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Category: The Ranche On The Oxhide
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Five months had made their sad passage at Errolstrath ranche since Kate was carried off by the Indians. It was now November, and Thanksgiving, that day so sacred to every New Englander's heart, was rapidly approaching; it lacked but one week of its advent.

Notwithstanding the sadness which still hovered over Errolstrath, the great healer, Time, had poured balm into the wounded hearts. There still remained the tender remembrance of the light which the absent one always brought into the house, and the parents still strove to fulfill their obligations to those who were left to them, so Thanksgiving was kept as it had been ever since the settlement of the family on the ranche.

The mince pies had been baked, the cider bottled, and all that was lacking to make up the complement of the great dinner was a turkey. As, however, the woods were full of them around Errolstrath, no uneasiness was felt in regard to the presence of the magnificent bird when he was wanted.

Joe, upon whom the family depended to keep the larder well supplied with game, intended to go and kill a wild turkey the next day. Thanksgiving came the second day following on the twenty-fifth, so there was ample time to procure the principal dish for the coming event.

Joe had long since ceased to hunt for mere amusement. He had become a veritable pot-hunter, not in the general sense in which the word is used, that is, a man who only kills his game on the ground, but he hunted only when the family needed a change of diet, and desired some kind of game.

It was Rob's duty that month to bring the cows home and milk them, a duty at which the boys took turn and turn about each month. That evening he was returning home with his charge, and was riding, as usual, one of the buffalo ponies. As he was going along the bank of the Oxhide, in the long grass which grew in some places higher than a man's head, his animal suddenly stumbled with both feet, into a prairie dog's hole, and Rob was incontinently thrown over his head, falling into the long grass without receiving any injury. As he started to his feet again, he felt something struggling in his hands, for he had involuntarily clutched at the ground when the pony so unceremoniously tumbled him off, and to his great surprise, he discovered that he had accidentally caught a large wild turkey! He held on to the bird manfully, although it tried its hardest to get away from him; and holding it by the legs, he walked on to the corral and drove the cows in. Then, still leading his pony, he arrived at the house, and called his mother and Gertrude out, exclaiming:--

"I've got the turkey for Thanksgiving, and I didn't have to shoot it, either!"

Joe, hearing the noise, came down from his room, and learning what had caused the racket, said:--

"By jolly, Rob, you are a lucky dog; but if anyone read of the way you caught it, they wouldn't believe it. I never heard of such a thing before. I sha'n't have to hunt one tomorrow now, and I'm glad of it, for I want to go to the fort to try to find out how the Indian war is coming on."

"Well, Joe," said his mother, "as you needn't shoot one now, suppose you kill and pick it while Rob is milking, then hang it up somewhere so that the lynxes can't get it, and in the morning Gertie and I will get it ready for the oven."

Joe then took it from Rob, who was still holding the struggling creature by the legs, and taking it to the woodpile, he chopped off its head, then he picked it, and hung it up in the smoke-house as the safest place until his mother was ready for it in the morning.

Thanksgiving day opened clear and cool, but not at all cold, for November in Kansas is one of the most delightful months in the whole year. The Indian summer is then at its height, and the amber mist hangs in light clouds on every hill, giving to all objects a smoky hue. This mist rests particularly on the bluffs bordering that stream to which General John C. Fremont gave the name of "The Smoky Hill Fork of the Republican." He first saw it in the late autumn of 1843, when on his exploring expedition to the Rocky Mountains, and it is into that river that the Oxhide empties itself only a short distance from Errolstrath ranche.

It was intended to have dinner served promptly at noon, and Mrs. Thompson had so announced to her husband and children, who were all anxious for twelve o'clock to strike.

About ten, while she and Gertrude were busy in the kitchen, the boys out in the yard, and Mr. Thompson in the timber, marking some trees he planned to cut down, there rode up to the front porch a strange-looking figure on a roan pony which was evidently nearly blown in consequence of the pace at which it had been driven.

The strange object was seemingly a girl, but she was one mass of rags over which was thrown a red blanket, Indian fashion. Her hair was unkempt, and she sat crossways on her animal, like a savage.

