A STRANGE HISTORY.
One of the most noted warriors of
Tonsaroyoo’s band was a pure blooded Mexican.
A man of medium size, but athletic and well-proportioned,
and not more than thirty years of age; he was distinguished
even among these savages for his cruelty, nay, even
ferocity of disposition, and lust for bloodshed.
His position in the tribe was that
of a sub-chief, and he had attached to himself a chosen
body of about sixty warriors, all men of bad standing
and little character in the tribe, but all noted as
With this party “Hisso-de-cha”
(the Spanish Serpent), might be said to be on a perpetual
war-path, for he was never contented to remain idly
in the village for any length of time, but was continually
instituting private forays in all directions.
In these operations he was in no wise particular as
to the objects of his attacks. Plunder and slaughter
being apparently his only motive, he would attack
any party he met with that was not too numerous, and
in this way had several times embroiled the Camanches
in war with friendly tribes, despite the stern reproofs
he received from Tonsaroyoo for his lawless conduct;
his uniform good fortune in these enterprises, however,
had thus far prevented him from falling into entire
disrepute with the leaders of the tribe.
“Success covers a multitude
of sins,” says the proverb, and so it proved
in his case.
Notwithstanding his evil nature, I
was for various reasons strongly attracted towards
this man. Chief among these was the fact that
he spoke English not very fluently, it
is true, but sufficiently to be able to carry on a
conversation without much difficulty. Then, from
the time of my first entry into the village he had
treated me with uniform kindness; why this was so
I know not, but the fact remains that he did so, and
it was by his assistance that I was enabled to perfect
myself in the Indian language, and also to gain some
knowledge of Spanish, which afterwards did me good
service. Much of my spare time, when he was not
absent with his band, I spent in his company, and
in our talks I had gained considerable knowledge of
his past history. What I had heard, however,
only made me more curious to hear the whole, and one
evening I importuned him to give me some account of
his past life. After some hesitation he consented,
and filling our pipes, we reclined upon a buffalo
robe before the entrance to his lodge, while he told
me his story.
THE RENEGADE’S HISTORY.
“My real name is Pedro Vargas carrai!
it sounds strange enough in my ears now, for it is
many years since I have heard it uttered.
“I was born on the banks of
the Del Norte, where my father was a vaquero
on the estate on Don Ramon d’Echeverra.
I remember but little of my childhood, except that
my life was a hard and unhappy one, for I was one
of eleven children, and we were miserably poor.
When I reached my eighth year, I was considered old
enough to assist my father in his daily duties; under
his tuition, I was able in a few months to ride like
a Camanche, to fling the lazo with unerring aim,
and to perform with credit most of the drudgery which
fell to my share. In this manner the time passed
until I was about eleven years of age, when the events
occurred which separated me from home and friends,
and indirectly made me what I am the boldest
warrior of the Hietans “Hissoo-de-cha,”
the renegade, the terror of the frontier.
“The estate of Don Ramon was
situated so far down the river as to be out of the
track of the Indian raiding parties, and for a generation
the red-skinned warriors had never troubled that region.
But in the autumn of the year of which I speak, a
large party of Camanches had entered Chihuahua, and
penetrating almost to the very center of the province,
had there met with a severe reverse, and were compelled
to retreat without plunder, scalps or captives.
Not daring to return to their village empty-handed,
for, as you know, the very squaws would have
hooted them, they recrossed the Grande above San Vicente,
made a wide detour, and coming down the Pecos, again
entered Mexican territory, and made a flying raid
upon the river towns.
“From its remoteness from the
usual scene of these Indian forays, the inhabitants
of this region were resting in fancied security, and
had made no preparations to resist such an attack.
As a natural consequence, they fell an easy prey to
the savage invaders.
“The rancheria of Don Ramon
was one of the first attacked, and the proud old Don
and his three sons, with most of their rancheros and
vaqueros, were surprised and slaughtered. Of
my own family, my sister Conchita, a girl of sixteen,
and myself, alone escaped death; and we, with many
other captives, were hurried off in charge of a small
detachment of Camanches. Of the journey to this
village I need not tell you, as you have, perhaps,
passed through a similar experience.
“On our arrival here, my sister
soon became the wife of a chief, and to this circumstance
I was indebted for much better treatment than usually
falls to the lot of a captive. And here let me
tell you that your own escape from torture and death
was little less than miraculous. In my long experience
with the tribe, I have never known of a similar incident.
But Wakometkla is a very singular man, and so greatly
is he reverenced by his nation, that he can do many
things which Tonsaroyoo himself would hesitate to
“Carrambo, but this story-telling
is dry work. See if there be not a flask of mezcal
within the lodge. Caval you have
found it? So that is better;”
and my strange companion, having swallowed a copious
draft of the fiery liquid, resumed his narrative:
“The first two years of my captivity
were comparatively without incident, but at the beginning
of the third year I was formally adopted into the
tribe. As you yourself have gone through the ceremony,
it is unnecessary to describe it, but as the circumstances
in my case were somewhat different from yours, I found
myself on an equality with such of the young braves
as had never been on the war-path.
