COUNTRY

The captain’s party returned from To hausen’s village about sunset.
He said that he had had an amicable and satisfactory talk with the
old chief and his followers, all of whom reiterated their former
professions of friendship for the whites and declared that they would
have no intercourse with the hostiles.

“We’ve got to take that,” said Wild Bill, who had been interpreter at
the talk, “with a grain of salt, for while I was there I found out, by
pumping some of their youngsters and women, that they were pretty well
posted about the whole affair up to the time that Lieutenant Wilson put
in an appearance and stampeded them this morning, which goes to show
that a few of To hausen’s bucks were with Satank up to that time; and
in the stampede these fellows must have skedaddled back to To hausen’s
camp and told about the fight as far as they had been in it. But they
didn’t seem to know about our part of the fight up the creek nor about
old Broken Nose and this other Indian getting their medicine here. I
told them about that part of it. And, to make it appear like old Nosey
had gotten just what was coming to him, I told them that the man who
got away with him was the same one that old Nosey had tried to burn up
when he set fire to the grass out in the bottom that day.”

“Good for you, Bill!” exclaimed Jack. “I don’t want to rob Peck of the
credit, but it’s better to let his people think that I evened up with
the old rascal at last.”

After supper, as night settled down, the cold wind reminded us of
another difficulty that few of us had yet thought of. What were we to
do for bedding for the soldiers who had come away from the garrison in
a hurry without any thought of being out overnight?

About tattoo the rattling of a wagon was heard out on the trail toward
Fort Larned. It seemed impossible that Tom could be coming back from
the fort so soon with our mule team, but a wagon was approaching from
that direction.

We were all out upon the bank looking and listening and speculating as
to who the coming parties could be when we heard the sentry on that
side of the grounds challenge: “Halt! Who comes there?” And then,
apparently assuming the right to pass upon the credentials of the
newcomers without the regulation formality of calling for the sergeant
of the guard, the sentry admitted two mounted men, who came cantering
up to the camp-fire.

The arrivals were two troopers who reported that a little way behind
them two six-mule teams were coming, escorted by a dozen cavalrymen
under charge of a sergeant. They had been sent out by the commanding
officer, at Tom’s suggestion, as quickly as they could be hitched up
after our team with the wounded men had arrived at the fort.

In a few minutes the teams and escort came up, admitted by the sentry.
We soon learned the results of Tom’s trip. The badly wounded soldier,
Dolan, had died shortly after Tom’s arrival at the post. On reaching
the fort Tom drove immediately to the adjutant’s office and reported
to the commanding officer the result of the fight and the condition of
the wounded, and then hurried on to the hospital, followed by the major
and several other officers and soldiers, all eager to learn all the
particulars.

By this time Tom’s wounded leg had made him so lame that he realized
the impossibility of his returning to our camp with the supplies; and
our mule team, also, was not in condition to return immediately, so
he suggested to the major that a couple of six-mule teams be quickly
hitched up and started under escort for the camp with rations and feed
for Saunders’ men and horses; and he very thoughtfully, also, advised
sending the blankets of Saunders’ troopers, all of which was promptly
ordered.

One team would have been ample to have taken the supplies to Saunders,
but Tom calculated that by sending two the second team, in the absence
of our own, could be used, in returning next day, to move our plunder
into the post.

Captain Saunders could not say enough in praise of the old man’s
forethought and unselfishness. “He is certainly a valuable man among
soldiers,” he said, “for he always seems to know what to do and how to
do it.”

“Cap,” interjected Wild Bill, “you will please bear in mind that I
suggested that Tom was the man to send on that trip.”

“So you did,” admitted Saunders, “and you certainly knew your man.”

I had assigned the use of our tent to Captain Saunders’ guard detail;
and by stuffing a bale of skins into the mouth of the tunnel under the
tripod, to stop the draught, and carrying the other bales outside, they
made for themselves very comfortable quarters.

