“By Heaven, Tim, look at this!” I cried. “He is an Indian himself—a black Sac!”
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
I do not know what delayed the attack of the savages, unless they were waiting for some signal which never came. I passed from loophole to loophole, thus assuring myself not only that they still remained, but that the cabin was completely surrounded, although the manner in which the warriors had been distributed left the great mass of them opposite the front. The others evidently composed a mere guard to prevent escape. No movement I could observe indicated an immediate assault; they rather appeared to be awaiting something.
Those I saw were all dismounted, and had advanced toward the cabin as closely as possible without coming within the range of guns. They had also sheltered themselves as far as possible behind clumps of brush, or ridges of rock, so that I found it difficult to estimate their number. Only occasionally would a venturesome warrior appear for a moment in the open, as he glided stealthily from the protection of one covert to another. No doubt some were brought within range of our rifles, as these efforts were usually made to more advanced positions, but I forbade firing, in the vague hope that, not hearing from Kirby, the chiefs might become discouraged and draw off without risking an open attack.
This was more a desperate hope, rather than any real faith I possessed. Beyond doubt the Indian chief knew, or thought he knew, our exact strength before he consented to use his warriors in this assault. If the band had trailed us to this spot, it had been done through the influence of Kirby, and he had, beyond question, informed them as to whom we were, and the conditions under which we had fled from Yellow Banks. The only addition to our party since then was the rescued boy. They would have little fear of serious loss in an attack upon two men, and two women, unarmed, except possibly with a pistol or two, even though barricaded behind the log walls of a cabin. And, with one of their number within, any attempt at defense would be but a farce. This same gang had already sacked the cabin, taking with them, as they believed, every weapon it contained. In their haste they had overlooked the cellar below. They had no thought of its existence, nor that we awaited them rifles in hand and with an amply supply of powder and lead. Whatever might be the final result, a surprise of no pleasant nature was awaiting their advance.
Convinced, as I had become, that Black Hawk was actually with the party, although I was unable to obtain any glimpse of him, I felt there was small chance of his departure, without making at least one effort to capture the cabin. That was his nature, his reputation—that of a bulldog to hang on, a tiger to strike. More even, this band of raiders must be far south of the main body of the Hawk’s followers, and hence in danger themselves. They would never remain here long, facing the possibility of discovery, of having their retreat cut off. If they attacked, the attempt would not be long delayed.