THE Apache village had been represented as located only five or six miles from our camp, but we found the distance nearly twice as great; and although we rode rapidly, our horses being fresh, yet it was quite dark before we reached the first lodge, the location of the rest of the village being tolerably well defined by the apparently countless dogs whose barking at our approach called forth most of the inhabitants of the village.
As our coming had been previously announced by Little Robe and Yellow Bear, our arrival occasioned no surprise. Inquiring of the first we saw where the stream of water was, as an Indian village is invariably placed in close proximity to water, we were soon on our camp ground, which was almost within the limits of the village. Our horses were soon unsaddled and picketed out to graze, fires were started by the men preparatory to the enjoyment of a cup of coffee, and every preliminary made for a good night's rest and early start in the morning. But here the officers of the party encountered their first drawback. From some unexplained cause the pack-mule which carried our blankets had with his attendant failed thus far to put in an appearance.
His head leader had probably fallen behind and in the darkness lost the party. The bugler was sent to a neighboring eminence to sound signals with his bugle in the hope that the absent man with his mule might make his way to us, but all to no purpose. We were soon forced to relinquish all hope of seeing either man, mule, or blankets until daylight, and consequently the prospect of enjoying a comfortable rest was exceedingly limited. Saddle blankets were in great demand, but I was even more fortunate. A large number of the Apaches had come from their lodges out of mere curiosity to see us, hoping no doubt, too, that they might secure something to eat. Among them was one with whom I was acquainted, and to whom I made known the temporary loss of my blankets. By promising him a pint of sugar and an equal amount of coffee on my return to my camp he agreed to loan me a buffalo robe until morning. With this wrapped around me and the aid of a bright blazing camp fire I passed a most comfortable night among my less fortunate companions as we all lay stretched out on the ground, using our saddles for pillows. Early next morning (our pack animals having come up in the night) we were in our saddles, on our way, ready and eager for whatever might be in store for us. The route taken by the guides led us along the northern border of the Wichita Mountains, our general direction being nearly due west. As soon as it had become known in the main camp that the expedition of which I now write was contemplated, young Brewster, who had never relinquished his efforts or inquiries to determine the fate of his lost sister, came to me with earnest request to be taken as one of the party, a request which I was only too glad to comply with. No person who has not lived on the frontier and in an Indian country can correctly realize or thoroughly appreciate the extent to which a frontiersman becomes familiar with, and apparently indifferent to, the accustomed dangers which surround him on every side. It is but another verification of the truth of the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt.
After getting well on our way I began, through Romeo, conversing with the two chiefs, Little Robe and Yellow Bear, who rode at my side, upon the topic which was uppermost in the minds of the entire party: when and where should we probably find their people! Before our departure they had given me to understand that the villages might be found on some one of the small streams flowing in a southerly direction past the western span of the Wichita mountains, a distance from our main camp not exceeding sixty or seventy miles; but I could easily perceive that neither of the chiefs spoke with a great degree of confidence. They explained this by stating that the villages would not remain long in one place and it was difficult to say positively in what locality or upon what stream we should find them ; but that when we reached the last peak of the Wichita Mountains, which commanded an unlimited view of the plains beyond, they would send up signal smoke and perhaps be able to obtain a reply from the village.
In the evening we reached a beautiful stream of water with abundance of wood in the vicinity; here we halted for the night. Our horses were fastened to the trees, while the officers and men spread their blankets on the ground and in groups of twos and threes prepared for the enjoyment of a good night's rest. One sentry remained awake during the night, and in order that the loss of sleep should be as little as might be consistent with our safety the relief, instead of being composed of three men, each of whom would have to remain on duty two hours for every four hours of rest was increased in number so that each member thereof was required to remain on post but a single hour during the night. While I felt confidence in the good intentions of the two chiefs I did not neglect to advise the guards to keep a watchful eye upon them, as we could not afford to run any avoidable risks.
Long after we had sought the solace of our blankets and I had dropped into a comfortable doze I was awakened by an Indian song. There was, of course, no occasion for alarm from this incident, yet it was sufficient to induce me to get up and make my way to the small fire, around which I knew the three Indians and Romeo to be lying, and from the vicinity of which the singing evidently came. As I approached the fire I found Neva, the Blackfoot, replenishing the small flame with a few dried twigs, while Romeo and Yellow Bear were sitting near by enjoying some well-broiled beef ribs. Little Robe was reclining in a half-sitting position against a tree and, apparently oblivious of the presence of his companions, was singing or chanting an Indian melody, the general tenor of which seemed to indicate a lightness of spirits. Young Brewster-unable, perhaps, to sleep, owing to thoughts of his lost sister had joined the group, and appeared an interested observer of what was going on. I inquired of Romeo why Little Robe had selected such an unreasonable hour to indulge in his wild melodies. Romeo repeated the inquiry to Little Robe, who replied that he had been away from his lodge for a long time and the thought of soon returning and of being with his people once more had filled his heart with a gladness which could only find utterance in song.
Taking a seat on the ground by the side of young Brewster, I joined the group. As neither Little Robe nor Yellow Bear could understand a word of English and Neva was busily engaged with his culinary operations, young Brewster, with unconcealed delight, informed me that from conversations with Little Robe, who appeared in a more communicative mood than usual, he felt cheered by the belief that at last he was in a fair way to discover the whereabouts of his captive sister. He then briefly detailed how Little Robe, little dreaming that his listener was so deeply interested in his words, had admitted that the Cheyennes had two white girls as prisoners, the date of the capture of one of them, and the personal description given by Little Robe closely answering to that of Brewster's sister. In the hope of gleaning other valuable information from time to time, I advised the young man not to acquaint the Indians with the fact that he had lost a sister by capture; else, becoming suspicious, the supply of information might be cut off.
