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´╗┐Title: Dick Onslow - Among the Redskins
Author: Kingston, William Henry Giles, 1814-1880
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dick Onslow - Among the Redskins" ***

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Dick Onslow; or The Adventures of Dick Onslow among the Redskins, by
W.H.G. Kingston.

________________________________________________________________________

This story takes place mainly in or near the Rocky Mountains of North
America, as we follow the adventures of a member of an emigrant party
during their move to California.

Rattle-snakes, bears, rock-slides, avalanches, steep descents, and many
other hazards, to say nothing of numerous attacks by unfriendly tribes
of Red Indians, fill the pages of this book with terrifying and perilous
situations.  Not a long book, but very good value.

________________________________________________________________________

DICK ONSLOW; or THE ADVENTURES OF DICK ONSLOW AMONG THE REDSKINS, BY
W.H.G. KINGSTON.



CHAPTER ONE.

MY FRIENDS THE RAGGETS--OUR PROPOSED MIGRATION--JOURNEY COMMENCED--
ATTACK OF THE INDIANS--A SHOT THROUGH MY LEG--HORRIBLE ANTICIPATIONS--
HIDE IN A BUSH--CLIMB A TREE--MY THOUGHTS IN MY CONCEALMENT--LISTEN IN
EXPECTATION OF AN ATTACK--STARVING IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY--SOME ONE
APPROACHES--I PREPARE TO FIRE.

In few countries can more exciting adventures be met with than in Mexico
and the southern and western portions of North America; in consequence
of the constantly disturbed state of the country, the savage disposition
of the Red Indians, and the numbers of wild animals, buffaloes, bears,
wolves, panthers, jaguars, not to speak of alligators, rattlesnakes, and
a few other creatures of like gentle nature.  My old school-fellow, Dick
Onslow, has just come back from those regions; and among numerous
incidents by flood and field sufficient to make a timid man's hair stand
on end for the rest of his days, he recounted to me the following:--

After spending some time among those ill-conditioned cut-throat fellows,
the Mexicans, I returned to the States.  Having run over all the settled
parts, of which I got a tolerable bird's-eye view, I took it into my
head that I should like to see something of real backwoodsman's life.
Soon getting beyond railways, I pushed right through the State of
Missouri till I took up my abode on the very outskirts of civilisation,
in a log-house, with a rough honest settler, Laban Ragget by name.  He
had a wife and several daughters and small children, and five tall sons,
Simri, Joab, Othni, Elihu, and Obed, besides two sisters of his wife's
and a brother of his own, Edom Ragget by name.  I never met a finer set
of people, both men and women.  It was a pleasure to see the lads walk
up to a forest, and a wonder to watch how the tall trees went down like
corn stalks before the blows of their gleaming axes.  They had no idea I
was a gentleman by birth.  They thought I was the son of a blacksmith,
and they liked me the better for it.

Some months passed away; I had learned to use my axe as well as any of
them, and a fine large clearing had been made, when the newspapers, of
which we occasionally had one, told us all about the wonderful
gold-diggings in California.  At last we talked of little else as we sat
round the big fire in the stone chimney during the evenings of winter.
Neighbours dropped in and talked over the matter also.  There was no
doubt money was to be made, and quickly too, by men with strong arms and
iron constitutions.  We all agreed that if any men were fit for the
work, we were.  I was the weakest of the party, do ye see?  (Dick stands
five feet ten in his shoes, and is as broad-shouldered as a dray man.)

Just then, an oldish man with only two stout sons and a small family
drove into the forest with a light wagon and a strong team of horses, to
look about him, as he said, for a location.  He came to our house, and
Laban and he had a long talk.

"Well, stranger," said Laban, "I guess you couldn't do better than take
my farm, and give me your team and three hundred dollars; I've a mind to
go further westward."

The offer was too good to be refused.  The bargain was struck, and in
two days, several other settlers having got rid of their farms, a large
party of us were on our way to cross the Rocky Mountains for California.
The women, children, and stuff were in Laban's two wagons.  Other
settlers had their wagons also.  The older men rode; I, with the
younger, walked, with our rifles at our backs, and our axes and knives
in our belts.  I had, besides, a trusty revolver, which had often stood
me in good stead.

We were not over-delicate when we started, and we soon got accustomed to
the hard life we had to lead, till camping-out became a real pleasure
rather than an inconvenience.  We had skin tents for the older men, and
plenty of provisions, and as we kept along the banks of the rivers, we
had abundance of grass and water for the horses.  At last we had to
leave the forks of the Missouri river, and to follow a track across the
desolate Nebraska country, over which the wild Pawnees, Dacotahs,
Omahas, and many other tribes of red men rove in considerable numbers.
We little feared them, however, and thought much more of the herds of
wild buffaloes we expected soon to have the pleasure both of shooting
and eating.

We had encamped one night close to a wood near Little Bear Creek, which
runs into the Nebraska river.  The following morning broke with wet and
foggy weather.  It would have been pleasant to have remained in camp,
but the season was advancing, and it was necessary to push on.  All the
other families had packed up and were on the move; Laban's, for a
wonder, was the last.  The women and children were already seated in the
lighter wagon, and Obed Ragget and I were lifting the last load into the
other, and looking round to see that nothing was left behind, when our
ears were saluted with the wildest and most unearthly shrieks and
shouts, and a shower of arrows came whistling about our ears.  "Shove
on! shove on!" we shouted to Simri and Joab, who were at the horses'
heads; "never mind the tent."  They lashed the horses with their whips.
The animals plunged forward with terror and pain, for all of them were
more or less wounded.  We were sweeping round close to the edge of the
wood, and for a moment lost sight of the rest of the party.  Then, in
another instant, I saw them again surrounded by Indian warriors, with
plumes of feathers, uplifted hatchets, and red paint, looking very
terrible.  The women were standing up in the wagon with axes in their
hands, defending themselves bravely.  A savage had seized one of the
children and was dragging it off, when Mrs Ragget struck with all her
might at the red-skin's arm, and cut it clean through; the savage drew
back howling with pain and rage.  Old Laban in the meantime, with his
brother and two others, kept in front, firing away as fast as they could
load while they ran on: for they saw if once the redskins could get hold
of the horses' heads, they would be completely in their power.  All this
time several of the things were tumbling out of the wagon, but we could
not stop to pick them up.  Why the rest of the party, who were ahead,
did not come back to our assistance, I could not tell.  I thought that
they also were probably attacked.  We four ran on for some way, keeping
the Indians at a respectful distance, for they are cowardly rascals--
notwithstanding all the praise bestowed on them--if courageously
opposed.  I was loading my rifle, and then taking aim at four mounted
Indians who appeared on the right with rifles in their hands.  They
fired, but missed me, as I meantime was dodging them behind the wagon.
During this, I did not see where Obed was.  I hit one of them, and
either Simri or Joab, who fired at the same time, hit another.  The
other two wheeled round, and with some companions, hovered about us at
some little distance.  Just then, not hearing Obed's voice, I looked
round.  He was nowhere to be seen.  I was shouting to his brothers to
stop and go back with me to look for him, when half-a-dozen more
Indians, joining the others, galloped up at the same moment to attack
the headmost wagon.  Simri and Joab, lashing their horses, rushed on to
the assistance of their family.  The savages fired.  I was springing on
when I felt myself brought to the ground, grasping my rifle, which was
loaded.  A shot had gone right through both my legs.  I tried with
desperate struggles to get up, but could not lift myself from the
ground.  All the horror of my condition crowded into my mind.  To be
killed and scalped was the best fate I could expect.  Just as I was
about to give way to despair, I thought I would make an attempt to save
my life.  From my companions I could expect no help, for even if they
succeeded in preserving their own lives they would scarcely be in a
condition to come back and rescue me.  Poor Obed I felt pretty sure must
have been killed.  A small stream with some bushes growing on its banks
was near at hand.  I dragged myself towards it, and found a pretty close
place of concealment behind one of the bushes.  Thence I could look out.
The wagons were still driving along furiously across the prairie with
the Indians hovering about them on either side, evidently waiting for a
favourable moment to renew the attack.  Thus the whole party, friends
and foes, vanished from my sight in the fog.  To stay where I was would
only lead to my certain destruction, for when the Indians returned, as I
knew they would, to carry off my scalp, the trail to my hiding-place
would at once be discovered.  I felt, too, that if I allowed my wounds
to grow stiff, I might not be able to move at all.  Suffering intense
agony, therefore, I dragged myself down into the stream.  It was barely
deep enough to allow me to swim had I had strength for the purpose, and
crawl I thought I could not.  So I threw myself on my back, and holding
my rifle, my powder-flask, and revolver above my breast, floated down
till I reached the wood we had just passed.  The branches of the trees
hung over the stream.  I seized one which I judged would bear my weight,
and lifting myself up by immense exertion, of which, had it not been for
the cooling effects of the water, I should not have been capable, I
crawled along the bough.  I had carefully avoided as much as possible
disturbing the leaves, lest the redskins should discover my retreat.  I
worked my way up, holding my rifle in my teeth, to the fork of the
branch, and then up to where several of the higher boughs branched off
and formed a nest where I could remain without fear of falling off.  I
was completely concealed by the thickness of the leaves from being seen
by any one passing below, and I trusted, from the precautions I had
taken, that the Indians would not discover my trail.  Still, such
cunning rogues are they, that it is almost impossible to deceive them.
My great hope was that they might not find out that I had fallen, and so
would not come to look for me.  As I lay in my nest, I listened
attentively, and thought that I could still hear distant shots, as if my
friends had at all events not given in.  Still it might only have been
fancy.  My wounds, when I had time to think about them, were very
painful.  I bound them up as well as I could--the water had washed away
the blood and tended to stop inflammation.  The sun rose high in the
heavens.  Not a sound was heard except the wild cry of the eagle or
kite, blending with the song of the thrush and the mocking-bird,
interrupted every now and then by the impudent observation of a stray
parrot and the ominous rattle of a huge snake as it wound its way among
the leaves.  Every moment I expected to hear the grunts and cries of the
redskins, as with tomahawk in hand they came eagerly searching about for
me.  I durst not move to look around.  They might come talking
carelessly, or they might steal about in dead silence, if they suspected
that I was still alive.

I thus passed the day.  I did sometimes think that I should have been
wiser had I remained within the bounds of civilisation, instead of
wandering about the world without any adequate motive.  The reflection,
too, that the end of my days was approaching, came suddenly upon me with
painful force.  How had I spent those days?  I asked myself.  What good
had I done in the world?  How had I employed the talents committed to
me?  I remembered a great many things I had been told as a child by my
mother, and which had never occurred to me since.  The more I thought,
the more painful, the more full of regrets, grew my thoughts.  I am
bound to tell you all this.  I am not ashamed of my feelings.  I believe
those thoughts did me a great deal of good.  I blessed my mother for all
she had taught me, and I prayed as I had never prayed before.  After
this I felt much comforted and better prepared for death than I had been
till then.  The day passed slowly away.  Darkness came on.  I grew very
hungry and faint, for I had no food in my pocket, and had taken nothing
since the morning.  Had I not been wounded, that would have been a
trifle; I had often gone a whole day without eating, with, perhaps, a
lap of water every now and then from a cool stream.  I could not sleep a
wink during the whole night.  At times I hoped that if my friends were
victorious they might return to learn what had become of poor Obed and
me.  In vain was the hope.  The night wore on, the dawn returned.  I
tried to stretch my legs; I found that I could not move them.

The hours of the next day passed slowly by; I thought I heard the cries
and shrieks of the redskins in the distance--they seemed to draw nearer
and nearer--they were entering the wood--yes, I was certain of it--they
got close up to my tree--as I looked down, I saw their hideous,
malicious faces gazing up at me, eager for my destruction.  Then
suddenly I became aware that they were only creatures of my imagination,
conjured up through weakness and hunger.  All was again silent.  "If
this state of things continues, I shall certainly drop from my hold," I
thought.  Then suddenly I remembered that I had some tobacco in my
pocket.  Edom Ragget had handed it to me to cut up for him.  I put a
piece in my mouth, and chewed away at it.  I felt much better.  The
evening came; my apprehensions about the Indians decreased.  Still I
knew that if I once got down the tree, I might not be able to ascend it
again, and might become a prey to wild beasts or rattlesnakes, as I felt
that I could not stand for a moment, much less walk a yard.  Having
fastened my rifle to a branch, I secured one of my arms round another,
that I might not drop off, and at last fell into a deep sleep.  Next
morning I awoke, feeling much better, though very hungry.  As I lay
without moving, I observed a racoon playing about a branch close to me.
"Although there may be a hundred red-skins in the neighbourhood, I must
have that fellow for my breakfast," I said to myself.  I released my
rifle and fired.  Down fell the racoon at the foot of the tree.  "He is
of no use to me unless I can get hold of him, and even could I pick him
up, I must eat him raw, as I have no means of lighting a fire where I
am," said I to myself.  While this thought passed rapidly through my
mind, I heard a sound at some distance.  It was, I felt sure, that of a
human voice.  I quickly reloaded my rifle, and, with my finger on the
trigger, sat in readiness for whatever might occur.



CHAPTER TWO.

A FRIEND IN NEED--HOW TWO PEOPLE MAY LIVE WHILE ONE WILL STARVE--OBED
GOES IN SEARCH OF ADVENTURES, AND I AWAKE TO FIND A RATTLESNAKE CLOSE TO
MY NOSE--I AM SAVED--OBED RETURNS, BUT FOLLOWED BY A GENTLEMAN WHOSE
ROOM WOULD BE MORE PLEASANT THAN HIS COMPANY--OBED CANNOT FIRE, AND I
CANNOT RUN, BUT I SAVE HIM BY SITTING STILL--WE ANTICIPATE THE PLEASURE
OF DINING ON BEAR'S FLESH--OBED FETCHES AND CARRIES LIKE A DOG, AND WE
FARE SUMPTUOUSLY--I TAKE TO CRUTCHES--WE COLLECT STORES AND MAKE A
TENT--A RED-SKIN VISITOR.

I kept, as I was saying, my finger on the trigger, and my eye along the
barrel of my rifle, fully expecting to see a Pawnee's red visage appear
through the bushes.  I knew that the dead racoon would betray me; so I
resolved to fight it out to the last, and to sell my life dearly.  I
heard footsteps approaching--slowly and watchfully I thought: I peered
down out of my leafy cover; the branches of the surrounding shrubs were
pushed aside, and there, instead of the feathers and red face of an
Indian, I saw the honest countenance of young Obed Ragget, looking
cautiously about him on every side.

"Obed!  Obed!  I am here," I sung out; "come and help me, lad."  He
sprang on when he heard my voice.

"What, Dick! is that you?  Well, I am glad you have escaped, that I am,"
he exclaimed, looking up into the tree.

"So am I to see you," I cried; "but help me down, lad, for I cannot help
myself, I fear."

"That is more than I can do," said he.  "Look; the red-skins have shot
me through both arms, and I can no more use them than I can fly."

I now observed that he looked very pale and weak, and that both his arms
hung down uselessly by his side.  One thing also I saw, that as he could
not manage to get up to me, I must contrive to descend the tree to meet
him.  Tearing, therefore, a neck-kerchief up into strips, I lowered my
gun and pistols down by it, and then prepared to descend myself.  I made
it secure, as close to the trunk as I could, and grasping the short
boughs which grew out from the trunk, I threw my chief weight upon them,
while I steadied myself with the line I had made; keeping my useless
legs stretched out, lest I should fall on them, I gradually lowered
myself to the foot of the tree.  We could not shake hands, but we
greeted each other most warmly.  Obed complained bitterly of thirst, for
he had not moved out of the first shelter into which he had crawled, and
did not know how near the stream was.  I accordingly put my hat into his
mouth, and told him to stoop down where the stream was deepest, and to
ladle up some water.  This he did, and then kneeling down I held the hat
to his mouth, while he drank.  I took a draught myself, and never have I
enjoyed so much the choicest beverage in my father's house as I did that
cool draught.--I now pointed to the racoon, and asked him if he was
hungry.

"Very," was his answer; "I could eat that brute raw."

"No need of that," said I; "just collect materials, and we will quickly
have a fire."  Obed understood me, and with his feet soon kicked
together a pile of sticks and leaves sufficient to make a good fire.  I
had a flint and steel, and we speedily had the bacon spitted and
roasting on some forked sticks before it in proper woodman's style.  The
food revived us both, and restored our spirits.  We neither of us were
inclined to despondency; still we could not help thinking, with sad
feelings, of what might have befallen our friends, and what might too
probably be our own fate.  As Obed could not help himself, he had to sit
down close to me while I fed him; and when we had done, he assisted me
to remove myself away from the fire.  I then dressed his wounds as well
as I could, bathing them freely in cold water.  Some sinews were cut
through, I suspected, which prevented him from moving his arms, but no
bones were broken; and, in consequence of his fine constitution and
temperate habits, I trusted that he would recover the use of them.  I
was in a worse condition, for both my legs were so much hurt that I
could not hope to walk on them for many weeks to come.  However, my
upper limbs were in good case; and we agreed that, with a pair of strong
arms and stout legs between us, we might both get on very well.  Obed
had left his gun in the thicket into which he had dragged it when he
fell.  It was discharged, and so he went for it, bringing it to me in
his teeth, that I might clean and reload it.  As he could not use it, he
left it by my side; and we had now our two rifles, and his and my
revolver pistols; so that I felt, with my back to a tree, cripple as I
was, I might prove a formidable adversary either to man or beast.  While
Obed and I sat near the fire, talking over our prospects, we remembered
that a number of things had dropped from the wagons; so he volunteered
to set out in order to discover whether they had been carried off by the
Indians.

"Farewell, Dick," said he, as he rose to go.  "If I don't come back
you'll know those varmint redskins have got my scalp; but though I can't
use my arms, they'll find I can use my legs before they catch me."

With many misgivings I saw him make his way out from the thicket.  When
he was gone I lay back with my head on my arm, thinking over many of the
events of my past life, and contrasting them with my present condition,
till at length my eyes closed, and I forgot all recent events in sleep.
I believe that I slept very soundly without stirring my legs or arms.
At last my eyes slowly opened, and horrible indeed was the spectacle
which met them.  The embers of the fire were before me, and close to it,
as if to enjoy its warmth, lay coiled up a huge rattlesnake not two
yards from me.  In an instant of time I felt that its deadly fangs might
be fixed in my throat.  What use to me now were my fire-arms?  I dared
not move my hand to reach my revolver.  I knew that I must not wink even
an eyelid, or the deadly spring might be made.  The snake was, I dare
say, nearly six feet long.  It had a body almost as thick as my leg--of
a yellowish-brown colour, with some dark-brown spots reaching from one
end to the other; and oh, that head, as it slowly raised it with its
vicious eyes to have a look at me!  It was of large size, flat, and
covered with scales.  I gazed at the rattlesnake, and the rattlesnake
gazed at me.  What he thought of me I do not know; I thought him a most
hideous monster, and wished him anywhere but where he was.  It seemed an
age that I thus lay, not daring even to draw a breath.  I felt at last
that I must give up the contest.  I prayed for mercy.  The oppression on
my chest became almost insupportable.  Still I dared not move.  The
deadly reptile stretched out its head--slowly it began to uncoil
itself--the dread sound of its rattle struck my ear.  I felt that now I
must muster all my nerve and resolution, or be lost; the huge reptile
stretched itself out and slowly crawled on--oh, horror!--it passed
directly over my wounded legs!  Not a muscle quivered.  I dared not look
up to ascertain whether it was gone.  A minute must have elapsed--it
seemed to me a much longer time--and then, and not till then, a shout
reached my ear.  It was the voice of Obed.  Probably the snake had heard
it, and it was that, I have no doubt, which made him move away under the
belief that I was a dead person, who at all events could do him no harm.
My first impulse was to look round to discover what had become of the
snake.  He was nowhere to be seen!  My next was to turn my eyes in the
direction whence the shouting proceeded.  There I saw Obed rushing along
as fast as his legs could carry him among the trees.

"Be ready with your rifle, Dick," he shouted out at the top of his
voice; "not a moment to lose, man."

I fully expected to see half a dozen red-skins following close at his
heels, and resolved to defend him to the last, and to sell my own life
dearly, although I had to fight on my stumps, when the boughs of the
trees were torn away behind him, and a huge bear appeared, grinning
horribly, in a great rage, and evidently prepared to do mischief to
somebody or something.  Had Obed been able to use his arms, he was the
last person to have placed another in danger for the sake of trying to
save himself.  Now, however, he had no choice but to run behind me and
the fire.  Bruin trotted on, growling angrily.  He was one of those
long-headed, small-eyed fellows, with pointed nose, clumsy body, and
smooth, glossy, black hair, which have a fancy for pork and ham, and
will put their paws into a corn bin if they find it open.  When he got
near, as he reared up on his hind paws ready for a fight, and came on
towards me, I grasped my rifle and aimed at his head.  If I missed him,
I should scarcely have had time, I feared, to seize Obed's rifle before
he would have been upon me.  I knew that his body was so encased with
fat that it would be difficult to wound him vitally through that.  I
fired: the bullet hit him in the head, but still he came on, gnashing
his teeth.  I lifted my second rifle.  I could not well have missed him
had I been standing up or kneeling, but sitting, as I was, it was
difficult to take a steady aim.  He was about ten paces off: again I
fired.  I felt sure that I had not missed, but with a terrific growl he
bounded on towards me.  I had barely time to grasp a revolver when he
was close up to me.  Already I felt his hot breath in my face; his huge
claws had hold of my limbs; he was trying to clasp me round the body:
his muzzle, with its sharp teeth, touched on my shoulder.  Poor Obed,
who was standing behind me, unable to render me assistance, literally
shrieked with fear, not for himself, but for me.  In another moment I
felt that I must be torn to pieces.  I mustered all my nerve.  It was
much wanted.  I waited a moment till I could aim steadily at his head.
I fired.  He gave me a terrific hug.  It was his death grapple.  As it
was, it very nearly squeezed the breath out of my body.  Then he rolled
over and lay motionless.  I did not roll after him, but lest he should
only be shamming 'coon, I dragged myself as far-off as I could to reload
my weapons.

"No fear, Dick, he's dead," cried Obed joyfully.  "Well, you're a friend
at a pinch, as I always thought you."

It would not have been in his way to express his thanks by more than
this, still I knew by his looks that he was grateful to me.  In reality
I had only fought in self-defence, so I do not know that he had anything
to thank me for.

"Old Bruin will afford us many a good dinner, at all events, I hope,"
said I.  "And do you know, Obed, you and the bear saved my life just now
between you."  And then I told him how his shouts had, I believed,
scared away the rattlesnake.  "So you see, old fellow, we are quits."

Obed having ascertained by a hearty kick that Bruin was really dead, I
attached my rope to his waist and then to the bear, and by its means we
dragged the carcass a little way from our camping-ground.  He then came
back and helped me along that I might cut some steaks for our supper.
We cooked them in the same way we had done the racoon.  While the
operation was going forward he gave me an account of his adventures.  He
had found a number of things which had fallen from the wagon, and,
wonderful to relate, they were untouched.  There was the skin tent which
we had not put into the wagon, and a cask of flour and one of beef, and,
what we thought of still more value, a bag of bullets and some small
shot, and a keg of powder, besides another rifle and an axe; while
farther on, he said that there were several other smaller articles along
the road the wagon had gone.  It was close to the cask of flour he had
encountered Bruin, who had undoubtedly been attracted to the spot with
the hope of appropriating it.  One prize Obed brought in his mouth; it
was a tin saucepan, and very valuable we found it.  Our difficulty was
now to collect all these things.  Obed offered to try and drag them
together to one spot, if he could but manage to hook himself on to them.
That day we could do nothing; so that after he had collected a large
supply of firewood, we placed our backs to a tree and commended
ourselves to the care of that great God who had so mercifully preserved
our lives.  We agreed that one should watch while the other slept, and
most faithfully did we keep our pledge to each other.  Several days
passed without any great variation in our mode of proceeding.  We cut
the bear up into thin slices, and dried them in the sun.  Obed also went
round about the wood and drove in the wild turkeys, racoons, squirrels,
and other small game, which I shot.  We were thus supplied with meat.
There were also plenty of herbs, the nature of which both he and I knew,
and which, though not of delicate flavour, were wholesome, and helped to
keep us in health.  The weather also was very fine, and thus several
days passed away.  At last I bethought me that if I could make a pair of
crutches, I might, with Obed's help, get over the ground.  Two young
saplings, towards which I dragged myself, were soon cut down, and in a
couple of days I was once more upright.  I could only at first move very
slowly, and with great dread of falling; but by constant practice, in
the course of a week I thought I might venture out of the wood.  Obed's
arms were also gaining strength, and one of them he could already use a
little, and was thus enabled to help me.  I slung the rifles over his
back, and, sticking the revolvers in my belt, off we set together.  We
moved slowly, but still we went ahead.  At last we reached the tent.  It
struck us at once that it would be well to pitch it where it lay on our
old camping-ground.  Wherever we might be Indians would find us out, so
that it would make no difference whether we were in or out of the wood,
and we might see either emigrants to California moving west, or the post
to one of the forts, and thus obtain assistance.  Obed and I soon got up
the tent.  I sat down, and he made his shoulders serve as a prop while I
stuck in the pole, and thus in a few minutes we had a comfortable roof
over our heads.

While we were at work, it struck me that if I could make a sort of
sleigh, it would facilitate the operation of bringing in our goods.  I
set to work immediately, and in the course of two days, manufactured a
machine which answered our purpose.  The season was advancing, the
nights were getting cold, and there was no time to be lost in collecting
the articles which we might require to preserve our lives through the
winter, should no one, before it set in, pass that way to rescue us.
Accordingly, we once more proceeded on our expedition.  Sometimes I
walked on my crutches, and at others Obed dragged me along on the
sleigh.  Certainly we were a notable example of the advantage of two
people working in concert.  Alone we must have perished; together,
though injured so severely, we were able to live and comfort each other.
We never had even the slightest dispute; and though surrounded by
difficulties and dangers, and anxious about our friends, we were far
from unhappy.  I have often thought that if people who are living in the
midst of all sorts luxuries and advantages would but follow the example
of Obed Ragget and me, they would be very much the happier.

Our first care was to get the kegs of powder and shot, for our stock was
almost exhausted; and with those, and a bundle of blankets, we returned
to our tent.

To make a long story short, in the course of a week we had collected
everything to be seen; and had settled ourselves very comfortably in our
new home.  We also surrounded our tent with stacks of firewood, which
would serve as a barricade should we be attacked, at any time, by the
red-skins.

The exertion we went through, however, had fatigued us excessively, and
opened our wounds afresh; so that for some days we were unable to quit
the precincts of our tent.  We had made ourselves beds by placing sticks
close together on the ground, and covering them with leaves, over which
we spread our blankets; and we agreed, as we lay stretched out on them,
that we were much better off than many poor fellows who had not beds to
lie on.  I crawled out occasionally to light the fire, and to cook our
food, while Obed had to go to the river to get water.  To prevent the
necessity of doing this so frequently, after we were both a little
rested, we emptied our beef cask, and carried it down on the sleigh to
the river, that we might fill it with water.  This being done, we found
that we had over-calculated our strength, and had once more to take to
our beds.  Several days more passed away, during which we scarcely
moved.  Obed, too, had become very silent.  I saw that something was
passing in his mind.  After a time I asked him what it was.

"Why, Dick," said he, "I'm thinking that though we seem to have a good
supply of food, it won't last two hungry fellows all the winter, even if
we were to put ourselves on half allowance.  Now my arms will soon be
well, and if I could make my way to one of the forts, I might bring you
assistance.  I'll take a supply of powder and shot, and keep my eyes
open to look out for the red-skins.  What do you say to it?"

I told him that I did not like the idea of his running so great a risk
for my sake.

"Oh, don't fear for me," he replied; "it's right that it should be done,
I'm certain of that, so I'll do it."

I said nothing more.  I knew when Obed thus expressed himself, he was in
earnest.  Several more days rolled slowly by.  We slept a good deal in
the daytime; perhaps under our circumstances it was the best thing we
could do.  One afternoon I had been asleep some time, and Obed was
snoring away on the other side of the tent, when I opened my eyes, and
then I saw, glaring at me through the doorway of the tent, the hideous
countenance of a red-skin warrior, horribly covered with paint and
decked with coloured feathers.  While with his left hand he lifted up
the curtain, in his right he grasped his tomahawk, which quivered with
_his_ eagerness to take possession of our scalps.



CHAPTER THREE.

THE RED-SKIN PROVES TO BE A FRIEND--HE AND OBED LEAVE ME ALONE IN MY
GLORY--I FORTIFY MYSELF FOR THE WINTER--VISITED BY WOLVES--A TERRIFIC
STORM--THE WOLVES MY NIGHTLY VISITORS--I KILL SOME AND EAT THEN, BUT
FIND THEM O'ER TEUCH--AN OBJECT MOVING IN THE DISTANCE--RED-SKINS AND
ENEMIES--I PREPARE FOR THEIR RECEPTION--I KILL ONE OF THEM--A FEARFUL
STRUGGLE--I ENDEAVOUR TO OBLITERATE THE SIGNS OF THIS VISIT--MY TERRIBLE
SOLITUDE--MORE WOLVES AND MORE INDIANS--I PREPARE A BANQUET FOR THEM--
THE SUSPICIONS OF MY GUESTS AROUSED--THE UNPLEASANT TERMINATION TO OUR
FEAST.

Obed and I were not easily taken by surprise.  Our hands instinctively
clutched our rifles, and in a moment the breast of the Indian was
covered by their muzzles.  The eye of the red-skin did not quail--not a
limb trembled.  He gazed on us calmly, and his hand continued to hold
aside the skin which formed the door of our tent, while he spoke a few
words in a low, quiet voice.  I did not understand them, but Obed did.

"Don't fire, Dick," said Obed; "he is a Delaware, a friend to the white
men.  Come in, friend Delaware, take your seat by our fire, and tell us
what has brought you here," continued Obed, addressing the Indian.

The Delaware, letting drop the skin door, came in, and, stirring up the
embers of our almost extinguished fire, sat himself down on a log of
wood placed before it.  He spoke a jargon which he thought was English,
and which both Obed and I understood, but which I cannot now repeat, any
more than I could convey an idea of the deep guttural tones of his
voice.  They seemed to come from the very depths of his inside.

"I travel alone," said the red-skin.  "I have a long journey to perform,
to carry a letter I have undertaken to deliver at Fort Grattan.  I was
beginning to despair of accomplishing it, for my powder has been
destroyed, and thus food was difficult to obtain.  When I first saw the
smoke of your fire, I thought it might come from the wigwams of some
Pawnees, and my heart bounded when I saw from its appearance that your
tent must belong to white men."  From this hint given, Obed at once
placed a supply of food before the Indian, who did ample justice to it.
We then lighted our pipes, and all three sat smoking over the fire.  The
Delaware urgently advised us not to attempt to spend the approaching
winter in that place, but to accompany him to the fort.  I saw the
soundness of his council, but assured him that I could not attempt to
walk half a dozen miles, much less could I hope to make so long a
journey.

"Then it is better that one should come and bring back succour to the
other than that both should perish," urged the Delaware.  To this I
agreed, and told Obed he must go.  He had been ready to go alone when
the risk was greater; but now he did not like to leave me.  I met all
his arguments, and telling him that if he wished to save my life, as
well as his own, he must go.  I ultimately made him consent to accompany
the Indians.  Before starting, they took every means to increase my
comforts.  They filled the water-casks, collected a quantity of herbs,
and a supply of firewood, and shot as much game as I could consume while
it was fresh.  The Delaware lay down to sleep that night in our tent.  I
was convinced from his manner and mode of speaking that he was honest.
I never saw a man sleep more soundly--not a limb stirred the whole night
through; he looked more like a dead person, or a lay figure, than a
being with life.  Suddenly, as the morning light broke through the tent,
he sprang up, and, shaking himself, in a moment was all energy and
activity.  "Ugh!  I have not slept so soundly for many a night, and may
not sleep so soundly for many a night more!" he exclaimed, in his
peculiar dialect.  We lighted our fire, boiled our kettle, and then all
three sat down to a hearty breakfast.  It was the last I should probably
take in company for many a weary day; still I resolved not to be
down-hearted, and especially to preserve a serene and contented
countenance.

The Delaware replenished his powder-flask, and taking a small supply of
provisions, he and Obed bade me farewell.  I could only wring the
latter's hand; I don't think we exchanged a word at parting.  I watched
them as their figures grew less and less, and finally disappeared in the
distance, and then indeed I felt very lonely.  Perhaps there was not a
human being within a hundred miles of me except the two who had just
gone away; or should there be, he was very likely to prove an enemy.
The idea of being thus alone in a wilderness was grand, but it was
somewhat appalling and trying to the nerves.  How long would Obed be
absent?  I thought to myself.  Three weeks or a month at shortest.
Could I manage to preserve existence for that length of time?  I was
still weak and ill, and could scarcely crawl about, so I spent the
greater portion of my time on my couch.  I placed my firearms close at
hand around me, so that I might seize them in a moment.  My fire-place
was a hole in the middle of the tent, almost within reach of my
skin-covered couch; there were no linen sheets to catch fire; my tub of
water was near it, and my stock of provisions hung overhead.  The sky I
saw when I looked out had for some days been giving indications of a
snow-storm.  It came at last, and winter set in.  The drifting snow
quickly found its way through the minutest hole in the tent skins.  To
prevent this, I beat it down firmly all round the edge, stopping every
crevice, and I raised a pile of logs before the door.  "I don't think I
should mind a fight with a dozen red-skins," I thought to myself; "but
those wolves--I don't like them."  The wolves I dreaded (and not without
reason) found me out at last.  The wind was roaring and whistling among
the leafless trees, the snow was beating against my tent, and the night
was as dark as Erebus, when a low, distant howl saluted my ears--heard
even above the tempest.  It continued increasing, till it broke into a
wild chorus of hideous shrieks.  I had no dread of ghostly visitors.  I
would rather have faced a whole array of the most monstrous hobgoblins,
than have felt that I was surrounded, as I knew I was, by a herd of
those brutes--the wolves.

Till almost morning they continued their ugly concert; but they have a
natural fear of man, and it is only when pressed by hunger that they
will attack him.  The ground, however, was now completely covered with
snow, and I knew that they would find but little food.  As I could not
venture out, most of the day passed away in a half-unconscious dreamy
state; part of it I slept.  The next night I was awoke soon after dark
by the wolfish chorus; it was much nearer than before.  The sounds
formed themselves into words to my disordered senses.  "We'll eat you
up; we'll eat you up ere long," they appeared to say.  A third night
came.  The pack seemed increased in numbers, as if they had been
collecting from every quarter.  I fancied that I could hear their feet
crackling on the crisp snow as they scampered round and round the tent.
That night they brought their circle closer and closer, till I fully
expected that they would commence their attack.  Still they held off,
and with the morning light took their departure.  I watched the next
night setting in with a nervous dread.  As soon as darkness spread over
the snow-covered face of the country, on the horrid pack came,
scampering up from all quarters.

Nearer and nearer approached the cries and howls.  They commenced as
before, scampering round the tent, and every time it seemed narrowing
the circle.  I knew that they must be closer to me.  I stirred up my
fire with a long stick I kept by me for that purpose, and I felt sure I
saw the impression of their noses as, having smelled me out, they
pressed them against the sides of the tent in their endeavours to find
an entrance.  I looked for the biggest bump, and took aim with my
revolver.  There was a loud snarl and cry, and then a shrieking and
howling as the horrid pack scampered off into the distance.  I had to
get up and patch the hole made by my bullet, but I did not look out to
see what had become of the wolf I had hit.  I heard the animals howling
away the livelong night in the distance.  They did not, however, venture
back again that night.

