The Wolf Demon or, The Queen of the Kanawha
The Table of Contents was created by the transcriber and placed in the public domain.
Additional Transcriber’s Notes are at theend.
COPYRIGHTED IN 1878, BY BEADLE & ADAMS.
THE WOLF DEMON;
The Queen of the Kanawha.
BY ALBERT W. AIKEN,
AUTHOR OF “INJUN DICK,” “ROCKY MOUNTAIN ROB,”
“KENTUCK, THE SPORT,” ETC., ETC.
The great, round moon looked down in a flood of silverlight upon the virgin forest by the banks of the Scioto,the beautiful river which winds through the richest andfairest valley in all the wide western land—the greatcorn valley of the Shawnee tribe—those red warriorswho, in their excursions across the Ohio (the “La Belle”river of the early French adventurers) had given to theplains and valleys of Kentucky the name of “The Darkand Bloody Land.”
The tree-tops were green and silver; but under thespreading branches, sable was the gloom.
The strange, odd noises of the night broke the foreststillness. One hears all noises in the night even in a civilizedland; how much more wondrous then are the wild,free cries of the inhabitants of the great greenwood, untrammeledby the restraining hand of man!
The free winds surged with a mournful sound throughthe branches of the wood.
A ring around the moon told the coming storm.
Dark masses of clouds dashed across the sky, ever and anonvailing in the “mistress of the night,” as though some unquietspirit was envious of the pale moonbeams, and wished tocover, with its mantle, the earth, and cloak an evil deed.
A frightened deer came dashing through the aisles of theforest—a noble buck with branching horns that told of manya year spent under the greenwood tree.
Across a little open glade, whereon the moonbeams fell—kissingthe earth as though they loved it—dashed the deer,and then, entering again the dark recesses of the forest, thebrown coat of the wood-prince was lost in the inky gloom.
Then in the trail of the buck, guided by the noise of therustling branches, came a dark form.
As the form stole, with noiseless tread, across the moonlitglade, it displayed the person of an Indian warrior.
A red brave, decked out in deer-skin garb, stained with thepigments of the earth in many colors, and fringed in fancifulfashion.
The warrior was a tall and muscular savage, one of Nature’snoblemen. A son of the wilderness untrammeled by the taintof civilization—a brave of the great Shawnee tribe, the lordsof the Ohio valley from the oil “licks” of the Alleghanystream to the level prairies where the Wabash and the Whitepour their muddy tide into the great river of the New World,the winding, smiling Ohio.
Fast on the trail of the deer he followed, although the chasewas almost hopeless.
Hardly had the warrior crossed the glade and entered thethicket, when, on his track—following him as he was followingthe deer—came another form through the forest.
A form that moved with noiseless steps; a form that castbehind it a shadow gigantic in its hight.
The form did not pass across the glade, but skulked aroundit in the shadow, as though it feared the moonlight.
The warrior penetrated into the thicket beyond the glade,but a hundred yards or so. Then satisfied that the deer wasthoroughly alarmed and had sought safety in flight, the warriorbegan to retrace his steps. The Shawnee brave dreamednot of the dark and fearful form—that seemed neither mannor beast—that lurked in his track.
He had hunted the deer, but little thought that he, too, inturn was hunted.
The red chief guessed not that the dread demon of his nation—theterrible foe who had left his red “totem” on thebreast of many a stout Shawnee brave—was even now onhis track, eager for that blood which was necessary to itsexistence.
With careless steps the warrior retraced his way.
From behind a tree-trunk came the terrible form. Onesingle blow, and a tomahawk crashed through the brain ofthe red-man.
With a groan the Shawnee chief sunk lifeless to the earth.
The dark form bent over him for a moment. Three rapidknife-slashes, and the mark of the destroyer was blazoned onthe breast of the victim, reddened with blood.
Then through the aisles of the forest stole the dark form.
All living things—the insects of the earth—the birds of thenight—shrunk from its path.
It crossed the glade full in the soft light of the moon.
The rays of the orb of night fell upon a huge gray wolf,who walked erect like a man! The face of the wolf was thatof a human. In the paw of the beast glistened the tomahawkof the red-man, the edge now scarlet with the blood of theShawnee chief.
For a moment the moon looked upon the huge and terriblefigure, and then, as if struck with deadly fear at the awfulsight, hid itself behind a dark cloud.
