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Forest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier online

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mint ;' and so I begun to tug and pull at the thongs, till I
thought I'd cut 'em clean into the bone.

" At last they gin way, and I thought that thar war the
happiest minute I ever knowed. I hadn't nothing to brag
on yit, for I war naked, and without any weapon o' any
kind, and the devil behind me had both a knife and a toma-
hawk, and he now seemed to be gaining on me at every step.
The nearer I got to the woods, the more I strained every
narve to the very wo'st ; but all at once the blood
began to gush from my nose, and mouth, and ears, and
then I knowed, ef I couldn't play possum and come the
blind over the Injun, I war a gone beaver. So I kind o'
turned one eye onto him like, and made believe as I war
working harder'n ever ; yit all the time slacking up a little,
so as he mought come up by degrees and not suspicion me.
Twice I seed him lift his tomahawk to throw, and twice I
got ready for a dodge ; but the hound calkilated he'd got


me safe, and thought he might as well hold on to it, and
sink it into my brain with a sartin stroke.

" As t'other one had gin out and turned back afore this,
thai* warn't but one that I could fear now, and I jest made
up my mind riot to die easy. I found I couldn't reach the
wood, and that thar warn't no use o' trying ; and so I kept
drawing the nigger on like, till he came panting up to
within about two foot, and had got his tomahawk raised
for the blow ; when fixing myself for a desperate stroke, I
wheeled sudden, bent my head down, and struck him with it
right in his meat-trap, doubling us both up together. He
struck with his tomahawk at the same moment ; but being
tuk by surprise, he didn't hit me ; and grappling him with
all the strength I had left, I jerked the weapon away from
him ; and afore he could help hisself, I sunk it into his
brain. As he fell back, wildly feeling about for his knife
like, I drawed myself back, and keeled over on the 'arth,
a'most as dead as him.

" Wall, I laid thar till I got rested some ; and then I
stripped off his b'ar skin, and wrapped it round myself, and
tuk his scalp-knife and tomahawk, and crawled off into the
woods, whar I slept over night. The next day I made
tracks for the nearest fort, feeding on roots and berries all
the way, and gitting in thar at last quite a starved-looking
human. Thar I found Fighting Pete, the old boss, who'd


got away from the varmints with less trouble, and had told
'em all as how I war ' rubbed out.'

" But I warn't 1" concluded Bill Lukens, knocking the
ashes from his pipe : " no, sir-ee 1 And now, boys, as
you've got my story, let's turn in, for we've got a heap o'
tramping to do 'arly to-morrow."

JUST before the breaking out of what is commonly
known as Lord Dunmore's war, a man by the name of
Jonas Parker settled in the western part of Virginia, on a
small creek which emptied into the Ohio. His family
consisted of his wife, three children, ranging from five to
twelve, and a negro servant. The place where he located
was some distance from any settlement or station, and the
scenery around very wild and romantic, with lofty and
heavily-wooded hills sloping back from the valley. He
brought his family here early in the spring, built him a
rude log cabin, and, by great exertions, succeeded in clear-
ing and planting a considerable patch of ground the same

One day, near the close of summer, as Mr. Parker and
his negro Tom were at work in the woods, about half a
mile from the dwelling, the latter, who had gone down to
a creek near by, came hurrying back, with an expression
of alarm depicted upon his black features.

" Well, Tom, what now ?" inquired his master, suspend-
ing his work to look at his frightened domestic.


" Oh, Marse Jonas," answered Tom, in a quavering voice,
looking fearfully around him as he spoke, " I tink I seed
suffin down dar."

"You are always seeing something wonderful," pursued
the other; "but it generally turns out a very trifling affair.
Did you see a black face in the water, when you stooped
down to drink ?"

" Oh, Marse Jonas, I seed suffin wossern'n dat. Dar,
don't larf, Marse Jonas ! Great golly ! I seed eyes in
de bushes 'relse I neber seed nuffin afore nuffin during
dis life !"

"Well, eyes are not apt to hurt anybody, Tom,'' re-
turned Mr. Parker, with a laugh ; " I've seen a great
many eyes in my time."

"Yes, but, Marse Jonas, it's a difference what they's
'tached upon."

"That is true, Tom. Well, what did your eyes be-
long to ?"

" I tink dey was 'tached upon a Injin.

