Betty Zane HTML version

Chapter 11
He following afternoon the sun shone fair and warm; the sweet smell of the tan-bark
pervaded the airs and the birds sang their gladsome songs. The scene before the grim
battle-scarred old fort was not without its picturesqueness. The low vine-covered cabins
on the hill side looked more like picture houses than like real habitations of men; the mill
with its burned-out roof--a reminder of the Indians--and its great wheel, now silent and
still, might have been from its lonely and dilapidated appearance a hundred years old.
On a little knoll carpeted with velvety grass sat Isaac and his Indian bride. He had
selected this vantage point because it afforded a fine view of the green square where
the races and the matches were to take place. Admiring women stood around him and
gazed at his wife. They gossiped in whispers about her white skin, her little hands, her
beauty. The girls stared with wide open and wondering eyes. The youngsters ran round
and round the little group; they pushed each other over, and rolled in the long grass,
and screamed with delight
It was to be a gala occasion and every man, woman and child in the settlement had
assembled on the green. Col. Zane and Sam were planting a post in the center of the
square. It was to be used in the shooting matches. Capt. Boggs and Major McColloch
were arranging the contestants in order. Jonathan Zane, Will Martin, Alfred Clarke--all
the young men were carefully charging and priming their rifles. Betty was sitting on the
black stallion which Col. Zane had generously offered as first prize. She was in the
gayest of moods and had just coaxed Isaac to lift her on the tall horse, from which
height she purposed watching the sports. Wetzel alone did not seem infected by the
spirit of gladsomeness which pervaded. He stood apart leaning on his long rifle and
taking no interest in the proceedings behind him. He was absorbed in contemplating the
forest on the opposite shore of the river.
"Well, boys, I guess we are ready for the fun," called Col. Zane, cheerily. "Only one shot
apiece, mind you, except in case of a tie. Now, everybody shoot his best."
The first contest was a shooting match known as "driving the nail." It was as the name
indicated, nothing less than shooting at the head of a nail. In the absence of a nail--for
nails were scarce--one was usually fashioned from a knife blade, or an old file, or even
a piece of silver. The nail was driven lightly into the stake, the contestants shot at it from
a distance as great as the eyesight permitted. To drive the nail hard and fast into the
wood at one hundred yards was a feat seldom accomplished. By many hunters it was
deemed more difficult than "snuffing the candle," another border pastime, which
consisted of placing in the dark at any distance a lighted candle, and then putting out
the flame with a single rifle ball. Many settlers, particularly those who handled the plow
more than the rifle, sighted from a rest, and placed a piece of moss under the rife-barrel
to prevent its spring at the discharge.