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Title: With Sully into the Sioux Land
Author: Hanson, Joseph Mills
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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WITH SULLY INTO THE SIOUX LAND


BY THE SAME AUTHOR

THE CONQUEST OF THE MISSOURI. Profusely illustrated. Large 8vo _net_,
$2.00.

FRONTIER BALLADS. Cover, end-paper design, and illustrations by Maynard
Dixon. Novelty binding. $1.00 _net_

A. C. MCCLURG & CO., PUBLISHERS CHICAGO

[Illustration: Catching up a heavy stick he hurled it at the head of one
of the warriors [CHAPTER III] ]


"AMONG THE SIOUX" SERIES



WITH SULLY INTO THE SIOUX LAND

BY

JOSEPH MILLS HANSON

AUTHOR OF "THE CONQUEST OF THE MISSOURI,"
"FRONTIER BALLADS," ETC.

ILLUSTRATED BY
JOHN W. NORTON

[Illustration: Logo]

CHICAGO
A. C. MCCLURG & CO.

1910


COPYRIGHT
A. C. McCLURG & CO.
1910

Published, November 12, 1910

Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England

PRESS OF THE VAIL COMPANY
COSHOCTON, U. S. A.


TO MY FATHER
JOSEPH RANDALL HANSON,
WHO, AS A BOY AND YOUNG MAN ON
THE OLD DAKOTA FRONTIER, LIVED
THROUGH MORE ADVENTURES THAN A
VOLUME COULD DESCRIBE



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                   PAGE
    I THE SCOURGE OF THE BORDER              9

   II THE FLIGHT THROUGH THE DARKNESS       35

  III BESIEGED IN FORT RIDGELY              54

   IV REFUGEES                              77

    V HOPE DEFERRED                         95

   VI ON GENERAL SULLY'S STAFF             119

  VII UP THE MISSOURI                      130

 VIII PRAIRIE MARCHING                     149

   IX THE REVENGE OF THE COYOTES           167

    X THE FORT ON THE RIVER                183

   XI TRAILING THE HOSTILES                207

  XII THE BATTLE OF TAHKAHOKUTY            224

 XIII BESET IN THE BAD LANDS               253

  XIV TE-O-KUN-KO                          279

   XV IN THE WAKE OF THE GRASSHOPPERS      302

  XVI ADRIFT IN A BARGE                    319

 XVII CAPTURED BY GUERILLAS                345

XVIII THE DEFENCE OF GLASGOW               372

  XIX REUNITED                             394



ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                       PAGE
Catching up a heavy stick he hurled it at the
head of one of the warriors                  _Frontispiece_

She charged at him as he fired                          159

The Indian raised his rifle to shoot Corporal Wright    179

He was just pulling himself up                          247

Bill Cotton protects Al from the guerilla               355



WITH SULLY INTO THE SIOUX LAND



CHAPTER I

THE SCOURGE OF THE BORDER


"Papa is coming, mama! Papa is coming!"

Tommy Briscoe, brimming over with excitement, ran, shouting, across the
yard and darted into the kitchen, leaving a half emptied pail of milk
standing on the ground before the stable, where a small red calf he had
been feeding promptly upset it. In a moment he reappeared in the
doorway, his mother and little sister Annie behind him. Mrs. Briscoe, a
woman still evidently under middle age but whose sweet, serious face
showed plainly the lines which the patient endurance of hardships draw
upon the faces of most frontier women, looked down the faintly marked
road running away to the southward, surprise and perplexity in her
eyes. Along the road and still some distance away, a horseman was
galloping toward them furiously. The road led only to the Briscoe cabin,
which was distant a number of miles from its nearest neighbors. The
rider could hardly be any other than Mr. Briscoe; moreover, even at that
distance his wife could recognize the color and the short, jerking
gallop of the horse he was riding.

"It is certainly Chick," she said, half to herself and half to the
children. "But what can bring Tom home so soon? He did not expect to be
back before four or five o'clock and now it is hardly past noon. He must
have left Fort Ridgely almost as soon as he reached there. I hope
nothing is wrong."

"I hope he got the calico for my dolly's dress," exclaimed Annie,
dancing up and down in anticipation of the gift her father had promised
to bring her when he rode away in the morning.

"And I hope he got my coyote trap," added Tommy. "The coyotes will carry
off all our chickens, first thing we know."

He raised the short bow he was carrying and sent a little iron-tipped
arrow whizzing accurately into a tree-trunk fifty feet away. He had been
going out to the meadow in a few minutes, and he never went anywhere
without his bow and arrows, for he was sufficiently expert with them to
bring down now and then a squirrel or a quail and sometimes even a
prairie chicken.

The two children, unconscious of any cause for uneasiness in their
father's early return, followed Mrs. Briscoe as she stepped from the
door and walked a few paces down the road to meet the approaching rider,
who came on without slacking pace until he drew up beside them. His
horse, a small animal, was dripping with sweat and trembling with
exertion, for it was a hot August day and his rider was a large man. Mr.
Briscoe, for he it was, stepped down from the saddle rather stiffly. His
face was very grave as he kissed his wife and children.

"Did you get my coyote trap, papa?" cried the little boy, almost before
his father's foot had touched the ground.

"Did you bring my calico, papa?" chimed in Annie.

"No, my dears, I hadn't time. You had better run away a minute." He
glanced at his wife significantly.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" exclaimed Tommy. "But let me unsaddle Chick." He caught
the stirrup leather and swung himself nimbly into the saddle.

"Go and finish feeding the calf, Annie," said Mrs. Briscoe.

The little girl, with disappointed face, walked obediently toward the
stable, into which Tommy had already ridden.

"What has happened, Thomas?" exclaimed Mrs. Briscoe, her voice quivering
with anxiety, as soon as the children were beyond hearing.

Her husband laid his strong hand reassuringly on her arm.

"Don't be frightened, Mary," he said, "we shall doubtless get out of it
all right, but we must hurry. The Indians broke out at the Lower Agency
this morning; you know they have been becoming more and more restless
for a good while past. When I reached Fort Ridgely, about eleven,
Captain Marsh had already started for the Agency with about fifty men.
He may have the disturbance crushed by this time. I saw Lieutenant Geer,
who is left in command with forty men. Lieutenant Sheehan marched for
Fort Ripley yesterday with fifty men. Geer would have sent an escort
with me while I came for you but of course he could not spare a man from
the handful he has. I think it would not be really dangerous to stay
here, but to be on the safe side and not expose you and the children to
any risk we had perhaps better pack what we can on the wagon and go to
the fort for a few days till the trouble blows over. Where is Al?"

Mr. Briscoe was slapping the dust from his coat and hat as he talked. He
tried to speak in as reassuring terms and as confident a tone as
possible, but his wife intuitively knew that he was not telling her all
that was in his mind.

"Al just went up to the meadow to turn the wind-rows," she said. "Tommy
was going to help him as soon as he finished feeding the calf. Shall he
go for Al?"

"Yes."

Mrs. Briscoe called to the boy, who dashed away toward the meadow,
which lay only a short distance north, beyond a thicket of bushes and
small trees. Then she turned to her husband, who was walking into the
stable.

"You have had no dinner, Tom," she said.

"No, but I want none."

"Were any white people killed at the Agency?" she asked, as Mr. Briscoe
came out with a halter and started toward the pasture lot where their
other horse was grazing. He seemed to want to avoid questions, but he
answered:

"They say there were."

"Many?"

Her husband paused. He was not accustomed to conceal things from his
wife.

"Why," he replied, hesitatingly, "it is reported that all of them were
killed; but that is probably exaggerated, and very likely it will prove
there were none."

Mrs. Briscoe's face paled a little but she retained her composure. She
asked no more questions, for now she knew all that was necessary for the
present of the gravity of the situation. Moreover, she had supreme
confidence in her husband's judgment. He started again toward the
pasture, saying, as he glanced toward the lumber wagon standing near the
kitchen door:

"You had better begin putting things in the wagon, Mary. You know what
to take; only the most necessary and valuable things, for we shall
doubtless be back in a few days."

Indeed, Mrs. Briscoe knew well by hard experience what to take. Once
before during the brief year they had spent in the wild valley of the
Minnesota River, they had fled to Fort Ridgely, about twenty miles south
of their claim, at the alarm of an Indian uprising, which, however, in
that instance had fortunately proved false. That was in the Spring of
1862; it was now August of the same year. When they moved into the
country during the previous August, bringing the few possessions which
remained to them from the wreck of their fortunes in Missouri, their
nearest neighbor lived fourteen miles away. Now there were three pioneer
families within a radius of ten miles of them, and, in comparison with
the earlier isolation of their new home, they felt that the country was
becoming quite densely peopled. But away to the southwest and west of
them, not more than twenty-five miles distant, swarmed a host of
neighbors whose presence there always oppressed their imaginations like
the sight of a low, black bank of thunder clouds when they looked toward
that quarter of the horizon. For southwest, at Red Wood Falls, was the
Lower Agency, the assembling place of the M'dewakanton and the Wakpekute
Indians, and west was the Upper Agency, on the Yellow Medicine River,
where lived or congregated several thousand Sissetons and Wahpetons.
Still further west and extending away to Big Stone Lake, nearly one
hundred miles distant, were some other agencies and missions, where
greater or less bodies of Indians of the above tribes made their
headquarters. The Sissetons and Wahpetons on the Yellow Medicine were
not greatly to be feared. Many of them had become Christians under the
wise and kindly training of such heroic missionaries as Thomas L. Riggs
and Thomas S. Williamson, who with their families had for years lived
and maintained schools among them. Assisted by the United States
Government, many of these Indians had come into the possession of good
homes and farms and were rapidly becoming prosperous and accustomed to
the ways of civilization.

But the M'dewakantons and Wakpekutes at the Lower Agency were of a
different character. Few of them had ever shown a disposition to settle
down to industry, and generally they spent their time out on the
limitless western prairies of the then newly erected Territory of
Dakota, living the wild, free life of their ancestors and coming to the
Agency only when one of the annual payments was due them for the lands
in Minnesota which they had sold to the Government several years before.
At such times they were usually accompanied to the Agency by many
turbulent spirits from the Sioux tribes living further west, who came to
share in the Government's bounty and the feasting and celebrating which
commonly followed its distribution.

In the month of August, 1862, the distribution of the Government
payment, for various reasons, had been long delayed, and the wild
Indians, waiting in idleness for it to come instead of being, as they
should have been, out on the prairies hunting buffalo, became constantly
more restless, suspicious and arrogant as time went on. The idea gained
strength among them that the Government intended to cheat them of the
payment. Moreover, they had heard many rumors of the great civil war in
which the United States was engaged, and many white people among them
did not hesitate to make them believe that the Nation was about to be
overthrown, which, indeed, did not seem improbable in 1862 in view of
the many reverses which the Union armies were suffering. Such reports,
coupled with the fact that most of the United States troops along the
Minnesota frontier had been sent to the South and that those remaining
were few and scattered, caused the leaders of the hostile element among
the Minnesota Indians to believe that the time had come when the whites
might be driven back beyond the Mississippi, leaving the Indians again
in possession of all their old territories west of that stream. At the
time the Briscoe family had come into the country this feeling did not
yet exist among the Indians, but during the Spring and Summer of 1862
many exciting incidents had occurred at the Agencies and elsewhere, in
which the growing arrogance and self-confidence of the hostiles had been
made plain. Of these incidents Mr. Briscoe had been made aware through
his occasional trips to Fort Ridgely after supplies, and, having had
some previous experience of the ways of Indians in the Southwest, he had
been disquieted and apprehensive for the future. But he had kept his
misgivings to himself as far as possible, not caring to alarm his family
needlessly.

He knew that, early in August, Little Crow, the hereditary chief of the
M'dewakantons, had been deposed from the chieftainship by his fellow
tribesmen because of his attitude on an unpopular treaty made sometime
before, and that the crafty old chief was eager to find some means of
recovering his lost honors. He knew that Inkpaduta, the most cruel and
bloodthirsty leader of all the Sioux Nation, together with a throng of
his outlawed followers who had participated with him in the atrocious
massacre of the white settlers at Spirit Lake, Iowa, in 1857, was
hovering about the Lower Agency and mingling with the four or five
thousand dissatisfied Indians who were gathered there, waiting with
increasing impatience for the arrival of the annuity, and in a mood to
listen eagerly to any suggestions of massacre and pillage which might be
poured into their ears by Inkpaduta and his villainous companions. But
what he did not know until he rode into Fort Ridgely on that terrible
morning of August 18, 1862, was that on the previous day a wandering
party of young M'dewakanton braves had murdered three white men and two
white women near the hamlet of Acton, forty miles north of Fort Ridgely
and about twenty from his own claim; that the young assassins had then
ridden post-haste to the Lower Agency and with their news of bloodshed,
which was like a match in a powder magazine, had set the whole savage
horde assembled there into a frenzy for the blood of the whites; that
Little Crow, seeing in a flash the opportunity for regaining the chief
control of his tribe and, indeed, of the whole Sioux Nation, by leading
them in a triumphant war, had given the word to the Indians--who had
instinctively turned to him in the crisis--for a general uprising and
massacre of all the whites; and that, in accordance with his orders and
the mad impulse of the crowd, they had swarmed over the Agency,
slaughtering every white person whom they could find,--store-keepers,
Government employees, men, women, and children.

All these things Mr. Briscoe knew, though in a confused and imperfect
way, when he met his wife after his swift homeward journey from Fort
Ridgely. But, being a brave man and one who had served his country with
honor and courage during the Mexican War, he faced the situation with
coolness and at the same time began preparing swiftly for the instant
flight of his family to the fort. He realized that this was imperative
if they were to escape destruction.


When her husband, as previously mentioned, started for the pasture, Mrs.
Briscoe reëntered the house, a log building of three rooms, quite
capacious for the region and the time, and pulling a trunk from the
corner of each of the bedrooms, began hastily filling them with the
family clothing and a few books, standard works, much worn but of good
editions and carefully kept. From a locked cupboard drawer in the
kitchen she brought a small box containing a few pieces of handsome
silver ware, some of recent pattern but most of it old, into which she
looked carefully before depositing it in one of the trunks. Two small
oil paintings in frames she packed carefully, and when these had been
disposed of in the trunks little remained in the slenderly furnished
house except its rude furniture, largely homemade, the bedding and the
pots and pans and crockery dishes in the kitchen. She had just begun
taking these down and arranging them in a large box when a boy of about
fifteen years, straight and tall for his age, with light complexion,
light hair, and keen gray eyes, bounded into the kitchen from outside,
closely followed by Tommy, who was merely a smaller, eight-year-old
edition of himself. The elder lad stopped short, regarding Mrs.
Briscoe's preparations for departure with startled eyes.

"What's the matter, mother?" he exclaimed. "What are you going to do?"

"Your father has just come back from the fort, Al. Haven't you seen
him?"

"No, mother."

"He has gone to the pasture for Monty. We must drive to the fort at
once, this afternoon. The Indians have broken out at the Lower Agency
and the report at Fort Ridgely is that they have killed many white
people."

"Whew-w!" whistled Al. "That's bad, isn't it? What will become of the
hay?"

"Let's stay here and fight 'em!" cried Tommy, his head thrown back and
his eyes flashing. "Why should we run away from a lot of bad Indians?
They won't dare hurt us with papa here."

"Hush, Tommy," said his mother, yet not without a glance of pride at the
fearless little fellow, so like his father. "There are a great many of
them and we are far away from help."

"I don't care," persisted Tommy. "We could block up the doors and
windows, and they can't shoot through these thick logs."

"No, Tommy," interrupted his brother, patting the small boy's shoulder,
"but they could burn the house, and then where should we be?"

"Run for the woods."

"And be shot there, out of hand. No, no! Mother, are the trunks ready to
put in the wagon?"

"Yes, but wait for your father to help you with them. You and Tommy can
take out the mattresses and pillows. The fort will probably be full of
refugees, and we shall need our bedding."

At this moment Mr. Briscoe entered.

"Hello, Al, boy," he said, in his usual tone, as if nothing unusual had
happened.

"Hello, father," returned Al, while Tommy ran to Mr. Briscoe for another
kiss. "You got back early."

"Yes," answered his father, simply. He glanced at his son, and the two
pairs of steady gray eyes looked understandingly into each other for a
second. Then Mr. Briscoe walked to a shelf and took down an army musket
which hung, together with a double-barrelled shotgun, on a rack beneath
it. The musket was loaded, but he took off the old percussion cap and
replaced it with a new one. He loaded the shotgun from a powder horn and
shot flask on the shelf and then carefully examined a large, six-shot,
44-calibre Starr revolver, also already loaded, of a model at that time
recent, in which each chamber was loaded from the front with powder and
ball and fired by a percussion cap. By this time his wife, aided by
Annie, had the kitchen utensils in the box. Having put the weapons in
condition for instant use, Mr. Briscoe said:

"Now, Al, we can load these heavy things in the wagon. We want to take
the saddle and the new plough, too; we can't afford to have them
destroyed while we're gone. Tommy, turn Spot out in the pasture with the
calf. She can get water from the creek, and there is plenty of grass for
her. It is a good thing that calf isn't entirely weaned yet. We will
leave the barn door open for the chickens to go in at night. Monty and
Chick are feeding now. As soon as they have finished we must be ready to
hitch up."

When they had placed the first trunk in the wagon and were alone, Mr.
Briscoe turned to his son.

"Al," he said, speaking rapidly and in a low voice, "be careful not to
alarm your mother and the children, but you must know that we are in the
greatest danger and that our only chance of safety lies in getting to
the fort without the least delay. The Indians at the Lower Agency have
gone mad. They have killed every white they could lay their hands on
and have started to sweep the whole country clean. Some of them may come
here at any moment. My boy--" He laid his hand on Al's shoulder and his
voice became very earnest. He spoke almost as if he felt a premonition
of coming events. "My boy, I know I can trust you; you are almost a man
in judgment and understanding. If we should encounter Indians before we
reach the fort and anything should happen to me, remember that your
first care must be your mother and your little brother and sister.
Protect them with your life but keep cool and do not throw it away. And
afterward,--well, my boy, just do your duty by our dear ones and
yourself as you honestly see it; no one can do more. And remember always
that you are the son of a soldier."

Al's face paled a little beneath the tan while his father was speaking
but he returned the latter's gaze steadily until he had finished. Then
he replied:

"Why, father, nothing is going to happen to you. But of course I shall
remember what you say and always try to do the best I can by mother and
the children."

"I know you will, Al. Now, let us load that trunk and box and the rest
of the things."

They continued their work rapidly while Mrs. Briscoe was busy putting up
some food to take along and placing the rest in the root cellar back of
the house where it might keep from spoiling as long as possible during
their absence. The day was hot and sultry, but the sky was beautifully
blue, with here and there white, fleecy clouds floating lazily across
it. Green, gently rolling prairies stretched away on every hand, broken
here and there by patches of dark, cool woodland where the trees stood
clustered on a slope or marked the winding course of some ravine or
sluggish creek. From the Briscoe cabin could be caught glimpses between
the trees north of it of the hay-cocks on the sun-flooded meadow, where
Al and Tommy had been working. It was a tract of native prairie grass
and a small one, for Mr. Briscoe had mowed it with a scythe. No sound
broke the stillness of the early afternoon except the rustle of the
breeze through the treetops and the piping of a chickadee which had
perched on a sunflower stalk beside the stable. It seemed impossible
that in the midst of such peaceful surroundings the horrors of savage
massacre and warfare could be abroad in the land; and so Al thought as
he looked about him, just as his father and he finished loading the last
of the household goods which they intended to take with them.

They were starting to the barn after the horses when they heard the
breaking of branches and a commotion among the bushes in the strip of
woodland toward the meadow. Mr. Briscoe and his son turned in sudden
apprehension and saw six Indians, one after another, issue from the
woods and ride toward them. They were mounted on ponies and were naked
except for breech-clouts, while their heads were decked with feathers
and streaming war-bonnets, and their faces and bodies hideously bedaubed
with paint. Mr. Briscoe turned and walked deliberately toward the house.

"Don't run," he cautioned Al, in a low tone. "But go in and stick the
revolver in your pocket under your coat, and set the guns just inside
the kitchen door. Tell your mother if she hears a shot to run with the
children from the bedroom door and hide in the rushes along the creek.
I'll meet the Indians here." He stopped by the kitchen door. Then
suddenly he asked, "Where's Tommy?"

"In the house, I think," answered Al. But Tommy was not in the house. He
had bethought himself of the eggs and was in the barn hunting them,
unconscious of the approaching visitors.

Al disappeared in the kitchen, and Mr. Briscoe walked toward the ominous
group of callers, who came on in silence until they reached the door,
each holding with one hand a rifle or musket laid across the neck of his
pony. They looked at the loaded wagon, which betrayed the impending
flight of the family.

"How," said Mr. Briscoe, smiling and extending his hand.

No responsive smiles lit the faces of the Indians. They regarded him in
gloomy silence while their leader, a fellow of lighter hue than the
rest, evidently a half-breed, sprang to the ground and, ignoring Mr.
Briscoe's extended hand, said, gruffly, in broken English,

"We want food."

"You shall have it," replied Mr. Briscoe. "Wait a minute."

He stepped toward the door but the half-breed was before him.

"We take what we want," he said, jerking his head toward his followers.
"Come on."

Mr. Briscoe saw that conciliation was impossible. Once within the house
they would have the family at their mercy. He stepped inside the door
and with one push of his powerful arm thrust the half-breed out on the
step.

"Stay out, and I'll feed you. But not if you come in," he said.

Al, looking through from the next room, saw his father's action and
instantly understood that it meant trouble. With the sudden authority of
a man in the emergency, he exclaimed to his mother, pushing her toward
the south door,

"Run to the creek, you and Annie! Keep out of sight; hide in the reeds.
We'll take care of Tommy."

Then he ran back through the house toward his father. He reached him in
less time than it takes to tell it; but the half-breed, cursing
frightfully as he reeled back from Mr. Briscoe's thrust, had already
shouted to his companions,

"Shoot him!"

One of the mounted Indians threw his musket to his shoulder but Mr.
Briscoe, seizing the shotgun which Al had set beside the door, was
quicker than the savage. His shot rang out and the Indian pitched
headlong to the ground. Before he could cock the other hammer or even
spring aside from the doorway, the half-breed's rifle cracked.

"My God! Mary!" gasped Mr. Briscoe, clutching his hand to his breast. He
wheeled, staggered a step or two into the room and then sunk to the
floor at Al's feet, dead.

It had all happened so quickly that the poor boy's brain was reeling
with the horror of it. But in an instant he saw the half-breed's form
silhouetted in the doorway, an evil grin overspreading his face.
Mechanically Al raised the revolver in his hand and fired. Without a
word, his father's murderer tumbled backward through the doorway and
rolled out on the ground. Al stepped to the door. In one swift glance he
saw three of the four remaining Indians galloping furiously away toward
the meadow; he saw Tommy, half way between the barn and house, running
toward the latter, and he saw the fourth Indian, leaning far over from
his pony's side, swooping down upon the boy. The warrior looked back
toward the house and in that instant's glimpse Al noted that he was a
huge fellow, over six feet tall and that along his left cheek, down his
neck and clear out on his naked shoulder, extended a long, livid scar as
of an old and terrible wound by a sabre or knife. Again Al fired. But
the Indian was some distance away and the bullet apparently missed him
altogether. Before Al could get another aim the savage had caught Tommy,
screaming and struggling, from the ground and, swinging him up on the
pony's back, had ridden swiftly after his companions.

For a moment Al was beside himself with grief and rage. His brother was
being carried away under his very eyes, probably to torture and death,
and he could do nothing. He ran out madly after the fleeing Indians,
shouting senseless threats and waving his arms. But he dared not fire,
for the last rider held Tommy, struggling fiercely in his iron grip, as
a shield between himself and pursuing bullets. In a few seconds all the
Indians had disappeared in the strip of woods and then Al remembered his
mother and sister. He abandoned his futile pursuit and ran to the house,
not even glancing at the dead Indian in the yard nor the one before the
door. Rushing into the kitchen, he threw himself in a paroxysm of grief
beside his father's body, crying out to him and vainly striving to
discover a sign of life in the quiet face, already grown so peaceful
under the soothing touch of death. At length, with dry, silent sobs
shaking his body, he rose slowly to his feet, closed and locked the
door, composed his father's limbs and spread a cloth over his face. Then
he picked up the musket, got the powder horn and box of bullets from the
shelf, and, with one last glance at the still form on the floor, ran
swiftly through the house and out, striking directly down the slope
toward the marshy ground along the creek.



CHAPTER II

THE FLIGHT THROUGH THE DARKNESS


Al had almost reached the nearest reeds when he heard a shot off to his
left and looking in that direction saw Spot, the cow, sink to her knees
and then topple over on her side. An Indian with rifle held aloof,
exulting over this piece of slaughter, was galloping toward her. Al
crouched low and ran into the reeds.

"Mother! Mother!" he called, softly, for the Indian was too far away to
hear.

"Here," answered his mother's voice, not far off, and in a moment he had
crept to her. Annie, crying softly, was beside her, and they were lying
well hidden in a dense thicket of reeds close to the creek.

"Where is your father?" whispered Mrs. Briscoe, the instant he reached
her, gazing at him with wide, terror-stricken eyes.

"Why, he--he--can't come now," Al faltered.

"He is killed," said Mrs. Briscoe, simply, in a lifeless voice.

Her son did not look at her.

"Yes," he said, almost inaudibly.

It seemed to him that the end of all things was closing down upon them.
His mother did not weep; she was past tears. She did not even move, but
her face was almost like chalk.

"And Tommy?" she asked presently.

"The Indians have carried him away," answered Al.

Mrs. Briscoe bowed her head upon her knees.

"Oh, my little boy, my baby boy!" she moaned. "Why should I live any
longer with them gone?"

Al, stunned by the tragedies of the past few minutes, had nearly reached
the lowest depths of despair. He felt numb and helpless, but at his
mother's heartbroken cry a sudden rush of vitality and determination
reanimated him. He recalled his father's words: "Remember that your
first care must be your mother and your little brother and sister." He
leaned forward and put his arm around his mother's shoulders.

"Mother," he said, "don't say that. You must live for Annie's sake and
mine,--and Tommy's. We shall get him back; they will not hurt him, he
is so young and bright. When we reach the fort the soldiers will send
out after him."

By a mighty effort Mrs. Briscoe controlled herself. Her son's words had
aroused her.

"You are right, Al," she said. "I must live for you and Annie and Tommy.
But can we start for the fort now?"

"I am afraid we shall have to stay here till dark," he replied. "The
Indians are still around. I will crawl up where I can get a look."

Leaving the musket beside his mother he crept up through the reeds
until, by raising his head cautiously, he could see the house, about
three hundred feet away at the top of the slope. An Indian was coming
out of the barn leading Chick and Monty, both animals rearing and
plunging wildly, for a horse brought up in civilization fears an Indian
as much as he does a wolf. Al also saw columns of smoke beginning to
arise from the roofs of the house and barn and realized with a terrible
pang that his father's body was about to be incinerated in the ruins of
his home. He felt a mad desire to rush from his concealment upon the
savages and to fight them single-handed. But he restrained himself, for
he realized that he would have no chance even against the four who were
certainly there and who, for all he knew, might now have been joined by
others. He lay there watching until the house and barn were wrapped in
flames. Then two of the Indians rode out in opposite directions and
making wide detours, circled around toward the swampy tract. Then he
crept hastily back to his mother and gave her the revolver, the two
empty chambers of which he had already re-loaded, himself taking the
musket.

"They are going to search for us, mother," he whispered. "We must keep
perfectly still. If they should find us and I should be hit, shoot Annie
and then yourself. Never let them take you alive. But if there are only
four of them we still have a good chance."

No more was said, and for a long time they lay quiet, their ears
sharpened to unnatural keenness, listening to the snapping of reeds in
the marsh to the east and west of them but never very close. The
conviction at last came upon Al that their hunters, few in number, were
afraid rather than anxious to find them, and he began to breathe easier.
After more than an hour had elapsed he heard horses splashing in the
creek above their hiding-place, and presently he crept again to the edge
of the reeds. The house and barn were smouldering heaps of ashes, and
the wagon was gone. No one was around the ruins but presently he saw,
far off on a rise of the prairie to the eastward several horsemen, mere
specks in the distance. He conjectured that it was the party which had
wrought their ruin, bound for the Millers, their nearest neighbors,
seven miles away. He wished ardently that he might warn the Millers but
it was out of the question, so he went back to his mother and sister,
and through the remaining hours of the afternoon and until darkness fell
they lay in their concealment. Then very cautiously, under cover of the
darkness, he piloted them across the creek, over several hills and low
places, and so at last, two or three miles south of the claim, into the
faintly marked road leading away to Fort Ridgely.

It is needless to enter into the details of that long and
nerve-wracking journey. Not a moment of it was free from the dreadful
fear of encountering enemies in the darkness, and, exhausted by
excitement and grief, they dragged their way through the night, stopping
every few yards to listen or peer into the gloom. Annie, utterly worn
out, sometimes fell to the ground asleep, and then Al and Mrs. Briscoe
had to take turns carrying her. Here and there at wide intervals around
the vast circle of the horizon appeared a far distant, dull, yellow glow
which they knew only too well must arise from other wrecked and burning
homes like their own. Now and then the exhaustion of Mrs. Briscoe and
Annie compelled them to sink down for a few moments' rest and it was
almost daybreak when they finally reached a point which Al knew must be
close to the cabin of the Olsens, about eight miles from Fort Ridgely,
though they could see nothing of the house in the darkness. Evidently,
therefore, it had not been burned, else they could have discerned the
smouldering embers. Al saw the first faint streaks of dawn in the East
and, realizing that they dared go no further by daylight, he led the
way to a small clump of timber which he remembered, lying about a
quarter of a mile east of the Olsens' buildings. He found a safe
hiding-place for his mother and sister in a dense thicket of bushes
under the trees, within a few feet of which he could himself lie and
have a clear view of the Olsen house and its immediate vicinity. Here
they remained until probably ten o'clock in the morning, Al all the time
keeping a close watch on the house. Not a person nor an animal was about
the place save a few chickens which he could see scratching in the yard,
and he concluded that the Olsens must have been warned, perhaps by Mr.
Briscoe himself on his homeward ride, and had escaped to the fort the
day before. The Briscoes had not tasted food since the previous noon,
and though neither his mother nor Annie would confess to being hungry,
Al knew that they all needed nourishment in order to be able to continue
their journey after nightfall. He determined to creep up to the deserted
house in the hope of finding some food there, if nothing more than a few
eggs in the log stable. Handing the revolver to his mother and dragging
the musket along beside him, he made his way with painful slowness
across the strip of open prairie between the woods and the house. On his
way he saw nothing to alarm him, though he noted that just west of the
house was a rise in the prairie, evidently concealing a depression
beyond, into which he could not see. But no tree tops were visible over
the rise, and he did not believe that any Indians would attempt to hide
in an open valley. He made a hurried search through the house, which
consisted of a single room, and was rewarded by finding a scant
half-loaf of very stale bread. Nothing else could he find, for the
family had evidently taken all their possessions, including food, in
their flight. He was just about to start to the stable in a search for
eggs when his heart suddenly seemed to stop beating at the sound of
galloping hoofs just back of the house. To his startled ears it sounded
like a hundred horses. His only thought was to get back to his mother
and sister and, seizing the musket, he dashed out of the doorway and
leaped away toward the trees, casting only one glance behind. It showed
him a group of eight or ten mounted Indians just riding up on the other
side of the house. His apprehension was such that he did not notice that
they were dressed in civilized garments until he heard a voice shout in
English and in a reassuring tone;

"Wait, boy, wait! we no hurt you!"

He ventured another glance behind and saw all the party save one
standing still, their rifles held aloft in sign of peace. The remaining
one was still riding toward him but his rifle was also held up. Al
realized that they could easily have shot him in his tracks had they
wished, and their failure to do so encouraged him. He halted while the
lone Indian rode up to him, dismounted and extended his hand, which Al
hesitatingly took. But the grasp was hearty and firm.

"We no hurt you," repeated the Indian. "We Christian Indian from Yellow
Medicine. We hunting for whites to save from the bad M'dewakantons that
make the much kill. We take you to Fort Ridgely. More white people
there?" He pointed to the timber toward which Al had been running.

The boy hesitated a moment. The Indian's appearance and words, and
still more his manner, inspired his confidence, and he found a brighter
hope springing up within him than he had felt since his father's death.
But should he trust his mother and Annie to these Indians when they had
just suffered so terribly at the hands of others of the same race?
Perhaps they were deceiving him in order to draw the rest of his party
into their power and would then kill or torture them all. But, on the
other hand, if the Indians were hostile he was already at their mercy,
so his protection was lost to his mother and sister. Could they make
their way to the fort alone if he should deny their presence now and go
with the Indians himself, either to safety or death? He did not believe
they could. But something kept telling him he must trust the Indian who
stood before him, so friendly and earnest. He was every inch an Indian
but his face lacked the expression of savage ferocity borne on the faces
of the war party which had attacked them the day before. It seemed
softened by better influences, and Al could hardly believe that he was
treacherous. He took his difficult resolution.

"Yes," he answered. "There are more over there."

The Indian smiled. "Good," said he. "We take you all to the fort. You go
get them." Then he added a little proudly, "We save since yesterday,
one, two, six white family."

Al went into the woods and informed his mother that rescuers had come to
them and, without mentioning their character, led her and Annie out.
Mrs. Briscoe was much alarmed when she first saw the party of Indians
assembled to meet them, but the latter greeted her so kindly and
sympathetically that she soon felt easier. Three of the red men
dismounted in order that she and Annie and Al might ride; and so, with
the Indians leading their ponies, the cavalcade started southward at
once in the direction of the fort. Al found that his confidence had not
been misplaced, for in less than two hours they rode into the fort, safe
but very weary and depressed.

Fort Ridgely was nothing more than a collection of buildings,--quarters
for troops, storehouses, stables, and the other structures necessary for
a permanent military establishment, standing on an exposed hill
surrounded by ravines and having no stockade or other defences whatever
around it; for it was designed merely as a cantonment and supply depot
and not as a defensive fortification. When the Briscoes entered it on
that afternoon of August 19, it presented a scene of confusion and
distress hard to imagine. It was thronged with refugees,--men, women,
and children, from all the surrounding country, many of them destitute
of everything save the clothes they wore. Some were wounded or badly
burned in escaping from houses set on fire by their assailants; and
others were arriving now and then who had escaped almost miraculously
from the devastated section about the Lower Agency or from more distant
points in other directions. These people were being fed from the stores
in the Government warehouse; and the post barracks were not large enough
to accommodate them, for, fortunately, more troops had arrived since the
day before.

Mrs. Briscoe soon found a friend in the warm-hearted Mrs. Olsen, who, as
Al had conjectured, had come in on the previous day with her husband
and children after having received warning of the uprising from Mr.
Briscoe. Mrs. Olsen burst into tears on learning of the sad fate of the
man to whom they very likely owed their own lives, and of the carrying
off of poor little Tommy. She instantly brought them food, and after
they had refreshed themselves, she insisted on Mrs. Briscoe and Annie
taking her bed in their covered wagon and resting, at least until more
commodious quarters could be found for them. Having seen his mother and
sister thus as comfortably cared for as present circumstances would
permit, Al started out to look for another place for them which would
not so greatly inconvenience the Olsens, and to learn what could be done
about sending pursuers after the Indians who had carried away Tommy.

Making his way among the groups of people, many of them disconsolate and
weeping, and among the wagons, the animals, and the heaps of household
goods scattered in confusion over the open parade ground in the centre
of the fort, Al suddenly felt a hand slap his shoulder while a familiar
voice said,

"Hello, Al Briscoe! When did you get here?"

He looked around and saw Wallace Smith, a young fellow of about his own
age, whom he had met at the fort several times during the past year when
he had come in after supplies. Wallace's father kept a general
merchandise store just outside the fort, at which the Briscoes had done
most of their trading, and it was toward this store that Al was walking
when he encountered Wallace.

"I just came in with my mother and sister," returned Al, shaking hands,
and then he related briefly the events of the last twenty-four hours.
Wallace was very sympathetic and at once took Al to the store. Here Mr.
Smith told him that he would find a place for Mrs. Briscoe and Annie to
sleep that night, in one of the rooms occupied by his own family above
the store. As for Al, he could sleep in the store itself, in company
with a number of men who were to be accommodated there. But when Al
mentioned his hope of having an immediate pursuit made after Tommy's
captors, Mr. Smith shook his head.

"I'm afraid you will find it can't be done now, my boy," he said. "There
are too few men here. But you can see the commanding officer and ask
him."

The boys, accordingly, left the store and walked toward the headquarters
building.

"Can't the Indians capture this place pretty easily" asked Al, looking
about. "I don't see what there is to keep them back."

Wallace looked serious. "Well, I don't know," he answered. "The officers
seem to think we can stand them off if they come, and I'm afraid they
surely will. Most of the men are busy now putting the buildings in shape
for defence. There are about a hundred soldiers of the Fifth Minnesota
Infantry here, for Lieutenant Sheehan was recalled by a messenger sent
yesterday, and he got back with his men a little while ago. He is in
command now. Have you heard about Captain Marsh?"

Al had not.

"Why, he marched for the Lower Agency yesterday morning with forty-five
men, as soon as he heard of the outbreak there. They were ambushed by
the Indians at the ferry across the Minnesota and, though they seem to
have fought splendidly, all the men were killed except fifteen, who
finally got back here. Captain Marsh himself was drowned in trying to
swim the river. So, you see, there is a third of our force cut off at
one blow. But a messenger was sent after Major Galbraith,--he is the
agent, you know, at the Upper Agency,--at the same time that one went
for Lieutenant Sheehan. Major Galbraith started yesterday for St. Paul
with a company of half-breed recruits for the Union army. They are
called the Renville Rangers. They ought to be back here pretty soon and
will add fifty more men. Then there are a good many refugees, probably
one hundred, who can fight, and we have several cannon, with a regular
army sergeant in charge of them. The Indians, you know, are deadly
afraid of cannon. So we ought to be able to make a pretty good defence,
though I wish there were a stockade."

"Did you say that Major Galbraith's company is made up of half-breeds?"
inquired Al, remembering with a shudder the evil face of the wretch who
had shot his father and whom he himself had killed.

"Yes. But most of them are reliable fellows, otherwise they would not
be willing to leave their country and go South to fight the rebels."

By this time they had reached the headquarters building, and Al saw,
standing in front of it, five or six of the Indians who had brought them
in.

"Who are those Indians, Wallace?" he asked. "They are some of the party
who rescued us."

Wallace looked closely at the red men, who were standing idle with their
ponies, evidently waiting for some one who was inside the building.

"Why, those are Sissetons from the Upper Agency," he said. "Probably
John Otherday, Solomon Twostars or some of the Renvilles are with them.
They have been going around the country all to-day and last night,
warning white people and bringing them in and there are other parties of
Sissetons and Wahpetons doing the same thing; though it's mighty
dangerous business, for the hostiles are almost as bitter against them
as against the whites. Very few of the Upper Indians seem to have joined
the uprising. They are mostly Christians, you know, and their conduct
shows the great work of the missionaries."

The boys entered the headquarters building, and though Lieutenant
Sheehan was surrounded by many men, all urgently anxious to transact
their business with him, Al presently found an opportunity to tell him
of Tommy's capture and to ask that men be sent after him. The officer
listened intently to the story and when it was finished, laid his hand
kindly on Al's shoulder.

"My boy," said he, with much emotion, "God knows, I wish I could send
men after your brother instantly; I know how you feel and especially how
your mother must feel, and I would gladly do it for your poor father's
sake, for he was a gallant officer in the Mexican War. But there are two
dozen people here already who have lost members of their families in the
same way; and for many of them the situation is much worse than yours,
because those they have lost are grown and are likely to be killed or
tortured by the Indians, while your brother is a child, and I don't
believe they will hurt him. But I have had to tell every one the same
thing; I can do nothing now. This place is likely to be attacked by a
thousand or more Indians at any moment and we have not one-tenth enough
men to defend it properly. Not a man can be spared from here now, for it
will be all we can do to save ourselves and all these women and children
from massacre. Probably in a few days we shall have hundreds of troops
from St. Paul and the East, and then we can go after these infernal red
murderers and punish them and rescue their living victims. But,
meantime, you must be prepared to stand with the rest of us in defending
your mother and little sister. And I think you are a lad who will do
your share." He glanced approvingly at Al's straight figure and steady
eyes.

"I shall try to, sir," answered Al.

"I know you will," said the Lieutenant. "You had better go and help the
men who are working on the storehouse."

He pointed to the building mentioned and then turned to several men who
were waiting for him; while Al, very much downcast at his failure but
still feeling a little more hopeful of Tommy's safety because of
Lieutenant Sheehan's words, walked out again with Wallace.



CHAPTER III

BESIEGED IN FORT RIDGELY


The remainder of that afternoon and the following night passed without
serious alarms, but it was heavy with labor for the little garrison. The
roofs of the storehouses and of the barracks for enlisted men were
covered with earth to protect them against fire arrows, and their sides
were loop-holed. Earth and log barricades were erected at various points
overlooking the heads of ravines. Little could be done to protect the
officers' frame quarters or the log stables and outbuildings, which lay,
much exposed, at the western corner of the fort. Early in the evening
Major Galbraith's Renville Rangers came into the fort, forty-five
strong, weary with a twelve-hour forced march from St. Peter, where they
had been overtaken by the courier sent to recall them. A large majority
of these men remained loyal to their duty during the ensuing days but a
few of them, their slumbering ferocity roused by the reports of the
uprising of their savage kindred, skulked away and joined the hostiles,
committing before they left an act of dastardly treachery. Several small
cannon, in charge of the gallant Ordnance Sergeant John Jones, of the
United States regular army, were placed in commanding positions in the
fort, and that night a heavy chain guard was posted all around the
place. But, though several false alarms were given, no Indians appeared,
and the night passed in reasonable quiet. Mrs. Briscoe, still too
overwhelmed with dumb grief to do more than mechanically comply with the
arrangements made for her and Annie by Al and her friends, passed the
night not uncomfortably in the hospitable but over-crowded home of the
Smiths; and Al slept with a dozen men and boys, including Wallace, on
the floor of the store below, his musket and revolver beside him.

