Seven and Nine Years
CAMANCHES AND APACHES.
JERSEY CITY, N. J. PUBLISHED BY CLARK JOHNSON, M.D. 1874.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1878, by CLARK JOHNSON, M.D., JERSEY CITY, N. J., In the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
I. INTRODUCTORY 5
II. THE CAPTURE 18
III. A STRANGE ADVENTURE 22
IV. AGAIN A PRISONER 30
V. THE INDIAN TOWN 39
VI. THE TORTURE 47
VII. WA-KO-MET-KLA 57
VIII. A NEW VOCATION 68
IX. THE "MYSTERY BAG" 78
X. INDIAN LIFE 86
XI. MRS. EASTMAN'S STORY 95
XII. MRS. EASTMAN'S STORY CONTINUED 103
XIII. MRS. EASTMAN'S STORY CONTINUED 111
XIV. HOPES AND FEARS—AN ADVENTURE 119
XV. TREED BY A GRIZZLY 125
XVI. SOME CURIOUS CUSTOMS 134
XVII. THE BUFFALO DANCE 142
XVIII. A STRANGE HISTORY 150
XIX. A STRANGE HISTORY CONTINUED 159
XX. THE BUFFALO HUNT 171
XXI. MRS. EASTMAN'S STORY CONTINUED 184
XXII. FEASTS, FASTS, AND FACTS 192
XXIII. THE WAR PARTY 208
XXIV. MY FIRST SCALP 222
XXV. THE FEAST OF THE GREEN CORN 238
XXVI. DANGER AHEAD 242
XXVII. THE ESCAPE 249
XXVIII. A NEW DEPARTURE 263
XXIX. THE "VIGILANTS" 277
XXX. CONCLUSION 290
SEVEN AND NINE YEARS AMONG THE CAMANCHES AND APACHES.
In making my bow to the public as an author, I feel it incumbent upon me to make a brief explanation of the motives that induced me to attempt this autobiographical sketch of nine years of my life. At intervals during the past decade, the country has been electrified by the recital of some horror perpetrated by Indians on white travelers, and those, who, having journeyed to the Far West, had settled, intending to make the wilderness blossom like the rose. Through the medium of the press, the details of these heart-rending cruelties were widely disseminated, and aroused the just indignation of all peaceful and order-loving citizens. To such an extent did popular feeling rise at times, that farmers and drovers on the border, organized themselves into bands, and on the report of some fresh outrage hastened to the scene, pursued the perpetrators of the deed, and not unfrequently visited upon the Indians a vengeance ofttimes of a very sanguinary character.
In these forays of the savages, they frequently carried off to their mountain fastnesses women and children, who were never heard of more. Thus, when our feelings were harrowed up by the report of butcheries, the tales of life-long suffering of the forlorn captives were scarcely ever known. Snatched ruthlessly from the bosom of their families, they were mourned for a time and then they, by slow degrees, faded from the memory of their friends and relatives, and when thought of at all, it was as of those dead. In these chapters I will detail the trials and sufferings of such as these, believing that the experiences of my wife and myself, during our captivity among the Camanches and Apaches, will serve as a prototype of many similar cases.
It was some time, and with not a little persuasion before I could be induced to overcome the diffidence I felt about making my private history public, and appearing in print. By those who have become authors, my feelings will be understood and appreciated; but to others who constitute the reading public it would be impossible to describe the trepidation with which the tyro puts forth his first literary venture, and had it not been for the earnest entreaties of my esteemed friend, Dr. Clark Johnson, who used naively to say that what was a source of such pleasure to him must be entertaining to the public, I doubt very much if I should have ever put pen to paper in the capacity of an author.
With this introduction, I will, as briefly as may be, relate my experiences, nothing extenuating, and setting down naught in malice.
My family were originally from Massachusetts, my father being a descendant of the Puritans, he inherited many of the qualities of his ancestors, and, joined to a high integrity, he possessed a dogged will that at times amounted to stubbornness. From childhood he had led the life of a farmer, and my earliest recollections are associated with country life. My father's disposition might be characterized as restless; and after sojourning for a time in one place, he would evince symptoms of uneasiness which would result in the family moving to some new spot, and breaking ground in virgin soil on the confines of civilization. By these successive removals we soon found ourselves far to the west of the home of our ancestors, and at the time my father resolved to go to California, we owned a very nice farm in Missouri, and as far as I could see were very comfortably situated. On returning from the county seat one Saturday, my father electrified us with the intelligence that he thought seriously of going West. Had a bombshell exploded in our midst it could scarcely have created greater consternation; on inquiring what had induced such a sudden determination on his part, he was fain to confess that he had met a gentleman in town who had but just arrived from the new El Dorado, and who spoke so enthusiastically of this marvelous country, that he led my father's too diligent ear captive, and his mind was saturated with the desire to see, without further delay, this wonderful land. The rest of the family stoutly objected to such a hasty resolve, and we finally effected a compromise, and it was agreed that the stranger should be invited to spend a portion of his time at our house, and during his visit we could consult, argue, and finally conclude what action should be taken in the matter.
I had serious misgivings that our fair home was doomed; knowing too well my father's character, and that any objections we might make to the proposed departure would only strengthen his determination to have his own way. Such was his intense love for the unknown, that any plausible fellow could induce him to see the advantages of owning a thousand acres of wild land to his own well-tilled homestead.
The following week Mr. Terhune made his advent among us. He was a fair type of the adventurer, and seemed a man who could be equal to any emergency circumstances might demand; of robust form, a complexion bronzed by exposure, and with an address so pleasing when he wished to exert himself, that he soon became a favorite, especially with the female portion of the family. He adapted himself to our mode of life with wonderful ease, and apparently was making preparations for a visit that should outlast our expectations. The beauties and advantages of a home in his adopted State was his constant theme; and so pleasantly did he talk, illustrating his arguments with anecdotes so amusing and apposite, that I felt myself being perceptibly influenced by his views, and used to dream of climbing trees of prodigious height, and gathering nuggets from their branches as if they were apples. When lending an assisting hand at our farm labors, he would descant on the fertility of the soil on the Pacific Slope, saying that crops grew almost spontaneously, and related what fortunes could be made raising sheep.
By such means were we seduced into the conviction that a change of base was not only advantageous, but necessary, and it was finally decided to go. Mr. Terhune said he could negotiate an exchange, by which we could dispose of our farm for California real estate, whereby we would be the gainers; and one Monday morning in April, he left us for St. Louis, to complete the trade and purchase. Our intentions becoming known in the vicinity, our neighbors seemed to take an especial interest in our movements, and many were the staid old farmers who called to offer us their advice and wishes for our future prosperity. Being notified that all was in readiness, and that we could start as soon as it suited our convenience, we lost no time in packing what few articles we required, and bidding our friends adieu, we commenced our journey.
Arriving in St. Louis, we were greeted by Mr. Terhune who escorted us to the Planters' Hotel, where we were temporarily to reside until the steamboat on which we were to embark was ready to leave. The few days spent in the metropolis of the West, was thoroughly enjoyed by our little party, as under the guidance of our friend we visited all the places of interest in the neighborhood. On Saturday, April 30th, we embarked on the steamboat Prairie Flower, bound for Independence, where we were to make the necessary purchases for our outfit in crossing the plains, and were also to join a train that was being formed, and of which we were to become part and parcel. After an uneventful journey we reached Independence, only to find that the train we expected to join had left two days previously; here was a dilemma, and we were at a loss what to do. I was in favor of waiting until another train could be formed, but father objected, stating as his reasons, that it would consume both time and money; neither of which did we possess in vast quantities. Meantime we had become the centre of attraction to quite a motley crowd, who stood looking on, and seemed to take a lively interest in us, criticising our appearance and indulging in various remarks which were not always of a complimentary Character. Noticing an old weather-beaten frontiersman, who stood some little distance off, and thinking he could perhaps suggest a way out of our difficulty, I made up to him, and after the usual salutations and a proffer of some tobacco, to which he helped himself in rather large quantities, I asked him his opinion, and what he thought we had best do under the circumstances.
Drawing his lank form out of the entanglement it seemed to have been in, he delivered himself in somewhat the following manner:
"Wal stranger, pears to me, I would jist git rite arter that ere party, quicker'n greased lightning, kase you see, they haint been gone long, and if you drive yer animiles rite smart, you will ketch up in jist no time."
This advice struck me as excellent, and returning to our party I communicated it to them. We resolved to adopt it at once, only wondering we had not thought of it before.
