The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right. — G. K. Chesterton

With Lieutenant Pike - Edwin Sabin




Lieutenant Wilkinson Says Good-By

"Chief Pike asks you to go back with one man and find John Sparks."

These were the words of Baroney, to Scar Head, who was just finishing breakfast so as to be ready to march.

A number of days had passed since the elk hunt, and several things had happened. Although the Americans were brave, the Great Spirit seemed to be angry with them for marching through the country. He gave them hungry camps, without wood and water. He sent rain on them, and made them sick. Chief Pretty Bird and another Osage man had left. They said that they wanted better hunting—but it was plain that they were afraid. And on the same day the Spanish trail had been blotted out by buffalo hoofs, and the Americans had lost it.

By the talk, this was bad. According to what Scar Head understood, Chief Pike depended upon the Spanish trail to guide him by the best road into the south and to the Comanches. The Spanish knew this country better than the Americans did.

The rain kept falling, and the men straggled. Yesterday afternoon the warrior Sparks had dropped behind. He had pains in his joints, which the medicine-man had not been able to cure: "rheumatism." He could not ride a horse and he could scarcely walk, using his gun as a crutch. Last night he had not come into camp. The Spanish trail was lost, again; and Sparks was lost, too.

Scar Head was glad to go back and look for him. He liked Sparks. He liked all the men and was getting to know them by their names: queer names. Each man had two—one for each other and one for the chiefs. There was "Jake "and "Carter "; the same man. And "Jerry "and "Jackson "; and "Tom "and "Dougherty "; and "John "and "Brown "; and "Hugh "and "Menaugh "; and "Bill "and "Meek "; and "Joe "and "Ballenger "and the others. The last two were head warriors, called "sergeant." The medicine-man's names were "John "and "Doctor Robinson." The second chief's names were "the left'nant "and "Lieutenant Wilkinson." Chief Pike was "the cap'n "and "Lieutenant Pike."

The warriors spoke only American, but they knew Indian ways. The most of them, Baroney said, had been on a long journey before with Lieutenant Pike, far into the north up a great river, into the country of the Sioux.

The medicine-man, Doctor Robinson, was popular, but he was not a chief. The men did not seem to fear him. He rode well and shot well. Lieutenant Pike and he rode and hunted together, while the second chief, Lieutenant Wilkinson, stayed with the men. Scar Head also had grown not to fear the medicine-man, who frequently asked him about his white spot and where he had come from, to the Utahs and Pawnees, and tried to teach him American words.

Some of the American words were hard and some easy. On some days they were harder than on other days; and again Scar Head suddenly spoke words that he didn't know at all—they arrived to him of themselves. That was odd. He was getting to be an American; he felt as though he had been an American in his heart all the time, but that his heart had been shut up. The times when his spot throbbed and burned were the times when he knew the fewest words.

The men had given him a new name. His Pawnee name was not good enough for them. The new name was "Stub." John Sparks had told him of it, first, by saying it.

"Hello, Stub? How goes it, Stub?"

And the other men laughed and repeated: "Here, Stub."

"Hello, Stub!"

"You're the boy, Stub."

"What is 'Stub'?" he asked, of the medicine-man, Doctor Robinson.

"It is 'short,' 'cut off,' coupe," carefully explained the medicine-man. "They like you. It is a good name, because you are small."

"American?"

"Yes."

"Sure, an' we mane no harm, doctor, sir," called "Tom," whose other name was Dougherty. "If sawed-off he is, a rale little man he is, too."

And while Scar Head (whose other name was now "Stub," in American language) did not understand all those words, he knew that they were kindly spoken. So his name pleased him.

John Brown was the man who rode with him to look for Sparks. They took the back trail and rode for a long time. Everything was wet from the rains. Sparks must have spent a miserable night, alone on the prairie, without food or fire. Finally they saw him, far ahead, hobbling slowly, trying to catch up with the march.

He grinned when they met him, and shouted cheerfully, although he made faces.

"Mornin' to ye, boys. 'Rah for Stub!"

"H'lo, John. No walk; ride. My pony." And Stub sprang off.

"Can you ride, John?" asked John Brown.

"Sure, I'll try. At this rate I dunno whether I'm goin' or comin'. You'll all be to the mountains an' back ag'in before I ever ketch up. Hey, Stub?"

But Stub might only smile.

