By Frederic Remington
Illustrated By Frederic Remington
Author Of "Pony Tracks"
First published in 1898
HOW THE LAW GOT INTO THE CHAPARRAL
THE BLUE QUAIL OF THE CACTUS
A SERGEANT OF THE ORPHAN TROOP
THE SPIRIT OF MAHONGUI
THE ESSENTIALS AT FORT ADOBE
MASSAI'S CROOKED TRAIL
JOSHUA GOODENOUGH'S OLD LETTER
CRACKER COWBOYS OF FLORIDA
THE STRANGE DAYS THAT CAME TO JIMMIE FRIDAY
THE SOLEDAD GIRLS
HOW THE LAW GOT INTO THE CHAPARRAL
"You have heard about the Texas Rangers?" said the Deacon to me one night in the San Antonio Club. "Yes? Well, come up to my rooms, and I will introduce you to one of the old originals—dates 'way back in the 'thirties'—there aren't many of them left now—and if we can get him to talk, he will tell you stories that will make your eyes hang out on your shirt front."
We entered the Deacon's cosey bachelor apartments, where I was introduced to Colonel "Rip" Ford, of the old-time Texas Rangers. I found him a very old man, with a wealth of snow-white hair and beard—bent, but not withered. As he sunk on his stiffened limbs into the arm-chair, we disposed ourselves quietly and almost reverentially, while we lighted cigars. We began the approaches by which we hoped to loosen the history of a wild past from one of the very few tongues which can still wag on the days when the Texans, the Co-manches, and the Mexicans chased one another over the plains of Texas, and shot and stabbed to find who should inherit the land.
Through the veil of tobacco smoke the ancient warrior spoke his sentences slowly, at intervals, as his mind gradually separated and arranged the details of countless fights. His head bowed in thought; anon it rose sharply at recollections, and as he breathed, the shouts and lamentations of crushed men—the yells and shots—the thunder of horses' hoofs—the full fury of the desert combats came to the pricking ears of the Deacon and me.
We saw through the smoke the brave young faces of the hosts which poured into Texas to war with the enemies of their race. They were clad in loose hunting-frocks, leather leggings, and broad black hats; had powder-horns and shot-pouches hung about them; were armed with bowie-knives, Mississippi rifles, and horse-pistols; rode Spanish ponies, and were impelled by Destiny to conquer, like their remote ancestors, "the godless hosts of Pagan" who "came swimming o'er the Northern Sea."
"Rip" Ford had not yet acquired his front name in 1836, when he enlisted in the famous Captain Jack Hayes's company of Rangers, which was fighting the Mexicans in those days, and also trying incidentally to keep from being eaten up by the Comanches.
Said the old Colonel: "A merchant from our country journeyed to New York, and Colonel Colt, who was a friend of his, gave him two five-shooters—pistols they were, and little things. The merchant in turn presented them to Captain Jack Hayes. The captain liked them so well that he did not rest till every man jack of us had two apiece.
"Directly," mused the ancient one, with a smile of pleasant recollection, "we had a fight with the Comanches—up here above San Antonio. Hayes had fifteen men with him—he was doubling about the country for Indians. He found 'sign,' and after cutting their trail several times he could see that they were following him. Directly the Indians overtook the Rangers—there were seventy-five Indians. Captain Hayes—bless his memory!—said,' They are fixin' to charge us, boys, and we must charge them.' There were never better men in this world than Hayes had with him," went on the Colonel with pardonable pride; "and mind you, he never made a fight without winning.
"We charged, and in the fracas killed thirty-five Indians—only two of our men were wounded—so you see the five-shooters were pretty good weapons. Of course they wa'n't any account compared with these modern ones, because they were too small, but they did those things. Just after that Colonel Colt was induced to make bigger ones for us, some of which were half as long as your arm.
"Hayes? Oh, he was a surveyor, and used to go out beyond the frontiers about his work. The Indians used to jump him pretty regular; but he always whipped them, and so he was available for a Ranger captain. About then—let's see," and here the old head bobbed up from his chest, where it had sunk in thought—"there was a commerce with Mexico just sprung up, but this was later—it only shows what that man Hayes used to do. The bandits used to waylay the traders, and they got very bad in the country. Captain Hayes went after them—he struck them near Lavade, and found the Mexicans had more than twice as many men as he did; but he caught them napping, charged them afoot—killed twenty-five of them, and got all their horses."
"I suppose, Colonel, you have been charged by a Mexican lancer?" I inquired.
"Oh yes, many times," he answered.
"What did you generally do?"
"Well, you see, in those days I reckoned to be able to hit a man every time with a six-shooter at one hundred and twenty-five yards," explained the old gentleman—which no doubt meant many dead lancers.
"Then you do not think much of a lance as a weapon?" I pursued.
"No; there is but one weapon. The six-shooter when properly handled is the only weapon—mind you, sir, I say properly" and here the old eyes blinked rapidly over the great art as he knew its practice.
"Then, of course, the rifle has its use. Under Captain Jack Hayes sixty of us made a raid once after the celebrated priest-leader of the Mexicans—Padre Jarante—which same was a devil of a fellow. We were very sleepy—had been two nights without sleep. At San Juan every man stripped his horse, fed, and went to sleep. We had passed Padre Jarante in the night without knowing it. At about twelve o'clock next day there was a terrible outcry—I was awakened by shooting. The Padre was upon us. Five men outlying stood the charge, and went under. We gathered, and the Padre charged three times. The third time he was knocked from his horse and killed. Then Captain Jack Hayes awoke, and we got in a big casa. The men took to the roof. As the Mexicans passed we emptied a great many saddles. As I got to the top of the casa I found two men quarrelling." (Here the Colonel chuckled.) "I asked what the matter was, and they were both claiming to have killed a certain Mexican who was lying dead some way off. One said he had hit him in the head, and the other said he had hit him in the breast. I advised peace until after the fight. Well—after the shooting was over and the Padre's men had had enough, we went out to the particular Mexican who was dead, and, sure enough, he was shot in the head and in the breast; so they laughed and made peace. About this time one of the spies came in and reported six hundred Mexicans coming. We made an examination of our ammunition, and found that we couldn't afford to fight six hundred Mexicans with sixty men, so we pulled out. This was in the Mexican war, and only goes to show that Captain Hayes's men could shoot all the Mexicans that could get to them if the ammunition would hold out."
"What was the most desperate fight you can remember, Colonel?"
The old man hesitated; this required a particular point of view—it was quality, not quantity, wanted now; and, to be sure, he was a connoisseur. After much study by the Colonel, during which the world lost many thrilling tales, the one which survived occurred in 1851.
"My lieutenant, Ed Burleson, was ordered to carry to San Antonio an Indian prisoner we had taken and turned over to the commanding officer at Fort McIntosh. On his return, while nearing the Nueces River, he spied a couple of Indians. Taking seven men, he ordered the balance to continue along the road. The two Indians proved to be fourteen, and they charged Burleson up to the teeth. Dismounting his men, he poured it into them from his Colt's six-shooting rifles. They killed or wounded all the Indians except two, some of them dying so near the Rangers that they could put their hands on their boots. All but one of Burleson's men were wounded—himself shot in the head with an arrow. One man had four 'dogwood switches' [Arrows.] in his body, one of which was in his bowels. This man told me that every time he raised his gun to fire, the Indians would stick an arrow in him, but he said he didn't care a cent. One Indian was lying right up close, and while dying tried to shoot an arrow, but his strength failed so fast that the arrow only barely left the bowstring. One of the Rangers in that fight was a curious fellow—when young he had been captured by Indians, and had lived with them so long that he had Indian habits. In that fight he kept jumping around when loading, so as to be a bad target, the same as an Indian would under the circumstances, and he told Burleson he wished he had his boots off, so he could get around good"—and here the Colonel paused quizzically. "Would you call that a good fight?"
The Deacon and I put the seal of our approval on the affair, and the Colonel rambled ahead.
"In 1858 I was commanding the frontier battalion of State troops on the whole frontier, and had my camp on the Deer Fork of the Brazos. The Comanches kept raiding the settlements. They would come down quietly, working well into the white lines, and then go back a-running—driving stolen stock and killing and burning. I thought I would give them some of their own medicine. I concluded to give them a fight. I took two wagons, one hundred Rangers, and one hundred and thirteen Tahuahuacan Indians, who were friend-lies. We struck a good Indian trail on a stream which led up to the Canadian. We followed it till it got hot. I camped my outfit in such a manner as to conceal my force, and sent out my scouts, who saw the Indians hunt buffalo through spyglasses. That night we moved. I sent Indians to locate the camp. They returned before day, and reported that the Indians were just a few miles ahead, whereat we moved forward. At daybreak, I remember, I was standing in the bull-wagon road leading to Santa Fe and could see the Canadian River in our front—with eighty lodges just beyond. Counting four men of fighting age to a lodge, that made a possible three hundred and twenty Indians. Just at sunup an Indian came across the river on a pony. Our Indians down below raised a yell—they always get excited. The Indian heard them—it was very still then. The Indian retreated slowly, and began to ride in a circle. From where I was I could hear him puff like a deer—he was blowing the bullets away from himself—he was a medicine-man. I heard five shots from the Jagers with which my Indians were armed. The painted pony of the medicine-man jumped ten feet in the air, it seemed to me, and fell over on his rider—then five more Jagers went off, and he was dead. I ordered the Tahuahuacans out in front, and kept the Rangers out of sight, because I wanted to charge home and kind of surprise them. Pretty soon I got ready, and gave the word. We charged. At the river we struck some boggy ground and floundered around considerable, but we got through. We raised the Texas yell, and away we went. I never expect again to hear such a noise—I never want to hear it—what with the whoops of the warriors—the screaming of the women and children—our boys yelling—the shooting, and the horses just a-mixin' up and a-stampedin' around," and the Colonel bobbed his head slowly as he continued.
