LIGHT AHEAD

White Shield joined the Arapahoes in the chase of Silverspur.

With the Blackfoot paint washed from his face, and with his blanket
over his head, he had entered the village, and had had no difficulty
in going where he pleased, and making such examinations as he wished
to make. He mingled with the Arapahoes on the street of the village,
entered some of their lodges, and even conversed with them. But he did
not find Flora Robinette, nor did he see or hear any thing to lead him
to suppose that she was still among the Arapahoes.

Desiring to make his search as thorough as possible, he remained longer
than he had expected to when he parted from Silverspur. The barking of
the dog made him anxious concerning his friend, and presented him at
the same time, as he thought, a good opportunity to get clear of the
village.

“That is my dog,” he said, as some of the warriors began to show signs
of uneasiness at the continued barking of the animal. “I will go and
see what is the matter with him.”

This expression, by which the Blackfoot hoped to cover his friend,
nearly brought him into trouble. It so happened that there was only
one dog in the village, and that its owner was standing by when White
Shield spoke. This Indian turned upon him angrily, and he could only
avoid the consequences of his damaging remark by passing it off as
a joke. The owner of the dog went to look for the animal, and White
Shield sidled away from the group of Indians who had begun to suspect
him.

Shortly there came from the forest a yell, piercing and full of
anguish, that was at once recognized as the death-cry of the man who
had gone to the dog.

The savages bounded away to avenge the death of their comrade, and
White Shield joined them, hoping to get clear himself, if he could do
nothing to aid his friend. Although several of the warriors were ahead
of him, he soon perceived that Silverspur had mounted his horse, and
was rapidly flying from his pursuers.

Believing that his friend on horseback could easily distance the
Indians on foot, he thought it best to look to his own safety.

In their eager pursuit the Arapahoes had passed the place from which
Silverspur had started, and where the horse of the Blackfoot was still
concealed. Profiting by their negligence, White Shield lingered behind
until all had passed him. He then untethered his horse, and quietly led
him away until he was out of hearing of the Arapahoes, when he mounted,
and rode off into the prairie, where he hoped to find his friend.

When he believed himself to be at a safe distance, he halted and
listened anxiously; but he heard nothing of the wild triumphant yell
that would have announced the death or capture of the fugitive.
Concluding, therefore, that Silverspur had escaped, he rode about
until daylight, expecting to meet him. In this he was disappointed,
as he could not find even a trail. He at last perceived that it would
be necessary to commence the search at the beginning–to start at the
place from which Silverspur had started.

He concealed his horse, and went to the spot where he had left
Silverspur the night before. It was easy to track the fugitive by the
footprints of his horse, and White Shield followed them through the
forest and over a piece of level ground beyond, until they abruptly
terminated at the edge of a precipice.

The Blackfoot looked over the precipice, and saw that it was a fearful
leap to the bottom. It was not to be supposed that a man could take
such a leap and live. He was forced to the conclusion that Silverspur
had taken this leap in the dark, and had been killed.

By a circuitous route White Shield reached the ravine at the foot of
the bluff, and there saw abundant evidence of the truth of his surmise.
There were spots of blood upon the stones, and an indentation of the
turf showed that a heavy body had fallen upon it. There were many
footprints in the vicinity, and a trail led up one of the hills that
surrounded the ravine. The Arapahoes had carried away the body, no
doubt, and their silence the previous night was occasioned by the fact
that they had not then descended into the ravine to search for their
victim.

White Shield did not follow the trail that led up the hill, as he
supposed that it only went around to the village. It was possible
that his friend might still be living, though terribly mangled. If he
was dead, it would be some satisfaction to recover his scalp from his
enemies. To this purpose White Shield now devoted himself.

After dark he went to the Arapaho village, and prowled about their
lodges, confident that there would be some sort of a celebration over
their victory, if the death of Silverspur could be so regarded. He was
not mistaken. Bonfires were blazing, and preparations were being made
for a grand jubilee, which soon commenced.

Near the largest bonfire was a pole, from which a single scalp was
hanging. Around this men and women, mingled together, danced and sung,
and every now and then, at the tap of a drum, one of the warriors would
step forward and recount his exploits.

White Shield did not long witness this scene from concealment. He felt
sure that Silverspur was dead, and that the Arapahoes were rejoicing
over his scalp. This awakened in him a desire to snatch the trophy
from their possession, and to take vengeance upon them for the death
of his friend. He was just in the mood for such an achievement. He had
deserted his tribe, Silverspur was gone, and there would be no one to
mourn for him if he should fall. In fact, he was desperate, ready at
any moment to sing his death-song and pass to the spirit-land.

He threw his blanket over his head, and mingled with the Indians of the
village. He was not foolhardy enough to join the dance; but he forced
his way into the circle, and walked up to the pole from which the scalp
was hanging.

