When Wilder and his Blackfoot friend entered their lodge, the former
sat down without speaking. White Shield gazed at him for some time,
with a sort of admiring awe.
“My brother is very brave,” said the Indian. “He is almost too brave.
He has done a great thing to-day; but he came near losing his life. He
had better be careful what he does now; for Good Ax looked at him very
strangely, and the hearts of the warriors were hot.”
“White Shield is a true brother,” replied Wilder, as he grasped the
hand of his friend. “Silverspur will never forget how his brother stood
by him in danger. You tell me that I must be careful what I do; but
there is one thing that I must do. I must see the girl, the daughter of
the white-haired chief.”
The Indian shook his head, and was silent.
“I must see the girl,” repeated Wilder. “If you will help me, there
will be no trouble about it. When I say that I will do a thing, I mean
to do it.”
“I have told you that Good Ax means that she shall be his wife, and no
one can oppose the head chief. My brother had better be careful what he
“I tell you that I must see her, and I will see her. I only ask to see
her and speak with her. If my brother will not help me, I will help
The Blackfoot sat in silence a few moments, looking strangely at his
“Wait for me,” he said, as he arose and left the lodge.
After the lapse of an hour, White Shield returned, and beckoned to
Wilder, who arose and followed him. They passed out of the village,
and came to a small stream, on each side of which was a fine growth of
timber. Entering the grove, White Shield pointed ahead of him.
“She is there,” he said. “I will wait for you, but will not hear you.”
As Wilder looked in the direction that was pointed out, he caught
sight of a woman’s dress, near the trunk of a large tree. He hastened
forward, and in a few moments was in the presence of Flora Robinette.
The young lady did not appear to be eager for the meeting. She did not
move from where she stood, and looked at him with wonder and something
of suspicion as he advanced and held out his hand.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“I wish I could believe it. I was told by the Indian who brought me
here that, if I would wait, I would soon see one of my own race; but
he said that you were no longer a white man; that you had joined the
Blackfeet. What is your name?”
“I am called Fred Wilder; but it matters not what my name is. I am a
white man and a friend. The Indian hardly told you the truth. He has
taken a fancy to me, has adopted me as his brother, and has introduced
me to his people; but I am far from considering myself one of them.
This morning I saved two white men from death by fire, and I hope to be
able to save you. It is certain that I shall use my best endeavors to
do so. Before this I would have seen you; but I did not know that you
were a captive, until I saw the Indians dancing around the scalps of
your father and another man.”
“My father’s scalp! Good God! this is horrible. Did they tell you whose
“They told me that it was his, and then I learned the particulars of
the attack upon his train.”
“There was another scalp, you say–what did it look like?” asked Flora,
with an accent and an air of painful interest.
“It was the scalp of a white man, and the hair was black, short and
“It was not his,” muttered Flora, with a sigh of relief.
“Of whom are you speaking?”
“Of no one in particular–one of our party. I thought that some of my
friends might have followed the trail of the Indians. Do you know who
those two white men were whom you saved from burning?”
“I do not know their names. One was an Irishman, with red hair, and he
seemed to be dumb.”
“That might have been Dennis Regan; but he was any thing but dumb.”
“The other was a tall and lean man, with keen eyes, a crooked nose, and
a very solemn face.”
“That was surely the man whom my father called Pap Byers. How did they
happen to be captured?”
“They were trying to take horses from the Blackfeet, and were
surprised. One was killed, and two were made prisoners.”
“Was there no other? Did you hear nothing more?”
“One man escaped, and he had a wonderful escape, if I understood the
account of the Indians.”
“Who was he?”
“Really, Miss Robinette, you question me very closely concerning a
person whom I have not seen. From what I have heard of him, it is my
opinion that he was George Benning, one of Mr. Robinette’s partisans.”
