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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAdventures In The Far West - Chapter 8
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Adventures In The Far West - Chapter 8 Post by :stevepennington Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :1664

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Adventures In The Far West - Chapter 8

CHAPTER EIGHT

We and the savage Redskins were both utterly helpless; they from being overcome by liquor, we from having our arms firmly bound to the trees. All the efforts we had made to liberate ourselves had only tended to draw more tightly the thongs; while we were left to contemplate the dreadful fate to which we were doomed as soon as the savages had recovered from the fumes of the spirits they had swallowed. All sorts of horrible ideas passed through my mind. Should a pack of wolves come to the camp, they might, helpless as we were, tear us to pieces, as well as the unconscious Indians. It would be a worse fate than any the savages might inflict upon us. Scarcely had the idea entered my brain, than the well-known howls and yelps of the animals I dreaded reached my ears. Louder and louder they grew. They were approaching the camp. In a few minutes they would be upon us. It was no fancy of my brain, for my companions heard them also. Darkness prevented us from seeing each other's countenances; but I could distinguish Dick, who was nearest me, again making efforts to free himself, and he could not help crying out in desperation when he found himself foiled as before. The wolves were close upon us, when presently we heard the tramp of a horse's feet, and one of our own animals, which either Armitage or Jack had been riding, and from whose back the Indians had neglected to remove the saddle dashed by, closely pursued by a pack of large wolves, who intent on the chase did not regard us. I saw the head of an Indian lifted up for a moment, awakened to partial consciousness by the yelping of the wolves and the tramp of the horse; but perhaps the savage fancied he was dreaming, for the next moment his head again sank to the ground. We were preserved for the moment, but what would happen should the wolves succeed in pulling down and devouring the horse? They would, to a certainty, return and attack us, as we had feared; or, even if they did not, the Indians would be recovering from their debauch. I could only hope that they had not consumed all the liquor, and that the first to awaken would take another pull at the bottles. In spite of our fearful position, a drowsiness began to steal over me, produced perhaps by exhaustion. I even now do not like to think of those dreadful hours, when my mind dwelt on the various tortures the savages were wont to inflict on their helpless prisoners. I fully expected that arrows would be shot at my limbs while all vital parts were avoided; to have my flesh burnt with hot irons; to be scalped; to suffer the most lingering and painful of deaths. In vain I tried to banish such thoughts, and to encourage the stupor stealing over me. At length I had almost succeeded, though I was not really asleep, when I heard a voice whisper in my ear, "Do not move or speak when you find the thongs cut."

The next instant I was free. The darkness prevented me seeing clearly what was happening to my companions, but I could distinguish a figure stealing along the ground, and appearing behind each of them.

"Now friends! you have your choice, either to cut the throats of the Redskins as they lie, or to catch the horses and put a wide space between them and yourselves before daybreak," said a voice which I recognised as that of old Folkard--"don't trust those villains, they may not be as fast asleep as you fancy. If they hear you moving they may be on their feet again before you have had time to pass your knives across their throats."

"Savages as they are, I would not for one moment dream of killing them, whatever they intended to do to us," said Jack.

Armitage and Story agreed with him, as did I. We therefore at once resolved to steal off as soon as we had recovered our rifles, the only weapons of which we had been deprived; and though they were close to where our captors were sleeping, they might easily be reached. Our plan was then to try and get hold of our horses, and when they were secured we might recover the remainder of our property and deprive the Indians of their arms. We should thus teach them a lesson of mercy; for when they recovered their senses they could not fail to see how completely they had been in our power, and that we might have put the whole of them to death had we been so disposed.

The old trapper volunteered to manage the most dangerous part of the undertaking, that of recovering our rifles. Telling us to remain where we were, apparently still bound to the trees, he crept forward on hands and knees, disappearing in the surrounding gloom. Not a sound did we hear until he came back, carrying in either hand a rifle, which he placed at our feet. He then made a second trip, which was as successful as the first; but the Indians' spears and several of our spare rifles had still to be obtained. He went very cautiously to work, for he was evidently not at all confident that one of the Indians might not awake. I would gladly have assisted him, had he not urged us to remain quiet. I felt greatly relieved when he at length returned with the last rifles.