Having come to this determination, we busied ourselves with the necessary preparations, and on the third day after the departure of the train, we bade adieu to the few acquaintances made during our brief sojourn at Independence, and struck out upon the almost trackless prairie.
Our equipment was that in general use among prairie travelers, and consisted of a "Concord" wagon, covered with white canvas, and drawn by six mules, in the management of which rather intractable animals my father was an adept. In the wagon were stored our few household goods and scanty supply of provisions, and in it rode my wife and mother. My brother and myself figured as a mounted guard, and presented a not unpicturesque appearance in our tunics of dressed deerskin, and leggings of the same material; our revolvers in our belts, and rifles slung over our shoulder, or resting on the pommels of our Mexican saddles. Everything seemed propitious; the wagon moved off smoothly, the morning was clear, and the great red disc of the sun just rising in the east had scarcely dispelled the haze that enveloped nature as in a fleecy mantle. We little dreamed, alas, of the dreadful fate soon to overtake us. That fate which was to dissever a loving and united family, causing three of its members to pass through the valley of the shadow of death, and subjecting the survivors to suffering that often made them cry out in the bitterness of their hearts "why was I spared to suffer such torture, when death would have been such a welcome relief!"
We were now fairly started on our journey, and but for a singular feeling of depression which weighed down my spirits and seemed a presentiment of evil to come, I should have had little doubt of our ability to overtake the train and travel safely with it to our destination. This feeling, however, caused me to become taciturn and apprehensive, so much so, that I was frequently rallied upon the subject by my companions.
For many days, however, we followed the trail without special incident; the tracks of wagons giving us an easy guide. We found grass, wood and water in abundance, and traveling light and unimpeded by others, felt confident that we were gaining upon the train and would undoubtedly overtake them shortly.
We crossed several rivers and streams, most of them fordable, but one or two we found wide and deep and were compelled to float our wagon across. We saw some game, antelopes and deer, and shot a few, forming a welcome addition to our larder; but they were generally shy and kept out of reach, without wandering too far from the track. For two days we had been journeying through an entirely different country from that which we had passed. It was almost a barren desert, treeless, without game, and, but little water; on its hard surface the wagon wheels made scarcely an imprint, and it was with the greatest difficulty that we could take up the trail. The evening of the second day found us still on the road, as we could find no water, without which we could not camp. Before sunset we had noticed a low fringe along the horizon which looked like timber, and knowing there must be water there, determined to push on and reach it, if possible, before camping for the night.
After a weary march we reached the edge of the desert plain, and found a small stream, clear but shallow; its banks lined with tall cottonwood trees. Here we rested, and our tired animals fully appreciated the cool water and the luxuriant "gramma" grass which abounded.
While standing watch, a precaution we never neglected, I fancied I heard a distant rifle shot, and roused my father and brother, fearing Indians might be near at hand, for we were now in very dangerous country and father declared that he had seen "Injun sign" the day previous, but a scout through the cottonwood grove revealed nothing, and as the sound was very faint and was not repeated, we concluded it was only fancy; father muttering as he crawled under his blanket that I was getting too almighty scarey for a backwoodsman.
This incident however aroused those apprehensive feelings that had before troubled me, but which had been quieted for a time by the uneventful nature of our journey. We were not again disturbed that night, but at sunrise we made a discovery that filled us with dismay—We had lost the trail! This we were convinced was the result of our night journey, and father was confident that we could recover it; but, when after several hours spent in a fruitless endeavor to find where it crossed the stream, I urged that we should take our own trail back to the point at which it diverged from that of the train, he positively refused to do so; declaring that he wasn't a greenhorn to get scared at so small a matter, and that he should push on in a southwesterly direction, and take his chance of intersecting the trail, he asserting that we must have strayed to northward of it. My brother and myself protested against so rash an undertaking, but in vain; and we finally started on what was destined to be our last day's journey together.
Our route now lay across a verdant and apparently boundless prairie. Far as the eye could reach it was a level plain, without landmarks, trackless as the sea, covered with a living carpet of emerald green. At another time I could have spent hours in gazing upon its vast expanse, and fancying its changed appearance when its surface should be furrowed by the plow and its fruitful soil reward the farmer's labor; but the presentiment of evil which I found it impossible to shake off, oppressed my spirits rendering me anxious and fearful.
A few moments took us out of sight of the cottonwood grove, and but for the aid of father's pocket compass we could have had little idea of our direction, but by its assistance we traveled steadily in a southwesterly coarse, father being confident that we had strayed north of the trail and that by taking this course we must sooner or later regain it. Until nearly noon we kept steadily on, seeing nothing to indicate that we were near the trail. Just before noon we halted to rest and feed the animals and prepare a meal for ourselves.
The morning had been sultry and we were all sufficiently fatigued to find a brief rest very acceptable. Refreshed by half an hour's rest, we were preparing to start, when my brother who had moved off in advance, suddenly exclaimed, "father's right after all, there are mounted men ahead, it must be the train!" Animated by the hope that our solitary wanderings were nearly over and our perils past, we pushed ahead, urging our animals forward with all possible speed.
The distant horsemen were moving parallel to our route, and apparently had not perceived us. We shouted and fired our rifles, a commotion was visible among them, they halted, wheeled, and a number suddenly galloped towards us with the speed of the wind. My brother, who had ridden far ahead of us swinging his cap and hallooing loudly, suddenly pulled up his horse and with a cry of terror rode back to us with his utmost speed. We were not long at a loss to understand the meaning of this proceeding; as he neared us his warning shout of Indians! Indians! was borne to us upon the breeze. But it needed not that to apprise us of our peril; ere he reached us the advancing horsemen had approached so near that we could plainly, see instead of the friends we sought, a horde of hideous savages, naked to the waist, besmeared with war paint in many strange devices, their tall lances waving, their ornaments glittering in the sun—on, on they came, giving vent to the most blood-curdling yells it had ever been my fortune to hear.
In this desperate strait my father alone preserved his coolness; the warlike spirit of the old frontiersman was roused in an instant. With lightning-like rapidity he had unhitched his team and so disposed them with our horses and the wagon as to form a sort of square, the horses and mules were tied together and to the wagon, thus avoiding the danger of their being stampeded. Inside this square we placed ourselves, and levelling our rifles across the backs of our living bulwark awaited the attack. My poor mother and wife, terrified almost to the verge of insensibility, we compelled to lie down in the bottom of the wagon, and so arranged its cargo as to protect them from any stray shot which might strike it.
At first it seemed that the savages intended to ride us down by sheer force of numbers, which they might easily have done; but our determined aspect and the three shining tubes aimed at them, each ready to send forth its leaden messenger of death, evidently changed their determination; for before getting within range, their headlong gallop became a moderate lope, then a walk, and they finally halted altogether. A short council followed, during which we had an excellent opportunity to observe our foes, and concert our plans for defence. Father cautioned us to hold our fire until absolutely certain of our mark, and that, if possible, but one must fire at a time, as it was of the utmost importance to be prepared for a sudden dash. We examined the loading of our rifles and pistols, put on fresh caps, and with wildly beating hearts and nerves strained to their utmost tension, awaited the onslaught.
Our enemies now seemed to have arrived at some determination, for their consultation was at an end—an old Indian who, from his dignified bearing and authoritative manner appeared to be their chief, made a sign with his hand, and spoke a few words in a loud tone. The incessant jabbering which they had kept up from the moment they halted instantly ceased, and one after another a number of young warriors, perhaps twenty, rode out in single file upon the prairie. After gaining a distance of about one hundred yards from the main body they increased the intervals separating them to some fifty paces, and then inclining the course so as to form a sort of half circle, they increased their speed and came on with the evident intention of circling round us.
These manoeuvres had not escaped our notice, but neither my brother nor myself understood their import. That my father did so, however, was evident.
"Surround!" he muttered, the instant the movement began. "I thought they'd try it, blame their ugly picters." "Now boys," he continued, "keep cool and keep your eyes skinned, don't throw away a shot, and don't fire 'till I give the word." He then explained the method of this peculiar stratagem of Indian warfare. The twenty picked men were about to ride around us in a circle, at top speed, delivering flights of arrows as they passed, their object being to disconcert us and draw our fire; our guns once empty, the main body whom we observed held themselves in readiness, would ride in, and by a sudden dash, end the skirmish by our death or captivity.