"One of my men didn't know a buck from a squaw. There was an Indian woman on a pony with five children. He shot the pony—it seemed like you couldn't see that pony for little Indians. We went through the camp, and the Indians pulled out—spreading fanlike, and we a-running them. After a long chase I concluded to come back. I saw lots of Indians around in the hills. When I got back, I found Captain Ross had formed my men in line. 'What time in the morning is it?' I asked. 'Morning, hell!' says he—'it's one o'clock!' And so it was. Directly I saw an Indian coming down a hill near by, and then more Indians and more Indians—till it seemed like they wa'n't ever going to get through coming. We had struck a bigger outfit than the first one. That first Indian he bantered my men to come out single-handed and fight him. One after another, he wounded five of my Indians. I ordered my Indians to engage them, and kind of get them down in the flat, where I could charge. After some running and shooting they did this, and I turned the Rangers loose. We drove them. The last stand they made they killed one of my Indians, wounded a Ranger, but left seven of their dead in a pile. It was now nearly nightfall, and I discovered that my horses were broken down after fighting all day. I found it hard to restrain my men, they had got so heated up; but I gradually withdrew to where the fight commenced. The Indian camp was plundered. In it we found painted buffalo-robes with beads a hand deep around the edges—the finest robes I have ever seen—and heaps of goods plundered from the Santa Fe traders. On the way back I noticed a dead chief, and was for a moment astonished to find pieces of flesh cut out of him; upon looking at a Tahuahuacan warrior I saw a pair of dead hands tied behind his saddle. That night they had a cannibal feast. You see, the Tahuahuacans say that the first one of their race was brought into the world by a wolf. 'How am I to live?' said the Tahuahuacan. 'The same as we do,' said the wolf; and when they were with me, that is just about how they lived. I reckon it's necessary to tell you about the old woman who was found in our lines. She was looking at the sun and making incantations, a-cussing us out generally and elevating her voice. She said the Comanches would get even for this day's work. I directed my Indians to let her alone, but I was informed afterwards that that is just what they didn't do."
At this point the Colonel's cigar went out, and directly he followed; but this is the manner in which he told of deeds which I know would fare better at the hands of one used to phrasing and capable also of more points of view than the Colonel was used to taking. The outlines of the thing are strong, however, because the Deacon and I understood that fights were what the old Colonel had dealt in during his active life, much as other men do in stocks and bonds or wheat and corn. He had been a successful operator, and only recalled pleasantly the bull quotations. This type of Ranger is all but gone. A few may yet be found in outlying ranches. One of the most celebrated resides near San Antonio—"Big-foot Wallace" by name. He says he doesn't mind being called "Big-foot," because he is six feet two in height, and is entitled to big feet. His face is done off in a nest of white hair and beard, and is patriarchal in character. In 1836 he came out from Virginia to "take toll" of the Mexicans for killing some relatives of his in the Fannin Massacre, and he considers that he has squared his accounts; but they had him on the debit side for a while. Being captured in the Meir expedition, he walked as a prisoner to the city of Mexico, and did public work for that country with a ball-and-chain attachment for two years. The prisoners overpowered the guards and escaped on one occasion, but were overtaken by Mexican cavalry while dying of thirst in a desert. Santa Anna ordered their "decimation," which meant that every tenth man was shot, their lot being determined by the drawing of a black bean from an earthen pot containing a certain proportion of white ones. "Big-foot" drew a white one. He was also a member of Captain Hayes's company, afterwards a captain of Rangers, and a noted Indian-fighter. Later he carried the mails from San Antonio to El Paso through a howling wilderness, but always brought it safely through—if safely can be called lying thirteen days by a water-hole in the desert, waiting for a broken leg to mend, and living meanwhile on one prairie-wolf, which he managed to shoot. Wallace was a professional hunter, who fought Indians and hated "greasers"; he belongs to the past, and has been "outspanned" under a civilization in which he has no place, and is to-day living in poverty.
The civil war left Texas under changed conditions. That and the Mexican wars had determined its boundaries, however, and it rapidly filled up with new elements of population. Broken soldiers, outlaws, poor immigrants living in bull-wagons, poured in. "Gone to Texas" had a sinister significance in the late sixties. When the railroad got to Abilene, Kansas, the cow-men of Texas found a market for their stock, and began trailing their herds up through the Indian country.
Bands of outlaws organized under the leadership of desperadoes like Wes Hardin and King Fisher. They rounded up cattle regardless of their owners' rights, and resisted interference with force. The poor man pointed to his brand in the stolen herd and protested. He was shot. The big owners were unable to protect themselves from loss. The property right was established by the six-shooter, and honest men were forced to the wall. In 1876 the property-holding classes went to the Legislature, got it to appropriate a hundred thousand dollars a year for two years, and the Ranger force was reorganized to carry the law into the chaparral. At this time many judges were in league with bandits; sheriffs were elected by the outlaws, and the electors were cattle-stealers.
The Rangers were sworn to uphold the laws of Texas and the United States. They were deputy sheriffs, United States marshals—in fact, were often vested with any and every power, even to the extent of ignoring disreputable sheriffs. At times they were judge, jury, and executioner when the difficulties demanded extremes. When a band of outlaws was located, detectives or spies were sent among them, who openly joined the desperadoes, and gathered evidence to put the Rangers on their trail. Then, in the wilderness, with only the soaring buzzard or prowling coyote to look on, the Ranger and the outlaw met to fight with tigerish ferocity to the death. Shot, and lying prone, they fired until the palsied arm could no longer raise the six-shooter, and justice was satisfied as their bullets sped. The captains had the selection of their men, and the right to dishonorably discharge at will. Only men of irreproachable character, who were fine riders and dead-shots, were taken. The spirit of adventure filled the ranks with the most prominent young men in the State, and to have been a Ranger is a badge of distinction in Texas to this day. The display of anything but a perfect willingness to die under any and all circumstances was fatal to a Ranger, and in course of time they got the moral on the bad man. Each one furnished his own horse and arms, while the State gave him ammunition, "grub," one dollar a day, and extra expenses. The enlistment was for twelve months. A list of fugitive Texas criminals was placed in his hands, with which he was expected to familiarize himself. Then, in small parties, they packed the bedding on their mule, they hung the handcuffs and leather thongs about its neck, saddled their riding-ponies, and threaded their way into the chaparral.
On an evening I had the pleasure of meeting two more distinguished Ranger officers—more modern types—Captains Lea Hall and Joseph Shely; both of them big, forceful men, and loath to talk about themselves. It was difficult to associate the quiet gentlemen who sat smoking in the Deacon's rooms with what men say; for the tales of their prowess in Texas always ends, "and that don't count Mexicans, either." The bandit never laid down his gun but with his life; so the "la ley de huga" [Mexican law of shooting escaped or resisting prisoners.] was in force in the chaparral, and the good people of Texas were satisfied with a very short account of a Ranger's fight.
The most distinguished predecessor of these two men was a Captain McNally, who was so bent on, carrying his raids to an issue that he paid no heed to national boundary-lines. He followed a band of Mexican bandits to the town of La Cueva, below Ringgold, once, and, surrounding it, demanded the surrender of the cattle which they had stolen. He had but ten men, and yet this redoubtable warrior surrounded a town full of bandits and Mexican soldiers. The Mexican soldiers attacked the Rangers, and forced them back under the river-banks, but during the fight the jefe politico was killed. The Rangers were in a fair way to be overcome by the Mexicans, when Lieutenant Clendenin turned a Gatling loose from the American side and covered their position. A parley ensued, but McNally refused to go back without the cattle, which the Mexicans had finally to surrender.
At another time McNally received word through spies of an intended raid of Mexican cattle-thieves under the leadership of Cammelo Lerma. At Resaca de la Palma, McNally struck the depredators with but sixteen men. They had seventeen men and five hundred head of stolen cattle. In a running fight for miles McNally's men killed sixteen bandits, while only one escaped. A young Ranger by the name of Smith was shot dead by Cammelo Lerma as he dismounted to look at the dying bandit. The dead bodies were piled in ox-carts and dumped in the public square at Brownsville. McNally also captured King Fisher's band in an old log house in Dimmit County, but they were not convicted.
Showing the nature of Ranger work, an incident which occurred to my acquaintance, Captain Lea Hall, will illustrate. In De Witt County there was a feud. One dark night sixteen masked men took a sick man, one Dr. Brazel, and two of his boys, from their beds, and, despite the imploring mother and daughter, hanged the doctor and one son to a tree. The other boy escaped in the green corn. Nothing was done to punish the crime, as the lynchers were men of property and influence in the country. No man dared speak above his breath about the affair.
