Emerson Bennett.

Forest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier online

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arn't thar even now; eh ! Joe Hedges, what say you ?"

" Well, it's my opine, Bill, that the water's eyther been
riled from raccoons, ducks, or some other animal, and that
we mought as well turn down agin and sleep till daylight.
I'll guarantee the camp for a quart of whiskey. "

This reply was greeted by a laugh from all save McCol-
lough and Linn ; and after a few words with the latter,
expressive of a kind of rude sympathy for his sufferings,
the five men, who had been so suddenly roused by the



guard, again stretched themselves around the fire McCol-
lough, meantime, proceeding to heat the salt and water and
administer it to the sufferer who, immediately after drink-
ing it, said he felt a little easier, and thought he should be
able to get some rest at last.

An hour later, as McCullough stood at his former post,
somewhat abstractedly gazing at the few red embers,
which were all that now remained of the smouldering fire,
a slight, a very slight noise, on the bank of the little
stream, attracted his attention. He looked up suddenly
and with a start ; but before he had time for action, there
flashed upon his astonished vision a line of fire, followed
instantly by a dozen sharp reports, by groans and cries of
pain from his companions, and by loud, fierce whoops and
yells from a large body of savages, who had silently stolen
down the bed of the stream and now came bounding
forward to the destruction of their enemies.

McCollough was himself untouched by the fire of the
Indians ; but he saw that some of his companions, includ-
ing poor Linn, were badly wounded ; and knowing that
his own life would solely depend upon his successful flight
into and through the forest, he instantly turned and
bounded away with all his might, several of the savages
perceiving and bounding after him with wild and fearful

Now it so happened that the party who gave chase to



jMcCollough had not yet discharged their pieces ; aud
finding he was likely to escape them in the darkness, they
suddenly drew up in a line and poured a close volley after
him. But at the very instant they fired, his foot struck the
bog of a quagmire, and he pitched headlong upon the soft
morass ; whereupon his enemies, seeing him suddenly
disappear, and believing him dead or mortally wounded,
gave a few whoops of triumph, and turned off in pursuit
of the others, three of whom were also making good their

As soon as his enemies were out of hearing, McCollough
cautiously worked his way out of the treacherous morass,
and then set off, afoot and alone, to make his way
through the dreary wilderness to the nearest station,
thankful that even his life was spared. In his first flight
he had thrown away his gun, and had now only his
hunting-knife ; and being without provisions and the
means of procuring any, he foiesaw much suffering for
himself, even if he escaped with life. But suffering
through privation was seldom a matter to be treated
seriously by the bold borderer; and McCullough, even
when compelled to hunt for roots and berries, to keep
himself from perishing by starvation, did so with a light
heart, thinking only how happy he was at his wonderful
escape from his savage foes.

The next day, to his great surprise, for he believed all


the others killed, he fell in with John Hough, one of his
companions, and the two continued their journey together,
and reached Wheeling in safety, where they reported their
misfortunes and the loss of their companions. But even
yet they were destined to an agreeable surprise ; for the
day following their own arrival, two more of their com-
rades, Kinzie Dickerson and John Whetzel, made their
appearance, naked and nearly famished. These two had
also met on their retreat, and had struggled through the
fearful journey together.

The unexpected meeting of these four, for a time led
them to hope that, in some almost miraculous manner,
some of the others might have escaped also but they
hoped in vain. William Linn, Thomas Biggs, and Joseph
Hedges, were all killed in and near the fatal camp ; and
here their horribly mutilated bodies were found and
decently buried, by a party from Wheeling who went out
in search of them.

The four who escaped lived many years to tell the tale
we have recorded, and take an active part in other wild
border scenes and tragedies ; but all are now dead all
went long since through the Dark Valley to the ^o-called
Land of Shadows.




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