The other men made their beds on the open prairie, outside the tent,
with their saddles for pillows; and most of them turned in early, to
get out of the cold night wind and from weariness, while a few still
sat around the camp-fire talking over the events of the day.

The officers and Wild Bill prepared to sleep with us in the cabin, and
after we had spread down our beds I spoke to Bill about the events of
the morning and the loss of his horse.

“Yes,” said he, “there ain’t but one horse in the country that’s as
good as my Charlie, and maybe a little better in some ways, and that’s
your Black Prince; and I’m going to try to coax you boys to sell me
that horse because I’ve fell in love with him and I need him bad in my
business.”

“Why, Bill,” said Jack, laughing heartily at the scout’s guilelessness,
“you ain’t no sort of a horse trader. When you want to buy a man’s
horse you should run him down and make him out no account instead of
bragging on him.”

“If I was dealing with horse-jockeys I might do that way,” returned
Bill, “but when I’m a-dealing with honest men who I know won’t take any
advantage of me I like to deal on the square with them; and I tell you,
honest Injun, that Black Prince is about the best horse I ever threw a
leg over. I’ve heard that you boys have refused an offer of two hundred
and fifty dollars from some of the officers at the fort. Now, I’ll tell
you what I’ll do, I’ll give you three hundred for him; and if that
ain’t enough I’ll give you more. I ain’t got the money with me, but
when we get over to the fort I can get it from Weisselbaum. Now, what
do you say to that?”

It was amusing to listen to the unsophisticated proposition of this
free-hearted, unselfish fellow. He did not take into consideration
that he had just rendered each of us a service of far greater value
than several such horses. He did not consider that we were in any way
indebted to him on account of his horse being killed in our service.
No; that was merely one of the misfortunes of war.

But Tom, Jack, and I, although we had not said a word to each other
about it, had each mentally decided that we ought to present the black
horse to Wild Bill to make good his loss and to show our appreciation
of his manly response and priceless service in our hour of need.

In reply to his question, “What do you say?” and an expressive look
from Jack, I said:

“Not having consulted my partners about the matter, Bill, of course I
can’t speak for them, but I think it’s a safe guess that you’ll get
the horse; and there is plenty of time in the future to settle on the
price.”

“Well, now, that’s the way I like to hear you talk,” said he with a
gratified smile. “When we get over to the fort, you and Jack can talk
it over with Tom and let me know the price you agree on, and I’ll dig
up the money.”

The night passed quietly. As Bill had said, the hostiles had been too
badly whipped to think of returning to attack us. After breakfast next
morning the horses were saddled and the wagons packed; and marching out
on the Fort Larned trail, the company moved first in “column of fours,”
followed by the two six-mule teams, and then came the “cavvy-yard,”
driven by the men of the guard acting as “rear-guard.” Bill, Jack, and
I rode at the head of the column with the company officers.

As we reached the crest of the grade coming onto the upland, about two
miles from our recent camp, with the officers we turned out on the
side of the trail as the command marched by, to take a parting look
at Camp Coyotelope; and we noticed what appeared to be a number of
Indians–some mounted and some afoot–moving about in the vicinity of
the dugouts.

“Some of To hausen’s people,” suggested Bill, “looking after the bodies
of old Nosey and his pard and gathering up the leavings about the old
camp. They’ll take them two dead bucks back to their camp and bury
them.”

I had dismounted and taken out our field-glass to get a better view
of the Indians and verified the scout’s surmise, for I could plainly
see a group gathered about the body of each of the two dead Indians,
apparently lifting them onto their ponies.

“There, Peck,” said Bill, noticing the field-glass I held, “is another
thing I’d like to buy or trade you out of, for I got mine broke
yesterday morning when my horse fell with me; and I need glasses, and
you’re going back to Leavenworth where you can easy get another pair.”
As he took the glass to examine it, he asked: “How much is it worth?”

“It cost us twenty dollars in Leavenworth,” I replied. “They are handy
things to have on the plains, but we won’t need it much going back
to the settlements. I’ll speak to Tom about it and I guess we’ll let
you have it when we get ready to start on the home-stretch from Fort
Larned.”