The early part of the next day was spent like the one preceding it, in
further strengthening the barricades and buildings, in cleaning weapons,
and, beyond that, simply in endless discussion of the ghastly events of
the past few days and uneasy speculation upon the future. Though many of
the refugees would have gladly given all that remained of their
shattered fortunes to get to St. Paul or some other place of assured
security, the attempt was not to be thought of, for it was known that
the hostiles were skulking all about the post and any party which might
start out for the East would undoubtedly be set upon and destroyed. A
few scattered survivors of the massacre continued to come in now and
then, exhausted, famished, often wounded, and always nearly insane from
the unnumbered perils and rigorous hardships through which they had
passed. An attack on the fort was expected at any time, as Lieutenant
Sheehan's words to Al had indicated, and the only cause for wonder was
that it had not come sooner. Indeed, had the defenders but known it,
Little Crow had been urgent in the councils of the Indians for an
overwhelming assault on Fort Ridgely on the evening of the eighteenth,
immediately after the bloody defeat of Captain Marsh's detachment. But
some of his more cautious followers opposed the plan on the ground that
many of the warriors were still out over the country, murdering settlers
and destroying property, so that the full strength of their forces could
not yet be brought against the fort. This view was eagerly sustained by
the strong element among the hostiles who were opposed to the whole
outbreak on principle, seeing in it nothing but ultimate disaster for
their people, yet who did not dare openly to champion the cause of the
whites for fear of being summarily dealt with by their more violent
associates. This element hoped that a delay in the attack on the fort
might enable the whites to gather a sufficient force there to repulse it
when it should be made, and assuredly the delay had rendered it possible
for the defenders to place the post in a much better state of defence by
the afternoon of August 20 than it had been two days before.

It was about one o'clock on that hot, still afternoon when Al and
Wallace stepped out of the Smiths' store, having just finished their
dinner. They were about to start over to the storehouse of the fort,
where some work was still being done, when Wallace noticed a loose horse
wandering down into one of the ravines not far from the store.

"That's one of our horses," he exclaimed. "He must have slipped his
halter. If he goes far the Indians will catch him. Come on; let's get
him!"

Followed by Al, he dashed into the stable for a halter and then started
on a run for the ravine. The latter was quite wide and thickly fringed
with bushes and small trees, while the bottom of it was carpeted with
luxuriant grass, which the horse was nibbling as they came up. But their
appearance startled him and with a snort he leaped past them and
galloped on some distance further, when he again halted. The boys
followed, Wallace this time approaching more diplomatically and saying
in a soothing tone,

"Come, Frank; come boy! Nice boy!"

"He'll give you a jolt in the ribs if you get too close," warned Al, as
he noticed the animal begin to edge his hind feet around in the
direction of Wallace.

But Frank was not so mischievous as he looked; for in a moment Wallace
had the halter on his head and the boys were just about to turn again up
the ravine toward the fort, when, without the least warning, there
sprang from the bushes not ten yards behind them two Indian warriors,
dressed only in breech-clouts and both armed with bows and arrows.
Uttering not a sound they sprang toward the boys with the evident
intention of taking them alive. Al and Wallace were too dumbfounded to
move until the Indians were almost upon them. Then Wallace dropped the
horse's halter and, catching up a heavy stick lying at his feet, hurled
it at the head of one of the warriors. It caught the savage fairly
across the face and he reeled for an instant from the force of the blow,
while his companion, somewhat daunted, halted also. The boys ran at full
speed up the ravine, not even pausing to note the effect of Wallace's
throw, which he afterward admitted had found its mark by pure accident.
They had gone but a few yards when an arrow whizzed past Al's head and
struck in the ground in front of them. They only ran the faster. A
half-dozen more arrows flew by them and then Wallace uttered a cry of
pain as one struck him fairly in the left arm. But by this time,
fortunately, they were at the head of the ravine and only a few feet
from the nearest buildings. Al stole a glance behind him, to see that
their two pursuers had been joined by more than a dozen others; and then
the boys dashed around the corner of the building, out of range,
shouting at the tops of their voices,

"Indians! Indians!"

All over the fort men sprang to their feet, seized their guns, and such
as were not already behind them rushed to the barricades and protected
buildings. But by no means all of them had reached cover when a
scattering, but numerous volley of musket shots and arrows was poured
into the fort, not only out of the ravine from which the boys had
escaped but from a number of others. Al then saw why the Indians
following them had not fired on them with guns, for that would have
spoiled the contemplated surprise of the fort, which their unexpected
appearance in the ravine in pursuit of Frank had, perhaps, precipitated.

The defenders replied to the Indian fire so promptly and vigorously
that the savages fell back from their first rush and concealed
themselves about the heads of the ravines, whence they began a steady
and well-sustained fire. The women and children, however, had nearly all
reached places of shelter, when Al hurried up to the Smiths' store after
his musket and revolver, almost dragging Wallace who, beside himself
with pain, was frantically trying to pull the deeply imbedded arrow from
his arm. They encountered Mr. Smith and his wife, accompanied by Mrs.
Briscoe and Annie, who were fleeing from the exposed store, through
which the Indian bullets were crashing, to the shelter of the barracks
building.

"Here, Al," cried Mr. Smith, thrusting the latter's musket, revolver,
and ammunition into his hands. "Don't go in there; you'll be killed.
Come on, Wallace. God, lad, are you hurt?"

Wallace made no reply, but all of them ran, crouching low, to the
barracks, which they reached safely after a race of a few rods, though
it seemed like a mile with the bullets and arrows whistling about them.
Here Dr. Alfred Muller, the brave assistant surgeon of the fort, aided
by his heroic wife, took charge of Wallace and soon had the arrow
extracted from his arm and the painful, though not serious, wound
properly dressed. It was the first of nearly a score of similar cases
which the Mullers were called upon to treat in Fort Ridgely. Wallace was
much distressed at his inability to take his place with the defenders,
but Al and Mr. Smith had to leave him in the surgeon's charge and hasten
out to join the rest of the active garrison. On their way they
encountered Sergeant Jones, working desperately with several other men
over the vent of one of the small cannon. Al had already wondered dimly
why he had heard none of the cannon firing, but he understood after Mr.
Smith had asked,

"Why don't you open with the guns, sergeant? It would scare the Indians
worse than anything."

"Can't," replied the sergeant, without looking up from his work. "Some
of Major Galbraith's infernal half-breeds have spiked every one of the
guns and then skipped out. But I'll have them in action in a few
minutes."

He continued boring furiously with the drill he was using to clear the
nail from the gun's vent and in a moment he shouted,

"Hooray! She's clear!" Then he added, addressing the cannoneer of the
detachment, "Give them two-second shell and spherical case, fast as you
can work her. Sweep the head of the ravine and aim low. I'll see if I
can open the next one."

Drill in hand, he rushed away toward another gun some distance off,
totally oblivious to the fire opened on him as soon as he appeared on
the open ground. Mr. Smith and Al followed him and took their places
among a number of others already there, behind a log barricade which
stood not far from the next gun and facing the post stables out beyond
the western corner of the fort. The men around them were chiefly
refugees and some of them were greatly excited, firing rapidly and
without aim, while a few others crouched down and did not attempt to
shoot at all. There were no officers among them and no one seemed to be
in command.

"Don't fire without something to aim at, Al," said Mr. Smith. "Wait
till you see the flash of a gun or a movement in the grass and then
shoot at the spot."

Mr. Smith was armed with a muzzle-loading rifle, which he was firing
very slowly and carefully, and Al followed his example, for neither of
them had much ammunition. Mr. Smith knew that the other men with them
were not much better off, for the small arms ammunition supply of the
fort was perilously low, and he tried with some success to induce them
to fire more deliberately. The panic-stricken skulkers, however, he
could not arouse to their duty. They merely lay still and cursed him
when he told them to get up and sneered at their cowardice.

Out to their left, Sergeant Jones was still trying unsuccessfully to
open the vent of the field-gun. Occasionally the boom of the gun which
he had already repaired roared out above the crackle of musketry, and in
the ravine which its fire was sweeping the Indians gave way and retired.
Presently he succeeded in getting the second gun into action, and the
assailants disappeared from that front also; and by the time he had them
all working the Indians had become discouraged. Their fire gradually
slackened, and as night approached, their main body drew off; though
enough warriors still remained in well concealed places to maintain a
desultory fire, and the weary garrison, resting on their arms, caught
but fitful repose through the hours of darkness, for no one could tell
when the attack might be renewed.

The fort remained in a state of siege all the next day until near
evening, the garrison taking reliefs in guarding the defences. But about
dusk the Indian fire ceased altogether, and total silence settled over
the hillsides, which for thirty hours had echoed the turmoil of battle.
Three soldiers lay dead within the fort and eight others of the garrison
were wounded. The quiet which reigned through the night and the morning
of the twenty-second was more disturbing than the uproar which had
preceded it. While the latter prevailed, the garrison at least knew
where their enemies were and what they were doing, while now no one
could tell what new and formidable plans they might be hatching. No one
believed that they had given up the hope of taking the fort and those in
the garrison most familiar with the Indian methods of warfare regarded
it as certain that they were making ready for a final, great assault.

Early on the afternoon of the twenty-second it came, beginning with a
sudden and tremendous volley fired into the fort from all sides at once.
The Indians, in a seemingly countless horde, then sprang up and made a
rush for the fort, which seemed about to be overwhelmed by sheer weight
of numbers. But the garrison was in position and ready for them. Volley
after volley poured into the approaching mass of savages, while the
shells of the artillery tore through their ranks. Unused to bearing the
losses of an open, stand-up fight, the Indians quickly gave way and fled
back to the ravines, where, however, they remained, stubbornly pouring
in an intense fire, which searched every portion of the fort. Little
Crow was some distance behind the Indian lines, directing the general
attack, while on the field itself, Mankato, Good Thunder, Big Eagle and
other veteran chiefs were leading the savage hosts, which outnumbered
the garrison five to one. They pressed the attack relentlessly. Musket
and rifle balls tore through the officers' wooden quarters and other
exposed structures, and now and then a fire arrow whizzed through the
air and struck its blazing torch into one of the frame buildings. Soon
several of the latter, including the Smiths' store, broke into flames
and the roar of the conflagration added to the terrifying confusion of
the battle, while stifling smoke clouds rolled across the field, both
blinding and choking the defenders.

But though the attack was vigorous all along the line, it was especially
so at the western corner of the fort, where the Indians had discovered
that if they could gain possession of the exposed stables they could
command and render untenable a considerable extent of the interior
defences. Al was at the same barricade which he had occupied two days
before, but it was being defended now chiefly by men of the Renville
Rangers, who were fighting as courageously as the best of veterans. All
at once Al saw Lieutenant Sheehan and Lieutenant Gorman, of the Rangers,
run up to the field gun near them, and heard Sheehan cry to the gunners:

"Fire shell into the left of those stables! Set them afire if you can.
The Indians are trying to get in them."

Then the officers ran on to their barricade.

"Boys," shouted Lieutenant Gorman to the Rangers, "those stables on the
right must be burned. Come on! Don't go near the ones on the left; the
cannon is going to knock them to pieces. Hurry up!"

He sprang across the barricade, and a number of the men without the
least hesitation darted after him over the exposed ground in front,
their guns trailing beside them and their heads bent low. Hardly
thinking what he was doing but eager to be of service, Al followed them,
and in the general uproar he did not hear Lieutenant Sheehan shouting to
him to come back. The distance was not great, and though the bullets
seemed to rain around them, almost before he knew it Al found himself
with Lieutenant Gorman and his dusky companions inside the stable, and
none of them hurt. Under Lieutenant Gorman's quick orders, the Rangers
snatched up handfuls of hay, lighted them, and blew them into flames
along the inner walls of the building. But Al, during the moment they
were thus occupied, peered out through an opening in the western end of
the stable. What he saw alarmed him. There were Indians everywhere, just
below the edge of the hill out of the direct line of fire from the fort,
and a number of them were actually along the outside wall of the stable
itself. Al thrust his revolver through the opening and fired three times
in rapid succession, with what effect he never knew, for he heard
Lieutenant Gorman shout,

"She'll burn now. Come on, get away! Get away!"

The inner walls of the stable were a seething mass of flames as they
fled through the doorway, hearing as they ran the crash and explosion of
a shell in the stables beside the one which they had just left. As he
sprang back behind the barricade again, Al felt a hand grasp him roughly
by the arm, and heard Lieutenant Sheehan's voice saying in his ear:

"You young rascal, what do you mean by running out like that and
risking your life? You're not a soldier; I didn't order you out. What
would your mother and sister do if you were killed?"

This aspect of the matter had not occurred to Al before. He began to
reply, in penitent confusion,

"Why,--I don't know, sir. I--"

"Well, hang it, don't do it again, that's all," broke in the officer.
Then he added, while a half smile came over his face, powder-grimed and
wet with perspiration: "Anyhow, you're a plucky youngster. Your father
would be proud of you."

"I should say he is plucky," interjected Gorman. "He started to clean
out the redskins over there, but hadn't time to finish the job."

The two officers disappeared through the smoke up the line, and Al
resumed his methodical musket practice, the Rangers around him now and
then glancing at him approvingly, though he did not notice it.

The fire along their immediate front relaxed a little as the stables
blazed into ruins and the assailants found that they could not utilize
this coveted point of vantage. But the Indians clung to the ravines
with a stubbornness truly amazing, the utmost efforts of the artillery
failing to dislodge them. Presently one of the Rangers kneeling beside
Al, with a gesture of despair threw down his gun,--a cumbersome,
old-fashioned weapon of the type called "Harper's Ferry muskets," with
which all Major Galbraith's men were armed,--and exclaimed,

"No more bullets!"

It was an ominous announcement and one which was very soon followed by
others of similar nature, not only at their barricade, but all over the
fort. Consumed by the rapid fire which had been necessary to hold back
the fierce Indian attack, the small arms ammunition supply of the fort
was almost exhausted, and a few moments more of such work would see it
all expended. A dreadful contingency faced the defenders. With their
ammunition all gone, their assailants would be able to rush in and
slaughter them almost at will. One by one the men of the garrison ran
out of bullets and the fire perceptibly slackened. The Indians quickly
noticed this and, guessing the cause, redoubled their efforts.

Al, thanks to his careful use of ammunition, still had quite a supply
left, but he saw with horror what the general situation was and realized
that unless something could be done to relieve it, they would all be
massacred in a few minutes. Being under no orders and wishing to be with
his mother and sister at the last moment, if this was really at hand, he
left the barricade and ran to the barracks building, where they were
crowded with the other noncombatants. A distressing scene met his eyes
as he entered. Many of the women were gathered in groups, weeping and
wringing their hands, their children clinging about them, while here and
there others knelt, praying aloud or absorbed in silent supplications. A
long row of wounded lay stretched on pallets at one side. But across the
room he saw another group, the only one in which the spirit of courage
and determination seemed still to prevail. To Al's surprise, his mother
was one of this party, apparently perfectly calm and her face lighted by
an expression of noble resolution and self-forgetfulness. With her were
several other women of like firm spirit, and two or three men, all of
them busily absorbed in some occupation around a stove in which a hot
fire was blazing. Al soon found that they were casting musket balls,
their supply of lead consisting of the flattened bullets of the Indians,
which men were gathering up outside and bringing to them to be
re-moulded. The rapidly increasing supply which they were thus preparing
was being augmented by some of Sergeant Jones's artillerymen, who were
opening spherical case shot and removing from them the balls, which
served perfectly for musket ammunition. Although Lieutenant Sheehan and
Sergeant Jones had thought of these providential expedients but a few
moments before, already small quantities of the new balls were being
taken out and distributed to the men in the defences, whose fire,
consequently, was resuming its former volume.

His hope and enthusiasm all returned to Al as soon as he found that a
vigorous defence could still be maintained, and after an affectionate
embrace and a few words with his mother and Annie, he ran back again to
the barricade. It was not long after his return there, and late in the
afternoon, that the Indians once more made a determined effort to storm
the position. Marshalling their forces below the crest of the hill, they
rushed up from the ravines in throngs, brandishing their weapons and
whooping at the tops of their voices; while the flare of their
many-colored war-bonnets and robes, the tiger-like contortions of their
muscular, naked bodies, and the glint of rifle barrel and knife blade,
flashing back the rays of the sinking sun, made a spectacle as wildly
magnificent as it was awe-inspiring. But again the heroic garrison
proved equal to the emergency. From barricade and loop-holed wall the
infantry poured steady volleys into them, while the artillery, holding
its fire until the charge was well under way, lashed their ranks with
case shot. Though they had started forward with the utmost enthusiasm,
they soon began to hesitate and break. With their undisciplined methods
of fighting, the Indian does not live who could withstand such a fire.
In a moment they had halted, and a few seconds more saw them scurrying
back to the ravines, utterly repulsed, while from the throats of the
sturdy little garrison rose cheer after cheer of victory, and men leaped
upon the barricades and tossed their hats in the air. Every one felt
that the enemy had made his last, supreme effort, and such, indeed,
proved to be the case. The Indian fire gradually died away, and by
nightfall silence again reigned over Fort Ridgely, wrecked, smoking, and
shot-torn, but triumphant.

The stables and outlying buildings, with the exceptions of the
guard-house and the magazine, were smouldering ruins; the officers'
quarters were riddled through and through; the storehouse and barracks
were pock-marked and splintered with bullets; nearly all the oxen and
mules belonging to the quartermaster's department were captured or
killed, and seven more wounded men lay beside those who had been injured
two days before. But the fight was won. Through the night the garrison
lay on their arms, watching the glare of distant conflagrations off to
the southeast, where the defeated Indians were burning farm-houses and
stacks as they marched on to the village of New Ulm, sixteen miles away.
Fort Ridgely remained undisturbed, though New Ulm, where two hundred and
fifty volunteer citizens under the command of Judge Charles E.
Flandreau had gathered to defend the town and the one thousand five
hundred non-combatants in refuge there, was desperately attacked next
day, almost wholly burned, and nearly captured by the infuriated
savages. Though the Indians seemed to be gone from their vicinity, the
occupants of Fort Ridgely were obliged to remain inert for several days
longer, and then, at last, on the morning of the twenty-seventh, their
eyes were gladdened by the sight of a large column of troops approaching
from the eastward, and the little army of Colonel H. H. Sibley, hastily
recruited and as yet poorly disciplined and wretchedly armed, but full
of ardor, marched into the quadrangle of shattered buildings amid the
cheers of the men and the tearful thanksgivings of the women. The
never-to-be-forgotten siege was over.



CHAPTER IV

REFUGEES


The arrival of Colonel Sibley's troops gave to the destitute refugees in
Fort Ridgely their first opportunity of turning from the desperate
struggle for immediate self-preservation in which they had been
ceaselessly involved for nine days, to contemplate fully the extent of
the disaster which had fallen upon them and to consider what their
future course must be. To most of them the Indian outbreak and its
consequent massacre and pillage had brought the total ruin of their
fortunes, for in general they were poor people who had come into the
West and started their homes on free Government land, in the hope of
acquiring comfort and modest fortunes through years of faithful labor.
But to the families which had been so fortunate as to remain intact,
losing no loved members at the hands of the savages, the disaster was
not irremediable. The property they had lost was not, in most cases, of
very great value, save as measured by labor; and as their lands still
remained to them, they could again enter into occupation as soon as
settled conditions were restored, and in a short time recover their
former positions. So, although a few such families lost heart and left
the country, most of them remained and lived to see the time when they
were very glad they had done so.

But with the families which had been shattered by the savages, which had
lost father or mother or sons or daughters struck down in the slaughter,
the case was far different. And many, alas, were in this condition, for
more than one thousand white people had fallen victims to the Indians
along the desolated Minnesota frontier during those few mid-August days.
Where the head of a family had been lost, his widow and children must
either undertake to eke out a precarious existence on the devastated
claim from which they had been driven, surrounded by the hard conditions
of pioneer life, or they must return to the older parts of the country
whence they had originally come, and there seek the aid and protection
of relatives or friends. The first arrangement was often impossible, for
not many a widow with a family of small children could hope to sustain
herself in such a country, beautiful and fertile but at that time wild
and practically unbroken. For these reasons there was a long and doleful
procession of destitute people passing through St. Paul, Winona, and the
other towns along the Mississippi River on their way back to the more
easterly States during the days of late August and early September,
1862. They came from Fort Ridgely, from New Ulm, from Acton and Forest
City and Hutchinson and a score of other little settlements along the
border. Among these unfortunate people were to be found the survivors of
the Briscoe family, bound for St. Louis, Missouri. How they had finally
come to decide upon this course will require some explanation.

When Al first realized, with the advent of Colonel Sibley's troops into
Fort Ridgely, that the Indians had been checked and the tide turned, and
that the white men were really setting about regaining possession of the
country, his first and greatest ambition was to set out at once for the
rescue of Tommy; his second was to visit the lonely and ruined cabin
twenty miles north of the fort and there give the remains of his father
tender burial. But he soon found that difficulties lay in the way of
accomplishing either of these desires. The army could not instantly
spring forth as one man and rush to the rescue of his brother. The
soldiers had to be prepared and provided for a campaign which, moreover,
even when inaugurated, must be carefully and methodically carried out.
Several hundred white captives, among whom it seemed almost certain that
Tommy would be found, were in the possession of the Indians. If a
precipitate attack should be made upon the latter their captives would,
past a doubt, be massacred to a soul. Their release must be accomplished
by diplomacy; the Indians must be made to realize that only by the safe
delivery of their prisoners could they hope to mitigate the stern
punishment which they had richly earned at the hands of the Government,
and which would surely be meted out to them sooner or later. To
accomplish the safe delivery of the captives might mean weeks of
careful work on the part of the friendly Indians in inducing the
hostile element to see the necessity for such action. It might require
numerous councils and it might require fighting, properly prepared for.

All this meant that if Al were to take personal part in the rescue of
Tommy, they must stay at Fort Ridgely for some time to come; and to stay
at Fort Ridgely meant that they must have some money. Here was the most
distressing difficulty in the whole situation. The Briscoes had
absolutely nothing left; they were penniless. Even their few household
goods had been destroyed or carried away by the Indians and these goods,
together with their buildings and the handful of live stock and farm
implements on their claim, had constituted all their worldly
possessions. They had not always been in such a precarious condition; in
fact, two years before the period at which our story opens they would
not have dreamed that they could ever be reduced to such circumstances
as were theirs when we first saw them.

In 1860 the Briscoes had been living in the prosperous little city of
Glasgow, Missouri, at that time an important centre of steamboat
traffic on the Missouri River, drawing to its numerous and
well-appointed stores the trade of a wide region of farms and
plantations, and to its wharves and warehouses the great crops of hemp
and tobacco, corn and grain, vegetables and live-stock with which the
whole rich country teemed. Mr. Briscoe's business, the retailing of
furniture, was extensive and profitable, his home was as comfortable and
attractive as any in the town, and his family lacked for none of the
comforts of life, while many of its luxuries were also theirs. Once or
twice a year, usually in the summer and winter, when there was something
of a lull in the business, they would make a trip to St. Louis, where
Mrs. Briscoe's sister, her only near relative, lived with her husband
and family. His parents had intended to send Al to an academy in St.
Louis in the Fall of 1861, to complete his preparatory education before
applying for an appointment as a cadet at West Point. Then came the
opening of the Civil War and the beginning of a rapid succession of
events in the family, which had forced the abandonment of this and of
all the other plans which they had cherished for the future.

The opening of hostilities, precipitated by the attack on Fort Sumter,
produced a commercial and industrial effect upon the country at large
almost as calamitous as the political one; and this was particularly
true in the Border States, where sentiment was sharply divided. Mr.
Briscoe's business was one which depended to an unusual degree upon
conditions of general prosperity and tranquillity. When the people of
the community found their incomes destroyed or sharply cut down by
general conditions, they could and did get along without new furniture,
though they could not get along without groceries or clothing. His
business suffered on this account, but it suffered still more from other
causes.

Mr. Briscoe had always commanded an unusual degree of popularity in
Glasgow since he had gone there, a youth, in 1844, because he had
enlisted for the Mexican War, among many other volunteers from the town
and from Howard County, in the First Regiment of Missouri Dragoons,
under Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan; an organization immensely popular
in central Missouri at the time. He had served through all the
wonderfully romantic campaigns of that regiment with gallantry and
distinction, coming out of the war a first lieutenant. He had won his
sergeantcy for saving the life of a comrade, another Glasgow youth, in
the fight at Brazitos, New Mexico, December 21, 1846; his second
lieutenantcy for faithfulness and courage during the long march from
Sante Fe to Chihuahua, and his first lieutenantcy for gallantry in the
capture of that city from a Mexican army five times as large as the
American force, on February 28, 1847. Consequently, on his return to
Glasgow he had been regarded as a hero, and the people could not do
enough for him, showing their favor in one most practical way by
bestowing as much of their trade upon him as they possibly could. He, in
turn, entertained the liveliest interest in the exciting events of the
Mexican War and the most profound and loyal regard for his old
commander, Colonel Doniphan. It was in the latter's honor that he
christened his eldest son Alexander Doniphan, and we have seen that he
even applied the fanciful names, Chihuahua and Montezuma,--shortened for
convenience to Chick and Monty,--to his horses, in memory of his days
below the Rio Grande.

But the very fact that he had been one of Doniphan's men was equivalent
to a declaration that in spirit he was a sympathizer with the political
theories and social institutions at that time almost universally
accepted by the people of the Southern States, where slavery prevailed;
for it was among people of such convictions that Doniphan's regiment had
been almost wholly recruited. Because he had been one of them, everybody
so naturally assumed that his views agreed with those of his military
associates that he was seldom even called upon to express himself. When
he was, the fact that he said little, and that of a rather non-committal
character, only led people to believe that he did not care for
discussion and regretted the political unrest of the time, as, indeed,
did many others. This ill-defined position did very well until the
beginning of the period of intense agitation and bitterness immediately
following the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency in the Fall
of 1860. He then found himself forced to face the issue frankly and
declare, not only to himself but to others, whether he intended to throw
in his fortunes with the South in the war which every one foresaw was
rapidly approaching, or to stand firmly by the Union.

It was a bitterly hard choice for him to make and one which he deferred
as long as possible; for, though both he and his wife were of Northern
birth and ancestry, the most cherished associations of their lives had
been with Southern people, and they loved the South like their native
land. But he believed, and Mrs. Briscoe believed with him, that the
Southern idea of destroying the Union was absolutely wrong, and that a
true American citizen's allegiance was due, not to any one State or
section but to the nation. When, after much painful reflection, he found
himself unalterably committed to this conviction, he was a man of too
much courage not to declare it. His associates and fellow citizens in
the town learned of his attitude first with astonishment, then with
resentment, and finally with cold hostility. He had made his choice, he
had voluntarily arrayed himself against the dearest desires of their
hearts and what they conceived to be the most vital interests of their
lives. They turned from him as from a betrayer, a traitor, and he
suddenly found himself worse than a stranger in the community where for
fifteen years past he had been respected and beloved above most other
citizens. It was the sad story, as old as organized society, of the
dearest private associations torn asunder by the rancor of public
controversy. His business suddenly declined to almost nothing. It would
not have been so bad if he had made provision for the future. But it had
always been so easy to make money that he and his family had spent it
just as easily, for it had seemed that the business alone would always
continue to provide them with all they might need. His credit with the
wholesale houses of St. Louis and the East was large and unquestioned,
and when the trouble came his store was full of goods unpaid for. Too
long he struggled to dispose of his stock in a town whose people, all at
once, either could not or would not buy. Finally, when his creditors,
themselves pressed for money by the industrial depression, began to
harass him, he sold at ruinous sacrifices. But he could not stem the
tide. He was forced into bankruptcy, and stock, store building, home and
household goods, all went down in the yawning pit of debt; for such was
his sense of honor that he would withhold nothing in order to pay to
those who had trusted him the money to which they were justly entitled.
And he did pay it, dollar for dollar, to the last cent; but when it was
paid he had nothing left in the world except a little less than three
hundred dollars in cash, a few bits of cherished family silver and
bric-a-brac belonging to his wife, and a scanty stock of family
clothing. His brother-in-law in St. Louis, Mr. Colton, would gladly have
helped him, but he, also, had been brought to the verge of ruin by the
business upheaval, and Mr. Briscoe, well knowing this, declined to add a
particle to his burdens.

To go into business again at such a time, in another town and without
capital, was not to be thought of. Neither was sufficiently remunerative
employment to be found, nor could he yet enter the Union army, as he
ardently desired to do, leaving his family destitute. The free
Government lands seemed to offer a home which they could acquire with
little difficulty, and a living in the meantime as cheap as could be
found anywhere. So they chose Minnesota and went to the claim north of
Fort Ridgely, where Mr. Briscoe hoped that in a few years he might
develop a farm and accumulate a little money. Then, if the war was not
yet over and his services were still needed, he might leave Al in charge
for a time and go to the front.

Such, briefly, was the history of the Briscoe family up to the time when
we first met with them, and such their plans for the future, so rudely
interrupted by the calamities of the Indian outbreak. Without father,
without money, without agricultural implements or horses, and without
even a home to live in, with the whole country still overrun by hostile
savages, it was out of the question, after the relief of Fort Ridgely,
for them either to return to their claim or to remain where they were.
The only place in the world which seemed to offer a haven of refuge for
the time being, at least, was the home of Mrs. Briscoe's sister in St.
Louis. Pitying friends among the other almost equally destitute
refugees, even soldiers of the garrison who were touched by the wretched
plight of the little family and by Al's manly conduct during the siege,
contributed to a small fund sufficient to take them by steamboat to St.
Louis; and on one of the last days of August they started for St. Paul
with a large party, escorted by a detachment of soldiers.

Before they left, Al and his mother asked and obtained an interview with
Colonel Sibley, concerning Tommy. Colonel Sibley was a man of great
prominence in Minnesota, having been elected the first Governor of the
State after its admission to the Union in 1858. At the time of the
Indian outbreak he was living at the mouth of the Minnesota River, where
Governor Ramsey sent for him to take command of the troops called out to
suppress the uprising, because of his great influence over the Indians
and his familiarity with their methods of warfare. He was a gentle,
kindly man, whose heart was torn by the loss and suffering of the people
along the western border of his State. Mrs. Briscoe and Al called at his
headquarters on the morning of the day they left for St. Paul. The
Colonel received them with his accustomed courtesy, asked them to be
seated and, himself taking a chair facing them, listened to Mrs.
Briscoe's sad story with deep and compassionate attention. When she had
finished he sat, seemingly lost in thought, for a short time, his chin
resting on his hand. Then he looked up at Mrs. Briscoe and said:

"Madam, my heart bleeds for you. I wish that it were within my power to
restore your little son to you at once. I wish that you might remain in
Minnesota in order that you could sooner have the happiness of knowing
when he is recaptured. But neither you nor your son here," he glanced at
Al, "need feel that your absence will defer the little boy's rescue one
moment longer than if you remained here. The recovery of all the white
captives is now in the hands of my forces and we shall get them all as
soon as we possibly can. I give you my promise, Mrs. Briscoe; I will
personally see to it that he is sent to you in St. Louis as soon as it
can be done, and if there should be any delay you shall be promptly
notified of the facts. Your husband's remains shall also receive
Christian burial whenever a party can visit your claim, and in case any
of your property is found there which is of value, I will have it stored
here in Fort Ridgely until you return or send for it. Can you tell me,
my boy," he turned to Al, "anything of the appearance of the Indian who
carried away your brother which might help to identify him?"

"I should know him again instantly, sir, if I saw him," Al replied. "He
was a tall fellow, over six feet, I think, and seemed very strong. He
had a deep scar, like a knife or sword cut, running down his left cheek
and along his neck and shoulder."

"O-ho!" ejaculated the colonel. "That surely ought to make it easy if he
is an Indian belonging to any of the tribes in this region. Orderly!"

Instantly a soldier opened the door, came to attention and saluted.

"Tell Major Brown I want to see him."

The orderly disappeared, but in a moment the door opened again admitting
Major Joseph R. Brown, a famous Indian trader who had been Major
Galbraith's predecessor as Indian agent at the Lower Agency, and who
was now in command of one of Colonel Sibley's companies of volunteers.
Probably no white man in Minnesota was personally acquainted with more
of the Indians in that section. Colonel Sibley and Al described to him
the Indian who had carried off Tommy, but Major Brown shook his head.

"I know no Indian in these parts who answers to that description," he
replied. "He must be an outsider; perhaps a Yanktonais who has drifted
in because there was trouble in the air. There are probably a good many
of them around."

This was disappointing intelligence yet enlightening in a way, for
though it indicated that Tommy was not in the clutches of any of the
Minnesota savages, at the same time it limited his captor to one of the
Dakota tribes further west and to that extent simplified the mystery of
his whereabouts and possible fate. Colonel Sibley, however, was still of
the opinion that he would be found with the other white captives when
these should be recovered, as he did not believe that a warrior from a
distant part of the country would care to burden himself permanently
with a prisoner.

With such unsatisfactory conclusions Al and his mother were forced to be
content, and though somewhat encouraged by the hopeful and reassuring
words of Colonel Sibley, who did his best to cheer them, they began the
long journey toward St. Louis with heavy hearts.



CHAPTER V

HOPE DEFERRED


It is not necessary to enter into the details of that trip, which was
devoid of unusual incidents. In due time the unfortunate family reached
their destination, where they were affectionately received by the
Coltons and taken into their home. Since the dark days at the beginning
of the war the Coltons had been obliged to give up their pleasant home
on Morgan Street, in what was then one of the most desirable residence
districts of the city, and had moved into a smaller house on Palm
Street, far up on the North Side and not many blocks from the St. Louis
Fair Grounds. Mr. Colton had succeeded in weathering his reverses and
still had his business, that of real estate, downtown; but it was in a
far from prosperous condition, and his income was hardly sufficient to
support him and his family, consisting of his wife and two small
children. He had had the misfortune, when a young man, to lose his left
arm at the elbow so that he was handicapped in the battle of life; but
he made up in mental capacity what he lacked in physical, so he had
always been able, until the beginning of the war, to make a comfortable
living.

On the second evening after their arrival in St. Louis, when supper was
over, Mr. Colton asked Al to take a walk with him. They strolled west
across the open lots and along the thinly populated streets lying in the
direction of the Fair Grounds. Mr. Colton seemed rather abstracted and
talked but little; and presently Al asked, abruptly,

"Uncle Will, your business isn't paying very well just now, is it?"

"Well, no, it isn't, Al," Mr. Colton replied, apparently a little
startled by the question. "Why?"

"I have been thinking ever since we got here," Al answered, "that our
coming to you as we have, without money or anything else, will add a
great deal to your expenses and other troubles. Of course I look forward
to repaying you in the future, so far as money can repay such kindness;
but that won't help just now, and I wish I could find some work to do
right away, so that I could earn enough to pay part of the living
expenses of Mother and Annie and myself."

Mr. Colton laid his hand affectionately on Al's shoulder.

"My boy," said he, "you are your father's true son. That is just what he
would have been thinking of in similar circumstances. I am glad you have
spoken of it, Al, for it is just that problem which has been troubling
me ever since you and your dear mother and little sister came. You know
how thankful I should be if I could provide you all with everything you
need and have no question of means enter into the matter."

"Yes, I do know, Uncle Will," said Al, earnestly.

Mr. Colton went on, "I should like to make your poor mother and Annie as
comfortable and easy in every way as possible and I should like to have
you continue with school until you are ready to take up your chosen
profession. But I do not see how I can compass these desires at present,
though perhaps I can later. I was just going to suggest that it would
probably be necessary for you to get employment for a while when you
spoke of it. I am more pleased than I can say that you thought of it
first, without any suggestion."

"I don't see how any one could fail to understand the situation, sir,"
answered Al. "Do you suppose I could find a place to-morrow?"

"Quite likely. You can go down town with me in the morning, and during
the day we can call on several acquaintances of mine, some one of whom
may be able to give you as good a position as you can well fill to begin
with."

Accordingly, quite early next morning they started for the business
district. Mr. Colton's office was more than two miles from his home and
they walked to Fifth Street and there took a horse car down town. The
first place at which they called was a large wholesale grocery house
whose proprietor, Mr. White, was a personal friend of Mr. Colton. The
latter held a brief private interview with him, rapidly relating the
circumstances under which the Briscoes had come to St. Louis, and then
Al was called in. Mr. White liked him from the first, and within half
an hour he was hard at work on an upper floor of the big warehouse,
assisting one of the shipping clerks in getting down, checking, and
sending out orders of goods. Mr. White had informed him that as soon as
he was sufficiently familiar with the stock and the method of checking
it out, he would himself be promoted to a position as shipping clerk.

Though as time went on and the days lengthened into weeks, Al was
obliged to confess to himself that the business possessed few
attractions for him, yet he applied himself industriously to mastering
its details, feeling not only a sense of satisfaction in the knowledge
that he was winning his employer's confidence and approval, but a still
deeper pride in the fact that he was becoming able to bear a very
material share of the modest living expenses of himself and his mother
and sister. Although Mr. White imagined that Al's rapid progress in
familiarizing himself with his work was due to a natural aptitude for
the business, the fact was that he was simply determined to get ahead
and earn as much money as possible. A constant mental unrest, due
chiefly to his suspense over Tommy's fate, possessed him, and he tried
to soothe it as far as might be by becoming absorbed in his work. Beyond
his natural anxiety for his brother, however, though he did not exactly
realize it, was the repugnance to obligation, the unquenchable desire to
have his mother and sister independent, which was a characteristic
inherited from his sturdy father. He very soon qualified himself to take
his place as a shipping clerk, thus securing an advance in pay, which
enabled him still further to relieve his uncle's unwonted burdens.

Thus the Autumn went by and Mrs. Briscoe began to look impatiently for
news from General Sibley, for they had been able to gather something in
a fragmentary way from the St. Louis papers of the events which had
taken place in Minnesota since they had left there, and they knew that
Colonel Sibley had been made a brigadier general of volunteers for his
skilful conduct of the Indian campaign. At length one day the
long-looked-for letter came. Mr. Colton brought it out from his office,
and with palpitating hearts the family gathered around Al while he read
it aloud; for Mrs. Briscoe was too much agitated to read it. The letter
was dated at Fort Snelling and was in General Sibley's own handwriting.
It read as follows:


     _Mrs. Thomas Briscoe, St. Louis, Mo._

     MY DEAR MADAM: It is with the deepest regret that I am obliged to
     inform you that thus far our efforts to recover your young son from
     his Indian captors have been unsuccessful. Late in September we
     rescued about two hundred and fifty white prisoners near the Yellow
     Medicine but he was not among them. We have also captured about two
     thousand of the Indian miscreants who were prominent in the late
     outbreak and massacre, and they are now being tried by a court
     martial. Many of them are being convicted and will be executed.
     Among them, however, is no individual satisfying the description of
     the captor of your son Thomas, as given to me by your elder son.

     I have, however, received information which leads me to believe
     that this man is a Yanktonais from the region of the Missouri
     River, who is known to have been consorting with the Minnesota
     Indians during the late outrages and who has since fled into Dakota
     again. Indian prisoners whom I have interviewed claim that he took
     with him a white boy, who, I have little doubt, is your son. The
     several prisoners with whom I have conversed all agree that the
     child appeared to be in good health when they saw him, though I
     have been able to gather nothing further concerning him.

     It is quite possible that his captor may weary of holding your son
     a prisoner during the coming winter and take him into one of the
     fur-trading posts along the Missouri River. But, in case this
     should not happen, I may say to you that it is the present
     intention of the Government to send strong expeditions against the
     hostile Indians about Devil's Lake and along the Missouri, next
     summer. I may be in command of one of the columns; but, whether I
     am or not, I beg to assure you that no efforts will be spared to
     effect the release of your son and his speedy restoration to you.
     Nor is it at all probable that such a thorough campaign as is now
     contemplated will fail of the desired result, for it is the
     Government's purpose to pursue the Indians relentlessly until their
     last prisoner is recovered, until the last savage guilty of
     atrocities against the whites is given up to justice, and until the
     entire Sioux Nation is brought to submission.

     With renewed assurances of my deep sympathy and regret that I have
     no more satisfactory news for you at the present time, I beg to
     remain, my dear madam,

     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     H. H. SIBLEY, Brig. Gen., U. S. V.


Mrs. Briscoe broke down completely on hearing this disappointing
intelligence and could not be comforted for a long time. But the
courageous spirit which had already carried her through so much finally
reasserted itself; since there was nothing to do except endure the
suspense, she resolved to endure it patiently and not depress the
spirits of those around her with her own griefs.

On his part Al felt at first that he could not bear to spend more time
in idle waiting while his brother remained a captive. It seemed to him
that he must start out and do something. But reflection showed him that
this desire, though natural, was futile. Hard as the conclusion was, it
seemed plain that the best thing was to trust General Sibley and the
soldiers with the problem, at least for the present and until the
results of the next summer's campaign could be known. Had he been old
enough to enlist, Al would undoubtedly have joined the army in spite of
everything, in order to be at the front and share in the search for his
brother. But as he would not be sixteen until the early Spring of 1863,
that was out of the question.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere of the place and the time in which he was
living were well calculated to develop in him the strong military
inclinations of his nature, and as the months went on he found it more
and more difficult to be satisfied with the work in which he was
engaged. There was hardly an hour of the day in which squads or
companies of troops did not pass along the busy streets of St. Louis,
and often full regiments, with bands playing and colors flying, or
batteries of artillery rumbling over the cobble-stones, marched past on
their way to the Levee to embark on steamers for the seat of war in the
South. St. Louis was the great recruiting depot of the West, and at
Benton Barracks, just beyond the Fair Grounds and only a few blocks from
the Colton home, as many as twenty thousand men were nearly always
quartered, mustering, drilling, outfitting and then marching away to
take their places in the fighting armies at the front. News of battle
was constantly in the air and the war formed the chief topic of
conversation always and everywhere. Now it was the disastrous repulse of
the Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, Virginia; then the terrible
conflict at Murfreesboro, Tennessee; and then, a little later, the
capture of Fort Hindman, at Arkansas Post, Arkansas; while authentic
news and uncertain rumors of other battles, skirmishes, and military
movements circulated constantly.

Though St. Louis was a Union city by a very substantial majority there
nevertheless existed there a strong though suppressed Southern
sentiment; but Al was even less inclined to be influenced by it than
his father would have been, or than he would have been himself before
his father's death. The reason was that public opinion in the North and
West at this time held that the outbreak of the Indians in Minnesota had
been instigated and encouraged by agents from the Southern Confederacy,
who hoped, by precipitating an Indian war upon the Northwest, not only
to divert a good many Union troops from the South but even possibly to
effect a Confederate conquest of the Northwestern Territories. Happily
for the fair fame of American civilization, it has in later years been
quite clearly established that the Confederates had nothing to do with
inciting the barbarous outbreak, but at the time it was firmly believed
in the Northwest. Therefore it seems but natural that a person in Al's
position, grieving for a father murdered and a brother carried away
captive by the red fiends, should entertain bitterness toward those whom
he believed to be largely responsible for his bereavement. This feeling
but added to his interest in the military preparations of those who were
going to fight the Southerners, and increased his desire to be a
partaker in their toils and trials and triumphs.