The tidings in regard to the captured girls were most encouraging and spurred us to leave no effort untried to release them from the horrors of their situation. Before daylight the following morning we had breakfasted, and as soon as it was sufficiently light to enable us to renew our march we set off, still keeping almost due west. In the afternoon of that day we reached the last prominent peak of the Wichita Mountains, from which point Little Robe and Yellow Bear had said they would send up a signal smoke. I had often during an Indian campaign seen these signal smokes on my front, on my right and left-everywhere, in fact-but could never catch a glimpse of the Indians who were engaged in making them, nor did I comprehend at the time the precise import of the signals. I was glad, therefore, to have an opportunity to stand behind the scenes, as it were, and not only witness the modus operandi, but understand the purpose of the actors.
Arriving at the base of the mountain or peak, the height of which did not exceed one thousand feet, we dismounted, and leaving our horses on the plain below, owing to the rough and rocky character of the ascent, a small portion of our party, including, of course, the two chiefs, climbed to the summit. After sweeping the broad horizon which spread out before us and failing to discover any evidence of the presence of an Indian village anywhere within the scope of our vision, the two chiefs set about to make preparations necessary to enable them to "call to the village," as they expressed it.
I have alluded in a former chapter to the perfect system of signals in use among the Indians of the Plains. That which I am about to describe briefly was but one of many employed by them. First gathering an armful of dried grass and weeds, this was carried and placed upon the highest point of the peak, where, everything being in readiness, the match was applied close to the ground; but the blaze was no sooner well lighted and about to envelop the entire amount of grass collected than Little Robe began smothering it with the unlighted portion. This accomplished, a slender column of gray smoke began to ascend in a perpendicular column. This, however, was not enough, as such a signal, or the appearance of such, might be created by white men or might arise from a simple camp fire. Little Robe now took his scarlet blanket from his shoulders and with a graceful wave threw it so as to cover the smouldering grass, when, assisted by Yellow Bear, he held the corners and sides so closely to the ground as to almost completely confine and cut off the column of smoke. Waiting but for a few moments, and until he saw the smoke beginning to escape from beneath, he suddenly threw the blanket aside and a beautiful balloon shaped column puffed upward, like the white cloud of smoke which attends the discharge of a field piece.
Again casting the blanket on the pile of grass the column was interrupted as before, and again in due time released, so that a succession of elongated, egg-shaped puffs of smoke kept ascending toward the sky in the most regular manner. This beadlike column of smoke, considering the height from which it began to ascend, was visible from points on the level plain fifty miles distant.
The sight of these two Indian chiefs so intently engaged in this simple but effective mode of telegraphing was to me full of interest, and this incident was vividly recalled when I came across Stanley's painting of "The Signal," in which two chiefs or warriors are standing upon a large rock with lighted torch in hand, while far in the distance is to be seen the answering column as it ascends above the tops of the trees from the valley where no doubt the village is pleasantly located. In our case, however, the picture was not so complete in its results. For strain our eager eyes as we might in every direction no responsive signal could be discovered, and finally the chiefs were reluctantly forced to acknowledge that the villages were not where they expected to find them and that to reach them would probably involve a longer journey than we had anticipated. Descending from the mountain, we continued our journey, still directing our course nearly due west as the two chiefs felt confident the villages were in that direction. That day and the next passed without further incident.
After arriving at camp on the second evening a conversation with the two Indian chiefs made it seem probable that our journey would have to be prolonged several days beyond the time which was deemed necessary when we left the main camp. And as our supply of provisions was limited to our supposed wants during the shorter journey, it was necessary to adopt measures for obtaining fresh supplies. This was the more imperative as the country through which we were then passing was almost devoid of game. Our party was so small in number that our safety would be greatly imperilled by any serious reduction, yet it was a measure of necessity that a message should be sent back to General Sheridan, informing him of our changed plans and providing for a renewal of our stores.
I acquainted the men of my command with my desire and it was not long before a soldierly young trooper announced that he would volunteer to carry a despatch safely through. The gallant offer was accepted and I was soon seated on the ground, pencil in hand, writing to General Sheridan a hurried account of our progress thus far and our plans for the future, with a request to forward to us a supply of provisions; adding that the party escorting them could follow on our trail, and I would arrange to find them when required. I also requested that Colonel Cooke, who commanded the sharpshooters, should be detailed to command the escort, and that California Joe might also be sent with the party.
It was decided that the despatch bearer should remain in camp with us until dark and then set out on his return to the main camp. Being well mounted, well armed, and a cool, daring young fellow, I felt but little anxiety as to his success. Leaving him to make his solitary journey guided by the light of the stars, and concealing himself during the day, we will continue our search after what then seemed to us the two lost tribes.
Daylight as usual found us in our saddles, the country continuing interesting but less rolling and (we judge by appearances) less productive. We saw but little game along our line of march and the importance of time rendered delays of kinds undesirable. The countenances of Little Robe and Yellow Bear wore an anxious look, and I could see that they began to doubt their ability to determine positively the locality of the villages. Neva, the Blackfoot, was full of stories connected with his experiences under General Fremont, and appeared more hopeful than the two chiefs. He claimed to be a son-in-law of Kit Carson, his wife, a half breed, being deceased. Carson, it appeared, had always regarded Neva with favor and often made him and his family handsome presents. I afterwards saw a son of Neva, an extremely handsome boy of fourteen, whose comely face and features clearly betrayed the mixture of blood indicated by Neva.