Father's warning was delivered in far less time than it has taken to write this—and it was barely concluded before the attacking party were circling round us, uttering their vengeful war cries, and gradually drawing nearer and nearer. Standing back to back, we watched their every movement, my brother and myself expecting every moment to have an opportunity to tumble one or more of the bold riders from their horses; but a few seconds showed us the futility of this. As they came within range, each Indian disappeared behind the body of his horse. A hand grasping the withers of the horse, and a foot just showing above his back, were all that could be seen—perhaps a painted face would be seen for an instant under the horse's neck, but instantly disappearing—while the hiss of an arrow would tell that the rider had sped the shaft to its mark; the horse all the while going at full gallop. At no moment could any one of us have fired with any chance of hitting an Indian. The horses we could have shot without difficulty, but this was just what our enemies wanted. Could they but induce us to waste our fire upon the horses, we would soon be at their mercy. So, with an effort, we restrained our inclination to risk a shot, and watched their every movement with the cat-like vigilance of men who knew that their lives were trembling in the balance.
Round and round went the circle of the hunt, flight after flight of arrows whistled past us, or spent their force against the wagon, still we were unharmed; although our escapes were narrow and incessant. The mules and horses were struck repeatedly, but so tightly were they bound together with leathern thongs that not even death could separate them. As our tormentors came around for the fifth time, one of the horses stumbled and fell and rolled completely over, pitching his rider headlong upon the prairie. Before he could regain his horse, father's rifle cracked and the unlucky equestrian rolled prone upon the ground with a bullet in his brain.
"That's one less," muttered father, grimly. "I thought I'd fetch ye, ye painted varmint." "Don't fire for your lives, boys," he continued, "'till I'm loaded." They were the last words he ever uttered. Simultaneously with their utterance came the hiss of an Indian arrow, and with a deep groan he sank to the ground. Terror stricken, and with anguished hearts we raised him in our arms. Alas, the deadly aim had been too true; the shaft, entering his right eye had penetrated the brain, and we saw at a glance that our dear father was no more. Racked by contending emotions, we had almost forgotten our imminent peril; as we turned to confront the foe, we saw that our hesitation had been fatal; the red warriors were upon us like a living tide, and for a few seconds a wild melee followed; we battled hand to hand with the desperation of fiends; it was but for an instant; my brave brother fell covered with wounds, and his death shriek was still ringing in my ears, when I received a blow upon the head which stretched me senseless upon the ground. I seemed to experience the sensation of falling from a vast height, then came a sudden shock and all was blank.
A STRANGE ADVENTURE.
When consciousness returned, I found myself lying on the ground, tied hand and foot with thongs of buffalo hide; I felt very sore and intensely thirsty. I had not quite yet collected my senses, and when my mind reverted to the scenes I had but just passed through, it was with a sickening sense of their horror that made me yearn for insensibility again. If I could only know what had been done with my wife; had she met the same fate as my father and brother, or was she spared—spared, and for what—to be subjected to a captivity even worse than death, perhaps? It would have been a great relief to have moved even so much as a finger, but being bound so tightly it was impossible to stir, and the thongs had in a great measure impeded the circulation, so that as I lay on my back, gazing pathetically at my feet, it seemed as if they were the appendages of another person, and that my tortures had begun by my being deprived of all that part of my body below my knees. By dint of much turning, I managed to get myself partly on my side, which proved a great relief, besides affording an opportunity to look around me and gain an idea of the state of affairs.
Day was just breaking, and my captors were, with the exception of the sentinel, asleep. We were on the prairie, and I at once concluded that we must have left the scene of the fight and capture; a small fire had been built, and the warrior who mounted guard was sitting with his legs crossed beneath him, seemingly gazing into the smouldering embers; there was just enough light to discern his features, and I shuddered at their repulsiveness; the hideous war paint was streaked most fantastically across his cheeks and forehead and over his body, for, with the exception of a pair of abbreviated leggings he was quite nude. His scalp-lock was adorned with a profusion of eagles' feathers, and his wrists and arms were set off with bracelets. Dangling from his girdle was an object that thrilled me with anguish, as the long white hair covered here and there with dark red splashes, I knew at once to be the scalp of my dear, murdered mother. I had read of the noble red man, and like most romantic people, conceived a very touching picture of his manly beauty and majestic air. One needs but to be among them to have any such illusion dispelled. In my long residence with the tribe, I found some admirable traits, of which I will speak anon, but they had so many counterbalancing vices, that I do not think their best friends can say anything in their praise.
This book is a true narrative of my capture and sufferings, and if my readers do not find running through these pages, that sentimental gush about the noble red man, that we have been taught to believe was as much their attribute as they considered scalping their prerogative, it is because I have been disabused of these ideas, by the stern reality of an existence among them. I trust this digression will be excused, but when I stroke my chin, and feel the traces of their delicate attentions, my feelings are apt to get the better of my desire to entertain.
Soon, however, the camp was stirring, and my friend at the fire roused himself and advanced toward me; whipping out a knife from its sheath, he cut the thongs by which I was bound, and grasping my shoulder jerked me to an upright position and motioned me to follow him. I had not proceeded far, when, emerging from the coppice on the opposite side of the bivouac, I beheld my wife advancing towards me in the custody of an Indian. Reader, if you can imagine meeting the being you loved best, after having supposed her cruelly butchered, you may have a faint conception of my feelings. With a little cry of joy she rushed into my outstretched arms; sobbing like an infant. This demonstration of affection seemed not to the taste of our guards; and with an ugh, we were admonished to follow them, and we were soon in the midst of a group who were dispatching their breakfast. Food was offered us, of which I ate voraciously, after my long fast; not so my wife, however, who could not as yet accustom her palate to the dried buffalo meat.
Meantime preparations had been making to resume our journey. The horses were brought up, and in a shorter time than it takes to relate it we were under way, the party moving off in single file. I was allowed to ride my own horse, my wife following behind me on one of the mules. We were, as near as I could judge, about the centre of the party. In this fashion we proceeded during the forenoon. The prairie at this point was a succession of gentle undulations, covered with a rich velvety verdure; and, had not my present circumstances been of such a depressing character, the scene would have been inspiriting. Away to the far west, as far as the eye could see, this vast billowy plain extended, broken here and there by a grove of the stately cottonwood tree, whose long trunks, and silvery foliage was a pleasing contrast to the vivid green of the prairie. At intervals I had discerned dark objects on the horizon, but, being unaccustomed to note signs with that care and attention that is characteristic of those whose life is spent on the plains, I had paid no particular attention to them. Soon, however, I did observe a commotion at the head of the column, and after a brief halt and consultation among the chiefs, our speed was accelerated, and we struck into a canter. This "lope" as it is called, seems to be a gait peculiarly adapted to the mustang, as they will break into, and keep it up the entire day; evincing no more distress than our ordinary horse does in trotting leisurely.
That something important was about to transpire, I felt certain, from the energetic way in which our captors spoke and gesticulated; I was not long left in doubt, as on reaching a slight eminence, a sight disclosed itself that I shall never forget; and my blood thrills even now with the remembrance of my first buffalo hunt.
It may seem odd to talk of my first buffalo hunt, as the question would naturally be asked, how could a prisoner participate in a hunt; the sequel will explain.
The chiefs had halted, and the rear coming up, we were soon clustered in a group on this rising ground. Directly in front of us, at the distance of about three miles, I should judge, was an immense herd of buffaloes. The plain was positively black, so numerous were they. All unconscious of their foes, they were quietly grazing, while here and there a watchful old bull seemed to have stationed himself as an outpost, being in readiness, if needs were, to instantly communicate the signal of danger to the herd. It was a glorious sight; even the horses shared in the excitement, and evinced as great a desire to participate in the hunt as did their masters. Presently a warrior rode out from the main body a few paces and tossed the feather. This is done to note the direction of the wind, for such is the keenness of scent possessed by these animals, that they will take the alarm and become aware of the approach of an enemy at great distances. If the drove had discovered us at this distance, our visions of fresh hump steak for supper would have resolved themselves into the dried meat of the morning.
