Little Linna, daughter of Omas, the Delaware warrior, was of the same age as Alice Ripley. The weather was warm although she wore tiny moccasins to protect her feet, she scorned the superfluous stockings and undergarments that formed a part of the other's apparel.
Her hair was as black, abundant, and almost as long as her father's; but her face was clean, and, perhaps in honor of the occasion, she, too, sported a gaudy eagle feather in her hair.
She bounded out of the green wood like a fawn, but as she drew near her parent and Alice, her footsteps became slower, and she halted a few paces away, hung her head, with her forefinger between her pretty white teeth – for all the world like any white girl of her years.
But Alice did not allow her to remain embarrassed. She had been begging for this visit, and now, when she saw her friend, she ran forward, took her little plump hand and said – "Linna, I am real glad you have come!"
Omas had risen to his feet, and watched the girls with an affection and interest which found no expression on his painted face. His child looked timidly up to him and walked slowly forward, her hand clasped in that of Alice. She did not speak, but when her escort sat down on the grass, she did the same.
"Linna, do you know how to play Jack Stones?" asked Alice, picking up the pebbles.
Linna shook her head quickly several times, but her lips remained mute.
"Your father thought he knew how, but he don't; he doesn't play fair, either. Let me show you, so you can beat him when you go home."
Alice set to work, while the bright black eyes watched every movement.
"Now do you want to try it?" she asked, after going through the game several times.
Linna nodded her head with the same birdlike quickness, and reached out her chubby hand.
Her father and Alice watched her closely. She made several failures at first, all of which were patiently explained by her tutor; by and by she went through the performance from beginning to end without a break.
Alice clapped her hands with delight, and Omas – certain that no grownup person saw him – smiled with pleasure.
"Doesn't she know how to talk?" asked Alice, looking up at the warrior. Omas spoke somewhat sharply to his child in the Delaware tongue. She startled, and looking at Alice, asked –
"Do – yoo think me play well?"
Alice was delighted to find she could make herself understood so easily. It was wonderful how she had learned to speak English so early in life.
"I guess you can," was the ready reply of Alice; "your father can't begin to play as well. When you go home you can show your mamma how to play Jack Stones. Have you any brothers and sisters?"
"No; me have no brother – no sister."
"That's too bad! I've got a big brother Ben. He isn't home now, but he will be here to supper. He's a nice boy, and you will like him. Let's go in the house now to see mamma, and you can teach me how to talk Indian."
Both girls bounded to their feet, and hand in hand, walked to the door, with Omas gravely stalking after them.
Mrs. Ripley had learned of the visitor, and stood on the threshold to welcome her. She took her by the hand and led her inside. Omas paused, as if in doubt whether he should follow; but her invitation to him was so cordial, that he stepped within and seated himself on a chair.
That afternoon and night could never be forgotten by Alice Ripley. In a very little while she and her visitor were on the best of terms; laughing, romping, and chasing each other in and out of doors, just as if they were twin sisters that had never been separated from each other.
When Mrs. Ripley asked Omas for how long a time he could leave his child with them, he said he must take her back that evening. His wigwam was a good many miles away in the woods, and he would have to travel all night to reach the village of his tribe.
Mrs. Ripley, however, pleaded so hard, that he consented to let his child stay until he came back the next day or soon thereafter for her.
When he rose to go, the long summer day was drawing to a close. He spoke to Linna in their native tongue. She was sitting on the floor just then, playing with a wonderful rag baby, but was up in a flash, and followed him outside.
"Wait a moment and she will come back," said Mrs. Ripley to her own child. She knew what the movement meant: Omas did not wish anyone to see him and Linna.
On the outside he moved to the left, and glanced around to make sure that no person was looking that way. Then he lifted the little one from the ground; she threw her arms around his neck, and he pressed her to his breast and kissed her several times with great warmth. Then he set her down, and she ran laughing into the house, while he strode off to the woods.
But at the moment of entering them he stopped abruptly, wheeled about, and walked slowly back toward the cabin.
Upon the return of Linna, Mrs. Ripley stepped to the front door to look for her son. He was not in sight, but Omas had stopped again hardly a rod distant. He stood a moment, looking fixedly at her, and then beckoned with his free hand for her to approach.
Without hesitation she stepped off the broad flat stone and went to him.
"What is it, Omas?" she asked in an undertone, pausing in front of him, and gazing up into the grim, painted countenance.
The Delaware returned the look for a few seconds, as if studying how to say what was in his mind. Then in a voice lower even than hers, he said – "You – little girl – big boy – go way soon – must not stay here."
"Why do you say that, Omas?"
"Iroquois like leaves on trees – white men, call Tories – soon come down here – kill all white people – kill you – kill little girl, big boy – if you stay here."
The pioneer's wife had heard the same rumors for days past. She knew there was cause for fear, for nearly all the able bodied men in Wyoming were absent with the patriot army, fighting for independence. The inhabitants in the valley had begged Congress to send some soldiers to protect them, and the relatives of the women and children had asked again and again that they might go home to save their loved ones from the Tories and Indians; but the prayer was refused. The soldiers in the army were too few to be spared, and no one away from Wyoming believed the danger as great as it was.
But the people themselves knew the peril, and did their best to prepare for it. But who should know more about the Indians and Tories than Omas, the great Delaware warrior?