To his great surprise he perceived that the scalp was dry, as if it had
long hung in the smoke of a lodge. The hair, moreover, was thin and
gray, almost white. White Shield had never heard any of those tales of
civilized men whose hair has suddenly turned gray from the effect of
terrible fright or severe suffering. If he had read them, he would not
for a moment have believed that any thing could change the long and
waving masses of Silverspur’s brown hair to those thin gray threads.

It was not Silverspur’s scalp. His friend was living; or, if he was
dead, the Arapahoes had not been able to outrage his remains. White
Shield was no longer desperate. He had an object to live for, and his
caution returned to him. His entrance into the circle, his examination
of the gray scalp, and the train of thought which followed from that
examination, had occupied only a few moments of time; but he felt that
he was in a dangerous position, from which he would find it difficult
to extricate himself.

The warriors were already scrutinizing him, with glances full of
suspicion. If he should step out as he had come in, he would be
followed and questioned, and it would soon be discovered that he was a
stranger and an enemy. He might run for his life; but his chances of
escape would be very poor, and, if he should succeed, the Arapahoes
would be put on their guard against his subsequent movements.

His resolution was as audacious as it was sudden. At the tap of the
drum he threw off his blanket, and stepped forward.

“Arapahoes!” he exclaimed, “do you remember that, at the last season
of the falling leaf, you lost a tall warrior at the Black Fork of the
Platte? He was very strong, and a great brave. I killed him.”

“We remember,” responded some of the Arapahoes, looking up at the
speaker in surprise.

White Shield proceeded to mention other Arapahoes who had fallen by
his hand, and the same response followed each narration. At the fifth,
which filled the number allowed to each relator, a warrior started up.

“Are you speaking the truth?” he said. “It was White Shield, a great
brave of the Blackfeet, who killed Red Bear.”

“I am White Shield,” replied the Blackfoot. “I am a warrior, as you
know, and a great brave. I have left the Blackfeet, and they would kill
me if they should see me. I have come to the Arapahoes, who are great
warriors, to make them my brothers, and to fight for them. Do you want
me, Arapahoes? If you do, I will stay with you. If not, I am ready to
sing my death-song and go to the spirit-land.”

The audacious warrior had not to wait a moment for a response. The
Arapahoes thronged about him tumultuously, embracing him, and covering
him with presents.

His initiation into the tribe was completed; but it must be confessed
that he did not intend to remain an Arapaho. He had joined them for the
purpose of saving his own scalp and rendering assistance to his friend.
Further than this he did not then look.

He soon made inquiries concerning the scalp which had been the occasion
of the dance, and was told the story of the chase of an unknown white
man who had been discovered by a dog, and who had been killed by a fall
from a cliff.

White Shield was puzzled. The Arapahoes described the pursuit of
Silverspur; but the scalp was not his. Who had the old medicine-man
buried, and whose scalp had he given to the warriors? Surely it could
not be Silverspur. White Shield said nothing more concerning the scalp,
but determined to investigate the matter quietly.

As soon as it was dusk he left the village, and went to the place where
he had concealed his horse. The animal was safe; but the keen eye of
the Blackfoot quickly detected signs of some presence besides his own.
Somebody had been there during his absence, and, unless his penetration
was greatly at fault, somebody was still concealed in the vicinity.

White Shield applied himself to find out who this somebody was. While
he affected to busy himself about his horse, his bright eyes searched
the forest, and took note of every tree, twig, leaf and blade of
grass within the range of his vision. In the course of this searching
investigation he saw another pair of eyes, twinkling from behind a
leafy hedge of bushes. He was sure that those eyes belonged to a
white man, and the white man could not be Silverspur, who would have
recognized him and spoken to him. Any other white man was his enemy,
and this one had been lying in wait for him.

The Blackfoot left the horse, and walked toward the thicket in which
he had seen the eyes glisten. He walked slowly, looking about him upon
the ground, as if searching for something he had lost. He passed the
thicket, and then, with the quickness of lightning, turned and threw
himself upon his concealed foe.

A brief struggle followed, in which both of the combatants came
crashing out of the bushes, and fell upon the ground. But the red-man
had the advantage of surprise–of the first attack–and he kept it.
In a few seconds his enemy was under his knee, and his right hand was
raised, ready to strike with his glittering knife. The white man closed
his eyes, and muttered one word:

“Flora!”

The Indian started. His knife was lowered harmlessly, and the grasp
of his left hand was relaxed. “Flora!”–he had heard the name used by
Silverspur, and perhaps this white man might be a friend of her whom
Silverspur called Flora.

“Who are you?” he asked in plain English. “Who is Flora?”

A thought occurred to the white man. A hope dawned upon him, and his
eyes brightened as they opened. This red-skin knew the name of Flora;
he was a Blackfoot, as was evident from his paint and his garb; he was
among the Arapahoes.

“Who are you?” asked the white man. “Are you the Blackfoot who went off
with Silverspur?”

“I am. Are you a friend to Silverspur?”

