The Girl Who Got Rattled

by Stewart Edward White

Start Free Trial

"The Girl Who Got Rattled" Summary

The Girl Who Got Rattled” is a 1901 Western short story about a scout named Alfred and a young woman named Miss Caldwell.

  • Miss Caldwell convinces her father to allow her to accompany his wagon train west to Deadwood, along with her fiancé, Allen.
  • When Miss Caldwell rides out alone into the prairie, she is found by Alfred, who defends them from an attack by Sioux warriors.
  • Mistakenly thinking Alfred has been shot, Miss Caldwell shoots herself, as the scout had instructed her to do so in the event of his death.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 831

Alfred is a small and bashful man whose attitude is "a perpetual sidling apology" and who is known for never expressing a strong opinion to a woman. However, he is also known as an excellent scout who can ride anything and shoot accurately. As such, Caldwell engages him when his daughter, Miss Caldwell, is determined to go to Deadwood.

Miss Caldwell wants to go to Deadwood with her father on one of his annual trips when the wagon trains make their way out West through the throngs of Native Americans who attack from time to time. Miss Caldwell is engaged to Allen, who also comes along on the eight-wagon train. Two scouts, Alfred and Billy Knapp, join them. Allen annoys Alfred, and if it weren't for Miss Caldwell, Alfred would simply kill him.

The plains journey becomes quickly monotonous, and Miss Caldwell very impatient. She listens to Alfred tell his stories of adventure, but when Allen interrupts, Alfred blushes and stops talking. Allen and Miss Caldwell laugh about how odd Alfred is and determine to "get ahead of the dust," knowing "the Hills" will soon be in sight. The girl observes that she feels more constrained than Allen, because she can’t do things like ride out into the plains on her own. Allen suggests that there is nobody to stop them and that he and Miss Caldwell should have a race. After all, Alfred said earlier that he has so far seen no sign of Indians.

Miss Caldwell worries that they might lose their way, but Allen says they can use shadows and the sun to make sure they do not. Convinced, she sends Allen back to her wagon to fetch something. In the interim, she rides over the little hill to the right and stops, feeling free and alone. Nobody sees her go.

Meanwhile, Alfred has spotted a hoofprint that he knows does not belong to one of their animals, and he finds more hoofprints when he rides out onto the prairie. Worried, he returns and finds Allen, who looks puzzled and tells him that Miss Caldwell has "given [him] the slip."

Alfred swears, then tells Allen to go back to the wagons and wake up Billy Knapp. He says he is going out to find Miss Caldwell and follows her fresh trail. Eventually, Alfred finds her sitting on her horse in the middle of a prairie dog town, watching the animals. Sidling up to her, he offers to show her the way back, saying they should go now. When Miss Caldwell points out that it is hours yet until dark, Alfred suddenly becomes confident and a little angry. He orders Miss Caldwell to dismount, then moors the horses and tells her to sit down.

At this point, Miss Caldwell begins to fear that Alfred has gone crazy. He walks ten feet away and raises a hand over his head, palm forward. When Miss Caldwell follows his gaze, she realizes he is looking at a figure on horseback, a Sioux, who has not answered Alfred's peace signal. Alfred tells Miss Caldwell that they are in for a fight. Cocking his Winchester rifle, he sits down again by Miss Caldwell.

Slowly, a number of warriors begin to come into sight, moving toward the two. Alfred tells Miss Caldwell that this is a bluff on their part, but suddenly one of the Sioux fires, causing Miss Caldwell to scream. A number of other shots erupt, and Alfred notes that the wagon train might hear if this continues.

Miss Caldwell sinks to the ground and shakes; Alfred brings out his Colt pistol...

(This entire section contains 831 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

and tells her that the Indians are about to rush them. He says that if the worst happens, he will shoot her with the first bullet in the Colt and himself with the second. If the Indians kill Alfred first, however, she must shoot herself in the head in order to avoid a far more gruesome death.

The Sioux charge. Alfred is relying upon the idea that Indians usually lack discipline in a charge and will ride away rather than be killed. His eyes begin to shine as the warriors arrive on horseback; he cocks his rifle and levels it. At this point, the mound on which he has been kneeling caves into the hole underneath it, and he falls forward onto his face. However, he springs up quickly with a curse, leveling his rifle again. The Indians all disappear behind their ponies, and the band then retreats without Alfred ever firing a shot.

Alfred happily turns to Miss Caldwell but finds her lying on her back on the ground, a small hole in her head and blood seeping from the wound. The Colt lies near her hand. Alfred realizes that she killed herself because she thought Alfred had been killed when he fell into the hole.

Alfred sighs, picking up his Winchester and firing three shots. He hits three Indians before Billy Knapp and the wagon train come along.