“Thank God!” exclaimed Flora, as her emotions found vent in a flood of
“It is plain enough that this young lady loves George Benning,” thought
Wilder. “He is a fine fellow, and I can’t blame her. Here is no chance
for me to fall in love, if I wished to do so, and I don’t. She is very
pretty; in fact, she is beautiful; but it is evident that I must go
further before I find my fate.”
Flora advanced, and held out her hand.
“I hope you will pardon me,” she said, “if I have shown distrust of
you. My father always spoke so harshly of men who had joined the
Indians, that I have thought they must be very wicked men. I must trust
you. I have no one else to look to, and God knows that I am grateful
for your offers of assistance. Heaven has raised up a friend to me in
my time of trouble, and I am indeed thankful. Do you think that you can
deliver me from the hands of these savages?”
“I can try, and I hope you will not accuse me of boasting, when I say
that I generally succeed in what I undertake.”
“Would they kill me if I should fail to escape?”
“I think not; but they might do worse. I am told that the head chief
designs taking you into his family.”
“I have heard that white persons have sometimes been adopted by
“To speak plainly, he intends to adopt you as his wife.”
“May God preserve me from such a fate! What shall I do, Mr. Wilder?
Save me, and I will pray for you as long as I live! Tell me what can be
“You can do nothing, at present, but return to the village. You must
leave the rest to me, and I do not know what I shall do; but you may be
certain that I will do all that a man can do. Here comes the Indian to
take you back.”
White Shield approached, and signified to Flora that the interview
had lasted long enough, and that she must return to the village. She
accompanied him, and Wilder, by the direction of his friend, went to
his lodge, where he passed a sleepless night in trying to devise a plan
to release her from her captivity.
When the day broke, he had hit upon nothing that seemed to promise
success, and he walked out, in the hope that the morning air would give
him inspiration. In the course of his walk, he came to the conclusion
that, if he was to accomplish any thing, it must be with the assistance
of White Shield, and he resolved to throw himself upon the mercy of the
When White Shield entered the lodge that morning, he found Wilder
seated on the ground, with his head buried in his hands, his attitude
and countenance denoting the deepest dejection.
“I am in great trouble,” he said, in answer to a question from the
Indian. “My heart is very sore.”
“Let my brother tell me his trouble. Perhaps I can help him.”
“No one can help me but you. If you do not help me, I can live no
longer. My brother, the daughter of the white-haired chief must not go
into the lodge of Good Ax. I must take her away from him. I must take
her away from the Blackfeet, and restore her to her people.”
“The Great Spirit has surely deprived my brother of his senses. He
speaks of something that can not be done.”
“It can be done, and it must be done. It can easily be done with your
help. Will you not help me?”
White Shield shook his head mournfully.
“Then I must die. I have pledged my word to the white maiden. I have
never yet broken my word, and, if I fail to keep it now, I can live no
“Let my brother follow me,” said White Shield, as he arose, with
troubled looks, and walked out of the lodge.
Wilder followed him through the village, and out into the hills that
lay to the westward. The young warrior went on swiftly and in silence,
until he came to the brink of a precipice, that reached down, full
three hundred feet in a perpendicular line, to the plain below. Here he
stopped, and turned to his companion, with outstretched hand pointing
“Let my brother ask me to throw myself from this rock,” said he, “and I
will do it. I am ready to die for my brother, when he bids me go to the
spirit-land; but he asks more than death. If I should do what he asks
me to do, I must betray my people, and must leave them forever; for I
should be cast out from among them, and even my father and my brothers
would seek to kill me.”
Wilder exhausted his arguments upon his friend, telling him that,
if such a step were necessary, he would be no loser by severing his
connection with the tribe, as he would be taken to the village of the
white men, where he would be shown wonders without end, such as he
could never have believed to be possible. The warrior sadly shook his
head, and begged his brother to order him to throw himself from the
“It is enough,” said Wilder, at last. “I can say no more. Here, White
Shield, is my rifle that shoots twice. I give it to you, and I know
that you will use it well. The pipe-holder, too, is yours. None like it
was ever seen among the Blackfeet. Take my powder-horn also, and keep
them all in remembrance of your brother.”
