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'‘Well, sir,’' 
approached. 
Frontispiece 


said Helen, sharply, as the bordermaa 

Page 78 
The Last Trail 




The 'Trail 


A Story of Early Days in the Ohio Valley 


By ZANE GREY 




Author of ** Betty Zane,” ** The Spirit of the Border,'* et£> 



With Four Half-Tone IHustrations 
By J. WATSON DAVIS 


A. L BURT COMPANY, Publishers 

NEW YORK 



COPTBIGHT 1909 
By A. L. BURT COMPANY 

THE LAST TRAIL 
By Zase Grey 



n i-\ 1 ■! D 


THE LAST TKAILo 


CHAPTER I. 

Twilight of a certain summer day, many years a;^, 
shaded softly down over the wild Ohio valley bringing 
keen anxiety to a traveler on the lonely river trail. He 
had expected to reach Fort Henry with his party on this 
night, thus putting a welcome end to the long, rough, 
hazardous journey through the wilderness; but the swift, 
on-coming dusk made it imperative to halt. The nar- 
row, forest-skirted trail, difficult to follow in broad day- 
light, apparently led into gloomy aisles in the woods. 
His guide had abandoned him that morning, making 
excuse that his services were no longer needed; his 
teamster was new to the frontier, and, altogether, the 
situation caused him much uneasiness. 

“ I wouldn’t so much mind another night in camp, if 
the guide had not left us,” he said in a low tone to the 
teamster. 

That worthy shook his shaggy head, and growled while 
he began unhitching the horses. 

“ Uncle,” said a young man, who had clambered out 
from the wagon, “ we must be within a few miles of Fort 
Henry.” 

1 

# 


THE LAST TRAIB. 


“ How d’ye know we’re near the fort ? ” interrupted 
the teamster, “ or safe, either, fer thet matter. I don’t 
know this country.” 

‘‘ The guide assured me we could easily make Port 
. Henry oy sundown,” 

“ Thet guide ! I tell ye, Mr. Sheppard ” 

“ Hot so loud. Do not alarm my daughter,” cau- 
tioned the man who had been cal-led Sheppard. 

Did ye notice anythin’ queer about thet guide ? ” 
asked the teamster, lowering his voice. “ Did ye see 
bow oneasy he was last night % Did it strike ye he left 
us in a hurry, kind of excited like, in spite of His off- 
hand manner ? ” 

“ Yes, he acted odd, or so it seemed to me,” replied 
Sheppard. ‘‘How about you, Will?” 

“ How that I think of it, I believe he was queer. He 
behaved like a man who expected somebody, or feared 
something might happen. I fancied, however, that it 
was simply the manner of a woodsman.” 

“Wal, I hev my opinion,” said the teamster, in a 
^ gruff whisper. “ Ye was in a hurry to be a-goin’, a*^ 
wouldn’t take no advice. The fur-trader at Fort Pitt 
didn’t give this guide Jenks no good send off. Said hr 
wasn’t well known round Pitt, ’cept he could handle i 
knife some.” 

“What is your opinion?” asked Sheppard, as the 
teamster paused. 

“ Wal, the valley below Pitt is full of renegades, out- 
laws an’ boss-thieves. The redskins ain’t so bad as they 
used to be, but these white fellers are wusser’n ever. 
This guide Jenks might be in with them, that’s alb 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Mebbe I’m wrong. I hope so. The way he left us looks 
bad.” 

“ We won’t borrow trouble. If we have come all this 
way without seeing either Indian or outlaw; in fact, 
without incident, I feel certain we can perform the re- 
mainder of the journey in safety,” and then Mr. Shep- 
pard raised his voice. “ Here, Helen, you lazy girl, 
come out of that wagon. We want some supper. Will, 
you gather some firewood, and we’ll soon give this gloomy 
little glen a more cheerful aspect.” ’ 

As Mr. Sheppard turned toward the canvas-covered 
wagon a girl leaped lightly down beside him. She was 
nearly as tall as he. 

“ Is this Fort Henry? ” she asked, cheerily, beginning 
to dance around him. “ Where’s the inn ? I’m so hun- 
gry. How glad I am to get out of that wagon ! I’d like 
to run. Isn’t this a lonesome, lovely spot ? ” 

A camp-fire soon crackled with hiss and sputter, and 
fragrant wood-smoke filled the air. Steaming kettle, 
and savory steaks of venison cheered the hungry trav- 
elers, making them forget for the time the desertion of 
their guide and the fact that they might be lost. The 
last glow faded entirely out of the western sky. Hight 
enveloped the forest, and the little glade was a bright 
spot in the gloom. 

The flickering light showed Mr. Sheppard to be a 
well-preserved old man with gray hair and ruddy, kindly 
face. The nephew had a boyish, frank expression. The 
girl was a splendid specimen of womanhood. Her large, 
laughing eyes were as dark as the shadows beneath the 
trees. 


4 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Suddenly a quick start on Helen’s part interrupted the 
merry flow of conversation. She sat bolt upright with 
half averted face. 

“ Cousin, what is the matter ? ” asked Will, quickly. 

Helen remained motionless. 

“ My dear,” said Mr. Sheppard sharply. 

“ I heard a footstep,” she whispered, pointing with 
trembling Anger toward the impenetrable blackness be- 
yond the camp-flre. 

All could hear a soft patter on the leaves. Then dis- 
tinct footfalls broke the silence. 

The tired teamster raised his shaggy head and glanced 
fearfully around the glade. Mr. Sheppard and Will 
gazed doubtfully toward the foliage; but Helen did not 
change her position. The travelers appeared stricken by 
the silence and solitude of the place. The faint hum of 
insects, and the low moan of the night wind, seemed 
accentuated by the almost painful stillness. 

A panther, most likely,” suggested Sheppard, in a 
voice which he intended should be reassuring. I saw 
one to-day slinking along the trail.” 

I’d better get my gun from the wagon,” said; 
Will. 

“ How dark and wild it is here ! ” exclaimed Helen 
nervously. “I believe I was frightened. Perhaps I 
fancied it — there ! Again — listen. Ah ! ” 

Two tall figures emerged from the darkness into the 
circle of light, and with swift, supple steps gained the 
camp-fire before any of the travelers had time to move. 
They were Indians, aJid the brandishing ot their Tom- 
ahawks proclaimed tha. were hostile. 


THE LAST TRAIL. ^ 

Ugh ! ” gninted the taller savage, as he looked down 
upon the defenseless, frightened group. 

As the menacing figures stood in the glare of the fire 
gazing at the party with shifty eyes, they presented a 
frightful appearance. Fierce lineaments, all the more so 
because of bars of paint, the hideous, shaven heads 
adorned with tufts of hair holding a single feather, sin- 
ewy, copper-colored limbs suggestive of action and en- 
durance, the general aspect of untamed ferocity, appalled 
the travelers and chilled their blood. 

Grunts and chuckles manifested the satisfaction with 
which the Indians fell upon the half-finished supper. 
They caused it to vanish with astonishing celerity, and 
resembled wolves rather than human beings in their 
greediness. 

Helen looked timidly around as if hoping to see those 
who would aid, and the savages regarded her with ill 
humor. A movement on the part of any member of the 
group caused muscular hands to steal toward the tom- 
ahawks. 

Suddenly the larger savage clutched his companion’s 
knee. Then lifting his hatchet, shook it with a signif- 
icant gesture in Sheppard’s face, at the same time put- 
ting a finger on his lips to enjoin silence. Both Indians 
became statuesque in their immobility. They crouched 
in an attitude of listening, with heads bent on one side, 
nostrils dilated, and mouths open. 

One, two, three moments passed. The silence of the 
forest appeared to be unbroken ; but ears as keen as those 
of a deer had detected some sound. The larger savage 
dropped noiselessly to the ground, where he lay stretched 


6 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


out With his ear to the ground. The other remained 
immovable; only his beady eyes gave signs of life, and 
these covered every point 

Finally the big savage rose silently, pointed down the 
dark trail, and strode out of the circle of light His ~ 
companion followed close at his heels. The two disap- 
peared in the black shadows like specters, as silently as 
they had come. 

“ Well ! ” breathed Helen. 

I am immensely relieved,” exclaimed Will. 

“ What do you make of such strange behavior ? ” Shep* 
pard asked of the teamster. 

*‘l ’spect they got wind of somebody; .most likely 
thet guide, an’ll be back again. If they ain’t, it’s because 
they got switched of! by some signs or tokens, skeered, 
perhaps, by the scent of the wind.” 

Hardly had he ceased speaking when again the circle 
of light was invaded by stalking forms. 

“ I thought so ! Here comes the skulkin’ varmints,’’ 
whispered the teamster. 

But he was wrong. A deep, calm voice spoke the 
single word: “Friends.” 

Two men in the brown garb of woodsmen approached. 
One approached the travelers ; the other remained in the 
bacl^round, leaning upon a long, black rifle. 

Thus exposed to the glare of the flames, the foremost 
woodsman presented a singularly picturesque figure. 
His costume was the fringed buckskins of the border. 
Fully six feet tall, this lithe-limbed young giant had 
something of the wild, free grace of the Indian ip hi*' 
posture. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


He surveyed the wondering travelers with dark, grave 
eyes. 

“ Did the reddys do any mischief ? ” he asked. 

“ Ho, they didn’t harm ns,” replied Sheppard. “ They 
ate our supper, and slipped off into the woods without 
so much as touching one of us. But, indeed, sir, we are 
mighty glad to see you.” 

Will echoed this sentiment, and Helen’s big eyes were 
fastened upon the stranger in welcome and wonder. 

“ We saw your fire blazin’ through the twilight, an’ 
came up just in time to see the Injuns make off.” 

“ Might they not hide in the hushes and shoot us ? ” 
asked Will, who had listened to many a IxTrder story at 
Fort Pitt. “ It seems as if we’d make good targets in 
this light.” 

The gravity of the woodsman’s face relaxed. 

“ You will pursue them ? ” asked Helen. 

“ They’ve melted into the night-shadows long ago,” 
he replied. Who was your guide ? ” 

“ I hired him at Fort Pitt. He left us suddenly this 
morning. A big man, with black heard and bushy eye- 
brows. A bit of his ear had been shot or cut out,” 
Sheppard replied. 

“ Jenks, one of Bing Leggett’s border-hawks.” 

“ You have t is name right And who may Bing 
Leggett be ? ” 

• “ He’s an outlaw. Jenks has been tryin’ to lead you 

into a trap. Likely he expected those Injuns to show up 
I a day or two ago. Somethin’ went wrong with the plan, 

I I reckon. Mebbe he was waitin’ for five Shawnees, an’ 

1 mebbe he’ll never see three of ’em again.” 


8 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Something suggestive, cold, and grim, in the last words 
did not escape the listeners. 

“ How far are we from Fort Henry ? ” asked Shep- 
pard. 

Eighteen miles as a crow flies ; longer by trail.” 

Treachery ! ” exclaimed the old man. “ We were 
no more than that this morning. It is indeed fortunate 
that you found us. I take it you are from Fort Henry, 
and will guide us there ? I am an old friend of Colonel 
Zane’s. He will appreciate any kindness you may show 
us. Of course you know him ? ” 

“ I am J onathan Zane.” 

Sheppard suddenly realized that he was facing the 
most celebrated scout on the border. In Revolutionary 
times Zane’s fame had extended even to the far Atlantic 
Colonies. 

“And your companion?” asked Sheppard with keen 
interest. He guessed what might be told. Border lore 
coupled Jonathan Zane with a strange and terrible char- 
acter, a border Heme^is, a mysterious, shadowy, elusive 
man, whom few pioneers ever saw, but of whom all 
knew. 

“ Wetzel,” answered Zane. 

With one accord the travelers gazed curiously at Zane’s 
silent companion. In the dim background of the glow 
cast by the fire, he stood a gigantic figure, dark, quiet, 
and yet with something intangible in his shadowy out- 
line. 

Suddenly he appeared to merge into the gloom as if 
he really were a phantom. A warning, “ Hist ! ” came 
:from the bushes. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


9 


With one s\^ift kick Zane scattered the canap-fire. 

The travelers waited with bated breaths. They could 
hear nothing save the beating of their own hearts; they 
could not even see each other. 

“ Better go to sleep,” came in Zane’s calm voice. 
What a relief it was ! “ We’ll keep watch, an’ at day- 

break guide you to Fort Henry.” 



IQ 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


CHAPTER II. 

Colonel Zane, a nigged, stalwart pioneer, with a 
strong dark face, sat listening to his old friend’s dra- 
matic story. At its close a genial smile twinkled in his 
fine dark eyes. 

“ Well, well, Sheppard, no doubt it was a thrilling ad- 
venture to you,” he said. “ It might have been a little 
more interesting, and doubtless would, had I not sent 
Wetzel and Jonathan to look you up.” 

You did ? How on earth did you know I was on the 
border ? I counted much on the surprise I should give 
you.” 

“ My Indian runners leave Port Pitt ahead of any 
travelers, and acquaint me with particulars.” 

“ I remember a fleet-looking Indian who seemed to be 
asking for information about us, wPen we arrived at Fort 
Pitt I am sorry I did not take the fur-trader’s advice 
in regard to the guide. But I was in such a hurry to 
come, and didn’t feel able to bear the expense of a raft 
or boat that we might come by river. My nephew brought 
considerable gold, and I all my earthly possessions.” 

“ All’s well that ends well,” replied Colonel Zane 
cheerily. “ But we must thank Providence that Wetzel 
and Jonathan came up in the nick of time.” 



Two men in the brown garb of woodsman approached, 
jind uttered the single word, “Friends”. Page 6 

The Last Trail 



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THE LAST TRAIL. 


11 


“ Indeed, yes. I’m not likely to forget those fierce 
sarages. How they slipped off into the darkness! I 
wonder if Wetzel pursued them? He disappeared last 
night, and we did not see him again. In fact we hardly 
had a fair look at him. I question if I should recognize 
him now, unless by his great stature.” 

“ He was ahead of Jonathan on the trail. That is 
Wetzel’s way. In times of danger he is seldom seen, 
yet is always near. But come, let us go out and look 
around. I am running up a log cabin which will come 
in handy for you.” 

•They passed out into the shade of pines and maples. 
A winding path led down a gentle slope. On the hillside 
under a spreading tree a throng of bearded pioneers, clad 
in faded buckskins and wearing white-ringed coonskin 
caps, were erecting a 1(^ cabin. 

Life here on the border is keen, hard, invigorating,” 
said Colonel Zane. “ I tell you, George Sheppard, in 
spite of your gray hair and your pretty daughter, yon 
'have come out West because you want to live among men 
who do things.” 

“ Colonel, I won’t gainsay I’ve still gyt hot blood,” 
replied Sheppard ; “ but I came to Fort Henry for lane 
My old home in Williamsburg has fallen into ruin to- 
gether with the fortunes of my family. I brought my 
daughter and my nephew because I wanted them to take 
root in new soil.” 

“ Well, George, right glad we are to have you. Where 
are your sons? I remember them, though ’tis sixteen 
long years since I left old Williamsburg.” 


12 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


** Gone. The Kevolution took my sons. Helen is the 
last of the family.” 

Well, well, indeed that’s hard. Independence has 
cost you Colonists as big a price as border-freedom has 
us pioneers. Come, old friend, forget the past. A new 
life begins for you here, and it will be one which gives 
you much. See, up goes a cabin ; that will soon be your 
home.” 

Sheppard’s eye marked the sturdy pioneers and a fast 
diminishing pile of white-oak logs. 

“ Ho-heave ! ” cried a brawny foreman. 

A dozen stout shoulders sagged beneath a well-trimmed 
log. 

■ Ho-heave ! ” yelled the foreman. 

See, up she goes,” cried the colonel, “ and to-morrow 
night she’ll shed rain.” 

They walked down a sandy lane bounded on the right 
by a wide, green clearing, and on the left by a line of 
chestnuts and maples, outposts of the thick forests be- 
yond. 

“ Yours is a fine site for a house,” observed Sheppard, 
taking in the clean-trimmed field that extended up the 
hillside, a brook that splashed clear and noisy over the 
stones to tarry in a little grass-bound lak^v which forced 
water through half-hollowed logs into a spring house. 

I think so ; this is the fourth time I’ve put up a 
cabin on this land,” replied the colonel. 

How’s that?” 

“ The redskins are keen to burn things.” 

Sheppard laughed at the pioneer’s reply. “ It’s not 
difficult. Colonel Zane, to understand why Fort Henry 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


13 


has stood all these years, with you as its leader. Cer- 
tainly the location for your cabin is the finest in the 
settlement. What a view 1 ” 

High upon a bluff overhanging the majestic, slow- 
winding Ohio, the colonel’s cabin afforded a command- 
ing position from which to view the picturesque valley. 
Sheppard’s eye first caught the outline of the huge, bold, 
time-blackened fort which frowned protectingly over 
surrounding log-cabins; then he saw the wide-sweeping 
river with its verdant islands, golden, sandy bars, and 
willow-bordered shores, while beyond, rolling pastures 
of wavy grass merging into green forests that swept up- 
ward with slow swell until lost in the dim purple of dis- 
tant mountains. 

“ Sixteen years ago I came out of the thicket upon 
yonder bluff, and saw this valley. I was deeply im- 
pressed by its beauty, but more by its wonderful prom- 


Were you alone ? ” 

“ I and my dog. There had been a few white men 
before me on the river; but I was the first to see this 
glorious valley from the bluff. Now, George, I’ll let you 
have a hundred acres of well-cleared land. The soil is 
so rich you can raise two crops in one season. With 
some stock, and a few good hands, you’ll soon be a busy 
man.” 

“ I didn’t expect so much land ; I can’t well afford to 
pay for it.” 

“ Talk to me of payment when the farm yields an 
income. Is this young nephew of yours strong and 
willing ? ” 


14 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


“ He is, and has gold enough to buy a big farm.’’ 

“ Let him keep his money, and make a comfortable 
home for some good lass. We marry our young people 
early out here. And your daughter, George, is she fitted 
for this hard border life ? ” 

ISTever fear for Helen.” 

The brunt of this pioneer work falls on our wo- 
men. God bless them, how heroic they’ve been! The 
life here is rough for a man, let alone a woman. But 
it is a man’s game. We need girls, girls who will bear 
strong men. Yet I am always saddened when I see one 
come out on the border.” 

“ I think I knew what I was bringing Helen to, and 
she didn’t flinch,” said Sheppard, somewhat surprised 
at the tone in which the colonel spoke. 

“ No one knows until he has lived on the border. 
Well, well, all this is discouragiug to you. Ah 1 here is 
Miss Helen with my sister.” 

The colonel’s fine, dark face lost its sternness, and 
brightened with a smile. 

“ I hope you rested well after your long ricje.” 

“ I am seldom tired, and I have been made most com- 
fortable. I thank you and your sister,” replied the girl, 
giving Colonel Zane her hand, and including both hirg 
and his sister in her grateful glance. 

The colonel’s sister was a slender, handsome young 
woman, whose dark beauty showed to most effective ad- 
vantage by the contrast with her companion’s fair skin, 
golden hair, and blue eyes. 

Beautiful as was Helen Sheppard, it was her eyes 
that held Colonel Zane irresistibly. They were un- 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


15 

•nsually large, of a dark purple-blu© that changed, shaded, 
shadowed with her every thought. 

‘‘ Come, let us walk,” Colonel Zane said abruptly, and, 
with Mr. Sheppard, followed the girls down the path. 
He escorted them to the fort, showed a long room with 
little squares cut in the rough-hewn logs, many bullet 
holes, fire-charred timbers, and dark stains, terribly 
suggestive of the pain and heroism which the defense of 
that rude structure had cost 

Under Helen’s eager questioning Colonel Zane yielded 
to his weakness for story-telling, and recited the history 
of the last siege of -Fort Henry; how the renegade Girty 
swooped down upon the settlement with hundreds of 
Indians and British soldiers ; how for three days of whis- 
tling bullets, flaming arrows, screeching demons, fire, 
smoke, and attack following attack, the brave defenders 
stood at their posts, there to die before yielding. 

‘‘ Grand ! ” breathed Helen, and her eyes glowed. It 
was then Betty Zane ran with the powder? Oh! I’ve 
heard the story.” 

“ Let my sister tell you of that,” said the colonel 
smiling. 

“ You ! Was it you ? ” And Helen’s eyes glowed 
brighter with the light of youth’s glory in great deeds. 

My sister has been wedded and widowed since then,” 
said Colonel Zane, reading in Helen’s earnest scrutiny 
of his sister’s calm, sad face a wonder if this quiet 
woman could be the fearless and famed Elizabeth Zane. 

Impulsively Helen’s hand closed softly over her com- 
panion’s- Out of the girlish, sympathetic action a warm 
friendship was bom. 


16 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


I imagine things do happen here,” said Mr. Shep- 
pard, hoping to hear more from Colonel Zane. 

The colonel smiled grimly. 

“ Every summer during fifteen years has been a bloody 
one on the border. The sieges of Eort Henry, and Craw- 
ford’s defeat, the biggest things we ever knew out here, 
are matters of history ; of course you are familiar with 
them. But the numberless Indian forays and attacks, 
the women who have been carried into captivity by rene- 
gades, the murdered farmers, in fact, ceaseless war never 
long directed at any point, but carried on the entire 
length of the river, are matters known only to the 
pioneers. Within five miles of Fort Henry I can show 
you where the laurel bushes grow three feet high over 
the ashes of two settlements, and many a clearing where 
some unfortunate pioneer had staked his claim and 
thrown up a log cabin, only to die fighting for his wife 
and children. Between here and Fort Pitt th^re is only 
one settlement. Yellow Creek, and most of its inhabitants 
are survivors of abandoned villages farther up the river. 
Last summer we had the Moravian Massacre, the black- 
est, most inhuman deed ever committed. Since then 
Simon Girty and his bloody redskins have lain low.” 

“ You must always have had a big force,” said Shep- 
pard. 

“ We’ve managed always to be strong enough, though 
there never were a large number of men here. During 
the last siege I had only forty in the fort, counting men, 
women and boys. But I had pioneers and women who 
could handle a rifie, and the best bordermeu on the 
frontier.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 17 

** Do you make a distinction between pioneers and 
bordermen ? ” asked Sheppard. 

“ Indeed yes. I am a pioneer ; a borderman is an 
Indian hunter, or scout. For years my cabins housed 
Andrew Zane, Sam and John McCollock, Bill Metzar, 
and John and Martin Wetzel, all of whom are dead. 
Not one saved his scalp. Fort Henry is growing; it 
has pioneers, rivermen, soldiers, but only two bordermen. 
Wetzel and Jonathan are the only ones we have left of 
those great men.” 

“ They must be old ? ” mused Helen, with a dreamy 
glow still in her eyes. 

Well, Miss Helen, not in years, as you mean. Life 
here is old in experience; few pioneers, and no border- 
men, live to a great age. Wetzel is about forty, and my 
brother J onathan still a young man ; but both are old in 
border lore.” 

Earnestly, as a man who loves his subject, Colonel 
Zane told his listeners of these two most prominent 
characters of the border. Sixteen years previously, when 
but boys in years, they had cast in their lot with his, and 
journeyed over the Virginian Mountains, Wetzel to de- 
vote his life to the vengeful calling he had chosen, and 
Jonathan to give rein to an adventurous spirit and love 
of the wilds. By some wonderful chance, by cunning, 
woodcraft, or daring, both men had lived through the 
years of border warfare which had brought to a close 
the careers of all their contemporaries. 

For many years Wetzel preferred solitude to compan- 
ionship ; he roamed the wilderness in pursuit of Indians, 
bis life-long foes, and seldom appeared at the settlement 


18 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


except to bring news of an intended raid of the savages. 
Jonathan also spent much time alone in the woods, or 
scouting along the river. But of late years a friendship 
had ripened between the two bordermen. Mutual inter- 
est had brought them together on the trail of a noted 
renegade, and when, after many long days of patient 
watching and persistent tracking, the outlaw paid an 
awful penalty for his bloody deeds, these lone and silent 
men were friends. 

Powerful in build, fleet as deer, fearless and tireless, 
Wetzel’s peculiar bloodhound sagacity, ferocity, and im- 
placability, balanced by Jonathan’s keen intelligence and 
judgment caused these bordermen to become the bane of 
redmen and renegades. Their fame increased with each 
succeeding summer, until now the people of the settle- 
ment looked upon w^onderful deeds of strength, and of 
woodcraft as a matter of course, rejoicing in the power 
and skill with which these men were endowed. 

By common consent the pioneers attributed any mys- 
terious deed, from the finding of a fat turkey on a cabin 
doorstep, to the discovery of a savage scalped and pulled 
from his ambush near a settler’s spring, to Wetzel and 
Jonathan. All the more did they feel sure of this con- 
clusion because the bordermen never spoke of their deeds. 
Sometimes a pioneer living on the outskirts of the settle- 
ment would be awakened in the morning by a single rifle 
shot, and on peering out would see a dead Indian lying 
almost across his doorstep, while beyond, in the dim, 
gray mist, a tall figure stealing away. Often in the twi- 
light on a summer evening, while fondling his children 
and enjoying his smoke after a hard day’s labor ia the 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


19 


fields, this same settler would see the tall dark figure of 
Jonathan Zane step noiselessly out of the thicket, and 
learn that he must take his family and flee at once to the 
fort for safety. When a settler was murdered, his 
children carried into captivity by Indians, and the wife 
given over to the power of some brutal renegade, trag- 
edies wofully frequent on the border, Wetzel and Jona- 
than took the trail alone. Many a white woman was re- 
turned alive, and, sometimes, unharmed to her relatives ; 
more than one maiden lived to be captured, rescued, and 
returned to her lover, while almost numberless were the 
bones of brutal redmen lying in the deep and gloomy 
woods, or bleaching on the plains, silent ghastly reminders 
of the stern justice meted out by these two heroes. 

“ Such are my two bordermen. Miss Sheppard. Tlie 
fort there, and all these cabins, would be only black 
ashes, save for them, and as for us, our wives and chil- 
dren — God only knows.” 

“ Haven’t they wives and children too ? ” asked Helen. 

Ho,” answered Colonel Zane, with his genial smile. 

Such joys are not for bordermen.” * 

“ Why not ? Tine men like them deserve happiness,” 
declared Helen. 

It is necessary we have such,” said the colonel 
simply, and they cannot be bordermen unless free as 
the air blows. Wetzel and Jonathan have never had 
sweethearts. I believe Wetzel loved a lass once; but he 
was an Indian-killer whose hands were red with blood. 
He silenced his heart, and kept to his chosen, lonely life. 
Jonathan does not seem to realize that women exist to 
charm, to please, to be loved and married. Once we 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


20 

twitted him about his brothers doing their duty by the 
border, whereupon he flashed out: ^ My life is the bor- 
der’s: my sweetheart is the Korth Star! ’ ” 

Helen dreamily watched the dancing, dimpling waves 
that broke on the stones of the river shore. All uncon- 
scious of the powerful impression the colonel’s recital 
had made upon her, she was feeling the greatness of the 
lives of these hordermen, and the glory it would now 
be for her to share with others the pride in their pro- 
tection. 

“ Say, Sheppard, look here,” said Colonel Zane, on 
the return to his cabin, that girl of yours has a pair 
of eyes. I can’t forget the way they flashed! They’ll 
cause more trouble here among my garrison than would 
a swarm of redskins.” 

Ho ? You don’t mean it ! Out here in this wilder- 
ness ? ” queried Sheppard doubtfully. 

“ Well, I do.” 

0 Lord ! What a time I’ve had vrith that girl ! 
Theje was one man especially, back home, who made 
our lives miserable. He was rich and well born; but 
Helen would have none of him. He got around me, old 
fool that I am! Practically stole what was left of my 
estate, and gambled it away when Helen said she’d die 
before giving herself to him. It was partly on his ac- 
count that I brought her away. Then there were a lot 
of moon-eyed beggars after her all the time, and she’s 
young and full of Are. I hoped I’d marry her to some 
farmer out here, and end my days in peace.” 

Peace ? With eyes like those ? Never on this gTeen 
earth,” and Colonel Zane laughed as he slapped his 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


21 

friend on the shoulder. “ Don’t worry, old fellow. You 
can’t help her having those changing dark-blue eyes any 
more than you can help being proud of them. They have 
won me, already, susceptible old backwoodsman! I’ll 
help you with this spirited young lady. I’ve had ex- 
perience, Sheppard, and don’t you forget it. First, my 
sister, a Zane all through, which is saying enough. Then 
as sweet and fiery a little Indian princess as ever 
stepped, in a beaded mocassin, and since, more than one 
beautiful, impulsive creature. Being in authority, I 
suppose it’s natural that all the work, from keeping the 
garrison ready against an attack, to straightening out 
love affairs, should fall upon me. I’ll take the care off 
your shoulders; I’ll keep these young dare-devils from 
killing each other over Miss Helen’s favors. I cer- 
tainly — Hello ! There are strangers at the gate. Some- 
thing’s up.” 

Half a dozen rough-looking men had appeared from 
round the corner of the cabin, and halted at the gate. 

“ Bill Elsing, and some of his men from Yellow 
Creek,” said Colonel Zane, as he went toward the group. 

“ Hullo, kurnel,” was the greeting of the foremost, 
evidently the leader. “ We’ve lost six head of bosses 
over our way, an’ are out lookin’ ’em up.” 

“ The deuce you have ! Say, this horse-stealing bus- 
iness is getting interesting. What did you come in for ? ” 

“ Wal, we meets Jonathan on the ridge about sun up, 
an’ he sent us back lickety-cut. Said he had two of 
the bosses corailed, an’ mebbe Wetzel could git the 
oUiers.” 

“ That’s strange,” replied Colonel Zane, thoughtfully. 


22 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


’Pears to me Jack and Wetzel hev some redskins 
treed, an’ didn’t want us to spile the fun. Mebbe there 
wasn’t scalps enough to go round. Anyway, we come in, 
an’ we’ll hang up here to-day.” 

Bill, who’s doing this horse-stealing ? ” 

** !Dam if I know. It’s a mighty pert piece of work. 
I’ve a mind it’s some slick white fellar, with Injuns 
backin’ him.^’ 

Helen noted, when she was once more indoors, that 
Colonel Zane’s wife appeared worried. Her usual placid 
expression was gone. She put off the playful overtures 
of her two bright boys with unusual indifference, and 
turned to her husband with anxious questioning as to 
whether the strangers brought news of Indians. Upon 
being assured that such was not the case, she looked re- 
lieved, and explained to Helen that she had seen armed 
men come so often to consult the colonel regarding dan- 
gerous missions and expeditions, that the sight of a 
stranger caused her unspeakable dread. 

“ I am accustomed to danger, yet I can never control 
my fears for my husband and children,” said Mrs. Zane. 

The older I grow the more of a coward I am. Oh ! 
this border life is sad for women. Only a little while 
ago my brother Samuel McColloch was shot and scalped 
right here on the river bank. He was going to the spring 
for a bucket of water. I lost another brother in almost 
the same way. Every day during the summer a husband 
and a father falls victim to some murderous Indian. 
My husband will go in the same way some day. The 
border claims them all.” 

** Bessie, you must not show your fears to our new 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


23 


'friend. And, Miss Helen, don’t believe she’s the coward 
she would make out,” said the colonel’s sister smilingly. 

Betty is right, Bess, don’t frighten her,” said Col- 
onel Zane. “ I’m afraid I talked too much to-day. But, 
Miss Helen, you were so interested, and are such a goo^ 
listener, that I couldn’t refrain. Once for all let me 
say that you will no doubt see stirring life here ; hut there 
is little danger of its affecting you. To he sure I think 
you’ll have troubles; hut not with Indians or outlaws.” 

He winked at his wife and sister. At first Helen did 
not understand his sally, but then she blushed red all 
over her fair face. 

Some time after that, while unpacking her belong^' 
ings she heard the clatter of horse’s hoofs on the rocky 
road, accompanied by loud voices. Running to the win- 
dow, she saw a group of men at the gate. 

Miss Sheppard, will you come out ? ” called Colonel 
Zane’s sister from the door. My brother Jonathan ha.s 
returned.” 

Helen joined Betty at the door, and looked over hex 
shoulder. 

“ Wal, Jack, ye got two on ’em, anyways,” drawled a 
voice which she recognized as that of Elsing’s. 

A man, lithe and supple, slipped from the back of one 
•v of the horses, and, giving the halter to Elsing with a 
single word, turned and entered the gate. Colonel Zane 
met him there. 

Well, Jonathan, what’s up ? ” 

There’s hell to pay,” was the reply, and the speaker’t 
voice rang clear and sharp. 

Colonel Zane laid his hand on his brother’s shoulder. 


24 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


and thus they stood for a moment, singularly alike, and 
yet the sturdy pioneer was, somehow, far different from 
the dark-haired horderman. 

“ I thought we’d trouble in store from the look on 
your face,” said the colonel calmly. I hope you 
haven’t very bad news on the first day, for our old friends 
from Virginia.” 

“ Jonathan,” cried Betty when he did not answer the 
colonel. At her call he half turned, and his dark eyes, 
steady, strained like those of a watching deer, sought his 
sister’s face. 

“ Betty, old Jake Lane was murdered by horse thieves 
yesterday, and Mabel Lane is gone.” 

Oh ! ” gasped Betty ; hut she said nothing more. 

Colonel Zane cursed inaudibly. 

“You know. Eh, I tried to keep Lane in the settle- 
ment for Mabel’s sake. But he wanted to work that 
farm. I believe horse-stealing wasn’t as much of an ob- 
ject as the girl. Pretty women are bad for the border, or 
any other place, I guess. Wetzel has taken the trail, 
and I came in because I’ve serious suspicions — I’ll ex- 
plain to you alone.” 

The borderman bowed gravely to Helen, with a nat- 
ural grace, and yet a manner that sat awkwardly upon 
him. The girl, slightly flushed, and somewhat confused 
by this meeting with the man around whom her romantic 
imagination had already woven a story, stood in the door- 
way after giving him a fleeting glance, the fairest, sweet- 
est picture of girlish beauty ever seen. 

The men went into the house; but their voices came 
distinctly through the door. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


25 


Eb, if Bing Leggett or Girty ever see that big-eyed 
lass, they’ll have her even if Fort Henry has to be burned, 
an’ in case they do get her, Wetzel an’ I’ll ha^ve taken 
our last trail.” 


THE LAST TRAIU 


sa 


CHAPTER IIL 

Supper over, Colonel Zane led his guests to a side 
porch, where they were soon joined by Mrs. Zane a«d 
Betty. The host’s two boys, Noah and Sammy, who had 
preceded them, were now astride the porch-rail and, to 
judge by their antics, were riding wild Indian mustangs. 

It’s quite cool,” said Colonel Zane ; “ but I want 
jou to see the sunset in the valley. A good many of 
your future neighbors may come over to-night for a word 
of welcome. It’s the border custom.” 

He was about to seat himself by the side of Mr. Shep- 
pard, on a rustic bench, when a negro maid appeared 
in the doorway carrying a smiling, black-eyed baby. 
Colonel Zane took the child and, holding it aloft, said 
with fatherly pride: 

This is Rebecca Zane, the first girl baby bom to 
the Zanes, and destined to be the belle of the border.” 

“ May I have her ? ” asked Helen softly, holding out 
her arms. She took the child, and placed it upon her 
knee where its look of solemnity soon changed to one of 
infantile delight. 

“ Here come Nell and Jim,” said Mrs. Zane point- 
ing toward the fort. 

‘‘ Yes, and there comes my brother Silas with his wife, 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


27 

K/)/’ added Colonel Zane. “ The first couple are James 
Douns, our young minister, and Nell, his wife. They 
came out here a year or so ago. James had a brother 
Joe, the finest young fellow who ever caught the border 
fever. He was killed by one of the Girtys. His was 
a wonderful story, and some day you shall hear about the 
parson and his wife.” 

“ What’s the border fever ? ” asked Mr. Sheppard. * 
It’s what brought you out here,” replied Colonel 
Zane with a hearty laugh. 

Helen gazed with interest at the couple now coming 
into the yard, and when they gained the porch she saw 
that the man W'as big and tall, with a frank, manly bear- 
ing, while his wife was a slender little woman with 
bright, sunny hair, and a sweet smiling face. They 
greeted Helen and her father cordially. 

Next came Silas Zane, a typical bronzed and bearded 
pioneer, with his buxom wife. Presently a little group 
of villagers joined the party. They were rugged men, 
clad in faded buckskins, and sober-faced women who 
wore dresses of plain gray linsey. They welcomed the 
newcomers with simple, homely courtesy. Then six 
young frontiersmen appeared from around a corner of 
the cabin, advancing hesitatingly. To Helen they all 
looked alike, tall, awkward, with brown faces and big 
hands. When Colonel Zane cheerily cried out to them, 
they stumbled forward with evident embarrassment, each 
literally crushing Helen’s hand in his homy palm. 
Afterward they leaned on the rail and stole gl&nces at her. 

Soon a large number of villagers were on the porch 
or in the yard. After paying their respects to Helen 


28 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


and her father they took part in a general conversation. 
Two or three girls, the latest callers, were surrounded 
by half a dozen young fellows, and their laughter sounded 
high above the hum of voices. 

Helen gazed upon this company with mingled feel- 
ings of relief and pleasure. She had been more con- 
cerned regarding the young people with whom her lot 
might be cast, than the dangers of which others had 
told. She knew that on the border there was no distinc- 
tion of rank. Though she came of an old family, and, 
during her girlhood, had been surrounded by refinement, 
even luxury, she had accepted cheerfully the reverses of 
fortune, and was determined to curb the pride which had 
been hers. It was necessary she should have friends. 
Warm-hearted, impulsive and loving, she needed to have 
around her those in whom she could confide. Therefore 
it was with sincere pleasure she understood how ground- 
less were her fears and knew that if she did not find 
good true friends the fault w^ould be her own. She saw 
at a glance that the colonel’s widowed sister was her 
equal, perhaps her superior, in education and breeding, 
while Nellie Douns w^as as well-bred and gracious a little 
lady as she had ever met. Then, the other girls, too, 
were charming, with frank wholesomeness and freedom. 

’ Concerning the young men, of whom there were about 
a dozen, Helen had hardly arrived at a conclusion. She 
liked the ruggedness, the signs of honest worth which 
clung to them. Despite her youth, she had been much 
sought after because of her personal attractions, and 
had thus added experience to the natural keen intuition 
all women possess. The glances of several of the men. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


29 


particularly the bold regard of one Koger Brandt, whom 
Colonel Zane introduced, she had seen before, and learned 
to dislike. On the whole, however, she was delighted with 
the prospect of new friends and future prosperity, and 
she felt even greater pleasure in the certainty that her 
father shared her gratification. 

Suddenly she became aware that the conversation had 
ceased. She looked up to see the tall, lithe form of 
Jonathan Zane as he strode across the porch. She could 
see that a certain constraint had momentarily fallen upon 
the company. It was an involuntary acknowledgment of 
this borderman^s presence, of a presence that worked on 
all alike with a subtle, strong magnetism. 

“ Ah, Jonathan, come out to see the sunset? It’s nn' 
usually fine to-night,” said Colonel Zane. 

- With hardly more than a perceptible bow to those 
present, the bordennan took a seat near the rail, and, 
leaning upon it, directed his gaze westward. 

Helen sat so near she could have touched him. She 
ivas conscious of the same strange feeling, and impelling 
sense of power, which had come upon her so strongly at 
first sight of him. More than that, a lively interest had 
])een aroused in her. This borderman was to her a new 
and novel character. She was amused at learning that 
here w^as a young man absolutely indifferent to the 
charms of the opposite sex, and although hardly admit- 
ting such a thing, she believed it would be possible to 
win him from his indifference. On raising her eyelids, 
‘ it was with the unconcern which a woman feigns when 
i suspecting she is being regarded with admiring eyes. But 
Jonathan Zane might not have known of her presence. 


30 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


for all the attention he paid her. Therefore, having a 
good opportunity to gaze at this borderman of daring 
deeds, Helen regarded him closely. 

He was clad from head to foot in smooth, soft buck- 
skin which fitted well his powerful frame. Beaded 
moccasins, leggings bound high above the knees, hunting 
coat laced and fringed, all had the neat tidy appearance 
due to good care. He wore no weapons. His hair fell 
in a raven mass over his shoulders. His profile was regu- 
lar, with a long, straight nose, strong chin, and eyes black 
as night They were now fixed intently on the valley. 
The whole face gave an impression serenity, of calm- 
ness. 

Helen was wondering if the sad, almost stem, tran- 
quillity of that face ever changed, when the baby cooed 
and held out its chubby little hands. Jonathan’s smile, 
which came quickly, accompanied by a warm light in the 
eyes, relieved Helen of an unaccountable repugnance she 
had begun to feel toward the borderman. That smile, 
brief as a flash, showed his gentle kindness and told that 
he was not a creature who had set himself apart from 
hiunan life and love. 

As he took little Kebecca, one of his hands touched 
Helen’s. If he had taken heed of the contact, as any 
ordinary man might well have, she would, perhaps, have 
thought nothing about it, but because he did not appear 
to realize that her hand had been almost inclosed in his, 
she could not help again feeling his singular personality. 
She saw that this man had absolutely no thought of her. 
At the moment this did not awaken resentment, for with 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


31 


all her fire and pride she was not vain ; but amusement 
gave place to a respect which came involuntarily. 

Little Rebecca presently manifested the faithlessness 
peculiar to her sex, and had no sooner been taken upon 
Jonathan’s knee than she cried out to go back to Helen. 

“ Girls are uncommon coy critters,” said he, with a 
grave smile in his eyes. He handed back the child, and 
once more was absorbed in the setting sun. 

Helen looked down the valley to behold the most 
beautiful spectacle she had ever seen. Between the hills 
far to the west, the sky flamed with a red and gold light 
The sun was poised above the river, and the shimmering 
waters merged into a ruddy horizon. Long rays of crim- 
son fire crossed the smooth waters. A few purple clouds 
above caught the refulgence, until aided by the delicate 
rose and blue space beyond, they became many hued 
ships sailing on a rainbow sea. Each second saw a gor- 
geous transformation. Slowly the sun dipped into the 
golden flood ; one by one the clouds changed from crim- 
son to gold, from gold to rose, and then to gray; slowly 
all the tints faded until, as the sun slipped out of sight, 
the brilliance gave way to the soft afterglow of warm 
lights. These in turn slowly toned down into gray twi- 
light. 

Helen retired to her room soon afterward, and, being 
unusually thoughtful, sat down by the window. She re- 
viewed the events of this first day of her new life on the 
border. Her impressions had been so many, so varied, 
that she wanted to distinguish them. First she felt glad, 
with a sweet, warm thankfulness, that her father seemed 
so happy, so encouraged by the outlook. Breaking old 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


32 

ties had been, she knew, no child^s play for him. She 
realized also that it had been done solely because there 
had been nothing left to offer her in the old home, and in 
a new one were hope and possibilities. Then she was 
relieved at getting away from the attentions of a man 
whose persistence had been most annoying to her. From 
thoughts of her father, and the old life, she came to her 
new friends of the present. She was so grateful for 
their kindness. She certainly would do all in her power 
to win and keep their esteem. 

Somewhat of a surprise was it to her, that she re- 
served for Jonathan Zane the last and most prominent 
place in her meditations. She suddenly asked herself 
how she regarded this fighting borderman. She recalled 
her unbounded enthusiasm for the man as Colonel Zan» 
had told of him; then her first glimpse, and her sur- 
prise and admiration at the lithe limbed young giant; 
then incredulity, amusement, and respect followed in 
swift order, after which an unaccountable coldness that 
was almost resentment. Helen was forced to admit that 
she did not know how to regard him, but surely he was 
& man, throughout every inch of his superb frame, and 
one who took life seriously, with neither thought nor 
time for the opposite sex. And this last brought a blush 
to her cheek, for she distinctly remembered she had 
expected, if not admiration, more than passing notice 
from this hero of the border. 

Presently she took a little mirror from a table neafe 
where she sat. Holding it to catch the fast fading lights 
she studied her face seriously. 

“ Helen Sheppard, I think on the occasion of your 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


33 


rival in a new country a little plain talk will be whole- 
some. Somehow or other, perhaps because of a crowd 
of idle men back there in the colonies, possibly from your 
own misguided fancy, you imagined you were fair to look 
at. It is well to be undeceived.” 

Scorn spoke in Helen’s voice. She was angry because 
of having been interested in a man, and allowed that in- 
terest to betray her into a girlish expectation that he 
would treat her as all other men had. The mirror, even 
in the dim light spoke more truly than she, foi it caught 
the golden tints of her luxuriant hair, the thousand beau- 
tiful shadows in her great, dark eyes, the white gbry of 
a face fair as a star, and the swelling outline of neck 
and shoulders. 

With a sudden fiery impetuosity she flung the glass 
to the floor, where it was broken into several pieces. 

“ How foolish of me ! What a temper I have ! ” sb 
exclaimed repentantly. I’m glad I have another glass. 
Wouldn’t Mr. Jonathan Zane, borderman, Indian fighter, 
hero of a hundred battles and never a sweetheart, be 
flattered ? Ho, most decidedly he wouldn’t. He never 
looked at me. I don’t think I expected that; I’m sure 
I didn’t want it ; but still he might have — Oh I what am I 
thinking, and he a stranger ? ” 

Before Helen lost herself in slumber on that eventful 
evening, she vowed to ignore the borderman; assured 
herself that she did not want to see him again, and, rather 
inconsistently, that she would cure him of his indiffer- 
ence. 

« » « -K- « 

When Colonel Zane’s guests had retired, and the Yfib 


34 


THE LAST TttAIK 


lagers Trere gone to their homes, he was free to consult 
with Jonathan. 

Well, Jack,” he said, “ I’m ready to hear about the 
horse thieves.” 

Wetzel makes it out the man who’s runnin’ this 
hoss-stealin’ is located right here in Fort Henry,” an- 
swered the borderman. 

The colonel had lived too long on the frontier to show 
surprise ; he hummed a tune while the genial expression 
faded slowly from his face. 

“ Last count there were one hundred and ten men at 
the fort,” he replied thoughtfully. “ I know over a 
hundred, and can trust them. There are some new fel- 
lows on the boats, and several strangers hanging round 
Metzar’s.” 

“ ’Pears to Lew an’ me that this fellar is a slick cus- 
tomer, an’ one who’s been here long enough to know our 
bosses an’ where we keep them.” 

“ I see. Like Miller, wLo fooled us all, even Betty, 
wLen he stole our powder and then sold us to Girty,” 
rejoined Colonel Zane grimly. 

Exactly only this fellar is slicker an’ more desper- 
ate than Miller.” 

“ Right you are, J ack, for the man wLo is trusted 
and betrays us, must be desperate. Does he realize what 
he’ll get if we ever find out, or is he underrating us ? 

“ He knows all right, an’ is matchin’ his cunnin’ 
against our’n.” 

‘‘ Tell me what you and Wetzel learned ? ” 

The borderman proceeded to relate the events that 
bad occurred during a recent tramp in the forest with 


THE LAST TRAIL, 


35 


Wetzel. While returning from a hunt in a swamp several 
miles over the ridge, back of Fort Henry, they ran across 
the trail of three Indians. They followed this until 
darkness set in, when both laid down to rest and wait 
for the early dawn, that time most propitious for taking 
the savage by surprise. On resuming the trail they found 
that other Indians had joined the party they were track- 
ing. To the borderinen this was significant of some un- 
usual activity directed toward the settlement. Unable 
00 learn anything definite from the moccasin traces, they 
hurried up on the trail to find that the Indians had 
halted. 

Wetzel and Jonathan saw from their covert that the 
savages had a woman prisoner. A singular feature about 
it all was that the Indians remained in the same place all 
day, did not light a camp-fire, and kept a sharp lookout 
The bordermen crept up as close as safe, and remained 
on watch during the day and night 

Early next morning, when the air was fading from 
black to gray, the silence was broken by the snapping of 
twigs and a tremor of the ground. The borderinen 
believed another company of Indians was approaching; 
but they soon saw it was a single white man leading a 
numJier of horses. He departed before daybreak. 
Wetzel and Jonathan could not get a clear view of him 
owing to the dim light; but they heard his voice, and 
afterwards found the imprint of his moccasins. They 
did, how’ever, recognize the six horses as belonging to 
settlers in Yellow Creek. 

While Jonathan and Wetzel were consulting as to 
what it was best to do, the party of Indians divided, foul 


36 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


going directly west, and the others north. Wetzel im- 
mediately took the trail of the larger party with the pris- 
oner and four of the horses. Jonathan caught two of 
the animals which the Indians had turned loose, and tied 
them in the forest. He then started after the three 
Indians "who had gone northward. 

“ Well ? ” Colonel Zane said impatiently, when ji^onai- 
than hesitated in his story. 

One got away,” he said reluctantly. “ I barked him 
as he was runnin’ like a streak through the bushes, an’ 
judged that he was hard hit. I got the bosses, an’ turned 
back on the trail of the w'hite man.” 

“ Where did it end ? ” 

“ In that hard packed path near the blacksmith shop. 
An’ the feller steps as light as an Injun.” 

“ He’s here, then, sure as you’re born. We’ve lost no 
horses yet, but last week old Sam heard a noise in the 
barn, and on going there found Betty’s mare out of her 
stall.” 

“ Some one as knows the lay of the land had been 
after her,” suggested Jonathan. 

“ You can bet on that. We’ve got to find him before 
we lose all the fine horse-flesh we own. Where do these 
stolen animals go? Indians would steal any kind; but 
this thief takes only the beet.” 

I’m to meet Wetzel on the ridge soon, an’ then we’ll 
know, for he’s goin’ to find out where the bosses are 
taken.” 

‘‘That’ll help some. On the way back you found 
where the white girl had been; taken from. Murdered 
father, burned cabin, the usual deviltry.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


37 


" Exactly.” 