Yellow Bear finally encouraged us by stating by noon the following day we would arrive at a stream, on whose banks he expected @0 find the Arapaho village and perhaps that of the Cheyennes. This gave us renewed hope, and furnished us a topic of conversation after we had reached our camp that night. Nothing occurred worthy of note until about noon next day when Yellow Bear informed me that we were within a few miles of the stream to which he had referred the day before, and added that if the village was there his people would have a lookout posted on a little knoll which we find about a mile from the village in our direction; and as the appearance of our entire force might give alarm, Yellow Bear suggested that he, with Little Robe, Romeo, Neva, myself, and two or three others, should ride some distance in advance.
Remembering the proneness of the Indians to stratagem, I was yet impressed not only with the apparent sincerity of Yellow Bear thus far, but by the soundness of the reasons he gave for our moving in advance. I assented to his proposition, but any confidence was not sufficiently great to prevent me from quietly slipping a fresh cartridge in my rifle as it lay in front of me across my saddle-bow, nor from unbuttoning the strap which held my revolver in place by my side. Fortunately, however, nothing occurred to make it necessary to displace either rifle or revolver. After riding in advance for a couple of miles Yellow Bear pointed out in the distance the little mound at which he predicted we would see something posted in the way of information concerning his tribe. If the latter was not in the vicinity a letter would no doubt be found at the mound, which now became an object of interest to all of us, each striving to be the first to discover the confirmation of Yellow Bear's prediction.
In this way we continued to approach the mound until not more than a mile of level plain separated us from it and still nothing could be seen to encourage us, when, owing to my reason being quickened by the excitement of the occasion, thus giving me an advantage over the chief's, or from other causes, I caught sight of what would ordinarily have been taken for two half-round stones or small boulders, just visible above the upper circle of the mound, as projected against the sky beyond. A second glance convinced me that instead of the stones which they so closely resembled they were neither more nor less than the upper parts of the heads of two Indians, who were no doubt studyin our movements with a view of determining whether we were a friendly or war party.
Reassuring myself by the aid of my field glass, I announced my discovery to the chiefs and the rest of the party. Yellow Bear immediately cantered his pony a few yards to the front, when, freeing his scarlet blanket from his shoulders, he waved it twice or thrice in a mysterious manner and waited anxiously the response. In a moment the two Indians. the tops of whose heads had alone been visible, rode boldly to the crest of the mound and answered the signal of Yellow Bear, who uttered a quick, oft-repeated whoop, and at my suggestion galloped in advance to inform his people who we were and our object in visiting them. By the time we reached the mound all necessary explanations had been made, and two Indians advanced at Yellow Bear's bidding and shook hands with me, afterward going through the same ceremony with the other officers. Yellow Bear then despatched one of the Indians to the village, less than two miles distant, to give news of our approach.
It seemed that they had scarcely had time to reach the village before young and old began flocking out to meet us, some on ponies, others on mules, and occasionally two full-grown Indians would be seen mounted on one diminutive pony. If any of our party had feared that our errand was attended with risk, their minds probably underwent a change when they looked around and upon all sides saw armed warriors whose numbers exceeded ours more than ten to one, and whose entire bearing and demeanor toward us gave promise of any but hostile feelings.
Not deeming it best to allow them to encircle us too closely, I requested Yellow Bear, in whose peaceable desires I had confidence, to direct his people to remain at some distance from us, so as not to impede our progress; at the same time to inform them that it was our purpose to pitch our camp immediately alongside of theirs, when full opportunity would be given for interchange of visits. This proposition seemed to meet with favor and our route was left unobstructed. A short ride brought us to the village, the lodges composing which were dotted in a picturesque manner along the left branch of Mulberry Creek, one of the tributaries of Red River.
I decided to cross the creek and bivouac on the right bank, opposite the lower end of the village and within easy pistol range of the nearest lodge. This location may strike the reader with some surprise, and may suggest the inquiry why we did not locate ourselves at some point farther removed from the village. It must be remembered that in undertaking to penetrate the Indian country with so small a force I acted throughout upon the belief that if proper precautions were adopted the Indians would not molest us. Indians contemplating a battle, either offensive or defensive, are always anxious to have their women and children removed from all danger thereof. By our watchfulness we intended to let the Indians see that there would be no opportunity for them to take us by surprise, but that if fighting was intended it should not be all on one side. For this reason I decided to locate our camp as close as convenient to the village, knowing that the close proximity of their women and children and their necessary exposure in case of conflict would operate as a powerful argument in favor of peace when the question of peace or war came to be discussed.
But right here I will do the Arapahoes justice by asserting that after the first council, which took place in my camp the same evening, and after they had had an opportunity to learn the exact character and object of our mission as told to them by me and confirmed by the earnest addresses of Yellow Bear and Little Robe they evinced toward us nothing but friendly feeling, and exhibited a ready willingness to conform to the only demand we made of them, which was that they should proceed at once with their entire village to our main camp within their reservation, and then report to General Sheridan.
Little Raven, the head chief, spoke for his people and expressed their gratification at the reports brought to them by Yellow Bear and Little Robe. They accepted with gladness the offer of peace, and promised to set out in three days to proceed to our main camp near the site of Fort Sill. As it was quite late before the council concluded the discussion of questions pertaining to the Arapahoes, no reference was made to the Cheyennes; besides, I knew that Little Robe would be able to gather all possible information concerning them.
