“One can easily see by your face how tired you are,” I said, compassionately, looking kindly down at her. “I am going to sleep for an hour or two, and you had both better do the same. Tim is going to keep guard.”
She smiled wearily at me, her head sinking back. I did not move, or speak again; indeed I had lost consciousness almost before I touched the ground.
I could not have slept long, for there was a glow of light still visible in the western sky, when a strong grip on my arm aroused me, causing me instantly to sit up. Tim stood there, a battered, old, long rifle in his hand, and beside him a boy of eighteen, without a hat, tousled headed, with an ugly red wound showing on one cheek.
“Mighty sorry fer ter wake ye, Cap,” the deputy grinned. “This yere young chap is one o’ them sojers; an’ it strikes me, he’s got a damn queer tale ter tell.”
THE VALLEY OF THE BUREAU
I glanced backward across my shoulder toward the others. Both girls were sleeping soundly, while beyond them, down the slope, the three horses were quietly cropping away at the herbage. I managed to rise.
“Let’s move back to the spring, where we will not wake them up,” I suggested. “Now we can talk.”
My eyes sought the face of the lad questioningly. He was a loose-lipped, awkward lout, trembling still from a fright he could not conceal.
“You belonged to that squad killed out yonder?”
“Yes, seh; I reckon I’se the only one whut ain’t ded,” he stammered, so tongue-tied I could scarcely make out his words. “I wus gone after wahter, an’ when them Injuns begun fer ter yell, I never dun nuthin’ but just run, an’ hid in the bush.”
“But you are wounded?”
He put a red hand to his face, touching it gingerly.
“I dun got racked with a branch; I wus thet skeered I just cudn’t see nuthin’, seh.”
“I understand. What is your name?”
“Well, Asa, I suppose those were militiamen; you belonged to the company?”
He nodded, his eyes dull, his lips moving, as though it was an effort to talk. Quite evidently whatever little intellect he had ever possessed, now refused to respond. Kennedy broke in impatiently.
“It takes thet boy ’bout an hour fer ter tell enything, Cap,” he explained gruffly. “I reckon he’s skeered half ter death in the furst place, an’ then thar’s sumthin’ wrong with him enyhow. Maybe I kin give ye the main pints. Them thar fellers belonged ter Cap. Hough’s company frum down Edwardsville way—greener then grass, most ov ’em. They’d cum up frum sumwhar on the Illinoy, an’ wus a headin’ fer Dixon. Never onct thought thar might be Injuns down yere, an’ never kept no guard. Them Injuns jumped ’em at daybreak, an’ not a soul knew they wus thar, till they yelled. ’Twan’t no fight, just a massacre. This feller he got away, just as he sed he did, by a hidin’ in the bush. I reckon he wan’t even seed at all, but he wus so blame close thet he heerd ‘bout all thet went on, an’ even seed a bit ov it. Lord! I hed ter poke him out; he wus thet skeered he cudn’t stand.”