Captain Hall, by secret-service men, discovered the perpetrators, and also that they were to be gathered at a wedding on a certain night. He surrounded the house and demanded their surrender, at the same time saying that he did not want to kill the women and children. Word returned that they would kill him and all his Rangers. Hall told them to allow their women and children to depart, which was done; then, springing on the gallery of the house, he shouted, "Now, gentlemen, you can go to killing Rangers; but if you don't surrender, the Rangers will go to killing you." This was too frank a willingness for midnight assassins, and they gave up.
Spies had informed him that robbers intended sacking Campbell's store in Wolfe City. Hall and his men lay behind the counters to receive them on the designated night. They were allowed to enter, when Hall's men, rising, opened fire—the robbers replying. Smoke filled the room, which was fairly illuminated by the flashes of the guns—but the robbers were all killed, much to the disgust of the lawyers, no doubt, though I could never hear that honest people mourned.
The man Hall was himself a gentleman of the romantic Southern soldier type, and he entertained the highest ideals, with which it would be extremely unsafe to trifle, if I may judge. Captain Shely, our other visitor, was a herculean, black-eyed man, fairly fizzing with nervous energy. He is also exceedingly shrewd, as befits the greater concreteness of the modern Texas law, albeit he too has trailed bandits in the chaparral, and rushed in on their camp-fires at night, as two big bullet-holes in his skin will attest. He it was who arrested Polk, the defaulting treasurer of Tennessee. He rode a Spanish pony sixty-two miles in six hours, and arrested Polk, his guide, and two private detectives, whom Polk had bribed to set him over the Rio Grande. When the land of Texas was bought up and fenced with wire, the old settlers who had used the land did not readily recognize the new regime. They raised the rallying-cry of "free grass and free water"—said they had fought the Indians off, and the land belonged to them. Taking nippers, they rode by night and cut down miles of fencing. Shely took the keys of a county jail from the frightened sheriff, made arrests by the score, and lodged them in the big new jail. The country-side rose in arms, surrounded the building, and threatened to tear it down. The big Ranger was not deterred by this outburst, but quietly went out into the mob, and with mock politeness delivered himself as follows:
"Do not tear down the jail, gentlemen—you have been taxed for years to build this fine structure—it is yours—do not tear it down. I will open the doors wide—you can all come in—do not tear down the jail; but there are twelve Rangers in there, with orders to kill as long as they can see. Come right in, gentlemen—but come fixed."
The mob was overcome by his civility.
Texas is to-day the only State in the Union where pistol-carry ing is attended with great chances of arrest and fine. The law is supreme even in the lonely jacails out in the rolling waste of chaparral, and it was made so by the tireless riding, the deadly shooting, and the indomitable courage of the Texas Rangers.
THE BLUE QUAIL OF THE CACTUS
THE Quartermaster and I both had trouble which the doctors could not cure—it was January, and it would not do for us to sit in a "blind "; besides, I do not fancy that. There are ever so many men who are comfortable all over when they are sitting in a blind waiting on the vagrant flying of the ducks; but it is solemn, gloomy business, and, I must say, sufficient reason why they take a drink every fifteen minutes to keep up their enthusiasm. We both knew that the finest winter resort for shot-gun folks was in the Southwest—down on the Rio Grande in Texas—so we journeyed to Eagle Pass. As we got down from the train we saw Captain Febiger in his long military cloak by a lantern-light.
"Got any quail staked out for us, Feb?" asked the Quartermaster.
"Oodles," said Febiger; "get into my trap," and we were rattled through the unlighted street out to the camp, and brought up by the Captain's quarters.
In the morning we unpacked our trunks, and had everything on the floor where we could see it, after the fashion with men. Captain Febiger's baby boy came in to help us rummage in the heaps of canvas clothes, ammunition, and what not besides, finally selecting for his amusement a loaded Colt's revolver and a freshly honed razor. We were terrorized by the possibilities of the combination. Our trying to take them away from the youngster only made him yell like a cavern of demons. We howled for his mother to come to our aid, which she finally did, and she separated the kid from his toys.
I put on my bloomers, when the Captain came in and viewed me, saying: "Texas bikes; but it doesn't bloom yet. I don't know just what Texas will do if you parade in those togs—but you can try."
As we sauntered down the dusty main street, Texas lounged in the doorways or stood up in its buggy and stared at me. Texas grinned cheerfully, too, but I did not care, so long as Texas kept its hand out of its hip pocket. I was content to help educate Texas as to personal comfort, at no matter what cost to myself. We passed into Mexico over the Long Bridge to call on Senor Munos, who is the local czar, in hopes of getting permits to be let alone by his chaparral-rangers while we shot quail on their soil. In Mexico when the people observe an Americano they simply shrug their shoulders; so our bloomers attracted no more contempt than would an X-ray or a trolley-car. Senor Munos gave the permits, after much stately compliment and many subtle ways, which made us feel under a cloud of obligation.
The next morning an ambulance and escort-wagon drove up to the Captain's quarters, and we loaded ourselves in—shot-guns, ammunition, blankets, and the precious paper of Senor Munos; for, only the week before, the custom-house rangers had carefully escorted an American hunting-party a long distance back to the line for lack of the little paper and red seals. We rattled over the bridge, past the Mexican barrack, while its dark-skinned soldiery—who do not shoot quails—lounged in the sunshine against the whitewashed wall.
At the first outpost of the customs a little man, whose considerable equatorial proportions were girted with a gun, examined our paper, and waved us on our way. Under the railroad bridge of the International an engineer blew his whistle, and our mules climbed on top of each other in their terror.
We wound along the little river, through irrigating ditches, past dozens of those deliciously quaint adobe houses, past the inevitable church, past a dead pony, ran over a chicken, made the little seven-year-old girls take their five-year-old brothers up in their arms for protection, and finally we climbed a long hill. At the top stretched an endless plain. The road forked; presently it branched; anon it grew into twigs of white dust on the gray levels of the background. The local physician of Eagle Pass was of our party, and he was said to know where a certain tank was to be found, some thirty miles out in the desert, but no man yet created could know which twig of the road to take. He decided on one—changed his mind—got out of the ambulance, scratched his head, pondered, and finally resolution settled on his face. He motioned the driver to a certain twig, got in, and shut his mouth firmly, thus closing debate. We smoked silently, waiting for the doctor's mind to fog. He turned uneasily in his seat, like the agitated needle of a compass, and even in time hazarded the remark that something did not look natural; but there was nothing to look at but flat land and flat sky, unless a hawk sailing here and there. At noon we lunched at the tail of the ambulance, and gently "jollied" the doctor's topography. We pushed on. Later in the afternoon the thirsty mules went slowly. The doctor had by this time admitted his doubts—some long blue hills on the sky-line ought to be farther to the west, according to his remembrance. As no one else had any ideas on the subject, the doctor's position was not enviable. We changed our course, and travelled many weary miles through the chaparral, which was high enough to stop our vision, and stiff enough to bar our way, keeping us to narrow roads. At last the bisecting cattle trails began to converge, and we knew that they led to water—which they did; for shortly we saw a little broken adobe, a tumbled brush corral, the plastered gate of an acequia, and the blue water of the tank.
To give everything its due proportion at this point, we gathered to congratulate the doctor as we passed the flask. The camp was pitched within the corral, and while the cook got supper we stood in the after-glow on the bank of the tank and saw the ducks come home, heard the mud-hens squddle, while high in the air flew the long line of sand-hill cranes with a hoarse clangor. It was quite dark when we sat on the "grub" chests and ate by the firelight, while out in the desert the coyotes shrilled to the monotonous accompaniment of the mules crunching their feed and stamping wearily. To-morrow it was proposed to hunt ducks in their morning flight, which means getting up before daylight, so bed found us early. It seemed but a minute after I had sought my blankets when I was being abused by the Captain, being pushed with his foot—fairly rolled over by him—he even standing on my body as he shouted, "Get up, if you are going hunting. It will be light directly—get up!" And this, constantly recurring, is one reason why I do not care for duck-shooting.
But, in order to hunt, I had to get up, and file off in the line of ghosts, stumbling, catching, on the chaparral, and splashing in the mud. I led a setter-dog, and was presently directed to sit down in some damp grass, because it was a good place—certainly not to sit down in, but for other reasons. I sat there in the dark, petting the good dog, and watching the sky grow pale in the east. This is not to mention the desire for breakfast, or the damp, or the sleepiness, but this is really the larger part of duck-hunting. Of course if I later had a dozen good shots it might compensate—but I did not have a dozen shots.