I had now been ten days alone, as I knew by a small bag I kept, into
which I every day, when I awoke, put a bean.  I should completely have
lost all count of time without some such contrivance.  The cold was
becoming very bitter; still my health was improving, and I felt myself
stronger than I had been since I was wounded.  The perfect rest had
tended to cure me.  I thought that I would get up and walk about, to
recover more completely the use of my limbs.  It was necessary to
replenish my stock of water before the stream was completely frozen
over, as snow-water is not considered wholesome for a continuance.  I
had plenty of clothes and skins, and I required them, for a piercing
wind blew across the wild prairie, which, unless thus protected, I could
not have faced.  The exercise did me good.  I now went out every day,
constantly returning to feed my fire and to warm myself.  I replenished
my stock of water, and got a further supply of wood, that I might not
run short of that necessary article.  I was most concerned about my
provisions, which were diminishing sadly.  I therefore always took my
rifle out with me, in the hopes of getting a shot at a stray buffalo or
deer going south, but all had gone; none passed near me.  The woods,
too, were now deserted; not a bird was to be seen; even the snakes and
the 'coons had hid themselves in their winter habitations.  A dead
silence reigned over the whole country during the day.  I wish it had
equally reigned during the night.  Daylight and the smoke of my fire
kept the wolves away, but night after night they came back and howled as
before.  I used at last to sleep some hours every day, and sit up all
night with my pistols by my side, ready to shoot them.  Now and then the
grinning jaws of one of them would force its way in at the entrance of
the tent.  I seldom passed a night without killing one or two of these
intruders.  I every morning cut off what I thought would prove the
tenderest portion, and dragged the rest of the carcass away.  I would
not, however, advise anybody to feed upon wolf's flesh if they can get
anything better.  More tough and nauseous morsels I never attempted to
swallow; but it was necessary to economise the rest of my provisions.

I one day went out as usual to exercise my limbs and look for a chance
shot.  There was a fine clear sky overhead, not a breath of air was
stirring, and my blood was soon in circulation.  I felt more up to
anything than I had done for a long time.  I reached the only elevation
in the neighbourhood, near the bank of the creek, when, turning my
glance round on every side, I saw in the far distance towards the
north-west, two specks on the surface of the dazzling expanse of white
spread out before me.  I watched--the specks were moving, they might be
deer, or they might be wolves, but from the way they progressed I had
little doubt they were men.  They came from a quarter I did not like,
inhabited by Dacotahs and Pawnees--treacherous, thievish rascals, who
will take the scalp of an old woman if they can catch her asleep, and
make as much boast of it as if they had killed a warrior in open fight.
Still it was necessary to be on my guard against them.  I waited till I
ascertained without doubt that they were human beings, and then hastened
back to my tent, made up my fire so that the smoke might be seen coming
out at the top, put a buffalo robe inside my bed to personate myself,
and loaded myself with all my fire-arms.  I then carefully closed the
entrance of the tent, and stepped back over the marks I had previously
made, till I reached the bank of the stream, where I found ample shelter
behind a clump of thick bushes.  I there lay between two heaps of snow
with my rifle ready, perfectly concealed, but having a clear view of my
tent and the country beyond.  If the strangers should prove to be
friends, as the precautions had given me but little trouble it was wiser
to take them, but if enemies they were very necessary.  When they were
still a long way off, I made out that the strangers were red-skins.
Their costume showed me that they belonged to the tribes I have
mentioned, and I had no doubt that they had come with hostile intent.
They stopped, and I saw by their gestures that they were forming their
plan of proceeding.  One was an oldish man, the other was a tall, active
lad; either would give me considerable difficulty to manage if it came
to a hand-to-hand struggle.

They were armed only with bows and arrows and spears.  They pointed to
the smoke, and the elder signified that I was asleep within, or cooking
my dinner.  He then fixed an arrow in his bow, and by his gestures I
suspected that he was saying he would shoot me through the tent covering
before I had time to seize my fire-arms or see my enemies.  "I'm much
obliged to you for your good intentions, but I will try and frustrate
them, my friends," said I to myself.  The elder of the two red-skins now
approached the tent with his bow drawn, ready to send an arrow into the
inmate should he appear at the entrance; the other searched carefully
round the tent, and examined the traces of my feet in the snow.  He
seemed apparently satisfied that the owner had gone to the stream and
returned, and was within.  The two now got still nearer to the tent,
with their bows drawn; so cautiously did they tread that not a sound
could be heard.  They stopped, and eagerly shot several arrows through
the covering, one after the other, as rapidly as they could fix them to
the strings of their bows.  "And so you think that you have killed your
prey," said I to myself; but at the same time a sickening sensation came
over my heart.  I had never shot at a human being with the intention of
taking away life; I must do so now or become the victim myself.  The
savages listened.  Of course no sound from within reached their ears.
The elder stooped forward to draw aside the curtain to look in, while
the other stood ready with his spear to transfix the person who they
might expect would attempt to spring out if he had not been killed.  Now
I thought I must fire.  I took aim at the older Indian.  In doing so the
barrel of my rifle touched a twig.  The younger savage in a moment
detected the sound; he turned round full on me.  His quick eye caught
sight of my rifle as I instantly brought it to bear on him.  He uttered
an exclamation of astonishment.  It was his last.  I fired, and he fell
with his face forward.  His companion sprang up, and was about to rush
towards me, but I pulled the trigger of my second barrel, and he too
fell writhing in agony on the snow.  Oh! how wretched I felt at what
stern necessity had compelled me to do.  How must Cain have felt when he
had killed his brother?  I rushed up to my tent.  The younger savage was
quite dead: the elder glared at me fiercely.  Though badly wounded,
still he might live.  I leaned over him, and made signs that I would
take him into my tent and try and heal him.  A gleam of satisfaction
came over his countenance--I thought it was from gratitude at my mercy.
I was preparing to drag him into the tent, and to place him on my own
couch.  I felt that I was doing what was right.  I should gain a
companion in my solitude, perhaps make a friend, who would enable me to
escape from my perilous position.  His eye followed me as I moved about
making the necessary preparations.  He beckoned me to come and lift him
up.  I was putting my arm behind him, when his right hand drew a long
knife with a flash from his belt, and before I could spring back he had
struck twice with all his force at my breast, wounding me severely.  It
was not his fault that he did not pierce me to the heart.  So firm a
grasp did his other hand retain of my collar that I could not escape
him.  I had my own hunting-knife beneath my buffalo robe, my fingers
clutched it, and, as catching his right arm I pressed it to the ground,
I struck two or three blows with all my might at his throat and chest; I
felt his fingers relaxing; his arm fell back--he too was dead.  I would
rather not dwell on that awful moment.  The horrors of my solitude were
increased ten-fold.  Still.  I was obliged to rouse myself to action.  I
knew not how many of the tribe to which the dead men belonged might be
in the neighbourhood.

That evening, however, I could do nothing.  Night was coming on, and the
blood which trickled down my breast reminded me that I must attend to my
own wounds.  If my former nights had been full of horrors, this was far
more dreadful.  The wolves howled louder than ever, and came round me in
great numbers, and though I was continually firing my pistols out into
the darkness, I could scarcely keep them at bay.  I will not dwell on
that dreadful time.  The morning did come at last.  The first thing I
did was to drag the bodies of the savages down to the river, and to
force them through a hole in the ice whence I had been accustomed to
draw water.  The current quickly carried them down into far-off regions.
Then I made a fire over the spot where their blood had been spilt, and,
happily, during the day a heavy fall of snow coming on obliterated all
the remaining traces of their fatal visit to my tent.  Still for many a
day I could not drive the picture of their hideous countenances out of
my head, as they lay stark and stiff on the ground, killed by my hand--
yet never was homicide more justifiable.  I had, as I believed, got rid
of all the traces of the savages outside the tent.  When I found the
arrows sticking inside it in my bed, it did not occur to me that it
would be equally necessary to get rid of them.  The whim seized me of
keeping them as a memorial of my escape.  Instead, however, of
concealing them under the bed, I arranged them in the form of a star on
the tent covering just above my head, and every time I looked at them I
felt grateful that they were not sticking in my body.  I have a dislike
to dwell on the horrible sensations which came over me during those long
winter nights and scarcely less dreary days.  Had I possessed any books
they would have served me as companions, and helped me to pass the time;
but I had none.

My own thoughts and feelings were my only associates, and they often
were far from pleasant ones.  I had a great temptation also, which, had
I given way to it, would have made matters worse.

Among the articles which had fallen from the wagon, and which Obed and I
afterwards picked up, was a small cask of brandy.  We were both of us
very abstemious, or we should not have been the strong, hearty fellows
we were.  The cask, therefore, had not even been broached.  The tempter,
however, now came suggesting to me that I might soon forget all my
miseries if I would but occasionally take a taste of the fire-water.  I
resisted him, however.  I knew that if I once began I might go on, and
not know when to stop.  I was sure that I was better and stronger
without liquor of any sort, so I let the cask remain as it was in a
corner of the tent.  I had a pipe and a small quantity of tobacco, which
I mixed with sumach leaves and willow bark to make it go further.
Smoking this was my greatest animal pleasure.  My usual dinner, eked out
with fried wolf's flesh, indeed required a smoke to make it digest
properly.  After this adventure with the Indians, I found my nerves much
shaken.  I stayed in bed for a couple of days, but whenever I dropped
asleep I found myself acting the whole scene over and over again.  At
night I had, as usual, to sit up, wrapped in my buffalo robes, with my
feet at the fire, and my pistols in my hands, keeping the wolves at bay.
Oh, how I wished they would cease their horrid serenade.  The old year
passed away, and the new year began, but there was no change in my
condition.  I was growing seriously alarmed about Obed.  He ought to
have been back by this time, I thought.  I was afraid some accident
might have befallen him, for I was very certain that he would not have
deserted me.  By degrees I recovered my composure, and took my exercise
with my rifle in my hand as usual.  My tent also, by being almost
covered up with snow, had become a very warm and comparatively
comfortable habitation, as I could always keep up a good fire within it.
When I returned from my walks I had a cup of warm tea ready, which
tended to keep up the circulation which the exercise had established.
Thus I soon got into very good health again.

My chief occupation when out was looking for game.  What was my delight
one morning to see a flight of prairie-hens sitting on some boughs not
far from my tent.  I stopped like a pointer.  I knew that the slightest
movement might scare them away; and lifting my rifle to my shoulder, I
selected a fine cock.  I fired, and over he tumbled.  I ran forward, and
securing him to my belt, I marked where the others settled, and followed
them up.  Thus I went on.  I had killed three, I think, which would
prove a most satisfactory addition to my larder.  When I looked about me
I found that I had got a long way from my tent.  I walked briskly back.
When I got to the top of the bank near the river, what was my dismay, on
looking northward, to see several persons approaching my tent!  They
could not have failed to have discovered me.  I watched them with
intense interest.  They were red-skins--Dacotahs probably; I could not
possibly avoid encountering them.  I felt that my only prospect of
safety was to put a bold face on the matter, and go and meet them
frankly.

Hurrying to my tent, I loaded myself with all my fire-arms, resolving to
sell my life dearly, and then walked forward towards them.  I counted
the strangers.  There were ten of them, all painted and dressed for war;
and a very ferocious set they looked.  They seemed very much astonished
and puzzled at seeing me.  In an instant they all had their arrows fixed
in their bows, and, forming a line, they thus advanced slowly and
cautiously, keeping an eye on the tent, and evidently expecting to see a
number of people emerge from it.  Their demonstrations were so hostile
that I now began to repent that I had not made an attempt to defend
myself; at the same time I felt that a contest with ten cunning savages
would have been a very hopeless one.  Flight, too, over the snow, with
little knowledge of the country, was not to be thought of.  As the
savages advanced I retreated, resolving to make a stand at my tent door.
At the same time I tried to show by signs that I could, if I liked,
kill two or three of them, but that I was ready for peace if they were.
At last I lowered my rifle from my shoulder, and they unstrung their
bows and advanced with outstretched hands towards me.  Knowing their
treacherous character, however, of course I could not depend on them.  I
bethought me that the best way to win their friendship was to offer them
food, as is practised in civilised communities with some success; so I
showed them the birds I had just killed, and intimated that I was going
to dress them for their entertainment.  I produced several other
dainties, and my dried wolf's flesh.  I also brought out some of my
mixed tobacco, though it was with intense reluctance I parted with it.
They expressed their satisfaction by several loud grunts, and then
squatted round in a circle outside the door of my tent.  I made up my
fire, and soon had the prairie-hens and several pieces of meat roasting
on sticks before it, and a savoury stew cooking in my pot.  I trusted
that I might be able to replenish my scanty stock of provisions, but I
knew, that, had I not given them with a good grace, my guests would
probably have taken them by force.  I had begun to serve the banquet, at
which the red-skins were smacking their lips, and they were casting
approving and kindly glances at me, when I remembered my cask of brandy.
I knew that this would completely cement our friendship, but I intended
to give them only a little at a time to run no risk of intoxicating
them.  I retired, therefore, to the back of the tent for the purpose of
drawing off a little in a bottle.  While I was thus employed, one of
them put his head into the tent to see what I was about.  As he did so,
his eye fell on the star of arrows over the head of my couch.  A loud
exclamation made me turn round.  I saw where his glance was directed.
My folly and want of forethought in a moment flashed across my mind.
All was lost, I perceived.  The savages sprang up, and seizing me,
pointed to the arrows.  I had nothing to say.  Perhaps the expression of
my countenance betrayed me.  Several held me tight while the others
spoke.  Though I did not understand a word of their language, I could
not fail to comprehend the tenor of their speeches.  Their action, the
intonation of their voices, their angry glances, showed it.  "Our
friends came here, and this man killed them.  We came to look for them,
and by the same arts with which he destroyed them he had endeavoured to
destroy us.  There are the proofs of his guilt.  How else did he become
possessed of those arrows?"  Such, I have no doubt, is a very concise
abridgment of their harangues.

They continued speaking for an hour or more, till they worked each other
up into a perfect fury.  Their eyes gleamed at me with malignant hatred.
They foamed at the mouth; they gnashed their teeth at me.  I thought
they would have torn me limb from limb; but they were reserving me for a
far more refined system of torture.  Having condemned me to death, they
lashed my hands behind me, and my feet together, and placed me in a
sitting position on my bed, there to await my doom, while they all
crouched down round the fire, where, stern and grim, they finished the
repast I had prepared for them in horrible silence.



CHAPTER FOUR.

THE INDIANS PROPOSE TO KILL ME--I AM BOUND READY FOR THE TORTURE--MY
GUESTS FIND THE FIRE-WATER, AND I FIND THE ADVANTAGE OF HAVING ABSTAINED
FROM IT--A FEARFUL CONFERENCE--A TOMAHAWK SENT AT MY HEAD--THE SPIRITS
TAKE EFFECT--I WORK MY LIMBS FREE--SHALL I KILL MY ENEMIES?--I FLY--A
RUN FOR LIFE--MY TERRIBLE JOURNEY--I SINK EXHAUSTED--A FRIENDLY INDIAN--
A KIND RECEPTION--I HAVE CAUSE TO REJOICE THAT I DID NOT REDDEN MY HANDS
WITH BLOOD.

The Indians sat round the fire, devouring with dreadful composure the
remainder of my scanty stock of provisions.  I could not withdraw my
eyes from them.  I felt as if I was in a horrid dream, and yet I was too
certain of the reality of what had occurred to doubt it.  "Even were
they to spare my life, I must starve," I thought to myself, "so it
matters little what they do to me."  They ate up all their own food and
all mine, till nothing remained.  The Red man, although he can go a long
time without food, is a complete glutton when he gets a quantity, and is
utterly regardless of what may be his future exigencies.  When they had
eaten up all the food exposed to view, they began to hunt about the tent
for more.  I watched them anxiously, for I was afraid that they would
get hold of the gunpowder, and still more did I dread their finding the
brandy.  The chief, a villainous-looking old warrior, was the most
active in the search.  He went round and round the tent, poking his
fingers into every package, and sniffing up with his nose, till at last
his keen scent enabled him to discover the existence of the spirit cask,
which I had already broached.  With a grunt of satisfaction, in which
the whole party joined, he dragged it forward, and made signs to his
followers that all should share in the much-prized fire-water.  I
trembled at what would be the consequences.  "They would have treated me
badly enough while they were sober, but with all their evil passions
inflamed by liquor, they will be perfect demons," I thought to myself.
"How wrong I was not to have let the dangerous spirit run out long ago."
How brightly their eyes glared, how eagerly they pressed forward to get
a share of the coveted fire-water, which the old chief was serving out.
I observed that he took care to help himself more largely than he did
anybody else.  Scarcely had they drunk off what was first distributed to
them than they put forward their leathern drinking-cups to ask for more.
The old chief having helped himself, gave some to his followers.  Then
their eyes began to glitter; the calm, sedate bearing of the Indian was
thrown off; they talked rapidly and vehemently, and laughed loudly, and
their fingers began to play with the handles of their tomahawks and
scalping-knives in a way that made my blood run cold.  The red-skins,
when they take a captive for whom for any reason they have an especial
hatred, generally wait two or three days, that they may have the
satisfaction of tormenting him before they commence actually to torture
him to death.  As I watched them, however, I felt that any moment they
might spring up and begin to torture me.

It is difficult to describe the horrible ingenuity they exhibit in
tormenting their victims.  Talk of the virtues of the savage--I do not
believe in them.  He may have some good qualities, but he is generally
the cruel, remorseless monster sin has made him.  Civilisation has its
vices--I know that full well--and bad enough they are, but they are mild
compared to those of the true unadulterated savage, who prides himself
on his art in making his victims writhe under his tortures, and kills
merely that he may boast of the number of those he has slaughtered, and
may exhibit their scalps as trophies of his victories.  It is a
convincing proof to me that the same spirit of evil, influenced by the
most intense hatred to the human race, is going continually about to
incite men to crime.  The Dyak of Borneo, the Fijian of the Pacific, and
the red savage of North America, are much alike; and identically the
same change is wrought in all when the light of truth is brought among
them, and the Christian's faith sheds its softening influence over their
hearts.  Many such ideas as those I have alluded to passed through my
mind as I sat, unable to move, watching the proceedings of the savages,
and I felt with a pang of intense remorse how utterly I had neglected
doing anything towards sending the gospel of salvation in which I
believed and thought I trusted, to them or any other of the heathen
nations of the world.

The red-skins went on talking fast and furiously; then they put out
their hands, and called on the old chief to serve them out further
draughts of their loved fire-water.  He dared not deny them.  He helped
himself, and his eyes began to roll round and round with a frightful
glare, and every now and then they turned upon me, and I thought my last
moment had come; but one of his companions, in a tone which had lost all
respect for him, called off his attention for a moment, and I had a
reprieve.  It was but for a few minutes.  I became once more the subject
of conversation.  Again the cups were filled and quaffed.  I sat as
motionless as a statue.  A sign of fear, or even of consciousness, would
only tend to enrage my captors.  The countenance of the old chief grew
more terrific.  He grasped his deadly tomahawk, and, drawing it from his
belt, lifted his arm to hurl it at my head.  I expected that instant to
feel the horrible crash as the sharp weapon entered my skull.  I,
notwithstanding, fixed my eye steadily on him.  He bent back his arm;
the tomahawk flew across the tent, but the spirits he had swallowed had
unnerved his limbs and confused his sight, and, unconscious apparently
of what he had done, he rolled over on his side.  His companions were
too far gone to take notice of his state.  They rather seemed to rejoice
at it, that now they could help themselves to as much liquor as was to
be got.  As the savages went on drinking, and I saw the condition to
which they were reducing themselves, hope once more revived in my
breast.  I might work my way out of the leather thongs which bound me,
and get clear of my captors; but then where was I to go?  I was again
tolerably strong, and I could run some miles, but in what direction
should I bend my steps?  I could scrape together a little food from that
left by the Indians; but had I any chance of reaching any fort or
settlement in the depth of winter?  I should, too probably, be frozen to
death, or be devoured by wolves, or be scalped by hostile Indians.  The
prospect was not cheering.  Still all risks were far preferable to being
tormented to death by my present captors.  I was beginning to indulge in
a prospect of escaping, remote though it might be, when two more of the
Indians all of a sudden took it into their heads to hurl their hatchets
at me.  It was the last effort of expiring intelligence, and they both
fell back overpowered by liquor.  In a very short time, one by one, the
rest of their companions yielded to its influences, and the whole band
of Indians lay perfectly drunk and helpless at my feet.

No time was to be lost; how long they might continue in that state I
could not tell.  At all events it was important to get a long start of
them.  I found that I might in time gnaw away the thongs which bound my
wrists.  I set to work; they were very tough, but by perseverance I got
through one, and then the other, and my hands were free.  Still I had a
tough thong round my neck, secured to one of the posts of the bed, and
another round my ankles fastened to another below me.  If I attempted to
stoop down, I tightened the thong round my neck, nor could I draw my
feet up to meet my hands.  The savages had taken my own knife from me.
I struggled, and pulled, and tugged, to get my feet clear, till I almost
cut through my ankles to the bone.  At last I thought of the tomahawks
the savages had thrown at me.  I leaned back and felt about behind me.
To my great joy my fingers clutched the handle of one, the blade of
which was sticking deep into the frame of the bed.  I dragged it out,
and very soon cut through the thong round my neck.  To clear my feet was
a work of less trouble: I was free.  I can scarcely describe my
sensations as I stood among my now helpless enemies.  My first thought
was to make preparations for my flight.  I collected all the food of
every description and packed it away in a bag, which I fastened round my
waist.  I took my rifle and filled my powder-flask, with a further
supply in a leathern case which had been Obed's, and all the
percussion-caps, and as much shot as I could carry.  I took the
precaution also of collecting all the bows and arrows, and other
weapons, of the Indians, and of piling them upon the fire, where they
were quickly consumed.  Then I threw over my shoulder my buffalo-skin
coat, and stood prepared for flight.  "Whither shall I fly?  How can I
escape from my swift-heeled enemies with all this weight of things to
carry?  Need I fly?"  A dreadful thought came into my head.  "They
intended to kill me.  There they lie utterly helpless.  A few
well-directed blows from one of their own tomahawks which they hurled at
my head, and not one of them can harm me more.  I may dispose of them as
I disposed of their two brethren who tried to kill me.  I have a right
to do so.  Surely I have a right to destroy them."  If I did not say, I
thought all these things.  Whence did the suggestion come?  "Oh, may I
be guided to do what is right," I mentally ejaculated.  I gazed at the
helpless beings scattered around.  "They are human.  `Forgive us our
trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us.'  What does that
mean?"  I asked myself.  "Oh, no, I dare not injure them.  Never mind
what the rough backwoodsman would say to my conduct.  I am sure it is
braver to refrain than to kill.  Certainly, as a Christian, I cannot
kill them--I dare not.  To His guidance and protection who formed the
world and all living creatures, I commit myself."  With these words, not
daring to look behind me, I rushed from the tent.

I took a westerly course, for I thought that I should more likely fall
in with Obed in that direction, should he have reached a fort in safety,
and succeeded in obtaining help to come and rescue me.  On I went as
fast as I could move, but my limbs were stiff, and the weight I carried
was considerable.  I tried to turn my thoughts from the savages, but I
could not help calculating how long they might continue in their state
of stupor.  There was still some brandy left in the cask; when they
recovered their senses, rather than pursue me they might be tempted to
drink again.  It was a question which was the strongest passion, whether
the love of drink or the desire for revenge would prevail.  On I went,
the snow was now tolerably hard, so I made pretty good progress, yet the
red-skins would go twice as fast when once they began to pursue me.

I went a mile before I stopped.  Then, on reaching an elevation, whence
I could have a clear view over the white glittering plain, I looked back
at the spot where I had spent so many days and nights of pain and
suffering, and where also I owned that I had been most mercifully
preserved from so many dangers.  The tent stood where it had been for
many months, the smoke was curling out of the top into the calm sky, and
all around looked so unchanged that I could scarcely persuade myself
that in the interior was collected a band of malignant foes, who would
rejoice in my destruction.  I looked but a few seconds, and then away I
went on my course.  I walked on, sometimes breaking into a run where the
snow was harder and would allow it, till sunset, and then the stars came
out brightly in the firmament of heaven, and I was able to steer my
course with greater certainty even than in the daytime.  I could not
think very much; but I did feel thankful that I had not yielded to the
temptation of drinking the spirits myself, when I had felt low and
almost hopeless.  Had I done so, I should have destroyed the very means
presented for my deliverance.  I got over the plain with tolerable ease,
for the sun had at times melted the snow, which when it froze again had
become hard and rough.  As I ran on, however, I was trying to devise
some plan by which the Indians might be turned off my track.  To
obliterate it, however, was hopeless, unless a heavy fall of snow should
come on, and even then the cunning rascals, by scraping away the snow at
intervals, were very likely to find me out.

It was nearly midnight, I calculated, when I felt that I must stop to
rest and take some food.  I sat down on what I took to be a mound of
earth covered with snow.  I ate a handful of rice and a little biscuit,
and chewed a piece of wolf's flesh, and felt somewhat revived.  I should
have liked to have gone to sleep, but I dared not, even for a moment.
It would have been, had I given way to the feeling, the sleep of death.
I scarcely know why, but as I sat on the heap I struck the butt-end of
my rifle into the snow; it gave way.  I found there was something
beneath it.  With eager haste, for I remembered that every moment was
precious, I threw off the snow.  The body of a man lay beneath.  A
dreadful sensation came over me.  It must be that of Obed, slaughtered,
perhaps, on his way to succour me; the idea almost overcame me; I
resisted, however, the feeling of despair, and roused myself up.  I
threw off more of the snow; I could see, by the faint light of the moon,
that little more than a skeleton remained; the dress, however, was
there; it was that of a backwoodsman.  With horrible eagerness, yet with
loathing, I examined the tattered clothes.  I felt sure that they where
those Obed had worn.  In my search my hand struck against something; I
took it up, it was an old silver watch; such a one Obed had not got, but
often had I seen it in the hands of his brother Joab.

Poor Joab, then, had been killed on the first attack of the red-skins.
What had become of the rest of the party?  I dreaded lest I should find
their remains as I had that of Joab.  Taking the watch, I secured it
about me to restore to his family should I ever meet them.  I hunted
about for his rifle; it was nowhere to be found.  It had been carried
off, I concluded, by the Indians.  With a heavy heart I ran on, after my
brief rest, expecting every instant to come on more of the remains of my
old friends, but I saw no indications of them, and there was no time to
carry on the search.

I went on after this for some time without halting even for a moment.  I
had now been several hours on foot.  Had I enjoyed my usual strength,
such as I possessed before being wounded, I should have made light of
the fatigue.  I was, however, again obliged to sit down.  I reckoned on
having a long start of the red-skins.  I hoped to retain my strength so
as to redouble my speed when I thought they would be pressing after me.
I had deprived them of their arms, and they had no food; so that, could
I contrive to keep beyond their reach for two or three days, they must
be delayed to obtain it, if they attempted to follow me.  Unless also
their lodges were in the neighbourhood, and they could go and get arms,
I possessed another very great advantage over them.  Of course if
pursued I would not hesitate for a moment about shooting them down.
These ideas occurred to me as I ran on, and I began to feel that my case
was not so hopeless as I at first considered it.  My great dread was of
the wolves.  As yet I had not heard any of those cries which make night
hideous in the desert regions; but I knew that if a pack once scented me
out and gave chase, I should have little chance of escaping them, unless
I could find a tree, up which I might climb out of their way.

I ran on all night, keeping nearly due west, and daylight found me
pursuing my way with unflagging speed.  At last I struck what I took to
be a branch of the Nebraska river.  A wood was not far-off on the other
side.  "I'll try if a white man cannot manage to deceive the acuteness
even of a red-skin," I thought to myself.  The wind had blown the snow
completely off the ice on the river.  I crossed the river and made
towards the wood.  I stirred up the snow in a way which I knew would
puzzle the Indians, and then treading backwards on my footmarks, I once
more reached the river.

Then away I went up the stream over the smooth ice as hard as I could
run.  Now and then I tumbled down, but I quickly picked myself up again,
and was off as fast as ever.  When a man believes that a body of
red-skins or a pack of wolves are at his heels, he is likely to run
pretty fast.  I sat down once for breakfast for five minutes, and once
at noon for dinner of raw rice and wolves' ribs, and away I went again.
At last I found that the river was making so many bends that it would be
necessary to land, which I did on the north shore.  Night came on, but I
did not relax my speed; the stars came out and guided me as before.  I
was beginning, however, to feel much distressed.  I bore up as well as I
could, but I fancied that I could not continue my course much beyond the
morning, even if I could go through the night.  I came to some bushes
growing above the snow; they would afford me shelter from the wind, and
I might, I thought, venture to rest for half an hour or so.  I should
have wished to light a fire, but I dared not, lest the smoke might
betray me.

I sat down and began searching in my bag for some food, when a distant
and faint cry struck my ear.  I listened; again I heard it.  I knew too
well what it was.  The cry of a pack of wolves.  Could they have gained
scent of me and be following in my rack?  The bare thought of such a
thing made me start up, and again set forth at full speed.  For what I
knew to the contrary, I had both wolves and Indians following me.  The
wolves were gaining on me, that was certain.  I could distinguish the
yelps and barks through the still midnight.  They might yet be some way
off.  I tried to pierce through the gloom ahead in the hopes of seeing
some clump of trees rising out of the snowy plain in which I might take
shelter.  On I ran.  It, at all events, would not do to stay where I
was.  The sound of those horrid yelps, if anything had been required to
make me exert myself would have added fleetness to my feet.  I longed
for day; I thought they would be less likely to attack me.  For a whole
hour I ran on, I believe.  It seemed more like three or four with those
dreadful sounds ringing in my ears.  I thought they were coming nearer
and nearer.  At last I saw some object rising up before me in the
darkness.  It might be a distant hill, or it might be the outline of the
wished-for wood.

"But if I succeed in reaching it and climbing a tree, will not the delay
enable the Indians to overtake me?"  I thought.  "I will keep outside
the wood till the near approach of the brutes compels me to climb a tree
to get out of their way."  I kept to this resolution.  It proved to be a
wood that I had seen.  I skirted it as I continued my course.  All the
time I kept listening with a feeling of horror to the hideous chorus of
the wolves.

Suddenly I was conscious that the sounds were growing fainter.  In
another twenty minutes I was certain of it.  They were in pursuit of
some wild beast or other, perhaps of some unfortunate Indian traversing
the prairie.  How thankful I felt when the sounds altogether ceased.
This circumstance gave me fresh courage.  I pursued my course steadily
onward.  I stopped even five minutes to rest and take a little food.
The sun rose, still I was going on, but I began to feel that nature
would not hold out much longer.  I felt a dizziness in my eyes, and my
knees began to tremble, and I drew my breath with difficulty.  I was
again in a vast plain.  The sun was behind me; I followed my own shadow.
Sometimes I could distinguish nothing before me, then the giddiness
went away.

Suddenly, as I looked up, I saw before me eight or ten figures moving in
a line across my path.  Could they be the Pawnees who had lost my track,
and were thus making a circuit in the expectation of coming on it?  If
they were, I would defend myself to the last.  I felt for my rifle, and
tried to get it ready to fire, but I had miscalculated my strength.  The
agitation was too much for me; I stumbled blindly forward a few paces,
and then sank down helplessly in the snow.  I tried to rise--to move--I
could not, so I gave myself up for lost, and prepared for death.  I was
not afraid, I was not unhappy; indeed, I had no very acute feelings
whatever, and very soon lost all consciousness.  I was aroused by a
human voice.

"Why, stranger, where have you dropped from?  You seem to be in a sad
plight!"

I looked up to discover whence the voice came, and there, instead of a
white face, as I expected, I saw a tall Indian, as he seemed by his
dress, though perhaps he was rather fairer than his people usually are,
bending over me.  I could not reply, but, with a sort of hysterical
laugh, I made signs that I had come from the eastward, and that some one
was in pursuit of me.

"Well, never mind talking now; we must first set you on your feet
again," he said in a kind voice.  "My companions will be here presently.
You want food and rest, and then you can tell us what has happened."

"Food, food," I whispered.

"Yes, poor fellow, you shall have it," he answered, in a tone of
commiseration, taking from his wallet some pemmican, which I ate with a
keen relish.

The food revived me, and I felt much better by the time my new friend's
companions came up.  They stood round me while I continued eating, with
looks of pity and wonder on their expressive countenances.  I saw by
their dress and appearance that they were Ottoes, a tribe dwelling to
the south of the Nebraska, and always friendly to the whites.  My friend
was the only one who could speak English, which he did perfectly.  He
saw me examining his countenance.

"I am half an Englishman," he observed.  "I am called John Pipestick.
My father came from Kent, in the old country, I have often heard him
say; the garden of England he called it.  A poor place for buffaloes and
wild turkeys, I should think, so it would not suit me.  He sometimes
talked of going to have a look at the hop fields and a taste of its ale,
but he was killed by the Pawnees, who carried of his scalp.  I've not
left him unavenged, though.  My mother was a red-skin, and belonged to
this tribe, and I have no wish to quit them.  But come, friend, you have
done eating, and a man who can eat is not in a very bad way.  Lean on
us, and we will take you to our tents.  They are not more than three
miles off."

Supported in the arms of the kind Ottoes, I walked along with tolerable
ease.  They were very fine fellows.  One was fully six feet six inches
in height, and proportionably strong limbed.  The rest were not much his
inferiors.  John Pipestick was shorter, but very strong.  As I walked
along I found my tongue loosed, and I gave a succinct account of what
had occurred.  John interpreted.  The Indians pricked up their ears, and
had an animated discussion among themselves.  We reached at length what
is called a cedar swamp in the States.  The cedar trees form a dense,
tangled thicket, perfectly impervious to the wind, and in winter, when
the moist ground is frozen hard below, such a locality is perfectly
healthy.  Woe betide the unfortunate wretch who has to take up his
quarters within one in the summer time, when mosquitoes and rattlesnakes
abound.  He will wish himself well out of it before the morning.

Drawing aside a few boughs, the Ottoes led the way by a narrow path
towards the centre of the thicket, and we soon found ourselves in an
open space, in which were pitched a couple of tents.  Several women and
three or four men came out to greet us, and warmly shook my hands.  I
felt truly, as John Pipestick had called me, a brother among them.  They
placed me in a tent before a fire, and gave me warm food, and chafed my
limbs, and then covered me up with a buffalo robe.  I quickly fell
asleep, and never have I slept so soundly in my life, or with a sense of
more perfect security.  At last I awoke; I had not stirred for fourteen
hours.  It was night, but the Indians were sitting up round the fire
cleaning their arms.  They seemed highly pleased when I awoke.

"We have been waiting for you to start on an expedition," exclaimed John
Pipestick.  "How do you feel?  Are you able, think you, to walk?"

I got up and stretched my limbs.  They felt a little stiff, and pained
me slightly, but I thought, I said, that exercise would take that off.

"No fear then," said John; "take some food.  Our people are anxious to
start.  I'll tell you all about it as we go along."

I lost no time in putting on my moccasins and in getting ready for a
start, after I had partaken of some pemmican and a warm broth, of which
a wild turkey formed the chief ingredient.  I found a party of ten
Indians besides Pipestick, all armed with rifles, besides hatchets and
knives, and some had likewise bows and quivers of arrows at their backs.
In their buffalo-skin coats they looked very like a troop of bears.
The remainder of the party were preparing to follow with a light wagon,
in which they carried their tents and provisions, and four shaggy little
ponies to drag it.  I saw that we were taking an easterly course.  I
asked where we were going.

"To your tent," was the answer.

"But the Pawnees will have gone," I remarked.

"No fear of that while any liquor remains," he observed.