“ Poor Mabel ! Do you think this white thief had 
anything to do with carrying her away ? ” 

No. Wetzel says that’s Bing Legget’s work. The 
Shawnees were members of his gang.” 

“Well, Jack, what’ll I do?” 

Keep quiet an’ wait,” was the borderman’s answer. 

Colonel Zane, old pioneer and frontiersman though he 
was, shuddered as he went to his room. His brother’s 
dark look, and his deadly calmness, were signkScant. 



!rHE l^ST TRAttk 


as 




CHAPTER IV. 

To those few who saw Jonathan Zane in the village, 
it'^seemed as if he was in his usual quiet and dreamy state. 
The ,people were accustomed to his silence, and long since 
leaned that what^ifHlr^dme he spent in the settlement 
was not given to feociahilj^. In the morning he some- 
times lay^with CoiwnelZ^’s dog, Chief, by the side of,) 
a spring under an elmtrSfe, and ii^ the afternoon strolled 
aimlessly ^long the riv^ ^luff, Or on the hillside. At 
night h^^at on his brother’s porch smoking a long Indian 
pipe. Since that day, now week past, when he had re- 
turned with the stolen horses, his movements and habife 
were precisely what would have been expected of an un 
suspicious borderman. 

In reality, however, Jonathan was not what he seemed. 
He knew all that was going on in the settlement 
Hardly a bird could have entered tlje clearing unob- 
served. 

At nifl^, 'waiter all the villagers were in be<fL he stole 
cautiously abou^ the stockade, silencin^with /familiar 
word the bristfing watch-hounds, and weniffom barn to 
barn, ending his stealthy tramp at the corral where 
Colonel Zan^ept his thoroughbreds. 

But all this scouting by night availed nothing. No 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


39 


unusual event occun-ed, not even the barking of a dog, a 
suspicious rustling among the thickets, or whistling of a 
night-hawk had been heard. 

Vainly the borderman strained ears to catch some low 
night-signal given by w’aiting Indians to the white trai- 
tor within the settlement. By day there was even less 
to ^ttract the sharp-eyed watcher. The clumsy river 
boats, half raft, half sawn lumber, drifted down the Ohio 
on their Srst and last voyage, discharged their cargoes 
of grain, liquor, or merchandise, and were broken up. 
Their crews came back on the long overland journey to 
Fort Pitt, there to man another craft. The garrison at 
the fort performed their customary duties ; the pioneers 
os^lled the fields; the blacksmith scattered sparks, the 
Wheelwright worked industriously at his bench, and the 
housewives attended to' their many cares. hTo strangers 
y'^arrived at Fort Henry. TKe quiet life of the village was 
uninterrupted. 

Near sunset of a long day Jonathan strolled down the 
Sandy, well-trodden path toward Metzar’s inn. He did 
not drink, and consequently seldom visited the rude, 
dark, ill-smelling bar-room. When occasion demanded 
his presence there, he was evidently not welcome. The 
original owner, a sturdy soldier and pioneer, came to 
Fort Henry when Colonel Zane founded the settlement, 
and had been killed during Girty’s last attack. His suc- 
cessor, another Metzar, was, according to Jonathan’s be- 
lief, as bad as the whiskey he dispensed. More than one 
murder had been committed at the inn; countless fatal 
knife and tomahawk fights had stained red the hard clay 
floo-% 2sid more than one desperate character had been 


.--Am 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


40 

harbored there. Once Colonel Zane sent Wetzel there to 
invite a thief and outlaw to quit the settlement, with the 
not unexpected result that it became necessary the robber 
be carried out. 

Jonathan thought of the bad name the place bore all 
over the frontier, and wondered if Metzar could tell any- 
thing about the horse-thieves. When the borderman bent 
his tall frame to enter the low-studded door he fancied 
he saw a dark figure disappear into a room just behind 
the bar. A roughly-clad, heavily-bearded man turned 
hastily at the same moment 

“ Hulld,” he said gruffly. 

“ H’ are you, Metzar. I just dropped in to see if I 
could make a trade for your sorrel mare,” replied Jona- 
than. Being well aware that the innkeeper would not 
part with his horse, the borderman had made this an- 
nouncement as his reason for entering the bar-room. 

“ Nope, I’ll allow you can’t,” replied Metzar. 

As he turned to go, Jonathan’s eyes roamed around 
the bar-room. Several strangers of shiftless aspect 
bleared at him. 

“ They wouldn’t steal a pumpkin,” muttered Jonathan 
to himself as he left the inn. Then he added suspici- 
ously, “ Metzar was talkin’ to some one, an’ ’peared un- 
easy. I never liked Metzar. He’ll bear watchin’.” 

The borderman passed on down the path thinking of 
what he had heard against Metzar. The colonel had 
said that the man was prosperous for an innkeeper who 
took pelts, grain or meat in exchange for rum. The vil- 
lage gossips disliked him because he was unmarried, taci- 
turn, and did not care for their company. Jonathan re* 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


41 

fleeted also on the fact that Indians were frequently 
coming to the inn, and this made him distrustful of the 
proprietor. It was true that Colonel Zane had red- 
skinned visitors but there was always good reason for 
their coming. Jonathan had seen, during the Revolu- 
tion, more than one trusted man proven to be a traitor, 
and the conviction settled upon him that some quiet 
scouting would show up this innkeeper as aiding the 
horse-thieves if not actually in league with them. 

“ Good evening, Jonathan Zane.” 

This greeting in a woman’s clear voice brought Jon- 
athan out from his reveries. He glanced up to see Helen 
. Sheppard standing in the dooi'way of her father’s cabin. 

‘‘ Evenin’, miss,” he said with a bow, and would have 
passed on. 

“ Wait,” she cried, and stepped out of the door. 

He waited by the gate with a manner which showed 
that such a summons was novel to him. 

Helen piqued at his curt greeting, had asked him 
to wait without any idea of what she would say. Com- 
ing slowly down the path she felt again a subtle awe of 
this borderman. Regretting her impulsiveness, she lost 
confidence. 

Gaining the gate she looked up intending to speak; 
but was unable to do so as she saw how cold and grave 
was his face, and how piercing were his eyes. She 
flushed slightly, and then, conscious of an embarrass- 
ment new and strange to her, blushed rosy red, making, 
as it seemed to her, a stupid remark about the sunset. 
When he took her words literally, and said the sunset 
was fine, she felt guilty of deceitfulness. Whatever 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


42 

Helen’s faults, and they were many, she was honest, aii<? 
because of not having looked at the sunset, but only 
wanting him to see her as did other men, the innocent 
ruse suddenly appeared mean and trifling. 

Then, with a woman’s quick intuition, she understood 
that coquetries were lost on this borderman, and, with a 
smile, got the better of her embarrassment and humilia- 
tion by telling the truth. 

“ I wanted to ask a favor of you, and I’m a little 
afraid.” 

She spoke with girlish shyness, which increased as ho 
stared at her. 

Why — why do you look at me so ? ” 

“ There’s a lake over yonder which the Shawnees say 
is haunted by a woman they killed,” he replied quietly. 

You’d do for her spirit, so white an’ beautiful in the 
silver moonlight.” 

“ So my white dress makes me look ghostly,” she an- 
swered lightly, though deeply conscious of surprise and 
pleasure at such an unexpected reply from him. This 
borderman might he full of surprises. Such a time as 
I had bringing my dresses out here ! I don’t know when 
I can wear them. This is the simplest one.” 

An’ it’s mighty new an’ bewilderin’ for the border,” 
he replied with a smile in his eyes. 

“ When these are gone I’ll get no more except linsey 
enes,” she said brightly, yet her eyes shone with a wist* 
fill uncertainty of the future. - 

Will you be happy here ? ” 

“ I am happy. I have always wanted to be of som' 
use in the world. I assure you, Master Zane, I am bo ^ 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


43 


tbe butterfly I seem. I have worked hard all day, that 
is, until your sister Betty came over. All the girls have 
helped me fix up the cabin until it’s more comfortable 
than I ever dreamed one could be on the frontier. 
Father is well content here, and that makes me happy. 
I haven’t had time for forebodings. The young men of 
Fort Henry have been, — well, attentive; in fact they’ve 
been here all the time.” 

She laughed a little at this last remark, and looked 
demurely at him. 

It’s a frontier custom,” he said. 

Oh, indeed ? Do all the young men call often and 
stay late ? ” 

They do?” 

You didn’t,” she retorted. ** You’re the only one 
W'ho hasn’t been to see me.” 

“ I do not wait on the girls,” he replied with a grave 
smile. 

Oh, you don’t ? Do you expect them to wait on 
you ? ” she asked, feeling, now she had made this silent 
man talk, once more at her ease. 

I am a borderman,” replied Jonathan. There was a 
certain dignity or sadness in his answer which reminded 
Helen of Colonel Zane’s portrayal of a borderman’s life. 
It struck her keenly. Here was this young giant stand- 
ing erect and handsome before her, as rugged as one of 
the ash trees of his beloved forest. Who could tell when 
his strong life might be ended by an Indian’s hatchet ? 

“ For you then, is there no such thing as friendship ? ’* 
she asked. * 

“ On the border men are serious.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


44 

This recalled his sister’s conversation regarding the 
attentions of the young men, that they would follow her, 
fight for her, and give her absolutely no peace until one 
of them had carried her to his cabin a bride. 

She could not carry on the usual conventional con- 
versation with this borderman, but remained silent for a 
time. She realized more keenly than ever before how 
different he was from other men, and watched closely as 
he stood gazing out over the river. Perhaps something 
she had said caused him to think of the many pleasures 
and joys he missed. But she could not be certain what 
was in his mind. She was not accustomed to impassive 
faces and cold eyes with unlit fires in their dark depths. 
More likely he was thinking of matters nearer to his 
wild, free life; of his companion Wetzel somewhere out 
beyond those frowning hills. Then she remembered that 
the colonel had told her of his brother’s love for nature 
in all its forms; how he watched the shades of evening 
fall; lost himself in contemplation of the last copper 
glow fiushing the western sky, or became absorbed in the 
bright stars. Possibly he had forgotten her presence. 
Darkness was rapidly stealing down upon them. The 
evening, tranquil and gray, crept over them with all its 
mystery. He was a part of it. She could not hope to 
understand him ; but saw clearly that his was no common 
personality. She wanted to speak, to voice a sympathy 
strong within her; but she did not know what to say to 
this borderman. 

If what your sister tells me of the border is true, I 
may soon need a friend,” she said, after weighing well 
her words. She faced him modestly yet bravely, and 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


45 

looked him straight in the eyes. Because he did not 
reply she spoke again. 

I mean such a friend as you or Wetzel.” 

You may count on both,” he replied. 

“ Thank you,” she said softly, giving him her hand. 

I shall not forget. One more thing. Will yon break 
a borderman’s custom, for my sake ? ” 

^‘Ilow?” 

‘‘ Come to see me when you are in the settlement ? ” 

Helen said this in a low voice with just a sob in her 
breath ; tut she met his gaze fairly. Her big eyes were 
all aglow, alight with girlish appeal, and yet proud with 
a woman’s honest demand for fair exchange. Promise 
was there too, could he but read it, of wonderful pos- 
sibilities. 

“ 1^0,” he answered gently. 

Helen was not prepared for such a rebuff. She was 
interested in him, and not ashamed to show it. She 
feared only that he might misunderstand her ; but to re- 
fuse her proffered friendship, that was indeed unex- 
pected. Rude she thought it was, while from brow tc 
curving throat her fair skin crimsoned. Then her 
face grew pale as the moonlight. Hard on her resent- 
ment had surged the swell of some new emotion strong 
and sweet. He refused her friendship because he did 
not dare accept it ; because his life was not his own ; be- 
cause he was a borderman. 

While they stood thus, Jonathan looking perplexed 
and troubled, feeling he had hurt her, but knowing not 
what to say, and Helen with a warm softness in her eyes, 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


46 

the stalwart figure of a man loomed out of the gathering 
darkness. 

Ah, Miss Helen ! Good evening,” he said. 

Is it you, Mr. Brandt ? ” asked Helen. “ Of course 
you know Mr. Zane.” 

Brandt acknowledged Jonathan’s bow with an awk- 
wardness which had certainly been absent in his greeting 
to Helen. He started slightly when she spoke the border- 
man’s name. 

A brief pause ensued. 

Good night,” said Jonathan, and left them. 

He had noticed Brandt’s gesture of surprise, slight 
though it was, and was thinking about it as he walked 
away. Brandt may have been astonished at finding a 
borderman talking to a girl, and certainly, as far as 
Jonathan was concerned, the incident was without pre- 
cedent. But, on the other hand, Brandt may have had 
another reason, and Jonathan tried to study out w’hat it 
might be. 

He gave but little thought to Helen. That she might 
like him exceedingly well, did not come into his mind. 
He remembered his sister Betty’s gossip regarding Helen 
and her admirers, and particularly Boger Brandt; but 
felt no great concern ; he had no curiosity to know more 
of her. He admired Helen because she was beautiful, 
yet the feeling was much the same he might have experi- 
enced for a graceful deer, a full-foliaged tree, or a dark 
mossy-stoned bend in a murmuring brook. The girl’s 
face and figure, perfect and alluring as they were, had 
not awakened him from his indifference. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 47 

On arriving at his brother’s home, he found the colonel 
and Betty sitting on the porch. 

“ Eb, who is this Brandt ? ” he asked. 

Roger Brandt? He’s a Erench-Canadian ; came 
here from Detroit a year ago. Why do you ask ? ” 

“ I want to know more about him.” 

Colonel Zane reflected a moment, first as to this un- 
usual request from Jonathan, and secondly in regard to 
what little he really did laiow of Roger Brandt. 

“ Well, J ack, I can’t tell you much ; nothing of him 
before he showed up here. He says he has been a 
pioneer, hunter, scout, soldier, trader — everything. 
When he came to the fort we needed men. It was just 
after Girty’s siege, and all the cabins had been burned. 
Brandt seemed honest, and was a good fellow. Besides, 
he had gold. He started the river barges, which came 
from Fort Pitt. He has surely done the settlement good 
service, and has prospered. I never talked a dozen times 
to him, and even then, not for long. He appears to like 
the young people, w’hich is only natural. That’s all I 
know; Betty might tell you more, for he tried to be 
attentive to her. 

“Did he, Betty?” Jonathan asked. 

“ He followed me until I showed him I didn’t care 
for company,” answered Betty. 

“ What kind of a man is he ? ” 

“ Jack, I know nothing against him, although I never 
fancied him. He’s better educated than the majority of 
frontiersmen; he’s good-natured and agreeable, and the 
people like him.” 

“ Why don’t you ? 


48 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Betty looked surprised at his blunt question, and then 
said with a laugh : “ I never tried to reason why ; but 
since you have spoken I believe my dislike was in- 
stinctive.” 

After Betty had retired to her room the brothers re- 
mained on the porch smoking. 

Betty’s pretty keen, Jack. I never knew her to mis- 
judge a man. Why this sudden interest in Roger 
Brandt?” 

The borderman puffed his pipe in silence. 

“Say, Jack,” Colonel Zane said suddenly, “do you 
connect Brandt in any way with this horse-stealing ? ” 

“No more than some, an’ less than others,” replied 
Jonathan curtly. 

Nothing more was said for a time. To the brothers 
this hour of early dusk brought the same fulness of 
peace. From gray twilight to gloomy dusk quiet reigned. 
The insects of night chirped and chorused with low, in- 
cessant hum. From out the darkness came the peeping 
of frogs. 

Suddenly the borderman straightened up, and, remov- 
ing the pipe from his mouth, turned his ear to the faint 
breeze, while at the same time one hand closed on the 
colonel’s knee with a warning clutch. 

Colonel Zane knew what that clutch signified. Some 
faint noise, too low for ordinary ears,, had roused the 
borderman. The colonel listened, but heard nothing 
save the familiar evening sounds. 

“ Jack, what’d you hear? ” he whispered. 

“ Somethin’ bach of the barn,” replied Jonathan, slip- 
ping noiselessly olf the steps, lying at full length with 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


49 


his ear close to the ground. “ Where’s the dog ? ” he 
asked. 

Chief must have gone with Sam. The old nigger 
sometimes goes at this hour to see his daughter.” 

J onathan laj on the grass several moments ; then sud- 
denly he arose much as a bent sapling springs to place. 

“ I hear footsteps. Get the rifles,” he said in a fierce 
whisper. 

“ Damn ! There is some one in the bam.” 

“ No; they’re outside. Hurry, but softly.” 

Colonel Zane had but just risen to his feet, when Mrs, 
Zane came to the door and called him by name. 

Instantly from somewhere in the darkness overhanging 
the road, came a low, warning whistle. 

“ A signal ! ” exclaimed Colonel Zane. 

“ Quick, Eb ! Look toward Metzar’s light. One, two, 
three, shadows — Injuns ! ” 

By the Lord Harry! Now they’re gone; but I 
couldn’t mistake those round heads and bristling 
feathers.” 

“ Shawnees ! ” said the borderman, and his teeth shut 
hard like steel on flint. 

‘‘ Jack, they were after the horses, and some one was 
on the lookout ! By God ! right under our noses ! ” 

“ Hurry, cried Jonathan, pulling his brother off the 
porch. 

Colonel Zrrne followed the borderman out of the yard, 
into the road, and across the grassy square. 

“ We might find the one who gave the signal,” said the 
colonel. He was near at hand, and couldn’t have 
passed the house.” 


60 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Colonel Zaae was correct, for whoever had whistled 
would be forced to take one of two ways of escape ; either 
- down the straight road ahead, or over the high stockade 
fence of the fort. 

“ There he goes,” whispered J onathan. 

Where ? I can’t see a blamed thing.” 

Go across the square, run around, the fort, an’ head 
him off on the road. Don’t try to stop him for he’ll have 
weapons, just find out who he is.” 

I see him now,” replied Colonel Zane, as he hurried 
off into the darkness. 

During a few moments Jonathan kept in view the 
shadow he had seen first come out of the gloom by the 
stockade, and thence pass swiftly down the road. He 
followed swiftly, silently. Presently a light beyond 
threw a glare across the road. He thought he was ap- 
proaching a yard where there was a fire, and the flames 
proved to be from pine cones burning in the yard of 
Helen Sheppard. He remembered then that she was 
entertaining some of the young people. 

The figure he was pursuing did not pass the glare. 
Jonathan made certain it disappeared before reaching 
the light, and he k?^ew his eyesight too w’ell not to trust 
to it absolutely. Advancing nearer the yard, he heard 
the murmur of voices in gay conversation, and soon saw 
figures moving about under the trees. 

Ho doubt was in his mind but that the man who gave 
the signal to warn the Indians, was one of Helen Shep- 
pard’s guests. 

Jonathan had walked across the street then down tlie 
path, before he saw the colonel coming from the op^ 


THE LAST TRAIL 

posite direction. Halting under a maple he waited for 
his brother to approach. 

I didnH meet any one. Did you loose him ? ** 
whispered Colonel Zane breathlessly, 

Ho ; he’s in there.” 

That’s Sheppard’s place. Do you mean he’s hiding' 
there.” 

«Ho!” 

Colonel Zane swore, as was his habit when exasperated. 
Kind and generous man that he was, it went hard with 
him to believe in the guilt of any of the young men lie 
had trusted. But Jonathan had said there was a traitor 
among them, and Colonel Zane did not question this as- 
sertion. He knew the borderman. During years full 
of strife, and war, and blood had he lived beside this 
silent man who said little, but that little was the truth. 
Therefore Colonel Zane gave way to anger. 

Well, I’m not so damn surprised ! What’s to be 
done?” 

“ Find out what men are there ? ” 

“ That’s easy. I’ll go to see George and soon have the 
truth.” 

Won’t do,” said the Ixjrderman decisively. Go 
back to the barn, an’ look after the bosses.” 

When Colonel Zane had obeyed Jonathan dropped to 
his hands and knees, and sv;iftly, with the agile move- 
ments of an Indian, gained a corner of the Sheppard 
yard. He crouched in the shade of a big plum tree. 
Then, at a favorable opportunity, vaulted the fence and 
disappeared under a clump of lilac bushes. 

The evening wore away no more tediously to the 


52 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


borderman, than to those young frontiersmen who were 
whispering tender or playful words to their partners. 
Time and patience were the same to Jonathan Zane. He 
lay hidden under the fragTant lilacs, his eyes, accustomed 
to the dark from long practice, losing no movement of 
the guests. Finally it became evident that the party 
was at an end. One couple took' the initiative, and 
said good night to their hostess. 

“ Tom Bennet, I hope it’s not you,” whispered the 
borderman to himself, as he recognized the young 
fellow. 

A general movement followed, until the merry party 
were assembled about Helen near the front gate. 

“ Jim Morrison, I’ll bet it’s not you,” was Jonathan’s 
comment. “ That soldier Williams is doubtful ; Hart an’ 
Johnson being strangers, are unknown quantities around 
here, an’ then comes Brandt.” 

All departed except Brandt, who remained talking to 
Helen in low, earnest tones. Jonathan lay very quietly, 
trying to decide what should be his next move in the un- 
raveling of the mystery. He paid little attention to the 
young couple, but could not help overhearing their con- 
versation. 

“ Indeed, Mr. Brandt, you frontiersmen are not back- 
ward,” Helen was saying in her clear voice. “ I ani 
surprised to learn that you love me upon such short ac- 
quaintance, and am sorry too, for I hardly know whether 
I even so much as like you.” 

“ I love you. We men of the border do things 
rapidly,” he replied earnestly. 

“ So it seems,” she said with a soft laugh. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


53 


Won’t you care for me ? ” he pleaded. 

“ Nothing is surer than that I never know what I am 
going to do,” Helen replied lightly. 

All these fellows are in love with. you. They can’t 
help it any more than I. You are the most glorious 
creature. Please give me hope.” 

“ Mr. Brandt, let go my hand. I’m afraid I don’t like 
such impulsive men.” 

Please let me hold your hand.” 

Certainly not.” 

But I will hold it, and if you look at me^ like that 
again I’ll do more,” he said. 

What, bold sir frontiersman? ” she returned, lightly 
still, but in a voice which rang with a deeper note. 

I’ll kiss you,” he cried desperately. 

You wouldn’t dare.” ‘ 

Wouldn’t I though ? You don’t know us border fel- 
lows yet. You come here with your wonderful beauty, 
and smile at us with that light in your eyes which makes 
men mad. Oh, you’ll pay for it.” 

The Jborderman listened to all this love-making half 
disgusted, until he began to grow interested. Brandt’s 
back was turned to him, and Helen stood so that the light 
from the pine cones shone on her face. Her eyes were 
brilliant, otherwise she seemed a woman perfectly self 
possessed. Brandt held her hand despite the repeated 
efforts she made to free it. But she did not struggle 
violently, or make an outcry. 

Suddenly Brandt grasped her other hand, pulling her 
toward him- 


54 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


These other fellows will kiss you, and I’m going to 
be the first ! ” he declared passionately. 

Helen drew back, now thoroughly alarmed by the 
man’s fierce energy. She had been warned against this 
very boldness in frontiersmen ; but bed felt secure in her 
own pride and dignity. Her blood boiled at the thought 
that she must exert strength to escape insuK. She 
struggled violently when Brandt bent his head. Almost 
sick with fear, she had determined to call for help, when 
a violent wrench almost toppled her over. At the same 
instant her wrists were freed ; she heard a fierce cry, a 
resounding blow, and then the sodden thud of a heavy 
body falling. Recovering her balance, she saw a tall 
figure beside her, and a man in the act of rising from the 
ground. 

‘‘You?” whispered Helen, recognizing the tall 
figure as Jonathan’s. 

The borderman did not answer. He stepped forward, 
slipping his hand inside his hunting frock. 'Brandt 
sprang nimbly to his feet, and with a face which, even 
in the dim light, could be seen distorted with fury, bent 
forward to look at the stranger. He too had his hand 
within his coat, as if grasping a weapon ; but he did not 
draw it. 

“ Zane, a lighter blow would have been easier to for- 
get,” he cried, his voice clear and cutting. Then he 
turned to the girl. “ Miss Helen, I got what I deserved. 
I crave your forgiveness, and ask you to understand a 
man who was once a gentleman. If I am one no longer, 
the frontier is to blame. I was mad to treat you as I 
did.” 


THE LAST TRAIL, 


55 


Thus speaking, he bowed low with the grace of a man 
sometimes used to the society of ladies, and then went 
out of the gate. 

“ Where did you come from ? ” asked Helen, looking 
up at Jonathan. 

He pointed under the lilac bushes. 

Were you there ? ” she asked wonderingly. Did 
you hear all ? ” 

I couldn’t help bearin’.” 

“ It was fortunate for me ; but why — why were you 
there?” 

Helen came a step nearer, and regarded him curiously 
with her great eyes now black with excitement. 

The borderman was silent. 

Helen’s softened mood changed instantly. There was 
nothing in his cold face which might have betrayed in 
him a sentiment similar to that of her admirers. 

Did you spy on me ? ” she asked quickly, after a 
noment’s thought 

Ho,” replied Jouatliac calmly 

Helen gazed in perplexity at this strange man. She 
did not know how to explain it; she was irritated, but 
did her best to conceal it. He had no interest in her, 
yet had hidden under the lilacs in her yard. She was 
grateful because he had saved her from annoyance, yet 
could not fathom his reason for being so near. 

Did you come here to see me ? ” she asked, forget- 
ting her vexation. 

Ho.” 

What for then ? ” 


56 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


I reckon I won’t saj,” was the quiet, deliberate 
refusal. 

Helen stamped her foot in exasperation. 

“ Be careful that I do not put a wrong construction on 
your strange action,” said she coldly. If you have 
reasons, you might trust me. If you are only ” 

“ Sh-s-sh ! ” he breathed, grasping her w'rist, and hold- 
ing it firmly in his powerful hand. The whole attitude 
of the man had altered swiftly, subtly. The listlessness 
w’as gone. His lithe body became rigid as he leaned for- 
ward, his head tow’ard the ground, and turned slightly 
in a manner that betokened intent listening. 

Helen trembled as she felt his powerful frame quiver. 
Whatever had thus changed him, gave her another 
glimpse of his complex personality. It seemed to her 
incredible that with one whispered exclamation this man 
could change from cold indifference to a fire and force 
so strong as to dominate her. 

Statue-like she remained listening; but hearing no 
sound, and thrillingly conscious of the hand on her arm. 

Far up on the hillside an owl hooted dismally, and an 
instant later, faint and far away, came an answer so low 
as to be almost indistinct. 

The borderman raised himself erect as he released 
her. 

“ It’s only an owl,” she said in relief. 

His eyes gleamed like stars. 

“ It’s Wetsel, an’ it means Injuns ! ” 

Then he was gone into the darkness. 


THE LAST TRAIIa. 


67 


CHAPTER V. 

In the misty morning twilight Colonel Zane, fully 
armed, paced to and fro before his cabin, on guard. All 
night he had maintained a watch. He had not con- 
sidered it necessary to send his family into the fort, to 
which they had often been compelled to flee. On the 
previous night Jonathan had come swiftly back to the 
cabin, and, speaking but two words, seized his weapons 
and vanished into the black night. The words were 

Injuns 1 Wetzel ! ” and there were none others with 
more power to affect hearers on the border. The colonel 
believed that Wetzel had signaled to Jonathan. 

On the west a deep gully with precipitous sides sepa- 
rated the settlement from a high, wooded bluff. Wetzel 
often returned from his journeying by this difficult 
route. He had no doubt seen Indian signs, and had com- 
,municated the intelligence to Jonathan by their system 
of night-bird calls. The nearness of the mighty hunter 
reassured Colonel Zane. 

When the colonel returned from his chase of the 
previous night, he went directly to the stable, there to 
find that the Indians had made off with a thoroughbred, 
and Betty’s pony. Colonel Zane was furious, not on ac- 
count of the value of the horses, but because Bess waa 


58 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


his favorite bay, and Betty loved nothing more than her 
pony Madcap. To have such a march stolen on him 
after he had heard and seen the thieves was indeed hard. 
High time it was that these horse thieves be run to earth. 
No Indian had planned these marauding expeditions. 
An intelligent white man was at the bottom of the thiev- 
ing, and he should pay for his treachery. 

The colonel’s temper, however, soon cooled. He real- 
ized after thinking over the matter, that he was fortunate 
it passed otf without bloodshed. Very likely the intent 
had been to get all his horses, perhaps his neighbor’s as 
well, and it had been partly frustrated by Jonathan’s 
keen sagacity. These Shawnees, white leader or not, 
would never again run such risks. 

“ It’s like a skulking Shawnee,” muttered Colonel 
Zane, “ to slip down here under cover of early dusk, 
when no one but an Indian hunter could detect him. I 
didn’t look for trouble, especially so soon after the lesson 
we gave Girty and his damned English and redskins. 
It’s lucky Jonathan was here. I’ll go back to the old 
plan of stationing scouts at the outposts until snow 
■flies.” 

While Colonel Zane talked to himself and paced the 
path he had selected to patrol, ‘the white mists cleared, 
and a rosy hue followed the brightening in the east. 
The birds ceased twittering to break into gay songs, and 
the cock in the barnyard gave one final clarion-voiced 
salute to the dawn. The rose in the east deepened into 
rich red, and then the sun peeped over the eastern hill- 
tops to drench the valley with glad golden light 

A blue smoke curling lazily from the stone chimney of 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


59 


his cabin, showed that Sam had made the kitchen fire, 
and a little later a rich, savory odor gave pleasing evi- 
dence that his wife was cooking breakfast. 

“ Any sign of J ack ? ” a voice called from the open 
door, and Betty appeared. 

Nary sign.” 

Of the Indians, then ? ” 

Well, Betts, they left you a token of their regard,” 
and Colonel Zane smiled as he took a broken halter from 
the fence. 

Madcap ? ” cried Betty. 

“ Yes, they’ve taken Madcap and Bess.” 

Oh, the villains ! Poor pony,” exclaimed Betty in- 
dignantly. “ Eb, I’ll coax Wetzel to fetch the pony 
home if he has to kill every Shawnee in the valley.” 

Now you’re talking, Betts,” Colonel Zane replied. 
“ If you could get Lew to do that much, you’d be blessed 
from one end of the border to the other.” 

He walked up the road ; then back, keeping a sharp 
lookout on all sides, and bestowing a particularly keen 
glance at the hillside across the ravine, but could see no 
sign of the bordermen. As it was now broad daylight he 
felt convinced that further watch was unnecessary, and 
went in to breakfast. When he came out again the vil- 
lagers were astir. The sharp strokes of axes rang out on 
the clear morning air, and a mellow anvil-clang pealed 
up from the blacksmith shop. Colonel Zane found his 
brother Silas and Jim Douns near the gate. 

^‘Morning, boys,” he cried cheerily. 

Any glimpse of J ack or Lew ? ” asked Silas. 

^'No; but I’m expecting one of ’em any moment.” 


69 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


How about the Indians ? ” asked Doiins. Silas 
roused me out last night ; but didn’t stay long enough to 
say more than ‘ Indians 

I don’t know much more than Silas. I saw several 
of the red devils who stole the horses; but how many, 
where they’ve 'gone, or what we’re to expect, I can’t 
say. We’ve got to wait for Jack or Lew. Silas, keep 
the garrison in readiness at the fort, and don’t allow a 
man, soldier or farmer, to leave the clearing until further 
orders. Perhaps there were only three of those Shaw- 
nees, and then again the woods might have been full of 
them. I take it something’s amiss, or Jack and Lew 
would be in by now.” 

“ Here come Sheppard and his girl,” said Silas, point- 
ing down the lane. “ ’Pears George is some excited.” 

Colonel Zane had much the same idea as he saw Shep- 
pard and his daughter. The old man appeared in a hurry, 
which was sufficient reason to believe him anxious or 
alarmed, and Helen looked pale. 

“ Ebenezer, what’s this I hear about Indians ? ” Shep- 
pard asked excitedly. ‘‘ What with Helen’s story about 
the fort being besieged, and this brother of yours routing 
honest people from their beds, I haven’t had a wink of 
sleep. What’s up ? Where are the redskins ? ” 

“ How, George, be easy,” said Colonel Zane calmly. 

And you, Helen, mustn’t be frightened. There’s no 
danger. We did have a visit from Indians last night; 
but they hurt no one, and got only two horses.” 

Oh, I’m so relieved that it’s not worse,” said Helen. 

‘‘It’s bad enough, Helen,” Betty cried, her black 
eyes flashing, “ my pony Madcap is gone.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


61 

‘‘Colonel Zane, come here quick,” cried Douns, who 
stood near the gate. 

With one leap Colonel Zane was at the gate, and, 
following with his eyes the direction indicated by Douns’ 
trembling finger, he saw two tall brown figures striding 
down the lane. One carried two rifles, and the other a 
long bundle wrapped in a blanket. 

“ It’s Jack and Wetzel,” whispered Colonel Zane to 
Jim. “ They’ve got the girl, and by God ! from the waj 
that bundle hangs, I think she’s dead. Here,” he added 
speaking loudly, “ you w'omen get into the house.” 

Mrs. Zane, Betty and Helen stared. 

“ Go into the house,” he cried authoritatively. 

Without a protest the three women obeyed. 

At that moment Nellie Douns came across the lane; 
Sam shuffled out from the backyard, and Sheppard arose 
from his seat on the steps. They joined Colonel Zane, 
Silas and Jim at the gate. 

“ I wondered what kept you so late,” Colonel Zane 
said to Jonathan, as he and his companion came up. 
“ You’ve fetched Mabel, and she’s — ” The good man 
could say no more. If he should live an hundred years 
on the border amid savage murderers, he would still be 
tender-hearted. Just now he believed the giant border- 
man by the side of Jonathan held a dead girl, one whom 
he had danced, when a child, upon his knee. 

“ Mabel, an’ jest alive,” replied Jonathan. 

“ By God I I’m glad ! ” exclaimed Colonel Zane. 
“ Here, Lew, give her to me.” 

Wetzel relinquished his burden to the colonel. 


62 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


** Lew, any bad Indian sign ? ” asked Colonel Zane as 
he turned to go into the house. 

The borderman shook his head. 

“ Wait for me,” added the colonel. 

He carried the girl to that apartment in the cabin 
which served the purpose of a sitting-room, and laid her 
on a couch. He gently removed the folds of the blanket, 
disclosing to view a fragile, white-faced girl. 

Bess, hurry, hurry ! ” he screamed to his wife, and 
as she came running in, followed no less hurriedly by 
Betty, Helen and Hellie, he continued, Here’s Mabel 
Lane, alive, poor child; but in sore need of help. First 
see whether she has any bodily injury. If a bullet must 
be cut out, or a knife-wound sewed up, it’s better she 
remained unconscious. Betty, run for Bess’s instru- 
ments, and bring brandy and water. Lively now ! ” 
Then he gave vent to an oath and left the room. 

Helen, her heart throbbing wildly, went to the side of 
Mrs. Zane, who was kneeling by the couch. She saw a 
delicate girl, not over eighteen years old, with a face 
that would have been beautiful but for the set lips, the 
closed eyelids, and an expression of intense pain. 

“Oh! Oh!” breathed Helen. 

“ Hell, hand me the scissors,” said Mrs. Zane, “ jind 
help me take off this dress. Why, it’s wet, but, thank 
goodness! ’tis not with blood. I know that slippery 
touch too well. There, that’s right. Betty, give me a 
spoonful of brandy. How heat a blanket, and get one of 
your linsey gowns for this poor child.” 

Helen watched Mrs. Zane as if fascinated. The col- 
onel’s wife continued to talk while with deft fingers she 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


forced a few drops of brandy between the girl’s closed 
teeth. Then with the adroitness of a skilled surgeon, 
she made the examination. Helen had heard of this 
pioneer woman’s skill in setting broken bones and treat- 
ing injuries, and when she looked from the calm face 
to the steady fingers, she had no doubt as to the trutt 
of what had been told. 

Heither bullet wound, cut, bruise, or broken bone,” 
said Mrs. Zane. It’s fear, starvation, and the ter- 
rible shock.” 

She rubbed Mabel’s hands while gazing at her pale 
face. Then she forced more brandy between the tightly- 
closed lips. She was rewarded by ever so faint a color 
tinging the w'an cheeks, to be followed by a fluttering of 
the eyelids. Then the eyes opened wide. They were 
large, soft, dark and humid with agony. 

Helen could not bear their gaze. She saw the shadow 
of death, and of worse than death. She looked away 
while in her heart rose a storm of passionate fury at the 
brutes who had made of this tender girl a wreck. 

The room was full of women now, sober-faced matrons 
and grave-eyed girls, yet all wore the same expression, 
not alone of anger, nor fear, nor pity, but of all com- 
bined. 

Helen instinctively felt that this was one of the trials 
of border endurance, and she knew from the sterner faces 
of the maturer women that such a trial was familiar. 
Despite all she had been told, the shock and pain w’ere too 
great, and she went out of the room sobbing. 

She almost fell over the broad back of Jonathan Zane 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


64 

who was sitting on the steps. Near him stood Colonel 
Zane talking with a tall man clad in faded buckskin. 

“ Lass, you shouldn’t have stayed,” said Colonel Zane 
kindly. 

« It’s— hurt— me — here,” said Helen, placing her 
h>nd over her heart. 

“ Yes, I know, I know ; of course it has,” he replied, 
taking her hand. “ But be brave, Helen, bear up, bear 
up. Oh ! this border is a stem place ! Do not think of 
that poor girl. Come, let me introduce J onathan’s friend, 
Wetzel!” 

Helen looked up and held out her hand. She saw 
a very tall man with extremely broad shoulders, a mass 
of raven-black hair, and a white face. He stepped for- 
ward, and took her hand in his huge, horny palm, press- 
ing it, he stepped back without speaking. Colonel Zane 
talked to her in a soothing voice ; but she failed to hear 
what he said. This Wetzel, this Indian-hunter whom 
she had heard called “ Deathwind of the Border,” this 
companion, guide, teacher of Jonathan Zane, this bor- 
derman of wonderful deeds, stood before her. 

* Helen saw a cold face, deathly in its pallor, lighted 
by eyes sloe-black but like glinting steel. Striking as 
were these features they failed to fascinate as did the 
strange tracings which apparently showed through the 
white, drawn skin. This first repelled, then drew her 
with wonderful force. Suffering, of fire, and frost, and 
iron was written there, and, stronger than all, so potent 
as to cause fear, could be read the terrible purpose of 
this man’s tragic life. 

You avenged her I Oh ! I know you did ! ” cried 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


65 

Helen, her whole heart leaping with a blaze to her 
eyes. 

She was answered by a smile, hut such a smile! 
Kindly it broke oyer the stem face, giving her a glimpse 
of a heart still warm beneath that steely cold. Behind 
it, too, there was something fateful, something deadly. 

Helen knew, though the bordr'inran spoke not, that 
somewhere among the grasses of ttifc broad plains, or on 
the moss of the wooded hills, lay dead the perpetrators 
of this outrage, their still faces bearing the ghastly stamp 
of Deathwind. 


66 


THE LAST TRAUa. 


^ OHAPTEK VI. . 

Happier days than she had hoped for, dawned upon 
Helen after the first touch of border sorrow. Mabel 
Lane did not die. Helen and Betty nursed the stricken 
girl tenderly, weeping for very joy when signs of im- 
provement appeared. She had remained silent for tew- 
eral days, always with that haunting fear in her eyes, 
and then gradually came a change. Tender care and 
nursing had due effect in banishing the dark shadow. 
One morning after a long sleep she awakened with a 
bright smile, and from that time her improvement was 
rapid. 

Helen wanted Mabel to live with her. The girl’s 
" position was pitiable. Homeless, fatherless, with not a 
relative on the border, yet so brave, so patient that she 
aroused all the sympathy in Helen’s breast. Village 
gossip was in substance, that Mabel had given her love 
to a young frontiersman, by name Alex Bennet, who 
had an affection for her, so it was said, but as yet had 
made no choice between her and the other lasses of the 
settlement. What effect Mabel’s terrible experience 
might have on this lukewarm lover, Helen could not even 
guess ; but she was not hopeful as to the future. Colonel 
Zane and Betty approved of Helen’s plan to persuade 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


6 « 

Mabel to live with her, and the latter’s faint protesta- 
tions they silenced by claiming she could be of great 
assistance in the management of the house, therefore it 
was settled. 

Finally the day came when Mabel was ready to go with 
Helen. Betty had given her a generous supply of cloth- 
ing, for all her belongings had been destroyed when the 
cabin was burned. With Helen’s strong young arm 
around her she vo’ ed her gratitude to Betty and Mrs. 
Zane and started t vard the Sheppard home. 

From the green quare, where the ground was highest, 
an unobstructed vi v could be had of the valley. Mabel 
gazed down the river to where her home formerly stood. 
Only a faint, dark spot, like a blur on the green land- 
scape, could be seen. Her soft eyes filled with tears; 
but she spoke no word. 

“ She’s game and that’s why she didn’t go under,” Col- 
onel Zane said to himself as he mused on the strength 
and spirit of border women. To their heroism, more 
than any other thing, he attributed the establishing of 
homes in this wilderness. 

In the days that ensued, as Mabel grew stronger, the 
girls became very fond of each other. Helen would have 
been happy at any time with such a sweet companion, 
but just then, when the poor girl’s mind was so sorely 
disturbed she was doubly glad. For several days, after 
Mabel was out of danger, Helen’s thoughts had dwelt on 
a subject which caused extreme vexation. She had begun 
to suspect that she encouraged too many admirers for 
whom she did not care, and thought too much of a man 
who did not reciprocate. She was gay and moody in 


68 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


turn. During the moody hours she suspected herself, 
and in her gay ones, scorned the idea that she might 
ever care for a man who was indifferent. But that 
thought once admitted, had a trick of returning at odd 
moments, clouding her cheerful moods. 

One sunshiny morning while the May flowers smiled 
under the hedge, when dew sparkled on the leaves, and 
the locust-blossoms shone creamy-white amid the soft 
green of the trees, the girls set about heir much-planned 
flower gardening. Helen was passion ely fond of plants, 
and had brought a jar of seeds of h c favorites all the 
way from her eastern home. 

“ We’ll plant the morning-glories so they’ll run up 
the porch, and the dahlias in this long row and the 
nasturtiums in this round bed,” Helen said. 

You have some trailing arbutus,” added Mabel, 
and must have clematis, wild honeysuckle and golden- 
glow for they are all sweet flowers.” 

This arbutus is so fresh, so dewy, so fragrant,” said 
Helen, bending aside a lilac bush to see the pale, creep- 
ing flowers. “ I never saw anything so beautiful. I 
grow more and more in love with my new home, and 
friends. I have such a pretty garden to look into, and I 
never tire of the view beyond.” 

Helen gazed with pleasure and pride at the garden 
with its fresh green and lavender-crested lilacs, at the 
white-blossomed trees, and the vine-covered log cabins 
with blue smoke curling from their stone chimneys. Be- 
yond, the great bulk of the fort stood guard above the 
willow-skirted river, and far away over the winding 
etream the dark hills, defiant, kept their secrets. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


** If it weren’t for that threatening fort one could 
imagine this little hamlet, nestling under the great bluff, 
as quiet and secure as it is beautiful,” said Helen. “ But 
that charred stockade fence with its scarred bastions and 
these lowering port-holes, always keep me alive to the 
reality.” 

“ It wasn’t very quiet when Girty was here,” Mabel 
replied thoughtfully. 

“ Were you in the fort then ? ” asked Helen breath- 
lessly. 

Oh, yes, I cooled the rifles for the men,” replied 
!Mabel calmly. 

Tell me all about it.” 

Helen listened again to a story she had heard many 
times; but told by new lips it always gained in vivid 
interest. She never tired of hearing how the notorious 
renegade, Girty, rode around the fort on his white horse, 
giving the defenders an hour in which to surrender; 
she learned again of the attack, when the British soldiers 
remained silent on an adjoining hillside, while the In- 
dians yelled exultantly and ran about in fiendish glee, 
when Wetzel began the battle by shooting an Indian 
chieftain who had ventured within range of his ever fatal 
rifle. And when it came to the heroic deeds of that 
memorable siege Helen could not contain her enthusiasm. 
She shed tears over little Harry Bennet’s death at the 
south bastion where, though riddled with bullets, he 
stuck to his post until relieved. Clark’s race across the 
roof of the fort to extinguish a burning arrow, she ap- 
plauded with clapping hands. Her great eyes glowed 
and burned, but she was silent, when hearing how We^ 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


70 

zel ran alone to a break in the stockade, and there, witK 
an ax, the terrible borderman held at bay the whole 
infuriated Indian mob until the breach was closed. 
Lastly Betty Zane’s never-to-be-forgotten run with the 
powder to the relief of the garrison and the saving of 
the fort was something not to cry over or applaud; but 
to dream of and to glorify. 

Down that slope from Colonel Zane’s cabin is where 
Betty ran with the powder,” said Mabel pointing. 

Did you see her ? ” asked Helen. 

Yes, I looked out of a port-hole. The Indian* 
stopped firing at the fort in their eagerness to shoot 
Betty. Oh, the banging of guns and yelling of savages 
was one fearful, dreadful roar! Through all that hail 
of bullets Betty ran swift as the wind.” 

I almost wish Girty would come again,” said Helen. 

“ Don’t ; he might.” 

“ How long has Betty’s husband, Mr. Clarke, been 
dead ? ” inquired Helen. 

I don’t remember exactly. He didn’t live long after 
the siege. Some say he inlialed the flames while fight- 
ing fire inside the stockade.” 

“How sad!” 

Yes, it was. It nearly killed Betty. But we bor- 
der girls do not give up easily; we must not,” replied 
Mabel, an unquenchable spirit showing through the sad- 
ness of her eyes. 

Merry voices interrupted them, and they turned to 
see Betty and Hell entering the gate. ^ With Hell’s 
bright chatter and Betty’s wit, the conversation became 
4^findeed vivacious, running from gossip to gowns, and then 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


71 

to that old and ever new theme, love. Shortly afterward! 
the colonel entered the gate, with swinging step and 
genial smile. 

“ Well, now, if here aren’t four handsome lasses,” he 
said with an admiring glance. 

“ Eb, I believe if you were single any girl might 
well suspect you of being a flirt,” said Betty. 

“1^0 girl ever did. I tell you I was a lady-killer 
in my day,” replied Colonel Zane straightening his fine 
form. lie was indeed handsome, with his stalwart frame, 
dark bronzed face and rugged, manly bearing. 

“ Bess said you were ; but that it didn’t last long 
after you saw her,” cried Betty, mischief gleaming in 
her dark eye. 

“ Well, that’s so,” replied the colonel, looking a trifle- 
crestfallen ; but you know every dog has his day.’^ 
Then advancing to the porch, he looked at Mabel with- 
a more serious gaze as he asked, “ How are you to- 
day ? ” 

Thank you. Colonel Zane, I am getting quite 
strong,” 

“ Look up the valley. There’s a raft coming down the 
river,” said he softly. 

Far up the broad Ohio a square patch showed dark 
against the green water. 

Colonel Zane saw Mabel start, and a dark red flush 
came over her pale face. For an instant she gazed with, 
an expression of appeal, almost fear. He knew the: 
reason. Alex Bennet was on that raft. 

“ I came over to ask if I can be of any service ? ** 

** Tell him,” she answered simply. 


72 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


say, Betts, Colonel Zane cried, '^has Helen’b 
cousin cast any more such sheep eyes at you ? ” 

Oh, Eb, what nonsense ! ’’ exclaimed Betty, blushing 
furiously. 

Well, if he didn’t look sweet at you I’m an old 
fool.” 

“ You’re one any way, and you’re horrid,” said Betty, 
tears of anger glistening in her eyes. 

Colonel Zane whistled softly as he walked down the 
lane. He went into the wheelwright’s shop to see about 
some repairs he was having made on a wagon, and then 
strolled on down to the river. Two Indians were sitting 
on the rude log wharf, together with several frontiers- 
men and rivermen, all waiting for the raft. He con- 
versed with the Indians, who were friendly Chippewas, 
until the raft was tied up. The first person to leap on 
shore was a sturdy young fellow with a shock of yellow 
hair, and a warm ruddy skin. 

Hello, Alex, did you have a good trip ? ” asked 
Colonel Zane of the youth. 

H’are ye. Colonel Zane. Yes, first-rate trip,” re- 
plied young Bennet. “ Say, I’ve a word for you. Come 
aside,” and drawing Colonel Zane out of earshot of the 
others, he continued, “ I heard this by accident, not 
that I didn’t spy a bit when I got interested, for I did ; 
but the way it came about was all chance. Briefly, 
there’s a man, evidently an Englishman, at Port Pitt, 
whom I overheard say he was out on the border after a 
Sheppard girl. I happened to hear from one of Brandt’s 
men, who rode into Pitt just before we left, that you had 
new friends here by that name. This fellow was a 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


73 

handsome chap, no common sort, but lordly, dissipated 
and reckless as the devil. He had a servant traveling 
with him, a sailor, by his gab, who was about the tough- 
est customer I’ve met in many a day. He cut a fellow 
in bad shape at Pitt. These two will be on the next 
boat, due here in a day or so, according to river and 
weather conditions, an’ I thought, considerin’ how un- 
usual the thing was, I’d better tell ye.” 

“ Well, well,” said Colonel Zane reflectively. He re- 
called Sheppard’s talk about an Englishman. “ Alex, 
you did well to tell me. Was the man drunk when he 
said he came west after a woman ? ” 

‘‘ Sure he was,” replied Alex. “ But not when he 
spoke the name. Ye see I got suspicious, an’ asked about 
him. It’s this way: Jake Wentz, the trader, told me 
the fellow asked for the Sheppards when he got off 
the wagon-train. When I first seen him he was drunk, 
and I heard Jeff Lynn say as how the border was a bad 
place to come after a woman. That’s what made me 
prick up my ears. Then the Englishman said : * It is, 
eh ? By God ! I’d go to hell after a woman I wanted.^ 
An’ Colonel he looked it too.” 