When he found an opportunity to do so, as he did on Sunday afternoons
and his other infrequent holidays, he occasionally went down to the
river front where were to be seen the big transport steamers, starting
out loaded to the guards with troops or coming in with cargoes of sick
and wounded men, and where, also, were generally to be found one or more
of the pugnacious-looking iron-clad gunboats which had been and still
were fighting their way foot by foot down the battery-lined rivers of
the South, carrying the flag of the Union into regions where it had been
outcast for two years past. But more frequently his steps turned toward
Benton Barracks, for there on the great parade ground between the huge
barracks, each seven hundred and fifty feet in length, were always to be
found swarms of troops at drill. Here he would see a squad of four or
eight recruits receiving from a corporal instructions in the rudiments
of tactics, such as the salutes, the facings, or the manual of arms. A
little further on would be a regiment executing ponderous evolutions in
company or battalion front.

Observing all these tactical exercises with lively interest and careful
attention, Al soon began to comprehend the methods and objects of
movements which at first seemed wholly bewildering. He obtained a copy
of the "United States Infantry and Rifle Tactics," the text book then in
use for the instruction of the United States troops, and spent evening
after evening studying them until he was much more familiar with the
contents than the average volunteer soldier several years his senior.
Though he could not utilize his knowledge because of his youth, he
persisted in acquiring it, not only because he liked it but because he
felt that eventually it would be useful to him, especially if he could
ever carry out his cherished ambition of entering West Point.

One day in the Spring of 1863, Mr. White called Al into his private
office.

"The chief commissary of subsistence in this city has asked me if I
could tell him of a few good men to act as civilian clerks in his
department," said he. "They must be men who understand something of
staple groceries such as the army uses and who know how to get out
orders and ship goods. Would you like to have such a position for a
while?"

Al's eyes brightened. Such work would place him in closer touch with the
army, an object which appealed to him strongly. But he bore in mind his
obligations and answered, cautiously,

"I should like it very much, Mr. White, if you approve of it and if I
could make as much as I do now."

"The position will pay you a little more than you are getting now," said
Mr. White, leaning back in his chair as if to give plenty of time to the
discussion, "and it will give you some valuable experience if you aim to
continue in the wholesale grocery business. The commissary department is
handling enormous quantities of goods in St. Louis now and an insight
into the Government's methods of transacting such a volume of business
will be a great benefit to you. Of course, whenever you want to leave
the Government's employ and come back here, your position will be open
for you. You are very young for such a place but you have made such
rapid progress and learned to do your work so well and thoroughly that I
shall have no hesitation in recommending you as one of my best
employees."

"Thank you, sir," said Al, flushing with pleasure. "I hope I deserve
it."

"You understand," Mr. White continued, "I don't want you to leave me;
but I owe it to the Union to give her the best I have when she asks it.
I am past middle age myself and I don't think I am worth enough as a
soldier to volunteer yet; there are plenty of younger and stronger men
still pouring in to fill up the armies. But if the war drags on and the
time comes that I feel she needs my actual, physical services, I shall
go. Meantime, as I say, I shall give her the best I have in other ways,
and you are part of that best. Though you are not old enough to be a
soldier, I know you will appreciate that your work as a civilian
employee may be quite as valuable to the Government as though you were
enlisted in the service."

"Indeed I do, Mr. White," answered Al, "and I shall do my best to serve
the Union faithfully."

In the new work upon which he entered next day Al continued throughout
that momentous Summer and Fall. Though serving in a capacity both humble
and obscure, he had his part in preparing and forwarding the supplies
which enabled General Grant to cut loose from his base, swing his army
around to the rear of Vicksburg, and two months later to capture that
Gibraltar of the Mississippi with all its garrison and munitions of war.
He helped to make ready the subsistence carried by Grant's and Sherman's
armies when they went to the relief of Chattanooga; and from the depots
where he worked a constant stream of stores was always going forward to
the thousands of Union troops scattered in fortified posts and
encampments or marching hither and thither all over the Southwest
fighting innumerable minor battles and skirmishes. But his daily
occupation was very prosaic and needs no more than casual mention.

At length, when Autumn came again, another letter was received from
General Sibley. It was as disappointing as the one of the year before.
He told briefly of the long Summer's campaign in which he had marched
westward from the Minnesota River to the Missouri, defeating the Indians
in three pitched battles and driving them across the Missouri, and of
the later advance of another column up the valley of the Missouri, under
General Alfred Sully, which had also encountered and defeated the
Indians. But neither column had rescued Tommy, though they had heard
rumors of his whereabouts and had gained a little new information
concerning his captor.

The latter, it now seemed clearly established, was an Upper Yanktonais
warrior named Te-o-kun-ko, or, in English, The Swift. From the
statements of hostile Indians who had talked with friendlies or had
surrendered to the troops during the campaign, it appeared that this man
had not been with the main body of the Indians during the Summer; he had
taken his family, in company with a small party of about a dozen other
lodges, over into the country along the Yellowstone and Powder Rivers,
in Idaho. They had probably spent the season in hunting and skirmishing
occasionally with the Crows, the powerful people occupying most of that
region, who were hereditary enemies of the Sioux. It must be understood
that the great Sioux Nation consists of a number of different tribes, of
which the Upper Yanktonais tribe is one, and the Lower Yanktonais
another. It seemed that he still had with him the white boy whom he had
captured in Minnesota. The lad seemed perfectly contented and was
displaying such aptitude and prowess in learning to ride, shoot, hunt,
and perform the other feats of skill, agility, and hardihood which the
Indians regard as most manly, that Te-o-kun-ko took great pride and
delight in him and was evidently trying to wean him away from any
longing for his white relatives, in the hope of eventually making him,
to all practical intents, a full-fledged Sioux warrior.

General Sibley added that in the Spring of 1864 General Sully would
almost certainly lead another expedition up the Missouri to fight the
Indians, though whether he himself would move against them again was
doubtful. He renewed his regrets that he had been unable to recapture
Tommy, and his hopes that another year would surely see him restored to
his family, and here the letter ended.

Mrs. Briscoe and Al were not only bitterly disappointed by the news; it
positively stunned them. The idea that Tommy could have been, all this
time, anything but a suffering and wretchedly unhappy prisoner, was
entirely new to them. That he could have grown not merely contented with
his lot among the savages but even attached to it, a possibility very
clearly suggested by General Sibley's letter, seemed unbelievable, at
least to Mrs. Briscoe. But Al, on reflection, was not so much inclined
to scoff at it as he had been at first. He remembered having heard of
several cases in which white boys, taken captive by Indians when so
young that their affections and habits were not deeply rooted, had
become so attached to the wild, free life of the red men that they
voluntarily renounced civilization and remained all their lives with the
people of their adoption. Then he recalled the prominent characteristics
of Tommy's disposition,--his sturdy independence, his love for being out
of doors, for handling horses and for hunting and
trapping,--inclinations which he had not shown until their removal to
Minnesota but which had developed rapidly there, where Tommy, in the
midst of a solitude which was almost wilderness, had apparently been
happier than ever before in his life. He recalled, also, the little
boy's warm-hearted affection for his parents and for himself and Annie;
a trait of character which certainly seemed the strongest argument
against the theory that Tommy could grow to forget them. But Al was
obliged to admit to himself that the other impulses of his young
brother's nature would all find gratification in the life of the plains;
while, moreover, if he were kindly treated, even his affections might be
kindled for the people with whom he was living. He had been with the
Indians now for more than a year, which is a long time in a young boy's
life.

The more he became convinced of such possibilities, the more was Al
disturbed and alarmed by them. It had been bad enough to think of his
brother as a heart-broken captive, but to think of him as perhaps a
future renegade, an apostate to his race, was far worse, for it added
shame to sorrow. He could not bear to think of his mother having to face
such a calamity. Finally he took his troubled thoughts to his uncle,
who was always kind, sympathetic and helpful.

"I have been thinking a great deal about this matter, too, Al," said Mr.
Colton. "There is no question in my mind that Tommy might take the
course you speak of, if he should remain long enough with the Indians.
From the reports we have he seems to be well and even happy. The most
important reason now for getting him away from them seems to be to
remove him from their moral influence. But, incredible as it may seem, I
really believe there may be a possibility that now; even if the soldiers
should find him, he would be unwilling to come away with them."

Al looked at his uncle and slowly nodded his head in agreement.

"Yes, I believe that might be so," he answered. "And it seems to me,
Uncle Will, for that very reason if no other, I ought to go with the
next expedition; for if Tommy should be found I know that when he saw me
and I told him about mother and all of us, he would want to come back.
But I can't go, that's all."

"Al," said Mr. Colton, "I agree with you that you ought to, and I think
probably you can. Since midsummer my business has begun to revive.
People are commencing to see that the South is getting the worst of this
war and there is a growing feeling of confidence that the Union is going
to be saved. Therefore interest is reviving in business matters of all
kinds, real estate among others. If the Union is going to be preserved,
St. Louis will continue to be a great and growing city; nobody cared to
speculate on what it would be while the success of the Confederacy
seemed probable. But, you see, I am beginning to have business again,
and if our armies continue gaining such victories as they have been
during the last six months, there will be more business by next Spring.
I wish to Heaven I could go into the service and help to hasten the end;
but this," he moved the stump of his left arm impatiently, "forever
debars me from such service. But if I can help you to go where you may
be able to assist in recovering your brother and at the same time to be
perhaps of some service to our country, even though you are not old
enough to enlist, I shall feel that I have done something. I think by
Spring I shall be able to take care of your mother and sister while you
are gone and I shall be only too glad to do it."

Al's cheeks flushed with mingled surprise and pleasure. His sense of
duty, however, was still uppermost.

"But, Uncle Will,--" he began.

"Now, that's all right, Al," interrupted Mr. Colton. "This is simply a
family matter, and you need not worry about it at all. The only question
which remains to be settled is whether it can be arranged for you to
accompany an expedition into the Indian country. If General Sibley were
going, no doubt he would be willing to find a place for you some way.
But it seems that he may not go again, and another commander, like
General Sully, for instance, may not want to have you. However, we shall
have to wait to settle that until we know more about actual plans for
next season's campaign, and that probably will not be possible until
late Winter or early Spring."

Mrs. Briscoe at first found it very hard to reconcile herself to the
plan, for she was divided between anxiety for Tommy and apprehension
lest harm should befall Al if he went in search of his brother. But by
pointing out to her that it was still uncertain whether the commander of
the expedition would permit him to go at all, Al, shrewdly aided by his
uncle, induced her to give the subject calm consideration, being
convinced that if she did so she would in time see that it was best. So
the Winter passed with little further discussion of the subject. Al
continued at his work, Annie was attending school, and Mrs. Briscoe
aided her sister with the duties of the household. Indeed, the refugees
from Minnesota seemed to have become fixtures in the Colton home, and,
though all of them thought occasionally of their returning some time to
the abandoned claim above Fort Ridgely, the time for doing so remained
in the indefinite future. None of them could feel like attempting to
resume the even tenor of their lives until Tommy should have been
brought back from his captivity.



CHAPTER VI

ON GENERAL SULLY'S STAFF


At last, early in March, the long uncertainty respecting the next
season's campaign against the Sioux, and the rumors which had circulated
about it all through the Winter, were terminated by the arrival in St.
Louis of General Alfred Sully, who, so the papers announced, had come to
begin the accumulation of supplies and to make other preparations for
his impending campaign. Brigadier General Sully was the commander of the
District of Iowa, with headquarters at Davenport, in that State; but he
had come to St. Louis directly from Milwaukee. There he had spent
several days in consultation with General Sibley and Major General John
Pope, who was in command of the Department of the Northwest, embracing
the Districts of Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, the latter under
General Sibley.

General Sully very soon made his presence known at the commissary
office in St. Louis by the requisitions for supplies which began to pour
in from him. A few days later a young army officer, an _aide-de-camp_ on
General Sully's staff, was sent down to the office by the General to
check over the requisitions already made. Al was assigned to assist him.
The aide, whose name was Lieutenant Dale, proved an agreeable youth,
only a few years older than Al, and after their work was finished they
fell into conversation. Al told him briefly of the disasters which had
befallen his family in Minnesota, and then of the battle at Fort
Ridgely.

"Why, you've seen enough fighting to be a veteran already," exclaimed
Lieutenant Dale, when Al had concluded his narrative. "I'll tell you
what you ought to do; you ought to go up into the Sioux country with us
this summer. We're going to have some fun up there. And maybe you could
get on the track of your brother."

"That is just what I want to do," answered Al, "but I'm not old enough
to enlist."

"That makes no difference," answered Dale. "The General could arrange
to take you in some capacity or other if he knows that you have a good
reason for wanting to go and that you won't lose your nerve in a pinch."

"Do you think he would?" asked Al, doubtfully.

"I think it's very probable. Go and ask him. He is very kind-hearted, if
he is a strict disciplinarian and a hard fighter."

"He's a hard fighter, is he?" asked Al, eagerly. "You see, I don't know
much about him."

Lieutenant Dale looked at him pityingly. "A hard fighter?" he replied.
"I should say he is! He fought against the Seminoles in Florida and the
Rogue River Indians in Oregon and the Sioux in Minnesota and Nebraska
and the Cheyennes in Kansas, all before the beginning of the Rebellion.
He won honors at Fair Oaks and Chancellorsville; and then, when the
Indian trouble in the Northwest came, they sent him up into Dakota to
fight the Sioux again, last Summer. That was the first that I was with
him, and we certainly had our share of marching, going up the Missouri
Valley, and our share of fighting at White Stone Hill, where we swung
away from the Missouri and struck the redskins out on the prairie
nearly over to the James River. They had been following up General
Sibley, never suspecting that we would come from the other direction and
fall on their rear. But we'll punish them worse this year, for we shall
have a much larger force; and the General intends to follow them until
they are either forced to make peace or are broken up and scattered all
over the country. And he can scatter them; what he doesn't know about
Indian fighting isn't worth knowing."

"I'm sure it will be a campaign well worth taking part in," replied Al.
"I ought to go, and I hope I can."

"I will speak to the General about you and the reason you have for
wanting to accompany us," Lieutenant Dale said. "Then you come and see
him yourself to-morrow or as soon after as you can."

Al did not delay the visit. That evening he talked with his mother and
uncle about it and, though the former was naturally reluctant to have
him go where she felt he would be in danger, she had also come to
realize that the arrangement afforded the best chance of recovering her
lost son, Tommy. Mr. Colton, after Al had told him of his conversation
with young Lieutenant Dale, concluded that it would be as well for Al to
interview General Sully alone.

"I do not know the General," said he, "and I could influence him but
little; while, if you go by yourself, it will indicate more
self-reliance on your part. I know, of course, that you have plenty of
it, but a stranger naturally would not until he had become acquainted
with you, and it is always well to make a good first impression. I think
you were fortunate in meeting this Lieutenant Dale. He will probably
speak favorably of you to General Sully, and that will help your case."

Accordingly the next afternoon when his work for the day was finished,
Al hurried off to the place where General Sully was making his
headquarters while in the city. He found little evidence of pomp or
ceremony about these headquarters. An orderly was in the outer room, to
whom Al told his name and errand. The soldier replied that the General
was alone, writing letters; and then, stepping to the door of an
adjoining room, he announced Al by name.

"Bring him in," Al heard a deep but pleasant voice answer, and the next
moment he found himself standing, with a somewhat fluttered pulse, in
the presence of General Sully. The latter rose as he entered and
extended his hand.

"I have been expecting you, young man," said he, smiling. "Lieutenant
Dale told me of you last evening, and I had also heard of you before
from General Sibley. I was on the watch for your brother all last Summer
but I couldn't get hold of him. Have a chair," he went on, resuming his
own seat and motioning Al to another one. "Now, what can I do for you?"

As clearly and briefly as possible Al related his reasons for thinking
that he ought to go into the Indian country to assist in the search for
his brother, finishing with the request that he might be taken along in
some capacity and adding that he would try to make himself useful. As he
talked, he was conscious that the General was studying him critically
through the pair of deep-set eyes which, though penetrating, were not
forbidding. When he had concluded, the General did not reply at once.
Instead, he remarked, after a pause,

"General Sibley told me he understood that your father was one of
Doniphan's men. Is that correct?"

Unconsciously Al's shoulders straightened a little.

"Yes, sir," he replied, a touch of pride in his voice, "he was. I am
named for Colonel Doniphan,--Alexander Doniphan Briscoe."

"Indeed?" said the General, with evident surprise and interest.

He was silent a moment, then asked abruptly,

"Do you know anything about tactics,--military routine,--discipline?"

"I have been a clerk in the commissary department here for a year, sir,"
Al replied, "and have become pretty familiar with the Government's
methods of handling stores and more or less so with other matters of
administration. Then I have studied tactics pretty hard, both in the
book and in watching the troops at drill out at Benton Barracks."

"H-m! That's good." The General's voice became decisive. "If you should
go with me you would have to become a part of the expedition and submit
to discipline the same as a soldier, even though you are not enlisted;
and I understand you are too young to enlist. I can have no favored
idlers around. We are going after the Indians and for no other purpose,
and in order to be successful every individual must do his part. Do you
think you could agree to do that?"

"I shall certainly obey orders and try to make myself useful," responded
Al, promptly.

General Sully swung around in his swivel desk chair and gazed
abstractedly out of the window for a moment. Then he swung back again
and looked at Al frankly.

"I may as well tell you," said he, "that it is against my policy to have
any more civilians with me in the field than I can possibly help. Too
many civilians mixed up in military affairs have nearly been the
ruination of the United States during this Rebellion. At the same time,
I like to have young fellows of the right metal; they are often more
useful than old stagers. And I believe you'll do. A son of one of
Doniphan's daredevils, especially a namesake of his, ought to be all
right for courage; and moreover, General Sibley told me of the reports
he heard of your conduct at Fort Ridgely. You see, I know more about you
than you thought." He smiled at Al's embarrassed glance. "I'll find a
place for you somewhere, as a commissary's or quartermaster's clerk,
probably. Come and see me again to-morrow or next day and I'll have it
arranged."

Al thanked him heartily and went away, feeling already a warm admiration
for this firm but courteous soldier. The interview aroused in him more
pleasurable anticipation of the expedition than he had felt heretofore,
and he found himself preparing for it and looking forward to it
enthusiastically.

True to his promise, General Sully had a position arranged for him when
he called next day, and one, moreover, upon whose duties he could enter
at once. He quitted his work as clerk of the St. Louis commissary office
only to continue it in the same place as a clerk for the chief
commissary officer of the Northwestern Indian Expedition. Knowing that
he was to be with them, General Sully's staff officers took an immediate
interest in him, especially Lieutenant Dale, whose friendship proved not
only increasingly pleasant but very helpful as well. Dale was able to
give Al many suggestions as to how best to meet the problems and
situations which constantly arose in his position. There was also a
Captain Feilner, who treated him with much kindness. He was an officer
of German birth who had risen to his position from the ranks of the
regular army and was now General Sully's chief topographical engineer.

For six weeks every one in St. Louis connected with the expedition was
busily occupied in getting supplies together and in shipping several
hundred tons of foodstuffs, clothing, camp equipage, and ammunition on
steamboats which were going up the Missouri on the Spring high water to
Fort Benton, Montana, the outfitting point for the newly discovered gold
district in that Territory. These goods were consigned to Fort Union,
the chief trading post of the American Fur Company, at the mouth of the
Yellowstone River, where a depot was to be established so as to have
supplies ready for the troops when they should reach that point, as it
was planned they should do, after marching overland from the Missouri to
the Yellowstone. Many hundreds of tons more were loaded on the eight
steamers which General Sully had chartered for the exclusive use of his
army, and on them were carried also a great quantity of building
materials for use in the two forts which were to be erected, one on the
upper Missouri and one on the Yellowstone. Few troops were to start with
the fleet from St. Louis, because General Sully's men were either
scattered in the several forts and cantonments along the river in Dakota
where they had spent the Winter, or were to meet the boats at the
village of Sioux City, Iowa; while a large column from General Sibley's
command was marching from Minnesota straight across the high prairies of
Dakota to join the rest of the expedition at Bois Cache Creek, nearly
opposite the mouth of the Moreau River.



CHAPTER VII

UP THE MISSOURI


On the last day of April the long preparations were finally completed.
The eight steamers lay along the Levee with flags floating from their
forward peaks and the black smoke pouring from their funnels. A great
crowd had gathered on the river bank to watch the departure; and while
drays and wagons rattled over the cobblestones and long lines of negro
roustabouts ran back and forth across the gang-planks of the steamers,
carrying on board the last packages of freight, Al stood at the boiler
deck rail of the _Island City_, General Sully's headquarters boat. He
waved his hand and smiled, more cheerfully than he felt at that moment,
to his mother and Annie and Uncle Will, who stood in the wide doorway of
the wharf-boat below, looking up at him. Now that the final moment had
come, Mrs. Briscoe's heart was torn at parting with her boy, who had so
loyally and unselfishly devoted himself to her wellbeing since her
husband's death. But she bore it as bravely as a good mother always
bears such trials, smiling brightly at him through her tears as the
head-lines were slipped from the _Island City's_ bow and her great stern
wheel began slowly to revolve. Al, his own eyes misty, watched his
mother until in the distance she became blurred with the crowd. The
steamer swung gracefully out into the swift current of the Mississippi,
described a wide, sweeping curve to the middle of the channel, and then,
rounding up stream at the head of the majestic line of her consorts,
forged up past the smoky city on the first mile of the long journey into
the Northwestern wilderness.

Until the cheering crowd on the Levee was quite blotted out by distance
and intervening steamers along the bank, Al stood at the rail looking
back. When at last he turned away, with a strange feeling of depression
and loneliness, he found Lieutenant Dale standing behind him.

"Come, boy," said he, slapping Al's shoulder, "brace up! We are going to
have a great time this Summer, and you'll be mighty glad you came. I
know it's hard leaving your folks. I felt just the same way less than
three years ago when I marched off from home to Washington and the first
Bull Run. But it does no good to feel blue over it; you'll come back
again all right, anyway. Get busy; that's the best remedy for blues. Are
those last goods that were brought on board checked up yet? No? Well,
you better go down and check them, hadn't you?"

Al acted on the suggestion, and by the time he was through, the fleet
had entered the mouth of the Missouri and was approaching St. Charles, a
picturesque little old city straggling up over the rugged, wooded hills
on the north bank of the Missouri. The boats did not stop at the town,
but continued running until nearly dark, when they laid up for the night
at Penn's Woodyard, four miles above. Excepting in high water, when the
channel is broad and deep, it is very unusual for boats to run at night
on the Missouri owing to the danger of striking snags or going aground
on sandbars. Next morning, after replenishing their fuel supply at the
woodyard, they started at daylight and ran without mishap or halt,
excepting to take on wood several times, until dusk found them just
below the mouth of the Gasconade River, where they again tied up to wait
for daylight.

In the Spring of 1864 there had been little rain in the Missouri Valley,
and the river was very low for the season, a fact which greatly
disturbed General Sully; he foresaw that the trip would probably be
painfully slow and that he would not be able to reach the Indian country
until so late that the campaign would have to be a hurried one. Early
next morning, at the mouth of the Gasconade, they encountered the first
of the obstacles which they had been dreading. As is usual below the
mouths of tributaries, where the eddy created by the muddy current of
the main river coming in contact with that of the tributary causes the
mud and sand to sink to the bottom, a sandbar here extended across the
Missouri's channel. The _Island City_, in the lead and running near the
south shore along the base of the bluffs, notwithstanding the caution of
her pilot, stuck her bow into it and stopped short. Al, who was in the
main cabin, ran forward as he felt the boat shiver and careen and looked
down over the bow.

"Why, we've stuck fast!" he exclaimed to Captain Feilner, whom he found
standing by the rail. "What will they do now?"

"Send out a boat and sound for a passage," the Captain answered.

Even as he spoke, Alexander Lamont,--or, Alex Lamont, as he was usually
called,--the tall, bronzed captain of the _Island City_, leaned out over
the rail and shouted up to the hurricane deck above,

"Lower away the yawl, there! Step lively, now!"

They heard the shuffle of feet on the sanded tar roof overhead, the
creak of falls and tackles, and in a moment the boat, its long oars
manned by six stalwart deck hands and carrying, besides, a steersman at
the stern and a leadsman with a sounding pole at the bow, pulled around
the side of the steamer and out into the shoal water ahead. Meanwhile,
the long line of steamers behind them also came to a stop.

"How much water must there be for us to get through?" asked Al.

"We are drawing three and a half feet," answered Captain Feilner, "and
we ought to have four feet to go on, but we can do it on three and a
half by sparring or warping. Have you never seen those things done?
Well, you will probably have a chance in a few minutes,--and plenty more
before we are through with this trip. Some of the other steamers do not
draw quite as much as we do but none of them seem to be going to try to
pass us."

The yawl gradually worked its way diagonally across and down the river,
following the crest of the bar, until it had approached quite near to
the north bank, the leadsman constantly thrusting his pole down to the
river bottom. Then the boat suddenly turned around and came rapidly back
to the _Island City_.

"There's three and a half, large, over there," said the pilot who had
acted as leadsman as he came aboard, speaking to Captain Lamont. "We can
go over but you'll likely have to set spars."

He ascended to the pilot-house and jerked the whistle rope. A warning
bellow roared out over the river, re-echoing from the forest-clad bluffs
on either side. One by one the steamboats behind them took up the
refrain, until the noise resembled that of a manufacturing city at the
noon hour.

"What on earth is all that whistling for?" asked Al. "Are they trying to
scare the bar out of the river?"

"No," laughed Captain Feilner. "That is a signal that we are going to
back up. There isn't room to turn in this channel and all the others
must back up, too, so that we won't run into each other."

The fleet backed for a half mile, then the _Island City_ reversed her
wheel and started up again, running this time, however, close in by the
north shore. As she went ahead the strokes of her pistons became more
and more rapid until, as she approached the crossing, she was going at a
great speed for a steamboat.

"He's going to try to belt her through," exclaimed Lieutenant Dale,
coming up at this moment. "We'll get a jolt. I hope nothing breaks."

Hardly had he finished speaking when there came a loud grating sound
from the bow as the boat's flat bottom began to scrape over the sand.
Her timbers quivered and groaned, her speed diminished so quickly that
those who were standing on her decks were nearly thrown down, and then,
after scraping along for a few feet slowly and painfully she came to a
full stop. For a moment the stern wheel continued to churn the water
into white foam; then the pilot, with an impatient gesture, jerked the
wire to the stopping-bell down in the engine room, and the ponderous
wheel came to a halt.

"No use," he cried to Captain Lamont, leaning out of the pilot-house
window. "She's nearly over but you'll have to set the spars!"

There was a great shouting and commotion on the lower deck as the spars,
two long, heavy timbers like telegraph poles, one on each side of the
bow, were swung out and erected in position, their lower extremities
resting on the river bottom, the upper, fitted with tackle blocks,
rising high above the level of the boat's top deck. Through the tackle
blocks ran heavy cables fastened at one end to the boat's gunwale and at
the other to the steam capstan. When the spars had been set, the capstan
began to revolve, winding up the cable and thus hoisting the bow of the
boat until it hung suspended on the spars. At the same time the wheel
was slowly revolved, forcing the boat ahead until the spars had tilted
forward so far as to let the bow down again into the sand. Then they
were dragged forward and set upright once more, and the process was
repeated. Before a great while the crest of the bar was passed, and the
_Island City_ floated on into deeper water and continued her journey.
But though it had not been what river men would consider a hard
crossing, she had lost nearly six hours in sounding and sparring, and it
was noon by the time she had left the Gasconade out of sight behind her.
The vessels following her each forced its way across the bar in the same
manner as she had done, excepting the _Chippewa Falls_ and the _Alone_,
boats of smaller dimensions and lighter draft, which were able to slip
over without sparring. By the time the last one had passed the
Gasconade, it was evening again, and the fleet was strung out for miles
up the river. The _Island City_ anchored out for the night to a bar just
below Kate Howard Chute, so called for a beautiful packet of that name
which had sunk there in 1859. The point was only thirty miles above the
Gasconade, so that twenty-four hours had been consumed in covering that
insignificant distance. The _Island City_ was towing a large barge,
intended for use when they should reach the Indian country, but it was
very much in the way and retarded her progress considerably.

That evening Al asked Captain Lamont how far it was from St. Louis to
the mouth of Cannonball River, Dakota, where it was expected that the
actual campaign against the Indians would begin, and was told that it
was about fourteen hundred miles. He did some figuring and found that if
they continued to progress at the same rate as they had done that day it
would be more than six weeks, or past the middle of June, before they
would reach their destination. It seemed an astonishingly long time to
him but, as the event proved, he had considerably overestimated the
average speed which the fleet could maintain. For days they continued
travelling through the State of Missouri, contending with sandbars and
head winds. The interior of the State was in a deplorable condition as a
result of the war. Guerillas were overrunning it everywhere, and the
boats rarely landed at a town without hearing either that some of the
marauders had just left on the approach of the fleet or that they had
been raiding there a day or two before. General Sully's vessels were so
numerous and well armed that the guerillas did not dare attack them. All
Missouri River boats at that time were more or less fortified around the
pilot-house with timber or boiler-iron bulwarks, to protect the pilots
from the bullets of guerillas on the lower river and from those of
Indians in the upper country, while the piles of cordwood on the main
deck afforded some protection to the men there. Yet the fleet seldom
passed a downward-bound boat which had not been fired into or boarded,
and fortunate was the vessel which had escaped without the loss of one
or more people on board killed or wounded.

There were plenty of men in the expedition who would have been glad to
encourage such attacks had they been made, for, as was always the case
among the class of men who worked as laborers on the steamboats, there
were many hardened and even desperate characters in the crews of Sully's
vessels. Not a few of them were deserters from the Confederate army,
tired of fighting but still rebels at heart; and others were Southern
sympathizers, fleeing from the draft in the Northern States. Most of
these men hoped, when they should draw near to Montana, to find
opportunities for slipping away from the expedition and making their way
to the gold fields which were just being opened in the placer deposits
around Bannack, Last Chance Gulch, Alder Gulch and other places, and
which were attracting a wild rush of adventurers from all over the
country. Such men were naturally hard to handle and it took steamboat
officers of firmness and courage to keep them in control.

Since the beginning of the voyage Al had not had much occasion to
mingle with the crew of the _Island City_. The cargo of the steamboat
consisted chiefly of corn for the use of the cavalry horses in the
Indian country and, once it was on board, required little attention. He
therefore seldom had any reason for going to the lower deck except to
while away the time, which, indeed, was the principal occupation of the
army officers on board. As might naturally be supposed, he was usually
with some of them. But one day he was standing on the main deck near the
boilers when one of the deck hands, a young fellow a few years older
than himself, came by carrying a couple of heavy sticks of cordwood to
the furnaces. Al had once or twice in the past noticed this fellow
staring at him in a disagreeable way and felt instinctively that it must
be because the deck hand was envious of the apparently easy and pleasant
time which he was having. Al's back was turned toward him and neither
saw the other until one of the sticks collided heavily with Al's
shoulder, almost throwing him down. Al turned and though bruised, was on
the point of apologizing for being in the way, when the fellow, an
ugly, red flush overspreading his face, shouted, with a plentiful
sprinkling of oaths between his words,

"Get out of my road, you little Yankee snipe! What are you loafing
around here for, anyhow?"

"I'm sorry I got in your way," replied Al, controlling his temper, "but
I didn't see you."

"Well, you'd better stay upstairs with your blue-bellied Yankee
officers. They oughtn't to let their little pet run around this way."

Hearing loud words, several other deck hands gathered round, grinning at
the excitement, their sympathies evidently with their companion.

"As for my being down here," Al answered, feeling that it would not do
to let such language pass unnoticed, especially before the other men, "I
have as much business here as you have. As for being a Yankee, I suppose
everybody on a United States ship is a Yankee. If they're not, they'd
better go ashore."

"It would take a mighty big lot of such spindle-legged doll babies as
you to put me ashore," shouted the young ruffian, flinging down his
wood and advancing on Al with clenched fists. "Down South we don't use
anything but boats we've kicked the Yankees off of."

Several of the other deck hands crowded closer, exclaiming,

"Aw, let the kid alone, Jimmy. He ain't done nothin' to you."

"Look out, Jimmy; you'll get in trouble, talkin' that way."

"So you're a rebel deserter, are you?" asked Al, his eyes flashing. "I
thought so. If you're so much attached to them, why didn't you stay down
there and take some more Yankee boats?"

The fellow, quite beside himself with rage, did not wait to reply but
sprang at Al like a bull-dog. Al knew little about boxing, but he was
quick. As his assailant rushed at him, he jumped forward and planted one
fist with all his strength on the point of the fellow's chin. The
rowdy's feet flew from under him and he fell to the deck with a heavy
thud, completely dazed for a moment. Then he scrambled to his feet with
a string of imprecations pouring from his lips, and jerking an ugly,
broad-bladed knife from a sheath on his belt, again leaped at Al. Seeing
his intention, his companions rushed forward to stop him, but Al had
snatched up a stoking iron from the floor beside him and swung it back
over his shoulder. His face was pale, but not with fright, and as his
assailant looked into his steady eyes something in them caused him
suddenly to lower his knife and hesitate.

"Come one step nearer and I'll brain you," said Al, his voice very low
and quiet. "You miserable, cowardly bully, attacking a fellow who is
unarmed and who has done nothing to you. Now, if you want to stay on
this boat you've got to quit that kind of talk about Yankees or I'll see
that you are put off. It's very plain you are a rebel and you've no
business getting your living under the protection of the Union as long
as you feel that way. Next time you want to try anything with me I shall
be ready for you, and I warn you, you won't get off so easily again."

He threw down the stoking iron and, turning his back on the crest-fallen
rowdy, deliberately walked away, followed by ejaculations from the
group of onlookers such as,

"Bully boy!" "Served him right." "You're all right, kid!"

Later in the day he mentioned the occurrence to Lieutenant Dale and
Captain Feilner, who promptly wished to have the deck hand put ashore.

"Not on my account, unless he does some more secesh talking," said Al.
"I can take care of myself with him. Besides, it may be a good lesson
for him and teach him to be decent after this."

The fellow, as it turned out, had been pretty thoroughly beaten and he
made no more trouble for Al during the voyage, though he always gave him
an ugly look when they chanced to meet.

Lieutenant Dale decided from the incident that Al ought to learn the art
of boxing, in which he himself was quite expert, having learned it in
college. So thereafter they spent an hour or so every day in sparring.
By the time the voyage was over, Al had become as skilful as his
instructor, and General Sully, Captain Feilner and the other officers
often gathered to watch their bouts and to encourage them to greater
efforts.

At Glasgow, his old home, Al had an opportunity to go ashore for a short
time and he was astonished and grieved to note the changes which three
short years had wrought in the familiar old town. The levee was deserted
save by a few indolent loafers who, without recognizing him, stared at
him suspiciously as he went past; for in that terror-haunted country,
fear and suspicion of everybody and everything had become the habit of
the people. Climbing the hill to the main part of town, he found grass
growing in the once bustling business streets and many buildings locked
and vacant. His father's old store was among them, closed as he had left
it. He saw no familiar faces; most of the men and boys he had known were
off in one of the armies, Confederate or Union, and the women were not
often venturing from their houses in such times. In the residence
section the scene was still worse. House after house stood deserted and
going to decay. With slow steps Al went on to the place which had been
the home of his family in the dear old days when they were happy and
prosperous. The gate was fallen from the hinges, weeds were growing
thickly over the gravel walks, several panes of glass were broken out of
the windows, and a loose shutter creaked dolefully in the wind. He
rested his hand on a weather-beaten fence picket and gazed out into the
garden he remembered so well, where he and Tommy and Annie had played;
and beyond that into the orchard, where the summer apples used to grow
so large and red and juicy. The cords of his throat tightened and a mist
swam before his eyes. Weeds and grass and broken limbs strewed the
ground; silence and desolation were everywhere. He turned away abruptly
and hastened back to the levee, never stopping until he was once more on
the boiler deck of the _Island City_, where General Sully and several
other officers were smoking and playing cards. It seemed to him as if a
ghost were following him, the ghost of dead days, so tenderly remembered
that the thought of them was unendurable, and for the time being he
wanted only to plunge into the present and forget.



CHAPTER VIII

PRAIRIE MARCHING


It would take a volume to recount all the interesting experiences which
befell Al and his companions on the long trip to Fort Sully, Dakota,
where the greater part of General Sully's troops had wintered; but, as
they contributed nothing of moment to the narrative which we are
following, they must be passed by. The fleet reached Kansas City, then a
small but rapidly growing frontier town, nearly three weeks after
leaving St. Louis, a journey which is now accomplished by rail in seven
or eight hours. At Omaha the _Island City_ left the barge which had been
dragging at her stern all the way from St. Louis, as it was such an
impediment that she could no longer handle it in the extremely low stage
of the water. On May 30 the fleet reached Sioux City, where some troops
were taken on board, as were still more at Fort Randall, twelve days
later. About June 20 they arrived at Fort Sully and here the long
steamboat journey came to an end so far as the General and his staff
were concerned, as here they left the boat to march with the column of
troops up the eastern side of the Missouri. Though he expected to see
them frequently again during the Summer, Al regretted leaving the
officers and pilots of the _Island City_, especially Captain Lamont, to
whom he had become quite attached. After his encounter with the deck
hand, Jim, the Captain had shown a liking for him and during many idle
hours had done much toward initiating him into the fascinating mysteries
of steamboating. The fleet itself was going on up the river with the
cargoes, keeping as nearly as possible abreast of the column.

It was a great relief to be on shore again and able to ride a galloping
horse and to move about freely, after the long confinement to the narrow
limits of the boat. For two or three days after the arrival of the
fleet, Fort Sully presented a very animated appearance. Here were
assembled about half of the troops which were to make up the expedition
into the hostile country: the Sixth Iowa Cavalry under Colonel Pollock;
three companies of the Seventh Iowa Cavalry under Lieutenant-Colonel
Pattee; Brackett's Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry under Major Brackett,
which had marched overland from Fort Snelling to Sioux City and thence
to Fort Sully; and two companies of Dakota Cavalry under Captain Miner.

All these soldiers, over one thousand in number, constituting the First
Brigade of General Sully's army, were quartered in the barracks of the
fort or encamped close around the stockade. The buildings of the fort,
which were similar to most of those built on the Northwestern frontier,
were of large, unhewn cottonwood logs; and the stockade, about two
hundred and seventy feet square, was made of cedar pickets rising twelve
feet above the ground, loop-holed for musketry and flanked by two
bastions, one on the northeastern and one on the southwestern corner,
containing cannon to sweep the faces of the stockade. It had been built
by General Sully's troops, many of whom were still there, at the close
of the campaign in 1863. A short distance out from the fort were several
hundred lodges of Indians, recently hostile, but who, wearying of the
struggle, had come in to tender their submission to General Sully. Al,
through interpreters, made eager inquiry among them for news of Tommy,
but could learn nothing. The Indians, who were of several different
tribes of the Sioux Nation: Yanktonais, Brules, Two Kettles,
Minneconjoux, Sans Arcs, Uncpapas, and also Blackfeet, reported that the
hostiles were gathered in one immense camp of some eighteen hundred
lodges, or about six thousand warriors, three days' march west of the
Missouri on the headwaters of Heart River, and that they were eager for
a fight.

After a few days spent at the fort in organizing and refitting the
troops, shoeing the horses and mules, repairing harness, and loading
supplies for immediate use into the train of nearly one hundred wagons
which was to accompany the column, the latter moved out on its northward
march on the twenty-third of June.

Now began days which were full of novel experiences for Al. Though he
had to spend a good deal of time with the wagon train, aiding Lieutenant
Bacon, the acting assistant quartermaster, in issuing and caring for
the supplies, he found many hours each day to ride at the head of the
column with the General and his staff, who usually marched there. The
weather was generally warm, and the vast, seemingly boundless prairie
was parched with drought. The new grass was sparse and dry and hidden
under the dead, brown bunches of last year's blue joint and buffalo
grass, so that the troops and wagon train usually marched in a cloud of
dust which, rising from the feet of the hundreds of trampling animals,
was visible for many miles through the clear air of that high plateau
country. They knew that Indian scouts were all about them, closely
observing their progress, but the red men seldom showed themselves, and
one unfamiliar with their ways might easily have believed that there
were no enemies near. Game, such as buffalo and antelope, could often be
seen in the distance and it was a sore temptation to many of the men to
see them and not give pursuit. Indeed, sometimes a party would sally out
after a buffalo; but unless the party was strong, it was always against
the advice of the old campaigners, especially the officers and men of
the Dakota Cavalry, who had been hunting and fighting Indians all over
the southern part of their vast territory ever since the Summer of 1862.
These men, recruited among the fearless and adventurous pioneers who had
first settled in Dakota a few years before, had been dubbed "the
Coyotes" by their companions in arms because of the speed and skill with
which they could march and manoeuvre against their wily foes; and it was
from them that South Dakota in later years derived its familiar
nickname, "the Coyote State."

General Sully had such confidence in the Coyotes that he treated them in
some degree as his headquarters escort. Their place on the march was
usually near him, and if any piece of work was to be done of an
especially important or daring character, he generally called upon the
Coyotes to perform it. Lieutenant Bacon, whom General Sully had
appointed acting assistant quartermaster, was an officer of the Dakota
Cavalry; and as his assistant Al soon found himself on terms of easy
familiarity with the entire gallant command. This was especially true
after he had one day dashed out with a party of them after a small herd
of buffalo which came in view as they topped a rise, a little more than
a mile in advance. A dozen of the Dakota cavalrymen put spurs to their
horses and galloped after the enticing game, and Al and Captain Feilner
joined them.

Al's horse was a sturdy animal, smaller than Captain Feilner's but
long-winded. When they had ridden two or three miles, gradually gaining
on their game, the herd suddenly divided at a dry slough bed in the
prairie, part keeping on north and part turning east. Most of the
cavalrymen turned to follow the buffalo which had swung east, but two or
three, with Captain Feilner and Al, galloped on after the others. One of
the troopers, a tall, slim young fellow wearing the chevrons of a
corporal, who rode his long-legged black horse like an Indian, gradually
drew ahead of the rest as they came nearer and nearer to the game, until
finally he brought himself abreast of the herd. Handling his horse with
the greatest skill, he worked in alongside of the largest buffalo bull.
Then, drawing his short Sharp's carbine, he leaned over, brought the
muzzle near to the animal's fore shoulder and fired. The buffalo ran on
for thirty or forty feet, then stumbled, fell, rose again and, after
staggering a short distance, fell once more and for the last time. The
corporal, calmly slipping his carbine back into its boot, rode up to the
dead buffalo and began cutting away the choicest portions of it to carry
back to the command.

