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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesIn The Rocky Mountains - Chapter 2
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In The Rocky Mountains - Chapter 2 Post by :kracsa Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3266

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In The Rocky Mountains - Chapter 2

CHAPTER TWO

WINNEMAK WARNS US OF THE APPROACH OF INDIANS--BARTLE GOES OUT TO SCOUT-- NO SIGNS OF A FOE--I TAKE THE LIEUTENANT TO VISIT "ROARING WATER"-- BARTLE REPORTS THAT THE ENEMY HAVE TURNED BACK--THE LIEUTENANT DELAYED BY THE SERGEANT'S ILLNESS--THE VISIT TO THE HUT--A TIPSY TROOPER--KLITZ AND GILLOOLY MISSING--THE LIEUTENANT BECOMES WORSE--SEARCH FOR THE MISSING MEN--I OFFER TO ACT AS GUIDE TO THE LIEUTENANT--BARTLE UNDERTAKES TO FIND OUT WHAT HAS BECOME OF KLITZ AND BARNEY.

"Glad to see you, friend!" said Uncle Jeff, getting up and taking the Indian by the hand. "What brings you here?"

"To prove that Winnemak has not forgotten the kindness shown him by the Palefaces," was the answer. "He has come to warn his friends, who sleep in security, that their enemies are on the war-path, and will ere long attempt to take their scalps."

"They had better not try that game," said Uncle Jeff; "if they do, they will find that they have made a mistake."

"The Redskins fight not as do the Palefaces; they try to take their enemies by surprise," answered Winnemak. "They will wait until they can find the white men scattered about over the farm, when they will swoop down upon them like the eagle on its prey; or when all are slumbering within, they will creep up to the house, and attack it before there is time for defence."

"Much obliged for your warning, friend," said Uncle Jeff; "but I should like to know more about these enemies, and where they are to be found. We might manage to turn the tables, and be down upon them when they fancy that we are all slumbering in security, and thus put them to the right-about."

"They are approaching as stealthily as the snake in the grass," answered Winnemak. "Unless you can get on their trail, it will be no easy matter to find them."

"Who are these enemies you speak of; and how do you happen to know that they are coming to attack us?" asked Uncle Jeff, who generally suspected all Indian reports, and fancied that Winnemak was merely repeating what he had heard, or, for some reason of his own--perhaps to gain credit to himself--had come to warn us of a danger which had no real existence.

"I was leading forth my braves to revenge the loss we suffered last year, when our scouts brought word that they had fallen in with a large war-party of Arrapahas and Apaches, far too numerous for our small band to encounter with any chance of success. We accordingly retreated, watching for an opportunity to attack any parties of the enemy who might become separated from the larger body. They also sent out their scouts, and one of these we captured. My braves were about to put him to death, but I promised him his liberty if he would tell me the object of the expedition. Being a man who was afraid to die, he told us that the party consisted of his own tribe and the Apaches, who had been joined by some Spanish Palefaces; and that their object was not to make war on either the Kaskayas or the Pawnees, but to rob a wealthy settler living on the side of the mountains, as well as any other white men they might find located in the neighbourhood. Feeling sure that their evil designs were against my friends, I directed my people to follow me, while I hastened forward to give you due warning of what is likely to happen. As they are very numerous, and have among them firearms and ammunition, it may be a hard task, should they attack the house, to beat them off."

Such in substance was the information Winnemak brought us.

"To my mind, the fellows will never dare to come so far north as this; or, if they do, they will think twice about it before they venture to attack our farm," answered Uncle Jeff.

"A wise man is prepared for anything which can possibly happen," said the Indian. "What is there to stop them? They are too numerous to be successfully opposed by any force of white men in these parts; and my braves are not willing to throw away their lives to no purpose."

Uncle Jeff thought the matter over. "I will send out a trusty scout to ascertain who these people are, and what they are about," he said at length. "If they are coming this way, we shall get ready to receive them; and if not, we need not further trouble ourselves."

Lieutenant Broadstreet, who held the Indians cheap, was very much inclined to doubt the truth of the account brought by Winnemak, but he agreed that Uncle Jeff's plan was a prudent one.

Bartle Won immediately volunteered to start off to try and find the whereabouts of the supposed marauding party. His offer was at once accepted; and before many minutes were over he had left the farm, armed with his trusty rifle, and his axe and hunting-knife in his belt.