Colonel Zane remained thoughtful while Alex made 
up a bundle and forced the haft of an ax under the 
string; but as the young man started away the colonel 
suddenly remembered his errand down to the wharf. 

Alex, come back here,” he said, and wondered if the 
lad had good stuff in him. The boatman’s face was 
plain, but not evil, and a close scrutiny of it rather pre- 
possessed the Colonel. 

** Alex, I’ve some bad news for you,” and then bluntly;i 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


with big keen gaze fastened on the young man’s face, 
he told of old Lane’s murder, of Mabel’s abduction, and 
of her rescue by Wetzel. 

Alex began to curse and swear vengeance. 

Stow all that,” said the colonel sharply. Wetzel 
followed four Indians who bad Mabel and some stolen 
horses. The redskins quarreled over the girl, and two 
took the horses, leaving Mabel to the others. Wetzel 
went after these last, tomahawked them, and brought 
Mabel home. She was in a bad way, but is now getting 
over the shock.” 

Say, what’d we do here without Wetzel ? ” Alex s?id 
huskily, unmindful of the tears that streamed from his 
eyes and ran over his brown cheeks. “Poor old Jake! 
Poor Mabel ! Damn me ! it’s my fault. If I’d ’a done 
right an’ married her as I should, as I wanted to, she 
wouldn’t have had to suffer. Put I’ll marry her yet, if 
she’ll have me. It was only because I had no farm, no 
stock, an’ only that little cabin as is full now, that I 
waited.” 

“ Alex, you know me,” said Colonel Zane in kindly 
tones. “ Look there, down the clearing half a 'mile. 
See that green strip of land along the riv*jr, with the 
big chestnut in the middle and a cabin beyoud. There’s 
as fine farming land as can be found on the border, 
eighty acres, well watered. The day you marry Mabel 
that farm is yours.” 

Ale* grew red, stammered, and vainly tn^d to ex- 
press his gi’atitude. 

“ Ccme along, the sooner you tell Mabel the better,” 
said t^;e colonel with glowing face. He was 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


75 

natchmaker. He derived more pleasure from a little 
charity bestowed upon a deserving person, than from 
a season’s crops. 

When they arrived at the Sheppard house the girls 
were still on the porch. Mabel rose when she saw 
Alex, standing white and still. He, poor fellow, was 
embarrassed by the others, who regarded him with steady 
eyes. 

Colonel Zane pushed Alex up on the porch, and said 
in a low voice : “ Mabel, I’ve just arranged something 
you’re to give Alex. It’s a nice little farm, and it’ll be 
a wedding present.” 

Mabel looked in a bewildered manner from Colonel 
Zane’s happy face to the girls, and then at the red, joy- 
ous features of her lover. Only then did she under- 
stand, and uttering a strange little cry, put her trembling 
hands to her bosom as she swayed to and fro. 

But she did not fall, for Alex, quick at the last, leaped 
forward and caught her in his arms. 

****** 

That evening Helen denied herself to Mr. Brandt and 
several other callers. She sat on the porch with her 
father while he smoked his pipe. 

“ Where’s Will ? ” she asked. 

Gone after snipe, so he said,” replied her father. 

Snipe? How funny! Imagine Will hunting! He’s 
surely catching the wild fever Colonel Zane told us 
about.” 

“ He surely is.” 

Then came a time of silence. Mr. Sheppard, ac- 


76 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


customed to Helen’s gladsome spirit and propensity to 
gay chatter, noted how quiet she was, and wondered. 

“ Why are you so still ? ” 

I’m a little homesick,” Helen replied reluctantly. 

“ No ? Well, I declare ! This is a glorious country ; 
hut not for such as you, dear, who love music and gaiety. 
I often fear you’ll not be happy here, and then I 
long for the old home, which reminds me of your 
mother.” 

“ Dearest, forget what I said,” cried Helen earnestly. 
** I’m only a little blue to-day ; perhaps not at all home- 
sick.” 

“ Indeed, you always seemed happy.” 

Father, I am happy. It’s only — only a girl’s fool- 
ish sentiment.” 

“ I’ve got something to tell you, Helen, and it has 
bothered me since Colonel Zane spoke of it to-night, 
Mordaunt is coming to Fort Henry.” 

Mordaunt ? Oh, impossible I "Who said so ? How 
did you learn ? ” 

“ I fear ’tis true, my dear. Colonel Zane told me he 
had heard of an Englishman at Fort Pitt who asked 
after us. Moreover, the fellow answers the description 
of Mordaunt I am afraid it is he, and come after 
you.” 

Suppose he has — who cares ? We owe him nothing. 
He cannot hurt us.” 

But, Helen, he’s a desperate man. Aren’t you afraid 
of him ? ” 

Not I,” cried Helen laughing in scorn. He’d bet- 
ter have a care. He can’t run things with a high, hand 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


77 

out here on the border. I told him I would have none 
of him, and that ended it.” 

I’m much relieved. I didn’t want to tell you ; hut 
it seemed necessary. Well, child, good-night, I’ll go to 
bed.” 

Long after Mr. Sheppard had retired Helen sat think- 
ing. Memories of the past, and of the unwelcome suitor, 
Mordaunt, thronged upon her thick and fast. She could 
see him now with his pale, handsome face, and dis- 
tinguished bearing. She had liked him, as she had 
other men, until he involved her father, with himself, in 
financial ruin, and had made his attentions to her un- 
pleasantly persistent. Then he had followed the fall of 
fortune with wild dissipation, and became a gambler and 
a drunkard. But he did not desist in his mad wooing. 
He became like her shadow, and life grew to be unen- 
durable, until her father planned to emigrate west, when 
she hailed the news with joy. And now Mordaunt had 
tracked her ot her new home. She was sick with disgust. 
Then her spirit, always strong, and now freer for this 
new wild life of the frontier, rose within her, and she 
dismissed all thoughts of this man and his passion. 

The old life was dead and buried. She was going to 
be happy here. As for the present, it was enough to 
think of the little border village, now her home; of her 
girl friends; of the quiet borderman; and, for the mo- 
ment, that the twilight was somber and beautiful. 

High up on the wooded bluff rising so gloomily over 
the village, she saw among the trees something silver- 
bright. She watched it rise slowly from behind the trees, 
now hidden, now white through rifts in the foliage, until 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


t8 

it soared lovely and grand above the black horizon. The 
ebony shadows of night seemed to lift, as might a sable 
mantle moved by invisible hands. But dark shadows, 
safe from the moon-rays, lay under the trees, and a pale 
misty vapor hung below the brow of the bluff. 

Mysterious as had grown the night before darkness 
yielded to the moon, this pale, white light flooding the still 
valley, was even more soft and strange. To one of 
Helen’s temperament no thought was needed ; to see was 
enough. Yet her mind was active. She felt with haunt- 
ing power the beauty of all before her; in fancy trans- 
porting herself far to those silver-tipped clouds, and 
peopling the dells and shady nooks under the hills with 
spirits and fairies, maidens and valiant knights. To her 
the day was as a far-off dream. The great watch stars 
grew wan before the radiant moon ; it reigned alone. 
The immensity of the world with its glimmering rivers, 
pensive valleys and deep, gloomy forests lay revealed 
.under the glory of the clear light. 

Absorbed in this contemplation Helen remained a 
long time gazing with dreamy ecstasy at the moonlit 
valley until a slight chill disturbed her happy thoughts. 
She knew she was not alone. Trembling, she stood up 
to see, easily recognizable in the moonlight, the tall buck- 
skin-garbed figure of Jonathan Zane. 

Well, sir,” she called, sharply, yet with a tremor in 
her voice. 

The borderman came forward and stood in front of her. 
Somehow he appeared changed. The long, black rifle, 
the dull glinting weapons made her shudder. Wilder 
and more untamable he looked than ever. The very 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


79 

silence of the forest clung to him; the fragrance of the 
grassy plains came faintly from his buckskin garments. 
Evenin’, lass,” he said in his slow, cool manner. 

“ How did you get here ? ” asked Helen presently, 
because he made no effort to explain his presence at such 
a late hour. 

“ I was able to walk.” 

Helen observed, with a vaulting spirit, one ever ready 
to rise in arms, that Master Zane was disposed to add 
humor to his penetrating mysteriousness. She flushed 
hot and then paled. This borderman certainly possessed 
the power to vex her, and, reluctantly she admitted, to 
chill her soul and rouse her fear. She strove to keep 
back sharp words, because she had learned that this sin- 
gular individual always gave good reason for his odd 
actions. 

“ I think in kindness to me,” she said, choosing her 
words carefully, “ you might tell me why you ap- 
pear so suddenly, as if you had sprung out of the 
ground.” 

“ Are you alone ? ” 

Yes. Father is in bed; so is Mabel, and Will has 
not yet come home. Why ? ” 

Has no one else been here ? ” 

“ Mr. Brandt came, as did some others ; but wishing 
to be alone, I did not see them,” replied Helen in per- 
plexity. 

“ Have you seen Brandt since ? ” 

Since when ? ” ■« 

The night I watched by the lilac bush.” 

** Yes, several times,” replied Helen. Something in 


80 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


his tone made her ashamed. I couldn’t very well es* 
cape when he called. Are you surprised because after 
he insulted me I’d see him ? ” 

« Yes.” 

Helen felt more ashamed. 

“You don’t love him?” he continued. 

Helen was so surprised she could only look into the 
dark face above her. Then she dropped her gaze, abashed 
by his searching eyes. But, thinking of his question, she 
subdued the vague stirrings of pleasure in her breast, 
and answered coldly. 

“Ho, I do not ; but for the service you rendered me 
I should never have answered such a question.” 

“ I’m glad, an’ hope you care as little for the other 
five men who were here that night.” 

“ I declare. Master Zane, you seem exceedingly inter- 
ested in the affairs of a young woman whom you won’t 
visit, except as you have come to-night.” 

He looked at her with his piercing eyes. 

“ You spied upon my guests,” she said, in no wise 
abashed now that her temj^er was high. “ Did you care, 
so very much ? ” 

“ Care ? ” he asked slowly. 

“ Yes ; you were interested to know how many of my 
admirers were here, what they did, and what they said. 
You even hint disparagingly of them.” 

“ True, I wanted to know,” he replied; “but I don’t 
hint about any man.” 

“ You are so interested you wouldn’t call on me when 
I invited you,” said Helen, with poorly veiled sarcasm. 
It was this that made her bitter ; she could never forget 


THE LAST TRAIL. gj 

that she had asked this man to come to see her, and he 
had refused. 

“ I reckon you’ve mistook me,” he said calmly. 

Why did you come ? Why do you shadow my 
friends ? This is twice you have done it. Goodness 
knows how many times you’ve been here ! Tell me.” 

The borderman remained silent. 

“ Answer me,” commanded Helen, her eyes blazing. 
She actually stamped her foot. “ Borderman or not, 
you have no right to pry into my affairs. If you are a 
gentleman, tell me why you came here ? ” 

The eyes Jonathan turned on Helen stilled all the 
angry throbbing of her blood. 

“ I come here to learn which of your lovers is the 
dastard who plotted the abduction of Mabel Lane, an’ 
the thief who stole our bosses. When I find the villain 
I reckon Wetzel an’ I’ll swing him to some tree.” 

The borderman’s voice rang sharp and cold, and when 
he ceased speaking she sank back upon the step, shocked, 
speechless, to gaze up at him with staring eyes. 

“ Don’t look so, lass ; don’t be frightened,” he said, 
his voice gentle and kind as it had been hard. He took 
her hand in his. ‘‘ You nettled me into replyin’. You 
have a sharp tongue, lass, and when I spoke I was 
thinkin’ of him. I’m sorry.” 

A horse-thief and worse than murderer among my 
friends ! ” murmured Helen shuddering, yet she never 
thought to doubt his word. 

I followed him here the night of your company.” 

‘‘Do you know which one?” 

“Ho.” 


82 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


He still held her hand, unconsciously, but Helen knew 
it well. A sense of his strength came with the warm 
pressure, and comforted her. She would need that 
powerful hand, surely, in the evil days which seemed to 
darken the horizon. 

“ TOat shall I do ? ” she whispered, shuddering again. 

“ Keep this secret between you an’ me.” 

“ How can 1 ? How can I ? ” 

“ You must,” his voice was deep and low. If you 
tell your father, or any one, T might lose the chance to 
find this man, for, lass, he’s desperate cunnin’. Then 
he’d go free to rob others, an’ mebbe help make ofi with 
other poor girls. Lass, keep my secret.” 

“ Blit he might try to carry me away,” said Helen in 
fearful perplexity. 

Most likely he might,” replied the borderman with 
the smile that came so rarely. 

“ Oh ! Knowing all this how can I meet any of these 
men again. I’d betray myself.” 

“ Ko; you’ve got too much pluck. It so happens you 
are the one to help me an’ Wetzel rid the border of these 
hell-hounds, an’ you won’t fail. I know a woman when 
it comes to that.” 

“ I — I help you and Wetzel ? ” 

Exactly.” 

Gracious ! ” cried Helen, half-laughing, half crying. 
“ And poor me with more trouble coming on the next 
boat.” 

“ Lass, the colonel told me about the Englishman. 
It’ll be bad for him to annoy you.’,’ 

Helen thrilled with the depth of meaning in the low 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


83 


voice. Fate surely was weaving a bond between her and 
this borderman. She felt it in his steady, piercing gaze ; 
in her own tingling blood. 

Then as her natural courage dispelled all girlish fears, 
she faced him, white, resolute, with a look in her eyes 
that matched his own. 

I will do what J can,” she said. 




• ■ 


84 


THE LAST TRALb. 


CHAPTER VII. 

Westward from Fort Henry, far above the eddying 
river, Jonathan Zans slowly climbed a narrow, hazel- 
bordered, mountain trail. From time to time he stopped 
in an open patch among the thickets and breathed deep 
of the fresh wood-scented air, while his keen gaze swept 
over the glades nearby, along the wooded hillsides, and 
above at the timber-strewn woodland. 

This June morning in the wild forest was significant 
of nature’s brightness and joy. Broad-leaved poplarsj, 
dense foliaged oaks, and vine-covered maples shaded 
cool mossy banks, while between the trees the sunshine 
streamed in bright spots. It shone silver on the glancing 
silver-leaf, and gold on the colored leaves of the butter- 
nut tree. Dewdrops glistened on the ferns; ripples 
sparkled in the brooks; spider-webs glowed with won- 
drous rainbow hues, and the flower of the forest, the 
sweet pale-faced daisy, rose above the green like a white 
star. 

Yellow birds flitted among the hazel bushes caroling 
joyously, and cat-birds sang gaily. Robins called ; blue- 
jays screeched in the tall white oaks ; wood-peckers ham- 
mered in the dead hard-woods, and crows cawed over- 
head. Squirrels chattered everywhere. Ruffled grouse 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


85 

rose with great bustle and a whirr, flitting like brown 
flakes through the leaves. From far above came the 
shrill cry of a hawk, followed by the wilder scream of 
an eagle. 

Wilderness music such as all this fell hannoniously 
on the borderman’s ear. It betokened the gladsome 
spirit of his wild friends, happy in the warm sunshine 
above, or in the cool depths beneath the fluttering leaves, 
and everywhere in those lonely haunts unalarmed and 
free. 

Familiar to Jonathan, almost as the footpath near 
his home, was this winding trail. On the height above 
was a safe rendezvous, much frequented by him and 
Wetzel. Every lichen-covered stone, mossy bank, noisy 
brook and giant oak on the way up this mountain-side, 
could have told, had they spoken their secrets, stories 
of the bordermen. The fragile ferns and slender bladed 
grasses peeping from the gray and amber mosses, and 
the flowers that hung from craggy ledges, had wisdom to 
impart. A borderman lived under the green tree-tops, 
and, therefore, all the nodding branches of sassafras and 
laurel, the grassy slopes and rocky cliffs, the stately ash 
trees, kingly oaks and dark mystic pines, together with 
the creatures that dwelt among them, save his deadly 
red-skinned foes, he loved. Other affection as close and 
true as this, he had not known. Hearkening thus with 
single heart to nature’s teachings, he learned her secrets. 
Certain it was, therefore, that the many hours he passed 
in the woods apart from savage pursuits, were happy and 
fruitful. 

Slowly he pressed on up the ascent, at length coming 


86 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


into open light upon a small plateau marked by huge, 
rugged^ weather-chipped stones. On the eastern side was 
a rocky promontory, and close to the edge of this cliff, 
an hundred feet in sheer descent, rose a gnarled, time 
and tempest-twisted chestnut tree. Here the horderman - 
laid down his rifle and knapsack, and, half-ieclining 
against the tree, settled himself to rest and wait. 

This craggy point was the lonely watch-tower of 
eagles. Here on the highest headland for miles around 
where the bordermen were wont to meet, the outlook 
was far-reaching and grand. 

Below the gray splintered cliffs pheered down to 
meet the waving tree-tops, and then hill after hill, slope 
after slope, waved and rolled far, far down to the green 
river. Open grassy patches, bright little islands in that 
ocean of dark green, shone on the hillsides. The rounded 
ridges ran straight, cun^ed, or zigzag, but shaped their 
graceful lines in the descent to make the valley. Long 
purple-hued, shadowy depressions in the wide expanse 
of foliage marked deep clefts between ridges where 
dark, cool streams bounded on to meet the river. Lower, 
where the land was level, in open spaces could be seen 
a broad trail, yellow in the sunlight, winding along with 
the curves of the water-course. On a swampy meadow, 
blue in the distance, a herd of buffalo browsed. Be- 
yond the river, high over the green island, Fort Henry 
lay peaceful and solitary, the only token of the works 
of man in all that vast panorama. 

Jonathan Zane was as much alone as if one thousand 
miles, instead of five, intervened between him and the 
settlement. Loneliness was to him a passion. Other 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


87 

men loved home, the light of woman’s eyes, the rattle 
of dice or the lust of hoarding; but to him this wild, 
remote promontory, wdth its limitless view, stretching 
away to the dim hazy horizon, was more than all the 
aching joys of civilization. 

Hours here, or in the shady valley, recompensed him 
for the loss of home comforts, the soft touch of woman’s 
hands, the kiss of baby lips, and also for all he sufPered 
in his pitiless pursuits, the hard fare, the steel and blood 
of a borderman’s life. 

Soon the sun shone straight overhead, dwarfing the 
shadow of the chestnut on the rock. 

During such a time it was rare that any connected 
thought came into the borderman’s mind. His dark 
eyes, • now strangely luminous, strayed lingeringly over 
those purple, undulating slopes. This intense watchful- 
ness had no object, neither had his listening. He watched 
nothj^ng; be hearkened to the silence. Undoubtedly in 
this state of rapt absorption his perceptions were acutely 
alert; but without thought, as were those of the savage 
in the valley below, or the eagle in the sky above. 

Yet so perfectly trained were these perceptions that 
the least unnatural sound or sight brought him warj 
and watchful from his dreamy trance. 

The slight snapping of a twig in the thicket caused 
him to sit erect, and reach out toward his rifle. His 
eyes moved among the dark openings in the thicket. In 
another moment a tall figure pressed the bushes apart. 
Jonathan let fall his rifle, and sank back against the 
tree once more. Wetzel stepped over the rocks toward 
him. 


88 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Come from Blue Pond ? ” asked Jonathan as the 
newcomer took a seat beside him. 

Wetzel nodded as he carefully laid aside his long, 
black rifle. 

“Any Injun sign?” continued Jonathan, pushing 
toward his companion the knapsack of eatables he had 
brought from the settlement. 

“ Nary Shawnee track west of this divide,” answered 
Wetzel, helping himself to bread and cheese. 

“ Lew, we must go eastward, over Bing Legget’s way, 
to find the trail of the stolen horses.” 

“ Likely, an’ it’ll be a long, hard tramp.’’ 

“ Who’s in Legget’s gang now beside Old Horse, the 
Chippewa, an’ his Shawnee pard. Wildfire? I don’t 
know Bing; but I’ve seen some of his Injuns an’ they 
remember me.” 

“ Never seen Legget but onct,” replied Wetzel, “ an’ 
that time I shot half his face off. I’ve been told by 
them as have seen him since, that he’s got a nasty scar 
on his temple an’ cheek. He’s a big man an’ knows 
the woods. I don’t know who all’s in his gang, nor 
does anybody. He works in the dark, an’ for cunnin’ 
he’s got some on Jim Girty, Deerin’, an’ several more 
renegades we know of lyin’ quiet back here in the woods. 
We never tackled as bad a gang as his’n ; they’re all ex- 
perienced woodsmen, old fighters, an’ desperate, outlawed 
?s they be by Injuns an’ whites. It wouldn’t surprise 
me to find that it’s him an’ his gang who are runnin’ 
this hoss-thievin’ ; but bad or no, we’re goin’ after ’em.” 

Jonathan told of his movements since he had last 
seen his companion. 


THE LAST TRAIL, 


89 


An^ the lass Helen is goin’ to help us,” said Wetzel, 
much interested. “ It’s a good move. Women are keen. 
Betty put Miller’s schemin’ in my eye long ’afore I 
noticed it. But girls have chances we men’d never get.” 

Yes, an’ she’s like Betts, quicker’n lightnin’. She’ll 
find out this hoss-thief in Fort Henry; hut Lew, when 
We do get him we won’t be much better off. Where do 
them bosses go ? Who’s disposin’ of ’em for this fellar ? ” 

“ Where’s Brandt from ? ” asked Wetzel. 

“Detroit; he’^ja French-Cahadian.” 

Wetzel swung sharply around, his eyes glowing like 
wakening furnaces. 

“ Bing Legget’s a French-Canadian, an’ from Detroit. 
Metzar was once thick with him down Fort Pitt way 
’afore he murdered a man an’ became an outlaw. We’re 
on the trail, Jack.” 

“ Brandt an’ Metzar, with Legget backin’ them, an’ 
the horses go overland to Detroit ? ” 

“ I calkilate you’ve hit the mark.” 

“What’ll we do?” asked Jonathan. 

“ Wait ; that’s best. We’ve no call to hurry. We 
must know the truth before makin’ a move, an’ as yet 
we’re only suspicious. This lass ’ll find out more in a 
week than we could in a year. But Jack, have a care 
she don’t fall into any snare. Brandt ain’t any too 
honest a lookin’ chap, an’ them renegades is hell for 
women. The scars you wear prove that well enough. 
She’s a rare sweet, bloomin’ lass too. I never seen her 
equal. I remember how her eyes flashed when she said 
she knew I’d avenged Mabel. Jack, they’re wonderful 
eyes; an’ that girl, however sweet an’ good as she must 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


90 

be, is cbain-lightnin’ wrapped up in a beautiful form. 
Aren’t the boys at the fort runnin’ arter her ? ” 

“ Like mad ; it’d make you laugh to see ’em,” replied 
Jonathan calmly. 

“ There’ll be some fights before she’s settled for, an’ 
mebbe arter thet. Have a care for her, J ack, an’ see that 
she don’t ketch you.” 

“Ho more danger than for you.” 

“ I was ketched onct,” replied Wetzel. 

Jonathan Zane looked up at his companion. Wetzel’s 
head was bowed; but there was no merriment in the 
^(erious face exposed to the borderman’s scrutiny. 

“ Lew, you’re jokin’.” 

“ Hot me. Some day, when you’re ketched good, an’ 
I have to go back to the lonely trail, as I did afore you 
an’ me become friends, mebbe then, when I’m the last 
borderman. I’ll tell you.” 

“ Lew, ’cordin’ to the way settlers are cornin’, in a few 
more years there won’t be any need for a borderman. 
When the Injuns are all gone where’ll be our work ? ” 

“ ’Tain’t likely either of us’ll ever see them times,” 
said Wetzel, “ an’ I don’t want to. Wal, Jack, I’m off 
now, an’ I’ll meet you here every other day.” 

Wetzel shouldered his long rifle, and soon passed out 
of sight down the mountain-side. 

Jonathan arose, shook himself as a big dog might have 
done, and went down into the valley. Only once did he 
pause in his descent, and that was when a crackling twig 
warned him some heavy body was moving near. Silently 
he sank into the bushes bordering the trail. He listened 
with his ear close to the ground. Presently he heard 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


91 

a noise as of two hard substances striking together. He 
resumed his walk, having recognized the grating noise 
of -a deer-hoof striking a rock. Farther down he espied 
a pair grazing. The buck ran into the thicket; but the 
doe eyed him curj^ously. 

Less than an hour’s rapid walking brought him to the 
river. Here he plunged into a thicket of willows, and 
emerged on a sandy strip of shore. He carefully sur- 
veyed the river bank, and then pulled a small birch-bark 
canoe from among the foliage. He launched the frail 
craft, paddled across the river and beached it under a 
reedy, over-hanging bank. 

The distance from this point in a straight line to his 
destination was only a mile; but a rocky bluff and a 
ravine necessitated his making a wide detour. IVhile 
lightly leaping over a brook his keen eye fell on an im- 
print in the sandy loam. Instantly he was on his knees. 
The footprint was small, evidently a woman’s, and, what 
was more unusual, instead of the flat, round moccasin- 
track, it was pointed, with a sharp, square heel. Such 
shoes were not worn by border girls. True Betty and 
^fell had them; but they never went into the woods with- 
out moccasins. 

Jonathan’s experienced eye saw that this imprint was' 
not an hour old. He gazed up at the light. The day was 
growing short. Already shadows lay in the glens. He 
would not long have light enough to follow the trail ; but 
he hurried on hoping to find the person who made it be- 
fore darkness came. He had not traveled many paces 
before learning that the one who made it was lost. Tht 
uncertainty in those hasty steps was as plain to the 


92 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


borderman’s eyes, as if it had been written in words on v 
the sand. The course led along the brook, avoiding the ^ 
rough places, and leading into the open glades and glens ; ^ 
but it drew no nearer to the settlement. A quarter of an 
hour of rapid trailing enabled Jonathan to discern a dark 
figure moving among the trees. Abandoning the trail, j 
he cut across a ridge to head off the lost woman. Step-1 
ping out of a sassafras thicket, he came face to face with, 
Helen Sheppard. 

“ Oh ! ” she cried in alarm, and then the expression of 
terror gave place to one of extreme relief and gladness. 

Oh ! Thanl< goodness ! You’ve found me. I’m lost ! ” ; 

I reckon,” answered J onathan grimly. “ The set- 1 
tlement’s only five hundred yards over that hill.” 1 

I was going the wrong way. Oh ! suppose you hadn’t 
come ! ” exclaimed Helen, sinking on a log and looking 
up at him with warm, glad eyes. 

“ How did you lose your way ? ” J onathan asked. He 
saw neither the warmth in her eyes nor the gladness. 

“ I went up the hillside, only a little way, after 
‘ flowers, keeping the fort in sight all the time. Then I 
saw some lovely violets down a little hill, and thought 1 1 
might venture. I found such loads of them I forgot 
everything else, and I must have walked on a little way,. 
On turning to go back I couldn’t find the little hill. I 
have hunted in vain for the clearing. It seems as if I 
have been wandering about for hours. I’m so glad you’ve 
found me ! ” 

“ Weren’t you told to stay in the settlement, inside 
the clearing ? ” demanded J onathan. 

‘‘ Yes,” replied Helen, with her head up. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


93 


" Why didn’t you ? ” 

Because I didn’t choose.” 

You ought to have better sense.” 

“ It seems I hadn’t,” Helen said quietly, but her eyes 
belied that calm voice. 

“ You’re a headstrong child,” Jonathan added curtly. 

** Mr. Zane ! ” cried Helen with pale face. 

I suppose you’ve always had your own sweet will ; 
but out here on the border you ought to think a little of 
others, if not of yourself.” 

Helen maintained a proud silence. 

You might have run right into prowlin’ Shawnees.” 

That dreadful disaster would not have caused you 
any sorrow,” she dashed out. 

“ Of course it would. I might have lost my scalp 
iryin’ to get you back home,” said Jonathan beginning 
to hesitate. Plainly he did not know what to make of 
this remarkable young woman. 

Such a pity to have lost all your fine hair,” she 
answered with a touch of scorn. 

Jonathan fiushed, perhaps for the first time in his life. 
If there was anything he was proud of, it was his long, 
glossy hair. 

“ Miss Helen, I’m a poor hand at words,” he said, 
! with a pale, grave face. “ I was only speakin’ for your 
: own good.” 

“ You are exceedingly kind ; but need not trouble 
yourself.” 

Say,” Jonathan hesitated, looking half-vexed at the 
lovely, angry face. Then an idea occurred to him. 
** Well, I won’t trouble. Find your way home yourself.” 


94 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Abruptly he turned and walked slowly away. He had 
no idea of allowing her to go home alone; but believed 
it might be well for her to think so. If she did not cal! 
him back he would remain near at hand, and when she 
showed signs of anxiety or fear he could go to her. 

Helen determined she would die in the woods, or be 
captured by Shawnees, before calling him back. But she 
watched him. Slowly the tall, strong figure, with its 
graceful, springy stride, went down the glade. He would 
be lost to view in a moment, and then she would be alone. 
How dark it had suddenly become! The gray cloak of 
twilight was spread over the forest, and in the hollows 
night already had settled down. A breathless silence per- 
vaded the woods. How lonely! thought Helen, with a 
shiver. Surely it would be dark before she could find the 
settlement. What hill hid the clearing from view? 
She did not know, could not remember which he had 
pointed out. Suddenly she began to tremble. She had 
been so frightened before he had found her, and so re- 
lieved afterward ; and now he was going away. 

‘‘ Mr. Zane,” she cried with a great effort. Come 
back.” 

Jonathan kept slowly on. 

“Come back, Jonathan, please.” 

The borderman retraced his steps. 

“ Please take me home,” she said, lifting a fail face 
all flushed, tear-stained, and marked with traces of sUirm. 
“ I w'as foolish, and silly to come into the woods, and so 
glad to see you ! But you spoke to me — in — in a way 
no one ever used before. I’m sure I deserved it. Please 
take me home. Papa will be worried.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


95 


Y. Softer eyes and voice than hers never entreated man. 

^ ^Come/’ he said gently, and, taking her by the hand, 
he led her up the ridge. 

Thus they passed through the darkening forest, hand 
in hand, like a dusky redman and his bride. He helped 
her over stones and logs, but still held her hand when 
there was no need of it. She looked up to see him walk- 
ing, so dark and calm beside her, his eyes ever roving 
among the trees. Deepest remorse came upon her be- 
cause of what she had said. There was no sentiment for 
him in this walk under the dark canopy of the leaves. 
He realized the responsibility. Any tree might hide a 
treacherous foe. She would atone for her sarcasm, she 
promised herself, while walking, ever conscious of her 
hand in his, her bosom heaving with the sweet, undenia- 
ble emotion which came knocking at her heart. 

Soon they were out of the thicket, and on the dusty 
lane. A few moments of rapid walking brought them 
within sight of the twinkling lights of the village, and a 
moment later they were at the lane leading to Helen’s 
home. Eeleasing her hand, she stopped him with a light 
touch and said : 

Please dpn’t tell papa or Colonel Zane.” 

Child, I ought. Some one should make you stay at 
home.” 

I’ll stay. Please don’t tell. It will worry papa.” 

Jonathan Zane looked down into her great, dark, 
wonderful eyes with an unaccountable feeling. He 
really did not hear what she asked. Something about 
that upturned face brought to his mind a rare and per- 
fect flower which grew in far-off rocky fastnesses. The 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


^6 

feeling he had was intangible, like no more than a breath 
of fragrant western wind, faint with tidings of some 
beautiful field. 

Promise me you won’t tell.” 

Well, lass, have it your own way,” replied Jonathan, 
wonderingly conscious that it was the first pledge ever 
asked of him by a woman. 

** Thank you. Now we have two secrets, haven’t 
we ? ” she laughed, with eyes like stars. 

“ Run home now, lass. Be careful hereafter. I do 
fear for you with such spirit an’ temper. I’d rather be 
scalped by Shawnees that have Bing Legget so much as 
set eyes on you.” 

You would ? Why ? ” Her voice vvas like low, soft 
music. 

“ Why ? ” he mused. It’d seem like a buzzard about 
to light on a doe.” 

“ Good-night,” said Helen abruptly, and, wheeling, 
she hurried down the lane. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


97 


CHAPTER YIIL 

** .Tack,” said Colonel Zane to his brother next morn- 
ing, to-daj is Saturday and all the men will be in. 
There was high jinks over at Metzar’s place yesterday, 
and I’m looking for more to-day. The two fellows Alex 
Rennet told me about, came on day-before-yesterday’s 
boat Sure enough, one’s a lordly Englishman, and the 
other, the cussedest looking little chap I ever saw. They 
started trouble immediately. The Englishman, his name 
is Mordaunt, hunted up the Sheppards and as near as I 
can make out from George’s story, Helen spoke her 
mind very plainly. Mordaunt and Case, that’s his serv- 
ant, the little cuss, got drunk and raised hell down at 
Metzar’s where they’re staying. Brandt and Williams 
are drinking hard, too, which is something unusual for 
Brandt, They got chummy at once with the English- 
man, who seems to have plenty of gold and is fond of 
gambling. This Mordaunt is a gentleman, or I never 
saw one. I feel sorry for him. He appears to be a 
ruined man. If he lasts a week out here I’ll be sur- 
prised. Case looks ugly, as if he were spoiling to cut 
somebody. I want you to keep your eye peeled. The 
day may pass off as many other days of drinking bouts 
hare, without anything serious, and on the other hand 
there’s liable to be trouble.” 

Jonathan’s preparations were characteristic of the 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


98 

borderman. He laid aside his rifle, and, removing his 
short coat, buckled on a second belt containing a heavier 
tomahawk and knife than those he had been wearing. 
Then he put on his hunting frock’ or shirt, and wore it 
loose with the belts underneath, instead of on the out- 
side. Unfastened, the frock was rather full, and gave 
him the appearance of a man unarmed and careless. 

Jonathan Zane was not so reckless as to court danger 
nor, like many frontiersmen, fond of fighting for its own 
sake. Colonel Zane was commandant of the fort, and, in 
B land where there was no law, tried to maintain a sem- 
blance of it. For years he had kept thieves, renegades 
and outlaws away from his little settlement by dealing 
out stern justice. His word was law, and his bordermen 
executed it as such. Therefore Jonathan and Wetzel 
made it their duty to have a keen eye on all that was 
happening. They kept the colonel posted, and never 
interfered in any case without orders. 

The morning passed quietly. Jonathan strolled here 
or loitered there ; but saw none of the roisterers. He be- 
lieved they were sleeping off the effects of their orgy on 
the previous evening. After dinner he smoked his pipe. 
Betty and Helen passed, and Helen smiled. It struck 
him suddenly that she had never looked at him in such 
F way before. There was meaning in that warm, radiant 
flash. A little sense of vexation, the source of which he 
did not understand, stirred in him against this girl ; but 
with it came the realization that her white face and big, 
dark eyes had risen before him often since the night be- 
fore. He wished, for the first time, that he could under* 
stand women better. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


99 

Everything quiet ? ” asked Colonel Zane, coming out 
oil the steps. 

“ All quiet,” answered Jonathan. 

They’ll open up later, I suspect. I’m going over to 
Sheppard’s for a while, and, later, will drop into 
Metzar’s. I’ll make him haul in a yard or two. I don’t 
like things I hear about his selling the youngsters rum. 
I’d like you to be within call.” 

The borderman strolled down the bluff and along the 
path which overhung the river. He disliked Metzar 
more than his brother suspected, and with more weighty 
reason than that of selling rum to minors. Jonathan 
threw himself at length on the gTound and mused ove^ 
the situation. 

“ We never had any peace in this settlement, an’ never 
will in our day. Eb is hopeful an’ looks at the bright 
side, always expectin’ to-morrow will be different. What 
have the past sixteen years been ? One long bloody 
fight, an’ the next sixteen won’t be any better. I make 
out that we’ll have a mix-up soon. Metzar an’ Brandt 
with their allies, whoever they are, will be in it, an’ if 
Bing Legget’s in the gang, we’ve got, as Wetzel said, 
a long hard trail, which may be our last. More’n that, 
there’ll be trouble about this chain-lightnin’ girl, as 
Wetzel predicted. Women make trouble anyways; an’ 
when they’re winsome an’ pretty they cause more; but 
if they’re beautiful an’ fiery, bent on havin’ their way, 
as this new lass is, all hell couldn’t hold a candle to 
them. We don’t need the Shawnees an’ Girtys, an’ boss 
thieves round this here settlement to stir up excitin’ 


100 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


times, now we’ve got this dark-ejed lass. An’ yet any 
fool could see she’s sweet, an’ good, an’ true as gold.” 

Toward the middle of the afternoon J onathan 
sauntered in the direction of Metzar’s inn. It lay on 
the front of the bluff, with its main doors looking into 
the road. A long, one-story log structure with two doors, 
answered as a bar-room. The inn proper was a building 
more pretentious, and joined the smaller one at its west- 
ern end. Several horses were hitched outside, and two 
great oxen yoked to a cumbersome mud-crusted wagQfc 
stood patiently by. 

Jonathan bent his tall head as he entered the noisy 
bar-room. The dingy place reeked with tobacco smoke 
and the fumes of vile liquor. It was crowded with men. 
I'he lawlessness of the time and place was evident. 
Gaunt, red-faced frontiersmen reeled to and fro across the 
sawdust floor; hunters and fur-traders, raftsmen and 
farmers, swelled the motley crowd ; young men, honest- 
faced, but flushed and wild with drink, hung over the 
bar ; a group of sullen-visaged, serpent-eyed Indians held 
one comer. The black-bearded proprietor dealt out the 
rum. 

From beyond the bar-room, through a door entering 
upon the back porch, came the rattling of dice. Jon- 
athan crossed the bar-room apparently oblivious to the 
keen glance Metzar shot at him, and went out upon the 
porch. This also was crowded, but there was more room 
because of greater space. At one table sat some pioneers 
drinking and laughing ; at another were three men play- 
ing with dice. Colonel Zane, Silas, and Sheppard were 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


101 

among the lookers-on at the game. Jonathan joined 
them, and gazed at the gamesters. 

Brandt he knew well enough; he had seen that set, 
wolfish expression in the riverman’s face before. He 
observed, however, that the man had flushed cheeks and 
trembling hands, indications of hard drinking. The 
player sitting next to Brandt was Williams, one of the 
garrison, and a good-natured fellow, but garrulous and 
wickedly disposed when drunk. The remaining player 
Jonathan at once saw was the Englishman, Mordaunt. 
He was a handsome man, with fair skin, and long, silken, 
blonde mustache. Heavy lines, and purple shades under 
his blue eyes, were the unmistakable stamp of dissipa' 
tion. Reckless, dissolute, bad as he looked, there yet 
clung something favorable about the man. Perhaps it 
was his cool, devil-may-care way as be pushed over gold 
piece after gold piece from the fast diminishing pile be- 
fore him. His velvet frock and silken doublet had once 
been elegant; but were now sadly the worse for border 
roughing. 

Behind thf* Englishman’s chair Jonathan saw a short 
man with a face resembling that of a jackal. The griz- 
zled, stubbly beard, the protruding, vicious mouth, the 
broad flat nose, and deep-set small, glittering eyes made 
a bad impression on the observer. This man, Jonathan 
concluded, was the servant. Case, who was so eager with 
his knife, The borderman made the reflection, that if 
knife-play was the little man’s pastime, he was not 
likely to go short oi sport in that vicinity. 

Colonel Zane attracted Jonathan’s attention at this 
moment The pioneers had vacated the other table, and 


102 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Silas and Sheppard now sat by it. The colonel wanted 
his brother to join them. - 

“ Here, Johnny, bring drinks,’’ he said to the serving 
boy. “ Tell Metzar who they’re for.” Then turning to 
Sheppard he continued. He keeps good whiskey ; but 
few of these poor devils ever see it.” At the same time 
Colonel Zane pressed his foot upon that of J onathan’s. 

The borderman understood that the signal was in- 
tended to call attention to Brandt. The latter had leaned 
forward, as Jonathan passed by to take a seat with his 
brother, and said something in a low tone to Mordaunt 
and Case. Jonathan knew by the way the Englishman 
and his man quickly glanced up at him, that he had been 
the subject of the remark. 

Suddenly Williams jumped to his feet with an oath. 

“ I’m cleaned out,” he cried. 

Shall we play alone ? ” asked Brandt of Mordaunt. 

As you like,” replied the Englishman, in a tone 
which showed he cared not a whit whether he played or 
not. 

I’ve got work to do. Let’s have some more drinks, 
and play another time,” said Brandt. 

The liquor was sensed and drank. Brandt pocketed 
his pile of Spanish and English gold, and rose to his feet 
He was a trifle unsteady; but not drunk. 

‘‘Will you gentlemen have a glass with me?” 
Mordaunt asked of Colonel Zane’s party. 

“ Thank you, some other time, with pleasure. We 
have our drink now,” Colonel Zane said courteously. 

Meantime Brandt had been whispering in Case’s ear. 
The little man laughed at something the riverman said. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


103 


Then he shuffled from behind the table. He was short, 
his compact build gave promise of unusual strength and 
agility. 

“ What are you going to do now ? ” asked Mordaunt, 
rising also. He looked hard at Case. 

“ Shiver my sides, cap’n, if I don’t need another 
drink,” replied the sailor. 

You have had enough. Come upstairs with me,” 
said Mordaunt. ' 

Easy with your hatch, cap’n,” grinned Case. “ I 
want to drink with that ther Injun killer. I’ve had 
drinks with buccaneers, and bad men all over the world, 
and I’m not going to miss this chance.” 

Come on ; you will get into trouble. You must not 
annoy these gentlemen,” said Mordaunt. 

‘‘ Trouble is the name of my ship, and she’s a trim, 
fast craft,” replied the man. 

His loud voice had put an end to the conversation. 
Men began to crowd in from the bar-room. Metzar him- 
self came to see what had caused the excitement. 

The little man threw up his cap, whooped, and 
addressed himself to Jonathan : 

Injun-killer, bad man of the border, will you drink 
with a jolly old tar from England ? ” 

Suddenly a silence reigned, like that in the depths of 
the forest. To those who knew the bordeiTnan, and few 
did not know him, the invitation was nothing less than 
an insult. But it did not appear to them, as to him, like 
a pre-arranged plot to provoke a fight. 

Will you drink, redskin-hunter ? ” bawled the sailor. 

No,” said Jonathan in his quiet voice. 


104 : 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


“ Maybe you mean that against old England ? ” de- 
manded Case fiercely. 

The borderman eyed him steadily, inscrutable as to 
feeling or intent, and was silent. 

“ Go out there and I’ll see the color of your insides 
quicker than I’d take a drink,” hissed the sailor, with his 
brick-red face distorted and hideous to look upon. lie 
pointed with a long-bladed knife that no one had seen 
him draw, to the green sward beyond the porch. 

The borderman neither spoke, nor relaxed a muscle. 

“ Ho ! ho ! my brave pirate of the plains ! ” cried Case, 
and he leered with braggart sneer into the faces of 
Jonathan and his companions. 

It so happened that Sheppard sat nearest him, and 
got the full effect of the sailor’s hot, rum-soaked breath. 
He arose with a pale face. 

Colonel, I can’t stand this,” he said hastily. Let’s 
get away from that drunken ruffian.” 

“ Who’s a drunken rufiian ? ” yelled Case, more angry 
than ever. I’m not drunk ; but I’m going to be, and cut 
some of you white-livered border mates. Here, you old 
masthead, drink this to my health, damn you ! ” 

The ruffian had seized a tumbler of liquor from the 
table, and held it toward Sheppard while he brandished 
bis long knife. 

White as snow, Sheppard backed against the wall; 
but did not take the drink. 

The sailor had the floor; no one save him spoke a 
word. The action had been so rapid that there had 
hardly been time. Colonel Zane and Silas were as quiet 
and tense as the borderman. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


105 


“ Drink ! ” hoarsely cried the sailor, advancing his 
knife toward Sheppard’s body. 

When the sharp point all but pressed against the old 
man, a bright object twinkled through the air. It struck 
Case’s w^ist, knocked the knife from his fingers, and, 
bounding against the wall, fell upon the floor. It was a 
tomahawk. 

The borderman sprang over the table like a huge cata- 
mount, and with movement equally quick, knocked Case 
with a crash against the wall ; closed on him before he 
could move a hand, and flung him like a sack of meal 
over the bluff. 

The tension relieved, some of the crowd laughed, 
others looked over the embankment to see how Case had 
fared, and others remarked that for some reason he had 
gotten off better than they expected. 

The borderman remained silent. He leaned against a 
post, with broad breast gently heaving, but his eyes 
sparkled as they watched Brandt, Williams, Mordaunt 
and Metzar. The Englishman alone spoke. 

“ Handily done,” he said, cool and suave. “ Sir, 
yours is an iron band. I apologize for this unpleasant 
affair. My man is quarrelsome when under the influence 
of liquor.” 

Metzar, a word with you,” cried Colonel Zane 
curtly. 

“ Come inside, kunnel,” said the innkeeper, plainly 
ill at ease. 

“ Ho ; listen here. I’ll speak to the point. You’ve 
got to stop running this kind of a place. Ho words, 
now, you’ve got to stop. Understand ? You know as well 


106 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


as I, perhaps better, the character of your so-called inn. 
You’ll get but one more chance.” 

“ Wal, kunnel, this is a free country,” growled 
Metzar. I can’t help these fellars cornin’ here lookin’ 
fer blood. I runs an honest place. The men want to 
drink an’ gamble. What’s law here? WTiat can you 
do?” 

You know me, Metzar,” Colonel Zane said grimly. 
“ I don’t waste words. ‘ To hell with law ! ’ so you say. 
I can say that too. Remember, the next drunken boy I 
see, or shady deal, or gambling spree, out you go for 
good.” 

Metzar lowered his shaggy head and left the porch. 
Brandt and his friends, with serious faces, withdrew 
into the bar-room. 

The borderman walked around the comer of the inn 
and up the lane. The colonel, with Silas and Shepp? 
followed in more leisurely fashion. At a shout f: 
some one they turned to see a dusty, bloody figure, w 
ragged clothes, stagger up from the bluff. 

“ There’s that blamed sailor now,” said Sheppard. 

He’s a tough nut. My ! What a knock on the head 
Jonathan gave him. Strikes me, too, that tomahawk 
came almost at the right time to save me a whole skin.” 

was furious, but not at all alarmed,” rejoined 
Colonel Zane. 

I wondered what made you so quiet.” 

I was waiting. Jonathan never acts until the right 
moment, and then — Well, you saw him. The little vil- 
lain deserved killing. I could have shot him with pleas- 
ure. Do you know, Sheppard, Jonathan’s aversion to 


THE LAST TRAIL. 107 

eliedding blood is a singular thing. He’d never kill the 
worst kind of a white man until driven to it.” 

“ That’s commendable. How about Wetzel ? ” 

Well, Lew is different,” replied Colonel Zane with 
a shudder. “ If I told him to take an ax and clean out 
Metzar’s place — God ! what a wreck he’d make of it 
Maybe I’ll have to tell him, and if I do, you’ll see some- 
thing you can never forget.” 




irro7 

.rtix 


108 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


CHAPTER IX. 

On Sunday morning under the bright warm sun the 
little hamlet of Fort Henry lay peacefully quiet, as if no 
storms had ever rolled and thundered overhead, no 
roistering ever disturbed its stillness, and no Indian’s 
yell ever horribly broke the quiet. 

“ ’Tis a fine morning,” said Colonel Zane, joining his 
sister on the porch. “ Well, how nice you look ! All in 
white for the first time since — Well, you do look charm- 
ing. You’re going to church, of course.” 

Yes, I invited Helen and her cousin to go. I’ve i>er- 
suaded her to teach my Sunday-school class, and I’ll take 
another of older children,” replied Betty. 

That’s well. The youngsters don’t have much 
chance to learn out here. But we’ve made one great 
stride. A church and a preacher means very much to 
young people. Xext shall come the village school.” 

“ Helen and I might teach our classes an hour or two 
every afternoon.” 

** It would be a grand thing if you did ! Fancy these 
tots growing up unable to read or write. I hate to think 
of it; but the Lord knows I’ve done my best. I’ve had 
my troubles in trying to keep them alive.” 

** Helen suggested the day school. She takes the 
greatest interest in everything and everybody. Hei 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


109 

energy is remarkable. She simply must move, must do 
something. She overflows with kindness and sympathy. 
Yesterday she cried with happiness when Mabel told her 
Alex was eager to be married very soon. I tell you, Eb, 
Helen is a fine character.” 

‘Yes, good as she is pretty, which is saykag some,” 
mased the colonel. “ I wonder who’ll be the lucky 
fellow to win her.” 

“ It’s hard to say. Hot that Englishman, surely. 
She hates him. Jonathan might. You should see her 
eyes when he is mentioned.” 

“ Say, Betts, you don’t mean it ? ” eagerly asked her 
brcrther. 

“ Yes, I do,” returned Betty, nodding her head pos- 
itively. “ I’m not easily deceived about those things. 
Helen’s completely fascinated with Jack. She might be 
only a sixteen-year-old girl for the way she betrays her- 
self to me.” 

“ Betty, I have a beautiful plan.” 

“ Ho doubt ; you’re full of them.” 

“ We can do it, Betty, we can, you and I,” he said, 
as he squeezed her arm. 

“ My dear old matchmaking brother,” returned Bettj 
laughing, “ it takes two to make a bargain. J ack must be 
considered.” 

“ Bosh 1” exclaimed the colonel, snapping his fingers 
“ You needn’t tell me any young man — any man, could 
resist that glorious girl.” 