Meantime Al and Captain Feilner galloped on, some distance behind the
corporal. But the Captain's horse was becoming badly winded and at last
he swung off to one side and took a long distance shot, without result.
Al, though his horse, too, was beginning to show some signs of
weariness, kept on until about fifty yards from the flank and rear of
the herd when, not wishing to exhaust his horse, he decided to take his
chance on a long shot. He accordingly pulled up and, taking hasty aim
with the long Spencer rifle he was carrying, fired at the nearest animal
he could see through the dust. Then he lowered his rifle and looked, but
the buffalo seemed to be running as fast and as steadily as ever. He was
about to turn back, disappointed, to join Captain Feilner, when he
heard the corporal, a little way behind, shouting at him,

"You hit her! You hit her! Keep going; use your revolver!"

Somewhat doubtful, Al urged his horse again to a gallop and kept on
after the herd, Captain Feilner and the corporal following him. But,
true enough, before he had covered a quarter of a mile he saw the animal
he had fired at begin to drop behind the others. In another quarter of a
mile he had overtaken it. It proved to be a good sized cow, which, as he
approached, stopped and turned upon him with lowered head, frothing
mouth and angry eyes. He drew his revolver, the one that had belonged to
his father and that he had used at Fort Ridgely, and cautiously urged
his frightened horse toward the cow. As he came within twenty-five or
thirty feet, she charged at him, but he spurred his horse forward and as
she passed behind him, he fired at her eye. It was a lucky shot, for she
rolled over like a log and lay still. In a moment Captain Feilner and
the corporal rode up, the latter's saddle already loaded with thirty or
forty pounds of choice meat cut from his own quarry. He dismounted and
walked up to Al.

[Illustration: She charged at him as he fired]

"That was a fine shot at the distance," said he. "I didn't think you
would make a hit. And you finished her in good shape. Do you know where
to cut off the best pieces for eating?"

"No, I don't," replied Al. "I never killed one before."

"Let me show you," said the other, drawing out his knife, "so that
you'll know next time."

"What is your name?" asked Al, as they worked, handing up the pieces to
the Captain, who tied them to his own and Al's saddles. "You must be a
veteran at it, the way you knocked over that big fellow."

"Oh, I've killed a few of them," answered the cavalryman, modestly. "It
isn't much of a trick when you know how. My name is Charles Wright,
corporal in Company A, First Dakota Cavalry."

They were soon riding back to the column with the welcome supply of
fresh meat, joining on the way the members of the other party, who had
killed three buffalo of the bunch they had followed. On arriving at the
column they were soundly berated by General Sully for their temerity in
venturing so far; for if a party of Indians of any size had cut in
between them and the main body they might easily have all been killed.
Captain Feilner, who, being an engineer and also, incidentally, a
naturalist, was fond of wandering aside from the line of march to
examine the country, laughed incredulously at the General's misgivings.

"General, I do not believe there are enough Indians within one hundred
miles to endanger the number of us who went out there," said he.

"Well, there are," replied General Sully, positively, "don't make any
mistake about that. And if you're not more careful, Feilner, you'll get
your scalp lifted some day on one of your foolhardy side trips after
buffalo or rocks or petrified beetles. As for you, Briscoe," he
continued, addressing Al, "if you want to die young, just keep on
following those Coyotes wherever they lead." With a grim smile, he
jerked his thumb over his shoulder toward the dusty squadron just behind
them, who at the moment were welcoming Corporal Wright and his
meat-laden companions with yells and whoops of delight. "Those fellows
are the most reckless devils in the Northwest and they'll get you into
more tight holes than you can get out of unless you're as bad as they
are."

Al felt that this was the highest compliment possible to the Dakota boys
and so, indeed, General Sully meant it to be. That night at supper in
the bivouac the staff and the Coyotes, at least, fared sumptuously, with
hot and tender buffalo steaks to go with their hardtack, fried potatoes
and coffee.

It was several days after the buffalo hunt, on June 28, to be exact,
that the command broke camp at daylight and marched forward toward the
crossing of the Little Cheyenne River. The troops marched in two
columns, as usual, the supply train being in the centre between them,
while the Dakota Cavalry rode a short distance in advance. Their
commander, Captain Nelson Miner, was that day acting field officer of
the day, having charge of the guard details. As the day wore on it
became hot and sultry and the dust suffocating. Every one was suffering
with thirst and finally, as they approached within a few miles of the
Cheyenne, Captain Feilner decided to ride ahead to that stream in search
of water. Two soldiers from one of the commands in the main column
volunteered to accompany him. Al was working over his books in one of
the wagons of the train when the Captain rode past and called out to
him,

"I am going on to the Little Cheyenne to get a drink. Do you want to go
with me?"

"I should like to," Al called back, "but I'm busy now. Look out for
Indians."

"Oh, yes," replied the Captain, smiling, "There are three of us. I guess
we can force a passage against all the Indians we shall see."

He waved his hand and disappeared through the dust up the column, the
two soldiers trotting hard after him. Al resumed his work and in a
moment forgot all about Captain Feilner. When he had finished he mounted
his horse and rode up to the head of the column where he fell in with
the rest of the staff around General Sully. They had been riding along
in leisurely fashion for some time, their weary horses walking with
drooping heads, the riders lolling in their saddles, when Al's glance,
wandering aimlessly over the desolate landscape ahead, was arrested by
two small dots which suddenly appeared on the top of a prairie ridge far
in front and came racing down the exposed slope in the direction of the
column. Something in their appearance made his heart jump into his
throat. Instinctively he reached out and touched the arm of General
Sully, who was talking to Lieutenant Dale.

"General," he cried, pointing ahead. "Look there! What are those
specks?"

The general, startled, glanced in the direction indicated. His
expression changed to one of dismay.

"By God," he exclaimed, snatching out his field-glasses, "something's
happened over there; there are only two of them. Feilner's got in
trouble; I knew he would."

He touched his horse and started forward at a trot, his staff following.
The riders, coming at a furious pace, soon reached them. They were the
two soldiers who had ridden ahead with the Captain, hatless and without
arms, their horses panting with the frantic pace they had been making.
The leading trooper jerked up in front of the General and, saluting,
cried breathlessly,

"Captain Feilner is killed, General!"

General Sully slapped his field-glasses back into their case and
clenched his fist with an enraged gesture.

"I knew it," he growled, savagely. "The best officer I had. Curse these
infernal redskins!" It must be admitted that at such moments General
Sully did not hesitate to use stronger language than is allowable in
print. "Where was he killed?"

"At the crossing of the Cheyenne, sir. He's lying there now."

"How did it happen?"

"Why, when we reached there, sir, the Captain got off his horse and went
down the bank,--it's steep where we were,--and got a drink, while we
held his horse. Then we dismounted and went down, leaving our horses and
carbines with him. He was sitting under a little tree. While we were
down by the creek we heard a rifle shot and looked up and saw three
Injuns riding up toward our horses. There is good grass in the bottom
and we'd picketed them, but they got scared and pulled the picket-pins
and ran off before the redskins got them. We could see the Captain lying
there but we didn't have our guns so all we could do was to hide out
till the Injuns rode off north across the creek. Then we ran after our
horses and came back."

"Three Indians, you say? And they rode north?" questioned the General,
sharply.

"Yes, sir."

Sully put his horse to the gallop and rode swiftly toward the head of
the approaching column. As he reached Captain Miner, he pulled up.

"Captain," he cried, "three Indians have killed Captain Feilner at the
crossing of the Little Cheyenne, just ahead of us here. They rode north,
across the creek. Take Company A and follow the cowardly assassins and
bring them to me, dead or alive; mind you, dead or alive!"

"Feilner killed!" exclaimed Captain Miner. "The dirty scoundrels!"

He swung his horse so sharply that it reared, and dashed back along the
column of Company A until he reached First Sergeant A. M. English, who
was in command.

"Sergeant," he cried, in ringing tones which every eagerly listening man
in the company could hear, "Captain Feilner has been killed, and we are
ordered to pursue the Indians!"

Then he galloped back to the head of the column and, rising in his
stirrups, shouted,

"Column left, march! Company, trot! Gallop! Follow me, boys!"

With a rising thunder of hoofs and a swirling dust cloud behind them,
through which the glint of carbines, sabres, and accoutrements flashed
in the sunshine, the cavalry swept over the hill in front and away. The
General rode hotly after them to the crest and watched them streaming
through the depression and up the slopes beyond. Then he laughed grimly.

"See the d--n Coyotes," he exclaimed. "They go like a flock of sheep!
They'll kill their horses before they catch the redskins. Ride after
them and tell Miner to take it easy."

Al, who ever since hearing the distressing news had been quivering with
impotent rage over the cruel fate of his good friend, Captain Feilner,
caught the General's last words. He turned with a swift salute, even as
he put spurs to his horse.

"I'll tell him, General!" he cried, and rode away like the wind.

"Here, you!" cried the General, "Come back!"

But Al did not want to hear.

"Oh, let him go," Sully added, in a lower tone, "I reckon he's a Coyote
himself," and he chuckled as he saw Al put his horse over a gully at the
bottom of the hill and tear up the opposite rise close on the heels of
the last ragged end of the racing Dakota Cavalry.



CHAPTER IX

THE REVENGE OF THE COYOTES


As he gained the top of the rise, Al saw a confused and scattered array
of horsemen just ahead of him, all going at a sharp gallop with no
attempt at formation, the men leaning forward in their saddles as if
riding to the finish of a hard race. He understood that it was a foolish
pace for what would probably prove a long pursuit, but nothing could be
done to slacken it until he could overtake Captain Miner, who was at the
very head of the company. Al and every one else had been very much
surprised at the impetuous manner in which Captain Miner had started
out, for though brave as a lion, he was usually very deliberate in
movement and gentle of speech and his voice had a plaintive, appealing
tone which often contrasted oddly with the orders he was giving.
Altogether, his dashing and devoted followers often found much to amuse
them in the ways of their mild commander. That he had been profoundly
moved by the death of Captain Feilner was evident; otherwise he would
never have urged his little roan mare to a gallop, for his habit was to
ride her at an ambling trot, even in the most exciting and dangerous
situations.

Al hurried his own wiry little horse to greater exertions and began
forging to the front. Before long he left all except the leaders behind
and as they went over the hill and down into the valley of the Cheyenne,
he was almost up to Captain Miner. The latter's face was set steadily to
the front, however, as he scanned the country ahead for sight of the
fugitive Indians, and Al could not attract his attention until he had
overtaken him, almost on the bank of the creek. Then he shouted,

"Captain Miner! Captain Miner!"

The Captain turned and drew in his horse.

"Well?" he inquired, lifting his eyebrows slightly, "What is it?" It was
plain he had recovered his composure, for his voice was placid.

"General Sully's compliments, sir, and he suggests that you take it a
little slower, as the horses may be exhausted before you can catch the
Indians," answered Al.

Captain Miner pulled at his beard thoughtfully.

"Oh, pshaw!" he said, a disapproving note in his voice, "I wonder how we
are to catch them if we don't keep going?"

"I don't know, sir," replied Al, as side by side they rode their horses
into the creek, "but that was what the General told me to say to you."

The stream was shallow and narrow but its banks were composed of deep,
swampy mud through which their horses floundered and plunged, knee deep.
Above and below them soldiers of the Coyotes were coming at the stream,
some clearing it in a bound, where the banks were solid enough for a
jump, while others became so deeply mired that they could not get out
again until the rest of the command had passed from sight beyond. Just
as Al's and the Captain's horses waded out of the creek and came up,
snorting, on the opposite bank, they heard some of the men already
across, shouting,

"There are the Indians! Over there!"

At this moment a headquarters orderly galloped into sight and halted
beside the Captain.

"The General is afraid you will ruin your horses," he cried. "He thinks
you had better come back."

Again Captain Miner tugged at his beard, a habit of his when annoyed or
perplexed.

"Is that an order?" he inquired.

"No, sir, I think not," the orderly replied, hesitatingly. "It's a
suggestion."

"Well," directed the Captain, gently, "will you, then, please report to
the General that we are in sight of the Indians and without I have a
positive order to return, I propose to take them."

He turned to the front again and put his little roan into her accustomed
trot, calling out to the men nearest him, as he waved his hand at them,

"Take it a bit slower, boys; don't run your horses. We'll catch the
Indians all right."

Al's ambitious little sorrel, seeing other horses ahead of him, was
tugging at the bit and Al gradually let him have his head, leaving the
Captain a short distance behind while the rest of the company was
strung out for a mile or more in the rear. Al soon found himself among
the leaders, riding neck and neck with Sergeant English and Corporal
Wright, while Troopers Tom Frick, George Pike, George McClellan, and
others whose names he did not know were near to them. The country was
almost level where they were riding and they could now see the three
Indians plainly, though still a long way ahead. The fugitives were
pushing with all the speed they could make for a group of rough hills in
advance, evidently hoping to escape pursuit in the ravines. To reach the
hills, their course must be at a slight angle across that of the
soldiers.

"Let's try to head them off," suggested Sergeant English. "Bear a little
to the right."

The change of direction was made and as they continued to creep up on
the Indians, whose ponies were evidently wearing out, they could see the
latter look around anxiously every minute or two. The savages were
urging their animals with quirt and heel, and though they responded but
feebly, their strength lasted long enough to take them to the base of
the hills before the pursuers had come within carbine range. As they
reached the first steep slope, the Indians suddenly threw themselves
from their ponies' backs and, clinging to their guns, ran up to the top
of the hill on foot and disappeared. As they came nearer to the hill,
the soldiers were startled to see on its crest, just where the fugitives
had disappeared, a very large body of warriors with war-bonnets and
robes waving in the breeze.

"Well, say, what do you think of that?" exclaimed Corporal Wright.
"There must be two or three hundred of them."

The advance party reluctantly slowed down until Captain Miner and some
of the other men had come up to them. The Captain examined for a moment
the ominous looking group ahead. Then he turned a wistful glance on the
thirty or forty men behind him and said, plaintively,

"There seem to be a good many of them, but I think we'd better charge,
boys." He touched his mare and trotted forward, calling in a soothing
tone, "Yes, that's what we'll do. Charge, boys, charge."

Some of the men laughed explosively, partly with nervousness, partly
with amusement at their commander's quaint orders, but not one
hesitated. Spreading out in a long, irregular line, they dashed at the
hill, shouting,

"Death to the murderers!"

But as they approached the crest, again laughter broke out, rolling from
one flank of the line to the other and back again, in boisterous waves.
The supposed Indians were nothing more than a patch of mullen stalks,
transformed by distance and the peculiar condition of the air into a
resemblance to human beings. The men looked at each other sheepishly,
but as they reached the top of the hill, they sobered again. The three
real Indians were just disappearing down a ravine on the other side.
Pell-mell the cavalry rushed after them, Captain Miner and Sergeant
English now in the lead. The horses slid and stumbled down through the
ravine, but the wily savages were still ahead, dodging about among
obstructions to the view which none but Indians could have found.
Presently the ravine widened out into a valley in which no sign of life
was to be seen. The whole body of cavalry was going on into the valley
when suddenly the Indians rose as if from the ground, a little way to
one side of the course the soldiers were taking, and fired at the
Captain and the Sergeant, behind whom Al was closely following.

The fugitives had taken refuge in an old buffalo wallow, forming a
perfect natural rifle-pit; and if they had not mistakenly thought
themselves discovered and risen to fire, their pursuers would probably
have swept by without finding them. But now they were brought to bay and
with cheers and yells of delight a number of troopers sprang from their
saddles and encircling the buffalo wallow, though at some distance from
it, threw themselves flat on the ground with carbines cocked, waiting
for an Indian to show himself. It was like a pack of wolves surrounding
their quarry. Fortunately, neither the Captain nor Sergeant English had
been injured by the first fire and they joined the circle of besiegers,
while the men who were holding the horses formed a wider circle back on
the prairie out of range.

Al's horse, though of course new to him, was an old campaigner which
had gone out from Fort Randall on more than one forced march. His name,
Cottontail, had doubtless been bestowed upon him by some former soldier
rider in humorous reference to his fluffy tail, which was almost white.
He could be trusted to stand through any amount of noise or excitement
if his reins were, thrown over his head so that they hung on the ground
at his feet. Al left him thus, standing alone, and running forward,
dropped down in the ring of dismounted men beside Corporal Wright. For a
few moments the Indians kept out of sight. Then something rose above the
rim of the buffalo wallow and Al, who was watching that spot with
intense eagerness as he lay sprawled in the short prairie grass, raised
his rifle to fire. But the corporal slapped down the barrel.

"Don't shoot at that," said he, "or the boys'll laugh at you. It isn't a
redskin; it's just a breech cloth they're sticking up to draw our fire.
Look closer."

Al looked as directed and saw, on more careful scrutiny, that it was,
indeed, only a piece of cloth. None of the men fired at it, but some of
them hooted derisively, for they knew that the Indians' scheme was to
draw a volley, when they could safely spring up and fire at their
besiegers before the latter could reload. Al lowered his rifle in
disgust.

"How are we going to get them if they never stick their heads up?" he
inquired, impatiently.

"Well, they can stay and starve to death," answered Wright, grinning.
"We're able to hold out longer at that game than they are. But
Captain'll order us to charge pretty soon if they don't do something."

However, the Indians could not stand the suspense. Their ruse having
failed, one of them soon raised his gun and then his head above the edge
of the hole and fired quickly at the first soldier he sighted. His aim
was bad and he had misjudged the alertness of his foes. Almost before he
had shot, a dozen carbines cracked and he dropped back more suddenly
than he had risen. All those in the encircling line heard, or thought
they heard, the dull thud of the bullets as they struck him. A
disjointed cheer ran round among the men.

"There goes one of the murderers!" they shouted. "Now for the next."

The circle began to contract, the men crawling and hitching forward, a
few inches at a time. For some minutes this was kept up on all sides of
the hole, until they had approached within a few rods of it. Still the
Indians gave no sign. Then again the soldiers heard, plainly audible in
the silence, the persuasive voice of Captain Miner, raised slightly
above its ordinary tone;

"Charge, boys, charge!"

As if released by a spring, at those welcome words the Coyotes leaped to
their feet as one man and with a fierce shout rushed forward. The
Indians heard them coming and as the soldiers approached within twenty
feet of their refuge they arose and with a blood-curdling yell fired
their guns straight into the faces of their assailants. Good fortune was
surely with the Dakota boys that day, for the bullets, even at that
deadly range, whistled by harmlessly, and in less time than it takes to
tell it, a score of carbines flashed and the savage assassins, riddled
with bullets, fell back across the body of their already dead companion.
Thus speedily had the cold-blooded murder of Captain Feilner been
avenged.

The soldiers, talking together excitedly, gathered around the edge of
the buffalo wallow; and two or three, including Corporal Wright, sprang
down into it to take trophies, such as beads or feathers, from the dead
warriors. Al was standing on the brink of the hole watching the Corporal
bend over one of the bodies, when, to his amazement, he saw another of
the supposedly dead Indians raise the muzzle of his musket toward the
Corporal's back.

[Illustration: The Indian raised his rifle to shoot Corporal Wright]

"Look out, Corporal!" shouted Al, at the same instant shooting into the
Indian. The Corporal leaped high in air and turned round just in time to
see the musket drop from the hands of the warrior as he fell back and
expired.

"Why, he wasn't dead at all!" exclaimed Al, aghast at the suddenness of
the thing. "He was playing possum and he almost had you, Corporal."

Wright, a little pale, scrambled out of the hole and grasped Al's hand
warmly.

"You've saved my life, sure enough," said he, earnestly. "I hope I can
do as much for you sometime."

"I hope there won't be any need," answered Al, smiling, "but I'm very
glad I saw him in time."

"It's lucky for Charlie that you did," cried Sergeant English, "it looks
so mighty suspicious to be shot in the back."

Wright, laughing, wheeled like lightning on the joker and made a clutch
at him; but the Sergeant sprang out of the way and raced off, with
Wright close on his heels, shouting,

"Here, come back, while I thrash you for that!"

With their sabres catching between their legs, the two brave fellows,
playing like boys, looked comical enough; and the rest of the men, all
of them in high spirits over their success, yelled and applauded loudly
as they dodged about over the prairie until so completely out of breath
that they sunk to the ground, still laughing, and lay there panting.

As soon as they had caught their breath they arose again and returned to
the buffalo wallow. Captain Miner was standing thoughtfully beside it,
looking down at the dead Indians.

"I don't see what we are going to do with these fellows," he said,
doubtfully, glancing around at his men. "The General ordered me to bring
them to him, dead or alive, and of course we've got to do it. But we
must be fifteen miles from the column and they'll be kind of awkward to
take that far."

"Strip off some of their ornaments," suggested somebody, "and take them
to the General."

The Captain, interested, peered in the direction of the speaker.

"Why, that isn't a bad idea," he answered, gratefully. "Yes, I think
that will do, boys."

A score of men jumped into the hole while one man ran and brought a sack
in which he had been carrying oats for his horse. In less time than it
takes to tell it the trophies, stripped from the trappings of the
Indians with sabres and knives, were deposited in the sack, which
Captain Miner fastened to the pommel of his saddle.

The company were soon mounted and riding back toward the Cheyenne, where
the main command had bivouacked for the night, gathering in on the way
the stragglers who had been unable to keep up during the chase. About
midway of their march they were met by Lieutenant Bacon, whom General
Sully had sent out with an ambulance carrying water and commissaries to
the Coyotes, knowing that they would be both hungry and thirsty. Bacon
was jubilant over the success of Company A, for he was its First
Lieutenant, and he gave out the supplies liberally, assisted by Al.

"Young fellow," said he to the latter, with a twinkle in his eye, "what
do you mean by running off to play with these boys here and leaving me
to attend to all the work of feeding the army?"

"Cottontail ran away with me, sir," answered Al, unabashed.

"That'll do," exclaimed the Lieutenant. "It's evident you're not a
descendant of George Washington. But I don't blame you for going; wish I
had gone myself and let the army wait for its supper."

The command marched into camp about sunset. Fires were burning brightly
here and there, and as they approached, the soldiers gathered in crowds
to see and cheer them. Captain Miner led his men directly to the
headquarters tents, before which General Sully and a group of staff and
other officers collected as the dusty men on their tired horses marched
up and halted before them. Without dismounting, Captain Miner rode
straight to the General, saluted, and loosing the sack, dropped it on
the ground at Sully's feet.

"We got them, General," he murmured, absently.

As the sack fell, the trophies rolled from it and lay in plain view.

"Well," said the General, "Captain, this is certainly pretty good
evidence that you got them. I thank you and your men for the vigor and
gallantry and success of your pursuit. Please keep these till to-morrow
morning. I will give you further orders concerning them."



CHAPTER X

THE FORT ON THE RIVER


Another day of easy marching brought the column to Swan Lake Creek,
about fifteen miles due north of the Little Cheyenne, where camp was
made to await the arrival of the Second Brigade, from Minnesota, which,
according to the arrangement between Generals Sibley and Sully, was to
join the expedition there. Scouting parties were sent on north toward
Bois Cache Creek to look for the expected troops; and while awaiting
their return Al had an opportunity to see illustrated in rather an
amusing way one phase of General Sully's bluff, soldierly character.

Some of the regiments which had marched from Fort Sully were quite
recently organized, and the General had not yet made the acquaintance of
all their officers; so at Swan Lake Creek, having a little leisure time,
he asked the commanders of these regiments to bring to headquarters
such of their officers as he had not met. Among them appeared a young
lieutenant of the Sixth Iowa Cavalry, dressed in a spotless new uniform
of the latest regulation cut, set off by a red silk sash and a
resplendent sabre-belt, and very strongly perfumed with musk. General
Sully, like General Grant, was very modest in his dress, and his
uniform, except for the shoulder-straps, differed little from that of a
private, while sometimes in the field he even wore civilian garments,
such as corduroy trousers and white felt hat. He detested gorgeous
uniforms, especially when the wearer had no particular claim to
soldierly eminence or ability. When his eye fell upon this particular
military dandy, he looked the young man over contemptuously and his lip
curled as he sniffed the odor of musk. Al, who was standing by, saw that
something was coming, and listened in amused silence.

"General Sully," said Major Ten Broeck, who had brought the fledgeling
officer for presentation, "allow me to introduce Lieutenant C----, of
Company ----, Sixth Iowa Cavalry."

"Lieutenant C----, eh?" grunted the General. "Well, Lieutenant, how
long have you been in the volunteer service?"

"About six months," replied the other, seeming to feel conscious that
such a lengthy period had made him a model military man in every
particular.

"Six months?" cried the General, striking his fist down on his knee.
"Why, great Heavens, man, I've been in the regular service for twenty
years, and don't smell half as bad as you do!"

With that he waved his hand impatiently to Major Ten Broeck to indicate
that the interview was ended, and the crestfallen young officer withdrew
hastily.

On the morning of June 30 the men, idling about the camp, descried the
columns of the Second Brigade, long, narrow ribbons in the distance,
crawling toward them across the limitless, gently rolling plain.
Rejoicing and excitement broke out on every hand, for it meant that
there would be no delay in the progress of the campaign, as many had
feared there might be, since the Minnesota troops had been obliged to
make a march of nearly three hundred and fifty miles from Fort Ridgely
to the rendezvous. That the junction of the two brigades was effected
so promptly in that vast wilderness was a matter for congratulation, and
General Sully seemed to feel that he could not too highly praise Colonel
Minor T. Thomas, the commanding officer of the Minnesota column, for the
promptness and skill with which he had conducted his march. The
newcomers went into camp beside the First Brigade, and the men of the
two commands were soon mingled, telling one another of their respective
experiences.

That evening, as soon as he had finished his duties for the day and
eaten his supper, Al strolled into the camp of the Second, or, as it was
generally called, the Minnesota Brigade, to see if he could find there
any old acquaintances, particularly any who might have been at Fort
Ridgely. Here and there fires were burning and the men were lounging
about in groups, talking, playing cards, or otherwise amusing
themselves. Long lines of cavalry horses extended between the company
streets, securely tied to picket lines; and near the creek a large train
of wagons was corralled, its outspanned mule teams, crowded within the
great circle of wagons, seeming almost countless. As he walked along
through the haze of dust made golden by the setting sun, Al noticed a
cavalryman sitting cross-legged by one of the fires, engaged in the
unmilitary task of sewing a button on his coat. The soldier's back was
toward him, but that back had an oddly familiar look. Al walked around
until he could see the trooper's profile, then, with an exclamation of
surprise and pleasure, he sprang forward and slapped the amateur tailor
on the shoulder.

"Wallace Smith!" he exclaimed. "Say, but I'm glad to see you, old
fellow."

Wallace looked up, startled, then sprang to his feet and gripped Al's
hand.

"Why, Al Briscoe!" he cried, "what on earth are you doing here? I had no
idea you were within a thousand miles."

"I came up with General Sully from St. Louis to help look for my brother
Tommy," Al answered. "And you?"

"I am a private in the Eighth Minnesota," explained Wallace. "I became
eighteen just before the column left Minnesota, and as soon as I did, I
enlisted." He looked inquiringly at Al's civilian clothes. "Aren't you
in the service?" he asked.

"No; not old enough," Al replied. "But I'm serving just about the same
as a soldier. Practically I am on General Sully's staff."

"Whew-w!" whistled Wallace. "Lucky boy. That must be great. How did it
happen?"

Mutual explanations followed and before long each of the boys knew the
main facts of the other's history since they parted, nearly two years
before.

"There are other old acquaintances of yours with us," said Wallace,
presently. "You remember Sergeant Jones, who commanded the artillery at
Fort Ridgely?"

"Indeed I do," Al replied, recalling with quickened pulses the
Sergeant's gallantry. "Is he here?"

"Yes. He is now Captain Jones, of the Third Minnesota Battery and he is
in command of our artillery; two six-pounder field guns and two
twelve-pounder mountain howitzers, of his battery."

"He certainly deserved promotion for his work at Fort Ridgely,"
exclaimed Al, enthusiastically.

"Yes, he did," agreed Wallace, "and his men say he is a fine officer."

"Is Lieutenant Sheehan along?" asked Al.

"No, the Fifth has been down South for nearly two years, and he with
them. But you remember Major Brown? He is chief of scouts with us, and
has a company of about fifty Indians. Then there are several men among
our different regiments who were at Fort Ridgely as refugees and who
have since enlisted."

"How many men are in your brigade?" Al asked.

"I believe between fifteen and sixteen hundred," Wallace replied, "not,
of course, including the teamsters with the wagon train. Let me see.
There is our entire regiment, the Eighth Infantry; we are all mounted
for this campaign. Minor T. Thomas is our Colonel, but as he is in
command of the brigade, Lieutenant-Colonel Rogers is actually commanding
the regiment. Then there are four companies of the Thirtieth Wisconsin,
under Colonel Dill, and six companies of the Second Minnesota Cavalry
under Colonel McLaren, besides the artillery and a train of
ninety-three wagons and twelve ambulances, each drawn by a six-mule
team. We have quite a herd of beef cattle, too. So you see there are
enough animals with us alone to eat up all the grass in this country for
miles around in short order; and I suppose there are about as many with
your brigade."

"Yes, there are a lot of them," agreed Al. "We can't stay very long in
one place and find forage enough, unless rain comes to make the grass
grow."

The boys, very happy to meet one another again, talked for several hours
and then at last they separated for the night, each promising to see the
other as often as possible. The camp had quieted down, and most of the
men of both brigades, weary with the marching and other work of the past
few days, were wrapped in deep slumber; but all around the camps were
heavy guards, and the sentries, alert and watchful, were pacing their
beats. They looked shadowy and ghost-like under the starlight as Al
passed along, making his way through the company streets of little white
dog-tents, each backed by its long picket-line of horses, standing or
lying almost motionless in the gloom. It was not many minutes after he
had reached his own cot in one of the big Sibley tents of headquarters
before Al, too, was sleeping the profound and dreamless sleep of youth
and health.

General Sully's orders from General Pope were to establish a fort on the
Missouri River somewhere near the point where the Long Lake River
entered the stream. The plan of the Government at this time was to erect
and maintain a chain of military posts, of which the new fort should be
one, extending from Minnesota to central Montana, which should serve not
only to hold the Indians in check but also to protect emigrants going
through the Sioux country from the East, across Dakota, to the new
Montana gold-mining districts. A well marked trail had become
established through this section since 1862, but the hostility of the
Indians was such that none but very strong parties of emigrants could
make use of it. The Government wished to render the route more safe; and
the new fort on the Missouri, as well as the one General Sully was
expected to build on the Yellowstone, was part of the chain, which
began at Fort Abercrombie, Minnesota, on the Red River of the North.

For four days after the junction of the two brigades, the entire command
lay in camp for the purpose of resting both men and animals. The time
passed quietly and not unpleasantly, but with no unusual incidents.
Several summer thunder showers came, greatly improving the grass and
relieving the discomfort which the expedition had previously suffered
from the dust. Though nearly every one was idle most of the time, Al
found plenty to keep him busy. The camp was seven miles from the
Missouri, where the steamboats lay, and the Dakota Cavalry was ordered
to the river as a guard for them. Then the wagon-train, in sections,
went down to reload from the reserve supplies on the boats. Thus Al was
frequently obliged to go back and forth on Cottontail between the
encampment and the river, sometimes finding a chance while at the latter
point to spend a little time with his friends of the Dakota Cavalry or
with those acquaintances among the steamboat men whom he had come to
know during the long trip from St. Louis to Fort Sully.

At length, on the third of July, General Sully put the First Brigade in
motion for the mouth of Long Lake River, distant about one hundred
miles, and, after instructing the Second Brigade to proceed thither also
on the next day, he set out himself on the _Island City_ to examine the
river banks for a suitable site on which to build the new fort. As an
escort for the boat he took a company of troops, and most of the members
of his staff also went with him; but Al remained with the column, as his
duties demanded his presence there. The marches were long but not
exhausting, and by the eighth of July all the forces were assembled on
the Missouri a short distance above the mouth of Long Lake River.
Directly opposite, on the west bank of the Missouri, was the site on
which the General had decided to build Fort Rice, as the new post was to
be called.

The location was an ideal one. It was a level tableland with a permanent
bank along the river nearly one hundred feet high, and behind it rose a
majestic range of sandstone bluffs, which, just below the post swept out
boldly to the brink of the Missouri and followed it down to the mouth of
the Cannonball River, eight miles south. Along the base of the bluffs
extended a long, narrow belt of heavy timber, and another and much
larger forest covered the wide valley above the post. Immediately in
front of the latter the river was narrow, insuring a good crossing at
nearly all seasons, its only disadvantage being that, owing to the high
bank on which the fort stood, the ferry and steamboat landing had to be
made about half a mile down stream.

On the arrival of the army, a ferry, consisting of a long cable
stretched from bank to bank across the Missouri, on which a flatboat was
guided back and forth, was immediately put in operation. Some of the
troops, including the Dakota Cavalry, crossed on it and went into camp
near the site of the fort. The steamers were then unloaded and put to
work crossing the rest of the troops and the wagon-train, and the army
was soon all assembled on the west bank. Two sawmills, one operated by
a steam-engine and the other by horse-power, the entire equipment for
which had been brought along, were now started and began rapidly getting
out building materials, the timber being brought from the near-by
forests. Great cottonwood logs for the walls were squared to dimensions
of six by eight inches, and planks and boards were sawed for the
interior work. The stockade, with bastions on the northeast and
southwest corners, was also built of cottonwood.

The four companies of the Thirteenth Wisconsin, under Colonel Dill,
which were to be left to garrison the completed work, also constructed
it. They were composed of men from the Wisconsin lumbering districts,
who knew their business thoroughly; and with so many hands to do the
work it proceeded rapidly. In an incredibly short time barracks for
eight companies, officers' quarters, hospital, and storehouses, began to
take on an appearance of permanency which must have filled the scouts of
the hostile Indians with anger and dread, as they lay watching day by
day from distant ridges and buttes.

A short time after camp was pitched at Fort Rice a long line of wagons
made its appearance on the hills across the river and came dragging
slowly down the trail made by the army, until it reached the river bank.
It was a large party of emigrants from Minnesota, which had followed the
Second Brigade for the purpose of having the protection of the army in
crossing the country between the Missouri and the Yellowstone. There
were about a hundred and twenty-five wagons in the train and several
hundred people, including many women and children, and they were bound
for the gold fields. Their wagons were drawn by ox-teams. Their arrival
drew forth an explosion from General Sully.

"The idea of bringing women and children into such a country as this,"
he exclaimed. "I've got to protect them because the Government has
guaranteed them safe conduct through the Sioux lands and told them that
I will look after them. And so here they are, with a lot of lumbering
ox-teams, good for about six miles a day. How in the name of sense do
they expect to keep up with cavalry?"

"You can detach an escort to stay with them," suggested one of the staff
officers.

"Yes, of course I can," returned the General. "That's one of the worst
features of the business. We'll have to cut down our fighting force in
order to look after this travelling nursery, and the whole army'll have
to potter along and mark time when the Indians are just ahead, so that
the ladies can have their noontime nap. They will be everlastingly
hindering us in one way or another. I wish I could send them back where
they came from."

"Why don't you?" asked some one.

The General looked at the speaker disgustedly.

"Do you know what would happen if I sent them back?" he asked. "I should
be reprimanded by the Secretary of War, at the very least. It seems as
though the petting and protection of a handful of emigrants, most of
them runaways from the draft, is regarded as of more importance than the
success of military operations; at least, that has usually been my
experience in the past. Also, a howl would go up all over the country
about the cruelty of that hard-hearted military dictator, Sully, who
refused to lend to a few poor struggling emigrants the assistance of his
mighty army. Oh, no, I must take them along; that's all there is to
it."

A day or two after this, Al was in one of the supply wagons, when a
shadow came across the rear opening of the canvas top, whose back-flaps
he had drawn aside in order to see better as he worked. He looked up to
see peering in at him two bearded individuals wearing wide-brimmed felt
hats, checked shirts, and blue overalls, the latter tucked into the tops
of their cowhide boots. They were evidently members of the emigrant
party.

"We want to buy some grub from you," said one of the men, looking over
the contents of the wagon as if he were inspecting the shelves of a
grocery store. "Gimme a box o' that hardtack and a couple o' slabs o'
bacon and about ten pounds o' sugar, and,--"

"Why, I can't sell you anything," interrupted Al, taken very much by
surprise.

"Sure you kin," persisted the man, jingling some coins in his hand.
"I've got money; I'll pay cash."

"But these are Government stores," Al answered. "I'm not authorized to
sell them."

"Oh, well, that'll be all right," the would-be customer dismissed the
objection with a wave of the hand. "We're gettin' low on grub over in
our camp, and we want to hang on to what we've got till we git acrost
the Yellowstone. O' course we've got to eat, and the army's got to
supply us, 'specially when we're willin' to pay fer stuff. Old Sully
knows that." He spoke as if he considered the idea of paying as a great
concession, for which the Government ought to be very grateful.

"I do not think that _General_ Sully brought supplies along for more
than his own men," replied Al, putting emphasis upon the title, for he
resented the disrespectful tone used by the emigrant. "However," he
added, "I will ask the quartermaster."

He jumped from the wagon and, followed by the two emigrants, sought
Lieutenant Bacon.

"Why, I never heard of such brass," exclaimed the latter in an undertone
when Al had found him and explained the demands of the emigrants. "Of
course we haven't any supplies for these fellows. Why didn't they bring
along enough to last them?"

He turned to the men and repeated what Al had already told them. But
they were stubborn and declined to accept the quartermaster's refusal.
Indeed, they became angry and began condemning the General, the
Northwestern Indian Expedition, and the army, in unmeasured terms.

"Now, that will do," at last exclaimed Lieutenant Bacon, sharply, tired
of their insolence. "I'll take you to General Sully and he can decide
the matter."

When the question had been explained to him, the General was plainly
irritated but he held his temper in check.

"I have not enough supplies here now to outfit this post until next
Spring and to carry my army through the coming campaign," said he. "Some
of my boats are now busy bringing up supplies which were left at Farm
Island, that there may be sufficient to take us through. Why didn't you
bring enough yourselves to last you?"

"Because we was told we could get 'em from you," replied one of the men.

"Who told you that?"

"Well, them that ought to know," answered the other, evasively.

"They were mistaken," said the General. "I simply cannot let you have
supplies."

"Well, it's a blamed funny thing," exclaimed one of the emigrants,
assuming a tone of outraged virtue, "if a General and a great big army
can let poor emigrants starve to death; folks that are goin' out,
riskin' their lives and everything to settle up wild land and make this
here country great."

"You're going out from motives of pure patriotism alone, I suppose?"
asked the General, sarcastically. "You're not going because there's gold
out there and you want to make your fortunes?"

"Well, maybe we can make a livin'," answered the emigrant who had done
most of the talking, a little abashed, "but we'll build up the country,
just the same."

"That's very true," the General replied, earnestly, "and I'm willing to
do all that I can to help you through, so long as it does not seriously
interfere with the objects of the campaign I am here to make against
the Indians. You can certainly understand that I must and will obey my
orders from the Government, regardless of any other considerations. I
will afford protection to your train as far as my army is going, but
more than that I cannot promise. As for supplies, I am satisfied that
you have enough with you to carry you through if you exercise care in
their use. I do not believe that men would start out on such an
expedition as yours with insufficient food. Am I not right?" He leaned
forward in his camp chair and gave the men a searching look. Their eyes
fell and they moved their feet uneasily. But the General's glance
demanded an answer to his question.

"Mebbe we could scratch along," admitted one of them, reluctantly.

"So I thought," said the General. "You merely figured that by getting
army supplies while you were with the troops you could be less sparing
with your own. But I can't accommodate you. Good-day."

He turned to other matters, and his disappointed visitors took
themselves away, still grumbling.

Ten days after the troops had arrived on the site of the new fort, a
mere naked tract of virgin land perhaps never before trodden by the feet
of white men, they were ready to leave it behind them, covered with an
extensive and well-built military post which was destined to be occupied
by United States soldiers for many years to come. A few lodges of
Indians which had come in and surrendered at Fort Rice had confirmed the
reports of those at Fort Sully concerning the great encampment of
sixteen hundred lodges of hostiles assembled in a strong position
somewhere near the head of Heart River or on the Little Missouri. They
claimed that they had experienced the greatest difficulty in getting
away from the hostile camp, and had finally been able to do so only on
the plea of buffalo-hunting. They further declared that the hostiles
were confident in their strength and were boasting that they would
utterly destroy the army of white soldiers if the latter should venture
to attack them. So there was a prospect of plenty of excitement in store
when, on the morning of July 18, General Sully, unalarmed by such
reports, started westward with his army with wagons loaded, troops
fully equipped and liberally supplied with ammunition, and horses and
mules freshly shod.

Just before starting, the General went on board the _Island City_ to
give some parting instructions to Captain Lamont, who was under orders
to proceed up the Missouri and the Yellowstone, in company with the
_Chippewa Falls_, under Captain Hutchison, and the _Alone_, under
Captain Rea, to meet the column with fresh supplies when it should reach
the Yellowstone. The _Island City_ was loaded chiefly with corn for the
horses, but she carried also a considerable quantity of barrelled pork
for the troops, and most of the building materials for the intended post
on the Yellowstone; while the _Chippewa Falls_ and the _Alone_ carried
chiefly rations.

"Now, don't fail me, Captain," said the General, as he turned to leave
the _Island City's_ deck and follow his troops, already winding out of
sight across the plateau and up through a break in the westward bluffs.
"My animals will probably find poor picking out in that rough country
we are going through, and they'll need corn."

"We'll be there waiting for you, General, if human exertions can do it,"
replied Captain Lamont. "But you must remember that the Yellowstone has
never been navigated before, and I don't know what snags or rocks we may
run into."

"You can make it, and you must," said the General, "and don't forget the
place you are to meet me,--the Brasseau Trading House, about sixty miles
above the mouth."

"I'll be on the watch for you," answered the Captain.

"That's right; be on the watch," the General assented. Then suddenly he
opened his field-glass case and took out the glasses. "Here's something
for you to keep watch with," he continued, handing them to the Captain.
"I have another pair and you may find these useful. I have carried them
for a long time, and they are good glasses."

The Captain thanked him warmly, and the General walked ashore
accompanied by his officers, and they mounted their horses.

"Good-bye, Captain," said Al, as he started to follow them. "I hope you
will have a good trip, and that I shall see you soon again."

He little knew, as he spoke, when and under what unforeseen
circumstances the last part of his wish was to be fulfilled.

"Thank you, Al," returned the steamboat officer, giving his hand a
kindly grip. "The same to you. Don't get yourself shot to pieces; and I
hope next time I see you, you will have your brother with you."

"Oh, I hope so," returned Al, earnestly. "We're sure to find him up
there in the Bad Lands."

As he crossed the landing-stage and walked out to where Cottontail was
standing, he saw the deckhand, Jim, leaning against the companion
stairs, regarding him with a scowl of hatred, but he gave the fellow
hardly a passing thought. He followed the staff at a gallop, and as they
passed up the bluffs in the wake of the rear-guard the hills were
re-echoing to the bellowing whistle of the steamboats, blowing them a
parting salute and Godspeed.



