tagRomanceThe Hunter

The Hunter

byGrey Eagle 286©

Patrick Murphy walked slowly and silently through the wooded area. His eyes were constantly moving, viewing everything around him, watching where his feet would step, looking for any sort of movement. His rifle was across his chest in both hands, ready to fly to his shoulder for firing.

Nothing moved, he heard no sounds. He didn't like it. He was not disturbing the animals and birds but they were not moving. A movement caught his eye. It was a squirrel. Low on the side of a tree. It was watching something. It was not looking at him. He took a step between two oak trees growing close together. The squirrel was still looking away from him.

He knew he was not very far from the road between Orange Springs and Payne's Landing. A bird flew across in front of him and suddenly veered away from something. Then he saw what he was looking for. He saw the form of a man crouching by a small palm tree. It was a black Seminole, he was difficult to make out.

Then he heard voices. Female voices, giggling and laughing. He looked to his left and caught a glimpse of people on the road. He slowly raised his rifle. The Indian put his rifle against the palm branches and drew a knife and tomahawk. The brave made small movements as he gathered himself to spring on his prey. The man leapt toward the road and Pat fired. The body crumpled in the road. Pat shifted the rifle to his left hand while he pulled his pistol from his belt with his right hand.

He moved quickly toward the road. He heard foot steps running away and looked in that direction. He saw a figure in the road pointing a shot gun at him. He quickly held his hands up. "Whoa! I'm a friend, don't shoot."

The muzzle of the shot gun wavered and dropped a little. He could see it was a female holding it. He looked quickly around to be sure there wasn't another Indian. He watched her as he put the pistol back in his belt. He pulled his powder horn from behind him and put the tube in the muzzle of his rifle. He flipped the lever on the powder horn and dropped a charge into the barrel. The powder horn was put back in it's place and he pulled his bullet sack out and popped a ball in his mouth. He took a lard soaked patch from his possibles bag and put it over the muzzle of the rifle, spitting the ball into his hand he seated the ball over the patch starting it down the barrel, he yanked out the ram rod and with a quick motion shoved it down hard against the powder charge. His eyes never left the woman as he reloaded the rifle and replaced the ramrod.

He looked at her feet and saw a small basket laying on it's side with blueberries spilling from it. "You are losing your berries Mam."

She looked down and then back at him. Her blue eyes watched as he took the knife and tomahawk from the body. He walked behind the small palm and picked up the man's rifle. His head jerked up as he heard, then saw riders galloping toward them.

The riders slowed and stopped and looked at the woman, "You alright, 'Cinda. Oh God! Look there. A dead Injun. This fella kill him?"

The woman looked up, "He sure did Pa. He would have had us if he hadn't got him."

Pat smiled at the girl, "Names, Patrick Murphy. Glad I could help, Mam." One of the riders jumped off his horse and walked to the dead Indian and flipped the body on it's back with his boot toe. The Negro Seminole was painted for war with red and black chevron shaped stripes over his chest, arms and face. He wore nothing but a triangular breechclout and moccasins. The rifle, tomahawk, a small bag, the powder horn, and knife were all his possessions.

Pat picked up the bag and opened it. There were some patches, flints and a small pistol inside. Pat examined the pistol. He had never seen one like it. There were other small objects wrapped in cloth with the pistol. He replaced everything in the bag and slung it over his shoulder.

The girl stepped close to him. She was beautiful. She had clear blue eyes and yellow hair in long braids. He tried to say something but words wouldn't come, he just stared at her.

"Thank you for coming to our rescue, I don't know what would have happened to my sisters and I if you hadn't been here to save us. My name is Lucinda Martin, Mister Patrick Murphy. Are you from around here?"

"Ah, no, I'm looking for my cousin James who runs the Trading Post at Orange Springs. I was paralleling the road hoping to pick up a deer for dinner on my way."

"Oh! We know those Murphys. We only live just down the road from them. Please come and see us. Please."

"Come on 'Cinda, we got to get home and tell Maw you are alright. Thanks from all of us young man. Come for supper Sunday." The man reached down and swung the girl up behind him on the horse. They trotted off down the road. Pat grinned. 'Cinda was going to have a sore little bottom if they kept trotting for long. He picked up her basket and the scattered blueberries. He dusted some off and tried them. Delicious. Sweet, tart.

