Shawnee Captive

When Mary heard Bettie's piercing scream, she knew with a jolt of fear that the Shawnee were upon them. Throwing down her spoon, she ran to the door, looking frantically about for her boys, her mother, Bettie, Colonel Patton.

But it was too late. A warrior with a single feather in his jet-black hair, held Mary's sobbing sons by the scruffs of their necks. Another stood over her mother's lifeless body, waving a scalp of long, gray hair above his head. Bettie, running into the forest with her baby in her arms, was shot as Mary watched. The bullet hit Bettie's arm, and her baby fell to the ground. With her good arm Bettie picked her up her daughter and kept running. But an Indian caught her and grabbed the baby. Mary's horror turned to agony as she watched the shooter dash the baby against the cabin wall. Bettie howled with grief and collapsed on the ground.

Mary ran toward her boys. The Indian brave holding the boys pushed Mary to her knees. Her arms twined tightly around weeping Georgie, 2, and Thomas, 4. Across the settlement, Mary watched as three Indians burst in upon Col. Patton. The old captain howled in anger and grabbed his broadsword. Before one Indian shot Patton dead, he sliced into two braves, killing one and wounding the other. Mary feared that at any moment that she and her boys would meet the same fate as Eleanor and Col. Patton.

The Indians ransacked the Draper's Meadow cabins for everything of value: Mary saw them bring out her mother's old black kettle and the guns and ammunition that Patton had brought from the East. Strapping the loot on horses from the settlement, two braves paused to slash open Mary's mother's feather beds. The Indians laughed, as clouds of white feathers billowed through the air.

One Indian with a shaved head and massive chest, the chief, stopped the laughter with a sweep of his arm and a stern command. He pointed to the cabins and barked out an order. Hastily, the Indians gathered the captives into a huddle and set the settlement on fire with the embers of Mary's own cooking fire.

The Indians motioned to their captives to rise quickly. They feared pursuit, Mary realized, as she was hefted onto the only horse not loaded with stolen goods. In that moment, Mary realized that Will and John would have heard the gunshot and smelled the smoke -- and would send someone to investigate.

The Indians lifted Georgie in front of Mary, and Thomas behind. The threesome clutched each other tight. Mary worried about poor Bettie, who fared much worse. Forced to walk, she stumbled along blindly -- weeping and clutching her bleeding arm. God shaped his children's backs for their burdens, Eleanor Draper has always said. But Mary thought poor Bettie's burden was heavier than most.

The party headed toward the woods leading to Strouble's Creek. But before reaching the treeline, two keen-eyed braves bringing up the rear, suddenly stopped. They pointed back at the settlement and yelled. The warriors had spotted Will, crouching in the woods, watching the party leave. Will had told the others to hide while he went back to check on those back in the settlement. Now, as the two braves ran toward him, he leapt to his feet and ran through the forest.

The main party of Indians entered the forest at a brisk pace. They headed down the mountain toward the New River. Mary stared ahead of her and prayed that Will would get away. When the two Indians returned without a scalp, she was sure that he'd outwitted them somehow. Mary's relief that Will was alive mingled with her grief over her mother's death, her worry about Bettie, and her fear for her children . . .

. . .As the day faded into dusk, gnats hovered about the captive's sweat-covered faces. Hunger burned like hot coals in the pits of their stomachs. The horses' sweaty withers rubbed the insides of Mary's legs raw. It felt as if the kicking baby would soon drag her to the center of the earth. Mary's hope of rescue faded, for as her panic subsided she realized a horrible truth. The men of Draper's Meadow were outnumbered -- and the Indians had their guns and powder.

When at last, the Indians halted, Mary almost cried aloud with relief. The Indian's chief hauled Mary off the horse. On his cheeks as dark as molasses, two parallel red lines ran from the corner of each eye to the jaw. Between the stripes were three blue dots. A single eagle feather rose from a silver medallion attached to the back of the chief's head, and heavy silver pieces rested in his long drooping earlobes. The chief motioned to where the captives should gather and sleep. After relieving themselves as best they could, they obeyed. Because they had no blankets, they huddled together for warmth -- and slept . . /.

. . . Every passing hour also brought Mary closer to having a child that might share Bettie's baby's fate. So far, the Indians had treated her and her sons better than she could have hoped. But if they thought the infant would slow them down, Mary didn't doubt that its tiny skull would be crushed in an instant. On their third day in the wilderness, her baby dropped low in her womb. Cramps wracked Mary's body. Water from her womb drenched the horse beneath her. She held tight to Thomas so that she wouldn't fall off the horse. She resisted asking that the party stop . . .