"Take care they do not catch you," observed the lieutenant.

"If you knew Bartle, you would not give him such advice," said Uncle Jeff. "He is not the boy to be caught napping by Redskins; he is more likely to lay a dozen of them low than lose his own scalp."

The Indian seeing Bartle go, took his leave, saying that he would join his own people, who were to encamp, according to his orders, near a wood in the valley below. He too intended to keep a watch on the enemy; and should he ascertain that they were approaching, he would, he said, give us warning.

"We can trust to your assistance, should we be attacked," said Uncle Jeff; "or, if you will come with your people inside the house, you may help us in defending it."

Winnemak shook his head at the latter proposal.

"We will aid you as far as we can with our small party," he answered; "but my people would never consent to shut themselves up within walls. They do not understand that sort of fighting. Trust to Winnemak; he will do all he can to serve you."

"We are very certain of that, friend," said Uncle Jeff.

The Indian, after once more shaking hands with us, set off to join his tribe.

Lieutenant Broadstreet expressed his satisfaction at having come to the farm. "If you are attacked, my four men and I may be of some use to you; for I feel sure that we shall quickly drive away the Redskins, however numerous they may be," he observed.

He advised that all the doors and lower windows should be barricaded, in case a surprise might be attempted; and that guards should be posted, and another scout sent out to keep watch near the house, in case Bartle might have missed the enemy, or any accident have happened to him. The latter Uncle Jeff deemed very unnecessary, so great was his confidence in Bartle's judgment and activity.

Notice was sent to the hut directing the men to come in should they be required, but it was not considered necessary for them to sleep inside the house.

These arrangements having been made, those not on watch retired to rest. But although Uncle Jeff took things so coolly, I suspect that he was rather more anxious than he wished it to appear. I know that I myself kept awake the greater part of the night, listening for any sounds which might indicate the approach of a foe, and ready to set out at a moment's notice with my rifle in hand,--which I had carefully loaded and placed by my bedside before I lay down. Several times I started up, fancying that I heard a distant murmur; but it was simply the roaring of the cataract coming down the canon.

At daybreak I jumped up, and quickly dressing, went downstairs. Soon afterwards Gideon Tuttle, who had been scouting near the house, came in, stating that he had seen no light to the southward which would indicate the camp-fires of an enemy, and that, according to his belief, none was likely to appear. In this Uncle Jeff was inclined to agree with him.

Lieutenant Broadstreet now expressed a wish to proceed on his way; at the same time, he said that he did not like to leave us until it was certain that we were not likely to be exposed to danger.

"Much obliged to you, friend," said Uncle Jeff, "you are welcome to stay here as long as you please; and Bartle Won will soon be in, when we shall know all about the state of affairs."

It was our custom to breakfast at an early hour in the morning, as we had to be away looking after the cattle, and attending to the other duties of the farm.

The lieutenant happened to ask me why we called the location "Roaring Water."

"I see only a quiet, decent stream flowing by into the valley below," he observed.

"Wait until we have a breeze coming down the canon, and then you will understand why we gave the name of 'Roaring Water' to this place," I answered. "As I can be spared this morning, and there is not much chance of the enemy coming, if you like to accompany me I will take you to the cataract which gives its name to this 'quiet, decent stream,' as you call it; then you will believe that we have not misnamed the locality."

We set off together. The lieutenant looked as if he would have liked to ask Clarice to accompany us; but she was busy about her household duties, and gave no response to his unspoken invitation.

Boy-like, I took a great fancy to the young officer. He was quiet and gentlemanly, and free from all conceit.

I took him to Cold-Water Spring, at which Clarice had met the Indian; and after swallowing a draught from it, we made our way onward over the rough rocks and fallen logs until we came in sight of what we called our cataract. It appeared directly before us, rushing, as it were, out of the side of the hill (though in reality there was a considerable stream above us, which was concealed by the summits of the intervening rocks); then downward it came in two leaps, striking a ledge about half-way, where masses of spray were sent off; and then taking a second leap, it fell into a pool; now rushing forth again foaming and roaring down a steep incline, until it reached the more level portion of the canon.

"That is indeed a fine cataract, and you have well named your location from it," observed the lieutenant. "I wish I had had my sketch-book with me; I might have made a drawing of it, to carry away in remembrance of my visit here."