Mrs. Thompson, hearing the sound of a horse's hoofs on the buffalo sod in front of the house, went out with her dishcloth in her hand to see who the intruder might be. Looking at her, she at first thought one of the Pawnee boys had come for Joe, but when she heard in a sad and apparently disappointed tone a voice which she could never have forgotten: "My heavens! mamma, don't you know me?" she recognized it as that of her lost daughter Kate. The cloth dropped from her hand, and she fell prone upon the porch, overcome by the shock.

Just as Gertrude, who had heard her mother's smothered groan, ran out with a tin dipper of water to dash into her face, Kate dismounted, and rushing to where her mother was lying, she threw her arms around her neck and began to sob violently.

It was then that Gertrude, for the first time, saw her sister Kate, and she, too, immediately fell upon her lovingly, and for some moments there was weeping, laughing, kissing, and hugging. The boys, in the back part of the house, and their father in the stable, hearing the voices, hurried to the veranda, and in another second all were kissing and hugging the ragged girl, each one trying to outvie the other in their joy at the return of the pet of the household.

They fairly dragged Kate into the sitting-room, where, for a few minutes, they looked at her in a dazed sort of way. Her mother was the first to come to her senses.

"The first thing to do," she said, "is to get some decent clothes on the child; then as soon as Mr. Tucker comes we will have dinner. Oh! my, what a Thanksgiving it will be!"

Kate was soon made comfortable in clean linen, and a dress of her sister's, for she had outgrown all that were of her own wardrobe five months before.

At this moment Mr. Tucker rode up to the door, and allowing Rob to take his horse to the stable, the old man walked into the house. He was the only invited guest on the Thanksgivings at Errolstrath. All his family were long since dead, and he was alone in the world; besides, being a New Englander, he had not forgotten how to appreciate the most important festival of Yankee Land.

He was wonderfully taken aback when he saw that Kate had returned, and he congratulated her with his eyes full of tears; for he was a man with a warm heart, though his early life in the days of the old trappers had given him a rough looking exterior.

Kate looked like the dear Kate of old, as all sat down to a real Thanksgiving dinner. She was much browner than when she left Errolstrath, because of her constant outdoor life in the Indian village.

"Oh! Kate," said her mother, as the happy girl took her accustomed place at the table, between her father and Gertrude, "how earnestly I have prayed that you might be restored to us; I felt at times almost in despair, but the thought of the good God's promises to the patient, cheered me up, and I knew that in His own time my prayer would be answered. What a different Thanksgiving this is from what we all have expected, when we thought of Kate's vacant chair! Only think, we have never yet been separated on this blessed day during all the years we have lived at Errolstrath! But we little thought that we should be together to-day."

"We have much to be thankful for," said Mr. Thompson; "excellent crops, good luck with our stock, and to cap the climax, our beloved Kate is restored to us."

The Thanksgiving dinners at Errolstrath were composed of those conventional dishes which make up the celebration of the festival in New England, and the one at Errolstrath that day was perfect in its resemblance to those of the old homestead in Vermont.

While they were discussing the good things on the table, Kate was told how Rob had got the turkey for the dinner, and also how matters had progressed at the ranche during her absence, for she was very anxious to know. Her father said that he had raised the largest crop of corn since he had been on the creek; that the wolves had carried off two calves from Errolstrath, but that many of the neighbors had suffered a great deal more from their depredations, and that a grand wolf hunt was contemplated by the whole neighborhood, for something had to be done to thin out the ravenous creatures. Gertrude told how many chickens she had, but Joe gave them all the best news they had heard for a long time.

"I was over at Fort Harker yesterday," he said, "and I heard that General Custer had attacked the camp of Black Kettle, the Cheyenne chief, on the Washita in the Indian Territory, and completely wiped them out. The war is ended, and the savages are suing for a peace which General Sheridan says they will be sure to keep this time. The commanding officer told me that Custer would soon arrive at the fort, and that the settlers need have little more fear; that they may go anywhere now without expecting to lose their hair. He said that Sheridan had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general for the brilliant success of his winter campaign, and that he would shortly be at Fort Harker on his way to Washington."