"Well I might as well get on up the road myself, the game is all scattered now." he said to himself. He walked up the tunnel like road. The trees met over the road and Spanish moss hung in swags from the branches. The road was covered in dead leaves from the past winter. He ate more berries as he walked.

He saw some shacks beside the road in a small clearing. Black farm hands sat with their children and watched him approach.

"Hey! Can you tell me how to get to the Martin place?"

"Yas Suh! Ya jest goes up dis road 'bout nother most mile an ya caint miss it on yo Haw side."

"Thank you, see ya later."

He hurried up the road trying his best not to run. He was desperate to see 'Cinda again. He didn't know why, but he just had to see her again. The place came in sight about when they said it would. Dogs started barking as he walked up their road. Someone yelled, "Here comes dat guy who saved the girls." He heard a door slam. 'Cinda was the first to meet him. "What took you so long?" she asked.

"Well, I found the basket you lost and I had to pick up the berries you spilled."

She pulled his face down and kissed his cheek. "I didn't lose it" she whispered . He was tongue tied and didn't know what to say. A older woman ran to Pat and said she was the girls mother, she pulled his face down and kissed him on the lips. "Thank you for saving my babies, thank you so much."

"Mam, your daughter 'Cinda was very brave and stood ready to shoot the Indian if I hadn't shot him first."

The mother looked at 'Cinda and said, "I wondered about that, I couldn't imagine 'Cinda running from anything."

'Cinda looked at Pat and smiled, "Mister Murphy, I will bake you a blueberry pie if you come for Supper Sunday."

"That is my very favorite pie. I'll be here." She placed her hand on his arm and he felt the tingle down to his toes. Wow! What a beautiful girl. He stood and looked in her eyes for a minute. "I will see you Sunday afternoon, I promise."

He turned and walked back down the road. He heard the girls chanting in the distance, "Cinda's got a boy friend, 'Cinda's got a boyfriend." He stopped and turned and saw 'Cinda chase the other two with a light switch. He smiled and felt a warm glow sweep over his body.

He arrived a half hour later at the Trading Post. It was larger than he had expected. He entered the store and asked for Mr. Murphy. The clerk went to the back of the store and came back with an older man. The man had dark red hair and a graying beard. Pat introduced himself. The man looked at him for a moment. "By God! Uncle George's son. I last saw you when you were just a babe. Welcome, come with me." He led Pat toward the rear of the store. A very pretty older woman met them and was introduced as Penny Murphy, James' wife. She had bright red hair. She kissed his cheeks and hugged him. They asked about his father and Pat regretted informing them that he had passed away almost six months before. They expressed their condolences. He was taken across the busy yard and into a house.

"Welcome to our home. Please sit down and tell us why you are here."

"After father's death there was nothing to hold me in Virginia. I heard that land was very inexpensive down here so I put my inheritance into a sight draft on your post and headed for Florida. I thought to purchase some land suitable for starting a small plantation. Now that I am here I see that clearing the land would be a major task. I need your advise on where I might buy land."

"Clearing the land is not too bad. People usually just burn it off before they cut trees. How large a tract are you talking about?"

"Well, Sir, that would depend on the price of land. I need to hold back moneys for hiring people to clear and ready the land."

"What do you plan to grow?"

"That too is a thing I need your advise about. I have a background in the raising of cattle, hogs, and sheep. We also raised hay and other forages of course. What would you suggest?"

"Most of the very large plantations east of here raise mostly sugar cane and rice. There are only one or two in this area and they raise mostly sugar cane. There are a number of large tracts of land available. Some are thousands and up to the twenty and thirty thousand acre parcels. That is where the bargains are. The government land available is mostly smaller plots in the ten to one hundred acre size. The government land runs from fifty cents an acre up to as much as a dollar an acre for choice properties on the river. There is one parcel of prime river front land I have listed, By the way I happen to be the authorized Land Agent hereabouts. This land is about two miles of river front. It has a high bluff along the river, and extends westward about three miles I believe. It is partially cleared and has an existing house on it. The house needs a lot of work. The place is available at a very reasonable price right now because of the Indian situation. I would guess you could pick it up for under five thousand dollars."

"How far away is it?"

"It is between here and Eureka, actually it is nearer to Payne's Landing."