CHAPTER XI

TRAILING THE HOSTILES


"I wish I knew where I could get two or three more well-mounted
orderlies, with courage and common sense," said General Sully the next
day, as the army was wending its way through the rough, picturesque hill
country along the Cannonball. "I haven't enough, and it's hard to tell
whether a man can be depended upon until he has been tried."

The remark caused Al to prick up his ears.

"I know a man I think would suit you, General," said he.

"Who?" asked Sully.

"He is a private named Wallace Smith, in the Eighth Minnesota. I knew
him at Fort Ridgely. I'm sure he has plenty of courage and common sense,
and his horse is a good one."

Al knew that Wallace was riding Frank, the horse that had so nearly
lost their scalps for them on the afternoon of the first attack on Fort
Ridgely.

"He is a friend of yours, is he?" asked the General.

"Yes, sir, he is," answered Al.

"He ought to be all right, then," the General said. He scribbled
something on the paper pad he always carried in his pocket, folded the
sheet and handed it to Al.

"Take that to Colonel Thomas," said he.

Al obeyed joyfully, for he suspected, as proved to be the case, that the
paper was an order to Colonel Thomas to detach Wallace from his regiment
for orderly service with the commanding general. Wallace was promptly
instructed to fall out from the ranks of his company, where he was
marching, and he and Al were soon riding forward to join General Sully,
who, as usual, was near the head of the column.

"It was certainly very kind of you to think of me, Al," said Wallace,
"and I appreciate it."

"Perhaps you won't feel so grateful after a while," returned Al, with a
laugh. "It may be that when we strike the Indians you will have to get
into some dangerous places in carrying orders."

"That's all right; so much the better chance for promotion," declared
Wallace, lightly. "Besides, I'm sure that service at headquarters must
be much more interesting and pleasant than it is in the ranks, where one
has to march all day in one place, and sleep and eat and wash and brush
his teeth and almost breathe, by word of command."

"Yes, I think you will find it more pleasant in that way," agreed Al.
"All you need do is to keep up a neat and soldierly appearance, always
be on hand in case you should be wanted, and always obey orders promptly
and thoroughly."

The army was now entering regions where it might expect to encounter
Indians in heavy force at any time, and General Sully was taking all
necessary measures to guard his forces against surprise and also to
reconnoitre the country thoroughly for signs of the red foe. The company
of Winnebago Indian scouts from Nebraska, and the friendly Sioux
employed by General Sully, were constantly spread out far in front and
on the flanks of the column, scouring the ravines and hills and clumps
of timber, while a heavy advance guard preceded the main body on the
march. Every night the wagon train was corralled, with its mules herded
in the centre. An escort of four hundred men was detailed to remain
always with the Montana emigrant train; for the latter, though it
usually marched close behind the army, sometimes met with delays because
its wagons were very heavily loaded. Major Brown's company of Indian
scouts from Minnesota had remained at Fort Rice, under orders to return
as speedily as possible to Fort Wadsworth; so that General Sully had
none too many scouts with him to properly cover his advance.

One afternoon, camp was made for the night on a level plateau covered
with fine grass not far from the bank of the Cannonball and overlooking
the lower valley of that stream. Several small buttes, with steep sides
and round tops, rose abruptly from the valley close to the river, and
between them glimpses could be caught from the camp of the narrow stream
beyond, its waters sparkling in the late afternoon sunshine. After a hot
day's march the river looked very inviting, and Lieutenant Dale
proposed to Al that they go down and take a swim, which would also give
them a chance to examine more closely the river and the curious rock
formations along its banks. Al readily agreed and also obtained
permission from the General for Wallace to accompany them.

Mounting their horses, they picked their way down the steep face of the
plateau and rode out across the bottom heading somewhat up stream until
they came out on the river bank, where a little rocky beach shelving
down into the water seemed to offer a pleasant spot for swimming. A few
yards downstream rose the abrupt walls of one of the buttes, which
looked as if it had been built up of many thin horizontal layers of
sandstone. Its base was fringed with small brush and willow saplings and
here and there a choke-cherry tree, well loaded with ripe fruit, of
which the party decided to eat their fill when their swim was over.
After their horses had drunk greedily of the fresh, sparkling water,
their riders tied them among the saplings, threw off their clothes, and
in a moment were laughing and splashing in the cold, clear stream,
which, though too shallow to afford much swimming, was delightfully
refreshing. They amused themselves for some minutes in picking up and
throwing about the curious pebbles and larger stones, worn perfectly
smooth and round by the water, which, owing to their resemblance to
cannonballs, had given the stream its name. Presently Wallace waded out
nearly to mid-channel,--not an easy feat, for the current was quite
strong,--and there he found a hole six or seven feet deep.

"Hello!" he shouted to his companions. "Watch me duck under and see how
long I stay down."

Lieutenant Dale and Al stopped motionless to watch him. Wallace crouched
down in the water, then sprang erect as high as possible and, jumping
forward, disappeared head first into the deeper pool. At the very
instant when he turned over in the air his companions were electrified
to hear the report of a musket from the base of the butte just below
them, and as Wallace went out of sight they saw the bullet kick up a jet
of spray apparently not two inches above his back. Wheeling round they
saw a feather of smoke rise from the bushes at the further end of the
butte, and without a word both of them dashed out of the river to the
spot where their clothes lay. Each one of the three had his revolver
with him, as always, and in less time than it takes to tell it Al and
the Lieutenant, stark naked, had their weapons in their hands. Al heard
a splash in the river below them. He sprang down to the water's edge and
peered through the bushes. Not thirty yards away an Indian was riding
his pony into the stream and Al raised his revolver and fired. The pony
sunk to its knees and toppled over, flinging its rider into the water,
but the warrior was up again in an instant and waded quickly back to the
shore, where he disappeared behind the butte. At this moment Wallace
rushed up and caught his revolver from its holster.

"He's back of the butte," cried Lieutenant Dale. "We can head him off.
You stay here and watch the river, Smith. Come on, Briscoe."

He and Al hastened off around the landward side of the butte, while
Wallace crouched down by the river bank to shoot at the Indian if he
should attempt to cross. As Al and his companion cautiously made their
way to a point where they could look down the valley they saw that the
wide interval extending from their position to the next detached butte
down river was quite open and covered only with short grass, which
afforded little or no cover. Nevertheless, even as they looked they saw
the Indian run out from the bushes upon the open space and start on a
run across it. The Lieutenant and Al both fired at him and the bullets
must have come very close, for he immediately veered and ran again into
the river. But the hunted warrior had no sooner reached it than they
heard the crack of Wallace's revolver, around on the other side of the
butte, and a moment later the Indian, evidently despairing of being able
to escape alive, walked up on the bank once more with his rifle held
aloft in sign of surrender.

Al and the Lieutenant emerged from the bushes and advanced toward him,
taking the precaution, however, to keep him covered with their
revolvers. Neither of them was struck at the moment by the ridiculous
appearance they presented, "clad only with revolvers," as Lieutenant
Dale expressed it, but they often laughed about it afterward. The
Indian, an ugly, low-browed, flat-nosed specimen of his race, came up to
them and Lieutenant Dale disarmed him, taking his musket and a knife
concealed in his blanket. Then, keeping him ahead of them, they marched
him back to the place where Wallace had remained, by the horses. Here
they bound his hands with a saddle strap and, after dressing, started
back to camp, making the prisoner walk in front of them.

Their appearance created an uproar of excitement, and questions and
congratulations poured upon them from every side, but they pushed their
way steadily through the crowd until they reached headquarters and
presented their prisoner to General Sully. The latter immediately sent
for an interpreter, and then began a severe cross-examination of the
captive. He proved surly, and his answers were short and most of them
plainly false, until the General sharply informed him that he would be
hanged immediately if he did not answer fully, and that he would be
hanged later if his answers proved to be untruthful. He then suddenly
found his tongue and became a model witness.

According to his statement, he was an Upper Yanktonais, and was simply
watching the army as a scout when he saw Lieutenant Dale and his
companions go in swimming; and, thinking that he could escape across the
river, had decided to try and pick one or more of them off. He admitted
that there were many scouts of the hostiles in the vicinity, but said
that most of them were held far back from the army by the presence of
General Sully's scouts. Asked as to the hostile army and its location,
he hesitated, but finally replied that the camps were very great and
were in a very strong position on the headwaters of the Knife River, a
considerable distance north of the Cannonball. He declared the camps
contained so many warriors that the Indians were sure of easily
defeating the white army, and proposed to stand and fight before their
encampment.

Having extracted all the information from the prisoner which seemed
possible, General Sully was about to dismiss him with instructions that
he be kept under close guard until further orders, when Al stepped up
and said in a low tone,

"General, he says he is an Upper Yanktonais. Would you mind asking him
whether he knows anything about my brother or about the Indian who holds
him?"

"Why, certainly I will," replied the General. "I ought to have thought
of that myself."

He held up his hand to the interpreter, who was retiring, and then,
fixing his eyes on the captive, asked,

"Do you know a member of your tribe named Te-o-kun-ko?"

The interpreter translated the question into Sioux. The prisoner
remained stolidly silent a moment, then answered in the low, guttural
tone he had used all through the interview,

"Tush."

"He says, 'yes,'" said the interpreter.

Al started. Was some real news coming at last?

"Is he in your camps now?" pursued the General.

"Tush," replied the savage.

"Has Te-o-kun-ko a white boy prisoner with him?" the General went on.

As soon as the question was interpreted, the Indian shot one swift
glance at the faces of the General and those around him, then his eyes
half closed again to their former expression of passive indifference.

"Nea," he replied.

"He says, 'no,'" interjected the interpreter.

"No?" exclaimed Sully. "You know that he has had such a prisoner, don't
you?"

"Tush."

"Well, where is he now?"

"I don't know," the Indian answered.

The General thought a moment. Then he inquired,

"How long has Te-o-kun-ko been in the camp?"

The prisoner made quite a lengthy reply and the interpreter struggled a
moment arranging it into English speech.

"He says, 'He has been in camp only a few days. I saw him just before I
came out to scout.'"

"Where did he come from?"

"He came from the south."

"But where in the south?"

Again the reply was long and was translated,

"I don't know. I didn't talk with him, but some one told me he came from
the south."

"When did you see Te-o-kun-ko last,--that is, previous to his coming
into the big camp?" the General inquired.

"I saw him two moons ago on the Assouri River, in the country of the
Hudson's Bay Company."

"Did he have the white child with him then?"

"Tush."

"But you are sure he has not the white child with him now?"

"No, he has not."

"Well, that will do," said General Sully, rising from his camp-stool.
"We can't get any more out of him. He's probably lying, anyway," he
added, turning to Al. "He doesn't want us to think they have any white
prisoners. My belief is that your brother is undoubtedly there."

Al tried to believe so too, but the interview, nevertheless, made him
feel uneasy and depressed. He had known little about his brother's
whereabouts and condition before, but now, if the Indian's statements
were true, he knew less than ever. The search seemed to become more
vague and hopeless the further he pursued it and he began almost to
despair of ever seeing Tommy again. Had it not been for the many duties
he had to perform and the increasing interest in events before them as
they approached nearer to the hostile army, he would have lost heart
altogether. But matters crowding fast upon each other forced him largely
to forget himself and his private problems.

The second day out from Fort Rice the column passed a deserted Indian
camp which had evidently been abandoned only recently, and on succeeding
days several similar ones were found. It was clear that they could not
be far from the enemy's stronghold; and on July 23, General Sully, owing
to the statements made by the Indian whom the boys had captured and
other information received from his scouts, left the Cannonball and
turned north toward Heart River, which the army reached next day. The
scouts went out in every direction and on the twenty-sixth unexpectedly
encountered a hostile war party of half a hundred braves, who fled north
toward the Knife River.

General Sully, being now convinced that the enemy's camp must be within
a comparatively short distance, decided to make a forced march on the
trail of the war party, and preparations were quickly begun. The main
wagon train, as well as the Montana emigrant train, was securely
corralled in a good camping place by the Heart River and a sufficient
guard to protect them was detailed to remain behind, under Captain
William Tripp, Company B, Dakota Cavalry. Sufficient rations were cooked
to last the troops in the field for six days, the General intending to
carry all supplies on pack mules taken from the train. Nothing but
absolutely necessary food and ammunition was to be carried, all articles
such as tents and company mess kits being left behind. But when the
boxes containing the pack saddles were opened it was found, to every
one's dismay, that the cincha straps of the saddles, by which they were
to be secured to the mules' backs, were made of leather, about three
inches wide, instead of canvas or webbing six or eight inches wide, as
they should have been. When the men tried to tighten up these leather
straps, they cut so cruelly into the flesh of the mules that the latter
began kicking and bucking frantically and could not be quieted until
they had rid themselves of their loads. General Sully, very much
disgusted, was obliged to give up the plan of using a pack train, though
it would have been much the easiest and quickest way to carry supplies
in the rough country. Instead, he impressed into service about
thirty-five of the lightest private wagons in the train, belonging to
sutlers and to different companies among the troops, which had them for
carrying their tents and private belongings. Each of these wagons was
loaded with about one thousand pounds of food or small arms ammunition.
Each soldier was supplied with all the cartridges he could carry on his
person, and the limber chests of the batteries were filled with
artillery ammunition.

Thus equipped, the fighting forces were ready to start at three o'clock
in the afternoon. The bugles blew "mount," the soldiers, teamsters, and
emigrants who were being left behind cheered and waved their hats, and
in a little while the long column had wound out of sight among the hills
and ravines, headed north toward the Knife River.



CHAPTER XII

THE BATTLE OF TAHKAHOKUTY


As the troops pressed onward the marching became harder. They were
nearing the hill country lying between the Knife and the Little
Missouri, full of precipices and deep ravines. That night they camped in
the hills, with pickets and camp guards out. Each man slept with his
sabre and revolver buckled to his waist and the bridle of his saddled
horse in his hand. The next night they camped on the Knife River under
similar conditions, after a hard march of twenty-seven miles, and as no
fires were allowed, the weary men sorely missed their strong, hot
coffee. As soon as he could do so, Al rolled himself in his blanket and
stretched out on the ground. It seemed to him that he had but just
closed his eyes when he heard the bugles ringing out reveille in the
chill darkness. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, hearing a confusion of
voices around him, the trampling of horses and jingle of accoutrements.
Then he felt Cottontail's nose push against his cheek and, slowly
unbending his stiffened limbs, he rose to his feet.

"Well, old boy," said he, putting his arm around his horse's neck, "I
wonder what's in store for us to-day?"

"Plenty, probably," said Lieutenant Dale's voice, close beside him.
"I've an idea we'll strike the redskins to-day."

It was three o'clock, and in the black darkness the lines were formed,
not by sight but by hearing. For an hour they stumbled onward through
the darkness before the first streaks of dawn began to give the men
vague glimpses of their comrades and of other objects around. A little
after sunrise a halt was made on a small branch of the Knife River for a
quick breakfast of hardtack and coffee, and then the army pushed on
again. The hour approached noon and the sun beat down hot on the long
columns of horsemen toiling over the hills on each side of the small
train of wagons and artillery.

General Sully, with one or two officers, was riding in an ambulance at
the head of the train and others were on their horses near by, Al being
with them, when they saw a party of several of the Indian scouts come
galloping back through the advance guard. They did not slacken pace
until they reached the General's ambulance, when their leader, much
excited, began gesticulating and talking rapidly in his own tongue.

"Halt the advance guard! Tell Colonel Pollock to halt the First Brigade!
Tell Colonel Thomas to halt his brigade!" cried the General to three
different orderlies, who dashed away in as many different directions.

The moving columns became stationary, every eye turning in excited
speculation on the General's ambulance, toward which the field officers
of the different organizations were galloping from every direction. They
found the staff eagerly gathered around the interpreter, who, catching
the words from the lips of the chief scout, repeated to the General,

"He says, 'We have found the hostiles. They are just ahead, in great
numbers, waiting us. We have seen their camps. They are in big hills a
few miles from here. It is a very strong place.'"

"How far are the Indians ahead?" asked the General.

"A mile, maybe two miles. They keep moving."

"Gentlemen," said the General, turning to the field officers around him,
"the enemy is found. Return to your commands and prepare for action. I
will send you orders for battle formation in a few moments."

The officers went flying back to their regiments, and as they reached
them and gave the stirring news to their men, volleys of cheers broke
forth and went rolling up and down the long lines. There could be no
doubt of the anxiety of the troops to come to blows with the foe they
had been so long hunting. The men dismounted and began tightening up
saddle cinchas and sabre belts, arranging their ammunition conveniently
and giving a last inspection to carbines, sabres, and revolvers, all the
while keeping up an energetic buzz of conversation.

In a few moments orderlies and staff officers began to fly along the
lines with oral or written orders. Al went galloping over to Colonel
Pattee with instructions to dismount his battalion of the Seventh Iowa
and deploy it forward into line of battle on the left of the Sixth Iowa,
of which six dismounted companies were already deploying on the right
wing. Lieutenant Dale carried word to Colonel Rogers to deploy six
companies of the Eighth Minnesota forward by the right, thus forming the
left wing. Another officer instructed Captain Pope to throw his battery
into the interval between the Seventh Iowa and the Eighth Minnesota;
while Wallace Smith was intrusted with the order to Major Brackett to
close in column upon the right flank, in rear of the Sixth Iowa, to
cover the train and to be prepared to charge when ordered. Of the
remaining commands, the Second Minnesota was formed on the left flank,
in rear of the Eighth Minnesota; the Dakota Cavalry and a company of the
Sixth Iowa were placed as supports for Pope's battery; Jones's battery
was held in reserve with an escort of four companies of the Sixth Iowa;
the wagon train was massed and closed up on the artillery reserve; and
behind the train was placed a rear guard of two companies of the Eighth
and one of the Second Minnesota. Several companies of skirmishers ran
out and deployed in front of the main line of battle; and then the
General, surveying his dispositions and finding them complete, gave the
order to advance.

With flags and guidons flaunting proudly in the breeze, the sunlight
dancing on sabre scabbards and carbine barrels, men cheering and horses
prancing under the impulse of excitement on all sides of the great
martial square, the army rolled forward across the swelling, verdant
hills, a huge living engine of destruction moving onward to crush, or to
be crushed by, the barbaric host in its front. Al, riding in the centre,
behind the General, looked around him with flashing eyes, for never
before had he viewed so inspiring and majestic a scene. It was, in fact,
by far the largest and best appointed army which ever went into battle
against the hordes of the great Sioux Nation, not even excepting the
columns that followed Terry and Crook and Gibbon twelve years later
when, in 1876, the gallant Custer and five troops of the Seventh United
States Cavalry lost their lives in the battle of the Little Big Horn.
More than twenty-two hundred men were in battle formation on that
twenty-eighth day of July, 1864. As Wallace Smith exclaimed to Al,
riding along beside him,

"By George, Al, isn't this a sight worth seeing and worth remembering,
too? I'm glad I'm here."

"See!" cried Al, too startled to reply, suddenly pointing ahead. "There
they are!"

Over the crest of a hill which the skirmish line was ascending, a dense,
confused mass of mounted warriors came pouring like a torrent. Farther
and farther to the right and left its flanks spread with lightning
rapidity, breaking over the hill as an ocean roller curls and breaks
upon a beach; farther and farther, till it stretched far beyond the
utmost extremes of the line of battle. The hundreds of ponies were
running at topmost speed, heads down and necks outstretched, the ground
shaking beneath their thundering hoof-beats; the hundreds of warriors
were brandishing guns and revolvers and plumed lances above their heads,
their many-colored war bonnets streaming behind them in the hurricane
of the charge, their voices upraised in a tempest of terrific,
blood-curdling yells. So the savage host came on, straight for the thin
thread of skirmishers and the solid line of battle behind it, as if they
would sweep over them both and engulf the whole army at once in utter
destruction. It seemed that nothing could stand before them, and they
towered above the skirmish line like a wall.

Wallace clutched Al's arm, exclaiming, hoarsely,

"My God, what will the skirmishers do?"

"Watch them! Watch them!" answered Al, his whole mind centred on the
impending collision.

The skirmish line came to a halt. Here and there it receded a little,
then swung forward again, like a rope whipping back and forth. At one
point and then at another a white puff of smoke spurted out, and in an
instant they rippled all along the line, plain to the eye even before
the spattering pop of the carbines reached the ear. It seemed a puny
challenge to be flung in the face of that imposing mass of horsemen, but
it was enough. They checked in their ponies, broke into fragments and
either galloped back as they had come or else swung off to right and
left and, running along in front of the line of battle, swept away
beyond its flanks.

Al's pulses were pounding with excitement as he glanced at the General,
riding now on his horse. Sully's face was as calm as if he were
reviewing a dress parade. He stroked his beard slowly as he looked at
the skirmish line and remarked,

"That was well done." Then, turning to one of his aides, he said, in his
usual tone, "Tell Colonel Rogers to incline a little more to the left.
He is crowding Pope's battery."

On up the hill just vacated by the Indians moved the main body of the
army and down into the valley in front of it hurried the skirmishers. As
the General and his staff reached the crest, a wonderful scene lay
spread before them. It was a great plain, much cut up by ravines and
hillocks but appearing from their position to be almost level, and it
extended from the hill they were on to the base of another range,
several miles away, which rose sheer from the valley in a mighty mass of
abrupt ridges and rocky peaks from four hundred to eight hundred feet
high. It was Tahkahokuty, or Kill-deer, Mountain. From base to summit it
was covered with brush and timber; and among the trees on its top as
well as on the low ridge along its base could be seen hundreds upon
hundreds of Indian lodges, the women and children, the horses and dogs,
running about among them, mere specks in the distance. To the left of
the advancing army, a sharp upheaval of hills fell away from the flank
of Tahkahokuty, lower than the main ridge but still formidable; and in
front of this, in front of the mountain itself and of the camps at its
base and extending far away to the right, the plain was covered with
thousands of mounted warriors, some scattered and some in masses, but
nearly all of them in rapid motion toward the small, compact army
marching steadily forward upon their stronghold.

Again and again as the line of battle pressed on, the masses of warriors
hurled themselves upon its front, only to break and retire before the
deadly fire poured into them. But ever farther the red horsemen
overlapped the flanks; in spite of the fact that the line of battle was
being constantly extended to meet them. The soldiers, parched with the
heat of the day and the exertion of marching and fighting over the rough
ground, often at the double-quick, were suffering with thirst, but no
water was to be found. As the army approached nearer and nearer to
Tahkahokuty, the Indians began to fight with more stubbornness. They
galloped up close to the lines, halted and fired, then dashed away
again. Now and then a soldier fell and was lifted by some of his
comrades and carried back to an ambulance.

At length two great masses of Indians began gathering, one out beyond
the left flank, the other, beyond the right, and both near the front of
the camps along the mountain's base. General Sully, as calm as ever,
surveyed them deliberately through his glasses. Then suddenly he lowered
his hand, straightened up in his saddle and spoke to an aide with a ring
in his voice which had not been there before. The decisive moment had
come. Pointing a steady finger at the crowd of Indians on the right, he
cried,

"Tell Major Brackett to charge those fellows with the sabre! Tell him
to drive it home; clear the valley and force them up the ridge."

Like a flash he turned to another officer and, pointing to the mass on
the left, said,

"Order Colonel McLaren to charge that party and drive them to the ridge,
and not to stop till he has forced them clear away from their camps."

Once more his words flashed out like a whip-lash, and Wallace Smith,
quivering to be off, caught them as they came from his lips,

"Tell Captain Pope to advance at a gallop through the skirmish line and
give them shell. Tell him to clear the valley and sweep the ridge in
front of Brackett and McLaren."

Wallace dashed away and the General relapsed into his former attitude of
silent, intent watchfulness. All his officers and orderlies were now
gone somewhere with orders, excepting Al and Lieutenant Dale, who still
rode behind him. But he paid no more heed to them than to the grass
under his horse's feet. His whole attention was concentrated on the
great game he was playing with living men for pawns, as the skilful
chess player centres his thought upon the board before him at the crisis
of the game.

Far to the right and left fronts, beginning in a low rumble and rising
rapidly to a steady, pounding thunder above the crackle of the musketry,
sounded the hoof-beats of McLaren's and Brackett's squadrons as they
passed from the trot to the gallop and from the gallop to the charge
and, a forest of flashing sabres circling above their heads, bore down
with fierce cheers upon the foe. Straight ahead, through the gap in the
battle line, could be seen the guns of the Prairie Battery, going
forward, the cannoneers clinging to the limbers, the cavalry escort
galloping furiously on either side. A moment more, and the boom of a
howitzer rose above the lesser noises of battle, followed by another and
another, and the shells, circling high, burst like great, white flowers
against the rugged, dark green front of Tahkahokuty. A terrified
commotion could be seen among the people in the camps on its crest. Here
and there fires burst out among the lodges and smoke began to pour
aloft through the foliage.


     "'But see! Look up! On Flodden bent
     The Scottish foe has fired his tent!'"


quoted Lieutenant Dale, pointing upward, and Al, catching the
inspiration of the great poet of border warfare, who had thrilled him
since childhood, went on,


     "'And sudden, as he spoke,
     From the sharp ridges of the hill
     All downward to the banks of Till
     Was wreathed in sable smoke!'"


Before the resistless rush of the Minnesotans, the savages on either
flank broke and fled wildly back to the higher ground, the cavalry hard
on their heels. Here, backed literally against their camps, they turned
amid the rocks and trees and ravines, like wolves at bay, to protect for
a few minutes the squaws and children, who were frantically striking the
tepees and running or driving their travois up the ravines and into the
impenetrable mountain fastnesses beyond. Farther and still farther
along the crest of the lower ridge puffed out the little, cotton-like
jets of carbine and rifle smoke. At length, nearly at the foot of the
mountain on the right they began to increase in rapidity until they were
floating off in a mass of thin vapors, while the sound of the fire
became a shrill, continuous rattle. Above it rose the yells of the
Indians, answered now and then by a disjointed cheer. General Sully's
eyes narrowed, and his jaws set hard.

"Brackett's struck a hornet's nest," he ejaculated. "By George, that
begins to sound like Fair Oaks!"

He wheeled his horse and galloped back to Captain Jones, whose battery
was a short distance behind him.

"Captain," he cried, pointing to the spot where the heaviest fight
seemed to be raging, "get out there as quick as the Lord'll let you,
close to the base of the mountain, and shell out those redskins in front
of Brackett."

The Captain saluted and spurred his horse around to the flank of his
command.

"On right sections;--to twenty-five yards, extend intervals;--" he
shouted. "Trot;--march!" Then, as the battery resolved itself into the
new formation, he continued, "Right oblique,--march! Trot! Gallop!"

The guns went racing away, swung into battery, and in a moment their
shells were searching the ravines in Brackett's front. They had scarcely
opened when a great hubbub and popping of carbines broke out behind the
wagon train, and a large body of Indians made their appearance, as if
springing out of the ground, and bore down upon the rear guard.
Immediately one of Jones' guns limbered up and came galloping back to
reinforce the hard-pressed companies covering the train.

At this moment the General raised his glasses with a frown and looked
toward the bluffs where McLaren was advancing, then swept his glasses
around to Pope's battery and the Dakota Cavalry, which had charged ahead
of the guns and become heavily engaged among the rocks in a ravine
running back through the centre of the enemy's lower camps. The General
turned to Lieutenant Dale.

"Warn Pope not to fire so far to the left," he said. "He's endangering
McLaren's advance."

Then he called to Al,

"Ride up there to those Coyotes and scouts and tell Miner not to push
too far ahead of the flanks. He'll be surrounded."

The two couriers galloped off together, leaving the General for the
moment alone. As they pushed through the gap in the centre of the main
battle line, Lieutenant Dale exclaimed,

"Don't these fellows fight splendidly considering most of them have
never been under fire before?" Then he laughed. "Look at Pattee over
there! His coat's off and he's fanning himself with his hat. It's a hot
day for a fat man to fight."

The line of sweating, panting soldiers, closely followed by their
comrades who were holding the horses, was plodding steadily ahead,
firing at intervals upon the scattered warriors still circling in their
front, as yet unrouted by the movements which had swept back their
extreme flanks. Having passed the line of battle and the skirmishers
ahead of it, the Lieutenant changed his course toward the left, where
Pope's men were working methodically around their guns, while Al
galloped straight on. He passed a small, detached butte from whose crest
the shells of Pope's guns had just driven a crowd of squaws and children
who were watching the battle from that elevation. He encountered no
warriors, though some were so near that he drew his revolver before
entering the rocky, timbered mouth of the ravine where the Coyotes were
engaged.

Few soldiers were to be seen at first, but sounds were arising from
among the rocks resembling those of a small volcano in eruption, and as
Al pushed on into the broken ground he began to meet here and there
troopers of the Dakota Cavalry, each holding four or more horses of the
men on the firing line, which was still farther ahead. He soon found
that he could not continue mounted, so, hooking up the sabre he had worn
ever since leaving Fort Rice, he dropped Cottontail's reins over his
head and hurried forward on foot, stumbling over roots and dodging
rocks, in search of Captain Miner. Bullets and occasionally arrows
whistled by him and the yells of the Indians seemed not fifty feet away.
In a moment he came upon Corporal Wright and two men of his squad,
crouching behind a broad rock and firing whenever they saw a target.
Just as Al reached them the Corporal cried to his men,

"Now!"

They leaped from their concealment and ran forward with a shout to
another rock, some thirty feet ahead, while four Indians, who had been
hidden on its further side, jumped back and bolted for other cover
higher up the ravine. The troopers fired and one warrior fell, but was
snatched up by his companions and dragged along. Al followed the
soldiers and cried in the Corporal's ear,

"Charlie, where is Captain Miner?"

"Captain Miner?" said Wright. "I don't know. He's somewhere around but
we're all scattered out here."

Al could see other soldiers behind trees and rocks off to the right
across the ravine, and, dodging from one cover to another, he started
in that direction. After going a few yards he nearly fell over a man
lying flat on the ground, peering ahead around the corner of a stone
with his cocked carbine at his shoulder.

"Hi, Wallace!" exclaimed Al. "What are you doing here? Why don't you go
back to the General?"

Wallace shot a resentful glance at him.

"How can I go back?" he asked. "We're cut off. There's redskins all
along the rear."

"But I just came through," objected Al.

"Oh, don't bother me!" cried Wallace, impatiently, quite beside himself
with the fascination of the struggle. "Can't you let a fellow alone?
There!"

At the last word his carbine cracked and an Indian, his arm dangling at
his side, darted away from a tree ahead. Wallace sprang up and followed,
taking possession of the nearer side of the tree.

"Say, Wallace, where's Captain Miner?" shouted Al after him.

"Aw, how do I know?" replied Wallace, without looking around. Then he
added, "Oh, yes; he was just over there a minute ago." He jerked his
head vaguely to the right.

Al went on and almost immediately encountered the Captain, accompanied
by eight or ten men, in a little gully where they had stopped to
breathe. Though panting and soaked with perspiration, the men were
firing up at the rocks above them but, at the moment when Al arrived,
the Captain's revolver lay on the ground at his feet and his drawn sabre
was thrust under one arm while he was picking with his right thumb and
forefinger at a tiny splinter in the palm of his left hand. His face
wore an absorbed expression and he moved his head slowly from side to
side as he worked. He seemed entirely unconscious that anything was
happening around him.

"Captain Miner," said Al, hardly able to repress a laugh as he saluted,
"General Sully says for you not to get too far ahead of the flanks. He
is afraid you will be surrounded."

The Captain looked up at him with a glance of pathetic helplessness.

"Why, my boy," said he, "how can I help it? We are already surrounded.
We must keep going ahead or we shall be cleaned out. I'm sorry. I wish
the General understood the situation."

Having extracted the splinter, he picked up his revolver again, stepped
to a rock and peered around it.

"They seem to be afraid to go out of there, don't they?" he said to his
men, thoughtfully, after a moment's inspection of the enemy's position.
"I believe perhaps we'd better drive them. Yes, let's do that. Come on,
boys. Charge!"

The soldiers gave a yell and scrambled out of the gully, Al with them,
and the Captain climbing and jumping over the rocks just ahead. On
either side of them other men of the Coyotes sprang up to join the
advance; and farther to the right, up the side of the ravine, the
Winnebago scouts of Captain Stufft, and Captain Williams's company of
the Sixth Iowa, surged forward also. A hundred or more Indians sprang
away from their hiding-places beyond and hurried higher up the ravine,
some of them pausing to fire at their pursuers.

Al, being strong and quick, was soon abreast of the Captain. He was just
pulling himself up on hands and knees over a ledge when he saw a tall,
broad-shouldered Indian step into view from behind a rock not thirty
feet ahead and raise his rifle to fire. As he stood, his left side was
turned slightly toward Al, and what the latter saw as he looked made him
gasp as though he had been struck in the face. A long, livid scar ran
down the cheek and neck of the savage and out upon his shoulder.

[Illustration: He was just pulling himself up]

For an instant Al's head swam, as he realized that before him stood
Te-o-kun-ko, the captor of his brother Tommy. Then, with no thought in
his mind other than that he must catch up with the Yanktonais and demand
his brother, he began running and climbing ahead again with frantic
energy. The Indian had fired and disappeared; but to Al's excited
imagination it seemed almost as if in overtaking him he would overtake
Tommy himself. He paid no heed to Captain Miner and his men nor to
Wallace Smith, who had joined them, all of whom were shouting to him to
come back. He leaped over the rock where Te-o-kun-ko had stood but the
warrior was not in sight. He ran up a little, steep depression beyond
and swung around a tree-trunk at its head. An Indian behind a stone a
few feet to one side, who had not noticed him so far in front of the
line, gave him a terrified glance and fled like a rabbit. Al did not
pause to fire at him; but another warrior on his opposite side sent a
bullet so close that the wind of it brushed his face sharply, and he
stopped long enough to reply with his revolver; whereupon the savage
dived between two boulders and vanished. Al rushed on, totally oblivious
of the fact that he was getting far within the retreating Indian lines.

Just then, in climbing over a boulder, his foot slipped and he pitched
forward and rolled into the narrow crevice between two rocks beyond,
where, for a moment, he was held securely, despite his struggles. He
twisted himself around in an effort to grasp a point of the stone above
him, and found himself staring into the face of Te-o-kun-ko, hardly
fifteen feet away, looking at him down the barrel of his rifle.

"Te-o-kun-ko! Wait!" shouted Al. "Te-o-kun-ko, where is Tommy,--Tommy
Briscoe?"

The tense muscles of the Indian's features relaxed. His finger did not
press the trigger which would have forever ended Al's search. Across his
face came an expression of intense bewilderment, mixed, it seemed to
Al's fascinated gaze, with grief or remorse. The levelled rifle barrel
wavered and then sunk. He half turned away, hesitatingly, then looked
again at Al with a keen, searching glance, as the latter lay helpless
between the rocks. Finally, with a gesture half defiant and half
despairing, he made a few quick, cat-like springs across the rocks and
disappeared once more.

With a mighty effort Al succeeded in grasping the jutting point of the
stone and drew himself up from the crevice. He was none too soon, for
two Indians, whom he had distanced in his rapid climb, coming along the
slope near him with guns evidently empty, saw him and leaped at him with
clubbed muskets. He fired his revolver at one of them and missed, then
jerked out his sabre and swung it in a left parry just in time to save
his head from the blow of a musket butt. Three more warriors coming
behind and afraid to shoot lest they hit their friends, came bounding
down to join the hand-to-hand struggle.

In a few seconds more all would have been over but at this crucial
instant the four men leading the wild scramble of the Coyotes after Al,
caught up with him. They were Wallace, and Troopers Will Van Osdel, Lank
Hoyt, and George Pike. Van Osdel leaped in beside Al, his sabre knocking
the gun clear from the hands of one of the Indians, Hoyt crouched and
fired his carbine at another, who sunk to the ground with a grunt, and
Pike and Wallace, giving as loud a shout as they had breath for, climbed
on after the remaining warriors, who had taken to their heels.

No sooner had the Indians fled than Van Osdel turned on Al.

"You crazy jack-rabbit," he cried, "what are you trying to do? Have you
gone plumb out of your head? It's the biggest wonder ever happened
you're not dead."

"I saw the Indian that captured my brother," returned Al, dejectedly.
"But he's gone now."

"Well," interjected Hoyt, mopping his streaming face, "he came near
getting two brothers, instead of one. Anyhow, you've led a lovely
charge. We've nearly cleared the ravine."

They looked ahead. It was true. The crest of the mountain was towering
above them through the trees and they were actually ascending its base,
for, though Al's foolhardy pursuit of Te-o-kun-ko had taken hardly five
minutes from the time he started until he was overtaken by his comrades,
he had climbed so fast and so far that the Dakota and Iowa Cavalry and
the Indian scouts, in following him had penetrated clear through the
Sioux camps lying above the ravine on either side.

His right senses came back to Al the moment he realized that he had
failed in his purpose of capturing or killing Te-o-kun-ko, and he knew
that he ought to return at once to General Sully. But he could not
resist the temptation to go on now to the top of the ravine and see what
was there, and he had, moreover, a lingering hope of catching another
sight of Te-o-kun-ko. The stragglers of the cavalry were now closing up
on those who had gained the advance, and, the Indians having practically
given up the contest, a few moments of hard climbing brought them to the
top of the ravine.

An astonishing sight met their eyes. As far as they could see over the
sloping ridge, the ground was covered with a city of lodges. A few had
been struck and dragged away for a distance, but most of them were still
standing, though deserted. Over at the farther side of the camp could be
seen the last of the squaws and children, flying into the bewildering
maze of ravines leading up the rugged face of Tahkahokuty, protected by
the scattered fire of the warriors who had just been routed by the
cavalry. Off to the right and left, where the shells of Jones and Pope
had but just ceased to burst, the little group of soldiers could see the
columns of Brackett and McLaren pouring with exultant shouts into other
parts of the immense, abandoned Sioux camps, while, in their own rear,
the main line of battle was approaching up the ridge. Though the
mountain had not yet been ascended, plainly the field itself had been
completely conquered, and the battle of Tahkahokuty Mountain, the
greatest and most picturesque conflict of the American Northwest, had
become a part of history. Al and Wallace, tardily recollecting their
duties, made haste in descending the ravine to find their horses and
return to General Sully, with such explanations as they could devise for
their long absence while carrying orders to the firing line.



CHAPTER XIII

BESET IN THE BAD LANDS


On regaining the prairie, the boys found that General Sully had already
gone up to the Sioux camps at one side of the ravine by which they had
ascended. They at once followed, passing the artillery and the wagon
train on the way. When they arrived they found most of the army already
assembling on the farther side of the hostile camps, at the base of
Tahkahokuty. Far up on the top of the mountain a number of Indians had
gathered and were firing upon the troops at very long range. Although
the soldiers were very much exhausted by their efforts of the afternoon
and were sorely in need of food and rest, it was evident that these
annoying neighbors must be dispersed before nightfall. Moreover, it was
known that good water was to be found somewhere near the mountain top,
at the Falling Spring of Tahkahokuty, as the Indians called the spot,
and since the troops were suffering for water, an advance was
imperative. General Sully inspected the enemy's position, then said to
Colonel Thomas, who was with him,

"Colonel, do you think some of the Eighth Minnesota could clear those
fellows out and get possession of the spring, if Captain Jones shells
ahead of them?"

"They certainly can and will, General," responded Thomas.

"Four companies ought to be enough," continued Sully. "The rest of the
troops can be having mess while they are gone."

"I will instruct Major Camp to make the advance," replied the Colonel,
riding away.

Al stepped to the General's side.

"May I have permission to accompany Major Camp, General?" he asked.
"This afternoon I came face to face with the Indian who has my brother a
prisoner,--Te-o-kun-ko,--but he got away. I might possibly see him again
up there."

"The Indian who has your brother?" exclaimed the General, much
surprised. "How do you know?"

"By the scar on his cheek and neck and by the way he looked when I
called him by name," answered Al.

"Why, in that case, of course you can go," the General replied. "But be
careful; he is undoubtedly a desperate fellow. However, it isn't likely
you will see him again. Most of them have gotten as far away as they can
by this time." Then he added, "By the way, since you are going, watch
for a practical path to the top for cavalry and wagons. The army may
have to go up there, and I certainly shall to-morrow."

Al mounted Cottontail and rode away. He had hardly reached Major Camp's
detachment, which had dismounted and was deploying to the right as
skirmishers, when the guns of the Third Minnesota Battery began once
more to boom. Their elevating-screws had been run down to the last
thread in order that the muzzles might be raised enough to throw their
shells upon the overhanging mountain crest. The projectiles carried to
their mark, bursting in sprays of pale, orange flame high above the
topmost rocks. But they did not entirely dislodge the enemy, and after a
few rounds the battery was obliged to cease firing owing to the advance
of the skirmish line.

Up along the steep, boulder-strewn breast of Tahkahokuty, through timber
and underbrush, went the thin, irregular line, eagerly watched by the
troops below and but feebly opposed by the warriors above. It was hard
climbing, and more than once Al and others in the detachment stumbled
and fell over stones or tree roots. As they neared the top and came into
clear view from the crest, the fire of the Indians increased in
intensity, though the savages continued to shoot high so that very few
of the soldiers suffered. At length the cavalrymen scrambled over the
last ledge, too breathless to shout in response to the hearty cheers of
their comrades far below, but not too breathless to follow on a run
after the Sioux who had been bold enough to await their coming and still
showed fight around the ravine of the Falling Spring. The struggle was
sharp and decisive but it lasted only for a moment. A few carbines and
sabres clashed with lances and muskets, then the rear guard of the
Sioux, unable, as always, to stand the test of hand-to-hand conflict,
broke for the nearest cover behind them and disappeared in the tumbled
wilderness of mountains beyond, whither their families and the bulk of
their army had already gone.

Some deserted lodges stood around the triumphant Minnesotans on the
lofty eminence, but they were few in number compared to those in the
vast camp below. Al saw nothing of Te-o-kun-ko in the handful of
warriors who fled before them; and while the men were filling their
canteens at the spring of cool, crystal water which burst from the rocks
near at hand, he walked along the crest of the ridge, looking for a less
abrupt ascent than the one they had followed. From his position, the
view spread before him in the golden glow of early twilight was
magnificent. Far below and seemingly almost at his feet, lay the bivouac
of the army. He could see the soldiers moving about, some of them still
tossing their hats in enthusiasm over the success of the charge. They
looked like pygmies, and the sound of their cheers came up to him faint
and far away. Farther out from the ridge lay the myriad dots of the
Sioux lodges, and beyond them, extending for miles upon miles until
lost in the haze of the horizon, stretched the countless rough ranges of
hills over which the army had passed in the morning. The treeless
expanse of crests and slopes, lying like a tumbled green counterpane in
the distance, was now as still and peaceful as if it had never known the
turmoil of battle or the trample of armed men.