“What does my brother mean? Why has he given me these things?”
“I have no more use for them. I am going to the spirit-land. Keep them,
to remind you of Silverspur, whom you forced to die. I must break my
word, and I can live no longer. Farewell!”
Wilder stepped forward to the edge of the cliff, and threw up his hands.
With a sharp cry the Indian darted toward him, threw his arms around
him, lifted him up bodily, and carried him back to a distance from the
dangerous spot, where he laid him on the ground.
“Let my brother live!” said the warrior, as he kneeled by the side of
the white man. “I will do what he asks me to do, though he asks more
than my life. I will leave my people forever, and will follow him where
he chooses to lead me. Is my brother satisfied?”
Wilder could not help pitying the Indian, whose genuine emotion had
nearly overcome him; but he had gained his point, and he was satisfied.
The two returned to the village, where they shut themselves up in their
lodge, and made their arrangements for carrying away Flora Robinette.
During the day they selected five fleet horses–two for each of
themselves, and one for the young lady, and concealed them in the grove
where Wilder had his interview with Flora. They also secured sufficient
ammunition, and a good supply of provisions, which they concealed in
the same place.
After nightfall, when the village was quiet, White Shield set out
alone, directing his friend to go to the grove and wait for him.
As Wilder passed through the village, he saw a pole in front of the
medicine-lodge, from which were hanging the dried scalps of Mr.
Robinette and Sam Glass. Some strange impulse caused him to take the
gray scalp from the pole, and to thrust it into the bosom of his
hunting-shirt, the general receptacle of trappers for all odds and
ends. He then went to where the horses were concealed and waited for
the companions of his journey.
In a few moments they appeared, and Flora held out her hand to Wilder,
expressing regret for having distrusted him. He told her that they had
no time for words, that it was useless for her to thank him before he
had accomplished any thing, and that their present duty was to get away
from the Blackfeet as fast as possible.
They mounted, therefore, and rode swiftly toward the southwest until
they struck the main stream of the Missouri, which they followed in the
direction of the mountains.
After the failure of his horse-capturing expedition, the reflections of
George Benning were far from pleasant. He had not only met with poor
success is getting horses, but had lost his three companions. His own
escape had been wonderful, his life having been in the greatest peril,
and he was sure that a horrible death would be the fate of those who
had been taken. His only consolation was in the thought that he had
done all in his power to render the expedition a success, and that it
had not failed through any fault of his own. If he could blame himself
for any thing, it was only for having taken Dennis Regan as one of his
He found himself alone, and further than ever from the object which
he had undertaken, the rescue of Flora Robinette. He still had his
strength and his weapons, and had a good horse under him; but what
could one man do against a tribe of Indians? He had no thought,
however, of giving up the search; but was determined to persevere, if
it should take a lifetime, until he could recover the lady of his love,
or learn her fate.
He rode on until he was satisfied that the Indians did not intend to
pursue him any further, when he halted by the side of a wooded stream.
Here he kindled a little fire, cooked and ate his supper, and, after
tethering his horse, wrapped himself in his blanket, and lay down to
It was long before sleep visited his eyelids; but when it did come it
seemed that it would never leave him. He was awoke, at last, by some
strange sounds, which had formed part of his dreams. Starting up, he
perceived that it was broad daylight, and that he was surrounded by a
group of Indians. Many others could be seen in the timber and on the
plain, and a number of horses were feeding along the stream.
There was no chance to escape, if he had thought it advisable to make
the attempt. A brief glance showed him, however, that these Indians
were Crows, who were generally considered friendly to the white men,
although Pap Byers had been certain that they were Crows who had made
the attack upon Mr. Robinette’s encampment.
If he had any doubts, they were soon dispelled by one of the chiefs,
who approached him, and greeted him kindly, asking how he happened to
be there alone.
As it was possible that the opinion of Byers might have been correct,
Wilder thought it best to say nothing concerning the disaster to Mr.