I knew that I might as well have spoken to the winds as have attempted
to dissuade my wild friends from attacking their enemies.  Still I tried
to explain my view of the case.  John seemed much struck by what I said.
He observed that he had never seen it in that light before.  He had
been taught to do good to your friends, but to injure your enemies to
the utmost of your power.  He had no notion that such was not the
Christian's creed.  His father was a Christian; so was he--not that he
knew much about religion.  That was all very well for people who lived
in towns.  I tried to show him that all men had souls; that one Saviour
died for all; that all would have to stand before the judgment-seat of
God; and that therefore religious faith and religious practice were
essential for all.

Such was one of the many subjects of our conversation which beguiled our
way.  My long solitude had made me reflect and remember many things I
had before forgotten, and my late merciful escape had not been without
its effects in turning my heart to my Maker.  I wish that I could say
that, like the compass, it has ever since kept true to the pole.  I did
not feel, however, that I was making very deep impression on my
auditors.  We pushed on, not as fast as I had come, but still at a very
rapid rate; and if I at all showed signs of flagging, two of the huge
Indians would lift me up by the shoulders and help me along, scarcely
allowing my feet to touch the ground.  We camped in a wood for a short
time, making an arbour with fir branches to keep off the cold, and then
on we went.  My heart beat quick as, soon after daylight, we approached
the height whence we could look down, I knew, on my tent.  We reached
the spot--the one where I had been standing when I saw the Pawnees
coming to destroy me.  I looked eagerly for the tent.  It was no longer
there, nor was there a sign of living beings near.  Two scouts went down
to examine all the places of concealment near.  After a time they signed
to us to approach.  We hurried down.  There lay the remains of the tent,
almost burned to pieces, and among a confused mass of cinders and
various articles which the tent had contained, lay scattered about the
blackened and mangled remains of my late captors.

"Verily let not man attempt to avenge himself," I repeated.  "Here is a
proof of those solemn words, `Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will
repay.'"



CHAPTER FIVE.

I HAVE CAUSE TO REJOICE THAT I DID NOT AVENGE MYSELF--MY GREAT MEDICINE
WORK--I RISE IN THE ESTIMATION OF MY NEW FRIENDS--AN INDIAN ENCAMPMENT--
AM OFFERED A WIFE, BUT COMPELLED TO DECLINE THE HONOUR--JOHN PIPESTICK--
SURROUNDED BY ENEMIES--A FIERCE ATTACK--WE FIGHT WITH DESPERATION, AND
RESOLVE TO DIE LIKE BRAVE MEN.

The disappointment of my Ottoe friends was very considerable when they
found all their enemies killed, and not even a scalp remaining to carry
off as a trophy; besides which, a large portion of the property
contained in the tent had been destroyed.  There was still enough,
however, to be looked upon as a valuable prize by the red-skins, and I
accordingly begged them to appropriate it.  This they, without any show
of reluctance, did, and immediately set to work to hollow out a large
hole under the snow where they might bury it.  How thankful I felt that
my hand had refrained from slaughtering those poor wretches when they
lay in my power.

As I considered the subject, I had no doubt of the cause of the
catastrophe.  After the savages had consumed the cask of spirits they
had fallen on the barrel of gunpowder, probably hoping that it might
contain more of their favourite fire-water.  They were very likely
smoking at the time, and perhaps all bending round the cask in their
eagerness to get some of its contents.  A spark from one of their pipes
must in an instant have finished their business.  I cannot say that I
indulged in any sentimental grief at what had occurred.  It was
vexatious to lose so many things which might have been of use, but the
most serious loss was that of the gunpowder.  Fortunately, however, I
had a good supply, which would last for some time.  I never was addicted
to burning gunpowder uselessly.

The warriors proposed to await the arrival of the rest of the party
where we were, but I entreated them to return to meet their friends.  I
pointed out to them that perhaps other bands of Pawnees might be moving
about--probably, as I found was the case, suffering from hunger; and
that first their wives and those with them, and then we ourselves, might
be overpowered.  John Pipestick translated what I said, and finally they
were persuaded to follow my advice.  They laughed very much when I
proposed to bury the remains of the dead men, and replied that it would
be just as well to let the wolves perform that office, which in the
course of another night they certainly would do.  They found quite
enough labour, indeed, in concealing the remains of my property.  After
they had dug the hole they deposited all the articles within, and then
built up a pile of logs over it, which even an inquisitive bear would
have had some difficulty in pulling to pieces.

My chief anxiety was now about Obed.  I got the Ottoes to describe to me
exactly the position of their village, about a hundred miles to the
south-east of where we then were.  Then I took one of the sticks which
had served me for a crutch, and making a split in one end, I stuck the
other deep into the ground.  On a leaf which I tore from my pocket-book,
I wrote a brief account of what had occurred and where I was going, and
putting it into the cleft of the stick, bound the whole securely up.
The Ottoes looked on with intense wonder at my proceedings, till John
told them I was performing a great medicine work, which satisfied them.

Having thus done my best to enable Obed to join me, I set off with my
friends to return to their camp.  I paused again for an instant when I
reached the summit of the hill, to take what I hoped might be a farewell
look at the place which had been the scene of so much suffering to me,
and lately that of so dreadful a catastrophe.  A small black patch on
the dazzling white plain alone was perceptible to mark the spot.  I
turned from the contemplation of the melancholy scene, and hastened
after my friends.  I found them moving very leisurely along.  I urged
John to persuade them to go faster.  I could not cast from my mind the
notion that more parties of Pawnees, Dacotahs, or other hostile tribes
might be about, driven out by hunger to forage in the neighbourhood, and
were very likely to attack them.  I had, therefore, what I might have
called a presentiment that my friends were in danger.  I am not
generally influenced much by such sensations.  Certainly I was more
liable to be so at the present moment than at any other.  I do not deny
the existence of such an influence, but still I cannot help thinking
that it is caused by our reason, which tells us that such a thing is
likely to happen.  Sometimes it does happen, but often probably we find
that we are mistaken.  My red friends had an idea that the stick I had
placed in the ground had something to do with the matter, and that I was
positively informed of what was about to occur, so hurried on faster
than I found agreeable.

My feet had become very sore from my previous exercise, and whenever we
came to soft places they sunk into the snow, the thick cake of ice above
cutting my ankles almost to the bone.  Sometimes I felt that I must
stop, but I was anxious to help my new friends, and I knew that it would
never do even to appear to flag on such an occasion.  I had won their
good opinion by the powers of endurance I had hitherto exhibited.  They
especially admired me for killing the two Pawnees, and for escaping from
their comrades; though they could not understand why I had not destroyed
the whole gang when I had the power of doing so, and of adorning my belt
with their scalps.  I saw, therefore, that it would be very
disadvantageous to me to run any risk of being lowered in their
estimation.  John Pipestick and one of the Indians remained with me,
while the others went on faster ahead; but, exerting myself to the
utmost, we pushed on to overtake them.  Besides the idea which I had
originated that their friends might be attacked, hunger induced them to
move at a rapid rate; for they had brought but a scanty supply of
provisions with them, and they had no means of cooking the rice found in
the tent.  We were passing a wood when I stopped my companions, for my
eye had fallen on several prairie-fowls sitting on the boughs of one of
the outer trees a little way off.

"We should have no chance of hitting at this distance," said John
Pipestick.

"Stay then, I will try what my rifle can do," I answered; and creeping
carefully up till I got them within easy range, I settled in my mind
which bird I should fire at with my first, and which with my second
barrel.  I let fly; down tumbled a bird, and the next barrel was even
more fortunate than the first, for two birds were brought to the ground.
Both my companions warmly expressed their delight.  I had established
my fame as a first-rate shot, and had, moreover, provided the whole
party with a meal.  Knowing how welcome we should be, my companions
helping me along, we pushed on, and at length overtook our friends,
preparing to camp for half an hour or so in the thicket, that they might
be the better able afterwards to pursue their course.

I need not say that the game I brought was thankfully welcomed, and very
quickly cooked and consumed.  I found that the Indians were growing
anxious at not by this time meeting with the rest of their party, and
they were about, while resting, to hold a consultation as to what course
to pursue.  We were soon again in motion; night or day made no
difference to us.  On we pushed.  It was about noon when, on reaching a
height, we saw a thin light smoke curling up into the pure, intense blue
sky, from the bottom of a pine-clad ravine below us.  All appeared to
rest in perfect peace and quietness, and I began to be ashamed of my
nervous anxieties.  I was greatly afraid that I should lose my influence
with my friends, and as my predictions, or rather warnings, had not been
verified, I should in future be looked on as a false prophet.

"There are our friends, most probably," said John Pipestick; "but we
don't proceed as carelessly as you people from the East are apt to do.
We shall send out scouts and approach cautiously, lest our enemies
devise some means to destroy us.  Such a thing has been done before now.
Those left in an encampment while the rest have been out hunting have
been attacked and slaughtered, while their enemies have taken possession
of their tents, and dressed and painted themselves like those they have
killed.  There they have remained till the hunting-party have
unsuspiciously returned, perhaps a few at a time, and thus all in detail
have fallen victims.  It was a clever trick, but we should deserve to
die if we allowed it to be repeated on us."

While John was speaking, three of our party, making a wide circuit,
crept cautiously forward towards the edge of the ravine, so that they
might look down and see what was going on below.  We, meantime, lay down
behind some bushes so as to be completely concealed, the chief only
keeping watch, that he might direct us to act according to
circumstances.  I could not help admiring their caution, though it was
very tiresome to wait in the cold instead of being within their warm
tents.  At last the chief gave the sign for us to proceed.  I started
up, prepared to meet the enemy I expected.  We advanced towards the edge
of the ravine and began to descend, when we caught sight of the tents
pitched at the bottom of it, the smoke issuing forth from the apertures
in their summits.  I inquired of John Pipestick if all was right.

"Yes, all right," he answered; "no enemies have come; they may perhaps
though; but we shall not remain here many hours."

The scene was very different from any I had, for many weeks, set eyes
on.  By the side of what I knew was a stream were three tents.  Each was
formed of some eighteen or twenty long, slender rods, the butt-end stuck
in the ground, in a circle, and the tops bent over to meet each other,
forming the framework of the habitation.  Over this was stretched a
covering of buffalo-skins, very neatly sewed together with thin strips
of leather, and secured so firmly at the foot with pegs, that it was as
tight as a drum, and capable of throwing off any amount of rain, or the
snow melting from the heat within.  The hides, being tanned white, had a
very neat and tent-like look.  I cannot say much for the cleanliness
inside, but I have been compelled in my wanderings to put up in dirtier
places, and that is all I can say in their favour.

These habitations are much more substantial than the wigwams of the
Canadian Indians, which are formed in a conical shape by uniting at the
top a dozen straight poles stuck in a circle in the ground, and by
covering them thickly with birch-bark.  In both cases a hole is left at
the top to serve as a chimney.  Inside the tents of my present friends
the ground was spread with mats all round the edges, except in the
centre, where a bare spot was left for the fire-place.  Many of the
tribes differ in the way of forming their cooking-place, and often the
only means of ascertaining whether friends or foes have encamped on the
spot, is by an examination of the place where they have lit their fires.
The cots for the babies, and the pots and pans, and bows and arrows,
and fishing-spears, and buffalo tongues, and bears' hams, with
numberless other articles, are hung up to the tent rods, and often
garnish them rather oddly.

As we approached the tents, men, women, and children hurried out to meet
us, and welcomed us warmly, all eager to hear our adventures.  But
Indians are not addicted to rattling out news, as is our habit in the
old country, so they had to wait till various ceremonies were first gone
through.

The old chief invited me into his tent, an honour John advised me not to
refuse, and then having sat down before his fire, and taken off my outer
coat and my torn moccasins, his women-kind hooked out of a huge pot
hanging from the centre over the fire, a lump of bear's flesh, and
several other dainties, the exact nature of which I could not at first
learn.  Curiosity prompted me to inquire, by holding up a piece of the
meat between my thumb and fingers, when a respectable old dame, whom I
took to be his spouse, replied by a "_bow-wow-wow_," by which I guessed
rightly that it was a bit of a young puppy.

A few days afterwards a deep "bow-wow-wow" showed me that I was dining
off an older animal of the same species.  I cannot say that I had any
repugnance to the meat, for after living on wolves' flesh for so long it
was to me a delicate luxury.  I objected rather to the quantity
than the quality of the food placed before me, for the old
chief--_Waggum-winne-beg_ was his name, at least it sounded like that--
wishing to do me unusual honour, gave me a double allowance each time he
stuck his stick into the pot.  I expressed my gratitude as well as I
could, and pointed first to my chest and then to my throat, to show him
that I thought the food must have got thus high; but he only laughed,
and kept on helping me as before.  At last I stuck a piece in my mouth,
and pretended that I could not get it down further; but he was too good
an anatomist to be so taken in, and offered to get a ramrod to help me
down with it.

"Now, old fellow," said I, getting savage, "it may be a very good joke
to you; but more I will not eat, and that's enough."

Luckily John Pipestick coming in, explained that though Englishmen eat
as much as any red-skins, they were in the habit of taking several
moderate meals during every day throughout the year, and that the Indian
fashion of one day gormandising, and for many days starving, would not
suit them.  I was not sorry to find that my friends were almost as much
tired as I was, and that they would remain another whole day to rest.

During the day, however, I received a piece of information from John
Pipestick, which somewhat discomposed me.  I found that the old chief,
my host Waggum-winne-beg, proposed bestowing on me one of his daughters
to become my wife.  Now, although I had no dislike to the notion of
matrimony, I had a decided preference for a wife of my own colour and
style of education.  Miss Waggum-winne-beg was a very charming young
lady, I had no doubt, and could dress a puppy-dog to perfection, and
could manufacture moccasins unsurpassed by those of any other young
damsel in the tribe, and embroider with coloured grass, or make mats of
great beauty; indeed, I cannot enumerate all her accomplishments and
attractions.  Still she had not won my heart, and indeed, a wife,
whether white, or red, or black, would have been very inconvenient while
I was leading my present wandering style of life.  I gave this as the
best reason I could think of for not accepting my host's generous offer;
but he laughed at my scruples, and replied that I should find a wife
very useful, as she could work for me, and carry my gun and baggage of
every description; that she would also cook my food and make my
moccasins and tent covering, and weave fringe for my leggings and other
garments, and manufacture the mats and various requisite utensils.
Indeed it would be difficult to find, in any part of the world, so
accomplished a young lady, or one more industrious and obedient; that I
might always beat her as much as I liked, if I found her either idle or
disobedient.

I begged Pipestick to explain that, however good the customs of the
red-skins were--a point I did not wish then to dispute--those of the
English differed from them; that there were a few idle, lazy,
good-for-nothing fellows in England, among the chiefs, who looked out
for wives with fortunes, and among the lower classes, who made their
wives work for them, but it was the pride and endeavour of all true
braves to secure the means of supporting their wives, either through
inheriting a fortune from their ancestors, or by the exertion of their
own strength and talents, and that this latter way was considered the
most honourable.  This was the method I proposed to follow, and before I
could accept the peerless daughter of the chief, I must procure the
means of supporting her.  Pipestick did not exactly understand the
reasons I gave for declining the chief's offer, but he explained them as
well as he could.  I was rather thunder-struck when the chief remarked
that, though he approved of them highly, he would waive all such
arrangements in my case, and that he would supply his daughter with
ample goods and chattels for our use.  To this I could only reply that I
was highly flattered by his preference, but that it was against my
medicine to avail myself of his offer; that I was an Ottoe at heart;
that I loved the Ottoes, and would fight for the Ottoes, and that the
time might come when I should be an Ottoe indeed; but that, at present,
my medicine did not show me how that was to be accomplished.

The name of the young lady, the subject of this long conversation, was,
I found, the "Firefly"; and certainly, as I watched her light figure,
decked with red feathers and garments with red trimmings, I thought she
was very appropriately so called; at the same time, I did not for one
moment indulge the base idea of accepting the chief's offer.  My earnest
desire was to find my way back, as soon as possible, to the society of
civilised men.  I was heartily glad, then, when, once more, our tents
were struck, and we continued our journey.  As we travelled with women,
children, and a wagon, our progress was very much slower than when we
had gone alone.  Often it was hard work getting the wagon through the
snow.  Generally the poor women had to drag it; and I rather scandalised
the red warriors by putting my shoulder very frequently to the wheel and
by pushing on behind.  Pipestick said that it was considered very
derogatory to the dignity of a warrior.  I said that I thought it might
be disagreeable to the inclinations of an idle rascal; but that chiefs
in my country never let their wives do any hard work at all, and that I
could not bear to stalk on ahead with only my rifle at my back, while
the poor creatures were toiling away in that fashion.  I suppose
Pipestick translated my remarks correctly, for the chiefs tossed their
heads and afterwards had a very long talk about the matter.  I saw that
they began to look on me as a sad republican, and to suspect that I
purposed introducing mutiny into their camp.

At last we reached the spot where I had spent so many weeks of suffering
and anxiety.  Scarcely a particle of the remains of the Indians were to
be seen, but a few scattered bones and torn bits of garments.  The
things hidden by the Ottoes were untouched, so they dug them up, and I
having added a few words to the paper in my medicine stick, as I called
it, we proceeded on our way.  We encamped four or five miles off that
night, and the next day made good very nearly fifteen miles.  The tents
were pitched on the lee side of a wood, where there was but little snow,
and the air was comparatively warm.  All hands, that is to say the women
and children, were soon employed in gathering sticks for our fires, and
in digging up hickory nuts.  It was the chief occupation of the men in
the evening, as they sat round the fire, to crack and chew these nuts:
the taste indeed was pleasant.  The camp was not left altogether without
some fortification.  The wagon was placed in front, and some logs of
half rotten timber were dragged out, and served to fill up the space
left open in the little nook in which the tents were ensconced.

John Pipestick had a tent of his own, but he came to the old chiefs
tent, where I had been asked to take up my abode, to act as interpreter.
We sat up till a late hour, cracking nuts and telling very long-winded
stories, which, as Pipestick occasionally interpreted them for my
benefit, took up a double portion of time, and were not especially
interesting.  I was not sorry, at last, to find myself comfortably
covered up by a pile of buffalo-skins, with the prospect of a sound
sleep till daylight.

How long I had slept I do not know, when I was awoke by the barking of
one of the dogs, then by another and another, till the whole tribe were
in full yelp, in every key, from full bass to double treble.  The old
chief sprang off his couch, so did I, and as we rushed out of the tent,
we found all the warriors standing on the alert, and with their rifles
in their hands, peering out into the darkness.  Two or three advanced
cautiously into the wood, the dogs following at their heels yelping
furiously, till they were summoned back by those in the camp.  I tried
to discover the cause of the alarm, but could discover nothing over the
white plain spread out before us.  If there were enemies, they were in
the wood; but to see them was impossible.  We waited for the return of
the scouts.  There was a complete silence: the howl of the wolves had
ceased; not a night-bird disturbed the quiet of the night.  Suddenly a
piercing, terror-inspiring, unearthly shriek was heard ringing through
the quiet wood.  Directly afterwards the feet of one of the scouts, as
we supposed, were heard rushing through the wood.  It was one of our
companions.  The whirl of a dozen tomahawks flying after him showed how
closely he was pursued, as he broke into the encampment, crying out,
"The enemy are upon us, the enemy are upon us!"  What made the suspense
more trying was, that not a foe could be seen.  We had no doubt that
they were there in strong force, and that the two other scouts had been
surprised and slaughtered by them.  Probably the wood swarmed with them,
yet I did not see a sign of fear among any of my friends.  Old
Waggum-winne-beg was in his element, and he was ably seconded by John
Pipestick.  To send any more scouts into the wood would have been
perfect madness; so, each man sheltering himself as best he could behind
trees and bushes, and logs of fallen timbers, we waited in silence for
the attack.  Some time passed away.

"I wonder if it is a false alarm," thought I.  "Still, if it is so, what
has become of the scouts?"  I whispered to Pipestick that I thought it
might be a mistake.

"Not at all," was the answer; "wait a bit.  It you ever shot well, shoot
well now, if you care for your scalp."

The advice had scarcely been given, when there arose a sound close to
us, more hideous and terrific than I ever before heard in my life.  The
red-skin's war-whoop was heard above all.  I turned my head for an
instant to the east.  The first faint streaks of dawn were appearing in
the sky.  Through the pale light thus afforded I could see a number of
dark forms flitting about among the trees, while they kept up a
continued discharge of arrows and darts.  Now and then a musket-ball
came whizzing by us; but it was very evident that the greater number of
our assailants were armed only with bows and arrows; at the same time
there could be no doubt that they very far outnumbered us.  This would
prove of serious consequence should they come to close quarters.

Red-skins, however, are not fond of close quarters, unless they can take
an enemy by surprise, which our dogs and scouts had prevented them doing
in our case.  I do not think it is fair to call them cowards.  Their
notions are altogether different to ours, and they consider stratagem
and deceit as the chief art of warfare.  They have no notion of risking
their own lives, if they can by any other way destroy their enemies, and
they consider white men as committing the height of folly when they
stand up and exchange shots with similar weapons in a duel.  I don't
know that they are far wrong.

Our assailants, having tried to shake our nerves by their shrieks and
showers of arrows, appeared to retire, and again the whole wood was
wrapped in perfect silence.  It was but of short continuation.  Once
more those unearthly shrieks and cries broke forth, and this time they
were echoed by our people, who kept their muskets ready, and the moment
an enemy appeared flitting from one tree to another, did not fail to
fire--with what effect I had not time to observe.  I felt that I was
bound, on every account, to take an active part in the fight, and
kneeling down behind a log of timber, I loaded and fired as rapidly as I
could, whenever my eye caught sight of the dusky form of an Indian
warrior.  I did not often miss, but I suspected that I inflicted more
wounds on the limbs than on the bodies of our enemies.

"Who are they, think you?"  I asked of Pipestick, who was at my side.

"Dacotahs or Pawnees," he answered.  "They have had scouts on our trail
for some time probably.  When they discovered that their friends were
destroyed, they thought that we had done the deed, and have come in
force resolved to be revenged."

It appeared to me that we might as well have tried to shoot down all the
trees in the wood, as to destroy our enemies.  They swarmed round us
like hornets, seemingly resolved, as John observed, to cut us off to a
man.  I turned my eye to the right; a band was just emerging on that
side from the wood, and the same minute I saw another coming out on the
left, in a long line, evidently for the purpose of surrounding us.  I
picked off two or three fellows as they flew over the snow, but so rapid
and eccentric were their movements, that it was no easy matter to get a
fair shot at them, especially as all the time we were assailed with
showers of arrows.  Some were sent from too great a distance to do us
much harm; but at the same time they not a little distracted us.  Others
again had more deadly effect.  Some of our people were struck down; two
were killed outright, the arrows passing right through their bodies;
while several were more or less injured.  I, happily, had hitherto
escaped unhurt, and so had Pipestick; but the old chief was wounded in
the arm, and one of the poor little children was killed, in spite of the
protection its mother attempted to afford it.  This made me feel more
bitter than anything else, and yet such an incident is but a too common
consequence of warfare.

The old chief proved himself well worthy of the dignity bestowed on him.
By word and gesture he animated his people to fight bravely, and to
resist to the last; and every time they raised one of their war-whoops,
he led the chorus, which these returned with no less vehemence.  Still,
as I considered the matter, I began to apprehend that we were completely
in the power of our vindictive enemies.  While we were inside our
entrenchments, they knew that it was more prudent not to come to the
hand-to-hand encounter; but if we attempted to move onward, we should be
instantly surrounded and cut down.  The Dacotahs had enough men to keep
watch and watch, and to tire us out.  Had we been a party of men alone,
we might have cut our way through them; but, of course, with the women
and children that was impossible.  As long as the powder lasted we might
keep them at bay; and thus all we could do was to hold out bravely, and
to hope that some turn might occur in our favour.

The cold grey dawn was just breaking, when with shrieks and whoops
louder, more terrific than ever, numbers of the savages rushed out of
the wood, closely pressing round us.  To count how many there were was
impossible, for they flew here and there, and sprang about in a most
wonderful way, and then on they came in a body towards us.  Several of
our people were knocked over, and as I saw the hideous fellows
flourishing their tomahawks and scalping-knives, I began to feel a most
painful sensation round the top of my head.  The old chief stood boldly
at his post, picking off his enemies as they drew near, while John
Pipestick did no dishonour to his father's land or the men of Kent, I
did my best to reduce the number of our foes, but it was of little
avail, and in another instant we were engaged, with overwhelming
numbers, in a desperate hand-to-hand conflict.  I looked round; not a
ray of hope appeared, and thus like brave men we resolved to make our
foes pay a heavy price for our lives.



CHAPTER SIX.

OUR POWDER EXPENDED--I BELIEVE THAT MY LAST MOMENT HAS ARRIVED--
UNEXPECTED SUCCOUR--A DANGEROUS PREDICAMENT--OBED'S GALLANTRY--OUR
ENEMIES TAKE TO FLIGHT--WE RECOMMENCE OUR JOURNEY--GENEROSITY OF THE OLD
CHIEF--OFFERS ME TWO WIVES INSTEAD OF ONE--OBED'S NARRATIVE--HOW HE
ESCAPED FROM THE BEAR--A FRESH ALARM--THE APPROACH OF A STRANGER.

The infuriated Dacotahs thronged thickly around us, uttering the most
horrible yells and shrieks, those in the distance plying us incessantly
with their arrows and darts, while those in the front ranks kept
whirling their tomahawks above our heads, watching for an opportunity to
send them crashing down upon our skulls.  Not a shot was heard; our
rifles were useless; all our powder was expended.  We fought as men
driven to desperation generally will fight for none of us had, I am
sure, the faintest hope of escaping with our lives; for my part, I fully
believed that the next moment would be my last.  Old Waggum-winne-beg
had received a desperate wound on his shoulder, and had been beaten to
the ground; the gallant Pipestick had been brought on his knee, and I
found myself without support on either side just as a gigantic chief
with uplifted battle-axe made a desperate rush at me.  I raised the
butt-end of my rifle, which had hitherto done me such good service, to
parry the blow, but I felt conscious that it would not avail me.  I was
in the power of my vindictive enemy.  I saw the keen-edged weapon
glittering in the first beams of the rising sun, as the glorious
luminary of day appeared above the snow-covered plain; I felt as if in
another instant it would come crushing through my brain, when the sharp
crack of a distant rifle sounded in my ear, and I saw my enemy leap up
in the air and fall dead at my side, his axe missing my head and just
grazing my arm.

I eagerly looked forth in the direction whence the shot had come, to
discover, if I could, by whom I had been preserved.  I could as yet see
no one, but I observed that our assailants were influenced by some
disturbing cause, and were gathering together in the north-west, as if
to prepare for resisting some expected attack.  Still those near us
seemed resolved to gratify their vindictive feelings by destroying us if
they could before our unknown friends could come to our aid.  I had
little doubt that the party who had appeared so opportunely to relieve
us must, by some means or other, have been collected by Obed; and I
prayed heartily that it might be of sufficient strength at once to put
our enemies to flight.  I had little time, however, to think about the
matter.  The Indians pressed us harder than ever, and scarcely a man of
us remained unwounded, while many of the poor women were hurt.  The rest
of the women fought with as much fierceness and desperation as the men.
Yet I felt that in spite of all the heroism which had been exhibited,
and in spite of the aid which was so close at hand, our lives would be
sacrificed.

Again the Dacotahs gathered thick around us; I could not restrain
myself; I shouted loudly for help, though I scarcely expected it to be
sent; my shout was replied to by a hearty cheer, and nearly a dozen
white men, followed by three times as many Indians, broke through the
masses of our enemies with sword and battle-axe and club, and beat them
down or drove them back, shrieking and howling with rage and fear.  One
figure I recognised, more active than the rest, making his way towards
me.  It was that of Obed.

"Hurra, old feller, hurra!  I am glad you're safe, that I am," he
shouted, as he sprang over the barricade, and grasped my hand.

"But we must drive these varmint away, or shoot them down, every
mother's son of them, or they'll be gaining heart and coming back on us.
Come on, lads; come on--hurra, hurra!"

Uttering these shouts, he again leaped out of our encampment, and,
beckoning on his followers, they were all once more in pursuit of the
flying enemy.  Just as he went, Obed handed me a powder-flask and a bag
of bullets.

"You'll want them, boy, I guess; and I have plenty," said he, as he flew
off.

I was about to join him, when I found my limbs refused to perform their
office.  The moans also of old Waggum-winne-beg, John Pipestick, as well
as of others of my companions, made me feel that I must stay where I
was, both for the sake of attending to them and of guarding them should
any of the Dacotahs who might be prowling about in the wood take the
opportunity, while our friends were at a distance, to rush in and scalp
them, and be off again before pursuit could be made.  I have on many
occasions found the importance of not despising an enemy.  I urged
Pipestick to keep a look out while I was attending to the hurts of the
old chief, and helping some of the poor women who were the most severely
injured.

I had been thus employed for some time, occasionally looking out to see
how it fared with Obed and his party in their pursuit of the enemy.
Wherever they went, the Dacotahs scattered before them, but rallied
again directly afterwards in the distance, and seemed as ready as ever
to renew the attack.  When I looked up the next time, they were once
more flying as chaff before the wind.  I at once saw that their purpose
was to weary out their pursuers, and then to unite and to make a
desperate attack on them altogether.  I hoped that my friends would be
too wary to be led into the snare laid for them.

I had been for some time stooping down to try and bind up the lacerated
wounds of a poor fellow who had been cruelly cut about by the Indian's
tomahawks, when a shout from Pipestick made me lift my head, and I saw a
dozen or more Dacotahs come scampering like demons out of the wood with
the evident intention of making an attack on us.  I sprang to my feet,
and helped Pipestick to get up.  We both of us had our rifles loaded, as
had several of the Indians, from the ammunition furnished me by Obed.
The cunning rogues did not know this, and thought that they were going
to catch us unprepared.  We presented our rifles.  They laughed
derisively, as much as to say, "Oh, they will do us no harm, we know
that."  Never were they more mistaken in their lives, and it was the
last mistake they ever made.  We let them come on without shrinking.

"John," said I, "let me take the fellow on my right-hand side; do you
take the next, and tell our Indian friends to follow my lead.  We'll
astonish those red-skins, I guess."

Pipestick did as I advised.  We let the Indians approach within a
hundred yards of us.  On they came, making a desperate rush at us, and
uttering their fearful war-whoops confident of victory.

"Now, my boys, give it them," I shouted; "and take care that every shot
tells."

Pipestick repeated my words.  We all fired at the same moment, and six
of the Indians were knocked over.  So eager were the rest that they did
not discover that their companions had fallen.  They were still very
formidable antagonists.  We had not time to load our rifles before they
were upon us.  Pipestick, in consequence of his wounds, was scarcely
able to offer any effectual resistance, but the Indians fought bravely,
and all the women who were unhurt came to our assistance.  I certainly
was very far from despising their assistance.  They enabled me and
Pipestick to fall back to load our rifles and those of our companions,
and, taking a steady aim, we soon turned the fortunes of the day.  Three
more Indians were knocked over, and the rest turned tail, and ran off as
fast as their long legs would carry them, to avoid the shots which we
sent whizzing away in their rear.  My great anxiety was now to get Obed
to come back into the camp, fearing lest he and his party might be led
by the manoeuvres of the enemy to too great a distance from it, and that
the Indians might get in between us and our friends, so I resolved to go
myself.

There was no time for consideration: loading my rifle and seizing the
tomahawk of one of the dead Indians, I sprang out and ran faster than I
thought I could possibly have moved.  Just as I had got half-way from
the camp towards them, another party of Indians darted out of the wood,
and, setting up their war-whoops, ran out with terrible fleetness
towards me.  I ran faster, I believe, than I had ever before done,
shouting out to Obed to come and rescue me.  He at that time,
unfortunately, was repelling a strong body of Indians, who seemed to
press him very hard.  I saw that I must depend on myself; I halted, and,
kneeling down, took a steady aim at the headmost of my pursuers.  He
was, I thought, aware that his fate was sealed when he saw me pointing
my rifle at him.  He threw up his arms even before I had fired, and then
over he fell, shot through the breast.  I ran on as hard as I could
pelt.  There is no disgrace running from an overpowering enemy.  Again
and again I shouted at the top of my voice to Obed.  The Dacotahs pushed
on.  I loaded as I ran.  I thought if I could bring down another of them
I might stop the progress of the rest.  With no little difficulty I got
my rifle-ball rammed down.  I turned suddenly and rather surprised my
pursuers by lifting my weapon to my shoulder and letting fly at the
leading red-skin.  He, as had his companion, tumbled over, but his death
only the more exasperated the rest, and they sprang forward more intent
than ever to take my life.  There was no time to load again.  The
fellows were gaining most uncomfortably on me.  I began to feel very
much as a person does in a dream, when he cannot get away from monsters
in chase of him.

"Obed, Obed, fire--do fire," I shouted.

At length Obed heard me, and a dozen of his followers faced about and
hurried to meet my enemies.  The latter, setting that their chance of
cutting me off was gone, turned tail and endeavoured to escape into the
wood.  I entreated my new friends not to pursue them, and they saw the
wisdom of my advice.  We accordingly went back to join the rest of the
party, who had come to my relief.  What was my surprise and pleasure to
see three of my old friends, Obed's brothers, among them.  Just then the
remnant of the Dacotahs once more took to flight, and allowed my friends
leisure to address me.  They hurried up and heartily shook me by the
hand, telling how glad they were to find that I was alive, while I
assured them that I was equally rejoiced to find that they had escaped.
We had no time, however, for talking.  I urged them at once to assemble
in the camp, so as to enable my friends to proceed on their journey,
till they could stop at a more secure resting-place.  We got back to the
camp just in time to scare away another party of Dacotahs, who like
vultures had been hovering about ready to pounce down on their prey.
Indeed we had enough to do to keep our scattered enemies at bay.  We
found old Waggum-winne-beg considerably recovered, and John Pipestick
not much the worse for his wounds: indeed, it is extraordinary what
knocking about a red-skin will take without suffering materially,
provided he keeps clear of the fire-water.

Some of the white men, when they found that I wished to proceed farther
east, till I had seen my friends in safety, grumbled very much, and said
that they had come to help me, but had no notion of going through so
much fatigue and danger for a set of varmint Indians.  I told them in
reply that I was very much obliged to them for all they had gone through
on my account, but that I was bound by every law of God, and by every
rule of right, to help those who had helped me; and that, come what
might, I could not and would not desert them.  The Raggets supported me,
more especially Obed.

"Dick is right, boys!" he exclaimed.  "I would do the same as he
proposes, and he would not be acting like himself if he did otherwise;
the Ottoes have always been friends to the white man, and I've resolved
to stick by Dick till we see them free from danger from these rascally
Dacotahs."

These remarks soon won over by far the larger portion of the white men
to our side, the Indians at once recognising their duty to assist their
friends.  The red-skins who had accompanied Obed were, I found, Kioways,
a large tribe inhabiting the country bordering on the Rocky Mountains.
I asked Obed how he had induced them to accompany him.  "Oh, it is a
long story.  I'll tell you about that and many other things, when we
have more time," he replied.

All hands now set to work to strike the tents and pack the wagons; it
was soon done, and the wounded people stowed away in them on the top of
their goods.  Some of the men rather objected to have the poor wounded
women placed in the wagons alongside of them, and seemed to think that,
as long as the unfortunate wretches had life in them they might just as
well get out and walk.  Such are the chivalric notions of the Indian
warriors we read so much about in novels, and our young ladies are
taught to fancy such fine fellows.  They have, notwithstanding, some few
good qualities, but those belonging to the ancient code of chivalry are
not among them.