"Is it near the Martin Place."

"Why yes, it is only a couple miles south of there. How do you know the Martin Place?" Pat told them of his adventure with the Martin girls.

James grinned, "Now, that little Lucinda Martin is a mighty pretty girl isn't she?"

"Hunn, I guess she is." said Pat.

"Now, James, don't tease the young man. You know she is beautiful. And very sweet. I love her. She always stops and talks with us and brings me flowers or things they find on the way. Oh My!"

James said, "What dear, what is wrong?"

"Nothing is wrong, this boy is in love with 'Cinda."

"What?"

"I can tell, am I right?"

Pat said, "I don't really know, I never felt this way before. I know that she has been on my mind ever since I met her."

James smiled at him, "How old are you young man?"

"I'm twenty one, Sir."

Mrs. Murphy grinned, "That's about right, "Cinda just turned eighteen. She has tons of men courting her though."

Pat frowned, "I am invited for Supper on Sunday."

"Oh! That is good, I have never heard of any man being invited for supper. "Cinda will not tolerate fools, she runs them right off, knows her mind, that girl does."

"Sir do you think I could rent a horse or mule and find someone to guide me to see the parcel of land you were talking about in the morning?"

"No, you can't rent a horse or a guide here. I will lend you a mount and ride with you myself and show you the land. Is it in your price range?"

"Yes Sir, That would be a good price for me. After I am settled I may want to buy more. This would give me a good start anyway."

"I guess it would. I haven't received the sight draft as yet. Do you have any notion of when it should get here?"

"I know it left Norfolk on the same packet I was on to Jacksonville or Palatka. I caught a steam launch from Palatka to Eureka and walked from there."

"Then you walked right past the place I am going to show you. You may have been close to it when the Indian jumped the girls. We'll get an early start in the morning, you will stay with us tonight and until you are settled somewhere. After all, you are kin.

The next morning after a short ride they entered the road to the Martin place. The dogs barked, a bell rang and men with rifles appeared as they neared the house.

"Hello! It is the Murphy clan here to visit this grand morning."

Doors flew open and women and children rushed out. Pat quickly spotted 'Cinda. She took his breath away. She looked up at him with a huge smile on her lovely face.

"Did you come to see us so soon?"

James grinned, "We sure did little lady, Pat has been chompin' at the bit to see you girl."

Her eye grew wide as she looked Pat, "Really?"

Pat gulped, "Yessum."

"Can you come in for coffee?"

James nodded to Pat, "Sounds good to me, are you in a hurry?"

Pat shook his head, his eyes never leaving the girl.

They dismounted and entered the house, Mr. Martin was sitting at a large table and rose to shake hands with both of them. Pat watched 'Cinda leave the room with a sense of loss.

"So James, what are the two of you doing down this way so early in the day?"

"Well, Robert, Patrick here may be a new neighbor. He is looking for land to settle on."

"Looking nearby?"

"Yes, we are going to look at the Wright place."

"The Wright Place? The one about a mile or two down the road? He can afford that? Most young men his age don't have two cents to rub together."

"He seems to think he can, I have never known of any of my kin to brag or lie, so I have to take him at his word."

Robert Martin looked at Pat with new interest. "We would be delighted to have young Mister Murphy as a neighbor, wouldn't we Lucinda?"

'Cinda's head jerked up and she almost spilled Pat's coffee. "A neighbor, that would be very nice. Where?"

"He and James are going to look at the Wright Place."

"The Wright Place, just down the road."

"You must have a wife and many children to need so big a place."

"I have no family. I am looking ahead."

"Daddy can we ride down with them. I would love to see the place again."

"Ask your Momma, if she wants we can take a couple of the boys and a wagon and ride down." "Cinda rushed off. She was back quickly, "Yes, Momma said Yes!"

It was some time later when they got on the road again. Pat rode well ahead as a scout. They saw him get off his horse and examine some tracks then beckon them on. He stopped at a slightly overgrown road. He looked back. James signaled to him to turn left. Ten minutes later the buildings came into view. When they got closer Pat was surprised they appeared to be in rather good condition. He walked to 'Cinda and asked if she wanted to look at the house with him. She nodded yes. The front was toward the river visible below down a sloped hill. There was a large covered porch across the front of the house. There was a living room and dining room on the ground floor. Behind them was a kitchen and pantry and two smaller rooms. Up stairs were two small bedrooms and a master suite with a small parlor and a huge bedroom. Most of the rooms had fireplaces and the condition was not too bad. Pat took 'Cinda's hand and asked, "could you fix it up?"

