"Oh, no, no!" exclaimed Virginia, starting up and grasping the Indian's hands, which she placed on her head; "my ever kind protector; I should indeed be ungrateful could I have forgotten you. What my husband desires, I will do."
"We thank you, chief," said Gilbert, "but we have friends here whom we cannot desert; whatever may be the danger, we must remain and share it with them."
The chief stood lost in thought. "I understand you," he said, "you are right. I came to save her alone, but her friends must be my friends.
Tell them to be prepared for a sudden attack from the surrounding tribes, or ere another sun has set not a paleface in the country will be left alive. I know no one I would entrust my message to, but have journeyed night and day, across streams, and through forests, and over hills to utter the warning. Swear that you will follow my advice, or I will stay and perish with you."
Virginia, knowing that Oncagua spoke the truth, entreated Gilbert to do as he wished. He no longer hesitated; and the old chief, taking another fond look at Virginia, disappeared from the door-way.
Happily, Oliver Dane, who lived with Vaughan Audley, was expected that evening to pay them a visit. Anxiously they waited his arrival.
Virginia could not help fearing that the Indians might have attacked him on the way, and Gilbert was equally alarmed for Vaughan and Cicely's safety.
"I cannot leave you, dear one, alone," he said; "and yet there is not a moment to be lost."
"Do not fear for me," she answered. "Go and warn our neighbours,-- persuade them to put the town into a state of defence. I will wait here till Oliver arrives, and give him such directions as you may leave with me."
Gilbert sat down with his hands on his brow, considering what steps it would be necessary to take; for the lives of all the inhabitants of the colony might depend upon his decision, should no one else have received a warning of what was about to occur. His plans were quickly formed; he must immediately despatch to James Town and other places further off bold and trusty messengers to induce the inhabitants to take proper measures for their preservation; while he himself determined to collect a body of friends, and to hasten as fast as their steeds could carry them to the a.s.sistance of Vaughan, leaving Oliver for the protection of Virginia. It cost him much to decide thus, but he intended to try and persuade Vaughan and Cicely to accompany him back to the town rather than to attempt defending the house, which was ill-calculated to resist a prolonged attack by the Indians. It took him but a brief s.p.a.ce of time to arrive at this decision. Hastily buckling on his sword, placing his pistols in his belt, and taking down his gun from the wall, he stood ready to set out.
At that instant Oliver, now grown into a fine young man, arrived.
Gilbert briefly told him of the warning brought by Oncagua, and explained the measures he intended to take.
"Oh! let me accompany you to Vaughan's," exclaimed Virginia, when she heard of his intention to go there. "I shall be of a.s.sistance to Cicely and her little ones, and I cannot bear the thoughts of being separated from you at a time of such fearful peril."
"If she wishes it, I will place a pillion on my horse, and she can ride behind me," said Oliver. "I would far rather fight for my kind friends than remain behind; and I doubt whether the peril to her will be greater should she accompany us than should she remain behind."
To this Gilbert consented; and while Oliver went to prepare the steeds, he sallied forth to find the princ.i.p.al persons, to whom it was necessary to impart the information he had received. Scarcely had he got ten paces from the house when a voice, which he recognised as that of his old friend Fenton, hailed him.
"You have, indeed, arrived most opportunely," he said, as he grasped Fenton's hand; and then taking him by the arm, hurried him along with him while he detailed what he had heard, and the proceedings he intended to adopt. "We want a man of courage and judgment to take command of the town, and I can answer for it that you will do so. People will obey you," he added.
"In truth, I was on my way to tell you and Vaughan of a warning I myself received this morning, on my arrival in the river, from our old friend Canochet," answered Fenton. "Scarcely had I dropped my anchor than he came on board from the southern side and desired to see me privately in the cabin. He then told me that his tribe were friendly, but he had just cause to doubt the Indians of Powhattan's country, and that although he could not give me any definite information, he was very sure a speedy outbreak was in contemplation. He advised that I should induce my friends to come on board the _Rainbow_, and to sail away immediately.
He quickly returned on sh.o.r.e, and I hastened to inform the Governor of what I had heard. Your messenger will, I trust, induce him to take more determined measures for defending the town than he might otherwise have thought necessary."
