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ARCHIVES (1877 -1887)

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF BUFFALO BILL

 

CHAPTER XVIII
SCOUTING IN A SWALLOW-TAIL OUTFIT

General Ord, commanding the Department of the Platte at the time, and who had been out on the Alexis hunt, had some business to attend to at Fort McPherson, and I accepted his invitation to ride over to the post with him in an ambulance. On the way thither he asked me how I would like to have an officer's commission in the regular army. He said that General Sheridan and himself had had some conversation about the matter, and if I wanted a commission, one could easily be procured for me. I thanked General Ord for his kindness, and said that although an officer's commission in the regular army was a tempting prize, yet I preferred to remain in the position I was then holding. He concluded by stating that if at any time I should wish a commission, all that I would have to do to secure it would be to inform him of my desire.

Having determined to visit New York, I acted upon General Sheridan's suggestion and wrote to General Stager, from whom in a few days I received my railroad passes. Obtaining thirty days' leave of absence from the department, I struck out for the East. On arriving in Chicago, in February, 1872, I was met at the depot by Colonel M. V. Sheridan, who said that his brother, the General, had not yet returned, but had sent word that I was to be his and the Colonel's guest, at their house, while I renained in Chicago.

I spent two or three days very pleasantly in the great city of the West, meeting several gentlemen who had been out on the Sheridan hunt in September: General Stager, Colonel Wilson, editor of the Journal; Mr. Sam Johnson, General Rucker and others, by all of whom I was most cordially received and well entertained. I was introduced to quite a number of the best people of the city, and was invited to several "swell" dinners. I also accompanied General Sheridan &emdash;who meantime had returned to the city &emdash;to a ball at Riverside, an aristocratic suburb. On this occasion I became so embarrassed that it was more difficult for me to face the throng of beautiful ladies, than it would have been to confront a hundred hostile Indians. This was my first trip to the East, and I had not yet become accustomed to being stared at. And besides this, the hundreds of questions which I was called upon to answer further embarrassed and perplexed me.

According to the route laid out for me by General Stager, I was to stop at Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Rochester on my way to New York, and he provided me with all the necessary railroad passes. Just as I was about to leave Chicago I met Professor Henry A. Ward, of Rochester, for whom during the previous year or two I had collected a large number of specimens of wild animals. He was on his way to Rochester, and kindly volunteered to act as my guide until we reached that point. We spent one day in viewing the wonders of Niagara, and I stopped one day at Rochester and was shown the beauties of that handsome city by Professor Ward, and I had the honor of receiving an invitation to dine with the Mayor.

 

A GUEST OF THE UNION CLUB
On arriving at New York I was met at the depot by Mr. J. G. Hecksher, who had been appointed as "a committee of one" to escort me to the Union Club, where James Gordon Bennett, Leonard W. Jerome and others were to give me an informal reception, and where I was to make my headquarters during my visit to the great metropolis. I had an elegant dinner at the club rooms, with the gentlemen who had been out on the September hunt, and other members of the club.

After dinner, in company with Mr. Hecksher &emdash;who acted as my guide &emdash;I started out on the trail of my friend, Ned Buntline, whom we found at the Brevoort Place Hotel. He was delighted to see me, and insisted on my becoming his guest. He would listen to no excuses, and on introducing me to Messrs. Overton & Blair, proprietors of the Brevoort, they also gave me a pressing invitation to make my home at their house. I finally compromised the matter by agreeing to divide my time between the Union Club, the Brevoort House, and Ned Buntline's headquarters.

The next few days I spent in viewing the sights of New York, everything being new and startling, convincing me that as yet I had seen but a small portion of the world. I received numerous dinner invitations, as well as invitations to visit different places of amusement and interest; but as they came In so thick and fast, I soon became badly demoralized and confused. I found I had accepted invitations to dine at half adozen or more houses on the same day and at the same hour. James Gordon Bennett had prepared a dinner for me, at which quite a large number of his friends were to be present, but owing to my confusion, arising from the many other invitations I had received, I forgot all about it and dined elsewhere. This was "a bad break," but did not learn of my mistake until next day, when at the Union Club House several gentlemen, among them Lawrence Jerome, inquired "where in the world I had been," and why I had not put in an appearance at Bennett's dinner. They said that Bennett had taken great pains to give me a splendid reception, that the party had waited till nine o'clock for me and that my non-arrival caused considerable disappointment. I apologized as well as I could by saying that I had been out on a scout and had got lost and had forgotten all about the dinner, and expressed my regret for the disappointment I had created by my forgetfulness. August Belmont, the banker, being near, said: "Never mind, gentlemen, I'll give Cody a dinner at my house."

"Thank you, sir," said I; "I see you are determined that I shall not run short of rations while I am in the city. I'll be there, sure." Both Mr. Jerome and Mr. Hecksher told me that I must not disappoint Mr. Belmont, for his dinners were splendid affairs. I made a note of the date, and at the appointed time I was promptly at Mr. Belmont's mansion, where I spent a very enjoyable evening.

