IN WHICH PHIL COMES HOME WITH PLENTY OF FISH.
That was the name to which I answered, especially when it was spoken as decidedly as on the present occasion.
"I'm coming," I replied, at the top of my lungs.
I had been a-fishing in a stream which flowed into the Missouri about a mile above my home. I had been very successful, and had as many fish as I could carry. I was gathering them up, after I had fastened my bateau to the stake, and intended to convey them to the Castle, as our log hut was rather facetiously called by its owner.
"Phil! Phil!" repeated the voice above the bluff of the river.
It was Matt Rockwood who called; and as he was the only master and guardian I had ever known, I always obeyed him—when I could not help doing so. His tones were more imperative than before, and I proceeded with greater haste to gather up my fish, stringing them upon some willow twigs I had just cut for the purpose.
Crack went a rifle. The sound startled me, and, dropping my fish, I ran up the steep bank of the river to the summit of the bluff on which the Castle was located.
"What's the matter?" I asked, when I reached the spot by the side of the house where Matt stood.
"Don't you see?" he replied, raising his rifle again, and taking aim.
I looked in the direction towards which his weapon was directed, and saw two Indians, mounted, each of whom had a led horse.
"Them pesky Injuns hes stole our hosses," added old Matt, as he fired his rifle the second time. "'Tain't no use; I might as well shoot at the north star."
The two Indians, with their animals, disappeared in the forest beyond the clearing, and Matt's last chance was gone. A few years earlier in the life experience of the old squatter, the thieves would not have escaped so easily, for Matt was a dead shot before the rheumatism took hold of him. Now he hobbled about a little on a pair of rude crutches I had made for him; but his eyes were rather weak, and his arm was unsteady. His rifle was no longer unerring, and the thieving savages could plunder him with impunity.
There was an Indian village about ten miles from the Castle, and from the known character of its inhabitants, and the direction the marauders had taken, we concluded they had come from there. I went into the house, and procured my rifle—a light affair, which old Matt had purchased on board a trading steamer for my use.
"'Tain't no use, Phil. You needn't run arter 'em," said the old man, shaking his head. "You don't expect to run fast enough to ketch Injuns on hossback—do you?"
On second thought I concluded to take his view of the matter.
"But we can't afford to lose them hosses, Phil," continued old Matt, as he hobbled to a seat. "And if we can, them Injuns shan't hev 'em. I ain't a-goin' to hev old Firefly rid by them critters, and starved, and abused—I ain't a-goin' to do it! Them hosses must be got back. You're gittin' old enough to do sunthin' with Injuns now, Phil, and you must git them hosses back agin."
"I'm ready to do anything I can; but, if I can't catch the Indians, what shall I do?" I replied....