"Well, that is glorious news," said Mr. Tucker. "No more stealing pretty little girls from their homes, eh?"

When Joe had finished his joyous piece of intelligence, the family adjourned to the big sitting-room, and Kate was asked to tell the wonderful story of her capture and escape. She seated herself in her favorite chair, an old Boston rocker, brought from Vermont and nicely cushioned at the back, and was making ready to begin, when her mother said:--

"What in the world, Kate, possessed you to go away from the house that day and to tell none of us where you intended to go?"

"Why," answered Kate, "I remembered that you were very fond of raspberries, and I thought that, as they must be ripe, I would saddle Ginger and go up to the patch to get some, for I wanted to surprise you. I took my little Indian basket--"

"I had nearly filled my basket."

"Buffalo Bill found your basket on the trail the other side of Bluff Creek ford," interrupted Joe, "and that is how we came to know that the Indians had captured you."

"I remember now," said Kate, "that I held on to it for a long time and then dropped it. I don't know why I kept it in my hand. Well, as I was saying, I rode out to the patch, tied Ginger to a sumac bush, and began to pick the berries, which were ripe as I had expected. I had nearly filled my basket when with a dash that nearly frightened me out of my senses, a band of Indians came from the other side of the big ledge, and before I knew where I was, I found myself in front of a horrible-looking savage, and the whole band started south as tight as their ponies could go. I remember hearing Ginger give a snort, as he jerked up by the roots the bush I had tied him to, and fairly flew towards the ranche--"

"There, mother," said Joe, "that's just what I told you when Ginger came home with the sumac fastened to his bridle!"

"Oh, if I could only have jumped on Ginger's back," continued Kate, "before the Indians had got me, they never would have had the ghost of a chance of catching me. But they came upon me before I had the least idea they were anywhere near.

"We rode all that afternoon, halting for a few moments, long after dark, for the Indians to change ponies, as they had some loose ones with them. We kept on at a good gait all that night, until about daylight, when we stayed for more than an hour on the other side of the Arkansas River, to graze the ponies among the sand hills, and for the Indians to eat their breakfast. They were quite kind to me; gave me some dried buffalo meat, and brought me some water from the stream in a horn, and tried to make me understand that they did not intend to harm me.

"Of course, I was frightened at the idea of being carried off by the horrid savages, but I tried to keep my senses, and watched every tree and rock on the trail. I looked at the sun to learn which way we were going, and determined in my mind that I would escape at the first opportunity.

"On the tops of the highest points of the hills, I saw the stone monuments, which Joe had often told me were placed by the savages on their travels from place to place, as marks to show where water and wood are to be found."

"Yes," said Mr. Tucker; "you can see those piles of stones on every hill about here; and from them you can always see water or timber, indicating where to camp."

"They were to be seen on every divide we crossed," continued Kate; "and besides, I saw lots of the compass-plant, or rosin-weed, the leaves of which, Joe had told me, always pointed north, so I felt satisfied if I could ever escape, I would have no trouble in finding my way back to the Oxhide.[2] After a long, wearisome ride, until the next morning, we arrived at the Canadian River, which the Indians called the 'Mai-om,' or Red, and on the bank of which was the village consisting of about a hundred lodges.

"There I was turned over to the women, who treated me very decently, and I immediately began to study the language, for I knew that that would help me in getting into their good graces. I willingly took hold of the work which falls to the lot of the squaws in every camp, and taught them how to cook after the white style. You may imagine I had plenty to do, for the warriors liked the biscuit I used to make, and they sometimes had a good deal of flour for which they had traded with the white men who bought their furs.

"I made friends of the dogs in the village, and there were hundreds of them, some of them miserable curs, but they could make more noise than a pack of wolves; and I thought if I could teach them to know me, they would not bother me when I attempted to run away; for you know that they are the most watchful animals imaginable. At night, not the slightest sound escapes their well-trained ears, and at the approach of a human being, they set up the most terrific barking and howling you ever heard. Well, I soon made friends with every one of them, and I could go around the village after dark, and they would not utter a growl.

