He held his gun in his hand, and every time the course of the dance brought him directly in front of where we sat, he would turn his gaze full upon us, and club his weapon before him with what we interpreted into an air of defiance. We sat as still as death, for we knew it would not be wise to exhibit any appearance of fear; but my sister remarked, in a low tone, “I have always thought that I was to lose my life by the hands of the Indians. This is the third Indian war I have gone through, and now, I suppose, it will be the last.”
It was the only time I ever saw her lose her self-possession. She was always remarkably calm and resolute, but now I could see that she trembled. Still we sat there—there was a sort of fascination as our imaginations became more and more excited. Presently some rain-drops began to fall. The Indians continued their dance for a few minutes longer, then, with whoopings and shoutings, they rushed simultaneously towards the house. We fled into my apartment and closed the door, which my sister at first held fast, but she presently came and seated herself by me on the bed, for she saw that I could not compose myself. Of all forms of death, that by the hands of savages is the most difficult to face calmly; and I fully believed that our hour was come.
There was no interruption to the dance, which the Indians carried on in the parlor, leaping and yelling as if they would bring down the roof over our heads. In vain we tried to persuade my husband and the children, through a crevice of the door, to come and join us. The latter, feeling no danger, were too much delighted with the exhibition to leave it, and the former only came for a moment to reassure me, and then judged it wisest to return, and manifest his satisfaction at the compliment by his presence. He made light of our fears, and would not admit that the object of our suspicions was in fact a Sauk, but only some young Winnebago, who had, as is sometimes the custom, imitated them in costume and appearance.
It may have been “good fun” to him to return to his village and tell how he frightened “the white squaws.” Such a trick would not be unnatural in a white youth, and perhaps, since human nature is everywhere the same, it might not be out of the way in an Indian.
FLEEING FROM THE INDIANS.
The danger had now become so imminent that my husband determined to send his family to Fort Howard, a point which was believed to be far out of the range of the enemy. It was in vain that I pleaded to be permitted to remain; he was firm.
“I must not leave my post,” said he, “while there is any danger. My departure would perhaps be the signal for an immediate alliance of the Winnebagoes with the Sauks. I am certain that as long as I am here my presence will act as a restraint upon them. You wish to remain and share my dangers! Your doing so would expose us both to certain destruction in case of attack By the aid of my friends in both tribes, I could hope to preserve my own life if I were alone; but surrounded by my family, that would be impossible—we should all fall victims together. My duty plainly is, to send you to a place of safety.”