Robinette’s expedition. He stated that he, with three companions, had
been endeavoring to recover some horses that had been taken from them
by the Blackfeet; that they were caught in the attempt, and his friends
had been killed or captured, while he had made a narrow escape from his
The chief informed him, in return, that they were a war-party, who had
set out for the purpose of taking some horses or scalps, and asked how
far it was to the Blackfoot village.
Wilder replied that it was distant not more than two hours’ ride, and
pointed out the direction in which he supposed it to lie. At the same
time he proffered his services to the Crows, if they should attack the
Blackfeet, hoping that his friends had been captured, and that he might
be able to rescue them.
Spies were sent to reconnoiter the village, and the Crows staid where
they were during the remainder of the day. Toward evening the spies
came in, and reported that the village consisted of about two hundred
lodges, but there did not seem to be many warriors in it.
The Crow chief waited for another band, that was expected the next
day. On their arrival, he divided his warriors into two parties, one
of which was to attack the village from the west, and the other from
the east. Shortly after dark they had reached their stations; but their
approach had been discovered, and the surprise was not as perfect as
they hoped to make it. They charged in, however, and, after a brief
struggle, drove their adversaries from the village.
Those of the Blackfeet warriors who survived this contest, together
with their women and children, took refuge in a dense thicket, where
they fortified themselves as well as they could, and defended the
position with the obstinacy of despair.
While the efforts of the Crows were devoted to dislodging their enemies
from this refuge, George Benning hastened through the village in search
of his late companions.
He soon found Pap Byers and Dennis Regan. They had been left in an open
lodge, guarded by two Indians. When their guards had been killed or
driven away, they came out, and found themselves at liberty.
Byers was very thankful for his deliverance and expressed gratitude
quite warmly; but the Irishman remained silent. Instead of replying to
the questions that Benning addressed to him, he only shook his head,
and pointed to his tongue.
“What is the matter with Denny?” asked the partisan, in surprise.
“The critter has gone dumb,” replied Byers. “When I told him that the
red-skins allowed to burn us, he swore that he wouldn’t speak a word
for six months, if he could git out of the scrape. I thought the durned
fool was jokin’; but it seems he was in ‘arnest, as he has helt out so
fur without speakin’.”
“If he had made that resolution earlier, it would have been better for
all of us. How did it happen that you were not burned?”
“The red-skins took us out to roast us. They tied us to stakes and
built a fire around us. It was all up with this child, I allowed, and
the fire was jest beginnin’ to scorch, when a white man stepped in and
scattered the fire, and swore that they shouldn’t burn us while he
“I should think he would not have been likely to live long, after that.”
“I tell ye, cap’n, he skeered ’em. Some of them red-skins nearly turned
white. Thar was some talk, and then a lot of red-skins j’ined the white
man, and thar was a right smart chance fur a big row; but it quieted
down arter a bit, and then they turned us loose.”
“It is very strange. It is seldom that a white man gains such
influence among the Blackfeet. Do you know who he was?”
“They called him Silverspur. He was young, but a right smart chance of
“Silverspur? I have heard of him; in fact, I have seen him. His name is
Wilder, if I remember rightly. He is a brave man, and fine-looking, but
of an unsettled disposition. It would not surprise me if he had joined
the Blackfeet. If he has, they will not keep him long. What has become
of Sam Glass?”
“He was killed in the scrimmage. The red-skins danced over his scalp
and Mr. Robinette’s the night they took us.”
“Yes, sir. I was mistooken about its bein’ the Crows who raised the old
man’s ha’r. They were Blackfeet who pounced onto us.”
“Did they carry away Miss Flora, or was she killed? Have you heard any
thing about her?”
“She was here; but she’s gone now; and that’s why you had sech an easy
time whippin’ this village of Blackfeet. Ef it hadn’t been fur her, the
job would hev been a leetle tougher, I reckon.”
“How so? What do you mean?”