"I watched very closely the large herd of ponies,--there were more than two hundred belonging to the village,--to find out which one of them was the fleetest, and had the most endurance. I picked out the little roan I rode here, and, Joe, I will make him a present to you; for if you had not taught me so much about plants, and the methods of the Indians, and before all things else, taken such pains with me when I wanted to ride a pony, I never should have been able to run away and come home safely."

"Thank you, Kate," said Joe. "We have kept Ginger just as finely as ever for you, and he is the best pony in the whole country, I don't care how many the Indians may have."

Kate went on with her wonderful experience. "Near the tepee where I slept I found an old elm tree that had a great hollow in it near the roots, and I determined to make it my storehouse for the food I should need when I ran away. I did not, of course, begin to hide anything in it until I had been in the village for over four months. Then I used to save little by little of my portion of the dried buffalo meat, as I knew that it would keep for a long time without spoiling.

"We ate all sorts of things that at first rather disgusted me; puppy-stew, for instance. Now, mother and Gertrude, don't laugh; I really soon learned to like it, though I never expect to be compelled to eat it again. It is the cleanest thing the Indians have, if you will only get over the natural prejudice against eating dog. Why, just think, the puppies are only sucklings when they are eaten; they have tasted nothing but their mother's milk, and the mothers are fed on buffalo meat only.

"I suppose that you, mother and Gert, want to know how puppy-stew is prepared? Well, when the little things are rolling fat, as round as a ball of butter, the old woman who has charge of the lodge takes them up and feels them all over, and if satisfactory, she chokes them to death by literally hanging them to a tree with a buffalo sinew. When dead, they are singed before the fire, just as you singe a fowl; the entrails are taken out, and then the flesh is boiled in a pot, and eaten as hot as possible. The savages, particularly the old squaws, can take up in their buffalo-horn spoons, meat which would scald a white person to death, and swallow it without the slightest difficulty. I suppose that that, and their constant brooding over a smoky fire in the tepees, makes them look so old and wrinkled at an early age. They are the most horrid-looking witches you ever saw, and they would need no 'fixing up' to play the part in Macbeth."

"Talking of curious dishes eaten by the Indians," said Mr. Tucker, "up in Oregon, where I was trapping a good many years ago, the squaws make what I call Indian jelly-cake. They take the black crickets, roasted, which form a large portion of their subsistence, and make a kind of bread of them, after having ground them on a flat stone. They then spread on it the boiled berries of the service tree or bush, and if it was not manipulated by their very dirty hands, it would be very palatable."

"The Indians of the great plains," continued Kate, "live almost exclusively on meat; they gather a few berries sometimes, but their principal diet is buffalo meat.

"After I had been in the village for over four months, I began to think of trying to escape. My clothes were becoming more ragged every day, and I was obliged to resort to the blanket as a covering, though I kept what I had worn there as long as I could.

"One day there was a great feast in the village, with dancing and carousing, which the warriors kept up until long after midnight, and consequently slept very soundly. Now, thought I, is my time. So after I found out that the old squaw with whom I lodged was sound asleep, I crept up, and looked out to see what kind of a night it was. The moon was low down in the western heavens, but bright enough for me to see the trail, so I determined to make the attempt. I took a piece of buffalo robe for a saddle, and went out to the herd to catch the pony on which I had had my eyes for such a long time, and had petted whenever I was not watched. The dogs, of course, had come out of their holes to see what was going on, having heard my almost noiseless footsteps; but recognizing me instantly, they did not set up their customary howl. They went back to sleep without making any trouble, and I walked out to the herd about a quarter of a mile away, and soon found the little roan I wanted. He came up to me without a neigh, luckily, and I fastened the piece of robe on him, tucked the dried buffalo meat, which I had taken from my hiding-place, into my bosom, and jumping on, started at a pace which, if I had not been a good rider, would have tossed me off before I had gone half a dozen yards.

"The pony seemed to know just what I required of him, for he ran on a good lope, with his belly almost touching the ground, and in a little while I had crossed the ford of the Canadian, and was going up the divide on the other side as fast as I dared to force him. I took a glance at the north star to get my bearings, for I dared not follow the broad trail, as the Indians would be sure to track me, and struck across the country, up one hill and down the other until day began to break. Then I stayed a few seconds at a small branch to let my pony drink and to take a swallow myself, and on I went, not daring to let him graze yet.

