- part: MY QUEEN;
- CHAPTER XXXI. TREACHERY.
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FRIDAY morning came, dark and ominous. But the clouds that obscured the sun were faint shadows of the black despair that brooded over the ill-fated camp.
A great commotion prevailed in the valley. A number of men, some on horseback, some on foot, moved to and fro, seemingly in eager consultation. | | 142 The emigrants thought they perceived a military uniform. At last, a man detached himself from the mass, and took the direction of the besieged. Soon the cry: "A white flag, a white flag!" resounded through the camp, and eyes, dim with hopeless watching, beamed with joy at the sight of a white man approaching, bearing in his hand the flag of peace.
A deputation went out of the corral to meet the welcome visitor, who, after the usual salutations, said:
"My friends, I come from the commander of the troops, to offer you protection. We did not know of your peril until last night. We immediately hastened to your assistance. The Indians are bent upon your destruction, and some of our own people aid and abet them, for they think you have entered our territory with evil intent. But we can save you, if you agree to our conditions, namely: to deliver up your arms. This is absolutely necessary to pacify our own people. However, we will not hold them; they shall be placed in the wagons you see yonder, and which we have brought for those unable to walk. Your wagons must remain here. We cannot guarantee them a safe passage to-day, but they shall be guarded."
The emigrants demurred to these terms; but they were not in a condition to refuse, surrounded as they were with enemies,and their ammunition nearly exhausted.
Life was dear. Even if they lost their goods, they still bad health, strength, and some money. They consented.
"Lastly," said the negotiator, "the men will be under guard until they are out of the territory."
This clause was scarcely heeded. As long as | | 143 they and their families were safe, it mattered little whether or not a guard watched them.
But when the wagons, each under the charge of two sinister-looking men, drew up to receive the weapons, the emigrants repented of their consent. But there was no other alternative. The children over two and under five were placed in the wagons, also the wounded.
While this was being done, the emigrants secured about their persons their money and some portable valuables.
When all was ready, the order was given to march. The wagons took the lead, and the women and larger children were ordered to follow.
"Why separate us?" asked Captain Fancher, who seemed to distrust this manœuvre.
"It is necessary, if you wish protection," was the answer. The defenseless people were forced to submit.
About a mile from the Southern gap, the road made a sudden bend. Upon the right was a clump of cedars, on the left a ridge of hillocks covered with brush. The road skirted the cedars for some dozen yards, and then passed over a mound-like elevation. A few yards north of the bend, the troops were drawn up in double file, wide enough apart to admit of the passage of the wagons and the women. As soon as the latter reached the bend, the soldiers dropped into single file, their guns on the left arm, and marched to the right of the emigrants, a soldier to each man.
The emigrants marched in silence, depressed by a sense of coming evil. Mothers drew their children | | 144 closer. The once fearless, joyous youth tremblingly crept together. The men watched their guards, and chafed in helpless anger. Fear stalked by the side of all, and rang a death knell in their ears. The fluttering of a bird, the waving of the grass, the rustle of leaf, the roll of a pebble startled them.
The wagons passed over the brow of the hill, out of sight: between the cedars and the chapparal walked the women--far behind, hidden by a bend in the road, came the men.
Little Amy Fancher crept to her mother's side and whispered: "Mother, look; there's something behind the trees."
Her mother looked; terror blanched her cheek, for there, behind the treacherous trunks, black savage orbs glared fiercely upon her. "Betrayed, betrayed."
She ran back towards her husband. The women, alarmed, turned to follow her, when loud and clear rang out the words, "Do your duty." All stopped bewildered. What did it mean? Ere the thought took form, a volley shook the earth, and rocks and trees vomited forth hundreds of yelling savages. Well planned was the fiendish plot. An armed soldier to each unarmed man, a trio of savages to every defenseless woman and child. A moment changed the blooming, peaceful meadows into a field of carnage. The crashing of bones, the firing of guns, the clash of knives as the savages disputed over their victims, groans, shrieks, yells and curses affrighted the air; birds dropped dead, and the cattle, frenzied by the roar, rushed madly bellowing over the hills.
The soldiers did their work well; yet, quick as they were to fire, Captain Fancher dashed aside his | | 145 murderer's arm and ran to save his wife and child, or to die with them. He saw savage hands clutch the loved tresses; he saw the tomahawk gleaming above them. Ere he could arrest its descent, a ball pierced him to the heart. He fell across two mangled bodies.
Four minutes had barely elapsed since the signal was given, yet the massacre was complete. Bright hopes, roseate visions, golden dreams, castles and chaplets were drowned in blood, and naught remained of the brave, the loving and the happy but inert, bleeding masses--dead--dead--dead. But a voice from the Beyond answers: "Nay, not dead, but living ever, to condemn,to avenge."
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