"Ah !" exclaimed the other, appearing for the first time
a little startled. " Why did you not say so in the first
place, you blundering fool ! Pshaw I there are no Indians
about here, except in your imagination. What makes you
think it was an Indian ?"

" 'Case I tink de Injin was dar, dat's all," answered the
black, looking timidly about him. " I tink, Marse Jonas,


we'd bes> go down to de house, to 'tect missus and de

" I believe it would be folly to do so," rejoined Mr.
Parker, " for I am almost certain you have seen nothing
at all. Still, as you have made me uneasy, I will go back ;
but if you fool me many times, look out for a tanning."

" I's not de chile to fool you, Marse Jonas," said Tom,
hastily gathering up the tools, while his master took up his
rifle, which was leaning against a tree, and, keeping his
eye warily about him, proceeded to examine the priming.
" No, I's not de chile to fool you," pursued Tom. " If I
didn't see the horriblest eyes and dem dar eyes Injin's
den I nebber seed nuffin neber nuffin during dis life
dat's trufe."

Mr. Parker now suggested that it might be as well to go
down to the creek and make a search through the bushes ;
but to this proposition the negro excitedly demurred
saying, that if there were Indians there, they would be
certain to shoot him before he could find them.

"That is true, Tom," replied the other "if there are
Indians there, which I do not believe. However, as you
seem so much alarmed, and as I am willing to admit the
possibility of such a thing, we will return to the house."

Accordingly Mr. Parker and his servant set off, along
the side of the hill, to a point whence they could get a
view of the dwelling, he carrying his rifle so as to be ready


for instant use, and the negro keeping close at his heels,
with the axes and other implements, and both looking
warily about them, closely scanning every tree and bush.

Nothing occurred to justify the alarm of the negro till
they reached the edge of the corn-field, which ran down to
the house; when, just as Mr. Parker was in the act of
reproving his servant for exciting his fears without cause,
there suddenly came reports of some three or four rifles in
quick succession instantly followed by wild, Indian yells
and both Tom and his master dropped together, the
latter struck by two balls, one in his side and the other
in his leg.

" Oh, my God 1 my poor family !" he groaned, as he
gathered himself upon his feet, and beheld the negro
stretched out on his back, apparently dead, and the
savages, with wild yells of triumph, in the act of bounding
forward to finish their work and take the scalps of their,
victims. r$

Hastily staggering to the nearest tree, Mr. Parker now
set his back against it, drew up his rifle, ready for the
foremost, and so stood as it were at bay. Perceiving this,
and knowing too well the certainty of the white man's aim
and also feeling themselves perfectly sure of their prize,
and therefore not caring to throw away a single life the
Indians immediately took shelter behind different trees,

and began to reload their pieces.



To remain where he was, Mr. Parker now saw would be
certain death in a few moments ; wounded as he was, and
continually growing weaker from loss of blood, it was vain
to think of flight ; and yet, with death staring him in the
face, and an almost maddening desire for self preservation,
equally for his family's sake as his own, he felt that some-
thing ought to be tried for his salvation, though never so
hopeless the attempt.

Looking quickly and searchingly around him, he per-
ceived, about ten paces distant, a dense thicket ; and
believing if he could reach that, his chances of life would
be increased as the savages, without actually entering,
could not make their aim sure he gathered all his
strength and nerve for the effort, and ran forward to the
spot, falling in the midst of the bushes, and just in time to
escape two balls of the enemy, which at the same moment
whizzed over his head.

Seeing him fall, and supposing their last shots l\ad
proved fatal, the two savages who had just fired, uttering
yells of triumph, darted out from behind their trees, and,
flourishing their scalping knives, bounded forward to the
thicket; but ere they reached it, Mr. Parker, who had
succeeded in getting upon his knees, and his rifle to bear
upon the foremost, pulled the trigger.

There was a flash, a crack, and a yell at the same
moment ; and springing some two or three feet clear of


the earth, the Indian fell back dead, at the very feet of his
companion; who suddenly stopped, uttered a howl of
dismay, and for a few moments seemed undetermined
whether to advance or retreat.

That momentary hesitation proved fatal to him also;
for the negro, who had all this time been feigning death,
but was really unharmed, now thinking there might be a
possibility of escape, clutched one of his axes nervously,
quickly gathered himself into a kind of ball, made two
sudden bounds forward, the distance being about ten feet,
whirled his weapon around his head, and, before the
astonished warrior had time to put himself on guard,
brought the glittering blade down like lightning, cleaving
the savage through skull and brain, and laying him a
ghastly and bleeding corpse beside the other.

