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Dick Onslow Among the Redskins

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Dick Onslow; or The Adventures of Dick Onslow among the Redskins, byW.H.G. Kingston.


  This story takes place mainly in or near the Rocky Mountains of NorthAmerica, as we follow the adventures of a member of an emigrant partyduring their move to California.

  Rattle-snakes, bears, rock-slides, avalanches, steep descents, and manyother hazards, to say nothing of numerous attacks by unfriendly tribesof Red Indians, fill the pages of this book with terrifying and periloussituations. Not a long book, but very good value.





  In few countries can more exciting adventures be met with than in Mexicoand the southern and western portions of North America; in consequenceof the constantly disturbed state of the country, the savage dispositionof the Red Indians, and the numbers of wild animals, buffaloes, bears,wolves, panthers, jaguars, not to speak of alligators, rattlesnakes, anda few other creatures of like gentle nature. My old school-fellow, DickOnslow, has just come back from those regions; and among numerousincidents by flood and field sufficient to make a timid man's hair standon end for the rest of his days, he recounted to me the following:--

  After spending some time among those ill-conditioned cut-throat fellows,the Mexicans, I returned to the States. Having run over all the settledparts, of which I got a tolerable bird's-eye view, I took it into myhead that I should like to see something of real backwoodsman's life.Soon getting beyond railways, I pushed right through the State ofMissouri till I took up my abode on the very outskirts of civilisation,in a log-house, with a rough honest settler, Laban Ragget by name. Hehad a wife and several daughters and small children, and five tall sons,Simri, Joab, Othni, Elihu, and Obed, besides two sisters of his wife'sand a brother of his own, Edom Ragget by name. I never met a finer setof people, both men and women. It was a pleasure to see the lads walkup to a forest, and a wonder to watch how the tall trees went down likecorn stalks before the blows of their gleaming axes. They had no idea Iwas a gentleman by birth. They thought I was the son of a blacksmith,and they liked me the better for it.

  Some months passed away; I had learned to use my axe as well as any ofthem, and a fine large clearing had been made, when the newspapers, ofwhich we occasionally had one, told us all about the wonderfulgold-diggings in California. At last we talked of little else as we satround the big fire in the stone chimney during the evenings of winter.Neighbours dropped in and talked over the matter also. There was nodoubt money was to be made, and quickly too, by men with strong arms andiron constitutions. We all agreed that if any men were fit for thework, we were. I was the weakest of the party, do ye see? (Dick standsfive feet ten in his shoes, and is as broad-shouldered as a dray man.)

  Just then, an oldish man with only two stout sons and a small familydrove into the forest with a light wagon and a strong team of horses, tolook about him, as he said, for a location. He came to our house, andLaban and he had a long talk.

  "Well, stranger," said Laban, "I guess you couldn't do better than takemy farm, and give me your team and three hundred dollars; I've a mind togo further westward."

  The offer was too good to be refused. The bargain was struck, and intwo days, several other settlers having got rid of their farms, a largeparty of us were on our way to cross the Rocky Mountains for California.The women, children, and stuff were in Laban's two wagons. Othersettlers had their wagons also. The older men rode; I, with theyounger, walked, with our rifles at our backs, and our axes and knivesin our belts. I had, besides, a trusty revolver, which had often stoodme in good stead.

  We were not over-delicate when we started, and we soon got accustomed tothe hard life we had to lead, till camping-out became a real pleasurerather than an inconvenience. We had skin tents for the older men, andplenty of provisions, and as we kept along the banks of the rivers, wehad abundance of grass and water for the horses. At last we had toleave the forks of the Missouri river, and to follow a track across thedesolate Nebraska country, over which the wild Pawnees, Dacotahs,Omahas, and many other tribes of red men rove in considerable numbers.We little feared them, however, and thought much more of the herds ofwild buffaloes we expected soon to have the pleasure both of shootingand eating.

