Copyright
Emerson Bennett.

Forest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier online

. (page 4 of 22)
Online LibraryEmerson BennettForest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier → online text (page 4 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


testifying to the fact in the most vindictive manner. It
was an invariable rule with him, to kill an Indian when-
ever and wherever he could ; and so noted had become his
feats of daring in this respect, that the savages had named
him Papapanawe, (Lightning,) and spoke of him with
dread, and the few whites that knew him hailed him as
the hero of heroes, the bravest of the brave.

Early one morning in the spring of the year, when the
great forest had donned its new mantle, and looked
delightfully green and gay, Adam crept stealthily and
noiselessly over a steep ridge, which formed the left
bank of a well-known stream, and, gliding silently
down into a narrow ravine, ensconced himself in a dense
thicket, within thirty yards of a famous deer-lick. Here,
carefully stretching himself out at full length upon the
earth, with his long rifle properly adjusted, and the
clustering leaves before him just sufficiently parted to give
him a sight of the spot which some timid deer might be



72 A DESPERATE EJSCOUKTER.

expected to visit at any moment, he waited with the
patience of an old, experienced hunter for the happy
moment when he should be able to bring down his game,
and thus provide himself with many a coveted meal.

Adam was not destined, on this occasion, to have his
patience tried by any unusual delay ; for he had scarcely
watched the "lick" a quarter of an hour, when, in the
direct line of his vision, appeared a sleek, fat buck. The
rifle was already pointed, Adam was quick of sight, and
the next instant there was a flash, a crack, and the unerr-
ing ball had sped on its fatal mission. The buck suddenly
bounded into the air, and fell over on its side, where for a
few moments it lay quivering in the last throes of death.

But, strange to relate, there was another report of
another rifle, so exactly timed with Adam Wiston's, that
the two sounds were blended into one, and two balls at
the same moment struck the same animal at opposite sides.
The quick ears of the old hunter barely caught the foreign
sound, and he by no means felt certain it was not an auri-
cular deception ; but trained from his youth to prudence
and caution, he was not the man to slight the faintest
warning of danger when nothing was to be gained by bold
and reckless daring. If it was indeed the report of another
gun he had heard, it was, he thought, more likely to be
that of an enemy than a friend ; and situated as he was in
the great wilderness, his very life depending in no slight



A DESPERATE ENCOUNTEB. 73

degree upon his own vigilance and care, it stood him in
hand to ascertain if he had aught to fear, before rashly
venturing from his covert.

Gathering himself upon his knees, therefore, and slowly
and cautiously pushing his head up through the interlacing
bushes, he directed his glance to the opposite side of the
stream, where there chanced to be a ravine similar to the
one he occupied ; and there, in direct confirmation of his
suspicion, he beheld a thin wreath of smoke slowly ascend-
ing and dispersing itself in the clear morning air ; while
just below it, barely perceptible among the bushes, and so
blending with them that no eye but a practiced woodmanfe
might have detected it, he perceived the shaven crown and
painted face of a hideous savage, with its black, basilisk
eyes fairly gleaming, as it seemed, with fierce desire, and
fixed steadily and searchingly upon himself.

Had there been in the mind of Adam Wiston the faintest
shadow of a doubt of the Indian's simultaneous discovery
of himself, he would have silently and cautiously withdrawn
himself from exposure, reloaded his rifle, and awaited his
opportunity of a fatal shot ; and even as it was, he hur-
riedly debated with himself the propriety of boldly un-
masking ; but yielding the next moment to an almost
uncontrolable impulse, he uttered a loud yell of defiance,
and called out to his adversary in the most taunting
manner :

7



74 A DESPERATE ENCOUNTER.

" Hello ! you greasy curmudgeon of a sneaking tribe I
ef you want my hair, you'll have to come arter it, and it'll
take a man to crop it ; but ef I had a squaw here, I'd send
her for yourn, and consider her time wasted when she'd
got it. Come, you old painted brute ! I dar' you to a fair
stand-up fight, and no rifles atween us, and the best man
gets a scalp and a buck ! But, bah 1 what's the use o' talk-
ing ? for it arn't in you to understand any thing like human
language ; and it 'ud be worse nor a seven-year agur for
sich as me to break my jaws over gibberish that no sen-
sible human ever did know any thing about."
. While Adam was thus giving vent to his rage and con-
tempt, he was not idle ; but, with his person all concealed
except his head, his hands were actively engaged in put-
ting a new charge into his rifle. He had succeeded in
getting in the powder, and was in the act of ramming
home the ball, when the Indian, who had up to this time
apparently remained immovable and who, perhaps, from
some slight but perceptible motion of his enemy's head,
had conjectured what he was doing suddenly uttered a
short, shrill whoop, and disappeared.

