D. W. (David W.) Belisle.

The American family Robinson; or, The adventures of a family lost in the great desert of the West online

. (page 5 of 20)
Online LibraryD. W. (David W.) BelisleThe American family Robinson; or, The adventures of a family lost in the great desert of the West → online text (page 5 of 20)
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stream towards the South. Not ten minutes had
elapsed before they were pursued by their friends ;
but in that short time their captors had effected their
escape, and morning darned on the agonized pioneers
still scouring the forest in search of the lost ones.
They were ably seconded by the Arapahoes, a few
of them having been left in charge of Anne and
Benny who, having been concealed in one of the
wagons, had been saved. Those stolen were Mrs.
Duncan, Jane, Edward and Martin.

At daylight the dogs were let loose, and mount-


ing the hordes and mules they renewed the pursuit
with hearts determined to perish or bring back the
fugitives. After two hours' hard riding they over-
hauled two of the savages who had Mrs. Duncan
in charge, and she was borne back triumphantly to
camp. She could give no account of her children,
not having seen them since their capture, but
thought they had gone in a more westerly direc-
tion. Every art was used to persuade the Crows
taken to give some intelligence of them, but they
were obstinate, and were finally placed, bound, into
the hands of the Arapahoes, who had charge of the
camp, for safe keeping.

About noon they came up with two more Indians
having Martin in charge; but he knew nothing fur-
ther; the two that carried him off having separated
from the rest, the more easily to escape detection ;
and the Crows, like those that had charge of his
mother, refused to give any intelligence, and were
placed with the others in custody. The pursuers
were again bewildered and were obliged to find a
new trail, before they could proceed further, which
they succeeded in doing as the evening shades were
setting in ; but as it was impossible to follow it in
the dark they reluctantly returned to camo to
spend the night. At the first dawn of light they
were again in the saddle, provisioned for a numbei
of days, as they anticipated a long chase, from the
fact that the fugitives had a long start of them,
ttriu they could scarcely hope to overtake them the


first day. But the other pursuers were more
guine ; they knew not the stratagems of the In-
dians so well as the trapper. After five hours'
hard riding they came to a spring of water in a deep
glen where the Indians had evidently breakfasted
the day before. And from the quantity of bones
around, and the trampled grass, it was apparent
that there was a number of them.

" Some six or eight persons, certainly. I think
this time we shall secure both the missing ones,"
said Howe.

"We will do as they did, take a lunch, and let
our horses feed on this grass by the spring. Per-
haps we shall overtake them very soon if we rest
and then ride hard," replied Mr. Duncan.

"We shall not see them before to-morrow, depend
upon it. They travel, when pursued, like blood-

Refreshed, and again in the saddle, they went
over hill and valley, forded streams, and crept
through narrow defiles, still keeping the trail, by
the aid of the dogs, without much difficulty. About
three in the afternoon, they carne to the place
where the Indians had encamped for the night.
The pursuers were evidently gaining on the pursued.
Again they rested themselves and horses for awhile
arid then continued the pursuit. After two hours
rapid riding, while going through a defile, they
came to a spot which gave indications of a struggle
having taken place. Dismounting and examining


closely, they found places where evidently some
heavy body had laid and bled profusely. The blade
of a broken scalping knife lay among the leaves,
with a broken bow and a war-club. These the
Arapahoes identified as belonging to the Crows.
Searching a thicket of laurel, a little farther on,
they found three of the Crows dead. They had
probably been mortally wounded, and crawled
there to die. They had been scalped, perhaps,
while still alive, as the scalp on the crown of the
head was gone.

" Tabagauches ! Tabagauches !" yelled the Ara-
pahoes, as they discovered a fragment of a blanket,
on which was embroidered, in gay colours, the
crest of that tribe. " There, away where the sun
sets, over the Medicine Bow Mountains, they are.
They have conquered the Crows and taken them
alive, with the pale faces, prisoners, to their vil-

" We must follow them. We may overtake
them, for evidently, the fight occurred this morn-
ing," said Mr. Duncan.

" Is my brother mad, that he thinks to compel a
great nation to give up its prisoners, with a hand-
ful of warriors ?" interposed Whirlwind.