Little Raven invited me to visit him the following day in his village, an invitation I promised to accept. Before the chiefs separated I requested Little Raven to give notice through them to all his people that after it became dark it would no longer be safe for any of them to approach our camp, as, according to our invariable custom, guards would be posted about camp during the entire night; and as we could not distinguish friends from foes in the darkness, the sentries would be ordered to fire on every object seen approaching our camp. To this Little Raven and his chiefs promised assent. I then further informed him that during our stay near them we should always be glad, during the hours of daylight, to receive visits from him or from any of his people, but to prevent confusion or misunderstanding, not more than twenty Indians would be permitted to visit our camp at one time. This also was agreed to and the chiefs, after shaking hands and uttering the customary "How," departed to their village. Yellow Bear remained only long enough to say that, his family being in the village, he preferred, of course, to be with them, but assured us that his people were sincere in their protestations of peace and that we might sleep as soundly as if we were back among our comrades in the main camp, with no fears of unfriendly interruption.
After tethering our horses and pack mules securely in our midst and posting the guards for the night each one of our little party, first satisfying himself that his firearms were in good order and loaded, spread his blanket on the ground and with his saddle for a pillow, the sky unobscured by tent or roof above him, was soon reposing comfortably on the broad bosom of mother earth, where, banishing from the mind as quickly as possible all visions of Indians, peace commissioners, etc., sleep soon came to the relief of each, and we all, except the guards, rested as peacefully and comfortably as if at home under our mother's roof; and yet we all, in seeking our lowly couches that night, felt that the chances were about even whether or not we should be awakened by the war whoop of our dusky neighbors. Nothing occurred, however, to disturb our dreams or break our slumber, save, perhaps, in my own case.
From a greater sense of responsibility, perhaps, than rested on my comrades, but not greater danger, I awoke at different hours during the night and to assure myself that all was well rose up to a sitting posture on the ground and, aided by the clear sky and bright starlight, looked about me, only to see, however, the dim outlines of my sleeping comrades as they lay in all manner of attitudes around me, wrapped in their blankets of gray, while our faithful horses, picketed in the midst of their sleeping riders, were variously disposed, some lying down, resting from the fatigues of the march, others nibbling the few tufts of grass which the shortness of their tether enabled them to reach. That which gave me strongest assurance of safety, however, as I glanced across the little stream and beheld the conical forms of the white lodges of the Indians was the silent picture of the sentry as he paced his lonely post within a few feet of where I lay. And when to my inquiry, in subdued tones, if all had been quiet during the night, came the prompt, soldierly response, "All quiet, sir," I felt renewed confidence, and again sought the solace of my equestrian pillow.
Breakfasting before the stars bade us good night, or rather good morning, daylight found us ready for the duties of the day. As soon as the Indians were prepared for my visit Yellow Bear came to inform me of the fact, and to escort me to Little Raven's lodge. Romeo and Neva accompanied me, the former as interpreter. I directed Captain Robbins, the officer next in rank, to cause all men to remain closely in camp during my absence and to be careful not to permit more than the authorized number of Indians to enter; also to watch well the Indian village, not that I believed there would be an attempt at stratagem, but deemed it well to be on guard. To convince the Indians of my own sincerity I left my rifle and revolver with my men, a measure of not such great significance as it might at first seem, as the question of arms or no arms would have exercised but little influence in determining my fate had the Indians, as I never for a moment believed, intended treachery.
Arrived at Little Raven's lodge, I found him surrounded by all his principal chiefs, a place being reserved by his side for me. After the usual smoke and the preliminary moments of silence, which strongly reminded me of the deep silence which is the prelude to religious services in some of our churches, Little Raven began a speech which was mainly a review of what had been agreed upon the evening before, and closed with the statement that his people were highly pleased to see white men among them as friends, and that the idea of complying with my demand in regard to proceeding to our main camp had been discussed with great favor by all of his people, who were delighted with this opportunity of terminating the war. All questions affecting the Arapahoes being satisfactorily disposed of, I now introduced the subject of the whereabouts of the Cheyenne village, stating that my purpose was to extend to them the same terms as had been accepted by the Arapahoes.
To this I could obtain no decisive or satisfactory reply. The Cheyennes were represented to be moving constantly, hence the difficulty in informing me accurately as to their location; but all agreed that the Cheyennes were a long distance west of where we then were. Finally, I obtained a promise from Little Raven that he would select two of his active young warriors who would accompany me in my search for the Cheyenne village, and whose knowledge of the country and acquaintance with the Cheyennes would be of incalculable service to me, As the limited amount of provisions on hand would not justify us in continuing our search for the Cheyennes, I decided to await the arrival of Colonel Cooke, who, I felt confident, would reach us in a few days.
In the meanwhile the day fixed for the departure of the Arapahoes came and the village was all commotion and activity, lodges being taken down and packed on ponies and mules ; the activity, I might mention, being confined, however, to the squaws, the noble lords of the forest sitting unconcernedly by, quietly smoking their long red clay pipes. I was sorry to lose the services of Yellow Bear, but it was necessary for him to accompany his people, particularly as he represented the peace element. I gave him a letter to General Sheridan, in which I informed the latter of our meeting with the Arapahoes, the council and the final agreement. In view of the farther extension of our journey I requested a second detachment to be sent on our trail, with supplies, to meet us on our return. Everything being in readiness, the chiefs, commencing with Little Raven, gathered around me and bade me good-by, Yellow Bear being the last to take his leave. This being ended, the entire village was put in motion and soon stretched itself into a long, irregular column.
