Conspiracy in Black Hawk’s Cabin

Among other things, Mrs. Blake never tired of speaking of the great chief Black Hawk, and more particularly of his wife, whom she regarded with tender love. Black Hawk she thought a kingly man, and it was vastly to his honor, she maintained, woman-like and truly, that he had taken to himself but one wife, remaining faithful throughout to her whom he had won in his youth.
“Were you greatly harassed by the war?” I asked her one day.
“No, for at the commencement Black Hawk sent an Indian runner to us to say we would not be molested; nor were we.”
“How did he happen to do that?” I asked, surprised.
“We had been neighbors; but it was quite like him, anyway, though he was much embittered at the last toward the whites because of their treachery and the wrongs of his people. Of all the Indian chiefs I ever saw,” she went on, the color mounting to her face at the remembrance, “he was the most commanding, in amiability the greatest, in argument the most persuasive, and in anger the most terrible. I sometimes thought him vain, because on occasions of ceremony, and indeed at other times, it was his habit to adorn his person, savage-like, with garments of the most brilliant hue, encircling his head with feathers of glistening black and placing above them a plume of crimson red. Always, too, I thought, he was inclined to make much of his hereditary rank of king, but never in an offensive way.”
“You must have seen a good deal of him if you were neighbors?” I asked, interested, as I always was, in reference to everything that concerned him.
“Yes, but more of his wife and children. They had a cabin near here, on the river-bank, hid away in the woods, which they used to visit, sometimes occupying the place for weeks at a time. It was not generally known, though, I think; and I have heard they came back there after they had been driven from the country, but we never saw them if they did.”
“Maybe they are there now,” I answered, my blood stirred at the thought of being near the great chief.
“No, I hardly think so; but since the old ferry was abandoned, communication has been cut off, so that they might be there and we not know it.”
When I learned of the close proximity of Black Hawk’s former home, I determined to pay it a visit, not doubting but what I could find it from Mrs. Blake’s account. This chance happily occurred the next day when trying a horse; for being carried near the river before I could bring the animal under control, I determined to go on, and doing so, soon came to the edge of a great bluff, from whence I looked down on the river across a plain that intervened. Hastening on, strangely moved, I knew not why, yet conscious that everything I saw was familiar to me, I cried aloud in surprise and terror on reaching the shore to find myself on the spot where I had emerged from the water that fatal day when we were all thrown into the foaming river together. This, then, was the abandoned ferry about which I had so often heard, and how strange that I should have lived so near the spot and not have known it. Yet not strange, for at what point we had crossed I did not know, only that some one had called it Tip Top, but whether seriously or in play I did not know.
Looking out on the broad river with throbbing heart and tear-dimmed eyes, I saw again my father and mother, as on that other day, struggling in the icy water; but only for a moment and as in a vision. Their mishap, alas! like their chance of life, had passed forever. For that which the water gave up, albeit so grudgingly, the earth still more cruel, now held, and would forevermore.
Grieving, I stood for a long time lost in memories of the past, and in this mood remembrance of the Indian woman who had befriended us came back to me with pleasurable sadness. With it, however, and like a flash of light in the darkness of a cloudy night, the knowledge, not before dreamed of, came to me that it was Black Hawk, and none other, who had rescued my father and mother on that fatal day; and his wife, too, the gentle doe who had so tenderly nourished us afterward. The raven feathers and towering plume of red! Why had I not known him before in all that had been said? This it was, then, unknown to me, that had ever made me tenderly responsive to all that concerned him, whether in war or peace. So much so that as I grew in years he had come to form a part of the romance of my life, not resembling others of his kind, but apart and peculiar, like some unknown deity. His gentle wife, the bent and sorrowful figure sitting desolate in the lonely cabin! Was she still there? Spurred by the thought, I turned, and urging my horse to his utmost speed rode headlong down the stream, as on that other day now so far away. Alas! on reaching the little bay I found only tangled undergrowth, too dense to penetrate, and of sign of life none whatever. Fastening my horse, I made my way as best I could to the little cabin, now wholly hidden by the rank vegetation, but only to find it still and tenantless. Reaching the door, trembling with the sorrowful recollections that flooded my heart, I lifted the latch and entered. It was as I had thought, abandoned; and yet as I looked about in the dim light it had the air of being used, but by vagrants it might be, or outlaws. To this, however, I did not give a thought, for my mind was full of the past, and with such excess of sorrow that scalding tears burned my cheeks as I stood motionless where I entered. The desolation of the place and its stillness, as of death, filled my sorrowing heart to overflowing. Before me, as in the days that had passed, I saw my father and mother, and kneeling in tender care of her, La Reine; Black Hawk, too, stern and threatening, stood at my elbow! and then again on the broad river, with face upturned, in regret of life and scorn of his enemies! and still again bearing my mother tenderly to his hut! Alas! it was but a vision, and where they had been only solitude and desolation now reigned.
