- Author: Ernest Dempsey
Read book online «The Secret of the Stones by Ernest Dempsey (reading fiction .TXT) 📕». Author - Ernest Dempsey
The Secret of the Stones
A Sean Wyatt Adventure
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3. Midtown Atlanta
11. Blue Ridge Mountains
14. Blue Ridge Mountains
16. Blue Ridge Mountains
18. Cartersville, Georgia
19. Blue Ridge Mountains
22. Blue Ridge Mountains
24. Blue Ridge Mountains
32. Blue Ridge Mountains
33. Blue Ridge Mountains
34. Blue Ridge Mountains
36. Blue Ridge Mountains
38. Blue Ridge Mountains
39. Blue Ridge Mountains
40. Blue Ridge Mountains
41. Blue Ridge Mountains
42. Southeastern Tennessee
43. Blue Ridge Mountains
44. Blue Ridge Mountains
45. Blue Ridge Mountains
46. Southeastern Tennessee
47. Southeastern Tennessee
48. Southeastern Tennessee
50. Southeastern Tennessee
51. Southeastern Tennessee
52. Southeastern Tennessee
53. Eastern Georgia
54. Eastern Georgia
55. Eastern Georgia
56. Eastern Georgia
57. Eastern Georgia
58. Eastern Georgia
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FOR MY FRIEND ZENA GIBSON.
“The greatest zeal of man is not for love or money, but for immortality”
Northwest Georgia, 1838
A young native appeared from a patch of early morning fog, sprinting through the undergrowth of the forest. He recklessly ducked and weaved his way through the trees and brush. Twigs snapped and leaves crunched under his moccasins with every quick step. He was glad that he’d kept some of his old traditional clothing around. The soft breeches and cream-colored tunic were light and made movement considerably easier.
Despite his excellent conditioning, John Burse was out of breath and stopped to risk a moment of rest against a tall poplar. He squinted his deep-brown eyes as he searched the surroundings for a route that might help him escape. He sucked in the cool spring air in huge gasps; the scent of dry leaves and pine needles filled his nostrils.
Then, his fears were realized as he heard the sounds of the dogs drawing closer and voices mingling with the howls of the animals. Two hundred feet behind him, a group of a dozen or so men with three hunting dogs came into view through the hazy mist.
John had known the dangers of what he’d been asked to do during the secret meeting the night before. The tribal council had trusted him with a mission of utmost importance. Being caught not only meant certain death, but could also, ultimately, lead to the downfall of his Cherokee people.
With a new resolve, he tightened his tan leather satchel and took off again, glancing back occasionally as he made his way through the maze of tree trunks. The group was still far behind him but well within shooting distance. Just as that thought occurred, he heard a familiar popping sound followed by a musket ball smashing into a nearby tree; the shot narrowly missed him by a few feet. The close call made his pace quicken.
His slender legs burned from the exertion, and his lungs continued to gasp for more and more air. Hunting had kept him in good shape. Often, he and his father would chase down deer for miles after shooting them. Deer could manage to live a long time even with a critical wound from a gun or bow. But today he was the hunted, and the burden John carried made his journey that much more difficult.
Exhaustion was beginning to take its toll as he crested a small ridge; suddenly, he tumbled over the top and down into a small gulley, where he rolled to a stop at the edge of a large creek.
He’d been here many times. The expanse was about forty feet across and at the deepest point appeared to be only about six feet deep. He could see the soldiers and their dogs in the distance closing on him fast. The little river foamed and churned as it flowed around a small bend just downstream. The young Indian knew the area well, probably better than even the most seasoned of soldiers. With little hesitation, he decided what he had to do and jumped into the icy, rushing waters.
The hunting party stopped at the same spot where their quarry had entered the river. A tracker busily inspected the ground near the edge. Footprints stopped there with no sign of them leading anywhere else. The dogs were restless, confused as to what happened to the trail they had been following. To the animal mind, it was as if the Indian had simply disappeared.
“Clever feller,” a leather-skinned officer muttered before spitting out a slug of tobacco juice. He had a few marks of rank on his dark-blue United States Army uniform and was obviously the man in charge. His matching cavalry hat had a few dirt streaks on it, but the distinct golden tassel still stood out proudly. The week-old stubble on his face was a patchwork of gray and light brown. He scratched his neck while considering the next move.
“He’s gone into the water, boys,” he said to his men in a matter of fact manner. “Thompson, take three others and the dogs, and cross the creek. Check back two hundred feet upstream along the edge to see if there is any sign he came out. I’ll take the rest of the men downstream. If he’s in the water, he’s movin’ slow.”
Ten minutes later, the main group from the hunting party came to a waterfall. It was a seventy-foot drop to the bottom, where a shallow-looking pool churned with the falling liquid. A small hill on the left dropped sharply over the edge. There was no way the Indian went that direction. The sheer cliffs meant he had to go to the right. That way led down to the bottom gradually by means of a faint path. A cold spray shot up both sides of the falls all the way up to where the men were standing.
“Sir, if he went over, I doubt he survived,” a young soldier