“Perhaps not; I couldn’t if I were a man. But 
Jack’s not like other people. He’d never realize tha' 
she cared for him. Besides, he’s a borderman.” 


110 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


** I know, and that’s the only serious obstacle. But he 
could scout around the fort, even if he was married. 
These long, lonely, terrible journeys taken by him and 
Wetzel are mostly unnecessary. A sweet wife could soon 
make him see that. The border will be civilized in a few 
years, and because of that he’d better give over hunting 
for Indians. I’d like to see him married and settled 
down, like all the rest of us, even Isaac. You know 
Jack’s the last of the Zanes, that is, the old Zanes. The 
difficulty arising from his extreme modesty and bash- 
fulness can easily be overcome.” 

“ How, most wonderful brother ? ” 

Easy as pie. Tell Jack that Helen is dying of love 

for him, and tell her that Jack loves 

But, dear Eb, that latter part is not trjie,” interposed 
Betty. 

True, of course it’s true, or would be in any man who 
wasn’t as blind as a bat. We’ll tell her Jack cares for 
her ; but he is a borderman with stern ideas of duty, and 
so slow and backward he’d never tell his love even if he 
had overcome his tricks of ranging. That would settle 
it with any girl worth her salt, and this o e will fetch 
Jack in ten days, or less.” 

“ Eb, you’re a devil,” said Betty gayly, and then she 
added in a more sober vein, “ I understand, Eb. Your 
idea is prompted by L ve of Jack, and it’s all right. I 
never see him go out of the clearing but I think it may 
he for the last t’me, even as on that day so long ago when 
brother Andrew waved his cap to us, and never came 
back Jack is the best man in the world, and I, too, 
3¥ant to see him happy, with a wife, and babies, and a 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Ill 


settled occupation in life. Jr think we mighi weave a 
pretty littla romance. Shall we try ? ” 

“ Try ? We’ll do it ! Now, Betts, you explain it to 
both. You can do it smoother than I, and telling them 
is really the finest point of our little plot. I’ll help the 
good work along afterwards. He’ll be out presently. 
Nail him at once.” 

Jonathan, all unconscious of the deep-laid scheme to 
make him happy, soon came out on the porch, and 
stretched his long arms as he breathed freely of the 
moiTiing air. 

Hello, J ack, where are you bound ? ” asked Betty, 
clasping one ^J^his powerful, buckskin-clad loiees with 
her arm. 

“ I reckon I’ll go over to the spring,” he replied, 
patting her dark, glossy head. 

“ Do you know I want to tell you something. Jack, 
and it’s quite serious,” she said, blushing a little at her 
guilt ; but resolute to carry out her part of the plot. 

“ Well, dear ? ” he asked as she hesitated. 

« Do you like Helen ? ” 

That is"^ a question,” Jonathan replied after a 
moment. 

Never mind ; tell me,” she persisted. 

He made no answer. 

Well. Jack, she’s — she’s wi^ly in love with you.” 

The borderman stood very still for several moments. 
Then, with one step he gained the law^^ and turned to 
confront her. 

What’s that you say ? ” 

Betty trembled a little. He spoke so sharply, his eyes 

f 


112 


THE LAST TRAIL, 


were bent on her so keenly, and be looked so strong, so 
forceful that she was almosv afraid. But remembering*'- 
that she had said only what, to her mind, was absolute! 
true, she raised her eyes and repeated the words: 

“ Helen is wildly in love with you.” 

“Betty, you wouldn’t joke about such a thing; you 
wouldn’t lie to me, I know you wouldn’t.” 

“ Ho, Jack dear.” 

She saw his powerful frame tremble, even as she had 
seen more than one man tremble, during the siege, under 
the impact of a bullet 

Without speaking, he walked rapidly down the path 
toward the spring. 

Colonel Zane came out of his hiding-plHce behind the 
porch, and, with a face positively electrifying in its 
glowing pleasure, beamed upon his sister. 

•‘Gee! Didn’t he stalk off like an Indian chief!” 
he said, chuckling •vndth satisfaction. “By George! 
Betts, you must have got in a grC' piece of -work. I 
never in my life saw Jack look like ihat.” 

Colonel Zane sat down by Betty’s side and laughed 
softly but heartily. 

“ We’ll fix him all right, the lonely hill-climber ! 
Why he hasn’t a ghost of a chance. Wait unt; "be sees 
him after hearing your story ! I tell you, Bettj^ ^.vhy — 
damme ! you’re crying ! ” 

He had turned to find her head lowered, while she 
shaded her face with her hand. 

“ How, Betty, just a little innocent deceit like that— - 
what harm ? ” he said, taking her hand. He "was s*8 
.;ender as a woman. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


113 

^ Oh, Eb, it wasn’t that. I didn’t mind telling him. 
Onlj the flash in his eyes reminded me of — of Alfred.” 
Surely it did. Why not ? Almost everything 
-gs up a tender memory for some one we’ve loved and 
lost. But don’t cry, Betty.” 

She laughed a little, and raised a face with its dark 
cheeks flushed and tear-stained. 

“ I’m silly I suppose ; but I can’t help it. I cry at 
least once every day.” 

“ Brace up. Here come Helen and Will. Don’t let 
them see you grieved. My ! Helen in pure white, too ! 
This a conspiracy to ruin the peace of the masculine 
portion of Fort Henry.” 

Betty went fo -ward to meet her friends while Colonel 
Zane continued talking, hut now to himself. “ What a 
fatal beauty she has ! ” His eyes swept over Helen with 
the pleasure of an artist. The fair richness of her skii^ 
the perfect lips, the wavy, shiny hair, the wondrous dark- 
blue, changing eyes, +he tall figure, slender, but strong 
and swelling with g. xous womanhood, made a picture 
he delighted in and loved to have near him. The girl 
did not possess for him any of that magnetism, so com- 
monly feB by most of her admirers; but he did feel how 
sub - ^ she was of something, which for want of a 
better j he described in Wetzel’s characteristic 
expression, as chain-lightning.” 

He reflected that as he w^as so much older, that she, 
although always winsome and earnest, showed nothing 
of the tormenting, bewildering coquetry of her nature. 
Colonel Zane prided himself on his discernment, and he 
had already observed that Helen had different sides of 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


114 


I 


character for different persons. To Betty, Mabel, !Nell, 
and the children, she was frank, girlish, full of fun and 
always lovable; to her elders quiet and earnestly solici- 
tous to please ; to the young men cold ; but with a pene- 
trating, mocking promise haunting that coldness, and 
sometimes sw’eetly agreeable, often wilful, and change- j. j 
able as April winds. At last the colonel concluded that j 
she needed, as did all other spirited young women, the t 
taming influence of a man whom she loved, a home to care 
for, and children to soften and temper her spirit. 

Well, young friends, I see you count on keeping the 
Sabbath,” he said cheerily. “ For my part. Will, I 
don’t see how Jim Douns can preach this morning, before 
this laurel blossom and that damask rose.” 

“ How poetical ! Which is which ? ” asked Betty. 

Flatterer ! ” laughed Helen, shaking her finger. ] 
“ And a married man, too ! ” continued Betty. g 

“ Well, being married has not affected my poetical 
sentiment, nor impaired my eyesight.” 

“ But it has seriously inconvenienced your old pro- 
pensity of making love to the girls. Hot that you 
wouldn’t if you dared,” replied Betty with mischief in 
her eye. 

“ How, Will, what do you think of that ? Isn’t it real 
sisterly regard ? Come, we’ll go and look at my thorough- 
breds,” said Colonel Zane. 

Where is Jonathan?” Helen asked presently. 
Something happened at Metzar’s yesterday. Papa 
wouldn’t tell me, and I want to ask Jonathan.” 

“ Jack is down by the spring. He spends a great 


THE LAST TRAIL. 

deal of his time there. It’s shady and £Ool, and the 
water babbles over the stones.” 

“ How much alone he is,” said Helen. 

Betty took her former position on the steps, bnt did 
it raise her eyes while she continued speaking. “ Yes, 
e’s more alone than ever lately, and qiiiete?. too. He 
'.ardly ever speaks now. There must be something on 
iiis mind more serious than horse-thieves.” 

“ What ? ” Helen asked quickly. 

“ I’d better not tell — you.” 

A long moment passed before Helen spoke. 

“ Please tell me ! ” 

“Well, Helen, we think. Eh and I, that Jack is in 
love for the first time in his life, and with you, you 
adorable creature. But Jack’s a borderman; he is stern 
‘a his principles, thinks he is wedded to his border life, 
md he knows that he has both red and white blood on 
his hands. He’d die before he’d speak of his love, because 
he cannot understand that would do any good, even if 
you loved him, which is, of course, preposterous.” 

“ Loves me ! ” breathed Helen softly. 

She sat down rather beside Betty, and turned her face 
away. She still held the young woman’s hand wLiok 
she squeezed so tightly as to make its owner wince. 
Betty stole a look at her, and saw the rich red blood 
mantling her cheeks, and her full bosom heave. 

Helen turned presently, with no trace of emotion 
except a singular brilliance of the eyes. She was so 
slow to speak again that Colonel Zane and Will returned 
from the corral before she found her voice. 

“ Colonel Zane, please tell me about last night When 


116 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


papa came home to supper he was pale and very nervous. 
I knew something had happened. But he would not 
explain, which made me all the more anxious. Won’t 
you please tell me ? ” 

Colonel Zane glanced again at her, and knew what had 
happened. Despite her self-possession those tell-tale 
eyes told her secret. Ever-changing and shadowing with 
a hounding, rapturous light, they were indeed the win- 
dows of her soul. All the emotion of a woman’s heart 
shone there, fear, beauty, wondering appeal, trembling 
joy, and timid hope. 

“ Tell you ? Indeed I will,” replied Colonel Zane, 
softened and a little remorseful under those wonderful 
eyes. 

No one liked to tell a story better than Colonel Zane. 
Briefly and graphically he related the ciremnstances of 
the affair leading to the attack on Helen’s father, and, 
as the tale progressed, he became quite excited, speak- 
ing with animated face and forceful gestures. 

Just as the knife-point touched your father, a swiftly- 
flying object knocked the weapon to the floor. It was 
Jonathan’s tomahawk. What followed was so sudden I 
hardly saw it. Like lightning, and flexible as steel, 
Jonathan jumped over the table, smashed Case against 
the wall, pulled him up and threw him over the bank. 
I tell you, Helen, it was a beautiful piece of action ; but 
not, of course, for a woman’s eyes. Now that’s all. 
Your father was not even hurt.” 

“ He saved papa’s life,” murmured Helen, standing 
like a statue. 

She wheeled suddenly with that swift bird-like motion 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


117 

kabitual to her, and went quickly down the path leading 
to the spring. 

****** 

Jonathan Zane, solitary dreamer of dreams as he was, 
had never been in as strange and beautiful a reverie as 
that which possessed him on this Sabbath morning. 

Deep into his heart had sunk Betty’s words. The 
wonder of it, the sweetness, that alone was all he felt. 
The glory of this girl had begun, day<a past, to spread 
its glamour round him. Swept irresistibly away now, he 
soared aloft in a dream-castle of fancy with its painted 
windows and golden walls. 

For the first time in his life on the border he had 
entered the little glade and had no ?ye for the crystal 
water flowing over the pebbles and mossy stones, or the 
plot of grassy ground inclosed by tali dark trees and 
shaded by a canopy of fresh green and azure blue. Is'or 
did he hear the music of the soft rushing water, the 
warbling birds, or the gentle sighing breeze moving the 
leaves. 

Gone, vanished, lost to-day was that sweet compan- 
ionship of nature. That indefinable and unutterable 
spirit which flowed so peacefully to him from his beloved 
woods; that something more than merely affecting his 
senses, which existed for him in the stony cliffs, and 
breathed with life through the lonely aisles of the forest, 
had fled before the fateful power of a woman’s love and 
beauty. 

A long time that seemed only a moment passed while 
he leaned against a stone. A light step sounded on the 


118 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


A vision in pure white entered the glade; two little 
hands pressed his, and two dark blue eyes of misty 
beauty shed 'their light on him. 

“ Jonathan, I arn come to thank you.” 

Sweet and tremulous, the voice sounded far away. 

“ Thanlv me ? For what ? ” 

You saved papa’s life. Oh ! how can I thank you ? ” 
No voice answered for him, 

“ I have nothing to give hut this.” 

A fiower-like face "was held up to him ; hands light as 
^istle-down touched his shoulders ; dark-blue eyes glowed 
upon him with all tenderness. 

“ May I thank you — so ? ” 

Soft lips met his full and lingeringly. 

Then came a rush as of wind, a flash of white, and 
the patter of flying feet. He was alone in the glade. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


lid 


CHAPTER X. 

JuNB passed; July opened with unnsnally warm 
weather, and Fort Henry had no visits from Indians or 
horse-thieves, nor any inconvenience except the hot sun. 
It was the warmest weather for many years, and ser- 
iously dwarfed the settlers’ growing corn. Nearly all 
the springs were dry, and a drouth menaced the farmers. 

The weather gave Helen an excuse which she was not 
slow to adopt. Her pale face and languid air perplexed 
and worried her father and her friends. She explained 
to them that the heat affected her disagreeably. 

Long days had passed since that Sunday morning 
where she kissed the borderman. What transports of 
sweet hope and fear were hers then! How shame had 
scorched her happiness ! Yet still she gloried in the 
act. By that kiss had she awakened to a full conscious- 
ness of her love. With insidious stealth and ever-in- 
creasing power this flood had increased to full tide, and, 
bursting its bonds, surged over her with irresistible 
strength. 

During the first days after the dawning of her passion, 
she lived in its sweetness, hearing only melodious sounds 
chiming in her soul. The hours following that Sunday 
were like long dreams. But as all things reach fruition. 


120 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


SO this girlish period passed, leaving her a thoughtful 
woman. She began to gather up the threads of her life 
where love had broken them, to plan nobly, and to hope 
and wait. 

Weeks passed, however, and her lover did not come. 
Betty told her that Jonathan made flying trips at break 
of day to hold council with Colonel Zane; that he and 
Wetzel were on the trail of Shawnees with stolen horses, 
and both bordermen were in their dark, vengeful, terrible 
moods. In these later days Helen passed through many 
stages of feeling. After the exalting mood of hot, young 
love, came reaction. She fell into the depths of despair. 
Sorrow paled her face, thinned her cheeks and lent an- 
other shadow, a mournful one, to her great eyes. The 
constant repression of emotion, the strain of trying to 
seem cheerful when she was miserable, threatened even 
her magnificent health. She answered the solicitude of 
her friends by evasion, and then by that innocent false- 
hood in which a sensitive soul hides its secrets. Shame 
was only natural, because since the borderman came not, 
nor sent her a word, pride whispered that she had wooed 
him, forgetting modesty. 

Pride, anger, shame, despair, however, finally fled 
before affection. She loved this wild borderman, and 
knew he loved her in return although he might not un- 
derstand it himself. His simplicity, his lack of ex- 
perience with women, his hazardous life and stern duty 
regarding it, pleaded for him and for her love. Por the 
lack of a little understanding she would never live un- 
happy and alone while she was loved. Better give a 
thousand times more than she had sacrificed. He would 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


121 

returi? to the village some day, when the Indians and the 
thieves were run down, and would be his own calm, 
gentle self. Then she would win him, break down his 
all^iance to this fearful border life, and make him 
happy in her love. 

While Helen was going through one of the fires of life 
to come out sweeter and purer, if a little pensive and 
sad, time, which waits not for love, nor life, nor death, 
was hastening onward, and soon the golden fields of 
grain were stored, September came with its fruitful 
promise fulfilled. 

Helen entered once more into the quiet, social life of 
the little settlement, taught her class on Sundays, did all 
her own work, and even found time to bring a ray of 
sunshine to more than one sick child’s bed. Yet she did 
not forget her compact with Jonathan, and bent all her 
intelligence to find some clew that might aid in the cap- 
ture of the horse-thief. She was still groping in the dark- 
ness. She could not, however, banish the belief that the 
traitor was Brandt. She blamed herself for this, because 
of having no good reasons for suspicion ; but the con- 
viction was there, fixed by intuition. Because a man’s 
eyes were steely gray, sharp like those of a cat’s, and 
capable of the same contraction and enlargement, there 
was no reason to believe their owner was a criminal. But 
that, Helen acknowledged with a smile, was the only 
argument she had. To be sure Brandt had looked capable 
of anything, the night Jonathan knocked him down; she 
knew he had incited Case to begin the trouble at Met- 
zar’s, and had seemed worried since that time. He had 
not left the settlement on short journeys, as had been his 


122 the last trail. 

custom before the affair in the bar-room. And not a 
horse had disappeared from Fort Henry since that time. 

Erandt had not discontinued his attentions to her; if 
they were less ardent it was because she had given him 
absolutely to understand that she could be his friend 
only. And she would not have allowed even so much 
except for Jonathan’s plan. She fancied it was possible 
to see behind Brandt’s courtesy, the real subtle, threaten- 
ing man. Stripped of his kindliness, an assumed virtue, 
the iron man stood revealed, cold, calculating, cruel. 

Mordaunt she never saw but once and then, shocking 
and pitiful, he lay dead drunk in the grass by the side 
of the road, his pale, weary, handsome face exposed 
to the pitiless rays of the sun. She ran home \veeping 
over this wreck of what had once been so fine a gentle- 
man. Ah ! the curse of rum ! He had learned bis soft 
speech and courtly bearing in the refinement of a home 
where a proud mother adored, and gentle sisters loved 
him. And now, far from the kindred he had disgraced, 
he lay in the road like a log. How it hurt her! She 
almost wished she could have loved him, if love might 
have redeemed. She was more kind to her other ad- 
mirers, more tolerant of Brandt, and could forgive the 
Englishman, because the pangs she had suffered through 
love had softened her spirit. 

During this long period the growing friendship of her 
cousin for Betty had been a source of infinite pleasure 
to Helen. She hoped and believed a romance would 
develop between the young widow and Will, and did all 
in her power, slyly abetted by the matchmaking col- 
onel, to bring the two together. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


123 

One afternoon when the sky was clear with that in- 
tense blue peculiar to bright days in early autumn, Helen 
started out toward Betty’s, intending to remind that 
young lady she had promised to hunt for clematis and 
other fall flowers. 

About half-way to Betty’s home she met Brandt. He 
came swinging round a corner with his quick, firm step. 
She had not seen him for several days, and somehow 
he seemed different. A brightness, a flash, as of daring 
expectation, was in his face. The poise, too, of the man 
had changed. 

“ Well, I am fortunate. I was just going to your 
home,” he said cheerily. “ Won’t you come for a walk 
with me ? ” 

You may vvalk with me to Betty’s,” Helen answered. 

Ho, not that. Come up the hillside. We’ll get 
some goldenrod. I’d like to have a chat with you. I 
may go away — I mean I’m thinking of making a short 
trip,” he added hurriedly. 

“ Please come.” 

I promised to go to Betty’s.” 

You won’t come ? ” His voice trembled ’with 
mingled disappointment and resentment. 

“ Ho,” Helen replied in slight surprise. 

“ You have gone with the other fellows. Why not 
with me ? ” He was white now, and evidently laboring 
under powerful feelings that must have had their origin 
in some thought or plan which hinged on the acceptance 
of his invitation. 

Because I choose not to,” Helen replied coldly, meet* 
ing his glance fully. 


124 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


A dark red flush swelled Brandt’s face and neck; his 
gray eye gleamed balefully with wolfish glare ; his teeth 
were clenched. He breathed hard and trembled with 
anger. Then, by a powerful effort, he conquered him- 
self; the villainous expression left his face; the storm 
of rage subsided. Great incentive there must have been 
for him thus to repress his emotions so quickly. He 
looked long at her with sinister, intent regard ; then, with 
the laugh of a desperado, a laugh which might have 
indicated contempt for the failure of his suit, and which 
was fraught with a world of meaning, of menace, he left 
her without so much as a salute. 

Helen pondered over this sudden change, and felt re- 
lieved because she need make no further pretense of 
friendship. He had shown himself to be what she had 
instinctively believed. She hurried on toward Betty’s, 
hoping to find Colonel Zane at home, and with Jonathan, 
for Brandt’s hint of leaving Fort Henry, and his evident 
chagrin at such a slip of speech, had made her suspicious. 
She was informed by Mrs. Zane that the colonel had 
gone to a log-raising; Jonathan had not been in for 
several d&ys, and Betty went away with Will. 

“ Where did they go ? ” asked Helen. 

I’m not sure ; I think down to the spring.” 

Helen followed the familiar path through the grove 
of oaks into the glade. It was quite deserted. Sitting 
on the stone against which Jonathan had leaned the day 
she kissed him, she gave way to tender reflection. Sud- 
denly she was disturbed by the sound of rapid footsteps, 
and looking up, saw the hulking form of Metzar, the 
innkeeper, coming down the path. He carried a bucket, 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


126 


and meant evidently to get water. Helen did not desire 
to be seen, and, thinking he would stay only a moment, 
slipped into a thicket of willows behind the stone. She 
could see plainly through the foliage. Metzar came into 
the glade, peered around in the manner of a man ex- 
pecting to see some one, and then, filling his bucket at 
the spring, sat down on the stone. 

Not a minute elapsed before soft, rapid footsteps 
sounded in the distance. The bushes parted, disclosing 
the white, set face and gray eyes of Eoger Brandt. With 
a light spring he cleared the brook and approached 
Metzar. 

Before speaking he glanced around the glade with the 
fugitive, distrustful glance of a man who suspects even 
the trees. Then, satisfied by the scrutiny he opened 
his hunting frock, taking forth a long object which h© 
thrust toward Metzar. 

It was an Indian arrow. 

Metzar’s dull gaze traveled from this to the ominous 
face of Brandt. 

“ See there you ! Look at this arrow ! Shot by the 
best Indian on the border into the window of my room. 
I hadn’t been there a minute when it came from the is- 
land. God ! but it was a great shot ! ” 

“ Hell ! ” gasped Metzar, his dull face quickening with 
some awful thought 

“ I guess it is hell,” replied Brandt, his face growing 
■whiter and wilder. 

“ Our game’s up ? ” questioned Metzar with haggard 
cheek. 


1:^6 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Up ? Man ! We haven’t a day, may be less, to 
shake Fort Henry.” 

"^Hiat does it mean ? ” asked Metzar. He was the 
calmer of the two. 

“ It’s a signal. The Shawnees, who were in hiding 
with the horses over by Blueberry swamp, have been 
flushed by those bordermen. Some of them have es- 
caped; at least one, for no one but Ashbow could shoot 
that arrow across the river.” 

Suppose he hadn’t come ? ” whispered Metzar 
hoarsely. 

Brandt answ^ered him with a dark, shuddering gaze. 

A twig snapped in the thicket. Like foxes at the click 
•of a trap, these men whirled with fearsome glances. 

Ugh ! ” came a low, guttural voice from the bushes, 
and an Indian of magnificent proportions and sombesr_ 
swarthy features, entered the glade. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


127 


CHAPTEE XI. 

The savage had just emerged from the river for his 
graceful, copper-colored body and scanty clothing were 
dripping with water. He carried a long bow and a 
quiver of arrows. 

Brandt uttered an exclamation of surprise, and Met- 
zar a curse, as the lithe Indian leaped the brook. He 
was not young. His swarthy face was lined, seamed, 
and terrible with a dark impassiveness. 

Paleface-brother-get-arrow,” he said in halting Eng- 
lish, as his eyes flashed upon Brandt. “ Chief-want* 
make-sure.” 

The white man leaned forward, grasped the Indian^ 
arm, and addressed him in an Indian language. This 
questioning was evidently in regard to his signal, the 
whereabouts of others of the party, and why he took such 
fearful risks almost in the village. The Indian an- 
swered with one English word. 

“ Deathwind ! ” 

Brandt drew back with drawn, white face, while a 
whistling breath escaped him. 

“ I knew it, Metz. Wetzel ! ” he exclaimed in a 
husky voice. 

The blood slowly receded from Metzar’s evil, murky 
face, leaving it haggard. 


328 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Deathwind-on-Chiefs-trail-up-Eagle Eock,” contin- 
ued the Indian. Deathwind-fooled-not-for-long. 
Chief-wait-paleface-brothers-at Two islands. 

The Indian stepped into the brook, parted the willows, 
and was gone as he had come, silently. 

“ We know what to expect,” said Brandt in calmer 
tone as the daring cast of countenance returned to him. 
“ There’s an Indian for you ! He got away, doubled 
like an old fox on his trail, and ran in here to give us 
a chance at escape. How you know why Bing Legget 
can’t be caught.” 

“ Let’s dig at once,” replied Metzar, with no show of 
returning courage such as characterized his companion. 

Brandt walked to and fro with bent brows, like one 
in deep thought. Suddenly he turned upon Metzar eyes 
which were brightly hard, and reckless with resolve. 

By Heaven ! I’ll do it ! Listen. Wetzel has gone 
to the top of Eagle Mountain, where he and Zane have 
a rendezvous. Even he won’t suspect the cunning of 
this Indian; anyway it’ll be after daylight to-morrow 
before he strikes the trail. I’ve got twenty-four hours, 
and more, to get this girl, and I’ll do it ! ” 

“ Bad move to have weight like her on a march,” said 
Metzar. 

“ Bah ! The thing’s easy. As for you, go on, push 
ahead after we’re started. All I ask is that you stay by 
me until the time to cut loose.” 

I ain’t agoin’ to crawfish now,” gi'owled Metzar. 
** Strikes me, too, I’m losin’ more’n you.” 

“ You won’t be a loser if you can get back to Detroit 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


129 

with your scalp. I’ll pay you in horses and gold. Once 
we reach Legget’s place we’re safe.” 

What’s yer plan about gittin’ the gal ? ” asked Met- 

zar. 

Brandt leaned forward and spoke eagerly, but in a 
low tone. 

“ Grt away on boss-back ? ” questioned Metzar visibly 
brightening. “ Wal, that’s some sense. Kin ye trust 
ther other party ? ” 

I’m sure I can,” rejoined Brandt. 

It’ll be a good job, a good job an’ all done in day- 
light, too. Bing Legget couldn’t plan better,” Metzar 
said, rubbing his hands. 

“ We’ve fooled these Zanes and their fruit-raising 
farmers for a year, and our time is about up,” Brandt 
muttered. “ One more job and we’ve done. Once with 
Legget we’re safe, and then we’ll work slowly back to- 
wards Detroit. Let’s get out of here now, for some one 
may come at any moment.” 

The plotters separated, Brandt going through the grove, 
and Metzar down the path by which he had come. 

* * * * * * 

Helen, trembling with horror of what she had heard, 
raised herself cautiously from the willows where she 
had lain, and watched the innkeeper’s retreating figura 
When it had disappeared she gave a little gasp of relief. 
Free now to run home, there to plan what course must 
be pursued, she conquered her fear and weakness, and 
hurried from the glade. Luckily, so far as she was able 
to tell, no one saw her return. She resolved that she 


130 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


would be cool, deliberate, clever, worthy of the border- 
man’s confidence. 

First she tried to determine the purport of this inter- 
view between Brandt and Metzar. She recalled to mind 
all that was said, and supplied what she thought had been 
suggested. Brandt and Metzar were horse-thieves, aids 
of Bing Legget. They had repaired to the glade to 
plan. The Indian had been a surprise. Wetzel had 
routed the Shawnees, and was now on the trail of this 
chieftain. The Indian warned them to leave Fort Henry 
and to meet him at a place called Two-islands. Brandt’s 
plan, presumably somewhat changed by the advent of the 
red-man, was to steal horses, abduct a girl in broad day- 
light, and before to-morrow’s sunset escape to join the 
rufiian Legget. 

“ I am the girl,” murmured Helen shudderingly, 
as she relapsed momentarily into girlish fears. But at 
once she rose above selfish feelings. 

Secondly, while it was easy to determine what the 
outlaws meant, the wisest course was difiicult to con- 
ceive. She had promised the borderman to help him, 
and not speak of anything she learned to any but him- 
self. She could not be true to him if she asked advice. 
The point was clear; either she must remain in the set- 
tlement hoping for Jonathan’s return in time to frus- 
trate Brandt’s villainous scheme, or find the borderman. 
Suddenly she remembered Metzar’s allusion to a second 
person whom Brandt felt certain he could trust This 
meant another traitor in Fort Henry, another horse 
thief, another desperado willing to make off with help 
less women. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


131 


Helen’s spirit rose in arms. She had their secret, 
and could ruin them. She would find the borderman. 

Wetzel was on the trail at Eagle Rock. What for? 
Trailing an Indian who was then five miles east of that 
rock ? Not Wetzel ! He was on that track to meet 
Jonathan. Otherwise, with the redskins near the river, 
he would have been closer to them. He would meet 
Jonathan there at sunset to-day, Helen decided. 

She paced the room, trying to still her throbbing heart 
and trembling hands. 

“ I must be calm,” she said sternly. “ Time is prec- 
ious. I have not a moment to lose. I will find him. 
I’ve watched that mountain many a time, and can find 
the trail and the rock. I am in more danger here, than 
nut there in the forest. With Wetzel and Jonathan on 
the mountain side, the Indians have fled it But what 
about the savage who warned Brandt? Let me think. 
Fes, he’ll avoid the river; he’ll go round south of the 
settlement, and, therefore, can’t see me cross. How 
fortunate that I have paddled a canoe many times across 
the river. How glad that I made Colonel Zane describe 
the course up the mountains! 

Her resolution fixed, Helen changed her skirt for 
one of buckskin, putting on leggings and moccasins of-* 
the same serviceable material. She filled the pockets 
of a short rain-proof jacket with biscuits, and, thus 
equipped, sallied forth with a spirit and exultation she 
could not subdue. Only one thing she feared, which was 
that Brandt or Metzar might see her cross the river. 
She launched her canoe and paddled down stream, under 
cover of the bluff, to a point opposite the end of the 


132 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


island, then straight across, keeping the island between 
her and the settlement. Gaining the other shore, Helen 
pnlled the canoe into the willows, and mounted the bank. 
A thicket of willow and alder made progress up the steep 
incline difficult, but once out of it she faced a long 
stretch of grassy meadowland. A mile beyond began the 
green, billowy rise of that mountain which she intended 
to climb. 

Helen’s whole soul was thrown into the adventure. 
She felt her strong young limbs in accord with her 
heart. 

How, Mr. Brandt, horse-thief and girl-snatcher, 
we’ll see,” she said with scornful lips. If I can’t 
beat you now I’m not fit to be Betty Zane’s friend ; and 
am unworthy of a bordermaii’s trust.” 

She traversed the whole length of meadowland closa 
under the shadow of the fringed bank, and gained the 
forest. Here she hesitated. All was so wild and still. 
Ho definite course through the woods seemed to invite, 
and yet all was open. Trees, trees, dark immovable 
trees everywhere. The violent trembling of poplar and 
aspen leaves, wffien all others were so cairn, struck her 
strangely, and the fearful stillness awed her. Drawing 
a deep breath she started forward up the gently rising 
ground. 

As she advanced the open forest became darker, ana 
of wilder aspect. The trees were larger and closer to- 
gether. Still she made fair progress without deviating 
from the course she had determined upon. Before her 
rose a ridge, with a ravine on either side, reaching 
nearly to the summit of the mountain. Here the under- 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


133 


brush was scanty, the fallen trees had slipped down the 
side, and the rocks were not so numerous, all of which 
gave her reason to be proud, so far, of her judgment. 

Helen, pressing onward and upward, forgot time and 
danger, while she reveled in the wonder of the forest- 
land. Birds and squirrels fled before her; whistling 
and wheezing of alarm, or heavy crashings in the hushes, 
told of frightened "wild beasts. A dull, faint roar, like 
a distant vrind, suggested tumbling waters. A single 
birch tree, gleaming white among the black trees, en- 
livened the gloomy forest. Patches of sunlight bright- 
ened the shade. Giant ferns, just tingeing with autumn 
colors, waved tips of sculptured perfection. ]\Iost won- 
derful of all were the colored leaves, as they floated 
dowmvard with a sad, gentle rustle. 

Helen was brought to a realization of her hazardous 
undertaking by a sudden roar of Avater, and the abrupt 
termination of the ridge in a deep gorge. Grasping a 
tree she leaned over to look down. It was fully an hun- 
dred feet deep, with impassable walls, green-stained and 
damp, at the bottom of Avhich a brawling, brown brook 
rushed on its way. Fully twenty feet wide, it presented 
an insurmountable barrier to farther progress in that 
direction. 

But Helen looked upon it merely as a difficulty to be 
overcome. She studied the situation, and decided to go 
to the left because higher ground was to be seen that Avay. 
Abandoning the ridge, she pressed on, keeping as close 
to the gorge as she dared, and came presently to a fallen 
tree lying across the dark cleft. Without a second’s 
hesitation, for she knew such would be fatal, she stepped 


THE LAST TRAIU 


134 

upon the tree and started across, looking at nothing but 
the log under her feet, while she fried to imagine herself 
walking across the water-gate, at home in Virginia. 

She accomplished the venture without a misstep. 
When safely on the ground once more she felt her knees 
tremble and a queer, light feeling came into her head 
She laughed, however, as she rested a moment. It would 
take more than a gorge to discourage her, she resolved 
with set lips, as once again she made her way along the 
rising ground. 

Perilous, if not desperate, work was ahead of her. 
Broken, rocky ground, matted thicket, and seemingly 
impenetrable forest, rose darkly in advance. But shf- 
was not even tired, and climbed, 'crawled, twisted andl 
turned on her way upward. She surmounted a rocky 
ledge, to face a higher ridge covered with splintered un • 
even stones, and the fallen trees of many storms. Once 
she slipped and fell, spraining her wrist. At length thiii 
uphill labor began to weary her. To breathe caused n 
pain in her side and she was compelled to rest. 

Already the gray light of coming night shrouded the 
forest. She was surprised at seeing the trees become in- 
distinct; because the shadows hovered over the thickets, 
and noted that the dark, dim outline of the ridges was 
fading into obscurity. 

She struggled on up the uneven slope with a tightening 
at her heart which was not all exhaustion. For the first 
time she doubted herself, but it was too late. She could 
not turn back. Suddenly she felt that she was on s< 
smoother, easier course. Hot to strike a stone or break s. 
twig seemed unusual. It might be a path worn by dee?; 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


135 


going to a spring. Then into her troubled mind flashed 
the joyful thought, she had found a trail. 

Soft wiry grass, springing from a wet soil, rose under 
her feet. A little rill trickled alongside the trail. Mossy, 
soft-cushioned stones lay imbedded here and there. 
Young maples and hickories grew breast-high on either 
side, and the way wound in and out under the lowering 
shade of forest monarchs. 

Swiftly ascending this path she came at length to a 
point where it was possible to see some distance ahead. 
The ascent became hardly noticeable. Then, as she 
turned a bend of the trail, the light grew brighter and 
brighter, until presently all was open and clear. An oval 
space, covered wuth stones, lay before her, A big, blasted 
chestnut stood nearby. Beyond was the dim purple haze 
of distance. Above, the pale, blue sky just faintly rose- 
tinted by the setting sun. Far to her left the scraggly 
trees of a low hill were tipped with orange and russet 
shades. She had reached the summit. 

Desolate and lonely was this little plateau. Helen felt 
immeasurably far away from home. Yet she could 
see in the blue distance the glancing river, the dark fort, 
and that cluster of cabins which marked the location of 
Fort Henry. Sitting upon the roots of the big chestnut 
tree she gazed around. There were the remains of a 
small camp-fire. Beyond, a hollow under a shelving 
rock. A bed of dry leaves lay packed in this shelter. 
Some one had been here, and she doubted not that it was 
the borderman. 

She was so tired and her wrist pained so severely that 
she lay back against the tree-trunk, closed her eyes and 


136 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


rested. A weariness, the apathy of utter exhaustion 
came over her. She wished the bordermen would hurry 
and come before she went to sleep. 

Drowsily she was sinking into slumber when a long, 
low rumble aroused her. How dark it had suddenly be- 
come! A ’sheet of pale light flared across the overcast 
heavens. 

A storm ! ” exclaimed Helen. “ Alone on this 
mountain-top with a storm coming. Am I frightened ? I 
don’t believe it. At least I’m safe from that ruffian 
Brandt. Oh ! if my borderman would only come ! ” 

Helen changed her position from beside the tree, to the 
hollow under the stone. It was high enough to permit of 
her sitting upright, and offered a safe retreat from the 
storm. The bed of leaves was soft and comfortable. She 
sat there peering out at the darkening heavens. 

All beneath her, southward and westward was gray 
twilight. The settlement faded from sight; the river 
grew wan and shadowy. The ruddy light in the west 
was fast succumbing to the rolling clouds. Darker and 
darker it became, until only one break in the overspread- 
ing vapors admitted the last crimson gleam of sunshine 
over hills and valley, brightening the river until it re- 
sembled a stream of fire. Then the light failed, the 
glow faded. The intense blackness of night prevailed. 

Out of the ebon west came presently another flare of 
light, a quick, spreading flush, like a flicker from a mon- 
ster candle; it was followed by a long, low, rumbling 
roll. 

Helen felt in those intervals of unutterably vast 
jsilence, that she must shriek aloud. The thunder was a 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


137 

friend. She prayed for the storm to break. She had 
withstood danger and toilsome effort with fortitude ; but 
could not brave this awful, boding, wilderness stillness. 

Flashes of lightning now revealed the rolling, push- 
ing, turbulent clouds, and peals of thunder sounded 
nearer and louder. 

A long swelling moan, sad, low, like the uneasy sigh 
of the sea, breathed far in the west. It was the wind, 
the ominous warning of the storm. Sheets of light were 
now mingled wdth long, straggling ropes of fire, and the 
rumblings were often broken by louder, quicker detona- 
tions. 

Then a period, longer than usual, of inky blackness 
succeeded the sharp flaring of light. A faint breeze 
ruffled the leaves of the thicket, and fanned Helen’s hot 
cheek. The moan of the wind became more distinct, 
then louder, and in another instant like the far-off roar 
of a rushing river. The storm was upon her. Helen 
shrank closer against the stone, and pulled her jacket 
tighter around her trembling form. 

A sudden intense, dazzling, blinding white light en- 
veloped her. The rocky promontory, the weird, giant 
chestnut tree, the open plateau, and beyond, the stormy 
heavens, were all luridly clear in the flash of lightning. 
She fancied it was possible to see a tall, dark figure 
emerging from the thicket. As the thunderclap rolled 
and pealed overhead, she strained her eyes into the black- 
ness waiting for the next lightning flash. 

It came with brilliant, dazing splendor. The whole 
plateau and thicket were as light as in the day. Close by 
the stone where she lay crept the tall, dark figure of 


13S 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


an Indian. With starting eyes she saw the fringed cloth- 
ing, the long, flying hair, and supple body peculiar to 
the savage. He was creeping upon her. 

Helen’s blood ran cold ; terror held her voiceless. She 
felt herself sinking slowly down upon the leaves. 








\ 



[THE LAST TRAIL. 


139 


CHAPTER XII. 

The snn had begun to cast long shadows the afteraoon 
of Helen’s hunt for Jonathan, when the borderman, ac- 
companied by Wetzel, led a string of horses along the 
base of the very mountain she had ascended. 

“ Last night’s job was a good one, I ain’t gainsayin’; 
but the redskin I wanted got away,” Wetzel said gloom- 

ilj- 

“ He’s safe now as a squirrel in a hole. T saw him 
dartin’ among the trees with his white eagle feathers 
stickin’ up like a buck’s flag,” replied Jonathan. “He 
can run. If I’d only had my rifle loaded ! But I’m not 
sure he was that arrow-shootin’ Shawnee.” 

“ It was him. I saw his bow. We onght’er taken 
more time an’ picked him out,” Wetzel replied, shaking 
his head gravely. “ Though mebbe that’d been useless. 
I think he was hidin’. He’s precious shy of his red 
skin. I’ve been after him these ten year, an’ never 
ketched him nappin’ yet. We’d have done much toward 
snuffin’ out Le^t an’ his gang if we’d winged the 
Shawnee.” 

“ He left a plain trail.” 

“ One of his tricks. He’s slicker on a trail than any 
other Injun on the border, unless mebbe it’s old Winge- 


140 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


nund, the Huron. This Shawnee’d lead us many a mile 
for nothin’, if we’d stick to his trail. I’m long ago used 
to him. He’s doubled like an old fox, run harder’n a 
skeered fawn, an’, if needs he, he’ll lay low as a cunnin’ 
buck. I calkilate once over the mountain, he’s made a 
bee-line east. We’ll go on with the bosses, an’ then 
strike across country to find his trail.” 

“ It ’pears to me. Lew, that we’ve taken a long time 
in makin’ a show against these hoss-thieves,” said Jon- 
athan. 

I ain’t sayin’ much ; but I’ve felt it,” replied Wetzel. 

All summer, an’ nothin’ done. It was more luck 
than sense that we run into those Injuns with the bosses. 
We only got three out of four, an’ let the best redskin 
give us the slip. Here fall is nigh on us, with winter 
coinin’ soon, an’ still we don’t know who’s the white 
traitor in the settlement.” 

“ I said it’d be a long, an’ mebbe, our last trail.” 

“Why?” 

“ Because these fellars, red or white, are in with a 
picked gang of the best woodsmen as ever outlawed the 
border. We’ll get the Fort Henry hoss-thief. I’ll back 
the bright-eyed lass for that.” 

“ I haven’t seen her lately, an’ allow she’d left me 
word if she learned anythin’.” 

“ Wall, mebbe, it’s just as well you hain’t seen so 
much of her.” 

In silence they traveled and, arriving at the edge of 
the meadow, were about to mount two of the horses, 
when Wetzel said in a sharp tone. 

“Look!” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


141 

He pointed to a small, well-defined moccasin track in 
the black earth on the margin of a rill. 

“ Lew, it’s a woman’s, sure’s you’re born,” declared 
Jonathan. 

Wetzel knelt and closely examined the footprint; 
“ Yes, a woman’s, an’ no Injun.” 

What? ” Jonathan exclaimed, as he knelt to scruti- 
nize the imprint. 

“ This ain’t half a day old,” added Wetzel. “ An’ 
not a redskin’s moccasin near. What d’you reckon ? ” 

“ A white girl, alone,” replied Jonathan as he fol- 
lowed the trail a short distance along the brook. “ See, 
she’s makin’ -upland. Wetzel, these tracks could hardly 
be my sister’s, an’ there’s only one other girl on the bor- 
der whose feet will match ’em! Helen Sheppard has 
passed here, on her way up the mountain to find you or 
me.” 

“ I like your reckonin’.” 

She’s suddenly discovered somethin’, Injuns, horse- 
thieves, the Fcrt Henry traitor, or mebbe, an’ most likely, 
some plottin’. Bein’ bound to secrecy by me, she’s not 
told my brother. An’ it must be call for hurry. She 
knows we frequent this mountain-top; said Eb told her 
about the way we get here.” 

‘‘ I’d calkilate about the same.” 

“ What’ll you do ? Go with me after her ? ” asked 
Jonathan. 

I’ll take the bosses, an’ be at the fort inside of an 
. our. If Helen’s gone. I’ll tell her father you’re close 
ca her frail. How listen! It’ll be dark soon, an’ a 
storm’s cornin’. Don’t waste time on her trail. Huny 


142 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


up to the rock. She’ll be there, if anj lass coisW climb 
there. If not, come back in the mornin’, hunt her trail 
out, an’ find her. I’m thinkin’. Jack, we’ll find the Shaw- 
nee had somethin’ to do with this. Whatever happens 
after I get back to the fort. I’ll expect you hard on my 
trail.” 

Jonathan bounded across the brook and with an easy 
lope began the gradual ascent. Soon he came upon a 
winding path. He ran along this for perhaps a quarter 
of an hour, until it became too steep for rapid traveling, 
when he settled down to a rapid walk. The forest was 
already dark. A slight rustling of the leaves beneath his 
feet was the only sound, except at long intervals the 
distant rumbling of thunder. 

The mere possibility of Helen’s being alone on that 
mountain seeking him, made Jonathan’s heart beat as it 
never had before. For weeks he had avoided her, almost 
forgot her. He had conquered the strange, yearning 
weakness which assailed him after that memorable Sun- 
day, and once more the silent shaded glens, the mystery 
of the woods, the breath of his wild, free life had claimed 
him. But now as this evidence of her spirit, her reck- 
lessness, was before him, and he remembered Betty’s 
avowal, a pain, which was almost physical, tore at his 
heart. How terrible it would be if she came to her death 
through him! He pictured the big, alluring eyes, the 
perfect lips, the haunting face, cold in death. And he 
shuddered. 

The dim gloom of the woods soon darkened into black- 
ness. The flashes of lightning, momentarily streaking 


THE LAST TRA/L. 


14V 

the foliage, or sweeping overhead in pale yellow sheets, 
aided Jonathan in keeping the trail. 

He gained the plateau just as a great flash illumined it, 
and distinctly saw the dark hollow where he had taken 
refuge in many a storm, and where he now hoped to find 
the girl. Picking his way carefully over the sharp, loose 
stones, he at last put his hand on the huge rock. Anothei 
blue-white, dazzling flash enveloped the scene. 

Under the rock he saw a dark form huddled, and a 
face as white as snow, with wide, horrified eyes. 

Lass,” he said, when the thunder had rumbled away. 
He received no answer, and called again. Kneeling, he 
groped about until touching Helenas dress. He spoke 
again ; but she did not reply. 

Jonathan crawled under Cl-«’ ledge beside the quiet 
figure. He touched her li-<iids; they were very cold. 
Bending over, he was relieved to hear her heart beating. 
He called her name, but %till she made no reply. Dip- 
ping his hand into a Iwt'lG rill that ran beside the stone, 
he bathed her face. '>.doon she stirred uneasily, moaned, 
and suddenly sat up. 

“ ’Tis Jonathan,” he said quickly ; don’t be scared.” 

Another illuminating flare of lightning brightened the 
plateau. 

Oh I thank Heaven ! ” cried Helen. I thought you 
were an Indian ! ” 

Helen sank trembling against the borderman, who en- 
folded her in his long arms. Her relief and thankful- 
ness were so great that she could not speak. Her hands 
clasped and unclasped roimd his strong fingers. Her 
tears flowed freely. 


144 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


The storm broke with terrific fury. A seething tor^ 
rent of rain and hail came with the rushing wind. Great 
heaven-broad sheets of lightning played across the black 
dome overhead. Zigzag ropes, steel-blue in color, shot 
downward. Crash, and crack, and boom the thunder 
split and rolled the clouds above. The lightning flashes 
showed the fall of rain in columns like white waterfalls, 
borne on the irresistible %vind. 

The grandeur of the storm awed, and stilled Helen’s 
emotion. She sat there watching the lightning, listen- 
ing to the peals of thunder, and thrilling with the wonder 
of the situation. 

Gradually the roar abated, the flashes became less 
frequent, the thunder decreased, as the storm wore out 
its strength in passing. The wind and rain ceased on the 
mountain-top almost as quickly as they had begun, and 
the roar died slowdy away in the distance. Far to the 
eastward flashes of light illumined scowling clouds, and 
brightened many a dark wooded hill and valley. 

“Lass, how is’t I find you here?” asked Jonathan 
gravely. 

With many a pause and broken phrase, Helen told the 
story of what she had seen and heard at the spring. 

“ Child, why didn’t you go to my brother ? ” asked 
Jonathan. “ You don’t know what you undertook.” 

“ I thought of everything ; but I wanted to find you 
myself. Besides, I was just as safe alone on this moun- 
tain as in the village.” 

“ I don’t know but you’re right,” replied Jonathan 
thoughtfully. “ So Brandt planned to make off with you 
to-morrow ? ” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


145 


Yes, and when I heard it I wanted to run away from 
the village.” 

You’ve done a wondrous clever thing, lass. This 
Brandt is a bad man, an’ hard to match. But if he 
hasn’t shaken Fort Henry by now, his career ’ll end 
mighty sudden, an’ his bad trail stop short on the hill- 
side among the graves, for Eb will always give outlaws 
or Injuns decent burial.” 

“ What will the colonel, or anyone, think has become 
of me?” 

“ Wetzel knows, lass, for he found your trail below.” 

“ Then he’ll tell papa you came after me ? Oh ! poor 
papa! I forgot him. Shall we stay here until day- 
light?” 

“ We’d gain nothin’ by startin’ now. The brooks are 
full, an’ in the dark we’d make little distance. You’re 
dry here, an’ comfortable. What’s more, lass, you’re 
safe.” 

I feel perfectly safe, with you,” Helen said softly. 

“ Aren’t you tired, lass ? ” 

“ Tired ? I’m nearly dead. My feet are cut and 
bruised, my wrist is sprained, and I ache all over. But 
Jonathan, I don’t care. I am so happy to have my wild 
venture turn out successfully.” 

“ You can lie here an’ sleep while I keep watch.” 

Jonathan made a move to withdraw his arm, which 
was still between Helen and the rock but had dropped 
from her waist. 

I am very comfortable. I’ll sit here with you, 
watching for daybreak. My 1 how dark it is ! I cannot 
see my hand before my eyes.” 


146 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Helen settled herself back upon the stone, leaned a 
very little against his shoulder, and tried to think over 
her adventure. But her mind refused to entertain any 
ideas, except those of the present. Mingled with the 
dreamy lassitude that grew stronger every moment, was 
a sense of delight in her situation. She was alone on a 
wild mountain, in the night, with this borderman, the 
one she loved. By chance and her own foolhardiness 
this had come about, yet she was fortunate to have it 
tend to some good beyond her own happiness. All she 
would suffer from her perilous climb would be aching 
bones, and, perliaps, a scolding from her father. What 
she might gain was more than she had dared hope. The 
breaking up of the horse-t^ief gang would be a boon to 
the harassed settlement.^ How proudly Colonel Zane 
would smile ! Her name'^ would go on that long roll of 
border honor and heroism. That was not, however, one 
thousandth part so pleasing, as to be alone with her 
borderman. 