"Mile after mile the noble little fellow carried me until late that afternoon. Of course I watered him at every creek I came to, but did not halt until it had grown quite dark. Then I took him about a mile down into a piece of timber, unsaddled him and let him graze for more than an hour. I kept my ears open, fearing every moment to hear the sound of ponies' hoofs, for I felt confident that the Indians would follow me the moment they discovered that I was gone.

"When I thought he had sufficiently rested, and I had eaten a small piece of the meat, I mounted him again and started on a lope northward. I kept the little gallop, changing into a brisk walk once in a while, until I could see by the daylight the long silvery line of the Arkansas, looking like a white snake in its many windings. Then I felt pretty safe, after I had stopped and watched the trail back as far as I could, which was for more than two miles. I could see nothing like dust, nor hear a sound, so I began to hope that I had really escaped, and my heart began to feel lighter than it had for many a long month.

"I crossed the Arkansas, which the Indians call 'Mit-sun,' meaning Big, and it was up to my pony's breast, but he struggled through splendidly, though I got my moccasins wet, for the water came to my knees. I did not mind that, as I had often got wet through in the Canadian where we used to go swimming almost every morning while at the village. The squaws are very fond of the water in that way, but are not so clean with their hands as I would many a time have liked them to be.

"On the other side of the divide separating the Arkansas from the Smoky Hill, I halted in a box-elder grove to rest my roan, and rest myself, for I was nearly worn out. I felt very safe then, for I knew that I was approaching the settlements on Plum Creek, and if I had known, what Joe has just told us, that the war was over, I might have been at my ease all the way from the Arkansas.

"Early this morning I came to Bluff Creek, at the very spot where I had crossed with the Indians, and how my heart fluttered when I knew I was so near dear Errolstrath! From that creek I rode slowly, as I knew I had nothing to fear from the Indians, for the settlements were too thick, and besides it was daytime, when the Indians rarely attack.

"I often got off my pony when it grew too dark to see, to feel the leaves of the compass-plant, that I could always find without much hunting on every hill. Now, mamma and father, don't you think that I have made a famous ride?"

"We all think so," said her father; "it is one of the most remarkable on record, and we rejoice more than even you can imagine, to have our dear daughter back again, well as ever, after such an experience."

"Why don't the Indians raise corn?" inquired Rob, in a general way; "it is so easily grown out here on the plains."

"Some of the tribes do," replied Mr. Tucker. "The Sioux and the Mandans have always had their corn-fields, but as usual the women have to do all the work. Do you know, Rob, that the corn is a native plant of North and South America, yet it has never been found wild?"

"Do tell us about it," said Mrs. Thompson; and Kate asked if there were not some legend connected with it, "for there is not a thing that they eat, without its wonderful story."

"Certainly," replied Mr. Tucker. "There is a beautiful legend among the Sioux, which I learned from them when I was among them in 1840, and as it is not late yet, if you like, I will tell it to you."

"Do! do!" all exclaimed in chorus.

"Of course," began Mr. Tucker, "among the Indians the origin of corn is wrapped up in the supernatural legends of the race, of which there are several, differing materially, however, in their details. Strange as it may seem, nowhere in all the vast domain of both Americas, has a wild species of corn been discovered; and yet the inhabitants of these continents have used it from the earliest times, of which even history has no record. Yet, at some time in the unchronicled past it must have grown wild. An unknown benefactor of his race--one whose name not even tradition preserves, excepting in unintelligible myths--saw somewhere, the feathery tassels and glossy blades with their silken ears amidst the foliage of a sedgy river bank, and owing to his first care, the wild plant, after many ages, has become the maize of commerce, and the king of all the cereals of the nineteenth century.

"When Columbus found the New World, corn was the staple food of all tribes of Indians from the far north to the extreme south, who attempted to cultivate the soil at all.

