Originally published in 1872
BY FANNY KELLY
The Blackfeet village was one hundred and fifty miles from the Ogalallas, and the way thither lay often over the tops of bare and sandy hills. On the summits of these heights I found shells such as are picked up at the sea-side. The Indians accounted for their appearance there by saying, that once a great sea rolled over the face of the country, and only one man in a boat escaped with his family. He had sailed about in the boat until the waters retired to their place, and, living there, became the father of all the Indians.
These savages proved very kind to me. Though their nation is regarded by the whites as very vindictive and hostile, they showed me nothing but civility and respect.
On the third morning we reached a small village, where we halted. The Indians of the village were rejoiced to see me. Among them I recognized many familiar faces, and they imparted to us their mistrust and apprehension lest I had been stolen from the Ogalallas; but the Blackfeet assured them to the contrary; and, after questioning me, they became satisfied, and gave us food, promising to send warriors to our village, and giving us another horse.
The journey to the village of the Blackfeet was exceedingly wearisome—completely exhausting me by its length; and I suffered from the intense cold weather. Approaching their village, they entered it with loud demonstrations of joy, singing and whooping after the manner of their race, with noises defying description. I was received with great joy; and even marks of distinction were shown me. That night there was a feast, and every thing denoted a time of rejoicing. My life was now changed—instead of waiting upon others, they waited upon me.
The day of my arrival in the Blackfeet village was a sad one, indeed, being the first anniversary of my wedding. The songs and shouts of exultation of the Indians seemed like a bitter mockery of my misery and helplessness. I met in the village many warriors whom I had seen during the summer, and knew that they had participated in the battles with General Sully. They saw that something had made me sad and thoughtful, and asked what it was. I told them it was my birth-day.
Soon after my arrival, Egosega-lonicha was sent to me, and inquired how I was treated, and particularly wished to know if they were respectful to me. She told me that she was sent to inquire for my safety and well-being, and that any remissness on the part of the Blackfeet would be visited with vengeance. She told me that her people mourned the captive’s absence, and grieved for her presence. From others I learned the same.
Next morning there was great commotion in the camp, caused by the arrival of a delegation from the Yanktons, with a handsome horse and saddle, as a present for me. The saddle was of exquisite workman-ship, embroidered with beads, and richly decorated with fringe. The Yanktons desired to purchase me, offering five of their finest horses for me, which the Blackfeet were quite indignant at, replying, that they also had fine horses; and, deeming it an insult, returned the horse and its saddle.
Fearing my disappointment, they, in council that night, decided to present me with something as worthy as the Yanktons had sent. Accordingly, at the door of the tent next morning were four of their best animals; eight beautiful robes were brought in by the young men, and given me also. The Yanktons were told to return to their tribe, and if such a message was again sent, the hatchet would be painted and given to them. This closed the negotiation, but not their efforts to obtain me.
The large reward which had been offered for my recovery caused the Indians much trouble, as frequently large parties from other tribes would come in, offering to purchase me from those who held me captive. Several such instances occurred while I was with the Ogalallas; nor were the Blackfeet exempt from similar annoyances.
One day, while in Tall Soldier’s tipi, there was a large body of mounted warriors seen approaching the village. The women gathered around me, and told me I must stay in the tent, concealed. All was excitement, and the women seemed frightened. Soon I knew that preparations were being made for a feast on a large scale. The strange warriors came into camp and held a council, at which Tall Soldier made a speech, which, from the distance, I could not understand; they then had a feast, and departed. The Blackfeet gave me to understand that the visit of these Indians was on my account, as had been that of the Yanktons.
Soon after, I noticed that parties of warriors would leave the camp daily and return, bringing ammunition and goods of various kinds. I learned from the squaws and children that a party of traders from the Platte River had arrived in the neighborhood with four wagons, to trade with the Indians, and that they wanted to buy me, but that the Indians would not part with me. I pretended to the Indians that I did not desire to leave them, but plead that I might go with them to see the white men, which was refused, as was also a request that I might write a letter to them. Soon after, the traders were murdered, only one man escaping, who reached Fort Laramie nearly dead from hunger and exposure, having traveled the whole distance from the Missouri River on foot.
