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Immediately after dinner on the day that Kate was missed, she bethought herself that the raspberries might be ripe. She wanted to surprise her mother and sister, but as will be seen, was surprised in such a manner that she never forgot it as long as she lived.

Without saying a word to her mother or Gertrude, she took out of her room a little basket made of par-fl├Ęche,[1] given to Joe by the Pawnees, and by him presented to her. She went out to the pasture, caught her pony, Ginger, saddled him, and rode out to the fatal raspberry patch where once she had such a terrible encounter with a she-wolf.

It was a fortunate thing that both the girls had learned to ride, for a sad fate would have been in store for her had she not been a thorough horsewoman.

Arriving there in less than half an hour, she tied Ginger to a sumac bush, and to her delight found that the berries were quite ripe, and was soon absorbed in the task of filling her basket. Suddenly, with the rush of a tornado, and uttering the most diabolical yells, a dozen Comanches, dressed up in their war paint and eagle feathers, swooped down on the unsuspecting girl as a hawk swoops down on a chicken. Before she realized where she was, one of the red devils, leaning over from his pony, caught her by the arms and tossed her in front of his saddle, and in another instant the whole band was dashing away southward as fast as their little animals could be urged.

Of course, she fainted for a moment, but strangely held on to her basket. When she had recovered from her first shock, the Indians endeavored to make her understand by signs that they were not going to hurt her. In fact, they treated her with a sort of savage kindness. The great feather-bedecked brute made her as comfortable as he could in front of him, as he pounded the pony's flanks with his moccasined heels to urge it on as fast as possible.

They rode rapidly on, staying for nothing, crossed Bluff Creek, and reached the Arkansas River that night. They waited there for an hour to allow their ponies to graze, and themselves to eat and smoke. They rode on again until daylight the next morning, when the sand hills of the Beaver came in sight. There they halted for breakfast, and shared with the now relatively calm girl their dried buffalo meat, and bread made of ground-roots.

That evening they arrived at their village on the Canadian, more than two hundred and fifty miles from the Oxhide. Kate was turned over to the squaws, who treated her with the kindness innate in all women, because she was only a little girl. Had she been a young woman, that monster Jealousy, which makes his home even in the rude tepee of the savage, would have made her lot entirely different.

She was allotted to the lodge of an old squaw, the old chief White Wolf's fifth wife, whose duty was to guard her and see that she did not attempt to escape. The savages, as Buffalo Bill had suggested, simply wanted to keep her until the Government should offer a ransom for the little captive, so it behooved them not to abuse her.

As the days rolled on in their weary length, the white captive became more reconciled to her fate. She had never given up the hope that the officers at Fort Harker would soon send out the troops to seek her, and that she would be restored to her dear Errolstrath home and her parents. At the same time, as she was a most excellent horsewoman, she always thought that if the worst came to the worst, she would make her escape and again ride the long distance she had ridden in coming to the village.

When she had regained her self-control on her dreadful journey, she had looked around her and had taken such observations as she could of the lay of the country, the timber, and the general aspect of the trail. Even then, in all the terrible excitement of her capture, she thought of escaping at the first opportunity that offered itself. She indelibly imprinted every tree, rock, and ford on her mind, so that the long ride over the trail to the village was like a photograph on her brain to be taken out of its storehouse whenever required.

In a very few days she had so ingratiated herself in the good opinion of the women of the village, that they really took a fancy to her. She willingly helped them in all the daily tasks heaped upon them by their hard masters. She learned readily how to tan the different furs which were brought into the place after a hunt, made moccasins, herded the ponies in her turn, and even became such an adept in cooking that she was soon permanently assigned as cook for the occupants of the tepee in which she was lodged. Then she was spared the dirtier and harder labor which fell to the lot of the Indian women, for she had been brought up by her excellent mother to perform all kinds of work in which a white woman is supposed to become proficient, and now it served her in a way that was never dreamed of.

The Indians occasionally had flour, but knew of but one way to prepare it. They made a kind of gruel, by boiling, and adding a little salt. A most unpalatable dish! She made bread and biscuit, which she baked in the most primitive way, on a piece of thin iron before the coals of the camp-fire; but then the food was so different from that to which the savages had been accustomed, that no one was permitted to prepare the meals for the lodge where she made her abode, but the White Fawn, as they began to call her.

Like Constantinople, every village is overrun with dogs, and they are the most vigilant guards that can be imagined. No one may hope to approach an Indian lodge, or a group of them, without being saluted by a chorus of the most unearthly barking and howling from the canine cataract that is sure to pour out the moment a strange footstep is heard. Kate, always a lover of pets, immediately began to cultivate the friendship of the dogs of the village. There was, however, something more in her method than mere natural affection for the brute creation; she had an object in view. She knew that when the time arrived for her to attempt to escape, the dogs must be thoroughly attached to her, so that they would regard any movement she might make without the slightest suspicion. This she soon effected, and in a short time every miserable cur in the village was her faithful ally.

The intense interest which she took in the herd of ponies may be imagined, for in one of them, at some time in the near future, was concentrated her hope of escaping from the hateful village. She had noticed a little roan pony which seemed to her to possess that power of endurance that would be so necessary when she started on her long and lonely journey to the beloved Oxhide. She knew that he was the swiftest animal of the hundred or more in the bunch, for she had watched him often when the dusky warrior who owned him rode away on the hunt. She had read in some favorite magazine at the ranche, that in the old tales of English minstrelsy, the roan horse was the favorite color of the heroes of those stories, and she selected that animal out of the herd to carry her away. So, whenever she could, surreptitiously, she petted him, and he became so attached to her that he would follow her like a dog.

The savages watched her very closely, and she dared not think of leaving the village for many long weeks. At last she appeared to be so pleased with her new associations that their vigilance relaxed somewhat, and their eyes were not always upon her.

She very rapidly learned the language of her captors, and then, as she could talk to the women, who were really kind to her, her isolation did not seem so hard to bear.

The principal food of the savages was dried buffalo meat, and, as it would keep sweet for a long time and was very nourishing, she hid portions of her rations in the hollow of an old elm that stood near her tepee, for use on the trip when the time arrived for her to run away.

The clothes which Kate wore when she was stolen soon began to show the hard service to which they had been subjected, and finally she had to resort to the blanket for a general wrap like her female associates. She had patched her civilized dress until it was like Joseph's coat, of many colors, but she tenaciously clung to it, determining that she would wear it home, if she was fortunate enough ever to return. So she took it off and carefully stored it with her buffalo meat in the hollow of the old elm.

She soon became aware that the savages were at war with the whites, for often when the warriors went away dressed up in their feathers and hideous paint, they came back with their ranks decimated, and then there was wailing and howling in the village.

She knew, also, that General Custer, whom the Indians called the Crawling Panther, was gradually outwitting them, for she heard the sobriquet they had given him often mentioned in their talks around the camp-fires.

Footnote:

[1] Par-fl├Ęche is the tanned hide of the buffalo, without the hair. The Indians make baskets and boxes of it in which to pack their provisions and other articles when they move their villages.