Glancing around

As the shades of evening crept over the plain it became impossible for
me to see anything distinctly. The occasional reports of their carbines
assured me that my companions were still standing off the savages.

I kept asking myself: “What can I do to help them?” But there was no
reply.

I had no inclination to eat or sleep but prepared for a long, dismal
night of watchfulness. After attending to the horses in the stable I
went into our dugout and carried out some blankets and a buffalo robe,
and, making a snug bed in the remains of our haystack, where I could
command a pretty good view of our camp and surroundings, I settled down
for a long night of torturing anxiety.

I had scarcely got settled when a slight noise from up the ravine
attracted my attention, and, quickly jumping to the conclusion that
some of the Indians were already looking for me, I strained eyes and
ears to locate the one who had made the noise.

I soon discerned a dark object coming down the hollow, but, instead of
the catlike tread of an approaching Indian, with rushing gallop and
joyous bark Found came bounding up to me. In the semidarkness I saw
something whitish about his neck, which I knew must be a message from
Tom and Jack.

Rushing into the dugout, I lit a candle, and, untying from Found’s
collar a piece of paper, I read Tom’s hastily scrawled note:

PECK: _The Injuns have got us corralled and got the mules. Both of
us wounded but not bad. Laying under the wagon with the bales of
wolf skins around us. Send us a few carbine cartridges by Found,
and put Bills necklace on him, so we can send him on for Bill.
Look out for yourself._

TOM.

“No time to be lost,” I said to myself; and, sitting down, I quickly
wrote on the reverse side of Tom’s note:

BILL: _Come quick with soldiers. Tom and Jack are about three
miles out on Larned trail. Read other side. I am O. K. at camp, so
far._

PECK.

I fed the good dog, and, tying up four packs of Sharp’s rifle
cartridges–ten in a pack–in an old handkerchief, I made ready to send
Found off. I first intended to tie the package around his neck but
decided that he could more easily carry it by the mouth.

I tied my note to his collar, gave him a secure hold of the
handkerchief of cartridges in his teeth, and taking down Bill’s bead
necklace from the wall I held it to his nose a moment to give him the
scent, repeating as I did so, “Go to Bill! Go to Bill!” according to
his master’s instructions.

Found wagged his tail and looked at me as though he understood my
wishes. I felt sure he would first go to Tom and Jack, who would take
the cartridges, read my note to Bill, take off the necklace and give
him a fresh scent, and send him on to the fort.

The tired dog had before him a long and dangerous run of about twenty
miles, during which he would have to pass twice through the cordon of
watchful Indians surrounding my comrades; but it was the only hope of
saving the men, and Found seemed able and willing for the undertaking.

I felt confident that if the Kiowas did not kill or cripple him,
Found would make the trip quickly. He had already evaded the Indians
in returning to camp, and I felt strong hopes that his almost human
intelligence would carry him through.

Found’s first move on going out of the dugout was to go up on the roof
and stand there for a little while sniffing the air. Then he turned and
trotted to the ravine, up which he went at a run.

My nest in the hay was a good enough point for observation but not for
defence, but I went back there to think things over.

The waning moon would rise about midnight. If the Indians waited till
then before attacking I should command a somewhat clearer view of my
surroundings.

I thought that the dog should reach the wagon in an hour after leaving
me and felt sure that it would not be long after that before he set out
on his longer run to the fort. This should take two or three hours, and
I could only guess the time that would be occupied in awakening Bill
and his dressing and rousing Saunders and then getting out Saunders’
company. It seemed to me the troops ought to be on the way by midnight
at the latest, and they ought to reach my companions in two hours from
that time.

I had heard no shots from the direction of the wagon since dark,
but a long time after the dog had left me, and while I was watching
for the rising moon, I heard a shot or two, apparently from the
rifles of the Indians, with no reply from the guns of my comrades. I
supposed–rightly, as I afterward learned–that Found had reached the
wagon and that the two men, by lighting matches to read my note, had
drawn the fire from the Indians. On the other hand, it seemed to me
possible that the Indians might have seen the dog and killed him.