I have since learned that the men were sent out by Mr. Beauve, a trader, near Fort Laramie, with instructions to procure my release if it required all they possessed. Since learning these facts, I am more than ever convinced that the reluctance of the Indians to give me up grew out of their hope of capturing Fort Sully through my involuntary agency, and securing a greater booty than any ransom offered; as also of obtaining revenge for the losses inflicted upon their nation by the soldiers under General Sully.
The Blackfeet appeared in every respect superior to the tribe I had left. The chief, Tall Soldier, displayed the manners and bearing of a natural gentleman. They kept up an air of friendliness, and communicated frequently with the whites; but, in reality, were ready to join any hostile expedition against them, and were with the Ogalalla Sioux when our train was attacked at Box Elder.
The Blackfeet seemed to be stationary in their village, only sallying out in small parties for plunder and horses; and, during that time, keeping up a succession of entertainments at the tipi of the chief, where a constant arrival of warriors and many Indians from other tribes, who were warmly welcomed, added to the excitement of the days.
I sympathized with the poor wife of the chief, who was the only woman, beside myself, in the tent, and to whose labor all the feasts were due. She was obliged to dress the meat, make fires, carry water, and wait upon strangers, besides setting the lodge in order. These unceasing toils she performed alone—the commands of the chief forbidding me to aid her.
While with the Ogalallas, I had never crossed their will or offered resistance to my tasks, however heavy, having learned that obedience and cheerful industry were greatly prized; and it was, doubtless, my conciliating policy that had at last won the Indians, and made them bewail my loss so deeply.
The squaws are very rebellious, often displaying ungovernable and violent temper. They consider their life a servitude, and being beaten at times like animals, and receiving no sort of sympathy, it acts upon them accordingly. The contrast between them and my patient submission had its effect upon the Indians, and caused them to miss me when separated from them.
During my sojourn in this village I received invitations to every feast, and to the different lodges. One day, when visiting one of these lodges, a package of letters was given me to read. They had been taken from Captain Fisk’s train, and were touchingly beautiful. Some of them were the correspondence of a Mr. Nichols with a young lady, to whom he seemed tenderly attached. I was asked to read these and explain them to the Indians.
I was removed at different times to various lodges, as a sort of concealment, as I learned that the Yanktons had not yet given up the idea of securing me ; and, one night, I awoke from my slumbers to behold an Indian bending over me, cutting through the robes which covered me, after making a great incision in the tent, whereby he entered. Fearing to move, I reached out my hand to the squaw who slept near me (whose name was Chahompa Sea—White Sugar), pinching her, to arouse her, which had its effect; for she immediately arose and gave the alarm, at which the Indian fled. This caused great excitement in the camp, and many threats were made against the Yanktons.
The intense cold and furious storms that followed my arrival among the Blackfeet precluded the possibility of their setting out immediately on the proposed journey to Fort Sully. The snow drifts had rendered the mountain passes impassable, and the chief informed me that they must wait until they were free from danger, before taking leave of the shelter and security of their protected village.
Appearance of Jumping Bear, a Letter to the Fort—a War Speech, I Am Free!
Jumping Bear, who rescued me from the revengeful arrow of the Indian whose horse the chief shot, one day presented himself to me, and reminded me of my indebtedness to him in thus preserving my life.
Trembling with fear, I listened to his avowal of more than ordinary feeling, during which he assured me that I had no cause to fear him—that he had always liked the white woman, and would be more than a friend to me. I replied, that I did not fear him; that I felt grateful to him for his kindness and protection, but that unless he proved his friendship for me, no persuasion could induce me to listen.
“Will you carry a letter to my people at the fort, delivering it into the hands of the great chief there? They will reward you for your kindness to their sister; they will give you many presents, and you will return rich.”
“I dare not go,” he replied. “Nor could I get back before the warriors came to our village.”
“My people will give you a fast horse,” said I, “and you may return speedily. Go now, and prove your friendship by taking the letter, and returning with your prizes.”
I assured him that the letter contained nothing that would harm him or his people; that I had written of him and of his kindness, and of his good will toward them. After many and long interviews, the women of the lodge using their influence, I at last prevailed upon him to go, and invoking the bright moon as a witness to my pledge of honor and truth, he started on his journey, bearing the letter, which I believed was to seal my fate for weal or wo. In the moonlight I watched his retreating form, imploring Heaven to grant the safe delivery of the little messenger, upon which so much depended.
