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Last of the Great Scouts The Life Story of William F. Cody ["Buffalo Bill" Cody] by Helen Cody Wetmore

Part 2 out of 5

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not allow them to search the wagons, and they finally rode away.
That night, when the camp was pitched, the wagon-master gave Will a mule,
and accompanied him home. We were rejoiced to see him, especially mother,
who was much concerned over his escapade.

"Oh, Will, how could you do such a thing?" she said, sorrowfully.
"It is a dreadful act to use a knife on any one."

Will disavowed any homicidal intentions; but his explanations
made little headway against mother's disapproval and her
disappointment over the interruption of his school career.
As it seemed the best thing to do, she consented to his
going with the wagon train under the care of John Willis,
and the remainder of the night was passed in preparations
for the journey.

CHAPTER VIII.

DEATH AND BURIAL OF TURK.

THIS trip of Will's covered only two months, and was succeeded
by another expedition, to the new post at Fort Wallace,
at Cheyenne Pass.

Meanwhile mother had decided to improve the opportunity afforded by her
geographical position, and under her supervision "The Valley Grove House"
was going up.

The hotel commanded a magnificent prospect. Below lay the beautiful
Salt Creek Valley. It derived its name from the saline properties
of the little stream that rushed along its pebbly bed to empty
its clear waters into the muddy Missouri. From the vantage-ground
of our location Salt Creek looked like a silver thread,
winding its way through the rich verdure of the valley.
The region was dotted with fertile farms; from east to west
ran the government road, known as the Old Salt Lake Trail,
and back of us was Cody Hill, named for my father. Our house
stood on the side hill, just above the military road, and between
us and the hilltop lay the grove that gave the hotel its name.
Government hill, which broke the eastern sky-line, hid Leavenworth
and the Missouri River, culminating to the south in Pilot Knob,
the eminence on which my father was buried, also beyond our view.

Mother's business sagacity was justified in the hotel venture.
The trail began its half-mile ascent of Cody Hill just below our house,
and at this point the expedient known as "doubling" was employed.
Two teams hauled a wagon up the steep incline, the double team returning
for the wagon left behind. Thus the progress of a wagon train,
always slow, became a very snail's pace, and the hotel was insured
a full quota of hungry trainmen.

Will found that his wages were of considerable aid to mother
in the large expense incurred by the building of the hotel;
and the winter drawing on, forbidding further freighting trips,
he planned an expedition with a party of trappers.
More money was to be made at this business during the winter
than at any other time.

The trip was successful, and contained only one adventure spiced
with danger, which, as was so often the case, Will twisted to his own
advantage by coolness and presence of mind.

One morning, as he was making the round of his traps, three Indians
appeared on the trail, each leading a pony laden with pelts.
One had a gun; the others carried bows and arrows.
The odds were three to one, and the brave with the gun was
the most to be feared.

This Indian dropped his bridle-rein and threw up his rifle; but before it
was at his shoulder Will had fired, and he fell forward on his face.
His companions bent their bows, one arrow passing through Will's hat
and another piercing his arm--the first wound he ever received.
Will swung his cap about his head.

"This way! Here they are!" he shouted to an imaginary party
of friends at his back. Then with his revolver he wounded another
of the Indians, who, believing reinforcements were at hand,
left their ponies and fled.

Will took the ponies on the double-quick back to camp,
and the trappers decided to pull up stakes at once.
It had been a profitable season, and the few more pelts to be
had were not worth the risk of an attack by avenging Indians;
so they packed their outfit, and proceeded to Fort Laramie.
Will realized a handsome sum from the sale of his captured furs,
besides those of the animals he had himself trapped.

At the fort were two men bound east, and impatient to set out,
and Will, in his haste to reach home, joined forces with them.
Rather than wait for an uncertain wagon train, they decided to chance
the dangers of the road. They bought three ponies and a pack-mule
for the camp outfit, and sallied forth in high spirits.

Although the youngest of the party, Will was the most
experienced plainsman, and was constantly on the alert.
They reached the Little Blue River without sign of Indians,
but across the stream Will espied a band of them. The redskins
were as keen of eye, and straightway exchanged the pleasures
of the chase for the more exciting pursuit of human game.
But they had the river to cross; and this gave the white men
a good start. The pursuit was hot, and grew hotter, but the kindly
darkness fell, and under cover of it the trio got safely away.
That night they camped in a little ravine that afforded shelter
from both Indians and weather.

A look over the ravine disclosed a cave that promised a snug harbor,
and therein Will and one of his companions spread their blankets and
fell asleep. The third man, whose duty it was to prepare the supper,
kindled a fire just inside the cave, and returned outside for a supply
of fuel. When he again entered the cave the whole interior was revealed
by the bright firelight, and after one look he gave a yell of terror,
dropped his firewood, and fled.

Will and the other chap were on their knees instantly, groping for
their rifles, in the belief that the Indians were upon them;
but the sight that met their eyes was more terror-breeding than
a thousand Indians. A dozen bleached and ghastly skeletons were
gathered with them around the camp-fire, and seemed to nod and sway,
and thrust their long-chilled bones toward the cheery blaze.

Ghastly as it was within the cave, Will found it more unpleasant in the open.
The night was cold, and a storm threatened.

"Well," said he to his companions, "we know the worst that's in there now.
Those old dead bones won't hurt us. Let's go back."

"Not if I know myself, sonny," returned one of the men decidedly,
and the other heartily agreed with him, swearing that as it was, he should
not be able to close his eyes for a week. So, after a hurried lunch
upon the cold provisions, the party mounted their ponies and pushed on.
The promised snowstorm materialized, and shortly became a young blizzard,
and obliged to dismount and camp in the open prairie, they made a miserable
night of it.

But it had an end, as all things have, and with the morning
they resumed the trail, reaching Marysville, on the Big Blue,
after many trials and privations.

From here the trail was easier, as the country was pretty well settled,
and Will reached home without further adventure or misadventure.
Here there was compensation for hardship in the joy of handing over
to mother all his money, realizing that it would lighten her burdens--
burdens borne that she might leave her children provided for when she
could no longer repel the dread messenger, that in all those years
seemed to hover so near that even our childish hearts felt its presence
ere it actually crossed the threshold.

It was early in March when Will returned from his trapping expedition.
Mother's business was flourishing, though she herself grew frailer
with the passing of each day. The summer that came on was a sad
one for us all, for it marked Turk's last days on earth.
One evening he was lying in the yard, when a strange dog came up
the road, bounded in, gave Turk a vicious bite, and went on.
We dressed the wound, and thought little of it, until some horsemen
rode up, with the inquiry, "Have you seen a dog pass here?"

We answered indignantly that a strange dog had passed,
and had bitten our dog.

"Better look out for him, then," warned the men as they rode away.
"The dog is mad."

Consternation seized us. It was dreadful to think of Turk going mad--
he who had been our playmate from infancy, and who, through childhood's
years, had grown more dear to us than many human beings could;
but mother knew the matter was serious, and issued her commands.
Turk must be shut up, and we must not even visit him for a certain space.
And so we shut him up, hoping for the best; but it speedily became
plain that the poison was working in his veins, and that the greatest
kindness we could do him was to kill him.

That was a frightful alternative. Will utterly refused to shoot him,
and the execution was delegated to the hired man, Will stipulating
that none of his weapons should be used, and that he be allowed to get
out of ear-shot.

Late that afternoon, just before sunset, we assembled
in melancholy silence for the funeral. A grave had been dug
on the highest point of the eastern extremity of Cody Hill,
and decorated in black ribbons, we slowly filed up the steep path,
carrying Turk's body on a pine board softened with moss.
Will led the procession with his hat in his hand,
and every now and then his fist went savagely at his eyes.
When we reached the grave, we formed around it in a tearful circle,
and Will, who always called me "the little preacher,"
told me to say the Lord's Prayer. The sun was setting,
and the brilliant western clouds were shining round about us.
There was a sighing in the treetops far below us, and the sounds
in the valley were muffled and indistinct.

"Our Father which art in heaven," I whispered softly,
as all the children bent their heads, "Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven."
I paused, and the other children said the rest in chorus.
The next day Will procured a large block of red bloodstone,
which abounds in that country, squared it off, carved the name
of Turk upon it in large letters, and we placed it at the head
of the grave.

To us there had been no incongruity in the funeral ceremonials and burial.
Turk had given us all that dog could give; we, for our part,
gave him Christian sepulture. Our sorrow was sincere.
We had lost an honest, loyal friend. For many succeeding days his
grave was garlanded with fresh flowers, placed there by loving hands.
Vale Turk! Would that our friends of the higher evolution were
all as stanch as thou!

THE BURIAL OF TURK.

Only a dog! but the tears fall fast.
As we lay him to rest underneath the green sod,
Where bountiful nature, the sweet summer through,
Will deck him with daisies and bright goldenrod.

The loving thought of a boyish heart
Marks the old dog's grave with a bloodstone red;
The name, carved in letters rough and rude,
Keeps his memory green, though his life be sped.
For the daring young hero of wood and plain,

Like all who are generous, strong, and brave,
Has a heart that is loyal and kind and true,
And shames not to weep o'er his old friend's grave.

Only a dog, do you say? but I deem
A dog who with faithfulness fills his trust,
More worthy than many a man to be given
A tribute of love, when but ashes and dust.

An unusually good teacher now presided at the schoolhouse in
our neighborhood, and Will was again persuaded into educational paths.
He put in a hard winter's work; but with the coming of spring
and its unrest, the swelling of buds and the springing of grass,
the return of the birds and the twittering from myriad nests,
the Spirits of the Plains beckoned to him, and he joined a party
of gold-hunters on the long trail to Pike's Peak.

The gold excitement was at its apogee in 1860. By our house had
passed the historic wagon bearing on its side the classic motto,
"Pike's Peak or Bust!" Afterward, stranded by the wayside,
a whole history of failure and disappointment, borne with grim humor,
was told by the addition of the eloquent word, "Busted!"

For all his adventures, Will was only fourteen, and although tall for his age,
he had not the physical strength that might have been expected from his
hardy life. It was not strange that he should take the gold fever; less so
that mother should dread to see him again leave home to face unknown perils;
and it is not at all remarkable that upon reaching Auraria, now Denver,
he should find that fortunes were not lying around much more promiscuously
in a gold country than in any other.