The wind being favorable, we commenced the advance; slowly at first, but gradually increasing our speed, until the horses were straining every muscle in their headlong race. Lances were slung, and bows and arrows got in readiness with an ease and expertness that was truly wonderful, considering our rapid riding. The bridles were dropped on the necks of the mustangs, the riders using their knees both as a steering apparatus and a means of holding on. As near as I could understand, our guard was to keep as close to the hunters as was consistent with our safety, without joining in the fun. Everything went on smoothly, and we had approached to within a half mile of the herd before they noticed us. Soon, however, the old bulls scented the party, and with a snort and plunge they tore headlong towards the head of the drove, communicating the alarm as they ran. With a yell the savages dashed on, horse and rider worked up to the highest pitch of excitement; arrows began to fly, and here and there a cow would fall, or an enraged bull goaded to fury by a wound rush madly at his enemy, evidently bent on revenge of a most sanguinary character. Our little party kept on the flank of the advancing drove, and our escort seemed to find it very irksome doing duty as guards, as with oft-repeated ughs! plainly expressive of disgust, they deprecated the luck that had singled them out to perform such womanly duty.
Suddenly, and with kaleidoscopic rapidity, the aspect of affairs was changed; for some unknown reason and without apparent cause, the buffaloes made a flank movement, and in a twinkling were dashing right toward us; the mustangs, warned by experience, turned and ran as if their lives were at stake, as they certainly were; and the mule on which my wife was mounted, with an imitation that did her great credit, followed their example. My horse, being unused to such scenes, seemed to lose his senses, and stood looking at the advancing animals in the most abject terror. Realizing at a glance my position, and feeling that instant action was demanded, I turned his head, and by word and heel urged him to run. On came these black brutes, sweeping over the ground like an animated hurricane. My poor horse was laboring fearfully, and I knew that our destruction was a matter of a few moments time only. Suddenly my horse stumbled and flung me headlong to the ground, then all was bewilderment. I have an indistinct notion of lying on the prairie, and then like a great black wave, this surging mass of buffaloes seem to hover over me; I was conscious of a sharp and severe pain in my side, and then of being suddenly lifted into space. When sufficiently collected to note my position, I found myself on the back of a huge buffalo bull, who, unaccustomed to this strange weight, was making frantic endeavors to clear himself of the herd, which were wedged together with as much compactness as if they were one animal. If I had chosen to fall to the ground, it would have been impossible to do so; but as such a feat would have been almost instant death, my readers will easily understand I had no intention of trying the experiment. I turned my attention exclusively to seating myself firmly on my novel steed, and grasping my hands into the shaggy hair which covered his shoulders, braced myself for the most thrilling ride I had ever experienced. After a few violent plunges the bull cleared the herd, and tore at tremendous speed; on, on until objects lost their character, and all seemed to be an indistinct haze. The buffalo had by this time carried me some distance from the main body, and was beginning to show signs of fatigue. If I was going to leave him, this was my opportunity; and quietly loosening my hold, I slipped off his rump on to the ground, and betook myself in an opposite direction as fast as I could go, and it was with feelings of relief and thankfulness that I had escaped so luckily from my first and only buffalo ride.
AGAIN A PRISONER.
Footsore and weary I wandered over the prairie, straining my eyes in every direction in the vain hope of beholding the white-topped wagons of the train. My late involuntary journey had borne me far to the southward; and, although my rapid progress had given me but little opportunity for observation, still I was convinced that the direction in which I had traveled was likely to bring me in the track of the prairie caravans. I was not without apprehension of again falling in with my late captors, and hardly knew whether I dreaded or desired it; fully realizing that I had nothing to look forward to in that event but torture and death. Still I felt that to see once again the sweet face of my beloved I would risk every peril, even though I was helpless to aid her, and to witness her sufferings would only add to the poignant anguish that tortured me. Racked by these thoughts, and with a despairing heart, I walked steadily on. The day was now far spent, and I was beginning to experience the pangs of hunger, for I had eaten nothing since early morning; but I suffered far more from thirst, and for hours searched eagerly for water; scanning the horizon in every direction for a sight of the fringe-like foliage, of the cottonwood trees. Stiff and sore from my confinement of the night previous, and suffering intensely from the wound on my head, which had been entirely neglected, my progress grew slower, and when night settled over the prairie my search was still unsuccessful; and without food, water, or shelter, I sank exhausted to the earth. After a time sleep gave me a welcome oblivion; but my rest was disturbed by troubled dreams, and the dawn found me but little refreshed.
It was barely daylight when I again started. I felt weak and dizzy; and the conviction, forced itself upon me that I must find food and water before many hours, or perish—my life depended on my finding water—and notwithstanding my intense suffering, it was absolutely necessary to push forward in my search. My thoughts were momentarily diverted by a number of graceful animals that were advancing towards me; when within about two hundred yards, they became affrighted and wheeling around scampered away, running toward a clump of trees not far distant; entering this grove, they disappeared from sight. I had heard many tales about this graceful little animal, the antelope; and among other things remembered, that to the weary and thirsty hunter traversing these boundless plains, their presence was a sure indication that water was not far distant; if these tales were true, why then there was every probability that I might slake my burning thirst, which now had become agonizing torture, from some rivulet within the recesses of that wood; animated by this thought I limped on with renewed energy. What had seemed so near to my vision was in reality quite distant, as I found in my endeavor to reach it; for the sun had begun to decline behind the horizon when I reached the belt of timber. Entering this leafy solitude, I had not advanced many steps when my ears were gladdened by the sound of running water. With an exclamation of joy I ran to the banks of the arroyo (as by this name these little streams are called), and, falling on my knees, was drinking with that intense eagerness that is known only by those who, like myself, have felt the delirium of thirst.
I was about to rise refreshed, when my gaze was riveted by a reflected image on the bosom of the creek that curdled the blood in my veins, and paralyzed me with terror; it was the image of a hideous Indian, bending over me with uplifted hand grasping a long, gleaming knife. I jumped up with a terrified scream, only to find myself in the rough grasp of a brawny savage, and completely at his mercy. With a malicious leer he motioned me to accompany him. Feeling sick at heart, and drooping under the weight of my new misfortune, I was led through the tangled undergrowth, and after a walk of about fifteen minutes, we emerged into a small clearing, where I found myself in the midst of a large party of Indians. My advent created no little excitement, and I was soon the centre of a circle of curious savages, who were more persistent than pleasing in their attentions. I saw at once that I had again fallen into the hands of the same party by whom I was first captured; for among those who clustered around me, I recognized the old chief who had directed the attack upon us. He approached me in a menacing manner, and uttered some words in the Indian tongue. From his gestures I could guess at his meaning, and understood that he was threatening me for my supposed attempt to escape. He then gave some order, and I was instantly seized and conducted to the foot of a large tree; my guards then bound me with a lariat and left me to my own reflections.
My first thought was of my wife; and as I had managed to place myself in a sitting posture against the tree, I was enabled to observe all that was passing, and to scan closely the groups around the camp fires. A few moments satisfied me that if in the camp, she was not visible; and left me a prey to many horrid imaginings.
The savages were mostly seated around the fires, roasting meat over the embers and eating it greedily, an occupation of which they never seemed to tire; some were renewing the paint upon their bodies, and the grotesque striping and mottling showed in fantastic hues in the red and glaring light; some were smoking curious looking pipes of carved stones; all were chattering, laughing and gesticulating like so many children. For a brief period I contemplated this wild scene with interest; but it soon grew monotonous, and my mind painfully reverted to my perilous position.
In satisfying the greater desire for water, I had for a time forgotten my craving for food, but it now returned upon me with redoubled force. The Indians had evidently forgotten that even prisoners must eat, and I concluded that it was best to call their attention to my necessities; by a shout I attracted the attention of one of the warriors who was passing near me, and when he approached, I succeeded by gestures in making him understand my wants. Uttering a guttural ugh! and slapping his stomach he walked away, but returned in a few moments with a huge chunk of half cooked buffalo meat which he threw down before me, and unbinding my hands motioned me to eat. I did not need a second invitation, but fell to at once, and devoured it with such voracity, that my Indian friend seemed both astonished and amused. When I had finished he brought me water in a gourd, and again securing my hands, bound me fast to the tree and left me once more to myself.
Fatigued by the hardships of the last two days, I soon fell asleep, and knew no more until I was awakened by a rough hand grasping my shoulder, and on opening my eyes saw that it was daybreak, and the band were preparing to move. Ten minutes later I found myself mounted on a wiry looking mustang, securely tied, and my horse led at the end of a lariat by the same Indian who had brought me food the evening previous. Looking about me, my eyes were soon gladdened by the sight of my wife, mounted behind an Indian warrior; she saw me at the same instant, and with a cry of joy strove to break her bonds and rush to my embrace; it was a vain effort, and only resulted in her receiving a blow from her savage custodian, which cowed her into silence. My feelings at this juncture can be better imagined than described; but I could do nothing but endure as best I might, and hope that a day of reckoning would yet come, in which I should bitterly avenge all the wrongs I had experienced at the hands of the brutal savage, called in books, the "noble red man." For the present, there was nothing but submission and hope.