" Can you think I would desert my children ?"
said Mr. Duncan, in a severe tone. " No ! we
white men are made of sterner stuff than that. 1
will save them, or die with them."

" If my white brother is brave, Whirlwind
7* '


is braver," returned the Chieftain. " What you
would attempt and fail to accomplish by force, I
will accomplish by stratagem. Let my white bro-
ther return, and leave the recovery of the children
to me."

" Never !" replied Mr. Duncan, decidedly.
" My children are prisoners, in the power of mer-
ciless foes, and until I recover them, I will never
again turn my back on their path."

" My brother has spoken, but has not spoken
well," said the chief.

" We will lose no time in delay an hour may
be of the utmost importance," was all the answer
of Mr. Duncan.

At nightfall, as they were casting their eyes
around for a good and secure position to encamp
in, they discovered smoke arising from a deep
ravine that lay below them.

" The camp-fire of the Tabagauches," said

" Ha ! we have overtaken them, at last,"
exclaimed the trapper. " We must fall back
to a secure covert, and send out scouts to see
if they have the childr sn, and ascertain their num-

Selecting a pine grove, they secured their horses,
and sat down to take a lunch of cold bread and
meat they had brought with them, not daring to
light a fire, knowing it would be a beacon to guide
their foes to their retreat. After resting a mo-

L I F F I \ T FT E W E S T B R N W I L D S . 7!i

ment, a guard was posted, and Howe and Whirl-
wind set out to ascertain the desired information
respecting their foes, while the rest of the party
threw themselves on the ground to take an hour's



Strength of the Tabagaucbes Vttack of their camp Flight of tho
Whites A Council Pursuit * the Indians Desperate Eigage-
raent Taken Prisoners Cai ' ; ed off Captives Submission to
their fate A Curious Dream Singular Springs of Water Kind
treatment by the Indians Divovery of Gold Displeasure of
Whirlwind His story of the early white men A herd of
deer, &Q

CAUTIOUSLY Howe and Whirlwind crept onward,
and coming within pistol shot of the blazing camp-
fires of the Tabagauches, discovered that they
were full two hundred strong, probably, a war
party, in search of adventure, intending to fall
unawares on some neighbouring tribes. By the
middle fire, in the centre of a group of some twenty
savages, were Jane and Edward, looking pale and
wearied. A little behind them, on the ground, with
stoic-like indifference, sat five Crows, the remainder
of their captors ; but now like themselves prisoners.
Evidently, their fate was being decided upon. As
cautiously as they went the scouts returned to'tbt
pine grove, and decided to make an immediate
attack for the recovery of the captives. Ther
were eleven Arapahoe warriors with their chief,
and these, together with Mr. Duncan, Howe, Sid-


ney, and Lewis, made fifteen, all well armed and

Led by Howe and Whirlwind, they noiselessly
gained a place where they could obtain a fair vk w
of the enemy, who were in high altercation on
some point on which they seemed to be divided.

" Now is our time," said Howe. " Let every
gun be discharged when I give the signal, and
every one mark his man. Fall into a line, and bring
your rifles to bear on the right hand savage of the
centre group, and you the next, so on down the
line that no two shots be aimed at one Indian, for
we have none to lose. Now, are you all ready ?"
said Howe, running his eye from his little band to
the foes, who stood revealed by their blazing fires
perfectly distinct, but entirely unconscious of the
danger that menaced them. Not a word was
spoken, but Howe knew all was right ; then, in a low
distinct tone, he gave the word "fire" There was
but one crack of rifles heard, so simultaneously every
gun was discharged, and as they were discharged,
fifteen Tabagauches fell dead, with scarcely a sound
uttered. "Quick! fin again!" said Howe, "mark
your men, the savages are stupefied." Aiming
their rifles on the instant, fifteen more fell dead.

Their second fire revealed to the Tabagauches
the direction whence the attack proceeded, and with
maddening yells of rage they sprang after them.