At length Al retraced his steps and joined Major Camp, whose men were
now ready to descend to the main body, with the exception of a strong
picket left to hold and patrol the mountain top. Once more back at
headquarters, Al was not long in finishing his supper and rolling
himself in his blanket. But, though weary with the exertions and
excitement through which he had passed since daybreak, he lay for a
while thinking over the events of the past nine hours, while one by one
the sounds of the camp died away around him, and the soldiers lay down
to rest. Most of his thoughts were naturally of his encounter with
Te-o-kun-ko and the mystifying conduct of the latter. Why had the
Yanktonais failed to shoot him when he lay there between the rocks,
utterly helpless? It would have been the most natural thing in the world
for an Indian to do, for they seldom show mercy, especially in the heat
of battle. Why had that strange, bewildered expression come over the
Indian's face when Al called him by name? And, most perplexing of all,
where was Tommy now? Among the women and children who had fled away
before the army could overtake them, or in some distant, secluded place
where Te-o-kun-ko had left him for safe-keeping? All these questions
were utterly baffling; no amount of thinking could bring a satisfactory
answer to a single one of them; and at length Al, weary in body and
mind, sunk into the dreamless slumber which had already enveloped his
comrades on every side.

The bugles were blaring out the reveille long before daylight next
morning, and in a short time the army had eaten its breakfast, formed in
column and was marching away by the left flank along the base of
Tahkahokuty, seeking a passage around or through the mountain into the
country beyond, whither the enemy had fled. General Sully himself went
straight up to the crest by a pathway which had been discovered by Al
and others the previous evening, but what he saw there was extremely
discouraging. As far as the eye could look to the northward the country
was intersected by precipitous hills and steep ravines, some of the
latter one hundred feet deep, entirely impracticable for either cavalry
or wagons. The army marched for six or seven miles along the foot of the
mountain without finding a route by which it could be ascended or
turned, and at last the General, bearing in mind that he had rations
left for only two more days, reluctantly gave the order to halt and
countermarch to the abandoned Sioux camps, in order that these might be
destroyed before the army returned to Heart River.

Large detachments from the Second and Eighth Minnesota, the Sixth Iowa,
and the Dakota Cavalry were at once detailed as fatigue parties and
placed under command of Colonel McLaren to collect and burn the lodge
poles and lodge skins, the vast accumulations of dried buffalo meat and
dried berries,--food which, though great in quantity, was utterly unfit
for white men,--the tanned robes, clothing, cooking utensils, saddles,
travois poles, and countless other articles left in the camps and the
near-by ravines. Thirteen companies were engaged in the task, and they
spent half a day of hard work at it, when, finding that they would be
unable to finish by evening, they set the woods and prairie on fire, and
burned the remainder of the captured property in one great
conflagration. The poles and coverings of between fourteen and sixteen
hundred lodges were destroyed, being the camp equipment, so General
Sully estimated, of between five and six thousand warriors and their
families. If correct, this meant that at Tahkahokuty the Sioux had
assembled a greater army than they ever brought together on any other
field, before or since.

A little while after noon the troops began their return march,
bivouacking that night about six miles from the battlefield, where they
were assailed by a body of Indians about dusk, but repulsed the attack
easily. Next day they reached Knife River, and on July 31, by a march of
thirty-five miles, regained Captain Tripp's camp on the Heart. They
found every one there safe and well; but, though no Indians had been
seen during the absence of the main column, both the emigrants and the
camp guard were exceedingly glad to see the army back again, as it
relieved them from their enforced idleness and assured the early renewal
of the westward march. While the army was away, Captain Tripp had
employed his men in digging a strong line of rifle-pits around the camp,
which was now in a condition to withstand the attacks of any number of
Indians.

The next two days were spent by the troops in resting themselves and
their animals, for all were very weary from the hard marching and
fighting of the past week; and by General Sully in trying to determine
upon the best route to follow in his further march toward the
Yellowstone. Al was absent from headquarters during most of the time,
making out commissary requisitions and returns in the wagon train,
though once, on the second day, he saw General Sully as the latter
passed through the train with Lieutenant Bacon, closely inspecting the
contents of each wagon. When, toward evening, he returned to
headquarters, he at once asked Wallace Smith, who had been there
continuously, what had happened during the day.

"Oh, the General seems to be having a lively time deciding what to do,"
answered Wallace. "It must be a hard question. He had all the Indian and
half-breed scouts in here for hours to-day, questioning them about the
routes to the Yellowstone. All of them, excepting one, told him they
knew nothing of the country due west of us, which must be terribly rough
bad lands, from what they say. They declare they have never ventured
into it and advised the General to return to the Cannonball and then
move west to the mouth of Powder River and down the Yellowstone to where
the boats are to meet us. But that means a long, roundabout march of
probably two or three weeks; so the General went and inspected the
wagons to see if there were supplies enough to make it."

"Yes, I saw him," interrupted Al. "There are just six days' full rations
left now."

"That's what he said when he came back," Wallace continued. "He was a
good deal worked up, and told the guides they must find a way for the
army to march straight west from here across the Little Missouri. But
all of them said it was impossible, except one Yanktonais. He declared
he had been back and forth across the Bad Lands of the Little Missouri a
number of times on hunting expeditions, and he is sure he can lead the
army through if some digging is done in the worst places to make a road
for the wagons and artillery."

"Just one man?" exclaimed Al. "My gracious! suppose he should lead us
into a trap?"

Wallace shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, of course, he might," he agreed. "But what else can be done?
There are not rations enough to last over the other route, nor even
enough to take us back to Fort Rice. Anyway, the General has decided to
trust this chap and make the attempt and we shall start up Heart River
to-morrow morning. You know our rations are to be cut down from one-half
to one-third, so as to make them last."

"Yes, I know," answered Al. "We were issuing reduced rations this
evening. I hope we are not going to run into an ambush," he added. "But
there is no doubt General Sully knows what he is doing; he always does."

That evening the troops were paraded and heard the General's
congratulatory orders on their conduct in the recent battle. Soon after,
they retired to rest, and it seemed that but a few moments had passed in
this refreshing occupation when reveille called them up to their labors
again. The advance guard soon moved out, followed by the military wagon
train with strong columns of troops of the Second Brigade on each flank,
the First Brigade bringing up the rear. Then with much confusion and
shouting, the Montana emigrant train finally got under way and moved out
of the intrenched camp, leaving the latter to lie, with parapets slowly
crumbling under the rains of summer and the blizzards of winter, an
object of curiosity and vague uneasiness to straggling Indians and
prowling wolves.

For three days the army pushed steadily westward up the valley of the
Heart, through a pleasant country whose hills often showed the
outcroppings of large veins of coal. Each night's camp was made in a
spot well supplied with water, grass, and wood, and the men began to
believe that the terrors of the country ahead, so vividly described by
the Indian guides, had no existence save in the imaginations of the
latter. No hostiles were seen, but the column passed one camp ground,
recently abandoned, which showed the sites of several hundred lodges; so
no one could doubt that the stealthy enemy was still in the neighborhood
and probably watching the progress of the column closely.

Toward evening on August 5, the third day of the march, the advance
guard on arriving at the crest of a hill, similar to dozens of other
hills they had crossed that day, suddenly came to a halt. The troops
behind them could see by their gestures of excitement that they had
discovered something unusual ahead. The army and the trains were halted
and the General rode forward to the advance guard, accompanied by his
staff.

When they reached the crest of the hill and looked out beyond it, not a
man spoke for a moment, though at the first glance a few uttered
ejaculations of astonishment or dismay and then became silent. Before
them in the brilliant sunlight and lengthening shadows of late afternoon
spread a scene of such weird and desolate grandeur as has few parallels
in the world. Six hundred feet below lay the bottom of a vast basin,
apparently twenty-five or thirty miles in diameter. From rim to rim it
was piled with cones and pyramids of volcanic rock or baked clay and
other hills of every imaginable fantastic shape, some of the peaks
rising to a level with the surrounding country and some lower, but all
glowing with confused and varied color, from gray and yellow to blue and
brick red. Over all this huge, extinct oven of what had doubtless been,
sometime in ages gone, a great coal bed which had burned out, hardly a
sign of vegetation was visible save here and there a few small,
straggling cedars or bushes on the barren hillsides. The place resembled
strongly the ruins of some mighty, prehistoric city, but more strongly
still it reminded the beholder of some of Dante's vivid descriptions of
the infernal regions.

They bivouacked that night on the prairie and early next morning
marched down into the forbidding basin, knowing not whether they would
ever emerge from it alive.

All day long in suffocating heat and under the glare of an almost
intolerable sun they toiled forward, winding in and out through gorges
with high, perpendicular walls and yawning ravines so narrow that only
one wagon could pass at a time. No water could be found save a little
which was bitter with alkali. A large pioneer party was in advance,
grading along hillsides and filling gullies so that the wagons might
pass; by nightfall the army had succeeded in covering twelve miles and
found itself on the bank of the Little Missouri, where at least water
and grass were abundant. But the expedition was literally buried in the
Bad Lands, which, on the western side of the stream, still stretched
before them in a wilderness of mountains and gorges even more forbidding
than those they had already passed. Fortunately no Indians had yet
opposed them, and many of the men, especially those in the advance and
on the flanks, had found some pleasure mixed with their labor in
viewing the strange and beautiful rock formations through which they
passed. Here were many petrified stumps and fallen trunks of trees on
the tops and sides of the hills. Some of them were of immense size and
wonderfully preserved, showing the bark, the stumps of branches, and the
age rings of the interior wood. At one place was seen what the men
called a "petrified sawmill", consisting of what appeared like a pile of
lumber and slabs under the edge of a hill and, close by it, a large
tree, cut up into logs of exact length, such as might be found around
any sawmill, but all of stone as hard as granite. In addition to the
trees, many of the men found impressions of leaves in the rocks of sizes
and shapes belonging to no vegetation of the present age, while others
discovered the footprints of unknown animals which had once inhabited
this ancient land.

Colonel Pattee with his detachment of the Seventh Iowa crossed the
Little Missouri the following morning to trace out, if possible, with
the Yanktonais guide, a route leading westward from the river. He was
gone for some hours and, meanwhile, a few of the men seized the
opportunity to take their horses outside the lines in search of better
grazing. They had not been out very long when they saw a party of thirty
or forty Indians bearing down upon them, intent on cutting them off from
camp. The soldiers were too few to think of fighting, so they fled at
utmost speed, and all succeeded in getting in, though several escaped
very narrowly. The attempted surprise seemed to be the signal of the
Indians for the beginning of a general attack on the army, for in a
moment the bluffs across the river were swarming with warriors, who
opened a hot fire on the camp, though at such long range that their
bullets could not reach half the distance. Just after they began firing,
a horseman dashed out of the ravine directly beneath their position,
which Colonel Pattee's detachment had ascended, and plunging into the
river, trotted and galloped his horse across amid a great splashing of
water. It was Lieutenant Dale, who had followed Colonel Pattee with an
order an hour or two before. General Sully met him at the river bank.

"What's the matter?" he demanded, the moment the Lieutenant reached
him.

"The Seventh Iowa is attacked back there two or three miles, in the
hills," replied Dale. "Colonel Pattee wants reinforcements."

He had scarcely finished speaking when there arose the sound of many
hurried hoof beats in the ravine from which he had just emerged. The
General looked toward it with a growing smile which presently broke into
a laugh as a confused crowd of cavalry rushed from the ravine and
galloped furiously down to and through the river.

"The Seventh has evidently come after its own reinforcements,
Lieutenant," said he. "They must be in a hurry for them."

"It looks like it," answered Dale, grinning.

He retired, while the leading officer of the frightened cavalry hastily
explained to the General that the Indians had come upon them in such a
position and in such numbers that the only way they could save
themselves was by instant flight.

"Is that so?" asked Al of the Lieutenant, after hearing this
explanation.

"No," returned Dale, laughing, as he dismounted and sat down
cross-legged on the ground for a moment's rest. "They were just scared,
but it's no wonder. There are enough redskins around to have made it
true. I believe the whole Sioux Nation is out in front of us there. They
pretty nearly got me; tumbled a couple of ton rock down when I was
coming through that ravine and just missed my horse by about six inches,
and they fairly singed my hair with bullets. I guess the ball has
started again."

The ball had started again, sure enough, for when the army crossed the
river next morning and began threading the succession of ravines and
canyons which Colonel Pattee had traced and partially dug out the day
before, it was instantly attacked by the Sioux on all sides, in numbers
seemingly as great as had fought at Tahkahokuty. On this day detachments
from the Second Brigade formed the advance guard, under Major Robert H.
Rose, of the Second Minnesota, supported by Jones's battery. The rest of
the Second Brigade guarded the army wagon train, with strong flanking
parties out on each side to hold the hills and transverse valleys from
which the enemy might fire upon or charge the train. Behind the Second
Brigade came the First, similarly protecting the Montana emigrant train,
the Coyotes and two companies of the Sixth Iowa bringing up the rear,
while Pope's battery held itself ready to shell the hills or ravines
whenever the enemy appeared in sufficient force to justify unlimbering
the guns.

The march was slow and fatiguing in the extreme. The Indians, holding
the tops and sides of the long succession of narrow passes or canyons
through which the army must go, poured their fire down upon the troops
until dislodged by the fire of the artillery or the approach of the
flankers, when they would fall back to another position of like strength
and repeat their tactics. The wagons, after advancing about three miles,
were parked in a space where the pass opened to a somewhat greater
width; while the troops, pushing on, cleared the hills to allow the
fatigue parties to dig out and level some three miles more of road. Then
once more the unwieldy train unwound into column and crept carefully
forward along the trail. The latter, in spite of the efforts of the
pioneers, was often so narrow and slanting that it was all several men
could do to keep the wagons from overturning and blocking the road
permanently. Officers and men were working together on the firing line
and among the trains, coatless and dripping with sweat in a temperature
of one hundred and ten degrees in the shade. Their throats were parched
with thirst, for the water brought from the Little Missouri was soon
exhausted, and no more could be obtained throughout the day except at
one tiny spring, to which the Indians clung so stubbornly that they were
only dislodged by the Second Minnesota after a sharp fight.

Attack after attack was launched on the advance guard; and when repulsed
there by the steady volleys of the cavalry carbines and shells of the
Third Minnesota Battery, the warriors would concentrate and rush upon
one or the other flank, if the ground was open, or else lie in
concealment and fire upon it as it approached. Up and down the hills in
every direction the braves could be seen, riding their nimble-footed
ponies along slopes so steep that it seemed even a dismounted man could
not keep his footing there.

Toward noon a serious misfortune fell on the army in the loss of the
Yanktonais guide, the only man who knew the country through which they
were passing. He had proved very faithful to his trust, and in his zeal
to lead the march correctly, he had ventured too far to the front, where
he was severely wounded in the breast, the bullet coming out under his
shoulder blade.

All day long the members of the General's staff were on the run,
carrying orders, suggestions or cautions to the commanders of the
various organizations, hurrying forward the lagging wagons and sometimes
themselves becoming involved in one or another of the many skirmishes
constantly blazing up among the tumbled hills. Once Lieutenant Dale rode
back to the General's position near the head of the column, with the
blood running over his face from a wound in the cheek.

"Oh, are you badly hurt?" asked Al, who happened to be there, startled
and anxious.

"No," the Lieutenant returned, lightly, dabbing some of the blood from
his cheek. "I've been back to the rear guard to tell Captain Miner that
the redskins were getting ready to swing around on him. They did, just
about as I got there, and stirred him up pretty lively, but the boys
repulsed them. One fellow grazed my cheek, that's all. Just look at
them!" His glance swept the surrounding hills, on every one of which
groups or masses of Indians were to be seen. "They seem to be
everywhere, and for every one killed it looks as though ten new ones
sprang out of the ground." He looked at Al and an ominous expression
passed over his face. "Have you ever heard of Kabul Pass?" he inquired,
in a low tone.

Al returned his glance steadily.

"Yes, I have," he admitted, slowly.

"It looks something like that around here, doesn't it?" the Lieutenant
continued. "Only one man came out of Kabul Pass alive, you remember."

"Why, you're right," answered Al, feeling a passing throb of foreboding.
"But I think we shall do better than that," he added, hopefully.

"Oh, no doubt," agreed Dale. "I was just thinking of the similarity of
positions, that's all."

In an instant his mood changed and he laughed at a sudden recollection.

"I saw a funny thing back there," he chuckled. "You know the oxen those
emigrants are driving are pretty well fagged out; every now and then one
of them lies down and has to be exchanged for a fresh one from the herd.
The rear guard has orders to shoot all the exhausted animals, so the
Indians won't get them. While I was back there one big ox fell over, and
he was unyoked and left on the ground, looking as good as dead. But as
the rear guard passed him, he heard their shots and then the yells of
the redskins close behind, and he raised his head and looked at the
Indians. They were pushing up, hoping to catch him alive. I guess he
didn't like their looks, for all at once he scrambled to his feet and
made a bolt for the herd, charging right through the rear guard with his
tail sticking straight out and his eyes bulging with fright. Now he's
travelling with the rest of the cattle and seems as well as any of
them."

Al laughed heartily. "He ought to have a medal," he declared.

"Yes, he had," agreed Lieutenant Dale, "a leather one, anyway."

A long time after noon, the walls of the canyon through which the column
was marching became gradually lower, and after a while the hard-pressed
troops and trains found themselves passing out of the dangerous defile
upon a comparatively level plateau, higher than most of the surrounding
Bad Lands, though it was girt on all sides by the characteristic peaks
and gulches of the region. Here General Sully decided to make camp for
the night, though he had marched only ten miles, for here had been found
a little grass and a large pool of stagnant, muddy rain water, which,
however, was better than none at all, and no one could tell whether any
existed farther on. The troops were placed in very compact formation and
the trains corralled, the emigrants a little to the east of the military
camp.



CHAPTER XIV

TE-O-KUN-KO


After supper had been eaten and rations distributed for the next day, it
was nearly sunset, and Al and Wallace sat down on the ground near
General Sully's tent to clean their weapons and enjoy a few minutes of
welcome rest.

"I never saw anything like that canyon we were in to-day," said Wallace.
"More than once I thought we were going to be cleaned out there, and we
would have been if we'd had civilized troops to deal with."

"Why, of course," Al answered. "Civilized troops one-tenth as strong as
we could have held it against us for a year. Yet we've lost only eight
or ten men wounded all day. The Indians haven't enough staying
qualities, though they have plenty of dash and are magnificent
horsemen."

"Yes, that's true," agreed Wallace. Then suddenly he dropped his
ram-rod and sprang to his feet. "Look there!" he exclaimed. "Are they
going to try some more of their dash this evening, after all they've
done to-day?"

The dry expanse of prairie where the camp lay, sloped gradually up to
the eastward, terminating in a ridge at a distance of about a mile from
the camp. Over the crest of this ridge a throng of Sioux warriors was
now galloping, much as they had come over that other ridge at the
opening of the battle of Tahkahokuty. The emigrant camp lay nearest to
them, and here a great confusion and panic immediately arose, and women
and children began to emerge from the corral and run toward the military
camp, shrieking and calling piteously for help. Without waiting for
orders scores of soldiers seized their weapons and rushed out across the
prairie toward the fugitives, many of whom, as soon as they were within
the lines, fell to the ground exhausted or weeping hysterically. The
soldiers, once started, continued their advance on the enemy, the
swiftest runners distancing the rest. The Indians halted and fired, then
seeing that their antagonists were not checked, began sullenly to
retire, not even hastening much from the shells of the cannon, which had
opened along the eastern edge of the camp. So the retreat and pursuit
continued to the crest of the ridge, where the Indians went out of sight
into the Bad Lands just beyond.

Al and Wallace, who had run out at the first alarm, presently found
themselves, in company with one of the Sioux guides and a couple of
soldiers of the Sixth Iowa, on the edge of the ridge with a deep, narrow
valley before them, bounded on its farther side by four hillocks, or
small buttes, shaped like sugar loaves and each separated from the next
by crooked gullies, washed deep by rains. At the left end of this series
of buttes lay a long, open space, entirely bare of vegetation,
apparently extending around behind them. Not an Indian was in sight, but
Wallace suggested,

"I believe some of the redskins are hiding behind those buttes. Let's
surprise them. I'll tell you what we can do. You fellows," he addressed
the two cavalrymen, "stay here and the rest of us will go back a little
way and then sneak around and down across that open space and get in
behind the flank of the buttes. If there are any Indians there, we can
shoot them before they can get away."

"But there may be a lot of them," objected one of the troopers, "and
they'll clean you out."

"No," declared Wallace, with conviction. "It's only a little way across,
and if there are too many of them we can run back while you cover us
with your fire. Besides, lots of the boys are near by."

This was true; a number of soldiers were still a short distance back on
the plateau.

"What do you think of it?" asked Al, turning to the Sioux guide, who
happened to be one who could speak English, as well as his own tongue.

"Good," said the Indian. "I go."

"Come on, then," urged Wallace, who seemed determined to have an
adventure if possible.

Followed by Al and the guide he walked back across the prairie until the
ridge hid them from view of any watchers who might be on the buttes. The
two troopers, meanwhile, lay down on the edge of the ridge to wait
developments. As soon as they were out of sight of the buttes, the boys
turned north and ran for some distance, then swinging east again
regained the edge of the ridge opposite the open ground below. Here they
could not be seen from any except the northernmost butte and, hastening
down the slope, they ran across to the base of this butte and around to
its farther side. Looking up, they saw two Indians lying behind the top
of the next adjoining eminence, peeping over at the two soldiers across
the valley. Simultaneously the three adventurers fired. The head of one
of the warriors dropped between his outstretched arms and he lay still
without a struggle. His companion sprang to his feet, cast one terrified
glance at the unexpected assailants below him and leaped with a few long
bounds down the steep slope into the ravine at its base and around the
third butte, where he disappeared. Al and Wallace gave a shout, in which
the Indian scout joined, and Al ran on in the direction taken by the
warrior, followed by Wallace. But the scout hesitated.

"Maybe better go back now, eh?" he called.

"Oh, no; come on!" Al shouted back. "We can get out anywhere and we've
got him on the run."

The scout said no more, but followed. They passed the ravine and the
base of the next butte, and came to the gully between that and the
fourth and last eminence to the south. From this eminence a little ridge
ran eastward out across the open ground. As they came toward it an
Indian rose half his height behind it, then, seeing them, dropped down
again. Al ran to the left to get around behind him, and, as he did so,
Wallace and the scout both saw another warrior, farther up on the fourth
butte, stand erect and aim at him.

"Look out, Al!" shouted Wallace.

"Drop, Briscoe!" cried the guide at the same instant, and Al
instinctively flung himself full length upon the ground just as the
Indian fired. The bullet passed over him; but at this moment Wallace
noticed still another hostile raise his head above the ridge and look
eagerly toward Al. He had no time to interpret the glance, but the
thought came to him that more Indians were showing themselves than he
had expected, and he cried,

"Come on out, boys! They're getting too thick."

Followed by his companions, he sprang into the gully close at hand,
expecting to see the valley beyond and the prairie ridge where the two
Iowa soldiers were lying. But, instead, a few yards up the trench-like
gulch he came to a sharp turn. As he rounded it, he caught a glimpse of
several Indians crouching down a little farther on, their guns cocked
and ready, and he dodged back again, almost colliding with Al and the
scout, behind him.

"I guess we're goners," he exclaimed, as he heard the swift patter of
moccasined feet behind and on the edges of the gully above them. "Oh,
what an idiot I was to get you fellows and myself into this. It's my
fault."

"No, it isn't, Wallace," declared Al. "It's mine. If I'd minded this
scout, we'd have gotten back all right."

But at this moment, which it seemed evident must be their last, they
heard a deep, commanding voice speak a few rapid words in the Sioux
tongue, and the sound of footsteps ceased.

"They're going to rush us," whispered Al, his voice shaking but his
eyes still courageous. "Let's give them all the shots we can and then
kill ourselves. Good-bye, Wallace, old man,--and good-bye, mother, and
Annie, and Tommy," he added, to himself.

Thoroughly expecting death within a few seconds, he could hardly believe
his ears when he heard the same deep, masterful voice which had halted
their pursuers, say, loudly,

"Al Briscoe! Al Briscoe!"

Al, shaking and pale, looked at his companions, too amazed and
bewildered even to hear the Sioux words, unintelligible to him, which
followed his name. The mere utterance of the latter, in such a place and
under such circumstances, was of itself ominous and terrifying enough to
chill his blood, for it seemed to single him out from his companions for
some special and horrible fate. But the Sioux scout looked at him
solemnly.

"You understand?" he asked.

"No," answered Al, shuddering.

"He say, 'Al Briscoe, I, Te-o-kun-ko, want talk with you.'"

"Te-o-kun-ko?" exclaimed Al, his strength coming back to him at that
familiar name. "Indeed, yes. If he does kill me, I shall at least find
out first."

He prepared to scramble up the side of the gully, but the scout
restrained him.

"No go till he say he not kill," said he.

"Ask him," Al replied.

The scout called out the question in Sioux and Te-o-kun-ko answered, a
note of surprise and satisfaction in his voice. The scout himself looked
relieved.

"He say, 'you got interpreter. Good!'" he repeated. "He say, 'come up
and bring him. We no kill.'"

There was nothing else to do, so the three scrambled to the top of the
gully, Wallace bringing up the rear. When he had regained his feet, Al
saw confronting him the superbly handsome figure of his brother's
captor, the muscles of his arms, the curve of his deep chest, his
proudly poised head, and eagle-like features, all mellowed and
harmonized in the soft glow of early twilight, until he looked more like
a bronze statue than a human being. The Indian was leaning on a long
rifle and he wore a short tunic, buckskin leggings, and moccasins, all
heavily embroidered with brilliant bead work, while a splendid war
bonnet of brightly colored feathers hung from his head nearly to the
ground. A handsome necklace of bears' claws, fastened around his neck
and depending over his massive chest, completed a costume of savage
magnificence strikingly becoming to this lord of the prairies. A few
feet behind him stood a dozen or more warriors, their guns lying across
their arms. They were as silent and motionless as Te-o-kun-ko, but the
glances of sullen animosity which they flashed at Al and his companions
showed clearly enough that it was only the strong hand of their leader
which restrained them from instantly slaying the white boys and their
Indian comrade.

Te-o-kun-ko did not move as his three involuntary guests came up before
him but, leaning on his rifle, he regarded Al with a gaze so keen and
steadfast that the latter's eyes wavered, and to break the silence he
said,

"How."

"How, Al Briscoe," replied the Indian, still without moving.

A rush of indignation suddenly swept over Al as he remembered who this
man was.

"Ask him," said he, sharply, to the scout, "where my brother is."

He was determined to learn at least this much before anything could
happen to prevent.

The question was repeated, but Te-o-kun-ko did not reply immediately. At
length he said, through the interpreter,

"You are bold for a boy, Al Briscoe. Do you hold your life of no value
that you demand your brother now, when you are in my power?"

"I hold his life of more value than my own, Te-o-kun-ko," replied Al,
stoutly. "Would you not feel the same for your brother?"

The Indian flashed a look at him which seemed almost one of sympathy.

"Yes," said he, and paused. Presently he went on, "If you were not brave
you would not be worthy of such a brother. But I knew that you were
brave the day I took him from you beyond the Yellow Medicine, and I
knew it better eleven suns ago when you came after me like a hungry wolf
under the shadow of Tahkahokuty. So I will tell you."

He paused again, as if reflecting, then continued in the following
words, uttering them deliberately, and they were interpreted, phrase
after phrase, by the Sioux scout:

"Your brother was such a one as should have been an Indian, and so I
thought to make him. He fears neither the darkness nor the flood nor the
lightning, the buffalo stampede nor the rush and shouting of armed men.
No lad of my tribe can shoot straighter than he and he rides a horse as
the gray goose rides the north wind. He learned our speech more quickly
than a Cheyenne, of our own race, could have learned it, and he came to
love our life; I know, for he told me so, often. And he loved me, who
sought to be as his father, and my squaw, Techon-su-mons-ka (The
Sandbar), and his foster brothers and sisters, Mah-to-che-ga (The Little
Bear), Ka-pes-ka-da (The Shell), and Mong-shong-sha (The Bending
Willow). Your brother himself I called Pah-ta-ustah (Fire Eyes), and so
the tribe will ever know him.

"But even after I came to be chief of my band, twelve moons ago, when
the old chief was killed in battle with the Crows beyond the river where
the elks drink (the Yellowstone), he would talk to me of his own people.
He would talk of his father and mother and you, Al Briscoe, and of a
girl papoose he called Annie, and of the place where he once lived, far
in the South, where there is more forest than prairie, and where many
trees bear upon their branches red and yellow fruit larger than the
largest plums we know. Many and many a time I have talked with him of
those things in the hours when the sun has gone to sleep and the tepee
fires wink back at the stars. And since he grieved always for those who
had been his family, and since I knew that I had been one to stand by
while his father was killed (which was a bad deed and hurt my heart) it
came to me at last that I must put him in the way to go back to his own
people. It is true, too, that the life of the Indian is not now, and
never will be any more, what it was in the past. Our days are numbered
in the land of our fathers, and those who are young among us have little
to look forward to."

Te-o-kun-ko spoke the last sentences sadly, looking far off into the
yellow western sky as if he saw there visions of the last refuge of his
race. Then he threw back his head and concluded, abruptly,

"So I took him southward and one moon ago I left him at the trading post
above the mouth of the Wak-pah-shika (Bad River), which is called Fort
La Framboise. Then I sped back to bear my part in the battle against
your army."

"What?" exclaimed Al, in great excitement, stepping close to Te-o-kun-ko
as the scout interpreted his last sentences, "You took him to Fort La
Framboise? He is there now?"

The Indian inclined his head slowly.

"Yes," he replied, "if he has not already gone to the southward."

Al pressed his hand to his brow. His mind was in a whirl of
bewilderment.

"Tommy at Fort La Framboise, and I here!" he exclaimed aloud, but
speaking only to himself. "What shall I do now?" Then another idea
occurred to him. "How do I know this is true?" he demanded, bold beyond
discretion in his anxiety and satisfied, anyway, that he and his
companions would be killed at the end of the interview. "Perhaps you
still have him; perhaps he is dead."

But the Indian ignored the reflection upon his honesty.

"I tell you the truth, Al Briscoe," he asserted, solemnly.

He spoke Al's full name always, as if it were one word, as he doubtless
thought it was. Then he lifted the necklace of bear's claws hanging
around his neck and held it toward Al. At the bottom of it, between the
two largest claws, was fastened a small ring of chased gold, its surface
much worn, which Al instantly recognized as Tommy's.

"This he gave to me when I left him at Fort La Framboise," said he, "as
a keepsake and a promise. And the promise was that he would come back
some day, either to stay or to visit us, who are his Sioux kindred."

"So?" replied Al. He was beginning to realize dimly that Tommy must
have had some very good reasons for his attachment to this magnificent
warrior and his family, for he could hardly doubt longer the truth of
what Te-o-kun-ko was telling him. The circumstances under which they
were speaking together were not such as to tempt the Indian to deceit or
apologies; for he was certainly master of the situation, and could
either seize or kill Al and those with him whenever he wished. There was
a moment's silence. Then Te-o-kun-ko stepped back and laid his rifle
across his arm.

"You may go now, Al Briscoe," he said; "you and those with you."

"What?" cried Al, who had dared expect nothing but death. "You are going
to spare our lives?"

"You may go in peace," responded the Sioux. "I do it for the sake of
Pah-ta-ustah. Tell him so when you see him."

He stopped a moment, as if seeking words in which to express some
oppressive thought. Then he went on,

"Your brother, Al Briscoe, knows not that his father is dead. I lacked
ever the heart to tell him. But when you do so, tell him, likewise,
that I, Te-o-kun-ko, have none of his blood on my hands. I fired no shot
on that day at the place where you lived, though I did enough in all the
time we were killing and burning along the Minnesota. My thoughts were
on fire with the madness of slaughter, as were those of all who were
there. Since then my mind has cleared and I know that the things which
we did to the whites in Minnesota were bad; bad clear through. But we
have been paying for them ever since; we are paying now, and is not the
price even yet great enough? You have killed two, yes, four, of our men
and women and children, for every one that we slew over there. You have
burned our lodges and our robes and our winter meat; we shall starve and
freeze in the time of snows which is soon to come. But it is the price,
and we are paying."

A sudden impulse, mingled of admiration, gratitude and pity, seized Al
toward this strange savage, so proud and yet so humble; so cold and yet
so generous. He stepped forward and held out his hand.

"Will you not come in with us, Te-o-kun-ko?" he asked, "and make your
peace with the Great Father? Why fight any longer? Can you not see that
it is hopeless; that the red men can never prevail against the power and
the numbers of the whites?"

The chief ignored the friendly, outstretched hand, but he looked at Al
frankly, even though defiantly. "No, Al Briscoe," he made answer,
firmly. "You and I are enemies. And while my people have strength left
to fight the white men, we will be enemies. I know that what you say is
true, though many of my people will not yet believe it. The whites will
conquer in the end and take from us the last of this, our great, free,
beautiful land to which they have no right except the right of being
strong enough. But at least the Indian can fight to the end and die as a
warrior should, with his face toward his foes, while his soul goes up in
the battle smoke to the Happy Hunting Grounds of Wakon Tonka (the Great
Spirit). No, Al Briscoe, I have no friend among the white men save only
Pah-ta-ustah, your brother. Go quickly, for when you are on the prairie
once more, I shall hold back my braves no longer, and you will be
killed if you delay or come back. Go!"

"Come on," said Al in a low tone to his companions. They turned and
walked rapidly along the base of the butte toward the narrow valley west
of it. As they passed its farther side, Al looked back. Te-o-kun-ko
still stood as they had left him, a shadowy figure in the gathering
dusk, regarding them with haughty attention, his rifle across his left
arm. Only now his right hand was raised in a restraining gesture against
his followers, who were crowding up behind him, cocking their guns and
cursing in tones which grew rapidly louder and more threatening as they
looked after their escaping victims.

Passing behind an angle of rock, Al exclaimed,

"Run! He can't hold them much longer!"

The three dashed across the narrow valley at top speed and almost as
rapidly scrambled up the steep slope to the prairie, where they
encountered the two cavalrymen, pale and excited.

"Good God, where have you been?" ejaculated one of the soldiers. "We
thought you were killed or captured. There hasn't been a shot for
twenty minutes."

"No, but there will be in about twenty seconds," Al responded. "Come,
come! Keep running."

Away they went toward the camp, hastened by a chorus of fierce war
whoops from the valley and then by the patter of shots as a number of
Te-o-kun-ko's warriors came over the edge of the prairie a hundred yards
behind and raced after them. The bullets, however, sang harmlessly by
and in a moment half a hundred of their own men, hearing the firing,
came running to their rescue; whereupon the Sioux gave up the chase and
fell back into the Bad Lands as night descended.

The three self-appointed raiders returned to camp, Wallace and the
Indian scout with feelings of unmixed delight and thanksgiving over
their escape, Al with several new problems to perplex him. He had been
greatly relieved by Te-o-kun-ko's statements concerning Tommy's devotion
to the memory of his family, which showed that the little boy's strength
of affection had prevailed over what must have been a very great liking
for the life of the Indians. But, though the persistence of this
affection on Tommy's part had finally induced his captor to give him his
liberty, Al could by no means feel sure that such liberty might not be
more dangerous for his brother than captivity had been. Had he been
surrendered to the army, or at an army post, Al would have felt no
anxiety, for he would have known that the boy would receive the best of
care and be sent to his home safe and as promptly as possible. But what
would such a mere child do among the hardened trappers and frontiersmen
of Fort La Framboise, which Al knew was nothing more than a small
trading-post of La Barge, Harkness and Company, fur traders of St.
Louis? Tommy could have no idea of where his relatives were now and
would be more likely to try to reach Minnesota than any other place.
Moreover, if started off by the traders in that direction or even on a
steamboat toward St. Louis, he knew nothing of travelling and might
easily go astray or fall into dangerous company.

Al lay awake for a long time that night thinking over these problems and
decided that next day he would talk them over with General Sully and ask
his advice. But at daylight the movement of the army into column
brought on an immediate renewal of the enemy's resistance; and for many
hours, until the middle of the afternoon, the battle continued as hotly
contested as on the previous day. Neither the General nor Al himself had
a moment to think of anything except the gigantic task of repelling the
Indian attacks.

Just before noon, Wallace was riding in from the left flank, where he
had delivered a message to Major Brackett, when he was struck in the
left arm, between shoulder and elbow, by a stray bullet. The wound soon
became very painful and Wallace was obliged to dismount and go into an
ambulance, where a surgeon extracted the bullet and made him as
comfortable as possible. But Al, much as he was grieved over his
friend's misfortune, could barely find time to spend a moment with him
before hurrying back to his own pressing duties.

About mid-afternoon the country began to grow more level and the
marching easier. The Indians, apparently discouraged, gradually ceased
their attacks and at length the advance guard, mounting a rise from
which a wide extent of country was visible in front, saw the last of the
hostile army, several miles away to the southward, disappearing in a
cloud of dust.

Hearty cheers arose from the whole army as the good news spread, for it
was clear the final victory was won. A short halt was ordered and while
it lasted the two bands with the Minnesota Brigade, one silver and the
other brass, vied with each other in playing triumphant and patriotic
airs, to the great delight of the men, who fully believed that the worst
of their hardships were now over. But, unfortunately, experiences were
yet in store for them not less distressing than those they had already
passed through, though somewhat different in character.



CHAPTER XV

IN THE WAKE OF THE GRASSHOPPERS


After the halt, the march was resumed, as the General wished to push on
to the Yellowstone as fast as possible and three or four hours of
daylight could not be wasted lying in camp. The trains were now able to
straighten out and move with less confusion and delay; and the troops,
though still retaining their defensive formation, ready to repel any
sudden attack, found it possible to draw in the flanks and advance more
rapidly. Presently, as all the different elements of the army settled
into a steady, methodical march, Al found a chance to speak to General
Sully of the news he had heard of Tommy, so adventurously gained and so
surprising in itself. The General listened with lively interest.

"Well," said he, when Al had concluded his account of his encounter with
Te-o-kun-ko, "you certainly had a very unusual experience. This
Te-o-kun-ko must be a remarkable Indian to have let you go, once he had
you. Almost any Indian, particularly a Sioux, would have shot all of you
at such a time, or else have tied you to stakes and tortured you. I wish
he could be induced to come in. Such a man could be made very useful in
bringing the rest of the nation to peace. As for your brother, assuming
that this Indian has given you a straight story, it is hard to tell
whether he may still be at Fort La Framboise or not. You know that
trading post is only a short distance above Fort Sully and the traders
may have taken him down and turned him over to Colonel Bartlett. Again,
they may have placed him on some downward bound boat for St. Louis. But
my guess would be that he is still at Fort La Framboise and that the
traders are waiting for the return of my expedition so that the
Minnesota troops can take him with them to Fort Ridgely."

"Then what do you think I had better do, General Sully?" inquired Al.

His commander meditated a moment. "Well, my boy," he began, "I am not
anxious that you should leave me; I have enjoyed having you with us
through this expedition, and I don't exaggerate when I say that you have
made yourself as useful as any of my regular staff officers, and have
been as courageous in conduct and as uncomplaining under hardships as
any soldier could be,--probably more courageous than necessary, though
that is never a condemnable fault. But my judgment is that, since you
are in this country primarily to find your brother, your proper course
will be to get to Fort La Framboise as soon as possible. When we reach
the Yellowstone you will probably be able to go on ahead of the army to
Fort Union, on the Missouri, where, no doubt, you can soon catch a boat
downward bound from Fort Benton which will take you to Fort La Framboise
in a few days."

Al was deeply gratified by his commander's words of praise, the more so
since General Sully was not a man given to flattery nor to the bestowal
of undue praise upon his subordinates. He very much disliked the idea of
leaving the army and his many friends in it before the conclusion of the
campaign, but he felt that the General was right. Indeed, it had been
his opinion ever since his conversation with Te-o-kun-ko that he ought
to get to Fort La Framboise as soon as he could, but he had also felt
that he owed it to General Sully to await the latter's opinion and be
governed by it, and he was glad to find that this opinion agreed with
his own.

As the army advanced westward, the country became more sterile rather
than less so. It was evident that there had been no rain in this region
for a long time and whatever grass had ever grown there had, moreover,
been eaten off right down to the roots by a plague of grasshoppers.
These insects, moving across the country in vast multitudes, often
caused widespread devastation all over the West in early days, and many
a pioneer farmer saw his entire crop of corn, small grain, and
vegetables utterly destroyed in a single day by the ravenous pests while
he stood by, helpless to protect or save the fruits of his year of hard
work. In the case of the Northwestern Indian Expedition, the visitation
of the grasshoppers, together with lack of water, entailed untold
suffering upon the thousands of animals with the column. Hardly any
corn or grain was left; and the poor beasts, enfeebled by their weeks of
hard, hot marching, generally with insufficient food and water, were
becoming mere skeletons, hardly able to keep moving.

The night of August 9, which had witnessed the end of the battle of the
Little Missouri, as the fight in the Bad Lands came to be called, found
the army camping beside the bed of a dry creek; and each man lay down to
sleep after a supper consisting of one cracker and a bit of bacon, with
nothing to drink, while the horses had neither food nor water. The two
following days were more like nightmares than realities. Most of the
mules and oxen of the two wagon trains contrived to stagger along
somehow. But one by one the worn-out cavalry horses began to succumb.
When they could keep up no longer, their riders would shoot them to end
their sufferings; and all along the dreary miles of white, dusty alkali
plains, sprinkled here and there with sparse growths of sage brush or
cactus, the wake of the army was dotted with the bodies of scores of the
poor, dumb victims of starvation and thirst. By this time nearly all
the men were walking and leading their horses, in order to save the
latter as much as possible. So passed the first heart-sickening day
after the close of the Indian attacks; and as darkness fell at the end
of a torturing march of thirty-two miles, the troops sunk down upon the
brink of a lake of clear, sparkling water, so bitter with alkali that
neither man nor beast could do more than taste it and then feast his
aching eyes on its delusive, poisonous beauty. The victorious army,
which had conquered all its human foes, seemed like to perish miserably
under the rigors of inhospitable Nature.

Despite his own sufferings, Al had one satisfaction, which was that
Cottontail kept up much better than most of the horses of the
expedition. The fact that he was a tough, sturdy little animal by nature
had something to do with his good condition; yet Al knew that the care
he had given the horse throughout the campaign had been chiefly
responsible for bringing him into the present crisis in a state to
withstand its hardships; for he had never failed to supply Cottontail
with water and grass whenever opportunity offered, even at the cost of
his own rest or comfort. Yet even Cottontail had become so desperate
with thirst by the second night of the desert march that he pawed and
neighed and stamped the whole night through. As every other animal was
doing the same thing, the camp was in an uproar of misery, and few of
the men could sleep for sympathy with their suffering four-footed
comrades.