We had not yet done with fighting, and we had not proceeded a mile
before we caught sight of the Dacotahs hovering about us to the
northward, watching for an opportunity to pounce down upon us.  Although
a good many of their warriors had been made to bite the dust, they still
so far outnumbered our united parties that they might have some hopes,
if they could take us by surprise, to cut us up altogether.  This, of
course, we took care that they should not do.  Our attention, however,
was so much occupied that Obed had no time to give me an account of his
adventures.  Our great wish was that the Indians would come on again
once more and allow us to give them a lesson which we hoped might teach
them to keep at a respectful distance from us.  We pushed on as fast as
beasts and men could move, and just before nightfall we reached a
hillock with several rocks jutting out of it, which was considered a
remarkably secure spot for camping.  It was well fortified by nature,
but the cunning backwoodsmen were not content to trust to it in that
condition, but at once set to work to enable it to resist any attack
which might possibly be made on it during the night.

Our old chief, to show his gratitude to his preservers, ordered an ample
supply of provisions to be served out, and as soon as fires could be
lighted and the food cooked we all sat down to our repast.  We at first
were too hungry to talk, but I gleaned from one or two remarks made by
my friends that their family had escaped from the Indians, and were
encamped for the winter at some distance to the eastward.  There was
plenty of dry underwood about, so we had made a blazing fire, round
which we were seated.  We had all lighted our pipes, and Obed was about
to begin his narrative, when an Ottoe Indian came and said a few words
to John Pipestick, who was sitting with us.

"Our chief, Waggum-winne-beg, is anxious to see you," said he to me.
"He feels very ill, and as he believes you to be a mighty medicine-man,
he thinks that you can certainly cure him."

I knew that there was no use in denying my power, so I at once got up to
go and see the old man, accompanied by John as interpreter.  He was
lying down on a mat, with his head resting on a block of wood which
served him as a pillow.  He sat up as I entered, and with unusual warmth
expressed his pleasure at seeing me.  I merely give the substance of
what he said, for he addressed a long speech to me, which he believed
would have a powerful effect on my feelings.

"Stranger," he began, "you have met with friends, and undoubtedly you
contemplate leaving the tents of the red-skins to accompany them whither
they are going.  Think well before you leave us.  You shall be to us a
son and a brother; we will adopt you; we will clothe you; we will paint
you; you shall become like one of us in all things.  I told you that I
would give you one of my daughters.  That was when I loved you a little.
Now I love you much I will give you two.  One does not surpass the
other.  Both are superior to any of their sex in my tribe, and I may
venture to say in the world.  I told you of Firefly's accomplishments;
her sister Glow-worm is equal to her.  You shall have a large tent where
they can dwell together in harmony, for among their other perfections
their tongues are never addicted to wrangle.  Take them, then, my
friend: be my son, and be happy."

This pathetic appeal did not influence me as forcibly as
Waggum-winne-beg had hoped it might do.  I did my best not to hurt his
feelings, but I declined his offer.  When he heard my decision he burst
into tears.

"If it must be so," he said at last, commanding himself, "so it must
be."

Having thus delivered himself, he, like a well-bred gentleman, did not
further press the delicate subject.  After a further conversation on
other subjects, I begged that he would excuse me, as I wished to go back
to my white friends who were waiting for me round their camp-fire, and
having once more carefully dressed the old man's wounds, I took my
departure.  I made Obed and his brother laugh heartily when I narrated
to them the flattering offer I had received, and one or two of their
companions, backwoodsmen of the roughest sort, seemed rather inclined to
offer themselves in my stead, as candidates for the honour of possessing
the brown ladies' hands.

"Now, Obed," said I, "I should like to hear all about your proceedings;
but before you begin, I must ask you if you have placed sentries round
the camp, and sent out scouts to discover if our foes are lurking near?"

He had, I found, placed a couple of sentries, one on each side of the
camp, but had not thought it necessary to send out any scouts.  I urged
him to do so, and he selected three of the most intelligent of the
Indians, and directed them to feel their way out on every side of the
camp, and to ascertain whether any enemies were lurking near.  These
arrangements being made, I once more took my seat by the camp-fire.  I
have always spoken of Obed as leader of the party.  So in truth he was--
his elder brothers having joined him after he had formed the expedition,
and put themselves under his orders.

"Now, Obed, my dear fellow, do begin to tell me how it is you came to my
rescue so exactly at the nick of time," said I, lighting my pipe over
the fire and leaning back against a stone which served instead of an
arm-chair.  I ought to have remarked that a screen had been put up,
composed of birch-bark, to serve as a shelter against the wind, so that
we were far warmer than might have been expected in that wintry night.
Our encampment had a very picturesque appearance.  The white men were
collected round one fire; the Indians who had come with Obed had three
or four among them; while the tents of Waggum-winne-beg and his
followers were in the centre, with a fire burning in the middle of each
of them.  The greater number of the Indians had thrown themselves down
to rest, wrapped up in their fur mantles, under the shelter of the rocks
and their birch-bark screens, with small fires at their feet.  I could
see in the distance the tall figures of those appointed to do duty as
sentries walking up and down on their posts, while a few were still
sitting up, bending over their fires, as they smoked their pipes and
talked over the events of the day.

"Well, Dick, since you wish it, I'll begin," said Obed.  "You remember
the worthy Delaware who came to our tent and persuaded me to accompany
him?  He proved himself a trusty guide and companion.  The rest and food
he got with us restored his strength, and we set off at good speed.  We
were fortunate in killing several turkeys and prairie-hens, so that we
were able to husband our dried pemmican, at the same time that we fed
sumptuously.  Very often I thought about you when we were making good
way, and I wished that you were with us.  We were anxious, of course, to
push on before the cold weather set in, for we knew then that we should
have difficulties enough to contend with.  We had to be on our guard
also against enemies of all sorts--red-skin Dacotahs and Pawnees,
grizzly bears, rattlesnakes, and wolves; still my companion, from his
long experience of their habits, was well able to take precautions
against them.  I, all the time, was anxiously looking out for traces of
my family, but we had from the first got out of their track, and we met
no one from whom we could make any inquiries.  We always rose with the
sun, and travelled on all day as long as our strength held out; but from
weariness, or from the fear of not finding fit camping-ground, we
sometimes had to stop an hour or two before sunset.  We had done so on
one occasion near a stream, whose steep banks sloped away down below us.
While I lighted a fire, put up a wigwam, and prepared food, work to
which the Delaware had an especial dislike, as it is always performed by
women among the Indians, he, taking his rifle, went out along the bank
of the stream to try and kill a wild turkey or two to supply the place
of one I was about to cook.  He was making his way onward, pushing aside
the boughs with the barrel of his weapon, when up started, not five
yards from him, an old grey she-bear, accompanied by three or four
half-grown cubs.  He started back to be able to make use of his rifle,
but before he could bring it to his shoulder, the old bear sprang upon
him, and with a blow of her paw knocked his rifle out of his hand.  Had
that blow struck his back he would instantly have been killed, and I
should have been left alone in the desert.  I saw my friend's danger,
but could do nothing to help him, for if I fired I was as likely to
injure him as the bear.  As the brute was again about to strike, he drew
his long knife, for, fortunately, his right arm was free, and began
stabbing away at her neck.  Notwithstanding this, the fierce monster did
not relax her gripe, while her claws went deeper and deeper into his
flesh, and the horrid cubs, coming to their dam's assistance, began to
assail his legs.  I was hurrying on to the assistance of my companion,
resolved to lose my own life rather than not do my utmost to save his,
when the bank gave way, and bear and Indian both rolled away into the
stream together."

Obed had got thus far in his narrative--I have omitted some of the
particulars he told me--when the sharp crack of a rifle made us all
start up, and seizing our weapons, we hurried to that part of the camp
whence it proceeded.  Looking out into the darkness, we could see the
figure of a man running at full speed towards us, across the white sheet
of snow with which we were surrounded.  We had no doubt it was one of
the scouts we had sent out; for who else was likely at that time to be
coming to us?  "If it is not one of our scouts, it may be some white
trapper who has been caught by the Dacotahs, and has made his escape
from them," observed John Pipestick, who had joined us.  "They
frequently come thus far west, and those varmints are certain to have
been on the lookout for them."  While we were waiting the arrival of the
stranger, a piercing shriek broke the silence of night.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

THE DACOTAHS ARE AGAIN UPON US--WE HURRY TO THE RESCUE--WE PRESERVE THE
LIFE OF THE STRANGER--SAM SHORT, THE TRAPPER--HIS ADVENTURES--ESCAPE
FROM THE RED-SKINS--DESPERATE COMBAT IN THE CANOE--SAM'S SEARCH FOR HIS
COMPANIONS--DISCOVERS ONE IN THE HANDS OF THE INDIANS--THEY DISCOVER
SAM, AND HE FLIES--FINDS BLOUNT, AND TOGETHER THEY GO IN SEARCH OF
NOGGIN--AGAIN GET SIGHT OF NOGGIN, BUT HE IS FASTENED TO A STAKE--NOGGIN
SHOWS THAT IN SPITE OF HIS NAME HE IS A HERO.

"Those vermin the Dacotahs are upon us again, and have taken the scalp
of one of our scouts," cried Obed, when he heard that piercing shriek.

My experience of the previous night taught me too well also what it
meant.  Surrounded as we were by the rocks and thick shrubs on the top
of the mound, we were probably not perceptible from the ground below.
Presently, as the stranger approached us, we saw emerging from the
darkness a dozen or more figures following one after the other slowly
and stealthily, evidently fancying that they were not perceived.  We had
no doubt that they were a party of our late opponents the Dacotahs, but
what was their purpose it was difficult to say; they must have known
that we had heard the death-shriek of the murdered man, and they could
not but have supposed that we should be on the watch for them.  Perhaps
this only precipitated a previously formed plan.  The stranger
approached us rapidly; we could hear aimed at him more than one shaft as
it flew hissing through the air.  Several axes also were thrown in
savage fury, as the Indians saw that their hoped-for victim was about to
escape them.  The stranger came rushing on; he had good need of speed.

"Obed, my boy," said I, "let us sally out and protect that poor fellow.
If we do not, the red-skins will be up to him before he reaches this
hill!"

Obed was not a man it was necessary to ask twice to do a thing of the
sort, nor were his brothers or their followers.  The order was sent
rapidly round to assemble together; not a word was uttered above a
whisper--the sentries were left standing at their posts as if
unconscious of what was going on in the plain below.  But a few seconds
were expended in preparations.

"Now, my boys, down upon them!" exclaimed Obed, and at the word we
sprang over our entrenchments as quick as lightning; we were up to the
stranger, who for a moment was somewhat startled at our sudden
appearance, but soon, comprehending the state of affairs, took shelter
behind us while we sprang on to meet the Indians.  We halted within ten
yards of them, and poured in a volley from our rifles which brought
nearly one-half of them to the ground.

The remainder hesitated an instant, then hearing our loud shouts and
huzzas, and seeing us come on with our axes gleaming in our hands, they
turned tail and scampered off as fast as they could go.  To pursue them
would have been dangerous with so large a number of their tribe in the
neighbourhood, and it was very probable that they had an ambush near at
hand ready to cut us off.  The sound of our fire-arms brought up two of
our scouts, who joined us as we were returning to our camp, but the
third did not make his appearance, and we had too much reason to fear
that he had fallen a victim to the Dacotahs.  By the time we got back to
camp we found Waggum-winne-beg and all his people, both men and women,
turned out and ready to resist any attack which might be made on us.  We
waited under arms for some time, and then finding that the enemy did not
seem inclined to approach, we posted sentries all round, with directions
to keep a strict lookout, and to give notice directly they perceived any
suspicious movement below, and then we once more sat down round our
fire.  Our number was increased by the stranger, of whom we had not till
then had time to take any notice beyond observing that he was a white
man, and that he was dressed in the usual rough costume of a trapper.
We now perceived, as he sat close up to the fire with the palms of his
hands spread out before it, that he looked famished and weary.

"Friend, thou art hungry," said Obed, placing before him some dried
deers' flesh and biscuit, and filling him up a cup of spirits-and-water.
"Eat that while we cook a more savoury mess."

"Thank you," said the stranger; "you have discovered my chief want."

He showed that he spoke the truth by setting to work silently and
heartily on the food like a man who had fasted long, and was in no way
fastidious as to the nature of his provender, so that it was fit to
support life.  I have often felt ashamed of my civilised and refined
friends as well as of myself, when I have watched the abstemious habits
of those inhabitants of the backwoods.  However varied, or however
delicate, or highly flavoured the food placed before them, I have seen
them over and over again sit down and help themselves to the nearest
dish, eat as much as they required, and generally a very moderate
quantity, and then perhaps, after taking a glass of cold water, get up
and leave the table.  We waited till the stranger had somewhat recovered
his strength before asking him any questions.  At last he stopped
eating, gave his hunting-knife a turn or two over his legging, replaced
it in its sheath, and looking up, said--"Well, friends, you've saved my
life; I've to thankyou for that--not that I know that it is worth much;
and now I guess you'd like to know where I come from, and what I've been
about."

We all told him that we should particularly like to hear something about
him.

"Then I'll tell," he replied.  "My name is Sam Short; I'm a free
trapper; I've hunted this country, man and boy, for pretty well fifty
years, and that's a good slice in a man's life.  It was at the end of
last fall that I and two companions started westward to trap beavers and
shoot bears, or any other game which came in our way.  We'd left our
horses and taken to a canoe to paddle up the Kansas river.  Both my
companions, Tom Noggin and Silas Blount, were staunch fellows.  It
doesn't do to have a man in our way of life one can't depend on.  We had
passed several beaver dams, which we settled to visit on our return, and
as long as the season would allow to push higher up the stream.  There's
no pleasanter life than that we led.  We landed when we felt inclined to
stretch our legs and take a shot at a deer or a bear.  We killed more
deer than we could eat, so we only kept the tenderest parts; but the
skins were of no little value.

"One evening we landed at an open spot, with plenty of thick trees
though growing round, intending to camp there.  We had lighted a small
fire, and we took care that the wood was dry, so that it should send up
no smoke to show our whereabouts to any lurking red-skins; Silas and
Noggin took their guns, and said they would go and have a look for a
deer, or a bear, or a turkey, while I sat over the fire and cooked the
venison.  I cut some right good steaks, and had dressed them to a turn,
and was thinking that it was time my companions were back, when I heard
Blount's voice singing out merrily as he came through the wood towards
me.  We had no fear of red-skins, for we had met with no traces of them
as we came up the river, and the first thing we had done that day on
landing was to look about for them in every direction.  Blount sat
himself down by my side and showed me a fat turkey he had just killed,
when we heard a shot at some distance from us.  We waited some time,
thinking Noggin would be coming back; but, as he did not make his
appearance, I asked Blount to climb a tree and see if he could make him
out anywhere.  Curiously enough, he slung his rifle on his back--he had
already his shot belt and powder-horn about him--and up a high tree, a
little way off, he went.  Scarcely had he got to the top, when I heard
him cry out, `Fly, man, fly; the red-skins are on us!'

"I did not want a second warning.  Seizing my rifle, I sprang to the
riverside, and as I did so, a band of Indians burst through the woods
brandishing their tomahawks, and uttering their hideous war-cries.  I
threw myself into the canoe, and with a kick of my foot shoved it off
from the bank towards the middle of the stream.  I looked for the
paddles; there was only one in the canoe; I seized it, and began to
paddle away down the stream with all my might.  The Indians followed me
some way, and seeing that I had but one paddle, and made but slow
progress, three of them, running on ahead, plunged into the stream, for
the evident purpose of cutting me off.  I watched them as they
approached.  If either of them should succeed in getting hold of the
canoe, I knew that my life would be lost.  Fortunately they had
separated somewhat, and were some fathoms distant from each other down
the stream.  I saw that my only chance was to destroy them in detail.  I
dropped my paddle and seized my rifle.  It was of course loaded.  I had
no time to lose, for I had to fire and to load again to be ready for
another enemy.  I took a steady aim.  The savage leaped out of the
water, casting a look at me of the most intense hatred, and then down he
went like a shot, leaving a red streak on the water to mark the spot.  I
loaded rapidly; the next fellow darted on, hoping to catch hold of the
canoe before I was ready to fire; but I was too quick for him.  When he
saw this, he dived, thinking to escape my bullet.  I was surprised at
the length of time he kept under water.  I thought that he would never
come up again.

"I dared not exchange my rifle for my paddle, or I would have got over
farther to the opposite bank.  All my attention was fixed on the spot
where I knew that his head would appear.  The instant I caught sight of
his savage countenance grinning up at me, my bullet entered his brain,
and he sank like his comrade.  I had not time to finish loading before
the third fellow, by desperate exertion, had got hold of the bow of the
canoe with one of his hands, while with the other he attempted to seize
my right arm, which was employed in ramming down the bullet into my
rifle.  He had his knife in his teeth, and I saw that the moment he had
grasped my arm, he would seize it with his other hand, and plunge it
into my side.  My great fear was that he would upset the canoe, so that
I had to lean back on the opposite side to prevent him from so doing.
There is no more cunning or treacherous a varmint than a true-bred
red-skin.  When he found that I saw what he was at, he pretended to fall
backwards, and as I stretched over to unloosen his hand from the gunwale
of the canoe, he sprang up by a sudden stroke of his feet, and clutched
me by the throat.

"So tight did he press my windpipe, that I felt I had but a slight
chance of escaping with my life; still, I had lived too long a hunter's
life to think of giving in while a hope of escape existed.  I caught
hold of the side of the canoe with one hand, and with the other, letting
go my rifle, I felt about for my knife, which, with my powder-flask and
other things, I had thrown into the bottom of the canoe.  If I could
find it, I had little fear that I should know how to use it.

"The Indian guessed what I was about, and pressed my throat tighter and
tighter, till I felt myself growing black in the face.  He saw his
advantage; the time was come, he thought, to gain the victory.  Letting
go his hold of the canoe, he seized his knife with his right hand, and
attempted to haul himself on board by means of my throat.  His naked
knee was on the gunwale, when at the same moment my fingers discovered
my knife.  I clutched the handle.  My enemy's knee slipped off the
smooth wood--his weapon missed its aim, scarcely grazing my side, and I
plunged mine up to the hilt in his breast.  His hand relaxed his hold of
my throat, and he dropped back lifeless into the stream.

"I cannot describe my sensations; there was no time to think about them,
at all events.  I finished ramming down the bullet into my rifle, and
while the rest of the Indians were hesitating whether to follow me or
not, I pointed it at them, to show them what the first who might venture
into the stream would have to expect.  They watched me for some time,
uttering howls of the most intense rage and hatred; and then, seeing
that I was a good match for them, they turned back up the stream again,
to wreak their vengeance, as I feared, on my companions.  I pretended to
be paddling down the stream, till I was certain they were out of sight;
but I was not going to desert my friends in that way; such is not the
backwoodsman's law.  When I knew that they were well ahead, I ceased
descending the stream, and, pulling to the south bank, I made fast my
canoe to some bushes, and waited till dark.

"I thought about all that had occurred; Blount, I hoped, might possibly
have escaped, but I greatly feared that Noggin would have fallen into
the power of our enemies.  Waiting till I could not be seen from the
north shore, keeping on the opposite side, I paddled cautiously and
slowly up the stream.  I kept as much as possible in the eddies and
little bays, and thus avoided the strength of the current, against which
I could not otherwise have pulled.  The nearer I got to the spot where I
had left my companions, the more cautiously I proceeded; I knew that if
the Indians had not killed them at once, they would not destroy them for
three or four days, but would keep them alive to torture them, and to
exhibit them to their old men and squaws at home.  It was very necessary
to be cautious how I proceeded; the slightest carelessness would betray
me to the cunning varmints, and I should not only risk my own life, but
be unable to help my friends.

"At last, about two hours after dark, I got directly opposite the spot
where we had encamped; I watched, but could see no light to indicate
that the red-skins were there; I pulled up a little farther, and then in
perfect silence paddled across.  Unless the red-skins had been on the
lookout for me, I did not think that there was much chance of my being
seen.  I did not venture to let the bow of the canoe touch the bank,
lest even the slight noise I might make against the grass should be
heard, but allowed it to drop slowly down with the current, while I
peered eagerly into every opening of the forest which presented itself.
I began to fear that the Indians had gone away, and carried off Blount
and Noggin with them, when my eye caught a glimmer of light a
considerable distance off among the bushes.  I had little doubt that the
light proceeded from the camp-fire of my enemies: I resolved to
ascertain whether this was so, and whether my friends were in their
power.  I carefully pushed my canoe alongside the bank, and securing her
to a bush, stepped out with my hunting-knife in my belt, and my rifle in
my hand.  I know as well as a native-born Indian how to move silently
through the woods, not allowing my feet to tread on a dry stick, or my
shoulders to touch a rotten branch.

"Step by step, feeling my way with the greatest care, I approached the
spot where I had seen the fire; at last I got close to the boundary of
an open glade, and by looking through the bushes, I saw at the farther
end of it some dozen or more Indians, decked in their war-paint and
feathers, squatted round a fire.  One was, I saw, speaking, while the
others were listening to him with the deepest attention.  I looked
around, but could distinguish nothing beyond the immediate circle of the
fire.  At length the orator ceased, and one of the band threw a small
quantity of fresh fuel on to the fire.  This made it blaze up; and the
glare from the bright flames extending to some distance, it fell upon
the stump of a tree to which was bound a human figure.  I watched to try
and make out who it was, for the light was not at first sufficient to
enable me to distinguish objects at a distance.  I had long to wait.  I
should have to guide my movements according to which of my friends was
in captivity.  If it should prove to be Noggin, I might hope that Blount
had escaped their vigilance; but if he himself was the prisoner, I
should have to fear that Noggin had already fallen a victim to their
ferocity.

"I had long to wait.  One warrior after another got up, and made a
vociferous speech, till at last one of them threw a large handful of
sticks into the fire.  At the same moment it was fanned by a fresh blast
of wind which rustled through the forest, and flames darting upwards for
a few moments, by their light I recognised the features of Noggin.  His
eyes were fixed on the group of warriors, as if he was trying to make
out what they were saying.  There was an expression of horror and
despair on his countenance, for he knew full well that a death of
torture was prepared for him.  I observed, however, that his lips were
firmly pressed together, as if he had made up his mind not to flinch,
however much he might be called to suffer, while life might last.  I
looked round for Blount; he was nowhere to be seen; and as I could not
discern any bloody scalp hung up on a pole as a trophy of their prowess,
I began to hope that he might have escaped the vigilance of our enemies,
and that I might still fall in with him.

"My great desire was, in the first place, to rescue Noggin; but how to
do so was the question.  Succour might almost seem hopeless.  Even
should Blount be alive and at large, he and I together could scarcely
hope to succeed.  I counted our enemies; there were twenty altogether.
Three of these, from their costume and the way they talked, I judged to
be chiefs or principal men.  Three more, one of whom certainly was a
chief, I had sent to their long home.  As I could do no more good by
staying in so dangerous a neighbourhood, I waited till another long
speech was begun, and then crept back as carefully as I had approached,
towards my canoe.  I reached it in safety, and pushing off I crossed to
the opposite side of the stream.

"I hunted about till I discovered a point with bushes growing thickly on
it.  Here I landed; and hauling up my canoe, hoped that I might remain
concealed, should the red-skins again come down to the side of the river
to look for me.  After I had done this, so fatigued was I, that no
sooner did I lie down by the side of my canoe than I fell fast asleep.
It was daylight when I awoke.  I sprang to my feet, rifle in hand, and
peered through the bushes which effectually concealed me.  I could
distinguish in the distance the Indians, who had likewise just risen,
and appeared to be in a state of no little excitement.  They had
discovered my trail, and were hunting about to ascertain in which
direction I had gone.

"`Ah, ah!'  I thought, `I have crossed an element which allows no trail
to be left on it.  They will scarcely believe that I am still so near
them; or should they even suspect it, they will not attempt to follow
me, for they know the effects of my rifle, and that if they do, three or
four of their number will probably have to pay the penalty of their
lives.'

"On Noggin's account I did not want to exasperate them more than they
were already, or I might have picked two or three of them off, when,
having discovered my trail, they followed it to the banks of the river.
I saw them peering about in every direction--now down the stream, now up
it; but, clever as they were, they could not guess what way I had gone.
They examined the bushes all round, but they told no tale which they
could read.  They were evidently not a little astonished at my audacity
in having ventured so close to them as to watch their movements.  It
made them look upon me as a mighty brave, and they would, I doubted not,
have tried their most exquisite tortures on me to prove my heroism had
they been able to catch me.  I knew that there was a possibility of
their so doing, for I was resolved not to leave my friends to their fate
without trying to rescue them, great as I knew the risk was that I was
running.  When they could not, with all their ingenuity, discover what
had become of me, they stamped on the ground, and dashed their hatchets
into it, and gnashed their teeth, and performed many other frantic
gestures.  I was pleased at this, because it showed that they had
abandoned their search after me.

"Once more they came to the edge of the water, and spat, and grinned at
it to show their rage at its having disappointed them of their prey, and
then they turned tail and went off back to their camp.  I feared poor
Noggin would be the sufferer, but I could not help that.  I waited
hidden away for three or four hours, till I thought that they would to a
certainty have taken their departure, before I even stirred from my
place of concealment.  I knew the tricks they were up to, and that very
likely they would have remained in ambush in the hope of my coming back
to look after my friends.  If they had killed Blount, then I felt sure
they would not have stopped, but if they had found out that there were
three of us, and he was still at large, then I considered it probable
that they would be endeavouring to catch us, and that the very greatest
caution would be necessary in my proceedings.  Still I could not delay
till night to commence my progress, which would have been the safest
plan; for, in the first place, the Indians, if they had moved, would
have got too much the start of me, and I was already so hungry that I
was ready to run any risk to procure food to appease my appetite.

"At last I could wait no longer.  I slipped into my canoe, and emerging
from my hiding-place, went across the stream as fast as my one paddle
could urge me.  When I was about half-way over I saw something moving
among the bushes.  I stopped paddling and seized my rifle.  It might be
an Indian, or it might be a bear, or a stag.  I was ready for anything.
Just as I brought my rifle to my shoulder I heard a voice sing out,
`Hollo, Short! don't fire, old feller.'

"I knew at once that it was Blount who spoke, and right glad I was to
hear him.  Down went my rifle, and I paddled away, you may be sure, as
hard as I could till I reached the shore where he, as big as life, stood
ready to receive me.  We shook hands warmly, and then he told me that he
had been up the tree all the time; that he had watched the Indians
pursuing me along the banks of the river, but could not tell whether or
not they had killed me, though he saw them return with diminished
numbers, and guessed that at all events I had not died without a
desperate fight.

"When they came back they hunted about all round our camp, carried off
or destroyed all our property, and at last retired farther into the
woods to join their comrades.  All the night he had spent in a state of
uncertainty about me, and it was not till the following morning, when he
saw the Indians come down to the river, and watched their movements,
that he guessed I was alive and had paid them a visit.  He saw them go
away, and he then descended the tree, and like a cat in pursuit of a
bird, crept after them.  To his great satisfaction he saw them breaking
up their camp, and then they moved off towards the north-west.  Still he
followed them till he had assured himself that they really were going in
that direction.  When he had done this he turned back and looked out for
me.  We agreed at once that we would set off and try to rescue Noggin as
soon as we had killed a sufficient quantity of game to satisfy our
hunger.

"We calculated that the red-skins were quite far enough off by this time
not to hear the report of our rifles.  Hunger, when not too long
endured, sharpens men's wits.  We soon killed a couple of wild turkeys
and a deer, which we fell in with in great numbers on their way south.
We hid away our canoe in the bank of the river, and so covered her with
branches that even an Indian's sharp eyes were not likely to discover
her.  Having lighted a fire, we smoked, in a hurried way, as much food
as would last us for several days, and then, taking a good meal of
toasted venison, we set off on our perilous adventure.

"We soon found our way up to the Indian camp, and we observed that they
took no pains to hide their trail, by which we judged that they did not
suppose any of their enemies to be in the neighbourhood.  There were no
women or children, which showed that they had been on a hunting or war
expedition, and also that their chief camp was at no great distance.
This gave us the greatest concern, because if once they reached it we
could scarcely hope to rescue Noggin from their power.  We calculated
that there were twenty warriors altogether.  They were on foot.  They
were dragging Noggin on, but he evidently delayed them as much as
possible.  Perhaps, poor fellow, he suspected that Blount and I were
following him.  We travelled faster than they did, and towards the
evening of the fifth day of our journey we saw, from the freshness of
the trail, that we were not far from them.  We examined our rifles to be
ready for an emergency; but we knew that we could do nothing to help our
friend before night.  We supposed that we were about half a mile or so
from our enemies, and not deeming it wiser to get much nearer, we
continued to follow at the same pace at which they were going.

"At last we came to more open ground, and several times we caught sight
of them.  We were near enough indeed to count their numbers, and we
found that we had made an exact estimate of them.  Evening at last came,
and we knew that they were encamped.  It was now, therefore, necessary
to be more careful than ever, for some of the warriors might be prowling
about, and should they discover us, even though we might escape them or
come off victorious, we should have to abandon all hopes of saving
Noggin.  We accordingly lay down in some thick cover where no one was
likely to find us, and waited till they were likely to have gone to
sleep for the night.  We talked over all sorts of plans.  Blount
proposed going boldly into the camp himself dressed as a medicine-man;
but then the difficulty was to find the wherewithal to fit himself out.
I, too, opposed the scheme; for they would naturally be suspicious, and,
come from whatever quarter he might, they would be apt to question him
very narrowly before letting him range their camp at liberty.

"`Well, Short, it's all very well for you to say this plan won't do, or
that won't do, but do you just tell me what will do.'

"This was a poser; I could not.  We had our deerskin coats.  They had
been saved in the canoe.  He proposed cutting his into strips, and with
the aid of a red pocket-handkerchief he judged that he could turn
himself into a very good white medicine-man.  I at last consented to let
him try the scheme, provided no opportunity occurred during the night of
helping poor Noggin.  When the plan was arranged, we crept nearer and
nearer to the savages.  They had camped in an open part of a green
valley, the sides of which were clothed with trees.  They were far
enough from any trees not to be taken by surprise from any enemies
except those armed with rifles.  We climbed one of the trees, whence we
could look down on them and watch their proceedings.  We might indeed
have picked several of them off had revenge alone been our object; but
that would have done no good to poor Noggin, unless he could have
managed to escape in the confusion.

"Hour after hour passed away.  The savages sat up talking over their
fire.  Several of them at last lay down, but a party went out to examine
the neighbourhood of the camp, and when they returned four of those who
had previously gone to sleep got up and sat watching their prisoner,
evidently with malignant pleasure.  This vigilance of the enemy made us
almost despair of being able to deliver our friend.  Whenever we turned
our eyes in the direction of the camp, there were the four wretches
gazing up into the countenance of their victim, and he, poor fellow,
already looked more dead than alive.  Thus we lay stretched out at our
length watching them hour after hour.  No one moved.  Our hearts sank
within us.  After about four hours the guards gave some loud grunts, and
some of their companions starting up took their places.  They seemed to
watch the countenance of their victim with intense gratification.  If,
in spite of the bodily pain and mental suffering he was enduring, he
dropped asleep, one of them would throw a burning brand at him, to rouse
him up again to a full consciousness of his position.  It was with the
greatest difficulty that I could refrain from knocking over one of the
scoundrels, when I saw him treating the poor fellow in that way.

"Daylight was now approaching; with heavy hearts we had to withdraw for
fear of being discovered when the Indians should break up their camp in
the morning.  We feared, too, that we should not have another
opportunity, for we judged that the Indians were close upon their
village from the way in which they had feasted, leaving scarcely any
food for the next day.  A hunter is obliged to observe everything, and
to make what he observes speak a plain language to him.  We crept away
from the camp to our former hiding-place, and then, overcome with
fatigue, we both fell asleep.  We were protected during these hours of
helplessness by a power greater than man's.

"When we awoke the sun was already high in the heavens; we ate our
frugal meal, and then set forward to overtake the Indians.  They had
started early, and had got much ahead of us.  We pushed on, but still
did not overtake them.  We had been travelling some eight or nine hours,
when, being on the top of some rising ground, we saw in the distance
several curling wreaths of smoke rising up amid the forest.  We guessed
that without doubt they proceeded from the village of our enemies.  Our
chief chance of rescuing Noggin was gone.  To get him out from among a
village full of men, women, and children, all thirsting for his blood,
was next to impossible.  Still Blount said he would try it.  We crept
carefully in the track of the red-skins, stopping at every spot from
which we could have a clear look ahead, and occasionally climbing trees
whence we might hope to get a sight of the village.  This was in one
respect a dangerous proceeding, for should the Indians cross our trail,
they would very likely discover us, although we took care to obliterate,
as far as we are able, all marks of our progress.  In this way we went
on till Blount and I having got to the top of a thick-branched and
wide-spreading fir, we saw, scarcely the eighth of a mile off, the
conical-shaped wigwams of our enemies.  Loud shouts and shrieks reached
our ears; the old men, women, and children had gone out to welcome their
warriors and their unfortunate captive.  We could see him in the middle
of them, and the women and children rushing up and hissing at him, and
abusing him, and pinching him, and spitting at him, treating him,
indeed, with every indignity.  He stood quiet, as far as we could see,
without flinching.  At last he was led on and secured to a tree, close
to one of the principal lodges.  There the savages let him remain while
they retired to their homes, and the women set to work to prepare them a
feast.

"We now judged it time to get farther off to take some rest which we so
much needed.  We knew that the savages were not likely to put him to
death that night, probably not till the following evening.  We chewed
some dried venison, and then fell asleep.  It was pitchy dark when we
awoke, but the noise from among the Indian lodges was louder than ever.
Once more we approached the spot, fires were blazing brightly in the
centre of the village, and the savages were dancing madly round them,
leaping, and shrieking, and howling, in the most terrific manner.  A
stake had been run into the ground, and poor Noggin, stripped to the
waist, was tied to it.  His face was turned towards us; despair sat upon
it, it was already as pale as death, indeed he did not look as if he had
many minutes to live.  The cruel savages thought so likewise, and,
afraid of losing their victim, they had resolved at once, it appeared,
to commence that series of tortures which would terminate with his
death.  With horrid cries the women approached him, and ran into his
flesh the burning ends of sticks, which they flourished in their hands,
and they hallooed and shouted in his ears, to rouse him up to feel the
more acutely his sufferings.  Talk of the noble qualities of savages,
I've seen a good deal of human nature, and to my mind, left to itself
without anything to improve or correct it, there is nothing too bad or
abominably cruel which it will not do."

"There, I have told you enough of the old fellow's story for the
present," exclaimed Dick Onslow, throwing himself back in his chair and
stretching out his legs.  "I know that I am very thankful that I had not
to share poor Noggin's fate."

"You are a pretty fellow for a story-teller," cried one of his hearers
(I believe it was I, his humble amanuensis, Barrington Beaver).  "You
leave the honest Delaware in the clutches of the bear; you leave
yourself surrounded by a band of fierce Dacotahs thirsting for your
blood; and poor Noggin even in a worse predicament; indeed, I would not
wish to be in the skins of either Short or Blount; and now you suddenly
stop short, and leave us all lost in a labyrinth of doubt as to how they
got out of their various dilemmas."

"Not a word more just now, not a word more," answered Dick, laughing.
"You'll all do your best to keep me alive, and I promise you I will go
on with my tale another day."



CHAPTER EIGHT.

OBED'S STORY CONTINUED--NOGGIN RESCUED BY THE CHIEF'S DAUGHTER--SAM AND
BLOUNT RETIRE, HOPING THAT HE MAY BE HAPPY--THEY CONTINUE THEIR
WANDERINGS--BLOUNT'S DEATH--SAM PROCEEDS ALONE--CAPTURED BY THE
RED-SKINS--THEY PREPARE TO KILL HIM--NOT LIKING IT, HE ENDEAVOURS TO
ESCAPE FROM IT--ESCAPE AND PURSUIT--A RIDE FOR LIFE--HARD PRESSED FOR
FOOD--OBED'S ADVENTURES--HOW HE ESCAPED FROM THE BEAR--THE FAITHFUL
DELAWARE.