  We had encamped one night close to a wood near Little Bear Creek, whichruns into the Nebraska river. The following morning broke with wet andfoggy weather. It would have been pleasant to have remained in camp,but the season was advancing, and it was necessary to push on. All theother families had packed up and were on the move; Laban's, for awonder, was the last. The women and children were already seated in thelighter wagon, and Obed Ragget and I were lifting the last load into theother, and looking round to see that nothing was left behind, when ourears were saluted with the wildest and most unearthly shrieks andshouts, and a shower of arrows came whistling about our ears. "Shoveon! shove on!" we shouted to Simri and Joab, who were at the horses'heads; "never mind the tent." They lashed the horses with their whips.The animals plunged forward with terror and pain, for all of them weremore or less wounded. We were sweeping round close to the edge of thewood, and for a moment lost sight of the rest of the party. Then, inanother instant, I saw them again surrounded by Indian warriors, withplumes of feathers, uplifted hatchets, and red paint, looking veryterrible. The women were standing up in the wagon with axes in theirhands, defending themselves bravely. A savage had seized one of thechildren and was dragging it off, when Mrs Ragget struck with all hermight at the red-skin's arm, and cut it clean through; the savage drewback howling with pain and rage. Old Laban in the meantime, with hisbrother and two others, kept in front, firing away as fast as they couldload while they ran on: for they saw if once the redskins could get holdof the horses' heads, they would be completely in their power. All thistime several of the things were tumbling out of the wagon, but we couldnot stop to pick them up. Why the rest of the party, who were ahead,did not come back to our assistance, I could not tell. I thought thatthey also were probably attacked. We four ran on for some way, keepingthe Indians at a respectful distance, for they are cowardly rascals--notwithstanding all the praise bestowed on them--if courageouslyopposed. I was loading my rifle, and then taking aim at four mountedIndians who appeared on the right with rifles in their hands. Theyfired, but missed me, as I meantime was dodging them behind the wagon.During this, I did not see where Obed was. I hit one of them, andeither Simri or Joab, who fired at the same time, hit another. Theother two wheeled round, and with some companions, hovered about us atsome little distance. Just then, not hearing Obed's voice, I lookedround. He was nowhere to be seen. I was shouting to his brothers tostop and go back with me to look for him, when half-a-dozen moreIndians, joining the others, galloped up at the same moment to attackthe headmost wagon. Simri and Joab, lashing their horses, rushed on tothe assistance of their family. The savages fired. I was springing onwhen I felt myself brought to the ground, grasping my rifle, which wasloaded. A shot had gone right through both my legs. I tried withdesperate struggles to get up, but could not lift myself from theground. All the horror of my condition crowded into my mind. To bekilled and scalped was the best fate I coul
d expect. Just as I wasabout to give way to despair, I thought I would make an attempt to savemy life. From my companions I could expect no help, for even if theysucceeded in preserving their own lives they would scarcely be in acondition to come back and rescue me. Poor Obed I felt pretty sure musthave been killed. A small stream with some bushes growing on its bankswas near at hand. I dragged myself towards it, and found a pretty closeplace of concealment behind one of the bushes. Thence I could look out.The wagons were still driving along furiously across the prairie withthe Indians hovering about them on either side, evidently waiting for afavourable moment to renew the attack. Thus the whole party, friendsand foes, vanished from my sight in the fog. To stay where I was wouldonly lead to my certain destruction, for when the Indians returned, as Iknew they would, to carry off my scalp, the trail to my hiding-placewould at once be discovered. I felt, too, that if I allowed my woundsto grow stiff, I might not be able to move at all. Suffering intenseagony, therefore, I dragged myself down into the stream. It was barelydeep enough to allow me to swim had I had strength for the purpose, andcrawl I thought I could not. So I threw myself on my back, and holdingmy rifle, my powder-flask, and revolver above my breast, floated downtill I reached the wood we had just passed. The branches of the treeshung over the stream. I seized one which I judged would bear my weight,and lifting myself up by immense exertion, of which, had it not been forthe cooling effects of the water, I should not have been capable, Icrawled along the bough. I had carefully avoided as much as possibledisturbing the leaves, lest the redskins should discover my retreat. Iworked my way up, holding my rifle in my teeth, to the fork of thebranch, and then up to where several of the higher boughs branched offand formed a nest where I could remain without fear of falling off. Iwas completely concealed by the thickness of the leaves from being seenby any one passing below, and I trusted, from the precautions I hadtaken, that the Indians would not discover my trail. Still, suchcunning rogues are they, that it is almost impossible to deceive them.My great hope was that they might not find out that I had fallen, and sowould not come to look for me. As I lay in my nest, I listenedattentively, and thought that I could still hear distant shots, as if myfriends had at all events not given in. Still it might only have beenfancy. My wounds, when I had time to think about them, were verypainful. I bound them up as well as I could--the water had washed awaythe blood and tended to stop inflammation. The sun rose high in theheavens. Not a sound was heard except the wild cry of the eagle orkite, blending with the song of the thrush and the mocking-bird,interrupted every now and then by the impudent observation of a strayparrot and the ominous rattle of a huge snake as it wound its way amongthe leaves. Every moment I expected to hear the grunts and cries of theredskins, as with tomahawk in hand they came eagerly searching about forme. I durst not move to look around. They might come talkingcarelessly, or they might steal about in dead silence, if they suspectedthat I was still alive.