At length a little light appeared in the east. The moon was about to
rise, and it must be after midnight. When the moon looked over the tops
of the timber and the light grew, I began to scrutinize objects in my
vicinity and thought that a little way down the ravine I saw something
like a wolf. It seemed to change its position a little several times,
but remained too long in one place to be a wolf.

I was considering going into the dugout to get the field-glasses but
had not yet moved when suddenly a streak of fire, rocket-like, shot up
from the object I had been looking at, described a graceful curve, and
struck in the hay a few feet from me. It was a fire-arrow shot by an
Indian, to set fire to the haystack. The Indian could not have known
that I was lying in the hay but thought that by firing it he would draw
me out of the dugout and in the light of the fire would get a good shot
at me.

I knew it would be folly to try to extinguish the blaze that at once
sprang up. I jumped up, gathering blankets and buffalo robes in my
arms, to run across to the dugout, and as I rose and showed up against
the blaze I heard the crack of a rifle, and felt the shock of a bullet
in the bundle in my arms. I was not hurt and dashed for the cabin door,
and as I entered on a run I heard the report of another rifle from up
the ravine and the spat of the bullet on the door-frame. The hay was
now burning briskly, but I felt no anxiety for our horses in the stable
almost under the fire, for the thick dirt roof protected them.

I closed and barred the door and then scrambled through the tunnel up
into the tent and looked out through a port-hole which gave a good
view for fifty yards up and down the valley.

I caught a glimpse of the Indian who had fired the hay as he looked
out from behind a projecting bank, but could not see enough of him to
justify shooting in the uncertain light. Of the Indian who had come
near hitting me as I entered the cabin, I could see nothing. As I
turned to look again at the first Indian I saw him stealthily move out
from his concealment, crouching down, apparently peering at the cabin
door. Pushing the muzzle of my carbine through the port-hole in front
of me, I took as careful aim at him as I could and fired. I saw that
I had hit him, for he dropped his rifle, fell, and rolled into the
water but quickly scrambled back to his hiding-place and did not again
show himself; but the flash of my rifle had been seen by my watchful
neighbor up the ravine, who an instant later sent a bullet through the
top of the tent over my head.

Presently the hay burned out and only the faint light of the moon
showed the indistinct objects to me. Still I could see well enough up
and down the ravine so that neither Indian could approach the door of
the dugout without being seen. I had been standing on a bale of skins,
which enabled me to look out of the port-hole, but now got down and
cut another port-hole near the bottom of the tent, so that while lying
protected by the bales I could watch for the flash of my neighbor’s
gun when next he fired. I could not see that the other Indian had
attempted to recover his rifle and was disposed to think that my first
shot had perhaps made him no longer dangerous.

While still lying among the bales of fur, looking out of the new
port-hole I had cut, my neighbor up the gulch sent another bullet
through the tent, above me, that would have hit me if I had remained in
my former position.

I fired at the flash of his gun, but could not tell whether I had done
him any harm. At all events, he seemed discouraged, for no more shots
came from either Indian.

The hole I had cut near the bottom of the tent was on the east side,
facing the stable door. The two doors of the tent were on the north and
south sides. These I untied and propped a little open so that I could
look out either way occasionally; I saw no further signs of activity of
the enemy, and toward morning, as the air grew cold, I cut the thongs
that bound a bale of buffalo robes and made a fairly comfortable bed,
whence I could keep a sharp lookout.

It was a long, dreary, wretched night of anxiety. The soldiers did not
come, and without them I could see no hope of escape for my comrades or
myself.

As everything seemed so quiet in my vicinity I slipped down into the
dugout, through the tunnel, and brought up some more cartridges and
some food and cold coffee.

On looking out of my port-hole again I noticed with a hopeless feeling
that daylight was fast coming and as yet no sign or sound of the
hoped-for rescuers.

Suddenly I detected the sound of tramping horses’ feet, and springing
to my feet to get a better view out of the tent door, I looked in the
direction from which the sounds came and could see indistinctly a party
of mounted men, on the trot, skirting along the foot of the bluffs just
southeast of camp, as though intending to pass it from the direction of
To hausen’s village.

