Skip to main content
Women and the World of Dime Novels

Esther Morse

Example of:
The kidnapping victim
The Indian’s captive

Featured in:
Esther: A Story of the Oregon Trail


"One day there came to the wigwam of Black Eagle a woman fair as a white rose. The warrior forgot Waupee, his wife, and his heart turned to the white rose." (12)

The "white rose" is Esther Morse, a young woman traveling west along the Oregon Trail. One morning when she has wandered away from her wagon train, she encounters Waupee, who reveals that her husband, Black Eagle, is pursuing Esther in order to marry her.

"Let the daughter of the pale-face hasten to her people, and never again let her moccasin wander. The eye of the Black Eagle is keen, his wings swift, his talons sharp, and his heart knows neither pity nor fear." (13)

After warning Esther, Waupee disappears. Black Eagle, who was lying in wait during the conversation between the two women, captures Esther before she can return to her camp. Unbeknownst to Esther, Black Eagle has been hired to kidnap her by Elelu Thomas, a Mormon who is also traveling west.

"In the roughest part of the canon—even in the 'Devil's Gate,' as the children of the world call it, I will be prepared to rush down and rescue her. She will be grateful, for her heart is warm and loving." (22)

In spite of Elelu's plans, Black Eagle intends to double cross the Mormon and marry Esther himself. Waupee insists that Black Eagle has put her aside in favor of Esther. Esther, however, believes that Black Eagle has kidnapped her preparatory to stealing from the wagon train. When Black Eagle makes his intentions plain, Esther is astonished.

"Black Eagle would have the pale-face squaw to dress his venison and fringe his leggings with the scalp-locks."
"What! Your wife? Merciful heavens, you can not mean that!"

Black Eagle keeps his rendezvous with Elelu in the canyon, and during the staged conversation between the two, the Mormons traveling with Elelu attack the Indians in earnest. During the ensuing struggle Esther escapes. As she is wandering alone through the mountains, she meets a friendly Indian named Osse'o. After her experiences with Black Eagle, Esther is understandably wary, but Osse'o provides her protection and offers to escort her safely back to her people. On their way, they encounter Waupee and Waltermyer, a man sent to rescue Esther. Together they witness a struggle between Black Eagle and Elelu. Black Eagle kills Elelu and shoots Osse'o with an arrow before dying himself. Esther's feelings toward Osse'o soften as she helps to nurse him. It turns out that Osee'o is not an Indian but a white man in disguise, and by the time they arrive at Esther's camp, Osse'o and Esther are engaged.

Never had the grand passion changed a man as Osse’o was changed after he knew how near Esther had been to forgiving the savage character he had assumed. His disgust of civilized life died a gentle death; his taste for prairie adventures disappeared. He was the betrothed husband of Esther Morse. (98)