"I will send you one with great pleasure," I answered.

"Do you draw?" he asked, with a look of surprise, probably thinking that such an art was not likely to be possessed by a young backwoodsman.

"I learned when I was a boy, and I have a taste that way, although I have but little time to exercise it," I answered.

He replied that he should be very much obliged. "Does your sister draw?--I conclude that young lady is your sister?" he said in a tone of inquiry.

"Oh yes! Clarice draws better than I do," I said. "But she has even less time than I have, for she is busy from morning till night; there is no time to spare for amusement of any sort. Uncle Jeff would not approve of our 'idling our time,' as he would call it, in that sort of way."

The lieutenant seemed inclined to linger at the waterfall, so that I had to hurry him away, as I wanted to be back to attend to my duties. I was anxious, also, to hear what account Bartle Won would bring in.

But the day passed away, and Bartle did not appear. Uncle Jeff's confidence that he could have come to no harm was not, however, shaken.

"It may be that he has discovered the enemy, and is watching their movements; or perhaps he has been tempted to go on and on until he has found out that there is no enemy to be met with, or that they have taken the alarm and beat a retreat," he observed.

Still the lieutenant was unwilling to leave us, although Uncle Jeff did not press him to stay.

"It will never do for me to hurry off with my men, and leave a party of whites in a solitary farm to be slaughtered by those Redskin savages," he said.

At all events, he stayed on until the day was so far spent that it would not have been worth while to have started.

Clarice found a little leisure to sit down at the table with her needle-work, very much to the satisfaction of the lieutenant, who did his best to make himself agreeable.

I was away down the valley driving the cattle into their pen, when I caught sight of Bartle coming along at his usual swinging pace towards the farm.

"Well, what news?" I asked, as I came up to him.

"Our friend Winnemak was not romancing," he answered. "There were fully as many warriors on the war-path as he stated; but, for some reason or other, they turned about and are going south. I came upon their trail after they had broken up their last camp, and I had no difficulty in getting close enough to them to make out their numbers, and the tribes they belong to. The appearance of their camp, however, told me clearly that they are a very large body. We have to thank the chief for his warning; at the same time, we need not trouble ourselves any more on the subject."

"Have they done any harm on their march?" I asked.

"As to that, I am afraid that some settlers to the south have suffered; for I saw, at night, the glare of several fires, with which the rascals must have had something to do. I only hope that the poor white men had time to escape with their lives. If I had not been in a hurry to get back, I would have followed the varmints, and picked off any stragglers I might have come across."

"As you, my friends, are safe for the present, I must be off to-morrow morning with my men," said the lieutenant when I got back; "but I will report the position you are in at Fort Harwood, and should you have reason to expect an attack you can dispatch a messenger, and relief will, I am sure, be immediately sent you."

I do not know that Uncle Jeff cared much about this promise, so confident did he feel in his power to protect his own property,-- believing that his men, though few, would prove staunch. But he thanked the lieutenant, and hoped he should have the pleasure of seeing him again before long.

---------------------------

During the night the sergeant was taken ill; and as he was no better in the morning, Lieutenant Broadstreet, who did not wish to go without him, was further delayed. The lieutenant hoped, however, that by noon the poor fellow might have sufficiently recovered to enable them to start.

After breakfast I accompanied him to the hut to visit the other men. Although he summoned them by name,--shouting out "Karl Klitz," "Barney Gillooly," "Pat Sperry,"--no one answered; so, shoving open the door, we entered. At first the hut appeared to be empty, but as we looked into one of the bunks we beheld the last-named individual, so sound asleep that, though his officer shouted to him to know what had become of his comrades, he only replied by grunts.

"The fellow must be drunk," exclaimed the lieutenant, shaking the man.

This was very evident; and as the lieutenant intended not to set off immediately, he resolved to leave him in bed to sleep off his debauch.

But what had become of the German and the fat Irishman? was the question. The men belonging to the hut were all away, so we had to go in search of one of them, to learn if he could give any account of the truants. The negro, who went by no other name than Sam or Black Sam, was the first we met. Sam averred, on his honour as a gentleman, that when he left the hut in the morning they were all sleeping as quietly as lambs; and he concluded that they had gone out to take a bath in the stream, or a draught of cool water at the spring. The latter the lieutenant thought most probable, if they had been indulging in potations of whisky on the previous evening; as to bathing, none of them were likely to go and indulge in such a luxury.