“Well, it ought to be worth more out here than it cost you in
Leavenworth and I’ll pay you whatever you think it’s worth. Of course,
I ain’t got the money now, for it’s going to take all I can borrow, I
reckon, to pay you for this horse; but if you’ll trust me till I come
in to Leavenworth, I’ll pay you then–that is I’m supposing that you
fellows will hang up in Leavenworth for a while–anyway, till you blow
in your money.”

“Well, as to Tom and me,” remarked Jack, “I believe each of us has
planned to take a trip East when we get in, but I think it’ll be a
safe wager that you’ll find Peck about Leavenworth, for there’s a
curly-headed girl there that he talks about in his sleep.”

“Well, that do settle it,” said Bill with a chuckle and a wink at Jack.

As we passed over the recent battle-field, we rode around and looked at
the bodies of all the dead Kiowas, hoping though hardly expecting to
find Satank, but were disappointed–the murderous old fiend had escaped
again. These bodies were all considerably torn by the wolves, but their
features were still in good enough condition to have enabled us to
identify him had he been among the fallen. An inscrutable Providence
permitted this bloodthirsty demon to roam the plains for several years
longer.

As we neared the post, several officers and soldiers came out to meet
us, anxious to hear all about the fight. The cavvy-yard of captured
ponies, with their Indian saddles and bridles, together with other
trophies of the fight carried by Saunders’ men, attracted much
attention. Saunders’ men seemed much elated over the fact that this,
their first engagement with the Indians, had been so successfully
planned and executed.

As the captain with his company turned off to their stable, Bill, Jack,
and I, accompanied by the six-mule team carrying our plunder, moved on
through the garrison and established our camp about a half mile below,
in a snug bend of Pawnee Fork.

After unloading our stuff from the wagon, we sent the team back to the
garrison and then set about pitching our tent and making ourselves
comfortable, for we expected to have to remain here several days,
partly on Tom’s account and partly to wait for Kitchen’s train, which
was coming in from New Mexico, by which we expected to ship our
wolfskins to Leavenworth, provided we did not sell them here.

After getting everything in shape, leaving Jack to mind camp and cook
dinner, Bill and I returned to the post to call on Tom at the hospital,
to release Found, who was still locked in Bill’s room, and to bring our
mule team back to camp.

We found the old man still badly crippled from the wound in his thigh,
but the doctor thought he would be able to travel in a few days.

The faithful dog was glad to see us and to be released. He was quite
hungry, for he had had nothing to eat since the feed I gave him in the
dugout before starting him with the message to Bill.

As I was hitching up our mule team at Saunders’ company stable, the
captain came by and insisted on my going with him to the commissary and
loading in some rations and feed which he had procured a requisition
for, to replace the supplies that his men and horses had consumed at
Camp Coyotelope.

The work of settling up our business affairs and getting everything
ready for the return trip now devolved upon me, though I had the
benefit of consultation with Tom on all matters of importance.

As already stated, our winter’s catch of wolfskins numbered something
over three thousand. These were all dried and baled in one of
Weisselbaum’s warerooms. About one fourth of these pelts were of the
large gray wolves, or “lobos,” as the Mexicans call them, which, at
that time, were rated on the plains at one dollar and twenty-five cents
each. The other three fourths were coyotes, worth seventy-five cents
each. Besides these, there were several bales of the skins of the
little yellow fox, worth twenty-five cents each. At these figures, the
entire lot should bring us something over twenty-six hundred dollars.
On Tom’s advice I offered the whole to Weisselbaum for twenty-five
hundred, but he seemed to think he could get them for less and held off.

One day when negotiations had reached this stage, Kitchen’s mule train
rolled in and camped near us. This brought business to a focus with
Weisselbaum and he immediately hurried down to our camp, accepted my
offer, and wrote me out a check on Clark & Gruber[E] (M. E. Clark &
E. H. Gruber), bankers of Leavenworth city, for twenty-five hundred
dollars. In addition to this, I drew from his safe the three hundred
and fifty dollars that we had deposited with him.

