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his horse like some old Covenanter. His head was bent forward as if listening. His set jaw, the deep, earnest meaning of his ordinarily cold hazel eye, his hand clenched quivering on the hilt of his revolver, demonstrated his faith in the high purpose to which he had devoted himself.
Wilson acknowledged the propriety of caution. They dismounted and drove the pack-animals together at the bottom of the slope.
They then rode on.
Again and again, they heard the dull reports of the fire-arms, which had first awakened their attention.
They spurred their tired horses; they were excited by an almost ungovernable curiosity; they drew near to the combatants.
As they approached a broad swale of the prairie, Gardiner halted-he dismounted. 66 Hold the horses," he said. "I am a better frontiersman than you. Remember that you could never stalk an antelope-I can. You are now excited-I am calm. It is, therefore, better for you to remain here for me to go on. Dismount, and thus take the weight from the back of your tired horse. Now cling hard to both the bridles: the ponies may get excited and try to break away from you. If
I am observed, make for the fort. My papers are in the holster, and you know their value."
"Go on," replied Wilson, who knew the peculiar character of his companion. "Go on, I will do as you tell me. In a horn," he added, as he cautiously followed the earnest northerner and led the two horses through the long grass. "In a horn, old Yank. I would not see a hair of your head hurt for all the abolitionists that ever stood beneath the shadow of Bunker Hill monument."
It was no time for conversation. Making a motion to his companion, Gardiner bent down, and, hiding himself in the tangled grass, crawled slowly to the summit of the mound they had approached.
The scene before him was fearful as unexpected. A half score of mounted Indians occupied the plain below. They were circling near a small copse of cotton-wood, where lay, hidden from view, some object to which their attention was devoted.
At intervals, the dark forms of the Indians moved rapidly around the low cover, and, at such moments, a chorus of wild yells reached the attentive ears of the friends on the mound.
"They have driven the Grizzly to his lair," said Gardiner. "The horse of
Kaya has tired, and he has taken to the bush. I swear they dare not come within gun-shot of the cover," he cried exultantly.
"Hurrah for the gallant half-breed! It is he to a certainty."
"What shall we do?" said Wilson. "Shall we ride on ?"
"Not at all-by no means," replied Gardiner. "I will load the spare cylinder of my heavy Texan six-shooter for a reserve, and then discharge the pistol. It will cause these fellows to break up their party for a reconnoissance. In the mean time, the quick senses of Kaya will demonstrate to him the class of arm by the peculiar sound of the report. I will know that we are near him. will make a break to us, or, the Indians being divided, we will make a rush through them to the cover. We shall probably pass the night in that covert, and, perhaps, to-morrow. If we ever reach it, they can only beat us by starving us out; and, by filling your saddle-pockets with dried meat, that
will be guarded against." The New Englander seated himself upon the ground and became busy with Colt's immortal fire-arm.
Soon rising, he ran down the hill, dragging with him by their bridles the two riding horses, and then discharged the loads in quick succession. While he knelt over the weapon to replace the discharged cylinder with a loaded one, his comrade saw the Indians dashing about in wild confusion.
Gardiner had replaced the loads in his revolver, and now joined his companion.
Suddenly a wild shout shook the stillness of the autumn air. The next instant, they saw the gray horse of the Kaya dash out of the wood. In the distance he seemed to approach them riderless.
The half-dozen Indians in waiting, rode madly in pursuit. The gray horse came gallantly on. In a few moments they could discern the form of the half-breed. He was hanging from
the saddle. Twice they saw him change
"he has Good!" cried Wilson. changed horses in the mêlée. He has struck down the Indian from the fine black horse, and is now riding him."
right. The form of the mountaineer
The Indian faltered, caught wildly at the air, his head settled forward, he lost the motion of his horse, jolted heavily in the saddle, clutched at the mane of his animal, and then fell to the ground. His companions halted, and the brave mountaineer galloped up to his former comrades. He was a terrible spectacle. His white hunting-shirt was stained with gore. His blood-shot, haggard eyes stared on the excited men who had come to seek him. arrow had transfixed his shoulder, and
THE CHASE BY THE BLACKFEET.
"White man versus Indian," said Gardiner. "He has certainly struck some great chief; see, he is only followed by three warriors--two have stopped by the fallen brave; but now be ready. Do not shoot unless the Indian is coming straight towards you, and as there are only three of them, the nearer the better.'
Kaya seemed to know, as if by instinct, where the friends lay, and rode to them as directly as the crow flies. Suddenly a tall warrior wheeled his horse almost across that of the mountaineer. The half-tamed animal which Kaya bestrode, swerved short to the
stood up as from a quiver behind his
He then staggered down from the fierce horse he bestrode, and, throwing the end of the lariat* rope to Gardiner,
* Long line of hair rope, by which the Indian horse is ridden and secured.
knelt and reloaded his gun, and then discharged it at the group of Blackfeet. They divided, and at last the Indians fairly broke for the bottom-lands, leaving the body of the slain chief on the ground. Kaya as suddenly mounted his horse, and, with a stifled yell, started in mad pursuit. He drew up and dismounted at the side of the fallen chief, with one quick stroke of his knife tore the scalp from his head, again mounted and dashed on after the braves, from whom he had apparently fled a few moments before.