"But we want our saddles!" whispered Dick.

I told Folkard where to find them.

"You shall have them," he answered, and again set off. I much feared that he might be discovered, as he would have to go into the camp itself, and the slightest sound might awaken our enemies.

We waited and waited: again I felt a strong inclination to steal forward and assist him. Just as I was about to do so, he reappeared bringing two saddles and bridles.

Still it was of consequence, if we could manage it, to possess ourselves of the Indians' bows and spears. I again offered to accompany the trapper. He thought a moment.

"It may be done," he said, "if you step cautiously, for they are more soundly asleep than I had supposed; but, if any of them should awake, you must be prepared to knock them on the head--our own safety will demand it."

I agreed to this, hoping that the contingency might not arrive. We set out and soon reached the camp. So sound asleep did they appear, that I believe even had we trodden on them, they could not have been aroused. They lay where they had fallen in their drunken fits, in every variety of attitude. We each possessed ourselves of two tomahawks for our defence, and all the bows we could find; and, carrying them under our arms, returned to our companions. Folkard immediately cut the strings and broke off the ends of the bows. We had thus far been more successful than we had anticipated.

We now, having recovered our weapons and two saddles,--for the Indians had left the others on the backs of the horses,--glided behind the trees to which we had been bound, and stole off, cautiously following the footsteps of old Folkard, who led the way.

"I left my horse down in the hollow yonder," said the trapper; "we will get him first, and then I'll try and help catch yours; they are not far off I suspect. It will be daylight soon, and we have no time to lose."

Several more minutes were spent before we reached the spot where old Folkard's horse was securely tethered. He having mounted, we set out in search of our own steeds.

"It is just possible that the Indians may have left one of their number to watch their horses as well as ours, and if so, it will be necessary to either capture or kill the man," said Dick.

Unwilling as we were to put to death any of our savage enemies, even in our own defence, we saw the necessity of doing as Dick proposed.

Greatly to our satisfaction, as we approached a glade, the whinny of a horse was heard, and Armitage's favourite steed came trotting up to him. We immediately put on its saddle and bridle. Pierre's and mine were still wanting. His had probably been torn to pieces by the wolves, but we still had a chance of getting mine. I was almost in despair, when to my joy it came up, and I was quickly on its back. Pierre was very unhappy at delaying us.

At length old Folkard observed--

"Jump up behind me, we'll soon catch a horse for you; the Indians had a lot of animals with them, and we'll take one of theirs if we can't find yours."

By this time morning had dawned, and we had no longer any fear of encountering our enemies. We rode on to where old Folkard told us he expected to find the horses.

Surmounting a slight elevation, we soon caught sight of a score of animals, evidently those of the Indians. To catch them was no easy matter, for just at the moment we appeared they seemed to be seized by a sudden panic, and began prancing and rearing in the strangest fashion. We dashed forward, and, as they saw us coming, off they started across the prairie at a rate which would have rendered pursuit utterly hopeless.

We had now to settle what course to pursue. Should we return to the camp and take possession of our property, or put as many miles as we could between ourselves and the Indians?

On calculating, however, the quantity of liquor among our stores, we arrived at the conclusion that there was enough to keep the Indians drunk for another day or two, and that we should probably find them as helpless as before. We accordingly kept our rifles ready for instant service, and rode towards our camp. On our way we found our mules, which according to their usual custom had not mixed with the horses. Pierre mounted one of them, and led the rest. The loud snores and perfect silence around where the Indians lay showed us that they had not recovered from their debauch. While two of our party stood guard, ready to deal with any who might come to their senses, the rest of us loaded the mules with our goods, including two remaining bottles of spirits.

Folkard proposed leaving these to prevent the enemy from pursuing us. "There is no fear of their doing that, for they have neither horses nor arms," observed Dick. "They may consider themselves fortunate in escaping with their lives." We could scarcely help laughing at the thought of their astonishment when, on coming to themselves, they should find how completely the tables had been turned: we hoped they would duly appreciate the mercy shown to them. We now rode off, thankful for the happy termination of our adventure.

