Chapter 19 - The Yellow Chief by Mayne Reid

Setting a Strange Scene.

Retreating from the edge of the cliff with the same caution as they had approached it, the two mountain men rejoined their companions in ambush. ’Lije, after making known his design, led them toward the pass of which he had spoken—a sloping ravine, the same up which Snively had made his vain attempt at escaping.

Screened by the scrub-cedars, the trapper party succeeded in descending it, without being perceived either by the Indians below, or the captives over whom these were keeping but careless watch.

Their sudden appearance upon the plain was a surprise to both: to the latter a joyful sight; to the former a terrible apparition—for they saw in it the quick harbinger of death.

Not a shot was fired by the assailants. On the moment of their feet touching the plain, they flung aside their guns; and, drawing daggers and knives, went at the Indian sentinels, in a hurried but silent slaughter.

There was grappling, struggling, and shouts; but the attacking party outnumbered those attacked; and in less than ten minutes’ time the shouting ceased—since there was not a living Indian upon the ground to continue it. Instead was the green meadow sward strewn with dead bodies, every one of them showing a bronze-coloured skin, horribly enamelled with gashes or gouts of crimson blood!

The captives were in raptures of joy. They saw that their rescue was complete. The whites, both men and women, sprang to their feet, and struggled with their fastenings—wishing to have their arms free in order to embrace their preservers; while the negroes, none of whom were bound, came pouring forth out of the cul-de-sac, where they had been hitherto penned up, uttering frenzied shouts.

“Keep yur groun’ an’ stop yur durned shoutin’!” cried ’Lije, with a gesture waving them back. “Don’t one ’o ye stir out o’ yur places. Back, back, I say! Stay as ye wur, till we gie ye the word. An’ you alser,” he continued, running to the other side and checking the forward movement of the whites, “hunker down jest as ye did afore. We haint finished this show bizness yit. Thar’s another scene o’ it to kum.”

Both negroes and whites were a little surprised, at being thus restrained from the full ebullition of their joy. But the earnest tone of the old trapper, sustained as it was by the gestures of his companions, had its effect upon them; and all at once cowered back into their original position. What was the intention they could not guess; but, released from the agony of fear, they were willing to wait for it with patience.

They soon beheld a spectacle, so strange as almost to restore them to terrified thought. They saw the dead bodies of the Indians raised from their recumbent position; set up beside their long spears, that had been previously planted in the ground; and lashed to these in such a manner as to sustain them in an erect attitude. There were distributed here and there over the sward, most of them close to the captives, as if still keeping guard over them! Those not so disposed of were dragged off, and hidden away behind the large boulders of rock that lay along the base of the cliff.

“Now!” thundered the old trapper, addressing his speech to the captives, white as well as black, “ef one o’ ye stir from the spot ye’re in, or venturs to show sign o’ anythin’ thet’s tuk place, till ye git the word from me, ye’ll hev a rifle bullet sent plum through ye. The gurl hez got to be rescooed ’ithout harm done to her; an’ I reck’n she’s wuth more than the hul o’ ye thegither. Thar’s but one way o’ savin’ her, an’ thet’s by yur keepin’ yur heads shet up, an’ yur karkidges ’ithout stirrin’ as much as a finger. So don’t make neery movement, ef ye vally yur preecious lives. Ye unnerstan’ me?”

The captives were too much controlled to make rejoinder; but they saw, by the earnestness of the old trapper, that his commands were to be obeyed; and silently resolved to obey them.

After delivering the speech, ’Lije turned toward his trapper companions—all of whom knew what was meant; and who, without waiting word or sign, rushed toward their rifles—still lying on the ground.

In a few seconds they had regained them; and, in less than five minutes after, not a trapper was to be seen about the place. They had disappeared as suddenly as sprites in a pantomime; and the little valley seemed suddenly restored to the state in which it had been left, when the pursuers of Clara Blackadder swept out of it. Any one glancing into it at that moment could have had no other thought, than that it contained the captives of an emigrant train, with their Indian captors keeping guard over them.