"He seems maddened by his wounds," said Gardiner. "But now is our time." The pack-animals were soon collected and driven headlong toward the thicket. The sagacity of the Indians, but for a moment at fault, soon detected the full number of their foes, and, with the fierce war-whoop of the northern tribes, they dashed towards them.
The thicket," cried Gardiner," the thicket; drive up, drive up, don't stop to shoot! The cover is our only safety! Hurra for the gallant Kaya, here he comes again! He has driven the first party out of our path."
As he spoke, the half-breed again appeared in sight around the corner of the wood.
Gardiner threw his short rifle across
his arm. "Do not imitate me," he said, and turned in his saddle. The Blackfoot warrior nearest them instantly wheeled from the line, and swung out of sight behind his horse. The crack of the rifle was heard, and the gallant dark steed of the Indian stumbled, and then fell forward, shot through the shoulders. Instantly renewing the charge, Gardiner again raised the efficient weapon. Covering horse and man as they rode straight towards him, he brought the second Indian to the ground.
The thicket was but a few paces in front when the half-breed again passed them like a spectre of death, and the next moment was wheeling among the discomfited Indians. "Turn no more," cried Gardiner; "Kaya will engage them."
They reached the cover, drove the sluggish animals toward an indentation of the swampy ground, and, as the Indian ponies stopped, and with their natural sagacity pawed the moist earth, they once more shook hands together and dismounted.
The silence was broken by a call from Wilson. "The gray mule scents something here to the right," he said. "We are approached from the river."
At once Gardiner assisted the halfbreed to his feet.
The arrow had been extricated; but the white hunting-shirt was wet with the blood of the uncomplaining Kaya.
He staggered against a tree, and eagerly reached out his hand for the gun which Wilson brought to him. Then the shrubbery was parted, and the beautiful face of a young Indian woman looked out upon them. It was wan with fatigue and exhaustion. With a single glance around she came forward, paused, and then, with a bound,.knelt at the feet of Kaya. She caught his bloody hand to her face, pressed it to her cheek, and murmured low, sweet words of the Indian tongue.
Kaya stood with his face averted from the companions. He did not look at the young squaw, who now cuddled down like a little child beside him, or notice her presence.
"Thank God!" cried Gardiner, "that woman is safe for the present at least. Throughout our day's ride my imagination has presented her to me, tortured by the Blackfeet in their most hellish style. Her child is gone, though. She has lost the son of the most noted scout of all these northern regions, which is sorrow enough to her, you may well believe. Ah, Wilson. my boy, I'd hardly know whether that cry of yours, a few minutes since, was a laugh or a groan. At any rate, it was most too loud for safety, and, if heard by the Piegans, will tell them we have struck joy or grief here in the thicket. Probably they will think that we have run on the lair of a grizzly. It is getting late in the day. When night comes the Indians will be upon us howling; but they may be here at any moment. In an Indian skirmish nothing frets me so much as silence. I do not then know which way to meet, or where to expect, the blow which, in the present case, is, I think, sure to be dealt."
As they went toward the edge of the thicket, Wilson stole a look at the guide. Kaya had sat down upon the ground; his head was leaning on the slight form of his young wife. She had clasped it with both her hands; her lips were pressed to his broad, high forehead.
"He is her idol, her life, her faith," murmured Wilson, and sighed as he passed on.
If there were Indians near them, they were hidden from view.
Along the stream, which stretched away to the south, were the broken,
straggling thickets of the cotton which we have already described.
Among these the hostile party might have harbored, but where they were, Kaya could alone aid in informing them; so far, at least, as ordinary vision could discern, they were gone.
They threaded their way through the thick under-brush, and moved cautiously toward the waters of the stream. Suddenly Gardiner clasped the arm of his friend, and, pointing to the ground, looked warily about him. The waters of the branch had been turned back by the labors of the beaver. Near one of the large clear pools thus created by the flooding of the bottom-land, in the soft black mud of the swamp, was the fresh track of a moccasin. It was deeply indented, and so recently made that the water from the sponge-like texture of decayed leaves and moss of the morass still trickled into it, and had not yet filled it up.
Gardiner pressed his companion to a stooping posture. He cocked his sixshooter, an example which was followed by Wilson, and then, for an instant bending more intently over the evidence of the dangerous proximity of their foes, suddenly started to his feet, and uttered a few words aloud in the Indian tongue.
A low ejaculation was heard on the right, then a light foot-fall came splashing from hussock to root, and then a tall Indian came forward, and gazed at them across the pool with a smile on his painted face.
Look out, little gun, he shoot," he said, pointing at the revolver of Wilson, still at full cock and aimed towards him; then the expression of his face changed to the stony look of the great warrior when upon the war-path, as another footstep was heard approaching at full speed, and the young wife of Kaya came up to them and gazed with a startled, anxious look in the face of the
If possible, the face of the brave became still more utterly devoid of expression, as he met the gaze of her earnest eyes thus fixed upon him; but he held up the fingers of both his hands -with one arm swept a half-circle around his head, placed the fork of the fore and middle fingers of his right hand upon the first finger of his left, and with the latter imitated the galloping of a horse at full speed. He then