We found that the old trapper had been very successful and wished to turn his steps eastward.

"I should be glad of your company, friends," he said, "in the first place; and in the second I don't think it would be safe for you to remain in this region, as the rest of the tribe may consider themselves insulted, and, ungrateful for the mercy shown their people, may endeavour to cut you off. When the Redskins have made up their minds to do a thing, they'll do it if they can, however long they may have to wait."

We all agreed that, although not frightened by the Indians, we had had enough of fighting and hunting for the present. We accordingly made up our minds to accompany old Folkard. We felt that, in gratitude to him for having preserved our lives, we were bound to do as he wished.

Having reached the spot where he had left his mules with his traps and peltries, we turned our horses' heads eastward. As we rode along he told us that he had come upon our trail, and that soon afterwards he had fallen in with one which he knew must be made by an Indian war-party, and feeling sure that they intended us mischief he had followed them up. He had scarcely expected, however, to find us still alive; but having stolen up to the camp, he saw the state to which our liquor had fortunately reduced our captors, and had at once formed the plan for liberating us so happily carried out. One of Dick's first questions was about Charley. The old trapper replied that he had failed to hear of him; but he still held out hopes that our friend might have escaped, and that some well-disposed Indians might have spared his life, and taken care of him, hoping to induce him to join their tribe, according to a by no means unusual custom among them.

This idea somewhat cheered up the worthy lieutenant's spirits, and made him unwilling to return eastward; still, as he could not remain by himself, he agreed to accompany us. The journey appeared very long. For the first few days we pushed forward to get beyond the reach of the Indians, in case they should fall in with any of their tribe and venture to pursue us. After this we were compelled, for the sake of our horses, to make more easy stages. We had also to halt for the purpose of providing ourselves with meat; but as we shot only for the pot, that caused us no great delay.

At last we reached Saint Louis, where we spent several months enjoying the hospitality of numerous friends to whom we had letters of introduction. For a time we were looked upon as heroes on a small scale by society; but probably the hunters and trappers who frequent that city would have considered our adventures as every-day occurrences and scarcely worth talking about.

Old Folkard, having disposed of his peltries, and obtained new traps and a fresh outfit, started westward in the course of a fortnight, declaring that he could not breathe among the bricks and mortar. He promised that he would not fail to look out for Charley, for whose recovery, however, even Dick, by this time, had begun to despair. We were beginning to get a little tired of civilised ways and to sigh for the wild life of the prairie, when Armitage received a letter calling him to New York to meet an agent.

"I should like to continue the expedition I began with you," he said, "and I shall esteem it a favour if you will wait for my return; I shall not be longer than I can help."

His request, made in so courteous a way, was not to be refused. We all consented to stop. Week after week went by, and Armitage was still delayed; but as we had remained so long, we agreed to wait until he returned, though our stay was double the length we intended. We were employed in adding to our outfit such articles as, from our experience, we considered useful. At length Armitage rejoined us, and we were once more _en route_. From the way his Indians had behaved when it came to a pinch, he had resolved to take no more. Besides Pierre, who was accompanied by another Canadian, we had a Yankee trapper yclept "Long Sam," who, according to his own showing, was likely to prove of far more value than half-a-dozen Indians. He was ready for anything--to hunt on horseback, to shoot on foot, or to trap beavers. We had been travelling on some time when Armitage began to talk of Tillydrone, and suggested that, as it was not far out of our way, it would be but courteous to pay a visit there and inquire after the family who had treated us so hospitably. He said not a word, however, about Miss Hargrave, nor from the tone of his voice would anyone have suspected that he was thinking of her.

When Long Sam heard us mention the place, he exclaimed--

"Why, that's wha'r Praeger used to live, and it was burnt with mighty near the whole of the property when the forest caught fire last fall, though he and his family escaped. I heard say that they were going to move westward, and they must be on their journey by this time, I guess."