" Save yourselves ;" cried Howe, but he had no
need to give the order, for every one had placed a


tree between himself and his foes, according to the
custom of warfare with Indians, and as they came
on, every moment, one or more fell by their un-
erring aim. They had the advantage, for the
Tabagauches were between them and the light,
and could be picked off as fast as the guns could
be loaded, while they rushed headlong into the
darkness, their only guide the flash from the rifles
that were thinning their ranks at every fire. But,
as the savages gathered closer and closer around
them, they were obliged to fall back towards the pine
grove, and as time after time they retreated into
the darkness, they could distinguish their foes with
less certainty, and finally they were obliged to
make a scattered flight to save themselves from being
surrounded. Strange to tell riot one of them had
been wounded, which could be only accounted for
by the gloom, in which they were enveloped, hiding
them from an accurate aim. They were sure fifty
of their foes had been slain.

The Tabagauches retreated to their camp, put-
ting out the fires and keeping silent, so as not to
guide their foes a second time to them.

On gaining the pine gr:ve, a council was hel<i
tc devise what was the most prudent step to take

" I," said Whirlwind, " think it best to hover
around them and find out their noxt movement and
guide ours by it."

" That is impossible," said Mr. Duncan. " They
will be so on their guard that no one can ap-


proach without detection, which would be instant

" Whirlwind has said and will do it. Here
await his return." So saying, with noiseless strides
the chief vanished in the gloom.

" A strange compound of generosity, bravery,
and recklessness !" said Mr. Duncan.

" Depend upon it, he knows what is for the
best," replied Howe.

" Then you think we had better not take any
step until the chief returns ?"

" That is my impression. He will return in two
hours, or so."

Two, three, and nearly four hours elapsed
before the chief returned, and the suspense had
become painful, when, without warning, or their
knowing he was near, he stept into their midst.

" Why, Whirlwind, had you dropt from the
clouds you could not have come more noiselessly.
What success did you have?" said Howe.

" The Tabagauches are cowards, they will not
fight, but will steal away like dogs. The pale
faced prisoners are even now moving toward the
west, guarded by fifty of their braves."

" We must head them," cried Sidney, springing
to his feet. " They shall never escape thus."

" The pale faced brave has spoken well. We
must divide our warriors ; part attack the cowards
in the rear, to prevent them joining those in charge
of the white prisoners, while the other part must


ride ahead and attack them in front, and secure
the children/'

" If we break up our force in this way, all will
be lost,' 7 said Mr. Duncan. " It is my opinion we
had better all keep together, and try to get ahead
of the main body by a circuitous route, and thus be
more certain of overcoming the savages."

" Certainly, father, the party must not be
divided, the half of fifteen is almost too few to
attack seventy or a hundred," remarked Lewis.

" Let us keep together, by all means," said

"I do not think we had better divide our force,"
Baid Howe, after hearing all their opinions, and
finding they all coincided with his own, excepting
the chief. " We will be too few for them."

" The white chief forgets we cannot expect to
overcome them by a fair fight, but must depend on
strategy for success."

" If we have as good success as we had last
night, I think we may," returned Howe.

" They will build no more fires to give us an-
other such a chance," said the chief.

" We had better follow Mr. Duncan's sugges-
tion," said Howe, " and try to head them off by a
circuitous route. Come boys ! Lead on chief;
we will follow you."

Light began to break in the east, so that they
could see to make their way, and rapidly they
pursued it, their animals refreshed by the night'g


rest. On they went, and about sunrise, saw the
detachment of Indians not more than a mile ahead.
Whirlwind threw the halter (the only accoutre-
ment, his half-tamed prairie horse boasted,) loosely
on the proud steed's neck, and with his body bent
almost on a level to his back, rode like a Centaur
over the ground. The rest gave their horses the
spur, but they were out-stripped by the Arapahoes,
who one by one darted past them, in the wake of
their chief. Before Mr. Duncan and his party
had accomplished two-thirds of the distance, the
war-whoops of the combatants burst on the air, and
when he joined them many a brave had gone to
the " spirit land."

And now, fiercer than ever the battle raged, the
Tabagauches retreating as they fought, and being
on foot were slain or dispersed at will, until they
saw the other detachment of their tribe advancing,
when they turned and fought with the fury of
demons. This furious charge killed one of the
Arapahoes, badly wounded Mr. Duncan in the
shoulder with a tomahawk, and Lewis slightly in
the thigh with an arrow.