The chiefs formed the advance; next came the squaws and children and the old men, followed by the pack animals bearing the lodges and household goods; after these came the herd, consisting of hundreds of loose ponies and mules, driven by squaws; while on the outskirts of the entire cavalcade rode the young men and boys, performing the part of assistants to the herders, but more important as flankers or videttes in case of danger or attack. Nor must I omit another important element in estimating the population of an Indian village, the dogs. These were without number and of all colors and sizes. It was difficult to determine which outnumbered the other, the dogs, or their owners. Some of the former were mere puppies, unable to travel; these were carefully stowed away in a comfortable sort of basket, made of willows and securely attached to the back of one of the pack animals, the mother of the interesting family trotting along contentedly by the side of the latter.
After the excitement attending the departure of the Indians had passed and the last glimpse of the departing village had been had, our little party seemed lonely enough as we stood huddled together on the bank of Mulberry Creek. There was nothing to be done until the arrival of our expected supplies. Little Robe, impatient at the proposed delay, concluded to start at once in quest of his people, and if possible persuade them to meet us instead of awaiting out arrival. He evidently was anxious to have peace concluded with the Cheyennes, and thus enable his people to be placed on the same secure footing with the Arapahoes. Instead of opposing, I encouraged him in the execution of his plan, although loath to part with him. The two young Arapahoes were to remain with me, however, and by concert of plan between them and Little Robe we would be able to follow the trail.
It was agreed that if Little Robe should come up with his people and be able to induce them to return he was to send up smoke signals each morning and evening, in order that we might receive notice of their approach and be able to regulate our march accordingly. Giving him a sufficient supply of coffee, sugar, and hard bread, we saw Little Robe set out on his solitary journey in the character of a veritable peace commissioner.
I might fill several pages in describing the various expedients to which our little party resorted in order to dispose of our time while waiting the arrival of our supplies. How Romeo, by the promise of a small reward in case he was successful, was induced to attempt to ride a beautiful Indian pony which we had caught on the plains, and which was still as wild and unbroken as if he had never felt the hand of man. The ground selected was a broad border of deep sand, extending up and down the valley. Two long lariats were securely fastened to the halter. At the end of one was my brother. I officiated at the end of the other, with the pony standing midway between us, some twenty feet from either, and up to his fetlocks in sand, an anxious spectator of what was going on. Everything being in readiness, Romeo, with never a fear or doubt as to the result, stepped quietly up to the side of the pony, who, turning his head somewhat inquiringly, uttered a few snorts indicative of anything but gentleness. Romeo, who was as active as a cat, succeeded in placing his hands on the pony's back, and with an injunction to us to keep firm hold on the lariats he sprang lightly upon the back of the pony and seized the mane.
I have seen trained mules, the delight of boys who attend the circus, and sometimes of persons of more advanced age, and have witnessed the laughable efforts of the youngsters who vainly endeavor to ride the contumacious quadruped once around the ring; but I remember nothing of this description to equal or resemble the frantic plunges of the Indian pony in his untrained efforts to free his back from its burden, nor the equally frantic and earnest efforts of the rider to maintain his position. Fortunately for the holders of the lariats they exceeded the length of the pony's legs, or his heels, which were being elevated in all directions and almost at the same time, would have compelled us to relinquish our hold and leave Romeo to his fate. As both pony and rider seemed to redouble their efforts for the mastery the scene became more ludicrous, while the hearty and prolonged shouts of laughter from the bystanders on all sides seemed only to add intensity to the contest.
This may strike the reader as a not very dignified proceeding, particularly, upon the part of one of the lariat holders; but we were not studying how to appear dignified, but how to amuse ourselves. So exhausted did I become with unrestrained laughter as I beheld Romeo in his lofty gyrations about a center which belonged to the movable order, that a much further prolongation of the sport would have forced me to relinquish my hold on the lariat. But I was spared this result. The pony, as if studying the problem, had indulged in almost every conceivable form of leaping, and now, rising almost perpendicularly on his hind legs, stood erect, pawing the air with his fore legs and compelling Romeo, in order to prevent himself from sliding off, to clasp him about the neck with both arms. The pony seemed almost as if waiting this situation, as with the utmost quickness, and before Romeo could resume his seat, he descended from his elevated attitude and the next moment his head was almost touching the ground, and his heels occupied the space just vacated by his head in mid air. This sudden change was too much for Romeo, and as if projected from an ancient catapult he departed from his place on the back of the pony and landed on the deep, soft sand, many feet in advance of his late opponent. Three times was this repeated with almost the same result until finally Romeo, as he brushed the sand from his matted locks, expressed it as his opinion that no one but an Indian could ride that pony. As Romeo was half Indian, the distinction seemed finely drawn.
Innumerable were the tricks played on each other by one and all; everything seemed legitimate sport which tended to kill time. Three days after the departure of the Arapahoe village the lookout reported that parties were in sight some three or four miles in the direction taken by the village. This created no little excitement in camp. Fieldglasses were brought into immediate requisition, and after a careful examination of the parties who could be plainly seen approaching us the distance, we all came to the conclusion that what we saw must be the escort with our supplies. A few horses were saddled and two of the officers, with some the men, galloped out to meet the advancing party. It proved to be Colonel Cooke with California Joe and a dozen men, bringing with them several pack animals loaded with fresh supplies.