"So you all want to know what became of poor Noggin," said Dick, leaning
back in his comfortable arm-chair, after he had taken a sip from his
claret glass, and stretching out his legs on the thick buffalo-skin
which served as a rug to his cosy dining-room fire-place.  "I'll
continue the narrative as old Short told it to me, though not exactly in
his own words, for those I cannot pretend to repeat--I cannot even hope
to imitate his quaint expressions and racy humour.  Noggin stood the
attacks of his tormentors with as much heroism as could the most stoical
of red warriors.  We longed to rush in to his rescue, but we knew full
well that the attempt would be worse than useless, and we should
inevitably lose our own lives and not save his.  The fires burned up
brightly, shedding a lurid glare over the whole scene, making the
red-painted and feather-bedizened warriors, and their hideous brown
squaws, look more horrible and terrific than ever, as they danced, and
leaped, and grinned, and shrieked round our friend.  To make the picture
perfect, you must remember the dark forest in the background, the tents
covered with red-tanned skins, and the groups of children and dogs
scuttling about in front of them, with the stakes, and the lean-to's,
and sheds of different sorts, on or in which the spoils of the chase and
other provisions were hung to dry or smoke.  Indians delight in
prolonging the sufferings of their captives; so they, in their refined
cruelty, took care not to wound the poor fellow in any vital part.

"After a short time the old squaws resharpened the points of their
fire-sticks, and then they all advanced together, the warriors
brandishing their tomahawks and shrieking louder than ever.  Noggin eyed
them all, however, with perfect coolness and disdain.  I thought that
his last moments had come.  This conduct, though the savages admired it,
only made them the more anxious to conquer his spirit.  Several produced
their instruments of torture to tear his flesh, and to pull out his eyes
and his tongue, indeed, I will not describe all the excruciating
cruelties they were prepared to inflict; I well-nigh gave way myself
with horror, though my nerves were pretty well strung, when a young
squaw, who had been sitting in the shadow of one of the tents, sprang
up, and darting between the warriors and old women, before any of them
could stop her, threw one of her arms round Noggin's neck, and holding
out her other hand, in a tone of authority ordered her savage country
men and women to keep back, and claimed him as her husband.  She was a
fine, tall young woman, and though her skin was dark, her features were
handsome and full of animation, while her eye sparkled with the spirit
which burned in her bosom.

"`Come, loose him, loose him,' she cried, and we could understand her
language.  `He is mine.  Let none of you dare to hurt a hair of his
head.'

"I had heard of such things having been done before, but I did not much
believe in them.  It convinced me that woman has a tender,
compassionate, loving heart in every country, and that man should prize
it as one of the richest gifts which bounteous Nature has bestowed on
him, and consider it one of the most cowardly of acts and the foulest of
crimes to tamper with or betray it.  The young girl was a chiefs
daughter.  Her people, as they were bound to do, obeyed her immediately.
Noggin was released, and led by her to her tent.  Instead of the
torments he had been suffering, he found himself tended with the
gentlest care which affection could dictate.

"Blount and I seeing this, made signs to each other that it was time for
us to be off.  In the morning the red-skins would be prowling about, and
they would be too glad to get us instead of the victim who had escaped
them.  We were not likely to find another Poccahuntas to save our lives.
We went back the way we had come, obliterating as best we could all
traces of our advance, and at last, after many hardships, we reached our
canoe.  We had our rifles, but our ammunition was growing short, and we
had no means of replenishing it; the winter also was coming on, and we
were far from any white settlement.  Still hunters are not to be
frightened by trifles; we knew well not only how to trap beavers, but
anything that flies, creeps, or swims, and we agreed that we would lay
up a store of provisions, and spend the winter by the side of the river.
To think with a hunter is to act.  Our great want was salt.  We caught
soon a supply of fish, fowl, and deer, and we killed a bear, which made
very good beef; but all these things we had to dry in the sun or to
smoke; we kept our ammunition in case of any extremity in which we might
find ourselves.  We should have liked to have communicated with Noggin,
but we knew that he, like many white men who had married Indian women,
would be reconciled to his lot, and from henceforth live the life of
Indians.

"We agreed, therefore, as soon as the return of spring enabled us to
travel, we would take up our beaver skins and furs left in _cache_, and
go back with them to the settlements.  Had we been supplied with powder,
we should not have hesitated at once to commence our journey, but
unarmed, as we soon should be, we should have been both unable to supply
ourselves with food, or to defend ourselves against any enemies we might
meet; whereas in the spring we should descend rapidly in our canoe, and
carry our provisions with us.

"Several weeks passed away.  We had a warm hut built and a good supply
of provisions and fuel collected.  It was intensely cold, and the river
was frozen across, and the snow had set in.  My great concern was for my
companion.  Illness had attacked him: he grew weaker and weaker every
day.  With a sorrowful heart I saw that he had not long to live.  I told
him so at last.  He would not believe me.  He said that he should get
better, that the cough would leave him, and that he was stronger than he
had been.  He almost persuaded me that I was wrong in my surmises and
that he should recover.  When the cold grew very great he took to his
bed, from which, according to my idea, I thought he would never rise.

"At last one day, however, he sat up and said he should like to go out
and see if he could not kill a wild turkey; he should like to have some
fresh meat.  I told him I would get it for him: he said no, half the
pleasure would be in killing it himself; he felt as strong as a buffalo,
and knew he could walk a dozen miles.  So he got up, and put on his
thick coat, and took down his rifle from the peg to which it hung, and
said he was ready.  I looked at him with wonder.  His cheeks were so wan
and his hands so thin I did not think he could have held his rifle.

"`If you will go, I will go with you, Blount,' said I, and took down my
rifle to follow him.

"I had just got to the door of our hut, when I heard him say, `Ah! there
is the turkey cock.'  So, sure enough, there was one sitting on the
bough of a tree not fifty yards from us.  As he spoke the crack of his
rifle sounded in my ears--down came the bird.  It seemed as if he was
going to run to pick it up; but he staggered forward a few paces, and
before I could get up to him he had fallen flat on his face.  The blood
gushed from his mouth.  I lifted him from the ground; he pressed my
hand, and before I got him back to our hut he was dead.  I sat down and
did what I had not done for many a long year before--I burst into tears.
He had been my companion and friend, faithful and true, almost from his
youth upward--son, wife, everything to me--and now he was gone, and I
was alone in the great white melancholy wilderness.

"After a time I became quite foolish--I spoke to him, I called out his
name, I entreated him to answer me.  I felt at last that I should go mad
if I kept him longer near me, so I roused myself and dragged his body to
a distance under an old hickory tree.  The ground was too hard to let me
dig a grave, so I made a hole in the snow, and collected all the stones
I could find near the river, and piled them over him; I never went near
the spot again.  The next three or four weeks were the most miserable I
ever passed in my life.  Not that I had any great reason to be anxious
about myself.  I had an abundance of food, and I knew that I could
easily find my way to the settlements in the spring; but it was the
long, long solitude which I dreaded."

"I can enter into your feelings," said I, interrupting him, and I told
him what I had suffered, and on comparing notes we found that we had
been within a hundred miles of each other.  "However, go on," said I,
and Short continued his narrative.

"Three or four weeks had passed away after the death of Blount, when one
day, as I was standing near my hut wishing for the return of spring--for
I had very little to occupy my hands or thoughts--I saw half a dozen
red-skins approaching me at a rapid rate.  To attempt to fly was
useless, and I knew that I could not hope to defend myself successfully;
so, though I did not like their looks, I saw that my only chance of
safety was to meet them in a friendly manner.  Accordingly, I advanced
towards them.  As I got nearer I saw that they were Pawnees, some of the
very tribe among whom Noggin was located, and three of whose people I
had lately killed; I may add also the greatest thieves in this part of
the country.  Still I put the best face I could put on the matter, and
held out my hand in token of friendship.

"Instead of taking it, two of them seized me by the shoulders and
hurried me back to my hut.  As soon as they entered they began to make
free with everything they saw, and it was very evident that they had
come to rob me of all they could get.  When their eyes fell on poor
Blount's rifle, they asked me what had become of my companion.  I made
signs to them that he was dead.  They examined the hut for a few
minutes, and then seemed satisfied that I told them the truth.  On
finding that I had a good store of provisions they made signs to me to
light a fire, and then forced me to cook enough provisions to satisfy
their not very moderate appetites.  I knew that it was better to comply
with their commands than to refuse, and the less spirit I showed the
less likely they were to keep a strict watch over me.  If they
considered that I was a brave fellow they would look upon me as a
greater prize, and treat me accordingly.

"After they had eaten as much as they could, they went hunting about the
spot in all directions till they came to the place where my canoe was
hid away.  No sooner did they see it, than there was a great
consultation among them, and then they came back and sat round my fire
and talked away for an hour or more.  The result of this conference was
anything but favourable to me.  They had undoubtedly heard of the death
of their countrymen, and knowing the locality, and seeing the canoe,
they had come to the conclusion that the deed had been done by my hand
or by that of my late companion.  This, doubtless, saved my life for the
present.  If I had killed their friends, they wished to preserve me to
put me to death with the most refined of their tortures.  That night
they slept in my hut.  The next morning, having pulled the canoe to
pieces, and totally destroyed my hut, they set forth on what I guessed
from their preparations to be a long journey.

"I will not describe that journey.  At night we slept within any thick
wood or cypress swamp we could find, and travelled on the greater part
of the day.  My captors exhibited a wonderful power of endurance.  I
walked, of course, with lagging steps, for I felt sure that could I not
find means to escape, I should be put to death at the end of it.  At
last we fell in with the main body of the tribe.  No sooner was I shown
to them, than several of them declared that I was the very man who had
killed their companions, and my heart sunk within me; I knew that they
would to a certainty put me to death if they could.  The chief forthwith
held a consultation with all ceremony, and speedily decided my fate.  I
was led into a large wigwam to pass the night, and guarded by my
captors.  I watched all night for an opportunity to escape, but my arms
and legs were secured by leathern thongs which cut almost into my flesh,
and I had no power to release myself.  My heart, as well, it might, sunk
lower and lower.

"Day came; I made up my mind that it was to be my last on earth.  I
thought of Noggin, and I knew that if he could he would rescue me, but
at the same time I was aware that the cunning red-skins would not let
him know that I had been captured.  The day wore on; the tribe collected
from far and near; the fires were lighted; the squaws and children
assembled; indeed, the same scene was enacted which I had seen gone
through with Noggin.  The fire was actually scorching my feet, and the
smoke was ascending into my nostrils, when the sky grew dark and a
terrific snow-storm commenced.  Down it came like a sheet upon the earth
and speedily put out the fires.  The red-skins rushed into their
wigwams.  I was dragged back into the one where I had passed the night,
and was told that my death was postponed till the next day.  I resolved
to make use of the time of grace; still my prospect of escape was slight
indeed.  A stout thong of buffalo-hide was fastened round my neck, and
secured to one of the beams which ran across the top of the wigwam;
thongs fastened my wrists and ankles, and cut deeply into my flesh; and
my guards, squatted closely around, seemed inclined never to take their
eyes off me.  Every now and then they addressed me and told me for my
comfort that I should eat fire in the morning; I wished that they would
go to sleep, and, at all events, leave me in peace.

"At last four of them lay down, and I knew by their snoring that they
were really unconscious of the present.  Two of them still sat up and
kept talking at me, describing the horrors I was to go through.  At
length one of those two lay down, and now only one old man remained
awake; I thought he would never cease talking, and smoking, and
tormenting me.  On he talked; never have I seen a more hideous or
vicious old fellow.  I tried in vain not to listen.  However, at last
his voice grew thick, and more and more indistinct; his pipe went out,
and his head dropped on his breast.

"Not a moment was to be lost; I tugged and tugged at the thongs which
bound my wrists.  My heart beat so quick and loud that I thought the
sound would awaken my captors.  My struggles freed my wrists, and I soon
had my ankles free, but the tough, well-seasoned buffalo-hide rope round
my neck resisted all my efforts to loosen it.  Daylight was approaching.
The noise I made, or my loud breathing, roused up the old man.  I
thought all was lost.  Placing my hands behind me, I pretended to be
dozing.  He got up, stirred the fire, and then sat down again.  Oh, how
anxiously I waited for him to go to sleep again!  Once more his head
dropped on his breast, and he snored.  That was the sweetest noise I had
heard for a long time.

"I had gnawed and tugged at the thong round my neck in vain; but I knew
that what a steady strain will not accomplish a sudden jerk may do.  I
seized the thong with the grasp of despair, gave it two or three rapid
pulls, and to my joy it parted.  I was free, but still I had many
dangers to encounter.  A watchful dog or a sleepless Indian might
discover me.  Treading with the caution I knew was so necessary, I
passed between the bodies of the sleeping red-skins and stepped out into
the open air.  The cold restored my strength.  I looked around on every
side.  The stars were shining brightly above my head, and the lodges of
my enemies lay around in the dark shadow of the forest.  The neighing of
a horse showed me where some of the steeds of the tribe were tethered.
I ran towards the spot.  I had no time for selection.  I threw myself on
the back of the first animal I found.  The first faint streaks of dawn
were already appearing in the eastern sky.  Not an instant had I to
lose.  I should, I knew, be very speedily pursued.  I scarcely had time
to consider in which direction I should go.  The thong which still hung
round my neck served me for a bridle.  I looked up at the bright stars,
and turned the horse's head towards the south.  One thing only I could
resolve on--not to pull rein till I was beyond the reach of pursuit.  I
soon found that I had got one of the best horses of the whole stud.

"Away I went galloping over the snow, fleet as the wind.  I could not
conceal my trail; but if I had the best steed and an hour's start, I
might keep ahead of my pursuers, and fall in with some friendly tribe,
or by some other means obtain assistance before I was overtaken.  My
horse was a noble animal.  He had, I doubt not, been stolen not long
before from the whites, and he seemed glad to have a white man again on
his back.  Poor beast!  I did not spare him.  Full fifty miles I went
without pulling rein.  Then I threw myself off and turned his head to
the wind to let him regain his strength.  But few minutes only I halted;
I either heard my pursuers or thought I heard them.  Again I mounted and
galloped on as before.  The noble brute seemed to know the importance of
haste.  Oh, how willingly he went up steep hills, down wild valleys,
across streams, over the most rugged ground--nothing stopped him.  We
came to a broad river.  It was frozen over with a sheet of smooth ice,
from which the wind had blown the snow.  Still on he went, slipping and
sliding.  Several times I thought he would be down, and yet I dared not
check him; but he recovered himself and reached the opposite side in
safety.  Sometimes we were almost buried in the snow.

"On the other side of the river we plunged into a deep snow-drift; but
he plunged on, and, planting his feet on firm ground, sprung upward
again, and on he went breasting the side of a steep hill.  We gained the
summit.  I looked back for an instant.  I thought I could discern in the
far distance several black spots.  I was sure that they were my
pursuers.  On I went along the ridge of the mountain.  It was stony and
free from snow, and I hoped that if my pursuers should discover my trail
across the ice they might possibly here lose it.  This thought gave me
fresh courage.  I came to the end of the ridge and descended into the
plain.  My noble steed was becoming much distressed.  Still I valued my
life more than his.  As long as he could go I must make him go.  On he
went.  Full eighty miles had been passed over since dawn.  Neither my
horse nor I had tasted food.  Still I dared not stop.  Across the plain
we went.  Nearly another ten miles were gone over.  I felt my horse's
legs staggering under him.  He breathed heavily, his pace slackened;
still he endeavoured to spring forward.  He staggered more and more, and
I had barely time to throw myself off when down he came to the ground.
Once he tried to rise, but again he fell, and his glassy eye told me too
plainly that he had destroyed himself in his efforts to save me.  Who
but the base-hearted would be unmerciful to man's most serviceable and
sagacious of friends?  I had no time to stop and mourn for my gallant
steed.  Casting but another look on him I ran on over the ground as
rapidly as my legs would carry me.  I never stopped; I never looked
behind me.  I knew that nothing would turn aside my blood-thirsty
pursuers.  Night came on; still I ran without slacking my speed.

"I had been in motion since the morning without food, still the dread of
falling into the power of my savage foes gave me supernatural strength.
A wood lay before me; I plunged into it.  I still could distinguish my
course by the stars, and I hoped that my pursuers would be unable to
make out my trail.  This hope gave me fresh courage, but my strength was
failing me, and in a short time, gasping for breath, I fell to the
ground, and the blood gushed out of my mouth.  I thought I was going to
die like my poor horse, but after a time I felt better, and hope revived
once more.  I lay still in the hopes of recovering my strength.  I did
not wish to sleep; indeed I knew how dangerous it would be to attempt to
do so.  As I lay on my back, I saw the moon slowly rise above the still
trees, and shed a bright light over the landscape.  I gazed at it for
some time; then I recollected that by its light my pursuers would
certainly be able to follow up my trail.  Instantly I sprang to my feet,
stiff and full of pains as I felt, and on once more I went.  I came at
last to a rugged hill.  I climbed it, and following the stony ridge for
some way, descended into the plain on the opposite side.  On I ran.  As
before, I thought I heard the shouts and threatening cries of my
enemies, and fancied that they must have got to the side of the mountain
I was on by some other path.  As long as I had any strength I determined
to run on.

"Day at last dawned; I entered a wood.  I had my knife in my pocket.  I
dug up some earth-nuts, and chewed some snow.  I felt revived, but my
legs refused to carry me farther.  I discovered a hole full of leaves, I
threw myself into it; I listened with intense anxiety for any sounds
made by my pursuers.  I could hear none.  Exhausted nature at length
gave way, and I slept.  Whether I slept more than a whole day, or only a
few hours, I cannot tell.  My first impulse was to spring up and
continue my flight.  But before I left the wood I remembered that I must
have more food, so I dug up a further supply of nuts, and then dashed
away as before across the plain.  I looked hastily around me, but could
see no pursuers.  Still I knew too well their pertinacity and their
devices, to suppose that they would desist from following me, till I was
actually in a place of safety.  On I went, therefore, rejoicing in the
darkness.

"Suddenly as I went along I heard some strange sounds.  These were human
voices.  I became aware that I was passing near a large body of Indians.
They were not my pursuers, but, till I could ascertain who they were, I
would on no account intrust myself with them.  To turn back was as
hazardous as to proceed, so on I went.  They heard me, and came after
me.  I expected to lose my scalp after all, when you, my friends, came
to my rescue, and here I am; rather battered, I own, but still able and
willing to pull a trigger for our mutual defence."

"Spoken like an honest backwoodsman," cried Obed and his brothers.
"Friend Short, if you like to join your fortunes to ours, you are
welcome."

The old man owned that he had no fancy to hunt by himself, and that
after the adventures he had gone through he would gladly leave that part
of the country, for, as he said, Indian vengeance never slumbers, and
never dies, as if in exact contradiction to the Christian law of love.

Knowing that we were surrounded by vindictive enemies, none of us felt
inclined for sleep, and I therefore asked Obed to continue the account
of his adventures.  "Ay, friend, that I will," he answered promptly.  "I
left the honest Delaware and the bear and her cubs all rolling away into
the river together.  The cold water somewhat astonished Mistress Bruin,
and made her for an instant let go her gripe.  The Delaware took the
opportunity of striking his knife with all his force into her neck, and
before she could return the compliment, he sprang up the bank, on the
top of which I stood ready to assist him.  The bear was not killed, but,
rendered furious by the wound, she began to scramble up the bank after
us.  The Delaware sprang to get his rifle, while I pointed mine at the
brute's head.  On she came.  I fired, and expected to see her roll over,
but the bullet did not strike a vital part, and so she made savagely at
me.

"The Delaware had by this time regained possession of his rifle, and
while I threw myself on one side, he fired with unerring aim full at the
bear's head.  In another instant her claws would have been on my
shoulders, and her teeth in my cheeks.  The ball struck her.  With a
fierce growl she attempted to spring forward, but I stepped back, and
over she rolled at our feet.  The cubs came waddling up to see what was
the matter with their mother, and as they were rather too big to be
pleasant companions, we were obliged to kill them.  We ate some slices
of them afterwards.  We spent the evening very pleasantly over our fire,
and next day at dawn we pushed on, that we might encamp while there was
an abundance of light to put up our wigwam, and to kill any game we
might require.  Several days passed away without any event of interest
to tell you of.  The Delaware was an excellent travelling companion, and
I believe that without him the Indians would speedily have found me out,
and would have left me without a top to my head.  We had quitted the
banks of the river, and were progressing across a wide-rolling prairie.
Although the wind when it blew was keen, the sun had still at midday
great power.  We toiled on through the high grass with not a breath of
air, hoping to get across the prairie before nightfall.  We could see,
from the nature of the ground, very little way on either side of us.

"Suddenly we were conscious of a hot wind blowing on our right cheeks,
and then it came laden with smoke and fine dust.  `On! on!' cried the
Delaware, grasping my arm to hasten my steps.  There was reason for us
to hasten.  `The prairie is on fire, and before long, if we delay, we
shall be surrounded by the raging flames!' he exclaimed.  `On! on! on!'
I saw in the far distance a rocky mound, rising out of the prairie,
towards which my guide pointed.  I saw that he meant that we should seek
safety there, but it seemed to me scarcely possible that we should reach
it before the fire would overtake us."



CHAPTER NINE.

OBED'S ADVENTURES CONTINUED--JOURNEY WITH THE DELAWARE--THE PRAIRIE ON
FIRE--THEY FLY FOR THEIR LIVES--A STAMPEDO--A NARROW ESCAPE ON THE
ROCK--LONG JOURNEY--APPROACH OF WINTER--THEIR LIFE IN A CAVE--EXPECTED
VISIT FROM BEARS--JOURNEY CONTINUED--ARRIVAL AT THE FORT--FURTHER
ADVENTURES WITH BEARS AND WOLVES--SAVE THE LIFE OF A YOUNG CHIEF--CARRY
HIM ONWARD TILL THEY REACH THEIR CAMP--THE YOUNG RED-SKIN'S GRATITUDE--
END OF OBED'S NARRATIVE--FRESH ALARMS--AGAIN THE ENEMY APPROACH.

"The Delaware and I ran on at full speed through the high grass,"
continued Obed.

"Every instant I expected to be tripped up by its tough roots which
trailed along the earth, but my companion, who was well accustomed to
the sort of ground, kept me from falling.  I asked him, as we ran, why
he did not stop, and, as I knew to be the custom, cut down and burn a
clear space round us, so as to let the conflagration pass by on either
side.

"`The deer and buffaloes, and other wild animals, would rush through the
space and trample us to death,' he answered.  `Even now I hear the sound
of their hoofs in the distance--haste! haste!'

"I tried to listen as I ran, and I fancied that I did hear a low,
murmuring, hollow sound, which had a peculiarly terror-inspiring effect.
The wind blew stronger, the air became denser and more oppressive, and
the ashes fell thicker around us.  We distinctly heard the noise of the
rushing flames.  The rock towards which we were running rose before us,
but, yet near as it was, the fire came roaring on so rapidly that I
fully expected it to overtake us.  On it came, hissing and crackling.
The air grew hotter and hotter, and more and more oppressive.  As I
struggled on I felt as if I could scarcely move my limbs.  It was like a
dreadful dream, when a person fancies that danger is near, and that he
cannot fly from it.  I gasped for breath.  The Indian also was much
distressed.  Some things men can get accustomed to, but to have to run
for one's life, with a prairie-fire roaring at one's side, one does not
like a bit more the tenth time it is encountered than the first.  `On!
on!' cried out the faithful Delaware.  He could run faster than I could,
but still he delayed for me.  Besides the crackling and hissing of the
fire, there was a loud, roaring, trampling, crushing, thundering sound,
or mixture of sounds, utterly indescribable.  The rock was reached--we
clambered up it.  We gained the summit.  It was a wide, open space,
entirely free of grass.

"Almost fainting, I was sinking to the ground, when I saw the Delaware
pointing to the plain below us.  There, across the ground we had just
left, came tearing along, in strange confusion, herds of buffaloes,
deer, wolves, foxes, prairie-hares, several bears, and even birds,
turkeys, prairie-hens, and other wild fowl, all uttering their peculiar
cries of terror, and utterly disregarding each other.  Not one stopped
to prey on another.

"One feeling of intense terror inspired the whole mass.  On they flew,
fleet as the wind; all they seemed to think of was that the fire was
behind them, and that, unless they would be destroyed, they must fly.
Some were left dead or wounded; the weak trampled on by the stronger;
but still on scampered the mass, with the fire raging at their heels.  I
saw what would have been our fate, had we not reached the rock before
the herd passed by, and I thanked Heaven that we had been preserved.  We
remained on the rock for some hours, till the ground below was cool
enough to enable us to proceed; but, after the heat of the fire, the air
felt bitterly cold, and we had no shelter from it.  I do not think we
could have endured it during the night.  We descended, and began to
cross the remainder of the plain, but even then our feet struck up
sparks from the yet smouldering ashes, and light clouds of smoke rose up
continually, circling round our heads till they were dispersed in the
clear atmosphere.

"Desolate, dismal, and barren looked the country through which we
journeyed on the following day.  Not a vestige remained of animal life,
but here and there appeared the skinless skulls and bones of some huge
buffalo or stately stag, which had long lain there blanching in the sun.
The sky had for some time been overcast.  The Delaware pointed towards
it.  `The winter is coming,' he observed; `this is not the place to be
overtaken in a snow-storm.'  I agreed with him; so, in spite of the
fatigue which, after my wounds and loss of blood, I felt in a way I had
never before done, I dragged my heavy legs after him.  We reached about
nightfall a clump of trees.  Under their shelter we lighted our fire,
cooked our provisions, and lay down to rest.  Nature required rest.
Often have I thought of those words: `The Sabbath was made for man, and
not man for the Sabbath.'  Constituted as man is, what a blessing truly
is the Sabbath! how sweet, how necessary is rest!

"We rose before daybreak, stirred up our fire, cooked and ate our
breakfast, and, as the light of dawn found its way through the trees
which surrounded us, we started on our way.  The sky was ominously dark,
but the snow had not yet begun to fall, yet the piercing air told us
that it would not long be delayed.  The Delaware spoke but little.  He
evidently did not like the state of things.  I had made up my mind from
the first to be guided by his judgment.  One thing was very certain,
that we could not stop where we were.  Our only chance of safety
depended on our pushing on.  `Where to?'  I thought.  I saw nothing but
the wide-rolling, blackened prairie before me.  The sight alone was
depressing, independent of the anticipation of coming evil.  Hour after
hour passed.  Not a break appeared in the clouds, not a gleam of
sunshine burst forth to cheer us.  Still the snow did not fall, and
there was nothing to impede our progress.  We stopped at noon to dine.
A few minutes sufficed us for our frugal meal.  The bitter cold did not
tempt us to rest longer than was necessary.

"On again we went.  `Where is the wood in which we are to pass the
night?'  I asked of the Delaware.  `It is yet far-off,' was his
unsatisfactory answer.  Evening was drawing on.  I saw a bleak hill, but
no wood capable of affording us shelter.  Just then a snowflake settled
on my face.  It was a slight thing.  How indifferent should I have been
to it at other times!  Now it made my heart sink lower than it had ever
done before.  Another and another fell; then down the snowflakes came
rapidly, thickly sprinkling the ground and our garments.  The wind sent
them driving against us over the prairie.  The Delaware pointed to the
hill.  On towards it we pushed.  The snow in a few minutes completely
covered the ground, a sheet of white was spread out where lately all had
been black, here and there only the taller tufts of grass appearing
above it.  There was no prospect of the snow ceasing to fall.  Soon it
covered our moccasins and reached to our ankles.  Walking became more
and more difficult.  It was half-way up to our knees, still we pushed
on.  My companion remained silent.  I did not trouble him by asking
questions.  He had hopes of escaping, or he would, I thought, very
likely have sat down where he was and quietly awaited his fate.  Had he
done so, it would have been my business to rouse him to exertion.  The
snow fell thicker and thicker.  Daylight was rapidly decreasing.  It
grew less and less.  All we could see was the sheet of snow immediately
surrounding us.  Still my companion went steadily on.

"Backwoodsman as I am, and am proud to be, I should have been completely
at a loss in what direction to go had I been left by myself, except I
had trusted to the wind.  As long as that blew it would have served as a
guide, though a somewhat uncertain one.  Even that guide proved fickle.
The wind fell and the snow came down perpendicularly, or rather on all
sides, floating here and there, and completely surrounding us.  Still my
companion went on without hesitation.  At first I had walked by his
side, now I dropped behind him and trod in his footsteps.  This enabled
me to keep up with him better.  As far as I could judge, I believe his
course was straight as an arrow for the point at which he was aiming.
The cold was less intense than it had been before the snow began to
fall, still I felt that if we were to stop we should very likely be
frozen to death.  Though I kept as close as I could to my companion,
almost touching him indeed, so thickly did the snow come down that often
I could barely distinguish his misty form before me.

"I never felt so helpless; my manhood seemed to have deserted me.  I
thought if I should stumble and fall, before I could cry out he might be
out of sight and be unable to find me.  I confess that all sorts of
dreadful fancies came into my head.  At last I got ashamed of them, and
tried to get a better heart in my body.  I began to whistle, but that
would not do, then I tried to sing; I got on badly enough in that way
also.  I don't think the Delaware quite approved of the attempt.  He
grunted out something once or twice.  Perhaps he was trying to join in
the chorus.  My voice, indeed, grew fainter and fainter, and at last I
was obliged to give up the attempt.  My knees, too, were less and less
able to support me; I felt them trembling under my weight.  Still I
toiled on.  I would not complain, that would have lowered me in the
estimation of my guide, and I would not ask questions, so I remained
ignorant as to what prospect there was of our reaching shelter from the
storm.

"At last I found that we were going up hill over rugged ground, and I
concluded that we had reached the hill I had seen before it grew dark.
We went on for some way up and then down, and then along a level place,
and then up again, and I saw a dark object rising on my right side, high
above our heads it seemed.  It looked to me like a precipice.  Presently
my guide stopped, so suddenly that I ran against him.  Then he turned to
the right without speaking, and I followed him.  We went on a few paces,
and I found that we were in total darkness.  No snow fell on me, the air
felt comparatively warm, and I was conscious that there was something
above my head.

"`Stay,' said the Delaware, and I heard the click of his flint and
steel.  The bright sparks came forth and he applied them to his tinder,
and I saw the glowing mass lowered to the ground; and the countenance of
the Indian lighted up as he blew against it till it grew larger and
larger, and a bright flame burst forth, and I found that we were in a
high arched cavern.  How cheerful the fire looked as it burned up, and
sitting round it we warmed our numbed limbs, and felt that we had found
a shelter from the storm.  The place had evidently constantly been used
for the same purpose.  There was a good supply of wood on one side,
sufficient to light many a fire for some time to come.  Farther up, the
floor of the cavern was strewed with the bones of animals, many of which
must have been of vast size, and have lived in bygone ages.  We had
killed a deer not long before, so having warmed our hands we set to work
to toast some of the meat at the end of our ramrods.  The food and
warmth once more wakened the Delaware's tongue, and he told me that in
five days, after leaving our present position, we should be able to
reach Fort Laramie.

"`When shall we be able to leave it?'  I asked.  `Is there not some
probability of our being snowed up?'

"`I cannot answer two questions in one breath,' answered the Delaware.
`As to when we can leave the cavern, depends on when the snow ceases
falling.  It may be in three days, or it may fall for a week or more.
As to being snowed up, there is not much probability of that.  Should it
by any chance drift against the mouth of the cavern, we must cut our
out.  But do not fear.  We are warm here, we have fire and food.  Let us
be thankful for the blessings we enjoy.'

"I felt the truth and wisdom of his observations, and having piled up
more wood on the fire, we wrapped ourselves up in our buffalo robes, and
lay down with our feet towards it.  The Indian was asleep in an instant.
Though I thought for a minute or so, I very quickly followed his
example.  We both of us awoke at intervals and made up our fire, but
were instantly again asleep, and I do not think I ever enjoyed more
refreshing slumber.  It was broad daylight when I awoke.  I got up and
went to the mouth of the cavern; the snow fell as thickly and fast as
ever, but as it did not appear to be blocking up our cavern, that did
not concern me.

"After some time the Delaware awoke, and then we toasted some more
venison.  After he had eaten it, he lay down and went fast asleep again.
I slept a good deal, but I could not manage as much as he did.  I asked
him how he contrived to sleep so much.  He laughed calmly.

"`When I have thought of what is to be done, why should I think of
anything more?  Then I sleep to be ready for the work to be done.'

"Day after day passed by; I began to grow very weary of being shut up in
the cavern, though I exercised my limbs by walking up and down it
continually, and amused myself by examining the bones of the animals in
the interior.  Many of them were, I doubted not, of elephants, and
lions, and tigers, strange animals which I had read about, while with
the others I was familiar enough--buffaloes, bears, wolves, stags, and
others.  I must own that I was not always quite comfortable when I lay
down to sleep, expecting that perhaps we might be visited by a roving
bear, or a hungry wolf; and more than once, when I opened my eyes, I
fully expected to see one poking his head in at the entrance, or
standing by ready to fly at one of us the instant we made any movement.
The Delaware did not appear to be troubled about the matter, and certain
it is that none came near us all the time we were in the cave.  The only
reason the Indian could give for our not being attacked, was that the
animals were afraid of the spirits of their long-dead fellows, whose
bones were found there.  I suspect that the bears did not come because
the cave was so frequently visited, while the wolves kept to their lower
grounds, where they were more likely to find animals to prey on.

"The snow ceased at last; but it was not till the tenth day that the
Delaware said that it would be hard enough for us to travel on without
snow-shoes.  We had to ascend the mountain some way, and then to
descend.  The western side was thickly covered with trees; indeed, the
country through which we passed was very rich, and only wanted the hand
of an industrious people to make it fertile.  We each night reached a
good camping place, and as we were fortunate in killing two hen turkeys,
the Delaware said we should not be pressed for want of food, and we
accordingly travelled on at an easy pace.  One forenoon, as we were
passing over a height, I knew from the way the trees grew that there was
a river below us, though now it was covered with nature's uniform of
white.  Carrying my eye along it in the far distance, I saw a wreath of
white smoke ascending into the clear, bright blue sky.  There was
something inexpressibly cheering in the sight, after going so long
without seeing the slightest sign of human beings.  However, the smoke
might be produced by Indians, and perhaps enemies, whom we must of
necessity avoid.  I asked the Delaware if he would tell what he knew
about the matter.

"`That is the fort,' he answered; `you will there very likely gain
tidings of your friends.'

"My heart bounded within me at the thought of being once more united to
my family.

"`The sun will sink thus far down before we can reach the place,' said
the Indian, pointing to the sky with his hand.

"This good news added fresh vigour to my muscles, and I found myself not
only keeping up with the Indian, but actually hurrying his steps.  After
walking for nearly two hours over very rugged ground, up and down steep
and wild hills, we saw before us, on an elevated mound overlooking the
river, a strong stockade, over which peeped the roofs of several
cottages, while a deep trench cut round the hill added yet more to the
strength of the place.  As the Delaware and I drew near, we saw that we
were closely watched through a spy-glass.  We waved our hands to show
that we came as friends, and as we began to climb the steep height
towards the fort, several people came out by the door of the fort to
meet us.  How pleasant it was to be welcomed as a white man by white
men, to hear them talk and to be treated as a brother!  The honest
Delaware, too, was welcomed, for he had brought letters for many in the
fort, and undertook to deliver any others in return, with which he might
be intrusted.  How pleasant was a cup of hot tea, and some soft bread,
and the vegetables for dinner, and then to find myself turning into a
real bed, with sheets and blankets!  The truth is, however, that after
sleeping so long in the open air, I found that of a small room so
oppressive that I could not breathe, and had to get up and open the
window, and let the cold in.  But I am going ahead too fast.

