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THE RIFLEMEN

OF THE

Miami.



BY EDWARD S. ELLIS



BEADLE AND COMPANY,
NEW YORK: 141 WILLIAM STREET.
LONDON: 44 PATERNOSTER ROW.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year 1862, by
BEADLE AND COMPANY,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
Southern District of New York.




THE RIFLEMEN OF THE MIAMI.




CHAPTER I.

THE RESCUE.

If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly.--MACBETH.


"Quick, boys, and be careful that they don't see your heads."

Four men were moving along under the bank of the Miami, with their
bodies bent, at a gait that was almost rapid enough to be called a run.
They were constantly raising their heads and peering over the bank, as
though watching something in the wood, which in this section was quite
open. All four were attired in the garb of hunters, and were evidently
men whose homes were in the great wilderness. They had embrowned faces,
and sinewy limbs, and the _personnel_ of the woodman--of the men who
hovered only upon the confines of civilization, rarely, if ever,
venturing within the crowded city or village. It is hardly necessary to
say that each carried his rifle and his hunting-knife.

Between the three foremost was a striking resemblance; it appeared
impossible that more than five years divided them in age. Two were
brothers, George and Lewis Dernor, while the third answered to the
_sobriquet_ of Dick--his real name being Richard Allmat. The fourth--he
who brought up the rear--possessed an individuality which must have
marked him in any situation. Barely more than five feet in height, and
with bowed legs, instead of owning a jovial temper, as one would have a
right to expect from his jolly-looking face, he was, in reality, a most
irascible fellow. Never known to express satisfaction at any
occurrence, gift or suggestion, he was constantly finding fault, and
threatening dire vengeance upon those who surrounded him. These threats
never being carried out, attracted little attention. "Tom" (as he was
called) was considered a privileged individual, and, in spite of his
disposition, was a favorite with those who knew him. This may seem
strange when we add that, in addition to his sour temper, the natural
defect of his legs prevented him from placing any dependence upon them.
At his best speed he was but an ordinary runner. A stranger well might
wonder that he should adopt a life where fleetness of foot was so
necessary--in fact, so almost indispensable. Tom O'Hara turned ranger
from pure love for the wild, adventurous life; and, despite the natural
defects to which we have referred, possessed accomplishments that
rendered him a most valuable ally and companion. He never had met his
superior with the rifle, and his knowledge of woodcraft was such that,
although he had spent ten years on the border, his slowness of foot had
never operated against him; nor once had he been outwitted by the
red-men of the woods. Besides this, he had the enviable reputation of
being a _lucky individual_--one whose rifle never missed fire, or sped
wide of its mark--one to whom no unfortunate accident over occurred; so
that, take him all in all, few hunters were safer in the wood than this
same Tom O'Hara.

These four were known as the _Riflemen of the Miami_, of whom Lewis
Dernor was the leader. Another member, then a long way off, will be
referred to hereafter.

"Quick, boys, and be careful that they don't see your heads,"
admonished Lewis, ducking his own and gesticulating to those behind
him. "_Sh!_ look quick! there they go!"

The four stretched their necks, glancing over the bank, out into a
small clearing in the wood.

"They'll cross that in a minute," whispered the first speaker. "Don't
raise your heads too high or you'll be seen."

"You don't appear to think nobody knows nothing but you," growled Tom,
with a savage look.

"_Quiet!_ There they go!"

One Indian strode into the clearing, followed by another, then by two
abreast, between whom a woman was walking, her head bent as if in
despair, with steps painful and labored. Behind these came three other
savages. They passed across the clearing--the whole seven, with their
captive like the moving figures in a panorama, and entered the wood
upon the opposite side.

"Every mother's son of them is in his war-paint," said Lewis--who, by
the way, divided his words with Tom, the other two rarely speaking
except when directly appealed to.

"Who said they wasn't?" demanded Tom. "And what difference does it
make? They've got somebody's gal there, hain't they? eh? Say. And
what's the odds whether they've daubed themselves up with their stuff
or not?"

"Well, what's the next move? To set up a yell and pitch after them?"

"None but a fool would want to do that."

"But don't you notice the bank gets so low down yonder that it won't
hide us, and we'll have to show ourselves?"