Dawn came at last, after hours of darkness which seemed long as
eternity, and the suffering caravan crept on. The guides had assured
General Sully that he could reach the Yellowstone that day, and about
four o'clock in the afternoon the advance guard suddenly broke into
confusion, and those behind them saw the men toss their hats in the air,
while the sound of cheers and carbine shots came back to their ears. The
Yellowstone was in sight, though still several miles off, and across the
wide, flat valley could be seen the groves of green cottonwoods along
its banks with the strong, swift current of the river beyond, shining
bright and beckoning in the sunlight. With an inrush of new vitality
the whole column surged forward, and the drivers of the mule teams were
hardly able to restrain the poor animals as they struggled to run
forward into the stream. The General and his officers, declining, as
they always did, to accept any advantage over the men afforded by their
position, held back their own horses and allowed the trains and the
troops to reach the river first. Al, mounting Cottontail for the first
time in two days, rode back to the ambulance in which Wallace lay, and
secured his canteen, as well as those of the driver and of two other
wounded men who were riding with him. Hurrying, then, to the river he
threw Cottontail's reins over his head and left him to drink, filled the
canteens, and ran back to meet the ambulance. Then, after Wallace had
drunk, he took from the latter's canteen his own first deep swallow of
the cool, life-restoring water.

There was no more marching for that day. Men and animals had indulged
too freely in the luxury of water to be fit for any more immediate
exertion. The army went into camp and every one took a bath, for the
first time in weeks, and washed out his clothing, soiled and stiffened
with perspiration and dirt. But the arrival at the river had not
relieved the situation with regard to forage, for the grasshoppers had
cleaned off the grass right up to the banks of the Yellowstone. The
soldiers, however, went in crowds into the cottonwood groves where they
cut armfuls of branches and leaves and brought to their horses, who ate
ravenously of these not unpalatable substitutes for grass. The expected
steamboats were not in sight, but the cannon soon began to boom at
intervals, signalling the army's arrival to the steamers, if the latter
were anywhere near.

And then, just before sunset, a heavy column of smoke appeared, rising
above the tree tops up river. It could come from nothing but steamboats.

"They evidently expected us to strike the river farther up," said
General Sully, as he and a number of other officers assembled on the
bank, anxiously watching the bend above for the first sight of the
boats. "It's fortunate they were within sound of the guns or I should
have had to send scouts to look for them."

In a few moments the bow of the first steamer emerged from behind the
timber point, and then appeared her tall smoke stacks, with the little
pilot-house between them, towering above the dazzling white woodwork of
her cabins.

"The _Chippewa Falls_!" exclaimed every one in a breath, as she steamed
majestically into full view.

Close behind her came the Alone and then the spectators watched the bend
for the third steamer, the old _Island City_, so pleasantly remembered
by the staff officers. But she did not appear; and shortly the _Chippewa
Falls_ glided up to the bank and a landing plank was thrown out. General
Sully stepped aboard and heartily grasped the hand of Captain Hutchison,
saying,

"I am delighted to see you, Captain. We are badly in need of you. How
long have you been waiting for us?"

"Ten days," replied Captain Hutchison, broadly smiling his pleasure at
seeing the army after his tedious days of expectation.

"So long? I congratulate you on your quick trip up this unknown river,"
said the General.

"Rea, back here with the _Alone_, and I, have been the first to
navigate it," replied the Captain, with a little pardonable pride.

"Rea and you?" exclaimed the General, anxiously. "Where is Lamont with
the _Island City_?"

"I'm sorry to tell you, General Sully," returned Captain Hutchison,
"that the _Island City_ struck a snag a couple of miles below the mouth
of the Yellowstone on the evening we were entering. She sank very
quickly and boat and cargo are a total loss, though Lamont is trying to
get the engines out of her and hopes that one of the boats coming down
from Fort Benton will take them on board and carry them to St. Louis for
him."

General Sully and his officers stood aghast at this disastrous piece of
news. Finally the Assistant Adjutant General, Captain Pell, spoke up.

"That puts us in fine shape," he lamented. "She had nearly all the corn,
didn't she?"

"Fifty thousand pounds," replied General Sully, looking very much
chagrined. "And most of the barrelled pork, and the building materials
for the post on the Yellowstone. We shall have to give up building that
this year. How much corn have you aboard, Captain?" he asked, addressing
Captain Hutchison.

"Very little; three or four thousand pounds," the other replied. "The
_Alone_ has about the same."

"Enough for about one feed for all the stock in the command," said the
General. "We shall have to pull out for Fort Union as quickly as
possible."

"Yes, sir," Captain Hutchison interrupted; "and not only on account of
your troops and animals, but on account of the boats. The river is
falling very fast and I doubt if we can get over the shoals below here
now without lightening the boats and double-tripping, or else using the
army wagons to haul cargo around the shallow places."

"Well, we shall have to cross the river in the morning and march down at
once," said the General, with a sigh as he thought of the plans he would
have to forego on account of this unexpected misfortune. "Meanwhile my
commissary and his assistant--" he indicated Lieutenant Bacon and
Al,--"will issue rations to the troops for to-morrow's use from your
boat."

The General went ashore to greet Captain Rea, whose boat had now tied
up to the bank, and the Lieutenant and Al went to work checking out
provisions. It was Al's last experience as commissary's assistant, for
when he returned to camp the General said to him:

"I think now will be your best opportunity for getting to Fort La
Framboise promptly. You can go down with Captain Lamont if he takes a
Fort Benton boat; and you had better start early in the morning so as
not to miss him. The distance is about fifty miles and you can probably
reach Fort Union to-morrow night. The fort is directly opposite the
mouth of the Yellowstone, you know. I will give you a letter to the
commanding officer advising him that the army will arrive there in the
course of the next three or four days, and I will send an escort with
you in case you should encounter Indians."

Al spent the evening in going about the camp and bidding good-bye to his
many friends in the various commands, especially in the Dakota Cavalry,
the Eighth Minnesota, and the Sixth Iowa. The Coyotes crowded around
him as if he were one of their own number, and Captain Miner said to
him,

"When you reach eighteen, come back to Dakota and enlist with us. I want
such recruits as you."

And Corporal Wright added,

"Don't go after any more redskins the way you did at Tahkahokuty; for if
the Coyotes aren't around, you'll lose your hair."

"I'll try to keep it on, Charlie," replied Al, laughing. "And, meantime,
you fellows want to remember when you go into action that you're not the
whole line of battle, or some of you may suddenly get bald, too."

His last visit was to Wallace Smith and it had a result both surprising
and pleasant.

"I wish I could go with you, Al," said Wallace, feeling of his stiff,
bandaged arm disgustedly. "It's awfully tiresome dragging around in an
ambulance, away from the boys and not able to do anything. And Doctor
Freeman tells me I shall not be fit for duty for at least three months;
so, though I can use my right arm perfectly and feel as well as I ever
did in my life, I suppose I'll have to be on the sick list all the time
until the Second Brigade gets back to Minnesota."

Al looked at his friend steadily for a moment while an idea rapidly
evolved itself in his mind.

"Well, why not go with me?" he asked at length. "If you're to be laid up
for three months, anyway, you're entitled to sick furlough for that
long. Yet you can ride, and shoot a revolver, and get around all right,
and you can reach Minnesota in ninety days more comfortably for yourself
and with less trouble to the army and the hospital corps by going on a
boat to St. Louis and then up the Mississippi to St. Paul, than you can
by marching overland with the column."

Wallace's eyes and mouth opened wide with sheer astonishment at the
brilliance of this plan.

"You're a genius, Al," he exclaimed. "I believe it can be done, too.
It's against my principles to play off and I wouldn't think of trying to
get away if it wasn't plain that I'm perfectly useless here for the rest
of the season. But it will be bully if I can go down with you. Let's
hunt up Doctor Freeman."

They found the Doctor, who was Medical Director of the army, at
headquarters. He at once gave his approval to the plan and wrote a
recommendation to Colonel Thomas that Private Wallace Smith, of the
Eighth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry, be given a ninety-day furlough.
Colonel Thomas was quickly found, and in five minutes the furlough was
issued, authorizing Wallace to be absent from his regiment until
November 12, and to report for duty on or before that date at Fort
Ridgely, Minnesota.

Next morning just after daybreak Al and Wallace, accompanied by twelve
cavalrymen under a sergeant, boarded one of the steamers, which were
already busy ferrying troops and wagons across the river. Here Al bade
farewell to Lieutenant Dale and the other staff officers who had been
his closest companions for so long. General Sully, as always devoting
his personal attention to the care of his troops, was on the bank,
directing the passage of the river. He handed Al the letter to the
Captain of Company I, Thirtieth Wisconsin Infantry, commanding at Fort
Union, and shook hands with him heartily.

"I am sorry to be leaving the expedition so abruptly, General," said
Al. "I wish I could stay with you until the campaign is finished."

"You won't miss much," returned the General. "The campaign is virtually
over now and we shall be getting down to Fort Rice as rapidly as
possible. We will march for Fort Union from here as soon as we are rid
of these emigrants, who will go on alone to the gold fields after we
have taken them across the river on the boats." Then he continued,
kindly, "I wish you the best of success in finding your brother, my boy.
I hope we shall meet again, and if you decide to try for West Point and
I can help you in any way, let me know. Take care of yourself, now, and
don't indulge too much in your weakness for getting into ticklish
places. Good-bye!"



CHAPTER XVI

ADRIFT IN A BARGE


Once across the Yellowstone, the little party set out at a good pace,
for they had a long, hard day's journey before them. They found the
country as destitute of grass as it had been west of the Little
Missouri, and the ground seemed to have been fairly burned to powdery
dust by the sun. As they travelled over the desolate country, they often
thought pityingly of the troops behind them, who would have to traverse
it much more slowly than they were doing and would, therefore, feel its
discomforts more keenly. But, at least, the army would be near the
river, so there would be no more such suffering from thirst as had been
experienced in the terrible march out of the Bad Lands. Not an Indian
was seen during the day; and the party, dusty and weary, rode up to the
bank of the Missouri after nightfall. It was too wide and dangerous a
stream to cross in the darkness; so bivouac was made until morning, and
then, in response to signals, several skiffs put off from Fort Union and
came over. Some of the soldiers stripped and, putting their clothing and
equipments in the boats, swam across the river on their horses, but Al
and Wallace, as well as most of the men, rode over in the boats, holding
the bridles of their horses and letting them swim behind.

On entering Fort Union, Al delivered his letter and then inquired for
Captain Lamont.

"He is still down at the wreck of his steamer, about two miles below
here," the commanding officer informed him. "But if you are going down
with him, you have arrived just in the nick of time. The steamer _Belle
Peoria_ came down yesterday from Benton, and she is taking on the
engines of the _Island City_ now. You had better get right down there or
they may leave without you."

Al and Wallace galloped off down river at once, accompanied by two
cavalrymen of their late escort to bring back their horses. Leaving so
hastily gave them time for only a glance at Fort Union, though they
sincerely wished for an opportunity to examine it more closely, for it
was an interesting, and in that wilderness land, even an imposing
structure. Built in 1829 as the then most advanced trading post of the
American Fur Company, it had become in later years the centre of the fur
trade of a vast territory, extending from the Rocky Mountains to the
British line. It was larger and more substantially built than any other
trading fort in the American West, and those who had seen them declared
that no post of the Hudson's Bay Company in the British Possessions
compared with it. Its stockade was two hundred and forty by two hundred
and twenty feet in size, built of massive timbers and flanked by two
large stone bastions, well armed with cannon, while several of its
numerous interior buildings were also of stone. George Catlin, the
distinguished artist who travelled all over the New World in making up
his great collection of paintings of the American Indians, had visited
the fort in 1832; Maximilian, Prince of Neuwied, the distinguished
Austrian naturalist, had been there in 1833; and in 1843 the equally
famous American naturalist, John James Audubon, had made the post his
headquarters for some time. But when Al and Wallace passed through it,
the days of the old establishment were numbered; two years later it was
to be dismantled, the new army post of Fort Buford, two miles below and
nearly opposite the spot where the _Island City_ had sunk, taking its
place as a military establishment.

The boys had not ridden far across the bottom, which was partly timbered
and partly open grass land, when they saw the wreck of the steamer,
lying out beyond a shore bar, her smoke stacks and upper works
protruding above the water. The _Belle Peoria_ was moored beside her and
men could be seen working on both vessels. Al breathed a sigh of relief
when he saw that they were not too late. Riding on across the bar, the
boys were soon at the water's edge and about one hundred feet from the
steamers. In answer to their shouts a small boat immediately put off
from the _Belle Peoria_ and came over for them. It was with the regret
of parting from an old friend that Al for the last time caressed the
rough neck and soft nose of Cottontail, who had borne him so faithfully
through many perils and privations. The little horse nuzzled Al's cheek
affectionately, as if he realized that they were bidding each other
good-bye; then, with a strong hand-clasp from each of the soldiers, the
boys stepped into the yawl and were rowed to the _Belle Peoria_.

It did not take long to explain to Captain Lamont their object in
coming, and he seemed heartily glad of their company.

"You didn't get here any too soon," said he. "We shall be off in an
hour. When we get to Fort La Framboise I have no doubt the captain of
the _Belle_ will stop long enough for you to find out if your brother is
there, Al, and if he is, we can all go on together to St. Louis."

The _Belle Peoria_ was under way at the expected time. Though the water
was quite low, her pilots were skilful and knew the river so thoroughly
that for some time she met with no unusual delays. After their months of
strenuous campaigning it was pleasant for the boys to lounge about on
the steamer's decks with nothing to do except watch the interweaving
ripples of the river's surface, the occasional bitterns and cranes which
flopped up from the lonely sandbars and sailed slowly away as the boat
approached, and the rise and fall of the endless succession of bluffs
along the shores. In a few weeks the Northwestern Indian Expedition
would be following the crests of the northward bluffs on its way to Fort
Rice, where it would break up; the Second Brigade, with the exceptions
of garrisons left at Fort Rice and Fort Berthold, returning to
Minnesota; while the First Brigade would go on down to Fort Sully, Fort
Randall, and Sioux City.

After the crushing defeats which had been administered to the Indians at
Tahkahokuty and the Little Missouri, it did not seem that steamboats on
the Missouri ought to be in much danger from them; but the people on the
_Belle Peoria_--both the members of her own crew and those of the
_Island City_--knew that undoubtedly many hostiles had scattered from
the broken Sioux camps who might be encountered anywhere along the
river, eager for a chance to waylay a steamboat and slaughter a few of
her crew in revenge for their own recent losses in battle. So, in
laying the steamer up for the night, the men always "sparred her off"
from the bank by setting long poles between the gunwale and the shore,
so that she could not be boarded; or, if a mid-channel sandbar was
convenient, with water on both sides of it, she would be moored there.
Such precautions served well enough for night, but in the daytime the
boat had to take her chances in following the channel close in against
one shore or the other.

On the third day out from the Yellowstone the boat passed Fort Berthold,
a fur trading post and the agency of the Arickaree and Mandan Indians,
about midway between Fort Union and Fort Rice. For some hours afterward
she continued running at a good speed, and at length passed a little
below a beautiful forest on the left shore, called the Painted Woods. At
this point there was a large sandbar in the middle of the river, while
on the bank opposite to the woods the bluffs came sheer up to the river,
and the pilot naturally chose the branch of the stream along their base,
as the main channel will usually follow along a bluff bank. But in this
case he soon found he had made a mistake, for he ran the boat into a
pocket and could go no farther. There remained nothing to do but send
out the yawl to sound through the other branch and find out if there was
enough water there to carry the boat.

It occurred to Al that it would be a pleasant diversion to accompany the
yawl, so he volunteered to pull one of the oars, and was accepted. The
mate of the _Belle Peoria_, who was in charge of the yawl, ran into the
other chute and soon found the channel; whereupon he signalled across
the bar to the steamer, and while she was backing out and coming around,
the crew of the yawl rowed over to the lower end of the Painted Woods
and landed. The men pulled the boat's bow a little way out on the bank
and then strolled away a few yards into the woods, where it was cool and
shady. One man only remained in the yawl, and he, like Al, was a
volunteer. He was Jim, the _Island City's_ deck hand who had quarrelled
with Al on the up trip. In spite of several attempts to escape while
near Fort Union, Jim had been unable to jump his round-trip contract
with Captain Lamont, and was now reluctantly returning toward St. Louis
and that Southern Confederacy which he supported so loudly in words and
so feebly in deeds.

The men who had landed, namely, the mate and Al, four other oarsmen and
the leadsman, had been in the woods but a minute or two when, without
the least warning, a dozen musket shots rang out from the bushes around
them, instantly followed by a chorus of terrifying Indian war whoops.
Two of the oarsman fell dead at the first fire; the rest of the party
turned and dashed for the boat. But several Indians had crept between
them and the landing and a moment elapsed before the mate and Al, who
had their revolvers, could drive them back far enough to reach the
shore. When they did so, to their horror they discovered the yawl out in
mid-stream and some little distance down, rapidly drifting toward the
bar. Jim was not to be seen, for he was lying flat in the bottom of the
boat to escape the Indian bullets, but he was evidently pulling the
rudder ropes to guide the yawl as nearly as possible to the bar. The
_Belle Peoria_ had caught the alarm, and her decks were swarming with
armed men; but she was just rounding the head of the bar and was still
farther away than the yawl, so that her people dared not fire on the
Indians for fear of hitting their own men on the bank.

"We'll have to swim for it, boys!" shouted the mate, and flinging off
his coat he dived into the river like a duck and struck out for the bar,
keeping beneath the surface except when he had to come up for a second
to breathe.

Al and the other men followed his example. It was not more than fifty
yards to the bar but every inch of the way was fraught with deadly
peril. Whenever he came to the surface to breathe, as he had to several
times, Al heard the bullets whistling about his head. Once he heard
another oarsman, a few feet from him, give a gurgling cry and saw his
hands thrust up and clutch the air as he sank, struck by one of the
merciless bullets. Before the survivors reached the bar, the fire of
those on the steamer had driven the Indians back into the Painted
Woods, with probably a greater loss than they had inflicted upon the
crew of the yawl, though of the latter, one had drowned and one been
shot in the water, besides the two killed on shore at the first fire.

When the survivors were safely back on the _Belle Peoria_, the mate
stepped up to Jim, who had landed in the yawl at the lower end of the
bar, and shouted,

"You scoundrel, you ran away and left us to shift for ourselves, didn't
you? I've a mind to throw you overboard."

"I didn't run away," snarled Jim. "The yawl slipped off the bank and I
couldn't get it back."

Backing up against a stanchion he faced the angry mate and the crowd
behind him like a desperate animal at bay and cast one swift, venomous
glance at Al which caused the latter to feel a sudden suspicion.

"Did you think you'd get rid of me that way?" he demanded, confronting
the deck hand. "Were you willing to see six other men murdered just to
get even with me?"

Jim dared not look at him again.

"I didn't think anything," he muttered. "I tell you, the boat slipped
off."

"It slipped off infernally quick after we landed, then," cut in the
mate. "You were a quarter of a mile down river when we reached the
bank."

"I couldn't help it; it slipped," Jim reiterated, as if he could think
of no other defence.

"Well, I think you're a liar," bluntly stated the mate, "but I can't
prove it, so you'll save your skin this time. But if I ever catch you at
any more of your scaly, rattlesnake tricks, you'll go to kingdom come
mighty quick, and I'll be the man that'll send you there."

He turned on his heel and walked away, leaving Jim to settle as best he
could with the other deck hands, all of whom were now feeling very
bitter toward him. A strong party went ashore and found and buried the
bodies of the unfortunate men who had been killed there, victims of an
attack such as brought death to scores of gallant steamboat men during
the years of the Sioux wars.

The following day the _Belle Peoria_ reached Fort Rice, where Colonel
Dill and his command were very glad to see them and to hear the first
news of General Sully's expedition which they had received in several
weeks. The garrison was in good health and spirits; but they had been
several times attacked by Indians, and were now much concerned for the
safety of a large emigrant train from Minnesota, under Captain James
Fisk, which had arrived at the fort in July and moved West over Sully's
trail, in spite of warnings, determined to reach the gold mines. This
party a little later came very near being annihilated by the Indians on
the edge of the Bad Lands; but a strong relief column sent out by
General Sully after his return to Fort Rice finally rescued them and
brought them back safe.

After leaving Colonel Dill's hospitable command the journey of the
steamboat was uneventful for several days, until one morning she came to
the bank at Fort La Framboise. She was stopping wholly on Al's account
and with beating heart he went ashore, accompanied by Wallace and
Captain Lamont. They ascended a gently sloping hill to the small and
rather dilapidated trading post, which stood on its summit. Here they
found that the factor, a Frenchman, was not yet up, but they soon got
him out.

"Un white boy by ze name Tomas Breescoe?" said the factor, when Al had
explained their errand. "Oui, je savvy heem. Il est un reg'lair leetle
Injin. Py gar, he ride like ze centaur!" His eyes narrowed shrewdly. "Un
Yanktonais bring heem here, seex, saven week ago. Sacre! How mooch I pay
pour ze pauvre boy release! You pay me back, oui?"

"Certainly," replied Al, yet with many misgivings, for he had no idea
what the Frenchman might ask. "You shall be repaid for any expense you
may have been put to."

Captain Lamont nudged him. "He's going to gouge you," he whispered.
"Don't be too eager. Find out where Tommy is."

"I haven't much money," continued Al, speaking the sober truth. "Is my
brother here now?"

"Eet ees not so ver' mooch," proceeded the factor, ignoring Al's
question and quickly changing his tack regarding the ransom. "T'ree
horse, feefty pound flouair, ten pound shot et ten pound powdair."

Al was aghast, for he understood that these items would cost far more
than he had money to pay for. But here Captain Lamont broke into the
conversation.

"That's more than Mr. Briscoe or I can pay you for just now," said he,
blandly. "However, we can give you a note and pay the amount over to Mr.
Charles P. Chouteau for you when we reach St. Louis."

Mr. Chouteau was the manager of the American Fur Company and the factor
knew as well as did Captain Lamont that he would not allow one of his
employees to practise such extortion upon the relatives or friends of an
unfortunate prisoner rescued from the savages. The Frenchman shifted his
feet uneasily.

"Has m'sieu feefty dollair, cash?" he asked.

"Fifty dollars?"

"Oui, m'sieu. Pour zat ve call ze mattair--how you say?--sqvare."

The Captain looked at Al and nodded, for the amount was about one-third
of what the man's first demand would have made it.

"But I haven't even that much, Captain," said Al, despairingly.

"I have forty dollars, Al," said Wallace. "Take that." He thrust his
hand into his pocket.

"Pshaw, that's all right," broke in the Captain, stopping him. "I have
plenty, but we don't want to be bled, that's all." He turned to the
factor. "Very well," he remarked. "We'll pay you fifty dollars, cash.
Now where's the boy?"

"M'sieu has ze cash money here, dans sa poche, for geeve me now?" the
factor persisted, anxiously.

"Yes, yes," replied Captain Lamont, impatiently. "But before I give it
to you, you must first show us the boy."

The Frenchman waved his hands pathetically.

"Oui, mais je ne peut pas show ze pauvre boy. Il est depart down ze
rivair pour la S'in' Louis pour--two veek."

"You say you can't show him?" exclaimed the Captain. "He started for
St. Louis two weeks ago?"

"Oui, m'sieu, oui. Sur le steamair _North Vind_. Je poot heem ver'
comfor'ble sur le steamair. He shall reach S'in' Louis safe."

"Huh! That remains to be seen!" grunted the Captain. Then he looked
sympathetically into Al's disappointed face. "Well, my boy," said he,
"that seems to be all there is to it. Your brother has gone down and you
can do nothing but follow. Here is your money, factor. We thank you for
your trouble." He handed the Frenchman fifty dollars in greenbacks from
an amply filled wallet, for the steamboat officers of those days earned
handsome salaries and were seldom without plenty of money.

Then the Captain and his two young companions retraced their steps to
the steamboat landing and the _Belle Peoria_ resumed her journey. Al was
perfectly certain that the Frenchman had simply robbed them of fifty
dollars, for he did not believe that Te-o-kun-ko had either asked or
received one cent of ransom for Tommy's delivery. He was, moreover, far
from satisfied concerning his young brother's present safety, but he was
helpless in the circumstances, and could only hope that Tommy would
reach St. Louis all right and would there seek his uncle, Mr. Colton.

Ten days sufficed to bring the _Belle Peoria_ to Omaha, and here her
captain received so tempting an offer to carry a cargo back to a point
up-river that he determined to accept it. His decision was an unexpected
misfortune to Captain Lamont, but the latter was not a man to be
discouraged by such untoward events. It will be remembered that on her
way up-river, the _Island City_ left a large barge at Omaha which had so
impeded her progress that she could not tow it further. This barge was
still lying moored to the bank where it had been left, and into it
Captain Lamont loaded his engines and other machinery from the _Belle
Peoria_, determined to complete his journey to St. Louis by drifting
down-river with the current.

The size of the barge was such that it could easily accommodate the
cargo of machinery and still leave ample living room for the entire
crew of the shipwrecked _Island City_. Many men were necessary to handle
the unwieldy craft with oars, sweeps, and rudders in facing hard winds,
in sparring off from bars or snags, and in encountering the many other
perils and embarrassments incident to such navigation. Tarpaulins were
spread over the boat, protecting both the machinery and the crew; a
galley was arranged and a cook stove set up; a sufficient supply of
provisions was laid in for the first few days of the journey; and, thus
equipped, the strange craft set out on her southward voyage.

It was a slow journey, but no one could have called it monotonous, for a
score of times every day all hands were called out to hard work of one
sort or another. Now it was to pole the barge off a shoal place on which
she had drifted, or again, to row her down the length of some bend
against a flat head wind which was beating her back up the river faster
than the current bore her the other way. Occasionally the men had to
land and, taking hold of a long "cordelle rope" attached to the barge's
stern, walk up the bank in a long, straining line and pull her back
into the channel from some "blind chute" into which she had blundered,
dragging her along as in the early days of the fur trade the crews of
the keel boats were obliged to drag their vessels clear from St. Louis
to Fort Union, except when rare favoring winds allowed the use of a
sail. More than once during the long days between Omaha and Kansas City,
Al and his companions worked for hours up to their waists and shoulders
in the water alongside the barge, freeing her from some obstruction or a
lodgement against the bank.

But all labors have an end, and at length the great bend at Kansas City
came in sight, with the little town straggling along the river and the
rugged, precipitous hills rising behind it, which in a few decades were
destined to be covered with the crowded dwellings and the towering
business structures of a great metropolis. The barge was moored for the
night, and most of her crew, including Al and Wallace, seized the
opportunity to get a glimpse of civilization once more and to hear the
news of the day by strolling up-town in the evening.

"I'll tell you what I want," said Wallace, as they walked along
Broadway, looking into the brightly lighted shop windows and enjoying
the novel sensation of being on a busy street with crowds of people
about them. "I want a great, big, tall, fat glass of lemonade, with ice
in it. I haven't had one since I was in St. Paul last."

"Nor I since I left St. Louis," rejoined Al. "That for me, too."

They soon came to an ice-cream and confectionery store where a number of
people were sitting about at small tables, eating, drinking, and
talking, quite after the manner of dwellers in a real city. The boys
took their places in two vacant chairs at a table where two men were
seated, one a soldier and the other a civilian. After giving their
orders to the waiter, the boys sat silent for a moment, feeling an
embarrassing consciousness of their decidedly soiled and unkempt
appearance in the comparatively well dressed crowd, which included a
number of ladies. Presently the soldier at their table said to his
companion, after a silence induced by the intrusion of the boys upon
their privacy,

"Well, anyhow, I'll tell you if old Pap Price ever gets as far as the
Kansas line with his ragamuffin army, we'll give him a reception that he
won't forget soon."

Al and Wallace began to listen, for this sounded interesting.

"You Kansas Militia fellows are too much scattered," returned the
civilian. "Why doesn't General Curtis get you concentrated down here by
the border somewhere? I tell you, old Pap will be here before you know
it. Why, he's already to Jefferson City, according to the latest
despatches, cleaning up everything before him and coming this way like a
jack rabbit. What is there between here and his front to stop his
twenty-five or thirty thousand men? Nothing! Nothing to make him even
hesitate."

"There will be something to make him hesitate, though," insisted the
Kansas militiaman, stoutly. "Curtis _is_ concentrating, and we'll be
sent across the State line to meet and stop Price somewhere around
Lexington. You watch!"

"Would you go across the line?" queried the other.

"Certainly I would."

"Well, then, you're an exception," returned the civilian. "I'll bet you
two bits that if the Kansas militia is ordered across the State line,
nine-tenths of them will refuse to go. They're too afraid they'll be
kept away over election and too afraid they'll have to give up a little
shred of their sacred 'State Rights' to the National Government."

"Oh, well, some of the boys feel that way, of course," replied the
militiaman, defensively, "but not all, by any means."

Al's curiosity had reached the breaking-point.

"I beg your pardon," he interrupted, leaning across the table, "but will
you kindly tell me if General Sterling Price's army is invading
Missouri?"

The two men looked at Al and Wallace in amazement.

"Why, yes, I should say it is," answered the militiaman. "Where have you
come from that you didn't know that?"

"We have just come down the Missouri in a barge," Al answered, "and we
haven't heard any late news; nothing since we left Omaha. We have been
up in Dakota all Summer with General Sully, fighting the Sioux Indians."

"Oh, is that so?" asked the other. "We haven't heard much from that
campaign, either. Did you whip the Indians?"

"Yes, we defeated and scattered them in two pretty big battles. But what
about General Price?"

"Why, he entered southeast Missouri from Arkansas about the middle of
September with an army of anywhere from fifteen to thirty thousand men.
He tried to take Pilot Knob, but General Ewing, who used to be here at
Kansas City, you know, was there with a small force and repulsed him
badly; knocked the tar clean out of him, in fact. Then he started for
St. Louis but there were so many troops there that he seems to have
given it up; at least, he is moving west along the Missouri and I guess
he's somewhere around Jeff City now. I don't know whether he can take it
or not; according to the latest despatches Rosecrans is going to try to
hold the city. But we're looking for Price to come on out here and try
to invade Kansas, anyhow."

"You say he's coming up the Missouri?" asked Al. "We've got to keep on
down the river to St. Louis with our barge."

"Well, you'd better look out for old Pap, then," rejoined the other.
"He'll catch you, sure, and likely burn your boat; and if he don't the
guerillas will. They're awful bad now, and there isn't a steamboat ever
gets through without being attacked, and often they're destroyed."

Al felt a sudden chill of apprehension.

"Do you know whether they attacked the steamer _North Wind_ on her way
down?" he asked, anxiously.

"No, I don't remember it," the militiaman returned.

"Why, yes, you do," broke in his companion. "Don't you know, two or
three weeks ago a band of guerillas got the _North Wind_ somewhere
between Lexington and Miami? They crossed the river on her and then
burnt her up. It was reported several of her people were killed in the
mix-up."

"Oh, that's right; I had forgotten," returned the soldier. Then to Al he
said, curiously, "Why do you ask?"

"Nothing," answered Al, in a dull voice. "Only I had a young brother on
her who had been a prisoner among the Indians. He was going home to his
mother in St. Louis."

"Pshaw, that's too bad!" exclaimed the militiaman, sympathetically. "But
he's probably gotten through all right."

"Maybe he has and maybe not," said Al. "It's hard to tell in such times.
Come on, Wallace," he added. "Let's go back to the boat."

They rose abruptly and left the store. Al slept very little that night,
and when he did his rest was broken by troubled dreams of Tommy; he
imagined his brother in all sorts of desperate situations and losing his
life in a variety of horrible ways. Even when awake and thinking
rationally, he realized that almost any of the fancies of his nightmare
might easily be realities, for the guerilla warfare in Missouri at this
time had degenerated into a carnival of barbarous brutality hardly
exceeded in the history of any country, and the mercy or cruelty dealt
out to a prisoner by one of these bands of lawless marauders depended
almost wholly upon the humor of the guerilla chief.



CHAPTER XVII

CAPTURED BY GUERILLAS


Captain Lamont was disturbed by the rumors he heard at Kansas City of
the dangerous condition of navigation below that point; but he was a
brave and determined man, and would not be swerved from his purpose of
reaching St. Louis, now that he had gotten so far on the way and
overcome so many difficulties. The next morning the barge started out as
usual, and as there was deeper water the farther down river she went,
her progress became more rapid. Four days after leaving Kansas City she
tied up for the night opposite Brunswick, Missouri, a town about
twenty-five miles, by the channel, above Glasgow. Though it was said
guerillas had been in Brunswick the day before, none had yet interrupted
the journey of the barge, nor had any even been seen; and Captain Lamont
and his men had begun to think that the alarming rumors circulating
through the country were largely without foundation.

The following morning, a short time after the boat got under way,
Captain Lamont found that the deck hand, Jim, was missing, and then he
made the additional discovery that his own wallet was also gone. Though
a guard had been maintained on the boat all night, as usual, Jim had
contrived in some way to slip ashore and escape with the money. The
circumstances made Captain Lamont somewhat uneasy.

"I don't care about the money," said he. "There were only a few hundred
dollars in the pocket-book. But I should like to know what that fellow
wanted to get away for when we are so near St. Louis. He could have
robbed me just as easily there, and then he would have been in a country
where he could get a job when the money was spent. But he certainly
can't expect to get one around here."

"I'll tell you, Captain," said Al, "I believe he's gone to try and find
some rebs or guerillas to make an attack on our boat. You know he's a
rebel at heart. He probably figures he can get me into trouble that
way, and you, too; for he doesn't like you any too well."

"That's a long guess," replied the Captain, after studying Al's theory
for a moment, "but it may be correct. Anyway, I wish I knew what he's up
to."

The boat drifted lazily on for a couple of hours and at length came into
the head of a long, gradual bend having, on its north side, a low, open
shore of sandbars, with meadows and farm lands farther back, and on the
south an extensive belt of timber growing between the water's edge and
the bluffs. The channel ran close in along the timbered shore, and the
place was such a favorable one for an armed party to attack passing
river craft, and had so often been utilized for that purpose during the
war, that it had come to be known as Bushwhacker Bend,--"bushwhacker"
and "guerilla" being terms used interchangeably for describing the
irregular partisans along the border.

As the boat came to the head of the timber, the pilot crowded her over
as far as possible toward the north bank. But she had gone only a short
distance when a crowd of apparently about fifty men, wearing all manner
of ragged and dirty garments, suddenly arose among the trees and fired a
rattling volley of musketry point-blank at the barge. The bullets
plunged into her wooden sides and tore through her tarpaulin covers,
though, almost miraculously, no one was hit. Then a man wearing a sabre
and dressed in gray clothes somewhat resembling a Confederate uniform,
stepped forward and, waving his sabre toward the boat, shouted, with an
oath,

"Bring that boat in here or I'll kill every man on board!"

Seeing nothing but guns pointing toward him and knowing well that the
guerilla chief could make good his threat, Captain Lamont shouted back,

"All right. We'll come over. Don't fire again."

The pilot swung the barge over toward the south shore, the bushwhackers
following her down the bank until she touched the land. Then the chief,
accompanied by about half of his villainous-looking followers, sprang
aboard.

"I'm Captain John C. Calhoun Yeager, u' the Confederate States army,"
said he, pompously, throwing out his chest as he confronted Captain
Lamont.

"Heaven pity the Confederate States army, then!" muttered the mate, who
was standing behind him.

"What's that?" demanded Yeager, turning sharply.

"I said, sir, that the Confederate States Army is honored," replied the
mate, meekly.

"Oh!" said the guerilla chief, mollified. "You bet."

He smoothed down his coat with a satisfied air, then resumed to Captain
Lamont,

"I'm gonta search this yere boat fer Yankee soldiers, an' if anybody
peeps he'll git plugged full o' holes."

Wallace, who was standing beside Al, turned pale, for he knew not what
this might mean for him. He was in uniform and there was no escape, as
Yeager immediately pointed to him and continued,

"There's one of 'em. Jerk him up, boys."

Half a dozen of his men sprang upon Wallace like cats upon a mouse,
pulling his arms roughly behind him. Wallace uttered a cry of pain as
his wounded arm was twisted.

"Oh, please don't!" he begged. "My left arm is wounded."

"The devil it is!" sneered one of the guerillas, giving it an extra
twist as he jerked a piece of cord around Wallace's wrists. "Then it
needs exercise to limber it up."

Al's face turned pale with cold fury. He stepped forward and, before any
one could think what he intended doing, his fist shot out into the
guerilla's right eye with terrific force, sending him to the deck like a
stone.

"You dirty cur!" he growled. "I'll give you some exercise, too."

"Don't, Al, don't!" pleaded Wallace, now more frightened for his
friend's safety than for his own.

Yeager, paying no attention whatever to the fall of his retainer, fixed
his cold eyes on Al as he heard Wallace call him by name.

"I've got it straight," said he, "that there's another blue belly on
here, not in soldier clothes. His name's Al Briscoe an' he's a friend
o' this yere kid,"--indicating Wallace. "I reckon you're the ticket," he
went on, addressing Al. "Take him in tow, boys."

"He's not a soldier," exclaimed Wallace. "He's never enlisted."

"This is Jim's work," whispered the mate to Captain Lamont. "Nobody else
would know about Al."

Captain Lamont repeated Wallace's remonstrance.

"This boy is not a soldier, Captain Yeager," he declared. "I know that
to be a fact."

"Well, I got it straight that he is," persisted Yeager, insolently, "so
you may as well shut up. Take 'em ashore," he went on, to the men who
held Al and Wallace by the arms. Then he added, to the others, "Search
the boat."

"Oh, I'm dreadfully sorry, Al," moaned Wallace, as they were pushed and
kicked out on the bank. "It's my fault you were taken."

"No, they'd have found me out, anyway," Al answered, smiling bravely at
his friend. "I'd a good deal rather stay with you, old man, than to
have you face this alone."

The boys were held on the bank while the guerillas went through the
barge, taking what they pleased in the way of food and the clothing of
the men. They seized no more prisoners and finally came ashore, when
Yeager, brandishing a pistol, shouted to Captain Lamont,

"Now, then, cast off an' git out an' don't stop ner monkey around fer
two hours, anyhow, er I'll sink yer rotten old tub an' you with it!"

There was nothing to do but obey, and with many glances of profound
regret and apprehension at Al and Wallace, standing guarded by a dozen
brawny ruffians on the bank, Captain Lamont and his men shoved the barge
off and drifted on down the river. As the boys watched the boat recede
in the distance, it seemed to them that they had looked their last upon
friendly faces, and that the portals of death were closing upon them as
the barge finally disappeared.

When the boat was gone, Yeager turned his attention to his prisoners.
Seating himself under a tree, he regarded them genially and remarked,

"P'utty sporty clothes you got on. I reckon some o' my boys needs them
worse 'n you do."

"Yes, I reckon," said one of the guerillas, slouching up and leering
into Al's face. It was the fellow whom Al had knocked down and he could
leer with only one eye for the other was closed and the flesh around it
had already turned blue-black in color. He glanced down at Al's shoes,
which had been purchased in Kansas City.

"Those look about my size," said he, comparing them with his own
broken-down cowhide boots. "I'll take them before I shoot you."

He knelt down and began to unlace one of the shoes. Al's anger and
contempt were so great that he had lost all sense of discretion. But he
showed his feelings in unusual ways.

"Certainly; help yourself," said he, in a smooth tone of mocking
politeness, thrusting his foot a little way forward. "I always like to
have a nigger take care of my shoes for me."

The crowd laughed uproariously and the ruffian sprang to his feet and
slapped Al across the mouth.

"Take 'em off yerself an' hand 'em to me!" he shouted.

Al looked around at the other men.

"If you will untie my hands and leave me free to use them," said he, "I
will hand you my shoes,--and something more." He glanced significantly
at the guerilla's still uninjured eye.

Again the crowd laughed, and approvingly. It was evident that Al's
fearless behaviour pleased them, and his tormentor became
correspondingly enraged. Again he struck his defenceless antagonist
across the mouth. But at this moment a short, broad-shouldered little
man stepped out from among the onlookers and sauntered over to the
cowardly ruffian. One of his hands was thrust into his pants' pocket and
in the other he carried a huge revolver which looked almost as long as
himself. This terrifying weapon he raised and brushed its muzzle
deliberately back and forth across the tip of the other man's nose,
which was nearly a foot above the top of his own head.

[Illustration: Bill Cotton protects Al from the guerilla]

"Now, look here, Daddy Longlegs," said he, in a persuasive tone, "you
let this kid alone or I'll blow you into the river. These boys are game;
an', by jinks, I'm goin' to see that they're treated decent from now on.
Everybody take notice."

He swept a calm, authoritative glance around over the crowd, spat upon
the ground, stuck his revolver back into its holster and, with both
hands now in his pockets, strolled back to the tree whence he had come,
and sat down.

Yeager laughed nervously, seeming to fear the effect of this exhibition
of authority on the part of some one beside himself.

"I was just goin' to say that," he remarked.

The little man looked at him and his lip curled slightly.

"Yes, you were!" said he, derisively, and Yeager made no further
comment, while Al's persecutor sneaked away sheepishly, muttering to
himself.

There was a moment of embarrassed silence, and while it lasted there
emerged from the woods behind the motley company a figure which hurried
toward the guerilla captain officiously. As soon as they saw it, the
boys smiled in unison.

"Here's Jim!" exclaimed Wallace. "Now we'll catch it!"

The deck hand glanced toward them, then, with a look of relief, said to
Yeager,

"Well, you got 'em, I see, Captain."

"Yes, yes, I got 'em," replied Yeager, starting from thought and eying
Jim uneasily. "Much obliged to you fer puttin' me on."

"Oh, sure; that's all right," exclaimed Jim, beaming on him. "I hate a
Yank worse 'n pizen."

He turned and, walking over, faced Al and Wallace.

"Nice day, ain't it?" he inquired, with a sneer. "How do you kids like
it? You ain't doin' no fancy boxin' to-day, Al Briscoe, are yeh?"

"Well, well; my dear old friend, James!" exclaimed Al, in affected
surprise. "Aren't you the proud boy, though, over this great victory?"

"None o' yer freshness, now," cried Jim, doubling up his fists,
threateningly, "er I'll mash yeh one."

"Here, here!" cried Yeager, loudly. "Don't abuse the prisoners!"

Jim looked at him in surprise.

"Why not?" he asked, as if abusing prisoners were the most natural
pastime in the world.

"Because I said so," returned Yeager, bluntly. "That's why."

