JULY 13TH.--Father's name is now added to the list of the sick. How can I stay this flood of tears, as I look about and see all but myself prostrated with sickness? so pale and weak, and amid so many discomforts. It is impossible for me to do for them as they require. I am weak myself; it seems when I go for water that I can never get back again. Have just been to the spring for my turn of water, one-half mile, which I bring in a six quart camp-pail and Indian coffee pot of the same dimensions. It is all the way up hill from the spring. This is a long, long Sabbath day. I look north, south, east and west, from this pinnacle of prairie, away where the green and blue blend together; nobody an I see, and nothing can I hear, save the cow .and calf nipping the grass by the oak bushes. Even little Sambo dog is as still as death, near where my Willie boy is sleeping, in his high fever. This is solitude--anxious, fearful solitude! "O, God, forsake us not utterly!"
JULY 16TH. Yesterday morning, father drove out to the settlement before his chill came on, and drove back last eve, after his fever was off. He went to see if he could get some one to stay with us for a few days. Our good neighbor, Mr. Stewart, sent his hired man, Mr. Buxton, this morning. He prepares wood, takes care of the oxen, cow and calf; and brings water. I have been writing to friends, sitting on the floor, with my portfolio on a cracker box for a writing desk. My husband is lying on our bed of prairie grass, on the floor; his fever is passing off. Willie lies on an Indian blanket near the door, calling for water. Mother lies on her bed in the other room; seems very sick. Father on a blanket, on the floor; his fever is raging. Lydia has got up and is sitting on her trunk; looks weak and sad. Mema's fever is off; she is out beside the house, amusing herself by picking up Indian beads that are washed up from the dirt, with the drippings from the eaves when it rains. Mr. B. has gone for some good, cold water. Just three months to-day since we left home; mark the contrast!
JULY 18TH.--It became necessary for me to go to the settlement to-day. The children were so anxious to go with me, that I spread blankets on to the wagon floor for them to lie on, hung the covered tin pail of water to one of the bows, to quench their feverish thirst when it should come on; and with Mrs. B. driving, we started off. Went six miles, to Mr. Stewart's, did my business, took dinner, had my children rest on a bed, borrowed a sieve, and then returned home in season to look after the wants of the sick left alone. I had a chill yesterday, and today on my return; feel weak, but must go and sift some meal to make a pudding for our supper. I have been obliged to make the pudding of unsifted meal since we have been here; think we shall notice the difference to-night.
JULY 20TH.--Mr. Stewart and his good lady have been to see us to-day. It was indeed refreshing to see such kind-hearted people; they cheered my husband, while they hoped better times for us all. This is the first company we have had to serve since we came into the Territory. I boiled some rice from our scanty store, gave them a little sugar to eat on it, and had some cold hominy and milk. They ate the plain refreshments I had for them, standing by the rude Indian table in one corner, just large enough for two to stand by. No apologies were necessary, no ceremony in serving was expected; we are dealing with the sad realities of life.
JULY 25TH.--This has been a very hot day, as are all the days now. We are so high up here, that it seems as though we were in close proximity to the king of day, and near the seat of the monarch of the storm. Two terrific storms have come upon us of late; in a moment the sky would blacken, the thunder-clouds burst, the heavens be set on fire with lightning, and the rain pour down like water sports. It seems as though the bowels of the earth, after every clap of thunder, must be our precipitation, Indian house and all. But we are better sheltered from the storms here than at the settlement. Their anger soon vents its fury, the sky is cleared of every remnant of clouds, and the myriads of suspended water drops glisten in the sun's bright rays.
Mr. Buxton has been taken sick, and gone home, which leaves me to do all. I chain the oxen to the wagon that stands before the door nights, and keep them chained till eleven o'clock in the forenoon; I then give them their liberty; they go directly to the spring to drink, then into the shady bottom lands, and feed until a little after sundown; I then hear them come rushing through the oak bushes, in their yoke, to the house. Their return home at night is very welcome, as it ceases my anxiety about them; their heavy breathing, and the clanking of their captive chain, is much company all through the long, lonely, and to me, almost sleepless nights. The cow and calf I keep tied to the oak bushes, changing them after they have eaten the grass in a circle around, the length of their rope. I lead the cow to the spring every morning to drink, and lad the calf to the cow ever time I milk, for it to take its warm, rich meal. I give it dish water for drink--it is almost too bad, but then it is such hard work for me to bring water.
I was all out of wood to-day; did not know what to do, there being no wood about that I could pick up, when suddenly a man came in; he was ragged and dirty; seemed very strange, and said but little; asked for victuals; I told him to cut some wood and I would give him some. He cut the wood, ate his victuals, and vanished. I know not which way he went.
