Chapter 8 - The Yellow Chief by Mayne Reid

Planning a Rescue.

“What’s best to be dud? What d’ye say, Ned?”

“Let us go straight to the place, and see what has happened. Oh, heavens! If Clara has been killed!”

“Go straight to the place! Yur a dreamin’, young ’un! Supposin’ it be Yellur Chief an’ his crowd o’ cut-throats? We’d both o’ us get sculped to a sartinty.”

“But we might approach under cover near enough—”

“Near enuf for nothin’. Thar ain’t no kiver in that quarter, as I kin see from hyur; an’ to cut acrosst the purairia, ’ud be to go strait sartint inter the teeth o’ them squallin’ skunks. Thay’re boun’ to be drunk jest about this time; and whether it’s Yellur Chief’s lot or no, we’d get sharp sass from ’em. Thet ye may swar to.”

“We must do something, ’Lije. I cannot bear to think that she may be in the hands of those horrid savages, and I standing here almost within sight of her! If she be living I must rescue; and if dead, by heavens, I shall revenge her! We must do something, ’Lije! we must.”

“An’ who said we wa’n’t a go in’ to do somethin’? Not this chile, sure. Maybe I mout a said so, ef thar hed been only ole Blackedder in the scrape an’ his precious son along wi’ him, an’ along wi’ both thet scoundrel o’ a overseeur, Sam Snively. But the gurl—she’s diff’rent; an’ I feel as desprit on doin’ somethin’ for her as you kin. F’r all thet it’s no use our doin’ what air durned foolechness. We must set ’bout this thing wi’ percaushun. Hyur you, darkey! Kin you tell how many Injuns thar war in the party thet attackted ye?”

“Dar war a big lot, massa—gobs on ’em; I’se sure more’n a hunder—far more’n dat.”

“Bah!” exclaimed the trapper, disappointedly. “’Tain’t no use inquirin’ o’ him. See hyur, niggur! Did you notice any o’ them as ’peered to be thar leader?”

“Wha—what, massa?”

“A leeder, durn ye! A chief!”

“A chief?”

“Yes, one that war actin’ as boss, or overseer.”

“Ah! de boss. Yes, thar war a bossy ’mong dem; I ’pose he muss ’a been, lease he order all de oders ’bout.”

“Kin ye discribe what he war like? How war he dressed? What sort o’ duds had he on him?”

“Easy ’nuf dat, massa. He drest moas like de ress ob dem—only on de top ob him head dar wa’ a big spread ob feather, shinin’ like de tail o’ a peacock.”

“The Yellur Chief!” exclaimed the questioner, on hearing the description.

“No, massa. He no yella’. He wa’ painted red. Dar wa’ some yella’ stripe; but mos’ ob him wa’ a bright red colour—redder dan blood.”

“Never mind that, nigger: you don’t know what I’m talkin’ ’bout. What did ye see him do?”

“Seed him try to ’top de shootin’ and killin’.”

“Stop the shootin’ and killin’! You saw him tryin’ to do thet? Air ye sure o’t, boy?”

“No, massa, I ain’t shoo’. I thort he wa’ doin’ so. I wa’n’t shoo’. I wa’ ’feard dey ud go on wif de killin’, an’ dat’s why I ’tole ’way from de place, an’ run out dis way.”

“Eft be Yellur Chief, odd ’bout his tryin’ to stop the killin’. ’Tain’t his way.” This remark was to O’Neil, who stood chafing at the delay.

“It is strange;” he answered. “In any case, it’s no use our remaining longer here, if we’re going to do anything. What can you think of, ’Lije?”

The trapper, with his right palm resting upon the stopper of his gun, stood for a while, reflecting.

“Thar’s one thing,” he said at length; “eft air this Cheyenne skunk, an’ he ha’nt kilt the hull lot o’ them outright, thar’s jest a chance o’ our savin’ some o’ ’em.”

“Thank God!” exclaimed O’Neil, in a tone of relieved anxiety. “You think there’s a chance, ’Lije?”

“I duz.”

“In what way?”

“Wal; still concedin’ the point o’ its bein’ Yellur Chief, I kin guess putty near what it means. He’s out wi’ a band o’ the young braves, that ain’t likely to track strait back to the town o’ thar tribe; so long’s they’ve got captive weemen among ’em.”

The young Irishman started at the words. They conveyed a thought that gave pain to him; but, anxious to hear his comrade’s scheme for their rescue, he did not interrupt him.