"Only one minute more, Greasy, and thar'd been
another dead carcass for the buzzards !" muttered Adam,
as, aware of his own dangerous exposure, he suddenly
ducked his head and crawled stealthily among the stems
of the bushes, away from the spot he had occupied, for



A DESPEEATE ENCOUNTER. 75

fear a venture-shot of the savage might chance to strike
him. And then, as he re-primed his piece, keeping as
wary a watch the while as his situation would permit, he
added : " Now for it ; it's eyther me or that red-skin afore
night."

Thinking it the most prudent course to maintain his
concealment for the present, in case the savage, whom he
fancied would not leave the vicinity, should attempt to
steal upon his retreat, Adam again stretched himself upon
the ground, and for something like an hour listened keenly
to every sound, and sharply watched the motion of every
leaf around and above him, to be certain it was stirred by
the breeze and not by his foe. Then finding his time was
likely to be wasted, and fearing the savage might escape
him after all, he resolved upon a venture of exploration
into the retreat of his enemy, though not with that careless
haste which might give the other the andantage he bad
himself hoped to gain.

With the greatest caution, therefore, and by a sinuous,
snake-like motion, so that no movement of the bushes
above him would indicate his course, he worked his body
up the ravine and over the top of the ridge ; and then
gliding into the thick wood on the other side, he set off
more boldly on a circuitous route, intending to cross the
stream some distance above, and come up carefully behind
the point where he had espied the savage.



76 A DESPERATE ENCOUNTER.

Now it so chanced that there was a very singular and
remarkable train of coincidences, formed by the same
thoughts and desires actuating these two human beings
at the same time; for both had stolen to their different
concealments together, had together espied the deer, had
fired together, had examined each other in a like manner,
had both disappeared together, and waited and watched
for each other, and each had actually set off to circumvent
the other at the same moment, both going up the stream ;
while, as if to put a climax to the whole, both came out
face to face on opposite sides of the narrow river, with a
distance of less than thirty yards dividing them; when,
quick as lightning, both pieces were simultaneously raised
and fired, there being as before a blended report. Adam
felt a sharp, burning twinge in his right arm, and saw the
savage suddenly press his hand to his right breast ; and the
next moment these brave, undaunted men, with loud yells
of rage and defiance, were springing toward each other for
a mortal hand-to-hand combat.

Casting their pieces aside, they met in the middle of the
stream, which was here shallow, and rushed foaming and
gurgling over a stony bed ; and had there been a spectator,
conscious of all that had occurred, he would have con-
sidered their individual chances of life about equal for
the Indian was a large, athletic fellow, supple and active,






A DESPERATE ENCOUNTER. 77

Btrong and determined, and both were actuated with a
mutual hate and a fierce desire for victory.

With their knives gleaming, they met as recorded, and
for a few moments there was a flashing and crashing
of steel, as both struck and parried with something of the
skill of two masters of fence. But a fight like this, at such
close quarters, and with such short weapons, could not long
continue without some serious wounds on one side or both ;
and with a quick and sudden blow, Adam succeeded in
giving his adversary a fearful gash across the breast, fol-
lowed by another which nearly severed the tendons of the
left arm. With a howl of rage and pain, the savage
started back a pace, the blood flowing profusely ; and then,
measuring his already panting antagonist with a quick
glance of his eagle eye, he suddenly bounded forward, and
made a fearful lunge for his heart. The old hunter, though
in a measure prepared for this, could not altogether avoid
the thrust; but he so quickly- turned as to receive the wound
in his right side,; at the same time plunging his own knife
half way to the hilt in the back of his foe, barely missing
the vertebra, which would have terminated the contest in
his favor.

