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735 > Page 735 of Our western border : its life, combats, adventures, forays, massacres, captivities, scouts, red chiefs, pioneer women, one hundred years ago ... / carefully written and comp.

Francis Downing Saved by a Bear. 735 Downing, to his unspeakable terror, beheld two savages put aside the stalks of a canebrake and look out cautiously in the direction which Yates had taken. Fearful that they had seen him step aside, he determined to fire upon them and trust to his heels for safety, but so unsteady was his hand, that in raising his gun to his shoulder it went off before he had taken aim. He lost no time in following its example, and after having run fifty yards, he met Yates, who, alarmed at the report, was hastily retracing his steps. It was not necessary to inquire what was the matter. The enemy were in full view, pressing forward with great rapidity, and " devil take the hindmost" was the order of the day. Yates would not outstrip Downing, but ran by his side, although in so doing he risked both of their lives. The Indians were well acquainted with the country, and soon took a path that diverged from the one which the whites followed at one point and rejoined it at another, bearing the same relation to it that the string does to the bow. The two paths were at no point distant from each other more than one hundred yards, so that Yates and Downing could easily see the enemy gaining rapidly upon them. They reached the point of reunion first, however, and quickly came to a deep gully, which it was necessary to cross or retrace their steps. Yates cleared it without difficulty, but Downing, being much exhausted, fell short, falling with his breast against the opposite brink, rebounded with violence, and fell at full length on the bottom. The Indians crossed the ditch a few yards below him, and, eager for the capture of Yates, continued the pursuit, without appearing to notice Downing. The latter, who at first had given himself up for lost, quickly recovered his strength, and began to walk slowly along the ditch, fearing to leave it lest the enemy should see him. As he advanced, however, the ditch became more shallow, until at length it ceased to protect him at all. Looking around cautiously, he saw one of the Indians returning, apparently in quest of him. Unfortunately, he had neglected to reload his gun while in the ditch, and, as the Indian instantly advanced upon him, he had no resource but flight. Throwing away his gun, which was now useless, he plied his legs manfully in ascending a long ridge which stretched before him, but the Indian gained upon him so rapidly that he lost all hope of escape. Coming, at length, to a large poplar which had been blown up by the roots, he ran along the body of the tree upon one side, while the Indian followed it upon the other, doubtless expecting to intercept him at the root. But here the supreme dominion of fortune was manifested. It happened that a large she bear was suckling her cubs in a bed she had made at the root of the tree, and as the Indian reached that point first, she