"Having satisfied the governor of the fort all about myself, I inquired
if they could give me tidings of my family.  What was my satisfaction to
find that a party answering their description were encamped in winter
quarters not more than a week's journey to the north-west.  My friend
the Delaware knew the spot, and undertook to guide me there.  We spent
two days longer in the fort to refresh ourselves, and both of us truly
needed rest, and then we set out.  He had guided me so far in safety,
that I felt the most perfect confidence in his courage, judgment, and
honesty.  We got new moccasins at the fort, and our clothes mended, and
our friends furnished us with an ample supply of provisions.  Though I
had been very happy in the fort, and very kindly treated, I felt as I
could fancy a man would, just let out of prison, when I found myself
once more walking along with my faithful companion over the snow.  The
weather was very fine, there was no wind, and at times in the day we
found it much too hot to wear our buffalo-skin coats.

"One day with us was much like another, though, by the bye, we did meet
with some few adventures.  We fell in with a fine old grizzly bear, whom
we turned out of his cave; but the Delaware shot him through the head,
and we afterwards had some capital steaks out of him.  Then we were
pursued by a pack of wolves, but we climbed a tree and let them pass by
us.  We were, the Delaware computed, about half a day's journey from the
spot at which we were aiming, when we entered a valley, with a high hill
on one side of it, broken into rugged precipices.  We had advanced some
way along the valley, when, as we happened to look up at the heights
above us, we saw a figure rapidly coming down towards it.  He was
hunting some animal, we thought.  He did not see his danger.  We shouted
to him, but it was too late; he did not hear us, and over he went down a
frightful precipice.  We ran forward, and thinking he must be killed,
expected to see his mangled body hanging to some rugged projection in
the rock; but the very precipitous character of the cliff had been the
means of his preservation.  He had fallen directly into a snow-drift,
and though a limb apparently was broken, and he was much hurt, he
speedily came to himself.  To leave him where he was would have been
sheer barbarity; so we told him that we would carry him to my father's
camp, where he would be quickly cured.  He thanked us much, and
consented willingly to do as we advised.  Cutting some boughs from the
trees which grew around, we speedily formed a litter, on which we placed
him.

"Carrying him between us, we approached the spot where my family were
supposed to be encamped.  From a hill at a little distance I got a view
of it.  My heart beat quick at the thought of seeing them all again.
They had selected a rocky mound for the site of their encampment, and
had surrounded it with a stockade and ditch, so that it was capable of
resisting any attack the Indians were likely to make on it.  There was
room inside, I calculated, not only for their own huts, but for their
cattle and wagons, and a supply of fodder and wood.  They had spared no
pains, I guessed, to make themselves secure and comfortable.  The very
look of the place convinced me that my family were there.  As we drew
near, a gate opened, and several people came out.  There were, I saw,
father and mother, and sisters, and all my brothers but Joab.  Then I
feared, as I found, that brother Joab had been killed.  I said nothing,
for I was afraid to ask about him.  They all welcomed me as one from the
dead, for they thought that I had been killed, and never expected to
hear anything of me again, for they had seen me fall, as they had Joab,
and he, poor fellow, had been scalped before their eyes, so they had no
hopes for him.  After they all had done talking to me, I told them about
the young red-skin, whom the Delaware and I had brought.  The women at
once took charge of him, and doctored him in their own kind way.

"In the meantime the Delaware was not forgotten, and everybody tried to
show their gratitude to him for the service he had been to me.  It was
several days before the young Indian began to recover; indeed I believe
any one but a red-skin would have been killed with such a fall as he
had.  When he got better he began to talk to us, but we could make out
but little of what he said.  At last I begged the Delaware to come to
him, as he understood his language.  After some hesitation, and a long
talk with the Delaware, he told us that he was the eldest son of the
chief of the Kioway tribe; that he and his people had planned an attack
on our fort, and that it was to take place in three days by that time.
He said that his people did not know what had become of him, but that
they would not abandon their plans on account of his loss.

"`Now,' he added, `I will go to them, and tell them all you have done
for me, and instead of enemies, they will become your friends.'

"In two days more he was strong enough to move, and he insisted on
setting out, saying that he should soon fall in with his people.  Off he
went, and we waited anxiously his return; but in case of treachery we
put everything to rights in the fort to resist an attack.  In a few
hours the young chief came back with some twenty or more painted
warriors in his train--very formidable customers they would have proved
if they had come as enemies.  Well, to make a long story short, when he
heard that I was going to set out with my brothers to bring you
assistance, he undertook to send twenty of his people with us, while he
and the remainder stopped in the neighbourhood to guard our camp.  We
lost no time in getting ready; I was as fresh as a lark; we travelled
fast, and came in time `to do the happy deed which gilds my humble
name,' quoth Dick.

"`No, no,' exclaimed several of the party simultaneously, `honest Obed
Ragget never finished a sentence with a quotation from a play, though it
was writ by a minister.'

"`To confess the truth, no,' said Dick; `indeed honest Obed's
expressions were not always, though highly graphic, grammatically
correct, so I have given his narrative in what is generally considered
the more orthodox vernacular; yet you have, I own, thereby lost much of
the force of his descriptions and no little amusement.'

"Obed had scarcely finished his account, when from every part of the
whole surrounding wood resounded the most terrific war-whoops and
unearthly shrieks and cries.  Seizing our weapons, we sprang from our
seats, and rushed to repel the expected assault."



CHAPTER TEN.

THE RED-SKINS ATTEMPT TO ALARM US--SINGULARLY UNSUCCESSFUL--THE ENEMY AT
LENGTH COMMENCE THE ASSAULT--WE BRAVELY DEFEND OUR CAMP--SAM DISCOVERS
THAT THEY ARE PAWNEES AND DACOTAHS--HIS DEVICE TO SEPARATE THEIR
FORCES--DISCOVERS NOGGIN AMONG THEM DRESSED AS A CHIEF--THE ENEMY
RETIRE--SAM'S EXPEDITION TO RESCUE NOGGIN, WHICH I ACCOMPANY--OUR
SUCCESS--MR. AND MRS. NOGGIN--HIS MAGNIFICENT APPEARANCE AS AN INDIAN
CHIEF--WE PUSH ONWARDS AND AT LENGTH REACH THE CAMP OF OUR FRIENDS THE
RAGGETS.

The red-skins knew that we were on the watch for them, and as they were
not likely to take us by surprise, they thought that they could terrify
us by their shrieks and hullabaloos.  They did not know what we were
made of, or they would not have wasted their breath in that way.  Two of
our scouts came hurrying in, the other two had, we feared, been
surprised and scalped by our enemies.  We all stood to our arms in dead
silence, waiting the expected attack.  Our Indian allies wanted to reply
to the war-whoops of our foes, but we judged that as they outnumbered
us, we should be much more likely to awe them if we remained in perfect
silence.  Again and again, several times, those unearthly shrieks broke
the silence of the night.  I own that they were terror-inspiring, and I
was very glad each time when they ceased.  It was nearly dawn when once
more that hideous war-whoop was heard, and instantaneously the snow-clad
ground before us was covered with the dark forms of our foes, streaming
out from the forest and climbing up the height towards us.  The Raggets,
Sam Short, Pipestick, and I took the lead in directing the defence, and
we were soon joined by old Waggum-winne-beg, who got up, in spite of his
wounds and weakness, to give us his assistance.

It was evident that our enemies had been reinforced, though it was still
too dark to count them with anything like accuracy.  Indeed I don't,
exaggerate when I say that our sight was not a little disturbed by the
showers of arrows which they sent among us.  In spite of their numbers,
we rather astonished them with the warm reception provided for their
entertainment.  Old Short was in his element; calling some ten of the
Kioways round him, he was here and there and on every side of the camp
at the same moment, firing very rapidly and never throwing a shot away.
He must have killed a dozen of our enemies in as many minutes.  In about
twenty minutes they seemed to have had enough of it, and rushed back
under shelter as rapidly as they had come out of it.  The dawn appeared.
The rising sun spread a ruddy glow over the field of snow already
stained with the blood of the slain.  We thought that our enemies would
retire, but no.  Without a moment's warning, on they rushed once more up
the height.  This time our rifles told with more certain effect than
even before; not a shot was thrown away, and the redskins fell thickly
around us on every side.

"What are they about now?  They seem to have some scheme in reserve," I
observed to Obed.  Scarcely had I spoken when some who had retired again
came forth, accompanied by a stout, sturdy-looking warrior, who,
however, did not seem very anxious to advance.  He held a rifle in his
hand, which he fired every now and then as he advanced; but he was very
long in loading it, and each time his bullet whistled above our heads.
His companions were too intent on the attack to observe this.  Just then
we were joined by old Sam Short.  I pointed out the warrior to him.

"Why!" he exclaimed, "those fellows are Pawnees, the very villains from
whom I escaped, and that seeming chief is no other than poor Noggin.
Tell your fellows not to hurt him, and I will have a talk with him
before long.  If I can get him to draw off the Pawnees, we may easily
settle with the remainder of the Dacotahs, whom you have, I see, handled
pretty severely already."  Saying this, the old hunter disappeared among
the tents, but speedily came back rigged out in the most fantastic
fashion, holding a long staff in his hand literally covered with rags
and tatters, which as he held it aloft streamed in the wind.  We,
meantime, had been effectually keeping the enemy at bay.  "I think this
will do for the nonce," he exclaimed; "give them one volley more, and
then let me see what I can do."

We followed his advice, and the moment we ceased firing, while the enemy
were still skipping about to avoid our shots, he rushed from among us,
crying out, "Noggin, old friend, tell your fellows that the mighty
medicine-man of all the Indians has come to get them out of a great
scrape, and that the sooner they take themselves away from this the
better."

The Indians, astonished at his sudden appearance, hung back, and no one
attempted to attack him, as I fully expected they would have done.
Noggin, on hearing the voice of his old friend, instantly called his
companions around him, we meantime taking care to reserve our fire for
our old enemies the Dacotahs.  Presently we saw the Pawnees drawing off,
while the old hunter, indulging in all sorts of fantastic gestures, came
hurrying back to the camp, no one attempting to stop him.  I asked him
why he had not brought his friend Noggin with him.

"Ah, he is an honest fellow," he answered.  "He refused to come without
Mrs Noggin.  The poor girl had trusted to him, had saved his life, and
he would not desert her.  I honour him for it, but I do not despair of
seeing him and her yet.  If he can induce her to come, he will bring her
as soon as he can make his escape from her tribe.  He has no wish to
live the life of a red-skin for the remainder of his days.  It is my
desire, and I think it will be his, to join my fortunes to yours.  From
what I hear you are bound for California, and I should like to go and
try my luck in that country too.  I may be of use to you, and you will
afford me that companionship which I begin to feel the want of in my old
age.  I have no fancy again to run the risk of being scalped or roasted,
or having to lie down and die by myself like a worn-out old wolf, or
other wild beast in the desert."

The Raggets and I expressed our satisfaction at the thoughts of having
so experienced a hunter as our companion, and that matter was settled
off-hand.  The Dacotahs had retired when they saw the Pawnees drawing
off.  They probably tried to ascertain the cause of this desertion.
They made but one more very faint attack, and finding, as we supposed,
that their chance of success was less than ever, finally retired out of
sight into the wood.  We could not restrain our Indian allies from
rushing out to scalp the slain, though we warned them against surprise,
and charged them not to touch the wounded; but I suspect they did not
much heed our words.  They came back with fully thirty scalps, saying
that our bullets had made such sure work, that every one was killed
outright.  As the day drew on, we were more and more convinced that our
enemies had had enough of it.  We sent out our scouts, who felt their
way cautiously, following their trails.  The chief body of the Dacotahs
had gone off to the north and east, while the Pawnees had taken the
direction of the north-west.  The latter had retired with deliberation
and order, while the former had made a hurried retreat.  A little later
in the day a scout came in, saving that the Pawnees had halted about
five miles off.

"Then I know the reason why," observed Short.  "Noggin has persuaded
them to halt, and, depend on it, he will try to escape with his wife.
If some of you would aid me, I should like to go and meet him, to help
him along."

Obed and I and John Pipestick agreed to accompany him, with four of our
Indian allies.  As soon as it was dusk we set off on our expedition.  We
crept cautiously along from the very fist in Indian file, the scout who
had discovered the trail leading, and Short going next.  Indeed, the man
who wishes to keep the scalp on his head cannot be too cautious when in
the Indian country, and with enemies in the neighbourhood.  Not a word
was spoken, scarcely a sound was heard, while we kept our rifles
trailing by our sides, ready for use at a moment's notice.  We could not
tell, of course, whether the Dacotahs or Pawnees might not have taken it
into their heads to come back and attack us, or, at all events, might
not have left some scouts to watch our proceedings.  We went on thus,
till the sounds of drums beating, bones rattling, keeping time to the
voices of human beings, creating a most unpleasant sort of music, warned
us that we were in the neighbourhood of the Pawnee camp.  It was
difficult to say when Noggin might take the opportunity of slipping
away.  It might be at once, while all the noise was going forward, or it
might not be till the inhabitants of the camp were asleep.  So we all
sat down and watched in silence.

It was agreed that Short should go forward and meet his friend, so as
not to alarm him.  I must own that I had fallen asleep, and was dreaming
of old England and my comfortable arm-chair, when I was awoke by finding
my companions rising and beginning to move on at a rapid rate--I was so
sleepy that I could not tell where.  On we went, no one speaking,
following each other as before, so I judged that it would be wise not to
speak either.

It was still very dark, all I could do was to see the person immediately
preceding me.  On, on, we went: at last we began to go up hill, and I
found that we were approaching our own camp.  The light of our fires was
shining brightly from it.  Obed answered with a cheerful voice to the
challenge of our sentinels, and as we entered our stockade I found, for
the first time, that our party was increased by two persons.  One was
habited in the full costume of a red-skin chief, and a big
commanding-looking fellow he was; the other was an Indian squaw; she was
a fine but modest girl, and she seemed to shrink back with true feminine
timidity from the gaze of so many strangers.  To my surprise I found
that the handsome chief, who decidedly would have created a great
sensation in any London drawing-room, and, perhaps, have won the hearts
of half a dozen young ladies, and persuaded them to settle down as the
mistress of his faithful retainers in his extensive territories in the
Far West, was no other than Tom Noggin, whose adventures I had just been
hearing.  I do not know what sort of an orator Tom might have made as an
Indian, his English vernacular was not of the choicest.

"I wish some-on you chaps would get this young woman of mine stowed away
with some of her own kind among the Indians, they'll know her, and
comfort her a bit, poor thing," quoth Tom.  The words and tone were
really kind and kindly meant, but they sounded odd as coming from the
lips of a full-fledged red-skin warrior.  Noggin at once fell into old
Short's plan, and having all laid down to take some rest, we packed up
our traps and were once more on the move.  We accompanied the
kind-hearted Ottoes three days further on their road till they
considered themselves out of the reach of their enemies.  Had I pressed
John Pipestick I believe he would have brought his wives and joined our
party, but I did not altogether admire the young gentleman's notions on
things in general, so I kept silent on the matter.  I had an
affectionate parting from old Waggum-winne-beg, who once more pressed
his beautiful Firefly on me; but my heart was proof against even her
brilliant attractions.  The young lady pouted a little when I wished her
good-bye, and, I have no doubt, thought me a man of very bad taste.
Once more our course was turned towards the West.  With a good supply of
ammunition, little baggage, and forming as we did a band of practised
hunters and backwoodsmen, together with a body of faithful allies, we
had no fear as to the result of an attack which any Indians might
venture to make on us, provided we exercised all necessary precaution in
our advance.

More than once we were aware that Indians were on our trail, or hovering
round our camp; but when they ascertained the state of preparation we
were in, being assured that they would have to buy victory, if they got
it at all, at a very dear rate, they thought it wiser not to attack us.
We expected to have been pursued by the Pawnees, but for some reason or
other they did not seem to wish to get back Noggin or his wife.  They
followed us, however, and ten days afterwards two of them made their
appearance in our camp.  We watched them narrowly, for they are thievish
fellows, and would have stolen anything they could have laid hands on.
They came, they said, to bring a message from their chief to his
daughter, which, as far as we could make out, was equivalent to his
blessing; telling her at the same time that as she had chosen to marry a
white man, she must follow his fortunes for the future, and not look to
the red men for support.  The young lady replied that she was perfectly
contented with her choice, and had no intention of going home again.
Short all the time kept out of sight of the Pawnees, for he thought his
appearance would not fail to enrage them he advised us, however, to
follow theirs trail as they went away, to ascertain in what direction
they were going, and to assure ourselves that they were not plotting
some piece of treachery.  We found, however, that they went right away
to the north-east, and were not likely to trouble us any more.  We
travelled steadily on, making good twenty miles a day at least.

The instant we arrived at a wood or other fit place for camping, some
collected wood and lighted fires, others tore down strips of bark and
branches of trees to form wigwams, while the sportsmen ranged round to
look out for game, and the scouts explored the neighbourhood to
ascertain that no enemies were lurking near.  Mrs Noggin made herself
very useful in cooking our provisions, and her husband and Short helped
her.  The latter had not yet recovered from his long run and the
exertions he had made to free himself, and it seemed wonderful that he
should be able to support the fatigue of travelling as well as he did.
Altogether, we led a very pleasant life; but I was not sorry, I own, to
see in the distance the stockade in which my old friends the Raggets,
and two or three other families who had associated themselves with them,
had passed the winter.  We arrived just in time before the frost broke
up.  After that, till the warm dry weather began, travelling would have
been very difficult.  Our friends were very glad to see us all back
again safe, and gave a hearty welcome to old Short and to Noggin and his
wife.  They were not people to turn up their noses at a red-skin.  With
all due respect to my white friends, Mrs Noggin appeared to great
advantage alongside them.  She was a very well-mannered, amiable, kind,
sweet young woman, and though some of her ways were not just quite what
a refined Englishman would admire, I do not think friend Noggin objected
to them, and they seemed as happy as possible.

We had altogether not an unpleasant time in the stockade, and we had
plenty of work in repairing the wagons and tents, and in making other
preparations for our further progress through the wild passes of the
Snowy Mountains.  The travelling, barring the attacks from the
red-skins, had hitherto been easy; we were now to enter on a region wild
and rugged in the extreme, where we should have to encounter dangers
innumerable from grizzly bears, avalanches, mountain torrents, and steep
precipices, added to those we had already gone through.  However, their
contemplation in no way daunted any of our party.  From old Mr Ragget's
forethought and judgment, he had amply supplied his camp with provisions
before the winter set in, and the same qualities he was now exerting in
making preparations for our journey.  We thus avoided many of the
disasters and miseries from which so many parties of emigrants suffered
proceeding over the same route in following years.



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

OUR WINTER ENCAMPMENT--OUR HUTS--HOW WE SPENT OUR TIME--A NIGHT ALARM--
VISIT FROM A GRIZZLY--MY ENCOUNTER WITH THE SAME--SHORT SAVES ME--WE
START IN SEARCH OF MRS. BRUIN--WE ENTER THE FASTNESSES OF THE ROCKY
MOUNTAINS--SHORT'S BATTLE WITH THE BEAR--HIS PERILOUS SITUATION--STILL
IN DANGER--WE GO ROUND TO ASSIST HIM--THE SNOW MOVES THOUGH THE BEAR
DOES NOT, AND WE FIND OURSELVES ON THE TOP OF AN AVALANCHE--A MOST
UNPLEASANT MADE OF LOCOMOTION.

I cannot say that I looked forward with any rest degree of satisfaction
to the idea of spending the remaining months of the winter, without
books or any other means of intellectual enjoyment, in the encampment at
the foot of the Rocky Mountains.  The Raggets were very worthy people,
and kind and considerate in every way; but some of our other companions
were somewhat rough and uncouth, and none of them were addicted to
literary pursuits, so that there were not six readable volumes of any
sort or description to be found among all the party.  At times I felt
quite a craving for books, when my fingers grew weary mending harness,
or manufacturing snow-shoes or moccasins; when conversation, which was
never very brisk, altogether flagged.  Still I had one great resource,
and that was my note-book, though what I was putting into it my
companions were very much puzzled to guess.  My friends at home will not
have much difficulty in guessing what I was writing about.  Take it all
in all, however, we spent a very pleasant time up among the snow, though
it was brought to a conclusion rather sooner than we expected.

We had plenty of provisions; we had made ourselves tolerably snug; our
numerous well-armed party might set any prowling red-skins at defiance;
and, above all things, we had laid in such a fine stock of good-humour
and good-nature, that we had nothing like a quarrel or an angry dispute
during the whole of the time.  We also cut out plenty of employment for
ourselves, and in spite of the cold, were never long shut up in our huts
without making an excursion in one direction or another.  Sam Short,
Obed, and I, with the other Raggets, slept in one hut by ourselves.  It
was the outer hut of all, and forming part of it was our principal
store, in which the greater portion of our provisions were kept.  Here
were piled up casks of flour, and sugar, and salted meats, and fish, and
many other necessary articles.  We none of us were much addicted to
lying long in bed; but when we did turn in, we slept sounder than, I am
sure, any tops ever did.  We might generally have all snored as loud as
a dozen bears growling away in concert, without in the slightest degree
disturbing each other.  One night, however, a piece of salt tongue had
stuck somewhere on its downward passages or Mrs Ragget had given me too
strong a bowl of green tea, as a special mark of her favour, or from
some other unaccountable cause, I could not for some time get to sleep.
I found out that Sam Short did snore, and most lustily and variously
too, with notes resembling what one might fancy a broken-winded bagpipe
with a bad influenza would give forth more than any other sounds.  My
other friends were not much behind him in the loudness of their snores,
though rather less varied and musical.  At length, in spite of the
delicious concert, I did manage, by dint of counting and repeating my
own name over and over again, and other similar devices, to get into a
sort of dose.  Still, though I was asleep, I could hear all the noises
as clearly as before, only I forgot where I was, and a variety of
strange and ever-changing notions came into my head.

I thought that I was at sea, when a violent storm arose, and that a huge
whale got hold of the vessel, and towed her on at a terrific rate,
spouting away and roaring most furiously.  Suddenly there was a crash,
and I found that the whale had dragged us against a rock, and ran itself
on shore.  There it lay floundering away, till suddenly it gave a
curious kick with its tail, and sprung back again right over our heads
into deep water.  I never saw a whale, or indeed any creature for that
matter, give such a leap.  I had very serious doubts, however, whether
it was a real whale after all.  As it went off skimming over the sea, it
looked back with such a wicked expression in its little twinkling eye,
as much as to say, "There, I've done for you.  I hope you may like it;"
at the same time snorting and blowing louder than ever, in a way most
unusual, at all events for whales, which, except when in a flurry, are
generally quiet, well-behaved creatures.

The boiling sea soon knocked the vessel to pieces, and the crash of the
wreck made me start up to swim for my life.  There really had been a
crash, though not so loud as I supposed, for it had not awakened the
rest of the sleepers.  The noise still continued, as if some one was
breaking into the hut or store, and turning over the articles piled up
in it.  I jumped into my clothes, for with the thermometer twenty
degrees below zero, it is not pleasant to run out without some covering,
and calling up my companions, seized my rifle and axe, ever ready at
hand, and rushed out to ascertain what was the matter.  I fully believed
that the camp was attacked by red-skins, and that we were about to have
a desperate affray.  The door of the store was close to that of our
sleeping hut, but it was closed of course at night.  I opened it and
sprang in with my axe, ready to strike, hoping by the suddenness of my
attack to scare the Indians, and prevent them from defending themselves.
The moon was shining with a splendour which she never exhibits through
the denser atmosphere of merrie England, and she was just then casting
her beams through the open doorway.  There was a window in the hut which
had been boarded up, but the boards had been torn away, and a glistening
sheet of snow was seen through it.  Thus there was enough light in the
shed to render a lantern unnecessary.  I started back; for, instead of
the party of red-skins I expected to see, my eyes fell on a huge grizzly
bear, who was busily rolling the casks about, in a vain attempt to get
at their contents.

He was a ferocious-looking monster, gaunt and hairy, and had evidently
been driven out to forage in our camp by the pangs of hunger.  When he
saw me he gave forth a fierce growl of defiance, and instead of
decamping, as I expected he would, he made a desperate rush at me.  I
stepped back and lifted my axe, intending to make its sharp edge fall
with all my strength on his head; but he was too quick for me, and
seizing my arm, in another instant the savage brute had me fast locked
in his deadly embrace.  He would have killed me in an instant, I verily
believe, had I not as he caught me, shoved the head of the axe into his
open mouth, where it served the purpose of a gag, and considerably
incommoded him.  It may be supposed that I sung out pretty lustily at
the same time for help.  As to doing anything for myself, I found that
was impossible, beyond the holding the axe with all my might in the
bear's mouth.  I felt certain that the moment it got out would be my
last.

"Help! help!  Obed, Short!  Quick, quick!--a huge grizzly bear has got
me," I shouted.

The monster seemed to comprehend the meaning of my cries; for he made
off with me through the aperture by which he had entered, carrying me
along as easily as if I was an infant in arms.  As he made off through
the window, my companions, whose responding shouts I had just before
heard, made their appearance at the door.  It would have been easy for
them to shoot the bear, but in doing so they would very likely have hit
me, so I begged that they would not make the attempt.  They therefore
followed the bear and me with their glittering axes in hand.  If my
weight did not prove much of a hindrance to him, my axe at all events
did, and they were not long in overtaking us.  A bear's winter coat is
almost as impervious as a suit of armour, and for some time, though they
hacked away at him very lustily, their axes had but little effect.  At
length, Short, who had his rifle loaded in his hand, and was ever as
cool as a snow-ball, which, I conceive, is cooler than a cucumber,
managed to get ahead of the bearish marauder, and looking him full in
the face, levelled his weapon.

"Shall I fire, Dick?" he asked.  "I know that I can hit him."

"Yes, yes; fire," I grunted out as well as I could; for the brute,
fearing that he was going to lose me, began to give me some unpleasantly
strong hugs.  I was afraid also that should my strength fail me he might
get the axe out of his mouth, when he would soon have made mincemeat of
my nose.

"I'll hit his right eye, then," cried Short.

"Fire," I cried.

There was the crack of his rifle, a loud roar, and I found myself well
bespattered with bear's grease, rolling over and over in the snow, but
at length Bruin turned on his back, opened his claws, and to my great
delight I found myself free.  On jumping out of bed I had slipped on my
thick buffalo-skin coat, which fastened round the waist with a thong,
and this had much preserved me, or I should have been mangled terribly.
As it was, I could scarcely rise to get clear of the bear; and if my
friends had not come to my assistance I could not have crawled home.
Bruin was dead and fit for smoking.  While Obed helped me along, the
rest dragged him to the camp, where we found all the rest of the men
afoot to ascertain what was the matter.  I went to bed feeling very much
bruised and knocked about, but by rubbing myself over plentifully with
grease I was next morning tolerably limp and pliable.  After breakfast
we cut up the bear, but as may be supposed, he was in very bad
condition, nearly all sinews and bones, though when in good condition he
could not have weighed less than eight hundred pounds.  We, however,
managed to get some ham and a few steaks out of him, and a small supply
of fat, while his skin afforded a very acceptable addition to our bed
coverings.  Just as the operation was concluded, Short, who had gone
out, came back, saying that, a little snow having fallen in the first
part of the night, he could make out the bear's trail.

"If we follow it up, we may come upon Mrs Bear's lodgings, and find
some young ones at home.  Who's for the game?" he exclaimed.

The project suited our tastes, and the young Raggets and I, with two or
three others, declared ourselves ready to set out forthwith.  Off we
set, with a little pemmican and bread in our pockets, and our rifles and
long poles in our hands, fully expecting some good sport.  Short said
that the she-bears and cubs are supposed to hibernate; but that no doubt
we should be able to poke them out of their holes.  We soon left the
plain, when the trail led us up among the rugged defiles of the
mountains.  I confess that I could not have distinguished the marks of
the bear's feet in the snow; but Short's more practised eye did so, and
he every now and then pointed them out to me, so that we knew we were on
the right track.

Our undertaking was a very hazardous one.  There is not a more
ferocious, at the same time powerful and cunning monster, among all wild
beasts than the grizzly bear.  When he meets a man, he has something to
fight for besides the honour of victory; for he eats him for his dinner
or supper as the case may be.  As we advanced we found ourselves in a
scene of almost terrific wildness.  Dark rocks rising out of the snow
towered above our heads, so as to completely shut us in, while
mountain-ranges appeared one beyond the other, showing us the elevation
we had attained.  The old grizzly had certainly chosen a very
inaccessible post for his domicile.  The cold was very intense, though
the exercise we were performing kept our blood in circulation.  I own
that I felt very much inclined to turn back, for the hug the old bear
had given me had made my bones ache, and I doubted, as the French say,
"whether the game was worth the candle;" in other words, whether it was
worth while running so great a risk as we were doing, and getting so
cold, and enduring so much fatigue, merely for the sake of killing an
old she-bear.  However, I said nothing, as I knew that my companions
would not enter into my views of the matter.  On we plunged farther and
farther into the wild recesses of the mountains, till Short made some
remarks which led us to suspect that even he began to doubt whether we
should find the bear after all.

"Well, Sam, but where's the trail?" asked Obed, looking round.

"The trail, boy; why, that's just gone and lost itself long ago,"
answered Sam, with a quizzical look on his dried-up countenance.

"If the trail has lost itself, don't let us go and follow its example,"
remarked Elihu Ragget, laughing.  "However, I vote we sit down and have
some dinner, while we agree what's next to be done."

His proposal met with universal assent.  We accordingly all sat down on
the snow in the most sheltered spot we could find and opened our store
of provisions, but Sam Short very quickly jumped up, and taking his
share in his hand said he would go and explore a little ahead while we
finished our repast.  We were none of us sorry to rest; but before we
had quite finished our frugal meal, a loud shout was borne down the glen
to our ears.  We had little doubt that it was Sam calling to us.  We
seized our rifles, and rushed on.

We had not gone far before we saw him standing in front of a large rock,
and in the rock there was a cavern, and at the mouth of the cavern there
appeared a huge grizzly she-bear rubbing her eyes, Elihu declared, as if
just awoke out of her winter's sleep.  I rather think she was licking
her lips at the thoughts of the repast she was going to make of Sam
Short.  She would have found him a tough morsel I suspect.  Why she did
not at first rush on and try to gobble up our friend I could not tell,
till Elihu observed that she probably had her cubs inside the cave, and
that she was guarding them.  Our appearance, however, instead of
daunting her increased her rage, and with a savage roar she began to
waddle towards Short.  He retreated slowly.  We sang out to him to give
him confidence.  He had before not thought it prudent to fire, lest, as
was very likely, his shots should not kill the bear; but when he heard
our voices, he lifted his rifle and fired.  I thought that the ball had
gone through her head; but I suppose that it did not, because on she
came at poor Sam faster than ever.

Near the cavern was a precipice, with a glen or gully below it.  The
precipice did not go sheer down, but there were several ledges on the
way covered with snow, while the bottom of the glen was filled with
snow, how deep it would have been difficult to ascertain.  As we drew
nearer we discovered, to our dismay, that this glen ran up between where
we then stood and the cavern, to get to which Short had made a
considerable circuit, though his keen eye had detected it from the hill
on which we were.  How to render him the most effectual assistance was
now the difficulty.  While some ran round, Obed and I went to the edge
of the glen to fire across it at the bear.  As the bear advanced, Short
sprang back and seized the barrel of his rifle to use it as a club.  A
walking-cane would have been of about as much use to him.  Still he
wielded it gallantly, and gave the bear an ugly knock on the nose.  This
naturally enraged Mrs Bruin, and grasping the fire-arm she pressed on.
Poor Sam!  One of three dreadful deaths seemed prepared for him, either
to be torn by the bear or to be dashed to pieces down the precipice,
with the very great chance of being shot by us, his friends, should we
attempt to fire at the bear.  He dared not look back to see where he was
going, lest the bear should seize him.  He felt his left foot over the
edge of the precipice.

"Fire, fire," he shouted, dropping on his knees almost under the bear.
Mrs Bruin had sense enough to know that the consequence of a fall to
her would be very unpleasant, and she was as unwilling as Sam to fall
into the ravine.  She therefore instinctively drew back.  That instant
one ball entered her head, and another her shoulder.  The former from my
rifle staggered her.  It prevented her from seizing Short with her
teeth; but what was our terror to see the snow give way under our
companion's feet, and to all appearance inevitable destruction awaiting
him.  He struggled violently to save himself, and just as the greater
part of his body was over he caught hold of one of the hind paws of the
bear, who had fallen on her back, and lay kicking furiously in an
attempt to rise.  Sam, however, held on with all his might.  It seemed
his only chance of safety.  I was afraid lest the bear in her struggles
should slip over also.

Neither Obed nor I had been idle while watching the scene.  We both
loaded our rifles, and now stood ready once more to fire.  By moving a
little on one side, we saw that we could get a good shot at her without
hitting Short.  Not a moment was to be lost.  Running on I fired, Obed
followed my example.  The bear's struggles grew less violent, and Sam
began to try and haul himself up by her leg.  It was a dangerous
proceeding; there being an inclined plane at the edge, his weight
appeared to move the body of the bear on.  She could not rise, but she
turned round and dug her sharp claws into the snow to save herself.
Now, instead of wishing her to die, we were anxious that she might
survive till the rest of the party could get up to her.  Her growls
became more and more feeble.  She could scarcely hold on another minute.
Poor Sam!  We trembled for his fate.  We shouted to the rest of the
party to hasten on.  They had had a difficult place to cross in single
file at the head of the gully.  Now they came on, hurrying over the
snow.  The bear gave two or three convulsive struggles.  I wished that I
could have leaped across the chasm to poor Sam's help.  I thought that
the bear was slipping down again.  If she had got any way on her, as
sailors say, it was evident that the united strength of the party could
not stop her.  They sprang on, and just as I felt sure the bear would
have slipped over the precipice, they seized her by the fore-paws.  She
was not dead, however, for in return for the act of kindness she made
some desperate attempts to bite them.

"Haul away, haul away," sang out Sam, and they did haul with all their
might.  Though they could not move the bear, they prevented her from
slipping down.  She gave several severe kicks with her hind foot.  Sam
clung on to it, and by the most violent efforts managed to drag himself
up by her shaggy coat till two of the party caught hold of his collar
and hauled away till they got him up from the edge and placed him in
rather a safer position, but still not one free from danger.  For the
first time for some minutes I breathed freely, and as we could do no
more where we were, Obed and I hurried round to help the rest.  When we
arrived the bear had received her quietus, but it was astonishing how
many shot and what terrific blows she had received before she was
killed.  We were congratulating ourselves on the additional supply of
hams and steaks she would afford us when a crack appeared in the snow
just below our feet, and to our horror we found that the whole mass,
carrying us and the carcase of the bear with it, was slipping off over
the precipice.



CHAPTER TWELVE.

WE FEEL AS IF WE WERE GOING OVER THE FALLS OF NIAGARA--SMOTHERED BY
SNOW--WE APPEAR BY DEGREES--OBED MISSING--WE GIVE HIM A WARM BATH INSIDE
THE BEAR--OUR DANGEROUS PREDICAMENT--HOW TO GET OUT OF THE RAVINE--SAM
APPEARS ABOVE US--WE CLIMB OUT WITH NO LITTLE DIFFICULTY--THE BEAR'S
CAVE--HAVING HAD ENOUGH BEAR-HUNTING WE RETURN HOME--FIND A NATIVE
VISITOR, WHO INFORMS US THAT WE MAY EXPECT SOON AN ATTACK FROM AN
OVERWHELMING FORCE OF RED-SKINS.

