The Hundredth Skull





In the early part of this century Bill Quick, trapper and frontiersman,

lived in a cabin on the upper Scioto, not far from the present town of

Kenton, Ohio. One evening when he returned from the hunt he found his

home rifled of its contents and his aged father weltering in his blood on

the floor. He then and there took oath that he would be revenged a

hundredfold. His mission was undertaken at once, and for many a year

thereafter the Indians of the region had cause to dread the doom that

came to them from brake and wood and fen,--now death by knife that

flashed at them from behind a tree, and the next instant whirled through

the air and was buried to the hilt in a red man's heart; now, by bullet

as they rowed across the rivers; now, by axe that clove their skulls as

they lay asleep.



Bill Quick worked secretly, and, unlike other men of the place and time,

he did not take his trophies Indian-fashion. The scalp was not enough. He

took the head. And presently a row of grinning skulls was ranged upon his

shelves. Ninety-nine of these ghastly prizes occupied his cabin, and the

man was confident that he should accomplish his intent. But the Indians,

in terror, were falling away toward the lakes; they were keeping better

guard; and ere the hundredth man had fallen before his rifle he was

seized with fatal illness. Calling to him his son, Tom, he pointed to the

skulls, and charged him to fulfil the oath he had taken by adding to the

list a hundredth skull. Should he fail in this the murdered ancestor and

he himself would come back to haunt the laggard. Tom accepted the trust,

but everything seemed to work against him. He never was much of a hunter

nor a very true shot, and he had no liking for war; besides, the Indians

had left the country, as he fancied. So he grumbled at the uncongenial

task appointed for him and kept deferring it from week to week and from

year to year. When his conscience pricked him he allayed the smart with

drink, and his conscience seemed to grow more active as he grew older.



On returning to the cabin after a carouse he declared that he had heard

voices, that the skulls gibbered and cracked their teeth together as if

mocking his weakness, and that a phosphorescent glare shone through the

sockets of their eyes. In his cups he prattled his secret, and soon the

whole country knew that he was under oath to kill a red-skin-and the

country laughed at him. On a certain day it was reported that a band of

Indians had been seen in the neighborhood, and what with drink and the

taunts of his friends, he was impelled to take his rifle and set out once

more on the war-path. A settler heard a shot fired not long after. Next

day a neighbor passing Tom Quick's cabin tapped at the door, and,

receiving no answer, pushed it open and entered. The hundredth skull was

there, on the shelves, a bullet-hole in the forehead, and the scalp gone.

The head was Quick's.





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