Do not forget the all-sustaining Hand that has brought us out of the very jaws of death."

"Forget it? May He forget me when I fail to remember Him. Great Father," said Leland, meekly uncovering and bowing his head, while the tears fell like rain down his face, "Great Father, for this and all other mercies I thank thee!"

"I join in thanksgiving with theirs," said Leslie, in the same reverent manner, as he approached brother and sister.

The flat-boat was no other than the celebrated expedition under Major Taylor, which established such a firm and prosperous settlement upon the northern bank of the Ohio. He had about thirty souls on board, a dozen of whom were men. The true cause of the astonishing success of this company was that both the leader and his comrades fully understood the perils they encountered in venturing into the great western wilderness. They were not men who could be decoyed into the simplest or most cunning contrivances that Indian ingenuity could suggest, nor were they those who expected to spend a life of ease and enjoyment in the woods. They simply understood and prepared for what was before them.

Major Taylor was a man rather inclined to corpulency, with a red face, Roman nose and eagle eye that seemed to penetrate everything at which it glanced. He was very affable and social, a great favorite among all his acquaintances, especially the female portion, who always felt safe in his presence. His men, nearly all of whom had served under him in the Revolution, trusted implicitly in him.

"Friends, you are welcome, doubly welcome to this boat," said he, raising his hat and saluting Rosalind with all the stately politeness of a gentleman of the old school. "I trust your stay upon it will be as prolonged as our own, who, in all probability, will be the last passengers it will ever carry."

Leslie related in a few words the main facts concerning the burning of Leland's home, the capture and subsequent escape of himself and sister, and finally of their desire to reach the upper settlements. The commiserations of all were given them. For Rosalind especially they seemed unable to do enough. She was taken within their cabin, where everything that was possible was done for her comfort.

"I must now insist that you remain with us," said Major Taylor. "Now that you have no home to which to return, you must accompany us and build a new one. If the red-skins take _our homes from us they are welcome to do so; but when they undertake it, I suspect they will find they are troubling a set of men that know a trick or two as well as themselves. We've all seen service among the dogs."

"Do you think, Cap'n, there's likely to be a scrimmage where you drive your stakes?" inquired Kent, with a considerable degree of curiosity.

"I am sure I cannot tell," replied Major Taylor. "It certainly seems probable, but why do you ask?"

"'Cause if there's any likelibility of it, I'll agree to accept your invite and go with you."

"Well, well, my good man, you will go with us anyway, and take the chances of a brush with them. You strike me as a man who has seen considerable of the woods."

"He has indeed," said Leslie. "Under heaven, our safety is owing to his experience and sagacity. He has spent a lifetime in the woods, and I can honestly say he will be a valuable acquisition to your party."

"Come, none of that now, or I'll leave you!" said the hunter, in a warning tone to his young friend.

"I have no doubt of it--no doubt of it in the least. We need him, and if he will only go with us, I think I can promise that he will occasionally see the service for which his soul longs. But, you have not given us your decision."

"We are very grateful for your offer," said Leland; "we have indeed no other refuge to which we can go. The house which has sheltered my sister and myself since infancy is swept away by those whom we had learned to look upon as our friends and protectors. I think when we see men at your age beginning life again, we can afford to do it ourselves."

"Of course you can--of course you can," replied the officer, in his hearty manner. "We'll start a settlement on a grand scale. One of our men once took orders, and is licensed to marry, so that if either of you gentlemen should need his services at _any time, you will always find him at hand."

"There is a servant--a negro, who was taken at the same time with my sister. I feel as though some effort should be made to recover him," added Leland, a few minutes later. "We shall be in a situation to do that by accompanying you, or, at least, we shall be more likely to find some means of doing so, than if we followed out the idea, entertained some time ago, of leaving the country altogether."

"I am decidedly of the opinion----"

The officer was interrupted by a man at the front of the boat, calling out his name. He instantly hastened beside him, and demanded what he wanted.