Recent events have confirmed a belief that under the excitement
of a gold craze men exercise less judgment than at any other time.
Except in placer mining, which almost any one can learn,
gold mining is a science. Now and again a nugget worth a fortune
is picked up, but the average mortal can get a better livelihood,
with half the work, in almost any other field of effort.
To become rich a knowledge of ores and mining methods is indispensable.

But Will never reached the gold-fields. Almost the first person
he met on the streets of Julesberg was George Chrisman, who had been
chief wagon-master for Russell, Majors & Waddell. Will had become
well acquainted with Chrisman on the various expeditions he had made
for the firm.

This man was located at Julesberg as agent for the Pony Express line,
which was in process of formation. This line was an enterprise
of Russell, Majors & Waddell. Mr. Russell met in Washington the Senator
from California. This gentleman knew that the Western firm of contractors
was running a daily stagecoach from the Missouri River to Sacramento,
and he urged upon Mr. Russell the desirability of operating a pony
express line along the same route. There was already a line known
as the "Butterfield Route," but this was circuitous; the fastest time
ever made on it was twenty-one days.

Mr. Russell laid the matter before his partners. They were opposed
to it, as they were sure it would be a losing venture; but the senior
member urged the matter so strongly that they consented to try it,
for the good of the country, with no expectation of profit.
They utilized the stagecoach stations already established,
and only about two months were required to put the Pony Express
line in running order.

Riders received from a hundred and twenty to a hundred and
twenty-five dollars a month, but they earned it. In order to stand
the life great physical strength and endurance were necessary;
in addition, riders must be cool, brave, and resourceful.
Their lives were in constant peril, and they were obliged
to do double duty in case the comrade that was to relieve them
had been disabled by outlaws or Indians.

Two hundred and fifty miles was the daily distance that must be made;
this constituted an average of a little over ten miles an hour.
In the exceedingly rough country this average could not be kept up;
to balance it, there were a few places in the route where the rider
was expected to cover twenty-five miles an hour.

In making such a run, it is hardly necessary to say that no extra
weight was carried. Letters were written on the finest tissue paper;
the charge was at the rate of five dollars for half an ounce.
A hundred of these letters would make a bulk not much larger than
an ordinary writing-tablet.

The mail-pouches were never to carry more than twenty pounds.
They were leather bags, impervious to moisture; the letters,
as a further protection, were wrapped in oiled silk.
The pouches were locked, sealed, and strapped to the rider's side.
They were not unlocked during the journey from St. Joseph to Sacramento.

The first trip was made in ten days; this was a saving of eleven days over
the best time ever made by the "Butterfield Route." Sometimes the time
was shortened to eight days; but an average trip was made in nine.
The distance covered in this time was nineteen hundred and sixty-six miles.

President Buchanan's last presidential message was carried in December,
1860, in a few hours over eight days. President Lincoln's inaugural,
the following March, was transmitted in seven days and seventeen hours.
This was the quickest trip ever made.

The Pony Express line made its worth at once felt.
It would have become a financial success but that a telegraph
line was put into operation over the same stretch of territory,
under the direction of Mr. Edward Creighton. The first
message was sent over the wires the 24th of October, 1861.
The Pony Express line had outlived its usefulness, and was at
once discontinued. But it had accomplished its main purpose,
which was to determine whether the route by which it went
could be made a permanent track for travel the year through.
The cars of the Union Pacific road now travel nearly the same old
trails as those followed by the daring riders of frontier days.

Mr. Chrisman gave Will a cordial greeting. He explained
the business of the express line to his young friend, and stated
that the company had nearly perfected its arrangements.
It was now buying ponies and putting them into good condition,
preparatory to beginning operations. He added, jokingly:

"It's a pity you're not a few years older, Billy. I would give
you a job as Pony Express rider. There's good pay in it."

Will was at once greatly taken with the idea, and begged so hard to be given
a trial that Mr. Chrisman consented to give him work for a month. If the life
proved too hard for him, he was to be laid off at the end of that time.
He had a short run of forty-five miles; there were three relay stations,
and he was expected to make fifteen miles an hour.

The 3d of April, 1860, Mr. Russell stood ready to receive
the mail from a fast New York train at St. Joseph. He adjusted
the letter-pouch on the pony in the presence of an excited crowd.
Besides the letters, several large New York papers printed
special editions on tissue paper for this inaugural trip.
The crowd plucked hairs from the tail of the first animal to start
on the novel journey, and preserved these hairs as talismans.
The rider mounted, the moment for starting came, the signal
was given, and off he dashed.

At the same moment Sacramento witnessed a similar scene;
the rider of that region started on the two thousand mile ride
eastward as the other started westward. All the way along the road
the several other riders were ready for their initial gallop.

Will looked forward eagerly to the day when the express line
should be set in motion, and when the hour came it found
him ready, standing beside his horse, and waiting for the rider
whom he was to relieve. There was a clatter of hoofs,
and a horseman dashed up and flung him the saddlebags.
Will threw them upon the waiting pony, vaulted into the saddle,
and was off like the wind.

The first relay station was reached on time, and Will changed
with hardly a second's loss of time, while the panting,
reeking animal he had ridden was left to the care of the stock-tender.
This was repeated at the end of the second fifteen miles,
and the last station was reached a few minutes ahead of time.
The return trip was made in good order, and then Will wrote
to us of his new position, and told us that he was in love
with the life.

CHAPTER IX.

WILL AS PONY EXPRESS RIDER.

AFTER being pounded against a saddle three dashes daily for three months,
to the tune of fifteen miles an hour, Will began to feel a little loose
in his joints, and weary withal, but he was determined to "stick it out."
Besides the daily pounding, the track of the Pony Express rider was strewn
with perils. A wayfarer through that wild land was more likely to run
across outlaws and Indians than to pass unmolested, and as it was known
that packages of value were frequently dispatched by the Pony Express line,
the route was punctuated by ambuscades.

Will had an eye out every trip for a hold-up, but three months
went by before he added that novelty to his other experiences.
One day, as he flew around a bend in a narrow pass, he confronted
a huge revolver in the grasp of a man who manifestly meant business,
and whose salutation was:

"Halt! Throw up your hands!"

Most people do, and Will's hands were raised reluctantly.
The highwayman advanced, saying, not unkindly:

"I don't want to hurt you, boy, but I do want them bags."

Money packages were in the saddlebags, and Will was minded to save them
if he could, so, as the outlaw reached for the booty, Will touched the pony
with his foot, and the upshot was satisfactory to an unexpected degree.
The plunge upset the robber, and as the pony swept over him he got a
vicious blow from one hoof. Will wheeled for a revolver duel, but the foe
was prostrate, stunned, and bleeding at the head. Will disarmed the fellow,
and pinioned his arms behind him, and then tied up his broken head.
Will surmised that the prisoner must have a horse hidden hard by,
and a bit of a search disclosed it. When he returned with the animal,
its owner had opened his eyes and was beginning to remember a few things.
Will helped him to mount, and out of pure kindness tied him on;
then he straddled his own pony, and towed the dismal outfit along with him.

It was the first time that he had been behind on his run,
but by way of excuse he offered to Mr. Chrisman a broken-headed
and dejected gentleman tied to a horse's back; and Chrisman,
with a grin, locked the excuse up for future reference.

A few days after this episode Will received a letter from Julia,
telling him that mother was ill, and asking him to come home.
He at once sought out Mr. Chrisman, and giving his reason,
asked to be relieved.

"I'm sorry your mother is sick," was the answer, "but I'm
glad something has occurred to make you quit this life.
It's wearing you out, Billy, and you're too gritty to give it
up without a good reason."

Will reached home to find mother slightly improved. For three weeks
was he content to remain idly at home; then (it was November of 1860)
his unquiet spirit bore him away on another trapping expedition,
this time with a young friend named David Phillips.

They bought an ox-team and wagon to transport the traps,
camp outfit, and provisions, and took along a large supply
of ammunition, besides extra rifles. Their destination was
the Republican River. It coursed more than a hundred miles
from Leavenworth, but the country about it was reputed rich in beaver.
Will acted as scout on the journey, going ahead to pick
out trails, locate camping grounds, and look out for breakers.
The information concerning the beaver proved correct;
the game was indeed so plentiful that they concluded to pitch
a permanent camp and see the winter out.

They chose a hollow in a sidehill, and enlarged it to the dimensions of a
decent-sized room. A floor of logs was put in, and a chimney fashioned
of stones, the open lower part doing double duty as cook-stove and heater;
the bed was spread in the rear, and the wagon sheltered the entrance.
A corral of poles was built for the oxen, and one corner of it protected
by boughs. Altogether, they accounted their winter quarters thoroughly
satisfactory and agreeable.

The boys had seen no Indians on their trip out, and were
not concerned in that quarter, though they were too good
plainsmen to relax their vigilance. There were other foes,
as they discovered the first night in their new quarters.
They were aroused by a commotion in the corral where the oxen
were confined, and hurrying out with their rifles, they found
a huge bear intent upon a feast of beef. The oxen were bellowing
in terror, one of them dashing crazily about the inclosure,
and the other so badly hurt that it could not get up.

Phillips, who was in the lead, fired first, but succeeded only in
wounding the bear. Pain was now added to the savagery of hunger,
and the infuriated monster rushed upon Phillips. Dave leaped back,
but his foot slipped on a bit of ice, and he went down with a thud,
his rifle flying from his hand as he struck.

But there was a cool young head and a steady hand behind him.
A ball from Will's rifle entered the distended mouth of the onrushing
bear and pierced the brain, and the huge mass fell lifeless almost
across Dave's body.

Phillips's nerves loosened with a snap, and he laughed for very relief
as he seized Will's hands.

"That's the time you saved my life, old fellow!" said he.
"Perhaps I can do as much for you sometime."

"That's the first bear I ever killed," said Will, more interested
in that topic than in the one Dave held forth on.

One of the oxen was found to be mortally hurt, and a bullet ended its misery.
Will then took his first lesson in the gentle art of skinning a bear.

Dave's chance to square his account with Will came a fortnight later.
They were chasing a bunch of elk, when Will fell, and discovered
that he could not rise.

"I'm afraid I've broken my leg," said he, as Dave ran to him.

Phillips had once been a medical student, and he examined the leg with a
professional eye. "You're right, Billy; the leg's broken," he reported.

Then he went to work to improvise splints and bind up the leg;
and this done, he took Will on his back and bore him to the dugout.
Here the leg was stripped, and set in carefully prepared splints,
and the whole bound up securely.