JULY 27TH--Another long, lonely, and silent Sabbath day! The sick are lying about upon their beds and blankets, uncomplainingly--just calling for water, water! I have looked, and looked, to see if I .could see a white-topped wagon coming in between the trees. But no wagon do I see,--no sound do I hear in the distance, and nothing near save the mourning dove, who comes every day and repeats its sad lay of O-o-o! O-o-o! O-o-o! on the roof of the house, chiming in well with the breathings of my own heart.
"But if pity inspire thee, renew the sad lay."
I feel that here I am in the charnel house of the red men's bones! for all around, all over these prairies, can he seen the monuments of the Indian's grave,--quite a number just back of the house, but of ancient burial. The Indians here dig a very shallow grave, build up around it a little pen,"cobhouse fashion," of logs, put the body in, in a blanket, put over the buffalo robe and a slight covering of dirt, so slight that the robe has been lifted and the body seen. If it is an Indian of note, his pony is slain, and it, and all that belongs to him, share with him his grave,--and with him, his heaven.
I take little Sambo dog with me sometimes, when I go for water; for his pat, pat, pat, along in the path behind me, is another sound added to my own tread; he is really a great deal of company for me, makes the way seem shorter, and when I come right upon a great rattlesnake in my path, I step out, hasten along, without looking around to see how Sambo gets by; but soon again hear his pat at my heels,-- then know he is safely past.
A day or two since, sister L. called me to see what it was that was laying its Shiny head on the threshold of the door between our rooms, while its body was concealed under the floor. I saw, at once, it was the head of a copper-head snake; I caught my India-rubber, the first thing within my reach, and gave it one blow On the head, which it instantly drew in under the floor, but not without leaving a mark. I have seen no more of it.
We frequently see rattlesnakes crawling and hanging over the sills under the piazza where the floor is up. We hear a peculiar noise under the floor sometimes, have thought it was rats, but find it is the noise of snakes. My husband keeps a long hickory cane lying on the bed, so that when he hears that peculiar sound, he strikes on the floor near where some of the floor boards are gone, to drive the snakes away. But there is no dread of the venom of snakes to me,--I wish that was all that made me fear.
There is a snake that infests this country, called the blow snake; when startled it blows its venom out upon the air, causing stupefaction and death. The large, gray, mountain rattlesnake has been seen by father, near our cornfield, several feet in length; and black snakes have been seen yards in length, swimming in the creeks.
The tarantula, a venomous spider, has been found taking up its abode between the barks of some of our settlers' cabins.
JULY 29TH.--Kind Providence sent that mysterious person here again to-day; his red shirt sleeves were more ragged than before. As before, I could not learn from him which way he came, or which way or where he was going. He was hungry. I gave him something to eat, and asked him to chop what wood was at the door; after which he started off east over the prairies.
Have been taking some of the sick ones out to ride to-day; was surprised to find that the oxen would mind me when I said "whoa!" "gee!" and "haw!" My husband complimented me upon my tact, in my first attempt at driving oxen.
Coarser kinds of flowers now blossom on the prairies, than the rich, lively, and delicate of June; yellow flowers in fields, from the size of a daisy up to the large aspiring sunflower. They seem to vie with the sun for golden splendor. Many of the stalks of these summer flowers are thick and juicy, nature fitting them for the dry and intense heat of the season. Varieties of the cactus family are grouped here and there where the grass is not so high and the resin weed by the path side, which conceals turpentine, will let you know on being broken.
Been to the spring five times to-day; three times is my usual number for going;but when I am storing some for slop washing (which by the way is all the washing we have done here) I go five times, making five miles' travel for me to bring sixty quarts of water. For the last turn, I go just at sunset, to get some of the house cool, for bringing it so far in the heat of the day, it, gets warm before I can place it to the fevered lips; I being the only one to enjoy a cold draught at the fountain, which gives life and strength upon these hot days.
When at the spring, at the close of the day, I hear the howl of wolves a little below in the bottom lands, soon hear their answering howl in multiplied numbers all around, all over the prairies. I sometimes fear thy will surround me, and "take care of me," before I can reach the house.
JULY 31ST.--This day is my husband's fortieth birthday. I have never seen him so sick since our pathways run together, hardly ever lost a day; yet his frame is slender; he has always made it a work of conscience to take care of the physical--to be temperate in all things. A deeper sadness comes over me as I review, to-day, the many bright spots and sunny hours that have flowed with enjoyment, unto us who have always been happy in each other's society, and contrast with our present dark surroundings. My husband has his chill and fever now in the night. I sit up with him, give him vapor baths when the chill is on, and towel baths in his fever; he thinks he will be well in a few days; he is sitting up, and he and father are building our log cabin in imagination. I am sorry my hope is so small--can't see why we should improve much in health at present, when the air is so loaded with miasma, mornings, that it broods over us in its density a long time, and smells as though it had just made its escape from a field of decaying cabbage.