"Yonder is something approaching, and I cannot satisfy myself as to what it is. What do you make of it?" he asked.

(Illustration: "Yonder is something approaching.")

Major Taylor bent his sharp gaze upon the object in question for a moment, and then replied:

"It looks like the head of a person, and yet it is certainly an odd-looking head. We will call this hunter that has just come on board. Undoubtedly he can assist us."

In answer to the summons, Kent approached the bow of the boat, rifle in hand. He peered across the water, but for a time, failed to identify the thing.

"Stand back a little, and I'll give it a shot. I'll graze it at first, so as to be sure of what I am going to hit when I shoot next time."

The hunter raised his rifle, and holding it a second, fired. At the same instant the unknown object disappeared.

"I think you struck it!" remarked Leland.

"I didn't aim _at it, and consequently it ain't been hit," returned Kent, with an air of assurance.

"Yonder it is this moment!"

As these words were uttered, it again appeared, and to the amazement of all, called out to them:

"Gorra! what you wastin' your bullets on dis nigger's head for? Reckoned Kent knowed better."

The hunter seemed on the point of falling from laughter.

"Who'd a thought it was Zeb! Where has he come from? He beats all niggers in Kentuck for adventures and walloping lies."

A few minutes later the negro was received upon the flat-boat. It is scarcely necessary to say that his friends all experienced unfeigned joy at his return. He was as jubilant and reckless of the truth as ever, and it was a long time before they got at the truth regarding his escape from the Shawnees.

The flight of Leland, under Providence, was really the means of liberating the negro. The confusion occasioned by the escape of the former was so great, that the savages imagined he also had fled with him. Understanding that it was "do or die" with him, he tugged and struggled at his bonds with the strength of desperation. Being secured to a tree as usual, at some distance from the center of confusion, he escaped observation for a few moments. It is doubtful, however, whether he would have succeeded in freeing himself, had he not been covertly assisted by some unknown friend. Who this personage could be, was never known; perhaps some Indian who had been befriended by the Leland family, and who experienced some compunctions of honor (not of conscience) at the situation of the poor negro.

Zeb had learned enough by this time to exercise a little common sense. Accordingly, when he found himself free, he made the best use of his feet and wits, and used every effort to reach the Ohio river. According to his own narration, he overcame all manner of perils before succeeding. Undoubtedly he incurred great risk in the undertaking, and finally succeeded.

He was trudging wearily along the river margin, listening for some sound of his relentless enemies, who, he doubted not, were upon his trail, when he caught sight of the flat-boat. Although he did not identify it at once, he understood from its size and formation that the hand of the white man alone was concerned in its structure. He immediately plunged into the river, reaching it in due time, as we have already shown.

At last the pioneers reached their destination, and began a settlement which, at this day, is not a town merely but a flourishing city. As we have hinted in another place, their experience of frontier life and the sagacity and foresight of their nominal head, saved them from the misfortunes and sufferings that often befall settlers in the new country. It is true the red wave of the dreadful war in the West surged to their very doors; but they saw far away in the heavens the portentous signs, and so prepared that they passed through it unscathed.

* * * * *

The passing years touched lightly the heads of Roland and Rosalind Leslie. As the palmy days of peace settled upon them, an old hunter frequently spent days and weeks at their house. At such times, he took the children upon his knees, and told them of the hardships and suffering their parents had endured, and recounted many of his own adventures to them. Old Kent was a universal favorite in the settlement. As he became too old to spend his time entirely in the woods, he joined the boys in their hunts, and there was not one who would not have braved death in his defense. He died peacefully and happily, under the roof of those whom he had served so well, and was given a burial, at his own request, in the grand old woods which had ever been his delight and enjoyment.

The wife of Leland survived all of those who have figured in these pages; but she too has been laid in the valley. Their descendants are now a numerous and influential family, proud of their ancestry, and enthusiastic over the deeds of THE RANGER.


(THE END)
Edward Sylvester Ellis's Book: Ranger; or, The Fugitives of the Border

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