It is a well-known fact that in the dry, pure atmosphere of the plains,
flesh wounds heal with astonishing rapidity. It may have been, in Tom’s
case, that the satisfactory closing up of our business affairs had
something to do with it, but about this time Jack and I were astonished
as well as pleased to see Tom come limping into camp and report for
duty.

Bill had sent word by Tom that he, Captain Saunders, and Lieutenant
Wilson were coming down to take supper with us, and just after retreat
all three rode into camp accompanied by Found.

“Now, boys,” said Bill as he dismounted and tied Black Prince to the
wagon, “you haven’t told me yet how much you’re going to tax me for
this horse, and if you’ll let me know I’ll go right up to Weisselbaum’s
and get the greenbacks for you, for he said he’d let me have them.”

“We’ve talked the matter over, Bill,” said Tom, speaking for our party,
“an’ have concluded that, seeing as how you lost your best horse in our
service, and in consideration of the good service you’ve done us all
the way along, an’ old-time friendship and so forth, that it’ll be no
more’n right for us to make you a present of Black Prince, subject only
to the condition that if the rightful owner of the horse ever turns up
and claims him you’ll then have to make terms with him; but that’s a
very remote possibility.”

“Do you mean it, Tom? Is that so, boys?” asked the scout in confused
astonishment at such good luck as he looked around from one to another
of us. “Am I to have that fine horse without paying you a dollar?”

“That’s what! That’s the job we’ve put up on you,” we replied.

“Well, now, boys–” stammered Bill in a diffident sort of way as he
seemed to be trying to study up a nice little speech of thanks.

“Aw, give us a rest!” interrupted old Tom in his rough and good-humored
effort to help Bill out of his embarrassment. “The horse is yours, and
I don’t want to hear anything more out of you about it.”

Knowing that Bill was an expert shot with rifle or pistol, it had
occurred to me, since he had expressed a desire to buy our field-glass,
to exact of him a sample of his marksmanship as his signature to a
promissory note for the price of the glass; and accordingly I had
selected the ace of diamonds from our old, much-soiled deck of cards
and had written across the face of it:

[Illustration:

$20.
On demand, after date, I promise to pay
to R. M. Peck the sum of Twenty Dollars,
($20.), for value received.

his

Wild [diamond] Bill.

mark.

FORT LARNED, KAN.
Mar. 17, 1862.]

“But, Bill,” I put in after Tom had cut him off short about the horse,
“I ain’t going to let you off so cheap on that field-glass deal. You’ll
have to give me your note for the twenty dollars.”

“Well, I guess I can borrow that much from Cap Saunders or Mr. Wilson,
here, and pay you the cash,” he replied.

“No, I don’t want the money–I want your note written on this card,
signed by a bullet shot by you through the centre of the ace at ten
paces.”

Saying which, I produced the card I had prepared and read the
inscription to him.

“Now, I’ll tack the card up on this tree here,” I continued, “and you
are to stand with your back against the card, pistol in hand, step off
ten paces, ’bout face, and fire a bullet through the ace. And if you
don’t knock the centre out it’s no go–I’ll have to write another note
on another ace and you’ll have to try it again.”

“Huh! that’s easy,” said Bill with a grin of confidence. “You won’t
have to waste any more of your cards.”

I knew he could do it, even at twenty paces, for I had seen him
perform such feats before. With the utmost indifference, he backed
up to the card on the tree, stepped off ten paces–good, long-legged
measure–made a graceful “officer’s about face,” instantly firing,
without apparently taking aim, as he came around facing the card; and
we could all see the hole in the centre of the bright-red ace.

“By George, that’s good shooting!” exclaimed Saunders in unfeigned
astonishment. “Can you do it again, Bill, or was that just an accident?”

“I’ll put another ball in the same hole for you,” replied the scout
carelessly as he threw up his pistol and fired.