“I heerd the red-skins torkin’ about it. That white man, Silverspur,
kerried her off last night, and one of the red-skins went with him.
Leastways, she was missin’, and so war those two men. Thar was a big
hullabaloo raised this mornin’, as the head chief had sot his eye on
her fur a wife, and they war mad, too, about the red-skin goin’ off
with Silverspur. A right smart chance of warriors mounted and rode off
arter ’em, and that’s how thar warn’t many in the village when you
“Was she willing to go with that–with Silverspur?”
“How do I know? I reckon she was, as she mought easy enough hev staid
here, whar a thousand red-skins wanted to keep her.”
“Of course. I ought not to have asked such a question. When did the
“The sun was nigh an hour high when they got off.”
“Shouldn’t wonder if the cap’n has gone crazy,” muttered Byers, as
George Benning hastened away, in search of the chief who commanded the
war-party of the Crows.
He had met him returning from the thicket in which the remaining
Blackfeet had taken refuge. In their efforts to dislodge their enemies
from that position, the Crows had sustained serious loss, and had
concluded that the game was not worth the candle. They had abandoned
the siege, therefore, and were about to collect the horses of the
Blackfeet, preparatory to returning home.
It was Benning’s belief that the Blackfeet warriors who had gone in
pursuit of Silverspur and his companions would be likely to overtake
the fugitives, in which event they would at once return to their
village. He hoped to be able to induce the Crows to follow their trail,
and meet them as they came back. They would thus easily gain another
victory, which ought to be, as he supposed, a sufficient inducement for
them to do as he wished them to.
But the Crow, when Benning presented this view of the case to him,
steadily refused to do any thing of the kind. His party had come but
for a special purpose, he said. That purpose had been accomplished, and
it was their duty to return. Besides, several warriors had been lost in
the attack upon the Blackfeet in the thicket, and it was their custom,
when such a misfortune had befallen a war-party, to return immediately
to their village, and to mourn for the fallen before attempting any
All the arguments that Benning could use were ineffectual to change the
determination of the chief, and he declared his intention of following
the trail alone, in the hope that chance might in some way give him an
opportunity of aiding Flora Robinette.
From this he was dissuaded by Pap Byers and the chief. The former
represented to him that he would be unable to do any thing alone, and
the latter advised him to accompany the warriors to the Crow village.
He might there represent the case, the chief said, to Bad Eye, the
chief of the village, who would be sure to sympathize with him, and
would probably place a body of warriors under his control, for an
expedition against the Blackfeet.
These arguments were so strongly advanced, and appeared so reasonable,
that Benning reluctantly consented to accompany the Crow warriors, and
set out with a heavy heart.
It must be said, although George Benning would not have liked to make
the admission, that he felt very ill at ease concerning the company in
which Flora Robinette had left the Blackfeet. He had hoped to rescue
her himself; but another had been before him, and that other was a
handsome, brave, and impulsive fellow, who might be as energetic and
victorious in love as Benning knew him to be in war. What could be more
likely than that he should fall in love with fair Flora Robinette, and
what better opportunity could a man have for pressing his suit, than
just when he had rescued the lady of his love from captivity among
The more Benning thought of this, the more it troubled him. From what
he had seen and heard of Fred Wilder, he had formed a high opinion of
him; but he now began to torture himself with doubts and suspicions,
which were not flattering to the character of Silverspur. If that
person should succeed in getting Flora safely out of the clutches of
the Blackfeet, there was no knowing what mean advantage he might take
of her position and his achievement. Benning had never declared his
love to Flora. He had thought that she had perceived it, and he had
seen indications that led him to hope that his love was returned; but
that was all. It would be only natural, if Wilder should address her,
that she should feel herself bound in honor to listen favorably to
the man who had saved her from a fate that might have been worse than
death. It was highly probable, indeed, that she would consent to marry
him, if she found that no objection could be urged against him.
These thoughts troubled the young partisan so much, that he had little
rest during his journey with the Crows, and he was glad indeed when
they reached their village.