The day came slowly out of the east, the mud-hens out in the marsh splashed about in the rushes, a sailing hawk was visible against the gray sky overhead, and I felt rather insignificant, not to say contemptible, as I sat there in the loneliness of this big nature which worked around me. The dog dignified the situation—he was a part of nature's belongings—while I somehow did not seem to grace the solitude. The grays slowly grew into browns on the sedge-grass, and the water to silver. A bright flash of fire shot out of the dusk far up in the gloom, and the dull report of a shot-gun came over the tank. Black objects fled across the sky—the ducks were flying. I missed one or two, and grew weary—none came near enough to my lair. Presently it was light, and I got a fair shot. My bird tumbled into the rushes out in front of me, and the setter bounded in to retrieve. He searched vehemently, but the wounded duck dived in front of him. He came ashore shortly, and lying down, he bit at himself and pawed and rolled. He was a mass of cockle-burs. I took him on my lap and laboriously picked cockle-burs out of his hair for a half-hour; then, shouldering my gun, I turned tragically to the water and anathematized its ducks—all ducks, my fellow-duckers, all thoughts and motives concerning ducks—and then strode into the chaparral. "Hie on! hie on!" I tossed my arm, and the setter began to hunt beautifully—glad, no doubt, to leave all thoughts of the cockle-burs and evasive ducks behind. I worked up the shore of the tank, keeping back in the brush, and got some fun. After chasing about for some time I came out near the water. My dog pointed. I glided forward, and came near shooting the Quartermaster, who sat in a bunch of sedge-grass, with a dead duck by his side. He was smoking, and was disgusted with ducks. He joined me, and shortly, as we crossed the road, the long Texas doctor, who owned the dog, came striding down the way. He was ready for quail now, and we started.
The quail-hunting is active work. The dog points, but one nearly always finds the birds running from one prickly-pear bush to another. They do not stand, rarely flush, and when they do get up it is only to swoop ahead to the nearest cover, where they settle quickly. One must be sharp in his shooting—he cannot select his distance, for the cactus lies thick about, and the little running bird is only on view for the shortest of moments. You must overrun a dog after his first point, since he works too close behind them. The covey will keep together if not pursued with too much haste, and one gets shot after shot; still, at last you must run lively, as the frightened covey scurry along at a remarkable pace. Heavy shot are necessary, since the blue quail carry lead like Marshal Massena, and are much harder to kill than the bob-white. Three men working together can get shooting enough out of a bunch—the chase often continuing for a mile, when the covey gradually separate, the sportsmen following individual birds.
Where the prickly-pear cactus is thickest, there are the blue quail, since that is their feed and water supply. This same cactus makes a difficulty of pursuit, for it bristles with spines, which come off on your clothing, and when they enter the skin make most uncomfortable and persistent sores. The Quartermaster had an Indian tobacco-bag dangling at his belt, and as it flopped in his progress it gathered prickers, which it shortly transferred to his luckless legs, until he at last detected the reason why he bristled so fiercely. And the poor dog—at every covey we had to stop and pick needles out of him. The haunts of the blue quail are really no place for a dog, as he soon becomes useless. One does not need him, either, since the blue quail will not flush until actually kicked into the air.
Jack and cotton-tail rabbits fled by hundreds before us. They are everywhere, and afford good shooting between coveys, it being quick work to get a cotton-tail as he flashes between the net-work of protecting cactus. Coyotes lope away in our front, but they are too wild for a shot-gun. It must ever be in a man's mind to keep his direction, because it is such a vastly simple thing to get lost in the chaparral, where you cannot see a hundred yards. Mexico has such a considerable territory that a man on foot may find it inconvenient to beat up a town in the desolation of thorn-bush.
There is an action about blue-quail shooting which is next to buffalo shooting—it's run, shoot, pick up your bird, scramble on in your endeavor to keep the skirmish-line of your two comrades; and at last, when you have concluded to stop, you can mop your forehead—the Mexican sun shines hot even in midwinter.
Later in the afternoon we get among bob-white in a grassy tract, and while they are clean work—good dog-play, and altogether more satisfactory shooting than any other I know of—I am yet much inclined to the excitement of chasing after game which you can see at intervals. Let it not be supposed that it is less difficult to hit a running blue quail as he shoots through the brush than a flying bob-white, for the experience of our party has settled that, and one gets ten shots at the blue to one at the bob-white, because of their number. As to eating, we could not tell the difference; but I will not insist that this is final. A man who comes in from an all day's run in the brush does not care whether the cook gives him boiled beans, watermelon, or crackers and jam; so how is he to know what a bird's taste is when served to a tame appetite?
At intervals we ran into the wild cattle which threaded their way to water, and it makes one nervous. It is of no use to say "Soo-bossy," or to give him a charge of No. 6; neither is it well to run. If the matadores had any of the sensations which I have experienced, the gate receipts at the bull-rings would have to go up. When a big long-horn fastens a quail-shooter with his great open brown eye in a chaparral thicket, you are not inclined to "call his hand." If he will call it a misdeal, you are with him.
We were banging away, the Quartermaster and I, when a human voice began yelling like mad from the brush ahead. We advanced, to find a Mexican—rather well gotten up—who proceeded to wave his arms like a parson who had reached "sixthly" in his sermon, and who proceeded thereat to overwhelm us with his eloquence. The Quartermaster and I "buenos dias-ed" and "si, senor-ed" him in our helpless Spanish, and asked each other, nervously, "What de'll." After a long time he seemed to be getting through with his subject, his sentences became separated, he finally emitted monosyllables only along with his scowls, and we tramped off into the brush. It was a pity he spent so much energy, since it could only arouse our curiosity without satisfying it.
In camp that night we told the Captain of our excited Mexican friend out in the brush, and our cook had seen sinister men on ponies passing near our camp. The Captain became solicitous, and stationed a night-guard over his precious government mules. It would never do to have a bandit get away with a U. S. brand. It never does matter about private property, but anything with U. S. on it has got to be looked after, like a croupy child.
We had some good days' sport, and no more formidable enterprise against the night-guard was attempted than the noisy approach of a white jackass. The tents were struck and loaded when it began to rain. We stood in the shelter of the escort-wagon, and the storm rose to a hurricane. Our corral became a tank; but shortly the black clouds passed north, and we pulled out. The twig ran into a branch, and the branch struck the trunk near the bluffs over the Rio Grande, and in town there stood the Mexican soldiers leaning against the wall as we had left them. We wondered if they had moved meanwhile.
A SERGEANT OF THE ORPHAN TROOP
WHILE it is undisputed that Captain Dodd's troop of the Third Cavalry is not an orphan, and is, moreover, quite as far from it as any troop of cavalry in the world, all this occurred many years ago, when it was, at any rate, so called. There was nothing so very unfortunate about it, from what I can gather, since it seems to have fought well on its own hook, quite up to all expectations, if not beyond. No officer at that time seemed to care to connect his name with such a rioting, nose-breaking band of desperado cavalrymen, unless it was temporarily, and that was always in the field, and never in garrison. However, in this case it did not have even an officer in the field. But let me go on to my sergeant.
This one was a Southern gentleman, or rather a boy, when he refugeed out of Fredericksburg with his family, before the Federal advance, in a wagon belonging to a Mississippi rifle regiment; but nevertheless some years later he got to be a gentleman, and passed through the Virginia Military Institute with honor. The desire to be a soldier consumed him, but the vicissitudes of the times compelled him, if he wanted to be a soldier, to be a private one, which he became by duly enlisting in the Third Cavalry. He struck the Orphan Troop.
Physically, Nature had slobbered all over Carter Johnson; she had lavished on him her very last charm. His skin was pink, albeit the years of Arizona sun had heightened it to a dangerous red; his mustache was yellow and ideally military; while his pure Virginia accent, fired in terse and jerky form at friend and enemy alike, relieved his natural force of character by a shade of humor. He was thumped and bucked and pounded into what was in the seventies considered a proper frontier soldier, for in those days the nursery idea had not been lugged into the army. If a sergeant bade a soldier "go" or "do," he instantly "went" or "did"—otherwise the sergeant belted him over the head with his six-shooter, and had him taken off in a cart. On pay-days, too, when men who did not care to get drunk went to bed in barracks, they slept under their bunks and not in them, which was conducive to longevity and a good night's rest. When buffalo were scarce they ate the army rations in those wild days; they had a fight often enough to earn thirteen dollars, and at times a good deal more. This was the way with all men at that time, but it was rough on recruits.
So my friend Carter Johnson wore through some years, rose to be a corporal, finally a sergeant, and did many daring deeds. An atavism from "the old border riders" of Scotland shone through the boy, and he took on quickly. He could act the others off the stage and sing them out of the theatre in his chosen profession.
There was fighting all day long around Fort Robinson, Nebraska—a bushwhacking with Dull-Knife's band of the Northern Cheyennes, the Spartans of the plains. It was January; the snow lay deep on the ground, and the cold was knife-like as it thrust at the fingers and toes of the Orphan Troop. Sergeant Johnson with a squad of twenty men, after having been in the saddle all night, was in at the post drawing rations for the troop. As they were packing them up for transport, a detachment of F Troop came galloping by, led by the sergeant's friend, Corporal Thornton. They pulled up.
"Come on, Carter—go with us. I have just heard that some troops have got a bunch of Injuns corralled out in the hills. They can't get 'em down. Let's go help 'em. It's a chance for the fight of your life. Come on."
Carter hesitated for a moment. He had drawn the rations for his troop, which was in sore need of them. It might mean a court-martial and the loss of his chevrons—but a fight! Carter struck his spurred heels, saying, "Come on, boys; get your horses; we will go."
The line of cavalry was half lost in the flying snow as it cantered away over the white flats. The dry powder crunched under the thudding hoofs, the carbines banged about, the overcoat capes blew and twisted in the rushing air, the horses grunted and threw up their heads as the spurs went into their bellies, while the men's faces were serious with the interest in store. Mile after mile rushed the little column, until it came to some bluffs, where it drew reign and stood gazing across the valley to the other hills.