" Dar, take dat, you tieving red nigger!" shouted Tom,
with an expression of demoniac fierceness ; "take dat dar !
and don't neber say nuffin more 'bout shooting down white

The words were not fairly uttered, when crack went the
rifles of the other two savages, one grazing the left cheek
of the negro, and the other causing his right ear to tingle.

" Great golly 1" cried Tom, ducking his head ; " dat dar
was most nigh being de finishering of dis chile. But as
you isn't got no more loads in, you ole varminters," he
added, shaking his fist in the direction of the savages,


" s'posen you doesn't shoot nuffin more afore us gentlem

Then seizing the empty guns of the two slain warriors,
he rushed into the thicket, where Mr. Parker was con-
cealed, exclaiming :

" Marse Jonas, I's hopes you isn't dead yet ; but two of
the Injins am ; and here I is, wid dar two guns, dat only
wants suffin in 'em to blow de oders to de debil."

" Ah, Tom," groaned Mr. Parker, as he lay on the
ground, making every exertion to load his rifle which his
failing powers would permit, "thank God you have
escaped ! I feared you were killed at the first fire."

"Not 'zactly, dat time, Marse Jonas; but dis chile was
dreflful skeered, dat's trufe ; and seeing you drap, I fought
I'd jest make b'lieve I's dead too, and wouldn't neber
know nuffin more during dis life. But when I seed you
get away, and shoot dat dar rascal dar, and t'oder stop so
'stonished to look at him, I conficluded I'd quit playing de
possum, and get up and do suffin ; and I did it dat's
trufe. Ah ! dear Marse Jonas," he pursued, bending
down by the side of the other, and speaking in a sympa-
thetic tone, "you is hurt bad berry bad I know you is
and I's berry sorry ; but you knows I tole you dar was
Injin eyes in de bushes."

" You did, Tom ; and had I then hurried immediately
homeward, it is possible I might have escaped : though it


is equally probable the Indians were on the watch to take
us at advantage ; in which case the result might have been
no better than it is. Oh ! that I was home with my
family ! for they must have heard the firing here, and be
terribly alarmed ; or, if not, they may be off their guard,
and successfully attacked by another party ; for it is more
than likely these few have not ventured hither by them-
selves. Ah ! God forbid," he ejaculated the next moment,
fairly starting to his knees," that they should have been
attacked and murdered first ! But no ! for then I think
we should have heard their cries ! and it is probable the
savages would have wrapped the house in flames. I must
get home, Tom oh ! I must get home. But how ? how ?"

"Why, Marse Jonas, ef you'll jus' let dis yere nigger
tote you on his back, he'll fotch you dar. "

"But what of the other Indians, Tom ? have they fled?"

" Doesn't know but guess dey am. I axed one on 'em
to stop and he did but I guess de oders didn't want

"You are a brave fellow, Tom, for all!" said his
master ; " and if I live, I will not overlook this affair."

" Well, you see, Marse Jonas, I is one of dem as goes
in for prudems for keepin out of de fight as long as I
can keep out of de fight ; but when de fight does come, I's
dai* I is during dis life 1"

" Hist I" whispered his master, as he carefully brought


his rifle forward. " I think I see one of the Indians peep-
ing around yonder tree. Ah I I am too weak to raise the
piece. Get down here, Tom, and let me rest it across
your shoulder. There that will do. Quiet now !"

" Do you see him, Marse Jonas ?" whispered Tom, after
keeping silent some half a minute.

Scarcely were the words spoken, when crack went both
the rifles of the white man and the Indian at the same
moment ; and then the latter, uttering a wild yell, was
seen to run staggeringly from tree to tree on his retreat ;
while his companion, taking advantage of the opportunity,
bounded forward, and secured his person behind a large
oak near at hand, keeping his rifle ready to fire upon
his foe.

" Drop down, Marse Jonas," whispered Tom, " and let
dis chile fix him."

Taking his master's hat as he spoke, Tom placed it on
the end of a gun, and pushed it with some noise through
the edge of the bushes, a few feet distant from where he lay.
Scarcely was it visible to the savage, when, believing it to
contain the head of his enemy, he brought his piece to his
eye, and sent a ball whizzing through it.