“I am not his enemy. I am George Benning,” replied the white man, who
was not sure in what position he stood toward Silverspur.

“Let my brother rise. Silverspur is my brother, and his friends are my
friends.”

The two men, forgetting their late conflict, seated themselves amicably
upon the ground, and conversed about the matters in which both were
deeply interested. White Shield related all he knew of Flora and
Silverspur, and enlightened the mind of Benning on some points that had
been dark to him; but there was nothing to show him that Silverspur had
or had not gained the love of Flora, and on this subject his anxiety
was still intense.

The question was, what had become of Flora and Silverspur? Believing
that two heads are better than one, and that his own was better than
the Blackfoot’s, Benning proposed to accompany White Shield to the
place at which Fred Wilder was supposed to have been killed by falling
from the cliff.

They went there, and made a careful examination of the locality; but
Benning was obliged to admit that he was as much in the dark as the
Indian was. It was unreasonable to suppose that a man could have fallen
from such a hight without being killed, and it was equally unreasonable
to suppose that the gray scalp that had been exhibited among the
Arapahoes had belonged to Silverspur. Both agreed that the only chance
of solving the mystery lay in following the trail that led up the hill;
but both agreed that it was useless to undertake the enterprise that
night.

Benning then informed the Blackfoot that he had come with a band of
Crow warriors, under the leadership of Bad Eye, their chief, who were
ready to aid him in any enterprise against the Arapahoes. They were
encamped at a little distance to the northward, and he had come on in
advance, to spy about the village of the Arapahoes.

White Shield was not entirely pleased with this communication, although
he showed no signs of displeasure. The Crows were the enemies of his
tribe, and the Arapahoes were now his friends. He was ready to shake
off his allegiance to them if he might thus benefit Silverspur; but
he was not willing to betray them to the Crows. He made no reply
to Benning, except to protest against any hostile act before the
whereabouts of Silverspur could be discovered.

On this point Benning was uncertain, as he feared that his own plans
and those of the Blackfoot might run counter to each other. He said
that the discovery must soon be made, if at all, as it would be
impossible for the Crows to remain long in the vicinity without a
conflict.

It was settled that they should commence the search together in the
morning, and White Shield returned to the village, as he could not be
absent from the Arapahoes the first night after his admission to the
tribe. Benning concluded to remain where he was, as he could hide there
as well as elsewhere, and would be at hand to take up the trail in the
morning.

Fred Wilder bore his captivity patiently; but this does not prove that
he possessed the gift of patience in a very remarkable degree. Dove-eye
was with him daily and hourly, and his admiration for the forest maiden
had strengthened into a passion. His heart was enthralled in such a
sweet captivity, that he took no thought of the captivity of his body.

He had not yet had time or occasion to think how this was to end. He
had given himself no uneasiness concerning the fate of White Shield;
he had not attempted to form a plan for the release of Flora Robinette
and her return to her friends; nor had he even guessed how he should
take Dove-eye away from the Arapahoes, if she should be willing to
leave them. Love, if not really a selfish feeling, is apt to crowd out
other thoughts and feelings.

It is probable that he would not have related to Flora his adventures
since she left him at the pass in the mountains, if she had not
questioned him upon the subject. When he recounted the conversation
which he had overheard between Martin Laurie and Jake Farnsworth, so
many emotions were excited in Flora’s bosom, that she at last burst
into tears.

“Why need you be so greatly troubled about it?” asked Wilder, when she
had wiped away her tears. “Those fellows can’t hurt you.”

“My father’s scalp! To think that it should be made the price of my
hand!”

“But you are not obliged to give your hand to the man who happens to
recover the scalp.”

“To think that he should be scalped, after having dreaded it all his
life, and that his scalp should now be drying in some Blackfoot lodge.
It is too horrible!”

“You are mistaken there. The scalp is not among the Blackfeet. I
brought it with me when we left their village.”

“_You_ did?” exclaimed Flora, opening her eyes very wide.

“I did; but it does not follow that I am to marry you,” replied Wilder,
with a smile at Dove-eye.

“No; for the medicine-man took it from you, and gave it to the Arapaho
warriors.”

“You guessed right that time. I suppose you had rather George Benning
had taken it from the Blackfeet; but he did not happen to be there, as
I was. Your father’s scalp has saved my scalp, and I am well rewarded
for the freak of stealing the trophy from the Blackfeet–for it was
nothing but a freak, you perceive, as I then knew nothing of the
conditions of your father’s will. As the matter now stands, you have a
much better chance to recover the scalp than either George Benning or
I.”

“How so? What can I do?”

“I am disabled, as you see, and it may be many weeks before I am able
to walk. George Benning is searching for you, no doubt, if he is the
man I take him to be; but we don’t know where he is, and it is very
doubtful whether he is on the right trail. You alone are at liberty and
able to act.”

“What shall I do?”