Down in the bottoms they espied an officer and two men sitting quietly on their horses, and on riding up found a lieutenant gazing at the opposite bluffs through a glass. Far away behind the bluffs a sharp ear could detect the reports of guns.
"We have been fighting the Indians all day here," said the officer, putting down his glass and turning to the two "non-coms." "The command has gone around the bluffs. I have just seen Indians up there on the rim-rocks. I have sent for troops, in the hope that we might get up there. Sergeant, deploy as skirmishers, and we will try."
At a gallop the men fanned out, then forward at a sharp trot across the flats, over the little hills, and into the scrub pine. The valley gradually narrowed until it forced the skirmishers into a solid body, when the lieutenant took the lead, with the command tailing out in single file. The signs of the Indians grew thicker and thicker—a skirmisher's nest here behind a scrub-pine bush, and there by the side of a rock. Kettles and robes lay about in the snow, with three "bucks" and some women and children sprawling about, frozen as they had died; but all was silent except the crunch of the snow and the low whispers of the men as they pointed to the telltales of the morning's battle.
As the column approached the precipitous rim-rock the officer halted, had the horses assembled in a side canon, putting Corporal Thornton in charge. He ordered Sergeant Johnson to again advance his skirmish-line, in which formation the men moved forward, taking cover behind the pine scrub and rocks, until they came to an open space of about sixty paces, while above it towered the cliff for twenty feet in the sheer. There the Indians had been last seen. The soldiers lay tight in the snow, and no man's valor impelled him on. To the casual glance the rim-rock was impassable. The men were discouraged and the officer nonplussed. A hundred rifles might be covering the rock fort for all they knew. On closer examination a cutting was found in the face of the rock which was a rude attempt at steps, doubtless made long ago by the Indians. Caught on a bush above, hanging down the steps, was a lariat, which, at the bottom, was twisted around the shoulders of a dead warrior. They had evidently tried to take him up while wounded, but he had died and had been abandoned.
After cogitating, the officer concluded not to order his men forward, but he himself stepped boldly out into the open and climbed up. Sergeant Johnson immediately followed, while an old Swedish soldier by the name of Otto Bordeson fell in behind them. They walked briskly up the hill, and placing their backs against the wall of rock, stood gazing at the Indian.
With a grin the officer directed the men to advance. The sergeant, seeing that he realized their serious predicament, said:
"I think, lieutenant, you had better leave them where they are; we are holding this rock up pretty hard."
They stood there and looked at each other. "We's in a fix," said Otto.
"I want volunteers to climb this rock," finally demanded the officer.
The sergeant looked up the steps, pulled at the lariat, and commented: "Only one man can go at a time; if there are Indians up there, an old squaw can kill this command with a hatchet; and if there are no Indians, we can all go up."
The impatient officer started up, but the sergeant grabbed him by the belt. He turned, saying, "If I haven't got men to go, I will climb myself."
"Stop, lieutenant. It wouldn't look right for the officer to go. I have noticed a pine-tree, the branches of which spread over the top of the rock," and the sergeant pointed to it. "If you will make the men cover the top of the rim-rock with their rifles, Bordeson and I will go up;" and turning to the Swede, "Will you go, Otto?"
"I will go anywhere the sergeant does," came his gallant reply.
"Take your choice, then, of the steps or the pine-tree," continued the Virginian; and after a rather short but sharp calculation the Swede declared for the tree, although both were death if the Indians were on the rim-rock. He immediately began sidling along the rock to the tree, and slowly commenced the ascent. The sergeant took a few steps up the cutting, holding on by the rope. The officer stood out and smiled quizzically. Jeers came from behind the soldiers' bushes—"Go it, Otto! Go it, Johnson! Your feet are loaded! If a snow-bird flies, you will drop dead! Do you need any help? You'd make a hell of a sailor!" and other gibes.
The gray clouds stretched away monotonously over the waste of snow, and it was cold. The two men climbed slowly, anon stopping to look at each other and smile. They were monkeying with death.
At last the sergeant drew himself up, slowly raised his head, and saw snow and broken rock. Otto lifted himself likewise, and he too saw nothing Rifle-shots came clearly to their ears from far in front—many at one time, and scattering at others. Now the soldiers came briskly forward, dragging up the cliff in single file. The dull noises of the fight came through the wilderness. The skirmish-line drew quickly forward and passed into the pine woods, but the Indian trails scattered. Dividing into sets of four, they followed on the tracks of small parties, wandering on until night threatened. At length the main trail of the fugitive band ran across their front, bringing the command together. It was too late for the officer to get his horses before dark, nor could he follow with his exhausted men, so he turned to the sergeant and asked him to pick some men and follow on the trail. The sergeant picked Otto Borde-son, who still affirmed that he would go anywhere that Johnson went, and they started. They were old hunting companions, having confidence in each other's sense and shooting. They ploughed through the snow, deeper and deeper into the pines, then on down a canon where the light was failing. The sergeant was sweating freely; he raised his hand to press his fur cap backward from his forehead. He drew it quickly away; he stopped and started, caught Otto by the sleeve, and drew a long breath. Still holding his companion, he put his glove again to his nose, sniffed at it again, and with a mighty tug brought the startled Swede to his knees, whispering, "I smell Indians; I can sure smell 'em, Otto—can you?" Otto sniffed, and whispered back, "Yes, plain!" "We are ambushed! Drop!" and the two soldiers sunk in the snow. A few feet in front of them lay a dark thing; crawling to it, they found a large calico rag, covered with blood.
"Let's do something, Carter; we's in a fix." "If we go down, Otto, we are gone; if we go back, we are gone; let's go forward," hissed the sergeant.
Slowly they crawled from tree to tree.
"Don't you see the Injuns?" said the Swede, as he pointed to the rocks in front, where lay their dark forms. The still air gave no sound. The cathedral of nature, with its dark pine trunks starting from gray snow to support gray sky, was dead. Only human hearts raged, for the forms which held them lay like black bowlders.
"Egah—lelah washatah," yelled the sergeant.
Two rifle-shots rang and reverberated down the canon; two more replied instantly from the soldiers. One Indian sunk, and his carbine went clanging down the rocks, burying itself in the snow. Another warrior rose slightly, took aim, but Johnson's six-shooter cracked again, and the Indian settled slowly down without firing. A squaw moved slowly in the half-light to where the buck lay. Bordeson drew a bead with his carbine.
"Don't shoot the woman, Otto. Keep that hole covered; the place is alive with Indians;" and both lay still.
A buck rose quickly, looked at the sergeant, and dropped back. The latter could see that he had him located, for he slowly poked his rifle up without showing his head. Johnson rolled swiftly to one side, aiming with his deadly revolver. Up popped the Indian's head, crack went the six-shooter; the head turned slowly, leaving the top exposed. Crack again went the alert gun of the soldier, the ball striking the head just below the scalp-lock and instantly jerking the body into a kneeling position.
Then all was quiet in the gloomy woods.
After a time the sergeant addressed his voice to the lonely place in Sioux, telling the women to come out and surrender—to leave the bucks, etc.
An old squaw rose sharply to her feet, slapped her breast, shouted "Lelah washatah," and gathering up a little girl and a bundle, she strode forward to the soldiers. Three other women followed, two of them in the same blanket.
"Are there any more bucks?" roared the sergeant, in Sioux.
"No more alive," said the old squaw, in the same tongue.
"Keep your rifle on the hole between the rocks; watch these people; I will go up," directed the sergeant, as he slowly mounted to the ledge, and with levelled six-shooter peered slowly over. He stepped in and stood looking down on the dead warriors.
A yelling in broken English smote the startled sergeant. "Tro up your hands, you d—— Injun! I'll blow the top off you!" came through the quiet. The sergeant sprang down to see the Swede standing with carbine levelled at a young buck confronting him with a drawn knife in his hands, while his blanket lay back on the snow.
"He's a buck—he ain't no squaw; he tried to creep on me with a knife. I'm going to kill him," shouted the excited Bordeson.
"No, no, don't kill him. Otto, don't you kill him," expostulated Johnson, as the Swede's finger clutched nervously at the trigger, and turning, he roared, "Throw away that knife, you d———Indian!"
The detachment now came charging in through the snow, and gathered around excitedly. A late arrival came up, breathing heavily, dropped his gun, and springing up and down, yelled, "Be jabbers, I have got among om at last!" A general laugh went up, and the circle of men broke into a straggling line for the return. The sergeant took the little girl up in his arms. She grabbed him fiercely by the throat like a wild-cat, screaming. While nearly choking, he yet tried to mollify her, while her mother, seeing no harm was intended, pacified her in the soft gutturals of the race. She relaxed her grip, and the brave Virginian packed her down the mountain, wrapped in his soldier cloak. The horses were reached in time, and the prisoners put on double behind the soldiers, who fed them crackers as they marched. At two o'clock in the morning the little command rode into Fort Robinson and dismounted at the guardhouse. The little girl, who was asleep and half frozen in Johnson's overcoat, would not go to her mother: poor little cat, she had found a nest. The sergeant took her into the guard-house, where it was warm. She soon fell asleep, and slowly he undid her, delivering her to her mother. On the following morning he came early to the guard-house, loaded with trifles for his little Indian girl. He had expended all his credit at the post-trader's, but he could carry sentiment no further, for "To horse!" was sounding, and he joined the Orphan Troop to again ride on the Dull-Knife trail. The brave Cheyennes were running through the frosty hills, and the cavalry horses pressed hotly after. For ten days the troops surrounded the Indians by day, and stood guard in the snow by night, but coming day found the ghostly warriors gone and their rifle-pits empty. They were cut off and slaughtered daily, but the gallant warriors were fighting to their last nerve. Towards the end they were cooped in a gully on War-Bon-natt Creek, where they fortified; but two six-pounders had been hauled out, and were turned on their works. The four troops of cavalry stood to horse on the plains all day, waiting for the poor wretches to come out, while the guns roared, ploughing the frozen dirt and snow over their little stronghold; but they did not come out. It was known that all the provisions they had was the dead horse of a corporal of E Troop, which had been shot within twenty paces of their rifle-pits.