“Could they be a reinforcement of Kiowas going to join Satank’s party?”
I asked myself. “No, they were keeping too well closed up for Indians.
It must be Captain Saunders’ company, and they have somehow missed the
trail that would have taken them to the besieged wagon. But why don’t
they come here, instead of going by on the trot?”

While putting these puzzling questions to myself I was standing with
the folds of the tent door slightly parted, peeping out stealthily,
lest the bullet of my lurking foe might find me. When the party of
mounted men were nearly opposite our tent I noticed one from the head
of the column branch off and strike a gallop in my direction, and a
moment later the welcome voice of Wild Bill called out:

“Halloo, Peck, are you still a-kicking?”

Answering him with an affirmative shout, I stepped out, forgetting
for the moment the Indian who was watching for a shot at me. He failed
to take advantage of the opportunity, for he saw that he was trapped
and made a dash up out of the ravine and ran for the nearest point of
bushes just back of our burned haystack.

I called to Bill, who was on the same side of the ravine as the fleeing
Kiowa:

“Head him off, Bill! Kill him! Kill him!”

The scout instantly turned his horse and dashed after the Indian,
who, seeing that he could not reach the brush before being overtaken,
halted, turned, took deliberate aim at the oncoming horseman, and fired.

Down went horse and rider in a heap. The Kiowa dropped his rifle, drew
his knife, and started forward to finish his fallen foe. As Bill was
now between me and the Indian I was afraid to fire for fear of hitting
my friend, who, I saw, was struggling to free himself from his dead
horse. I ran across the ravine to where I thought I could help Bill,
and before I reached the top of the bank on the other side I heard a
shot and then Bill’s war-whoop.

When I got in sight of them again Bill was still lying down, one foot
under his dead horse, and the Kiowa was lying a few feet from him.

I rushed to him and helped to free him from his horse. On getting on
his feet he assured me that he was not hurt, and then, looking toward
the Kiowa and noticing that his enemy was not yet dead, with an
exultant war-whoop Bill whipped out his knife, sprang to his dying foe,
anxious to scalp him.

I had been so absorbed in this affair that I had not noticed that
Captain Saunders with his troopers had turned out of his course and now
came galloping up to us; seeing which Bill called out impatiently to
the captain, waving him back:

“Don’t stop here, Cap! There’s only one Injun here, and I’ve fixed him!
We’re losing time, and we’ve lost too much already. I’m afraid them
Kiowas out yonder’ll get away from us yet. Shove your men along out
that way lively.”

And then suddenly stopping to listen to a rattle of firearms out toward
the wagon, he exclaimed:

“There, do you hear that? Your lieutenant’s opening the ball out there
right now and them Kiowas’ll be coming a-tearing this way in a few
minutes. String your men out so’s to catch them. I’ll overtake you.”

“But what will you do for a horse?” asked Saunders as he gave command
for moving:

“I’ll borrow Peck’s black horse.”

Saunders immediately put his men on the gallop toward the wagon on the
prairie.

Taking Bill’s hint of a remount, I rushed to the stable and got Prince
out, while he was getting his saddle and bridle off his dead horse; and
while hurriedly saddling the black horse Bill was giving me a brief
account of how they came to be here at our camp instead of at the wagon.

“Found come through to Fort Larned on time, all right,” he said, “and
wanted to come back with me, but I locked him in my room. It took an
everlasting time for Saunders to get his company ready to move. Well,
after we started, I concluded that the Kiowas would hear us a-coming
and get away, unless we could get around in their rear. So I got the
captain to divide his men, leaving twenty, under Lieutenant Wilson, to
lay around over about Ash Creek hollow until nigh daylight, and then
to move up onto the Injuns around the wagon and start them this way,
while with the other thirty men we got around on this side of them.
We’ve been riding like the devil, but it was a long ways to go to get
around here, and Lieutenant Wilson was to make the attack on his side
at daylight, anyway, and he’s a-doing it all right.”

By this time we had Prince saddled, and, springing onto him, as he
galloped after Saunders’s party Bill called back to me:

“Keep a sharp lookout, Peck, till we get back here, for there may be
some skulkers laying for you in the timber ’round here.”