“Persuade Dove-eye to get the scalp from the Arapahoes. The warriors
have had their dance over it, no doubt, and it is a small matter to
them now. She might ask for it as a curiosity. If they should not
be willing to give it to her, she could soon find it hanging about
somewhere, unnoticed, and there would be no excitement about it if it
should be missed. I think she would gladly consent to get it for you,
and then the trophy will be with you, to whom it rightfully belongs.
When it is in your possession, I see nothing to hinder you from
bestowing it, and the legacy that accompanies it, where you bestow your
hand.”

Dove-eye, who had understood a portion of the conversation, answered
the appealing look of her friend with a smile. When Flora had fully
explained the case to her, and had implored her aid in recovering the
scalp, she at once consented, glad of an opportunity to serve her white
sister.

“But I can do nothing for two or three suns,” she said. “I can not go
to the village now.”

“Why not?” asked Flora, to whom the scalp had become precious, not only
because it was her father’s, but because her own fate was so nearly
affected by it.

“Because I have so much to do here, that I can not get away. I must
conceal both of you in some other place, as my father is going to the
spirit-land, and this lodge will be full of warriors.”

“What do you mean?” asked Wilder. “Is the old medicine-man so near
dead? I had not known that he was sick.”

“He is not sick. He goes to the spirit-land when he wishes to go, and
the warriors come and look at him while he is dead, and go away. Then
he comes back from the spirit-land, and they visit him again, when he
tells them what he has seen and what will happen to them.”

“What an imposture! Do you believe that he dies, Dove-eye?”

“He goes to the spirit-land. The warriors pinch him, and prick him, and
are sure that he is dead.”

“Very well done for a red-skin! When will he take leave of us?”

“To-morrow night he will go to the spirit-land, and the next morning
the warriors will come to look at him. After that day I will do what my
sister has asked me to do.”

“And then, Miss Robinette,” said Wilder, “you will be obliged to marry
yourself, or give up half your fortune.”

“I wish you would not speak of the matter so lightly,” replied Flora.
“Of what use will it be to me, if I am always to remain here? How can I
ever escape?”

“That is a question for the future. For my part, I can do nothing until
I am able to walk. I hope that a way will open for all of us.”

Wilder looked meaningly at the Indian girl, who held down her head, and
turned away.

The old medicine-man and the negro came in, at the request of Dove-eye,
to remove Wilder to another place of concealment. There was another
small cave, a short distance from that in front of which the lodge was
built, to which the wounded man was carried, with the assistance of the
girls. Dove-eye and Flora arranged a comfortable couch for him, and
the medicine-man hung up before the entrance a dressed buffalo-skin,
painted with strange devices, indicating that the place was sacred.
Flora was told that she also must enter that cave when the warriors
came from the village, and must remain there until the ceremonies were
completed, but would be free, until that time, to go about as she had
usually done.

The next morning Flora went early to the spring for water. The promise
of Dove-eye, and the confident tone in which Fred Wilder spoke of the
future, had given her hope, and her heart was light and cheerful for
the first time in many weeks. She was singing as she descended the
hill, so gayly that she did not hear her name pronounced in a low
voice, and she started when the voice assumed a louder tone.

“Who is it?” she asked, as she stopped and looked around, not knowing
whom to expect, unless it might be White Shield.

“A friend,” was the answer, and a young man in hunter’s costume stepped
out into the path before her.

Joy and surprise were mingled in the exclamation which she uttered as
she recognized George Benning. Fearing that she was about to faint, the
young partisan stretched out his arms to keep her from falling; but she
quickly recovered herself, and gave him her hand.

“Where did you come from, Captain Benning?” she asked. “How did you get
here? Is any one with you?”

“You ask more questions than I can answer at a breath. I have been
searching for you ever since you were lost.”

“I did not know who it could be, when you spoke, unless it might be
White Shield.”

“Who is White Shield?”

“An Indian who helped me to escape from the Blackfoot village.”

“I have seen him. He will be here presently. I was waiting for him when
you came singing down the hill. Here he is.”

White Shield rose up, as if from the earth, and presented himself
before the young lady, who welcomed him like an old friend. The
Blackfoot caused his friends to step aside into a sheltered nook, where
mutual explanations were given, Flora declaring that she could only
remain there a few moments, as search would be made for her if she
should not soon return to the lodge.

“Why should you return?” asked Benning. “I have come to save you, to
take you away. There is a large band of friendly Indians with me, and
you have only to mount my horse and ride a short distance, when you
will be in the camp, safe from the Arapahoes.”

“Can you also save Mr. Wilder, and take him with you?”

“You are first to be considered. I can place you in safety, and will
then see what I can do for your _friend_.”

Benning laid such an emphasis on the word “friend,” that Flora noticed
it.

“Mr. Wilder saved me from the Blackfeet,” she said. “He came here to
save me from the Arapahoes, and was badly wounded in the attempt, so
that he is unable to move. Do you think I could desert him? There is
another matter to be considered. My father’s scalp is in the Arapaho
village, and it is of the greatest importance to me that it be
recovered from them. If you wish really to serve me, can you not get
possession of that relic?”