Thus I stood grieving, until my tears being wasted, I set about to find, if I might, some memento that I could take away in remembrance of the dear ones who were gone. Alas! even the worn bow, relic of other days, that I hoped still to find, it too was gone. Searching vainly in the darkened room, I finally turned in despondency of spirit to retrace my steps; but while my hand was on the latch, and I stood looking back in vain regret, the voices of men reached me from without. Alarmed, and remembering the cabin in Murderer’s Hollow—for such things one does not easily forget when young—I stopped and listened. As I did so, and as if to give the thought reality, the soft voice of Burke reached me, coming toward the door behind which I stood. Frightened, and yet having some control over myself, I looked about for a place of concealment, and doing so, caught sight of the darkened room from which Black Hawk had taken the oaken paddle. Hastening thither, I had barely reached its welcome shade when Burke entered. Finding no exit, nor indeed having time to search for one, I crouched down in an angle of the little room, scarce breathing for the fear that laid hold of me. Lying quiet, my heart beat aloud and with such strokes that Burke must surely have heard had he listened; but unsuspecting, he did not cease speaking to the man who followed. At first I did not much regard what was said, expecting each moment to be discovered and dragged to the light; but of search they seemed not to think, believing the cabin tenantless as before. Thus left alone, I quickly recovered myself, so that, whether I would or no, I could not but hear what they said.
14“You have better quarters here than in the old place,” Burke’s companion at last exclaimed, “though they are as gloomy as the portals of the infernal regions!”
“Yes, yes; and such places are the best for my trade. I don’t spend much time here, though. I’ve learned that it’s less dangerous in the forest,” Burke replied.
“Yes, curse the country! There is no safety or profit in our business any longer, though the venture we have in hand ought to afford us something and to spare.”
“Yes; and I hope you have come ready to close up the business,” Burke answered. “I am tired of delay—always delay; and you will admit it is your fault, not mine.”
“Neither yours nor mine. You are not more impatient to see the end of it than I, and on more accounts than one in my case,” the other answered; “but nothing can be done till the time is ripe.”
“When will that be? When will that be?” Burke asked, impatiently, but in his soft, purring way; “and what is the nature of the business, anyway?”
“I can’t tell you; nor is it necessary you should know till the time comes. It is all arranged, though, as far as can be, and I am only waiting the opportunity. That depends on others, or it would come to-night; but it can’t be far off, so don’t lose heart or complain.”
“What will it amount to—the money, I mean?” Burke purred. “It ought to be great after all this waiting and riding back and forth across the country.”
“It will, and all cash, too—something that can’t be traced or cause its possessor harm.”
“That is good; but how are we to get hold of it, and when? That is what I want to know,” Burke answered, and so softly I could hardly hear his voice.
“That I can’t explain now, as I have told you; only there will be no great risk, and it will be clean money, as I say, and in packages.”
“In packages?”
“Yes; one of paper and the other of coin. They will be sealed, too, and that being so there will be no need of your opening them till I come.”
“Why not, why not?” Burke seemed to whisper, so soft was his voice.
“Oh, for no particular reason, only it will prevent any dispute between us, as in the Hogge case. I know you would divide fairly, but keep it in the shape it is in and you will not be tempted to spend any part of it for drink, and so get both of us into trouble.”
“Well, it will only be a few hours, anyway.”
“More than that, for I can’t come to you for several days—a week or more,” the other replied.
“Why not? What is to prevent?” Burke asked, his voice plainly showing surprise and irritation.