So, too, the soldiers were starving, and the poor Orphans had only crackers to eat. They were freezing also, and murmuring to be led to "the charge," that they might end it there, but they were an orphan troop, and must wait for others to say. The sergeant even asked an officer to let them go, but was peremptorily told to get back in the ranks.
The guns ceased at night, while the troops drew off to build fires, warm their rigid fingers, thaw out their buffalo moccasins, and munch crackers, leaving a strong guard around the Cheyennes. In the night there was a shooting—the Indians had charged through and had gone.
The day following they were again surrounded on some bluffs, and the battle waged until night. Next day there was a weak fire from the Indian position on the impregnable bluffs, and presently it ceased entirely. The place was approached with care and trepidation, but was empty. Two Indian boys, with their feet frozen, had been left as decoys, and after standing off four troops of cavalry for hours, they too had in some mysterious way departed.
But the pursuit was relentless; on, on over the rolling hills swept the famishing troopers, and again the Spartan band turned at bay, firmly intrenched on a bluff as before. This was the last stand—nature was exhausted. The soldiers surrounded them, and Major Wessells turned the handle of the human vise. The command gathered closer about the doomed pits—they crawled on their bellies from one stack of sage-brush to the next. They were freezing. The order to charge came to the Orphan Troop, and yelling his command, Sergeant Johnson ran forward. Up from the sage-brush floundered the stiffened troopers, following on. They ran over three Indians, who lay sheltered in a little cut, and these killed three soldiers together with an old frontier sergeant who wore long hair, but they were destroyed in turn. While the Orphans swarmed under the hill, a rattling discharge poured from the rifle-pits; but the troop had gotten under the fire, and it all passed over their heads. On they pressed, their blood now quickened by excitement, crawling up the steep, while volley on volley poured over them. Within nine feet of the pits was a rim-rock ledge over which the Indian bullets swept, and here the charge was stopped. It now became a duel.
Every time a head showed on either side, it drew fire like a flue-hole. Suddenly our Virginian sprang on the ledge, and like a trill on a piano poured a six-shooter into the intrenchment, and dropped back.
Major Wessells, who was commanding the whole force, crawled to the position of the Orphan Troop, saying, "Doing fine work, boys. Sergeant, I would advise you to take off that red scarf "—when a bullet cut the major across the breast, whirling him around and throwing him. A soldier, one Lannon, sprang to him and pulled him down the bluff, the major protesting that he was not wounded, which proved to be true, the bullet having passed through his heavy clothes.
The troops had drawn up on the other sides, and a perfect storm of bullets whirled over the in-trenchments. The powder blackened the faces of the men, and they took off their caps or had them shot off. To raise the head for more than a fraction of a second meant death.
Johnson had exchanged five shots with a fine-looking Cheyenne, and every time he raised his eye to a level with the rock White Antelope's gun winked at him.
"You will get killed directly," yelled Lannon to Johnson; "they have you spotted."
The smoke blew and eddied over them; again Johnson rose, and again White Antelope's pistol cracked an accompaniment to his own; but with movement like lightning the sergeant sprang through the smoke, and fairly shoving his carbine to White Antelope's breast, he pulled the trigger. A 50-calibre gun boomed in Johnson's face, and a volley roared from the pits, but he fell backward into cover. His comrades set him up to see if any red stains came through the grime, but he was unhurt.
The firing grew; a blue haze hung over the hill. Johnson again looked across the glacis, but again his eye met the savage glare of White Antelope.
"I haven't got him yet, Lannon, but I will;" and Sergeant Johnson again slowly reloaded his pistol and carbine.
"Now, men, give them a volley!" ordered the enraged man, and as volley answered volley, through the smoke sprang the daring soldier, and standing over White Antelope as the smoke swirled and almost hid him, he poured his six balls into his enemy, and thus died one brave man at the hands of another in fair battle. The sergeant leaped back and lay down among the men, stunned by the concussions. He said he would do no more. His mercurial temperament had undergone a change, or, to put it better, he conceived it to be outrageous to fight these poor people, five against one. He characterized it as "a d—— infantry fight," and rising, talked in Sioux to the enemy—asked them to surrender, or they must otherwise die. A young girl answered him, and said they would like to. An old woman sprang on her and cut her throat with a dull knife, yelling meanwhile to the soldiers that "they would never surrender alive," and saying what she had done.
Many soldiers were being killed, and the fire from the pits grew weaker. The men were beside themselves with rage. "Charge!" rang through the now still air from some strong voice, and, with a volley, over the works poured the troops, with six-shooters going, and clubbed carbines. Yells, explosions, and amid a whirlwind of smoke the soldiers and Indians swayed about, now more slowly and quieter, until the smoke eddied away. Men stood still, peering about with wild open eyes through blackened faces. They held desperately to their weapons. An old bunch of buckskin rags rose slowly and fired a carbine aimlessly. Twenty bullets rolled and tumbled it along the ground, and again the smoke drifted off the mount. This time the air grew clear. Buffalo-robes lay all about, blood spotted everywhere. The dead bodies of thirty-two Cheyennes lay, writhed and twisted, on the packed snow, and among them many women and children, cut and furrowed with lead. In a corner was a pile of wounded squaws, half covered with dirt swept over them by the storm of bullets. One broken creature half raised herself from the bunch. A maddened trumpeter threw up his gun to shoot, but Sergeant Johnson leaped and kicked his gun out of his hands high into the air, saying, "This fight is over."
THE SPIRIT OF MAHONGUI
IT is so I have called this old document, which is an extract from the memoirs of le Chevalier Bailloquet, a Frenchman living in Canada, where he was engaged in the Indian fur trade, about the middle of the seventeenth century, and as yet they are unpublished.
It is written in English, since the author lived his latter life in England, having left Canada as the result of troubles with the authorities.
He was captured by the Iroquois, and after living with them some time, made his escape to the Dutch.
My Chevalier rambles somewhat, although I have been at pains to cut out extraneous matter. It is also true that many will not believe him in these days, for out of their puny volition they will analyze, and out of their discontent they will scoff. But to those I say, Go to your microbes, your statistics, your volts, and your bicycles, and leave me the truth of other days.
The Chevalier was on a voyage from Quebec to Montreal; let him begin:
The next day we embarqued, though not without confusion, because many weare not content, nor satisfied. What a pleasure ye two fathers to see them trott up and downe ye rocks to gett their manage into ye boat. The boats weare so loaded that many could not proceed if foul weather should happen. I could not persuade myself to stay with this concourse as ye weather was faire for my journie. Without adoe, I gott my six wild men to paddle on ye way.
This was a fatal embarquation, butt I did not mistrust that ye Iriquoits weare abroad in ye forest, for I had been at ye Peace. Nevertheless I find that these wild men doe naught butt what they resolve out of their bloodie mindedness. We passed the Point going out of ye Lake St. Peter, when ye Barbars appeared on ye watter-side discharging their muskets at us, and embarquing for our pursuit.
"Kohe—kohe!"—came nearer ye fearsome warre cry of ye Iriquoit, making ye hearts of ye poore Hurron & ffrench alike to turn to water in their breasts. 2 of my savages weare strook downe at ye first discharge & another had his paddle cutt in twain, besides shott holes through with the watter poured apace. Thus weare we diminished and could not draw off.
The Barbars weare daubed with paint, which is ye signe of warre. They coming against our boat struck downe our Hurrons with hattchetts, such as did not jump into the watter, where also they weare in no wise saved.
But in my boat was a Hurron Captayne, who all his life-time had killed many Iriquoits & by his name for vallor had come to be a great Captayne att home and abroad. We weare resolved some execution & with our gunns dealt a discharge & drew our cutlasses to strike ye foe. They environed us as we weare sinking, and one spake saying—"Brothers, cheere up and assure yourselfe you shall not be killed; thou art both men and Cap-taynes, as I myself am, and I will die in thy defense." And ye afforesaid crew shewed such a horrid noise, of a sudden ye Iriquoit Captayne took hold about me—"Thou shalt not die by another hand than mine."
Ye savages layd bye our armes & tyed us fast in a boat, one in one boat and one in another. We proceeded up ye river, rather sleeping than awake, for I thought never to escape.