With a sigh of mingled weariness and content, Helen 
leaned her head on Jonathan’s shoulder and fell asleep. 

The borderman trembled. The sudden nestling of 
her head against him, the light caress of her fragrant 
hair across his cheek, revived a sweet almost-conquered, 
almost-forgotten emotion. He felt an inexplicable thrill 
vibrate through him. Ho untrodden, ambushed wild, no 
perilous trail, no dark and bloody encounter had ever 
made him feel fear as had the kiss of this maiden. He 
had sternly silenced faint, unfamiliar, yet tender, voices 
whispering in his heart; and now his rigorous discipline 
was as if it were not, for at her touch he trembled- 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


147 

Still he did not move away. He knew she had sue 
cumbed to weariness, and was fast asleep. He could, 
gently, without awakening her, have laid her head upon 
the pillow of leaves ; indeed, he thought of doing it, but 
made no effort. A woman’s head softly lying against 
him was a thing novel, strange, wonderful. For all tL 
power he had then, each tumbling lock of her hair might 
as well have been a chain linking him fast to the moun- 
tain. 

With the memory of his former yearning, unsatisfied 
moods, and the unrest and pain his awakening tender- 
ness had caused him, came a determination to look things 
fairly in the face, to be just in thought toward this 
innocent impulsive girl, and be honest with himself. 

Duty commanded that he resist all charm other than 
that pertaining to his life in the woods. Years ago he 
had accepted a borderman’s destiny, well content to be 
recompensed by its untamed freedom from restraint ; to 
be always under the trees he loved so well; to lend his 
cunning and woodcraft in the pioneer’s cause; to haunt 
the savage trails ; to live from day to day a menace to the 
foes of civilization. That was the life he had chosen; it 
was ail he could ever have. 

In view of this, justice demanded that he allow no 
friendship to spring up between himself and this girl. 
If his sister’s belief was really true, if Helen really was 
interested in him, it must be a romantic infatuation 
which, not encouraged, would wear itself out. What was 
he, to win the love of any girl? An unlettered border- 
man, who knew only the woods, whose life was hard and 
cruel, whose hands were red with Indian blood, whose 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


148 

vengeance had not spared men even of his own race. He 
could not believe she really loved him. Wildly impulsive 
as girls were at times, she had kissed him. She had been 
grateful, carried away by a generous feeling for him as 
the protector of her father. When she did not see him 
for a long time, as he vowed should he the case after he 
had carried her safely home, she would forget. 

Then honesty demanded that he probe his own feelings. 
Sternly, as if judging a renegade, he searched out in his 
simple way the truth. This hig-eyed lass with her name- 
less charm would bewitch even a horderman, unless he 
avoided her. So much he had not admitted until now. 
Love he had never believed could be possible for him. 
When she fell asleep her hand' had slipped from his arm 
to his fingers, and now rested there lightly as a leaf. 
The contact was delight. The gentle night breeze blew 
a tress of hair across his lips. He trembled. Her 
rounded shoulder pressed against him until he could feel 
her slow, deep breathing. He almost held his own breath 
lest he disturb her rest. 

Ho, he was no longer indifferent. As surely as those 
pale stars blinked far above, he knew the delight of a 
woman’s presence. It moved him to study the emotion, 
aS he studied all things, which was the habit of his 
borderman’s life. Did it come from knowledge of her 
- beauty, matchless as that of the mountain-laurel ? He 
recalled the dark glance of her challenging eyes, her tall, 
supple figure, and the bewildering excitation and magnet- 
ism of her presence. Beauty was wonderful, but not 
everything. Beauty belonged to her, but she would have 
been irresistible without it. Was it not because she 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


149 


was a woman ? That was the secret. She was a woman 
with all a woman’s charm to bewitch, to twine round the 
strength of men as the ivy encircles the oak; with all a 
woman’s weakness to pity and to guard ; with all a 
woman’s wilful burning love, and with all a woman’s 
mystery. 

At last so much of life was intelligible to him. The 
renegade committed his worst crimes because even in his 
outlawed, homeless state, he could not exist without the 
companionship, if not the lovp, of a w’oman. The 
pioneer’s toil and privation were for a woman, and the 
joy of loving her and living for her. The Indian brave, 
wdien not on the war-path, walked hand in hand with a 
dusky, soft-eyed maiden, and sang to her of moonlit 
lakes and western winds. Even the birds and beasts 
mated. The robins returned to their old nest ; the eagles 
paired once and were constant in life and death. The 
buck followed the doe through the forest. All nature 
sang that love made life worth living. love, then, was 
everything. 

The borderman sat out the long vigil cl the night 
watching the stars, and trying to decide that k vt was not 
for him. If Wetxel had locked a secret within his breast, 
and never in all these years spoke of it to his coi*»panion, 
then surely that companion could as well live without 
love. Stern, dark, deadly work must stain and blot all 
tenderness from his life, else it would be unutterably 
barren. The joy of living, of unharassed freedom he 
had always known. If a fair face and dark, mournful 
eyes were to haunt him on every lonely trail, then it were 
better an Indian should end his existence. 


150 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


The darkest hour before dawn, as well as the darkest 
of doubt and longing in Jonathan’s life, passed away. A 
gray gloom obscured the pale, winking stars; the east 
slowly whitened, then brightened, and at length day 
broke misty and fresh. 

The borderman rose to stretch his cramped limbs. 
When he turned to the little cavern the girl’s eyes were 
wide open. All the darkness, the shadow, the beauty, 
and the thought of the past night, lay in their blue 
depths. He looked away acl’oss the valley where the sky 
was reddening and a pale rim of gold appeared above the 
hill-tops. 

“Well, if I haven’t been asleep! ” exclaimed Helen, 
with a low, soft laugh. 

“ You’re rested, I hope,” said Jonathan, with averted 
eyes. He dared not look at her. 

“ Oh, yes, indeed. I am ready to start at once. How 
gray, how beautiful the morning is ! Shall we be long ? 
I hope papa knows.” 

In silence the borderman led the way across the rocky 
plateau, and into the winding, narrow trail. His pale, 
slightly drawn and stern, face did not invite conversa- 
tion, therefore Helen followed silently in his footsteps. 
The way was steep, and at times he was forced to lend 
her aid. She put her hand in his^ and jumped lightly as 
a fawn. Presently a brawling brook, overcrowding its 
banks, impeded further progress. 

“ I’ll have to carry you across,” said Jonathan. 

“ I’m very heavy,” replied Helen, with a smile in her 
eyes. 

She flushed as the borderman put bis right arm aroniui 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


151 


her waist. Then a clasp as of steel enclosed her; she 
felt herself swinging easily into the air, and over the 
muddy brook. 

Farther down the mountain this troublesome brook 
again crossed the trail, this time much wider and more 
formidable. Helen looked with some vexation and em- 
barrassment into the borderman’s face. It was always 
the same, stern, almost cold. 

“ Perhaps I’d better wade,” she said hesitatingly. 

Why ? The water’s deep an’ cold. You’d better not 
get wet.” 

Helen flushed, but did not answer. With downcast 
eyes she let herself be carried on his powerful arm. 

The wading was difficult this time. The water foamed 
furiously around his knees. Once he slipped on a stone, 
and nearly lost his balance. Uttering a little scream 
Helen grasped at him wildly, and her arm encircled his 
neck. What was still more trying, when he put her on 
her feet again, it was found that her hair had become 
entangled in the porcupine quills on his hunting-coat. 

She stood before him while with clumsy fingers he 
endeavored to untangle the shimmering strands; but in 
vain. Helen unwound the snarl of wavy hair. Mos> 
alluring she was then, with a certain softness on her face, 
and light and laughter, and something warm in her eyes. 

The borderman felt that he breathed a subtle exhilara- 
tion which emanated from her glowing, gracious beauty. 
She radiated with the gladness of life, with an uncon- 
tainable sweetness and joy. But, giving no token of his 
feeling, he turned to march on down through the woods. 

From this point the trail broadened, descending at an 


152 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


easier angle. Jonathan’s stride lengthened until Helen 
was forced to walk rapidly, and sometimes run, in order 
to keep close behind him. A quick journey home was 
expedient, and in order to accomplish this she would 
gladly have exerted herself to a greater extent. When 
they reached the end of the trail where the forest opened 
clear of brush, finally to merge into the broad verdant 
plain, the sun had chased the mist-clouds from the east- 
ern hill-tops, and was gloriously brightening the valley. 

With the touch of sentiment natural to her, Helen 
gazed backward for one more view of the mountain-top. 
The wall of rugged rock she had so often admired from 
her window at home, which henceforth would ever hold 
a tender place of remembrance in her heart, rose out of 
a gray-blue bank of mist. The long swelling slope lay 
clear to the sunshine. With the rays of the sun gleam- 
ing and glistening upon the variegated foliage, and upon 
the shiny rolling haze above, a beautiful picture of 
autumn splendor was before her. Tall pines, here and 
there towered high and lonely over the surrounding 
trees. Their dark, green, graceful heads stood in bold 
relief above the gold and yellow crests beneath. Maples, 
tinged from faintest pink to deepest rose, added warm 
color to the scene, and chestnuts with their brown-white 
burrs lent fresher beauty to the undulating slope. 

The remaining distance to the settlement was short. 
Jonathan spoke only once to Helen, then questioning her 
as to where she had left her canoe. They traversed the 
meadow, found the boat in the thicket of willows, and 
were soon under the frowning bluff of Fort Henry. As- 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


153 

cending tlie steep path, they followed the road leading to 
Colonel Zane’s cabin. 

A crowd of boys, men and women loitering near the 
bluff arrested Helenas attention. Struck by this unusual 
occurrence, she wondered what was the cause of such 
idleness among the busy pioneer people. They were 
standing in little groups. Some made vehement gestures, 
others conversed earnestly, and yet more were silent 
On seeing Jonathan, a number shouted and pointed to- 
ward the inn. The borderman hurried Helen along the 
path, giving no heed to the throng. 

But Helen had seen the cause of all this excitement 
At first glance she thought Metzar’s inn had been 
burned ; but a second later it could be seen that the smoke 
came from a smoldering heap of rubbish in the road. 
The inn, nevertheless, had been wrecked. Windows 
stared with that vacantness peculiar to deserted houses. 
The doors were broken from their hinges. A pile of 
furniture, rude tables, chairs, beds, and other articles, 
were heaped beside the smoking rubbish. Scattered 
around lay barrels and kegs all with gaping sides and 
broken heads. Liquor had stained the road, where it had 
been soaked up by the thirsty dust. 

Upon a shattered cellar-door lay a figure covered with 
'a piece of rag carpet. "Wlien Helen’s quick eyes took in 
this last, she turned away in horror. That motionless 
form- might be Brandt’s. Eemorse and womanly sym- 
pathy surged over her, for bad as the man had shown 
himself, he had loved her. 

She followed the borderman, trying to compose her- 
self. As they neared Colonel Zane’s cabin she saw her 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


104 

father, Will, the colonel, Betty, IMTell, Mrs. Zane, Silas 
Zane, and others whom she did not recognize. They were 
al] looking at her. Helen’s throat swelled, and her eyes 
filled when she got near enough to see her father’s hag- 
gard, eager face. The others were grave. She wondered 
guiltily if she had done much wrong. 

In another moment she was among them. Tears fell 
as her father extended his trembling hands to clasp her, 
and as she hid her burning face on his breast, he cried: 

My dear, dear child ! ” Then Betty gave her a great 
hug, and IsTell flew about them like a happy bird. Col- 
onel Zane’s face was pale, and wore a clouded, stem ex- 
pression. She smiled timidly at him through her tears. 
“ Well ! well ! well ! ” he mused, while his gaze softened. 
That was all he said ; but he took her hand and held it 
while he turned to Jonathan. 

The borderman leaned on his long rifle, regarding 
him with expectant eyes. 

“ Well, Jack, you missed a little scrimmage this morn- 
ing. Wetzel got in at daybreak. The storm and horses 
held him up on the other side of the river until day- 
light. He told me of your suspicions, with the addi- 
tional news that he’d found a fresh Indian trail on the 
island just across from the inn. We went down not ex- 
pecting to find any one awake; but Metzar was hur- 
riedly packing some of his traps. Half a dozen men 
were there, having probably stayed all night. That little 
English cuss was one of them, and another, an ugly fel- 
low, a stranger to us, but evidently a woodsman. Things 
looked bad. Metzar told a decidedly conflicting story. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


155 

Wetzel and I went outside to talk over the situation, 
with the result that I ordered him to clean out the 
place.” 

Here Colonel Zane paused to indulge in a grim, mean- 
ing laugh. 

“ Well, he cleaned out the place all right. The ugly 
stranger got rattlesnake-mad, and yanked out a hig 
knife. Sam is hitching up the team now to haul what’s 
left of him up on the hillside. Metzar resisted arrest, 
and got badly hurt He’s in the guardhouse. Case, who 
has been drunk for a week, got in Wetzel’s way and was 
kicked into the middle of next week. He’s been spitting 
blood for the last hour, but I guess he’s not much hurt. 
Brandt flew the coop last night. Wetzel found this hid 
in his room.” 

Colonel Zane took a long feathered arrow from where 
it lay on a bench, and held it out to Jonathan. 

“ The Shawnee signal I Wetzel had it right,” mut- 
tered the borderman. 

“ Exactly. Lew found where the arrow struck in the 
wall of Brandt’s room. It was shot from the island at 
the exact spot where Lew came to an end of the Indian’s 
"^ail in the water.” 

That Shawnee got away from us.” 

So Lew said. Well, he’s gone now. So is Brandt. 
We’re well rid of the gang, if only we never hear of them 
again.” 

The borderman shook his head. During the colonel’s 
recital his face changed. The dark eyes had become 
-^adly; the square jaw was shut, the lines of the cheek 


156 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


had grown tense, and over his usually expressive coun* 
tenance had settled a chill, lowering shade. 

“ Lew thinks Brandt’s in with Bing Legget. Well, 

d his black traitor heart ! He’s a good man for the 

worst and strongest gang that ever tracked the border.” 

The borderman was silent; but the furtive, restless 
shifting of his eyes over the river and island, hill ani 
valley, spoke more plainly than words. 

“ You’re to take his trail at once,” added Colonel 
Zane. “ I had Bess put you up some bread, .meat and 
parched corn. Ho doubt you’ll have a long hard tramp. 
Good luck.” 

The borderman went into the cabin, presently emerg- 
ing with a buckskin knapsack strapped to his shoulder. 
He set off eastward with a long swinging stride. 

The women had taken Helen within the house where, 
no doubt, they could discuss with greater freedom the 
events of the previous day. 

“ Sheppard,” said Colonel Zane, turning with a sparkle 
in his eyes. Brandt was after Helen sure as a bad 
weed grows fast. And certain as death Jonathan and 
Wetzel will see him cold and quiet back in the woods. 
That’s a border saying, and it means a good deal. I 
never saw Wetzel so implacable, nor Jonathan so fatally 
cold but once, and that was when Miller, another trai- 
tor, much like Brandt, tried to make away with Betty. 
It would have chilled your blood to see Wetzel go at that 
fool this morning. Why did he want to pull a knife on 
the borderman ? It was a sad sight Well, these things 
are justifiable. We must protect ourselves, and above 
all, our women. We’ve had bad men, and a bad man out 


TITE LAST TRAIL. 


157 


here is something you cannot yet appreciate, come here 
and slip into the life of the settlement, because on the 
border you can never tell what a man is until he proves 
himself. There have been scores of criminals spread 
over the frontier, and some better men, like Simon Girty, 
who were driven to outlaw life. Simon must not he con- 
founded with Jim Girty, absolutely the most fiendish 
desperado who ever lived. Wliy even the Indians feared 
Jim so much that after his death his skeleton remained 
unmolested in the glade where he was killed. The place 
is believed to be haunted now, by all Indians and many 
white hunters, and I believe the bones stand there yet.’^ 
Stand ? ” asked Sheppard, deeply interested. 

“ Yes, it stands where Girty stood and died, upright 
against a tree, pinned there by a big knife.” 

Heavens, man ! Who did it ? ” Sheppard cried in 
horror. 

Again Colonel Zane’s laugh, almost metallic, broke 
grimly from his lips. 

“ Who ? Why, Wetzel, of course. Lew hunted Jim 
Girty five long years. When he caught him — God ! Fll 
tell you some other time. Jonathan saw Wetzel handle 
Jim and his pal, Deering, as if they were mere boys. 
Well, as I said, the border has had, and still has, its bad 
men. Simon Girty took McKee and Elliott, the Tories, 
from Fort Pitt, when he deserted, and ten men besides. 
They’re all, except those who are dead, outlaws of the 
worst type. The other bad men drifted out here from 
Lord only knows where. They’re scattered all over. 
Simon Girty since h‘is crowning black deed, the massacre 
of the Christian Indians, is in hiding. Bing Legget 


158 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


now has the field. He’s a hard nut, a cunning woods- 
man, and capable leader who surrounds himself with 
only the most desperate Indians and renegades. Brandt 
is an agent of Legget’s and I’ll bet we’ll hear from him 
again,” 








/ ' 

/ / 


y 



THE LAST TRAIL. 


159 


CHAPTER XIII. 

Jonathan traveled toward east straight as a crow 
flies. WetzeFs trail as he pursued Brandt had been left 
designedly plain. Branches df young maples had been, 
broken by the borderman ; they were glaring evidences 
of his passage. On open ground, or through swampy 
meadows he had contrived to leave other means to 
facilitate his comrade’s progress. Bits of sumach lay 
strewTi along the way, every red, leafy branch a bright 
marker of the course; crimson maple leaves served their 
turn, and even long bladed ferns were scattered at inter- 
vals. 

Ten miles east of Fort Henry, at a point where two 
islands lay opposite each other, Wetzel had crossed the 
Ohio. Jonathan removed his clothing, and tying these, 
together with his knapsack, to the rifle, held them above 
the water while he swam the three narrow channels. He 
took up the trail again, finding here, as he expected, 
where Brandt had joined the waiting Shawnee chief. 
The borderman pressed on harder to the eastward. 

About the middle of the afternoon signs betokened that 
Wetzel and his quarry were not far in advance. Fresh- 
imprints in the grass; crushed asters and moss, broken- 
branches with unwithered leaves, and plots of grassy 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


160 

ground where Jonathan saw that the blades of grass were 
jet springing back to their original position, proved to 
the borderman’s practised eye that he was close upon 
Wetzel. 

In time he came to a grove of yellow birch trees. The 
ground was nearly free from brush, beautifully carpeted 
with flowers and ferns, and, except where bushy wind- 
falls obstructed the way, was singularly open to the gaze 
for several hundred yards ahead. 

Upon entering this wood WetzePs plain, intentional 
markings became manifest, then wavered, and finally 
disappeared. Jonathan pondered a moment. He con- 
cluded that the way was so open and clear, with nothing 
but grass and moss to mark a trail, that Wetzel had 
simply considered it waste of time for, perhaps, the short 
length of this grove. 

Jonathan knew he was wrong after taking a dozen 
steps more. Wetzel’s trail, known so well to him, as 
never to be mistaken, sheered abruptly off to the left, 
and, after a few yards, the distance between the foot- 
steps widened perceptibly. Then came a point where 
they were so far apart that they could only have been 
made by long leaps. 

On the instant the borderman knew that some unfore- 
seen peril or urgent cause had put Wetzel to flight, and 
he now bent piercing eyes around the grove. Retracing 
his steps to where he had found the break in the- trail, he 
followed up Brandt’s tracks for several rods. Hot one 
hundred paces beyond where Wetzel had quit the pur- 
suit, were the remains of a camp fire, the embers still 
smoldering, and moccasin tracks of a small band of In- 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


161 


dians. The trail of Brandt and his Shawnee guide met 
the other at almost right angles. 

The Indian, either by accident or design, had guided 
Brandt to a band of his fellows, and thus led Wetzel 
almost into an ambush. 

Evidence was not clear, however, that the Indians had 
discovered the keen tracker who had run almost into their 
midst. 

While studying the forest ahead J onathan’s mind was 
running over the probabilities. How close was Wetzel ? 
Was he still in flight? Had the savages an inkling of 
his pursuit ? Or was he now working out one of his cun- 
ning tricks of woodcraft ? The borderman had no other 
idea than that of following the trail to learn all this. 
Taking the desperate chances warranted under the cir- 
cumstances, he walked boldly forward in his comrade’s 
footsteps. 

Deep and gloomy was the forest adjoining the birch 
grove. It was a heavy growth of hardwood trees, inter- 
spersed with slender ash and maples, which with their 
scanty foliage resembled a labyrinth of green and yellow 
network, like filmy dotted lace, hung on the taller, 
darker oaks. Jonathan felt safer in this deep wood. He 
could still see several rods in advance. Following the 
trail, he was relieved to see that Wetzel’s leaps had be- 
come shorter and shorter, until they once again were about 
the length of a long stride. The borderman was, more- 
over, swinging in a curve to the northeast. This was 
proof that the borderman had not been pursued, but was 
making a wide detour to get ahead of the enemy. Five 


162 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


hundred yards farther on the trail turned sharply toward 
the birch grove in the rear. 

The trail was fresh. Wetzel was possibly within 
signal call ; surely within sound of a rifle shot. But even 
more stirring was the certainty that Brandt and his 
Indians were inside the circle Wetzel had made. 

Once again in sight of the more open woodland, Jon- 
athan crawled on his hands and knees, keeping close to 
the clusters of ferns, until well within the eastern end of 
the grove. He lay for some minutes listening. A threat- 
ening silence, like the hush before a storm, permeated 
the wilderness. He peered out from his covert ; but, ow- 
ing to its location in a little hollow, he could not see far. 
Crawling to the nearest tree he rose to his feet slowly, 
cautiously. 

No unnatural sight or sound arrested his attention. 
Repeatedly, with the acute, unsatisfied gaze of the border- 
man who knew that every tree, every patch of ferns, 
every tangled brush-heap might harbor a foe, he searched 
the grove with his eyes ; hut the curly-barked birches, the 
clumps of colored ferns, the bushy windfalls kept their 
secrets. 

For the borderman, however, the whole aspect of the 
Mrch-grove had changed. Over the forest w^as a deep 
calm. A gentle, barely perceptible wind sighed among 
the leaves, like rustling silk. The far-ofi drowsy drum 
of a grouse intruded on the vast stillness. The silence of 
the birds betokened a message. That mysterious breath- 
ing, that beautiful life of the woods lay hushed, locked 
in a waiting, brooding silence. Far away among the 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


163 

somber trees, where. the shade deepened into impenetra' 
ble gloom, lay a menace, invisible and indefinable. 

A wind, a breath, a chill, terribly potent, seemed to 
pass over the borderman. Long experience had given 
him intuition of danger. 

As he moved slightly, with lynx-eyes fixed on the 
grove before him, a sharp, clear, perfect bird-note broke 
the ominous quiet. It was like the melancholy cry of an 
oriole, short, deep, suggestive of lonely forest dells. By 
a slight variation in the short call, Jonathan recognized 
it as a signal from AVetzel. The borderman smiled as 
he realized that with all his stealth, Wetzel had heard or 
seen him re-enter the grove. The signal was a warning 
to stand still or retreat. 

Jonathan’s gaze narrowed down to the particular point 
whence had come the signal. Some two hundred yards 
ahead in this direction were several large trees standing 
in a group. .With one exception, they all had straight 
trunks. This deviated from the others in that it pos- 
sessed an irregular, bulging trunk, or else half-shielded 
the form of Wetzel. So indistinct and immovable was 
this irregularity, that the watcher could not be certain. 
Out of line, somewhat, with this tree which he suspected 
screened his comrade, lay a huge windfall large enough 
to conceal in ambush a whole band of savages. 

Even as he gazed a sheet of flame flashed from thi? 
covert. 

Crack! 

A loud report followed ; then the whistle and zip of a 
bullet as it whizzed close by his head. 

“ Shawnee lead ! ” muttered Jonathan. 


164 : 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


TJnfortunately the tree he had selected did not hide 
him sufficiently. His shoulders were so wide that either 
one or the other was exposed, affording a fine target for a 
marksman. 

A quick glance showed him a change in the knotty 
tree-trunk; the seeming bulge was now the well-known 
figure of Wetzel. 

Jonathan dodged as some object glanced slantingly be- 
fore his eyes. 

Twang. Whizz. Thud. Three familiar and distinct 
sounds caused him to press hard against the tree. 

A tufted arrow quivered in the bark not a foot from 
his head. 

Close shave ! Damn that arrow-shootin^ Shawnee ! 
muttered Jonathan. “An’ he ain’t in that windfall 
either.” His eyes searched to the left for the source of 
this new peril. 

Another sheet of flame, another report from the wind- 
fall. A bullet sang, close overhead, and, glancing on a 
branch, went harmlessly into the forest. 

“ Injuns all around ; I guess I’d better be makin’ 
tracks,” Jonathan said to himself, peering out to learn 
if Wetzel was still under cover. 

He saw the tall figure straighten up; a long, black, 
rifle rise to a level and become rigid; a red fire belch 
forth, followed by a puff of white smoke. 

Spang! 

An Indian’s horrible, strangely-breaking death yell 
rent the silence. 

Then a chorus of plaintive howls, followed by angry 
shouts, rang through the forest. Haked, painted sav* 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


165 

ages darted out of the windfall toward the tree that had 
sheltered Wetzel. 

Quick as thought Jonathan covered the foremost In- 
dian, and with the crack of his rifle saw the redskin drop 
his gun, stop in his mad run, stagger sideways, and fall. 
Then the borderman looked to see what had become of 
his ally. The cracking of the Indian’s rifle told him that 
Wetzel had been seen by his foes. 

With almost incredible fleetness a brown figure with 
long black hair streaming behind, darted in and out 
among the trees, flashed through the sunlit glade, and 
vanished in the dark depths of the forest. 

Jonathan turned to flee also, when he heard again the 
twanging of an Indian’s bow. A wind smote his cheek, 
a shock blinded him, an excruciating pain seized upon his 
breast. A feathered arrow had pinned his shoulder to 
the tree. He raised his hand to pull it out; but, slippery 
with blood, it afforded a poor hold for his fingers. Viol- 
ently exerting himself, with both hands he wrenched 
away the weapon. The flint-head lacerating his flesh and 
scraping his shoulder bones caused sharpest agony. The 
pain gave away to a sudden sense of giddiness ; he tried 
to run ; a dark mist veiled his sight ; he stumbled and 
fell. Then he seemed to sink into a great darkness, and 
knew no more. 

When consciousness returned to Jonathan it was night. 
He lay on his back, and knew because of his cramped 
limbs that he had been securely bound. He saw the 
glimmer of a fire, but could not raise his head. A rust- 
ling of leaves in the wind told that he was yet in the 
woods, and the distant rumble of a waterfall sounded 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


16 t> 

familiar. He felt drowsy; his w'ound smarted slightly, 
still he did not suffer any pain. Presently he fell asleep. 

Broad daylight had come when again he opened hia 
eyes. The blue sky was directly above, and before him 
he saw a ledge covered with dwarfed pine trees. He 
turned his head, and saw that he w-as in a sort of amphi- 
theater of about two acres in extent enclosed by low 
cliffs. A cleft in the stony wall let out a brawling brook, 
and served, no doubt, as entrance to the place. Several 
rude log cabins stood on that side of the enclosure. 
Jonathan knew he had been brought to Bing Legget’s 
retreat. 

Voices attracted his attention, and, turning his head to 
the other side, he saw a big Indian pacing near him, and 
beyond, seven savages and three white men reclining in 
the shade. 

The powerful, dark-visaged savage near him he at 
once recognized as Ashbow, the Shawnee chief, and 
noted emissary of Bing Legget. Of the other Indians, 
three were Delawares, and four Shawnees, all veterans, 
with swarthy, somber faces and glistening heads on 
which the scalp-locks were trimmed and tufted. Their 
naked, muscular bodies were painted for the war-path 
with their strange emblems of death. A trio of white 
men, nearly as, bronzed- as their savage comrades, com- 
pleted the group. One, a desperate looking outlaw, Jon- 
athan did not know. The blond-bearded giant in the 
center v’as Legget. Steel-blue, inhuman eyes, with the 
expression of a free but hunted animal ; a set, mastiff- 
like jaw, brutal and coarse, individualized him. The last 
man was the haggard-faced Brandt. 


167 


THE LAST TRAIL. 

I tell yeP&randt, I ain’t agoin’ against this Injun/’ 
Legget was saying positively. lie’s the best reddy on 
the border, an’ has saved me scores of times. This fellar 
Zane belongs to him, an’ while I’d much rather see the 
scout knifed right here an’ now, I won’t do nothin’ to 
interfere with the Shawnee’s plans.” 

“ Why does the redskin want to take him away to his 
village ? ” Brandt growled. All Injun vanity and 
pride.” 

It’s Injun ways, an’ we can’t do nothin’ to change 
’em.” 

“ But you’re boss here. You could make him put 
this borderman out of the way.” 

“ Wal, I ain’t agoin’ ter interfere. Anyways, Brandt> 
the Shawnee ’ll make short work of the scout when he 
gits him among the tribe. Injuns is Injuns. It’s u 
great honor fer him to git Zane, an’ he wants his own 
people to figger in the finish. Quite nat’r’l, I reckon.” 

“ I understand all that ; but it’s not safe for us, and 
it’s courting death for Ashbow. YTiy don’t he keep Zane 
here until you can spare more than throe Indians to go 
with him ? These bordermen can’t be stopped. You 
don’t know them, because you’re new in this part of th(‘ 
country.” 

I’ve been here as long as you, an’ agoin’ some too. 
I reckon,” replied Legget complacently. 

“ But you’ve not been hunted until lately by these 
bordermen, and you’ve had little opportunity to hear of 
them except from Indians. What can you learn from 
these silent redskins ? I tell you, letting this fellow get 
out of here alive, even for an hour is a fatal mistake.' 


168 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


It’s two full days’ tramp to the Shawnee village. You 
don’t suppose Wetzel will be afraid of four savages? 
Why he sneaked right into eight of us, when we were 
ambushed, waiting for him. He killed one and then 
w’as gone like a streak. It was only a piece of pure luck 
we got Zane.” 

“ I’ve reason to know this Wetzel, this Deathwind, 
as the Delawares call him. I never seen him though, an’ 
anyways, I reckon I can handle him if ever I get the 
chance.” 

“ Man, you’re crazy ! ” cried Brandt. “ He’d cut you 
to pieces before you’d have time to draw. He could 
give you a tomahawk, then take it away and split your 
head. I tell you I know ! You remember Jake Deering? 
He came from up your way. Wetzel fought Deering 
and Jim Girty -together, and killed them. You know 
how he left Girty.” 

I’ll allow he must he a fighter ; but I ain’t afraid 
of him.” 

“ That’s not the question. I am talking sense. You’ve 
got a chance now to put one of these bordermen out of 
the way. Do it quick! That’s my advice.” 

Brandt spoke so vehemently that Legget seemed im- 
pressed. He stroked his yellow beard, and puffed 
thoughtfully on his pipe. Presently he addressed the 
Shawnee chief in the native tongue. 

“ Will Ashbow take five horses for his prisoner ? ” 

The Indian shook his head. 

“ How many wull he take ? ” 

The chief strode with dignity to and fro before his 
c?aptive. His dark, impassive face gave no clew to his 


4 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


169 


thoughts; hut his lofty bearing, his measured, stately 
v;alk were indicative of great pride. Then he spoke in 
bis deep bass: 

The Shawnee knows the woods from the Great 
Lakes where the sun sets, to the Blue Hills where it 
rises. He has met the great paleface hunters. Only for 
Deathwind will Ashbow trade his captive.” 

“ See ? It ain’t no use,” said Legget, spreading out 
his hands. Let him go. He’ll outwit the bordermen 
if any redskin’s able to. The sooner he goes the quicker 
he’ll git back, an’ we can go to work. You ought’er be 
satisfied to git the girl ” 

“ Shut up ! ” interrupted Brandt sharply. 

“ ’Pears to me, Brandt, bein’ in love hes kinder worked 
on your nerves. You used to be game. How you’re 
afeerd of a bound an’ tied man who ain’t got long to 
live.” 

“ I fear no man,” answered Brandt, scowling darkly. 

But I know what you don’t seem to have sense enough 
to see. If this Zane gets away, which is probable, he 
and Wetzel will clean up your gang.” 

Haw ! haw ! haw ! ” roared Legget, slapping his 
knees. “ Then you’d hev little chanst of gittin’ the lass, 
eh ? ” 

All right. I’ve no more to say,” snapped Brandt, 
rising and turning on his heel. As he passed Jonathan 
he paused. “ Zane, if I could, I’d get even with you for 
that punch you once gave me. As it is. I’ll stop at the 
Shawnee village on my way west ” 

With the pretty lass,” interposed Le^et. 


270 the last tra^ 

Wliere I hope to see your scalp drying in the chief’s 
lodge.” 

The borderman eyed him steadily; but in silence. 
Words could not so well have conveyed his thought as 
did the cold glance of dark scorn and merciless meaning. • 

Brandt shuffled on with a curse. ISTo coward was he- 
No man ever saw him flinch. But his intelligence was 
against him as a desperado. While such as these bor- 
dermen lived, an outlaw should never sleep, for he was a , 
marked and doomed man. The deadly, cold-pointed 
flame which scintillated in the prisoner’s eyes was only 
a gleam of what the border felt towards outlaws. 

'\Maile Jonathan was considering all he had heard, 
three more Shawnees entered the retreat, and were at 
once called aside in consultation by Ashbow. At the 
conclusion of this brief conference the chief advanced 
to Jonathan, cut the bonds round his feet, and motioned 
lor him to rise. The prisoner complied to find himself 
weak and sore, but able to walk. lie concluded that his 
wound while very painful, was not of a serious nature, 
and that he would be taken at once on the march toward 
the Shawnee village. 

He was correct, for the chief led him, with the three 
Shawnees following, toward the outlet of the enclosure. 
Jonathan’s sharp eye took in every detail of Legget’s 
rendezvous. In a corral near the entrance, he saw a 
number of fine horses, and among them his sister’s pony. 
A more inaccessible, natural refuge than Legget’s, couJ.d 
hardly have been found in that country. The entrance ‘ 
>vas a narrow opening in t]&e wall, and could be held by 
half a dozen against an army of besiegers. It opened, 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


171 

moreover, on the lide of a barren hill, from which could 
be had a good survey of the surrounding forests and 
plains. 

As .Tonathan went with his captors down the hill his 
nopes, which while ever alive, had been flagging, now 
r se. The long journey to the Shawnee town led through 
a.i untracked wilderness. The Delaware villages lay 
far to the north; the Wyandot to the west. No likeli- 
hood was there of falling in with a band of Indians 
hunting, because this region, stony, barren, and poorly 
watered^ afforded sparse pasture for deer or bison. From 
the prisoner’s point of view this enterprise of Ashbow’s 
was reckless and vainglorious. Cunning as the chief 
M'as, he erred in one point, a great warrior’s only weak- 
ness, love of show, of pride, of his achievement. In In- 
dian nature this desire for fame was as strong as love of 
life. The brave risked everything to win his eagle 
feathers, and the, matured warrior found death while 
keeping bright the glory of the plumes he had won. 

Wetzel was in the woods, fleet as a deer, fierce and 
fearless as a lion. Somewhere among those glades he 
trod, stealthily, with the ears of a doe and eyes of a ’ 
hawk strained for sound or sight of his comrade’s cap- 
tors. When he found their trail he “would stick to it as 
the wolf to that of a bleeding buck’s. The rescue would 
not be attempted until the right moment, even though 
that came within rifle-shot of the Shawnee encampment. 
Wonderful as his other gifts, was the borderman’s pa- 
tience. 


172 


THE LAST TRAIK 


CHAPTEE XIV. 

"Good morning, Colonel Zane,’^ said HeleL cheerily, 
coming into the yard where the colonel was at work. 
" Did Will come over this way ? ” 

“ I reckon you’ll find him if you find Betty,” replied 
Colonel Zane dryly. 

" Come to think of it, that’s true,” Helen said laugh- 
ing. " I’ve a suspicion Will ran off from me this morn- 
mg.” 

“ He and Betty have gone nutting.” 

" I declare it’s mean of Will,” Helen said petulantly. 
" I have been wanting to go so much, and both he and 
Betty promised to take me.” 

" Say, Helen, let me tell you something,” said the 
colonel, resting on his spade and looking at her quizzi- 
cally. " I told them we hadn’t had enough frost yet to 
ripen hickory-nuts and chestnuts. But they went any- 
how. W^ill did remember to say if you came along, to 
tell you he’d bring the colored leaves you w^anted.” 

" How extremely kind of him. I’ve a mind to follow 
them.” 

" How see here, Helen, it might be a right good idea 
for you not to,” returned the colonel, with a twinkle and 
a meaning in his eye. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


173 

** Oh, I understand. How singularly dull I’ve been.” 

“ It’s this way. We’re mighty glad to have a fine 
young fellow like Will come along and interest Betty. 
Lord knows we had a time with her after Alfred died. 
She’s just beginning to brighten up now, and, Helen, 
the point is that young people on the border must get 
married. Ko, my dear, you needn’t laugh, you’ll have 
to find a husband same as the other girls. It’s not here 
as it was back east, where a lass might have her fling, 
so to speak, and take her time choosing. An unmarried 
girl on the border is a positive menace. I saw, not many 
years ago, two first-rate youngsters, wild with border 
fire and spirit, fight and kill each other over a lass who 
wouldn’t choose. 'y^Like as not, if she had done so, the 
three would have been good friends, for out here w'e’re 
like one big family. Bemember this, Helen, and as far 
as Betty and Will are concerned you will be wise to fol- 
low our example: Leave them to themselves. Nothing 
else will so quickly strike fire between a boy and a girl.” 

“ Betty and Will ! I’m sure I’d love to see them care 
for each other.” Then Avith big, bright eyes bent gravely 
on him she continued, “ May I ask. Colonel Zane, who 
you have picked out for me ? ” 

“ There, now you’ve said it, and that’s the problem. 
I’ve looked over every marriageable young man in the 
settlement, except Jack. Of course you couldn’t care 
for him, a borderman, a fighter and all that ; but I can’t 
find a fellow I think quite up to you.” 

‘‘ Colonel Zane, is not a borderman such as Jonathan 
worthy a woman’s regard ? ” Helen asked a little wish 


174 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


“ Bless your heart, lass, yes ! ” replied Colonel Zane 
heartily. “ People out here are not as they are back 
east. An educated man, polished and all that, but in- 
capable of hard labor, or shrinking from dirt and sweat 
on his hands, or even blood, would not help us in the 
winning of the West. Plain as Jonathan is, and with his 
lack of schooling, he is greatly superior to the majority 
of young men on the frontier. But, unlettered or not, 
he is as fine a man as ever stepped in moccasins, or any 
other kind of foot gear.” 

“ Then why did you say — that — what you did ? ” 

“ Well, it’s this way,” replied Colonel Zane, stealing 
a glance at her pensive, downcast face. “ Girls all like 
td be wooed. Almost every one I ever knew wanted the 
young man of her choice to outstrip all her other ad- 
mirers, and then, for a spell, nearly die of love for her, 
after which she’d give in. Now, Jack, being a border- 
man, a man with no occupation except scouting, will 
never look at a girl, let alone make up to her. I imag- 
ine, my dear, it’d take some mighty tall courting to fetch 
home Helen Sheppard a bride. On the other hand, if 
some pretty and spirited lass, like, say for instance, Helen 
Sheppard, would come along and just make Jack forget 
Indians and fighting, she’d get the finest husband in the 
world. True, he’s wild ; but only in the woods. A sim- 
pler, kinder, cleaner man cannot be found.” 

I believe that. Colonel Zane ; but where is the girl 
who could interest him ? ” Helen asked with spirit. 
‘‘ These borderraen are unapproachable. Imagine a girl 
interesting that great, cold, stern Wetzel ! All her flat- 
teries, her wiles, the little coquetries that might attract 


THE LAST TRAIL. I75 

ordinary men, would not be noticed by him, or Jonathan 
either.” 

I grant it’d not be easy, but woman was made to 
subjugate man, and always, everlastingly, until the end 
of life here on this beautiful earth, she will do it.” 

“ Do you think J onathan and Wetzel will catch 
Brandt ? ” asked Helen, changing the subject abruptly. 

“ I’d stake my all that this year’s autumn leaves will 
fall on Brandt’s grave.” 

Colonel Zane’s calm, matter-of-fact coldnesr: made 
Heleu shiver. 

Why, the leaves have already begun to fall. Papa 
told me Brandt had gone to join the most powerful out- 
law band on the border. ITow can these two men, alone, 
cope with savages, as I’ve heard they do, and break up 
such an outlaw band as Legget’s ? ” 

“ That’s a question I’ve heard Daniel Boone ask about 
Wetzel, and Boone, though not a borderman in all the 
name implies, was a gveat Indian fighter. I’ve heard 
old frontiersmen, grown grizzled on the frontier, use the 
same words. I’ve* been twenty years with that man, yet 
I can’t answer it. Jonathan, of course, is only a shadow 
of him ; Wetzel is the type of these men who have held 
the frontier for us. lie was the first borderman, and no 
doubt he’ll be the last.” 

Wliat have Jonathan and Wetzel that other men do 
not possess ? ” 

“ In them is united a marvelously developed wood- 
craft, with wonderful physical powers. Imagine a man 
having a sense, almost an animal instinct, for what is 
going on in the woods. Take for instance the fleetness 


17G 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


of foot. That is one of the greatest factors. It is ab* 
soVately necessary to run, to get away when to hold ground 
would be death. Whether at home or in the woods, the 
bordermen retreat every day. You wouldn’t think they 
practised anything of the kind, would you ? Well, a 
man can’t be great in anything without keeping at it. 
Jonathan says he exercises to keep his feet light. Wetzel 
would just as soon run as walk. Think of the magnifi- 
cent condition of these men. When a dash of speed is 
called for, when to be fleet of foot is to elude vengeance- 
seeking Indians, they must travel as swiftly as the deer. 
The Zanes were all sprinters. I could do something 
of the kind ; Betty was fast on her feet, as that old fort 
will testify until the logs rot; Isaac was fleet too, and 
Jonathan can get over the ground like a scared buck. 
But, even so, Wetzel can beat him.” 

Goodness me, Helen ! ” exclaimed the colonel’s 
buxom wife, from the window, don’t you ever get tired 
hearing Eb talk of Wetzel, and J ack, and Indians '« 
Come in with me. I venture to say my gossip will do 
you more good than his stories.” 

Therefore Helen went in to chat with Mrs. Zane, for 
she was always glad to listen to the colonel’s wife, who 
was so bright and pleasant, so helpful and kindly in her 
womanly way. In the course of their conversation, which 
drifted from weaving linsey, Mrs. Zane’s occupation at 
the time, to the costly silks and satins of remembered 
days, and then to matters of more present interest, Helen 
spoke of Colonel Zane’s hint about Will and Betty. 

Isn’t Eb a terror ? He’s the worst matchmaker you 
ever saw,” declared the colonel’s good spouse. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


177 


There’s no harm in that.” 

“No indeed ; it’s a good thing, but he makes me laugh, 
and Betty, he sets her furious.” 

“ The colonel said he had designs on me.” 

“ Of course he has, dear old Eb ! How he’d love to 
see you happily married. His heart is as big as that 
mountain yonder. He has given this settlement his whole 
life.” 

“ I believe you. He has such interest, such zeal for 
everybody. Only the other day he was speaking to me 
of jVlr. Mor daunt, telling how sorry he was for the Eng- 
lishman, and how much lie’d like to help him. It does 
seem a pity a man of Mordaunt’s blood and attainments 
should sink to utter worthlessness.” 

“ Yes, ’tis a pity for any man, blood or no, and the 
world’s full of such wrecks. I always liked that man’s 
looks. I never had a word with him, of course ; but I’ve 
seen him often, and something about him appealed to 
me. I don’t believe it was just his handsome face; still 
I know women are susceptible that way.” 

“ I, too, liked him once as a friend,” said Helen feel- 
aigly. “ Well, I’m glad he’s gone.” 

“ Gone?” 

“ Yes, he left Fort Henry yesterday. He came to 
say good-bye to me, and, except for his pale face and 
trembling hands, wms much as he used to be in Virginia. 
Said he was going home to England, and wanted to tell 
me he was sorry — for — for all he’d done to make papa 
and me suffer. Drink had broken him, he said, and 
surely he looked a broken man. I shook hands with 
him, and then slipped upstairs and cried.” 


178 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Poor fellow ! ” sighed Mrs. Zane. 

“ Papa said he left Port Pitt with one of Metzars men 
as a guide.” 

“ Then he didn’t take the ‘ little cuss,’ as Eb calls his 
■man Case ? ” 

“ No, if I remember rightly pap said Case wouldn’t 

go*” 

“ I wish he had. He’s no addition to our village.” 

Voices outside attracted their attention. Mrs. Zane 
glanced from the window and said : “ There come Betty 
and Will.” 

Helen went on the porch to see her cousin and Betty 
entering the yard, and Colonel Zane once again leaning 
on his spade. 

“ Gather any hickory-nuts from birch or any other 
kind of trees ? ” asked the colonel grimly. 

“ No,” replied Will cheerily, the shells haven’t 
opened yet.” 

Too bad the frost is so backward,” said Colonel Zane 
with a laugh. “ But I can’t see that it makes any dif- 
ference.” 

“ Where are my leaves ? ” asked Helen, with a smile 
and a nod to Betty. 

“ What leaves ? ” inquired that young woman, plainly 
mystified. 

“ Why the autumn leaves Will promised to gather 
with me, then changed his mind, and said he’d bring 
them.” 

“ I forgot,” Will replied a little awkwardly. 

Colonel Zane coughed, and then, catching Betty’s 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


179 


glance, which had begun to flash, he plied his spade vig- 
orously. 

Betty’s face had colored warmly at her brother’s first 
question; it toned down slightly when she understood 
that he was not going to tease her as usual, and suddenly, 
as she looked over his head, it paled white as snow. 

“ Eb, look down the lane ! ” she cried. 

Two tall men were approaching with labored tread. 
One half-supporting his companion. 

“ Wetzel! Jack! and Jack’s hurt! ” cried Betty. 

My dear, be calm,” said Colonel Zane, in that quiet 
tone he always used during moments of excitement. He 
turned toward the bordermen, and helped Wetzel lead 
Jonathan up the walk into the yard. 

From Wetzel’s clothing water ran, his long hair was 
disheveled, his aspect frightful. Jonathan’s face was 
white and drawn. His buckskin hunting-coat was cov- 
ered with blood, and the hand which he held tightly 
against his left breast showed dark red stains. 

Helen shuddered. Almost fainting she leaned against 
the porch, too horrified to cry out, with contracting heart 
and a chill stealing through her veins. 

“Jack! Jack!” cried Betty, in agonized appeal. 

“ Betty, it’s nothin’,” said Wetzel. 

“How, Betts, don’t be scared of a little blood,” Jon- 
athan said with a faint smile flitting across his haggard 
face. 

“ Bring water, shears an’ some linsey cloth,” added 
Wetzel, as Mrs. Zane came running out. 

“ Come inside,” cried the colonel’s wife, as she disap- 
peared again immediately. 


180 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


“ No,” replied the borderman, removing his coat, and, 
•with the assistance of his brother, he unlaced his hunt- 
ing shirt, pulling it down from a wounded shoulder. A 
great gory hole gaped just beneath his left collar-bone. 

Although stricken with fear, when Helen saw the 
bronzed, massive shoulder, the long powerful arm with 
its cords of muscles playing under the brown skin, she 
felt a thrill of admiration. 

Just missed the lung,” said Mrs. Zane. Eb, no 
bullet ever made that hole.” 

Wetzel washed the bloody wound, and, placing on it a 
wad of leaves he took from his pocket, bound up the 
shoulder tightly. 

“ What made that hole ? ” asked Colonel Zane. 

Wetzel lifted the quiver of arrows Jonathan had laid 
on the porch, and, selecting one, handed it to the colonel. 
The flint-head and a portion of the shaft were stained 
with blood. 

“ The Sha’wnee ! ” exclaimed Colonel Zane. Then he 
led Wetzel aside, and began conversing in low tones 
while Jonathan, with Betty holding his arm, ascended 
the steps and went within the dwelling. 

Helen ran home, and, once in her room, gave vent to 
her emotions. She cried because of fright, nervousness, 
relief, and joy. Then she bathed her face, tried to rub 
some color into her pale cheeks, and set about getting 
dinner as one in a trance. She could not forget that 
broad shoulder with its frightful wound. What a man 
Jonathan must be to receive a blow like that and live! 
Exhausted, almost spent, had been his strength when he 
reached home, yet how calm and cool he was! What 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


181 

vrould she not have given for the faint smile that shone 
in his eyes for Betty ? 

The afternoon was long for Helen. When at last 
supper was over she changed her gown, and, asking Will 
to accompany her, went down the lane toward Colonel 
Zane’s cabin. At this hour the colonel almost invariably 
could be found sitting on his doorstep puffing a long 
Indian pipe, and gazing with dreamy eyes over the 
valley. 

“ Well, well, how sweet you look ! ” he said to Helen ; 
then with a wink of his eyelid, Hello, Willie, you’ll 
find Elizabeth inside with Jack.” 

“ How is he ? ” asked Helen eagerly, as Will with a 
laugh and a retort mounted the steps. 

“ J ack’s doing splendidly. He slept all day. I don’t 
think his injury amounts to much, at least not for such 
as him or Wetzel. It would have finished ordinary men. 
Bess says if complications don’t set in, blood-poison or 
something to start a fever, he’ll be up shortly. Wetzel 
believes the two of ’em will be on the trail inside of a 
week.” 