We were all standing round the carcase of the huge she-bear, when it and
the surrounding mass of snow began perceptibly to glide onwards over the
edge of the terrific precipice.  I have seen a poor fellow sitting in a
boat, utterly beyond his control, gliding rapidly down the rapids
towards the falls of Niagara.  Quicker and quicker it has moved, till,
reaching the edge, it has seemed to hover for a moment, as if unwilling
to make the fatal plunge, and then over it has leaped with the rapidity
of lightning, and it and its hapless occupant have been for ever hid
from human sight.  I felt at the moment very much the same sort of
sensations which I can fancy the occupant of the boat must have
experienced, as the mass of snow, increasing in speed, rapidly neared
the precipice.  From where I was, I had not the slightest power to leap
off it.  I fancied that all my companions were in a similar condition.

There is an eastern story, in which a man puts his head into a basin of
water, and during the few seconds he holds it there, he finds that he
has gone through the adventures of a lifetime.  I do not think that many
seconds could have passed from the moment that the snow began to move,
till Short and I, and the rest, found ourselves, with the body of the
bear, rolling over and over, and bounding from rock to rock, amid
confusing heaps of snow, down into the bottom of the glen.  How I am
alive to tell the tale I do not know, and that fact makes people listen
to me with no small amount of incredulity.  I was more blinded, stunned,
and confused than I had ever been in my life before, and each bound I
made I thought would knock the breath out of me; but as for reaching the
bottom, I never expected to do that--at all events alive.  Now I got a
kick from one of my companions in misfortune; now I was knocked against
the hairy carcase of the bear; now I was almost suffocated with the
overwhelming masses of snow which were showered around me.  One thing I
own--I did not just then think much about anybody else; I could not help
anybody, and I knew that no mortal could help me.  Down I went, as I was
saying, bounding away, snow above, below, and round me.  At last I was
quiet.  I opened my eyes--I was under the snow--I felt a suffocating
sensation.

"After having got thus far without broken limbs, it won't do to have the
breath squeezed out of my body for want of exertion," said I to myself,
working away with arms and shoulders, till, as a chicken cracks the
shell of its egg, I broke through the covering of snow which was above
me, and once more I popped my head into daylight.  I was in the midst of
a sea of snow, the hind paw of the big bear was close to me, so I hoped
that friend Short was not far-off, while I could make out several of my
other companions struggling up through the snow around us.  High above
us towered the cliffs, and it seemed indeed wonderful that any of us
could come down such a height alive.

There is a Greek fable I remember reading as a boy at school, of the
ground being sown with teeth, and out of it coming armed men.  I cannot
help thinking that we must have looked very much like those ready-made
heroes, as I and my companions struggled up out of the snow.  Elihu
Ragget was the first who joined me.  Sam Short did not appear; I told
Elihu that I thought he must be near--probably under the bear, and that
if not released, he would certainly be smothered.  So, without a word we
set to work with our hands, shovelling out the snow as well as we could.
We thought, as we worked away, that we heard a groan.  This made us
redouble our exertions to release our friend.  We had not been a minute
at work, when a shout reached our ears, and on our looking up, there
appeared the very man we were in search of, standing on a ledge of
rocks, high above our heads.  He seemed unhurt, and he was shouting to
us to ask how we were.  We thought, therefore, that we must have been
mistaken as to the groan, when some one asked, "Where is Obed Ragget?"

"Oh, lads, help me!" cried Elihu; the thought that his young brother lay
buried beneath our feet, and that he had not missed him, striking him
with shame.

"Ay, ay," was the answer, as we all set to with even more energy than
before.  We dug and dug away round the bear, till at length a man's leg
appeared, and then his body, and in a few seconds the snow was cleared
away, and my friend Obed Ragget was drawn up out of the snow.  But we
gazed at him with sorrow, for not a spark of life appeared in him.  The
rest were going to give him up as dead, but I entreated them not to
despair.  I examined him, and found that, as far as I could judge, there
was not a bone broken, and when I put my mouth down to his, I felt sure
that he still breathed.

"What he wants is warmth," said I, just then recollecting that the body
of the bear would still afford it.  No sooner thought of than done.  It
was a desperate, and not altogether a pleasant remedy.  We cut a huge
slit in the body of the bear, and stripping off Obed's outer garments,
we clapped him in, keeping only his head outside, while all of us stood
round to assist in giving him warmth.  We watched anxiously for the
result.  First one eye opened, then another; then he sighed heavily; and
at last he sang out, and asked where he was.  In a little time he
laughed quietly.

"Don't call me a cub," said he, "that's all; I think that I am
wonderfully better.  I am much obliged to you and the bear, but now I
would just as soon come out into the world again."

After this we had no longer any anxiety about him, and certainly our
remedy had a very wonderful effect in restoring him to animation.  Now
came our difficulty as to how to get out of the gully into which we had
fallen.  There was an outlet, but the way to it was evidently almost
impracticable, and where it might lead we could not tell.  Besides this,
there was Sam Short, perched like an eagle above our heads; only Sam,
not having wings like an eagle, could not get down to us, nor, as far as
we could see, could we get up to the top of the cliff above him.  We
shouted, but we could not make each other hear.

"If the big bear was up at the top, we should not be long before we
would be up to him," observed Obed; "Sam would soon cut her hide up into
strips and haul us up."

We looked about; as to climbing up, that was out of the question.  For
fifty feet above our heads there was a perpendicular wall of rock.
Above that there were numerous ledges or platforms, and the cliff seemed
comparatively easy to climb.  While we were looking about and discussing
the matter, we saw Sam attempting to climb up the cliff.  After many
attempts he succeeded in reaching the top, and disappeared from our
sight.  He was absent for some time, and when he was again seen, he had
a coil of something or other, we could not exactly make out what, round
his neck.  We now saw him, after carefully examining the cliff below
him, begin to descend.  We watched him anxiously, for our very existence
depended on his success.  He reached at last the place where he had
before stood, then he cautiously commenced descending still lower.

"What donkeys we have been!" suddenly exclaimed Elihu; "the coil of
stuff he has got won't drag any of us up, we must make a rope for
ourselves."

We quickly had our knives going, and soon had Bruin completely flayed,
and his hide cut up into short strips joined together.  All the time we
were at work, we every now and then looked up to see how Sam was getting
on.  The fear was that he might slip on the frozen rock, and come
toppling down unable to save himself.  Just as we had finished our rope,
a shout from him proclaimed to us that he had reached the lowest ledge
he could hope to gain.  Without a moment's delay he began to unwind his
line.  It was a very thin one, and had numerous knots and joints in it.
As we watched it, we were in doubt whether the end would reach us; it
just came down above our heads.  By leaping up we could touch it; but as
to making a rope fast to the end, that was out of the question.  Sam
soon discovered our difficulty.  The rope was drawn up a little, and
then down it came, so that we could make fast to it the end of our newly
formed bear's-skin rope.  "Haul away!" we sang out, and up it went.

There was a doubt, however, whether that would be long enough.  We
watched it anxiously as it drew near the end, and then up, up, up it
went, far beyond our reach.  We went back and shouted to Sam.  What he
said in return, we could not make out.  Here was a bitter disappointment
indeed.  Our labour had been fruitless; our hope of escape well-nigh
vanished.  Presently we saw the end of the rope descending till it came
easily within our reach.  Short, directly afterwards, appeared at the
edge of the cliff.

"What will you do?  Shall I haul you up, or will you climb up?" he
asked.

We were unanimously of opinion, that it would be safer to climb up, as
we might help ourselves a little by placing our feet on the inequalities
in the side of the cliff, and there would be less chance of the rope
chafing and breaking.  We drew lots who should go up first.  The lot
fell on Obed.

"Stand from under if I come down," he said, laughing, and seizing the
rope.

Up he began to mount.  He was very active and muscular in proportion to
his weight.  Still it was no light undertaking to have to ascend such a
height.  For his sake, as well as our own, we watched him with intense
anxiety.  Up, up he went.  Now he swung off from the cliff, now his feet
were planted on a ledge of rock, and he stood there to rest.  Then again
on he went.  The fresh hide stretched fearfully, and it seemed as if to
a certainty it would give way.  There was no turning back, however.  Now
he came to a part of the cliff where he had to trust entirely to the
rope.  With hands, and knees, and feet, he worked away.  None but a
seaman or a backwoodsman could have accomplished the undertaking so
rapidly, if at all.  He was almost at the top.  Sam reached over to help
him.  We held our breath.  Now seemed the critical moment.  How was he
to scramble up over the edge of the cliff, exhausted as he must be with
his exertions?  Sam seized him by the collar and throwing himself back,
dragged him up by main force.  Now we all uttered a loud shout of
congratulation, for thus far Obed was safe.  Three or four of the other
men followed.  The last, having more friends to help them over the edge
of the cliff, found it easier than Obed had done.

My turn came at last.  Only Elihu and another man had to follow.  My
arms ached as I got half-way up, and the sickening idea came over me
that the bear's hide was chafed, and would break with me just as I got
up to the most critical part.  I rested for a moment on the last spot
which afforded space for my feet, and then swung off into mid-air.  I
now knew the sensations which my companions must have experienced.  They
were very like those which one has occasionally in a nightmare sort of
dream; to feel that one ought to be climbing up, and yet scarcely to
have strength to lift one's arms.  It must be remembered that we were
all clad to keep out extreme cold, and that a buffalo coat is a pretty
heavy weight to have on one's shoulders even under ordinary
circumstances.  My great consolation was, that the snow was pretty soft,
and that if I did fall, I might possibly, having once taken the tumble,
escape without breaking my neck.

To make a long story short, I did reach the ledge at last, and so did
the rest of my companions; and then we hauled up the bear's hide, and
commenced our still more perilous ascent to the top of the cliff.  By
the bye, Elihu and the other man had bethought them that we might be
hungry after our exertions, and had brought up a supply of bear steaks,
which added not a little to their weight.  I doubt if one man alone
could have succeeded in scaling that height, for it must be remembered
that Sam Short had only gone up the higher part.  Still, with a number
together, all heartily assisting each other, we found the task
comparatively easy.  When we came to a difficult place, we shoved the
lighter ones up first, and then they let down a rope, and the rest
hauled themselves up by it.

At length we all stood on the top of the cliff, not far from the bear's
cave, and when we looked down into the valley we were indeed surprised
that we had escaped with our lives, and I hope that we all felt truly
thankful for our preservation.  Short now told us that he had, when he
had before gone up to the top, caught and killed one of the young bears,
and had cut up its hide to make a line, but that one or more still
remained.  I had a great fancy for a young bear, so Obed and I resolved
to try and capture one.  Accordingly, while the rest of the party were
cutting some wood to light a fire for the sake of cooking the bear
steaks, Obed and I started away with part of our rope towards the cave.

"I suppose there are no more big bears inside there," said Obed; "they
are mighty ugly customers to beard anywhere, but especially in their own
den."

"No fear," I answered; "if one had been in there, he would have appeared
long ago.  We shall only find a cub or two, and there will not be much
difficulty in capturing them."  I ought to have said that most of the
party had recovered their fire-arms.  Obed and I had left our rifles far
back, away from the snow which had slipped with us over the cliff, so
that we had them now uninjured.  The cave was large, and for some
distance there was light enough to enable us to see our way, but it at
length became so dark, that we could not see ahead.  All we could do was
therefore to feel our way with our rifles.

"I think we must be near the end," said I at last.  We had a tinder-box:
Obed struck a light.  The blue glare of the match showed us two hairy
bundles rolled up near the the wall of the cave.  While he lighted
another match, I rushed up to one of the bundles, which I found, by
receiving a sharp bite, was a little bear.  I soon, however, had the
young gentleman's fore-paws bound tightly together, and was dragging him
out towards the mouth of the cave.  Obed seized the other, while the
match was still burning on the ground, and we thus had them both
captives.  We brought them in triumph to our friends, who were feasting
on their mother.  We did not offer them any of the poor brute, and I
dare say they thought us very greedy for not doing so, not probably
entering into our delicate feelings on the subject.

Having refreshed ourselves, all hands agreeing that we had had quite
enough bear-hunting for the day, we set off on our return to camp.  We
had no little difficulty in getting our young bears to move along.  Poor
little things! they did not like the cold, and of course missed their
mother.  Still, by dint of poking and pulling, we made them keep up with
the rest of the party.  Now the excitement was over, I must say that I
never felt so tired in my life.  Still I would not relinquish my
captive.  Indeed it would have been barbarous for us to have done so, as
it would have died of cold and starvation.  At last, at nightfall, we
did get in.  We found all the camp in a great state of agitation, very
much on our account, and not a little on their own.  When we inquired
what was the matter, they took us into the general sitting-room, and
pointed to an Indian, habited in the full-dress warrior costume of
winter, who was squatting down before the fire.  He looked pleased when
he saw us, and counted our numbers.  "Good!" he exclaimed, in the
deep-toned voice of his people.  "Now fight well; drive away bad man."
The English vocabulary of our guest was very small, and no one in the
camp had been able to comprehend exactly the information he came to
give, except that an attack might be expected, at some time or other,
from a large tribe or tribes, hostile to the white man.  Short, however,
who understood several of the Indian dialects, now came in to act as
interpreter.  The information he elicited was still more alarming.  It
was to the effect that before long we might expect to be attacked by
overwhelming numbers of red-skin warriors, from whom, if they took us by
surprise, we should have very little chance of escaping.



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

SHORT AND NOGGIN ACT AS INTERPRETERS--WE PREPARE TO MOVE ONWARD--THE
WHITE DOG--WE GUARD AGAINST SURPRISE--I GO OUT AS A SCOUT--PURSUED BY
RED-SKINS--RETURN TO THE CAMP--MORE VISITORS--WE SUSPECT TREACHERY--
WHITE DOG WARNS US THAT THEY ARE ENEMIES--WE PREPARE FOR A START WHILE
NOGGIN HOLDS A PALAVER WITH THE INDIANS--THEY ARE ALLOWED TO ENTER--
THEIR CHIEF'S TREACHEROUS ATTEMPT TO KILL LABAN, BUT GETS KILLED
HIMSELF--WE SEIZE THE REST--NOGGIN'S REGRET THAT WE DO NOT KILL THEM--WE
START ON OUR JOURNEY--WHITE DOG ACCOMPANIES US--WE PUSH ON--OUR FIRST
ENCAMPMENT--A FRESH ALARM.

The report brought by the Indian warrior of the intended attack of the
red-skins on our camp soon collected all the party together in the
common hail.  Our men had pretty well strung nerves, and the women, old
and young, were in no ways given to fainting; so, although the latter
listened with the greatest attention, and the former spoke gravely and
deliberately, there was not much excitement, and no great amount of
anxiety perceptible on their countenances.  Our feather-bedecked,
skin-clothed visitor was not much addicted to giving forth long-winded
speeches as are some of his countrymen.  Short and Noggin were his chief
interrogators, as they understood his dialect, and they translated his
answers for the benefit of those who did not.  He was asked how it was
he became acquainted with the information he had brought us.

"Can you say, O white-skins, how the blossoms come on the trees? how the
mist fills the air? how the snow melts on the ground?" was his reply.
"I heard it; I speak the truth; enough."

"But when, friend, are they coming?" asked Short.

"Can you say when the thunderbolt will fall? when the tempest is about
to burst? where the prairie-fire will break forth?" he replied.

Short and Noggin seemed perfectly satisfied with his answers.  But that
was more than I felt, when he replied to the questions put him as to
their numbers.

"Can you count the flakes which fall in early winter? do you know the
number of the stars in the blue canopy above our heads? can you reckon
the buffaloes as they scamper across the plains in a stampedo?"

Noggin on this got up, and bowing to the old chief who was squatting on
his hams by his side, in a most polite way, observed--"All this
rigmarole, which this old red-skin here has been telling to us, comes to
this, as far as I can make out.  He has heard the plot of those
thieving, varmint red-skins through his wife, or some friend or other.
When they will come he does not exactly know, but it will be about the
time that the snow begins to melt, and travelling is pretty heavy work,
and then they'll come down upon us in no small numbers, enough, I guess,
to make us look pretty foolish if we don't keep our powder dry, and our
eyes wide awake around us.  The question now is, shall we stay here and
fight the varmints, or shall we strike tents, and push away over the
mountains?"

Various opinions were given on this point.  If we remained where we were
the red-skins would attack us, and though we might beat them off, they
would probably surround us, and come again and again till they starved
us out, or compelled us to retreat at a disadvantage.  The moving our
provisions and baggage was our great difficulty.  Still, the general
opinion was, that it would be better to move on at once.  Laban Ragget
at last stood up, and gave the casting vote.

"You see, friends," said he, "where there's a will there's a way.
That's been my notion through life.  Where I've had the will to do, mind
you, what ought to be done, I've never failed to find the way.  I've
fought the red-skins often, and I'd fight them again, if need be, with
pleasure; but I don't want to expose the women and children to the
chances of a battle with them; and so I say we'll move on.  We'll put
runners to the wagons, and make snowshoes for ourselves, and by
to-morrow evening we'll be ready for a start.  Then we'll lie down and
rest, and by early dawn we'll be on foot and away.  Meantime, some of
the young men will keep a lookout round the camp, to watch that we are
not taken by surprise."

I give Laban's speech entire, because his proposals were carried out to
the letter.  All agreed and, literally, I do not believe that a minute
had passed before everybody was busily engaged in preparing for our
departure.  Some were making snow-shoes; others runners for the sleighs;
others packing our goods and provisions in small, light parcels easily
carried; the women were as active as the men, and several were cooking
and preparing the flesh of the bear we had killed the night before, by
making it into pemmican.  Mrs Noggin was very useful in making
show-shoes, and so was the old Indian.  His name, by the bye, was
Wabassem-mung, or the White Dog, and to prove his title to the name, he
would set up a barking, which no one could have supposed was from the
voice of a human being.  He had only about twenty followers, all the
rest of his tribe having been treacherously murdered by the Flintheads,
against whom he had now come to warn us.  He wore a white mantle, as
appropriate to his name, or, probably, he obtained his name from his
fancy for wearing a white mantle; at least, one that was white by
courtesy, for it had become so smoke-dried and stained, that its
original purity was considerably damaged.  Our venerable friend assured
us that there was no chance of the Flintheads attacking us that night,
and that we might, therefore, sleep in peace, because his own people
were on the watch, and would give us timely notice.  This was
satisfactory, for, after our bear-hunting expedition, I, for one, was
very glad to get some rest.  Few people have ever slept sounder than I
did on that night for a few hours, notwithstanding all the bustle and
noise going on in the camp.

By the evening, as Laban had promised, everything was ready for our
departure.  This night it was judged prudent that scouts should be sent
out to watch for an enemy, and Obed, Elihu, Sam, Noggin, and I, with a
few others, were appointed to that duty by Laban.  He had been chosen
leader and dictator, and we were all bound implicitly to obey him.  We
scouts, with our rifles in hand, started away together, two and two.
Obed was with me.  With the snow on the ground, and a clear sky in those
regions, it is never dark, and our difficulty, as we advanced, was to
conceal ourselves from any lurking foe.  Still we worked our way on,
taking advantage of every mound, or the tops of trees, or bushes
appearing above the white smooth plain.  It had been agreed that, as
soon as we should see an enemy, we were to retreat at full speed to the
camp.  If we were discovered, we were to fire off our rifles as a
warning to our friends, but if not, we were to reserve our bullets for
the bodies of our foes.  We each had on tight snow-shoes, with which we
could walk well enough, but running with such machines is altogether a
very different affair to running in a thin pair of pumps.  Having
proceeded about, as we judged, three miles from the camp, we began to
circle round it, for it was just as likely that the cunning redskins
would approach from the east or south, as from the north.  They, wiser
than white men, never commit the fault of despising their enemies, but
take every advantage which stratagem or treachery can afford them to
gain their ends.

Obed and I began to think at last that it must be near dawn, and turned
our eyes eastward, in the expectation of seeing the pale red and yellow
streaks which usher in the rich glow, the harbinger of the rising sun.
That was my idea, not friend Obed's.  He remarked, "Daylight will soon
be on, I guess, and it is time we were back at camp to get some
breakfast, before we begin our trudge over the mountains, for I'm mighty
hungry, I calkilate; ain't you, Dick?"

I agreed with him; but just before we turned our faces campward, I
climbed up the south side of a rocky mound, above which I allowed only
my head to appear, that I might take a leisurely survey of the country
beyond where we then were.  Obed followed my example.  We gazed through
the shades of night for some time.

"I'm main hungry, Dick," said Obed, "let us be going."

Still something kept me there.  Just as I was getting up, I thought I
saw some dark shadows moving along over the white sheet of snow.

"Look, Obed," said I, "what are those out there?"

His eyes were even sharper generally than mine.

"Indjens, red-skins," whispered Obed.  "It's time that we cut.  They are
not far-off."

We first, before moving, satisfied ourselves that we were not mistaken;
there were a dozen or more people, probably the advance guard.  We then
slipped down from our height, and began striding towards the camp as
fast as our legs and snowshoes would carry us.  It was a satisfaction to
feel that there was a high mound between us and the Indians, or our
scalps would not have felt comfortable on our heads.  We did not turn
our eyes to the right hand or the left, but looked straight on, keeping
our legs going with a curious movement, between sliding and running, and
skating and kicking.  It was fatiguing, but we got on rapidly, and we
had an idea that our enemies were not advancing nearly so fast.  It was
a race for life or death.  Strange to say, I rather liked the
excitement.

I always prefer having an object when I walk; now I had got one.  We
knew that if the Indians crossed our trail, they would instantly find us
out and give chase, but then it was a satisfaction to know that they
could not go faster than we were going.  We had got almost within sight
of the camp, when we heard a shout from behind us.  I was unwilling to
stop to look back, but if I did not stop, and attempted to look over my
shoulder, I should very likely, I knew, topple down on my head.  On we
went again.  There was another shout.  We could just see the tops of the
huts.  I turned my head round, and there I saw a dozen or more red-skin
warriors scampering like mad creatures over the snow, and flourishing
their tomahawks.  Fast as we were going, they were going faster.  Still
we might reach the camp before them, but it was necessary to warn our
friends.  As I ran, I unslung my rifle, not to fire at them, for that
would have been useless, but to discharge it in the air as a signal.  I
did so, but by some means, by this act, I lost my balance, and toppling
over, down I came at full length.  I tried to rise, but that on soft
snow is no easy matter to do at the speed circumstances demanded; and
then, what was my horror to find that I had broken one of my snow-shoes!
I gave myself up for lost, and entreated Obed to fly and save his life.

"Fly, Dick!" he exclaimed indignantly; "that ain't the way of the
Raggets, boy.  No; if the redskins want your scalp, they must have mine
first, and I'll have a fight for both of them, depend on't."

While he was saying this, he was helping me to rise, and as one
snow-shoe would be worse than useless, I cast them both off, and then
did what was the next best thing, loaded my rifle; and turning our faces
to our approaching foes, we stood ready to receive them.  When they saw
us stop, they came on more leisurely.  As they got nearer, I counted
about a dozen of them only.  On this my heart began to beat more
regularly.

"I say, Dick, my scalp sits pleasanter, like, on my head," observed
Obed.

In a short time the Indians got near enough to us to hail.  "What are
they saying?"  I asked of Obed.

"Why, Dick, as far as I can make out, that they are friends," he
answered; "but, you know, these red-skin varmints are so treacherous,
that we mustn't trust them on no account.  They may be old White Dog's
friends, or they may be some of the Flintheads.  If they are the last,
they'll scalp us in another minute, or maybe they'll try and get into
the camp, and then play us some scurvy trick."

These surmises were not pleasant.  Still, we could not hope to cope with
twelve well-armed Indians, with any chance of success, and we must
therefore, we saw, attempt only pacific measures.  In another minute
they were up with us.  They held out their hands in a friendly manner,
and we observed that their general appearance was very similar to that
of old White Dog.  In a friendly manner, therefore, we proceeded towards
the camp.  When we got near, we made signs that we would go and prepare
our friends for their reception.  They made no objection to this, but,
letting us go, squatted down on the snow about two hundred yards from
the camp.  Immediately we got in, we told Noggin, who interpreted our
report to White Dog.

"Tell him not to show himself," said Laban.

The old chief was, however, far too wide awake to do that.  Covering
himself up with one of our cloaks, so that even the sharp eyes of an
Indian could not discover him, he crept to the north of the hut, and
looked through the stockade.  Noggin accompanied him.

"Flintheads," whispered Noggin.  "He says they are not his people.  They
are up to some deep treachery.  They, of course, don't know that old
White Dog is here, and that we are warned of their intentions.  What is
to be done?  I wish Short and the rest were here."

Laban, after Noggin had spoken, stood for a minute or two in an attitude
of reflection.  I believe that if a great gun had been let off at his
ear he would not have heard it just then.  At length he said--"Wait till
they come, and then we will let the red-skins enter the encampment.  As
they do so we must seize every mother's son of them, and bind them all
to the posts of the huts.  We won't brain them, as they would have
brained us, and maybe the lesson we thus give them will teach them that
the religion of the white-faces is better than that of the red-skins."

We eagerly looked out for the return of the other scouts, for we were
afraid that they might have been picked off by some prowling bands of
Flintheads.  Soon after daylight, however, they came in, without having
seen any one.  Our arrangements were speedily made.  The women were to
keep out of the way, and to pretend to be nursing the children.  As we
far outnumbered the Indians, two of us were told off to take charge of
one of them, the rest were to act as a party of reserve to seize any who
might escape.  The instant they entered the camp they were to be seized,
as, seeing us prepared to move, of course their suspicions would be
aroused.  Noggin, who best knew their ways, undertook to tell them that
they might come in.

"The varmints, knowing their own treacherous ways, are so suspicious,
that if we show that we are too willing to let them come, they'll fancy
that we've some plot in hand, and will be off to their friends."

The gate of our stockade being opened, Noggin carelessly sauntered out
and squatted himself down before the Indians, as if prepared for a
regular palaver.  Not to lose time, the rest of us got our breakfasts,
harnessed the horses, and prepared for an immediate start.  I must say I
never bolted my food at such a rate as I did that morning.  At last
Noggin got up, and he and the Indians came towards the stockade.  My
heart beat in a curious way.  We watched Noggin.  He looked glum, and
made no signal that we were to alter our tactics.  The Indians all
trooped in one after the other, looking sedate and quiet enough, but
their dark eyes rolled furtively about, and there was a scowl on their
brows, which showed that they were not altogether at their ease.

We waited for Laban to give the expected signal.  It was to be the
instant the chief of the party reached him and held out his hand, as we
knew he would.  Slowly, a tall athletic warrior, with a very malignant
countenance, however, advanced, casting his suspicious glances on every
side, till he was close up to Laban.  Obed and I were to seize the same
man, but I could not help following the leader, and I felt sure that his
hand was stealing down towards his tomahawk.  Laban must have thought so
too.  In an instant the tall warrior's weapon was in his hand, and was
descending on Laban's head, when a shot from behind a hut struck him on
the forehead, and he fell forward dead at our friend's feet.  At the
same moment we all threw ourselves on his followers; but many of us
received some severe cuts in our attempts to secure them, for all of
them, prompted by the same feeling, had grasped their axes, with the
intention of fighting their way again out of the camp.  We had a severe
struggle with them before we had them all secured; scowling and
vindictive glances enough they cast on us when we had them fast.  Old
White Dog had, we found, saved the life of Laban Ragget by taking that
of the chief.  Never had a more treacherous plot to murder a whole party
been more mercifully counteracted.  Still neither the Raggets nor I
would consent to kill our captives.  Our proposal was simply to deprive
them of their arms, and having fed them, to leave them bound, knowing
that the rest of the tribe would, before long, visit the spot and
release them.  This plan, however did not at all suit old White Dog's or
Noggin's notions on the matter.

"The treacherous red-skin varmints! you don't suppose they'll thank you
for letting 'em live?" exclaimed the latter.  "They will be after us,
and follow us up like bloodhounds the moment they are free, that they
will."

"Never mind, friend Noggin," replied Laban calmly.  "Right is right all
the world over.  It would be wrong to kill a prisoner, do you see, and
so I guess it's right to let these people live.  I'll stand the
consequences, come what may."

Noggin said no more; and now everybody was busily engaged in preparing
to start.  The sleighs were loaded, the horses were put to, and in a
long line we filed out of the fort.  All the women walked, and carried
the children; there were not many of the latter, for it was a rough life
we were leading at the bush, and not fitted for such delicate beings.
Many of the men also had to drag hand sleighs, and, as it was, they were
obliged to leave behind them some of the heavier baggage.  Old White Dog
volunteered to accompany us.  He had been looking for the arrival of the
small remnant of his tribe, and as they had not appeared he began to
fear that they had fallen into the hands of their enemies.  When all the
party had gone out, and proceeded some hundred yards, Obed and I went
back, by the directions of Laban, and put some food within reach of our
captives' mouths.

"They won't take a very pleasant meal, but they won't starve," observed
Obed, as we left them.

Laban, meantime, had undertaken to watch the old Indian and Noggin, whom
he suspected of an intention of going back and scalping our captives.
We, however, watched them so narrowly that they could not accomplish
their object.  We now pushed on as rapidly as we could towards the
mountains, as it was most important that we should gain a secure
position at a considerable height before night.  At first, where the
snow was beaten down, we went on merrily enough, but when the ascent of
the mountain really began, it was very heavy work for man and beast.
Our horses were not in good condition, as they had had nothing but dry
prairie grass and very little corn all the winter, but they were very
little animals, all bone and muscle, and had no weight of their own to
carry, at all events.

As we proceeded, we kept a very bright lookout behind us, both to the
north and south, to ascertain that we were not pursued.

At length we entered the pass in the mountains for which we had been
making, and here our difficulties began.  High black cliffs towered
above our heads on each side to the height of many hundred feet, while
before us were masses of the wildest and most rugged mountains, over and
between which lay the path we had to pursue.  Short, who had crossed the
mountains at this place two or three times, acted as our guide.
Frequently one party had to go ahead with spades and clear the way, and
we had also often to take out the horses, and drag on one sleigh, and
then come back and get the next.  We had reason to be thankful that on
this occasion we had no enemy to molest us.  Old White Dog was very much
astonished to see the men work as we did, and hinted that if he had the
direction of affairs, he should make the women labour as those of his
people are compelled to do, while he sat still in dignified idleness.
He did not gain many friends by his remarks, among the gentler sex of
our party.  A sheltered platform, surrounded by rocks on the mountain
side, had been described by Short, and fixed on for our resting-place.

Up, up, up, we worked our way.  At last we reached it, pretty well
worn-out.  I never felt my legs ache so much before.  It had not a very
inviting aspect when we were there.  It had, however, a great advantage,
as from its position it might easily be defended, should we be pursued
and attacked by the Flintheads.  Having driven our sleighs on to it, we
set about the business of encamping.  As usual, we placed the sleighs in
a circle, so as to form a breastwork, with the cattle inside it.  The
side of the mountain was covered with pine trees.  We cut down a number
of these, at least, so much of them as appeared above the snow, and
having beaten hard a large circle in the centre of the camp, by walking
over it with our snow-shoes, we placed them side by side so as to form a
large platform.  On this we piled up all the branches and logs we could
collect dry and green, and set the mass on fire.  The platform, it will
be understood, served as our hearthstone, and kept the burning embers
off the snow.  Otherwise, they would quickly have burned out a cavern,
into which they would have sunk and disappeared.  We required, as may be
supposed, a large fire for so numerous a party, and it was a curious
sight to watch the different countenances of the travellers, as we sat
round it eagerly discussing our evening meal.  We did not neglect the
usual precautions to prevent a surprise, and two of the young men at a
time took post as sentinels a little way down the mountain, to give
timely notice of the approach of a foe.  After supper, all the party
sang a hymn, led by Laban Ragget, and very sweet and solemn were the
notes as they burst through the night air, and echoed among those rocks,
never before, too probably, awakened to sounds of praise and
thanksgiving.

"It's an old custom of mine," said Laban to me, "when I cannot expound
to my family, or hold forth in prayer as usual.  If, Dick, we didn't
keep up our religious customs very strictly in the back settlements, we
should soon, as many do, become no better than heathens."

As I had been on my legs for the best part of the last two days and
nights, I was excused doing sentry's duty, and no sooner had I wrapped
myself in my buffalo robe, with my feet towards the fire, and my head on
a pine log, which served me as a pillow, than I was fast asleep.  How
long I had slept I could not tell, (it was, I afterwards found, some
hours), when I was awoke by the most unearthly shrieks and cries, which
seemed to come directly from under the very spot on which I lay.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

A SUDDEN ALARM--WHITE DOG NEARLY ROASTED--CONTINUE OUR MARCH--MY YOUNG
FRIENDS GOG AND MAGOG--DISAPPEARANCE OF SHORT AND OBED--I DESCEND TO
SEARCH FOR THEM--A MAGNIFICENT ICE CAVERN--CROSS A FROZEN LAKE--INDIANS
AHEAD--FRIENDS--A SCENE IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS--CAMP, AND FORTIFY
OURSELVES--APPROACH OF FLINTHEADS--DESPERATE CONFLICT--AN AVALANCHE
COMES THUNDERING DOWN ON US.

I was describing how I was fast asleep in our first night's encampment
on our winter's journey across the Rocky mountains, when I was awoke by
the most terrific cries, whence proceeding I could not tell.  I thought
a whole host of the Flintheads were upon us, and, seizing my rifle,
sprang to my feet.  When I was really awake, however, I found that the
sounds came from under the platform, and a large hole near me soon
showed what had happened.  I had left our friendly old chief,
Wabassem-Mung, or the White dog, fast asleep there.  He had selected it
from being the warmest place and nearest the fire.  The consequence was
that the snow had there melted more rapidly, and a deep chasm of seven
or eight feet having been formed, he had glided into it, and only awoke
when he found the hot ashes coming showering down on his head and
burning the tip of his long nose.  For once, in his astonishment and
fright, he forgot his dignity, and shrieked out as heartily as any
paleface.  Laban and I and Short, who were nearest, stooping down, soon
dragged him out of his uncomfortable position, and except that his nose
was a little burned, and his feathers were singed, and his cloak was a
hue or two darker, he was not much the worse for his adventure.  He took
it very good-naturedly, and seemed somewhat ashamed of having expressed
his terror in the noisy way he had done.

Even before dawn we were on foot, and, having taken our morning meal,
harnessed the horses and began our march.  Our great object was to get
to a certain elevation, to which we knew the Indians of the plain could
never attempt to mount, even for the sake of glutting their revenge on
us.  We hoped also, should they attempt to follow us, to be better able
to defend ourselves in the mountain passes than, from the smallness of
our numbers, we could in the more open ground.  In the hurry of
describing more stirring events, I forgot to mention my two young bears.
I did not like to desert them, as I might not have an opportunity of
capturing any others.

Laban at first objected to my dragging them along with me; but at length
he consented, observing, "Well, you know, Dick, if we get hungry, we'll
eat 'em."

Of course I could not but consent to this arrangement.  Although the
full-grown grizzly bear is the most ferocious of the ursine race, these
little creatures in a few hours became comparatively tame and contented
with their lot.  They trotted alongside of me very willingly, and at
night lay coiled up together like a ball of wool, to keep each other
warm.  I gave them a small piece of fat and a little meal porridge, and
that was all they seemed to want, besides sucking their paws, which they
did as babies do their fists when they are hungry.  Poor little things!
they seemed to know that they had nobody else but me to look to as their
friend.  My friends, the Raggets and their companions, were very kind
people, but they had a decidedly practical turn, and would have eaten my
pets forthwith if I would have let them.  I called one Gog and the other
Magog, names about which the honest backwoodsmen, who had never heard
even of Guildhall, knew nothing.