Glancing around as Bill galloped away, I plainly saw, in the bushes at
the edge of the timber back of our burnt haystack, two Indian ponies
tied to some bushes, with saddles and bridles on. They were the mounts
of the two Kiowas who had entertained me throughout the night and one
of whom Bill had just killed.

The other fellow, who set fire to the haystack, I supposed had made
good his escape.

And, as I thought this, I naturally turned to look at the spot from
where he had fired the burning arrow.

“I’m sure I hit him when I shot at him out of the tent,” I said to
myself. “I wonder if I hurt him much? I’ll just step down there and see
if there is any blood on the ground.”

As I approached the spot I saw something like the end of a dirty
blanket showing from behind the jutting bank where he had been
concealed, and, fearing that the Indian, wounded, might be lying there
waiting to shoot me, I cocked my rifle and crept cautiously around
to where I could see behind the projecting bank; and there lay the
Indian, sure enough, but without sign of life. On a nearer approach I
found he was dead and cold–probably having bled to death soon after I
had shot him.

On turning the body over to get a good look at his face, I was
somewhat astonished to recognize the features of old Broken Nose, the
medicine-man from To hausen’s camp.

Leaving the body where it was, I hurried back to the tent to climb up
on the derrick with the field-glass, anxious to see what I could of the
fight between the Kiowas and soldiers out on the prairie. There was not
much to see.

Saunders’ party had been delayed too long in making the detour to get
in the rear of the enemy. Lieutenant Wilson had made his attack at
daylight, according to orders, and the Indians, abandoning their siege
of the wagon, were retreating to the nearest point of the Walnut Creek
timber.

From my stand I could see Saunders’ party trying to cut off the fleeing
Indians from the timber, but they seemed to succeed in intercepting
only a few of the hindmost ones. Saunders, Wild Bill, and party went on
in pursuit of the fleeing Kiowas until they passed out of sight behind
a point of timber.

Turning my glass toward the wagon, I could see a party of soldiers
gathered around it. Soon the wagon started moving toward our camp,
accompanied by the mounted men. The soldiers must have recaptured the
mules and harness.

As the wagon party came down the grade from the upland at a brisk trot,
it occurred to me that they would all be as hungry as coyotes, and,
rushing down into the dugout, I began doing what I could to prepare
something for them to eat.

Lieutenant Wilson came galloping on ahead to tell me the results of the
fight at his end of the line, not knowing that I had witnessed nearly
all of it through the glass. Jack and Tom, he said, were both wounded,
but not seriously. They had killed three Kiowas and two ponies before
the soldiers arrived, and the latter had killed five more Indians and
captured several ponies in the attack at daylight.

I told the lieutenant what arrangement I had planned for feeding his
men–which he said would be satisfactory–and also that we had grain
enough to give his horses a feed but no hay.

As the wagon came up I rushed to it to congratulate my comrades on
their escape and to ascertain the extent of their injuries.

“Only a few scratches,” said Jack indifferently, in spite of his pale
looks, as he climbed out of the wagon with his left arm in a sling. “I
got an arrow through me arm, but Tom is worse hurted–a bullet through
his thigh but no bones broke. Have you anything to eat?”

I helped Tom out and supported him on one side as he hobbled down to
the dugout. Meantime, the lieutenant and his troopers were taking care
of their horses, after which some of them unharnessed the mules for us
while others started a fire and began to cook their breakfast.

As I entered the dugout with Tom, I noticed my blankets lying on the
floor, where I had dropped them on my hurried entry the night before,
and after helping the old man to a seat I gathered up the bedding to
make him a pallet. In doing this the bullet that old Broken Nose had
fired into the bundle dropped to the floor.

“There, Tom,” I said as I picked it up and handed it to him, “is a last
token from your old friend, Broken Nose.”

“What? Has the old rascal been here? Why didn’t you kill him?” he asked
eagerly.

“I did. He’s lying down the ravine yonder, a little way. He and another
had me corralled here all night, but I got Broken Nose and Wild Bill
got the other.”

While I cooked breakfast I told them all about my little affair of the
past night.