Armitage questioned and cross-questioned his informant, and seemed perfectly satisfied with his statement. After this he expressed no further wish to visit Tillydrone.

We had been travelling on for more than a month, when we once more found ourselves among the wild and grand scenery in the neighbourhood of the Rocky Mountains. We encamped not far from a spot we had before occupied, where we knew an abundance of game was to be found. This time we had determined that nothing should turn us back until the western coast was reached. We were now enabled to detect the trails of animals as well as of men, an art indeed in which Pierre and Sam were equal to the Indians themselves. As we had camped pretty early, we started in different directions, hoping to bring in a good supply of meat, of which our consumption was considerable, Long Sam declaring when really hungry, that he could eat half a buffalo at a sitting--I wonder he didn't say a whole one. We had espied some big-horns on the rocky heights in the distance, and were making our way towards them, when Sam exclaimed--

"A white man has passed this way, though those are the marks of moccasins, but no Indian treads in that fashion."

I agreed with him, and soon afterwards we came upon a pool out of which a stream ran to the eastward. Sam was not long before he ferreted out several beaver-traps, and, examining one of them, pronounced it of the best make, and belonging to a white trapper. Of course we allowed it to remain unchanged. We thought of old Folkard, but scarcely expected to fall in with him again. We were making our way through a wood, along a ridge with a valley below us, when, looking through a gap in the trees, I caught sight of two persons, the one seated, supporting the head of another, who was stretched on the ground on his knees. Though I was too far off to distinguish their features, I saw by the dress of one that he was a trapper, but could not make out the other. On coming nearer, however, I recognised old Folkard; but who was the other? His cheeks were hollow, his countenance haggard, and, though sunburnt, showed none of the hue of health. A second glance, however, convinced me that he was Charley Fielding. The old hunter was engaged in giving him some food, treating him as he would a helpless child. They both recognised me, and Charley's eye brightened as he stretched out his hand to welcome me while I knelt by his side.

"Where have you been? How did you come here?" I asked eagerly.

"Don't trouble him with questions," said the old trapper; "he'll answer you better when he's had some broth. I found him not long since pretty well at his last gasp. I guess he has got away from some Redskins. I always said he was carried off by them. If I am right they are not likely to be far away. We must be on the look-out not to be caught by them."

Charley, though unable to speak, showed by the expression of his countenance that the old trapper had truly conjectured what had happened.

We naturally, forgetting all about the big-horns, thought only of how we could best convey Charley to the camp. As we had come over some excessively rough ground, it would be no easy matter to get him there.

"Then go back to your friends, and get them to move camp up here," said the trapper; "by keeping along the lower ground, they can be here quickly, and it's a more secure spot, I guess, than where they are."

I asked Long Sam, who now came up, to go back with a message to our friends, as I was unwilling to leave Charley. This he agreed to do, and Folkard was glad to have me remain. The food quickly revived Charley, when Folkard went off to fetch some water from a neighbouring spring. We then together carried him to the trapper's camp, which was not many paces off, though so securely hidden that even an Indian's eye could scarcely have detected it.

This done, I looked out anxiously for the arrival of our friends. The shades of evening were already extending far away over the lower ground.

"They'll surely come!" I said to myself. Presently I caught sight of our party, and shouted to them to come on.

Poor Dick burst into tears when he saw Charley, partly from joy at having found him, and partly from pity at his condition.

It was some time before Charley could speak. The first use he made of his returning strength, was to tell us that he had been captured by Indians, and kept a prisoner ever since,--exactly as old Folkard had supposed; that he was not as badly treated as he expected, but so strictly watched, that in spite of all the attempts he had made, he could not effect his escape until two days before, when he found that a war-party was about to set off to attack an emigrant train coming westward, of which they had just gained tidings. While the braves were performing their war-dance to the admiration of the squaws, he had managed to slip out of camp unperceived, his intention being to warn the white men of their danger. The train had been encamped some days, and it was not known how soon they would move forward. He had hoped therefore to be in time, as the Indians would not venture to attack them while they remained stationary.

