Forgetting the warnings of their wagon leader to always stay close to the company because of Indian danger, they lingered behind, filling their hats with the fruit. Then they ran to catch up, but as they came to the top of a hill, they were terrified to see three Indians on horses in the road ahead of them.
Now they remembered the warnings that had come from the camp leaders - stories of captives taken by Indians and either held for ransom, or else never heard of again.
Roberts later recorded that "with magnificent terror" the two boys approached the Indians, whose solemn and expressionless faces only brought more fear to the boys. As they reached the horses, one of the Indians let out a "piercing wild yell", and the boys dropped their hats with the precious fruit and ran for their lives. Henry remembered hearing peals of laughter from the Indians behind them, but the run continued until they were safely back with the camp. He later remarked wryly, "They say Indians never laugh, but I learned differently."
Not long afterwards, the La Platte river was crossed. Since the river was relatively shallow, the pioneers were instructed that all should wade across to lessen the load of the wagons. Part of the way across the river, Henry noticed a teenage girl climbing into a supply wagon to ride across; he decided to join her.
However, they soon became concerned when the wagon not only got stuck in the sand midstream, but then the team was unhitched and taken to assist other wagons that were in greater danger. As their hiding place was still unnoticed, they waited; hours passed, and still the wagon was left in the stream. Then it began to get dark, and the two stowaways realized they would have to spend the night in the wagon.
Roberts recorded that through the night, the wagon vibrated and shook as it gradually sank into the sand. The water level rose, soaking the provisions and likely frightening the children. When hunger set in, Henry took his pocket knife and slit open a sugar bag, then cut off pieces of ham or bacon.
However, in the process, he dropped the precious knife, which he had purchased in England and planned to give to his mother when he reached Utah. It fell into the river and was gone.
During the long night, Henry's older sister Polly, who was sixteen, prayed for his safety. She knew Henry was not on the east side of the river, and worried about him being left behind on the west side; when he was not found there either early the next morning, she was terrified. When he finally appeared in the supply wagon, she gave him a scolding that may have made her feel better but probably didn't do much to change the energetic young boy.
(Madsen, _B. H. Roberts, Defender of the Faith_, pp. 37-39; _Our Pioneer Heritage_, 2:280; Bergera, ed., _The Autobiography of B. H. Roberts_, pp. 26-29)
Compiled and written by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, firstname.lastname@example.org