I now saw to my surprise that we were not alone in our misfortune, many other captives, principally women and children, were with the party. From their costume I saw that they must be Mexicans, and at once concluded that the Indians had been on one of their periodical raids upon the Mexican frontier, and were on their return when they had accidentally fallen in with our little party. Evidently but a part of the band had taken part in our capture, for the attacking party were less than one hundred in number, while I now counted over four hundred warriors. The chances of escape seemed more unlikely than ever; and my heart sank as I observed their formidable array.
I must pass briefly over the incidents of our journey for several days following. We passed through a widely diversified country, and in spite of my mental and physical sufferings, I was greatly interested in its strange scenery. We passed over wide stretches of prairie, dotted here and there by mottes of timber, rising like islands from the sea-like plain; we threaded tortuous defiles of the mountains; and crawled, rather than rode, through terrific canyons, whose perpendicular walls of many colored rock, rising to the height of thousands of feet, shrouded the narrow pass in majestic gloom. At times we suffered greatly for food and water; making one stretch of sixty miles across the desert, and reaching its border in a state or utter exhaustion.
On the seventh day after my recapture we climbed a low mountain range, and on reaching the crest saw before us a deep valley, walled in on every side by towering cliffs of milk-white-quartz; its surface was level, or nearly so; through its centre a crystal line indicated the presence of a small stream. A dense forest of pine fringed it on three sides; vast herds of horses and cattle roamed over the plain, and cropped its luxuriant herbage. The valley was elliptical in form, and measured perhaps twelve miles in length by four or five in width; at its upper extremity a group of strange looking structures were visible, of many forms and sizes; one towering far above the rest had the appearance of a huge pyramid. From the joyful exclamations of the Indians I felt confident that our journey was nearly at an end. The tired mustangs were urged forward, and half an hour later we entered a defile, passed round the face of the cliff on a narrow ledge of rock, where two could not ride abreast, and emerged upon a platform from whence an easy descent led to the plain below. On reaching its grassy surface, the Indians set forward at full speed, uttering loud yells of delight and exultation; and we could perceive many forms hastening down the valley to meet us. The intervening space was quickly passed, and we soon stood among the strange barbaric structures which form the chief town of the Camanches.
The captives were halted before the pyramidal building, which, from its great size and peculiar appearance, I supposed to be the council house, or the dwelling of the chief. I afterwards learned that it was the temple, where they worship and sacrifice to the Sun-God; for, like all the southern Indians, descendants of the ancient Aztecs, the Camanches worship the sun and fire.
But little time however, was given me for observation or reflection. I was rudely jerked from my horse, and with the other male captives led into one of the smaller lodges. Descending a rude ladder, we were placed in an underground apartment, and after being supplied with a scanty allowance of food, were again bound and left to silence and darkness.
Again separated from my wife, and knowing but too well what treatment she would be likely to receive at the hands of the red demons, flushed with victory and spoil, I abandoned myself to the most gloomy reflections, which continued for many hours, until tardy sleep relieved me for a time from my self-imposed torture.
THE INDIAN TOWN.
How long I should have lain in this semi-comatose state I know not, had I not been aroused by the Indian who seemed to have been appointed my particular guard. Bringing me a portion of tasajo and an olla of water, he placed them on the ground beside me, and removing the thongs from my wrists left me to dispatch my unpalatable food as best I might; at noon, and in the evening, he repeated the performance. With the exception of this interruption I was left to my thoughts. My reflections were of the bitterest and most gloomy nature. From my previous knowledge of the habits and characteristics of my captors I was assured that my fate was sealed; and my death only a matter of time. These savages only captured male prisoners the better to enjoy their destruction. What astonished me most was that they had not put me to the torture on their arrival at the village. The fate of my poor wife was the profoundest mystery to me, as I had not seen or heard of her since our parting on entering the Indian town. While I was being conducted to my prison she was hurried off to the other end of the village. The darkening gloom of my chamber informed me of the approach of night; and recognizing how important it was for me to secure all the repose possible, I prepared to retire. The preparations were of the simplest character; my feet being bound it was only necessary to stretch my form along the ground and I was in bed. I courted sleep with persistent endeavor; but my mind was a prey to such agonizing reflections that the drowsy god held himself aloof. I counted backwards, rolled my eyes from side to side in their sockets, and resorted to all the devices known to me, but with indifferent success. All through the night the howling of the village dogs, the wild note of the swan, and the dismal whoops of the gruya, could be heard; and it is very difficult even under circumstances more favorable than those in which I was then placed to sleep with these noises ringing in one's ears. Later, when a long residence with the tribe had made me familiar with these sounds, and their causes, I was not unfrequently startled by them. My imagination was constantly dwelling on my approaching fate; and I am sure I suffered enough mental agony to suffice for a score of physical deaths. The next morning my keeper made his entry, this time without any food for me, and I was at once struck by his altered looks; he was oiled, and streaked with paint, from the crown of his head to his waist; his head dress was composed of eagles' plumes stained red, and his limbs were encased in buckskin leggings, the seams of which were fringed with long locks of hair, which attested to his prowess, as they were composed of scalp-locks taken from the heads of his enemies slain in battle; the feet were encased in moccasins, embroidered with beads and the quills of the porcupine dyed in various colors; from his neck was suspended a collar, made of the tusks of the javali; his tomahawk hung gracefully from his waist, and a fine robe of jaguar-skins draped his back. Such a costume I felt sure was only worn on state occasions; and his presence filled me with apprehensions. I was not long held in suspense, for stooping over me he quickly cut my fastenings, and motioning me to rise I was presently conducted up the ladder and out into the village street.
Emerging from the darkness into the bright sunlight, I was at first unable to distinguish objects, but as soon as my eyes became accustomed to the glare, I was struck with astonishment at the scene of bustle and activity that met my gaze. Indian women, children, dogs and braves, were hurrying to and fro, seemingly intent on business of a most pressing and important character. My appearance was the signal for a succession of howls and yah! yahs! from the assembled crowd. The women clustered around me and gave expression to their hate in kicks, pinches and jeers; even the dogs snapped at my heels. After a walk of a few minutes, we cleared the skirts of the village, and shaping our course towards the river that ran through the centre of the valley, I was soon among a crowd of other captives. They were composed of Mexicans, chiefly, and all bore evidence of the struggle they had passed through, before yielding up their liberty; their clothes were torn, disclosing here and there ugly gashes, from which the blood had not yet ceased to ooze. One man among them especially attracted my attention. He was dressed in the costume of the mountain trapper, and his fur cap, fitting closely to his head, was a fit accompaniment to his tunic and leggings of dressed deerskin; his face had a peculiar expression which I could not account for, until I discovered that he had only one eye. At this time an Indian advanced toward us, bearing in his arms a quantity of small stakes; I was at loss to understand what was to transpire, when I heard my one-eyed companion mutter under his breath, "drat 'em, they be a goin' to stake us." Sure enough this was their intention; seizing us one by one, they stretched us on the turf in three files, the heads of one file resting between the feet of the row above him; driving the stakes firmly into the ground, they fastened thongs of raw hide to our wrists and ankles, and passing them around the pins, drew our feet and arms out to their utmost tension, making our joints fairly crack. Pinioned in this way, our heads were the only moveable parts of our bodies, and our upturned faces had the full benefit of the sun's rays, being subjected at the same time to attacks of swarms of insects. This torture was so very painful that many fainted, but the women soon brought the victims to consciousness by dashing an olla of water in their faces, and with yells of delight witnessed the renewal of the poor fellows' agonies. I was so completely disguised in dirt, that the flies seemed to pass me by in despair; and being thus in a measure relieved, I turned my attention to my companion on my right, the trapper. He seemed to be taking things very quietly, and evinced great patience and fortitude under his trials. The squaws were particularly attentive to him; and at the time I turned my head in his direction, two hags were amusing themselves sticking sharp pointed sticks into his body; he bore it manfully, but I saw tears of agony streaming from under his eyelids. Presently the air was filled with yells and whoops; our tormentors rushed off pell-mell, the guards only remaining. I asked what was the meaning of this new outbreak; to which the trapper replied that he supposed it was caused by the arrival of a new lot of those "gosh darned red niggers."