“God knows that I wish to serve you! The Crows are eager to fight, and
will be glad of the opportunity; but there will be a battle, and I
feared that you might be carried away during the struggle.”

“There need be little or no danger. I have a plan, of which I think
both you and White Shield will approve.”

Flora then told her companions of the scene that was to be acted next
morning, at the lodge on the cliff. She accurately described the
situation and surroundings of the lodge, showing that there would be
an excellent opportunity to lay an ambuscade, by which the Arapaho
warriors could be attacked and routed as they left the lodge of the
medicine-man. The victory would be an easy one, she thought, as the
Arapahoes, being surprised and mostly unarmed, would be readily
dispersed. Benning and his friends once in possession of the village,
they might recover the gray scalp, and might at their leisure remove
Wilder and herself, with Dove-eye, if she would accompany them.

Benning had listened with surprise when Flora spoke of her father’s
scalp, and remembered the anxiety which Martin Laurie expressed to
obtain possession of that trophy. He fell in with her views the more
readily, as she had given him some clue to the strange conduct of the
Scotchman. He highly approved of her plan, and thought that there could
be no possible difficulty in carrying it out.

White Shield also pricked up his ears when the gray scalp was
mentioned. He was rejoiced to hear that Silverspur, although badly
wounded, was alive and likely to live; but he was still puzzled
concerning the scalp.

“The Arapahoes told me,” said he, “that they were dancing over the
scalp of Silverspur; but I knew they did not speak the truth.”

Flora was obliged to tell him how her father’s scalp had been brought
from the Blackfoot village, and how it had saved the life of his
friend. White Shield expressed his approval gutturally. If he had been
a Yankee, he would have whistled; as he was an Indian, he grunted most
emphatically.

It was necessary for Flora to hasten back to the lodge, lest she
should be missed. Assuring her friends that she would pray for their
success, she ran away to tell the news to Fred Wilder.

White Shield wished to remain in the vicinity of the village, so that
he could be near Silverspur; but Benning persuaded him to accompany him
to the camp of the Crows, so that he might take part in the expected
attack. It was for the benefit of Silverspur, Benning argued, and White
Shield need trouble himself no further about the Arapahoes.

Flora was careful not to go near Dove-eye when she returned to the
lodge on the cliff. She was so much excited at meeting Benning, that
she knew her friend would notice her state of mind and inquire the
cause, and she was by no means sure that it would be good policy to
inform the Indian girl of the plot that had been laid to destroy her
tribe.

She went, therefore, as quickly as possible, to the cave in which Fred
Wilder was concealed, and astonished that young man by bursting in upon
him suddenly.

“What is the matter, Miss Robinette?” he asked. “You look as if you had
seen a ghost; but it must have been a pleasant one, to judge from your
countenance.”

She astonished him again, by running to the entrance, and peering
out carefully, to see if any one was in sight or hearing, before she
composed herself sufficiently to take a seat by his side and answer his
question.

“I have not seen a ghost,” she replied; “but I have seen a man. White
Shield is alive and safe.”

“That is nothing very wonderful. I was not afraid that the Arapahoes
would rub out that red-skin, and I expected to hear from him before
long. Is that all?”

“George Benning is here. I saw him this morning.”

“Ah! That accounts for the milk in the cocoanut. No wonder you are
excited. What has he been doing this long time? Is he alone?”

“He has been searching for me, and he has a band of Crow warriors to
back him, and we are all going to be released and carried home, and I
have told him what to do.”

“You would not be so confident of release, I suppose, unless you had
told him what to do. Pray tell me what instructions you gave him.”

Flora detailed the plan of the proposed ambuscade and attack upon the
Arapahoes as they returned from their visit to the medicine-lodge.
Wilder listened with a pleased countenance, but became grave at last.

“Very well planned!” he said. “No one could have hit upon a better
idea. There is only one difficulty.”

“What is that?”

“Dove-eye.”

“I have not told her.”

“No; and you must not. Of course it would not do to trust her with the
plan of a campaign against her own people. My only fear is that she
will be killed in the melée, or will fly with the rest.”

Flora’s countenance fell. She had not thought of this.

“Could I not watch her?” she suggested.

“No. You must stay here with me; because such are your orders, and
because you must keep out of danger. You would only run the risk of
another captivity. It is very selfish in me, Miss Robinette; but I
almost feel like wishing that this help had not come, and that we were
not to be released. As it is, I am helpless, and must take my chances.”

“Could I not give her a hint that you wished her to remain?”

“It would be impossible to do so without disclosing your design, and
you must be very careful of your looks as well as your words, or she
will guess it. Don’t let my selfishness trouble you. You must know that
I did not speak in earnest.”