I need not say how we welcomed their arrival. It was too late in the day to make it desirable for us to set out on the trail of Little Robe, as it was necessary to unpack and issue rations and repack the remainder; so that it was concluded to remain until next morning, an additional reason in favor of this resolution being that the horses of Colonel Cooke's party would have the benefit of rest. The account given by Colonel Cooke and California Joe concerning their march was exceedingly interesting. It will be remembered that it was the expectation that we would find the Arapahoe village nearer our main camp than we afterward did, and in my letter to General Sheridan I had intimated that Colonel Cooke would probably overtake us at a point not far from the termination of the Wichita Mountains.
Colonel Cooke arrived at the designated point, but we, of course, had gone, and not finding any letter or signal at our deserted camp he became, not unnaturally, anxious as to where we had gone. This will not be wondered at when it is remembered that he had but thirteen men with him and was then in a hostile country and far from all support. However, he had nothing to do but to continue on our trail. That night will no doubt live long in the memory of Colonel Cooke.
After reaching camp with his little party in a small piece of timber, he, as he afterward related to me, began taking a mental survey of his situation. For fear of misleading the reader, I will here remark, as I have indicated in previous chapters, that fear, or a lack of the highest order of personal courage, was not numbered among the traits of character possessed by this officer. After seeing that the animals were properly secured for the night, and his men made comfortable, he sat down by the camp fire awaiting the preparation of his evening meal. In the meantime California Joe found him, and entered into a discussion as to the probabilities of overtaking us soon, and in a kind of Jack Bunsby style suggested, if not, why not?
The more Colonel Cooke looked at the matter, the more trying seemed his position. Had he known, as we then knew, that the Arapahoes had been found and a peaceful agreement entered into, it would have solved all his difficulty. Of this he of course was ignorant, and thoughts ran through his mind that perhaps my little party had been led on only to be massacred, and his would follow blindly to the same fate. This recalled all former Indian atrocities with which he was familiar, while prominent above them all rose before him the fate of young Kidder and party, whose fate is recorded in a former chapter.
In thinking of this, Colonel Cooke was struck by a coincidence. Kidder's party consisted of almost the identical number which composed his own. Kidder had a guide, and Cooke had California Joe; all of which, without attaching any importance to his words, the latter took pains to remind Colonel Cooke of. By the time supper was prepared Colonel Cooke felt the responsibilities of his position too strongly to have any appetite for food, so that when supper was commenced he simply declined it and invited California Joe to help himself, an invitation the latter was not slow in accepting. Posting his guards for the night, Colonel Cooke felt that to sleep was impossible. He took his seat by the camp fire and with his arms by his side impatiently waited the coming of dawn.
California Joe, who regarded the present as of far more importance than the future, and whose slumber would have been little disturbed even had he known that hostile Indians were soon to be encountered, disposed of Colonel Cooke's supper, and then, wrapping himself up in his blanket, stretched himself under a tree near the fire and was soon sleeping soundly. His brief account of the enjoyment he derived from Colonel Cooke's supper was characteristic: "thar I sot an' sot a eatin' uv that young man's wittles, while he in his cavalry boots, with his pistol in his belt, stood a lookin' inter the fire."
Early next morning, as soon as the light was sufficient to enable them to follow our trail, Colonel Cooke and his party were on their way. About noon, as they were passing over a low ridge, yet sufficiently high to enable them to see for miles beyond, the eyes of one of the party caught a view of a long line of dark-looking objects miles in advance, yet directly in their path. Each moment the objects became more distinct, until finally Colonel Cooke, who was studying them intently through his glass, pronounced the simple word, "Indians." "Ef that is so, Colonel, thar's a many one uv 'em," was the sober response of California Joe, who rode at his side.
By this time the Indians could be plainly seen, although numbers of them continued to gallop up from the rear. It was evident from their movements that they had discovered Colonel Cooke's party almost as soon as he had seen them, and that the entire body of Indians was directing its march toward the little eminence from which the white men were now watching their movements, "What do yer think about it now, Colonel?" said California Joe, at last breaking the silence. "Well, Joe, we must do the best we can; there is no use in running." "You're right," replied Joe; an Injun 'll beat a white man runnin' every time, so I 'spect our best holt is fitin', but, Lor' a' mercy! look at 'em; thar ain't enuff uv us to go half round!"
Getting his little party collected in good order, and speaking words of encouragement to all, Colonel Cooke quietly awaited further developments. His thoughts in the meanwhile must have been such as he probably never wishes to indulge in again, All sorts of terrible visions and ideas flashed through his mind; the most prominent as well as plausible being that the Indians had made away with my party and from Little Robe and Yellow Bear had learned of the expected supplies, with their small escort, and were now in search of the latter. Whatever varied thoughts of this character chased each other through his brain, he at once came to the firm resolve that whatever fate was in store for him he would meet it like a soldier, and if the worst came he would fight to the last.
By this time it was seen that a single Indian was galloping in advance of the rest, as if hastening to reach the white men. "That's a queer dodge," remarked California Joe; but the mystery was soon cleared away as the Indian began to draw near to the party without slackening his pace. Colonel Cooke and California Joe instinctively advanced to meet him, when to their great joy and surprise it proved to be none other than the faithful Yellow Bear, who, realizing the situation, had ridden in advance of his people in order to assure the whites of their friendly character. His coming no doubt caused the hearts of Colonel Cooke and his party to beat lighter. Or, as California Joe expressed it: "When I seed it wuz Yaller Bar I knowed we wuz all right." From Yellow Bear Colonel Cooke learned where he might expect to find us, and thus another cause of anxiety was lifted from his mind.