Deeming this a good opportunity, I questioned him as to the intentions of our captors; to which he replied that we would be kept staked out in this barbarous way until the games and feasting, with which they always celebrated successful forays, had been completed; and then we would be put to torture and death.
"How will they kill us?" I asked.
"O, darn 'em, the varmints have as many ways as I have fingers and toes, to knock the life out of a chap; they most allus makes us run the gantlet, leastwise the Kimanch does; but ye see, they air such mighty unsartin niggers, they does a'most enything but what yer expect them ter."
"Will we have to remain in this position until the Indians are ready to torture us?" I asked.
"'Spect so," briefly answered my neighbor.
The guard was now nearing us, and we remained silent.
The feasting and festivities had now begun. We were unfastened and removed to the centre of the village, where a dance was about to begin. Our feet were still bound, but we could assume a sitting posture; thus situated, I saw for the first time the mamanchic. The young girls only take part in this celebration; they go through a number of graceful and intricate evolutions, finishing by forming in a semi-circle around the chief and his queen, who are seated on a terrace of the temple. I was so much more interested in trying to discover my wife among the numerous lookers on, that I paid no special attention to the dance. The performance having come to an end, we were again staked out, and our captors returned to their feasting, slaughtering fresh cattle to satisfy the demands of their appetites. Our wants were not so well supplied.
The next morning the games were renewed; this time we were taken out on the prairie to witness the feats of horsemanship, performed by the braves and their visitors. These were very fine, and for the time being I forgot my own position in the interest excited in the daring feats of these children of the plains. They rode their horses at top speed; vaulting on their backs and discharging arrows with as much apparent ease as if they stood still. They went through all the evolutions of Indian warfare, and ended with a mock battle; their yells alone would have dismayed an ordinary adversary.
Thirsty and tired, I and my companions were led back to our old position and again securely fastened. Turning to Black, I said that I supposed they would open the festivities to-morrow with our torture and death; to which he replied that he "'spected they would." At least I thought, it will only be another species of torture, and we would be quickly released from it by death. Our guard now brought us some water and burnt meat, of which we were allowed to partake.
The thongs are again tightened; our guards move among us to see that all is secure; and the sentinel for the evening watch having been detailed, we are left to silence and our own thoughts—thoughts of our approaching doom, and perhaps of the loved ones far away in some Mexican border town, whose unavailing prayers are being offered up for our safety. Filled with these emotions, some poor fellow would give expression to his pent-up feelings in a long drawn sigh; the only sound that broke upon the stillness of the night. The moon's beams penetrated into the valley; the argent rays shedding a soft and subdued light, as they pierced the mist that was rising from the river. I knew that death was our portion, but little did I dream that on such scenes such awful morn should rise.
Another morning dawned; again we were brought forth, and from the information gained from the old trapper, I knew that our time for action had come. Lying in a group on the green sward, we watched the movements of our enemies with painful interest. Our hands and feet were bound, but we were not otherwise secured, and were therefore enabled to sit up and look around us; we saw that the Indians were divested of every superfluous article of dress or ornament, that their movements might be light and unimpeded. We saw them enter the woods and return with clubs freshly cut from the trees, an ominous indication of the fate in store for us. To the number of several hundred the savages had gathered upon the plain, and were arranging the preliminaries for their fiendish sport. We watched their preparations with a peculiar interest; at length all seemed in readiness—two rows of Indians stretched along the plain for a distance of about three hundred yards—all were armed with clubs, and stood facing each other; an interval of three or four paces separating the ranks. Between these lines we had to run and receive blows in passing, from all who were quick enough to hit us. We were told that if any of our number achieved the apparently impossible feat of passing the entire line, and could reach the foot of the cliff without being overtaken that our lives would be spared. I asked the old trapper if he believed this. "Not by a durn sight," was his reply; "its all a cussed injun lie, just to make us do our puttiest; they'll roast us all the same, blast 'em." I was satisfied that the promise was of no value, even if they should adhere to it; for the fleetest runner could never pass the lines.
Several of the warriors now approached us, and untied one of the Mexicans; he was to run first. Although an athletic and active specimen of his race, he was quickly disposed of; running barely ten paces before he was stretched senseless, and brought back helpless and bleeding, while the air resounded with the wild yells of the savage bystanders. Three of the other captives soon met the same fate, and then it came my turn; I was unbound and led forward and stood awaiting the signal to begin the terrible race. Within a few moments a wild scheme had formed itself in my mind, and although fully realizing its desperate nature, I had determined to make the effort, even if I perished in the attempt. I had noticed that, with the exception of those forming the lines between which I was to run, the Indians all stood behind me; and for a considerable space around me the ground was entirely clear. My plan was to start as if with the intention of entering the lane of savages, but to suddenly diverge to the right or left, as might seem most expedient, and run directly down the valley, with the hope that I might be able to reach the dense and tangled forest which fringed it, and conceal myself in its recesses until I could find some way out of my rock-environed prison. As I look back at it now, I can only wonder that I should have had the hardihood to attempt it. Not an Indian among the hundreds around but knew well all the paths and windings of the wooded borders of the valley, even supposing that I were fortunate enough to reach it; but that was improbable. Among so many it was likely there would be several able to outstrip me in speed, fast runner as I deemed myself; and if overtaken, I could expect nothing but more cruel treatment than I had yet experienced. Besides, although I did not know it at the time, the valley had but two entrances, and these were constantly guarded by a watchful picket. But at the time I thought of none of these things—"drowning men will catch at straws," says the old adage—and my hastily formed plan seemed to me to promise success. Having formed my resolution I was necessitated to put it in practice at once. The Indians were already impatient for another victim, and the signal being given I started on my race for life at the top of my speed. At first I ran directly for the living lane, where my enemies waited with poised clubs each eager to strike the first blow, but as I neared it I made a sudden break to the right, and gathering all my energies for one mighty effort, I broke through a group of old men and idlers who were watching the sport. Despite their efforts to intercept me I cleared them in an instant, and ran down the valley with the whole yelling mob at my heels. Some half dozen of my pursuers being swifter of foot forged ahead of their comrades, but they did not seem to gain upon me, and for a time it seemed that I would distance them entirely; but I had overestimated my strength, and to my alarm found myself growing weak, and running heavily and with painful effort.
I had now, however, nearly reached the timber, and strained every nerve to gain its welcome shadow; looking back, I saw that one of my pursuers was within two hundred yards of me, and gaining rapidly; straining every nerve, I kept up my headlong pace, but when within fifty paces of the woods and with my enemy but little further behind me, I tripped and fell, and had barely time to spring to my feet before he was upon me; he was entirely unarmed, having thrown away his club during the chase. As he rushed upon me, I met him with a blow from my fist, delivered with all the force of which I was capable. Striking him directly under the chin, it knocked him completely off his feet, and he measured his length upon the grass. I turned with a spring, and was about to plunge into the thicket, when the dense undergrowth parted directly before me, and I stood face to face with an Indian of gigantic size and most singular appearance. For a moment I was completely paralyzed; not so my new opponent. Realizing the situation at a glance, he sprang upon me, and bore me to the ground with scarcely an effort. Emerging from the lethargy which had enthralled me for a moment, I struggled frantically to free myself, but in vain. Several others had now come up, and my fallen antagonist, who had been stunned for a moment, recovered himself, with his temper not at all improved by the rough handling he had received, and snatching a knife from the belt of one of the new comers, aimed a blow at me which would have ended my life on the instant, and prevented this narrative from being written. My captor seized his arm, and rebuked him so sternly, that he slunk away abashed. I was then allowed to rise to my feet, and my hands being bound, the huge Indian, who seemed to be in authority, and of whom the others evidently stood in awe consigned me to the custody of two warriors, and dismissing the rest with a wave of his hand, again disappeared in the thicket.
Led between my two guards, I was soon taken back to the village, followed by an excited crowd of Indians, who showed a disposition to handle me pretty roughly, but their unwelcome attentions were prevented by my conductors who pushed rapidly through the crowd, and soon reached the lodge in which I had previously been confined. I was soon reinstalled in my gloomy prison, and after tying me in the usual manner, my attendants left me to solitude and misery.
Bitterly disappointed by the failure of my daring scheme at the very moment when it seemed to promise success, my thoughts were the reverse of pleasant; and when my mind reverted to the fate of my wife, I suffered such mental agony, as I pray that you, kind reader, may never know.