During this time they saw nothing of Edward
and Jane, but distinctly heard their voices as they
called out to encourage their friends, from a little
distance, where they were bound and closely

Encouraged by the thought they weve so near
the captives, and maddened by the obstinacy with



which the savages contended for the captives,
they made a desperate charge, breaking through
the savages, and falling upon the guard that sur
rounded the children, shot them, and unbinding the
thongs around their hand?, and placing Edward on
the dead Arapahoe's horse, and Jane behind Ed-
ward ; they then attempted to fly. While doing
this, the two detachments had joined, and now bore
down with terrible force on the little band. But
they were met with volley after volley, until des-
perate from the loss of their braves that fell around
them, the savages closed in and attempted to drag
them from their horses. Mr. Duncan, Lewis, and
three of the Arapahoes, being mounted on high met-
tled steeds, finding all would be lost if they fell into
the hands of the savages, spurred their steeds, and
bounding over the assailants, escaped into the
forest. Not so fortunate were the rest, for Howe,
Sidney, Whirlwind, Edward, and Jane, were pulled
from their horses, overpowered, and bound pri-
soners. The rest of the Arapahoes had fallen by
the hand of their foes.

Mr. Duncan, faint with the loss of blood, and
suffering severely from his wound, would still have
plunged into the midst of the savages, had not
Lewis and one of the Arapahoes ridden at his side,
with his bridle rein in their hand to prevent him
from plunging into certain destruction. They bent
their course to the east whence they came, and ''he
second day reached camp half dead with fatigue


and distress they endured at the inevitable fate of
the lost ones.

Terrible was the revulsion to Edward and Jane,
for now they had no hope from their friends, as
Sidney and their uncle were captives with them,
and they supposed their father and Lewis had
fallen by the savages who went in pursuit. The} r
knew all was lost unless they could elude the vigi-
lance of their pursuers, which they could not expect
to do, bound and guarded as they were.

Calmly they resigned themselves to a doom they
could not avert, to be offered as burnt-offerings to
the spirits of those who had fallen in battle. The
savages having lost half of their number, were
intoxicated with rage, and with demoniac yells,
goaded on their prisoners with the points of their
arrows, causing the blood to flow from numberless
punctures. Occasionally they would bring their
tomahawks circling round their heads as if to sink
them in their skulls ; and then with savage ges-
tures retreat and make the forest ring with their
howls of rage. For three days they were hurried
on deeper and deeper into the wilderness, now
passing over broad level prairies, then plunging
into swamps and deep ravines ; anon climbing pre-
cipices, rugged mountains, and then passing over
the deeply shaded valley, through which streamlets
sung year after year their sweet songs of peace
and love-

The third day, towards night, as they wer<3


going through a thick coppice that skirted a
prairie they had just crossed, they were surprised
by a party of Pah-Utah Indians, and after a short
but fierce engagement, j n -which the Tabagauch.es


were completely cut up, the captives fell into the
hands of the victors. They had eaten but very
little since they were captured, and faint and
exhausted from their sufferings, they hailed any
change with joy. The Pah-Utahs treated them
with great kindness, washed and dressed their
wounds, presented them with parched corn and
dried meat, and fitted them a bed of ferns and
dried leaves to sleep upon. They were congratu-
lating themselves on their happy change, when
they saw with horror, the Indians roast and devour
with great avidity the dead Tabagauqb.es : they
were at the mercy of cannibals ! Late in the night
the revolting feast was prolonged, and then all was
still, save the soft tread of their guard, as he
hovered around them. The next morning a deer
was given them which had been just killed, and
they were shown a large fire, and given to under-
stand they were to cook and eat it. This they did
with very good appetites, and, together with the
parched corn, made a savory repast. When this
was done, they were placed on horses and driven
on, now taking a south-west direction. Though
treated very kindly, their wants anticipated, and
provided for, yet they were given to understand
that an attempt to escape would be punished with
death by fire


Whirlwind told his fellow captives that their
safest way was to assume an air of indifference,
and even gaity, in order to deceive their captors,
and impress them with the idea that they had no hope
of escaping. " There is a possibility that we may
throw them off their guard and slip away, if we
are cunning, at stratagems ; but, should we fail,
they will eat us without further delay."