Daring and venturesome deed! Should he prove false to me, and allow any one outside the fort to see the letter, my doom was inevitable.
Many days of intense anxiety were passed after his departure. The squaws, fearing that I had done wrong in sending him, were continually asking questions, and it was with difficulty I could allay their anxiety, and prevent them from disclosing the secret to the other women.
The contents of the letter were a warning to the “Big Chief” and the soldiers of an intended attack on the fort and the massacre of the garrison, using me as a ruse to enable them to get inside the fort; and beseeching them to rescue me if possible.
The messenger reached the fort, and was received by the officer of the day, Lieutenant Hesselberger, and conducted to the commander of the post, Major House, and Adjutant Pell, who had been left there to treat with the Indians on my account. (A written statement from Lieutenant Hesselberger, setting forth the fact of my writing and sending the letter of warning, and that it undoubtedly was the means of saving the garrison at Fort Sully from massacre, is on file in the Treasury Department at Washington. A certified copy [was] published in connection with this narrative).
General Sully was absent at Washington, but every necessary precaution was taken to secure the fort.
Jumping Bear received a suit of clothes and some presents, and was sent back with a letter for me, which I never received, as I never saw him again. These facts I learned after my arrival at Fort Sully.
The night before our departure from the Blackfeet village, en route for the fort, I was lying awake, and heard the chief address his men seriously upon the subject of their wrongs at the hands of the whites. I now understood and spoke the Indian tongue readily, and so comprehended his speech, which, as near as I can recollect, was as follows:
“Friends and sons, listen to my words. You are a great and powerful band of our people. The inferior race, who have encroached on our rights and territories, justly deserve hatred and destruction. These intruders came among us, and we took them by the hand. We believed them to be friends and true speakers; they have shown us how false and cruel they can be.
“They build forts to live in and shoot from with their big guns. Our people fall before them. Our game is chased from the hills. Our women are taken from us, or won to forsake our lodges, and wronged and deceived.
“It has only been four or five moons since they drove us to desperation, killed our brothers and burned our tipis. The Indian cries for vengeance! There is no truth nor friendship in the white man; deceit and bitterness are in his words. “Meet them with equal cunning. Show them no mercy. They are but few, we are many. Whet your knives and string your bows; sharpen the tomahawk and load the rifle.
“Let the wretches die, who have stolen our lands, and we will be free to roam over the soil that was our fathers’. We will come home bravely from battle. Our songs shall rise among the hills, and every tipi shall be hung with the scalp-locks of our foes.”
This declaration of hostilities was received with grunts of approval; and silently the war preparations went on, that I might not know the evil design hidden beneath the mask of friendship.
That night, as if in preparation for the work he had planned, the gracious chief beat his poor tired squaw unmercifully, because she murmured at her neverending labor and heavy tasks.
His deportment to me was as courteous as though he had been educated in civilized life; indeed, had he not betrayed so much ignorance of the extent and power of the American nation, in his address to his band, I should have thought him an educated Indian, who had traveled among the whites. Yet in his brutal treatment of his squaw, his savage nature asserted itself, and reminded me that, although better served than formerly, I was still among savages.
When morning came to my sleepless night, I arose, still dreading lest some terrible intervention should come between me and the longed-for journey to the abodes of white men.
The day before leaving the Blackfeet village, I gave all my Indian trinkets to a little girl who had been my constant companion, and by her gentle and affectionate interest in the captive white woman, had created within me a feeling akin to love. She was half white, and was grand-daughter of a chief called Wichunkiapa, who also treated me with kindness.
The morning after the chief’s address to his warriors, the savages were all ready for the road, and, mounting in haste, set up their farewell chant as they wound in a long column out of the village.
I have frequently been asked, since my restoration to civilization, how I dressed while with the Indians, and whether I was clothed as the squaws were. A description of my appearance as I rode out of the Indian village that morning, will satisfy curiosity on this point. My dress consisted of a narrow white cotton gown, composed of only two breadths, reaching below the knee, and fastened at the waist with a red scarf; moccasins, embroidered with beads and porcupine quills, covered my feet, and a robe over my shoulders completed my wardrobe.