“ Did they find Brandt ? ” asked Helen in a low 
voice. 

“ Yes, they ran him to his hole, and, as might have 
been expected, it was Bing Legget’s camp. The Indians 
took Jonathan there.” 

“Then Jack was captured?” 

Colonel Zane related the events, as told briefly by Wet- 
zel, that had taken place during the preceding three days. 

“ The Indian I saw at the spring carried that bow 


182 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Jonathan brought back. He must have shot the arrow, 
lie was a magnificent savage.” 

He was indeed a great, and a bad Indian, one of 
the craftiest spies who ever stepped in moccasins; but 
he lies quiet now ©n the moss and the leaves. Bing 
Legget will never find another runner like that Shaw- 
nee. Let us go indoors.” 

He led Helen into the large sitting-room where Jona- 
than lay on a couch, with Betty and Will sitting beside 
him. The colonel’s wife and children, Silas Zane, and 
several neighbors, were present. 

“Here, Jack, is a lady inquiring after your health. 
L'etts, this reminds me of the time Isaac came home 
wounded, after his escape from the Hurons. Strikes 
me he and his Indian bride should be about due here 
on a visit.” 

Helen forgot every one except the wounded man lying 
so quiet and pale upon the couch. She looked down 
upon him with eyes strangely dilated, and darkly bright. 

“ How are you ? ” she asked softly. 

“ I’m all right, thank you, lass,” answered Jonathan. 

Colonel Zane contrived, with inimitable skill, to get 
Betty, Will, Silas, Be^ie and the others interested in 
some remarkable news he had just heard, or made up, 
and this left Jonathan and Helen comparatively alone 
for the moment. 

The wise old colonel thought perhaps this might be 
the right time. He saw Helen’s face as she leaned over 
Jonathan, and that was enough for him. He would have 
taxed his ingenuity to the utmost to keep the others away 
from the young couple. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


183 


I was s® frightened,” murmured Helen. 

‘‘Why?” asked Jonathan. 

“ Oh ! You looked so deathly — the blood, and that 
awful wound ! ” 

“ It’s nothin’, lass.” 

Helen smiled down upon him. Whether or no the 
hurt amounted to anything in the horderman’s opinion, 
she knew from his weakness, and his white, drawn face, 
that the strain of the march home had been fearful. His 
dark eyes held now nothing of the coldness and glitter 
so natural to them. They were weary, almost sad. She 
did not feel afraid of him now. He lay there so help- 
less, his long powerful frame as quiet as a sleeping 
child’s! Hitherto an almost indefinable antagonism in 
him liad made itself felt; now there was only gentleness, 
as of a man too weary to fight longer. Helen’s heart 
swelled with pity, and tenderness, and love. His weak- 
ness affected her as had never his strength. With an in- 
voluntary gesture of sympathy she placed her hand softly 
on his. 

Jonathan looked up at her with eyes no longer blind. 
Pain had softened him. For the moment he felt car- 
ried out of himself, as it were, and saw things differently. 
The melting tenderness of her gaze, the glowing soft- 
ness of her face, the beauty, bewitched him ; and beyond 
that, a sweet, impelling gladness stirred within him 
and would not be denied. He thrilled as her fingers 
lightly, timidly touched his, and opened his broad hand 
to press hers closely and warmly. 

“ Lass,” he wdiispered, with a huskiness and unstead- 
iness unnatural to his deep voice. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


184 

Helen bent be? head closer to him; she saw his lips 
tremble, and his nostrils dilate ; but an unutterable sad- 
ness shaded the brightness in his eyes. 

“ I love you.” 

The low whisper reached Helen’s ears. She seemed 
to float dreamily away to some beautiful world, with the 
music of those words ringing in her ears. She looked at 
him again. Had she been dreaming? i^o; his dark 
eyes met hers with a love he could not longer deny. An 
exquisite emotion, keen, strangely sweet and strong, yet 
terrible with sharp pain, pulsated through her being. 
The revelation had been too abrupt. It was so wonder- 
fully different from what she had ever dared hope. She 
lowered her head, trembling. 

The next moment she felt Colonel Zane’s hand on her 
chair, and heard him say in a cheery voice. 

‘‘ Well, well, see here, lass, you mustn’t make Jack 
talk too much. See how white and tired he looks.” 


THE LAST TRAIL 


185 




CHAPTER XV. 

Iw forty-eight hours Jonathan Zane was up and about 
the cabin as though he had never been wounded; the 
third day he walked to the spring; in a week he was 
waiting for Wetzel, ready to go on the trail. 

On the eighth day of his enforced idleness, as he sat 
with Betty and the colonel in the yard, Wetzel appeared 
on a ridge east of the fort. Soon he rounded the stockade 
fence, and came straight toward them. To Colonel 
Zane and Betty, Wetzel’s expression was terrible. The 
stern kindliness, the calm, though cold, gravity of his 
countenance, as they usually saw it, had disappeared. 
Yet it showed no trace of his unnatural passion to pur- 
sue and slay. iYo doubt that terrible instinct, or lust, 
was at white heat; but it wore a mask of impenetrable 
stone-gray gloom. 

Wetzel spoke briefly. After telling Jonathan to meet 
him at sunset on the following day at a point five miles 
up the river, he reported to the colonel that Legget with 
his band had left their retreat, moving southward, ap- 
parently on a marauding expedition. Then he shook 
hands with Colonel Zane and turned to Betty. 

‘‘Good-bye, Betty,” he said, in his deep, sonorous 

voice. 


186 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Good-bye, Lew,” answered Betty slowly, as if sur* 
prised. “ God save you,” she added. 

He shouldered liis rifle, and hurried down the lane, 
halting before entering the thicket that hounded the clear- 
ing, to look back at the settlement. In another moment 
his dark figure had disappeared among the hushes. 

“ Betts, I’ve seen Wetzel go like that hundreds of 
times, though he never shook hands before; hut I feel 
sort of queer about it now. Wasn’t he strange ? ” 

Betty did not answer until Jonathan, who had started 
to go within, was out of hearing. 

Lew looked and acted the same the morning he struck 
]\Iiller’s trail,” Betty replied in a low voice. “ I be- 
lieve, despite his indifference to danger, he realizes that 
the chances are greatly against him, as they were when 
he began the trailing of Miller, certain it would lead 
him into Girty’s camp. Then I know Lew has an af- 
fection for us, though it is never shown in ordinary ways. 
I pray he and Jack will come home safe.” 

‘‘ This is a bad trail they’re taking up ; the worst, 
perhaps, in border warfare,” said Colonel Zane gloomily. 

Did you notice how Jack’s face darkened when his com- 
rade came? Much of this borderman-life of his is due 
to Wetzel’s influence.” 

Eb, I’ll tell you one thing,” returned Betty, with a 
flash of her old spirit. “ This is Jack’s last trail.” 

“ Why do you think so ? ” 

If he doesn’t return he’ll be gone the way of all 
bordermen; but if he comes back once more he’ll never 
get away from Helen.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


187 

Ugh ! ” exclaimed Zane, venting his pleasure in 
characteristic Indian way. 

“ That night after Jack came home wounded,” con- 
tinued Betty, I saw him, aj he lay on the couch, gaze 
at Helen. Such a look ! Eb, she has won.” 

I hope so, but I fear, I fear,” replied her brother 
gloomily. “ If only he returns, that’s the thing ! Betts, 
be sure he sees Helen before he goes away.” 

I shall try. Here he comes now,” said Betty. 

“ Hello, J ack ! ” cried the colonel, as his brother came 
out in somewhat of a hurry. “ What have you got ? 
By George ! It’s that blamed arrow the Shawnee shot 
into you. Where are you going with it ? What the deuce 
— Say — Betts, eh ? ” 

Betty had given him a sharp little kick. 

The borderman looked embarrassed. He hesitated 
and flushed. Evidently he would have liked to avoid 
his brother’s question ; but the inquiry came direct. Dis- 
simulation with him was impossible. 

Helen wanted this, an’ I reckon that’s where I’m 
goin’ with it,” he said finally, and w’alked away. 

“ Eb, you’re a stupid ! ” exclaimed Betty. 

“ Hang it ! Who’d have thought he was going to give 
her that blamed, bloody arrow ? ” 

* * * * * * 

As Helen ushered Jonathan, for the first time, into 
her cosy little sitting-room, her heart began to thump so 
hard she could hear it. 

She had not seen him since the night he whispered the 
words which gave such happiness. She had stayed at 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


188 

home, thankful beyond expression to learn every day 
of his rapid improvement, living in the sweetness of her 
joy, and waiting for him. And now as he had come, so 
dark, so grave, so unlike a lover to woo, that she felt a 
chill steal over her. 

“ I’m so glad you’ve brought the arrow,” she faltered , 
“ for, of course, coming so far means that you’re well 
once more.” 

“ You asked me for it, an’ I’ve fetched it over. To 
morrow I’m off on a trail I may never return from,’’ 
he answered simply, and his voice seemed cold. 

An immeasurable distance stretched once more be 
tween them. Helen’s happiness slowly died. 

“ I thank you,” she said vith a voice that was tremm 
lous despite all her efforts. 

“ It’s not much of a keepsake.” 

I did not ask for it as a keepsake, but because — be- 
cause I wanted it. I need nothing tangible to keep alive 
my memory. A few words w’hispered to me not many 
days ago will suffice for remembrance — or — or did I 
dream them ? ” 

Bitter disappointment almost choked Helen. This 
was not the gentle, soft-voiced man who had said he loved 
her. It was the indifferent borderman. Again he was 
the embodiment of his strange, quiet woods. Once more 
he seemed the comrade of the cold, inscrutable Wetzel. 

“ Ho, lass, I reckon you didn’t dream,” he replied. 

Helen swayed from sick bitterness and a suffocating 
sense of pain, back to her old, sweet, joyous, tumultuous 
(heart-throbbing. 

“ Tell me, if I didn’t dream,” she said softly, her 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


189 

face flashing warm again. She came close to him and 
looked np with all her heart in her great dark eyes, and 
love trembling on her red lips. 

Calmness deserted the horderman after one glance at 
her. He paced the floor; twisted and clasped his hands 
while his eyes gleamed. 

“Lass, I’m only human,” he cried hoarsely, facing 
her again. 

But only for a moment did he stand before her; but 
it was long enough for him to see her shrink a little, the 
gladness in her eyes giving way to uncertainty and a 
fugitive hope. Suddenly he began to pace the room 
again, and to talk incoherently. With the flow of words 
he gradually grew calmer, and, with something of his 
natural dignity, spoke more rationally. 

“ I said I loved you, an’ it’s true, hut I didn’t mean 
to speak. I oughtn’t have done it. Somethin’ made it 
so easy, so natural like. I’d have died before letting yon 
know, if any idea had come to me of what I was sayin’. 
I’ve fought this feelin’ for months. I allowed myself 
to think of you at first, an’ there’s the wrong. I went 
on the trail with your big eyes pictured in my mind, 
an’ before I’d dreamed of it you’d crept into my heart. 
Life has never been the same since — that kiss. Betty 
said as how you cared for me, an’ that made me worse, 
only I never really believed. To-day I came over here 
to say good-bye, expectin’ to hold myself well in hand; 
but the first glance of your eyes unmans me. Nothin’ 
can come of it, lass, nothin’ hut trouble. Even if you 
cared, an’ I don’t dare believe you do, nothin’ can come 
of it! I’ve my own life to live, an’ there’s no sweet- 


190 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


heart in it. Mebbe, as Lew says, there’s one in Heaven. 
Oh! girl, this has been hard on me. I see you alwa^ 
on my lonely tramps; I see your glorious eyes in the 
sunny fields an’ in the woods, at gray twilight, an’ when 
the stars shine brightest. They haunt me. Ah! ^mu’re 
the sweetest lass as ever tormented a man, an’ I love 
you, I love you ! ” 

He turned to the window only to hear a soft, broken 
cry, and a flurry of skirts. A rush of wdnd seemed to 
envelop him. Then two soft, rounded arms encircled 
bis neck, and a /jolden head lay on his breast. 

“ My borderman ! My hero ! My love ! ” 

Jonathan clasped the beautiful, quivering girl to his 
heart. 

“ Lass, for God’s sake don’t say you love me,” he 
implored, thrilling with contact of her warm arms. ^ 

“ Ah ! ” she breathed, and raised her head. Hex 
radiant eyes darkly wonderful with unutterable love, 
burned into his. 

He had almost pressed his lips to the sweet red ones 
so near his, when he drew back with a start, and his 
frame straightened. 

“Am I a man, or only a coward ? ” he muttered. 
“ Lass, let me think. Don’t believe I’m harsh, nor cold, 
nor nothin’ except that I want to do what’s right.” 

He leaned out of the window while Helen stood near 
him with a hand on his quivering shoulder. When at last 
he turned, his face was colorless, white as marble, and 
sad, and set, and stern. 

“ Lass, it mustn’t be ; I’ll not ruin your life.” 

But you will if you give me up.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


191 


" 'N’o, no, lass.” 

“ I cannot live withont you.” 

You must. My life is not mine to give.” 

But you love me.” 

I am a borderman.” 

“ I will not live without you.” 

Hush ! lass, hush ! ” 

“ I love you.” 

Jonathan breathed hard ; once more the tremor, which 
seemed pitiful in such a strong man, came upon him. 
His face was gray. 

“ I love you,” she repeated, her rich voice indescrib- 
ablv deep and full. She o|)ened wide her arms and stood 
before him with heaving bosom, with great eyes dark 
with woman’s sadness, passionate with woman’s promise, 
perfect in her beauty, glorious in her abandonment. 

The borderman boAved and bent like a broken reed. 

Listen,” she whispered, coming closer to him, “ go 
ir you must leave me; but let this be your last trail. 
Come back to me. Jack, come back to me ! You have had 
enough of this terrible life; you have won a name that 
will never be forgotten ; you haA^e done your duty to the 
border. The Indians and outlaws aaIII be gone soon. 
Take the farm your brother Avants you to haA^e, and live 
for me. We will be happy. I shall learn to keep your 
home. Oh ! my dear, I Avill recompense you for the 
loss of all this wild hunting end fighting. Let me per- 
suade you, as much for your sake as for mine, for you 
are my heart, and soul, and life. Go out upon your 
last trail. Jack, and come back to me.” 

An’ let Wetzel go always alone ? ” 


192 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


“ He is different ; he lives only for revenge. What 
are those poor savages to you? You have a better, 
nobler life opening.” 

“ Lass, I can’t give him up.” 

“ You need not ; but give up this useless seeking of 
adventure. That, you know, is half a borderman’s life. 
Give it up, Jack, if not for your own, then for my sake.” 

Ho — no — never — I can’t — I won’t be a coward ! 
After all these years I won’t desert him. Ho — no ” 

“ Do not say more,” she pleaded, stealing closer to him 
until she was against his breast. She slipped her arms 
around his neck. Tor love and more than l^fe she was 
fighting now. “Good-bye, my love.” She kissed him, 
a long, lingering pressure of her soft full lips on his. 
“ Dearest, do not shame me further. Dearest Jack, come 
back to me, for I love you.” 

She released him, and ran sobbing from the room. 

Unsteady as a blind man, he groped for the door, 
found it, and went out. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


193 


‘ OSAPTER XVt 


This longest da^- '-n Jonathan Zane’s lifc ihv. rv'0“t. 
the most terrible and complex with unintelligil le emo- 
tions, was that one in which he learned that th( wilder- 
ness no longer sufficed for him. 

He wandered through the forest like a rjan lost, 
searching for, he knew not what. Rambling rlong the 
shady trails he looked for that contentment Mhich had 
alwajs been his, but found it not. He plungec'. into the 
depths of deep gloomy ravines; into the fas( nesses of 
heavy-timbered hollows where the trees hid tbs light of 
day; he sought the open grassy hillsides, ard roamed 
far over meadow and plain. Yet something always 
eluded him. The invisible and beautiful life of all in- 
animate things sang no more in his heart. Tl/e springy 
moss, the quivering leaf, the tell-tale bark of the trees, 
the limpid, misty, eddying pools under green banks, the 
myriads of natural objects from which he hwd learned 
so much, and the manifold joyous life around him, nt> 
longer spoke with soul-satisfying faithfulness. The en- 
vironment of his boyish days, of his youth, and manhood, 
rendered not a sweetness as of 

His intelligence, sharpened by the pain of new experi- 
ence, told him he had been vain to imagine that he, be- 


194 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


cause he was a borderman, could escape the universal 
destiny of human life. Dimly he could feel the broaden- 
ing, the awakening into a fuller existence, but he did not 
welcome this new light. He realized that men had al- 
w'ays turned, at some time in their lives, to women even 
as the cypress leans toward the sun. This weakening of 
the sterner stuff in him ; this softening of his heart, and 
especially the inquietude, and lack of joy and harmony 
in his old pursuits of the forest trails bewildered him, 
and troubled him some. Thousands of times his border- 
man’s trail had been crossed, yet never to his sorrow 
until now when it had been crossed by a woman. 

Sick at heart, hurt in his pride, darkly savage, sad, 
remorseful, and thrilling wuth awakened passion, all in 
turn, he roamed the woodland unconsciously visiting the 
scenes where he had formerly found contentment. 

He paused by many a shady glen, and beautiful quiet 
glade; by gray cliffs and mossy banks, searching with 
moody eyes for the spirit which evaded him. 

Here in the green and golden woods rose before him a 
^ rugged, giant rock, moss-stained, and gleaming with 
trickling water. Tangled ferns dressed in autumn’s 
russet hue lay at the base of the green-gray cliff, and 
circled a dark, deep pool dotted wuth yellow leaves. 
Half-way up, the perpendicular ascent was broken by a 
protruding ledge upon which waved broad-leaved plants 
and rusty ferns. Above, the cliff sheered out with many 
' cracks and seams in its weather-beaten front. 

The forest grew to the verge of the precipice. A full 
loliaged oak and a luxuriant maple, the former still fresh 
with its dark green leaves, the latter making a vivid com 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


195 


trast Tvith its pale yellow, purple-red. and orange hues, 
leaned far out over the blutf. A mighty chestnut grasped 
with gnarled roots deep into the broken cliff. Dainty 
plumes of goldenrod swayed on the brink, red berries, 
amber moss, and green trailing vines peeped over the 
edge, and every little niche and crenny sported fragile 
ferns and pale-faced asters. A second cliff, higher than 
the first, and more heavily \vooded, loomed above, and 
over it sprayed a transparent film of water, thin as smoke, 
and irridescent in the sunshine. Fnr above where the 
glancing rill caressed the mossy cl'ff and shone like 
gleaming gold against the dark branches with their. green 
and red and purple leaves, lay the faint blue of the sky. 

Jonathan pulled on down the stream with humbler 
heart. His favorite w-aterfall had denied him. The 
gold that had gleamed there was his sweetheart’s hair; 
the red was of her lips; the dark pool with its lights and 
shades, its unfathomable mystery, w^as like her eyes. 

He came at length to another scene of milder aspect. 
An open glade where the dancing, dimphng brook rac^d 
under dark hemlocks, and where blood-red sumach lep> es, 
and beech leaves like flakes of sunshine, lay against the 
green. Under a leaning birch he found a p^tch of purple 
asters, and a little apart from them, by a mossy stone, ^ 
a lonely fringed gentian. Its deep color bought to him 
the dark blue eyes that haunted him, and once again,, 
like one possessed of an evil spirit, he wandered along 
the merry water-course. 

But finally pain and unrest left him. WTien he sur- 
rendered to his love, peace returned. Though he said in 
his heart that Helen was not for him, he felt .V d»A not 


196 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


fteed to torture himself by fighting against resistless 
^wer. He could love her without being a coward. He 
tvould take up his life where it had been changed, and 
Kve it, carrying this bitter-sweet burden always. 

Memory, now that he admitted himself conquered, 
made a toy of him, bringing iHe sweetness of fragrant 
hair, and eloquent eyes, and clinging arms, and dewy 
lips. A thousand-fold harder to fight that pain was the 
seductive thought that he had but to go back to Helen to 
feel again the charm of her presence, to see the grace of 
her person, to hear the music of her voice, to have again 
her Hps on his. 

Jonathan knew then that his trial had but begun ; that 
the pain and suffering of a borderman’s broken pride and 
conquered spirit was nothing; that to steel his heart 
against the joy, the sweetness, the longing of love was 
everything. 

So a tumult raged within his heart. !N’o bitterness, 
nor wretchedness stabbed him as before, but a passionate 
yearning, born of memory, and unquenchable as the 
fires of the sun, burned there. 

Helen’s reply to his pale excuses, to his duty, to his 
life, was that she loved him. The wonder of it made 
him weak. Was not her answer enough? “I. love 
’ you ! ” Three words only ; but they changed the world. 
'A beautiful girl loved him, she had kissed him, and his 
life could never again be the same. She had held out 
her arms to him — and he, cold, churlish, unfeeling 
brute, had let her shame herself, fighting for her happi- 
ness, for the joy that is a woman’s divine right. He had 
been blind ; be had not understood the significance of her 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


197 


gracious action; he had never realized until too late, 
v.’hat it must have cost her, what heart-burnins: shame 
and scorn his refusal brought upon her. If she ever 
looked tenderly at him again with her great eyes; or 
leaned toward him with her beautiful arms outstretched, 
he would fall at her feet and throw his duty to the winds, 
swearing his love was hers always and his life forever. 

So love stormed in the borderman’s heart. 

Slowly the roelancholy Indian-summer day waned as 
Jonathan strode out of the woods into a plain beyond, 
where he was to meet Wetzel at sunset. A smoky haze 
like a purple cloud lay upon the gently waving grass. 
He could not see across the stretch of prairie-land, 
though at this point he knew- it was hardly a mile wide. 
With the trilling of the grasshoppers alone disturbing 
the serene quiet of this autumn afternoon, all nature 
seemed in harmony with the declining season. He stood 
a while, his thoughts becoming the calmer for the silence 
and loneliness of this breathing meadow. 

"UTien the shadows of the trees began to lengthen, and 
to steal far out over the yellow grass, he knew the time 
had come, and glided out upon the plain. He crossed it, 
and sat down upon a huge stone which lay with one 
shelving end overhanging the river. 

Far in the west the gold-red sun, too fiery for his 
direct gaze, lost the brilliance of its under circle behind 
the fringe of the wooded hill. Slowly the red ball sank. 
When the last bright gleam had vanished in the dark 
horizon Jonathan turned to search wood and plain. 
Wetzel was to meet him at sunset. Even as his first 
glance swept arounc^ a light step sounded behind him. 


198 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


He did not move, for tliat step was familiar. In another 
moment the tall form of Wetzel stood beside him. 

I’m about as much behind as you was ahead of 
time,” said Wetzel. We’ll stay here fer the night, an’ 
be off early in the mornin’.” 

Under the shelving side of the rock, and in the shade 
of the thicket, the bordermen built a littlewfire and 
roasted strips of deer-meat. Then, puffing at their l6ng 
pipes they sat for a time in silence, while twilight let 
fall a dark, gray cloak over river and plain. 

Legget’s move up the river was a blind, as I sus- 
pected,” said Wetzel, presently. “ He’s not far back in 
the woods from here, an’ seems to be waitin’ fer some- 
thin’ or somebody. Brandt an’ seven redskins are with 
him. We’d hev a good chance at them in the mornin’ ; 
now we’ve got ’em a long ways from their camp, so we’ll 
wait, an’ see what deviltry they’re up to.” 

“ Mebbe he’s waitin’ for some Injun band,” suggested 
J onathan. 

“ Thar’s redskins in the valley an’ close to him ; but 
I reckon he’s barkin’ up another tree.” 

Suppose we run into some of these Injuns ? ” 

We’ll hev to take what comes,” replied Wetzel, lying 
down on a bed of leaves. 

When darkness enveloped the spot Wetzel lay wrapped 
in deep slumber, while Jonathan sat against the rock, 
watching the last flickerings of the camp-fire. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


19 ^ 


• CHAPTEE XVIL 

Will and Helen hurried back along the river roadL 
Beguiled by the soft beauty of the autumn morning they 
ventured farther from the fort than ever before, and had 
been suddenly brought to a realization of the fact by a 
crackling in the underbrush. Instantly their minds re- 
verted to bears and panthers, such as they had heard 
invested the thickets yound the settlement. 

“ Oh ! Will ! I saw a dark form stealing along in the 
woods from tree to tree ! ” exclaimed Helen in a startled 
whisper. 

So did I. It was an Indian, or I never saw one. 
Walk faster. Once round the bend in the road-we’ll be- 
within sight of the fort; then we’ll run,” replied Will. 
He had turned pale, but maintained his composure. 

They increased their speed, and had almost come up 
to the curve in the road, marked by dense undergrowth 
on both sides, when the branches in the thicket swayed 
violently, a sturdy little man armed with a musket 
appeared from among them. 

“ Avast ! Heave to ! ” he commanded in a low fierce • 
voice, leveling his weapon. “ One breeze from ye, an’ 

I let sail this broadside.” 

“ What do you want ? We have no valuables,” said 
Will speaking low. 


200 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Helen stared at the little man. She was speechless 
with terror. It flashed into her mind as soon as she rec- 
ognized the red, evil face of the sailor, that he was the 
accomplice upon whom Brandt had told Metzar he could 
relv. 

Shut up ! It^s not ye I want, nor valuables, but this 
wench,” growled Case. He pushed Will around with, 
the muzzle of the musket, which action caused the young 
man to turn a sickly white and shrink involuntarily with 
fear. The hammer of the musket was raised, and might 
fall at the slightest jar. 

“ For God’s sake! Will, do as he says,” cried Helen, 
who saw murder in Case’s eyes. Capture or anything 
was better than sacrifice of life. 

“ March ! ” ordered Case, with the musket against 
Will’s back. 

Will hurriedly started forward, jostling Helen, who 
had preceded him. He was forced to hurry, because 
every few moments Case pressed the gun to his back or 
side. 

Without another word the sailor marched them swiftly 
along the road, which now narrowed down to a trail. 
His intention, no doubt, was to put as much distance be- 
tween him and the fort as was possible. Ho more than 
a mile had been thus traversed when two Indians stepped 
into view. 

“ My God ! My God ! ” cried Will as the savages pro- 
ceeded first to bind Helen’s arms behind her, and then 
his in the same manner. -After this the journey was 
continued in silence, the Indians walking beside the 
prisoners, and Case in tlie rear. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


201 


Helen "was so terrified that for a long time she conld 
not think coherently. It seemed as if she had walked 
miles, yet did not feel tired. Always in front wound the 
narrow, leaf-girt trail, and to the left the broad river 
gleamed at intervals through open spaces in the thickets. 
Flocks of birds rose in the line of inarch. They seemed 
tame, and uttered plaintive notes as if in sympathy. 

About noon the trail led to the river bank. One of 
the savages disappeared in a copse of willows, and pres- 
ently reappeared carrying a birch -bark canoe. Case 
ordered Helen and Will into the boat, got in himself, 
and the savages, taking stations at bow and stern, paddled 
out into the stream. They shot over under the lee of an 
island, around a rocky point, and across a strait to an- 
other island. Beyond this they gained the Ohio shore, 
and beached the canoe. 

“ Ahoy ! there, cap’n,” cried Case, pushing Helen up 
the bank before him, and she, gazing upward, was more 
than amazed to see Mordaunt leaning against a tree. 

Mordaunt, had you anything to do with this ? 
cried Helen breathlessly. 

“ I had all to do with it,” answered the Englishman, 

“ What do you mean ? ” 

He did not meet her gaze, nor make reply ; but turned 
to address a few words in a low tone to a white man 
sitting on a log. 

Helen knew she had seen ' this person before, and 
doubted not he was one of MetzaFs men. She saw a 
rude, bark lean-to, the remains of a camp-fire, and a pack 
tied in blankets. Evidently Mordaunt and his men had 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


202 

tarried here awaiting such developments as had come to 
pass. 

‘‘ You white-faced hound ! ” hissed Will, beside him- 
self with rage when he realized the situation. Bound 
though he was, he leaped up and tried to get at 
Mordaunt. Case knocked him on the head with the 
handle of his knife. Will fell with blood streaming from 
a cut over the temple. 

The dastardly act aroused all Helen’s fiery courage. 
She turned to the Englishman with eyes ablaze. 

“ So you’ve at last found your level. Border-outlaw ! 
Kill me at once. I’d rather be dead than breathe the 
same air with such a coward ! ” 

I swore I’d have you, if not by fair means then by 
foul,” he answered, with dark and haggard face. 

“ What do you intend to do with me now that I am 
tied ? ” she demanded scornfully. 

Keep you a prisoner in the woods till you consent to 
marry me.” 

Helen laughed in scorn. Desperate as was the plight, 
her natural courage had arisen at the cruel blow dealt 
her cousin, and she faced the Englishman with flashing 
eyes and undaunted mien. She saw he was again un- 
steady, and had the cough and catching breath habitual 
to certain men under the influence of liquor. She 
turhed her attention to Will. He lay as he had fallen, 
with blood streaming over his pale face and fair hair. 
While she gazed at him Case whipped out his long knife, 
and looked up at Mordaunt. 

“ Cap’n, I’d better loosen a hatch fer him,” he said 
brutally. “ He’s dead cargo fer us, an’ in the way.” 


THE T AST TRAIL. 


203 


He lowered the gleaming point upon Will’s chest. 

“ Oh-h-h ! ” breathed Helen in horror. She tried to 
close her eyes but was so fascinated she could not. 

“ Get up. I’ll have no murder,” ordered Mordaunt. 

Leave him here.” 

He’s not got a bad cut,” said the man sitting on the 
log. He’ll come to arter a spell, go back to ther fort, 
an’ give an alarm.” 

“ What’s that to me ? ” asked Mordaunt sharply. 
“ We shall be safe. I won’t have him with us because 
some Indian or another will kill him. It’s not my pur- 
pose to murder any one.” 

Ugh ! ” grunted one of the savages, and pointed east- 
ward with his hand. “ Hurry-long-way-go,” he said in 
English. With the Indians in the lead the party turned 
from the river into the forest. 

Helen looked back into the sandy glade and saw Will 
lying as they had left him, unconscious, with his hands 
still bound tightly behind him, and blood running over 
his face. Painful as was the thought of leaving him 
thus, it afforded her relief. She assured herself he had 
not been badly hurt, would recover consciousness before 
long, and, even bound as he was, could make his way 
back to the settlement. 

Her own situation, now that she knew Mordaunt had 
instigated the abduction, did not seem hopeless. Al- 
though dreading Brandt with unspeakable horror, she 
did not in the least fear the Englishman. He was mad 
to carry her off like this into the wilderness, but would 
force her to do nothing. He could not keep her a pris- 
oner long while Jonathan Zane and Wetzel were free to 


204 the last trail. 

take his trail. What were his intentions? Where was 
he taking her ? Such questions as these, however, trou- 
bled Helen more than a little. They brought her 
thoughts back to the Indians leading the way with lithe 
and stealthy step. How had Mordaunt associated him- 
self with these savages ? Then, suddenly, it dawned upon 
jaer that Brandt also might be in this scheme to carry her 
off. She scouted the idea; but it returned. Perhaps 
Hordaunt was only a tool; perhaps he himself was be- 
ing deceived. Helen turned pale at the very thought. 
She had never forgotten the strange, unreadable, yet 
threatening, expression which Brandt had worn the day 
she had refused to walk with him. 

Meanwhile the party made rapid progress through the 
forest. Not a word was spoken, nor did any noise of 
rustling leaves or crackling twigs follow their footsteps. 
The savage in the lead chose the open and less difficult 
ground; he took advantage of glades, mossy places, and 
rocky ridges. This careful choosing was, evidently, to 
avoid noise, and make the trail as difficult to follow as 
possible. Once he stopped suddenly, and listened. 

Helen had a good look at the savage while he was in 
this position. His lean, athletic figure resembled, in its 
half-clothed condition, a bronzed statue; his powerful 
visage was set, changeless like iron. His dark eyes 
seemed to take in all points of the forest before him. 

Whatever had caused the halt was an enigma to all 
save his red-skinned companion. 

The silence of the wood was the silence of the desert. 
No bird chirped; no breath of wind sighed in the tree- 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


205 


tops; even the aspens remained unagitated. Pale yel- 
low leaves sailed slowly, reluctantly down from above. 

But some faint sound, something unusual had jarred 
upon the exquisitely sensitive ears of the leader, for 
M'ith a meaning shake of the head to his followers, he re- 
sumed the march in a direction at right angles with the 
original course. 

This caution, and evident distrust of the forest ahead, 
made Helen think again of Jonathan and Wetzel. Those 
great bordermen might already be on the trail of her cap>- 
tors. The thought thrilled her. Presently she realized, 
after another long, silent march through forest thickets, 
glades, aisles and groves, over rock-strewn ridges, and 
down mossy-stoned ravines, that her strength was begin- 
ning to fail. 

“ I can go no farther with my arms tied in this way,” 
she declared, stopping suddenly. 

“ Ugh ! ” uttered the savage before her, turning 
sharply. He brandished a tomahawk before her eyes. 

Mordaunt hurriedly set free her wrists. His pale face 
flushed a dark, flaming red when she shrank from his 
touch as if he were a viper. 

After they had traveled what seemed to Helen many 
miles, the vigilance of the leaders relaxed. 

On the banks of the willow-skirted stream the Indian 
guide halted them, and proceeded on alone to disappear 
in a green thicket. Presently he reappeared, and mo- 
tioned for them to come on. He led the way over 
smooth, sandy paths between clumps of willows, into a 
heavy growth of alder bushes and prickly thorns, at 
length to emerge upon a beautiful grassy plot enclosed by 


206 


TITE LAST TRAIL. 


green and yellow shrubbery. Above the stream, whieli 
cut the edge of the glade, rose a sloping, wooded ridge, 
with huge rocks projecting here and there out of the 
brown forest. 

Several birch-bark huts could be seen ; then two rough 
bearded men lolling upon the grass, and beyond them a 
group of painted Indians. 

A Avhoop so shrill, so savage, so exultant, that it seem* 
ingly froze her blood, rent the silence. A man, unseen 
before, came crashing through the willows on the side of 
the ridge. He leaped the stream with the spring of a 
wild horse. He was big and broad, with disheveled 
hair, keen, hard face, and wild gray eyea 

Helen’s sight almost failed her-, her head whirled 
dizzily; it was as if her heart had stopped beating and 
was become a cold, dead weight. She recognized in this 
man the one whom she feared most of all — Brandt. 

He cast one glance full at her, the same threatening, 
cool, and evil-meaning look she remembered so "well, and 
then engaged the Indian guide in low conversation. 

Helen sank at the foot of a tree, leaning against it. 
Despite her weariness she had retained some spirit until 
this direful revelation broke her courage. What worse 
could have happened ? Mordaunt had led her, for some 
reason that she could not divine, into the clutches of 
Brandt, into the power of Legget and his outlaws. 

But Helen was not one to remain long dispirited or 
hopeless. As this plot thickened, as every added misfor- 
tune weighed upon her, when just ready to give up to 
despair she remembered the bordermen. Then Colonel 
Zane’s tales of their fearless, implacable pursuit when 



^‘Ugh!” grunted the savage. **Hurry-Iong-way-go/* 
rfie said in English. Page 203 

The East Trail 


4 



THE LAST TRAIL. 


207 

ben^ on rescue or revenge, recurred to her, and fortitude 
retU4-r'‘d. While she had life she would hope. 

I'he advent of the party with their prisoner enlivened 
Legget's gang. A great giant of a man, blond-bearded, 
and handsome in a wild rugged, uncouth way, a man 
Helen instinctively knew to be Legget, slapped Brandt 
or the shoulder. 

“ Damme, Roge, if she ain’t a regular little daisy ! 
ISTever seed such a purty lass in my life.” 

Brandt spoke hurriedly, and Legget laughed. 

All this time Case had been sitting on the grass, say- 
ing nothing, but with his little eyes w^atchful. Mordaunt 
stood near him, his head bowed, his face gloomy. 

“ Say, cap’n, I don’t like this mess,” whispered Case 
to his master. “ They ain’t no crew fer us. I know 
men, fer I’ve sailed the seas, an’ you’re goin’ to get what 
]\fetz calls the double-cross.” 

Mordaunt seemed to arouse from his gloomy reverie. 
He looked at Brandt and Legget "who were now in 
earnest council. Then his eyes wandered toward Helen. 
She beckoned hlin to come to her. 

Why did you bring me here ? ” she asked. 

“ Brandt understood my case. He planned this thing, 
end seemed to be a good friend of mine. He said if I 
once got you out of the settlement, he would give me pro- 
tection until I crossed the border into Canada. There we 
could be married,” replied Mordaunt unsteadily. 

“ Then you meant marriage by me, if I could be made 
to consent ? ” 

“ Of course. I’m not utterly vile,” he replied, with 
face lowered in shame. 


208 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


“ Have you any idea what you’ve done ? ” 

“ Done ? I don’t understand.” 

“ You have ruined yourself, lost your manhood, be- 
come an outlaw, a fugitive, made yourself the worst 
thing on the border — a girl-thief, and all for nothing.” 

“ No, I have you. You are more to me than all.” 

But can’t you see ? You’ve brought me out here for 
Brandt ! ” 

My God ! ” exclaimed Mordaunt. He rose slowly to 
his feet and gazed around like a man suddenly wakened 
from a dream. “ I see it all now ! Miserable, drunken 
wretch that I am ! ” 

Helen saw his face change and lighten as if a cloud of 
darkness had passed away from it. She understood that 
love of liquor had made him a party to this plot. Brandt 
had cunningly worked upon his weakness, proposed a 
daring scheme, and filled his befogged mind with hopes 
that, in a moment of clear-sightedness, he would have 
seen to be vain and impossible. And Helen understood 
also that the sudden shock of surprise, pain, possible 
fury, had sobered Mordaunt, probably for the first time 
in weeks. • 

The Englishman’s face became exceedingly pale. 
Seating himself on a stone near Case, he bowed his head, 
remaining silent and motionless. 

The conference between Legget and Brandt lasted for 
some time. When it ended the latter strode toward the 
motionless figure on the rock. 

Mordaunt, you and Case will do well to follow this 
Indian at once to the river, where you can strike the Fort 
Pitt trail,” said Brandt 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


209 

He spoke arrogantly and authoritatively. His keen, 
hard face, his steely eyes, bespoke the iron will and pur- 
pose of the man. 

Mordaunt rose with cold dignity. If he had been a 
dupe, he was one no longer, as could be plainly read on 
his calm, pale face. The old listlessness, the unsteadi- 
ness had vanished. He wore a manner of extreme 
quietude; but his eyes were like balls of blazing blue 
steel. 

Mr. Brandt, I seem to have done you a service, and 
am no longer required,” he said in a courteous tone. 

Brandt eyed his man ; but judged him wrongly. An 
English gentleman was new to the border-outlaw. 

I swore the girl should be mine,” he hissed. 

“ Doomed men cannot be choosers I ” cried Helen, who 
had heard him. Her dark eyes burned with scorn and 
hatred. 

All the party heard her passionate outburst. Case 
arose as if unconcernedly, and stood by the side of his 
master. Legget and the other two outlaws came up. 
The Indians turned their swarthy faces. 

“ Hah ! ain’t she sassy ? ” cried Legget. 

Brandt looked at Helen, understood the meaning of 
her words, and laughed. But his face paled, and in- 
voluntarily his shifty glance sought the rocks and trees 
upon the ridge. 

You played me from the first ? ” asked Mordaunt 
quietly. 

I did,” replied Brandt. 

You meant nothing of your promise to help 
across the border 2 ” 


210 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


You intended to let me shift for myself out here in 
this wilderness ? ” 

Yes, after this Indian guides you to the river-trail,” 
said Brandt, indicating with his finger the nearest 
savage. 

I get what you frontier men call * the double- 
cross ’ ? ” 

That’s it,” replied Brandt with a hard laugh, in 
which Legget joined. 

A short pause ensued. 

What will you do with the girl 1 ” 

That’s my affair.” 

IMarry her ? ” Mordaunt’s voice was low and quiet 

Ho ! ” cried Brandt. “ She flaunted my love in mv 
face, scorned me! She saw that borderman strike me, 
and by God 1 I’ll get even. I’ll keep her here in the 
v/oods until I’m tired of her, and when her beauty fades 
I’ll turn her over to Legget.” 

Scarcely had the w-ords dropped from his vile lips 
when Mordaunt moved with tigerish agility. He seized 
a knife from the belt of one of the Indians. 

Die ! ” he screamed. 

I Brandt grasped his tomahawk. At the same instant 
the man who had acted as Mordaunt’s guide grasped the 
Englishman from behind. 

Brandt struck ineffectually at the struggling man. 

‘^Fair play!” roared Case, leaping at Mordaunt’s 
second assailant. His long knife sheathed its glittering 
length in the man’s breast. Without even a groan he 
dropped. Clear the decks ! ” Case yelled sweeping 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


211 

round in a *nrcle. All fell back before that whirling 
knife. 

Several of the Indians started as if to raise their 
rifles ; but Leggetts stern command caused them to desist. 

The Englishman and the outlaw now engaged in a 
fearful encounter. The practised, rugged, frontier des- 
perado apparently had found his match in this pale- 
faced, sknder man. His border skill with the hatchet 
seemed offset by Mordaunt’s terrible rage. Brandt 
whirled and swung the weapon as he leaped around his 
antagonist. With his left arm the Englishman sought 
only to protect his head, while with his right he brand- 
ished the knife. \Wiirling here and there they struggled 
across the cleared space, plunging out of sight among the 
willows. During a moment there was a sound as of 
breaking branches; then a dull blow, horrible to hear, 
followed by a low moan, and then deep silence. 


THE LAST TRAUj. 


iil2 


CHAPTEK XVIII. 

BLACK •weight was seemingly lifted from Helen’s 
weary eyelids. The snn shone; the golden forest sur- 
rounded her ; the brook babbled merrily ; but where were 
the struggling, panting men? She noticed presently, 
wher. her -v-ision had grown more clear, that the scene 
differed entirely from the willow-glade where she had 
closed her eyes upon the flight. Then came the knowl- 
edge that she had fainted, and, during the time of un- 
consciousness, been moved. 

She lay upon a mossy mound a few feet higher than 
a swiftly running brook. A magnificent chestnut tree 
spread its leafy branches above her. Directly opposite, 
about an hundred feet away, loomed a gray, ragged, 
moss-stained cliff. She noted this particularly because 
the dense forest encroaching to its very edge excited her 
admiration. Such wonderful coloring seemed unreal. 
Dead gold and bright red foliage flamed everywhere. 

Two Indians stood near by silent, immovable. No 
other of Legget’s band was visible. Heleif watched the 
red men. 

Sinewy, muscular warriors they were, with bodies 
partially painted, and long straight hair, bladk as burnt 
wood, interwoven with bits of white bone, and plaited 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


213 


around waving eagle plumes. At first glance their dark 
faces and dark eyes were expressive of craft, cunning, 
cruelty, courage, all attributes of the savage. 

Yet wild as these savages appeared, Helen did not fear 
them as she did the outlaws. Brandt’s eyes, and Leg- 
get’s, too, when turned on her, emitted a fiame that 
seemed to scorch and shrivel her soul. When the savages 
met her gaze, which was but seldom, she imagined she 
saw intelligence, even pity, in their dusky eyes. Certain 
it was she did not shrink from them as from Brandt. 

Suddenly, with a sensation of relief and joy, she re- 
membered Mordaunt’s terrible onslaught upon Brandt. 
Although she could not recollect the termination of that 
furious struggle, she did recall Brandt’s scream of mortal 
agony, and the death of the other at Case’s hands. This 
meant, whether Brandt was dead or not, that the fight- 
ing strength of her captors had been diminished. Surely 
as the sun had risen that morning, Helen believed Jon- 
athan and Wetz-el lurked on the trail of these renegades 
She prayed that her courage, hope, strength, might be 
continued. 

“ Ugh ! ” exclaimed one of the savages, pointing across 
the open space. A slight swaying of the bushes told that 
some living thing w^as moving among them, and an in- 
stant later the huge frame of the leader came into view. 
The other outlaw, and Case, followed closely. Farther 
down the margin of the thicket the Indians appeared ; 
but without the slightest noise or disturbance of the 
shrubbery. 

It required but a glance to show Helen that Case was 
in high spirits. His repulsive face glowed with satisfac- 


214 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


tion. He carried a bundle, •which Helen saw, ■with a 
sickening sense of horror, was made up of Mordaunt’s 
clothing. Brandt had killed the Englishman. Legget 
also had a package under his arm, which he threw 
down when he reached the chestnut tree, to draw from his 
pocket a long, leather belt, such as travelers use for the 
carrying of valuables. It was evidently heavy, and the 
musical clink which accompanied his motion proclaimed 
tile contents to be gold. 

Brandt appeared next ; he was white and held his hand 
to his breast. There were dark stains on his hunting 
coat, which he removed to expose a shirt blotched with 
red. 

“ You ain’t much hurt, I reckon ? ” inquired Legget 
solicitously. 

“No; but I’m bleeding bad,” replied Brandt coolly. 
He then called an Indian, and went among the willows 
skirting the stream. 

“ So I’m to be in this border crew ? ” asked Case, 
looking up at Legget. 

“ Sure,” replied the big outlaw. “ You’re a handy 
fellar. Case, an’ after I break you into border ways you 
will fit in here tip-top. Now you’d better stick by me. 
When Eb Zane, his brother Jack, an’ Wetzel find out 
this here day’s work, hell will be a cool place compared 
with their whereabouts. You’ll be safe with me, an’ 
this is the only place on the border, I reckon, where you 
can say your life is your o'wn.” 

“ I’m yer mate, cap’n. I’ve sailed with soldiers, 
pirates, sailors, an’ I guess I can navigate this border- 
land. Do we mess here ? You didn’t come far.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


215 

** Wal, I ain’t pertikuler, but I don’t like eatin’ with 
buzzards,” said Legget, with a grin. “ Thet’s why we 
moved a bit.” 

What’s buzzards ? ” 

‘‘ Ho ! ho ! Mebbe you’ll hev ’em eloser’n you’d like, 
some day, if you’d only know it. Buzzards are fine 
birds, most particular birds, as won’t eat nothin’ but 
\flesh, an’ white man or Injun is pie fer ’em.” 

Cap’n, I’ve seed birds as wouldn’t wait till a man 
was dead,” said Case. 

Haw ! haw ! you can’t come no sailer yarns on this 
fellar. Wal, now, we’ve got ther Englishman’s gold. 
One or t’other of us might jest as well hev it all.” 

“ Right yer are, cap’n. Dice, cards, anyways, so long 
as I knows the game.” 

“ Here, Jenks, hand over yer clickers, an’ bring us a 
flat stone,” said Legget, sitting on the moss and empty- 
ing the belt in front of him. Case took a small bag from 
the dark blue jacket that had so lately covered Mor- 
daunt’s shoulders, and poured out its bright contents. 

“ This coat ain’t worth keepin’,” he said, holding it 
up. The garment was rent and slashed, and under the 
left sleeve was a small, blood-stained hole where one of 
Brandt’s blows had fallen. “ Hullo, what’s this ? ” mut- 
tered the sailor, feeling in the pocket of the jacket. 

Blast my timbers, hooray ! ” 

He held up a small, silver-mounted whiskey flask, un- 
screwed the lid, and lifted the vessel to his mouth. 

“ I’m kinder thirsty myself,” suggested Legget. 

Cap’n, a nip an’ no more,” Case replied, holding the 
flask to Legget’s lips. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


216 

The outlaw called Jenks now returned with a flat 
stone which he placed between the two men. The In- 
dians gathered around. With greedy eyes they bent their 
heads over the gamblers, and watched every movement 
with breathless interest. At each click of the dice, or 
clink of gold, they uttered deep exclamations. 

Luck’s again’ ye, cap’n,” said Case, skilfully shak- 
ing the ivory cubes. 

“ Hain’t I got eyes ? ” growled the outlaw. 

Steadily his pile of gold diminished, and darker grew 
his face. 

Cap’n, I’m a bad wind to draw,” Case rejoined, 
drinking again from the flask. His naturally red face 
had become livid, his skin moist, and his eyes wild with 
excitement 

“ Hullo ! If them dice wasn’t Jenks’s, an’ I hadn’t 
played afore with him, I’d swear they’s loaded.” 

‘‘ You ain’t infdnuatin’ nothin’, cap’n ? ” inquired 
Case softly, hesitating with the dice in his hands, his 
evil eyes glinting at Legget. 

“ Ho, you’re fair enough,” growled the leader. It’s 
my tough luck.” 

The game progressed with infrequent runs of fortune 
for the outlaw, and presently every piece of gold lay in 
a shining heap before the sailor. 

“Clean busted!” exclaimed Legget in disgust. 

“ Can’t you find nothin’ more ? ” asked Case. 

The outlaw’s bold eyes wandered here and there until 
they rested upon the prisoner. 

“ I’ll play ther lass against yer pile of gold,” he 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


217 

growled. Best two throws out ’em three. See here, 
she’s as much mine as Brandt’s.” 

“ Make it half my pile an’ I’ll go you.” 

Hary time. Bet, or give me back what yer win,” 
replied Legget gruffly. 

“ She’s a trim little craft, no mistake,” said Case, 
critically surveying Helen. “ All right, cap’n, I’ve 
sportin’ blood, an’ I’ll bet. Yer throw first.” 

Legget won the first cast, and Case the second. With 
deliberation the outlaw shook the dice in his huge fist, 
and rattled them out upon the stone. Hah ! ” he cried 
in delight. He had come within one of the highest score 
possible. Case nonchalantly flipped the little white 
blocks. The Indians crowded forward, their dusky eyes 
shining. 