The outlook was unpleasant, cheerfully as one might regard it.
Living in the scoop of a sidehill when one is strong and able
to get about and keep the blood coursing is one thing;
living there pent up through a tedious winter is quite another.
Dave meditated as he worked away at the pair of crutches.

"Tell you what I think I'd better do," said he. "The nearest settlement
is some hundred miles away, and I can get there and back in twenty days.
Suppose I make the trip, get a team for our wagon, and come back for you?"

The idea of being left alone and well-nigh helpless struck dismay
to Will's heart, but there was no help for it, and he assented.
Dave put matters into shipshape, piled wood in the dugout,
cooked a quantity of food and put it where Will could reach it
without rising, and fetched several days' supply of water.
Mother, ever mindful of Will's education, had put some school-books
in the wagon, and Dave placed these beside the food and water.
When Phillips finally set out, driving the surviving ox before him,
he left behind a very lonely and homesick boy.

During the first day of his confinement Will felt too desolate
to eat, much less to read; but as he grew accustomed to solitude
he derived real pleasure from the companionship of books.
Perhaps in all his life he never extracted so much benefit
from study as during that brief period of enforced idleness,
when it was his sole means of making the dragging hours endurable.
Dave, he knew, could not return in less than twenty days,
and one daily task, never neglected, was to cut a notch
in the stick that marked the humdrum passage of the days.
Within the week he could hobble about on his crutches for a
short distance; after that he felt more secure.

A fortnight passed. And one day, weary with his studies,
he fell asleep over his books. Some one touched his shoulder,
and looking up, he saw an Indian in war paint and feathers.

"How?" said Will, with a show of friendliness, though he knew
the brave was on the war-path.

Half a score of bucks followed at the heels of the first,
squeezing into the little dugout until there was barely room
for them to sit down.

With a sinking heart Will watched them enter, but he plucked up
spirit again when the last, a chief, pushed in, for in this warrior
he recognized an Indian that he had once done a good turn.

Whatever Lo's faults, he never forgets a kindness any more than he forgets
an injury. The chief, who went by the name of Rain-in-the-Face, at
once recognized Will, and asked him what he was doing in that place.
Will displayed his bandages, and related the mishap that had made
them necessary, and refreshed the chief's memory of a certain
occasion when a blanket and provisions had drifted his way.
Rain-in-the-Face replied, with proper gravity, that he and his chums
were out after scalps, and confessed to designs upon Will's, but in
consideration of Auld Lang Syne he would spare the paleface boy.

Auld Lang Syne, however, did not save the blankets and provisions,
and the bedizened crew stripped the dugout almost bare of supplies;
but Will was thankful enough to see the back of the last of them.

Two days later a blizzard set in. Will took an inventory,
and found that, economy considered, he had food for a week;
but as the storm would surely delay Dave, he put himself
on half rations.

Three weeks were now gone, and he looked for Dave momentarily;
but as night followed day, and day grew into night again,
he was given over to keen anxiety. Had Phillips lost his way?
Had he failed to locate the snow-covered dugout?
Had he perished in the storm? Had he fallen victim to Indians?
These and like questions haunted the poor lad continually.
Study became impossible, and he lost his appetite for what food
there was left; but the tally on the stick was kept.

The twenty-ninth day dawned. Starvation stalked into the dugout.
The wood, too, was nigh gone. But great as was Will's physical suffering,
his mental distress was greater. He sat before a handful of fire,
shivering and hungry, wretched and despondent.

Hark! Was that his name? Choking with emotion, unable to articulate,
he listened intently. Yes; it was his name, and Dave's familiar voice,
and with all his remaining energy he made an answering call.

His voice enabled Phillips to locate the dugout, and a passage
was cleared through the snow. And when Will saw the door open,
the tension on his nerves let go, and he wept--"like a girl,"
as he afterward told us.

"God bless you, Dave!" he cried, as he clasped his friend around the neck.

CHAPTER X.

ECHOES FROM SUMTER.

THE guns that opened on Fort Sumter set the country all ablaze.
In Kansas, where blood had already been shed, the excitement
reached an extraordinary pitch. Will desired to enlist,
but mother would not listen to the idea.

My brother had never forgotten the vow made in the post-trader's,
and now with the coming of war his opportunity seemed ripe and lawful;
he could at least take up arms against father's old-time enemies,
and at the same time serve his country. This aspect of the case was
presented to mother in glowing colors, backed by most eloquent pleading;
but she remained obdurate.

"You are too young to enlist, Willie," she said. "They would
not accept you, and if they did, I could not endure it.
I have only a little time to live; for my sake, then, wait till
I am no more before you enter the army."

This request was not to be disregarded, and Will promised that he would
not enlist while mother lived.

Kansas had long been the scene of bitter strife between the two parties,
and though there was a preponderance of the Free-Soil element when it was
admitted to the Union in 1861, we were fated to see some of the horrors
of slavery. Suffering makes one wondrous kind; mother had suffered so much
herself that the misery of others ever vibrated a chord of sympathy in
her breast, and our house became a station on "the underground railway."
Many a fugitive slave did we shelter, many here received food and clothing,
and, aided by mother, a great number reached safe harbors.

One old man, named Uncle Tom, became so much attached to us
that he refused to go on. We kept him as help about the hotel.
He was with us several months, and we children grew very fond of him.
Every evening when supper was over, he sat before the kitchen fire
and told a breathless audience strange stories of the days of slavery.
And one evening, never to be forgotten, Uncle Tom was sitting
in his accustomed place, surrounded by his juvenile listeners,
when he suddenly sprang to his feet with a cry of terror.
Some men had entered the hotel sitting-room, and the sound of their
voices drove Uncle Tom to his own little room, and under the bed.

"Mrs. Cody," said the unwelcome visitors, "we understand that you
are harboring our runaway slaves. We propose to search the premises;
and if we find our property, you cannot object to our removing it."

Mother was sorely distressed for the unhappy Uncle Tom,
but she knew objection would be futile. She could only hope
that the old colored man had made good his escape.

But no! Uncle Tom lay quaking under his bed, and there his brutal master
found him. It is not impossible that there were slaveholders kind
and humane, but the bitter curse of slavery was the open door it left
for brutality and inhumanity; and never shall I forget the barbarity
displayed by the owner of Uncle Tom before our horrified eyes.
The poor slave was so old that his hair was wholly white; yet a rope
was tied to it, and, despite our pleadings, he was dragged from
the house, every cry he uttered evoking only a savage kick from a heavy
riding-boot. When he was out of sight, and his screams out of hearing,
we wept bitterly on mother's loving breast.

Uncle Tom again escaped, and made his way to our house,
but he reached it only to die. We sorrowed for the poor old slave,
but thanked God that he had passed beyond the inhumanity of man.

Debarred from serving his country as a soldier, Will decided
to do so in some other capacity, and accordingly took service
with a United States freight caravan, transporting supplies
to Fort Laramie. On this trip his frontier training and skill
as a marksman were the means of saving a life.

In Western travel the perils from outlaws and Indians were so real
that emigrants usually sought the protection of a large wagon-train.
Several families of emigrants journeyed under the wing of the caravan
to which Will was attached.

When in camp one day upon the bank of the Platte River, and the members
of the company were busied with preparations for the night's rest
and the next day's journey, Mamie Perkins, a little girl from one
of the emigrant families, was sent to the river for a pail of water.
A moment later a monster buffalo was seen rushing upon the camp.
A chorus of yells and a fusillade from rifles and revolvers neither
checked nor swerved him. Straight through the camp he swept,
like a cyclone, leaping ropes and boxes, overturning wagons,
and smashing things generally.

Mamie, the little water-bearer, had filled her pail
and was returning in the track selected by the buffalo.
Too terrified to move, she watched, with white face and parted lips,
the maddened animal sweep toward her, head down and tail up,
its hoofs beating a thunderous tattoo on the plain.

Will had been asleep, but the commotion brought him to his feet, and snatching
up his rifle, he ran toward the little girl, aimed and fired at the buffalo.
The huge animal lurched, staggered a few yards farther, then dropped within
a dozen feet of the terrified child.

A shout of relief went up, and while a crowd of praising men gathered
about the embryo buffalo-hunter, Mamie was taken to her mother.
Will never relished hearing his praises sung, and as the camp
was determined to pedestal him as a hero, he ran away and hid
in his tent.

Upon reaching Fort Laramie, Will's first business was to look up
Alf Slade, agent of the Pony Express line, whose headquarters
were at Horseshoe Station, twenty miles from the fort.
He carried a letter of recommendation from Mr. Russell,
but Slade demurred.

"You're too young for a Pony Express rider," said he.

"I rode three months a year ago, sir, and I'm much stronger now," said Will.

"Oh, are you the boy rider that was on Chrisman's division?"

"Yes, sir."

"All right; I'll try you. If you can't stand it, I 'll give
you something easier."

Will's run was from Red Buttes, on the North Platte, to Three Crossings,
on the Sweetwater--seventy-six miles.

The wilderness was of the kind that is supposed to howl, and no
person fond of excitement had reason to complain of lack of it.
One day Will arrived at his last station to find that the rider
on the next run had been mortally hurt by Indians. There being
no one else to do it, he volunteered to ride the eighty-five miles
for the wounded man. He accomplished it, and made his own return trip
on time--a continuous ride of three hundred and twenty-two miles.
There was no rest for the rider, but twenty-one horses were used
on the run--the longest ever made by a Pony Express rider.

Shortly afterward Will fell in with California Joe, a remarkable
frontier character. He was standing beside a group of bowlders
that edged the trail when Will first clapped eyes on him,
and the Pony Express man instantly reached for his revolver.
The stranger as quickly dropped his rifle, and held up his hands
in token of friendliness. Will drew rein, and ran an interested
eye over the man, who was clad in buckskin.

California Joe, who was made famous in General Custer's book,
entitled "Life on the Plains," was a man of wonderful physique,
straight and stout as a pine. His red-brown hair hung
in curls below his shoulders; he wore a full beard,
and his keen, sparkling eyes were of the brightest hue.
He came from an Eastern family, and possessed a good education,
somewhat rusty from disuse.

"Hain't you the boy rider I has heard of--the youngest rider on the trail?"
he queried, in the border dialect. Will made an affirmative answer,
and gave his name.

"Waal," said Joe, "I guess you've got some money on this trip. I was strikin'
fer the Big Horn, and I found them two stiffs up yonder layin' fer ye.
We had a little misunderstandin', and now I has 'em to plant."