Fairly chuckling at the success of his ruse, Tom
instantly dropped the hat, and made a thrashing among
the bushes, uttered a few groans, and then kept perfectly
quiet ; and Mr. Parker, comprehending his design, kept


perfectly quiet also, though managing meanwhile to reload
and prime his piece.

But though he believed his shot had proved effective,
the wary warrior was resolved upon prudence and caution.
First, reloading his rifle, he next carefully reconnoitered the
thicket ; and then, finding all still, he suddenly darted
from his tree to another, and from that to another, and so
by a sort of semi-circular movement came up as it were in
the rear of his enemies.

Still finding all quiet, he at length advanced cautiously
to the bushes, and began to part them gently. In this
direction the thicket extended some twenty yards from the
place where our friends were concealed ; and with the
assistance of Tom, Mr. Parker now noiselessly got himself
into a position to cover the approach of the savage.
Then waiting in breathless silence, till the latter had so far
advanced as to make his aim sure, he fired again. A
sharp yell of pain, and a floundering among the bushes
followed ; and Tom, seizing his axe, at once bounded for-
ward toward his adversary.

The Indian was badly wounded, though not sufficiently
so to prevent him making use of his rifle ; but fortunately
for -the negro, it only flashed in the pan, with the muzzle
fairly pointed at his heart ; and the next moment the axe of
Tom descended with Herculean force, and ended the work.

With a shout of triumph, Tom now rushed from the thicket,


and, without heeding the call of his master, set off in pur-
suit of the only remaining savage, whom he could easily
follow by his trail of blood. About a hundred yards from
where he had been shot, he found him concealed behind a
log, and in a dying condition. Too weak to make a
defence, the Indian looked up at his enemy, and, extending
his hand, said : .

" How de do, brudder ?"

"Jus dis way !" cried Tom : " dis is just how I does to
all sich rascals as you 1" and with the last words the bloody
axe descended, and was buried in the brain of the Indian.

Tom now went back to his master, and proudly re-
counted his exploits.

" Thank God, we are saved !" said Mr. Parker, warmly
grasping the hand of his faithful servant ; " and I owe my
life to you, Tom."

" 'Spect de Lord fit on our side, wid dis yere choppin'-
axe," muttered Tom, as he coolly wiped the blood from
his formidable weapon.

He then carefully raised his wounded master, and,
getting him upon his back, carried him safely to the house,
where both were received with tears of joy by the terrified

Mr. Parker's wounds proved not so serious as was at
first supposed ; and the night following he and his family
were removed to the nearest station by a small party of


scouts, who had been sent out to warn and protect the
more exposed settlers against the expected incursions of
the Indians, who, as we have shown, had already begun
their bloody work of laying waste the border.

Mr. Parker finally recovered, though not in time to take
part in the sanguinary strife which followed ; and Tom,
for his gallantry was given his freedom, and lived many
years to boast of what he had done " during dis life, jnerely
jus wid a choppin'-axe. "

" BEFORE I tell you my story, gentlemen," said Captain
Sheldon, as a small party of us sat around the festive
board, "I will give you a toast. Fill up your glasses,
and let it be drank in silence."

And as we all complied, the captain rose and said, with
much solemnity

" To the memory of the brave heroes who fell at Mon-
terey." ,

An impressive silence of some moments followed, during
which we all drank and the speaker resumed his seat.

" I believed I promised you a somewhat romantic story,
in which I happened to play a rather important part,"
proceeded Captain Sheldon, as one collecting his thoughts
for a direct, straightforward narration. " Well, here you
have it, then ; and I am inclined to think the facts will
interest you, even if my manner of telling them does not.

"It is needless," pursued the captain, "to enter into
any description of the storming of Monterey, for with the

general facts you are all familiar ; and it is also needless


to tell you that, as one of that glorious band of heroes
known as the Texas Rangers or, as General Worth was
pleased to style us, the Texas Dragoons I saw some
pretty hard fighting during that memorable siege.

" We had taken Fort Teneria, the Bishop's Palace, and
some other strong positions, and had concentrated our
forces upon the town, and were forcing our way as best we
could to the Cathedral Plaza, where the main body of the
enemy was then stationed. The conflict was terrible and
at its height, and the roar of cannon, the sharp rattle of
musketry, the thunder of dashing artillery, the battering in
of doors, the pecking through thick walls, the loud com-
mands of officers, the shouts of the assailants, the groans
of the wounded, and the shrieks of terrified women and
children all together made a most horrid din, such as I
never wish to hear again.