"The celebrated Père Marquette, the Catholic priest who passed his life among the savages, met with it at every point, on his memorable journey down the Mississippi River, in 1763. It has been exhumed from tombs of a greater antiquity than those of the Incas of Peru. Darwin discovered heads of it embedded in an ancient beach that had been upheaved eighty-five feet above the sea-level.

"That Indian corn is indigenous to America, has never been questioned by botanists, for Europe knew nothing of it until Columbus returned home from our shores.

"Longfellow has poetically told of one of the Indian traditions of the origin of corn, in his _Hiawatha's Fasting_.

"The legend was first transmitted to the white men by Rattlesnake, and strange to say, he was a chief of the Kansas or Kaw tribe of Indians. He related it on an island at the mouth of the Kansas River, in 1673, as is recorded in the old French manuscript of an early traveller.

"It states that a band of a hundred Kansas Indians in returning from a successful raid on the Shawnees, of whom they had taken several prisoners, halted on the island, taking advantage of the thick timber which grew in groups, as a convenient spot to torture their captives.

"Père Marquette, whom the Indians called 'The White Prophet,' happened to be there most opportunely; for through the respect and veneration in which the monk was held, he saved the lives of the hapless Shawnees, who were set at liberty. That evening while eating their supper of cooked hominy, the good priest asked for the legend which told of the origin of Indian corn, and Rattlesnake gave it, as he said he had often heard it at his mother's knee.

"It is the same story the Sioux told me, but I will follow the language of the old manuscript, for I have often read it.

"Once when the world was young, and there were but few red men in it, there was a chief whose wife bore him many children. Every summer added one and sometimes two to his family. They became so numerous that the father could not give them sufficient food, and the hungry children were continually crying. By great patience and skill in hunting, however, the chief at length raised a large family, until his eldest son reached the stature of manhood.

"In those days the red men all lived in peace and friendship. There was no war, and no scalp-locks hung from the doors of the lodges. The eldest son had the fear of the Great Spirit in his heart, and, like his father, he toiled patiently in the chase that he might assist in procuring food for his brothers and sisters.

"In those days all of the promising young men, at their entrance into manhood, had to separate themselves from the tribe, and retire into the forest, to see if the Great Spirit would grant them some request. During this time there was to be neither eating nor drinking, but they were to spend the hours in thinking intently on the request they were making of the Manitou.

"When the young man had gone a long distance in the forest, he began to pray to the Great Spirit, and to ask for a favor which he had long cherished in his heart for the occasion. He had often felt how frequently the chase had disappointed the red men, and how often their families had gone to sleep hungry, because they had no meat. He had always determined when his fasting and dreaming hour should come, that he would ask the Great Spirit to give the red men some article of food more certain than the meat obtained in the chase.

"All that day the youth prayed, and thought of his request, and neither water nor food entered his mouth.

"At night, with a bright hope in his young heart, he lay down to sleep. Soon he had a vision. He saw a magnificently attired youth coming toward him. He was clad in robes of green, and green plumes hung gracefully about his comely countenance.

"'My dear young friend,' said the stranger, 'the Great Spirit has heard your prayer, but the boon you ask is a great boon; and you must pass through a heavy trial of suffering and patience before you will see the realization of your wish.

"'You must first try your strength with me, and suffer nothing to enter your lips until I am overcome, before you will receive your reward. Come, the night wears apace, let us wrestle amid the trees.'

"The chief's son had a big heart, and knew no fear, so he closed with his graceful antagonist. He found him endowed with muscles like the oak, and he had the wind of a wolf, that never was exhausted by effort. Long and long they wrestled, but so equal was their strength that neither could claim any decided advantage. 'Enough, my friend, for this time. You have struggled manfully. Still resist your appetite, give yourself up wholly to prayer and fasting, and you will receive the gratification of your desires. Farewell until to-morrow night, when I will return to wrestle with you again.' Then the young visitor, with his green plumes waving over his head, took his flight toward the skies, the green and yellow vestments with which he was clad expanding like wings.

"When the Indian awoke, he found himself panting like a stag when chased by the wolves, and the perspiration dropped from his body; yet his heart was light, for he knew a sign had come from the Manitou. Although he was very hungry that day, and some berries and grapes tempted him sorely, he refrained from touching them, resisting successfully these natural desires.