Will thanked him warmly, and begged him not to risk the perils
of the Big Horn; but California Joe only laughed, and told him
to push ahead.

When Will reached his station he related his adventure, and the stock-tender
said it was "good by, California Joe" But Will had conceived a better opinion
of his new friend, and he predicted his safe return.

This confidence was justified by the appearance of California Joe,
three months later, in the camp of the Pony Riders on the Overland trail.
He received a cordial greeting, and was assured by the men that they had
not expected to see him alive again. In return he told them his story,
and a very interesting story it was.

"Some time ago," said he (I shall not attempt to reproduce his
dialect), "a big gang of gold-hunters went into the Big Horn country.
They never returned, and the general sent me to see if I could get
any trace of them. The country is full of Indians, and I kept my eye
skinned for them, but I wasn't looking for trouble from white men.
I happened to leave my revolver where I ate dinner one day,
and soon after discovering the loss I went back after the gun.
Just as I picked it up I saw a white man on my trail.
I smelled trouble, but turned and jogged along as if I hadn't
seen anything. That night I doubled back over my trail until I
came to the camp where the stranger belonged. As I expected,
he was one of a party of three, but they had five horses.
I'll bet odds, Pard Billy"--this to Will--"that the two pilgrims
laying for you belonged to this outfit.

"They thought I'd found gold, and were going to follow me until
I struck the mine, then do me up and take possession.

"The gold is there, too, lots of it. There's silver, iron, copper,
and coal, too, but no one will look at them so long as gold is to be had;
but those that go for gold will, many of them, leave their scalps behind.

"We kept the trail day after day; the men stuck right to me, the chap
ahead keeping me in sight and marking out the trail for his pard.
When we got into the heart of the Indian country I had to use every caution;
I steered clear of every smoke that showed a village or camp, and didn't
use my rifle on game, depending on the rations I had with me.

"At last I came to a spot that showed signs of a battle.
Skulls and bones were strewn around, and after a look about I was
satisfied beyond doubt that white men had been of the company.
The purpose of my trip was accomplished; I could safely report
that the party of whites had been exterminated by Indians.

"The question now was, could I return without running into Indians? The first
thing was to give my white pursuers the slip.

"That night I crept down the bed of a small stream, passed their camp,
and struck the trail a half mile or so below.

"It was the luckiest move I ever made. I had ridden but a short
distance when I heard the familiar war-whoop, and knew that the Indians
had surprised my unpleasant acquaintances and taken their scalps.
I should have shared the same fate if I hadn't moved.

"But, boys, it is a grand and beautiful country, full of towering mountains,
lovely valleys, and mighty trees."

About the middle of September the Indians became very troublesome
along the Sweetwater. Will was ambushed one day, but fortunately
he was mounted on one of the fleetest of the company's horses,
and lying flat on the animal's back, he distanced the redskins.
At the relay station he found the stock-tender dead, and as the
horses had been driven off, he was unable to get a fresh mount;
so he rode the same horse to Plontz Station, twelve miles farther.

A few days later the station boss of the line hailed Will
with the information:

"There's Injun signs about; so keep your eyes open."

"I'm on the watch, boss," was Will's answer, as he exchanged ponies
and dashed away.

The trail ran through a grim wild. It was darkened by mountains,
overhung with cliffs, and fringed with monster pines.
The young rider's every sense had been sharpened by frontier dangers.
Each dusky rock and tree was scanned for signs of lurking foes
as he clattered down the twilight track.

One large bowlder lay in plain view far down the valley,
and for a second he saw a dark object appear above it.

He kept his course until within rifle-shot, and then suddenly
swerved away in an oblique line. The ambush had failed,
and a puff of smoke issued from behind the bowlder.
Two braves, in gorgeous war paint, sprang up, and at the same time
a score of whooping Indians rode out of timber on the other side
of the valley.

Before Will the mountains sloped to a narrow pass;
could he reach that he would be comparatively safe.
The Indians at the bowlder were unmounted, and though they were
fleet of foot, he easily left them behind. The mounted reds
were those to be feared, and the chief rode a very fleet pony.
As they neared the pass Will saw that it was life against life.
He drew his revolver, and the chief, for his part, fitted an arrow
to his bow.

Will was a shade the quicker. His revolver cracked, and the warrior pitched
dead from his saddle. His fall was the signal for a shower of arrows,
one of which wounded the pony slightly; but the station was reached on time.

The Indians were now in evidence all the time. Between Split Rock and
Three Crossings they robbed a stage, killed the driver and two passengers,
and wounded Lieutenant Flowers, the assistant division agent.
They drove the stock from the stations, and continually harassed
the Pony Express riders and stage-drivers. So bold did the reds become
that the Pony riders were laid off for six weeks, though stages
were to make occasional runs if the business were urgent.
A force was organized to search for missing stock. There were forty
men in the party--stage-drivers, express-riders, stock-tenders,
and ranchmen; and they were captained by a plainsman named Wild Bill,
who was a good friend of Will for many years.

He had not earned the sobriquet through lawlessness. It merely denoted
his dashing and daring. Physically he was well-nigh faultless--
tall, straight, and symmetrical, with broad shoulders and splendid chest.
He was handsome of face, with a clear blue eye, firm and well-shaped mouth,
aquiline nose, and brown, curling hair, worn long upon his shoulders.
Born of a refined and cultured family, he, like Will, seemingly inherited
from some remote ancestor his passion for the wild, free life of the plains.

At this time Wild Bill was a well-known scout, and in this capacity
served the United States to good purpose during the war.

CHAPTER XI.

A SHORT BUT DASHING INDIAN CAMPAIGN.

AS Will was one of the laid-off riders, he was allowed to join
the expedition against the Indian depredators, though he was
the youngest member of the company.

The campaign was short and sharp. The Indian trail was followed
to Powder River, and thence along the banks of the stream the party
traveled to within forty miles of the spot where old Fort Reno now stands;
from here the trail ran westerly, at the foot of the mountains,
and was crossed by Crazy Woman's Fork, a tributary of the Powder.

Originally this branch stream went by the name of the Big Beard,
because of a peculiar grass that fringed it. On its bank had
stood a village of the Crow Indians, and here a half-breed trader
had settled. He bought the red man's furs, and gave him in return
bright-colored beads and pieces of calico, paints, and blankets.
In a short time he had all the furs in the village; he packed
them on ponies, and said good by to his Indian friends.
They were sorry to see him go, but he told them he would soon return
from the land of the paleface, bringing many gifts. Months passed;
one day the Indian sentinels reported the approach of a strange object.
The village was alarmed, for the Crows had never seen ox, horse, or wagon;
but the excitement was allayed when it was found that the strange
outfit was the property of the half-breed trader.

He had brought with him his wife, a white woman; she, too, was an object
of much curiosity to the Indians.

The trader built a lodge of wood and stones, and exposed all his goods
for sale. He had brought beads, ribbons, and brass rings as gifts
for all the tribe.

One day the big chief visited the store; the trader led
him into a back room, swore him to secrecy, and gave him
a drink of black water. The chief felt strangely happy.
Usually he was very dignified and stately; but under the influence
of the strange liquid he sang and danced on the streets, and finally
fell into a deep sleep, from which he could not be wakened.
This performance was repeated day after day, until the Indians called
a council of war. They said the trader had bewitched their chief,
and it must be stopped, or they would kill the intruder.
A warrior was sent to convey this intelligence to the trader;
he laughed, took the warrior into the back room, swore him to secrecy,
and gave him a drink of the black water. The young Indian,
in his turn, went upon the street, and laughed and sang and danced,
just as the chief had done. Surprised, his companions
gathered around him and asked him what was the matter.
"Oh, go to the trader and get some of the black water!" said he.

They asked for the strange beverage. The trader denied having any,
and gave them a drink of ordinary water, which had no effect.
When the young warrior awoke, they again questioned him.
He said he must have been sick, and have spoken loosely.

After this the chief and warrior were both drunk every day,
and all the tribe were sorely perplexed. Another council of war
was held, and a young chief arose, saying that he had made
a hole in the wall of the trader's house, and had watched;
and it was true the trader gave their friends black water.
The half-breed and the two unhappy Indians were brought before
the council, and the young chief repeated his accusation,
saying that if it were not true, they might fight him.
The second victim of the black water yet denied the story,
and said the young chief lied; but the trader had maneuvered
into the position he desired, and he confessed. They bade him
bring the water, that they might taste it; but before he departed
the young chief challenged to combat the warrior that had said
he lied. This warrior was the best spearsman of the tribe,
and all expected the death of the young chief; but the black
water had palsied the warrior's arm, his trembling hand could
not fling true, he was pierced to the heart at the first thrust.
The tribe then repaired to the trader's lodge, and he gave
them all a drink of the black water. They danced and sang,
and then lay upon the ground and slept.

After two or three days the half-breed declined to provide black water free;
if the warriors wanted it, they must pay for it. At first he gave them
a "sleep," as they called it, for one robe or skin, but as the stock
of black water diminished, two, then three, then many robes were demanded.
At last he said he had none left except what he himself desired.
The Indians offered their ponies, until the trader had all the robes
and all the ponies of the tribe.

Now, he said, he would go back to the land of the paleface and procure more
of the black water. Some of the warriors were willing he should do this;
others asserted that he had plenty of black water left, and was going
to trade with their enemy, the Sioux. The devil had awakened in the tribe.
The trader's stores and packs were searched, but no black water was found.
'Twas hidden, then, said the Indians. The trader must produce it,
or they would kill him. Of course he could not do this.
He had sowed the wind; he reaped the whirlwind. He was scalped before
the eyes of his horrified wife, and his body mutilated and mangled.
The poor woman attempted to escape; a warrior struck her with
his tomahawk, and she fell as if dead. The Indians fired the lodge.
As they did so, a Crow squaw saw that the white woman was not dead.
She took the wounded creature to her own lodge, bound up her wounds,
and nursed her back to strength. But the unfortunate woman's brain
was crazed, and could not bear the sight of a warrior.

As soon as she could get around she ran away.
The squaws went out to look for her, and found her crooning
on the banks of the Big Beard. She would talk with the squaws,
but if a warrior appeared, she hid herself till he was gone.
The squaws took her food, and she lived in a covert on
the bank of the stream for many months. One day a warrior,
out hunting, chanced upon her. Thinking she was lost,
he sought to catch her, to take her back to the village,
as all Indian tribes have a veneration for the insane;
but she fled into the hills, and was never seen afterward.
The stream became known as the "Place of the Crazy Woman,"
or Crazy Woman's Fork, and has retained the name to this day.