When the ceremony of reception was over, and while the whole village
was lamenting for the fallen braves, he sought the head chief, Bad Eye,
to whom he told his story, declaring that he believed Flora Robinette
to be still in the possession of the Blackfeet, and beseeching aid to
deliver her from their hands.
Bad Eye was a fine-looking Indian, considerably past middle age,
differing somewhat in features from the rest of the Crows, if not
in color. His left eye was sightless, from which peculiarity he had
received his cognomen; but the remaining eye was unusually bright and
He listened to Benning’s tale very attentively, and the partisan,
knowing the usually stolid nature of the Indian character, was
surprised at the emotion which he manifested.
“The white-haired chief, then, is dead,” he said. “Some worse men
have died, and many better men. He was hard in his dealings with the
red-men, but did not treat them as badly as some traders have done.
The Blackfeet must not keep his scalp, to dry in their lodges, if
Bad Eye can take it from them. But his daughter is safe, I think. I
know something of Silverspur, and I know that he always does what he
undertakes to do. I must think of this matter. I can do nothing without
consulting the counselors. When I know what to do, I will tell you.”
Benning was obliged to be satisfied with this answer, and he waited
impatiently to learn the intentions of the chief.
Flora Robinette, with her white and red companions, rode rapidly away
from the Blackfeet. It was her wish, as Wilder had ascertained, that
she might be taken direct to her father’s usual trapping rendezvous,
on the head-waters of Green River. In accordance with this wish, they
soon crossed the Missouri, and shaped their course toward the south,
intending to keep near the hills, in order to avoid wandering parties
of Crows or other Indians.
White Shield, with a gloomy countenance, led the way, seldom speaking
unless he was spoken to. Wilder and Flora followed, with little to say
to each other.
The Blackfoot came to the conclusion, in the course of the night, that
it would be better to cross the mountains at a pass near the waters
of the Missouri than to remain on the eastern side of the range. The
route, therefore, was again changed toward the west.
When morning came, they halted to prepare some food. Flora was so
exhausted by loss of sleep, and by the long and rapid ride of the
night, that she needed rest; but she was so fearful and excited that
she was unable to snatch a few moments’ sleep. She sat by the fire, and
conversed with Wilder, while White Shield, moody and meditative, sat
apart, and smoked in silence.
“I hope you have forgiven me,” she said, “for distrusting you when
you first offered me your assistance. I heard that you had joined the
Blackfeet, and I was afraid of you.”
“Perhaps you were afraid that I would fall in love with you, and that
I would try to push George Benning from the throne. You need not have
entertained such a fear, as it is not at all likely that I will fall in
love with you.”
“That is consoling, if not complimentary.”
“You are beautiful enough, no doubt; but I believe I am proof against
beauty. If you happened to have a sister, and if she happened to be
as beautiful as yourself, and a little older, and not quite so highly
civilized, I might fancy her; but you are not wild enough, Miss
Robinette, for Fred Wilder.”
“Unfortunately, I have no sister. I hardly know for which I ought to
be the most grateful, for my deliverance from the Indians, or for your
kindness in not falling in love with me.”
“It must be a satisfaction to know that you have not jumped out of the
frying-pan into the fire. But this is too serious a subject to joke
about, Miss Robinette. You are not safe yet. It is a long journey to
the rendezvous, and God only knows what enemies we may meet before we
reach it. The Blackfeet, too, will be likely to follow us; but I hope
we have too good a start to let them overtake us.”
“We ought to make sure that we escape, at least. Ought we not to
continue our journey?”
“I suppose we must, if you really can not rest. My Blackfoot brother
seems to be getting uneasy.”
In fact, White Shield came up at that moment, and told them that they
must delay no longer, that Good Ax and his warriors would be on their
trail, and that it was necessary to cross the mountains before they
should be overtaken. They mounted, accordingly, and set forward at a
A few hours’ ride found them fairly within the hills, and they halted
on the summit of the highest they had reached, for a brief rest.