Another night passed, and remembering the words of the old trapper, I awoke filled with the conviction that it was to be my last day on earth. The usual scanty meal was supplied to me, and about an hour later I was again brought forth upon the plain. I was soon among my companions in misfortune, and like them securely tied to stakes; but allowed to sit upright, as if the red demons wished us to fully observe the preparations now going forward.
Upon the level plain facing the temple, and at a short distance from it, scores of brawny savages were busily engaged planting firmly in the ground a row of massive posts; they were arranged in a semi-circle, and were about twenty in number. We saw many of the Indians go to the woods, tomahawk in hand; we heard the sounds of chopping, and saw them return with bundles of faggots; we saw them fastening curiously fashioned chains of copper to the posts; we observed them painting their faces and bodies in hideous stripes of red and black. It was a scene of fearful import, for we knew but too well that it was the prelude to the torture. What were my companions' reflections I knew not, for they spoke but little. But the set and stern expression that showed itself on every face, told me plainly that they fully realized the terrible drama in which they were to be the principal actors. The appearance of all was ghastly in the extreme. Travel-stained, covered with dust, and with spots of dried blood, some showing fresh and bleeding wounds—souvenirs of yesterday's rough sport—our clothing torn and disarranged, we were indeed objects of pity, calculated to excite commiseration in the breasts of any others than the brutal and sanguinary wretches who were about to put us to a terrible death. As for me, my brain was on fire; and could I but have freed myself from my bonds I would gladly have sought instant death at the hands of the nearest savage, rather than to longer endure the ever present torture of mind, and the not more acute physical suffering which I was soon to undergo.
At last their preparations seemed completed, and the audience assembled. Camanches and Apaches alike gathered before the temple, forming a vast semi-circle. The terraces of the temple were occupied by the older men, and upon its summit were seated a group of men in strange costumes, the priests of Quetzalcoatl. Directly in front of the temple a sort of throne had been erected, and upon it sat the aged chief, with his subordinates grouped around him. An old Indian of most repulsive aspect, seemed to direct the proceedings, assisted by about a hundred of the younger warriors. A number approached us, we were released from our fastenings and led forward; our ragged garments were soon stripped from our bodies, and with dextrous rapidity we were bound singly to the stakes already prepared for us.
To the hour of my death I can never forget that scene. For years it haunted me, and even now, at times I start from my sleep with a cry of terror as I fancy I see again that mob of yelling, painted demons, the crowded terraces of the temple gay with the bright colors of barbaric costumes, the little band of doomed captives, the fagots, stakes, and all the terrible instruments of death. Back of all, the snow white cliffs, fringed with the dark green foliage of the pines, and Heaven's sunshine falling over all, as if in mockery of the awful tragedy about to be enacted. I wake—and shuddering, thank God that it is only a dream.
But it was all too real then. At a signal from their leader the savage executioners heaped the fagots around us, placing them at a sufficient distance to insure the prolongation of our sufferings, so that we might die slowly, and afford them ample time to fully enjoy our agonies. The fires were lighted, and the smoke rolled up in volumes, and threatened to suffocate us and put a speedy end to our torments. In a few seconds however, as the wood got fairly blazing, the smoke lifted, and as we began to writhe in agony, a yell of delight went up from more than three thousand savage throats. The heat grew more intense; my skin was scorched and blistered; dizzy and faint, I felt that the end was near, and longed for death as a speedy escape from such terrible pain. Some of my companions, rendered frantic by their sufferings, gave vent to screams of anguish; others endured in silence.
Mustering all my fortitude, as yet not a sound had escaped me; I had closed my eyes, and was fervently praying for the relief which I knew death must soon give me, when I was startled by a wild cry, followed by a yell of astonishment from the savage spectators. Opening my eyes I saw the same gigantic Indian who had recaptured me on the day previous, making his way rapidly through the crowd, who fell back to right and left with precipitate haste. Rushing directly towards me he scattered the blazing brands, released me as quick as thought, and dragged me to the front of the temple, while the air resounded with the yells and exclamations of the Indians. Raising his hand he hushed them into silence, and uttered a few words in the Camanche tongue; their meaning was lost upon me; I could only distinguish the word "Quetzalcoatl," which I knew to be the name of their God. But the revulsion of feeling, and the terrible ordeal through which I had passed, proved too much for my exhausted frame; I swooned and sank insensible to the earth.
The Indian to whom I owed my life a second time, and who had braved the wrath of the fiends to snatch me from a death, in comparison to which all others pale into insignificance, the tried friend, whose friendship stood as a shield between me and petty persecution during my captivity, I shall ever hold in grateful remembrance. To him I owe the only hours of contentment that were vouchsafed me during seven years of existence; seven long years of toil and mental anguish. How can I picture to the imagination of my readers the noble qualities of head and heart with which this child of nature was endowed? He was a rough diamond, and it was only by the attrition of constant intercourse that his best qualities displayed themselves. Physically he was perfect; his movements were instinct with that grace and ease that are the attributes of those alone whose lives have been spent in the cultivation of all exercises that look to the development of the muscles. How vividly his image presents itself to my mind as I write; his body, which was nude to the waist, except on occasions, when religious observances demanded peculiar attire, was streaked most fantastically with different colored pigments. The head-dress, that consisted of two war eagles' plumes, one dyed vermilion, the other its natural hue, served only the more to distinguish a head that would have been conspicuous in any company. Suspended from his neck by a massive chain hung a disc of beaten gold, on which was rudely engraved the figure of a tortoise, the symbol of priesthood. Pendants of gold depended from either ear, and his arms were encircled above the elbow with broad gold bands. The limbs were encased in leggings of dressed fawn skin, ornamented along the seams with a fringe of scalp-locks; a guarantee of his personal bravery. Moccasins worked into grotesque designs with beads and porcupine quills covered his feet. Pervading all like an intangible essence was that ever present frank bearing and dignified courtesy, that at once marked him as a chieftain and ruler among men. Such was the medicine man of the Camanches and the high-priest of Quetzalcoatl, WAKOMETKLA.
With returning consciousness, I found myself extended along the sward, the Indian kneeling by my side and holding in the palm of his hand some crushed bark, of a peculiarly pungent and aromatic odor. Clustered around me were a group of savages, who, judging by their menacing looks and excited gestures were not wholly pleased with the new turn which affairs had taken. One among them, emboldened perhaps by the unconcern of the chief, approached more nearly, and unsheathing his knife, raised the long, glittering, and murderous looking blade in mid air, preparatory to burying it hilt deep in my unresisting body. In a moment WAKOMETKLA was on his feet, his proud form dilating with wrath. Grasping the culprit by the throat, he hurled him from him with tremendous force, sending him reeling through the crowd and to the ground; then turning to those that remained, he administered a sharp rebuke and motioned them away; they dispersed without delay, leaving me alone once more; the priest, meantime having entered the temple. I could distinctly hear the crackling of the fagots and the agonizing wail of some poor victim, as the greedy flames, leaping higher and higher devoured his quivering flesh. Intermingling with the groans of the dying captives could be heard the triumphant yells of the blood-thirsty savages, which were echoed by the women that everywhere filled the terraces of the lodges and temple; their bright-hued robes forming a striking contrast with their dark complexions. Over this scene of butchery shone the sun, which had now reached its zenith, in all its unclouded brilliancy; the mountainous walls of milky quartz that enclosed the valley, catching his beams and reflecting them in myriad prismatic hues, that gave one the impression that he was in some enchanted domain.
The priest soon returned accompanied by a young girl, who bore in her arms a quantity of roots and strips of long bark, and placing them on the ground at my feet commenced applying them, first the leaves, then the bark, to my limbs. Soon I was swathed and bandaged like a mummy; which operation being performed, I was taken in their arms and carried inside the temple.
Descending a ladder we entered a darkened chamber, the walls of which were hung with robes and curious devices; passing through this room I was conducted to an inner apartment which was partitioned off by a curtain of buffalo robes. In the corner of this room was a couch on which I was placed. After giving the girl some brief directions, the priest left us, the girl following him, after having brought me an earthen vessel filled with a dark liquid, which I understood by her gestures I was to drink. Such was the magical effect of the leaves in which my burned limbs were bound, that I no longer felt any pain, and taking a deep draught of the liquid, I was soon asleep.