At this point, to return to my narrative, the signs indicated that
reinforcements had reached the original body of Indians. The plainsmen
were now in the heart of the Indian country, the utmost caution was required,
and a sharp lookout was maintained. When Clear Creek, another tributary
of the Powder, was come up with, an Indian camp, some three miles distant,
was discovered on the farther bank.

A council of war was held. Never before had the white man followed the red
so far into his domain, and 'twas plain the Indian was off his guard;
not a scout was posted.

At Wild Bill's suggestion, the attack waited upon nightfall.
Veiled by darkness, the company was to surprise the Indian camp
and stampede the horses.

The plan was carried out without a hitch. The Indians outnumbered the white
men three to one, but when the latter rushed cyclonically through the camp,
no effort was made to repel them, and by the time the Indians had
recovered from their surprise the plainsmen had driven off all the horses--
those belonging to the reds as well as those that had been stolen.
A few shots were fired, but the whites rode scathless away, and unpursued.

The line of march was now taken up for Sweetwater Bridge, and here,
four days later, the plainsmen brought up, with their own horses
and about a hundred Indian ponies.

This successful sadly repressed the hostilities for a space.
The recovered horses were put back on the road, and the stage-drivers
and express-riders resumed their interrupted activity.

"Billy," said Mr. Slade, who had taken a great fancy to Will--"Billy,
this is a hard life, and you're too young to stand it. You've done
good service, and in consideration of it I'll make you a supernumerary.
You'll have to ride only when it's absolutely necessary."

There followed for Will a period of _dolce far niente_; days when
he might lie on his back and watch the clouds drift across the sky;
when he might have an eye to the beauty of the woodland and
the sweep of the plain, without the nervous strain of studying
every tree and knoll that might conceal a lurking redskin.
Winter closed in, and with it came the memories of the trapping
season of 1860-61, when he had laid low his first and last bear.
But there were other bears to be killed--the mountains were full of them;
and one bracing morning he turned his horse's head toward the hills
that lay down the Horseshoe Valley. Antelope and deer fed in the valley,
the sage-hen and the jack-rabbit started up under his horse's hoofs,
but such small game went by unnoticed.

Two o'clock passed without a sign of bear, save some tracks in
the snow. The wintry air had put a keen edge on Will's appetite,
and hitching his tired horse, he shot one of the lately
scorned sage-hens, and broiled it over a fire that invited
a longer stay than an industrious bear-hunter could afford.
But nightfall found him and his quarry still many miles asunder,
and as he did not relish the prospect of a chaffing from
the men at the station, he cast about for a camping-place,
finding one in an open spot on the bank of a little stream.
Two more sage-hens were added to the larder, and he was preparing
to kindle a fire when the whinnying of a horse caught his ear.
He ran to his own horse to check the certain response, resaddled him,
and disposed everything for flight, should it be necessary.
Then, taking his rifle, he put forth on a reconnoissance.

He shortly came upon a bunch of horses, a dozen or more, around a crook
of the stream. Above them, on the farther bank, shone a light.
Drawing nearer, he saw that it came from a dugout, and he heard his own
language spoken. Reassured, he walked boldly up to the door and rapped.

Silence--followed by a hurried whispering, and the demand:

"Who's there?"

"Friend and white man," answered Will.

The door opened reluctantly, and an ugly-looking customer bade him enter.
The invitation was not responded to with alacrity, for eight such
villainous-looking faces as the dugout held it would have been hard to match.
Too late to retreat, there was nothing for it but a determined front,
and let wit point the way of escape. Two of the men Will recognized
as discharged teamsters from Lew Simpson's train, and from his knowledge
of their longstanding weakness he assumed, correctly, that he had thrust
his head into a den of horsethieves.

"Who's with you?" was the first query; and this answered, with sundry
other information esteemed essential, "Where's your horse?"
demanded the most striking portrait in the rogues' gallery.

"Down by the creek," said Will.

"All right, sonny; we'll go down and get him," was the obliging rejoinder.

"Oh, don't trouble yourself," said Will. "I'll fetch
him and put up here over night, with your permission.
I'll leave my gun here till I get back."

"That's right; leave your gun, you won't need it,"
said the leader of the gang, with a grin that was as near
amiability as his rough, stern calling permitted him.
"Jim and I will go down with you after the horse."

This offer compelled an acquiescence, Will consoling himself
with the reflection that it is easier to escape from two men
than from eight.

When the horse was reached, one of the outlaws obligingly volunteered
to lead it.

"All right," said Will, carelessly. "I shot a couple of sage-hens here;
I'll take them along. Lead away!"

He followed with the birds, the second horsethief bringing up the rear.
As the dugout was neared he let fall one of the hens, and asked the chap
following to pick it up, and as the obliging rear guard stopped,
Will knocked him senseless with the butt of his revolver.
The man ahead heard the blow, and turned, with his hand on his gun,
but Will dropped him with a shot, leaped on his horse, and dashed off.

The sextet in the dugout sprang to arms, and came running down the bank,
and likely getting the particulars of the escape from the ruffian
by the sage-hen, who was probably only stunned for the moment,
they buckled warmly to the chase. The mountain-side was steep and rough,
and men on foot were better than on horseback; accordingly Will dismounted,
and clapping his pony soundly on the flank, sent him clattering on
down the declivity, and himself stepped aside behind a large pine.
The pursuing party rushed past him, and when they were safely gone,
he climbed back over the mountain, and made his way as best he could
to the Horseshoe. It was a twenty-five mile plod, and he reached
the station early in the morning, weary and footsore.

He woke the plainsmen, and related his adventure, and Mr. Slade
at once organized a party to hunt out the bandits of the dugout.
Twenty well-armed stock-tenders, stage-drivers, and ranchmen rode
away at sunrise, and, notwithstanding his fatigue, Will accompanied
them as guide.

But the ill-favored birds had flown; the dugout was deserted.

Will soon tired of this nondescript service, and gladly
accepted a position as assistant wagon-master under Wild Bill,
who had taken a contract to fetch a load of government freight
from Rolla, Missouri.

He returned with a wagon-train to Springfield, in that state,
and thence came home on a visit. It was a brief one, however,
for the air was too full of war for him to endure inaction.
Contented only when at work, he continued to help on government
freight contracts, until he received word that mother was dangerously ill.
Then he resigned his position and hastened home.

CHAPTER XII.

THE MOTHER'S LAST ILLNESS.

IT was now the autumn of 1863, and Will was a well-grown young man,
tall, strong, and athletic, though not yet quite eighteen years old.
Our oldest sister, Julia, had been married, the spring preceding,
to Mr. J. A. Goodman.

Mother had been growing weaker from day to day; being with her constantly,
we had not remarked the change for the worse; but Will was much
shocked by the transformation which a few months had wrought.
Only an indomitable will power had enabled her to overcome the infirmities
of the body, and now it seemed to us as if her flesh had been refined away,
leaving only the sweet and beautiful spirit.

Will reached home none too soon, for only three weeks after his
return the doctor told mother that only a few hours were left
to her, and if she had any last messages, it were best that she
communicate them at once. That evening the children were
called in, one by one, to receive her blessing and farewell.
Mother was an earnest Christian character, but at that time
I alone of all the children appeared religiously disposed.
Young as I was, the solemnity of the hour when she charged
me with the spiritual welfare of the family has remained
with me through all the years that have gone. Calling me
to her side, she sought to impress upon my childish mind,
not the sorrow of death, but the glory of the resurrection.
Then, as if she were setting forth upon a pleasant journey,
she bade me good by, and I kissed her for the last time in life.
When next I saw her face it was cold and quiet.
The beautiful soul had forsaken its dwelling-place of clay,
and passed on through the Invisible, to wait, a glorified spirit,
on the farther shore for the coming of the loved ones whose
life-story was as yet unfinished.

Julia and Will remained with her throughout the night.
Just before death there came to her a brief season of long-lost
animation, the last flicker of the torch before darkness.
She talked to them almost continuously until the dawn.
Into their hands was given the task of educating the others
of the family, and on their hearts and consciences the charge
was graven. Charlie, who was born during the early Kansas troubles,
had ever been a delicate child, and he lay an especial burden
on her mind.

"If," she said, "it be possible for the dead to call the living,
I shall call Charlie to me."

Within the space of a year, Charlie, too, was gone; and who shall say
that the yearning of a mother's heart for her child was not stronger
than the influences of the material world?

Upon Will mother sought to impress the responsibilities of his destiny.
She reminded him of the prediction of the fortune-teller, that "his name
would be known the world over."

"But," said she, "only the names of them that are upright, brave,
temperate, and true can be honorably known. Remember always that `he
that overcometh his own soul is greater than he who taketh a city.'
Already you have shown great abilities, but remember that they carry
with them grave responsibilities. You have been a good son to me.
In the hour of need you have always aided me. so that I can
die now feeling that my children are not unprovided for.
I have not wished you to enlist in the war, partly because I knew you
were too young, partly because my life was drawing near its close.
But now you are nearly eighteen, and if when I am gone your country
needs you in the strife of which we in Kansas know the bitterness,
I bid you go as soldier in behalf of the cause for which your father
gave his life."

She talked until sleep followed exhaustion. When she awoke
she tried to raise herself in bed. Will sprang to aid her,
and with the upward look of one that sees ineffable things,
she passed away, resting in his arms.

Oh, the glory and the gladness
Of a life without a fear;
Of a death like nature fading
In the autumn of the year;
Of a sweet and dreamless slumber,
In a faith triumphant borne,
Till the bells of Easter wake her
On the resurrection morn!

Ah, for such a blessed falling
Into quiet sleep at last,
When the ripening grain is garnered,
And the toil and trial past;
When the red and gold of sunset
Slowly changes into gray;
Ah, for such a quiet passing,
Through the night into the day!

The morning of the 22d day of November, 1863, began the saddest day
of our lives. We rode in a rough lumber wagon to Pilot Knob Cemetery,
a long, cold, hard ride; but we wished our parents to be united in death
as they had been in life, so buried mother in a grave next to father's.

The road leading from the cemetery forked a short distance
outside of Leavenworth, one branch running to that city,
the other winding homeward along Government Hill. When we were returning,
and reached this fork, Will jumped out of the wagon.

"I can't go home when I know mother is no longer there," said he.
"I am going to Leavenworth to see Eugene Hathaway. I shall stay
with him to-night."

