Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

My Queen, an electronic edition

by Sandette [Walsh, Marie A.]

date: 1878
source publisher: G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers; S. Low, Son & Co.
collection: Genre Fiction

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CHAPTER XXVIII.
MOUNTAIN MEADOWS.

A NARROW gap opened into a valley whose placid beauty and rich verdure contrasted strangely with the surrounding desert. There, the mountains lost their ruggedness, and descended in gentle rolling slopes, clothed with tall, luxuriant grass, somewhat yellowed on the upper slopes by the mid-summer sun; but on the bottom-lands it was kept ever fresh and green by numerous crystal brooklets that flowed from two abundant springs, one near the northern, the other at the southern extremity of the meadows. The meandering courses of these streamlets were over-arched by the wild cherry, around which twined the virgin's bower, a mass of creamy-white, feathery festoons. Scattered here and there were oaks, clumps of cedars, fantastic rocks, and, near the northern gap, two giant cedars, lightning-scathed, reared their withered branches.

A few tardy columbines nodded their bright heads as if in welcome to the emigrants, and myriads of blackbirds, disturbed by their approach, fluttered in


135       MOUNTAIN MEADOWS.

the air, their scarlet underwings aflame in the sunlight.

To the wearied travelers it seemed a paradise. The children ran delightedly through the grass; the animals sniffed the perfume-laden air, and greedily began to feast upon the herbage. Hero, alone, was restless and discontented; growling and whining he followed his master, his nose to the ground, his ears pricked up. Evidently he scented danger.

His conduct excited the suspicions of his master, who believed firmly in Hero's wisdom. He called to him some of the more experienced of his band; together they scanned the valley, but not a shadow of danger was visible.

"I tell you what, Cap, I don't like those hillocks over yonder; let us go and reconnoiter a little."

The speaker was a frontiersman, whose advice was of great weight in the councils of the emigrants. The men were on the point of starting when Hero barked fiercely and dashed towards the hillocks in question.

A whirring sound, a piteous cry, and the brave dog rolled over dead, one arrow in his brain, and another in his heart.

"Boys, to your arms!" cried the captain. Scarcely was the command given when a bullet whizzed through the air, pierced the frontiersman's hat, struck the bird-cage, killing the bird, and at last lodged in the frame of a wagon. Another one, aimed at the captain, grazed his shoulder and struck one of the horses.

The utmost consternation prevailed. Mothers ran madly about seeking their children, who had wandered off in quest of flowers. Men rushed for arms, and


136        MOUNTAIN MEADOWS.

shouted to those on the hills, "The Indians, the Indians." The bravest paled before this invisible foe. Balls rained around them: one of their number lay wounded unto death: not a moment must be lost. The women and children were placed in a protected spot, and the men prepared for the defense. They were skillful marksmen, many already accustomed to Indian warfare; and when a momentary swaying of the brush or grass revealed to their quick eyes the tawny forms crouching beneath, a well directed volley ushered many a savage into the happy hunting grounds.

Suddenly a band of red demons, hideous in warpaint and feathers, sprang out of the ground, the trees and the rocks; a murderous swarm, yelling and whooping, flourishing aloft their tomahawks and guns. The contest waxed hot and furious: the air became murky with smoke, and rivulets of blood dyed the fair earth. Desperately fought the emigrants, never missing a mark;but the Indians were strong in numbers: instead of decreasing, their ranks seemed to increase, while the numbers of the emigrants rapidly diminish. In the heat of the battle, two savages dashed across the meadows and spoke to the warrior chief. Thereupon the latter signalled for the fight to cease; and in a few minutes the Indians retreated, driving off several head of cattle.

The emigrants saw this; it gave them hope. Yet not until the last savage was far beyond range did they breathe freely. The danger was past for a time; but they knew not how soon it might return, and they must be prepared.

They lifted the dead and wounded into the wagons and moved to an open spot on the hill-side, where


137       THE SEIGE.

they would be safe from any hidden foe or sudden attack. Here they buried their dead in prayerful silence; and over the graves, despair and woe kept vigil.

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