  I thus passed the day. I did sometimes think that I should have beenwiser had I remained within the bounds of civilisation, instead ofwandering about the world without any adequate motive. The reflection,too, that the end of my days was approaching, came suddenly upon me withpainful force. How had I spent those days? I asked myself. What goodhad I done in the world? How had I employed the talents committed tome? I remembered a great many things I had been told as a child by mymother, and which had never occurred to me since. The more I thought,the more painful, the more full of regrets, grew my thoughts. I ambound to tell you all this. I am not ashamed of my feelings. I believethose thoughts did me a great deal of good. I blessed my mother for allshe had taught me, and I prayed as I had never prayed before. Afterthis I felt much comforted and better prepared for death than I had beentill then. The day passed slowly away. Darkness came on. I grew veryhungry and faint, for I had no food in my pocket, and had taken nothingsince the morning. Had I not been wounded, that would have been atrifle; I had often gone a whole day without eating, with, perhaps, alap of water every now and then from a cool stream. I could not sleep awink during the whole night. At times I hoped that if my friends werevictorious they might return to learn what had become of poor Obed andme. In vain was the hope. The night wore on, the dawn returned. Itried to stretch my legs; I found that I could not move them.

  The hours of the next day passed slowly by; I thought I heard the criesand shrieks of the redskins in the distance--they seemed to draw nearerand nearer--they were entering the wood--yes, I was certain of it--theygot close up to my tree--as I looked down, I saw their hideous,malicious faces gazing up at me, eager for my destruction. Thensuddenly I became aware that they were only creatures of my imagination,conjured up through weakness and hunger. All was again silent. "Ifthis state of things continues, I shall certainly drop from my hold," Ithought. Then suddenly I remembered that I had some tobacco in mypocket. Edom Ragget had handed it to me to cut up for him. I put apiece in my mouth, and chewed away at it. I felt much better. Theevening came; my apprehensions about the Indians decreased. Still Iknew that if I once got down the tree, I might not be able to ascend itagain, and might become a prey to wild beasts or rattlesnakes, as I feltthat I could not stand for a moment, much less walk a yard. Havingfastened my rifle to a branch, I secured one of my arms round another,that I might not drop off, and at last fell into a deep sleep. Nextmorning I awoke, feeling much better, though very hungry. As I laywithout moving, I observed a racoon playing about a branch close to me."Although there may be a hundred red-skins in the neighbourhood, I musthave that fellow for my breakfast," I said to myself. I released myrifle and fired. Down fell the racoon at the foot of the tree. "He isof no use to me unless I can get hold of him, and even could I pick himup, I must eat him raw, as I have no means of lighting a fire where Iam," said I to myself. While this thought passed rapidly through mymind, I heard a sound at some distance. It was, I felt sure, that of ahuman voice. I quickly reloaded my rifle, and, with my finger on thetrigger, sat in readiness for whatever might occur.