She looked up at him, "Me?"

"I mean could anyone fix it up?"

"Yes I think so, but it is way too big. No one could handle it without lots of help."

"Right, could you do it with help."

"Yes I could."

"OH!" Let's look at the out buildings. All right?"

"Fine, Pat, let's go." They ran down the stairs and out the door. They came to a small building and the steps were caved in. Pat took her by the arms and lifted her easily on to the porch. He jumped up himself and they went inside. It was completely bare inside. There was a loft above and a fireplace below. They had no idea what it had been used for. They examined a large barn with several stalls and a loft above. Seven small houses sat to one side. A large garden was behind them. Several cleared fields were near the house. Everything was over grown with weeds and vines. Pat asked 'Cinda what had happened here. Why had the owners left the place? Where had they gone? She told him that the owner had gotten sick and died. The wife took some of the servants and her children and went home to Georgia. No one bothered the place very much because there was a tale going around that there was a curse on the place left by the owners.

"Do you believe that, 'Cinda?"

"Not really, Miz Wright gave me five dollars to help start the story. I told every black person I knew and most of the whites. It has come back to me lots of times." Pat grinned at her. On the trip back Pat rode in the wagon beside Lucinda and her mother. By the time they reached the Martin home Pat was very much at ease with the girl and her mother. The more he was near her the more he hated to leave her. He loved to look at her. She had a way of looking at him over her shoulder with a little smile that thrilled him to his toes. As they neared the Martin homestead she whispered that she often walked along the path by the river before the evening meal. She held his hand much longer than necessary when he helped her down. She pretended to slip and he caught her and held her for a second. Then he helped her right herself. He thought the second he held her was the most wonderful second of his whole life. Pat looked over and saw James was mounted and waiting on him. He turned and looked at her. She smiled and whispered ,"Go Pat, hurry back."

He ran to his mount and swung aboard. They galloped out the drive. He didn't look back. After they had been back a while he went looking for James. He found him in the office of the trading post.

"Have you got a few minutes?"

"Sure, Pat, I always have time for you. How can I help you?"

"Well, first I want to make an offer of $4800 on the Wright Property."

"That is a reasonable offer. I will give you an answer soon."

"Thank you. I have a pistol I would like you to look at. I took it from the body of the Indian I killed yesterday. I have never seen anything like it." He handed James the bag he had taken from the dead brave.

James opened the bag and pulled the pistol out. He looked at it carefully. "It says, 'Pottet - Paris on the side, and up here on top it says "Clement Pottet, Pat. 1829 Paris, Fr.' It is a double barreled pistol. There are two triggers, I see no hammers. The barrels appear to be hinged right here. I don't see a place for flints or percussion caps. Wait, look the grip turns."

"Let me see!" said Pat." and James handed him the pistol. He took it and examined it. He turned the grip further and when it was turned at a right angle to the barrels he held it with the barrels level. They flopped down. The two looked at each other. "Look at this," said Pat, turning the gun so James could see better. "It is a breech loader I think." Here are percussion caps. These metal plugs seem to come out."

"Damned if they don't, Here see if they come out if you put this ramrod down the muzzle and push some."

The metal plugs fell out with a slight tap of the wooden rod. Pat and James each picked one up. Pat said, "There are more of these in the bag." He emptied it on the desk. There were four more of the objects. James picked them up and looked at them. "These are metal cartridges, look, the percussion caps go on the nipples on this end and the powder and ball go in the other. Hey, these two are already loaded."

Pat looked through some other things that fell from the bag or pouch. There was a small leather bag of lead balls and a tin box containing percussion caps. He examined the bag more carefully and noticed a leather loop on the bottom. There was a partition through the center with a separate flap closing it. There were other flaps on the bag. He tried putting the bag strap around his neck, the bag hung on front an didn't feel right. He tried putting his left arm through too. That felt better. It put the bag more to the left. He looked at the way it fit. From the smooth wear marks on the bag he was sure this was the way it was worn.

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