“While the coffee’s a-boiling, lieutenant,” said Jack after I had
finished, “come on and we’ll go and take a look at the dead Injuns. I
want to make sure that they’re good and dead.”

As they started out I called to them:

“While you’re at it, go over to the brush yonder, behind the burnt
haystack, and bring in the two Indians’ ponies. I haven’t had time to
gather them in yet.”

In a little while they returned, bringing the horses and tying them to
the wagon.

“You and Bill sure did a good job on them two,” said Jack as he and
Wilson re-entered the cabin. “I’m only sorry I didn’t have the pleasure
of doing the business for old Broken Nose myself, for I was owing him
that.”

We had just finished eating our breakfast when one of the soldiers
called out:

“Here comes Wild Bill riding like the devil was after him! Wonder
what’s up?”

Looking in the direction that Saunders’s party had gone, we saw the
scout coming back alone, riding rapidly.

When he reached us he said that Captain Saunders and two of his men
were wounded, one horse killed and several wounded. One soldier was
thought to be fatally hurt; and Bill had come for our team and wagon to
haul them to our camp, as the two soldiers were unable to sit on their
horses.

We were soon busy hitching up the mules while Bill gave us the
particulars of their fight. It appeared that in chasing the fleeing
Kiowas, Bill, accompanied by several soldiers, had become separated
from Saunders and the main party, and the scout, not being at hand to
guide the captain, the latter in his eager pursuit of the enemy had
made the mistake of closely following the Indians into the timber,
which blunder they had anticipated and had ambushed the soldiers.

“I thought Cap. knew better than that,” said Bill, “but it was partly
my fault. I knew he’d never fought Injuns before, and I ought to have
stayed with him and stopped him short of the brush.”

In spite of his crippled condition, old Tom came hobbling out of the
dugout, with his little medicine-chest and a bundle of rags under his
arm for bandages, and insisted on going with the team to do what he
could for the wounded.

Jack’s wounded arm prevented him from handling the team, so we left
him in camp and I went along to drive the mules. Lieutenant Wilson had
received orders to remain at our camp with his detachment until further
orders.

After being helped into the wagon, Tom’s foresight prompted him to call
to me:

“Peck, throw in some bedding and get some grub–sugar, coffee,
hardtack, and meat–to take along, and a camp kettle and frying-pan and
a few tin cups.”

I remembered the bale of buffalo robes I had cut open in the tent
the night before for my own comfort and, calling one of the soldiers
to help me, brought them out and tumbled them into the wagon, with
the desired rations and utensils. I then took the lines and whip and
started at a trot, guided by Wild Bill riding alongside.

As we trotted along I asked the scout:

“How many Kiowas did you and Saunders’ party kill?”

“The returns are not all in yet,” replied Bill, “but I think we got
seven or eight. I got three of them for my share. That was all I could
catch before they got into the timber; and, of course, when they got to
the brush I had to give up the chase and let them go.”

“It’s most too good a thing to hope that old Satank’ll be found among
the killed,” said Tom.

“No, I’m afraid we’ll not find him among them,” replied Bill
regretfully, “for I reckon his luck has saved him again, unless he may
be among them that were killed out near the wagon. If I can get time
I’ll ride around over the prairie and take a good look at all of them,
and the old rascal may be found among them; but I’ll be surprised if he
is, for he has wonderful luck in getting out of tight places.”

“Don’t you think, Bill,” I asked, “that this was rather a badly managed
expedition of old Satank’s, considering that he has the reputation of
being such a successful raider?”

“Yes, he’s made a bad mess of it this time, sure, and a few more such
failures’ll cause his followers to choose another leader. I think he’s
losing his grip on the war-path, and we’ll soon see Satanta or Big
Tree coming to the front as leader of the hostile Kiowas. When what’s
left of these fellows get back to their big village and count noses,
there’ll be such a howl against old Satank that I don’t believe he’ll
ever be able to get much of a following again. You mark what I tell
you, Satanta or Big Tree is going to be the war chief of the Kiowas
hereafter.”