Saunders’ and Wilson’s incredulity prompted them to step up to the tree
and examine the card closely.

“Guess you must have missed the whole tree that time, Bill,” said the
captain after scrutinizing the card and tree carefully. “The hole isn’t
made any larger that I can see and I can’t find any other hole in the
tree.”

“Of course not. I didn’t want to spoil the card; but the second bullet
is in there, right on top of the first one, and I’ll bet a horse on it.
Now, stand out of the way till I show you another trick. I’m going to
take off the right-hand point of the diamond this time.”

And at the crack of his pistol the right point disappeared–the last
hole just cutting into the edge of the first one.

“Now, look out for the left-hand point.”

And the left point was gone–all the red being obliterated but a little
streak above and below the first hole.

“There, Peck,” he remarked regretfully as he began reloading his
pistol, “I had to pretty nigh spoil the card to show these fellows I
wasn’t a-faking.”

“Don’t that beat the devil?” remarked Wilson, looking from the target
to Bill and from Bill to the target in undisguised astonishment.

“Well, I’ve heard of such phenomenal shooting,” said Saunders, “but
never saw the like before and wouldn’t have believed it possible if I
hadn’t seen it. Ain’t there some trick about it, Bill?”

“Not as I know of–nothing but what you’ve seen. Now, if you think that
second shot missed the tree, Cap,” remarked the scout as he took down
the card and passed it around for inspection, “take that axe, there,
and chop ’em all out, and if you don’t find four navy balls in there
I’ll eat the chips.”

Lieutenant Wilson seized the axe and soon cut out the four battered but
distinct bullets.

“I’d give a good deal if I could shoot like that. How do you do it,
Bill?” asked the captain.

“Dunno how I do it,” replied the scout. “I always could put my bullets
about where I wanted to and can’t tell how I do it, either. I don’t
try very hard, but just throw her up and turn loose without taking
any particular aim, and somehow the ball goes right where I look. Of
course, I keep in good practice, and that helps some, I suppose.”

“Practice won’t explain it, captain,” said old Tom. “It’s a gift–a
natural talent that some men find themselves possessed of. The same
as some men have the natural gift of writing a beautiful hand, and do
it with all ease, while others, with ever so much practice, can only
acquire moderate skill. Now, Peck, Jack, or me, by constant practice,
can do fairly well with a pistol or rifle; but we can’t hold a candle
to Bill. The best we could probably do, on an average, at fifteen to
twenty paces, would be to put three to four bullets out of six in a
playing-card, which would be good shooting at a man, but Bill can
put every ball just where he wants ’em to go. I’ve seen him shoot at
a five-spot and put a ball in each spot just as somebody would call
them off to him, like this, ‘Centre! upper right! upper left! lower
right! lower left!’ putting the balls through the centre of each spot
as accurately as you could punch them with a nail and hammer. And he
can do nearly as well, too, mounted and on the run. But, come, men,
supper’s getting cold.”

After supper, although his recently wounded arm was still somewhat
sore, Jack got out his fiddle and played several tunes, and we all
joined in singing songs.

In course of conversation I had asked Captain Saunders what had become
of my former patron, Lieutenant Lang, not having seen him about the
garrison recently.

“Oh, Lang’s out and gone–resigned by special request. Went in on
the last Santa Fé mail-coach,” replied the captain. “Although you
straightened up his company papers and saved him–or his rich daddy,
rather–from having to pay Uncle Sam a lot of money to square up
his accounts, still it was evident in many ways that he was totally
incompetent to manage a company, and he was given a hint from
headquarters that his resignation would be acceptable.”

Tom, Jack, and I had previously discussed the propriety of our making
a present of some kind to the two officers, in testimony of our
appreciation of their extremely prompt and timely response in the hour
of our extremity, and, as we had nothing else available or appropriate,
we had decided to abandon the plan of each having made a fine fur
overcoat out of some of our beaver and otter skins and to give to each
officer enough of the furs for that purpose.