“A few months later I joined
a war party led by one of the subordinate chiefs,
and during the expedition I was fortunate enough to
take two scalps. This at once constituted me
a warrior, and, liking the excitement and adventurous
life, I soon became noted among the young men of the
tribe. I joined every war party, and, being singularly
fortunate, soon gained distinction as well as scalps
and plunder. By the time I was twenty years of
age, I was admitted to be one of the first warriors
of the nation, and had attracted to myself a number
of the more reckless spirits, who would follow anywhere
that I would lead.
“I had long been desirous of
taking the command of a war party, thinking thereby
to gain notoriety, and if fortunate enough to be unusually
successful, I might thereafter be entrusted with the
leadership of expeditions of more importance.
“I had frequently importuned
Tonsaroyoo, then as now the head chief of the nation,
to allow me to undertake such an enterprise, but up
to this time he had persistently refused to do so.
“Finding that I could not obtain
his permission, I determined to do without it, and
secretly assembled those warriors on whose fidelity
and silence I could rely. I made known to them
my plans, and succeeded in inducing about thirty braves
to take part in the rash undertaking.
“Leaving the village under the
pretense of hunting, we crossed the “Llano Estacado,”
to the head waters of the Pecos; and descending that
stream nearly to its mouth, diverged to the west and
crossed the Rio Grande. We traveled by night
and remained concealed during the day, and by the
exercise of the utmost caution, succeeded in evading
the Lipans and Cayguas, through whose territory we
had to pass. I had laid all my plans before leaving
the village, and was quite confident that the raid
would be a successful one. It was my intention
to attack only the haciendas, and if possible to effect
my object by surprise, for I knew that if I could
return without the loss of a man, with a few scalps
and a moderate amount of plunder, I would receive
far more praise than if I had brought back twice as
much booty, but with the loss of one or more warriors.
“After crossing the river, the
first hacienda within reach was that which had been
my former home. It had passed into the possession
of Don Rafael d’Echeverra, the brother of Don
Ramon, and presented much the same appearance as in
former times. Unfortunately for the success of
my project, there was present at the hacienda a small
party of American trappers, who had for some reason
strayed into this region. These men had known
Don Rafael, at Santa Fe, where he had at one time resided,
and they had accordingly been made welcome at the
“Two of their number, while
out on a hunt at a few miles distance, had crossed
our trail, for I had led my party as near to the hacienda
as I dared; and, having concealed ourselves in a dense
chaparral, we were waiting for night, it being my
intention to attack in the darkness, when the smallness
of my force could not be easily discovered. Scenting
danger at once, the hunters returned by a circuitous
route to the hacienda, and warned its occupants.
As a natural consequence, when we made our assault
some hours later, they were fully prepared for us,
and instead of surprising them we were ourselves surprised
and greeted with a withering volley from the rifles
of the trappers. At the first fire I received
a severe wound, and fell from my horse with a broken
leg. Panic-stricken at the fall of their leader,
and demoralized by the unexpected reception they had
met with, my followers quickly retreated in confusion,
and I was left wounded and a prisoner in the hands
of the men I had sought to destroy.
“Upon discovering that I was
a white man, so great was the indignation of the Americans,
that I should have been put to death on the spot but
for the intercession of Don Rafael. Finding that
I was a native Mexican his sympathy was excited, and
at his entreaty my life was spared, and the Don’s
own surgeon attended to my wounds. It was nearly
two months before I had sufficiently recovered to
be able to go about, and by that time every one on
the estate knew my history, or rather that version
of it which I saw fit to give them. I had represented
to Don Rafael that I had been compelled to accompany
the war party against my will, and concealed the fact
that I had been the leader of the band. My story
was easily credited because of my youth, and I was
treated with great kindness. In another month
I had entirely regained my health, and Don Rafael
proposed to me to enter his employ as a vaquero.
To this I assented, although I had fully determined
to return to my tribe at the first opportunity.
But I had first several objects to accomplish, and
I was therefore compelled to bide my time, and wait
for a favorable occasion.
“Accordingly I joined the vaqueros
of the rancheria, and for two months performed my
duties to the entire satisfaction of my master.
My object in thus remaining, when I might have made
my escape at any time without difficulty, was twofold.
In the first place I knew that it would not do for
me to return to the Indian village empty-handed.
My ill-considered and unauthorized foray having resulted
in defeat and disaster, I could not expect a very
cordial reception on my return, unless I performed
some very daring feat in making my escape, or returned
with a more than ordinary share of booty. The
last I could not hope to accomplish, but the former
was quite possible.
“My second design was of an
entirely different nature, and its successful accomplishment
promised to be a very difficult matter.
“Don Rafael’s immediate
family consisted of a wife and daughter, the latter
a girl of fifteen, and one of the most rarely beautiful
women it has ever been my fortune to behold.
Her I had resolved to possess, and it was this reason
more than any other which impelled me to the execution
of the bloody deed I am about to relate.
“Guadalupe, as she was called,
evidently viewed me with marked disfavor, but this
only intensified the passion I felt for her. I
was consumed with desire, and determined that no obstacles
should prevent me from accomplishing my purpose.
“It was not long before the
opportunity I sought presented itself, and the events
took place which rendered me doubly an outcast from
those of my race and color.”