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CHAPTER VII. AN OLD FOX AND A YOUNG ONE.
Carl Anselm rode swiftly up the fertile valley, making the most of the Narragansett pony. He kept well to the west, away from the post at Windsor, fearing that, if he met any of Holmes’ men, they might ask awkward questions. The Nipmuck country proper was further north than Windsor; but one of their villages, not a stationary one, stood not far away. This was the village of Wampset, a sort of Indian bandit, who lived like the gipsys, pitching his wigwams where he chose. He had fully one hundred men in his village, the bravest and most restless spirits of his nation. The Pequods, the Romans of New England, knew and hated Wampset. Many a plan had been laid to surprise his village; but they had always failed. The party which came, if stronger than Wampset, found only warm ashes in the ruined lodges; but the Nipmucks had flown. Wampset claimed no particular hunting-ground, but roamed from the most western border of the Pequod country to the Connecticut, a river he never crossed.

The young German had heard of the whereabouts of Wampset, from a man of the Nipmuck nation who had come into Good Hope a few days before. As he approached the village, he took careful note of every thicket near which he passed. All at once, the woods seemed alive with signals, and stealthy footsteps could be heard. Carl knew he was hemmed in, and was not surprised when an Indian of commanding presence stood in the path and ordered him to pause. Carl had been skilled in Indian dialect.

“What would the white man here? He is far from the strong house of his people.”

Carl took off the belt and held it up before the eyes of the man. He started a little, and then assumed a calm attitude:

“Let the warrior look upon the belt,” said Carl. “Has he ever seen it?”

[64]

“He has. Where did the white man get it?”

“From one who sent me to seek the chief, Wampset, that I might speak a word in his ear.”

The warrior turned and uttered a whoop. It was evidently an understood signal, for the sound of retiring footsteps could be heard, and they were alone. The warrior turned again to Carl:

“Wampset is always to be found by his friends, and by his enemies when he chooses to be found. Let the young man speak. Wampset is here.”

“Where?”

The savage laid his hand upon his naked breast, in an impressive and graceful gesture. Carl could not doubt that he spoke the truth.

“There is a young war-chief upon the banks of the great river, to whom the chief gave this belt. Long ago, the Indians gave the land to his people. But the English people of Shawmut have come and built a strong house upon the river. The young war-chief is coming to drive them away, and he sent the belt to Wampset, that he may come to his aid with all his men.”

The chief mused:

“I have seen the strong house of the people whom we call Yengees. They will not go away if they can help it. But, my word is given to my young brother, and I will go.”

“He said that you must meet him at the three hills, near the strong house, at midnight to-night.”

“It is well. Let the young man come into the village.”

Carl followed him into the village, which consisted of huts formed only for summer weather. In winter they had different habitations.

The chief led the way to his lodge, and invited his guest to sit upon a pile of skins in one corner. A squaw brought in two large wooden bowls, with spoons of the same material. One of the bowls contained boiled venison, and the other parched corn. Flat, wooden dishes of the same material as the rest, were placed in their hands, and the two made a hearty meal, for the young man was tired by his long ride. When the meal was over, they sat and conversed for an hour. Then the chief, thinking that the young man looked as though he[65] needed rest, left the lodge, and Carl lay down upon the skins and slept.

He rose in about an hour, and went out into the village. He found the warriors making preparations for a march. The chief joined him.

“Are not these cabins cold in winter?” asked Carl.

“The Indians do not dwell in such wigwams when the north wind blows cold,” said the other. “There are pleasant places high up among the hills, where the Pequods can not find us, and where we can live until the sun is warm again.”

“You do not stay in one place long.”

“The knives of the Pequods are long, and their arrows sharp. They have no love for Wampset. They come upon his lodges in the night; but, Wampset is not a fool. He knows when to hide, and when to be found. The sparks are not out in the lodges when the Pequods come, but the men of Wampset are gone.”

“Do you ever fight them?”

“When they are not too many. The braves of Wampset have often sent them howling back to their lodges. But when we are weak and they are strong, we hide in the bush. Sassacus, sachem of the Pequods, would give much wampum for the scalp of Wampset.”

“Does Wampset love the white chiefs at Windsor?”

“Wampset can not love the men who tread upon the graves of his fathers. The Pequods are my enemies. By day and night they watch for the camp-fires of Wampset; but they are brave, and they are Indians. Is the white man owner of the soil? Did he receive it as an inheritance? No; it is the land of the Indian. Pequod or Narragansett, Mohawk or Nipmuck, it is theirs! No, Wampset does not love white men; but the young chief who saved my life in battle is my friend. I will aid him, if it is in my power.”