Too highly wrought up by a fierce and vengeful excite-
ment, and too eager for the finishing stroke to give a proper
heed to defence, both combatants, badly wounded, covered
with blood, panting for breath, and with failing strength,

7*



78 A DESPERATE ENCOUNTER.

but with glaring eyes and gnashing teeth, now struck fast
and furiously, each blow telling with fearful effect upon the
other. At length their knives met in such a manner that
both dropped from their hands together ; and then they
clinched, swayed to and fro like intoxicated men, and fell,
and rolled over and over in the water upon the pro-
truding stones, locked in each other's embrace, knotted
together, and each struggling to be uppermost and strangle
or drown his antagonist.

It was still a fearful and desperate fight, and was con-
tinued in the manner described for some five minutes,
during which no one could have told who would eventually
be the victor.

At last Adam, in rolling under the Indian for the sixth
or eighth time, perceived that chance or Providence had
brought him back to the very spot where he had lost his
knife ; and bethinking him of this, he, by a desperate exer-
tion, released one of his hands, and placed it partially
beneath him, in the hope of getting hold of the weapon.
To his unbounded delight, the attempt proved successful ;
and the next moment, with all his remaining strength, he
was actively plunging it, with rapid thrusts, into the back
and sides of his enemy.

This, and it may be this alone, gave him the victory ;
for the Indian, though still holding out with a wonderful
tenacity of life, and exerting himself even against hope,




\



A DESPERATE ENCOUNTER. 79

gradually gave way in strength, till the hunter, with far
less exertion than formerly, was able to turn him again,
when, plunging the knife into his throat, he ended the
contest.

Adam, finding the savage was at last really dead, slowly
gathered himself up, seated himself upon the body, wiped
the blood and perspiration from his face, and, in a some-
what doleful, half ludicrous tone, complimented his late
adversary by saying :

" You war the toughest old red nigger as ever Adam
Wiston fou't."

He then, in a slow and deliberate manner, proceeded to
scalp the dead Indian ; which done, he took from his
person all that he considered of any value, secured both
rifles, and then sat down on the bank and dressed his own
wounds in the best manner he could. Though seriously,
he was not dangerously, wounded; and having rested
himself for an hour, he set to work on the dead buck, cut
off his breakfast, kindled a fire, cooked and ate it. Then
cutting off another large piece of meat, to serve his neces-
sities for the journey, he set off at a slow, feeble pace for
the nearest station, where he arrived during the night, and
narrated his desperate encounter to a crowd of eager and
wondering listeners.



DURING the early settlements in the western part of Penn-
sylvania and the northwestern portion of Virginia, the
nardy adventurers into those then wilderness solitudes at
times suffered severely from the incursions of the Indians.
As early as 1780, quite a large body of warriors, from the
vicinity of the Cuyahoga Falls, came suddenly down upon
the unprotected frontier, and, before any check could be
put to their ravages, succeeded in murdering and plunder-
ing quite a number of tne wnites, and ejecting their retreat
in safety.

At this time there was a well-known Indian hunter in
that vicinity, one Captain Samuel Brady, whose many
daring exploits and hair-breadth escapes had rendered
him as famous throughout that region as his cotemporary,
the celebrated Daniel Boone, was in Kentucky ; and having
under his leadership a goodly number of as brave and
daring spirits as himself, he at once called them together,
selected a certain number for the expedition, and set out

on the trail of the savages, hoping to overtake them and
(80)



A LEAP FOR LIFE. 81

inflict a severe chastisement before they should reach their
villages.

In this respect, however, the captain and his friends were
disappointed ; for the Indians had gained a start which
enabled them to reach their towns in advance of their
pursuers ; but as they belonged to different tribes, it was
discovered that they had separated on the bank of the
Cuyahoga one part crossing it and going to the north-
ward, and the other turning off to the westward, as it
was supposed to the Falls, where it was known there was a
village.

This division of the Indians rendered it necessary for the
whites, if they would follow each trail, to divide their
force also, which would weaken it materially, and render
their further pursuit still more hazardous ; and in view of
this new danger, Captain Brady stated the whole matter
fairly to his companions, and inquired of them what they
were disposed to do under the circumstances.