Mr. Bennett, who was among the guests, having forgiven my carelessness, invited me to accompany him to the Liederkranz masked ball, which was to take place in a few evenings and would be a grand spectacle. Together we attended the ball and during the evening I was well entertained. The dancers kept on their masks until midnight, and the merry and motley throng presented a brilliant scene, moving gracefully beneath the bright gas-light to inspiriting music. To me it was a novel and entertaining sight, and in many respects reminded me greatly of an Indian war-dance.

Acting upon the suggestion of Mr. Bennett, I had dressed myself in my buckskin suit, and I naturally attracted considerable attention; especially when I took part in the dancing and exhibited some of my backwoods steps, which, although not as graceful as some, were a great deal more emphatic. But when undertook to do artistic dancing, I found I was decidedly out of place in that crowd, and I accordingly withdrew from the floor.

I occasionally passed an evening at Niblo's Garden, viewing the many beauties of "The Black Crook," which was then having its long run, under the management of Jarrett & Palmer, whose acquaintance I had made, and who extended to me the freedom of the theater.

 

MY ALTER EGO ON THE STAGE
Ned Buntline and Fred Maeder had dramatised one of the stories which the former had written about me for the New York Weekly. The drama was called "Buffalo Bill, the King of Border Men." While I was in New York it was produced at the Bowery Theater; J. B. Studley, an excellent actor, appearing in the character of "Buffalo Bill," and Mrs. W. G. Jones, a fine actress, taking the part of my sister, a leading role. I was curious to see how I would look when represented by some one else, and of course I was present on the opening night, a private box having been reserved for me. The theater was packed, every seat being occupied as well as all standing-room. The drama was played smoothly and created a great deal of enthusiasm.

The audience, upon learning that the real "Buffalo Bill" was present, gave several cheers between the acts, and I was called on to come out on the stage and make a speech. Mr. Freleigh, the manager, insisted that I should comply with the request, and that I should be introduced to Mr. Studley. I finally consented, and the next moment I found myself standing behind the footlights and in front of an audience for the first time in my life. I looked up, then down, then on each side, and everywhere I saw a sea of human faces, and thousands of eyes all staring at me. I confess that I felt very much embarrassed &emdash;never more so in my life &emdash;and I knew not what to say. I made a desperate effort, and a few words escaped me, but what they were I could not for the life of me tell, nor could any one else in the house. My utterances were inaudible even to the leader of the orchestra, Mr. Dean, who was sitting only a few feet in front of me. Bowing to the audience, I beat a hasty retreat into one of the cañons of the stage. I never felt more relieved in my life than when I got out of the view of that immense crowd.

 

MY FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE STAGE
That evening Mr. Freleigh offered to give me five hundred dollars a week to play the part of "Buffalo Bill" myself. I thought that he was certainly joking, especially as he had witnessed my awkward performance; but when he assured me that he was in earnest, I told him that it would be useless for me to attempt anything of the kind, for I never could talk to a crowd of people like that, even if it was to save my neck, and that he might as well try to make an actor out of a government mule I thanked him for the generous offer, which I had to decline owing to a lack of confidence in myself; or as some people might express it, I didn't have the requisite cheek to undertake a thing of that sort. The play of "Buffalo Bill" had a very successful run of six or eight weeks, and was afterwards produced in all the principal cities of the country, everywhere being received with genuine enthusiasm.

I had been in New York about twenty days when General Sheridan arrived in the city. I met him soon after he got into town. In answer to a question how I was enjoying myself, I replied that I had struck the best camp I had ever seen, and if he didn't have any objections I would like to have my leave of absence extended about ten days. This he willingly did, and then informed me that my services would soon be required at Fort McPherson, as there was to be an expedition sent out from that point.

At Westchester, Pennsylvania, I had some relatives living whom I had never seen, and now being so near, I determined to make them a visit. Upon mentioning the matter to Buntline, he suggested that we should together take a trip to Philadelphia, and thence run out to Westchester. Accordingly the next day found us in the "City of Brotherly Love," and in a few hours we arrived at the home of my uncle, General Henry R. Guss, the proprietor of the Green Tree Hotel, who gave us a cordial reception.

Inviting us into the parlor, my uncle brought in the members of his family, among them an elderly lady, who was my grandmother, as he informed me. He told me that my Aunt Eliza, his first wife, was dead, and that he had married a second time; Lizzie Gust, my cousin, I thought was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. They were all very anxious to have us remain several days, but as I had some business to attend to in New York, I was obliged to return that day. Assuring them, however, that I would visit them again soon, I bade them adieu, and with Buntline took the train for New York.

The time soon arrived for my departure for the West; so packing up my traps I started for home, and on the way thither I spent a day with my Westchester relatives, who did everything in their power to entertain me during my brief stay with them.

 

The Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued

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