To Cold-Water Spring we went; but they were not to be seen, nor could the other men give any account of them.

The lieutenant burst into a fit of laughter, not unmixed with vexation.

"A pretty set of troops I have to command--my sergeant sick, one drunk, and two missing."

"Probably Klitz and Gillooly have only taken a ramble, and will soon be back," I observed; "and by that time the other fellow will have recovered from his tipsy fit; so it is of no use to be vexed. You should be more anxious about Sergeant Custis, for I fear he will not be able to accompany you for several days to come."

On going back to the house, we found the sergeant no better. Rachel, indeed, said that he was in a raging fever, and that he must have suffered from a sunstroke, or something of that sort.

The lieutenant was now almost in despair; and though the dispatches he carried were not of vital importance, yet they ought, he said, to be delivered as soon as possible, and he had already delayed two days. As there was no help for it, however, and he could not at all events set out until his men came back, I invited him to take a fishing-rod and accompany me to a part of the stream where, although he might not catch many fish, he would at all events enjoy the scenery.

It was a wild place; the rocks rose to a sheer height of two or three hundred feet above our heads, broken into a variety of fantastic forms. In one place there was a cleft in the rock, out of which the water flowed into the main stream. The lieutenant, who was fond of fishing, was soon absorbed in the sport, and, as I expected, forgot his troubles about his men.

He had caught several trout and a couple of catfish, when I saw Rachel hurrying towards us.

"Massa Sergeant much worse," she exclaimed; "him fear him die; want bery much to see him officer, so I come away while Missie Clarice watch ober him. Him bery quiet now,--no fear ob him crying out for present."

On hearing this, we gathered up our fishing-rods and hastened back to the house, considerably outwalking Rachel, who came puffing after us.

We found Clarice standing by the bedside of the sick man, moistening his parched lips, and driving away the flies from his face.

"I am afraid I am going, sir," he said as the lieutenant bent over him. "Before I die, I wish to tell you that I do not trust those two men of ours, Karl Klitz and Gillooly. I learned from Pat Sperry that they have been constantly putting their heads together of late, and he suspects that they intend either to desert, or to do some mischief or other."

"Thank you," said the lieutenant; "but do not trouble yourself about such matters now. I will look after the men. You must try to keep your mind quiet. I hope that you are not going to die, as you suppose. I have seen many men look much worse than you do, and yet recover."

The sergeant, after he had relieved his mind, appeared to be more quiet. Rachel insisted on his taking some of her remedies; and as evening drew on he was apparently better,--at all events, no worse. Clarice and the negress were unremitting in their attentions, utterly regardless of the fever being infectious; I do not think, indeed, that the idea that it was so ever entered their heads.

The lieutenant had been so occupied with his poor sergeant, that he seemed to have forgotten all about his missing men. At last, however, he recollected them, and I went back with him to the hut.

On the way we looked into the stables, where we found the five horses and baggage-mules all right; so that the men, if they had deserted, must have done so on foot.

We opened the door of the hut, hoping that possibly by this time the missing men might have returned; but neither of them was there. The drunken fellow was, however, still sleeping on, and probably would have slept on until his hut companions came back, had we not roused him up.

"You must take care that your people do not give him any more liquor, or he will be in the same state to-morrow morning," observed the lieutenant.

We had some difficulty in bringing the man to his senses; but the lieutenant finding a pitcher of water, poured the contents over him, which effectually roused him up.

"Hullo! murther! are we all going to be drowned entirely at the bottom? Sure the river's burst over us!" he exclaimed, springing out of his bunk. He looked very much astonished at seeing the lieutenant and me; but quickly bringing himself into position, and giving a military salute, "All right, your honour," said he.

"Yes, I see that you are so now," said the lieutenant; "but little help you could have afforded us, had we been attacked by the enemy. I must call you to account by-and-by. What has become of your comrades?"

"Sure, your honour, are they not all sleeping sweetly as infants in their bunks?" He peered as he spoke into the bunks which had been occupied by the other men. "The drunken bastes, it was there I left them barely two hours ago, while I jist turned in to get a quiet snooze. They are not there now, your honour," he observed, with a twinkle in his eye; "they must have gone out unbeknown to me. It is mighty surprising!"