Their rest was very brief. The Blackfoot, looking back on their trail,
pointed out to Wilder some dark objects that were speeding across
the plain in the distance. It was soon evident that the dark objects
were men on horseback, and that they were following the trail of the
The white and red friends looked at each other. They knew that those
Indians were Blackfeet who were bent upon their capture, and their
looks denoted a determination to die rather than be taken.
“What shall we do, White Shield?” asked Wilder. “For my part, the
Blackfeet shall not take me alive. I will fight them to the last.”
“White Shield will fight with his brother. He can do nothing else. The
Blackfeet hate me worse than they hate you. If we were only men, we
might escape; but we have a woman with us, and she is now very tired.”
Flora Robinette, who had listened to the conversation, and who had seen
the approaching enemies, begged her friends to make haste to escape
while there was time to do so. She was not tired, she said. She could
ride as fast as they wished to ride, and they need not be afraid that
she would hinder them.
“There is but one thing to do,” said the Blackfoot. “The pass is a
difficult one, and there is a place at which one man can defend it
against a hundred. We will stop there, my brother, and will fight.”
“Let us make haste, then, and reach it.”
The lapse of an hour found them in a narrow defile in the heart of the
mountains. With difficulty they forced their horses up a steep incline,
to the summit of the declivity, beyond which the trail was broad and
easy. The Indian stopped and looked back, pointing down the defile.
“There are not enough warriors with Good Ax,” said he, “to take this
pass, while it is defended by one brave man.”
“But they might surround us,” replied Wilder, “or they might starve us
out in time.”
“I shall not stay here long enough to get hungry; but we will gain
time. I will defend the pass, while my white brother and sister ride on
and get far from their enemies.”
“You will do no such thing, White Shield. We can not allow you to
sacrifice yourself for us, or to fight the Blackfeet, who are your
“I am no longer their brother.”
“But you must not fight them. I will defend the pass, while you ride
forward with Miss Robinette. You need not object, for I am determined
that it shall be so. Is there any way by which the Blackfeet can get
“There is a way; but it would take them several hours to get behind
“Ride on, then, and I will keep them off as long as I can. Don’t be
afraid, Miss Flora. You may safely trust yourself with my brother.”
The Indian reluctantly consented to this arrangement, and pointed to a
white-topped peak, far to the westward.
“The trail is plain enough,” said he, “and it leads to that peak. If
you do not find us there, you will find an arrow, to show you which way
we have gone.”
Flora rode away with the Indian, after a few words of encouragement
from Wilder, who then set himself at work to strengthen his position.
His first care was to collect a number of bowlders, as large as he
could lift or roll. These he placed at the head of the declivity,
blocking up the defile, until the pile was breast high.
This done, and the condition of his rifle and ammunition carefully
examined, he sat down to fortify his inner man, while he calmly awaited
the approach of the Blackfeet.
It was about noon when he heard them coming, and soon he saw them, and
was able to count them, as they entered the defile. They were twenty
in number, including the chief, who was conspicuous in the advance.
All had led horses, so that they could change when the animals they
rode became weary, which accounted for the rapidity with which they had
followed in pursuit.
On they came, urged forward by the chief, uttering guttural
exclamations as they forced their animals up the incline.
It must be said, to the credit of Fred Wilder, that he was unwilling to
cause the death of any of the red-men whose hospitality he had lately
shared, unless self-defense should compel him to do so. He hailed them,
therefore, and ordered them to halt.
A parley ensued between him and Good Ax, by whom he was at once
recognized. The chief demanded that Flora Robinette and White Shield
should be given up, promising the white man that he would be allowed to
go his way. Wilder declared that nothing of the kind should be done,
adding that his red brother and the lady were far beyond pursuit. If
the Blackfeet attempted to force the pass, he said, they would do it at
the peril of their lives. As he did not wish to hurt them, he advised
them to go home.