Captain Fenton's arrival was of great a.s.sistance to Gilbert in winning his fellow-townsmen to a sense of their danger. The chief magistrate immediately sent round and summoned all the adult population of the place to meet him without delay. Letters were then despatched to James Town and in other directions with the request that those who received them would send on the warning to places further off. Gilbert then asked for volunteers to accompany him to the a.s.sistance of his brother.
Four only appeared,--indeed, the magistrate afforded no encouragement for the men to go, wishing to keep them for the defence of the place.
Gilbert was in despair, when a grey-headed old man on a rough pony, armed with a big gun, a cutla.s.s, and a huge pair of pistols, came clattering up to the council-house.
"What!" he exclaimed, when he heard Gilbert's last appeal; "are none of you ready to go and help the daughter and son-in-law of my old commander, Captain Amyas Layton? And from what I hear, they and their young children will be put to death unless a dozen or more true men are ready to fight in their defence. You all know me, Ben Tarbox,--some of you knew my old captain, and have sailed with him, too,--I don't want to weaken the defence of the town, but I ask for just a few stout hands who will defend Master Audley's house; and when the Indians find that we can keep them at bay, as I am sure we shall, they'll not think it worth while to come and attack the town."
Ben's appeal was responded to by even more men than he required. He chose eight, which, with the four who had before volunteered, himself, Gilbert, and Oliver, made fifteen, all well armed. As they expected to find four men at least with Audley, they would muster twenty--a number sufficient, inside a log-built house, to withstand a whole host of Indians.
A considerable portion of the night was spent before they were all ready to set out. Gilbert found Virginia and Oliver ready to mount, and without loss of time they commenced their journey. Those on foot were hardy, active men, who could almost keep pace with their horses for the distance they had to go. Gilbert was vexed at the delay which had occurred, lest in the mean time, eager to commence their work of slaughter, the Indians might have attacked the house. He and Oliver, riding on either side of Virginia, accompanied by Ben and the rest of the hors.e.m.e.n, pushed on, leaving the men on foot to follow as fast as they could. The horses' hoofs were scarcely heard on the soft ground.
They had got almost within sight of the house, when Gilbert caught sight of the figure of an Indian running at full speed. Another and another started up. It was evident they had been taken by surprise. Gilbert called to his companions, who dashed on; but the Indians turning into the still uncleared forest on the right, were lost to sight. Their flight, and the hour they were on the road, showed that their intentions were evil.
"They were probably waiting till the family should come out of the house in the early morning to set upon them," observed Gilbert to Oliver.
"Thank Heaven we are in time to prevent their design."
Though anxious to place Virginia in safety, he was doubting whether, with the enemy so close at hand, it was not his duty to wait for the rest of the party on foot.
"No, no, Master Gilbert; you go on and get the young lady safe inside the house, and I'll trot back and let our friends know that there are Indians abroad, so that they may not be taken by surprise," cried Ben, who, not waiting for an answer, set off at once; while Gilbert and the rest of the hors.e.m.e.n galloped on, closely surrounding Virginia, till they reached the front of Vaughan's house. Gilbert's shouts quickly awakened Vaughan, who, recognising his brother's voice, hastened down to the door. In a few words Gilbert explained the reason of their coming to his brother, who having had no suspicions of the Indians, confessed that he should have admitted them into the house without hesitation.
The appearance of the Indians in the neighbourhood decided him on remaining to defend his house, instead of seeking for protection in the town, as Gilbert had at first proposed. The horses were immediately taken round to the back of the house, and, as they would certainly be killed if left in the stables, they were all brought inside and placed in an unfurnished room.
"I am indeed grateful to you, my brave sister-in-law, for thus coming to my help," exclaimed Cicely, as she embraced Virginia.
Vaughan and Gilbert, with the other gentlemen, and the labourers who had slept in the house, immediately set to work to block up all the lower windows and doors, only leaving sufficient loopholes for their muskets.
Every receptacle they possessed for holding water was also filled from the well, both to afford them the means of quenching their thirst and to enable them to extinguish any fire which might burst forth. While they were thus employed, Ben's voice was heard announcing the arrival of himself and the party on foot, who were at once admitted at the back entrance. To prevent the Indians from finding shelter in the outhouses, they were, under Ben's superintendence, quickly pulled down, the materials enabling them still further to fortify the house.
