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Tales of Aztlan, The Romance of a Hero of our Late Spanish-American War, Incidents of Interest from the Life of a western Pioneer and Other Tales.
by George Hartmann
A note about this book: A Maid of Yavapai, the final entry in this book, is dedicated to SMH. This refers to Sharlot M. Hall, a famous Arizona settler. The copy of the book that was used to make this etext is dedicated: With my compliments and a Happy Easter, Apr 5th 1942, To Miss Sharlot M. Hall, from The daughter of the Author, Carrie S. Allison, Presented March 31st, 1942, Prescott, Arizona.
1908 Revised edition
Memorial That this volume may serve to keep forever fresh the memory of a hero, Captain William Owen O'Neill, U. S. V., is the fervent wish of The Author.
CHAPTER I. A FRAIL BARK, TOSSED ON LIFE'S TEMPESTUOUS SEAS
A native of Germany, I came to the United States soon after the Civil War, a healthy, strong boy of fifteen years. My destination was a village on the Rio Grande, in New Mexico, where I had relatives. I was expected to arrive at Junction City, in the State of Kansas, on a day of June, 1867, and proceed on my journey with a train of freight wagons over the famous old Santa Fe trail.
Junction City was then the terminal point of a railway system which extended its track westward across the great American plains, over the virgin prairie, the native haunt of the buffalo and fleet-footed antelope, the iron horse trespassing on the hunting ground of the Arapahoe and Comanche Indian tribes. As a mercantile supply depot for New Mexico and Colorado, Junction City was the port from whence a numerous fleet of prairie schooners sailed, laden with the necessities and luxuries of an advancing civilization. But not every sailor reached his destined port, for many were they who were sent by the pirates of the plains over unknown trails, to the shores of the great Beyond, their scalpless bodies left on the prairie, a prey to vultures and coyotes.
If the plans of my relatives had developed according to program, this story would probably not have been told. Indians on the warpath attacked the wagon train which I was presumed to have joined, a short distance out from Junction City. They killed and scalped several teamsters and also a young German traveler; stampeded and drove off a number of mules and burned up several wagons. This was done while fording the Arkansas River, near Fort Dodge. I was delayed near Kansas City under circumstances which preclude the supposition of chance and indicate a subtle and Inexorably fatal power at work for the preservation of my life--a force which with the giant tread of the earthquake devastates countries and lays cities in ruins; that awful power which on wings of the cyclone slays the innocent babe in its cradle and harms not the villain, or vice versa; that inscrutable spirit which creates and lovingly shelters the sparrow over night and then at dawn hands it to the owl to serve him for his breakfast. Safe I was under the guidance of the same loving, paternal Providence which in death delivereth the innocent babe from evil and temptation, shields the little sparrow from all harm forever, and incidentally provides thereby for the hungry owl.
I should have changed cars at Kansas City, but being asleep at the critical time and overlooked by the conductor, I passed on to a station beyond the Missouri River. There the conductor aroused me and put me off the train without ceremony. I was forced to return, and reached the river without any mishap, as it was a beautiful moonlight night. I crossed the long bridge with anxiety, for it was a primitive-looking structure, built on piles, and I had to step from tie to tie, looking continually down at the swirling waters of the great, muddy river. As I realized the possibility of meeting a train, I crossed over it, running. At last I reached the opposite shore. It was nearly dawn now, and I walked to the only house in sight, a long, low building of logs and, being very tired, I sat down on the veranda and soon fell asleep. It was not long after sunrise that a sinister, evil-looking person, smelling vilely of rum, woke me up roughly and asked me what I did there. When he learned that I was traveling to New Mexico and had lost my way, he grew very polite and invited me into the house.
We entered a spacious hall, which served as a dining-room, where eight young ladies were busily engaged arranging tables and furniture. The man intimated that he kept a hotel and begged the young ladies to see to my comfort and bade me consider myself as being at home. The girls were surprised and delighted to meet me and overwhelmed me with questions. They expressed the greatest concern and interest when they learned that I was about to cross the plains.
"Poor little Dutchy," said one, "how could your mother send you out all alone into the cruel, wide world!" "Mercy, and among the Indians, too," said another. When I replied that my dear mother had sent me away because she loved me truly, as she knew that I had a better chance to prosper in the United States than in the Fatherland, they called me a cute little chap and smothered me with their kisses.