The morning after my party had been reinforced by the arrival just described, we set out under guidance of Neva and the two young Arapahoe warriors and followed the direction in which Little Robe had gone. It being one of the winter months, the Indian ponies were still in unfit condition to make long or rapid marches; for this reason the two Arapahoes had left their ponies with the village and were accompanying or rather Preceding us on foot; an undertaking which they seemed to have no difficulty in accomplishing. The grazing became more indifferent each day as we journeyed toward the west, until finally we ceased to rely upon it, but as a substitute fed our horses upon the bark of the young cottonwood trees which are generally found fringing the borders of the streams. In spite, however, of our utmost care our horses and pack animals, having exhausted their supply of forage, began to fail in strength and condition under their cottonwood bark diet.
After reaching and crossing Red River at a point west of that at which the survey of Marcy and McClellan crossed it, and failing to discover any indication of the recent occupation of the ground by Indians, I had fears that if I prolonged my journey much farther our animals would not be able to reach the main camp, so famished had they become in the last few days. I therefore, after consultation with Neva and the two Arapahoes, decided to recross to the north bank of Red River and follow up its course until we should reach a small tributary coming in from the northwest, and which Neva informed me would furnish a good camp ground. In the meanwhile Neva, who was well mounted on a hardy, active mule, was to take with him the two young Arapahoes and push on in advance in search of the Cheyenne village, the understanding being that I should follow in his direction until the stream referred to was reached, where I would await his return three days. Should he fail to rejoin us in that time, we would commence our march to the main camp.
When it was known that this plan had been settled upon, young Brewster, who never a moment had become discouraged as to his final success in discovering his lost sister, came to me and in the most earnest manner asked permission to accompany Neva in his search for the Cheyenne village. I did everything I could to dissuade him from so dangerous a project. No arguments were of any avail. He felt satisfied that his sister was a prisoner in the Cheyenne village, and this was his last and only opportunity to gain a knowledge of the fact; and even if the chances of death or torture staring him in the face he preferred to risk all and learn the truth rather than live longer in a state of horrible uncertainty. Against my judgment in the matter, I was forced by his importunate manner to grant him permission to accompany Neva.
Taking a suitable amount of supplies with them, the three Indians and young Brewster set out, Neva being the only one of the party mounted. After they had left us we moved In the same direction, with the intention of halting on the stream indicated by Neva, there to await their return. While the reader Is also waiting their return, I will refer to an Incident which should have appeared in an earlier part of this chapter. It was neither more nor less than what might, among fashionable notices in the Indian press, provided they had one, have been termed an elopement in high life.
One evening after we had gone into camp many long weary miles from our point of starting, and when we supposed we had left all the Kiowas safely in camp awaiting the release of their two chiefs, Lone Wolf and Satanta, we were all surprised to see a young and handsome Kiowa warrior gallop into our midst accompanied by a young squaw, who certainly could not have reached the age which distinguishes the woman from the girl. In a few moments our little party gathered about these two wayfarers, eager to learn the cause of their sudden and unexpected visit. The girl was possessed of almost marvelous beauty, a beauty so remarkable that my companions of that march refer to her to this day as the most beautiful squaw they have ever seen. Her graceful and well-rounded form, her clearly-cut features, her dark expressive eyes, fringed with long silken lashes, checks rich with the color of youth, teeth of pearly whiteness occasionally peeping from between her full, rosy lips, added withal to a most bewitching manner, required not the romance of her story to make her an object of deep interest in the eyes of the gallants of our party. But to their story:
She was the daughter of Black Eagle, at that time the acting head chief of the Kiowas. The young warrior who rode at her side was somewhat of a young Lochinvar in disposition. It was the old, old story, only to be repeated again by these representatives of the red man-mutual and determined love on the part of the youngsters, opposition equally determined upon the part of Black Eagle; not that the young warrior was objectionable, but unfortunately, as is but too often the case, he was poor, and could not offer in exchange for the hand of a chief's daughter the proper number of ponies. Black Eagle was inexorable-the lovers, constancy itself. There was but one thing for them to do, and they did it.
Aware of our proposed expedition in search of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, they timed their affairs accordingly. Giving us time to get two days the start, they slipped away from their village at dusk the evening of the second day after our departure, and hastening unperceived to a thicket near by, where the lover had taken the precaution to conceal two of the fleetest ponies of the village already saddled, they were soon in their saddles and galloping for love and life away from the Kiowa village. I say galloping for life, for by the Indian law if the father or relatives of the girl could overtake the lovers within twenty-four hours the life of the young woman would pay the forfeit.
They followed our trail in order to avail themselves of our protection by travelling with us as far as our course might lead them in the direction of the Staked Plains, on the borders of which a straggling band of Kiowas under the chief Woman Heart was supposed to be, and which the lovers intended to join, at least until the rage of paterfamilas should subside and they be invited to return. This In brief was their story. I need not add that they found a hearty welcome in our midst and were assured that they need no longer fear pursuit.
That evening after the camp fires were lighted the officers of our party, with Romeo as interpreter, gathered about the camp fire of the bridal couple and passed a pleasant hour in conversation. Their happiness and exultation at their success in escaping from their village was too powerful to be restrained, and in many delicate little ways the bride-for by Indian law twenty-four hours' absence from the village with her lover made her a bride-plainly betrayed her exceeding fondness for him who had risked all to claim her as his own.
