The Spirit of the Border
Once more out under the blue-black vault of heaven, with its myriads of twinkling stars,
the voyagers resumed their westward journey. Whispered farewells of new but sincere
friends lingered in their ears. Now the great looming bulk of the fort above them faded
into the obscure darkness, leaving a feeling as if a protector had gone--perhaps forever.
Admonished to absolute silence by the stern guides, who seemed indeed to have
embarked upon a dark and deadly mission, the voyagers lay back in the canoes and
thought and listened. The water eddied with soft gurgles in the wake of the racing canoes;
but that musical sound was all they heard. The paddles might have been shadows, for all
the splash they made; they cut the water swiftly and noiselessly. Onward the frail barks
glided into black space, side by side, close under the overhanging willows. Long
moments passed into long hours, as the guides paddled tirelessly as if their sinews were
cords of steel.
With gray dawn came the careful landing of the canoes, a cold breakfast eaten under
cover of a willow thicket, and the beginning of a long day while they were lying hidden
from the keen eyes of Indian scouts, waiting for the friendly mantle of night.
The hours dragged until once more the canoes were launched, this time not on the broad
Ohio, but on a stream that mirrored no shining stars as it flowed still and somber under
the dense foliage.
The voyagers spoke not, nor whispered, nor scarcely moved, so menacing had become
the slow, listening caution of Wetzel and Zane. Snapping of twigs somewhere in the
inscrutable darkness delayed them for long moments. Any movement the air might
resound with the horrible Indian war-whoop. Every second was heavy with fear. How
marvelous that these scouts, penetrating the wilderness of gloom, glided on surely,
silently, safely! Instinct, or the eyes of the lynx, guide their course. But another dark
night wore on to the tardy dawn, and each of its fearful hours numbered miles past and
The sun was rising in ruddy glory when Wetzel ran his canoe into the bank just ahead of
a sharp bend in the stream.
"Do we get out here?" asked Jim, seeing Jonathan turn his canoe toward Wetzel's.
"The village lies yonder, around the bend," answered the guide. "Wetzel cannot go there,
so I'll take you all in my canoe."
"There's no room; I'll wait," replied Joe, quietly. Jim noted his look--a strange, steady
glance it was--and then saw him fix his eyes upon Nell, watching her until the canoe
passed around the green-bordered bend in the stream.