"It'll hide us as long as we want to be hid. Come, don't squat here, or
we'll let the rascals slip, after all."

Again the three moved down the bank, as rapidly, silently and
cautiously as spirits, ever and anon raising their heads as they gained
a glimpse of the Indians passing through the wood. The latter were
following a course parallel with the Miami, so that the relative
distance between the two parties remained nearly the same. It was
manifest to the hunters that the Indians intended crossing the river
with their captive at some point lower down, and were making toward
that point. It was further evident from the deliberation in their
movements, and from the fact that they were not proceeding in "Indian
file," that as yet they had no suspicion of being pursued, although
every one of their number knew of the existence of the Riflemen of the
Miami--that formidable confederation whose very name was a word of
terror even to their savage hearts. Entirely unsuspicious of the danger
which menaced them, every thing was in favor of the hunters.

For several hundred yards further, the two parties maintained their
relative distance, the Indians proceeding at a usual walk, and the
whites at a very irregular one--now running rapidly a few steps, and
then halting and gazing over the bank to ascertain the precise
whereabouts of their enemies; then skulking a few yards further, and
halting as before, remaining all the time nearly opposite the "braves."
Suddenly the latter came to a stand.

"Now for a confab," said Lewis, as his companions gathered about him.
"I wonder what they are going to jabber about?"

"What do you want to know for, eh?" asked Tom.

"It's pretty plain they're going to cross the river, but, confound it,
how can we tell where it's going to be done? I've told you that the
bank gets so low, just yonder, that it won't hide us any longer."

"Who wants it to hide us? They intend to cross the river _here_, and in
about ten minutes, too. Just watch their actions, if you can do it
without showing your head."

The Indians stood together, conversing upon some point about which
there seemed a variance of opinion. Their deep, guttural, ejaculatory
words were plainly audible to the hunters, and their gleaming, bedaubed
visages were seen in all their hideous repulsiveness. They gesticulated
continually, pointing behind them in the direction of their trail, and
across the river, over the heads of the crouching Riflemen, who were
watching every motion. Nothing would have been easier for the latter
than to have sent four of these savages into eternity without a
moment's warning; yet, nothing was further from their intentions, for,
of all things, this would have been the surest to defeat their chief
object. The captive would have been brained the instant the savages saw
they could not hold her. The great point was to surprise them so
suddenly and completely as to prevent this.

From the present appearance of matters, this seemed not very difficult
of accomplishment, as it was a foregone conclusion upon the part of the
hunters that the savages would endeavor to ford the river at the point
where they lay in ambush for them. It only remained for the Riflemen to
bide their time, and, at the proper moment, rush upon and scatter them,
and rescue the captive from their hands.

"I wonder whether they're going to talk all day," remarked Tom,
impatiently, after they had conversed some twenty or thirty minutes.

"They're in a dispute about something. It won't take them long to get
through with it."

"How do you know that, I should like to know? Like enough they'll talk
till dark, and keep us waiting. Confound 'em, what's the use?"

No one ventured to reply to Tom's sulky observation, and, after several
impatient exclamations, he added:

"The longer they talk the louder they get, which is a sure sign the
dispute is getting hotter, which is another sign it'll be considerable
time before they get through."

"I am sure we can wait as long as they can," said Dick, mildly.

"My heavens! who said we couldn't? Just hear 'em jabber!"

The conversation of the Indians had now become so earnest, that every
word spoken was distinctly heard by the Riflemen. The latter, from the
dress and actions of the savages, understood they had no chief with
them, but were merely seven warriors, who had been out on this
barbarous expedition, and were returning to their town with the booty
and the captive they had secured.

"They're talking in the Shawnee tongue," said Lewis. "Can't you
understand what they're driving at?"

"If you only keep your jaws shut a minute or two, I could; but if you
three fellers mean to talk all the time, I should like to know how I am
going to understand any thing they say. See whether you can keep quiet
a minute, just."

Tom's companions did as requested, while he bent his head forward, and
seemed to concentrate all his faculties into the one of listening. Upon
the part of the Riflemen all was still as death. After several minutes
of the acutest attention, Tom raised his head, and said, with a glowing
expression:

"They're talking about _us_."

"The deuce!



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