Last night our oxen came not to the house at the usual time. I watched and listened at intervals, until it was getting late, to hear them breaking the oak brushes in their way up to the house; but they came not. The light was long, and seemed so very still and lonely without their company. My husband felt anxious; he feared they had gone towards the Settlement and would get into his cornfield, destroy the corn, and eat so much as to kill themselves. This morni1lg I told him I wanted to go to the Settlement to see if they were there; he told me which trail to take, to lead me to the cornfield, then I knew the way. When one mile from here I mistook, and took the wrong trail, there being so many checkering the prairie. I walked a long way before I discovered my mistake, then thought I must be nearly parallel with the right one, and would keep on and soon came out at the cornfield. The trail led me down into a quiet dell shaded by the sycamore, oak, and black walnut, while the branches of the latter were dropping continually at my feet their large, yellow and precocious nuts; and along close by murmured the little brook over its pebbly falls. The scene was enchanting, and if I had had time, and happiness had dwelt within, could have taken long sips of pure inspiration. I thought, here the wild man and maiden have sat perchance, and breathed into each other's ears their simple lay of love,--here made vows, and here rested, until yonder sun shot his rays aslant the green bower above, and the little brook murmured its eloquence to the dewy eve. I passed this enchanting nook and came out into large fields of what I would call at once, cultivated grain. This wild grain was waving its heads in silence high above my own, and extending acres and acres away. The trail led through,--but felt that I was too much out of my way to come out right. So I retraced my steps--then crossing through the tall grass, almost swamping myself from trail to trail; could not persuade myself that I was on the right track. I have returned to the old Indian house without finding the oxen and am very tired. My husband feels disappointed that I did not find my way. I tell him I will rise early in the morning, and if there is but little dew, will be off in time, to try my luck again.
AUG. 1ST.--Fulfilled my promise in rising early; milked, waited upon calfie to its early meal, led the cow to the spring, made a pudding for breakfast, took mine, hurried away leaving my children still asleep, and the others to get up and take care of themselves. By six o'clock I was out on the damp prairie found where two trails had united; I had taken the left instead of the right. Followed on, and as I began to descend on to the lower prairie--found plenty of wet grass, and was glad my costume was so well adapted to my long, dewy, morning walk. As I neared the cornfield, could see signs of our oxen there. Went on to Mr. Adams'. They said that they had seen nothing of them; I then knew they had gone east toward Missouri, and that I must go to Mr. Stewart's, to see if he could find some one to go and look for them. At Mr. Adams' I found the elder Broadbent; said he was going up to the Indian house to see us; I thanked him for his kindness in making the attempt, told him which trail to take after he had passed the cornfield, and to go and keep them company until I should return. Went on to Mr. Stewart's. Found him making fence a little this side of his cabin; told him my business; he said he would attend to it; and bade me go to the cabin, rest myself and get some dinner. After dinner he told Mr. Blackburn, one of our company, (whose family was still east,) to take the large horse for himself, and the pony that the women folks ride, for me; to go back with me, and then go and look for the open.
I mounted the pony on a man's saddle, and we started off; but it had been so long since I had practiced riding horse-back, and never on a man's saddle, that I could make but very little headway; I felt in a great hurry to get back to my family, for they would need me, and the children would make many inquiries about mamma; so when out of sight of the cabin a little, riding through a large field of tall wild sunflowers all in bloom, I told Mr. B. that I never should get home at such a slow rate, and that I must conform to circumstance, so if he would just ride along a little in advance, I would soon arrange myself to keep, up with him; leaving on my Bloomer with calico pants, I just put a foot into each stirrup, then putting the skirt of my Bloomer all modestly down, rode up alongside of my companion. He made no remark, and like a gentleman, as he was, never seemed to notice my position. But it was surprising to me, to see with what ease, safety, and speed, I could now ride horse-back! I was just following the fashion of the native women of the country that was all! In a short time six miles had vanished, and we were nearing this, our place of abode. My husband's fever was leaving him; he lay out on the piazza on an Indian blanket; he smiled as he saw me alight, saying, "Why, Miriam, what will you do next?
Found father Broadbent visiting with father; he went with me to the spring to help bring water, and as we walked to and from, he tried to comfort me--good old man! with the bright prospects he could see in advance for us, in this beautiful country.
I have nursed up the sick ones, and petted and comforted my children, and we have all refreshed ourselves with our simple meal. Have given father Broadbent an Indian blanket, with a pillow, and told him where to spread it; I am now through with another anxious day; am "weary and heavy laden," Will spread my blanket out here on the piazza, and if there is wind enough to blow away the clouds of mosquitoes that hatch and come from the deep grass, I think I can sleep some.
Oh! Father in Heaven, strengthen all our hearts for what we shall be compelled to undergo; may wee feel that it is divine influence that impels us on may we remember that thy loving kindness and tender mercies are over all thy works, and to thee, O God! do I look in these dark days. Refresh to-night with balmy sleep.