At late bedtime, when the officers and Bill were getting ready to start
back to the garrison, Tom brought out and gave to Saunders and Wilson
each a package of beaver skins, telling them of the overcoats we had
intended to make of them and suggesting that they use them for the same
purpose. We also gave each officer a couple of choice buffalo robes.

“Now, men,” said Saunders deprecatingly, “don’t rob yourselves of these
furs to reward us for doing our simple duty. We don’t expect anything
of the kind, are not entitled to any reward, and I don’t think we ought
to accept them, and—-”

“But, Saunders,” interrupted Lieutenant Wilson, “when you come to think
of the princely overcoats these beaver furs will make, it seems to me
there would be no harm in accepting them–not as pay for doing our
duty but just as tokens of friendship and good-will from these men.”

“Now you’re getting it through you,” said Tom approvingly. “That’s the
idea–just a friendly gift.” And before Saunders could enter another
remonstrance he added, as he gathered up an armful of the robes and
skins: “Come, Jack, bring the rest and we’ll tie them on their horses
for them.”

As the three men mounted we bade them a cordial good-by and expressed
a hope to soon meet them again in Leavenworth. We each gave Found an
affectionate farewell hug, for we sincerely regretted parting with him.

“You’d best keep Found tied up for a few days, Bill,” suggested Jack as
they started off, “lest he should scent our trail and follow us. And
always take good care of him, for he’s got more genuine nobility in him
than lots of the so-called men I’ve met with.”

“You bet Found’ll never want for good treatment while I’m around,”
answered Bill; and then, “Ta, ta, fellows, I’ll see you in Leavenworth
before long,” he called back as they rode away into the darkness.

During this day Mr. Kitchen, the proprietor of the neighboring train,
had visited our camp and, after inspecting our wagon, team, and camp
outfit closely, had asked if it would be for sale when we got through
to Leavenworth.

I answered: “Yes.”

“What will you take for it delivered to me there in as good condition
as it is now?” he asked, adding: “I shall be close on your heels going
in.”

After conferring with my partners we agreed to deliver the outfit in
good shape at Jim Brown’s livery stable, Fourth and Shawnee Streets,
Leavenworth, for five hundred dollars. Kitchen readily agreed to take
it and paid us a hundred dollars down to clinch the bargain.

We were a cheerful trio next morning as we started out of camp on the
home-stretch for “God’s country,” with Jack singing: “Ain’t we glad to
get out of the wilderness!”

I had brought my captured ponies along, thinking to use them for riding
stock going in and to realize something on them after we reached
Leavenworth, and for the first day tried them–Jack riding one and I
the other–but they were in such poor condition that by the time we
had reached Charley Rath’s ranch, the first evening, I saw that they
were not going to be able to stand the travel on grass alone–and I had
been unable to teach them to eat grain–so I left them with Charley,
with a note to Wild Bill requesting him to dispose of them to the best
advantage for me, which he did, turning in the money to me a few weeks
later in Leavenworth.

Our bales of peltries made a bulky but not heavy load, and our two
mules and two broncos hauled it with ease, and, though we were all
anxious now to reach the end of our journey, still we were under
contract to deliver the team to Mr. Kitchen in Leavenworth in good
condition and, therefore, must not overdrive.

Of course each one of us was now doing some lively planning for the
future.

“Well, taking all things into consideration,” remarked Jack, the first
evening after we had got settled in camp, “though we’re glad to get
out of the wilderness for a while, we’ve done pretty well this winter.
We’ve had lots of fun, some lively adventures, and we’ve made more
money than we had any idea of when we started into the business.”

“Yes,” I replied, “we’ll each have something over a thousand dollars in
clear cash for our winter’s work, when we divide up, and that’s more
money than I ever possessed before–how is it with you fellows?”

“Same here,” said Jack.

“Me, too,” said Tom.

“Well,” I continued, “I suppose each one of you is studying out how he
can quickest blow it in before re-enlisting?”