“I must not stay,” said Carl. “There is work before me. I will go out toward the fort, and you must follow with your braves. Give me a token by which I may pass your warriors in safety.”

The chief unclasped a wampum bracelet from his brawny arm, and fastened it upon that of his young friend. “The[66] Nipmuck doesn’t live,” said he, “who would lay a finger upon the man who wears this. Go in peace.”

Carl rose, took up his rifle and left the lodge. His horse was tied to a post near the door. He mounted and rode away toward the east. Wampset looked after him with a half-sigh, for he saw in him a type of the men before whom his nation was fading like dew in the sunshine.

Carl pursued his way until he struck the river a few miles from Windsor. There was something peculiar in the temper of this young man. He was relentless to his enemies—eager for their blood; but true as steel to his friends. In his code, nothing was too much to do for the man who had saved his life. To risk his own seemed to him a duty which he must perform. Young as he was, he was a fit tool for such work as Joseph Van Zandt assigned him. He had fled from the old country with the blood of a brother on his hands—shed in a moment of anger. Others had felt his steel, and the story had never been told. He thought it an easy way to pay his debt to Joseph, merely by taking the life of William Barlow.

Approaching the trading-post, he paused and considered. He felt quite certain that he might enter the place without fear, as there had been no open rupture between the commandants of the two posts. But he was naturally of a suspicious disposition, a feeling which is common to such natures as his.

He finally rode into the place and was kindly received. He gave them to understand that he had been out upon a scout at the command of Van Curter, and had been chased by a part of the band of Wampset. They knew that the young German was an active scout, and thought nothing of the story. Willie and Boston Bainbridge had not yet come in. After finding out all he cared to know, Carl rode away toward Good Hope, upon the trail usually pursued by travelers. Once out of sight of the village, he went aside from the path, took down his rifle and looked at the priming, and sat down beside the trail, with a look of grim determination upon his face.

The two Englishmen, after their hasty flight from Good[67] Hope, had pressed on as fast as their feet would carry them toward Windsor. Boston’s knowledge of the proposed assault caused him many an inward chuckle. He gloried in the discomfiture of Van Zandt.

“I heard a fall,” said Willie, “while they were pursuing us from the house. How was that, Bainbridge?”

“That,” replied Bainbridge, with an indescribable twist of his features, “was caused by the fall of—something.”

“A wise observation. What was it?”

“I would not be certain upon this point, worthy young man of war,” said Boston. “I can not fight with carnal weapons. I am a man of peace, and live by trade.”

“Don’t keep up that farce here, I beg you. I have laughed in secret at the manner in which you have kept this character, until I am nearly past laughing again. But, what is the use of keeping it up here?”

“It must be done, Willie. Until Good Hope is ours, and the Dutch driven out of the valley, I am nothing but Boston Bainbridge. Do you think any of them suspect, except Katrine?”

“Yes. Once or twice you have given orders in your usual tone. Van Zandt heard you to-night, I am sure. Katrine and Theresa heard you. They are pretty sharp people, and hard to blind.”

“Katrine is a darling,” said Bainbridge. “I hate to deceive her. But it must all come right sometime. When she is my wife we can laugh together over the life of a hawker.”

“I wonder what old Paul Swedlepipe and Ten Eyck are doing about this time. Won’t the fellow tear when he sees that horse after the rain? Oh, I would give fifty pounds to see his face at the time. This rain will wash every grain of color off from his hide, and we should see a skeleton instead of the horse I sold him. Never mind; we have a right to spoil the Egyptians. Ha! The bush moves!”

The sudden exclamation caused Willie, who stood at his side, to start back in some alarm. The movement saved his life, for the rifle of Carl Anselm cracked at that moment, and the ball tore a bloody track through the fleshy part of his arm. In an instant the bushes parted to the rush of the body of Bainbridge. For a man of peace, he certainly[68] behaved in a wonderful manner. The movement was so sudden, that he was close to the side of the would-be assassin before he could turn. Carl was no coward. His courage had been proved in a hundred different ways. Drawing his knife, he made a sudden rush at the hawker, and struck at him viciously with the keen blade. Boston nimbly eluded the stroke and returned it by a slashing blow, which laid open the cheek of the other, marking him for life. As soon as he felt the wound, Carl turned and fled along the river shore, at his best speed, with the hawker following like a sleuth-hound on the trail. He passed round a point of rocks which completely hid him from view. Bainbridge rushed forward, in time to catch a glimpse of the German upon the back of his horse, which he had tied there for security. His jeering laugh came back to them on the wind.