Flora left the little cave with a heavy heart. It went hard with her to
give pain to the man who had rescued her from the Blackfeet, and who
had always shown himself so kind and considerate. She had not thought
of the possibility of being separated from Dove-eye, when she and
Wilder should be released, and the thought troubled her when it was
forced upon her. Dove-eye would not then have guessed, from her joyful
and excited manner, that she had received some very good tidings; on
the contrary, she would have been likely to ask what had happened
to make her so sad and woebegone. But the Indian girl was too much
occupied in preparations for the morrow to notice the changes in the
demeanor of her friend.

The day passed off pretty much as usual, and at night the old
medicine-man went into a trance. That is, he stretched himself out in
state in the principal room of the lodge, and Dove-eye declared that he
had gone to the spirit-land. José was sent to the village to inform the
warriors that they might come and visit him, and Flora, after a tender
leave-taking with Dove-eye, repaired to Wilder’s cave.

She seated herself by the side of the invalid, and waited anxiously
and impatiently for the issue of her plans. Wilder told her that a
yell would be the signal of the onset, and both listened, eagerly and
painfully, for the savage slogan.

Wilder said nothing more of his fears concerning the probable loss of
Dove-eye, and Flora did not mention the subject. Both were too much
absorbed in listening for the yell, which she longed but almost dreaded
to hear. When it came, at last, their nerves had been so strained by
their long suspense, that it fell upon them like a thunderbolt.

The Arapaho warriors had come from the village, in a long and solemn
procession, to look upon their great medicine-man, who, as they firmly
believed, had the power of going to the spirit-land and returning
whenever he chose to do so–in others words, of dying and coming to
life. George Benning and White Shield had stationed the band of Crows
in a ravine near which the procession must pass, and the warriors from
the north gazed from their hiding-place at their enemies, gloating over
the rich prospect of scalps.

The Arapahoes entered the lodge on the cliff, and looked at the old
medicine-man as he lay stretched out on his couch, with his eyes closed
and his face of a ghastly color, to all appearances dead. As they
defiled past him, they pulled his hair, they pinched him, they pricked
him with their knives; but the figure lay cold and motionless, without
sign of life, and they were satisfied that he was dead.

When all had seen him, they set out to return to the village, in slow
and solemn procession as they had come, leaving Dove-eye alone with the
old man. As he usually lay in the trance until noon, and there was time
enough, the girl thought that she might as well pay a visit to Flora
and Wilder.

She took a parting look at the old man, and was about to leave the
lodge when she was startled by a shot from the valley below, followed
by a series of wild and unearthly yells. Then came a volley of musket
and rifle-shots, with screams of pain and rage; and shouts of triumph
and vengeance.

She knew well what it meant. She knew that the Arapahoes had been
attacked by a hostile tribe, and she stood irresolute, when the
medicine-man, to her great surprise, leaped from his couch, and ran out
at the door to see what was the matter.

Dove-eye followed him, and as they looked down into the valley, they
stood aghast at the scene which presented itself to their astonished
eyes. The Arapahoes, taken at a disadvantage, and mostly unarmed, had
been seized with a panic that could not be checked. But few remained
to fight, and these were rapidly falling under the weapons of their
adversaries. The rest were flying, helter-skelter, in every direction,
some up into the hills, some toward the village, and some into the
recesses of the ravines, followed by the victorious Crows.

Among those who scampered up the hills was a tall and stalwart warrior,
with blood streaming from his head and breast. As he came in sight of
the old man and the girl, he warned them to fly, as his pursuers were
close behind, and they turned and ran into the lodge.

The warrior did not follow them, but ran on until he came to the cave
in which Flora Robinette and Fred Wilder were concealed. He must have
known the place, for he went direct to the entrance, although it was
hidden by bushes. The painted skin made him hesitate a moment; but he
tore it aside and entered the cave.

Flora and Wilder were not a little startled at the sudden entrance of
this bleeding and panting savage. The girl screamed, and stepped closer
to the invalid, forgetting that he was even more helpless than herself.
The Arapaho was also astonished; but the light of vengeance began to
gleam in his wild eyes; he could at least have the satisfaction of
slaying a pale-face before he died.

Wilder, who divined his intention, put out his unbandaged arm, as if he
would shield Flora from violence. At the same time he was cool enough
to notice a gray scalp that hung from the Indian’s waist-belt, and he
was sure that he knew that scalp. How he longed, in that brief moment,
to be free and strong again, instead of lying there, unable to move,
compelled to submit to whatever fate the infuriated savage should
choose to visit upon him and the almost equally helpless being at his
side!

He had little time for reflection. The Arapaho sprung forward and
seized the young lady, whom he dragged from the couch. Pulling back
her head by the hair, he raised his knife, with threatening look and
gesture. Flora sent forth scream upon scream, and Wilder, nearly beside
himself with rage, shouted for help at the top of his voice.