“I don’t know about that,” replied old Tom. “I expect to re-enlist
after a bit, of course, for soldiering’s the only trade I know and
I haven’t really much use for the money, but I’ll not squander it
foolishly. I’ve studied out a better use for it. I have a widowed
sister with several children living on a little farm back in
Pennsylvania, and they only make a poor, cornbread living off the
place by close economy. I’ve made up my mind that the best use I
can put this money to is to go back there and fix them up in good
shape–and then I’m off to the war.”

“Good for you, Tom,” I said approvingly, “but then I naturally expected
that you would put your money to a sensible use. How is it with Jack?”

And Tom and I turned our inquiring looks to the Irishman.

“I know what you think,” retorted he quickly. “You think you know
what’ll get away with Jack’s money. In your minds you see my money
going for whiskey and me never drawing a sober breath till I’m down
to bed-rock. But I’m going to fool you. I’ve been doing some thinking
for myself–and that’s a rare thing for Jack, you know–an’ I says to
myself, says I, ‘Jacky, boy, this is the time of your life to do some
good for your poor kindred in ould Ireland.’ I haven’t heard from any
of them for several years and don’t know who of them is living an’ who
is dead. But I’ve made up my mind that when we get into Leavenworth
not a drop will I touch, and soon as I crook me fingers on that money
I’ll hit the trail for New York, take passage for the ould dart, and
if I can find any of my family living I’ll bring them back with me to
this glorious land of liberty, where one man’s as good as another and a
blamed sight better if he behaves himself decently. And mind you, now,
I’m not going to touch a drop of liquor till I get back from the ould
country. And then, of course, I’ll re-enlist, for soldiering’s my best
hold.”

Before he was done speaking each of us had extended a hand to give him
a hearty hand shake of encouragement in his good resolution.

“My boy,” said old Tom, with tears in his eyes, as he took one of
Jack’s hands in both his, “you don’t know how glad it makes me to hear
you talk that way. If you’ll only stick to it, I’d give the half of my
possessions to help you carry out that resolution.”

“Same here, Jack,” I added.

“Well, I’m going to show you that I can and will do it.”

After a little pause Tom inquired:

“But now about yourself, Peck. What do you expect to do with yourself?”

“Well, I’ve made up my mind that I’ll not re-enlist,” I replied. “I’ve
had soldiering enough, I think; but I suppose I’ll have to enter
Uncle Sam’s service in some shape or other. I noticed when we were in
Leavenworth before that the quartermaster’s department at the fort is
fitting out a good many trains of new six-mule teams; and, as that is
something to my notion, I think I’ll try for a job as wagon-master.”

When we reached Council Grove, then the gateway of the border
settlements, we felt as if we were really getting back into “God’s
country.” As we passed the place where we had had the controversy with
the jayhawkers, we stopped a little while to have a chat with the old
storekeeper and told him the disposition we had made of the black
horse. He had never heard of any owner of the horse and did not think
it probable that Wild Bill would ever be disturbed in his possession
of him. He had heard nothing more concerning the jayhawkers after they
were gobbled up by the soldiers and taken to the military prison at
Fort Leavenworth.

When we reached Leavenworth City, we again put up at Ned Welch’s
boarding-house, on Seneca Street, and our team at Jim Brown’s stable.

A few days later, on the arrival of Mr. Kitchen’s train, we transferred
our team and camp outfit to him, as per agreement, divided up the cash
proceeds of our expedition, and the wolf hunters disbanded, promising
to keep track of each other in the future by correspondence.

Then Jack and Tom started East, intending to travel together as far as
Pennsylvania.

I parted with my dear comrades with sincere regret, fearing that in the
vicissitudes of the great war then getting under good headway, I might
never see them again.

When next I heard from Jack he had re-enlisted and was back in the old
company again. In the war he did gallant service and received some
honorable scars, re-enlisted again after the war and in his last
enlistment took service in the Seventh Cavalry, and was one of the last
remnant of that doomed band who with their gallant leader met a heroic
death on that fatal knoll by the Little Big Horn River on Sunday, June
25, 1876. With few serious faults, and many virtues, our untutored,
wild Irishman was a brave, unselfish, and manly man.