“He has escaped,” cried Boston, as Willie came up. “He got to his horse. The devil fly away with him!”

“Is he hurt?”

“Yes. I laid open his cheek from the ear to the chin. The scoundrel. He will carry my mark to the grave. That he may, is my fervent prayer. Do you know him?”

“I have never seen him before.”

“I have. He is a minion of Van Zandt, or my name is not Bainbridge. It is young Carl Anselm. That bullet was meant for you. How could he miss, when he was not thirty feet away? The miserable scoundrel belongs in Good Hope. They say his character is none of the best, even among his associates. Let me see your arm.”

With some labor and pain, Willie stripped the jacket and shirt from the wound and showed it to Bainbridge. It was a deep flesh-wound, and Boston shook his head. Going down to the river bank, he gathered some leaves from a plant which grew there. These he bruised into a poultice, with which he bound the wounded limb.

“I know the nature of the herb,” he said. “An old Indian woman told me about it, and tried it on a bear-scratch I once got in a fight with that animal. It was wonderful in its effects.”

“It feels comfortable,” said Willie, placing the arm in a sling which the other improvised from a sword-belt. “I will[69] yet have the pleasure of wringing the man’s neck who did me this favor.”

“He is no enemy to despise,” replied Boston. “When you have an open, avowed enemy, you know how to guard against him; but a sneaking fellow like this, who would shoot you from behind a bush, is more to be feared. He is full of energy, and will come upon you in impossible places. In the assault to-night, look out for him!”

“You think they will come, then?”

“They are not the men to be laggards. I can not understand what Carl was doing here. He certainly was not sent out on purpose to shoot you. I could give a reason if I knew where Wampset was.”

“I know just where he is encamped.”

“Where is he?”

“About twenty miles away. An Indian of the Narragansett tribe, who came into Windsor the day after you left, told us where he was. I know that man. He is an outcast from all tribes, and yet he maintains himself against any force they can bring against him. He must have a powerful mind.”

“He has. I have seen him once or twice, and he is a noble Indian. With all his prejudices against the whites, he has none of the cold-blooded animosity of Sassacus, nor the supercilious behavior of Mennawan. But this news troubles me. I doubt not he will come to the aid of the Dutch, for I have heard it said that Van Zandt once did him a great service which the Indian will not hesitate to repay, and now is the Dutchman’s time of want, if ever.”

“Then we have, indeed, much to dread, if Wampset is brought against us.”

“What Indians were at the post when you came away?”

“Only the young son of the Narragansett chief, the Fox.”

“None better. He is truly named. Let us hasten. Do you think he will stay in Windsor?”

“He said he would until the full moon.”

“Good. Make haste.”

They hurried into the post. Catching sight of an idler near the gate, Boston called him, and asked him if the “Fox” was yet in the post. Being answered in the affirmative, he desired that he should be sent to him at once.

[70]

Willie turned away, and entered a log-house in one corner of the stockade, bestowing a smile of recognition upon a young Indian, who was coming out. The latter made his way at once to Boston, who greeted him kindly.

“How is the chief, your father?” he asked, touching the young man upon the naked shoulder with his open palm. “How long will it be before he will give the tribe into the hands of his son, who, though he is yet young, has left his mark upon the enemies of his nation?”

“The chief is very well, and sends his greetings to the white chief; his warriors hope it will be many years before he lays down the wampum of a head chief for another to take up. Who is worthy to take the mantle of Miantonomah?”

“None but his son, when Miantonomah is ready. The young chief has often said that he only waits to do the white man a service. Will he do it to-day?”

“When was the Fox unwilling to aid his white brothers?”

“It will take him into the forest.”

“That is well; the forest is his home.”

“He must keep his hatchet keen, for the Pequods may lurk along the track.”

“A Narragansett does not fear a Pequod.”

“It is well; now let the Fox listen.”

In a few decided words, the Yankee informed the young man what he wished him to do. Having thoroughly mastered it and acquiesced in the service, he took his weapons, tightened his belt, and left the post, taking the trail which led to the camp of Wampset.
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