We found Captain Saunders and his men about two miles above our
camp, dismounted in the edge of the timber near the old Indian camp,
anxiously awaiting our arrival. Saunders himself had his head roughly
bandaged with an old handkerchief because of a glancing arrow wound
above his right ear, which had bled profusely over his face and clothes
but was not serious. His horse had received a bullet in the shoulder
which lamed him badly.

Supposing from Saunders’ appearance that he was badly hurt, Tom was
going to him to dress his wounds when the captain said:

“Never mind me, Mr. Vance; I’m not hurt much; but if you can help poor
Dolan there, lying behind that tree, do what you can for him. He is
badly hurt–spitting blood and growing weaker–” talking as he led the
way to where the wounded man lay. “An arrow went through his breast and
lodged in the neck of a horse a couple of rods behind him. I had no
idea they could shoot those arrows so viciously.”

On examining Dolan’s wound, Tom’s experience told him that the man was
past any help that he could render, for the arrow had gone through the
lung, and an inward hemorrhage seemed to be slowly sapping his life.
Dressing the wound and giving the man a stimulant, Tom and the captain
consulted together for a moment and then informed the patient that,
though his case was quite serious, it was not altogether hopeless and
that his only chance was to be hurried back to Fort Larned, where the
post surgeon could give him proper attention.

The other man who had been reported wounded had a broken arm. Tom
splinted and bandaged it, and the two were soon made comparatively
comfortable among the buffalo robes in the wagon. Several others had
received slight wounds but were “able for duty.”

While this had been going on, Saunders’ men had gotten out the grub and
utensils, fried some meat and made some coffee and now called us up
to eat. This was the first intimation to Saunders that there was such
a luxury as food in the outfit, and as he sniffed the pleasant aroma
of the boiling coffee he turned to Tom and me and thanked us for our
thoughtfulness.

“Captain,” said Tom after we had eaten, “it’s time that team was on the
way to Fort Larned. What are your plans for getting these men there? If
I can help you in any way, I’m at your service.”

“Thanks,” replied Saunders. “My plan is to send a half dozen men along
with the wagon as an escort and some responsible man in charge. I will
then move down to your camp and, taking Wilson and party from there,
move on down to To hausen’s village and try to find out whether his
people have been harboring these hostiles; and then to-morrow we’ll all
move into the fort. I will send a requisition in by the team to bring
out some grain for the horses to-morrow and any other supplies that we
may need. It will be best that we stay and see you all safely into Fort
Larned.” Then turning to Wild Bill, he asked: “Do you think, Bill, that
six men will be a sufficient escort to go with the wagon and wounded
men–do you think there is any danger of their meeting hostile Kiowas?”

“None but dead ones,” replied Bill. “The team can go through all right
now.”

“Well,” said Saunders, “I had thought of asking Mr. Vance or Mr. Peck
to take charge of the wounded men and see them through.”

“Tom’ll be the man for that,” suggested Bill, “for the wounded men may
need some help on the way.”

“Well, that’s settled,” said Tom impatiently, as he started for the
wagon without waiting for the captain’s decision. “Captain, please
detail the escort and start them on after me; they can soon overtake
us.” And, climbing into the wagon, he took up the whip and lines and
started.

The captain quickly mounted the escort and hurried them after the
wagon; and then he himself mounted the horse of one of the wounded men
and we set out for our camp, I riding one of the Kiowa ponies captured
in the fight.

The horses were a rather scrawny-looking lot, as the Indian ponies
generally are at this season of the year–the result of starvation
through the winter–but, no doubt, there was in them good mettle that
would show itself as soon as the grass came; for the Indian warrior
always selects his fleetest and toughest horse to ride when going on
the war-path.

Arrived at the camp, Captain Saunders had his men unsaddle and water
their horses and picket them out for an hour’s rest before starting
down to To hausen’s village.

Some of Lieutenant Wilson’s men had killed several antelope and had
cooked up a great lot of the meat, anticipating that Saunders’ men
would come in hungry, as they did. Saunders, Wilson, Bill, and I
adjourned to the dugout to eat the meal Jack had prepared for us.

While we were eating I told Captain Saunders something of my experience
of the previous night and exhibited the bullet that old Broken Nose had
fired into the bundle of blankets in my arms.

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