From Gertrude Morgan; or, Thrilling Adventures
Among the Indians of the Far West

By "Mrs. Morgan"
Philadelphia: Barclay & Co., 1866


[This 27 page paperback is a breathless series of losses and close calls. The author identifies herself as "born of wealthy parents in New York City." After her father's failure in business led to her mother's death, she married William Morgan, who caught the "Gold Fever" and left for California in 1851. To rejoin him, she traveled overland in 1855. When Indians attacked the party she was with, she was carried off in captivity. All this by nine pages into the story. By its end, she's been rescued and restored to civilization. This following episode is the most suspenseful:]

During the last week in June there were but a few warriors left in the village, the rest being all absent in the expedition to which I have already referred. Among those that remained was a third chief of the tribe, who, however, was not an Indian, but a mulatto slave that had escaped from Missouri or Arkansas, and managed to make his way to the haunts of the savages. Among these latter he had, by reason of his prowess and daring, raised himself thus, and it is likely that, but for the event I am about to relate, he would have finally gained the position of first chief. This occurrence happened on the thirtieth day or rather night of June, and for a while produced the wildest excitement in the village.

On the night in question, a messenger came to my lodge, and said that The Yellow Face--the fugitive's name among the Indians--was very sick, and wanted to see me immediately. Of late I had noticed The Yellow Face casting upon me leering glances and looks, that made me tremble, and now I felt a chill come over me as I heard his ominous message. But I feared to disobey, and, accordingly, with the utmost trepidation, I repaired to his lodge, where I found him reclining upon a rude but comfortable couch of skins and robes. For some moments he did not take any notice of my entrance, nor in fact until I spoke. This roused him, or more properly seemed to, for that he was acting a part I now felt fully convinced, and, as he fixed upon me his black, basilisk eyes, he said:

"The Yellow Face is very sick, and has sent for the White Medicine, because her medicine is good."

The look that accompanied these words only enhanced my fears, and I was unable to utter a single word in reply, so occupied was my mind with thoughts of how I might best escape from my dangerous companion. After a moment or two of silence, The Yellow Face rose and stepped toward me, saying, in his own natural voice and language:

"Don't be afeard, Missus, I'ze not agwine to hurt you. Yah! yah! I jes want you to come and be my wife; now won't you?"

With these words the ignorant and sensual brute sprang between me and the entrance of the lodge, and then, drawing a huge scalping-knife, grinned a mocking smile, as coming towards me again, he said, in low, chuckling tones:

"Look yere, Missus, you'd better not make no noise now, else you's a dead woman, dat's all!"

The diabolical intention of the villain was instantly revealed, or rather about to be consummated, for its revelation had been cotemporary with my entrance into the lodge. Yet what availed my puny strength in the grasp of such a giant, or what aid would my shrieks bring me? None whatever, for the Indians were too used to hearing the outcries of women when beaten by the men. All this rushed through my mind, and guided my ensuing action, which was not a moment too soon, for, just as I sprang to the opposite side of the lodge, my foe was in the very act of clasping me in his foul embrace.

"God of mercy, save me!" I breathed in almost a whisper, as I bit my tongue and lips in an agony of fear and suspense, and kept my wildly staring eyes fixed upon the mulatto.

The latter, enraged that I had thus escaped him, scowled fiercely upon me, and, with a bitter oath, made a fresh attempt to grasp me. But again I managed to elude him, and bounded close to a frame of willow boughs on which were hung his shield and trappings, and against which leaned his spear and bow. With demon-like rage the monster, on finding himself thus foiled twice, leaped toward me, with an agility that precluded escape.

At this critical moment, however, and just as I gave myself up for lost, a thought struck me like an electric flash, and almost involuntarily I seized the keen-pointed spear that stood within my reach, and presented it at the breast of my antagonist. Both of our motions were so sudden and equally timed, that the following instant the spear head was plunged up to the pole directly in the heart of my lecherous foe, who, with a deep groan, sank dead at my feet.

Never, never shall I forget, nor shall I ever be able truly to describe, the feelings the seized me as I looked down upon the silent, and now harmless giant, whose herculian arms could, a moment previous, have crushed my life out with a single effort. For an instant a pang of sorrow wrung my heart, and then followed the peculiar sensation, or self-conviction, of having shed the blood of a fellow being. As though fascinated, I continued to gaze down upon my dead foe, the handle of the avenging spear in my hand and the blade in his bosom. From this fearful reverie I was at last suddenly aroused by a wild scream, and, starting back, I beheld the dead man's favorite squaw rush into the hut and cast herself wildly down upon the corpse.

I waited no longer; the spell of horror was broken, and, uttering a stifled shriek, I bounded from the lodge, and, with flying steps gained my own, where I shut myself up, expecting every instant to be dragged forth and torn to pieces by the infuriated friends of the deceased.

I thought my hour had come when about ten minutes later a crowd commenced yellow and hooting and screaming outside my retreat. My eyes were closed, and, bowed to earth, I commended my soul to its maker. Minute followed minute, however, and hour succeeded hour, and yet, though the clamor seemed to increase, no one ventured to enter the lodge in which I sat trembling and despairing. Matters continued thus until the next morning, when, about two hours after sunrise, the savages who were collected around my wigwam, suddenly, and with a loud shouting, started away to some other point, and silence reigned profoundly for sometime after. Then came a scarcely audible murmur of human voices at a distance, which sound gradually increased in volume until I became convinced that the savages were returning. They had been, as I subsequently learned, summoned away to meet the war party of The Buffalo Horn, who had come back at that juncture from his marauding expedition in the plains.

I knew the revengeful dispositions of my wild companions, and I was moreover aware of the celebrity of the Chief whom, in defence of what was far dearer to me than life, I had, God knew, unintentionally slain. And, in this connection, I deem it only justice to the Indians, to say, that in their primitive state, far removed from the frontier, the crime of ravishing captive women, so common and hellish a vice among civilized nations, is entirely unknown. This statement may dissipate the romance many writers have imparted to their stories of the Indians and beautiful white captive maidens, but it is nevertheless a fact. An American savage will mercilessly butcher white women, but a wild and chivalrous honor deters him from ravishing or scalping them.

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