The sun is still high on a sultry August afternoon in 1782, when a train of emigrants emerges from the gloom of the forest and rides slowly toward Bruce’s Station, one of the principal forts in the district of Kentucky. The travelers, consisting of free and enslaved men, women, children, are accompanied by cattle and loaded packhorses, the whole group giving the appearance of a village on the march. In the position of responsibility rides a young man whose five years in the camps and battles of the American Revolution show in his military bearing and in the mature gravity of his features. The beautiful young woman at his side is sufficiently like him in appearance to suggest their kinship.
Captain Roland Forrester and his cousin, Edith, are on their way to the Falls of the Ohio. The orphaned children of twin brothers who had died early in the Revolution, they had been reared as wards of their stern, wealthy uncle, Major Roland Forrester. A staunch Tory, the Major had never forgiven his younger brothers for supporting the cause of the American patriots, and to keep them from inheriting his estate—for he was unmarried—he had executed a will in favor of an illegitimate daughter. About the time that his brothers fell in battle, the child burned to death in the home of her foster mother. The Major then adopted his nephew and niece and repeatedly declared his intention of making them his heirs. Young Roland Forrester forfeited his share of the inheritance, however, when he enlisted in a troop of Virginia horsemen. Shortly after the Battle of Yorktown, he returned to find his cousin destitute. On her uncle’s death, no will making her his heir could be found. Richard Braxley, the Major’s lawyer and agent, had produced the original will and taken possession of the estate in the name of the Major’s daughter, who was, he claimed, still alive and soon to appear and claim her heritage. Having no funds to contest the will, Roland decided to move to Kentucky, his plan being to place Edith in the care of a distant pioneer relative at the Falls while he carved from the wilderness a fortune that would allow him to marry his lovely cousin.
Colonel Bruce, the commander of the station, welcomes the emigrants, greeting the Forresters with special warmth and insisting that they share his cabin. Having served under Major Forrester in earlier Indian wars, he tells many stories of those border campaigns. Mrs. Bruce, equally voluble, bustles about giving orders to her daughters and telling them to be as circumspect as Telie Doe, who remains quietly at her loom after a startled glance up from her work when she hears the name of Roland Forrester mentioned. When the others escort Edith into the cabin, she remains on the porch, where Roland is explaining his intention of pushing on toward the Falls the next day. The Colonel, while deploring his guest’s haste, says that there is no danger from Indians on the trace. At last, the Colonel notices Telie and orders her...
(The entire section is 2,304 words.)