After my return to the main camp I met Black Eagle and informed him that his daughter and her husband had been companions of our march. "Yes. Why did you not kill him?" was his reply, which upon inquiry he explained by saying that if some person had kindly put an end to the life of his son-in-law it would have benefited him to the value of several ponies; his difficulty seeming to be in overcoming the loss of the ponies which should have been paid for his daughter's hand. I afterwards learned, however, that the haughty chief became reconciled to the wilful lovers and invited them to return to his lodge, an invitation they were not tardy in accepting.
We pitched our camp at the point agreed upon between Neva and myself, and prepared to await the return of his party. Neva had been informed that our delay could not extend beyond three days, as our store of provisions and forage was almost exhausted, and this fact alone would force us to retrace our steps, I had hoped that during the time we were to spend in camp hunting parties might be able to bring in a sufficient amount of game to satisfy our wants; but although parties were despatched in all directions not an animal or bird could be found. So barren was the country as to offer no inducements that would attract game of any species.
Our last ounce of meat had been eaten and the men, after one day's deprivation of this essential part of their rations, were almost ravenous. Our horses had several days since eaten their last ration of grain and the grass was so sparse and indifferent as to furnish insufficient diet to sustain life. Resort was had to cottonwood bark, to obtain which we cut down large numbers of the trees and fed our horses upon the young bark of the branches. Knowing that in answer to my second request supplies of provisions both for men and horses must be on their way and probably near to us, I determined to begin our return march one day sooner than I had expected when Neva and his companions left us, as they would be able on finding our camp to follow our trail and overtake us.
We moved only a few miles, but even this short distance was sufficient to demonstrate how weak and famished our horses had become, one of them dying from starvation before we reached camp the first day of our return march. This circumstance, however, was turned to our advantage. Much has been said and written in praise of the savoriness of horseflesh as a diet. Our necessities compelled us to put this question to practical test, and the animal had scarcely fallen, unable to rise again, when it was decided to prepare his carcass for food. That evening the men treated themselves to a bountiful repast made up of roasts, steaks, and broils, all from the flesh of the poor animal, whose death was attributable to starvation alone. Judging however from the jolly laughter which rang through camp at supper time, the introduction of this new article of diet met with a cordial reception.
Soon after finishing our supper we discovered in the distance and following in our trail a horseman. We at once concluded that this must be Neva, a fact rendered conclusive by the aid of a field-glass. Various were the surmises indulged in by the different members of our party as to the success of Neva's mission. What had become of his companions, Particularly young Brewster? These and many other inquiries suggested themselves as we watched his approach. We could almost read the answer on Neva's face when be reached us as to the success of his search for the Cheyennes. Disappointment, hunger, and fatigue were plainly marked in his features as he dismounted and shook hands with us.
Knowing that one of the characteristics of the Indian is to talk but little until the wants of the inner man have been fully attended to, I at once ordered him a steak. One of the party, however, fearing that if he knew the exact character of the diet offered him he might from some superstitious cause decline it, suggested that Neva be asked if he would like a nice buffalo steak, a deception which seemed somewhat justifiable under the circumstances. To this Neva returned a hearty affirmative, when one of the men placed before him a raw steak whose dimensions would have amply gratified the appetites of an ordinary family of half a dozen. Having held the steak over the blazing fire until sufficiently done to suit his taste, Neva seated himself on the ground near by and began helping himself liberally to the dripping morsel. After he had indulged for some time in this pleasing entertainment, and having made no remark, one of the officers inquired of him if he was hungry.
"Yes," was his reply, but added in his very indifferent English, "Poor buffano, poor buffano." None of us ever informed him of the little deception which had been practiced upon him.
His account of his journey was brief, He had travelled nearly due west, accompanied by Brewster and the two young Arapahoes, and had discovered a trail of the Cheyenne village some two weeks old leading still farther to the west, and under circumstances which induced him to believe the village had moved far away. Under these circumstances there was no course left to him but to return. The Arapahoes decided to follow on and join the Cheyenne village. Neva and young Brewster began their return together, but the latter, being unable to travel as fast as Neva, fell behind. Neva, anxious to keep his promise and rejoin us at the time and place indicated, pushed forward as rapidly as possible. Young Brewster, however, manfully struggled along, and reached our camp a few hours after Neva's arrival.
The next morning we set out on our homeward or return march. During the night one of our horses strayed away from camp and as one of the men thought he could find it before we made our start in the morning, he left camp with that purpose. Failing to rejoin us at the proper time, I sent parties in search of him, but they returned unsuccessful. We were compelled by our necessities to move without further delay. Weeks and months elapsed, and no tidings of the lost trooper reached us, when one day while encamped near Fort Hays, Kansas, hundreds of miles from the locality of which I am now writing, who should step up to my tent but the man who was lost from us in northwestern Texas. He had become bewildered after losing sight of our camp, took the wrong direction, and was never able thereafter during his wanderings to determine his course. Fortunately he took a southerly route, and after nearly two months of solitary roaming over the plains of northern Texas he arrived at a military post south of Red River in Texas, and by way of Galveston, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, rejoined his regiment in Kansas. As we gained the crest of the hill from which we obtained a view of the white tents which formed our camp, there was no one of our little party who did not enjoy a deep feeling of gratitude and thankfulness that our long and trying journey was about to end under happier auspices than many might have supposed when we began it.