The deck hand appeared to meditate this unusual ruling for a moment.
Then he inquired,

"When yeh goin' to shoot these Yanks, Captain?"

"Well," said the guerilla chief, hesitatingly, and stopped. Then he shot
a furtive glance at the short, broad-shouldered man. The latter was
sitting in a lounging attitude with his arms clasped around his knees,
but his eyes were fixed steadily on Yeager.

"Well," began the Captain, again. "I ain't a-goin' to shoot 'em. I'm
a-goin' to take 'em down an' turn 'em over to General Price."

He looked again at the short man, who was now gazing calmly out over the
river. The boys breathed sighs of relief and thanksgiving, for it seemed
they were to be saved for the moment, at least, from their most
imminent peril of being murdered in the woods.

"What?" cried Jim, angrily. "Yeh told me yeh'd shoot 'em if I got 'em
fer yeh."

"I find they ain't deservin' uh death," returned Yeager, with dignity.
"Leastways, not unless ordered by a reg'lar military court."

"Oh, thunder!" exclaimed Jim. He frowned in disappointed hatred at Al,
then turned and walked away.

"Well, I must be goin'," said he. "I got business up to Lexington."

"Hold on!" cried Yeager. "What's yer hurry? We're just startin' fer
Arrer Rock to take these prisoners to General Price. I want you fer a
witness ag'in 'em."

"Aw, no, I can't do no good," returned Jim, hastily, continuing to back
away. "I've told yeh all I know about 'em. I got to go."

Then he felt a nudge on his arm and looked at the short man, who had
risen and, with his hand on his big holster, was gazing up into Jim's
face.

"Pshaw, you'd better come with us," said he, in a soft voice.

Jim's eyes wavered, then shot a desperate, hunted look around over the
crowd. But by a great effort he controlled himself.

"Oh, very well. Yes," he replied, with as much carelessness as he could
assume. "I'll go."

The horses of the guerilla gang were tied a few yards back in the
timber. The boys were led to them and mounted, each one riding between
two guards; and then the party, forming in a rough column of fours,
started out. They soon emerged from the woods, passed up through a
ravine and so out upon the bluffs, where presently they turned into a
faintly marked country road running to the southeast, toward Arrow Rock.
For hours they travelled, alternately at a trot and a walk, through the
pretty, rolling country of Saline County, now passing among stretches of
forest, gay with the foliage of Autumn, and again moving across reaches
of open land, dotted here and there with little farms, most of them
deserted and falling to decay. But always they avoided the main roads
and often they travelled across the fields, through ravines and along
the lower edge of ridges, making it evident that these men possessed a
knowledge of the country as intimate as that of the Sioux in the
Northwest.

The boys were held near the centre of the column, and several files
ahead of them was Jim, who rode along easily, slouching in the saddle
and yielding to the motions of his horse as if accustomed to it through
long practice. It was noticeable to the boys that the short man held a
place in column immediately behind Jim; for this guerilla company
appeared to have no regular formation, and the men fell in wherever they
chose, sometimes even changing their places on the march.

Toward evening the gang approached Arrow Rock and were halted by a
picket in the edge of the little town. The officer of the guard, a young
man in the full uniform of a Confederate lieutenant, came out to meet
Yeager, who had ridden to the front.

"Is General Price's army here?" asked Yeager.

"Yes," answered the Lieutenant. "Who are you?"

"Captain Yeager and command, with Yankee prisoners."

"Captain Yeager? Of whose regiment?"

"Nobody's," replied the chief, boastfully. "We go it alone."

"Oh, I see," said the other, a slight inflection of contempt in his
voice. "Er--ah--partisan rangers?"

"What?"

"Bushwhackers?--Guerillas?"

"That's what," replied Yeager. "I want to see General Price."

"General Price is not here," stated the Lieutenant. "This is General
Clark's brigade of Marmaduke's division. You can see General Clark if
you wish."

"All right," said Yeager. "Show us in."

The officer of the guard instructed one of his men to conduct the
guerilla band to the house occupied by General Clark as headquarters,
near the centre of the town. The streets were swarming with Confederate
soldiers, and long lines of cavalry horses were hitched along the
sidewalks or tied to their picket lines in the middle of the streets.
Some of the soldiers were little better clothed than the guerillas, in
civilian garments of various hues and cuts, while others wore threadbare
suits of butternut jeans, and others still, many of them, were attired
in new uniforms of Federal blue, doubtless recently captured.

As they approached General Clark's headquarters, Jim suddenly left his
place and, spurring up beside Yeager, exclaimed, earnestly,

"Say, Cap, honest, I've got to be goin'. It's almighty important fer me
to get to Lexington."

"It's almighty important fer you to stay with me till you've saw General
Clark," replied Yeager, gruffly. "Now, don't be foolish or you'll git
hurt."

Jim was pale to the lips but, looking around, he saw the short man
following close after him and he continued riding beside Yeager. Arrived
at headquarters, the column halted, and the Captain dismounted and
entered. In a few moments a Confederate corporal with two men came out
and, walking over to Al and Wallace, ordered them to dismount. Then the
corporal noticed that their hands were tied behind them. He jerked out a
jack knife and cut the cords on their wrists, which were swollen and
bleeding.

"How long have you been tied that way?" he demanded.

"Since before noon, when we were captured," replied Wallace.

The corporal glanced at the guerillas about him.

"That's a fine way to treat helpless prisoners," he exclaimed, angrily.
"It 'ud take a gang like you-all, who dassent fight in the open, to
torture a kitten,--if yeh ever had nerve enough to catch one."

Some of the guerillas looked ugly, but they dared do no more in the
midst of a Confederate camp, and in great indignation the corporal
marched his squad and prisoners through the doorway and into the
presence of General Clark, who was seated at a table, with Yeager
standing before him.

"These are the prisoners, General," said Yeager, importantly.

"Yes, I see," replied General Clark, dryly, as he measured the evident
youth of the captives. Then he continued, addressing Wallace,

"Where have you boys come from?"

"From Dakota, where we have been fighting Indians," returned Wallace.

The General looked disappointed.

"Oh, is that it?" he asked. "You don't know much about matters around
here, then?"

"No, sir," Wallace answered. "We don't know anything about them. We were
coming down the Missouri on a barge, straight from Dakota, when we were
taken."

"Well, Captain," remarked the General, leaning back in his chair and
glancing at Yeager. "I don't see that your prisoners are of much value."

"Mebbe not," replied Yeager, somewhat crest-fallen. "But you'd better
see the feller that told me about 'em. Mebbe he knows somethin' more."

General Clark sent out the corporal and in a moment the latter returned,
leading Jim forcibly by the arm. The short, broad-shouldered guerilla
followed them. The deck hand was trembling visibly and his eyes were
wild but he was evidently striving to maintain his composure.

"What do you know about these prisoners?" demanded General Clark.

"I don't know nothin', General," answered Jim, his voice shaking. "Only
they're Yanks, an' I thought they ought to be turned over. I didn't
expect,--" he stopped short.

"Didn't expect what?"

"I--I didn't expect they'd be examined none, ner that I'd be dragged
into it. I thought they'd--they'd be shot."

"In the regular Confederate service we do not shoot prisoners of war,"
replied the General, turning a coldly significant glance upon Yeager.
"And why," he continued, addressing Jim, "didn't you want to be dragged
into it, as you say?"

The deck hand's eyes wavered and he made no reply.

"What are you so alarmed about?" persisted the General, leaning forward
and watching him suspiciously.

Al cleared his throat.

"Pardon me, General Clark," said he, "but I believe you will find on
inquiry that this man is a deserter from your service."

Jim started as if he had been shot.

"It ain't so!" he cried, wildly. "I ain't never been in the Confederate
army." He made an involuntary step toward the door, but his guard pulled
him back firmly.

"Why do you think that?" asked General Clark of Al.

"He was a deck hand on the boat I ascended the Missouri on," replied Al,
"and I had trouble with him. That's doubtless why he hoped to have me
shot. I judge that he was in the Confederate service only by threats and
boasts that he made to me, and he was probably in an Arkansas regiment."

"An Arkansas regiment?" the General asked. "We have a whole division of
Arkansas troops with us,--Fagan's."

A curious, gurgling gasp came from Jim's throat. His face was chalky.

"I never heerd o' Fagan," he sputtered. "Ner I ain't been in Arkansaw in
all my life."

"You are not convicted," General Clark said, calmly. "But the matter is
worth investigating."

He called the sergeant of the headquarters guard and directed him to
have Jim placed in close custody, and the deck hand was led away,
reeling and apparently almost fainting. Al never saw him again; and
though by chance he heard long afterward that Jim had, in fact, been in
an Arkansas regiment, he could never ascertain whether the young fellow
paid the penalty of death for his violation of his oath of enlistment.

When Jim had been led away, the General turned to Al and asked,

"You wear no uniform. Why not?"

"I am not enlisted in the army, sir. I am too young."

"Ah! You would not be in our service," the General returned, with a
smile. "But you are a Union sympathizer?"

"Yes, sir, I am," replied Al, firmly.

"Well, you appear to be a pretty bright boy," the General observed,
shrewdly. "I think it will be as well not to have you at large for a few
days. Corporal, lock these young men in that brick storehouse a block
below here, on the left side of the street. Mount a guard, give them
supper, and keep them securely till further orders."

As they were being marched out, they passed the short guerilla who had
championed them in the morning. He was lounging by the doorstep. Al
motioned to him and he caught step with them.

"We are very grateful to you for taking our part down there where we
were captured," said he. "We'd have been killed if it hadn't been for
you."

"Maybe," said the other, somewhat embarrassed. "But I didn't like the
way you were taken."

"How do you mean?"

"Oh, havin' that dough-faced shipmate o' yours come in to give yeh
up,--pervidin' we'd shoot yeh!"

"It was a low-down trick," said Wallace.

"I should say it was! I'm glad you tipped off the General to the kind of
a pup he is."

"Why are you so set against him?" asked Al.

"Aw, I just don't like his looks," returned the bushwhacker. "Yeh kin
see he's yellow, an' I sized him up fer a deserter when he got in such a
sweat to pull out."

"What's your name?" asked Al, as the man stopped, evidently not
intending to go as far as their prison with them.

The bushwhacker looked at him suspiciously.

"You needn't be afraid of me," Al insisted. "Perhaps we can do you a
good turn sometime."

For a moment longer the other hesitated, then answered,

"My name's Bill Cotton," and, turning, he walked away.

The boys were soon securely locked in their prison with a sentry before
the door. It was a small brick building near the river bank, and all its
windows were boarded up with heavy planks except a small square one
facing the river, the sill of which was about six feet above the floor.
They had been confined but a few moments when the corporal returned,
bringing a quantity of hardtack, a chunk of bacon, a pail of drinking
water, two blankets and a small box of ointment.

"There," said he, as he handed the various articles to the boys, "fill
yerselves up an' rub some o' this yere grease stuff on yer wrists. It
ain't the best; lard an' marigold juice is the best, but I ain't got
none, so I jest bought this in a store. I reckon it'll help some."

The boys thanked him warmly.

"That's all right," he replied. "I hate to see prisoners abused. I found
out how it felt myself, once. This is a kind of a nasty hole to put you
in but you'll likely be let out o' here an' paroled in the mornin', when
we start fer Glasgow."

"Are you going to Glasgow?" asked Al, suddenly interested.

"You bet we are," confided the corporal, sociably, "an' some o' Joe
Shelby's boys with us; got orders this evenin'. There's quite a bunch o'
your Yank friends up there, an' a big grist o' muskets, too, an' we want
the whole lot." He smiled genially at the boys in anticipation.

Al became alert and, therefore, cautious.

"I've understood Glasgow is a pretty strong position," said he,
carelessly. "You'll have to have a large force to take it."

The Corporal laughed. "Oh, we've got plenty," he rattled on. "There's
our whole brigade,--Clark's,--an' five hundred men from Jackman's
brigade, of Shelby; an' then old General Joe himself is goin' up this
side the river, so I've heard, to bang the town in front with artillery
while we bust in the back door."

"Well, I'll bet there are enough of our fellows there to hold it,
anyhow," declared Al, stoutly.

"No, there ain't; there ain't above a thousand Yanks there," answered
the corporal, with conviction. "An' we'll have four thousand. Besides
that, they don't know we're comin', an' we'll gobble 'em before they
wake up."

"That does seem like pretty big odds," admitted Al. "Still, I think
they'll hold you."

"No, they won't," repeated the corporal, as he stepped through the
doorway, key in hand. "Well, I got to be goin'. Bye-bye, Yanks. Sleep
tight."

The key turned in the lock and he was gone, leaving the boys to
themselves.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE DEFENCE OF GLASGOW


As soon as their kindly but indiscreet jailer was out of hearing, Al
exclaimed in a whisper, that the sentry might not overhear,

"Wallace, we must get out of here somehow and up to Glasgow to warn our
garrison. It may not do any good; I'm afraid the Johnnies will be too
many, but our boys mustn't be surprised if we can help it."

"No, indeed," agreed Wallace, fervently. "But how are we to get away?"

"We'll see," returned Al. "Hold me up while I look at this window. Be
mighty quiet, so the sentry won't hear us."

Wallace bent his back, and Al stepped on it and felt the iron bars of
the high window overlooking the river. Every one was firm and solid.

"We can't get through there," he whispered, after descending to the
floor again. "It would take two weeks' work to loosen one of those
bars."

Total darkness had fallen by this time, for in the middle of October
night comes much earlier than in the months of July and August, during
which the boys had been campaigning in Dakota and Montana. They started
around the room in opposite directions, feeling of the boarded windows.
When they came together again, Wallace said,

"There's one over here may do. The planks are spiked fast to the window
sill, but the sill seems to be rotten or loose."

He crept again to the window referred to, followed by Al. They found
that by working the planks back and forth they could move the portion of
the casing to which they were fastened. In a few moments they had an
opening large enough at the bottom for them to crawl through.

"This is mighty lucky, but let's wait a while," cautioned Wallace.
"There are too many people moving around, and the sentry is wide awake
yet."

They waited one hour, and then two. The sounds of voices and footsteps
gradually died away outside. For a long time their guard walked back
and forth on the ground before the door, then they heard him fling
himself down with a grunt.

"It'll be an hour and a half at least before he's relieved," whispered
Al. "He'll doze or sleep."

They waited fifteen or twenty minutes longer, then cautiously pulled out
the bottom of the planks and propped them with a small piece of board
they had found on the floor, so that they would not spring back. Then
one at a time they crept through the narrow opening. Once outside, they
tip-toed toward the river.

"I can't swim," whispered Wallace. "My arm hurts like fury since it was
tied back this afternoon."

"Then if we can't find a boat along here somewhere, you'll have to stay
or run off in the woods," replied Al. "It will be a long pull for me,
but I'll try to swim the river before I'll give up getting to Glasgow."

They made their way along the bank for some distance and presently, as
luck would have it, came to a small row-boat pulled out on shore. They
could find only one oar in it but they worked the boat down to the
water, got in and shoved off. The rapid current carried them quickly
away from the Arrow Rock bank and then, by vigorous paddling, Al
succeeded finally in bringing the boat to the opposite shore a mile or
so down stream. They stepped on land and pushed the boat out again to
drift on down river.

"Now I know the country from here to Glasgow like a book," said Al.
"I've been over it often with father. There's a road up here somewhere
on the bluffs, and when we strike that we can keep on going, right into
Glasgow. We'll have to hurry, though, for Clark's men will surely be
crossing pretty soon now, and we must get ahead of them."

It was now about eleven o'clock of the night of October 14, and the boys
were on Arrow Rock Point, fourteen or fifteen miles from Glasgow. But at
four the next morning, footsore and weary, they came to the picket post
at the bridge on the Boonville road across Gregg's Creek, near the
southern edge of town, and fifteen minutes later they were conducted
into the presence of Colonel Chester Harding, Jr., who, with a
detachment of his regiment, the Forty-third Missouri Volunteer Infantry,
and a few militia and citizen guards, was holding the place.

"Where have you come from?" inquired Colonel Harding, as soon as they
had introduced themselves.

"From Arrow Rock, sir," answered Al, somewhat breathless in his
eagerness. "We were taken from a boat on the Missouri River early
yesterday by guerillas and conveyed to Arrow Rock, where we were
imprisoned; but we escaped last evening and have come here to tell you
that Arrow Rock is occupied by Clark's brigade and part of Shelby's
division, of Price's army, who intend to attack Glasgow to-day."

Colonel Harding's face expressed surprise and concern.

"Are you sure of what you say?" he asked. "Are the rebels at Arrow Rock
part of Price's main army?"

"Yes, sir, they are," Al assured him, positively. "We were examined by
General Clark himself, and we later learned from one of his men that
they will attack Glasgow to-day. They are going to use artillery from
the west bank of the river and troops on this side, with artillery, too,
I suppose. They claim they will bring about four thousand men."

Colonel Harding arose and walked the floor. "If they do," said he, "I
fear they will defeat us. I have expected to be attacked by
bushwhackers, perhaps in large numbers, but not by Price's main column.
However, we will give them the best fight possible; and I thank you
heartily for the information you have brought me. My troops are already
bivouacked in battle positions, but I will warn them to be ready for
immediate action."

He put on his hat and started to the door, then turned back to Al. "I
see you are in civilian clothes," he remarked. "Do you want to fight if
there is an engagement?"

"Indeed I do, sir," replied Al, earnestly.

"Are you enlisted?"

"No, sir. I am not old enough."

"That is unfortunate," observed the Colonel. "You know, according to the
rules of civilized warfare, a man not regularly enlisted in the service
of a belligerent is liable to be punished by death if he fights in
battle and is captured. In case we should get the worst of this
encounter, you see you may be in a bad way unless you are in the
service."

"I shall fight, Colonel, and take my chances," replied Al, firmly. "I
can't stand by and see the Union flag fired upon without shooting back."

"That is the right spirit, my boy," said Colonel Harding. "But be
careful, and if you see things going against us, you had better try to
get yourself away quietly."

"I lived in Glasgow until two years ago, sir," Al answered. "I think I
shall be able to manage in case of disaster. Can we get guns? Private
Smith, here, is on sick furlough, and my revolver I hid in the boat when
we were brought to shore by the guerillas."

"Go to the court house and ask the ordnance officer," said the Colonel.
"There are thousands of stands of arms there. Good luck to you."

He turned and went out and the boys followed immediately, turning
however, toward the court house. They were provided, Al with a musket
and Wallace with a revolver, as he could use only his right hand. The
silence of early morning was brooding over the town as they emerged from
the court house, for the watchful troops around could do nothing but
wait for the enemy's blow to fall. But as they paused on the sidewalk,
the deep boom of a cannon resounded across the river, echoing back from
the bluffs, and a second later a shell crashed into the side of a
building about half a block away. They could hear the window glass
spatter on the ground in a jingling shower.

"There goes Joe Shelby's opening gun, if that reb corporal was right,"
exclaimed Al. "Come on!"

Wallace followed him and they ran south toward the bridge on the
Boonville road across Gregg's Creek, by which they had come in an hour
or so before. At a street corner they encountered three companies of
infantry going on the double-quick to the same point, with canteens
rattling against their bayonet scabbards. The boys fell in behind the
first company and kept on, until the column deployed into line along
the creek bank and the men threw themselves on the ground behind bushes
or whatever other cover offered. The bridge had been stripped of its
plank flooring by the picket guard, and only the bare stringers now
remained, offering no footing for an attacking column.

"My, but that's hard work, runnin' that way," panted a stout man beside
Al. "Wonder what the rebs are doin'?" He raised himself on his elbows
and peered ahead.

On the crest of the hill across the narrow valley two field guns frowned
on the bridge, the cannoneers standing motionless at their posts,
seeming to wait only the command to open fire. In front of them, long
lines of dismounted cavalry were reaching out, like slowly unfolding
ribbons, against the brown face of the hill. Al and Wallace watched them
curiously. Would they never cease to extend? All at once an officer on a
black horse darted up to the two field guns as if shot out of the woods
behind. They could see him point his arm toward the bridge, gesturing
emphatically. Then the cannoneers sprang to life, two vivid streaks of
fire spurted from the muzzles of the guns and Al felt, rather than
heard, a terrific explosion which seemed to take place all around him at
once. Following it came a sensation of intense, numbing silence that was
at length pierced by the thin, liquid vibration of a bugle, blowing
somewhere far off, "the charge." Then gradually other sounds came to his
reviving ear-drums, and he realized that a shell had burst directly over
his head, though he was unhurt. He glanced at Wallace, whose eyes looked
dazed.

"Wasn't that awful?" whispered Al.

"Awful, yes. Awful," repeated Wallace. He seemed almost beyond words.
But he suddenly hitched up on his knees, exclaiming,

"There, look! They're coming!"

Al turned his eyes to the front. The long, ribbon-like line of
Confederates was pitching forward down the hill and out across the floor
of the valley toward them. Two flags, fluttering blotches of red and
blue, tilted forward above it. Little ripples ran back and forth along
the line, like the wind ripples in growing wheat, as the men strained to
keep alignment; and ahead of them whirled a shrill, ear-piercing wave
of sound more united, more defiant and more formidable than any Indian
war-whoop the boys had ever heard. It came to their senses that they
were listening for the first time to that heart-chilling "rebel yell" of
which they had so often been told.

An officer walked rapidly along behind their own line, his voice,
high-keyed with excitement, striving vainly to be reassuring.

"Now, boys, now, don't get scared," he kept repeating. "Hang it all,
hold your fire, men! Hold your fire!"

All at once the volume of yells ceased. Al and Wallace looked to the
front and saw that the whole line of the enemy had stopped, rigid as a
fence. Even as they looked, a volley blazed along the line as if fired
from one gun. The fat man beside Al dropped his musket and began to cry,
frantically,

"Oh, oh, oh, my shoulder! Oh, oh, oh, my shoulder!"

There was no time to heed him. Through the wall of smoke before them,
created by the volley, again broke the Confederates on the run, their
dreadful yell preceding them, the two frayed battle flags eddying above
the smoke like the masts of catboats in a seaway.

"Lord, Al, they don't fight like Indians!" gasped Wallace, hoarsely.

As a photograph on the brain there came to Al a flashing recollection of
the broad plain fronting Tahkahokuty, bathed in the sunlight, with the
Sioux swooping and circling before the steadily advancing troops.

"No," said he, briefly.

The officer came behind them again, running, and bellowing above the
uproar,

"Company, rise! Fire by company! Ready! Aim! Fire!"

A volley as steady as that of the enemy flamed along the front of the
company. Al was conscious of a vague surprise that in such chaos the men
could maintain a discipline so machine-like. But the enemy's charging
line did not appear even to waver.

"Load! Fire at will! Commence firing!" howled the officer, jumping into
the air to look over the heads of his men at the enemy beyond the
creek. "Fast, boys! Fer Gawd's sake, put it into 'em fast!"

The muskets began to rattle in a disjointed way, Al's among the rest,
while Wallace's revolver popped viciously. Everything in front was
veiled in thin white vapors, and the men in the charging line resembled
shadows, dancing upon a curtain. But the Confederates, like a stampede
of buffalo, held to their headlong course. Shortly the officer bawled,
in a voice almost tearful,

"No use, boys! They're flankin' us. They're across the creek, up and
down. Come back; back to the buildings!"

Most soldiers fear being flanked more than death itself in front. The
men cast terrified glances toward the enemy, streaming past beyond their
wings, and broke like sheep for the rear, where the outlying houses of
the town looked down a gentle slope toward them. They were not
panic-stricken, but, as in one man, the instinct awoke in them to cover
their flanks and save themselves from the dreaded attack in rear. With
the enemy hard behind them and filling the air with exultant yells, they
swarmed into the buildings, like bees into their hives, smashing
through doors and windows in their haste and from these new havens of
refuge they resumed their interrupted fire desperately.

Al and Wallace, with five or six soldiers, made for a brick residence
standing back in a shady garden. By main force they tore a pair of
blinds from a shuttered window, crushed in the glass and sash with
flailing musket butts, and leaped through, landing upon the plush carpet
of a handsome parlor. The men swept up a polished mahogany table and
three or four rosewood chairs and jammed them into the vacant window,
then opened fire feverishly upon the enemy, who were already tearing
down the fence pickets in front of the house or leaping over them. The
Confederate line of battle had dissolved into groups during the
impetuous pursuit and the men, so dauntless in their advance across the
open fields, looked doubtfully at the yawning windows and doors of the
houses, each spitting fire, upon which they had now come. They
discharged a patter of harmless shots, then began to seek cover behind
trees, fences, or stones.

There was a sergeant among the men with Al and Wallace. He peered
through the rosewood chair-legs cluttered in the window, and cried,

"They're takin' cover, boys. We can hold 'em now. Here, Jones,
Throckmorton, Schmidt,--get upstairs. Shoot down at 'em;--drive 'em
back."

Al raised his voice. "This is the house of Doctor Falkner," he said. "I
know him well; he is a Union man. Treat the house as well as you can,
boys." To Wallace he added, "My father sold him all this furniture and
these carpets."

The soldiers glanced at him curiously. This regard for property in the
midst of battle was unusual. But the Sergeant answered, as he thrust his
musket barrel through the chair legs,

"Sure, we'll treat it as well as we can."

The Confederates beyond the front fence seemed all at once to have
become tired. They declined to be coaxed or urged forward by their
officers, but from behind their hiding-places they kept up a constant
pop-popping of muskets and carbines which gradually reduced all the
doors and windows on that side of the house to kindlings. Framed
pictures on the opposite walls were punctured, and here and there light
from the adjoining rooms shone through holes in the plastering. A
soldier in the parlor was desperately wounded and lay in a stupor on a
spot of the plush carpet which was sopping wet with blood, his head
pillowed on a gay silk sofa cushion. Now and then other soldiers dodged
into or out of the house through doorways on the side opposite to the
enemy, and once the officer who had directed the fight at the creek came
in, but finding the Sergeant in charge, left immediately. Time seemed to
stand still. The little garrison, wrapped in the absorbing occupation of
pumping lead at the almost invisible enemy in front, took no note of its
passage.

Outside, a steady, rattling roar seemed to envelop the whole town and
country around, pierced constantly by human voices, shouting, pleading
or commanding, now near and again distant. Once Al, his throat parched
with the choking fumes of confined powder smoke, darted back to the
kitchen in search of water. While he was drinking he heard a slight
creak and rustle, audible in the uproar by reason of its very lightness,
and, looking around, he saw a woman standing on the top step of the
cellar stairs, her hand on the door knob. He had to look twice before he
knew her, for when he had last seen her, her hair, now iron gray, was
brown, and her face, now wrinkled, was smooth and youthful.

"Why, Mrs. Falkner!" he stammered. "Why, are you here?"

She peered at him. "Al Briscoe!" she exclaimed, in a trembling voice.
"What on earth--why, how you've grown!"

She uttered the commonplace remark almost mechanically. She seemed
hardly to know what she was doing.

"Mrs. Falkner, you are in great danger here," cried Al.

"No, no; I am down cellar. I am safe if the house doesn't burn. Is it on
fire?"

"No, but it is being riddled with bullets."

"That is not so bad as fire," she answered, putting her hand weakly to
her head. "You will try to keep it from burning, won't you, Al?"

"I will do all I can, Mrs. Falkner," he answered, and before he could
say more she pulled the cellar door shut and disappeared.

He ran back to the front of the house. The Sergeant was peeping
excitedly past the edge of the parlor window. Directly he drew back,
crying,

"They're tryin' to get between us an' the next house!" He jabbed a
commanding forefinger at Al and Wallace. "Here, you--you; jump upstairs.
Shoot at 'em from the back windows. Stop 'em!"

The boys leaped up the broad, easy front stairway, three steps at a
time, wrenched open a bedroom door at the top and ran to a window
looking out over the back porch. Down along the side fence they could
see a dozen or more Confederates running, crouching low. They were
making for the porch. The boys fired simultaneously and they saw one man
drop, then wriggle off through the grass. Wallace's revolver continued
to bark while Al was reloading his musket, but the Confederates cast
frightened glances up at their window, and before he was ready to fire
again they had run back to the other side of the house once more. The
boys looked over the back yard and the town behind it, and their eyes
caught the roof of the court house, rising above the trees. A column of
black smoke was pouring from it, with a dull glare of flames through and
below it. Al caught Wallace by the arm.

"See! The court house is on fire!" he cried. "And all those thousands of
arms are in it."

Wallace looked at the burning building, then apprehensively back at Al.

"I wonder if a shell did it, or if it's Colonel Harding's orders?"

"There's no telling," answered Al. "If it's orders, it means that we're
whipped and the court house is being burned to keep the rebs from
getting the arms. Listen! Isn't the fire slacking up?"

It was true. The deep boom of the Confederate artillery had died out
from among the confused noises of the battle; and as the boys hearkened,
the continuous rattle of musketry diminished until only scattered,
individual shots could be heard. Then these ceased and a silence
followed, almost painful to the ears after the uproar.

"What can it mean?" asked Wallace, in an uneasy tone. Then he went on,
hopefully, "Perhaps the Johnnies have given up the attack."

They walked to the stairway and, as they went down, saw that the
Sergeant had opened the shattered front door and was standing on the
porch outside, while a Confederate officer, with a bit of dirty white
rag tied to the point of his sabre, was advancing up the walk toward
him. Something seemed to warn Al to keep out of sight and he stepped
into a corner where he could hear but could not be seen.

"What do you want?" demanded the Sergeant, gruffly, as the Confederate
reached him. "Be quick, or we'll open fire again."

"Your commander has surrendered the city and garrison, Sergeant,"
replied the Confederate, who wore the insignia of a major on his coat
collar. "You are prisoners of war. You have made a very gallant defence.
Permit me to congratulate you."

"Surrendered?" cried the Sergeant, in utter amazement. "Man alive, we
haven't begun to fight! We'll show you whether we've surrendered. Get
back to your lines, sir, before we fire!"

He stepped into the house to slam the door in the Major's face, but the
latter raised his hand with a gesture of authority.

"Just a moment," he said, soothingly. "I tell you the truth. Colonel
Harding has surrendered. We have broken through your lines on the north
and east of the city. There was nothing else for him to do."

The Sergeant's face was purple with rage.

"Well, I'll be--" he began, but he was interrupted by the entrance of
his own Captain, who laid a restraining hand on his arm.

"Frank, it's all over," exclaimed the Captain, in a broken voice. "We've
surrendered, Frank."

He dropped his hand with a despairing gesture, and two big tears rolled
from his eyes and coursed down his cheeks into his long, black beard.
Then he straightened up and flashed an indignant glance at the
Confederate officer.

"At all events, sir," he exclaimed, "you did not break through my line."

The Confederate bowed his head gravely.

"No, sir;" he replied, "we did not. You have fought nobly, splendidly,
against superior numbers. The whole garrison has covered itself with
honor."

The Captain seemed to be struck by his antagonist's politeness.

"Anyway," said he, "it is not so hard to surrender to a gentleman."

"Thank you, sir," the other answered. "Courage deserves at least the
meed of praise. And now you will please be good enough to assemble your
company from these various buildings and march them, under arms, to the
vicinity of the court house. The building was fired by your men before
we got in and it is now burning, but the formal surrender will occur as
near to it as possible."



CHAPTER XIX

REUNITED


Al waited to hear no more, but slipped through a convenient doorway and
out into the kitchen. He was just going to the cellar door when he heard
Wallace's voice behind him.

"I'm going to stay with you, Al," he said. "Where shall we hide?"

Al turned like a flash and caught his friend by the shoulder.

"No, you don't, now, old fellow!" he exclaimed. "I'm outlawed, and you
're not going to put yourself deliberately in the same fix; no, indeed!
You're going out and surrender with the rest of the garrison; and no
doubt the whole lot of you will soon be paroled, for I don't believe the
rebs will want to carry a crowd of prisoners very far."

"Well, I'm going to stay with you, anyhow," persisted Wallace, doggedly.

"Wallace, don't be a fool!" cried Al, impatiently. Then, seeing that he
must exercise diplomacy to make his friend follow the safer course, he
went on, "Don't you see that it would be harder for two of us to escape
than one, especially when you are disabled? I know Mrs. Falkner. She
will hide me until I can get away, but she could not so easily hide two
of us. Just give me your revolver and ammunition; that's all I want, and
you take my musket and surrender it, so there'll be no question about
your being unarmed. Nobody but Colonel Harding knows I'm here or who I
am; and, if it comes up, you can tell him I've cut out and escaped,
probably up-river."

"Al, I hate to do it," said Wallace, hesitatingly.

"You needn't. It's best for us both," insisted Al. "Now go; time is
precious, and good luck to you."

They gripped each other's hands in a firm farewell and Al stepped to the
cellar door and opened it. Then he turned and shook his finger at
Wallace smilingly.

"Mind, now; if you're paroled, I'll see you in St. Louis inside of ten
days, and we'll have lemonade together, with ice in it, at the ice-cream
parlor near Third and Olive Streets."

He closed the door behind him and felt his way down the cellar stairs,
his heart by no means as light as he had tried to make Wallace believe.

"Mrs. Falkner! Mrs. Falkner!" he called, softly, on reaching the bottom.

There was no answer.

"Mrs. Falkner!" Al repeated. "It's Al Briscoe. I'm in trouble."

He heard the rustle of her dress as she came toward him, saying,

"Al Briscoe? In trouble?"

"Yes," he answered. "The city has just surrendered. I have been
fighting, though I am not an enlisted soldier, and if the Confederates
catch me I shall very likely be shot. Will you hide me for a little
while until I can escape from the city?"

"Why, of course I will, Al," exclaimed the kind-hearted lady, forgetting
her own distress of mind in concern for him. "I am only too glad to help
you. What time of day is it?"

"It is about noon, Mrs. Falkner."

"Then you will hardly dare to venture out before dark," she said. "Till
then you can stay in the cellar. If you feel your way, you will find a
pile of boxes in the corner back here which you can hide behind, if you
wish. But I am living alone in the house, except for old Dinah, and she
ran away up town when the battle began. I think no one will suspect that
you are hiding here. Are you hungry?"

"I have not eaten since last evening, in Arrow Rock," Al admitted.

"I will see if there is anything to eat upstairs," said Mrs. Falkner. "I
suppose the house is completely wrecked?"

"Not altogether," Al replied, "but it is in pretty bad shape."

The lady went upstairs and presently returned with some food and a
candle.

"Oh, everything is torn to pieces!" she groaned, as she handed these
things to Al. "I don't know how I shall ever repair it, all alone, as I
am." Then she continued, "You can see to eat by this candle and then
you had better put it out, in case any one should look down the cellar
stairs. Then, if you want to sleep, I will keep watch; and after dark I
will waken you, and you can go to an old cave I know of, in a clump of
bushes not far back of the house."

"Yes, I know the cave," said Al. "It's the very place. Your son Frank
and 'Chucky' Collins and I made that cave. We used to have a pirates'
den there."

He smiled up at her as he bit into a pink slice of cold ham, the first
he had tasted in months.

"Oh, did you, Al?" asked Mrs. Falkner in a low voice. She was silent a
moment, then went on, slowly, "The Collins boy is in the rebel army.
Frank--Frank--was killed at Prairie Grove." Her voice broke.

The smile vanished from Al's face.

"Oh, Mrs. Falkner!" he exclaimed. "How sorry I am. Poor old Frank! And
your husband--Doctor Falkner?"

"Is a surgeon in Sherman's army," she said. "So long as he is left to me
I should be thankful, for I am only one of thousands who have lost sons
or husbands in our Nation's cause. What of your own parents, Al?"

Then he told her of his father's death and Tommy's capture and of his
mother and Annie in St. Louis. For some time they talked, then Mrs.
Falkner returned upstairs, while Al lay down behind the pile of boxes
and was at once wrapped in the profound slumber of exhaustion.

No one disturbed the lonely house during the remaining hours of the day
nor the early ones of the following night, for most of the Confederate
army was farther uptown or in bivouac outside its limits. Sometime
toward morning Mrs. Falkner awakened Al and conducted him cautiously to
the cave, leaving him there with an ample supply of food for several
days. The next day and night passed and Al still lay in his cramped
refuge, undisturbed, but very stiff and uncomfortable and eager to get
out and away.

During the second day Mrs. Falkner came to the cave and dropped a note
down to him through a crack in the roof. In it she informed him that
Colonel Harding and his command had been paroled the day before and
marched away toward Jefferson City accompanied by an escort, to be
delivered within the Union lines, wherever these might be met with. The
last of the Confederate troops, she wrote, had just left, crossing the
Missouri on steamboats and marching away westward, to join General
Price's main army. The town was still quiet, but every one feared that
gangs of guerillas would soon swoop down upon it; and she advised Al to
make his escape as soon as darkness came.

Taking his revolver and such of his remaining food as he could
conveniently carry, he accordingly crept out of his hiding-place soon
after nightfall and made his way to the southeastward, following the
country roads and keeping his direction by the stars. About six o'clock
the next morning he arrived on the river bank opposite Boonville. Making
inquiries of a negro, he found that the town was in possession of Union
troops, and he soon crossed the river on the ferry. To his surprise and
delight, the paroled garrison of Glasgow was just coming into town when
he arrived, Wallace among them. They were loud in their praises of the
kind treatment they had received at the hands of their captors, and
especially of the escort under Lieutenant Graves, which had brought them
down to the near vicinity of Boonville; for the Confederate soldiers had
shared their rations with the prisoners and made their march as
comfortable as possible in every way.

At Boonville the paroled men separated to await exchange; and Al and
Wallace continued their journey together, going down to Jefferson City
in an army wagon and thence by the Pacific Railroad to St. Louis, where
they arrived safe during the second morning after leaving Boonville.

"Wallace," said Al, when they stepped from the train at the station and
walked out into the street, where drays and omnibuses were rattling over
the cobble stones and busy throngs of people covered the sidewalks, "the
first thing we do must be to find an ice-cream parlor. We won't go to
Third and Olive; that's too far from here. But I want to drink that
lemonade with you. I allowed ten days, you remember, but now it is
only,--let me see,--five days. Then you will go out to Palm Street with
me and see how a surprise affects my mother and Annie and--" he
hesitated, then added, hopefully, "Tommy."

The refreshing drink was pleasant but they fairly gulped it down, for
Al, now that at last he had reached his journey's end, was feverishly
eager to see his dear ones once more. So they hastened to Fifth Street
and boarded a north-bound horse car, which soon carried them to Palm
Street, though to Al in his impatience the journey seemed hours long. As
they came in sight of the house, Al saw his mother in the front yard,
transplanting some flowers from a bed to pots. Her back was toward the
street and the boys approached within a few feet without her hearing
them. Then Al took off his hat and stepped up behind her.

"Excuse me, madam," said he, gravely, "but is this where Mrs. Thomas
Briscoe lives?"

His mother turned and gave one startled glance at the brown-faced youth
before her, in his rough, travel-stained clothes, then dropped her
case-knife and flower pot on the ground, crying, in a voice thrilling
with joy,

"Al, Al! My dear, dear boy!"

The next instant she was in his arms and both of them were laughing and
crying at once. As soon as the first warm greeting was over, Al asked
fearfully,

"Mother, have you seen or heard anything of Tommy?"

He need not have asked the question, for at this juncture a straight,
boyish figure bounded through the front doorway, cleared the steps in
one jump and sprang into Al's arms.

"What, Tommy?" cried Al, in amazed delight. "Can it possibly be you, so
big and strong? I would not have known you. How and when did you get
here?"

"They sent me down on another boat after the _North Wind_ burned," Tommy
answered.

"But how did you know to stop in St. Louis?" asked Al.

"Why, I hunted up Uncle Will, of course, to have him help me get to
Minnesota, and then I was so glad to find that mama and Annie were
here," Tommy replied. "What a hunt you have had for me, dear old
brother!"

"Yes, but now we are together again, so everything has come out for the
best, even though I didn't find you myself. Mother, where is Annie?"

"She is in school," answered Mrs. Briscoe. "But she will be home at
three o 'clock. Tommy should be there, too, but he will not start until
next Monday. He is far back in studies for his age."

"But he must have learned many things in the last two years which he
never could have learned in school," said Wallace, who had been warmly
and affectionately greeted by Mrs. Briscoe.

"Yes, I did," admitted Tommy. "It was a great life up there among the
Indians, and Te-o-kun-ko was always very good to me, and so were his
squaw and the children. I think a lot of them all."

"We were a little afraid you might grow to think so much of them and of
their life that you would not want to come back to us," said Al.

Tommy glanced at him reproachfully.

"Why, Al," he exclaimed, "how could you think I would ever care as much
for any one as for mama and you and Annie and--" a shadow crossed his
face, "papa," he added.

Al, judging that his young brother did not yet realize any connection of
Te-o-kun-ko with Mr. Briscoe's death, and deciding not to explain it
until some later time, answered,

"We couldn't be sure, Tommy, for you know such things have happened."

"I was always sure," remarked Mrs. Briscoe, calmly, and, indeed, there
was no question that her mother's instinct had been correct, as it
almost always is.

"Well," said Wallace, "with all the knowledge of the Indians and their
ways you have gained, you ought to make a capital scout."

Tommy looked at him thoughtfully. "Perhaps I will--some day," he
replied. "But first I want to learn the things that other fellows know,
because I don't believe that without them, it is much use just to be
able to ride and shoot and track game and so on."

"Now, Al," Mrs. Briscoe interrupted, turning toward the door, "we all,
your aunt and uncle, too, will be eager to know what has happened to you
in the last six months, especially since you started west from Fort
Rice. The last letter I had from you was the one you sent from there, on
the eighteenth of July."

"There has been no chance to send you any since," replied Al. "And I got
your last letter, dated June 20, at Fort Rice on my way down from the
Yellowstone. So we shall all have much to tell each other. Although I
didn't succeed in rescuing Tommy in the way I hoped to do," he put his
arm affectionately over his small brother's shoulders, "I believe this
trip of mine has been good for me, and will be in the future for all of
us."

And so, indeed, it proved, for the following year Al readily secured an
appointment to West Point through the hearty endorsements of General
Sully and other army officers whom he had come to know in the Northwest;
and the father of Wallace Smith, after the close of the war had brought
prosperity and new floods of settlers to the Minnesota frontier, was
able to help Mrs. Briscoe to such a profitable sale of her desirable
claim near Fort Ridgely that she had enough to live upon comfortably at
her sister's hospitable home in St. Louis, while Tommy and Annie were
completing their education in the excellent schools of that city, and
sometimes spending a vacation in cruising up and down the Mississippi on
Captain Lamont's fine steamer. Thus Al's unselfish enterprise on behalf
of his brother, begun under such discouraging circumstances, resulted,
directly or indirectly, in advancing the interests and happiness of
himself and all those dearest to him; and he never had cause for
anything but gratitude and rejoicing over the friends made and the
experiences gained during his adventurous Summer with Sully in the Sioux
land.


THE END





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