Legget swore in a terrible voice which re-echoed from 
the stony cliff. The sailor was victorious. The outlaw 
got up, kicked the stone and dice in the brook, and 
walked away from the group. He strode to and fro 
under one of the trees. Gruffly he gave an order to the 
Indians. Several of them began at once to kindle a fire. 
Presently he called Jenks, who was fishing the dice out 
of the brook, and began to converse earnestly with him, 
making fierce gestures and casting lowering glances at 
the sailor. 

Case was too drunk now to see that he had incurred 
the enmity of the outlaw leader. He drank the last of 
the rum, and tossed the silver flask to an Indian, W'ho 
received the present with every show of delight. 

Case then, with the slow uncertain movements of a 
man whose mind is befogged, began to count his gold; 


218 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


but only to gather up a few pieces when they slipped out 
of his trembling hands to roll on the moss. Laboriously^ 
seriously, he kept at it with the doggedness of a drunken 
man. Apparently he had forgotten the others. Failing 
to learn the value of the coins by taking up each in turn, 
he arranged them in several piles, and began to estimate 
his wealth in sections. 

In the meanwhile Helen, who had not failed to take in 
the slightest detail of what was going on, saw that a plot 
was hatching which boded ill to the sailor. Moreover, 
she heard Legget and Jenl^s whispering. 

I kin take him from right here ’aiwixt his eyes,” 
said Jenks softly, and tapped his rifle signiflcantly. 

Wal, go ahead, only I rnther hev it done quieter,” 
answered Legget. “ We’re yet a long ways, near thirty 
miles, from my camp, an’ there’s no tollin’ who’s in then 
woods. But we’ve got ter git rid of ther fresh sailor, an’ 
there’s no surer way.” 

Cautiously cocking his rifle, Jenks deliberately raised 
it to his shoulder. One of the Indian sentinels who stood 
near at hand, sprang forward and struck up the weapon. 
He spoke a single word to Legget, pointed to the woods 
above the clitf, and then resumed his statue-like attitude. 

“ I told yer, Jenks, that it wouldn’t do. The redskin 
scents somethin’ in the woods, an’ ther’s an Injun I never 
seed fooled. We mustn’t make a noise. Take yer knife 
an’ tomahawk, crawl down below the edge o’ the bank an’ 
slip up on him. I’ll give half ther gold fer ther job.” 

J enks buckled his belt more tightly, gave one threaten- 
ing glance at the sailor, and slipped over the bank. The 
bed of the brook lay about six feet below the level of the 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


21J) 

ground. This afforded an opportunity for the outlaw to 
get behind Case without being observed. A moment 
passed. J enks disappeared round a bend of the stream. 
Presently his grizzled head appeared above the bank 
He was immediately behind the sailor; but still some, 
thirty feet away. This ground must be covered quickly 
and noiselessly. The outlaw began to crawl. In his 
right hand he grasped a tomahawk, and between his teeth 
was a long knife. He looked like a huge, yellow bear. 

The savages, with the exception of the sentinel who 
seemed absorbed in the dense thicket on the cliff, sat 
with their knees between their hands, watching the 
impending tragedy. 

Nothing but the merest chance, or some extraordinary 
intervention, could avert Case’s doom. He was gloating 
over his gold. The creeping outlaw made no more noise 
than a snake. Nearer and nearer he came; his sweaty 
face shining in the sun ; his eyes tigerish ; his long body 
slipping silently over the grass. At length he was within 
five feet of the sailor. His knotty hands were dug into 
the sward as he gathered energy for a sudden spring. 

At that very moment Case, with his hand on his knife, 
rose quickly and turned round. 

The outlaw, discovered in the act of leaping, had no 
alternative, and spring he did, like a panther. 

The little sailor stepped out of line with remarkable 
quickness, and as the yellow body whirled past him, his 
knife flashed blue-bright in the sunshine. 

Jenks fell forward, his knife buried in the grass be- 
neath him, and his outstretched hand still holding the 
tomahawk. 


220 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Tryin’ ter double-cross me fer mj gold/’ muttered 
the sailor, sheathing his weapon. He never looked to see 
whether or no his blow had been fatal. “ These border 
fellars might think a man as sails the seas can’t handle a 
knife.” He calmly began gathering up his gold, evi- 
dently indifferent to further attack. 

Helen saw Legget raise his own rifle, but only to have 
it struck aside as had Jenks’s. This time the savage 
whispered earnestly to Legget, who called the other In- 
dians around him. The sentinel’s low throaty tones 
mingled with the soft babbling of the stream. No sooner 
had he ceased speaking than the effect of his words 
showed how serious had been the information, warning 
or advice. The Indians cast furtive glances toward the 
woods. Two of them melted like shadows into the red 
and gold thicket Another stealthily slipped from tree to 
tree until he reached the open ground, then dropped into 
the grass, and was seen no more until his dark body rose 
under the cliff. He stole along the green-stained wall, 
climbed a rugged comer, and vanished amid the dense 
foliage. 

Helen felt that she was almost past discernment or 
thought. The events of the day succeeding one another 
so swiftly, and fraught with panic, had, despite her hope 
and fortitude, reduced her to a helpless condition of 
piteous fear. She understood that the savages scented 
danger, or had, in their mysterious way, received intel- 
ligence such as rendered them wary and watchful. 

“ Come on, now, an’ make no noise,” said Le^et to 
Case. “ Bring the girl, an’ see that she steps light.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


221 
« Where’s 


**Ay, ay, cap’n,” replied the sailor. 

Brandt ? ” 

‘‘ He’ll be cornin’ soon’s his cut stops bleedin’. I 
reckon he’s weak yet.” 

Case gathered up his goods, and, tucking it under his 
arm, grasped Helen’s arm. She was leaning against the 
tree, and when he pulled her, she wrenched herself free, 
rising with difficulty. His disgusting touch and revolt- 
ing face had revived her sensibilities. 

Yer kin begin duty by carryin’ thet,” said Case, 
thrusting the package into Helen’s arms. She let it drop 
without moving a hand. 

I’m runnin’ this ship. Yer belong to me,” hissed 
Case, and then he struck her on the head. Helen uttered 
a low cry of distress, and half-staggered against the tree. 

♦ The sailor picked up the package. This time she took it, 
tremhliug with horror. 

“ Thet’s right. ]^ow, give ther cap’n a kiss,” he 
leered, and jostled against her. 

Helen pushed him violently. With agonized eyes she 
apj^ealed to the Indians. They were engaged tying up 
their packs. Legget looked on with a lazy gi’in. 

Oh ! oh ! ” breathed Helen as Case seized her again. 
She tried to scream, but could not make a sound. The 
evil eyes, the beastly face, transfixed her with terror. 

Case struck her twice, then roughly pulled her toward 
him. 

Half-fainting, unable to move, Helen gazed at the 
heated, bloated face approaching hers. 

When his coarse lips were within a few inches of her 
lips something hot hissed across her brow. Following so 


222 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


closely as to be an accompaniment, rang out with singu- 
lar clearness the sharp crack of a rifle. 

Case’s face, changed. The hot, surging flush faded; 
the expression became shaded, dulled into vacant empti- 
ness; his eyes rolled wildly, then remained fixed, with a 
look of dark shrprise. He stood upright an instant, 
swayed with the regular poise of a falling oak, and then 
plunged backward to the ground. His face, ghastly and 
livid, took on the awful calm of death. 

A very small hole, reddish-blue round the edges, 
dotted the center of his temple. 

Legget stared aghast at the dead sailor; then he pos- 
sessed himself of the bag of gold. 

Saved me ther trouble,” he muttered, giving Case a 
kick. 

The Indians glanced at the little figure, then out into 
the flaming thickets. Each savage sprang behind a tree 
with incredible quickness. Legget saw this, and grasp- 
ing Helen, he quickly led her within cover of the chestnut. 

Brandt appeared with his Indian companion, and both 
leaped to shelter behind a clump of birches near where 
Legget stood. Brandt’s hawk eyes flashed upon the dead 
Jenks and Case. Without asking a question he seemed 
to take in the situation. He stepped over and grasped 
Helen by the arm. 

“ Who killed Case ? ” he asked in a whisper, staring at 
the little blue hole in the sailor’s temple. 

Ho one answered. 

The two Indians who had gone into the woods to the 
right of the stream, now returned. Hardly were they 
. under the trees with their party, when the savage who 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


22S 

had gone off alone arose out of the grass to the left of 
the brook, took it with a flying leap, and darted into their 
midst. He was the sentinel who had knocked up the 
weapons, thereby saving Case’s life twice. He was lithe 
and supple, but not young. His grave, shadowy-lined, 
iron visage showed the traces of time and experience 
All gazed at him as at one whose wisdom was greatt 
than theirs. 

“ Old Horse,” said Brandt in English. Haven’t 
I seen bullet holes like this ? ” 

The Chippew'a bent over Case, and then slowly 
ctraightened his tall form. 

“ Deathwind! ” he replied, answering in the white 
man’s language. 

His Indian companions uttered low, plaintive mur- 
murs, not signifying fear so much as respect. 

Brandt turned as pale as the clean birch-bark on the 
tree near him. The gray flare of his eyes gave out a 
terrible light of certainty and terror. 

“ Legget, you needn’t try to hide your trail,” he 
hissed, and it seemed as if there was a bitter, reckless 
pleasure in these words. 

Then the Chippe\ta glided into the low bushes border- 
ing the creek. Legget followed him, with Brandt lead- 
ing Helen, and the other Indians brought up the rear, 
each one sending wild, savage glances into the dark, 
surrounding forest. 


224 


THE LAST TRALU 


CHAPTER XIX. 

S DEiirsE white fog rose from the river, obscuring all 
objects, when the bordermen rolled out of their snug 
bed of leaves. The air was cool and bracing, faintly 
fragrant with dying foliage and the damp, dewy luxur- 
iance of the ripened season. Wetzel pulled from under 
the protecting ledge a bundle of bark and sticks he had 
put there to keep dry, and built a fire, while Jonathan 
fashioned a cup from a green fruit resembling a gourd, 
filling it at a spring near by. 

Lew, there’s a frosty nip in the water this mornin’,” 
said Jonathan. 

I reckon. It’s gettin’ along into fall now. Any 
clear, still night’ll fetch all the leaves, an’ strip the trees 
bare as burned timber,” answered Wetzel brushing the 
ashes off the strip of meat he had roasted. “ Get a stick, 
an’ help me cook the rest of this chunk of bison. The 
sun’ll be an hour breakin’ up thet mist, an’ we can’t 
clear out till then. Mebbe we won’t have no chance to 
light another fire soon.” 

With these bordermen everything pertaining to their 
lonely lives, from the lighting of a fire to the trailing 
of a redskin, was singularly serious. Xo gladsome song 
ever came from their lips; there was no jollity around 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


225 


their camp-fire. Hunters had their moments of rap- 
turous delight; bordermen knew the peace, the content 
of the wilderness, but their pursuits racked nerve and 
heart. Wetzel had his moments of frenzied joy, but 
they passed with the echo of his vengeful yell. Jona- 
than’s happiness, such as it was, had been to roam the 
forests. That, before a woman’s eyes had dispelled it, 
had been enough, and compensated him for the gloomy, 
bloody phantoms which haunted him. 

The bordermen, having partaken of the frugal break- 
fast, stowed in their spacious pockets all the meat that 
was left, and were ready for the day’s march. They sat 
silent for a time waiting for the mist to lift. It broke 
in places, rolled in huge billows, sailed aloft like great 
white clouds, and again hung tenaciously to the river 
and the plain. Away in the west blue patches of sky 
shone through the rifts, and eastward banks of misty 
vapor reddened beneath the rising sun. Suddenly from 
beneath the silver edge of the rising pall the sun burst 
gleaming gold, disclosing the winding valley with its 
steaming river. 

“ We’ll make up-stream fer Two Islands, an’ cross 
there if so be we’ve reason,” Wetzel had said. 

Through the dev^y dells, avoiding the wet grass and 
bushes, along the dark, damp glades with their yellow 
carpets, under the thinning arches of the trees, down 
the gentle slopes of the ridges, rich with green moss, 
the bordermen glided like gray shadows. The forest 
was yet asleep. A squirrel frisked up an oak and 
barked quarrelsomely at these strange, noiseless visitors. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


220 

A crow cawed from somewhere overhead. These were 
the only sounds disturbing the quiet early hour. 

As the bordermen advanced the woods lightened and 
awoke to life and joy. Birds sang, trilled, warbled, or 
whistled their plaintive songs, peculiar to the dying 
season, and in harmony with the glory of the earth. 
Birds that in earlier seasons would have screeched and 
fought, now sang and fluttered side by side, in fraternal 
parade on their slow pilgrimage to the far south. 

“ Bad time fer us, when the birds are so tame, an’ 
chipper. We can’t put faith in them these days,” said 
Wetzel. “ Seems like Ihey never was wild. I can tell, 
’cept at this season, by the way they whistle an’ act in 
the woods, if there’s been any Injuns along the trails.” 

The greater part of the morning passed thus with the 
bordermen steadily traversing the forest; here, through 
a spare and gloomy wood, blasted by fire, ■worn by age, 
with many a dethroned monarch of bygone times rot- 
ting to punk and duff under the ferns, with many a 
dark, seamed and ragged king still standing, but gray 
and bald of head and almost ready to take his place in 
the forest of the past; there, through a maze of young 
saplings where each ash, maple, hickory and oak addec 
some new and beautiful hue to the riot of color. 

“ I just had a glimpse of the lower island, as we 
passed an opening in the thicket,” said Jonathan. 

“ We ain’t far away,” replied Wetzel. 

The bordermen walked less rapidly in order to pro- 
ceed with more watchfulness. Every rod or two they 
stopped to listen. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


22T 

** You think Legget’s across the river ? asked Jona- 
than. 

“ He was two days back, an’ had his gang with him. 
He’s up to some bad work, but I can’t make out what. 
One thing, I never seen his trail so near Fort Henry.” 

They emerged at length into a more open forest which 
skirted the river. At a point still some distance ahead, 
but plainly in sight, two small islands rose out of the 
water. 

“ Hist ! What’s that ? ” whispered Wetzel, slipping 
his hand in Jonathan’s arm. 

A hundred yards beyond lay a long, dark figure 
stretched at full length under one of the trees close to 
the bank. 

“Looks like a man,” said Jonathan. 

“ You’ve hit the mark. Take a good peep roun’ now. 
Jack, fer we’re comin somewhere near the trail we 
want.” 

Minutes passed while the patient bordermen searched 
the forest with their eyes, seeking out every tree within 
rifle range, or surveyed the level glades, scrutinized the 
hollows, and bent piercing eyes upon the patches of 
ferns. 

“ If there’s a redskin around he ain’t big enough to 
hold a gun,” said Wetzel, moving forward again, yet 
still with that same stealthy step and keen caution. 

Finally they were gazing down upon the object which 
had attracted Wetzel’s attention. 

“Will Sheppard!” cried Jonathan. “Is he dead? 
What’s this mean ? ” 


228 


TH^ LAST TRAIL. 


Wotzel leaned over the prostrate lad, and then quickly 
turned to his companion. 

“ Get some water. Take his cap. !N’o, he ain’t even 
hurt bad, unless he’s got some wound as don’t show.” 

Jonathan returned with the water, and Wetzel bathed 
the bloody face. When the gash on Will’s forehead was 
clean, it told the bordermen much. 

Not an hour old, that blow,” muttered Wetzel. 

“ He’s cornin’ to,” said Jonathan as Will stirred 
uneasily and moaned. Presently the lad opened his 
eyes and sat bolt upright. He looked bewildered for a 
moment, and felt of his head while gazing vaguely at 
the bordermen. Suddenly he cried: 

“I remember! We were captured, brought here, 
and I was struck dovm by that villain Case.” 

“ We ? Who was with you ? ” asked Jonathan slowly. 

“ Helen. We came after flowers and leaves. While 
in full sight of the fort I saw an Indian. We hurried 
back,” he cried, and proceeded with broken, panting 
voice to tell his story. 

Jonathan Zane leaped to his feet with face deathly 
white and eyes blue-black, like burning stars. 

J ack, study the trail while I get the lad acrost the 
river, an’ steered fer home,” said Wetzel, and then he 
asked Will if he could swim. 

“ Yes ; but you will find a canoe there in those wil- 
lows.” 

“ Come, lad, we’ve no time to spare,” added Wetzel, 
sliding down the bank and entering the willows. He 
came out almost immediately with the canoe which he 
launched. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


229 


Will turnod that he might make a parting appeal to 
Jonathan to save Helen; but could not ipeak. The ex- 
pression on the horderman’s face frightened him. 

Motionless and erect Jonathan stood, his arms folded 
and his white, stern face distorted with the agony of re- 
morse, fear, and anguish, which, even as Will gazed, 
froze into an awful, deadly look of fateful purpose. 

Wetzel pushed the canoe off, and paddled with power- 
ful strokes; he left Will on the opposite bank, and re- 
turned as swiftly as he could propel the light craft. 

The borderm^n met each other^s glance, and had little 
need of words. Wetzel’s great shoulders began to sag 
slightly, and his ]\ead lowered as his eyes sought the 
grass; a dark and gloomy shade overcast his features. 
Thus he passed from borderman to Deathwind. The 
sough of the wind overhead among the almost naked 
branches might well have warned Indians and renegades 
that Deathwind was on the trail ! 

“ Brandt’s had a hand in this, an’ the Englishman’s 
a fool ! ” said Wetzel. 

An hour ahead ; oan we come up with them before 
they join Brandt an’ Legget ? ” 

“ We can try, but like as not we’ll fail. Legget’s 
gang is thirteen strong by now. I said it! Somethin’ 
told me — a hard trail, a long trail, an’ our last trail.” 

“ It’s over thirty miles to Legget’s camp. We know 
the woods, an’ every stream, an’ every cover,” hissed 
Jonathan Zane. 

With no further words Wetzel took the trail on the 
run, and so plain was it to his keen eyes that he did 
not relax his steady lope except to stop and listen at 


J30 


TliE LAST TRAIL. 


regular intervals. Jonathan followed with easy swing. 
Through forest /ind meadow, over hill and valley, they 
ran, fleet and tireless. Once, with unerring instinct, 
they abruptlj^ left the broad trail and cut far across a 
wide and rugged ridge to come again upon the tracks of 
the marching band. Then, in open country they reduced 
their speed to a walk. Ahead, in a narrow valley, rose 
a thicket of willows, yellow in the sunlight, and impene- 
trable to human vision. Like huge snakes the border- 
men crept into this copse, over the sand, under the low 
branches, hard on the trail. Finally, in a" light, open 
space, where the sun shone through a network of yellow 
branches and foliage, Wetzel’s hand was laid upon Jona- 
than’s shoulder. 

“ Listen ! Hear that ! ” he whispered. 

Jonathan heard the flapping of wings, and a low 
hissing sound, not unlike that made by a goose. 

“ Buzzards ! ” he said, with a dark, grim smile. 
“ ^ilebbe Brandt has begun our work. Come.” 

Out into the open they crawled to put to flight a 
flock of huge black birds with grisly naked necks, hooked 
beaks, and long yellow claws. Upon the green grass lay 
three half-naked men, ghastly, bloody, in terribly limp 
and lifeless positions. 

“Metzar’s man Smith, Jenks, the outlaw, and Mor- 
daunt ! ” 

Jonathan Zane gazed darkly into the steely, sightless 
eyes of the traitor. D'eath’s awful calm had set the ex- 
pression; but the man’s whole life was there, its better 
part sadly shining forth among the cniel shadows. 

His body was mutilated in a frightful manner. Cuts, 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


231 

stabs, and slashes told the tale of a long encounter, 
brought to an end by the one clean stroke. 

Come here, Lew. You’ve seen men chopped up; 
but look at this dead Englishman,” called Zane. 

Mordaunt lay weltering in a crimson tide. Strangely 
though, his face was uninjured, A black bruise showed 
under his fair hair. The ghost of a smile seemed to 
hover around his set lips, yet almost intangible though 
it was, it showed that at last he had died a man. His 
left shoulder,, side, and arm showed where the brunt of 
Brandt’s attack had fallen. 

“ How’d he ever tight so?” mused Jonathan. 

“ You never can tell,” replied Wetzel. Mebbe he 
killed this other fellar too; but I reckon not. Come, 
we must go slow now, fer Legget is near at hand.” 

Jonathan brought huge, flat stones from the brook, 
and laid them over Mordaunt; then, cautiously he left 
the glade on Wetzel’s trail. 

Five hundred yards farther on Wetzel had ceased 
following the outlaw’s tracks to cross the creek and climb 
a ridge. He was beginning his favorite trick of making 
a wide detour. Jonathan hurried forward feeling he 
was safe from observation. Soon he distinguished the 
tall, brown figure of his comrade gliding ahead from 
tree to tree, from bush to bush. 

“ See them maples an’ chestnuts down thar,” said 
Vetzel when Jonathan had come up, pointing through 
an opening in the foliage. “ They’ve stopped fer some 
reason.” 

On through the forest the bordermen glided. They 
kept near the summit of the ridge, under the best cover 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


232 

they could find, and passed swiftly over this half-circle. 
When beginning once more to draw toward the open 
grove in the valley, they saw a long, irregular cliff, 
densely wooded. They swerved a little, and made for 
this excellent covert. 

They crawled the last hundred yards and never shook 
a fern, moved a leaf, or broke a twig. Having reached 
the brink of the low precipice, they saw the grassy 
meadow below, the straggling trees, the brook, the group 
of Indians crowding round the white men. 

“ See that point of rock thar ? It’s better cover,” 
whispered Wetzel. 

Patiently, with no hurry or excitement, they slowly 
made their difficult way among the rocks and ferns to 
tlie vantage point desired. Taking a position like this 
was one the bordermen strongly favored. They could 
see everywhere in front, and had the thick woods at 
their backs. 

“What are they up to?” whispered Jonathan, as he 
and Wetzel lay close together under a mass of grapevine 
still tenacious of its broad leaves. 

“ Dicin’,” answered Wetzel. “ I can see ’em throw ; 
anyways, nothin’ but bettin’ ever makes redskins act 
like that” 

“ Who’s playin’ ? Where’s Brandt ? ” 

“ I can make out Legget ; see his shaggy head. The 
other must be Case. Brandt ain’t in sight. Hursin’ a 
hurt perhaps. Ah! See thar! Over under the big 
tree as stands dark-like agin the thicket Thet’s an 
Injun, an’ he looks too quiet an’ keen to suit me. We’ll 
have a care of him.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


233 


^‘Must be playin’ fer ICordaunt’s gold.” 

“ Like as not, for -where’d them ruffians get any ’cept 
they stole it” 

“ Aha ! They’re gettin’ up ! See Legget walk away 
shakin’ his big head. He’s mad. Mebbe he’ll be mad- 
der presently,” growled Jonathan. 

“ Case’s left alone. He’s countin’ his winnin’s. 
Jack, look out fer more work took off our hands.” 

By gum I See that Injun knock up a leveled rifle.” 

“ I told you, an’ thet redskin hes his suspicions. He’s 
seen us down along ther ridge. There’s Helen, sittin’ 
behind the biggest tree. Thet Injun guard, ’afore he 
. moved, kept us from seein’ her.” 

Jonathan made no answer to this; but his breath 
literally hissed through his clenched teeth. 

“ Thar goes the other outlaw,” whispered Wetzel, as 
if his comrade could not see. “ It’s all up with Case. 
See the sneak bendin’ down the bank. How, thet’s a 
poor way. It’d better be done from the front, walkin’ 
up natural-like, instead ol tryin’ to cover thet wide 
stretch. Case’ll see him or hear him sure. Thar, he’s 
up now, an’ crawlin’. He’s too slow^ too slow. Aha! I 
knew it — Case turns. Look at the outlaw spring ! Well, 
did you see thet little cuss whip his knife? One more 
lees fer us to quiet. Thet makes four. Jack, an’ mebbe, 
soon, it’ll be five.” 

“ They’re holdin’ a council,” said Jonathan. 

“ I see two Injuns sneakin’ off into the woods, an’ 
here comes thet guard. He’s a keen redskin, Jack, fer 
we did come light through the brush. Mebbe it’d be 
well to stop his scoutin’.” 


234 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


‘^Lew, that villain Case is bully in’ Helen!” cried 
Jonathan. 

“ Sh-sh-h,” whispered Wetzel. 

“ See ! he’s pulled her to her feet. Oh ! He struck 
her! Oh!” 

Jonathan leveled his rifle and would have fired, but 
for the iron grasp on his wrist. 

“ Hev you lost yer senses ? It’s full two hundred 
paces, an’ too far fer your piece,” said Wetzel in a 
whisper. “ An’ it ain’t sense to try from here.” 

Lend me your gun ! Lend me your gun ! ” 

Silently Wetzel handed him the long, black rifle. 

Jonathan raised it, but trembled so violently that the 
barrel wavered like a leaf in the breeze. 

Take it, I can’t cover him,” groaned Jonathan. 

This is new to me. I ain’t myself. God ! Lew, he 
struck her again! Again! He’s tryin’ to kiss her! 
Wetzel, if you’re my friend, kill him ! ” 

“Jack, it’d be better to wait, an’ — ” 

“ I love her,” breathed Jonathan. 

The long, black barrel swept up to a level and stopped. 
White smoke belched from among the green leaves; the 
report rang throughout the forest. 

“Ah! I saw him stop an’ pause,” hissed Jonathan. 
“ He stands, he sways, he falls ! Death for yours, you 
sailor-beast 1 ” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


235 


CHAPTER XX. 

The bordermen watched Legget and his band disap- 
pear into the thicket adjoining the grove. When the 
last dark, lithe form glided out of sight among the yel- 
lowing copse, Jonathan leaped from the low cliff, and 
had hardly reached the ground before Wetzel dashed 
down to the grassy turf. 

Again they followed the outlaw’s trail, darker-faced, 
fiercer-visaged than ever, with cocked, tightly-gripped 
rifles thrust well before them, and light feet that scarcely 
brushed the leaves. 

Wetzel halted after a long tramp up and down the 
ridges, and surveyed with keen intent the lay of the 
land ahead. 

“ Sooner or later we’ll hear from that redskin as 
discovered us a ways back,” whispered he. “ I wish 
we might get a crack at him afore he hinders us bad. 
I ain’t seen many keener Injuns. It’s lucky we fixed 
ther arrow-shootin’ Shawnee. We’d never hev beat thet 
combination. An’ fer all of thet I’m worrin’ some 
about the goin’ ahead.” 

“ Ambush ? ” Jonathan asked. 

“ Like as not. Legget’ll send thet Injun back, an’ 
BQebbe more’n him. Jack, see them little footprints? 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


236 

They’re Helen’s. Look how she’s draggin’ along. Al- 
most tuckered out. Legget can’t travel many more miles 
to-day. He’ll make a stand somewheres, an’ lose all his 
redskins afore he gives up the lass.” 

“ I’ll never live through to-night with her in that 
gang. She’ll be saved, or dead, before the stars pale 
in the light of the moon.” 

I reckon we’re nigh the end for some of us. It’ll 
be moonlight an hour arter dusk, an’ now it’s only the 
middle of the arternoon; we’ve time enough fer any- 
thin’. Kow, Jack, let’s not tackle the trail straight. 
We’ll split, an’ go round to head ’em off. See thet dead 
white oak standin’ high over thar ? ” 

Jonathan looked out between the spreading branches 
of a beech, and saw, far over a low meadow, luxuriant 
with grasses and rushes and bright with sparkling ponds 
and streams, a dense wood out of which towered a bare, 
bleached tree-top. 

You slip around along the right side of this meader, 
an’ I’ll take the left side. Go slow, an’ hev yer eyes 
open. We’ll meet under thet big dead tree. I allow we 
can see it from anywhere around. We’ll leave the trail 
here, an’ take it up farther on. Legget’s goin’ straight 
for his camp; he ain’t losin’ an inch. He wants to get 
in thet rocky hole of his’n.” 

Wetzel stepped off the trail, glided into the woods, 
and vanished. 

Jonathan turned to the right, traversed the summit 
of the ridge, softly traveled dovm its slope, and, after 
crossing a slow, eddying, quiet stream, gained the edge 
of the forest on that side of the swamp. A fringe of 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


237 

briars and prickly thorns bordered this wood affording 
an excellent cover. On the right the land rose rather 
abruptly. He saw that by walking up a few paces he 
could command a view of the entire swamp, as well as 
the ridge beyond, which contained Wetzel, and, probably, 
the outlaw and his band. 

Eemembering his comrade’s admonition, Jonathan 
curbed his unusual impatience and moved slowly. The 
wind swayed the tree-tops, and rustled the fallen leaves. 
Birds sang as if thinking the warm, soft weather was 
summer come again. Squirrels dropped heavy nuts that 
cracked on the limbs, or fell with a thud to the ground, 
and they scampered over the dry earth, scratching up the 
leaves as they barked and scolded. Crows cawed clamor- 
ously after a hawk that had darted under the tree-tops 
to escape them; deer loped swiftly up the hill, and a 
lordly elk rose from a wallow in the grassy swamp, 
crashing into the thicket. 

When two-thirds around this oval plain, which was 
a mile long and perhaps one fourth as wide, Jonathan 
ascended the hill to make a survey. The grass waved 
bright brown and golden in the sunshine, swished in 
the wind, and swept like a choppy sea to the opposite 
ridge. The hill was not densely wooded. In many 
places the red-brown foliage opened upon irregular 
patches, some black, as if having been burned over, 
others showing the yellow and purple colors of the low 
thickets and the gray barren stones. 

Suddenly Jonathan saw something darken one of 
these sunlit plots. It might have been a deer. He 
studied the rolling, rounded tree-tops, the narrow strips 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


23S 

between the black trunks, and the open places that were 
clear in the sunshine. He had nearly come to believe 
he had seen a small animal or bird flit across the white 
of the sky far in the background, when he distinctly 
saw dark figures stealing along past a green-gray rock, 
only to disappear under colored banks of foliage. 
Presently, lower down, they reappeared and crossed an 
open patch of yellow fern. Jonathan counted them. 
Two were rather yellow in color, the hue of buckskin; 
another, slight of stature as compared with the first, and 
light gray by contrast. Then six black, slender, glid- 
ing forms crossed the space. Jonathan then lost sight 
of them, and did not get another glimpse. He knew 
them to be Legget and his band. The slight figure was 
Helen. 

Jonathan broke into a run, completed the circle around 
the swamp, and slowed into a walk when approaching 
the big dead tree where he was to wait for Wetzel. 

Several rods beyond the lowland he came to a wood 
of white oaks, all giants rugged and old, with scarcely; 
a sapling intermingled with them. Although he could 
not see the objective point, he knew from his accurate 
sense of distance that he was near it. As he entered 
the wood he swept its whole length and width with his 
eyes, he darted forward twenty paces to halt suddenly 
behind a tree. He knew full well that a sharply mov- 
ing object was more difficult to see in the woods, than 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


231 > 


jne stationary. Again he ran, fleet and light, a few 
paces ahead to take up a position as before behind a tree. 
Thus he traversed the forest. On the other side he 
found the dead oak of which Wetzel had spoken. 

Its trunk was hollow. Jonathan squeezed himself 
into the blackened space, with his head in a favorable 
position behind a projecting knot, where he could see 
what might occur near at hand. 

He waited for wdiat seemed to him a long while, dur 
ing which he neither saw nor heard anything, and then, 
suddenly, the report of a rifle rang out. A single, pierc- 
ing scream followed. Hardly had the echo ceased when 
three hollow reports, distinctly different in tone- from the 
first, could be heard from the same direction. In quick 
succession short, fierce yells attended rather than suc- 
ceeded, the reports. 

Jonathan stepped out of the hiding-place, cocked his 
rifle, and fixed a sharp eye on the ridge before him 
whence those startling cries had come. The first rifle- 
shot, unlike any other in its short, spiteful, stinging 
quality, was unmistakably Wetzel’s. Zane had heard it, 
followed many times, as now, by the wild death-cry of a 
savage. The other reports were of Indian guns, and the 
yells were the clamoring, exultant cries of Indians in 
pursuit. 

Far down where the open forest met the gloom of the 
thickets, a brown figure flashed across the yellow ground. 


THE LAST TRAIIi 


240 

Darting among the trees, across the glades, it moved 
swiftly that Jonathan knew it was Wetzel. In another 
instant a chorus of yelps resounded from the foliage, and 
three savages burst through the thicket almost at right 
angles with the fleeing borderman, running to intercept 
him. The borderman did not swerv'e from his course; 
but came on straight toward the dead tree, with the 
wonderful fleetness that so often had served him well. 

Even in that moment Jonathan thought of what des* 
perate chances his comrade had taken. The trick was 
plain. Wetzel had, most likely, shot the dangerous scout, 
and, taking to his heels, raced past the others, trusting to 
his speed and their poor marksmanship to escape with a 
whole skin. 

When within a hundred yards of the oak WetzeTs 
strength apparently gave out. His speed deserted him; 
he ran awkwardly, and limped. The savages burst out 
into full cry like a pack of hungry wolves. They had 
already emptied their rifles at him, and now, supposing 
one of the shots had taken effect, redoubled their efforts, 
making the forest ring with their short, savage yells. 
One gaunt, dark-bodied Indian with a long, powerful, 
springy stride easily distanced his companions, and, evi- 
dently sure of gaining the coveted scalp of the border- 
man, rapidly closed the gap between them as he swung 
aloft his tomahawk, yelling the war-cry. 

The sight on J onathan’s rifle had several times covered 


THE LAST trail. 241 

this savage’s dark face ; but when he was about to press 
the tri^er Wetzel’s fleeting form, also in line with the 
savage, made it extremely hazardous to take a shot. 

Jonathan stepped from his place of concealment, and 
let out a yell that pealed high over the cries of the 
savages. 

Wetzel suddenly dropped flat on the ground. 

With a whipping crack of Jonathan’s rifle, the big 
Indian plunged forward on his face. 

— . The other Indians, not fifty yards away, stopped 
aghast at the fate of their comrade, and were about to 
seek the shelter of trees when, with his terrible yell, 
Wetzel sprang up and charged upon them. He had left 
his rifle where he fell ; but his tomahawk glittered as he 
ran. The lameness had been a trick, for now he covered 
ground with a swiftness which caused his former progress 
to seem slow. 

The Indians, matured and seasoned warriors though 
they were, gave but one glance at this huge, brown figure 
bearing down upon them like a fiend, and, uttering the 
Indian name of Deathmnd, wavered, broke and ran. 

One, not so fleet as his companion, Wetzel overtook 
and cut down with a single stroke. The other gained an 
hundred-yard start in the slight interval of Wetzel’s at- 
tack, and, spurred on by a pealing, awful cry in the rear* 
sped swiftly in and out among the trees until he was lost 
to view. 


242 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


' Wetzel scalped the two dead savages, and, after 
turning to regain his rifle, joined Jonathan at the dead 
oak. 

Jack, you can never +eil how things is cornin’ out 
Thet rpdskin I allowed might worry us a bit, fooled me 
as slick as you ever saw, an’ I hed to shoot him. 
Knowin’ it was a case of rimnin’, I just cut fer this oak, 
drew the redskins’ fire, an’ hed ’em arter me quicker ’n 
you’d say Jack Robinson. I was hopin’ you’d be here; 
but wasn’t sure till I’d seen your rifle. Then I kinder 
got a kink in my leg jest to coax the brutes on.” 

Three more quiet,” said Jonathan Zane. “ What 
now ? ” 

We’ve headed Legget, an’ we’ll keep nosin’ him off 
his course. Already he’s lookin’ fer a safe campin’ place 
for the night.” 

There is none in these woods, fer him.” 

“ We didn’t plan this gettin’ between him an’ hif 
camp ; but couldn’t be better fixed. A mile farther alort,' 
the ridge, is a campin’ place, with a spring in a little 
dell close under a big stone, an’ well wooded. Legget’i, 
headin’ straight fer it. M^ith a couple of Injuns guardin’ 
thet spot, he’ll think he’s safe. But I know the place, 
an’ can crawl to thet rock the darkest night thet ever 
an’ never crack a stick.” 

« * « » * * 


THE LAST TRAIL. 243 

In the gray of the deepening twilight Jonathan Zane 
sat alone. An owl hooted dismally in the dark woods be- 
yond the thicket where the borderman crouched waiting 
for Wetzel. His listening ear detected a soft rustling 
sound like the play of a mole under the leaves. A branch 
trembled and swung hack; a soft footstep followed, and 
Wetzel came into the retreat. 

Well ? ” asked Jonathan impatiently, as Wetzel de- 
liberately sat down and laid his rifle across his knees. 

“ Easy, Jack, easy. WeVe an hour to wait.” 

The time IVe already waited has been long for me.” 

They’re thar,” said Wetzel grimly. 

How far from here ? ” 

A half hour’s slow crawl.’^ 

Close by? ” hissed Jonathan. 

“ Too near fer you to get excited.” 

“ Let us go ; it’s as light now as in the gray of 
oiornin’.” 

^Mornin’ would be best. Injuns get sleepy along ta 
wards day. I’ve ever found thet time the best. Bu’ 
we’ll be lucky if we ketch these redskins asleep.” 

“ Lew, I can’t w^ait here all night. I won’t leave hei 
longer with that renegade. I’ve got to free or kill her.’^ 

“ Most likely it’ll be the last,” said Wetzel simply. 

Well, so be it then,” and the borderman hung his 
head. 

Eou needn’t worry none, ’bout Helen. I jest had ^ 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


244 

good look at her, not half an hour back. She^s fagged 
out; but full of spunk jet. I seen thet when Brandt 
went near her. Legget’s got his hands full jest now with 
the redskins. He’s hevin’ trouble keepin’ them on this 
slow trail. I ain’t sajin’ they’re skeered; but they’re 
mighty restless.” 

“ Will you take the chance now ? ” 

I reckon you needn’t hev asked thet.” 

Tell me the lay of the land.” 

Wal, if we get to this rock I spoke ’bout, we’ll 
be right over ’em. It’s ten feet high, an’ we can jump 
straight amongst ’em. Most likely two or three ’ll be 
guardin’ the openin’ which is a little ways to the right. 
Ther’s a big tree, the only one, low down by the spring. 
Helen’s under it, half-sittin’, half-leanin’ against the 
roots. When I first looked, her hands were free; but I 
saw Brandt bind her feet. An’ he had to get an Injun 
to help him, fer she kicked like a spirited little filly. 
There’s moss under the tree an’ there’s where the red- 
skins ’ll lay down to rest.” 

I’ve got that ; now out with your plan.” 

Wal, I calkilate it’s this. The moon ’ll be up in 
about an hour. We’ll crawl as we’ve never crawled 
afore, because Helen’s life depends as much on our not 
makin’ a noise, as it does on fightin’ when the time 
comes. If they hear us afore we’re ready to shoot, the 
lass ’ll be tomahawked quicker ’n lightnin’. If they 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


245 

don’t suspicion us, when the right moment comes you 
shoot Brandt, yell louder’n you ever did afore, leap 
amongst ’em, an’ cut down the first Injun thet’s near you 
on your way to Helen. Swing her over your arm, an’ 
dig into the woods.” 

Well ? ” asked Jonathan when Wetzel finished. 

“ That’s all,” the borderman replied grimly. 

“ An’ leave you all alone to fight Legget an’ the rest of 
’em?” 

“ I reckon.” 

“ Hot to he thought of.” 

Ther’s no other way.” 

There must be ! Let me think ; I can’t, I’m not my- 
self.” 

“Ho other way,” repeated Wetzel curtly. 

Jonathan’s broad hand fastened on Wetzel’s shoulder 
and wheeled him around. 

“ Have I ever left you alone ? ” 

This ’s dilferent, and Wetzel turned away again. 
His voice was cold and hard. 

“ How is it different ? WeWe had the same thing to 
do, almost, more than once.” 

“ We’ve never had as bad a bunch to handle as Leg- 
get’s. They’re lookin’ fer us, an’ will be hard to 
beat.” 

“ That’s no reason.” 

“ We never had to save a girl one of us loved.” 


246 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Jonathan was silent. 

“ I said this’d be my last trail,” continued Wetzel 
“ I felt it, an’ I know it’ll be yours.” 

<< Why ? ” 

“ If you get away with the girl she’ll keep you at 
home, an’ it’ll be well. If you don’t succeed, you’ll die 
tryin’, so it’s sure your last trail.” 

Wetzel’s deep, cold voice rang with truth. 

Lew, I can’t run away an’ leave you to fight those 
devils alone, after all these years we’ve been together, I 
can’t.” 

No other chance to save the lass.” 

Jonathan quivered with the force of his emotion. 
His black eyes glittered; his hands grasped at nothing. 
Once more he was between love and duty. Again he 
fought over the old battle, hut this time it left him 
weak. 

“ You love the big-eyed lass, don’t you ? ” asked 
Wetzel, turning with softened face and voice. 

“ I have gone mad! ” cried Jonathan tortured by the 
simple question of his friend. Those big, dear, wonder- 
ful eyes he loved so well, looked at him now from the 
gloom of the thicket. The old, beautiful, soft glow, the 
tender light, was there, and more, a beseeching prayer to 
save her. 

Jonathan bowed his head ashamed to let his friend see 
the tears that dimmed his eyes. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


247 

‘‘ J ack, we’ve follered the trail fer years together. Al- 
ways you’ve been true an’ staunch. This is our last, but 
whatever bides we’ll break up Legget’s band to-night, an’ 
the border ’ll be cleared, mebbe, for always. At least 
his race is run. Let tbet content you. Our time ’d have 
to come, sooner or later, so why not now ? I know how it 
is, that you w^ant to stick by me ; but the lass draws you 
to her. I understand, an’ want you to save her. Mebbe 
you never dreamed it; but I can tell jest how you feel. 
All the tremblin’, an’ softness, an’ sweetness, an’ delight 
you’ve got for thet girl, is no mystery to Lew Wet- 
zel.” 

You loved a lass ? ” 

Wetzel bowed his head, as perhaps he had never before 
in all his life.” 

Betty — always,” he answered softly. 

“ My sister! ” exclaimed Jonathan, and then his hand 
closed hard on his comrade’s, his mind going back to 
many things, strange in the past, but now explained. 
Wetzel had revealed his secret. 

“ An’ it’s been all my life, since she wasn’t higher ’n 
my knee. There was a time when I might hev been 
closer to you than I am now. But I was a mad an’ bloody 
Injun hater, so I never let her know till I seen it was 
too late. Wal, wal, no more of me. I only told it fer 
you.” 

Jonathan was silent. 


248 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


An’ now to oome back where we left off,” continued 
Wezelj!^' Let’s take a more hopeful look at this cornin’ 
fight /^Sure I said it was my last trail, but mebbe it’s 
not. You can never tell. Feelin’ as we do, I imagine 
they’ve no odds on us. Never in my life did I say to 
you, least of all to any one else, what I was goin’ to do ; 
but I’ll tell it now. If I land uninjured amongst thet 
bunch. I’ll kill them all.” 

The giant borderman’s low voice hissed, and stung. 
His eyes glittered with unearthly fire. His face was cold 
and gray. He spread out his brawny arms and clenched 
his huge fists, making the muscles of his broad shoulders 
roll and bulge. 

I hate the thought. Lew, I hate the thought. Ain’t 
there no other way ? ” 

No other way.” 

“ I’ll do it, Lew, because I’d do the same for you ; 
because I have to, because I love her; but God! it 
hurts.” 

“ Thet’s right,” answered Wetzel, his deep voice soft- 
ening until it was singularly low and rich. “ I’m glad 
you’ve come to it. An’ sure it hurts. I want you to 
feel so at leavin’ me to go it alone. If we both get out 
alive, I’ll come many times to see you an’ Helen. If you 
live an’ I don’t, think of me sometimes, think of the 
trails we’ve crossed together. When the fall comes with 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


249 

its soft, cool air, an’ smoky momin’s an’ starry nights, 
when the wind’s sad among the bare branches, an’ the 
leaves drop down, remember they’re failin’ on my 
grave.” 

Twilight darkened into gloom; the red tinge in the 
west changed to opal light ; through the trees over a dark 
ridge a rim of silver glinted and moved. 

The moon had risen ; the hour was come. 

The bordermen tightened their belts, relaced their leg- 
[.pngs, tied their hunting coats, loosened their hatchets, 
looked to the priming of their rifles, and were ready. 

Wetzel walked twenty paces and turned. His face was 
white in the moonlight; his dark eyes softened into a 
look of love as he gripped his comrade’s outstretched 
hand. 

Then he dropped flat on the ground, carefully saw to 
the position of his rifle, and began to creep. Jonathan 
kept close at his heels. 

Slowly but steadily they crawled, minute after minute. 
The hazel-nut bushes above them had not yet shed their 
leaves; the ground was clean and hard, and the course 
fatefully perfect for their deadly purpose. 

A slight rustling of their buckskin garments sounded 
like the rustling of leaves in a faint breeze. 

The moon came out above the trees and still Wetzel 
advanced softly, steadily, surely. 


250 


TH : LAST TRAIL. 


The owl, lonely sentinel of that wood, hooted dismally. 
Even his night eyes, which made the darkness seem clear 
as day, missed those gliding figures. Even he, sure 
guardian of the wilderness, failed the savages. 

Jonathan felt soft moss beneath him; he was now in 
the woods under the trees. The thicket had been 
passed. 

Wetzel’s moccasin pressed softly against Jonathan’s 
head. The first signal! * 

Jonathan crawled forward, and slightly raised him- 
self. 

iHe was on a rock. The trees were thick and gloomy. 
Below, the little hollow was almost in the wan moon- 
beams. Dark figures lay close together. Two savages 
paced noiselessly to and fro. A slight form rolled in a 
blanket lay against a tree. 

Jonathan felt his arm gently squeezed. 

The second signal ! 

Slowly he thrust forward his rifle, and raised it in 
unison with Wetzel’s. Slowly he rose to his feet as if 
the same muscles guided them both. 

Over his head a twig snapped. In the darkness he had; 
not seen a low branch. 

The Indian guards stopped suddenly, and became 
motionless as stone. 

They had heard ; but too late. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


251 


With the blended roar of the rifles both dropped, life- 
less. 

Almost under the spouting flame and white cloud of 
smoke, Jonathan leaped behind Wetzel, over the bank. 
His yells were mingled with Wetzel’s vengeful cry. 
Like leaping shadows the bordermen were upon their 
foes. 

An Indian sprang up, raised a weapon, and fell be- 
neath Jonathan’s savage blow, to rise no more. Over his 
prostrate body the borderman bounded. A dark, nimble 
form darted upon the captive. He swung high a blade 
that shone like silver in the moonlight. His shrill war- 
cry or death rang out with Helen’s scream of despair. 
Even as he swung back her head with one hand in her 
long hair, his arm descended ; but it fell upon the bor- 
derman’s body. Jonathan and the Indian rolled upon the 
moss. There was a terrific struggle, a whirling blade, a 
dull blow which silenced the yell, and the borderman rose 
alone. 

He lifted Helen as if she were a child, leaped the 
brook, and plunged into the thicket. 

The noise of the fearful conflict he left behind, 
swelled high and hideously on the night air. Above the 
shrill cries of the Indians, and the furious yells of Leg- 
get, rose the mad, booming roar of Wetzel. No rifle 
cracked ; but sodden blows, the clash of steel, the thresh- 
ing of struggling men, told of the dreadful strife. 


252 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Jonathan gained the woods, sped through the moonlit 
glades, and far on under light and shadow. 

The shrill cries ceased; only the hoarse yells and the 
mad roar could be heard. Gradually these also died 
away, and the forest was stilh 


VlUai LAST T&AlLk 




CHAPTER XXL 

Xext morning, 'when the mist was breaking and roll- 
ing away under the warm rays of the Indian-summer 
sun, J onathan Zane beached his canoe on the steep bank 
before Fort Henry. A pioneer, attracted by the border* 
man’s halloo, ran to the bluff and sounded the alarm with 
shrill whoops. Among the hurrying, brown-clad figures 
that answered this summons, was Colonel Zane. 

“ It’s Jack, kurnel, an’ he’s got her ! ” cried one. 

The doughty colonel gained the bluff to see his brother 
climbing the bank with a white-faced girl in his arms. 

Well ? ” he asked, looking darkly at Jonathan. 
Nothing kindly or genial was visible in his manner now ; 
rather grim and forbidding he seemed, thus showing he 
had the same blood in his veins as the borderman. 

Lend a hand,” said Jonathan. As far as I know 
she’s not hurt.” 

They carried Helen toward Colonel lane’s cabin. 
Many women of the settlement saw them as they passed, 
and looked gravely at one another, but none spoke. Tlfiit 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


«54 

return of an abducted girl was by no means a stranj^f- 
^event. 

Somebody run for Sheppard,” ordered Colonal 
Zane, as they entered his cabin. 

Betty, who was in the sitting-room, sprang up and 
cried: “ Oh! Ebl Eb! Don’t say she’s ” 

No, no, Betts, she’s all right. Where’s my wife I 
Ah ! Bess, here, get to work.” 

The Colonel left Helen in the tender, skilful hands of 
bis wife and sister, and followed Jonathan into the 
kitchen. 

I was just ready for breakfast when I heard some 
one yell,” said he. “ Come, Jack, eat something.” 

They ate in silence. Erom the sitting-room came ex- 
cited whispers, a joyous cry from Betty, and a faint 
voice. Then heavy, hurrying footsteps, followed bj 
Sheppard’s words of thanksgiving. 

“ Where’s Wetzel ? ” began Colonel Zane. 

The borderman shook his head gloomily. 

Where did you leave him ? ” 

We jumped Legget’s bunch last night, when the 
moon was about an hour high. I reckon about fifteen 
miles northeast. I got away with the lass.” 

“ Ah ! Left Lew fighting ? ” 

The borderman answered the question with bowed 
head. 

You got off well. Not a hurt that I can see, anc 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


255 

Jiors than lucky to save Helen. Well, Jack, what do yoi» 
ihink about Lew 2 

I’m goin’ back,” replied Jonathan. 