The Indian’s blow was never struck. A form came bounding into the
little cave; a tomahawk sunk, with a harsh, dull sound, into the skull
of the Arapaho; and Flora was lifted in the arms of George Benning.
Behind the partisan came White Shield, who coolly proceeded to relieve
the fallen warrior of his scalp.

Flora had fainted, and Benning’s attention could not be withdrawn
from her until she recovered her consciousness. Then he turned to the
invalid, who had spoken to him.

“You were just in time, Benning,” said Wilder. “I was helpless here,
and the red-skin had it all his own way. You have not only saved the
life of Miss Robinette, but have gained something else. Do you see a
gray scalp in that fellow’s belt? Take it out and keep it as you would
your life, for much depends upon it.”

Benning obeyed, and looked at Flora as he did so.

“Is this the scalp you spoke to me about?” he asked.

“I suppose so,” she replied. “Mr. Wilder knows.”

“Do you wish me to keep it?”

“Yes, indeed–that is, it will be safer with you, I think.”

“Why must it be kept?”

“My father wished–indeed, I don’t really know, but it must not be
lost.”

“I will take care of it. And now we must leave this place. The
Arapahoes have been badly whipped, and are scattered over the country;
but they will get together again, and they may give us trouble. You
can’t move, I see, Wilder, but you can be carried, no doubt.”

Wilder looked at Flora, and muttered the name of Dove-eye.

“What does he mean?” asked Benning.

Flora told him, in a few words, about the Indian girl, and explained
the reason of Wilder’s anxiety concerning her.

“We will go and look for her,” said Benning. “She can’t be far away.
You will be safe with me now, and White Shield can stay and take care
of Silverspur.”

George Benning searched faithfully for Dove-eye. He was so glad to
learn that he had not to fear Wilder as a rival, that he thought he
could not do too much to help that young gentleman to the dusky maiden
upon whom he had really set his heart.

But all their search was in vain. With Flora to guide him, he ransacked
the empty lodge, and hunted in every nook and crevice among the rocks.
Flora made the hills echo with the name of her friend, and Benning
pressed into the search all the Crows he met, but no trace could be
found of Dove-eye or the old medicine-man.

Wilder knew, as soon as they entered the cave, that the Indian girl had
not been found. The sorrowful countenance of Flora told him this, and
he felt as one who has sustained a great loss.

“You need tell me nothing about it,” he said. “I felt sure that it
would be so. She is lost, and here I am, on my back, more helpless than
a child.”

“You are not helpless while we are here to help you,” replied Benning.
“White Shield and I will do all that any man can do; but we can stay
here no longer. The Crows are anxious to leave, and we will only have
time to make a litter to carry you in.”

“Never mind me. Leave me here. I am of no use to myself or any one
else, and I may as well die here as elsewhere.”

“You must go with us,” protested Flora. “Do you suppose I could think
of leaving you here to die–you, who saved me from the Blackfeet, and
who have been so kind to me? You will soon get well if you go with us,
and you would be sure to perish here.”

“I have no wish to go. I had rather be left here. Dove-eye will return
when you are gone, and I will see her.”

Flora looked appealingly at White Shield.

“Silverspur must go,” said the Blackfoot. “The Great Spirit has taken
away his mind. We will carry him.”

White Shield and Benning went out, and soon constructed a horse-litter,
making a bed by stretching a blanket across the poles and piling furs
upon it. They then procured the assistance of some Crows to help them
lift the invalid.

Wilder protested against the removal; but he was carried out, in spite
of his protests, and placed in the litter, to which horses were hitched
in front and rear, and the party set out to join the Crows, who were
collecting together on the prairie beyond the mountain.

Flora wished to be taken to her father’s old rendezvous on Green River,
and Bad Eye was willing that the Crows should escort her to that place
and encamp a while at the rendezvous. Wilder, as he had been brought
against his will, had no choice but to accompany the rest. George
Benning was bound to go where Flora went, and White Shield wished to be
with Silverspur.

The Crows set off that evening in high glee. They had taken many
scalps, and had captured numbers of horses, and were sure to meet with
a grand reception at home. They were in strong force, too, and had no
reason to fear any reverse on the way. Straggling parties of Arapahoes
hung around them during the first four days, hoping to recover some of
the horses that had been taken from them, but the Crows kept such a
good guard, that they abandoned the attempt.

The journey was very pleasant to most of the travelers, and quite
safe to all. George Benning had liberty and time enough to make Flora
acquainted with the state of his feelings toward her, and he soon
learned that she was not indifferent to him. In fact, before they had
traveled many days together, he had asked her to allow him to be her
protector through life, and she had granted the request.

Their happiness did not prevent the lovers from paying proper attention
to Fred Wilder. His wounds were carefully dressed by Benning and the
Crow chief, and Flora neglected no opportunity of providing for his
comfort. White Shield was continually at the side of Silverspur,
and Bad Eye was so evidently absorbed in Flora, that George Benning
declared that he was almost inclined to be jealous of the old chief.