"Night came, and the young Indian closed his eyes in sleep; and lo! there was a continuance of his former vision. He saw coming toward him the graceful being he had seen on the previous night. The silken wings of green and gold swept through the air with great velocity, and the green plumes on his head waved rhythmically in their beauty.

"They again wrestled, as before, and although the Indian had neither eaten nor drunk, he felt his strength greater than in the previous conflict; and he obtained some signal advantage over his celestial competitor. They were struggling together when the morning commenced to look upon the world, and he of the green plumes thus addressed the Indian youth:--

"'My friend, on our next trial you will be the victor. Now, listen how I instruct you to take advantage of your conquest. When my efforts cease I shall die. Strip me of my yellow garments and bury me in soft and new-made earth. Visit my grave week by week, for in a little time I shall return to life in the form of a plant, which you will readily recognize by its resemblance to me. Let no weeds or grass be near me to keep the dew and sunshine from my green leaves, and once a month draw the fresh earth to my body, that it may grow and strengthen. When ears have shot from my side, and the silk which shall fall from their tops commences to dry, then pull the ear, strip it of its garments as you will strip me when I am dead. Place the milky grains before the fire which will cook the outside, without destroying any of the juicy substance. Then all the race of man will have a sweeter and stronger food than they have ever known before. There shall be no more hunger upon the earth excepting among those who have a lazy spirit, or whom the Bad Manitou claims as his own.'

"When the Indian awoke, he felt very weak from hunger, and it required all the resolution of which he was master to restrain the gratification of his appetite, but he passed the day in fasting and prayer, and at nightfall laid himself down to sleep.

"True to his promise, his friend of the green plumes again appeared in his trance, and again the wrestle commenced. The young Indian was exceedingly weak from his long fasting, but when engaged in the conflict he felt his heart grow big within him; his arms became as strong as the young oaks of the forest, and after a short struggle he threw his antagonist to the ground. The young Indian stood by the side of his adversary who said that he was dying, and told him to remember the instructions he had given him. The young Indian accordingly stripped the body of its vesture of mingled green and yellow, and carefully digging a grave, deposited it in the soft earth. He thought that the earth adhered to his hand in a strange manner, and at that moment he awoke, and found in his hand a seed such as he had never before seen.

"The Indian then knew that the Manitou had heard his prayer, and that the grain was the body of his friend. He then went from the forest to the prairie, made soft the earth, and planted the strange seed sent to him in his dream.

"He then returned to his father's lodge, and the whole family were anxious to know if he had received any sign from the Great Spirit, but he evaded all inquiries and kept his important secret. Every morning, before the sun's bright rays had looked upon the earth, he was beside the grave of the seed, and carefully kept the grass and weeds away.

"On the morning of the ninth day, the faithful youth saw a green plant shooting from the earth, and as he gazed on its green blades, he knew at once the friend with whom he had wrestled.

"Once each month he drew the fresh earth to the stalks, which grew day by day until they far overtopped his own stature, and then there began to protrude from their sides the shoots from which a mass of silken fibres issued. In a short time the plant began to dry, as had been foretold to him, and then he invited his father, mother, brothers, and sisters to the spot and showed them what the Great Spirit had sent him at his fasting season. He then pulled one of the two ears and roasted it before the fire.

"The whole family tasted the new food, and they liked it. The other ear was kept for seed, and in a few years the red man had plenty of the new food which the Manitou had sent him."

"That is a beautiful story," said Mrs. Thompson, and the others all agreed with her. "Kate, you must be very tired; don't you want to go to bed and sleep like a Christian once more?"

"No," replied the young girl, "my muscles are 'like the oak trees in the forest,' as were those of the Indian who got the corn from the spirit with the green wings. Besides, it's only seven o'clock, and I want to look at you all for some time yet."

Before eight o'clock, Buffalo Bill and Colonel Keogh came over from the fort, as they had heard from some one from Oxhide that Kate had come home, and they wanted to see her.

They were both surprised at her excellent condition, and Bill ventured the remark that the Indians had certainly used her much better than they would have used him had he been in her place.