While with the Ogalallas, I wore on my arms great brass rings that had been forced on me, some of them fitting so tight that they lacerated my arms severely, leaving scars that I shall ever retain as mementos of my experience in Indian ornamentation. I was also painted as the squaws were, but never voluntarily applied the article.
It was winter, and the ground was covered with snow, but so cold was the air that its surface bore the horses’ feet on its hard, glittering breast, only breaking through occasionally in the deep gullies.
It was two hundred miles from the Blackfeet village to Fort Sully, in the middle of winter, and the weather intensely cold, from the effects of which my ill-clad body suffered severely. I was forced to walk a great part of the way, to keep from freezing. Hoping for deliverance, yet dreading lest the treacherous plans of the Indians for the capture of the fort and massacre of its garrison might prove successful, and my return to captivity inevitable, I struggled on, striving to bear with patience the mental and bodily ills from which I suffered. My great fear was that my letter had not fallen into the right hands.
On our journey we came in sight of a few lodges, and in among the timber we camped for the night. While in one of the lodges, to my surprise, a gentle manly figure approached me, dressed in modern style. It astonished me to meet this gentlemanly-looking, well-mannered gentleman under such peculiar circumstances. He drew near and addressed me courteously. “This is cold weather for traveling. Do you not find it so?” he inquired.
“Not when I find myself going in the right direction,” I replied. I asked him if he lived in that vicinity, supposing, of course, from the presence of a white man in our camp, that we must be near some fort, trading-post, or white settlement. He smiled and said, “I am a dweller in the hills, and confess that civilized life has no charms for me. I find in freedom and nature all the elements requisite for happiness.”
Having been separated from the knowledge and interests of national affairs just when the struggle agitating our country was at its height, I asked the question: “Has Richmond been taken?” “No, nor never will be,” was the reply.
Further conversation on national affairs convinced me that he was a rank rebel.
We held a long conversation, on various topics. He informed me he had lived with the Indians fourteen years; was born in St. Louis, had an Indian wife, and several children, of whom he was very proud; and he seemed to be perfectly satisfied with his mode of living.
I was very cautious in my words with him, lest he might prove a traitor; but in our conversation some Indian words escaped my lips, which, being overheard, rumor construed into mischief. What I had said was carried from lodge to lodge, increasing rather than diminishing, until it returned to the lodge where I was. The Indians, losing confidence in me, sent the young men, at midnight, to the camp of the white man, to ascertain what had been said by me, and my feelings toward them.
He assured the messengers that I was perfectly friendly, had breathed nothing but kindliness for them, and was thoroughly contented; had so expressed myself, and there was no cause to imagine evil. This man trafficked and traded with the Indians, disposing of his goods in St. Louis and in eastern cities, and was then on his way to his home, near the mouth of the Yellowstone River.
Early in the forenoon of the last day’s travel, my eager and anxious eyes beheld us nearing the fort. The Indians paused and dismounted to arrange their dress and see to the condition of their arms. Their blankets and furs were adjusted; bows were strung, and the guns examined by them, carefully. They then divided into squads of fifties, several of these squads remaining in ambush among the hills, for the purpose of intercepting any who might escape the anticipated massacre at the fort; the others then rode on toward the fort, bearing me with them.
A painfully startling sight (the last I was destined to see), here met my gaze. One of the warriors, in passing, thrust out his hand to salute me. It was covered by one of my husband’s gloves, and the sight of such a memento filled me with inexpressible dread as to his fate. Nothing in the least way connected with him had transpired to throw any light upon his whereabouts, or whether living or dead, since we had been so suddenly and cruelly separated. All was darkness and doubt concerning him.
Mr. Kelly had been a Union soldier, and happening to have his discharge papers with me at the time of my capture, I had been able to secrete them ever since, treasuring them merely because they had once belonged to him and contained his name. Now, as we approached the place where his fate would be revealed to me, and, if he lived, we would meet once more, the appearance of that glove, on the savage hand, was like a touch that awakened many chords, some to thrill with hope, some to jar painfully with fear.
In appearance I had suffered from my long estrangement from home life. I had been obliged to paint daily, like the rest of my companions, and narrowly escaped tattooing, by pretending to faint away every time the implements for the marring operation were applied.