Good Ax was so enraged that he ordered an immediate attack. The
Blackfeet led their horses down the slope, to be out of the way, and
rushed up to the assault; but Wilder was ready for them.
Having arranged his bowlders for immediate use, he sent one of them
whirling down the declivity, and followed it with another. The Indians,
unable to escape the ponderous missiles that came bounding and
thundering among them, screamed and yelled like demons, and all who
were able to do so made a precipitate retreat.
Wilder took advantage of the pause that ensued, to again advise them
to go home, assuring them that it went quite against his grain to harm
his good friends, the Blackfeet. A volley of execrations was the only
answer he received, and the Indians, unwilling to face the rolling
stones, sought such cover as they could find, hoping to pick him off
with their guns.
Safe behind his barricade, Wilder watched their proceedings very
composedly, not deigning to reply to their fire unless they showed a
disposition to approach him, when a well-directed shot from his rifle
warned them to keep their distance.
Affairs continued in this condition for upward of half an hour, and the
young man was beginning to wonder when there would be a change, when he
was startled by a slight noise above him, and a piece of stone fell at
his feet. Knowing that there must be some cause for such an effect,
he looked up, and saw an Indian clinging to the side of the rock, and
another making his way in the same direction. They had gone thus far
unobserved; but the foremost had stepped on a narrow ledge, which had
shaken under his weight, causing him to utter a slight exclamation.
Seeing the looseness of the ledge, Wilder pried it out from the main
rock with his tomahawk, and it fell with a crash, dropping the Indian
at his feet. It took Wilder but an instant to dispatch this foe with
his tomahawk, and then, seizing his rifle, he shot down the other, who
was still clinging helplessly to the face of the cliff.
The Blackfeet, who had counted on the attempt of their two braves to
divert the attention of Wilder from their main attack, rushed fiercely
up the defile, but soon found that he was not to be taken unawares.
Rolling over two of his bowlders, he sent them crashing down among his
assailants, sweeping them away at a serious loss of life and limb.
Then came another season of comparative quiet, which lasted until
Wilder began to suspect that the Indians, or a portion of them, had
gone around by the route which White Shield had spoken of, with the
intention of getting in his rear. Reconnoitering as well as he could,
he came to the conclusion that his suspicions were correct, and that it
would be best for him to make his exit as speedily as possible.
Collecting more bowlders, he piled them up in front of him, jamming
them in for the purpose of blocking up the defile as well as he could,
and of concealing his movements from the enemy. As he would have
several hours’ start of the Blackfeet who had gone around, he had
nothing to fear but from those who might have been left in front to
watch him. It would probably be some time, he calculated, before the
latter would discover that he had evacuated the position. Then it would
take them half an hour to get up the slope with their horses, and about
as much longer to demolish his barricade. This would give him plenty of
time to get out of the way.
He quietly led his horses down to the plain and broad trail, where
he mounted and rode off at a gallop. He did not slacken his speed,
except when he stopped to change from one horse to the other, as he was
anxious to reach before night the peak which White Shield had pointed
out to him. It was further off than he had supposed it to be, and it
was dusk when he found himself at its base.
He was soon convinced that White Shield and Flora were not in the
vicinity, and he found, after a little search, a split stick with an
arrow stuck in it, pointing toward the south. They could not have got
very far ahead of him, he thought, and he hoped that he might be able
to overtake them where they had stopped to rest for the night.
He rode on; but he soon learned that following their trail was slow
work to a man in the saddle, although the moon was shining. He then
took his course by the stars, and rode south at a gallop, believing
that he could not go far out of the way, and every minute expecting to
overtake his friends.
He rode until the night was half gone, and the moon was down, without
seeing a sign of a human being. Sure that he must have overtaken them
if he was on the right track, and being greatly fatigued, he deemed it
best to camp where he was for the night, and to hunt for the trail in
He tethered his horses, wrapped himself in his blanket, and laid down
to sleep. Thoughts of his missing friends troubled him for a while; but
they were soon swallowed up in a deep and dreamless slumber.