With many grunts and awkward movements John Sparks climbed aboard the yellow pony. It was near noon when they brought him into the camp.

Lieutenant Pike and Doctor Robinson had been hunting for the Spanish trail, again, but had not found it. There was talk of a large river, the Arkansaw, somewhere southward yet. The Americans were anxious to reach the river, which would guide them; but they had lost the trail to it.

After eating, they made another march. When the sun was low, Lieutenant Pike pointed to some trees a long way ahead and told Lieutenant Wilkinson to march the men to that place. He beckoned to Stub.

"Come with me?" he asked.

Stub nodded. He and Lieutenant Pike and Doctor the medicine-man went off by themselves, scouting up a creek. Lieutenant Pike was still looking for the Spanish trail.

They all looked and looked, but did not cross it. The lieutenant sighted some buffalo; he and the medicine-man gave chase, and before Stub reached them they had killed two. That was good. They took the tongues, and left a coat on the carcasses, to keep the wolves away; but when the three rode hard, to get to camp before dark, there was no camp. The Lieutenant Wilkinson men had not gone to the trees. Now everybody was lost!

After searching about and speaking angrily, Lieutenant Pike ordered camp. It was lucky that they had taken the buffalo tongues, because now they might make a fire and cook the tongues.

What had become of the Lieutenant Wilkinson men seemed very queer. Early in the morning Lieutenant Pike led up the creek, from the trees, and did not find them. The three arrived at the spot where the two buffalo carcasses were lying. The wolves were eating the carcasses, in spite of the coat, but there were marrow bones left. Next, the lieutenant led down the creek. Not even the smoke of any campfires might be seen, and there were no pony tracks or footprints.

Stub used all his eyes, but discovered nothing. At night the lieutenant and the doctor were much worried.

"Injuns, mebbe?" Stub asked.

Lieutenant Pike nodded gravely.

"I fear so. We will hunt more to-morrow."

That night it rained, and in the morning was still raining, cold. But they had had plenty to eat. This day they rode and rode, up the creek again, in the rain.

"It is bad," said the doctor. "A long way from home. Only four shots left. No trail, no men, nada (nothing). Indian country. We look one more day; then we find the river Arkansaw."

"Go to 'Nited States?" Stub queried.

"Cannot tell. The Great Father sent us out. We are men; we hate to go back."

"Mebbe they there, on Arkansaw. Injuns chase 'em."

"Maybe. But it is bad. Maybe Injuns chase us, next."

"We fight," declared Stub.

And the doctor laughed.

"You're all right. We'll do our best, eh?"

Stub had ten arrows; the lieutenant and the medicine-man each had four loads for their guns. That was not much, in a fight.

Early in the morning they again rode, searching up the creek, with their eyes scanning before and behind and right and left. When the sun was half way to noon, they saw two horsemen, coming from the south. Indians? No! White men—soldiers!

Lieutenant Pike cried gladly, and fired his gun, in signal. His face had been dark and stern; now it lighted up, and they all galloped for the two men. Lieutenant Wilkinson was only three miles south, on the Arkansaw.

"What! The Arkansaw?" Lieutenant Pike repeated.

"Yes, sir. It is right close."

"Have you found the Spanish trail?"

"No, sir. But we found the river."

The two soldiers guided. When they drew near where the river was, Lieutenant Wilkinson galloped out. By the way in which he shook hands with his chief and with the doctor, he, too, had been worried.

"Sure, we thought you were lost or scalped," said John Sparks, to Stub, in camp.

"No lost; you lost," answered Stub.

"Well, depends on how you look at it," agreed John Sparks, scratching his red hair.

The river was a wide river, flowing between cottonwood trees. The country was flat, and the trees had hidden the size of the river. The men began to look for trees to make boats of. Did this mean that Chief Pike was going to travel on by boat? Baroney explained.

"Lieutenant Wilkinson travels down river by boat. The captain takes men and marches to the Comanches."

"Lieutenant Wilkinson, how far?" Stub asked.

"Very far, to the American forts at the mouth of the river, and to report to the American father."

"Captain Pike, how far?"

Baroney shrugged his shoulders.

"Who knows?"

Stub made up his mind what he was going to do.

Lieutenant Pike moved the camp to the other side of the river, where the best boat-trees grew. The river was rising fast, from the rains, and everybody had to swim and arrived very wet. Rain fell almost all the time, but it was a good camp, with plenty of wood and meat.