During the journey, whenever an opportunity offered, I would use a handful of snow to cleanse my cheeks from savage adornment; and now, as we drew nearer the fort, and I could see the chiefs arranging themselves for effect, my heart beat high, and anticipation became so intense as to be painful. Eight chiefs rode in advance, one leading my horse by the bridle, and the warriors rode in the rear.
The cavalcade was imposing. As we neared the fort they raised the war song, loud and wild, on the still wintry air; and, as if in answer to its notes, the glorious flag of our country was run up, and floated bravely forth on the breeze from the tall flag-staff within the fort.
My eyes caught the glad sight, and my heart gave a wild bound of joy; something seemed to rise in my throat and choke my breathing. Every thing was changed; the torture of suspense, the agony of fear, and dread of evil to come, all seemed to melt away like mist before the morning sunshine, when I beheld the precious emblem of liberty. How insignificant and contemptible in comparison were the flaunting Indian flags that had so long been displayed to me; and how my heart thrilled with a sense of safety and protection as I saw the roofs of the buildings within the fort covered by the brave men who composed that little garrison.
The precious emblem of liberty, whose beloved stripes and stars floated proudly out, seemed to beckon me to freedom and security; and as the fresh breeze stirred its folds, shining in the morning light, and caused them to wave lightly to and fro, they came like the smile of love and the voice of affection, all combined, to welcome me to home and happiness once more.
An Indian hanger-on of the fort had sauntered carelessly forward a few minutes previous, as if actuated by curiosity, but in reality to convey intelligence to his fellow-savages of the state of the fort and its defenses.
Then the gate was opened, and Major House appeared, accompan-ied by several officers and an interpreter, and received the chiefs who rode in advance.
Meanwhile, Captain Logan (the officer of the day), a man whose kind and sympathetic nature did honor to his years and rank, approached me. My emotions were inexpressible, now that I felt myself so nearly rescued. At last they overcame me. I had borne grief and terror and privation; but the delight of being once more among my people was so overpowering that I almost lost the power of speech, or motion, and when I faintly murmured, “Am I free, indeed free?” Captain Logan’s tears answered me as well as his scarcely uttered “Yes,” for he realized what freedom meant to one who had tasted the bitterness of bondage and despair.
As soon as the chiefs who accompanied me entered the gate of the fort, the commandant’s voice thundered the order for them to be closed. The Blackfeet were shut out, and I was beyond their power to recapture. After a bondage lasting more than five months, during which I had endured every torture, I once more stood free, among people of my own race, all ready to assist me, and restore me to my husband’s arms.
Three ladies, residing at the fort, received me, and cheerfully bestowed every care and attention which could add to my comfort and secure my recovery from the fatigues and distresses of my past experience.
At first, and some time afterward, at intervals, the effects of my life among the savages preyed upon my mind so as to injure its quiet harmony. I was ill at ease among my new friends, and they told me that my eyes wore a strangely wild expression, like those of a person constantly in dread of some unknown alarm.
Once more free and safe among civilized people, I looked back on the horrible past with feelings that defy description.
The thought of leaving this mortal tenement on the desert plain for the wolves to devour, and the bones to bleach under the summer sun and winter frosts, had been painful indeed. Now, I knew that if the wearied spirit should leave its earthly home, the body would be cared for by kind Christian friends, and tenderly laid beneath the grass and flowers, and my heart rejoiced therein.
Hunger and thirst, long days of privation and suffering, had been mine. No friendly voices cheered me on; all was silence and despair. But now the scene had changed, and the all-wise Being, who is cognizant of every thought, knew the joy and gratitude of my soul.
True, during the last few weeks of my captivity, the Indians had done all in their power for me, all their circumstances and condition would allow, and the women were very kind, but “their people were not my people,” and I was detained a captive, far from home, and friends, and civilization.
With Alexander Selkirk I could say, “Better dwell in the midst of alarms, than reign in this horrible place.”
Being young, and possessed of great cheerfulness and elasticity of temper, I was enabled to bear trials which seemed almost impossible for human nature to endure and live.
Soon after my arrival at the fort, Captain Pell came and invited me to go to a trader’s store to obtain a dress for myself. I needed it very much, having no clothing of my own to wear. A kind lady, Mrs. Davis, accompanied me, and the sight that presented itself to my wondering eyes will never be erased from memory.
