Gateway to the Classics: Davy Crockett by Frank Lee beals
Davy Crockett by  Frank Lee beals

Davy's Long Illness

T HE warmth from the fire was soothing. The three men were tired. They were soon asleep. Tired as he was, however, Davy awoke several times during the night. Each time he awakened he heard the sound of the bells on the horses. At dawn Davy awakened again. He listened for a time. There was a tinkling of the bells, but this time it sounded far, far away. He called to his companions, "The horses! I think they are headed for home."

The three men crawled out of their leafy beds and listened. They ran in the direction from which the sound of the bells came.

One man said, "You are right, Davy. The horses are heading for home. We hobbled them securely last night. I cannot understand how they could have wandered so far away. Someone must have removed their hobbles."

"I do not understand it either, but they are going toward home. You two stay here and wait until I return. I will try to round up the horses."

"Wait until you have something to eat," urged one of the men.

"I can't wait," said Davy. "I will take some corn bread and eat it on' the way."

He ran into the forest. The bells sounded faintly in the distance.

"I must hurry if I hope to overtake them," said Davy.

At times the sound of the bells could be heard. They grew fainter and fainter. At other times Davy could not hear the bells.

"I do not seem to be gaining on them," said Davy.

Hour after hour he pushed forward on the trail. The hoofprints left by the horses were easy to follow.

"These prints," he said, "lead to the river. The horses will not be able to swim it if they are still hobbled."

Davy reached the river. The hoofprints left by the horses led straight into the water. Davy looked about, then waded into the river and swam to the opposite bank. When he reached the bank he again saw the hoofprints of the horses. He stooped over and felt the hoofprints.

"It is some time since the horses came out of the water," he said. "The hoofprints are almost dry."

On and on Davy followed the trail of the horses. He climbed hills, and waded through swamps.

"The only thing I can do is keep going," he said. "I must catch those horses."

From time to time Davy stopped and listened. Occasionally he would lie flat on the ground and hold one ear close to it.

"No hoof beats! I can hear nothing," he said.

Davy kept going. He did not stop for food during the day. As night was falling Davy came to a log cabin. A man was standing in the door.

"Have you seen any horses pass here?" asked Davy.

"No, I've seen no horses pass this way."

"I have been following three horses all day," said Davy. "I left my two companions this morning in our camp near Hidden Springs."

"Hidden Springs, did you say?" questioned the man.

"Yes," answered Davy.

"You say you left Hidden Springs this morning?"

"Yes, I left there this morning."

"But Hidden Springs is over fifty miles from here. I do not know how you could have made the trip on foot in one day. You have made a record run," said the man admiringly.

"Fifty miles!" exclaimed Davy. "No wonder I am tired."

"I should think you would be tired. You must stay here with me tonight."

"Thank you," said Davy. "I shall be glad to stay with you. I am Davy Crockett."

"Davy Crockett! I might have known it when you said you had come from Hidden Springs in one day. Nobody but Davy Crockett could do that. Come on in and have some supper. You can go to bed as soon as you are through eating."

Davy slept soundly through the night. When he awakened in the morning he was so stiff and sore he could hardly move.

"You can't go today," said Davy's host.

"I must go," said Davy. "My two friends are waiting for me. When I get started, the walking will limber up my stiff muscles."

After breakfast Davy started back for Hidden Springs. But each mile was harder than the last. His head began to ache. He stumbled and fell many times. "I must go on," he said. He was not only stiff and lame but he was really sick. He had a high fever. But Davy stumbled on. "My rifle is getting so heavy I can hardly carry it," he said. Ahead of him was a small spring. He dropped to his knees and crawled to it.

There he lay for some time. He struggled to his feet. He fought his way through the dense forest. "It is getting dark," he said. "I will have to rest awhile. I can go no farther."

He fell to the ground and lay still. Time and time again he struggled to go on, but he could not. "I can't stay here," he groaned, "animals and snakes—heaven knows what might happen to me if I stay." He tried to crawl but could not. "What is that?" Davy asked with a start. "I hear voices and footsteps."

Four Indians came into view. The Indians were walking in single file along the narrow trail. When they saw Davy lying across the trail, they ran to him.

He heard them talking in low tones. He saw one Indian pick up his rifle, powder horn, and bullets.

"They will take them," he said to himself, "and leave me here to die." He tried to sit up and talk. He fell back on the ground.

The Indians talked to each other quietly. One of the Indians knelt beside him and raised his head. "White man, white man," said the Indian again and again.

"I must try to talk to them," said Davy to himself. "I must not let them leave me here alone."

He tried to talk but could not. Again the Indians talked to each other.

"We will take him to the white man's cabin,' said one of the Indians. "It is only a mile from here."

Davy understood. "A white man," he said to himself. "A white man's cabin a mile away." In a desperate attempt he struggled to his feet. He was so weak that all he could do was to stand. He could not walk a step.

Gently and carefully three of the Indians picked Davy up and started for the log cabin. The other Indian carrying his gun, powder horn, and bullets, led the way.

After they had gone about a mile they came to the cabin. One of the Indians called out, "Hello!" In a few moments a voice answered from the cabin, "Who is it?"

"Sick white man," answered the Indian.

"Wait a minute," called the voice from the cabin.

A man opened the door. He held a candle in his hand. "Come in! Come in!" he said as he looked at Davy. "Put him on the bed." The Indians carried Davy inside and placed him on a bed. They talked to the man for a few minutes. Then quietly they left the cabin.

The people who lived in the cabin were kind to Davy. They made him comfortable for the night. In the morning two white men came to the cabin and inquired for Davy.

"How did you know that I was here?" he asked when the men entered the room.

"Four Indians came to our cabin early this morning and said they had carried you here last night. We told them that we are friends of yours so they pointed out the way to us. Is there anything we can do to help you?"

"I left two friends at Hidden Springs. They are waiting for me. I must go back to them."

"We will take you there if you think you are strong enough to go," said one of the men.

"I must go," said Davy.

Davy Crockett was very sick. He could not ride alone. One of the men held him on a horse. The

men were forced to go slowly. On the second day when they reached the camp Davy was desperately ill.

The two friends whom Davy had left at the camp were waiting for him. "We were just about to give up and start back home," one of them said to him.

"We three started out to find new homes," said Davy. "You two must go on. Do not turn back. I am too ill to go with you now but I will follow as soon as I am well."

"We had thought of going on," said one of the men. "We have been looking over this part of the country. Not far from here we found a family living in a very comfortable log cabin. The man agreed to sell us some horses. We can take you to this man's cabin and arrange for him to look after you. We can buy the horses and go on."

"That's a good plan," said Davy. "Take me to the cabin."

The cabin to which his friends took Davy was the home of Jesse Jones. He had a large family, but he made room for Davy. Jane Jones, his wife, was a true pioneer woman. She nursed Davy carefully. There were no doctors and the only medicine was that which she brewed from herbs.

Davy was dangerously ill. At times it seemed that he could not possibly live. But his vigorous constitution, built through years of clean, healthy living finally pulled him through.

At last the day came when Davy was strong enough to start for home. He had heard nothing from his family since he had left home five months before.

"I cannot thank you for all you have done for me," said Davy. "I shall never forget your kindness."

Jesse and Jane watched Davy as he walked away from their cabin. When he was out of sight Jane turned to her husband and said, "Even when he was delirious he was gentle and kind."

"Jane," answered Jesse, "there goes a real man."

1. How far did Davy walk in one day? How far can you walk in a day?

2. How did the Indians help Davy?

3. Tell how the pioneers helped each other.

4. Tell how you can be generous to new friends.

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