The tallest and sweetest of these girls (her name was Rose) pulled my ears teasingly and asked if her big, little man was not afraid of the Indians. "Not I, madame," I replied; "for my father charged me to be honest and loyal, brave and true, and fear not and prove myself a worthy scion of the noble House of Von Siebeneich." "Oh, my! Oh, my!" cried the young ladies, and "Did you ever!" and "No, I never!" and "Who would have thought it!" Regarding me wide-eyed with astonishment, they listened with bated breath as I explained that I was a lineal descendant of the Knight Hartmann von Siebeneich, who achieved everlasting fame through impersonating the Emperor Frederick (Barbarossa) of Germany, in order to prevent his capture by the enemy. I told how the commander of the Italian army, inspired with admiration by the desperate valor of the loyal knight, released him and did honor him greatly. And how this noble knight, my father's ancestor, followed the Emperor Frederick to the Holy Land and fought the Saracens. "And," added I, "my father's great book of heraldry contains the legend of the curse which fell on our house through the villainy of the Imperial Grand Chancellor of Blazonry, who was commanded to devise and procure a brand new heraldic escutcheon for our family.
"He blazoned our shield with the ominous motto, 'in der fix, Haben nix,' over gules d'or on a stony field, which was sown to a harvest of tares and oats, and embossed with a whirlwind rampant. As they were in knightly honor bound to live up to the motto on their shield, my ancestor were doomed to remain poor forever. At last they took service with the free city of Hamburg, where they settled finally and became honored citizens."
Happening to remember my mother's admonishment not to annoy people with too much talk, I apologized to the young ladies. Smilingly, they begged me to continue, for they seemed to enjoy my boyish prattle.
"Listen, now, girls," said Rose laughingly to her companions, "now, I shall make him open his mother's closet and show us her choicest family skeleton." "Oh, no, Miss Rose," I protested, "my mother has indeed a great closet, but it is full of good things to eat and contains no skeletons." "You little goosie-gander; you don't understand," replied Miss Rose; "I was only joking. Of course your mother kept the door carefully locked to keep you boys from foraging?" "No madame," said I, "it was not necessary to lock the door." "Did she keep a guard, then?" said Rose. "Oh, yes," I replied, "and it was very hard to pass in without being knocked down." "Was it a man?" she asked mischievously. "Why, yes; mamma kept a strong, old Limburger right behind the door," I said.
When the girls had ceased laughing, Rose said, "What did your mother tell you when you left for America?" "My mother," I answered, "implored me with tearful eyes to ever remember how my father's great-great-grandmother Brunhilde (who was exceedingly beautiful) was enticed into the depths of a dark forest by a wily, old German King. Indiscreetly and unsuspectingly she followed him. There clandestinely did he favor her graciously by adding a bar sinister to our knightly escutcheon and a strain of the blood royal to our family. This happened long, long ago in the dark ages or some other dark place--it may have been the Schwarzwald--and it was the curse of the stony field that did it.
" 'Oh, my son,' mother urged me, 'we count on you to restore the unaccountably long-lost prestige of our ancient family. In America, behind the counters of your uncle's counting-rooms, you shall acquire great wealth, and his Majesty the Kaiser will be pleased to re-invest you with the coronet of a count. Then, as a noble count will you be of some account in the exclusive circle of the four hundred of the great city of New York. Beautiful heiresses will crave the favor of your acquaintance, and if wise, you will lead the most desirable one on the market, the lovely Miss Billiona Roque-a-Fellaire to the altar. His Majesty the Kaiser will then graciously change the "no-account" words on our family's escutcheon to the joyful motto, "Mit Geld," and lift the blighting curse from our noble house.' "
Next I related how surprised I was when I saw the great city of New York. However, I expected to see a large city of many houses, ever so high and some higher yet, and therefore I was not so very much surprised, after all. But in Illinois I first saw the wonderful forest. Oh, the virgin forest! Never had I seen such grand, beautiful trees, oak and hickory, ash and sycamore, maple, elm, and many more giant trees, unknown to me, and peopled by a multitude of wild birds of the brightest plumage. There were birds and squirrels everywhere! I actually saw a sky-blue bird with a topknot, and another of a bright scarlet color, and gorgeous woodpeckers who were too busy hammering to look at me even. Oh, but they did not sing like the birds in Germany! All were very grave and sad. They seemed to know, as everybody else did, that I was a stranger in their land, for they gave me all sorts of useful Information and advice, with many nods of their little heads.
"Peep, peep!" counseled the bluebird. "Thank you," I replied, "seeing is believing." "Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will," cried a large, spotted bird. "That," thought I, "is a prize fighter." "Cheat, cheat!" urged a pious-looking cardinal, who evidently mistook me for a gambler. "Don't," roared a bullfrog, who was seated on a log and winked his eye at me. "There is an honest man," I thought. "Shake, good sir." In consternation and surprise, I instantly released his hand. "HOW is it possible to be both honest and slippery at the same time! This must be a Yankee-man," thought I. I saw real moss, green and velvety as the richest carpet, and I drank of singing, bubbling waters. Many kinds of berries and nuts, hard to crack, grew in the wild glens of the forest. I gathered flowers, larger and more beautiful than any I had ever seen, but they lacked the perfume of German flowers; only the roses were the same.
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