‘‘ISTo! no!’" 

The door opened to admit Mrs. Zane. She looke® 
bright and cheerful. “ Hello, J ack ; glad you’re home. 
Helen’s all right, only faint from hunger and over exer 
tion. I want something for her to eat — ^well! you men 
didn’t leave much.” 

Colonel Zane went into the sitting-room. Sheppard 
sat beside the couch where Helen lay, white and wan. 
Betty and !N’ell were looking on with their hearts in their 
eyes. Silas Zane was there, and his wife, with several 
women neighbors. 

Betty, go fetch Jack in here,” whispered the colonel 
in his sister’s ear. ** Drag him, if you have to,” he added 
fiercely. 

The young woman left the room, to reappear directly 
with her brother. He came in reluctantly. 

As the stem-faced borderman crossed the threshold a 
smile, beautiful to see, dawned in Helen’s eyes. 

I’m glad to see you’re cornin’ round,” said J onathan, 
but he spoke dully as if his mind was on other things. 

She’s a little flighty ; but a night’s sleep will cure 
that,” cried Mrs. Zane from the kitchen. 

What do you think ? ” interrupted the colonel. 

Jack’s not satisfied to get back with Helen unharmed. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


256 

and a whole skin himself; but he’s going on the trail 
again.” 

“ No, Jack, no, no! ” cried Betty. 

What’s that I hear ? ” asked Mrs. Zane as she came 
in. “ Jack’s going out again ? Well, all I want to say 
is that he’s as mad as a March hare.” 

“ Jonathan, look here,” said Silas seriously. “ Can’t 
you stay home now ? ” 

Jack, listen,” whispered Betty, going close to .him. 
“ Not one of us ever expected to see either you or Helen 
again, and oh ! we are so happy. Do not go away again. 
You are a man; you do not know, you cannot under- 
stand all a woman feels. She mu^t sit and wait, and 
hope, and pray for the safe return of husband or 
brother or sweetheart. The long days! Oh, the long 
sleepless, nights, with the wail of the wind in the pines, 
and the’rain on the roof! It is maddening. Do not 
leave us ! Do not leave me ! Do not leave Helen ! Say 
you will not, Jack.” 

To these entreaties the borderman remained silent 
He stood leaning on his rifle, a tall, dark, strangely sad 
and stern man. 

Helen, beg him to stay ! ” implored Betty. 

Colonel 2^ne took Helen’s hand, and stroked it- 
“ Yes,” he said, “ you ask him, lass. I’m sure you can 
persuade him to stay.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 257 

Helen raised her head. “ Is Brandt dead ? she 
Vfhispered faintly. 

Still the borderman failed to speak, but his silence wag 
not an affirmative. 

“ You said you loved me,” she cried wildly. ** You 
said you loved me, yet you didn’t kill that monster ! ” 

The borderman moving quickly like a startled Indian^ 
went out of the door. 

****** 

Once more Jonathan Zane entered the gloomy, quiet 
aisles of the forest with his soft, tireless tread hardly 
stirring the leaves. 

It was late in the afternoon when he had long left Two 
Islands behind, and arrived at the scene of Mordaunt’s 
death. Satisfied with the distance he had tr^ersed, he 
crawled into a thicket to rest. 

Daybreak found him again on the trail. He made a 
short cut over the ridges and by the time the mist had 
lifted from the valley he was within stalking distance of 
the glade. He approached this in the familiar, slow, 
cautious manner, and halted behind the big rock from 
which he and Wetzel had leaped. The wood Vas 
solemnly quiet. No twittering of birds could be heard. 
The only sign of life was a gaunt timber-wolf slinking 
away amid the foliage. Under the big tree the saraga 
who had been killed as he would have murdered Helen, 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


258 

lay a crumpled mass "where he had fallen. Two dead 
Indians were in the center of the glade, and on the other 
side were three more bloody, lifeless forms. Wetzel was 
not there, nor Legget, nor Brandt. 

“ I reckoned so,’’ muttered Jonathan as he studied the 
scene. 

The grass had been trampled, the trees barked, the 
bushes crushed aside. 

Jonathan went out of the glade a short distance, and, 
circling it, began to look for Wetzel’s trail. He found 
it, and near the light footprints of his comrade were the 
great, broad moccasin tracks of the outlaw. Burther 
searching disclosed the fact that Brandt must oave 
traveled in line with the others. 

With the certainty that Wetzel had killed three of the 
Indians, and, in some wonderful manner characteristic 
of him, routed the outlaw’s of whom he was now in pur- 
suit. Jonathan’s smoldering emotion burst forth into 
full flame. Love for his old comrade, deadly hatred of 
the outlaws, and passionate thirst for their blood, rioted 
in his heart 

Like a lynx scenting its quarry, the borderman started 
on the trail, tireless and unswervable. The traces left by 
the fleeing outlaws and their pursuer were plain to Jon- 
athan. It was not necessary for him to stop. Legget 
and Brandt, seeking to escape the implacable Hemesis, 
were traveling with all possible speed, regardless of the 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


259 

broad trail such hurried movements left behind. They 
knew full well it would be difficult to throw this wolf off 
the scent; understood that if any attempt was made to 
ambush the trail, they must cope with woodcraft keener 
than an Indian’s. Flying in desperation, they hoped to 
reach the rocky retreat, where, like foxes in their bur- 
rows, they believed themselves safe. 

When the sun sloped low toward the western horizon, 
lengthening Jonathan’s shadow he slackened pace. He 
was entering the rocky, rugged country which marked the 
approach to the distant Alleghenies. From the top of a 
ridge he took his bearings, deciding that he was within a 
few miles of Legget’s hiding-place. 

i\.t the foot of this ridge, where a murmuring brook 
sped softly over its bed, he halted. Here a hiumber of 
horses had forded the brook. They were iron-shod, 
which indicated almost to a certainty, that they were 
stolen horses, and in the hands of Indians. 

Jonathan saw where the trail of the steeds was merged 
into that of the outlaws. He suspected that the Indians 
and Legget had held a short council. As he advanced 
the borderman found only the faintest impression of 
Wetzel’s trail. Legget and Brandt no longer left any 
token of their course. They were riding the horses. 

All the borderman cared to know was if Wetzel still 
pursued. He passed on swiftly up a hill, through a wood 
of birches where the trail showed on a line of broken 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


269 

ferns, then out upon a low ridge where patches of grass 
grew sparsely. Here he saw in this last ground no in- 
dication of his comrade’s trail; nothing was to be seen 
save the imprints of the horses’ hoofs. Jonathan halted 
behind the nearest underbrush. This sudden move on the 

I 

part of Wetzel was token that, suspecting an ambush, he 
had made a detour somewhere, probably in the grove of 
birches. 

All the while his eyes searched the long, barren reach 
ahead. Ho thicket, fallen tree, or splintered rocks, such 
as Indians utilized for an ambush, could be seen. In- 
dians always sought the densely matted underbrush, a 
windfall, or rocky retreat and there awaited a pursuer. 
It was one of the borderman’s tricks of woodcraft that 
he could recognize such places. 

Far beyond the sandy ridge Jonathan came to a slop- 
ing, wooded hillside, upon which were scattered big rocks, 
some mossy and lichen-covered, and one, a giant boulder, 
with a crown of ferns and laurel gracing its flat sur- 
face. It was such a place as the savages would select 
for ambush. He knew, however, that if an Indian had 
hidden himself there Wetzel would have discovered him. 
When opposite the rock Jonathan saw a broken fern 
hanging over the edge. The heavy trail of the horses ran 
close beside it. 

Then with that thoroughness of search which made the 
borderman what he was, Jonathan leaped upon the rock. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


261 

There, lying in the midst of the ferns, lay an Indian 
with sullen, somber face set in the repose of death. In 
his side was a small bullet hole. 

Jonathan examined the savage’s rifle. It had been 
discharged. The rock, the broken fern, the dead Indian, 
the discharged rifle, told the story of that woodland 
tragedy. 

Wetzel had discovered the ambush. Leaving the trail, 
he had tricked the redskin into firing, then getting a 
glimpse of the Indian’s red body through the sights of 
his fatal weapon, the deed was done. 

With greater caution Jonathan advanced once more. 
Not far beyond the rock he found Wetzel’s trail. The 
afternoon was drawing to a close. He could not travel 
much farther, yet he kept on hoping to overtake his com- 
rade before darkness set in. From time to time he 
whistled; but got no answering signal. 

When the tracks of the horses were nearly hidden by 
the gathering dusk, Jonathan decided to halt for the 
night. He whistled one more note, louder and clearer, 
and awaited the result with strained ears. The deep 
silence of the wilderness prevailed, suddenly to be broken 
by a faint, far-away, melancholy call of the hermit- 
thrush. It was the answering signal the borderman had 
hoped to hear. 

Not many moments elapsed before he heard another 
call, low, and near at hand, to which he replied. The 


262 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


bushes parted noiselessly on his left, and the tall form 
of Wetzel appeared silently out of the gloom. 

The two gripped hands in silence. 

“ Hev you any meat ? Wetzel asked, and as Jonathan 
handed him his knapsack, he continued, I was kinder 
lookin’ fer you. Did you get out all right with the lass ? ** 

“ Nary a scratch.” 

The giant borderman grunted his satisfaction. 

“How’d Legget an’ Brandt get away?” asked Jona» 
than. 

Cut an’ run like scared bucks. Never got a hand 
on either of ’em.” 

How many redskins did they meet back here a 
spell?” 

They was seven ; but now there are only six, an’ all 
snug in Legget’s place by this time.” 

I reckon we’re near his den.” 

We’re not far off.” 

Night soon closing down upon the bordermen found 
them wrapped in slumber, as if no deadly foes were near 
at hand. The soft night wind sighed dismally among the 
bare trees. A few bright stars twinkled overhead. In 
the darkness of the forest the bordermen were at hornet 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


263 


CHAPTER XXIL 

% Legget'S rude log cabin a fire burned low, ligbteiJ- 
the forms of the two border outlaws, and showing 
in the background the dark forms of Indians sitting 
motionless on the floor. Their dusky eyes emitted a bale- 
ful glint, seemingly a reflection of their savage souls 
caught by the firelight. Legget wore a look of ferocity 
and sullm fear strangely blended. Brandt^s face was 
hard and haggard, his lips set, his gray eyes smoldering. 

“ Safe ” he hissed. Safe you say ? You’ll see that 
it’s the same now as on the other night, when those bor- 
der-tigers jumped us and we ran like cowards. I’d have 
fought it out there, but for you.” 

“ Thet maii Wetzel is ravin’ mad, I tell you,” growled 
Legget. I r< ckon I’ve stood my ground enough to know 
I ain’t no cowt rd. But this fellar’s crazy. He hed the 
Injuns slashin’ each other like a pack of wolves round 
a buck.” 

“ He’s no movp mad than you or I,” declared Brandt. 

I know all ah xit him. His moaning in the woods. 


254 


THE LAST TRAIL, 


and wild yells are only tricks. He knows the Indian 
nature, and he makes their very superstition and reli- 
gion aid him in his fighting. I told you what he’d do. 
Didn’t I beg you to kill Zane when we had a chance? 
Wetzel would never have taken our trail alone. How 
they’ve beat me out of the girl, and as sure as death 
will round us up here.” 

“ You don’t believe they’ll rush us here ? ” asked Leg- 
get. 

They’re too keen to take foolish chances, but some- 
thing will be done we don’t expect. Zane was a prisoner 
here; he had a good look at this place, and you can 
gamble he’ll remember.” 

Zane must hev gone back to Fort Henry with the 
girl.” 

“ Mark what I say, he’ll come back ! ” 

“ Wal, we kin hold this place against all the men Eb 
Zane may put out.” 

He won’t send a man,” snapped Brandt passionately. 

Remember this, Legget, we’re not to fight against 
soldiers, settlers, or huntei’s ; but bordermen — under- 
stand — bordermen! Such as have been developed right 
here on this bloody frontier, and nowhere else on earth. 
They haven’t fear in them. Both are fleet as deer in 
the woods. They can’t be seen or trailed. They can 
snuff a candle with a rifle ball in the dark. I’ve seen 
.Zane do it three times at a hundred yards. And Wetzel I 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


2«5 


He wouldn’t waste powder on practising. They can’t be 
ambushed, or shaken oiF a track ; they take the scent like 
buzzards, and have eyes like eagles.” 

We kin slip out of here under cover of night,” sug- 
gested Legget. 

“ Well, what then ? That’s all they want. They’d 
be on us again by sunset. !?^o! we’ve got to stand our 
ground and fight. We’ll stay as long as we can; but 
they’ll rout us out somehow, be sure of that. And if 
one of us pokes, his nose out to the daylight, it will be 
shot off.” 

“ You’re sore, an’ you’ve lost your nerve,” said Leg- 
get harshly. Sore at me ’cause I got sweet on the girl. 
Ho! ho!” 

Brandt shot a glance at Legget which boded no good. 
His strong hands clenched in an action betraying the 
reckless rage in his heart. Then he carefully removed 
his hunting coat, and examined his wound. He retied 
the bandage, muttering gloomily, “ I’m so weak as to be 
light-headed. If this cut opens again, it’s all day for 
me.” 

After that the inmates of the hut were quiet. The 
huge outlaw bowed his shaggy head for a while, and then 
threw himself on a pile of hemlock boughs. Brandt was 
not long in seeking rest. Soon both were fast asleep. 
Two of the savages passed out with cat-like step, leaving 
the door open. The fire had burned low, leaving a bed 


266 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


of dead coals. Outside in the dark a waterfall splasb^sd 
softly. 

The darkest houi’ came, and passed, and paled slowly 
to gray. Birds began to twitter. Through the door of 
the cabin the light of day streamed in. The two Indiai 
sentinels were building a fire on the stone hearth. Om 
by one the other savages got up, stretched and yawned, 
and began the business of the day by cooking their break- 
fast. It was, apparently, every one for himself. 

Legget arose, shook himself like a shaggy dog, and 
was starting for the door when one of the sentinels 
stopped him. Brandt who was awake saw the action, 
and smiled. 

In a few moments Indians and outlaws were eating 
for breakfast roasted strips of venison, with corn meal 
baked brown, which served as bread. It was a somber, 
silent group. 

Presently the shrill neigh of a horse startled them. 
Following it, the whip-like crack of a rifle stung and 
split the morning air. Hard on this came an Indian’s 
long, wailing death-cry. 

“ Hah J ” exclaimed Brandt. 

Legged remained immovable. One of the savages 
p^^reu out through a little port-hole at the rear of the 
iMit. The others continued their meal. 

‘‘ Whistler’ll come in presently to tell us who’s doin* 
<bet snootin’,^ said Legget. He’s a keen Injun.” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


267 

He’s not very keen now,” replied Brandt, with bitter 
certainty. He’s what the settlers call a good Indian, 
which is to say, dead ! ” 

Legget scowled at his lieutenant. 

I’ll go an’ see,” he replied and seized his rifle. 

He opened the door, when another rifle-shot rang 
out. A bullet whistled in the air, grazing the outlaw’s 
shoulder, and imbedded itself in the heavy door-frame. 

Legget leaped back with a curse. 

Close shave ! ” said Brandt coolly. “ That bullet 
came, probably, straight down from the top of the cliff. 
Jack Zane’s there. Wetzel is lower down watching the 
outlet. We’re trapped.” 

“ Trapped,” shouted Legget with an angry leer. “ We 
kin live here longer’n the bordermen kin. We’ve meat on 
hand, an’ a good spring in the back of the hut. Ilow’er 
we trapped ? ” 

We won’t live twenty-four hours,” declared Brandt. 

« Why?” 

Because we’ll be routed out. They’ll find some way 
to do it, and we’ll never have another chance to fight in 
the open, as we had the other night when they came after 
the girl. From now on there’ll be no sleep, no time to 
eat, the nameless fear of an unseen foe who can’t be 
shaken off, marching by night, hiding and starving by 

day, until! I’d rather be back in Fort Henry at 

Colonel Zane’s mercy.” 


268 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Le^t turned a ghastly face toward Brandt. ** Lo©k 
a here. You’re takin’ a lot of glee in say in’ these things, 
I believe you’ve lost your nerve, or the lettin’ out of a 
little blood hes made you wobbly. We’ve Injuns here, 
an’ ought to be a match fer two men.” 

Brandt gazed at him with a derisive smile. 

“ We kin go out an’ fight these fellers,” continued 
Legget. We might try their own game, hidin’ an’ 
crawlin’ through the woods.” 

“ We two would have to go it alone. If you still had 
your trusty, trained band of experienced Indians, I’d 
sa^ that would be just the thing. But Ashbow and the 
Chippewa are dead ; so are the others. This bunch of 
redskins here may do to steal a few horses; but they 
don’t amount to much against Zane and Wetzel. Besides, 
they’ll cut and run presently, for they’re scared and sus- 
picious. Look at the chief; ask him.” 

The savage Brandt indicated was a big Indian just 
coming into manhood. His swarthy face still retained 
some of the frankness and simplicity of youth. 

“ Chief,” said Legget in the Indian fongue. “ The 
great pale-face hunter, Deathwind, lies hid in the woods.” 

“ Last night the Shawnee heard the wind of death 
mourn through the trees,” replied the chief gloomily. 

“ See ! What did I say ? ” cried Brandt. The sup- 
erstitious fool I He would begin his death-chant almost 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


269 

without a fight. We can't count on the redskins. What’s 
to be done ? ” 

The outlaw threw himself upon the bed of boughs, and 
Legget sat down with his rifle across his knees. The 
Indians maintained the same stoical composure. The mo- 
ments dragged bj into hours. 

Ugh ! ” suddenly exclaimed the Indian at the end of 
the hut. 

Legget ran to him, and acting upon a motion of the 
Indian’s hand, looked out through the little port-hole. 

The sun was high. He saw four of the horses graz- 
ing by the brook; then gazed scrutinizingly from the 
steep waterfall, along the green-stained cliff to the dark 
narrow cleft in the rocks. Here was the only outlet 
from the inclosure. He failed to discover anything 
unusual. 

The Indian grunted again, and pointed upward. 

Smoke ! There’s smoke risin’ above the trees,” cried 
Legget. “ Brandt, come here. What’s thet mean ? ” 

Brandt hurried, looked out. His face paled, his lower 
jaw protruded, quivered, and then was shut hard. He 
walked away, put his foot on a bench and began to lace 
his leggings. 

“ Wal ? ” demanded Le^et. 

‘‘ The game’s up ! Get ready to run and be shot at,” 
cried Brandt with a hiss of passion. 


270 


THE LAST TRATii. 


Almost as he spoke the roof of the hut shook under 
a heavy blow. 

“ What’s thet ? ” No one replied. Legget glanced 
from Brandt’s cold determined face to the uneasy sav- 
ages. They were restless, and handling their weapons. 
The chief strode across the floor with stealthy steps. 

“ Thud!” 

A repetition of the first blow caused the Indians to 
jump, and drew a fierce imprecation from their outlaw 
leader. 

Brandt eyed him narrowly. “ It’s coming to you, 
Legget. They are shooting arrows of fire into the roof 
from the cliff. Zane is doin’ that. He can make a bow 
and draw one too. We’re to be burned out. Now, damn 
you ! take your medicine ! I wanted you to kill him when 
you had the chance. If you had done so we’d never 
have come to this. Burned out, do you get that ? Burned 
out!” 

“ Fire ! ” exclaimed Legget. He sat down as if the 
strength had left his legs. 

The Indians circled around the room like caged tigers. 

“ Ugh ! ” The chief suddenly reached up and touched 
the birch-bark roof of the hut. 

His action brought the attention of all to a faint 
crackling of burning w^ood. 

“ It’s caught all right,” cried Brandt in a voice which 
cut the air like a blow from a knife. 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


271 


I’ll not be smoked like a ham, fer all these tricky 
bordermen,” roared Legget. Drawing his knife he 
hacked at the heavy buckskin hinges of the rude door. 
When it dropped free he measured it against the open 
space. Sheathing the blade, he grasped his rifle in his 
right hand and swung the door on his left arm. Heavy 
though it was he carried it easily. The roughly hewn 
planks afforded a capital shield for all except the lower 
portion of his legs and feet. He went out of the hut 
with the screen of wood between himself and the cliff, 
calling for the Indians to follow. They gathered behind 
him, breathing hard, clutching their weapons, and seem- 
ingly almost crazed by excitement. 

Brandt, with no thought of joining this foolhardy at- 
tempt to escape from the inclosure, ran to the little port- 
hole that he might see the outcome. Legget and his five 
redskins were running toward the narrow outlet in the 
gorge. The awkward and futile efforts of the Indians to 
remain behind the shield were almost pitiful. They 
crowded each other for favorable positions, but, struggle 
as they might, one or two were always exposed to the cliff. 
Suddenly one, pushed to the rear, stopped simultaneously 
with the crack of a rifle, threw up his arms and fell. 
Another report, .differing from the first, rang out A 
savage staggered from behind the speeding group with 
his hand at his side. Then he dropped into the brook. 


272 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Evidently Legget grasped this as a golden opportunity 
for he threw aside the heavy shield and sprang forward, 
closely followed by his red-skinned allies. Immediately 
they came near the cliff, where the trail ran into the 
gorge, a violent shaking of the dry ferns overhead made 
manifest the activity of some heavy body, lllext instant 
a huge yellow figure, not unlike a leaping catamount, 
plunged down with a roar so terrible as to sound in- 
human. Legget, Indians, and newcomer rolled along 
the declivity toward the brook in an indistinguishable 
mass. 

Two of the savages shook themselves free, and bounded 
to their feet nimbly as cats, but Legget and the other 
redskin became engaged in a terrific combat. It was a 
wrestling whirl, so fierce and rapid as to render blows 
ineffectual. The leaves scattered as if in a whirlwind. 
Legget’s fury must have been awful, to judge from his 
hoarse screams; the Indians^ fear maddening, as could 
be told by their shrieks. The two savages ran wildly 
alwut the combatants, one trying to level a rifle, the 
other to get in a blow with a tomahawk. But the move- 
ments of the trio, locked in deadly embrace, were too 
swift. 

Above all the noise of the contest rose that strange 
thrilling roar. 

Wetzel ! muttered Brandt, with a chill, creeping 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


273 


wlmdder as he gazed upon the strife with fascinated eyes. 

“ Bang ! ” Again from the cliff came that heavy bel- 
low. 

The savage with the rifle shrunk back as if stung, and' 
without a cry fell limply in a heap. His companion, 
uttering a frightened cry, fled from the glen. 

The struggle seemed too deadly, too terrible, to last 
long. The Indian and the outlaw were at a disadvantage. 
They could not strike freely. The whirling conflict 
grew more fearful. During one second the huge, brown, 
bearish figure of Legget appeared on top ; then the dark- 
bodied, half-naked savage, spotted like a hyena, and 
finally the lithe, powerful tiger-shape of the border- 
man. 

Finally Legget wrenched himself free at the same in- 
stant that the bloody-stained Indian rolled, writhing in 
convulsions, away from Wetzel. The outlaw dashed 
with desperate speed up the trail, and disappeared in the 
gorge. The borderman sped toward the cliff, leaped 
.Dn a projecting ledge, grasped an overhanging branch, 
and pulled himself up. He was out of sight almost as 
quickly as Legget. ^ 

“ After his rifle,” Brandt muttered, and then realized' 
that he had watched the encounter without any idea of 
aiding his comrade. He consoled himself with the knowl- 
edge that such an attempt would have been useless. From 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


274 : 

the moment the borderman sprang upon Legget, until he 
scaled the cliif, his movements had been incredibly swift. 
It would have been hardly possible to cover him with a 
rifle, and the outlaw grimly understood that he needed 
to be careful of that charge in his weapon. 

By Heavens, Wetzel’s a wonder ! ” cried Brandt in 
unwilling admiration. “ How he’ll go after Legget and 
the redskin, while Zane stays here to get me. Well, 
he’ll succeed, most likely, but I’ll never quit. What’s 
this?” 

He felt something slippery and waim on his hand, 
[t w'as blood running from the inside of his sleeve. A 
slight pain made itself felt in his side. Upon examina- 
tion he found, to his dismay, that his wound had re- 
opened. With a desperate curse he pulled a linsey jacket 
off a peg, tore it into strips, and bound up the injury 
as tightly as possible. 

Then he grasped his rifle, and watched the cliff and 
the gorge with flaring eyes. Suddenly he found it diffi-' 
cult to breathe ; his throat was parched, his eyes smarted. 
Then the odor of wood-smoke brought him to a realiza- 
tion that the cabin was burning. It was only now he 
understood that the room was full of blue clouds. He 
sank into the corner, a wolf at bay. 

Hot many moments passed before the outlaw under- 
stood that he could not withstand the increasing heat and 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


275 

stifling vapor of the room. Pieces of burning birch 
dropped from the roof. The crackling above grew into a 
steady roar. 

“ I’ve got to run for it,” he gasped. Death awaited 
him outside the door, but that was more acceptable thav, 
death by fire. Yet to face the final moment when he 
desired with all his soul to live, required almost super- 
human courage. Sweating, panting, he glared around. 

God ! Is there no other way ! ” he cried in agony. At 
this moment he saw an ax on the floor. 

Seizing it he attacked the wall of the cabin. Beyond 
this partition was a hut which had been used for a stable. 
Half a dozen strokes of the ax opened a hole large 
enough for him to pass through. With his rifle, and a 
piece of venison which hung near, he literally fell through 
the hole, W’here he lay choking, almost fainting. After a 
time he crawled across the floor to a door. Outside was 
a dense laurel thicket, into which he crawled. 

The crackling and roaring of the fire grew louder. 
He could see the column of yellow and black smoke. 
Once fairly under way, the flames rapidly consumed the 
pitch-pine logs. In an hour Legget’s cabins were a heap 
of ashes. 

The afternoon waned. Brandt lay watchful, slowly 
recovering his strength. He felt secure under this covet, 
and only prayed for night to come. As the shadows bf ' 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


276 

gan to creep down the sides of the cliffs, he indulged i» 
hope. If he could slip out in the dark he had a g®od 
chance to elude the borderman. In the passionate desire 
to escape, he had forgotten his fatalistic words to Leg- 
get. He reasoned that he could not be trailed until day- 
light; that a long night’s march would put him far in 
the lead, and there was just a possibility of Zane’s having 
gone away with Wetzel. 

When darkness had set in he slipped out of the covert 
and began his journey for life. Within a few yards he 
reached the brook. He had only to follow its course in 
order to find the outlet to the glen. Moreover, its rush 
and gurgle over the stones would drown any slight noise 
he might make. 

Slowly, patiently he crawled, stopping every moment 
to listen. What a long time he was in coming to the 
mossy stones over which the brook dashed through the 
gorge ! But he reached them at last. Here if anywhere 
Zane would wait for him. 

With teeth clenched desperately, and an inward tight- 
ening of his chest, for at any moment he expected to see 
the red flame of a rifle, he slipped cautiously over the 
mossy stones. Binally his hands touched the dewy grass, 
and a breath of cool wind fanned his hot cheek. He had 
succeeded in reaching the open. Crawling some rods 
farther on, he lay still, a while and listened. The solemn 


THE LAST TRAIL. 277 

wilderness calm was unbroken. Rising, he peered about. 
Behind loomed the black hill with its narrow cleft just 
discernible. Facing the north star, he went silently out 
into the darkness. 


>.78 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


CHAPTER XXIII. 

At daylight Jonathan Zane rolled from his snug bed 
of leaves under the side of a log, and with the flint, 
steel and punk he always carried, began building a fire. 
His actions were far from being hurried. They were de- 
liberate, and seemed strange on the part of a man whose- 
stern face suggested some dark business to be done. 
When his little fire had been made, he warmed some- 
slices of venison which had already been cooked, and 
thus satisfied his hunger. Carefully extinguishing the 
fire and looking to the priming of his rifle, he was ready 
for the trail. 

He stood near the edge of the cliff from which he 
could command a view of the glen. The black smolder- 
ing ruins of the burned cabins defaced a picturesque- 
scene. 

Brandt must have lit out last night, for I could have 
seen even a rabbit hidin^ in that laurel patch. He’s gone, 
an’ it’s what I wanted,” thought the borderman. 

He made his way slowly around the edge of the in- 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


279 

closure and clambered down on the splintered cliff at 
the end of the gorge. A wide, well-trodden trail ex- 
tended into the forest below. Jonathan gave scarcely 
a glance to the beaten path before him; but bent keen 
eyes to the north, and carefully scrutinized the mossy 
stones along the brook. Upon a little sand bar running 
out from the bank he found the light imprint of a hand. 

“ It was a black night. He’d have to travel by the 
stars, an’ north’s the only safe direction for him,” mut- 
tered the borderman. 

On the bank above he found oblong indentations in 
the grass, barely perceptible, but owing to the peculiar 
position of the blades of grass, easy for him to follow. 

He’d better have learned to walk light as an Injun 
before he took to outlawin’,” said the borderman in dis- 
dain. Then he returned to the gorge and entered the 
inclosure. At the foot of the little rise of ground where 
Wetzel had leaped upon his quarry, was one of the dead 
Indians. Another lay partly submerged in the brown 
water. 

Jonathan carried the weapons of the savages to a dry 
place under a projecting ledge in the cliff. Passing on 
down the glen, he stopped a moment where the cabins 
had stood. Hot a log remained. The horses, with the 
exception of three, were tethered in the copse of laurel. 
He recognized two of Colonel Zane’s thoroughbreds, and 
Betty’s pony. He cut them loose, positive they would not 


280 


THE LAST TRAIL 


stray from the glen, and might easily be secured at an- 
other time. 

He set out upon the trail of Brandt with a long, swing- 
ing stride. To him the outcome of that pursuit was but 
a question of time. The consciousness of superior en- 
durance, speed, and craft spoke in his every movement. 
The consciousness of being in right, a factor se 
powerfully potent for victory, spoke in the intrepid front 
with which he faced the north. 

It was a gloomy November day. Gray, steely clouds 
drifted overhead. The wind wailed through the hare 
trees, sending dead leaves scurrying and rustling over 
the brown earth. 

The borderman advanced with a step that covered 
glade and glen, forest and field, with astonishing swift- 
ness. Long since he had seen that Brandt was bolding 
to the lowland. This did not strike him as singular 
until for the third time he found the trail lead a short 
distance up the side of a ridge, then descend, seeking 
a level. With this discovery came the certainty "(hat 
Brandt’s pace was lessening. He had set out witk a 
hunter’s stride, hut it had begun to shorten. The outlaw 
had shirked the hills, and shifted from his northern 
course. Why ? The man was weakening ; he could not 
climb; he was favoring a wound. 

What seemed more serious for the outlaw, was the 
fact that he had left a good trail, and entered the low, 


THE LAST TRAIL. 281 

wild land nortli of the Ohio. Even the Indians seldom 
penetrated this tangled belt of laurel and thorn. Owing 
to the dry season the swamps were shallow, which was 
another factor against Brandt. Ko doubt be bad hoped 
to hide his trail by wading, and here it showed up like 
the track of a bison. 

Jonathan kept steadily on, knowing the farther Brandt 
penetrated into this wilderness the worse off he would 
be. The outlaw dared not take to the river until below 
Fort Henry, which was distant many a weary mile. The 
trail grew more ragged as the afternoon wore away. 
When twilight rendered further tracking impossible, the 
borderman built a fire in a sheltered place, ate his supper, 
and went to sleep. 

In the dim, gTay morning light he awoke, fancying 
he had been startled by a distant rifle shot. He roasted 
his strips of venison carefully, and ate with a hungry 
hunter’s appreciation, yet sparingly, as befitted a border- 
man who knew how to keep up his strength upon a long 
trail. 

Hardly had he traveled a mile when Brandt’s foot- 
prints covered another’s. ITothing surprised the border- 
man ; but he had expected this least of all. A hasty ex- 
amination convinced him that Legget and his Indian 
ally had fled this way with Wetzel in pursuit. 

The morning passed slowly. The borderman kept to 
the trail like a hound. The afternoon wore on. Over 


282 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


sandy reaches thick with willows, and through long, 
matted, dried-out cranberry marshes and copses of prickly 
thorn, the borderman hung to his purpose. His legs 
seemed never to lose their spring, but his chest began 
to heave, his head bent, and his face shone with sweat. 

At dusk he tired. Crawling into a dry thicket, he 
ate his scanty meal and fell asleep. When he awoke it 
was gray daylight. He was wet and chilled. Again he 
kindled a fire, and sat over it while cooking breakfast 

Suddenly he was brought to his feet by the sound of a 
rifle shot; then two others followed in rapid succession, 
Thougn they were faint, and far away to the west, Jona- 
than recognized the first, which could have come only 
from Wetzel’s weapon, had he felt reasonably certain of 
the third, which was Brandt’s. There might have been, 
he reflected grimly, a good reason for Legget’s not shoot- 
ing. However, he knew that Wetzel had rounded up the 
fugitives, and again he set out. 

It was another dismal day, such a one as would be 
fitting for a dark deed of border justice. A cold, drizzly 
rain blew from the northwest. Jonathan wrapped a piece 
of oil-skin around his rifle-breech, and faced the downfall. 
Soon he was wet to the skin. He kept on, but his free 
stride had shortened. Even upon his iron muscles this 
soggy, sticky ground had begun to tell. 

The morning passed but the storm did not; the air 
grew colder and darker. The short afternoon would af- 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


283 


ford him little time, especially as the rain and running 
rills of water were ohlifprnting the trail. 

In the midst of a dense forest of great cottonwoods 
and sycamores he came upon a little pond, hidden among 
the bushes, and shrouded in a windy, wet gloom. Jona- 
than recognized the place. He had been there in wdnter 
hunting bears when all the swampland was locked by 
ice. 

The borderman searched along the banks for a time, 
then went back to the trail, patiently following it. 
Around the pond it led to the side of a great, shelving 
rock. He saw an Indian leaning against this, and was 
about to throw forward his rifle when the strange, fixed, 
position of the savage told of the tragedy. A wound ex- 
tended from his shoulder to his waist. Near by on the 
ground lay Legget. He too was dead. His gigantic 
frame weltered in blood. His big feet were wide apart ; 
his arms spread, and from the middle of his chest pro- 
truded the haft of a knife. 

The level space surrounding the bodies showed evi- 
dence of a desperate struggle. A bush had been rolled 
upon and crushed by heavy bodies. On the ground was 
blood as on the stones and leaves. The blade Le^et 
still clutched was red, and the wrist of the hand which 
held it showed a dark, discolored band, where it had felt 
the relentless grasp of Wetzel’s steel grip. The dead 
man’s buckskin coat was cut into ribbons. On his broad 


284 


THE LAST TRAII^ 


face a demoniacal expression had set in eternal rigidity; 
the animal terror of death was frozen in his wide star- 
ing eyes. The outlaw chief had died as he had lived, 
desperately. 

Jonathan ’found WetzePs trail leading directly toward 
the river, and soon understood that the borderman was 
on the track of Brandt. The borderman had surprised 
the worn, starved, sleepy fugitives in the gray, misty 
dawn. The Indian, doubtless, was the sentinel, and had 
fallen asleep at his post never to awaken. Legget and 
Brandt must have discharged their weapons ineffectually. 
Zane could not understand why his comrade had missed 
Brandt at a few rods’ distance. Perhaps he had wounded 
the younger outlaw; but certainly he had escaped while 
Wetzel had closed in on Legget to meet the hardest battle 
of his career. 

While going over his version of the attack, Jonathan 
followed Brandt’s trail, as had Wetzel, to where it ended 
in the river. The old borderman had continued on down 
stream along the sandy shore. The outlaw remained in 
the water to hide his trail. 

At one point Wetzel turned north. This move puzzled 
Jonathan, and did also the peculiar tracks. It was more 
perplexing because not far below Zane discovered where 
the fugitive had left the water to get around a ledge of 
rock. 

The trail was approaching Port Henry. Jonathan 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


285 

kept on down the river until arriving at the head of the 
island which laj opposite the settlement. Still no traces 
of Wetzel! Here Zane lost Brandt’s trail completely. 
He waded the first channel, which was shallow and nar- 
row, and hurried across the island. Walking out upon 
a sand-bar he signaled with his well-known Indian cry. 
Almost immediately came an answering shout. 

While waiting he glanced at the sand, and there, point- 
ing straight toward the fort, he found Brandt’s strag- 
gling trail! 


286 


THE LAST TRAUfc 


CHAPTER XXIV. 

Colonel Zane paced to and fro on the porch. His 
genial smile had not returned ; he was grave and somber. 
Information had just reached him that Jonathan had 
hailed from the island, and that one of the settlers had 
started across the river in a boat. 

Betty came out accompanied by Mrs. Zane 

“ What’s this I hear ? ” asked Betty, flashing an 
anxious glance toward the river. “ Has Jack really 
come in ? ” 

“ Yes,” replied the colonel, pointing to a throng of 
men on the river-bank. 

“ Xow there’ll be trouble,” said !Mrs. Zane nervously. 

I wish with all my heart Brandt had not thrown him- 
self, as he called it, on your mercy.” 

So do I,” declared Colonel Zane. 

“ What will be done ? ” she asked. “ There ! that’s 
Jack! Silas has hold of his arm.” 

“ He’s lame. He has been hurt,” replied her hus- 
band. 

A little procession of men and boys followed the bor- 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


287 


derman -^/rom the river, and from the cabins appeared 
the sett^jgrg their wives. But there was no excite* 
ment 'except among the children. The crowd filed into 
the Tjoloners yard behind Jonathan and Silas. 

^Clolonel Zane silently greeted his brother with an 
iron grip of the hand which was more expressive than 
words. No unusual sight was it to see the borderman 
wet, ragged, bloody, worn with long marches, hollow- 
eyed and gloomy ; yet he had never before presented such 
an appearance at Fort Henry. Betty ran forward, and, 
though she clasped his arm, shrank back. There was 
that in the borderman’s presence to cause fear. 

“ Wetzel ? ” Jonathan cried sharply. 

The colonel raised both hands, palms open, and re- 
turned his brother’s keen glance. Then he spoke. “ Lew 
hasn’t come in. He chased Brandt across the river. 
That’s all I know.” 

“ Brandt’s here, then ? ” hissed the borderman. 

The colonel nodded gloomily. 

Where?” 

“ In the long room over the fort. I locked him in 
there.” 

“ Why did he come here ? ” 

Colonel Zane shrugged his shoulders. “ It’s beyond 
me. He said he’d rather place himself in my hands 
than be run down by Wetzel or you. He didn’t crawl; 
I’ll say that for him. He just said, ‘ I’m your prisoner.' 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


288 

He’s in pretty bad shape; barked over the temp'H lame 
in one foot, cut under the arm, starved and worn oi.^^” 

“ Take me to him,” said the borderman, and he 
his rifle on a bench. 

“ Very well. Come along,” replied the colonel, 
frowned at those following them. “ Here, you women, 
clear out ! ” But they did not obey him. 

It was a sober-faced group that marched in through 
the big stockade gate, under the huge bulging front of 
the fort, and up the rough stairway. Colonel Zane re- 
moved a heavy bar from before a door, and thrust it open 
with his foot. The long guardroom brilliantly lighted 
by sunshine coming through the port-holes, was empty 
save for a ragged man lying on a bench. 

The noise aroused him ; he sat up, and then slowly 
labored to his feet. It was the same flaring, wild-eyed 
Brandt, only fiercer and more haggard. He wore a 
bloody bandage roimd his head. When he saw the bor- 
derman he backed, with involuntary, instinctive action, 
against the wall, yet showed no fear. 

In the dark glance Jonathan shot at Brandt shone a 
pitiless implacability; no scorn, nor hate, nor passion, 
but something which, had it not been so terrible, might 
have been justice. 

** I think Wetzel was hurt in the fight with Le^et,” 
said Jonathan deliberately, an’ ask iff. you know ? ” 

** I believe he was,” replied Brandt readily. “ I was 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


289 


asleep when he jumped us, and was awakened by the 
Indian’s yell. Wetzel must have taken a snap shot at 
me as I was getting up, which accounts, probably, for 
my being alive. I fell, but did not lose consciousness. 
I heard Wetzel and Legget fighting, and at last strug- 
gled to my feet. Although dizzy and bewildered, I could 
see to shoot ; but missed. For a long time, it seemed to 
me, I watched that terrible fight, and then ran, finally 
reaching the river, where I recovered somewhat.” 

Did you see Wetzel again ? ” 

“ Once, about a quarter of a mile behind me. He was 
staggering along on my trail.” 

At this juncture there was a commotion among the 
settlers crowding behind Colonel Zane and Jonathan, and 
Helen Sheppard appeared, white, with her big eyes 
strangely dilated. 

Oh ! ” she cried breathlessly, clasping both bands 
around Jonathan’s arm. “I’m not too late? You’re 
not going to ” 

“ Helen, this is no place for you,” said Colonel Zane 
sternly. “ This is business for men. You must not 
interfere.” 

Helen gazed at him, at Brandt, and then up at the 
borderman. She did not loose his arm. 

“ Outside some one told me you intended to shoot him. 
Is it true ? ” 


290 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


Colonel Zane evaded the searching gaze of those 
strained, brilliant ejes. Nor did he answer. 

As Helen stepped slowly back a hush fell upon the 
crowd. The whispering, the nervous coughing, and shuf* 
fling of feet, ceased. 

In those around her Helen saw the spirit of the bor- 
der. Colonel Zane and Silas wore the same look, cold, 
hard, almost brutal. The women were strangely grave. 
Nellie Douns’ sweet face seemed changed ; there was pity, 
even suffering on it, but no relenting. Even Betty’s face, 
always so warm, piquant, and wholesome, had taken on 
a shade of doubt, of gloom, of something almost sullen, 
which blighted its dark beauty. What hurt Helen most 
cruelly was the borderman’s glittering eyes. 

She fought against a shuddering weakness which 
threatened to overcome her. 

“ Whose prisoner is Brandt ? ” she asked of Colonel 
Zane. 

“ He gave himself up to me, naturally, as 1 am in 
authority here,” replied the colonel. “ But that signT 
fies little. I can do no less than abide by Jonathan’s 
decree, which, after all, is the decree of the border.” 

“And that is?” 

“ Death to outlaws and renegades.” 

“ But cannot you spare him ? ” implored Helen. “ I 
kno\^ he is a bad man; but he might become a better 
one. It seems like murder to me. To kill him in cold 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


blood, wounded, suffering as he is, when he claimeQ your 
mercy. Oh I it is dreadful I ** 

The usually kind-hearted colonel, soft as wax in the 
hands of a girl, was now colder and harder than flint. 

It is useless,” he replied curtly. “ I am sorry for 
you. We all understand your feelings, that yours are 
not the principles of the border. If you had lived long 
here you could appreciate what these outlaws and rene- 
gades have done to us. This man is a hardened crim- 
inal; he is a thief, a murderer.” 

He did not kill Mordaunt,” replied Helen quickly. 

I saw him draw first and attack Brandt.” 

“ Xo matter. Come, Helen, cease. Ho more of this,” 
Colonel Zane cried with impatience. 

“ But I will not,” exclaimed Helen, with ringing 
voice and flashing eye. She turned to her girl friends 
and besought them to intercede for the outlaw. But 
Hell only looked sorrowfully on, while Betty met her 
appealing glance with a fire in her eyes that was no 
dim reflection of her brother’s. , 

Then I must make my appeal to you,” said Helen, 
facing the borderman. There could be no mistaking how 
she regarded him. Kespect, honor and love breathed 
from every line of her beautiful face. 

Why do you want him to go free ? ” demanded Jona- 
than. “You told me to kill him.” 

“ Oh, I know. But I was not in my right mind. Lis* 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


292 

ten to me, please. He must have been very different 
once; perhaps had sisters. For their sake give him an- 
other chance. I know he has a better nature. I feared 
him, hated him, scorned him, as if he were a snake, yet 
he saved me from that monster Legget ! ** 

«For himself!” 

“ Well, yes, I can’t deny that. But he could have 
ruined me, wrecked me, yet he did not. At least, he 
meant marriage by me. He said if I would marry him 
he would flee over the border and be an honest man.” 

Have you no other reason ? ” 

Yes,” Helen’s bosom swelled and a glory shone in 
her splendid eyes. “ The other reason is, my own hap- 
piness ! ” 

Plain to all, if not through her words, from the light 
in her eyes, that she could not love a man who was a 
party to what she considered injustice. 

The borderman’s white faoe became flaming red. 

It was diflBcult to refuse this glorious girl any sacri- 
fice she demanded for the sake of the love so openly 
avowed. 

Sweetly and pityingly she turned to Brandt : “Will 
not you help me ? ” 

“ Lass, if it were for me you were asking my life I’d 
swear it yours for always, and I’d be a man,” he replied 
with bitterness ; “ but not to save my soul would I ask 
anything of hinn” 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


293 

The giant passions, hate and jealousy, flamed in his 
gray eyes. 

If I persuade them to release you, will you go away, 
leave this country, and never come back( '* 

“ I’ll promise that, lass, and honestly,” he replied. 

She wheeled toward Jonathan, and now the rosy color 
chased the pallor from her cheeks. 

J ack, do you remember wdien we parted at my home ; 
when you left on this terrible trail, now ended, thank 
God ! Do you remember what an ordeal that was for 
me ? Must I go through it again ? ” 

Bewitchingly sweet she was then, with the girlish 
charm of coquetry almost lost in the deeper, stranger 
power of the woman. 

The borderman drew his breath sharply; then he 
wrapped his long arms closely round her. She, under- 
standing that victory was hers, sank weeping upon his 
breast. For a moment he bowed his face over her, and 
when he lifted it the dark and terrible gloom had gone. 

“ Eb, let him go, an’ at once,” ordered Jonathan. 

Give him a rifle, some meat, an’ a canoe, for he can’t 
travel, an’ turn him loose. Only be quick about it, be- 
cause if Wetzel comes in, God himself couldn’t save the 
outlaw.” 

It was an indescribable glance that Brandt -cast upon 
the tearful face of the girl who had saved his life. But 
without a word he followed Colonel Zane from the room. 


• 294 : 


THE LAST TRAIL. 


The crowd slowly filed down the steps. Betty and 
N'ell lingered behind, their eyes beaming through happyj 
tears. Jonathan, long so cold, showed evidence of be- 
coming as quick and passionate a lover as he had been 
a borderman. At least, Helen had to release herself 
from his embrace, and it was a blushing, tear-stained 
face she turned to her friends. 

When they reached the stockade gate Colonel Zane 
was hurrying toward the river with a bag in one hand, 
and a rifle and a paddle in the other. Brandt limped 
along after him, the two disappearing over the river-bank. 

Betty, Hell, and the lovers went to the edge of the 
bluff. 

They saw Colonel Zane choose a canoe from among a 
number on the beach. He launched it, deposited the bag 
in the bottom, handed the rifle and paddle to Brandt, 
and wheeled about. 

The outlaw stepped aboard, and, pushing off slowly, 
drifted down and out toward mid-stream. When about 
fifty yards from shore he gave a quick glance around, 
and ceased paddling. His face gleamed white, and his 
eyes glinted like bits of steel in the sun. 

Suddenly he grasped the rifle, and, leveling it with 
the swiftness of thought, fired at Jonathan. 

The borderman saw the act, even from the beginning, 
and must have read the outlaw’s motive, for as the 
weapon flashed he dropped flat on the bank. The bullet 


THE LAST TRAIL. 295 

ng harmlessly over him, imbedding itself in the stock- 

e fence with a distinct thud. 

The girls were so numb with horror that they could 
not even scream. 

Colonel Zane swore lustily. “ Where’s my gun ? Get 
me a gun. Oh ! What did I tell you ? ” 

Look ! ” cried Jonathan as he rose to his feet. 

Upon the sand-bar opposite stood a tall, dark, familiar 
figure. 

‘‘ By all that’s holy, Wetzel ! ” exclaimed Colonel 
Zane. 

They saw the giant borderman raise a long, black rifle, 
which wavered and fell, and rose again. A little puff of 
white smoke leaped out, accompanied by a clear stinging 
report. 

Brandt dropped the paddle he had hurriedly begun 
plying after his traitor’s act. His white face was turned 
toward the shore as it sank forward to rest at last upon 
the gunwale of the canoe. Then his body slowly settled, 
as if seeking repose. His hand trailed outside in the 
water, drooping inert and lifeless. The little craft drifted 
downstream. 

You see, Helen, it had to be,” said Colonel Zane 
gently. What a dastard! A long shot. Jack! Fate 
itself must have glanced down the sights of Wetzel’s 
'ifle,” 


296 


THE LAST TRAIIa. 


CHAPTER XXV. 

A YEAR rolled round; once again Indian summer 
v'eiled the golden fields and forests in a soft, smoky haze. 
Once more from the opal-blue sky of autumn nights, 
shone the great white stars, and nature seemed wrapped 
in a melancholy hush. 

November the third was the anniversary of a memo- 
rable event on the frontier — the marriage of the younger 
borderman. 

Colonel Zane gave it the name of Independence Day,” 
and arranged a holiday, a feast and dance where all the 
settlement might meet in joyful thankfulness for the 
first year of freedom on the border. 

With the wiping out of Legget’s fierce band, the yoke 
of the renegades and outlaws was thrown off forever. 
Simon Girty migrated to Canada and lived with a few 
Indians who remained true to him. His confederates 
slowly sank into oblivion. The Shawnee tribe sullenly 
retreated westward, far into the interior of Ohio; the 
Delawares buried the war hatchet, and smoked the pipe 
of peace they had ever before refused. For them the 


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Tempting of Tavemake, The, By E. Phillips Oppenheim. 
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That Affair Next Door. By Anna Katharine Green. 

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^ Zeppelin’s Passenger, The. By E. Phillips Oppenheim. 


LEAp'32 


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