By the door-steps, on the porches, and every-where, were groups of hungry Indians of all sizes and both sexes, claiming to be friendly.
Some of them were covered with every conceivable kind of superficial clothing and adornment, and critically wanting in cleanliness, a peculiar trait among the Indians of the Northwest.
There was the papoose, half-breeds of any number, a few absolutely nude, others wrapped slightly in bits of calico, a piece of buckskin, or fur.
Speculators, teamsters, and interpreters, mingled with the soldiers of the garrison—squaws, with their bright, flashing shawls, or red cloth, receiving, in their looped-up blanket, the various articles of border traffic, such as sugar, rice, flour, and other things—tall warriors bending over the same counter, purchasing tobacco, brass nails, knives, and glass beads, all giving words to thought, and a stranger might well wonder which was the better prototype of tongues. The Cheyennes supplement their words with active and expressive gestures, while the Sioux amply use their tongues as well as their arms and fingers.
To all, whether half-breed, Indian, or white man, the gentlemanly trader gave kind and patient attention, while himself and clerks seemed ready and capable of talking Sioux, French, or English, just as the case came to hand.
It was on the 12th of December when I reached the fort, and like heaven the place appeared after the trials of savage life. The officers and men were like brothers to me; and their tender sympathy united me to them in the strongest bonds of friendship, which not even death can sever. A party and supper was made for my special benefit, and on New Year’s morning I was serenaded with cannon. Every attention and kindness was bestowed upon me; and to Dr. John Ball, post surgeon, I owe a debt of gratitude which mere words can never express. He was my attendant physician during my sojourn at the fort, and, as my physical system had undergone very severe changes, I needed great care. Under his skillful treatment and patient attention I soon recovered health and strength. I had been severely frozen on the last days of my journey with the Indians toward the fort.
Colonel Diamond, from Fort Rice, came to visit me ere I left Fort Sully. He was attended by an escort of one hundred and eighty men.
He told me of his efforts to obtain my release, and that he, with his men, had searched the Indian village for me, but found no warriors there, as they had already taken me to the fort. The Indian women had made him understand by signs that the “White Woman” had gone with the chiefs.
He said the Indians were so enraged about giving me up, that they killed three of his men and scalped them, by orders from the chief, Ottawa, who was unable to do any service himself, being a cripple. He bade them bring him the scalps of the white men.
An Indian, who killed one of the men, fell dead in his lodge the same day, which frightened his people not a little; for, in their superstition, they deemed it a visitation of the Great Spirit for a wrong done. Colonel Diamond did not forget me, neither did he cease in his efforts in my behalf.
During all this time no tidings had been received by me of my husband. But one day, great commotion was occasioned in the fort by the announcement that the mail ambu-lance was on the way to the fort, and would reach it in a few moments. An instant after, a soldier approached me, saying: “Mrs. Kelly, I have news for you. Your husband is in the ambulance.”
No person can have even a faint idea of the uncontrollable emotions which swept over me like an avalanche at that important and startling news. But it was not outwardly displayed. The heart-strings were stirred to their utmost depths, but gave no sound.
Trembling, quivering in their strong feeling, they told not of the deep grief and joy intermingled there.
Mechanically, I moved around, awaiting the presence of the beloved, and was soon folded to his breast, where he held me with a grasp as if fearful of my being torn from him again.
Not an eye present but was suffused with tears. Soldiers and men, the ladies who had been friends to me, all mingled their tears and prayers. Language fails to describe our meeting. For seven long months we had not beheld each other, and the last time was on the terrible field of slaughter and death.
His personal appearance, oh! how changed! His face was very pale, and his brown hair was sprinkled with gray. His voice was alone unchanged. He called me by name, and it never sounded so sweet before. His very soul seemed imbued with sadness at our separation, and the terrible events which caused it. My first question was concerning my little Mary; for her fate had been veiled in mystery. He gave me the account of her burial—a sad and heart-rending story, sufficient to chill the lightest heart—which account comprises the succeeding chapter.
Sad Fate of Little Mary
The reader will please go back with me to that fearful first night of my captivity, and to the moment when I put into execution the plan for dear little Mary’s escape, which I prayed might result in her restoration to our friends.
