“Sam,” I commanded, “you are to remain here with Rene, while I learn the truth yonder. Yes,” to her quick protest, “that will be the better way—there is no danger and I shall not be gone but for a moment.”
I seated her on a low stump and left them there together, Sam’s eyes rolling about in a frightened effort to perceive every covert in the woods, but the girl satisfied to watch me intently as I moved cautiously forward. A dozen steps brought me within view of the front of the cabin. The door had been smashed in and hung dangling from one hinge. Another step, now with a pistol gripped in my hand, enabled me to obtain a glimpse within. Across the puncheon threshold, his feet even protruding without, lay a man’s body; beyond him, half concealed by the shadows of the interior, appeared the outlines of another, with face upturned to the roof, plainly distinguishable because of a snow-white beard.
THE TRAIL OF THE RAIDERS
Shocked and unmanned as I was at this discovery, to pause there staring at those gruesome figures would have only brought fresh alarm to the two watching my every movement from the edge of the clearing. Gripping my nerves I advanced over the first body, watchful for any sign of the presence of life within the cabin. There was none—the work of the murder had been completed, and the perpetrators had fled. I saw the entire interior at a glance, the few articles of rude, hand-made furniture, several overturned, the fire yet smouldering on the hearth, some broken crockery, and pewter dishes on the floor, and on every side the evidences of a fierce, brutal struggle. The dead man, with ghastly countenance upturned to the roof rafters, and the snowy beard, was undoubtedly the negro helper, Amos Shrunk. Pete’s description of the appearance of the man left this identification beyond all dispute. He had been stricken down by a savage blow, which had literally crushed in one side of his head, but his dead hands yet gripped a rifle, as though he had fallen fighting to the last.
The other man, the one lying across the threshold, had been shot, although I did not ascertain this fact until after I turned the body over sufficiently to reveal the face. This was disfigured by the wound and covered with blood, so that the features could scarcely be seen, yet I instantly recognized the fellow—Carver. Surprised out of all control by this unexpected discovery, I steadied myself against the log wall, fully aroused to the sinister meaning of his presence. To a degree the complete significance of this tragedy instantly gripped my mind. It this fellow Carver had been one of the assailants, then it was absolutely certain that Kirby must have also been present—the leader of the attack. This inevitably meant that both men had been aboard the steamer, and later were put ashore at the mouth of the Illinois. And