"Why, you impudent rascal, you have been asleep for the last twelve hours," said the lieutenant, scarcely able to restrain his gravity. "Take care that this does not happen again; keep sober while you remain here."

"Sure, your honour, I would not touch a dhrop of the cratur, even if they were to try and pour it down me throat," he answered. "But I found a countryman of mine living here. It is a hard matter, when one meets a boy from Old Ireland, to refuse jist a sip of the potheen for the sake of gintility!"

"Follow me to the house as soon as you have put yourself into decent order," said the lieutenant, not wishing to exchange further words with the trooper.

Pat touched his hat, to signify that he would obey the order, and the lieutenant and I walked on.

"I cannot put that fellow under arrest, seeing that I have no one to whom I can give him in charge," said the lieutenant, laughing. "But what can have become of the others? I do not think, notwithstanding what Sergeant Custis said, that they can have deserted. They would scarcely make an attempt to get over this wild country alone, and on foot."

As soon as Pat made his appearance, the lieutenant ordered him to stand on guard at the door, where he kept him until nightfall.

When our men came in, I inquired whether they knew anything of the troopers. They one and all averred that they had left them sleeping in the hut, and that they had no notion where they could have gone.

"Could the fellows, when probably as drunk as Pat, have fallen into the torrent and been drowned!" exclaimed the lieutenant anxiously.

"Sure, they were as sober as judges," observed Dan, one of our men. Then an idea seemed to strike him. "To be sure, your honour, they might have gone fishing up the stream. That broth of a boy Barney might jist have rolled in, and the long Dutchman have tried to haul him out, and both have been carried away together. Ill luck to Roaring Water, if it has swallowed up my countryman Barney."

I suspected, from the way in which Dan spoke, that he had no great belief that such a catastrophe had occurred; in fact, knowing the fellow pretty well, I thought it very probable that, notwithstanding what he said, he was cognisant of the whereabouts of the truants.

Uncle Jeff and the lieutenant examined and cross-examined all the men; but no satisfactory information could be got out of them.

"Whether they come back or not, I must be on my way to-morrow morning with Sperry; while I leave my sergeant under your care, if you will take charge of him," said the lieutenant.

Uncle Jeff willingly undertook to do this.

"As you are unacquainted with the way, and Pat is not likely to be of much assistance, if Uncle Jeff will allow me I will act as your guide to the mouth of the pass, after which you will have no great difficulty in finding your way to Fort Harwood," I said to the lieutenant.

He gladly accepted my offer.

"But what about the possibility of the farm being attacked by the Indians? You would not like in that case to be absent, and I should be unwilling to deprive your friends of your aid," he observed. "If you accompany me, I must leave Sperry to attend on Sergeant Custis, and to come on with him when he is well enough. Although I do not compare the Irishman to you, yet, should the farm be attacked, I can answer for his firing away as long as he has a bullet left in his pouch."

Uncle Jeff, much to my satisfaction, allowed me to accompany the lieutenant. I had a good horse, too, and had no fears about making my way back safely, even should the country be swarming with Indians.

When the lieutenant spoke of the possibility of the farm being attacked by the Redskins, Uncle Jeff laughed. "They will not venture thus far," he observed. "But even if they do come, we will give a good account of them. Not to speak of my rifle, Bartle's and Gideon's are each worth fifty muskets in the hands of the Indians; our other four fellows, with your trooper, will keep the rest at bay, however many there may be of them. The sergeant, too, will be able to handle a rifle before long, I hope; while Clarice and Rachel will load the arms, and look after any of us who may be hurt. But we need not talk about that; the varmints will not trouble us, you may depend upon it."

When Bartle Won heard of the disappearance of the troopers, and that we had examined our men, but had been unable to elicit any information from them as to what had become of the truants, he observed,--"Leave that to me. If they know anything about the matter, I will get it out of them before long. As to the fellows having tumbled into the torrent, I do not believe it. They are not likely to have gone off without our people knowing something about it. They are either in hiding somewhere near Roaring Water,--and if so, I shall soon ferret them out,--or else they have gone away to take squaws from among the Indians, and set up for themselves."

The lieutenant did not think that the latter proceeding was very probable; but their absence was mysterious, and we had to confess that we were no wiser as to their whereabouts than we were at first.

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