" The streets being barricaded, and each building turned
into a sort of fortified castle from the flat roofs of which,
behind breastworks of sandbags, the enemy continually
poured down a most destructive fire it became necessary
for a portion of the troops to enter these buildings, force
a passage through from one to the other, dislodge the
garrison of each, and use them as safe coverts from which
to annoy the foe in turn.

" In this hazardous occupation I had been engaged for
several hours, and had witnessed some fearful scenes as,


in cutting our way through from one house to the other,
we had occasionally come in contact with men brave
enough to bar our passage with their lives when sud-
denly, just as I had thrown myself down on a seat, to get
my breath and a few moments rest, I heard the wild shout
that announced the successful -passage of our little band
into another adjoining building. Fairly mingled with
this shout were the reports of fire-arms, the clash of steel
and the shrieks of women. There was no time for me to
be idle now ; and starting up, I ran forward, with my
sword in one hand and a revolver in the other. Making
my way to the aperture which had been forced through
the two walls, I entered an apartment dim with smoke,
where all was excitement and confusion. Our party, still
victorious, were mostly grouped around two wounded
comrades ; while near them lay two dead Mexicans, their
companions having fled ; and in one corner several women
were huddled together, greatly terrified and shrieking for
mercy, supposing us from all they had heard to be no
better than so, many savages.

"As I could speak Spanish so as to be readily under-
stood, I stepped forward to the frightened females, and
had just begun to utter a few words calculated to allay
their fears, when I fancied I heard a heavy, jarring sound
in an adjoining room, and a wild cry in Spanish of

" ' Spare him I spare him ! he is my father !'


" Perceiving a door, which I thought might lead to the
room in question, I sprung to it, tore it open, and, in the
center of a Imall apartment, at once beheld three figures
an old man grappled with a young one and a beautiful
female, with her arms partly thrown around the elder, as
if to draw him away and shield him, while a prayer for
mercy was issuing from her lips.

" ' Hold !' I shouted, in a tone that *nstantly arrested
the action of all parties. ' Senor,* I quickly added in
Spanish, addressing the old gentleman, ' you must at once
yield yourself a prisoner of war, or I cannot be answerable
for the consequences !'

" ' He had already done so, Senor Caballero, when this
fellow attempted to rob him, and he grappled with him to
prevent himself from being plundered,' said the female,
turning upon me a most beautiful face, and fixing upon me
a pair of most bewitching black eyes.

" ' What I have we a common highwayman and thief
among us V cried I, turning fiercely upon the Ranger,
whose now downcast and guilty look at once convinced me
that the accusation was just.

" He began to stammer forth some excuse ; bjut I inter-
rupted and ordered him out of sight, with the threat of
most severe punishment in the event of my hearing any-
thing more to his disgrace.

"'Oh, thanks, noble sir! many, many thanks!' cried


the female, springing forward, seizing ray hand, and
impulsively carrying it to her lips. ' Oh, spare him !' she
continued, fixing her large, soft, lustrous eyes tipon me, in
the most fascinating manner in the world ; ' spare him !
spare my father ! and Heaven will bless you, and Paula
will ever remember you with gratitude !'

" ' Be assured, fair lady, he is only a prisoner of war,
and not a hair of his head shall be injured 1' was my
gallant reply, as I looked steadily into the dark, soul-
speaking eyes so near to mine, and felt a strange, romantic
fascination stealing over me.

"'Father, do you hear that?' said Paula, joyfully.
' See what it is to meet with a noble officer ! Pray step
into that closet there, and bring him some refreshments.'

" ' Thanks, fair lady !' said I, as the old gentleman
opened a side door and disappeared as directed. ' Hard
fighting, and a long fast, are truly calculated to give a
man an appetite, and I flatter myself I shall be able to do
justice to your fare.'

" ' Oh, this siege is terrible for all parties !' said Paula ;
and she continued talking on the subject for a minute or
two, when she stopped suddenly, and saying, ' Pray excuse
me till I can see what detains my father,' she hurried out
through the same door, closing it after her.

" At this moment some of the men came in from the
other room, when I informed them what had occurred, and

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Online LibraryEmerson BennettForest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier → online text (page 16 of 22)