We, pitied Will--he and mother had been so much to each other--
and raised no objection, as we should have done had we known
the real purpose of his visit.

The next morning, therefore, we were much surprised to see him
and Eugene ride into the yard, both clothed in, the blue uniforms
of United States soldiers. Overwhelmed with grief over mother's death,
it seemed more than we could bear to see our big brother ride off to war.
We threatened to inform the recruiting officers that he was not yet eighteen;
but he was too thoroughly in earnest to be moved by our objections.
The regiment in which he had enlisted was already ordered to
the front, and he had come home to say good by. He then rode away
to the hardships, dangers, and privations of a soldier's life.
The joy of action balanced the account for him, while we were obliged
to accept the usual lot of girlhood and womanhood--the weary,
anxious waiting, when the heart is torn with uncertainty and suspense
over the fate of the loved ones who bear the brunt and burden
of the day.

The order sending Will's regiment to the front was countermanded,
and he remained for a time in Fort Leavenworth. His Western
experiences were "well known there, and probably for this
reason he was selected as a bearer of military dispatches to
Fort Larned. Some of our old pro-slavery enemies, who were upon
the point of joining the Confederate army, learned of Will's mission,
which they thought afforded them an excellent chance to gratify
their ancient grudge against the father by murdering the son.
The killing could be justified on the plea of service rendered
to their cause. Accordingly a plan was made to waylay Will
and capture his dispatches at a creek he was obliged to ford.

He received warning of this plot. On such a mission
the utmost vigilance was demanded at all times, and with
an ambuscade ahead of him, he was alertness itself.
His knowledge of Indian warfare stood him in good stead now.
Not a tree, rock, or hillock escaped his keen glance.
When he neared the creek at which the attack was expected,
he left the road, and attempted to ford the stream four
or five hundred yards above the common crossing, but found
it so swollen by recent rains that he was unable to cross;
so he cautiously picked his way back to the trail.

The assassins' camp was two or three hundred feet away from the creek.
Darkness was coming on, and he took advantage of the shelter afforded
by the bank, screening himself behind every clump of bushes.
His enemies would look for his approach from the other direction,
and he hoped to give them the slip and pass by unseen.

When he reached the point where he could see the little cabin
where the men were probably hiding, he ran upon a thicket
in which five saddle-horses were concealed.

"Five to one! I don't stand much show if they see me,"
he decided as he rode quietly and slowly along, his carbine
in his hand ready for use.

"There he goes, boys! he's at the ford!" came a sudden
shout from the camp, followed by the crack of a rifle.
Two or three more shots rang out, and from the bound his horse gave
Will knew one bullet had reached a mark. He rode into the water,
then turned in his saddle and aimed like a flash at a man within range.
The fellow staggered and fell, and Will put spurs to his horse,
turning again only when the stream was crossed. The men were running
toward the ford, firing as they came, and getting a warm return fire.
As Will was already two or three hundred yards in advance,
pursuers on foot were not to be feared, and he knew that before they
could reach and mount their horses he would be beyond danger.
Much depended on his horse. Would the gallant beast, wounded as
he was, be able to long maintain the fierce pace he had set?
Mile upon mile was put behind before the stricken creature fell.
Will shouldered the saddle and bridle and continued on foot.
He soon reached a ranch where a fresh mount might be procured,
and was shortly at Fort Larned.

After a few hours' breathing-spell, he left for Fort Leavenworth
with return dispatches. As he drew near the ford, he resumed
his sharp lookout, though scarcely expecting trouble.
The planners of the ambuscade had been so certain that five
men could easily make away with one boy that there had been
no effort at disguise, and Will had recognized several of them.
He, for his part, felt certain that they would get out of
that part of the country with all dispatch; but he employed
none the less caution in crossing the creek, and his carbine
was ready for business as he approached the camp.

The fall of his horse's hoofs evoked a faint call from one of the buildings.
It was not repeated; instead there issued hollow moans.

It might be a trap; again, a fellow-creature might be at death's door.
Will rode a bit nearer the cabin entrance.

"Who's there?" he called.

"Come in, for the love of God! I am dying here alone!"
was the reply.

"Who are you?"

"Ed Norcross."

Will jumped from his horse. This was the man at whom he had fired.
He entered the cabin.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"I was wounded by a bullet," moaned Norcross, "and my comrades deserted me."

Will was now within range of the poor fellow lying on the floor.

"Will Cody!" he cried.

Will dropped on his knee beside the dying man, choking with the emotion
that the memory of long years of friendship had raised.

"My poor Ed!" he murmured. "And it was my bullet that struck you."

"It was in defense of your own life, Will," said Norcross.
"God knows, I don't blame you. Don't think too hard of me.
I did everything I could to save you. It was I who sent you warning.
I hoped you might find some other trail."

"I didn't shoot with the others," continued Norcross, after a short silence.
"They deserted me. They said they would send help back, but they haven't."

Will filled the empty canteen lying on the floor, and rearranged the blanket
that served as a pillow; then he offered to dress the neglected wound.
But the gray of death was already upon the face of Norcross.

"Never mind, Will," he whispered; "it's not worth while.
Just stay with me till I die."

It was not a long vigil. Will sat beside his old friend, moistening his
pallid lips with water. In a very short time the end came.
Will disposed the stiffening limbs, crossing the hands over the heart,
and with a last backward look went out of the cabin.

It was his first experience in the bitterness and savagery of war,
and he set a grave and downcast face against the remainder
of his journey.

As he neared Leavenworth he met the friend who had conveyed the dead man's
warning message, and to him he committed the task of bringing home the body.
His heaviness of spirit was scarcely mitigated by the congratulations
of the commander of Fort Leavenworth upon his pluck and resources,
which had saved both his life and the dispatches.

There followed another period of inaction, always irritating
to a lad of Will's restless temperament. Meantime, we at home
were having our own experiences.

We were rejoiced in great measure when sister Julia decided that we
had learned as much as might be hoped for in the country school,
and must thereafter attend the winter and spring terms of the school
at Leavenworth. The dresses she cut for us, however, still followed
the country fashion, which has regard rather to wear than to appearance,
and we had not been a day in the city school before we discovered that our
apparel had stamped "provincial" upon us in plain, large characters.
In addition to this, our brother-in-law, in his endeavor to administer
the estate economically, bought each of us a pair of coarse calfskin shoes.
To these we were quite unused, mother having accustomed us to serviceable
but pretty ones. The author of our "extreme" mortification, totally ignorant
of the shy and sensitive nature of girls, only laughed at our protests,
and in justice to him it may be said that he really had no conception
of the torture he inflicted upon us.

We turned to Will. In every emergency he was our first thought, and here
was an emergency that taxed his powers to an extent we did not dream of.
He made answer to our letter that he was no longer an opulent trainman,
but drew only the slender income of a soldier, and even that pittance
was in arrears. Disappointment was swallowed up in remorse.
Had we reflected how keenly he must feel his inability to help us,
we would not have sent him the letter, which, at worst, contained only
a sly suggestion of a fine opportunity to relieve sisterly distress.
All his life he had responded to our every demand; now allegiance was
due his country first. But, as was always the way with him, he made
the best of a bad matter, and we were much comforted by the receipt
of the following letter:

"MY DEAR SISTERS:

"I am sorry that I cannot help you and furnish you with
such clothes as you wish. At this writing I am so short
of funds myself that if an entire Mississippi steamer could
be bought for ten cents I couldn't purchase the smokestack.
I will soon draw my pay, and I will send it, every cent, to you.
So brave it out, girls, a little longer. In the mean time I
will write to Al. Lovingly, WILL."

We were comforted, yes; but my last hope was gone, and I grew desperate.
I had never worn the obnoxious shoes purchased by my guardian, and I
proceeded to dispose of them forever. I struck what I regarded as a famous
bargain with an accommodating Hebrew, and came into possession of a pair
of shiny morocco shoes, worth perhaps a third of what mine had cost.
One would say they were designed for shoes, and they certainly
looked like shoes, but as certainly they were not wearable.
Still they were of service, for the transaction convinced my guardian
that the truest economy did not lie in the pur-chasing of calfskin
shoes for at least one of his charges. A little later he received
a letter from Will, presenting our grievances and advocating our cause.
Will also sent us the whole of his next month's pay as soon as he drew it.

In February, 1864, Sherman began his march through Mississippi.
The Seventh Kansas regiment, known as "Jennison's Jayhawkers,"
was reorganized at Fort Leavenworth as veterans, and sent
to Memphis, Tenn., to join General A. J. Smith's command,
which was to operate against General Forrest and cover the retreat
of General Sturgis, who had been so badly whipped by Forrest
at Cross-Roads. Will was exceedingly desirous of engaging
in a great battle, and through some officers with whom he was
acquainted preferred a petition to be transferred to this regiment.
The request was granted, and his delight knew no bounds.
He wrote to us that his great desire was about to be gratified,
that he should soon know what a real battle was like.

He was well versed in Indian warfare; now he was ambitious to learn,
from experience, the superiority of civilized strife--rather, I should say,
of strife between civilized people.

General Smith had acquainted himself with the record made by the young
scout of the plains, and shortly after reaching Memphis he ordered Will
to report to headquarters for special service.

"I am anxious," said the general, "to gain reliable
information concerning the enemy's movements and position.
This can only be done by entering the Confederate camp.
You possess the needed qualities--nerve, coolness, resource--
and I believe you could do it."

"You mean," answered Will, quietly, "that you wish me to go as a spy
into the rebel camp."

"Exactly. But you must understand the risk you run.
If you are captured, you will be hanged."

"I am ready to take the chances, sir," said Will; "ready to go at once,
if you wish."

General Smith's stern face softened into a smile at the prompt response.

"I am sure, Cody," said he, kindly, "that if any one can go through safely,
you will. Dodging Indians on the plains was good training for the work
in hand, which demands quick intelligence and ceaseless vigilance.
I never require such service of any one, but since you volunteer to go,
take these maps of the country to your quarters and study them carefully.
Return this evening for full instructions."

During the few days his regiment had been in camp, Will had
been on one or two scouting expeditions, and was somewhat
familiar with the immediate environments of the Union forces.
The maps were unusually accurate, showing every lake, river, creek,
and highway, and even the by-paths from plantation to plantation.

Only the day before, while on a reconnoissance, Will had captured
a Confederate soldier, who proved to be an old acquaintance named
Nat Golden. Will had served with Nat on one of Russell, Majors &
Waddell's freight trains, and at one time had saved the young
man's life, and thereby earned his enduring friendship.
Nat was born in the East, became infected with Western fever,
and ran away from home in order to become a plainsman.

