While this genial spirit of contentment and good will prevailed around the fire, a tall Indian stood within the shadow of the forest, and watched the scene with much interest and curiosity. At length he stepped forth into the flame-lit circle, and walked deliberately over to where Dane was seated. His presence was at once noted, and a sudden hush fell upon the gathering.
“Hello, Pete!” Dane exclaimed in surprise. “Where have you come from, and what do you want?”
The native replied in the deep guttural Indian tongue, and what he said caused Dane to start, while an expression of anxiety overspread his face. He asked a question in the same language, with which he was quite familiar, and when it had been answered, he turned to the intensely interested group around him.
“I am sorry to have to leave you,” he announced, “but I must go at once, as I am needed up river.”
“Is it anything serious?” Jean asked in a low voice.
“I am afraid so,” Dane replied. “I told you that Pete would suddenly turn up with important news, and I was right. The rebels are stirring up trouble.”
“But you must see daddy before you go,” Jean said. “He will be greatly disappointed if you don’t.”
“Certainly I must see him. Let us go at once, as there is no time to lose.”
Together they made their way to the house, leaving the people around the fire gazing curiously after them. As they entered, they saw the Indian bending over the sleeping child, and watching it most intently. Mammy was standing by on the defensive, fearful lest she was about to lose her little charge.
“Doan let him take her, Mistah Dane,” she cried. “I can’t spare Babby. Drive him out ob de house.”
Pete at once straightened himself up to his full height, and smiled as he looked upon the agitated woman.
“Injun no tak’ babby,” he said. “Injun no cabin. Babby no mamma.”
“Bress de Lo’d fo’ His goodness!” Mammy fervently exclaimed, lifting on high her hands, “and let all de earf gib t’anks unto His holy name fo’ ebber an’ ebber.”
The Colonel was greatly interested over Dane’s departure, and asked him several questions.
“I can tell you very little now,” the young man replied. “That the rebels are up to some mischief is quite certain. Pete has found out where they are to meet to-morrow night, so we must be on hand to learn their plans.”
“Is it far from here?”
“Quite a distance. We shall take the canoe, and make it in several hours.”
“Why not wait until daylight?”
“That would not do, as we need darkness for such work. The rebels must not know of our presence.”
“Will there be any danger?” Jean enquired.
Dane smiled as he looked upon her sober face, and saw the anxious expression in her eyes.
“Nothing to worry about,” he replied. “To some it might be a dangerous undertaking, but Pete and I have been at it so long that it has become almost second nature to us.”