Att near sunsett we weare taken on ye shore, where ye wild men encamped bye making cottages of rind from off ye trees. They tyed ye Hurron Captayne to a trunk, he resolving most bravely but dessparred to me, and I too dessparred. Nevertheless he sang his fatal song though ye fire made him as one with the ague. They tooke out his heart and cut off some of ye flesh of ye miserable, boyled it and eat it. This they wished not to doe att this time, but that ye Hurron had been shott with a ball under his girdle where it was not seen, though he would have died of his desperate wound. That was the miserable end of that wretch.
Whilst they weare busy with ye Hurron, they having stripped me naked, tyed me above ye elbows, and wrought a rope about my middle. They afked me several questions, I not being able to answer, they gave me great blows with their fists, then pulled out one of my nails. Having lost all hopes, I resolved altogether to die, itt being folly to think otherwise.
I could not flee, butt was flung into a boat att daylight. Ye boats went all abreaft, ye wild men singing some of their fatal songs, others their howls of victory, ye wild "Kohes," beating giens & parchments, blowing whistles, and all manner of tumult.
Thus did we proceed with these ravening wolves, God having delivered a Chriftian into ye power of Satan.
I was nott ye only one in ye claws of these wolves, for we fell in with 150 more of these cruels, who had Hurron captyves to ye number of 33 victimes, with heads alsoe stuck on poles, of those who in God's mercie weare gone from their miseries. As for me, I was put in a boat with one who had his fingers cutt & bourned. I asked him why ye Iriquoits had broak ye Peace, and he said they had told him ye ffrench had broak ye Peace; that ye ffrench had set their pack of doggs on an olde Iriquoit woman who was eat up alive & that ye Iriquoits had told ye Hurron wild men that they had killed ye doggs, alsoe Hurrons and ffrench, saying that as to ye captyves, they would boyl doggs, Hurrons, and ffrench in ye same kettle.
A great rain arose, ye Iriquoits going to ye watter-side did cover themselvs with their boats, holding ye captyves ye meanwhile bye ropes bound about our ancles, while we stood out in ye storm, which was near to causing me death from my nakedness. When ye rain had abated, we pursued our way killing staggs, & I was given some entrails, which before I had only a little parched corne to ye extent of my handfull.
At a point we mett a gang of ye head hunters all on ye shore, dancing about a tree to which was tyed a fine ffrench mastiff dogg, which was standing on its hinder leggs, being lashed up against a tree by its middle. Ye dogg was in a great terror, and frantic in its bonds. I knew him for a dogg from ye fort att Mont-royal, kept for to give warnings of ye Enemy's approach. It was a strange sight for to see ye Heathen rage about ye noble dogg, but he itt was nevertheless which brought ye Barbars against us. He was only gott with great difficulty, having killed one Barbar, and near to serving others like-wise.
They untyed ye dogg, I holding him one side, and ye other, with cords they brought and tyed him in ye bow of a boat with 6 warriors to paddle him. Ye dogg boat was ye Head, while ye rest came on up ye river singing fatal songs, triumph songs, piping, howling, & ye dogg above all with his great noise. Ye Barbars weare more delighted att ye captyve dogg than att all of us poore Christians, for that they did say he was no dogg. Ye doggs which ye wild men have are nott so great as wolves, they being little else & small att that. Ye mastiff was considered as a consequence to be a great interest. This one had near defeated their troupe & now was to be horridly killed after ye bloody way of ye wild men.
Att camp they weare sleep most of ye night, they being aweary with ye torture of ye Hurron Captayne previously. Ye dogg was tyed & layd nott far off from where I was alsoe tyed, butt over him weare 2 olde men, who guarded him of a fear he would eat away his ropes. These men weare Elders or Priests, such as are esteemed for their power over spirits, & they did keep up their devil's song ye night thro.
I made a vertue of necessity & did sleep, butt was early cast into a boat to go on towards ye Enemy's countrie, tho we had raw meat given us, with blows on ye mouth to make us ye more quickly devour itt. An Iriquoit who was the Captayne in our boat, bade me to be of a good courage, as they would not hurt me. Ye fmall knowledge I had of their speech made a better hope, butt one who could have understood them would have been certainly in a great terror.
Thus we journied 8 days on ye Lake Champlaine, where ye wind and waves did sore beset our endeavors att times. As for meate we wanted none, as we had a store of staggs along ye watter-side. We killed some every day, more for sport than for need. We finding them on Isles, made them go into ye watter, & after we killed above a score, we clipped ye ears of ye rest & hung bells on them, and then lett them loose. What a sport to see ye rest flye from them that had ye bells!
There came out of ye vast forest a multitude of bears, 300 at least together, making a horrid noise, breaking ye small trees. We shott att them, butt they stirred not a step. We weare much frightened that they stirred nott att our shooting. Ye great ffrench dogg would fain encounter them notwithftanding he was tyed. He made ye watter-side to ring with his heavy voise & from his eyes came flames of fyre & clouds from out his mouth. The bears did straightway fly which much cheered ye Iri-quoits. One said to me they weare resolved nott to murder ye dogg, which was a stone-God in ye dogg shape, or a witch, butt I could nott fully understand. Ye wild men said they had never heard their fathers speak of so many bears.
When we putt ye kettle on, ye wild man who had captured me, gave me of meate to eat, & told me a story. "Brother," says he, "itt is a thing to be admired to goe afar to travell. You must know that tho I am olde, I have always loved ye ffrench for their goodness, but they should have given us to kill ye Algonkins. We should not warre against ye ffrench, butt trade with them for Castors, who are better for traffic than ye Dutch. I was once a Captayne of 13 men against ye Altignaonan-ton & ye ffrench. We stayed 3 whole winters among ye Ennemy, butt in ye daytime durst not marche nor stay out of ye deep forest. We killed many, butt there weare devils who took my son up in ye air so I could never again get him back. These devils weare as bigg as horriniacs, [moose] & ye little blue birds which attend upon them, said itt was time for us to go back to our people, which being resolved to do, we came back, butt nott of a fear of ye Ennemy. Our warre song grew still on our lipps, as ye snow falling in ye forest. I have nott any more warred to the North, until I was told by ye spirits to go to ye ffrench & recover my son. My friend, I have dreamed you weare my son;" and henceforth I was not hurted nor starved for food.
We proceeded thro rivers & lakes & thro forests where I was made to support burdens. When we weare come to ye village of ye Iriquoits we lay in ye woods because that they would nott go into ye village in ye night time.
The following day we weare marched into ye brough [borough] of ye Iriquoits. When we came in fight we heard nothing butt outcryes from one side, as from ye other. Then came a mighty host of people & payd great heed to ye ffrench dogg, which was ledd bye 2 men while roundabout his neck was a girdle of porcelaine. They tormented ye poore Hurrons with violence, butt about me was hung a long piece of porcelaine—ye girdle of my captor, & he stood against me. In ye meanwhile, many of ye village came about us, among which a goode olde woman & a boy with a hattchett came neere me. Ye olde woman covered me, & ye boy took me by my hand and led mee out of ye companie. What comforted me was that I had escaped ye blowes. They brought me into ye village where ye olde woman fhowed me kindness. She took me into her cottage, & gave me to eat, butt my great terror took my stum-ack away from me. I had stayed an hour when a great companie came to see me, of olde men with pipes in their mouths. For a time they sat about, when they did lead me to another cabbin, where they smoked & made me apprehend they should throw me into ye fyre. Butt itt proved otherwise, for ye olde woman followed me, speaking aloud, whome they answered with a loud ho, then shee tooke her girdle, and about me she tyed itt, so brought me to her cottage & made me to sitt downe. Then she gott me Indian corne toasted, & took away ye paint ye fellows had stuck to my face. A maide greased & combed my haire, & ye olde woman danced and sung, while my father bourned tobacco on a stone. They gave me a blew coverlitt, stockings, and shoes. I layed with her son & did what I could to get familiarity with them, and I suffered no wrong, yet I was in a terror, for ye fatal songs came from ye poore Hurrons. Ye olde man inquired whether I was Afferony, a ffrench. I affured him no, faying I was Panugaga, that is of their nation, for which he was pleased.
My father feasted 200 men. My sisters made me clean for that purpose, and greased my haire. They tyed me with 2 necklaces of porcelaine & garters of ye same. My father gave me a hattchett in my hand.
My father made a speech, showing many demonstrations of vallor, broak a kettle of cagamite with a hattchett. So they sung, as is their usual custom. Ye banquette being over, all cryed to me "Shagon, Orimha"—that is "be hearty!" Every one withdrew to his quarters.
Here follows a long account of his daily life among the Indians, his hunting and observations, which our space forbids. He had become meanwhile more familiar with the language. He goes on:
My father came into ye cabbin from ye grand castle & he sat him downe to smoke. He said ye Elders had approved after much debate, & that ye ffrench dogg was not a witch, but ye great warrior Mahongui, gone before, whose spirit had rose up into ye ffrench dogg & had spyed ye ffrench. Att ye council even soe ye dogg had walked into ye centre of ye great cabbin, there saying loudly to ye Elders what he was & that he must be heard. His voice must be obeyed. His was not ye mocking cryes of a witch from under an olde snake-skin, butt a chief come from Paradise to comfort his own people. My father asked me if I was agreed. I said that witches did not battile as openly as ye dogg, butt doe their evil in ye dark.
These wild men are sore beset with witches and devils—more than Christians, as they deserve to be, for they are of Satan's own belonging.