When it again came forth, the strange and terrible being,that wore the figure of a wolf and the face of a man, haddisappeared, swallowed up in the gloom of the forest.
Once again the creatures of the night came forth. Againthe shrill cries broke the stillness of the wood.
Two rifle-“cracks” broke the stillness of the wilderness,that stretched in one almost unbroken line from the Alleghanyand Blue Ridge peaks to the Ohio river. The reportsre-echoed over the broad expanse of the Kanawha and Ohiorivers, for the shots were fired near the junction of the twostreams—fired so nearly at the same time that the two seemedalmost like one report.
Then, before the smoke of the rifles had curled lazily upwardin spiral rings on the air, came a crash in the tangledunderbrush, and forth into a little open glade—the work ofNature’s master hand—dashed a noble buck. The red streambursting from a wound just behind the shoulder and stainingcrimson the glossy brown coat of the forest lord, told plainlythat he was stricken unto death.
The buck gained the center of the glade, then his strideweakened; the dash through the thicket was the last despairingeffort of the poor brute to escape from the invisible foeswhose death-dealing balls had pierced his side.
With a moan of pain, almost human in its expression, thebuck fell upon his knees, then rolled over on his side, dead.
The brute had fallen near the trunk of a large oak tree—atree distinguished from its neighbors by a blazon upon itsside, whereon, in rude characters, some solitary hunter hadcut his name.
Scarcely had the death-bleat of the buck pierced the silenceof the glen, when two men came dashing through the woods,each eager to be the first to secure the game.
One of the two was some twenty yards in advance of theother, and reached the body of the dead buck just as his rivalemerged from the thicket.
Placing his foot upon the buck, and rifle in hand, he preparedto dispute the quarry with the second hunter, for bothmen—strangers to each other—had fired at the same deer.
The hunter who stood with his foot upon the buck, in anattitude of proud defiance, had reloaded his rifle as he ranand was prepared to defend his right to the game to the bitterend.
In person, the hunter was a muscular, well-built man,standing some six feet in hight. Not a clumsy, overgrowngiant, hardly able to bear his own weight, but a man as suppleand as active as a panther. He was clad in buck-skinhunting-shirt and leggins, made in the Indian fashion, butunlike that fashion in one respect, and that was that nogaudy ornaments decorated the garments. Upon the feet ofthe hunter were a pair of moccasins. A cap rudely fashionedfrom a piece of deer-skin, and with the little flat tail of theanimal as an ornament, completed the dress of the hunter.
The face of the man was singular to look upon. The featureswere large and clearly cut. The cold gray eye, broadforehead, and massive, squarely-chiseled chin, told of dauntlesscourage and of an iron will. A terrible scar extendedfrom the temple to the chin on the left side of the face.
The hunter was quite young—not over twenty-five, thoughdeep lines of care were upon the face.
The second hunter, who came from the tangled thicket,but paused on the edge of the little glen on beholding thethreatening attitude of the hunter who stood with his foot onthe deer, was a man who had probably seen forty years.He, too, like the other, was of powerful build, and his muscularframe gave promise of great strength.
He was dressed, like the first, in the forest garb of deer-skin,but his dress was gayly fringed and ornamented.
In his hand he bore one of the long rifles so common to thefrontier settler of that time, for our story is of the year 1780.
The clear blue eye of the second hunter took in the situationat a glance. He readily saw that the man who stood sodefiantly by the deer was not disposed to yield his claim tothe animal without a struggle. So the second hunter determinedupon a parley.
“Hello, stranger! I reckon we’re both after the same critter,”said the hunter who stood on the edge of the littleglade.
“Yes; it ’pears so,” replied the other, who stood by thedeer.
There was something apparently in the voice of the lastcomer that impressed the first favorably, for he dropped thebutt of his rifle to the ground, though he still kept his footupon the deer’s carcass.
“Well, stranger, we can’t both have the game. I think Ihit him, an’ of course, as it is but nat’ral, you think so, too.So I reckon we’d better find out which one of us he belongsto; ’cause I don’t want him if my ball didn’t finish him, an’ ofcourse, you don’t want him if he’s mine by right,” said thesecond hunter, approaching the other fearlessly.
“You’re right, by hookey!” cried the other, yielding to theinfluence of the good-humored tone of the other.
“Let me introduce myself, stranger, ’cos you seem to be anew-comer round hyer,” said the old