Accordingly they rallied their drooping spirits,
and appeared more like a party roaming through
the forest for pleasure than doomed captives, for
such their captors held them, and only delayed their
death, that they might enjoy the horrid feast in
their village at leisure. They journeyed on, and
the second day when the savages halted they were
astonished to see them, instead of kindling a fire,
touch a burning torch to what they had taken for
springs of water that bubbled up from the base
of a rugged range of hills, but which blazed with
a clear, strong flame on being touched with fire,
and by which the savages cooked their supper, by
placing it on a forked stick and holding it in the

The captives gathered around the singular phe-
nomena with astonishment, which so amused the In-
dians that, taking a burning stick, they ran from

*This curious phenomena was at that time entirely
unknown to the white man, but has since been discovered
to exist four hundred miles east of the land of the Ama-




place to place lighting the curious liquid where it
bubbled up in jets, until fifty fires were blazing
around them, lighting the forest with brilliancy.
On examining this liquid they found it clear, and
having the appearance of pure spring water. The
Pah-Utahs gave them to understand that it flowed
unceasingly, and was much used by them for
light and heat. It was a great curiosity, and
elicited a great deal of speculation as to what
uses it might be applied if it could be conveyed
to the haunts of civilization. That night they
slept quite soundly, considering the circumstances
under which they were placed, and arose much

"I really feel well this morning," remarked
Howe, " and do believe we shall yet escape from
these demons."

" The white chief has dreamed," said Whirl-

" I believe I did dream a curious dream last
night," said Howe. " It seemed as though I stood
on a precipice looking calmly on the plain below,
when an eagle came down, and taking me in his
talons, carried me to his eyrie, which seemed
to be perched on a mountain whose summit
passed the clouds ; and there, oh ! horror, a hun-
dred eaglets with open mouths stood ready to
devour me. Then it seemed as if a heavy cloud
passed by, and with a fearful leap I sprang upon
it and floated through the sky until it began


gradually to grow thinner and thinner and I lay
unsupported in mid-air. Then I began to sink,
first slowly, but gradually increasing in velocity
until I seemed to go swifter than the wind, and at
every moment expected to be dashed to pieces.
But as I neared the ea'rth I began to descend
slower ; when, lo ! I softly alighted at the door of
our camp, and there I found Duncan and Lewis.
Indeed it seemed we all were there as if nothing
had happened."

"A singular dream, uncle," said Jane, "but you
know it could not come true. Besides," she added
sadly, " there is little hope that father and Lewis

" I am impressed with the idea they did," said
Sidney. " Had they been murdered, the savage
murderers would not fail to have scalped them and
exhibited the scalps in triumph."

"The young brave is right; they have escaped,"
said Whirlwind. " The Tabagauches would have
scalped the white chief had they taken him."

"You always said you did not believe in dreams,"
said Jane, upon whose imagination it seemed to
have considerable influence.

"Neither do I, generally. But now, even a
dream of freedom and friends is gratifying, and I
cannot help feeling elated by it."

' The Great Spirit visited the white man in his
slumber. Believe what he showed to thy slumber


ing spirit, lest he be angry and destroy thee," said
Whirlwhind earnestly.

"Really, Whirlwind, it is as absurd as singular,"
remarked Edward, " and is taxing credulity too
much to ask an implicit confidence in it."

" The brave is young, and cannot interpret the
signs of the presence of the Great Spirit. His
children know him better^ and recognize his teach-


" Oh ! well, chief, I hope he is in earnest now,
at least, and will succeed in getting us out of the
clutches of these promising children of his/' said

" Then the young brave must not anger him,'*
returned the chief, solemnly.

" I should like to know how far we are from
camp, and how much farther they intend taking
us," said the trapper.

u Their village is half a day's march to the set-
ting sun," replied Whirlwind, "and we evidently
are from six to seven days' journey from our

About noon they entered their village, display-
ing their captives in triumph to the rest of the
tribe, who surrounded them in great numbers, grin-
ning and twisting their naturally ugly visages into
frightful grimaces, at the same time filling the air
with yells of delight and satisfaction.

That night there was another revolting feast.
The victims being three Indians of a peculiar


form and features different from any they had ever

" They are from over the desert," said Whirl-
wind to Howe's inquiry of what tribe they were,
" and have been taken in battle. The tribes all

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Online LibraryD. W. (David W.) BelisleThe American family Robinson; or, The adventures of a family lost in the great desert of the West → online text (page 5 of 20)