While the men under Lieutenant Wilkinson cut down trees Chief Pike and the doctor medicine-man scouted up and down the river, hunting meat and the Spanish trail. There were buffalo and antelope, but there was no Spanish trail.

Lieutenant Pike grew curious about the wish-ton-wish, or prairie dogs. He found a large town of them, where the rattle-snakes and the tortoise lived, too. He and the doctor shot them to eat, and they were good—as Stub well knew. It took true shooting, because unless a wish-ton-wish is killed dead, he crawls into his hole.

The wish-ton-wish is among the smartest of animals. He digs his hole cunningly. The lieutenant and the doctor tried to fill one hole with water, and get the wish-ton-wish that way. Stub said, "No use"—he and the Pawnee boys had tried it often. And the men found out that this was true, for they spent a long time and poured in one hundred and forty kettles of water, and it all disappeared but no wish-ton-wish came out.

Still, the towns were interesting places, where the dogs sat up straight with their hands across their stomachs, and held councils, like people, and whistled "Wish-ton-wish (Look out)!" whenever an enemy was sighted.

A great deal of buffalo-meat was dried, for Lieutenant Wilkinson to take. Making the boats required several days. The trees were too small and soft. When one boat had at last been hollowed the men started to build another out of buffalo and elk hides, stretched over a frame.

On the night before Lieutenant Wilkinson was to leave, Chief Pike the captain said to Stub:

"Come here. Listen."

"What?"

"To-morrow you go with Lieutenant Wilkinson."

"No," answered Stub. He had been afraid of that.

"Yes. You go with him, to the United States. That is best."

"No." And Stub shook his head.

"Why not?"

"No go. Stay with you."

"Don't you want to be an American, and see the towns of the Great Father?"

"Be an American here," answered Stub.

"We do not stay here. We go on, a long way, up the river, to the mountains."

"Yes," said Stub.

"You will be cold."

"Don't care."

"You will be hungry."

"Don't care."

"We may all die."

"Don't care."

"The Osage were afraid. The Pawnee were afraid. You are not afraid?"

"No. No Osage, no Pawnee; American.

March, hunt, fight, stay with you," Stub appealed, eagerly.

The doctor medicine-man laughed, and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Good. Let him come, lieutenant."

"He may come," replied the lieutenant. And Stub's heart beat gladly.

Baroney and John Sparks and Tom Dougherty and John Brown and others of his friends were coming, too. Had he been sent away with Lieutenant Wilkinson, in the boat, for the United States, he would have run off at his first chance and followed the Pike trail.

Right after breakfast in the morning camp was broken. It had been a very cold night, with snore and ice floated thickly down the swollen river. But by help of the Wilkinson boats Lieutenant Pike moved his men and baggage across the river again, to the north side which everybody said was the American side. The men worked hard, to load the boats and swim the horses, in the slush and ice. Then Lieutenant Wilkinson made ready to start.

He took with him, in his two boats, one of the head soldiers, Sergeant Joe Ballenger; the soldiers John Boley, Sam Bradley, Sol Huddleston, and John Wilson; the Osage man and woman who had come this far, and corn and meat for twenty-one days.

Head soldier Sergeant Bill Meek marched the Pike men up-river, but Stub stayed with Lieutenant Pike, the doctor, and Baroney, to see the Wilkinson men leave. He had no fear of being put aboard, now, for Chief Pike always spoke the truth.

Lieutenant Wilkinson shook hands all 'round, stepped into the boat, made of four buffalo hides and two elk hides, and with his crew pushed off, after the other boat. The floating ice did not matter.

Lieutenant Pike watched them out of sight, in a bend. Then he turned his horse toward the west.

"Come," he said.

He and Doctor Robinson led; Baroney and Stub followed.

"Now to the mountains," cheered Baroney. "Huzzah!"

"Huzzah!" Stub echoed.

The mountains were far, through Comanche country, maybe through Spanish country, perhaps into Utah country; and after that, what? Nobody had said. Winter was here, as if the Great Spirit were still angry. The men had shivered, this morning, in their thin clothes; but nobody had seemed to care. Young Chief Wilkinson, with a few men, was going one way, on an unknown trail; young Chief Pike, with the rest of the men, was going the other way, on another unknown trail. So, huzzah! To be an American one must be brave.