Should they follow either one of the trails, he said, the
other half of the Indians would escape ; should they follow
neither one, all would escape ; and should they divide,
each division would be comparatively small, and they might
all be cut off in detail ; therefore it was for them to choose
whether they would go forward in one party or two, or
return as they were without striking a blow.

The men were not long in deciding ; they were unani-



82 A LEAP FOE LIFE.

inous in their desire to posh forward and take vengeance
upon the enemy; they also preferred a division of the
party ; and accordingly about one-half of them immediately
crossed the river and set off to the northward, while the
remainder, under Captain Brady, followed the westward
trail to the Cuyahoga Falls.

It was the design and expectation of the gallant captain
to take the Indians by surprise ; but the latter, expecting
to be pursued by the whites, were prepared to receive
them ; and it was only by a mere accident that the bor-
derers were saved from falling into an ambuscade which
would have proved fatal to all.

Seeing that the Indians were fully prepared for them
that there was no chance of taking them by surprise that
their numbers were at least four times as many as their
own our friends judiciously determined upon a retreat ;
but they had not gone far, when the Indians, uttering their
wildest war-whoops, set after them in a body.

Knowing that if his men continued together, there would
be no hope for any of them, Captain Brady, in order to
save as many lives as possible, called out to them to dis-
perse in every direction, and each man to look out for him-
self. By this means he expected to divide the Indians into
small parties in their pursuit of single individuals ; and
this might have been the result, had they not, unfortu-
nately for his own safety, discovered in him their most



A LEAP FOB LIFE. 83

vindictive and troublesome foe, and at once resolved upon
his capture.

Captain Brady was well known to the Indians ; in
former times he had hunted with them over these very
grounds ; but he had subsequently become their most im-
placable enemy, and had done them so much injury as to
create in them a fiendish desire to take him alive and put
him to the tortures they well knowing that the accom-
plishment of this purpose would not only rid them of the
man they both hated and feared, but would deprive the
whites of their bravest and most daring leader, and would
thus strike a more effective blow against the latter than
would the destruction of a dozen or twenty men of lesser
note. For this reason, therefore, the moment it was
ascertained that he was one of the party, his capture was
determined on by all ; and turning from the pursuit of the
others, the whole yelling crew set after him.

Captain Brady had something of the start, and was one
of the fleetest runners on the border ; that he could
distance and escape from a few, he was sanguine enough
to believe; but when he found himself recognized, and,
looking behind him, saw the whole body in chase of
himself, his very heart seemed to die within him. What
chance had he of escape indeed single-handed and alone
afar fro,m the refuge of even a wilderness fort and with
fifty infuriated Indians in hot pursuit, urged on by a spirit



84 A LEAP FOR LIFE.

of revenge, and resolved, above every other earthly con-
sideration, upon taking him alive or dead ? v

But the captain was a brave man, and a brave man dies
but once ; he was a sanguine man, too, and would not
consider his case hopeless while the freedom of his limbs
remained ; and though, as he afterward expressed it, " it
was hardly one chance in fifty, yet he was determined to
do his best, and have no fault to find with himself from a
lack of effort."

Near the point where the race first started, the Cuya-
hoga makes a bend to the south, so as to nearly enclose an
area of several square miles in the form of a peninsula;
the direction taken by Brady soon brought him within this
enclosure ; and the Indians, by extending their line to the
two banks of the stream, at the point where they most
nearly approach each other, considered him as in a net,
and announced their satisfaction by yells of triumph.
There was now, in fact, no chance for him to escape
except through their lines or across the Cuyahoga river ;
and considering that the foremost pursuers were not fifty
yards behind him, either of these chances was regarded
by the savages as an impossibility.

Still the hardy and gallant captain did not despair; he
had many a time hunted over this very ground, and knew
every inch of it, and all the windings, turnings, and
peculiarities of the river as well as the Indians them-



A LEAP FOR LIFE. 85

selves ; he knew, too, there was one point where the river,
compressed within a few feet, rushed roaring and foaming
through a rocky gorge ; and it at once occurred to him to
shape his course for this point, and make a bold, desperate
leap for the other shore. He might fall short, and be
dashed to pieces upon the rocks beneath, it was true ; but
this would only be a quick and sudden death ; the awful
tortures of the stake awaited him if taken alive ; and to
take him alive was unquestionably the design of his pur-
suers, since they had neglected to fire upon him from a
distance which would have made their aim fatal.