"Well, this is too bad," said Will, when he recognized his old friend.
"I would rather have captured a whole regiment than you.
I don't like to take you in as a prisoner. What did you enlist
on the wrong side for, anyway?"

"The fortunes of war, Billy, my boy," laughed Nat. "Friend shall
be turned against friend, and brother against brother, you know.
You wouldn't have had me for a prisoner, either, if my rifle hadn't snapped;
but I'm glad it did, for I shouldn't want to be the one that shot you."

"Well, I don't want to see you strung up," said Will;
"so hand me over those papers you have, and I will turn you
in as an ordinary prisoner."

Nat's face paled as he asked, "Do you think I'm a spy, Billy?"

"I know it."

"Well," was the reply, "I've risked my life to obtain these papers,
but I suppose they will be taken from me anyway; so I might as well give
them up now, and save my neck."

Examination showed them to be accurate maps of the location and
position of the Union army; and besides the maps, there were papers
containing much valuable information concerning the number of soldiers
and officers and their intended movements. Will had not destroyed
these papers, and he now saw a way to use them to his own advantage.
When he reported for final instructions, therefore, at General Smith's tent,
in the evening, Will said to him:

"I gathered from a statement dropped by the prisoner captured yesterday,
that a Confederate spy has succeeded in making out and carrying to the enemy
a complete map of the position of our regiment, together with some idea
of the projected plan of campaign."

"Ah," said the general; "I am glad that you have put me on my guard.
I will at once change my position, so that the information will be
of no value to them."

Then followed full instructions as to the duty required of the volunteer.

"When will you set out?" asked the general.

"To-night, sir. I have procured my uniform, and have everything prepared
for an early start."

"Going to change your colors, eh?"

"Yes, for the time being, but not my principles."

The general looked at Will approvingly. "You will need
all the wit, pluck, nerve, and caution of which you are
possessed to come through this ordeal safely," said he.
"I believe you can accomplish it, and I rely upon you fully.
Good by, and success go with you!"

After a warm hand-clasp, Will returned to his tent, and lay down
for a few hours' rest. By four o'clock he was in the saddle,
riding toward the Confederate lines.

CHAPTER XIII.

IN THE SECRET-SERVICE.

IN common walks of life to play the spy is an ignoble role;
yet the work has to be done, and there must be men to do it.
There always are such men--nervy fellows who swing themselves
into the saddle when their commander lifts his hand, and ride
a mad race, with Death at the horse's flank every mile of the way.
They are the unknown heroes of every war.

It was with a full realization of the dangers confronting him that Will
cantered away from the Union lines, his borrowed uniform under his arm.
As soon as he had put the outposts behind him, he dismounted and exchanged
the blue clothes for the gray. Life on the plains had bronzed his face.
For aught his complexion could tell, the ardent Southern sun might have
kissed it to its present hue. Then, if ever, his face was his fortune
in good part; but there was, too, a stout heart under his jacket,
and the light of confidence in his eyes.

The dawn had come up when he sighted the Confederate outposts.
What lay beyond only time could reveal; but with a last
reassuring touch of the papers in his pocket, he spurred
his horse up to the first of the outlying sentinels.
Promptly the customary challenge greeted him:

"Halt! Who goes there?"

"Friend."

"Dismount, friend! Advance and give the countersign!"

"Haven't the countersign," said Will, dropping from his horse,
"but I have important information for General Forrest. Take me
to him at once."

"Are you a Confederate soldier?"

"Not exactly. But I have some valuable news about the Yanks, I reckon.
Better let me see the general."

"Thus far," he added to himself, "I have played the part.
The combination of `Yank' and `I reckon' ought to establish me
as a promising candidate for Confederate honors."

His story was not only plausible, but plainly and fairly told;
but caution is a child of war, and the sentinel knew his business.
The pseudo-Confederate was disarmed as a necessary preliminary,
and marched between two guards to headquarters, many curious eyes
(the camp being now astir) following the trio.

When Forrest heard the report, he ordered the prisoner brought
before him. One glance at the general's handsome but harsh face,
and the young man steeled his nerves for the encounter.
There was no mercy in those cold, piercing eyes.
This first duel of wits was the one to be most dreaded.
Unless confidence were established, his after work must be done
at a disadvantage.

The general's penetrating gaze searched the young face before him
for several seconds.

"Well, sir," said he, "what do you want with me?"

Yankee-like, the reply was another question:

"You sent a man named Nat Golden into the Union lines, did you not, sir?"

"And if I did, what then?"

"He is an old friend of mine. He tried for the Union camp to verify
information that he had received, but before he started he left certain
papers with me in case he should be captured."

"Ah!" said Forrest, coldly. "And he was captured?"

"Yes, sir; but, as I happen to know, he wasn't hanged,
for these weren't on him."

As he spoke, Will took from his pocket the papers he had obtained from Golden,
and passed them over with the remark, "Golden asked me to take them to you."

General Forrest was familiar with the hapless Golden's handwriting,
and the documents were manifestly genuine. His suspicion was not aroused.

"These are important papers," said he, when he had run his eye over them.
"They contain valuable information, but we may not be able to use it, as we
are about to change our location. Do you know what these papers contain?"

"Every word," was the truthful reply. "I studied them, so that in case
they were destroyed you would still have the information from me."

"A wise thing to do," said Forrest, approvingly. "Are you a soldier?"

"I have not as yet joined the army, but I am pretty well acquainted
with this section, and perhaps could serve you as a scout."

"Um!" said the general, looking the now easy-minded young man over.
"You wear our uniform."

"It's Golden's," was the second truthful answer.
"He left it with me when he put on the blue."

"And what is your name?"

"Frederick Williams."

Pretty near the truth. Only a final "s" and a rearrangement
of his given names.

"Very well," said the general, ending the audience; "you may remain in camp.
If I need you, I'll send for you."

He summoned an orderly, and bade him make the volunteer scout comfortable
at the couriers' camp. Will breathed a sigh of relief as he followed
at the orderly's heels. The ordeal was successfully passed.
The rest was action.

Two days went by. In them Will picked up valuable information
here and there, drew maps, and was prepared to depart at
the first favorable opportunity. It was about time, he figured,
that General Forrest found some scouting work for him.
That was a passport beyond the lines, and he promised himself
the outposts should see the cleanest pair of heels that ever left
unwelcome society in the rear. But evidently scouting was a drug
in the general's market, for the close of another day found Will
impatiently awaiting orders in the couriers' quarters. This sort
of inactivity was harder on the nerves than more tangible perils,
and he about made up his mind that when he left camp it would be
without orders, but with a hatful of bullets singing after him.
And he was quite sure that his exit lay that way when,
strolling past headquarters, he clapped eyes on the very last
person that he expected or wished to see--Nat Golden.

And Nat was talking to an adjutant-general!

There were just two things to do, knock Golden on the head,
or cut and run. Nat would not betray him knowingly, but unwittingly
was certain to do so the moment General Forrest questioned him.
There could be no choice between the two courses open;
it was cut and run, and as a preliminary Will cut for his tent.
First concealing his papers, he saddled his horse and rode toward
the outposts with a serene countenance.