On hearing this we were all eager to set out to the rescue of the white people. Armitage especially was unusually excited, but to move at that time of night, with our horses already tired, the country also being of a somewhat rough description, was scarcely possible. Old Folkard, as well as Pierre and Long Sam, was of opinion that we should gain time by waiting, as we might otherwise lose our way, or lame our animals over the rocky tract we should have to pass. We arranged therefore to wait for daylight, and it was settled that the Canadian should remain with the old trapper to assist him in taking care of Charley, and looking after our baggage mules and spare horses. The greater part of the night was spent in cleaning our rifles and pistols, as we expected to have use for them should we find that the emigrant train had moved on, and that the Indians had kept up their intention of attacking it. We breakfasted before dawn so that we might ride if necessary several hours without food, and might be some distance on our way before the first streaks of the coming day should appear in the sky.

Pierre and Long Sam, after a consultation, undertook to guide us, so that we might fall in with the usual track followed by emigrants, a short distance only to the northward of the place where we were encamped. We felt somewhat anxious about leaving Charley in his present state, with so slender a guard.

"Do not trouble yourselves about that," observed the old trapper. "I'll keep a good look-out, and no Redskins are likely to come this way."

As we rode on and daylight increased, we looked out eagerly for any smoke which might indicate a camp fire, but not the slightest wreath dimmed the clear sky. Pierre and Long Sam both agreed that we were not far from the high road, and that we must soon come upon the track of the train if it had passed. Not a quarter-of-an-hour after this, we saw-- not a fire burning--but the remains of several, and all the signs of a train having halted on the spot. We hastily rode over the ground, when Armitage, suddenly leaping from his horse, picked up a small object which he intently examined. It was a lady's glove, such as the usual travellers by emigrant trains are not wont to wear. He placed it in his pocket.

"On, friends, on!" he cried; "if Charley's information is correct we have not a moment to lose. Already the work of plunder and murder may have begun."

We needed no further incitement to make us urge on our steeds. Armitage and Long Sam, who were the best mounted of our party, leading, the latter being our guide. The country was wooded so that we could not see far ahead. Suddenly our guide turned to the left.

"We will take a short cut for the waggons. The road makes a bend here," he observed. "Maybe we shall find ourselves in front of the train. No Redskins will venture to attack it when they see us."

No sounds had hitherto reached our ears, but presently a shot was heard from a short distance off, then another and another.

"On, on!" cried Armitage, and in a few minutes, through an opening in the forest, we caught sight of a large band of Indians rapidly descending the hill, while nearer to us there came the leading waggon of an emigrant train, the drivers of which were endeavouring to turn back their cattle as probably those following were attempting to do.

From the shrieks and cries which arose, it seemed too likely that the Redskins had already attacked the travellers, and we knew well what quick work they would make of it should they have gained any advantage; so, digging spurs into our horses' flanks, we passed round the head of the train, and uttering a loud cheer as we did so to encourage the emigrants, we rode full tilt at the savages.

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Adventures In The Far West - Chapter 9 Adventures In The Far West - Chapter 9

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CHAPTER NINE As we rode round the head of the train, we saw to our sorrow that the Redskins had already fought their way to two of the centre waggons, the white men belonging to which were engaged in a fierce fight with them. Armitage took an anxious glance at the occupants of the leading waggon. "Who commands this train?" he asked eagerly of one of the drivers. The man, owing to the war-whoops of the savages, the shrieks of the women, and the shouts of his companion, did not perhaps hear the question, and there was no time to repeat
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Adventures In The Far West - Chapter 7 Adventures In The Far West - Chapter 7

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CHAPTER SEVEN Several days were spent in a vain search for Charley. Armitage and Story said they feared that he must either have been killed by a buffalo, and his body devoured by wolves; or that he had been carried away by some small party of Indians who had been watching us, and had captured him, though afraid to attack our camp. Both Dick and I, however, could not bring ourselves to believe that he was dead. We were glad to find that old Folkard was of our opinion. He had known men, he said, who had wandered
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