It must have been something more than a vague hope of liberty to be lost or won that guided the feeble steps of the child back on the trail to a bluff overlooking the road where, weary from the fatigue and terror of a night passed alone on the prairie, she sat, anxious, but hopeful, awaiting the coming of friends.
Rescue was seemingly near, now that she had reached the great road, and she knew that there would be a passing train of emigrants ere long. It was in this situation she was seen by some passing soldiers, holding out her little trembling hands with eager joy and hope, imploring them to save her.
It was a party of but three or four soldiers returning from Fort Laramie, where they had been to meet the paymaster. They had been pursued by Indians the day before; had also passed the scene of the destruction of our train; and believed the country swarming with Indians. Their apprehensions were, therefore, fully aroused, and, fearing the little figure upon the distant bluff might be a decoy to lead them into ambush, hesitated to approach. There was a large ravine between, and it is not strange that their imagination should people it with lurking savages. However, they were about crossing to the relief of the little girl, when a party of Indians came in sight, and they became convinced it was a decoy, and turned and fled.
They returned to Deer Creek Station, and related the circumstance. Mr. Kelly, arriving soon after, heard it, and his heart sank within him at the description of the child, for he thought he recognized in it the form of our little Mary.
He applied to the officer in command for a detail of soldiers to go with him to search for her, but all entreaty and argument were in vain.
The agony that poor child endured as the soldiers turned away, and the war-whoop of the savage rang upon her terrified soul, is known only to God. Instead of the rescue and friends which, in her trusting heart and innocent faith, she had expected to find, fierce Indians stood before her, stringing their bows to take her life, thus to win another trophy, marking the Indian murderer.
The whizzing arrows were sent into the body of the helpless child, and with the twang of the bow-strings, the delicate form of the heroic child lay stretched upon the ground, and the bright angel spirit went home to rest in the bosom of its Father.
On the morning of the 14th, two days after Mary was seen, Mr. Kelly succeeded in obtaining a squad of soldiers at the station, and after a short march of eight miles, they discovered the mutilated remains of the murdered girl. Mr. Kelly’s grief and anguish knew no bounds. Three arrows had pierced the body, and the tomahawk and scalping-knife had done their work. When discovered, her body lay with its little hands outstretched as if she had received, while running, the fatal arrows.
Surely He who numbers the sparrows and feeds the ravens was not unmindful of her in that awful hour, but allowed the heavenly kingdom, to which her trembling soul was about to take its flight, to sweeten, with a glimpse of its beatific glory, the bitterness of death, even as the martyr Stephen, seeing the bliss above, could not be conscious of the torture below.
Extracting the arrows from the wounds, and dividing her dress among the soldiers, then tenderly wrapping her in a winding sheet, Mr. Kelly had the sad satisfaction of smoothing the earth on the unconscious breast that had ceased to suffer, and when this duty was per formed, they left the little grave all alone, far from the happy home of her childhood, and the brothers, with whom she had played in her innocent joy.
Of all strange and terrible fates, no one who had seen her gentle face in its loving sweetness, the joy and comfort of our hearts, would have predicted such a barbarous fate for her. But it was only the passage from death into life, from darkness into daylight, from doubt and fear into endless love and joy. Those little ones, whose spirits float upward from their downy pillows, amid the tears and prayers of broken-hearted friends, are blest to enter in at heaven’s shining gate, which lies as near little Mary’s rocky, blood-stained pillow in the desolate waste as the palace of a king, and when she had once gained the great and unspeakable bliss of heaven, it must have blotted out the remembrance of the pain that won it, and made no price too great for such delight.
In the far-off land of Indian homes, Where western winds fan hills of black, ‘Mid lovely flowers, and golden scenes, They laid our loved one down to rest.
Where brightest birds, with silvery wings, Sing their sweet songs upon her grave, And the moonbeam’s soft and pearly beams With prairie grasses o’er it wave.
No simple stone e’er marks the spot Where Mary sleeps in dreamless sleep, But the moaning wind, with mournful sound, Doth nightly o’er it vigils keep.
The careless tread of savage feet, And the weary travelers, pass it by, Nor heed they her, who came so far In her youth and innocence to die.
But her happy spirit soared away To blissful climes above; She found sweet rest and endless joy In her bright home of love.
To be continued…