{illust. caption = "NOW RIDE FOR YOUR LIVES!"} The same
sergeant that greeted him when he entered the lines chanced
to be on duty, and of him Will asked an unimportant question
concerning the outer-flung lines. Yet as he rode along
he could not forbear throwing an apprehensive glance behind.
No pursuit was making, and the farthest picket-line was passed
by a good fifty yards. Ahead was a stretch of timber.
Suddenly a dull tattoo of horses' hoofs caught his ear, and he turned
to see a small cavalcade bearing down upon him at a gallop.
He sank the spurs into his horse's side and plunged into the timber.
It was out of the frying-pan into the fire. He ran plump into
a half-dozen Confederate cavalrymen, guarding two Union prisoners.
"Men, a Union spy is escaping!" shouted Will. "Scatter at once,
and head him off. I'll look after your prisoners."
There was a ring of authority in the command; it came at least
from a petty officer; and without thought of challenging it,
the cavalrymen hurried right and left in search of the fugitive.
"Come,"said Will, in a hurried but smiling whisper to the dejected
pair of Union men. "I'm the spy! There!" cutting the ropes
that bound their wrists. "Now ride for your lives!" Off dashed
the trio, and not a minute too soon. Will's halt had been brief,
but it had been of advantage to his pursuers, who, with Nat Golden
at their head, came on in full cry, not a hundred yards behind.
Here was a race with Death at the horse's flanks.
The timber stopped a share of the singing bullets, but there
were plenty that got by the trees, one of them finding
lodg-ment in the arm of one of the fleeing Union soldiers.
Capture meant certain death for Will; for his companions it
meant Andersonville or Libby, at the worst, which was perhaps
as bad as death; but Will would not leave them, though his
horse was fresh, and he could easily have distanced them.
Of course, if it became necessary, he was prepared to cut
their acquaintance, but for the present he made one of the triplicate
targets on which the galloping marksmen were endeavoring to
score a bull's-eye. The edge of the wood was shortly reached,
and beyond--inspiring sight!--lay the outposts of the Union army.
The pickets, at sight of the fugitives, sounded the alarm,
and a body of blue-coats responded. Will would have gladly
tarried for the skirmish that ensued, but he esteemed it his first
duty to deliver the papers he had risked his life to obtain;
so, leaving friend and foe to settle the dispute as best they might,
he put for the clump of trees where he had hidden his uniform,
and exchanged it for the gray, that had served its purpose and was
no longer endurable. Under his true colors he rode into camp.
General Forrest almost immediately withdrew from that neighborhood,
and after the atrocious massacre at Fort Pillow, on the 12th
of April, left the state. General Smith was recalled,
and Will was transferred, with the commission of guide and scout
for the Ninth Kansas Regiment. The Indians were giving so much
trouble along the line of the old Santa Fe trail that troops
were needed to protect the stagecoaches, emigrants, and caravans
traveling that great highway. Like nearly all our Indian wars,
this trouble was precipitated by the injustice of the white
man's government of certain of the native tribes. In 1860
Colonel A. G. Boone, a worthy grandson of the immortalDaniel,
made a treaty with the Comanches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, and Arapahoes,
and at their request he was made agent. During his wise,
just, and humane administration all of these savage nations
were quiet, and held the kindliest feelings toward the whites.
Any one could cross the plains without fear of molestation.
In 1861 a charge of disloyalty was made against Colonel Boone
by Judge Wright, of Indiana, and he succeeded in having the right
man removed from the right place. Russell, Majors & Waddell,
recognizing his influence over the Indians, gave him fourteen
hundred acres of land near Pueblo, Colorado. Colonel Boone
moved there, and the place was named Booneville. Fifty chieftains
from the tribes referred to visited Colonel Boone in
the fall of 1862, and implored him to return to them.
He told them that the President had sent him away.
They offered to raise money, by selling their horses, to send
him to Washington, to tell the Great Father what their agent
was doing--that he stole their goods and sold them back again;
and they bade the colonel say that there would be trouble
unless some one were put in the dishonest man's place.
With the innate logic for which the Indian is noted,
they declared that they had as much right to steal from
passing caravans as the agent had to steal from them.
No notice was taken of so trifling a matter as an injustice
to the Indian. The administration had its hands more than
full in the attempt to right the wrongs of the negro.
In the fall of 1863 a caravan passed along the trail.
It was a small one, but the Indians had been quiet for so long
a time that travelers were beginning to lose fear of them.
A band of warriors rode up to the wagon-train and asked for
something to eat. The teamsters thought they would be doing
humanity a service if they killed a redskin, on theancient
principle that "the only good Indian is a dead one."
Accordingly, a friendly, inoffensive Indian was shot.
The bullet that reached his heart touched that of every warrior
in these nations. Every man but one in the wagon- train
was slain, the animals driven off, and the wagons burned.
The fires of discontent that had been smoldering for two years
in the red man's breast now burst forth with volcanic fury.
Hundreds of atrocious murders followed, with wholesale destruction
of property. The Ninth Kansas Regiment, under the command of
Colonel Clark, was detailed to protect the old trail between Fort Lyon
and Fort Larned, and as guide and scout Will felt wholly at home.
He knew the Indian and his ways, and had no fear of him.
His fine horse and glittering trappings were an innocent delight
to him; and who will not pardon in him the touch of pride--
say vanity--that thrilled him as he led his regiment down the
Arkansas River? During the summer there were sundry skirmishes
with the Indians. The same old vigilance, learned in earlier
days on the frontier, was in constant demand, and there was many
a rough and rapid ride to drive the hostiles from the trail.
Whatever Colonel Clark's men may have had to complain of,
there was no lack of excitement, no dull days, in that summer.
In the autumn the Seventh Kansas was again ordered to the front,
and at the request of its officers Will was detailed for duty
with his old regiment. General Smith's orders were that
he should go to Nashville. Rosecrans was then in command
of the Union forces in Missouri. His army was very small,
numbering only about 6,500 men, while the Confederate General Price
was on the point of entering the state with 20,000. This
superiority of numbers was sogreat that General Smith received
an order countermanding the other, and remained in Missouri,
joining forces with Rosecrans to oppose Price. Rosecrans's entire
force still numbered only 11,000, and he deemed it prudent
to concentrate his army around St. Louis. General Ewing's
forces and a portion of General Smith's command occupied
Pilot Knob. On Monday, the 24th of September, 1864, Price advanced
against this position, but was repulsed with heavy losses.
An adjacent fort in the neighborhood of Ironton was assaulted,
but the Confederate forces again sustained a severe loss.
This fort held a commanding lookout on Shepard Mountain,
which the Confederates occupied, and their wall-directed
fire obliged General Ewing to fall back to Harrison Station,
where he made a stand, and some sharp fighting followed.
General Ewing again fell back, and succeeded in reaching
General McNeill, at Rolla, with the main body of his troops.
This was Will's first serious battle, and it so chanced that
he found himself opposed at one point by a body of Missouri troops
numbering many of the men who had been his father's enemies
and persecutors nine years before. In the heat of the conflict
he recognized more than one of them, and with the recognition came
the memory of his boyhood's vow to avenge his father's death.
Three of those men fell in that battle; and whether or not
it was he who laid them low, from that day on he accounted
himself freed of his melancholy obligation. After several
hard-fought battles, Price withdrew from Missouri with the remnant
of his command--seven thousand where there had been twenty.
During this campaign Will received honorable mention "for
most conspicuous bravery and valuable service upon the field,"
and he was shortly brought into favorable noticein many quarters.
The worth of the tried veterans was known, but none of the
older men was in more demand than Will. His was seemingly
a charmed life. Often was he detailed to bear dispatches
across the battlefield, and though horses were shot under him--
riddled by bullets or torn by shells--he himself went scathless.
During this campaign, too, he ran across his old friend of the plains,
Wild Bill. Stopping at a farm-house one day to obtain a meal,
he was not a little surprised to hear the salutation:
"Well, Billy, my boy, how are you?" He looked around to see
a hand outstretched from a coat-sleeve of Confederate gray,
and as he knew Wild Bill to be a stanch Unionist, he surmised
that he was engaged upon an enterprise similar to his own.
There was an exchange of chaffing about gray uniforms and blue,
but more serious talk followed. "Take these papers, Billy,"
said Wild Bill, passing over a package. "Take 'em to General McNeill,
and tell him I'm picking up too much good news to keep away
from the Confederate camp." "Don't take too many chances,"
cautioned Will, well knowing that the only chances the other
would not take would be the sort that were not visible.
Colonel Hickok, to give him his real name, replied, with a laugh:
"Practice what you preach, my son. Your neck is of more value
than mine. You have a future, but mine is mostly past.
I'm getting old." At this point the good woman of the house
punctuated the colloquy with a savory meal, which the pair discussed
with good appetite and easy conscience, in spite of their hostess's
refusal to take pay from Confederate soldiers."As long as I have
a crust in the house," said she, "you boys are welcome to it."
But the pretended Confederates paid her for her kindness
in better currency than she was used to. They withheld
information concerning a proposed visit of her husband and son,
of which, during one spell of loquacity, she acquainted them.
The bread she cast upon the waters returned to her speedily.
The two friends parted company, Will returning to the Union lines,
and Colonel Hickok to the opposing camp. A few days later,
when the Confederate forces were closing up around the Union lines,
and a battle was at hand, two horsemen were seen to dart out of
the hostile camp and ride at full speed for the Northern lines.
For a space the audacity of the escape seemed to paralyze
the Confederates; but presently the bullets followed thick and fast,
and one of the saddles was empty before the rescue party--
of which Will was one--got fairly under way. As the survivor
drew near, Will shouted: "It's Wild Bill, the Union scout."
A cheer greeted the intrepid Colonel Hickok, and he rode
into camp surrounded by a party of admirers. The information
he brought proved of great value in the battle of Pilot Knob
(already referred to), which almost immediately followed.
CHAPTER XIV. A RESCUE AND A BETROTHAL. AFTER the battle
of Pilot Knob Will was assigned, through the influence
of General Polk, to special service at military headquarters
in St. Louis. Mrs. Polk had been one of mother's school friends,
and the two had maintained a correspondence up to the time
of mother's death. As soon as Mrs. Polk learned that the son
of her old friend was in the Union army, she interested
herself in obtaining a good position for him. But desk-work
is not a Pony Express rush, and Will found the St. Louis detail
about as much to his taste as clerking in a dry-goods store.
His new duties naturally became intolerable, lacking the excitement
and danger-scent which alone made his life worth while to him.
One event, however, relieved the dead-weight monotony of his existence;
he met Louise Frederici, the girl who became his wife.
The courtship has been written far and wide with blood-and-thunder pen,
attended by lariat-throwing and runaway steeds. In reality it was
a romantic affair. More than once, while out for a morning canter,
Will had remarked a young woman of attractive face and figure,
who sat her horse with the grace of Diana Vernon. Now, few things
catch Will's eye more quickly than fine horsemanship.
He desired to establish an acquaintance with the young lady,
but as none of his friends knew her, he found it impossible.
At length a chance came. Her bridle-rein broke onemorning;
there was a runaway, a rescue, and then acquaintance was easy.
From war to love, or from love to war, is but a step,
and Will lost no time in taking it. He was somewhat better than
an apprentice to Dan Cupid. If the reader remembers, he went
to school with Steve Gobel. True, his opportunities to enjoy
feminine society had not been many, which; perhaps, accounts for
the promptness with which he embraced them when they did arise.
He became the accepted suitor of Miss Louise Frederici
before the war closed and his regiment was mustered out.
The spring of 1865 found him not yet twenty, and he was sensible
of the fact that before he could dance at his own wedding he must
place his worldly affairs upon a surer financial basis than falls
to the lot of a soldier; so, much as he would have enjoyed remaining
in St. Louis, fortune pointed to wider fields, and he set forth
in search of remunerative and congenial employment. First, there was
the visit home, where the warmest of welcomes awaited him.
During his absence the second sister, Eliza, had married a Mr. Myers,
but the rest of us were at the old place, and the eagerness
with which we awaited Will's home-coming was stimulated by
the hope that he would remain and take charge of the estate.
Before we broached this subject, however, he informed us of his
engagement to Miss Frederici, which, far from awakening jealousy,
aroused our delight, Julia voicing the sentiment of the family
in the comment: "When you're married, Will, you will have
to stay at home." This led to the matter of his remaining
with us to manage the estate--and to the upsetting of our plans.
The pay of a soldier in the war was next to nothing, and asWill
had been unable to put any money by, he took the first chance
that offered to better his fortunes. This happened to be a job
of driving horses from Leavenworth to Fort Kearny, and almost
the first man he met after reaching the fort was an old plains friend,
Bill Trotter. "You're just the chap I've been looking for,"
said Trotter, when he learned that Will desired regular work.
"I'm division station agent here, but stage-driving is
dangerous work, as the route is infested with Indians and outlaws.
Several drivers have been held up and killed lately, so it's
not a very enticing job, but the pay's good, and you know
the country. If any one can take the stage through, you can.
Do you want the job?" When a man is in love and the wedding-day
has been dreamed of, if not set, life takes on an added sweetness,
and to stake it against the marksmanship of Indian or outlaw
is not, perhaps, the best use to which it may be put.
Will had come safely through so many perils that it seemed folly
to thrust his head into another batch of them, and thinking
of Louise and the coming wedding-day, his first thought was no.
But it was the old story, and there was Trotter at his elbow
expressing confidence in his ability as a frontiersman--
an opinion Will fully shared, for a man knows what he can do.
The pay was good, and the sooner earned the sooner would
the wedding be, and Trotter received the answer he expected.

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