Daylight found them still busily occupied. The fact of their not being as yet attacked convinced them that it was but a small party of Indians they had surprised; probably they, however, would summon a larger body, should they have determined to attack the house. The garrison were anxious to ascertain if their foes were near; but the stealthy way in which the Indians are accustomed to approach an enemy made it dangerous to send out scouts, who would almost to a certainty have been cut off.
Oliver and Gilbert, however, took post by turns on the roof, whence they could obtain a view round on every side, and get sight of the Indians should they draw near.
The morning pa.s.sed away in perfect quiet; the hour indicated by Oncagua was approaching,--Gilbert only hoped that other places were as well prepared as they were. Dinner had been partaken of, and most of the men, who had been up all night, were lying down to obtain the rest they needed, when Oliver, looking through a trap which opened on the roof, exclaimed, "They are coming!"
The next instant the word was pa.s.sed through the lower rooms,--the men sprang to their feet, and each one hastened to his appointed post. They had not long to wait, for issuing from the border of the forest appeared a large band of Indians adorned with war-paint and feathers.
"I only wish we had one of the _Rainbow's_ guns mounted on the roof, and we'd pretty soon make those fellows put about ship," exclaimed Ben, when he saw them. It was almost impossible to count the Indians as they spread out on either hand, but Gilbert calculated that there were at least several hundreds of them. Trusting to their numbers, they came on fearlessly, uttering their dreadful war-whoops.
"Wait till I give the order to fire," cried Gilbert, who, at Vaughan's request, had taken command. "Let not a shot be thrown away, nor a word be spoken."
The Indians came on, again and again uttering those terrific whoops, but no reply was made. They might have supposed that the house was untenanted; still they advanced till they got within range of the garrison's fire-arms.
"Go back whence you came, or advance at your peril," shouted Gilbert.
The Indians replied by a shower of arrows.
"Now fire, my lads," cried Gilbert, and all the men having collected on one side, discharged a volley which brought well nigh a score of Indians to the ground. The rest wavered, though they did not fly. Time was thus afforded to the garrison to reload, and another volley almost as destructive as the first was fired. Many sprang back and gazed around with looks of astonishment, supposing that the defenders of the house were twice as numerous as was the case. Still, urged on by their chiefs, they discharged another flight of arrows, but, shot at random, they caused no injury. Gilbert again ordered his men to fire, but the Indians, as they looked round and saw so many of their tribe struck down on the ground, were seized with a panic, and as the bullets again flew among them, they turned and fled.
Some of the party proposed mounting their horses and following them up, but Gilbert advised that they should retain their advantageous post, as it was probable that the Indians would rally and return to the attack.
They had, however, received a lesson not easily forgotten, and where they had expected to overcome a few unprepared people, they had met with a determined resistance. Great reason had Gilbert to be thankful to Oncagua for his timely warning. A vigilant watch was kept during the night, but no enemy appeared.
The next morning one of their party volunteered to set off to the town, and in a short time he came back with the intelligence that it had been a.s.sailed by the enemy, who had been driven back with great slaughter.
James Town in the same way had been preserved; but in a few days sad news came from the remote ones, where, before the messengers arrived the Indians had begun to put into execution the sanguinary plan they had conceived for the destruction of all the palefaces in the country, and several hundreds were ma.s.sacred. More ships arriving shortly afterwards with fresh settlers, a fearful retribution overtook the Indians, and the country which once they called their own knows them no more.
Gilbert, grateful to the old chief for the service he had rendered, despatched Oliver Dane at the head of an expedition by water to invite him to James Town, where he might be safe from the vengeance of his countrymen, should they discover that he had warned the English of their intended treachery. Oliver returned in two weeks, bringing Oncagua with him. "The old chief has come, at your call," he said, "though my days on earth are few; but ere I go, I would gain more of the wonderful knowledge which changed my Manita into what I now see her; and that, more than the fear of my foes, induced me to accept your invitation."
From that day forward Oncagua seldom went beyond the house and surrounding garden. He gained, however, knowledge he did not seek, for Virginia, aided by Cicely, laboured diligently to instruct him in the truths of the Gospel, and ere he was summoned from earth he could exclaim with confidence "I know that my Redeemer liveth."
The trials and dangers through which our various friends had gone, had taught them also an important lesson, to put their trust in their loving Father, all mighty to save, and gratefully to acknowledge from their own experience that whatsoever He orders is for the best.
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