In due course of time they reached the rendezvous. The Crows encamped
in the valley, and Bad Eye, with the Blackfoot and his white friends,
entered the inclosure that surrounded the post which had been erected
at that place.

Martin Laurie was greatly surprised at the arrival of Flora, in such
company, and with such an escort; but he was very glad to see her,
or pretended to be, and treated her with the greatest deference.
In accordance with her wishes, he fitted up a room in the fort for
Silverspur, and the wounded man was made as comfortable as possible.
The Scotchman remained very obedient to Flora–servilely so,
indeed–until he perceived her intimacy with Benning, and was informed
of the relations that had been established between them. Then he
thought it was time for him to drop the mask, and his demeanor became
unbearably insolent, as if he desired a rupture with the daughter of
his late employer. Benning wished to chastise him; but was withheld by
Flora, who remembered her father’s respect for the man.

The rupture soon came, nevertheless. He entered Silverspur’s room,
where the young lady was seated, with Benning and White Shield and the
Crow chief. His behavior was so overbearing, that she was forced to
tell him that she had borne his insolence as long as she could, and
must give him notice that he was no longer wanted there.

“I don’t know that you have to say any thing about it, Miss,” replied
Laurie.

“Am I not my father’s daughter?”

“I suppose you are; but that don’t give you any say-so about his
property. I am in trust here under the directions of Mr. Robinette,
and I may have to continue in trust under the law. It is certain that
you will have no right to the property until you marry, and it is very
doubtful whether you will have any right to interfere with it then.”

“I propose to marry.”

“That fellow there? Very well. Under your father’s will, half of his
property will go to the man who recovers his scalp from the Indians,
and you will have to marry that man, whoever he may be, or you will get
nothing but the income of the other half. I am of the opinion that I
will have to remain in charge here, under the law, until we hear from
Paul Robinette’s scalp.”

“Here it is,” said George Benning, unwrapping a cloth that he had taken
from his breast, and showing the gray scalp.

Laurie started back in astonishment. He recognized the thin white
hair of his late employer; but by what fatality had it come into the
possession of George Benning?

“It is an imposition!” he exclaimed. “I don’t believe it. How can you
prove that that thing is genuine?”

“I can prove it,” said Fred Wilder.

“I may as well tell you, Mr. Laurie,” said Flora, “that your
conversation with Farnsworth, when he told you the provisions of my
father’s will, was overheard. The revelations that were then made have
placed us in the position we now occupy. I suppose you will no longer
object to my having a voice in the management of my father’s property.”

“If there should be any objection, I can quiet it,” said Bad Eye,
speaking in very good English. “As the nearest living relative of this
young lady, I am her natural guardian.”

All looked at the Crow chief in surprise, and Flora begged him to
explain.

“It would be a long story, if I should tell it all, and I will be
content with a few words. I am William Robinette. I was in business
with my brother, in my younger days; but he always hated me and
persecuted me. After he married, he drove me away, appropriating my
share of the business. I determined to be revenged upon him. When I
left the country, I took with me his first-born child, a daughter, who,
if she were alive, would be nearly two years older than Flora.”

“Is she dead?” asked Flora.

“I do not know. I took up my abode among the Indians, and cared for her
tenderly, until she was five years old, when she disappeared, and I was
never able to find the least trace of her. My love for her had become
so strong, that my vengeance was turned against myself. I have risen to
be a chief of the Crows, and am thoroughly an Indian. If Martin Laurie
is inclined to dispute my identity, there are old trappers in the
mountains who can prove that I am William Robinette.”

The Scotchman, relying on the assistance of the employés of the post,
would have resisted the authority of Flora and her uncle; but Bad Eye
was backed by a strong force of warriors, and he submitted with as good
a grace as he could assume. His submission did not come soon enough to
save his position. Flora Robinette turned over the management of her
business to George Benning, and Laurie and Farnsworth soon left for the
East.

It was not long before Benning and Flora followed them, with a
sufficient escort of mountain-men, Fred Wilder having become so far
convalescent as to be able to take charge of the business at the
rendezvous. Bad Eye accompanied them some distance on their journey;
but they in vain endeavored to persuade him to return to civilized life.

“I am no longer a white man,” he said. “I love the Crows, and the
remainder of my life shall be spent among them.”

At St. Louis the young couple were married, the provisions of Paul
Robinette’s will were fairly complied with, and his gray scalp,
after being subjected to such severe vicissitudes, found a quiet
resting-place in consecrated ground.

White Shield remained with Silverspur at the rendezvous, feeling that
he had nowhere else to go.

“I have left the Blackfeet,” he said, “I have betrayed the Arapahoes,
and I have no people.”

“Am I not your people, my brother?” asked Silverspur.

The Blackfoot was content to stay with his friend, although he was not
satisfied at the rendezvous. Neither was Silverspur satisfied; for he
could not forget Dove-eye.

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