Tom carried out his plan of using his money for the benefit of his
widowed sister and her children on the little farm in Pennsylvania, saw
them comfortably fixed, and then went to Washington, where, through the
influence of army officers who had known him in the service he obtained
a commission as captain in a volunteer cavalry regiment, soon rose to
be colonel of the regiment, and at the close of the war was a brevet
brigadier-general, commanding a brigade.

He had hoped when the war ended to obtain a commission in the regular
army, but his wounds so far disabled him as to unfit him for active
service in the regulars. He was, therefore, compelled to accept a
pension and retired to the little farm to try to content himself with
the dull life of citizen.

After years of perilous adventures and desperate encounters on the
frontier, Wild Bill was finally assassinated in the city of Deadwood,
South Dakota, by a wretched gambler.

And I? Well, of course, I married “the girl I left behind me” in
Leavenworth City, for which piece of wisdom–or good fortune–I have
always congratulated myself. After getting married I took service with
Uncle Sam as a wagon-master, in which capacity I served through the
Civil War, in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and the Indian Nation.

FOOTNOTES:

[A] Afterward Fort Lyon, on the Arkansas River, and later abandoned.
The site is within a few miles of the present town of Lamar, Colorado.

[B] James Butler Hickock, better known as Wild Bill, was a famous
character in Kansas and the West from 1860 to 1876. In 1861 he was
sometimes called “Indian Bill” or “Buckskin Bill,” but the nickname
“Wild Bill” soon became so firmly fixed that few people knew his real
name.

Wild Bill was the son of New England parents, born in Vermont, who
moved to New York immediately after their marriage, which occurred in
1829 or 1830. From New York they moved to Illinois, settling first in
Putnam County and later in La Salle County. Here, near the village of
Troy Grove, the son, James Butler, was born, on May 27, 1837.

He went West when only a boy and for some time served as scout at
different military posts and afterward as marshal and sheriff in
various new towns in Kansas. He was a man of unflinching courage and
a natural shot with the pistol and had many extraordinary adventures,
in all of which he was successful. A remarkable incident told of him
was the killing of Jake McCandless and his gang of twelve men in a
hand-to-hand fight near Fort Hayes, Kansas.

In 1873 or 1874, with William F. Cody and John Omohundro and a number
of Pawnee Indians, he appeared for a short time on the stage in one of
Ned Buntline’s dramas of the plains, but his career as an actor was
brief.

In March, 1876, Wild Bill was married to Mrs. Agnes Thatcher Lake
and that summer went to the Black Hills, where he prospected. Here,
in Deadwood, South Dakota, August 2, 1876, he was murdered, while
playing cards, by Jack McCall, who walked up behind him and shot him
in the back of the head. McCall was tried at Deadwood and acquitted.
Subsequently he was rearrested by Colonel N. J. O’Brien, then sheriff
of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and was taken to Dakota, tried, convicted, and
executed during February, 1877.

Wild Bill was in no sense a desperado. He was a mild-mannered, pleasant
man who avoided trouble when it was possible, but when trouble came he
met it with a strong heart.

[C] Tom Carney, wholesale groceryman of Leavenworth City, was, a year
or two later, elected governor of Kansas.

[D] There were no metallic cartridge shells in use in those days, the
cartridges for Sharp’s rifles and all firearms being put up in paper.
The Sharp’s rifle carbine, which was one of the earliest breech-loaders
brought into use on the frontier, had been adopted by the government
for the cavalry service and was also a favorite buffalo gun among
frontiersmen generally. Their extreme effective range was eight hundred
yards, the longest-range guns then in use on the plains. The Colt’s
navy pistols we used then would shoot with the force and accuracy of a
rifle for about three hundred yards. I remember seeing a sergeant in
the Second Dragoons kill an antelope one day with a Colt’s navy (taking
a dead rest) at a distance of three hundred paces. The regulation
“pace” is thirty inches.