Betty Zane HTML version

Chapter 5
During the last few days, in which the frost had cracked open the hickory nuts, and in
which the squirrels had been busily collecting and storing away their supply of nuts for
winter use, it had been Isaac's wont to shoulder his rifle, walk up the hill, and spend the
morning in the grove.
On this crisp autumn morning he had started off as usual, and had been called back by
Col. Zane, who advised him not to wander far from the settlement. This admonition, kind
and brotherly though it was, annoyed Isaac. Like all the Zanes he had born in him an
intense love for the solitude of the wilderness. There were times when nothing could
satisfy him but the calm of the deep woods.
One of these moods possessed him now. Courageous to a fault and daring where
daring was not always the wiser part, Isaac lacked the practical sense of the Colonel
and the cool judgment of Jonathan. Impatient of restraint, independent in spirit, and it
must be admitted, in his persistence in doing as he liked instead of what he ought to do,
he resembled Betty more than he did his brothers.
Feeling secure in his ability to take care of himself, for he knew he was an experienced
hunter and woodsman, he resolved to take a long tramp in the forest. This resolution
was strengthened by the fact that he did not believe what the Colonel and Jonathan had
told him--that it was not improbable some of the Wyandot braves were lurking in the
vicinity, bent on killing or recapturing him. At any rate he did not fear it.
Once in the shade of the great trees the fever of discontent left him, and, forgetting all
except the happiness of being surrounded by the silent oaks, he penetrated creeper and
deeper into the forest. The brushing of a branch against a tree, the thud of a falling nut,
the dart of a squirrel, and the sight of a bushy tail disappearing round a limb-- all these
things which indicated that the little gray fellows were working in the tree-tops, and
which would usually have brought Isaac to a standstill, now did not seem to interest him.
At times he stooped to examine the tender shoots growing at the foot of a sassafras
tree. Then, again, he closely examined marks he found in the soft banks of the streams.
He went on and on. Two hours of this still-hunting found him on the bank of a shallow
gully through which a brook went rippling and babbling over the mossy green stones.
The forest was dense here; rugged oaks and tall poplars grew high over the tops of the
first growth of white oaks and beeches; the wild grapevines which coiled round the trees
like gigantic serpents, spread out in the upper branches and obscured the sun; witch-
hopples and laurel bushes grew thickly; monarchs of the forest, felled by some bygone
storm, lay rotting on the ground; and in places the wind-falls were so thick and high as
to be impenetrable.