“It might excite suspicion, for I may be watched. Who can tell what will happen? You can hide the money meanwhile without risk, or keep it by you, as you think best.”
“Yes, yes; but just when will you come?” Burke answered. “I may not see you again, and I am not going to hang around a day on any uncertainty after the thing is done; the danger is too great.”
“There will be no risk to you whatever. I might come in a week, but ten days would be better,” the other answered, slowly, as if reflecting on the matter. NORFLOXACIN
“Well, I can see no point to what you say; but if it must be so, let us be precise about it. Name the hour.”
“Well, then, meet me here at nine o’clock on the tenth night after the robbery. At nine o’clock at night, mind you!” the other answered, decisively, after some moments’ hesitation.
“All right, if you can’t come sooner,” Burke answered, as if fixing the date and hour in his mind; “but how am I to know the time and place to do the thing?”
“I will let you know as soon as it is determined. It may be necessary to kill a man, you understand, and I think it would be to your liking if it turned out that way.”
“Where will I get word when the time comes to act? Here?” Burke asked, paying no attention to what the other said.
“No, at the Craig. You must be there every night at eight o’clock until you hear from me; I will meet you if I can, or if that is impossible, leave a line in the hiding-place telling you just what you are to do.”
“All right, but hurry, for I am getting tired of the whole thing,” Burke purred.
“I will not delay a moment, you may be sure,” the other answered. “And now, if there is nothing more to say, I must be off, for I have a long way to ride.”
“All right; but before you go have something from Black Hawk’s cupboard,” and with the words Burke came toward the closet where I lay concealed, but passing the opening, returned presently with what he sought. “Here is something that will shorten your ride. I always keep a drop where I am likely to be. It cheers one and makes fine company,” Burke went on, as if liquor was the one solace of his forlorn life.
“Yes, but too much of it makes men tattle, Burke; don’t forget that,” the other answered.
“Yes, yes; but did any one ever know me to tattle?” he responded.
“Well, here’s luck to you,” the other answered
“Here’s to your health, and hoping you will fix the thing up without more delay,” Burke responded, drinking in his turn.
“Thank you; I’ll not put it off a minute longer than necessary. Now will you come with me, or do you stay here?”
“No; I will go with you. I have no great fancy for this place. It might turn out to be a trap like the other,” Burke responded.
“Well, let us be off, then.”
“Yes,” Burke answered, coming toward me, but, as before, without entering the closet where I lay. Returning presently, the two left the room without saying more, closing the door after them.
For a time I lay still, lest they should return, but nothing of the kind happening, I crept into the main room and so to the door, which I opened, and without looking to the right or left, plunged into the dark forest. Running some distance, I stopped and listened, but could hear nothing save the wash of the waves on the river-bank and the soft murmuring of the wind in the tops of the trees. Circling the cabin, I found my horse as I had left him, and mounting made my way through the forest to an abandoned piece of ground back of the hut. This I discovered to be the cornfield Black Hawk had once tilled, as the mounds plainly showed. Stopping, I surveyed it, thinking how simple of occupation had been the life of this, the greatest among the savage men of the earth; and to this day, not less than then, I cannot think of the place and its neglect and solitude except with a sigh of wonder and regret. Crossing the field, I made my way home, arriving there ere night had set in and without notice having been taken of my absence. For this I was glad, being determined to say nothing of what I had heard or seen. I knew not who was to be robbed nor when, and nothing therefore would come of speaking, save the discovery of my hiding-place. When I went to the house some time afterward, Mrs. Blake on seeing me cried out in affright:
“Are you ill, Gilbert, or what has happened? You are pale as death!”
“It’s nothing, only the horse was new, and I have had a hard ride,” I answered, putting her off; “but I’m tired and will go to bed without waiting for supper, if you don’t care.”
“Very well; I will bring you something later when you have rested a little,” she answered, with motherly love.
“No, don’t bother; I’ll be all right in the morning. Sleep always makes me well.”
“As it does all young people, bless your heart,” she answered, embracing me as I passed her on the way to my room.
Bidding her good night, I sought my bed, and lying there strove to find some clew to the robbery that was being planned, but in vain; and when the night was far spent, and in sheer weariness of body and mind, I fell asleep, not to wake till noon of the following day.