Casting away his rifle, as only an incumbrance which
could not serve him in this strait, he bounded forward with
renewed energy ; and with a bare hope of life before him,
he fled with a speed that few could equal slightly gaining
upon the fleetest of his foes but not sufficiently, during
the whole race, to take him beyond the easy reach of a rifle
ball.

Nearer and nearer he came to the rushing and foaming
stream ; and as he heard the roar of the waters, and saw
but a few seconds could intervene between the present and
the awful leap which might save or destroy him, his heart
beat wildly, and his whole frame seemed to tremble with
the intense concentration of his mind upon the fearful
venture.

Nearer and nearer he came ; louder grew the roar of
8



86 A LEAP FOB LIFE.

the waters ; the awful chasm gradually yawning before
him, and the white spray of the fearful torrent rising to his
view ; the Indians yelling behind, and his only hope here ;
and then, contracting his muscles, as his feet lightly
pressed the precipitous rock, and throwing into them all
the power of his concentrated will, he leaped into the air,
like a bounding ball, and landed safely upon the other
rocky verge of the abyss, striking a little below the height
from which he sprung, but passing a clear distance of
twenty -two feet between the mural shores.

Instantly grasping some bushes which fringed the verge
of the awful chasm, to prevent himself from falling back-
ward into the seething stream, the gallant captain stood
for a few moments, panting from his exertions, and striving
to recover his breath for still another flight.

In those few moments the Indians appeared upon the
opposite bluff, expecting to find that he had been dashed
to pieces upon the rocks below; but on discovering him
safely on the opposite side, their astonishment was so great
as involuntarily and simultaneously to draw from them
some two or three short, approving whoops forgetting in
their first surprise that he was clearly beyond their reach,
and not seeming to recollect it till he had begun to vigor-
ously climb the ridge above him in his further efforts at
escape. Then drawing up their rifles, with a quick aim,
they poured in upon him something like a regular volley



A LEAP FOR LIFE. 87

most of the balls whistling close around him, and- one of
them lodging in his hip and inflicting a severe and painful
wound.

Notwithstanding this, the gallant fellow continued his
ascent, and, on reaching the top of the ridge, gave a yell of
defiance, and disappeared on the other side.

Captain Brady was now aware that the Indians would
have to make a considerable circuit in order to reach him ;
and had he not been so severely wounded, he would have
considered his escape as almost certain; but knowing he
would still be followed, and finding his wound very painful,
and the cords of his leg fast stiffening, he cast about him
for some place to secrete himself from their search.

After running a short distance, he discovered a pond,
and, near the shore, a large oak which had fallen into it ;
there might be nothing better than this ; and hurrying
forward with all his might, he boldly plunged in, swain
under water to the tree, and came up beneath the trunk
and among the branches, in such a manner as to be barely
able to breathe without exposing any portion of his person
to his enemies.

Here, in a state of mind which may be imagined but
cannot be described, the gallant borderer remained for a
long time, watching his enemies as they collected one by
one along the shore at the point where his bloody trail had
disappeared in the water.



88 A LEAP FOE LIFE.

Still resolved upon finding him, either living or dead,
the savages were by no means disposed to give up the
search ; and after running along the shore for a consider-
able distance, on either side of his trail, to ascertain if
possible where he had emerged from the water, several of
the party plunged in, swam out to the oak, and actually
seated themselves upon it, while they conversed in their
own language, which he understood, concerning his won-
derful escape.

At last, with such feelings of joy as no one not simi-
larly circumstanced might comprehend, he heard them
state their belief that he was drowned, and his body lost
to them by being sunk in deep water ; and soon after this,
to his still greater joy, they quietly returned to the shore,
and one by one all gradually disappeared.

Remaining in his uncomfortable position till he con-
sidered it safe to leave it, the wounded captain himself
then swam back to the land ; and weary, lame, and hungry
as he was alone, and without a weapon for his defence
he set off on his long, tedious journey through the wilder-
ness for his own home ; which he eventually reached more
dead than alive ; and where, to his great gratification, he


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryEmerson BennettForest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier → online text (page 4 of 22)