When, therefore, he said these words to Mrs. Ripley, that woman's heart beat faster. She heard the laughter and prattle of the children in the house, and she thought of that bright boy, playing with his young friends not far away.
"Where can we go?" she asked, in the same guarded voice.
"With Omas," was the prompt reply; "hide in wigwam of Omas. Nobody hurt palefaced friend of Omas."
It was a trying situation. The brave woman, who had passed through many dangers with her husband, knew what a visit from the Tories and Indians meant; but she shrank from leaving Wyoming, and all her friends and neighbors.
"When will they come?" she asked; "will it be in a few weeks or in a few days?"
"Getting ready now; Brandt with Iroquois – Butler with Tory – soon be here."
"But do you mean that we shall all go with you tonight?"
The Delaware was silent for a few seconds. His active brain was busy, reviewing the situation.
"No," he finally said; "stay here till Omas come back; then go with him – all go – den no one be hurt."
"Very well; we will wait till you come to us again. We will take good care of Linna."
And without another word the Delaware turned once more, strode to the forest, which was then in fullest leaf, and vanished among the trees.
Mrs. Ripley walked slowly back to the door. On the threshold she halted, and looked around again for her absent boy. It was growing dark, and she began to feel a vague alarm for him.
A whistle fell on her ear. It was the sweetest music she had ever heard, for it came from the lips of her boy.
He was in sight, coming along the well worn path that led in front of the other dwellings and to her own door. When he saw her, he waved his hand in salutation, but could not afford to break in on the vigorous melody which kept his lips puckered.
She saw he was carrying something on his shoulder. A second glance showed that it was one of the heavy rifles used by the pioneers a hundred years ago. The sight – taken with what Omas had just said – filled her heart with forebodings.
She waited until the lad came up. He kissed her affectionately, and then in the offhand manner of a big boy, let the butt of the gun drop on the ground, leaned the top away from him, and glancing from it to his mother, asked – "What do you think of it?"
"It seems to be a good gun. Whose is it?"
"Mine," was the proud response. "Colonel Butler ordered that it be given to me, and I'm to use it, too, mother."
"For what purpose?"
"The other Colonel Butler – you know he is a cousin to ours – has got a whole lot of Tories" (who, you know, were Americans fighting against their countrymen) "and Indians, and they're coming down to wipe out Wyoming; but I guess they will find it a harder job than they think."
And to show his contempt for the danger, the muscular lad lifted his weighty weapon to a level, and pretended to sight it at a tree.
"I wish that was a Tory or one of those Six Nation Indians – wouldn't I drop him!"
The mother could not share the buoyancy of her son. She stepped outside, so as to be beyond the hearing of the little ones.
"Omas has been here; that is his little girl that you hear laughing with Alice. He has told me the same as you – the Tories and Indians are coming, and he wants us to flee with him."
"What does he mean by that?" asked the half indignant boy.
"He says they will put us all to death, and if we do not go with him, we will be killed too."
The handsome face of Benjamin Ripley took on an expression of scorn, and as he straightened up, he seemed to become several inches taller.
"He forgets that I am with you! Omas is very kind; but he and his Tory friends had better look out for themselves. Why, with the men at the fort, Colonel Butler will have several hundred."
"But they are mostly old men and boys."
"Well," said the high spirited lad, with a twinkle of his fine hazel eyes, "add up a lot of old men and boys, and the average is the same number of middle aged men, isn't it? Don't you worry, mother – things are all right. If Omas comes back, give him our thanks, and tell him we are not going to sneak off when we are needed at home."
It was hard to resist the contagion of Ben's hopefulness. The mother not only loved but respected him as much as she could have done had he been several years older. He had been her mainstay for the two years past, during which the father was absent with the patriot army; and she came to lean upon him more and more, though her heart sank when Ben began to talk of following his father into the ranks, to help in the struggle for independence.
She found herself looking upon the situation as Ben did. If so great danger threatened Wyoming, it would be cowardly for them to leave their friends to their fate. It was clear all could not find safety by going, and she would feel she was doing wrong if she gave no heed to the others.
Ben was tall and strong for his years, and the fact that he had taken the gun from Colonel Butler to be used in taking care of the settlement bound the youth in honor to do so.
"It shall be as you say," said the mother; "I cannot be as hopeful as you, but it is our duty to stay. We will not talk about it before the children."
"I want to see how a little Indian girl looks," muttered Ben with a laugh, following his mother into the house.
Alice caught sight of him, and was in his arms the next instant, while Linna rose to her feet, and stood with her forefinger between her teeth, shyly studying the newcomer.
"Helloa, Linna! how are you?" he called, setting down his young sister and catching up the little Indian. Not only that, but he gave her a resounding smack on her dusky cheek.
"I always like pretty little girls, and I'm going to be your beau: what do you say? Is it a bargain?"
It is not to be supposed that the Delaware miss caught the whole meaning of this momentous question. She was a little overwhelmed by the rush of the big boy's manner, and nodded her head about a dozen times.
"There, Alice; do you understand that?" he asked, making the room ring with his merry laughter; "I'm to be Linna's beau. How do you like it?"
"I'm glad for you, but I – guess – I oughter be sorry for Linna."