I must have slept many hours, for on awakening I found that it had grown quite dark, the only light being supplied by a small bluish flame that was dimly burning on a tripod in the center of the room. My attention was attracted by the peculiar furniture—if such it might be called—of this strange place. The walls are hung with hideous shapes and skins of wild beasts; in which ever way I turn, I am attracted by odd shapes, such as the fierce visage of the grizzly bear, the white buffalo and panther; while interspersed among the horns of the cimmaron, elk and bison, are grim idols carved from the red claystone of the desert. All these, I feel sure, are the symbols of a horrid and mystic religion. The fumes of the charcoal begin to affect me, my head grows hot; the pulse beats quicker; I fancy I hear strange noises; I think there are animals moving on the stone pavement; the fitful flame discloses a shining object, whose sinuous and gliding movements betrays the presence of the dreaded crotalus; it approaches my bed; its bead-like eyes glittering with a baleful light. My terror and excitement have now become agonizing; the veins stand out upon my forehead like whip cords; I am bathed in a cold perspiration. Making a mighty endeavor, I free my feet from the thongs that bind them, and springing from the bed, rush wildly towards the center of the room. Once the sacred fire is reached, I can partially protect myself by scattering the glowing coals on the floor, and fight the reptiles with what they dread the most. In leaving the couch my foot becomes entangled, I give a sudden jerk, and to my horror and dismay, pull down a section of the fur-covered wall; a sight discloses itself that curdles the blood in my veins and thrills my frame with a paralyzing honor. I have disturbed a nest of huge serpents! They move; uncoil themselves, and join the crotalus; suddenly the room seems alive with the venomous creatures. I hear the dreaded rattle and the sibilant hiss; rushing toward the fire, I seize the tripod and dash it to the ground, scattering the glowing embers in every direction. My fright becomes terrible, and I imagine the monsters are crawling over my body. With the frenzy of despair I rush to the door that leads out of this chamber of horrors, all the while uttering the most fearful shrieks. In a twinkling I am confronted by Indians, bearing lighted torches; taking in the situation at a glance, they enter the apartment, chase the serpents back to their hiding places, while I am hurried away to less disagreeable quarters. I have passed through many thrilling adventures, but for unparalleled horror, this one was without its peer.
The following morning, I was taken into the presence of the priest. That something of unusual moment was about to transpire, I felt sure, from the general air and appearance of those in the room. WAKOMETKLA was seated on a throne, around him were grouped a number of chiefs in all the bravery of war paint, plumes and robes. It was the council chamber, and I was about to go through the ceremony of adoption into the tribe. It might have been interesting had I understood their tongue, but as it was, I played the part of a puppet.
The profoundest silence reigned throughout the apartment, and the gray dawn, stealing in through the door of the lodge, pervaded the room and made it colder and more desolate than before. A chief advanced to my side, and muttering something in which I could only distinguish the words "Americano" and "Quetzalcoatl," led me to the foot of the dais. WAKOMETKLA arose and addressed me at length; then the warriors formed in a circle and moved around me, accompanying their movements with a wild sort of chant. A young boy and girl, standing on one side supplied the music, using for this purpose an Indian drum, which produced a monotonous but rhythmic sound. This ceremony over, I am again led out and my clothes stripped from my back; substituting in their stead leggings and moccasins only. My body is then besmeared with paint and oil. My hair is shaved with scalping knives, leaving only a small ridge on my head, that ran from my forehead to my neck. Thus disguised and regenerated, I am again led into the presence of the chief, who embraces me, and waving his arm a young warrior advances with a necklace, shield, bow and quiver, tomahawk and lance; these are given to me in addition to a tobacco pouch filled with k'neck k'nick, the Indian substitute for tobacco. Thus accoutered, I am once more placed in the center of a circle, this time outside of the lodge; a small piece of turf is removed and the savages again commence their incantations. The dance is exceedingly grotesque, and consists of a series of yells, jumps and jarring gutterals, which are sometimes truly terrifying. Every step has its meaning, and every dance its peculiar song. When one becomes fatigued by the exercises, he signifies it by bending quite forward and sinking his body towards the ground, then withdraws from the circle; when all have retired in this manner the dance is ended, and all that remains to make me one of them is branding. During these ceremonies, I often wondered why I should have been singled out for adoption, when there were others who would, in my opinion have answered their purposes so much better; the Mexicans, for instance, with whose language they were familiar, would have been more serviceable; again, why should they take anyone into the tribe? Later, all this was explained. It seems that the medicine man is averse to initiating any of his own people into the secrets and hocus-pocus of his art, as the apprentice, with the knowledge thus gained, might in time become a formidable rival. By adopting a captive this risk is obviated, as under no circumstances could he aspire to the honors of priesthood. In the event of his escape, the only damage would be the loss of an experienced assistant. From this time I was always addressed by my new name TAH-TECK-A-DA-HAIR (the steep wind), probably from the fact that I outstripped my pursuers in my vain effort at escape. I was allowed to roam at will through the village, but I noticed that wherever I went, watchful eyes followed my every motion.
I was actuated in my rambles solely by the desire to see my wife; vain effort. I entered lodge after lodge, climbed from terrace to terrace, but my patient and loving endeavor was unrewarded. Fatigued, and with a desponding heart, I retraced my steps towards the temple.
Morning once more dawns; it is the hour of worship; groups may be seen at the doors of the different lodges; they separate, some incline their course to the river, where sparkling waters are just discernible, as the blue mist, that during the night had hung over the valley, rises upward. Filling their ollas they return, carrying the earthen vessels on their heads. Others may be seen wending their way to the temple; I, among others ascend; arriving at the top, I find a number already congregated there; they make way for me, showing a deference as new as it is unexpected. I have a fine view of the village, and what an odd look it has; what strange structures meet my view; some are one, others two, three, and even four stories in height; they resemble pyramids with a piece of the top cut off; each upper story is smaller than that below it; the lower one serving as a terrace for the one above, and thus up to the top. The clay of which they are built is of a yellowish tinge. Leaning against each terrace is a ladder, that serves as stairs to the story above; no windows are to be seen, but doors lead into the lodge from every terrace. Those lodges occupied by warriors and chiefs are ornamented by long poles projecting from the top of the structure, from which float pennants, bearing various devices; the temple looms up over all. The corrals, in which the cattle are secured during the night, are near the houses of their owners. Close to the staff of the temple stands an altar, on which a fire is burning; and huddled in a small group near its base are a group of female captives; their forms are almost shrouded in the long striped Indian blankets. Impelled by a resistless force I near them; one turns towards me, it is my wife; opening my arms I rush wildly forward, overturning men and women by this sudden and precipitate movement. My wife is apparently as much frightened as the others; then recognizing my voice she breaks from the group and is soon in my arms. We were not long allowed to remain in each others arms; recovering from their surprise, the Indians seized and parted us. During the remainder of the time spent on the top of the temple, Mrs. Eastman was kept guarded and separated from TAHTECKADAHAIR, the Indian brave. There is a commotion, the crowd part, and WAKOMETKLA advances to the altar. The drum beats, all prostrate themselves; the drum again beats, and the initiatory ceremony is concluded; the crowd is motionless; all face to the east. The quartz wall that shuts in the valley, and whose pinnacles point heavenward in needle-shaped spires, brighten; the points sparkle like diamonds; a ray penetrates into the valley; the mountain suddenly seems on fire, and, as if by magic, the god of light flashes on our upturned faces, bathing the surrounding objects in a flood of glory. All nature seems jubilant. The birds carol forth their blithest songs; the river sparkles and dances in the sunlight; the drum is heard once more; the devotees prostrate themselves and bend in submissive adoration before the coming of the fiery god, Quetzalcoatl.
A NEW VOCATION.
This ceremony over, the priests and worshipers withdrew; my wife was led away by her guards, and I was left for a moment alone with WAKOMETKLA; he stood gazing toward the distant mountains and seemed lost in reverie. At length he roused himself, and turning towards me, approached and taking me by the arm, conducted me once more to the lower part of the temple. We descended to the subterranean apartments, and passing through several, at length entered a room of good size, but so littered with the various utensils of his profession as to be almost impassable. Huge earthen cauldrons, set upon blocks of stone, were ranged across one end, and these were filled with a thick liquid of a dark brown color. Bundles of dried herbs were suspended from the walls and ceiling; the plants seemed to be of many species, but were all strange and unknown to me. A large block of stone standing in the center of the room served as a table, and upon this were a number of piles of bark and small lumps of a thick resinous gum; in one corner, were two or three smaller stone blocks, each with a cavity in the center, and evidently used for the same purpose as a druggist's mortar.