He parted with Pete at the entrance to this stream early that afternoon, as he wished to send the Indian to Oromocto with a message to Davidson. As for himself he could not take the time to go as every hour was precious. With feverish haste he pressed on alone, planning to travel all night, if possible. It was a dreary and desolate region through which he moved, with not a sign of life anywhere. His snow-shoes bent and creaked beneath his great strides, tossing the snow aside like spray from a ship’s bow. The weight of his musket, and the pack of food upon his back impeded him not in the slightest degree. He was a giant of the trail, sturdy of body, sound in wind, and possessed of remarkable endurance. He had to be all these to be chief of the royal rangers in the service of William Davidson. He knew what it was to travel day and night, bearing some message of importance, so the journey ahead was nothing out of the ordinary. But he had a greater mission now than ever before, and this inspired him to more strenuous efforts. The vision of a fair face was constantly with him, and the thought that Jean needed his help drove him forward like the wind.
The short afternoon was waning as he rounded a bend in the stream. To the left was a small cove, and it was here that one of the trails overland to the Great Lake and the river beyond began. Dane knew of the log cabin tucked away among the trees which served as a resting-place to weary travellers. He had often stopped there, but he had no intention of doing so now when every minute was so precious. Keeping straight on his way, he had almost reached the point on the upper side of the cove, when he came across a well-beaten trail leading to the cabin. He examined it carefully and with considerable interest. He knew at once that a large body of men had recently passed that way, and he wondered who they could be.
Dane’s suspicions at once became aroused, for who else but the slashers would be travelling in a body from the Washademoak? He did not relish the idea of stopping to investigate, but he knew that this was his duty as a King’s ranger. With a slight exclamation of annoyance, he went ashore and plunged into the forest in order to come close to the cabin under cover of the trees. It would not do to follow in on the beaten trail lest the slashers should be near. He must not be seen by his old-time enemies, so caution was necessary.
It took him but a short time to come in sight of the cabin, and when a few rods away he paused and listened. But not a sound could he hear, so thus emboldened, he stepped up close to the door. The snow around the building had been beaten down by numerous moccasined feet, and looking to the right, he saw where the visitors had left the place by the overland route.
And as he stood there a groan from within the cabin fell upon his ears, followed by a weak, wailing cry for help. Quickly he pushed open the door and entered. At first he could see nothing, but as his eyes became accustomed to the darkness, he detected a form huddled upon the floor, almost at his feet.