My father dreamed att night, & sang about itt, making ye fire to bourne in our cabbin. We satt to listen. He had mett ye ffrench dogg in ye forest path bye night—he standing accross his way, & ye forest was light from ye dogg's eyes, who spake to my father saying, "I belong to ye dead folks—my hattchett is rust—my bow is mould—I can no longer battile with our Ennemy, butt I hover over you in warre—I direct your arrows to their breasts—I smoothe ye little dry sticks & wett ye leaves under ye shoes—I draw ye morning mist accross to shield you—I carry ye 'Kohes' back and fore to bring your terror—I fling aside ye foeman's bulletts—go back and be strong in council."
My father even in ye night drew ye Elders in ye grand cabbin. He said what he had seen and heard. Even then the great ffrench dogg gott from ye darkness of ye cabbin, & strode into ye fyre. He roared enough to blow downe caftles in his might & they knew he was saying what he had told unto my father.
A great Captayne sent another night, & had ye Elders for to gather at ye grande cabbin. He had been paddling his boat upon ye river when ye dogg of Mahongui had walked out on ye watter thro ye mist. He was taller than ye forest. So he spake, saying "Mahongui says—go tell ye people of ye Panugaga, itt is time for warre—ye corne is gathered—ye deer has changed his coat—there are no more Hurrons for me to eat. What is a Panugaga village with no captyves? Ye young men will talk as women doe, & ye Elders will grow content to watch a snow-bird hopp. Mahongui says itt is time."
Again att ye council fyre ye spirit dogg strode from ye darkness & said itt was time. Ye tobacco was bourned by ye Priests. In ye smoke ye Elders beheld ye Spirit of Mahongui. "Panugaga—Warre."
Soe my father saw ye ghost of ye departed one. He smoked long bye our cabbin fyre. He sang his battile song. I asked him to goe myself, even with a hattchett, as I too was Panugaga. Butt he would in no wise listen. "You are nott meet," he says, "you sayest that your God is above. How will you make me believe that he is as goode as your black coats say? They doe lie & you see ye contrary; ffor first of all, ye Sun bournes us often, ye rain wetts us, ye winde makes us have shipwrake, ye thunder, ye lightening bournes & kills us, & all comes from above, & you say that itt is goode to be there. For my part, I will nott go there. Contrary they say that ye reprobates & guilty goeth downe & bourne. They are mistaken; all is goode heare. Do nott you see that itt is ye Earthe that nourishes all living creatures—ye waiter, ye fishes, & ye yus, and that corne & all other fruits come up, & that all things are nott soe contrary to us as that from above? Ye devils live in ye air & they took my son. When you see that ye Earthe is our Mother, then you will see that all things on itt are goode. Ye Earthe was made for ye Panugaga, & ye souls of our warriors help us against our Ennemy. Ye ffrench dogg is Mahongui's spirit. He tells us to goe to warre against ye ffrench. Would a ffrench dogg doe that? You are nott yett Panugaga to follow your father in warre."
THE ESSENTIALS AT FORT ADOBE
THE Indian suns himself before the door of his tepee, dreaming of the past. For a long time now he has eaten of the white man's lotos—the bimonthly beef-issue. I looked on him and wondered at the new things. The buffalo, the warpath, all are gone. What of the cavalrymen over at Adobe—his Nemesis in the stirring days—are they, too, lounging in barracks, since his lordship no longer leads them trooping over the burning flats by day and through the ragged hills by night? I will go and see.
The blistered faces of men, the gaunt horses dragging stiffly along to the cruel spurring, the dirty lack-lustre of campaigning—that, of course, is no more. Will it be parades, and those soul-deadening "fours right" and "column left" affairs? Oh, my dear, let us hope not.
Nothing is so necessary in the manufacture of soldiers, sure enough, but it is not hard to learn, and once a soldier knows it I can never understand why it should be drilled into him until it hurts. Besides, from another point of view, soldiers in rows and in lines do not compose well in pictures. I always feel, after seeing infantry drill in an armory, like Kipling's light-house keeper, who went insane looking at the cracks between the boards—they were all so horribly alike.
Then Adobe is away out West in the blistering dust, with no towns of any importance near it. I can understand why men might become listless when they are at field-work, with the full knowledge that nothing but their brothers are looking at them save the hawks and coyotes. It is different from Meyer, with its traps full of Congressmen and girls, both of whom are much on the minds of cavalrymen.
In due course I was bedded down at Adobe by my old friend the Captain, and then lay thinking of this cavalry business. It is a subject which thought does not simplify, but, like other great things, makes it complicate and recede from its votaries. To know essential details from unessential details is the study in all arts. Details there must be; they are the small things that make the big things. To apply this general order of things to this arm of the service kept me awake. There is first the riding—simple enough if they catch you young. There are bits, saddles, and cavalry packs. I know men who have not spoken to each other in years because they disagree about these. There are the sore backs and colics—that is a profession in itself. There are judgment of pace, the battle tactics, the use of three very different weapons; there is a world of history in this, in forty languages. Then an ever-varying terrain tops all. There are other things not confined to cavalry, but regarded by all soldiers. The crowning peculiarity of cavalry is the rapidity of its movement, whereby a commander can lose the carefully built up reputation of years in about the time it takes a school-boy to eat a marsh-mallow. After all, it is surely a hard profession—a very blind trail to fame. I am glad I am not a cavalryman; still, it is the happiest kind of fun to look on when you are not responsible; but it needs some cultivation to understand and appreciate.
I remember a dear friend who had a taste for out-of-doors. He penetrated deeply into the interior not long since to see these same troopers do a line of heroics, with a band of Bannocks to support the role. The Indians could not finally be got on the centre of the stage, but made hot-foot for the agency. My friend could not see any good in all this, nor was he satisfied with the first act even. He must needs have a climax, and that not forthcoming, he loaded his disgust into a trunk line and brought it back to his club corner here in New York. He there narrated the failure of his first night; said the soldiers were not even dusty as advertised; damned the Indians keenly, and swore at the West by all his gods.
There was a time when I, too, regarded not the sketches in this art, but yearned for the finished product. That, however, is not exhibited generally over once in a generation.
At Adobe there are only eight troops—not enough to make a German nurse-girl turn her head in the street, and my friend from New York, with his Napoleonic largeness, would scoff out loud. But he and the nurse do not understand the significance; they have not the eyes to see. A starboard or a port horseshoe would be all one to them, and a crease in the saddle-blanket the smallest thing in the world, yet it might spoil a horse.
When the trumpets went in the morning I was sorry I had thought at all. It was not light yet, and I clung to my pillow. Already this cavalry has too much energy for my taste.
"If you want to see anything, you want to lead out," said the Captain, as he pounded me with a boot.
"Say, Captain, I suppose Colonel Hamilton issues this order to get up at this hour, doesn't he?"
"Well, he has to obey his own order, then, doesn't he?"
I took a good long stretch and yawn, and what I said about Colonel Hamilton I will not commit to print, out of respect to the Colonel. Then I got up.
This bitterness of bed-parting passes. The Captain said he would put a "cook's police" under arrest for appearing in my make-up; but all these details will be forgotten, and whatever happens at this hour should be forgiven. I had just come from the North, where I had been sauntering over the territory of Montana with some Indians and a wild man from Virginia, getting up before light—tightening up on coffee and bacon for twelve hours in the saddle to prepare for more bacon and coffee; but at Adobe I had hoped for, even if I did not expect, some repose.
In the east there was a fine green coming over the sky. No one out of the painter guild would have admitted it was green, even on the rack, but what I mean is that you could not approach it in any other way. A nice little adjutant went jangling by on a hard-trotting thoroughbred, his shoulders high and his seat low. My old disease began to take possession of me; I could fairly feel the microbes generate. Another officer comes clattering, with his orderly following after. The fever has me. We mount, and we are off, all going to stables.
Out from the corrals swarm the troopers, leading their unwilling mounts. The horses are saying, "Damn the Colonel!" One of them comes in arching bounds; he is saying worse of the Colonel, or maybe only cussing out his own recruit for pulling his cincha too tight. They form troop lines in column, while the Captains throw open eyes over the things which would not interest my friend from New York or the German nurse-girl.
The two forward troops are the enemy, and are distinguished by wearing brown canvas stable-frocks. These shortly move out through the post, and are seen no more.
Now comes the sun. By the shades of Knickerbocker's History of New York I seem now to have gotten at the beginning; but patience, the sun is no detail out in the arid country. It does more things than blister your nose. It is the despair of the painter as it colors the minarets of the Bad Lands which abound around Adobe, and it dries up the company gardens if they don't watch the acequias mighty sharp. To one just out of bed it excuses existence. I find I begin to soften towards the Colonel. In fact, it is possible that he is entirely right about having his old trumpets blown around garrison at this hour, though it took the Captain's boot to prove it shortly since.
The command moves out, trotting quickly through the blinding clouds of dust. The landscape seems to get right up and mingle with the excitement. The supple, well-trained horses lose the scintillation on their coats, while Uncle Sam's blue is growing mauve very rapidly. But there is a useful look about the men, and the horses show condition after their long practice march just finished. Horses much used to go under saddle have well-developed quarters and strong stifle action. Fact is, nothing looks like a horse with a harness on. That is a job for mules, and these should have a labor organization and monopolize it.