“An’ ef’t be them, I kin guess whar they’ll go—most sartin o’t. This chile chances to know one o’ Yellur Chief’s private campin’ grouns’. I larnt thet when I war trappin’ in this quarter too yeern ago—time’s you war down stayin’ at Bent’s. They’re over yonner now, a plunderin’ the poor emigrants an’ thar wagins, an’ we mout go strait to ’em ef we wanted to git shet o’ our scalps. But as we don’t want thet, the question is, whar they’ll be when we kum back in search o’ ’em.”

“Come back! You purpose going somewhere? Where to?”

“To Saint Vrain’s.”

“Ah! For what purpose?”

“For the only purpiss thet kin sarve our purpise: an’ thet air to git a wheen o’ mounting men as kin lend us a han’ in this bisness. Without thet, we’d hev as much chance to rescoo the captives—ef thar be any sech—as for a kripple to catch a Kit-fox.” (Note 1.)

“Do you think we should find any there?”

“I’m sartint we will. The darkey hez tolt us o’ a party that passed the wagins on thar way. No doubt they war boun’ for the Fort. Besides, I met sev’ral fellurs last seeson while I war trappin’ on the Collyrado, as sayed they war goin’ east, an’ intended makin’ stop at Saint Vrain’s on thar way. I shedn’t be serprised ef we foun’ fifty on ’em thar now. Helf o’ the number will be enuf to chestise Yellur Chief an’ his gang o’ freebooters. Thurfor let’s go to the Fort right away, an’ see what kin be done.”

“I’m with you, ’Lije! We must lose no time! Think of the danger she may be in; that is, if not past all danger already. Oh, I fear to reflect on it.”

“Ye’re right, ’bout not losin’ time,” said the trapper, without noticing the last exclamatory remark. “Same time,” he added, “’twon’t do for us tu make too much haste, else we mout find it the wuss speed, as the spellin’ book used ter say. We must keep clost in to the bottom o’ the bluffs in goin’ torst Saint Vrain’s; else them Injuns may spy us. Ef they shood, we’ll be in for a ugly scrape; an’ not like to git clar o’t ’ithout sheddin’ the skins o’ our two skulls. Wagh! thet ere wudn’t be no way agreeable; an’ ef’t wa’n’t thet thar’s a gurl in the questin, whose life, an’ somethin’ else, oughter be saved, I’d a stayed hyur to finish my breakfust, and let Yellur Chief an’ his cut-throats go straight to custrut to—darnation! But come, Ned! we’re a wastin’ time, an’ I know you don’t weesh thet. Hyur now nigger! you help wi’ the saddlin’ o’ these hosses. Ef you’ve been brought up ’bout Squire Blackedder’s stables I reck’n you know somethin’ ’bout hosses. An’ harkee, boy! we two air goin’ away a bit. So you keep clost in this hyur hole, till we kum back agin’. You kin rest yur black karkidge inside that thar tent, whar ye’ll find somethin’ in the way o’ buffler meat to keep yur ivories from chatterin’. Don’t eet it all, d’ye heer. We may come back sharp-set; an’ ef thar’s nothin’ left, may take it into our heads to eet you.”

While this talk was going on, two horses were led forth from a cave in the cliff that served them for stable.

Both being quickly accoutred, the trappers sprang into their respective saddles; and spurring towards the cañon, were soon plunging between its shadowy walls, on their way to the outward plain.

Sixty seconds spent in wading, and they emerged dripping into the light of day. More of it than they wished for: since the sun was now fairly up, his disc appearing some two or three degrees above the prairie horizon.

There was need for the horsemen to show circumspection. And they did: silently skirting the cliff, and keeping behind the huge boulders, that, for long ages shed from its summit, strewed the plain at its base.

“Arter all, Ned,” said the old trapper, when they had ridden to a safe distance from the dreaded spot, “we needn’t ’a been so partickler. I reck’n, ’bout this time, thar ain’t a sober Injun upon the banks o’ Bijou. I hope ole Blackedder an’ his party, afore leavin’ the settlements, laid in a good supply o’ rot-gut—enuf to keep them skunks dead-drunk till we kin git back agin. Ef thet be the case, thar’ll be some chance o’ our chestisin’ ’em.”

A mental “amen” was the only response made by the young Irishman; who was too much occupied in thinking of Clara Blackadder’s danger, to reflect coolly on the means of rescuing her—even though it were certain she still lived.

Note 1. Vulpes velox. The swiftest of the foxes; called “Kit-fox,” by the fur-traders, on account of the skin being taken from the carcase whole, as with rabbit-skins—not split up the abdomen, as with the larger species.