"I've no doubt of that," said Mr. Tucker; "they would have had a roasting frolic if they had caught you instead of our little friend Kate!"

"Well," said Colonel Keogh, "the war is ended, and I guess we have had the last trouble in Kansas that we shall ever have. The Indians are going peacefully to their reservations, where the Government will feed them, which is cheaper than fighting them, at anyrate! General Custer is at the fort, and he has heard so much of Joe that he wants to see him, and take him on a wolf hunt in a day or two."

"I'll go, Colonel, for sure, for they are carrying off calves and hogs every night from some of the ranches on this creek," said Joe.

"Talking about wolves," said Colonel Keogh, "I never saw so many together in all my life as I did after the battle of the Washita. We found the bunch of ponies belonging to the Indians, numbering about twelve hundred, and General Custer ordered them all to be killed, as a necessity, to prevent other savages from getting them. A Plains Indian without a horse to ride is as helpless as a child. He won't walk, and it was thought that by killing all the ponies we found, it would cripple the savages as effectually as if we killed the same number of warriors. The bunch was driven into a narrow cañon near their camp, and as they huddled against the high rocky wall, a detachment of the cavalry was detailed to shoot them. We camped near there for a few days, and at night the wolves would congregate there to feed upon the dead bodies of the ponies. I suppose they came from a distance of a hundred miles, for you know a wolf thinks nothing of going that far for a good meal. It happened to be the time of the full moon, and just after nightfall a lot of us used to go and ride on top of the bluff to watch the wolves come to the feast. I think it is no exaggeration to say that five thousand of the hungry creatures gathered there every evening, as long as any flesh remained on the bones of the slaughtered ponies. Such snapping, snarling, growling, and fighting was never heard before. You could hear them for two miles easily. Some of them were so pugnacious and ravenous that they actually killed and devoured each other! I do not believe such a scene was ever witnessed before or will be again."

"You have all heard that Sheridan has been promoted to be lieutenant-general, and Sherman to be general, as Grant has been elected to the Presidency?" said Buffalo Bill. "Sheridan received notice on Kansas soil of his well-deserved promotion, and it makes the place classic ground. I will tell you how it was. Of course, official notice of the promotion was daily expected, as it had been seen in the papers from Washington, but the mails were very irregular in the vast uninhabited region south of the Arkansas. It was carried by the scouts from Fort Hays, the nearest railroad point, and they also took despatches to the scattered military posts that had been established temporarily, in the form of camps, cantonments, or wherever a detachment of troops happened to be. Early one morning General Sheridan, accompanied by two officers of his personal staff, left Camp Supply in the Indian Territory for Fort Hays, to take the railroad for Washington, where he had been ordered to report. When the party had arrived at the foot of a high mountain, just on the border of this state, they saw far ahead of them on the trail made by the troops in going into the field, a dark object moving rapidly toward them. As the distance between them lessened, they noticed that it was a horseman whose animal, flecked with foam, and with distended nostrils, was straining every muscle to reach the ambulance. In a few moments the sound of the horse's hoofs were distinctly heard on the hard trail, and when he had approached near enough, its rider, the excited scout, recognized Sheridan among the occupants of the ambulance. He rose in his stirrups and waved his hat in one hand, while in the other he held up a piece of yellow paper, crying out at the top of his voice:--

"'Hurrah for the lieutenant-general!' The paper he handed to Sheridan was a telegram from the President, informing him of his promotion."

"Well," said Colonel Keogh, looking at the old-fashioned clock in the corner of the room, "I had no idea it was so late. It's nearly ten. Come, Cody; we must get back to the fort." Then saying good-night to all, with an admonition to Joe not to forget the wolf hunt, of which he said he would send him word, they mounted their horses and rode off.

Mr. Tucker was to remain until morning, so they all retired, after having passed one of the most cheerful Thanksgivings in their lives.

Footnote:

[2] The compass-plant, or rosin-weed, as it is commonly called, is the _Silphium laciniatum_ of the botanists. It is found in luxuriance on every hill-top on the great plains, and resembles an immense oak leaf, which, while growing, always points its thin edges north and south, consequently broad surfaces east and west.

 

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