In appearance there was very little difference between them, but there
was a considerable amount in their characters.  Gog became much sooner
tame, and was of a more affectionate, gentle, and peaceable disposition.
Magog would sit and growl over any thing given him to play with, and
run off with it away from his brother, while Gog would frisk about and
seem to take pleasure in getting the other to join in his sports.  Of
course Gog became the favourite with all hands, and even the children
were not afraid of playing with him, whereas Magog would snap at them,
and very often tumbled them over and hurt them.

"I say, Dick," said Obed to me, "if we want food, we'll eat that Magog
of yours up first."

That is what Magog got for his surliness and ill-temper.

We continued to push on over the mountain-range.  It was not all ascent.
Sometimes we came to a level on a wide open space where there was not
much snow, and then we got on rapidly.  Our only passage through one
part of the route was up the bed of a torrent frozen hard and covered
with snow.  It was very heavy work, but Short assured us that it would
not last long, so we pushed on.

Obed, Short, and I, with others, were clearing the way with our spades,
when suddenly, without the slightest warning, the two first, who were
ahead of me, went right through the ice and disappeared.  Horror almost
overcame me, for I knew that the torrent would have the power of
sweeping them down in an instant far out of our sight.  Obed was my
greatest friend.  Short's loss to all the party was irreparable.  The
three other men with me and I shouted to our friends, several of whom
had long poles to assist their progress, to hasten to our aid.
Fastening four of these together, two and two, I secured a rope round my
body, which the others held, and then worked myself forward till I was
over the hole.  Another rope was made fast to the poles; by this I
descended.  I was surprised to find the chasm so deep, for I thought
that I should see the water rushing down a little below the surface.
Instead of that, there was below the hole a hard, very nearly smooth,
floor, I lowered myself gently, and found it perfectly firm and strong;
but, alas! neither Obed nor Short were to be seen.

Under other circumstances I should have been delighted with the
appearance of the place in which I found myself.  It was like a
magnificent cavern of the purest white marble, ornamented with glass
stalactites of the most brilliant rainbow hues.  I should call it rather
a gallery, because it extended up and down to an indefinite distance.
No work of art could be more light or graceful.

But my thoughts were with my friends, and all the beauty which
surrounded me seemed only to mock my anxiety for their fate.  I heard
those above, Laban Ragget and his sons, asking eagerly if I had found
them, and I had to answer mournfully, "No."  Still I saw that they could
not have gone through the ice into the stream itself, for that
everywhere appeared unbroken.  Then it struck me that, as the floor was
an inclined plane, they had probably slipped down over the smooth
surface without meeting anything to stop them.  This was a solution of
the problem of the cause of their disappearance, but it did not relieve
my anxiety as to their fate.  I sung out to my friends above to lengthen
the rope as far as they could, for I had no inclination to proceed
without it, and slid down to as great a distance as its length would
allow me to move.  I shouted and shouted, but there was no answer.  I
began truly to despair.  "Poor fellows, they must be gone," I thought.
"It will be a sad report I must take to Laban."

I began to ascend to get under the hole again.  I found that I could
easily crawl up the incline on hands and knees.  I turned to rest for an
instant, and thought that I would give one shout more.  There was a
roaring, rumbling noise of the water underneath, which made it necessary
to sing out very sharply to be heard at any distance.  I therefore
shrieked out this time at the very top of my voice.

A few instants passed while the echoes died away, and then a faint cry
came up from far, far down the long ice gallery.  It was repeated.
There could be no doubt that it was from my friends.  I waited to
consider whether I should return and get others to come down with more
ropes, so that should Short and Obed have fallen into an ice-pit, we
might help them out; or whether it was best to wait and see if they were
working their own way up, as I found from experience they might be able
to do.  It was while thus waiting for them that I was able to admire the
beauty of the scene.  The floor was dark blue, the sides were white, and
the ceiling was of every variety of green and red and yellow, and in
some places so transparent that it seemed surprising that any person,
much less a horse or sleigh, could have passed over it without breaking
through; then there were in the distance arches and columns, and whole
buildings and statues, of every grotesque form imaginable, at least so
my imagination carved out the excrescences and masses of ice I saw piled
up in a long vista before me.  I did not stay long without shouting
again, and once more the voices of my friends assured me that they were
drawing near.  My heart was now much lighter, and at length I caught
sight of their heads as they crawled up like two four-footed creatures
in the distance.  I was truly glad when they got up to me; they had
been, they owned, not slightly alarmed, and were, they showed, very
tired and out of breath.

On breaking through the ice, the impetus they got sent them sliding down
the sloping floor at so great a rate that they could not stop
themselves.  On, on they went, not knowing when their journey would end;
but dreading that it might be into some deep hole, or perhaps the
torrent itself.  They were well pleased, therefore, when they were
brought up suddenly against a mass of rock which rose out of the bed of
the stream; and doubly grateful were they when, on looking beyond it,
they saw that on the other side there was a deep fall, through which the
water itself was forcing its way.

We were all soon dragged up again to the surface, and though I described
the magnificence of the icy gallery, no one seemed inclined to pay it a
visit.  We had now to drag our sleighs up a steep bank, and to proceed
with the greatest caution, our progress being very slow.  At last we
once more got on level ground, and soon reached a long narrow lake, out
of which the torrent descended.  This accounted for there being water
under the ice.  Many of the torrents we came to were frozen completely
through.

It may seem in theory very pleasant work walking in snow-shoes over the
smooth surface of the snow, often high up among the boughs of trees, and
level with the roofs of cottages; but when a person is not accustomed to
the proceeding, it becomes painful in the extreme.

Snow-shoes are frames of light wood from four to six feet long, pointed
at both ends like a boat.  The intermediate space is filled up with
network.  They are secured to the feet by leathern thongs, and there is
a hole in which the heel works.  From their shape and size they present
a very wide surface to the snow, and prevent the walker from sinking in.

Great care is required in fastening the thongs, which must be tight; but
if they are too tight, when they get wet, as they frequently do, and
shrink, they cut into the ankles and cause serious injury.  Often the
feet are so benumbed with the cold that, at the time, no pain is felt,
and it is only when the sufferer comes to take off his shoes, that he
finds the thongs have disappeared in a mass of swelling.  We had no
fears as to the ice on the lake bearing us, so we merrily slid on to it,
and proceeded faster than we had done since we left the camp.  The
horses especially seemed to enjoy the ease, with which they dragged on
the loads which had before seemed so heavy, while the rest of us, taking
off our snowshoes, glided over the smooth surface as rapidly as they
did.  Fortunately, but little snow had fallen in this region, and the
wind had blown it off the ice.  This was the first, and indeed only,
advantage we gained by travelling before the frost broke up.  Had we not
begun our journey as we were now doing, we should have had to wait
several weeks longer, till the snows had melted from the mountain-tops,
and the streams had subsided to their usual level.  Still we could not
conceal from ourselves that we had many dangers to encounter, even
should we not be pursued by the red-skins.

I was generally in the van with Obed and Short and my two bears.  I did
not venture to let the Masters Bruin go loose, but yoked them together,
and had a rope fastened to them besides.  Thus united they waddled on;
not lovingly, for very often they grumbled and growled, and seemed to be
making far from pleasant remarks to each other.  They kept on all fours,
it must be understood.  Bears only stand on their hind legs when they
have learned to dance, or are going to eat a man, or at all events are
standing at bay.  On reaching the end of the lake we found that a
considerable portion of the day had been spent, but still we had some
distance to go before we could reach the spot proposed for our
camping-ground.  However, it was thought advisable to push on.  I
suggested to Short that it might have been better to camp on the shore
of the lake.

"So it would, Dick, if we hadn't to guard against these cunning
red-skins.  But old White Dog has heard, and I believe that he is right,
that there is another path over the mountains, which leads to the very
spot near where we propose camping; at least a little to this side of
it.  Now, if our enemies know of this, and it's not likely they'll be
ignorant, and they make chase after us, some of the cunning varmints
will take that path to cut us off, depend on't.  We haven't told the
women of it, nor the men generally, because there's no use making them
anxious till the time comes; and then there's no fear but that they'll
all behave as they ought."

I could not but admire the calm self-possession of my friends, who, in
expectation of so fearful an event, could show so little concern, and at
the same time placed such implicit confidence in the nerve courage of
their companions.  I must own that I felt very anxious, and carefully
examined the lock of my rifle, and assured myself that I had properly
loaded it.  Soon after this we entered a broad defile with high broken
rocks on either side of us, beyond which towered up to the sky the white
masses of mountain-tops.  The defile as we advanced gradually narrowed,
till I found that we were approaching a narrow gorge with cliffs rising
on each side almost perpendicularly above it.  Just then I thought that
I saw something moving among the rocks before us.  I asked short.  His
quick eye had detected the movement.

"Indjens!" he exclaimed.  "Oh! the treacherous varmints."

Scarcely had he uttered the word than from behind the rocks in our front
up sprang a numerous band of Indians in war-paint and feathers, uttering
the most terrific shrieks and cries, and dancing and leaping about in
the most extraordinary manner.  Our rifles were in a moment in our
hands.  I was on the point of firing at an Indian whom I had covered,
when old White Dog rushed to the front, exclaiming what Short
interpreted to mean, "Don't fire; they are friends, my people."

This was satisfactory information, for, however pleasant fighting may be
to some people, in our case it would not bring either honour or plunder.
The fact was that, posted as they were, they might, had they been
enemies, have picked us off, supposing they had rifles, without our
being able in any way to get at them, except by climbing up the rocks,
when, of course, they would have picked us off in detail.  After White
Dog's followers had amused themselves sufficiently with dancing and
shrieking, they came down from their position, and paid their respects
to their chief, who inquired how it was they happened to be where we had
found them.  They all seemed to be very eager to tell him, but he
selected one as the spokesman, and told him to narrate what had
occurred.  It appeared that after their chief had left them they got
notice that the Flintheads purposed to attack their lodges and destroy
them.  To avoid this result they had packed up their goods and fled from
the spot, merely leaving some scouts to watch the proceedings of their
enemies.  They had not to wait long before they observed a party of
warriors approaching.  This party seemed very much disappointed at
finding their lodges deserted.  Having set fire to everything that would
burn, they continued their route towards our camp, followed closely by
the scouts.  When these saw them enter within the intrenchments, they
instantly set off back to their companions.  A council was then held,
when it was agreed that it was their duty to set off to help their
chief, who might be in danger.

Old White Dog had, I found, left directions outside our camp, which they
would clearly understand, telling them to follow him.  On reaching the
camp they found that we had deserted it, but before going on, they very
naturally took a glance round inside.  There they found the unfortunate
Flintheads whom we had left bound.

"I hope, Short," said I, "that they respected our intentions, and left
them there unhurt."

"They left them there, you may be sure, Dick," answered Sam quietly.
"But you may be equally sure that they cut the throats of every mother's
son of them."

"Cruel, murderous wretches!"  I exclaimed.

"It's their way of doing things," said Sam.  "As they are taught in
their youth, so they act now they've grown up.  If you had been taught
to scalp your enemies when you were a boy, you'd do the same with
pleasure now, whenever you had a chance!"

I could not deny that this would too probably have been the case, and
therefore made no further remarks on the subject, only feeling thankful
that I had been born in a Christian land, and brought up with Christian
principles.

The meeting with these Indians caused another short delay, and they and
their wives, and children, and dogs, falling into the rear of our party,
we all proceeded together.  The women and children, I ought to have
said, had been hid away among the rocks, and were only produced at the
last moment, as we were moving on.  We could not object to White Dog's
tribe accompanying us, but as they came but scantily furnished with
provisions, we were under some considerable apprehension that they would
create a famine in our camp.

A strong party of us, consisting of Short and Noggin, and some of the
Raggets, and myself, with old White Dog and several of his tribe, now
pushed on to occupy the pass which led into the one through which we
were travelling.  We soon reached it, and, climbing up the surrounding
heights, looked around.  As far as the eye could range, not a moving
obstacle was visible; all was silent and solitary.  We had purposely
concealed ourselves in case an enemy should be approaching, and as I
stood on that mountain height looking out into the distance over
interminable snow-covered ranges of rock, I was more sensible than I had
ever before been of the sensation of solitude; never before had I
remarked silence so perfect.  Truly it seemed as if Nature was asleep.
So she was: it was the sleep of winter.

In England, where birds are constantly flying about, and often insects
humming, even at Christmas, we have no conception of the utter want of
all appearance of life in the mountain regions in which I was now
travelling.  We waited on the watch till the main body of our party came
up, and then, seeing no enemies, pushed on to our camping-ground.  I
must say that I was very glad to get there without meeting with the
Flintheads.  I felt sure that as soon as they found out the fate of
their friends, they would track us, and, if they could, not leave one of
our party alive.  Probably Laban and others thought the same, but wisely
kept their thoughts to themselves.

We fortified ourselves as usual, and kept a strict watch during the
night.  The weather was much less cold than it had been; indeed, there
were evident signs of the coming of spring, and it became more than ever
evident that we must push on before the frozen-up torrents should again
burst forth, and render many spots impassable.  After a hurried
breakfast, we were once more on our way; we marched in true military
order, with an advanced and a rear guard; the first carried spades, and
acted as a pioneer corps.  This morning I was in the rear guard, with
Obed and Short, and all the Indians with their old chief.  We had
marched about a mile, and had just entered one of the defiles I have
spoken of, with lofty cliffs on each side, and the mountains rising, it
seemed, sheer up above our heads for thousands of feet, when I saw the
Indians prick up their ears; then they stopped and bent down to the
ground as if to listen.  There was a great talking among them, and old
White Dog called to Short: and Short announced to us the unpleasant
information that we were pursued by a large body of Flintheads.  They
could not have overtaken our party in a position more advantageous to
us; for, from the narrowness of the pass, even should they be very
superior in numbers, we could show as good a front as they could.  While
our main body moved on with the women and children and goods, I and
about a dozen young men remained with the Indians to defend the pass,
and to drive back, if we could, our enemies.

"There's one thing we may look for," observed Sam Short; "they'll fight
to the last gasp, rather than lose the chance of their revenge; only
don't let any of us get into their hands alive, that's all; they'd try
our nerves in a way we should not like, depend on that."

Every man among us looked to his rifle, and felt that his hunting-knife
was ready to his hand in his belt.  We advanced a little farther, and
then halted at a spot where it seemed impossible that the Indians could
scale the heights to get at us.  We had not long to wait.  Suddenly
before us appeared a band of Indians just turning an angle of the pass.
On they came at a rapid pace till the whole road, as far as the eye
could reach, seemed full of them.  As soon as they perceived us, they
set up the most terrific yells, and rushed frantically forward.  We
waited for them steadily, but I feared, by the very force of their
charge, that our people would be overthrown and driven back.

"Now, lads," exclaimed Laban, as they came on, "be steady.  Wait till I
give the word.  Fire low.  Don't let the bullets fly over their heads.
Bring down the leading men.  Now ready--Fire!"

All obeyed our brave leader, and several in the front ranks of the enemy
fell.  Yet it did not stop the rest, but rushing on with the fiercest
shrieks, they threw themselves madly upon our party.  The White Dog's
followers bore the brunt of the charge, and very gallantly did they
behave.  Again and again the Flintheads were driven back, and again and
again they came on.  They seemed resolved to conquer or die.  There must
have been nearly a hundred warriors among them.  The air was at times
darkened with their arrows, besides which a number had rifles.  Four or
five of our Indian allies had been killed, as had one of our people, and
numbers had been wounded.  We kept up at them a hot fire all the time,
and many of them fell.  Still, in proportion to our numbers, we had lost
more men than they had.  Once more the whole column rushed on together.
I fully thought that we were lost, when, as I glanced my eye upward, I
saw what I fancied was the mountain-top bend forward.  Yes, I was not
mistaken!  Down it came with a wild, rushing noise directly towards us,
shaking the very ground on which we stood.  The Indians saw it too, but
it did not stop them, as with headlong speed they were rushing towards
us, about to make another onslaught.  They and White Dog's people met,
and the last I saw of them they were dashing their tomahawks into each
other's brains.

I shouted frantically to Laban and the rest to retreat.  It was a mighty
avalanche, a vast mass of snow and ice.  As it descended it increased in
size, gathering fresh speed.  As one mast of a ship drags another in its
fall, so did one mountain-top seem to lay hold of the one next to it,
and bring it downwards into the valley.  Down, down came the mountains
of snow, thundering, roaring, rushing.  My brain seemed to partake of
the wild commotion.  I cannot attempt to describe the effect.  I was
leaping, running, springing back from the enemy, with every muscle
exerted to the utmost, in the direction the women and baggage had gone.
Laban and his sons were near me, I believed, but already dense showers
of snow, or rather solid masses, the _avant-coureurs_ of the avalanche,
were falling down on us and preventing me seeing anything many feet from
where I was.  Unearthly shrieks and cries of terror and despair reached
my ears; a mass of snow struck me, and brought me to the ground deprived
of consciousness.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

I FIND MYSELF UNDER THE SNOW--MY ATTEMPTS TO ESCAPE APPEAR TO BE VAIN--
STRUGGLE ON--AM FREE, BUT FIND MYSELF ALONE AMONG THE MOUNTAINS--PUSH
ON--ENCOUNTER A GRIZZLY BEAR--A FIGHT--WILL HE EAT ME, OR SHALL I EAT
HIM?--THE PLEASANTEST ALTERNATIVE OCCURS, AND BRUIN SAVES MY LIFE--I
HURRY ON IN THE HOPES OF OVERTAKING MY FRIENDS--TAKE UP MY LODGING FOR
THE NIGHT IN A CAVERN.

When I saw the avalanche come thundering down towards me, although I
used my utmost exertions to escape, I in reality had completely given
myself up for lost.  My feelings were very bitter, but they were of
short duration, when I was brought stunned to the ground.  I came to
myself at last, or I should not be writing this; but where I was, or
what had occurred, it was some time before I could recollect.  At last a
dim consciousness came over me that something terrific had happened, and
I opened my eyes and looked about; I was under the snow, or rather under
a mass of ice in a space ten or twelve feet long, and about three high,
being rather wider at the base.  This was a very respectable sized tomb,
and such I feared that it would prove to me, unless I could work my way
out of it.  Of course I knew that I might be released when the snow
melted, but I should inevitably be starved long before that event could
take place, not to speak of dying of chill, and damp, and rheumatism.

My principle has always been never to say die; if it had been otherwise
I should not be again in Old England.  My rifle lay on the ground close
to me where I had fallen; my hand still grasped the long pike I always
carried, and the ever constant weapon of the backwoodsman, my hatchet,
was in my belt.  I crawled along to one end of the icy cavern, tapping
the roof to ascertain if there was any crack through which I may work my
way, but it was one solid sheet of ice; the end was blocked up also by a
solid mass, through which, after making several attempts, I found it
impossible to bore.  Finding all my efforts useless at this end, I went
to the other.  Appearances were not promising; still I would not allow
myself to believe that by some means or other I might not work my way
out of my icy prison.  Not a moment was to be lost; my friends might go
away and suppose I had perished, or I might be starved or exhausted
before I could reach the open air.  It was a great thing having a little
space to start from, though it was little enough.  I set to work at
once, therefore, with my axe, and began chopping away at the ice.  My
idea was to cut myself out a circular shaft, and thus, like a mole, work
my way up.  I chopped and chopped away, and when I had cut a couple of
feet out of the mass, I carried the chips to the farther end of the
cave; my object in doing this was to obtain sufficient air to breathe,
for I found that I very soon consumed what there was in the cave, and
that the heat of my body had already begun to melt the ice above me.  I
suffered, therefore, rather from heat than from cold; I went chopping on
till I had space enough in which to stand upright.  This was a very
great advantage; I felt most encouraged, and could now work with far
greater ease than at first, when I had to be on my back, and to chop
away above me.  I felt very thankful that I was not a miner, either in a
coal, iron, or lead mine.

Sometimes as I was working away I fancied that I head the voices of my
friends calling to me, but when I stopped there was again a perfect
silence.  On I went again, but still it appeared as if I was as far as
ever from getting out of my prison.  I had now cut my shaft as high as I
could reach, so I had to make steps in the walls on which I could stand
while I worked upwards.  This I did till I had got up a dozen feet or
more.  It showed me the great thickness of the block of ice which had
fallen above me, and how mercifully I had been preserved, for had it
come upon me, it would have crushed me as thin as a pancake.  I was now
exposed to a new danger: should I fall as I was tunnelling away, I
should break my legs.  I already had removed, as I said, a considerable
portion of the ice I had cut out to the other end of the cavern.  I now
saw that it would be better not to remove any more; so, securing my
rifle at my back, and taking my pike in my left hand, which indeed I
found very useful in keeping me firm, I determined not again to descend,
but to continue working upwards as long as I had strength left.

To decrease the risk of falling down, I contracted the diameter of my
shaft, and thus got on also faster.  At length, as I gave a blow above
my head, what was my satisfaction to feel that my axe had entered a mass
of snow.  Ask an engineer if he would rather bore under a river with a
rocky, or a sandy and muddy bed, and he will tell you that the rock he
can manage, but that the sand or mud is very likely to baffle him.  So I
found with regard to the snow; I got on rapidly through the ice, but as
I worked up through the snow, I had reason to dread every instant that
the superincumbent mass would fall in and smother me.  I found that I
made the most progress by scraping it down and beating it hard under my
feet, forming a rude stair as I went on.  I had got up ten feet or so
through it, when either my foot had slipped, or a mass of snow had come
down upon me, I could not then tell; but I know, to my horror, that I
felt myself sent toppling down, heels over head, as I feared, to the
bottom of the shaft.  I began to give myself up for lost, and would have
shrieked out; perhaps I did so, in very grief and disappointment more
than through actual fear, when I found that I was brought up by my pike,
which had become fixed across the shaft.  I held on for some time till
the snow had ceased sliding down below me, and I looked up, and there to
my delight I saw, far above me, through a narrow aperture, the clear
blue sky.  I now could have shouted for joy; but my emancipation was not
yet complete, the smooth side of the funnel was to be scaled.

Having secured my pike, I set about it.  I tried to run up and gain the
height by a dash.  That would not do, I quickly found, for the snow slid
down with my feet as fast as I could lift them, and that made still more
come sliding towards me.  The only way to gain the top was by slow and
patient progress, I discovered, after many experiments.  I therefore
carefully made step above step, beating each one down hard as I
progressed, and with infinite satisfaction I found that I was again
making an upward progress.  At last my perseverance was rewarded with
success, and I found myself standing on a vast mass of snow, which
blocked up the whole of the valley for a considerable distance on the
eastern side and for some way on the west, so far, indeed, that my first
delight at my own deliverance was very much damped by the fears which
seized me for the safety of my friends and companions.  There I stood,
in the most silent and complete solitude, amid a heaving ocean, as it
were, of snow, with the dark granite peaks rising up here and there out
of it, and increasing the appearance of bleakness and desolation which
reigned around.  I shouted again and again, in the hopes that possibly
some of my companions might be within hearing; but my voice sounded
faint, and indeed, almost inaudible, it seemed, while no echoes reached
me from the surrounding rocks.

I did not, however, waste much time in hallooing, for instant action was
what was required.  I felt very hungry, and that fact made me suppose
that I must have been some time in my icy cavern before I returned to a
state of consciousness.  I took out my watch; it had stopped.  It was
early in the morning when the Indians had attacked us.  The sun had not
now risen any considerable height in the eastern sky.  This made me feel
sure that one whole day, if not more, had passed since the catastrophe,
and that if I would preserve my life I must push on to overtake the
travellers.  I had left my snow-shoes in the camp, so that I had great
difficulty often in making my way over the snow in some of the spots
where it lay most loosely.  More than once I sank up to my shoulders,
and had it not been for my pike I should have had great difficulty in
scrambling out again.  I had got on some way, and was congratulating
myself on having got over the worst of it, when I felt the snow giving
way under my feet.  I tried to spring forward, but that only made me
sink down faster; down, down, I went in a huge drift.  I had sunk to my
middle; then the snowy mass rose to my shoulders, and, to my horror, I
found it closing over my head.  Though I knew if I went lower I might
struggle on for some time, yet that death would be equally certain in
the end.  My feelings were painful in the extreme.  I could not get my
pole across above me, but I succeeded in shoving it down below my feet,
and, to my infinite relief, after I had made several plunges, it struck
the point of a rock, or a piece of ice.  I kept it fixed there with all
the strength I could command, and pressing myself upwards got
sufficiently high to throw myself flat on the snow and to scramble
forward.  This I did for some distance, holding my staff with both hands
before me.  It was not a pleasant way of making progress, but it was the
only safe one.

At length I got into the main pass, where the snow lay at its usual
depth, and where it was beaten down by the passage of men, and wagons,
and horses.  This gave me renewed spirits, though, on examining the
traces, I discovered that they were at least a day old, perhaps older.
My chief immediate wish was to have something to stop the cravings of
hunger.  I felt in my pockets.  I had not a particle of food; nor had I
a scrap of tobacco, which might have answered the purpose for a short
time.  I tried chewing a lump of snow--that was cold comfort; so all I
could do was to put my best foot forward, and to try and overtake my
friends as soon as possible.  I might have walked on for three or four
hours engaged in the somewhat difficult endeavour to forget how hungry I
was, and to occupy my mind with pleasing fancies, (I suspect few people
would have succeeded under the circumstances better than I did), when I
heard a loud growl, and on looking round to my right, I saw, sitting at
the mouth of a cavern formed in a rock in a side valley of the main pass
along which I was travelling, a huge grizzly bear.  There he sat,
rubbing his nose with his paws, putting me very much in mind of pictures
I have seen of hermits of old counting their beads; nor was he, I
suspect, much less profitably employed.

I stopped the moment I heard him growl, and looked firmly at the
grizzly.  I knew that it would not do to turn and run.  Had I done so,
he would have been after me in a moment, and made mincemeat of my
carcass.  I do not know what he thought of me: I do know that I thought
him a very ugly customer.  I bethought me of my rifle.  The last shot I
had fired had been at the Indians; I had not since loaded it.  I dreaded
lest, before I could do so, he might commence his attack, which I
guessed he was meditating.  He had probably only just roused up from his
winter nap, and was rubbing his eyes and snout as a person does, on
waking out of sleep, to recover his senses, and consider what he should
do.  To this circumstance I owed, I suspected, my present freedom from
attack.  I, meantime, loaded my rifle as fast as I could, and felt much
lighter of heart when I once more lifted it ready for use to my
shoulder, with a good ounce of lead in the barrel.

"Now, master Grizzly," said I to myself, "come on, I am ready for you."

Bruin, however, was either not quite awake, or wished to consider the
best means of making a prize of me.  The truth was that both of us were
hungry.  He wanted to eat me, and I wanted to eat him: that is to say, I
determined to do so if I could, should he attack me.  If he left me
unmolested to pursue my journey--I felt that discretion would be in this
instance the best part of valour--that it would be wisest to leave him
alone in his glory; for a grizzly, as all hunters know, even with a
rifle bullet in his ribs, is a very awkward antagonist.  He was so long
rubbing his nose, that I at last lost patience, and began to move on.  I
had not taken a dozen steps when his warning growl again reached my
ears.  I stopped, and he went on rubbing his nose as before.

"This is all nonsense, old fellow," I exclaimed.  "Growl as much as you
like.  I am not going to stop for you any longer."

So, putting my best foot forward, as I had need of doing, I stepped
quickly out.  I very naturally could not help turning my head over my
shoulder, to see what Bruin was about, and, as I did so, a growl louder
than the previous one reached my ear, and I saw him moving on at a
swinging trot after me.  This I knew meant mischief.  Flight was totally
out of the question.  I must fight the battle like a man.  It must be
literally victory or death.

Strange as it may seem, my heart felt more buoyant when I had made up my
mind for the struggle, independent of certain anticipations of the
pleasure I should derive from the bear steaks I had in contemplation,
should I be successful.  I speak, perhaps, too lightly of the matter
now, because I do not want to make more of my deeds than they deserve;
but it was in reality very serious work, and I have cause to be deeply
thankful that I did not become the victim of that savage beast.  Let
this be remembered, that I was then, and I am now even more so, most
grateful; yet not grateful enough; that I also feel for the merciful way
in which I was brought through all the perils to which I was exposed.
This being clearly understood, I shall consider myself exonerated from
the frequent introduction of expressions to show that I was not a
heartless, careless mortal, without a sense of the superintending
providence of a most merciful Creator.  I do feel, and I have always
felt, that there is no civilised being so odious among all the races of
man as a person of that description.

Well, on came the huge bear.  I knelt down and took my pike, as a rest
for my rifle.  This was a great advantage.  Growling and gnashing his
teeth, the enemy advanced.  I prayed that my arm might be nerved, that
my hand might not tremble, and that my rifle might not miss fire.  Thus
I waited till the brute got within six yards of me.  Had I let him get
nearer, even in his death struggles, he might have grappled me.  I aimed
at his eye.  I fired, and the moment I had done so, I sprang back, and
did not stop till I had placed twenty paces between myself and the bear,
scarcely looking to see the effect of my shot.  When the smoke cleared
off, I saw the monster struggling on, with the aim, it seemed, of
catching me.  I was thankful that I had been impelled to spring back as
I had done, for I certainly had not previously intended doing so.  I
knew how hard the old grizzlies often die, and so I put some dozen or
more yards between me and him.  He fell, then got up once, and made
towards me again, and then rolled over, and I had great hope life was
extinct.  I had meantime reloaded my rifle, and approached him with due
caution, for bears are, I had heard, cunning fellows, and sometimes sham
death to catch the unwary hunter.  When I got near enough I poked at him
with my pike, and tickled him in several places, and as he did not move,
I got round to his head, and gave him a blow with my axe, which would
have settled him had he been shamming ever so cleverly.

Without loss of time I cut out his tongue and as many steaks as I could
conveniently carry, and stringing them together with a piece of his hide
threw them over my back, and hurried on till I could find a sufficient
collection of wood or lichens, or other substance that would burn, to
make a fire for cooking them.  I need not dwell on what I did do, but
the fact was I was ravenously hungry; and let any one, with the gnawings
of the stomach I was enduring, find his nose within a few inches of some
fresh wholesome bear's meat, and he will probably do what I did--eat a
piece of it raw.  I was very glad that I did, for I felt my strength
much recruited by my savage meal, especially as I only ate a small
piece, very leisurely chewing it as I hurried on my road.

It was a satisfaction to believe that I was going much faster than the
women and vehicles could progress, and so I hoped to overtake them in a
day or two at furthest; still, as long as there was daylight, I did not
like to stop, and so on I tramped, till just before it grew dark I
reached a broader part of the pass, where, in a nook in the mountain
side, I discovered the remains of the camp formed by my friends, and
left, I had little doubt, that very morning.  There was wood enough
about, with a little more, which I set to work to collect, to keep a
fire burning all night.  While thus engaged I found in the side of the
rock a cave of good depth.  I explored it at once, while there was
light, to ascertain that it was not the abode of another grizzly.
Having assured myself that the lodgings were unoccupied, though no
signboard announced that they were to be let, I piled my wood up in
front, and collected all the branches of fir trees and moss which I
could find, to form a bed for myself inside.  These arrangements being
made, I lighted my fire and sat down with considerable appetite to cook
and eat my bear steaks.  My adventures for the night were not over.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

A NIGHT IN A CAVE--I FORTIFY MYSELF, AND GO TO SLEEP--UNWELCOME
VISITORS--MY BATTLE WITH THE WOLVES--I DRIVE THEM OFF, AND AGAIN GO TO
SLEEP--CONTINUE MY JOURNEY--NIGHT AGAIN OVERTAKES ME--I BUILD A CASTLE
FOR MY RESTING-PLACE--VOICES OF FRIENDS SOUND PLEASANTLY--ESCAPE OF MY
COMPANIONS--FATE OF SURLY MAGOG--REACH THE CAMP--THE SUMMIT OF THE
PASS--COMMENCE OUR DESCENT--AN IRISHMAN'S NOTION OF THE BEST WAY TO GO
DOWN THE MOUNTAIN.

I soon got up a good fire, which threw its ruddy glare on all the rough
points and salient angles of the cavern, but cast the hollows and
recesses into the deepest shade.  I glanced my eyes round, however, on
every side, and having satisfied myself that it had no previous occupant
in the shape of a grizzly and her hopeful family, I proceeded with my
culinary operations.  Having skewered a supply of bits of bear's flesh
sufficient to satisfy my appetite, on as many thin willow twigs, I cut
out a number of forked sticks and stuck them round the fire.  On these,
spit-fashion I placed my skewers, and turned them round and round till
they were roasted on every side.  A few, to satisfy the immediate
cravings of my appetite, I placed very close to the fire, but they got
rather more burned than a French chef would have admired.

After that, as I had nothing else to do, I could afford to take my time,
and to cook them to perfection.  I should have liked to have had a
little pepper and salt to eat with them, and something more comfortable
than melted snow to wash them down.  I could not afford to expend my
gunpowder, otherwise the nitre in it affords a certain amount of
flavour, counterbalanced, to be sure, in the opinion of some people, by
the sulphur and charcoal.  I don't think, however, any one need fear
being blown up by partaking of such a condiment.  After I had finished
my supper, I sang a little to amuse myself and any bats which might have
been hanging on by their claws to the roof of the inner part of the
cave, and then, having no book to read or anything else to do, I
prepared my bed and made up my fire for the night.  In other words, I
collected a bundle of sticks and fastened them together to form a
pillow, and scraped into a heap all the dry earth I could find to make
myself a mattress.  This a backwoodsman would have considered great
effeminacy; and though I always adopted their ways when with them, I
must own that, when left to myself, I could not help indulging in some
such approximation, as I have described, to the luxurious habits of my
college life.  It was pleasant to recall my arm-chair and slippers, my
cheery coal fire, my table covered with books, and a cup of coffee, or
perhaps a bottle of port and a plate of biscuits, to apply to in case,
after my mental exertions, my physical being should require some slight
renovation.  Some lazy fellows might rather think that I had not changed
for the better.

I was on the point of stretching myself on the aforesaid luxurious
couch, when I bethought me that it would be more prudent to erect a
barrier of some sort between my dormitory and the entrance of the
cavern, that, should any uninvited visitors intrude, I might have time
for taking measures to protect myself.  It, by the way, also occurred to
me that a wall might guard me from the cold wind which blew in at the
mouth of the cavern.  I, therefore, shaking off my drowsiness by an
impulse I can scarcely now account for, built a wall of all the stones
and earth and bits of wood I could heap together, nearly two feet high,
reaching from the fire to one side of the cavern.  I then carefully
examined my rifle, and placing it by my side, lay down alongside my wall
with my feet towards the fire.  Why I did this, I repeat, I cannot say.
The idea that such a precaution might be necessary had not till that
very moment crossed my mind.  The additional exertion somewhat wearied
me, and not a minute after I placed my head on the pillow, and like a
hen had worked myself a hole to fit my body in the sand, I was fast
asleep.  I don't know what occurred after that, till I awoke by finding
my feet very cold, which was no wonder, for the fire had almost gone
out, and the thermometer was down to zero.  I lifted myself up on my
elbow while I was recovering my senses after my sleep, when not five
paces on the other side of the wall I saw what looked like at least a
dozen sparks of light in a row, reaching across the mouth of the cave,
while farther off appeared several other small fiery orbs.  I looked and
looked again.

"Fireflies," said I to myself, half dreaming.  "Bosh! fireflies in
midwinter on the top of a mountain!"  I rubbed my eyes.  "Sparks from my
fire?"  Several peculiar low snarling growls made me start up, wide
awake with a vengeance.  "Wolves!"  I said to myself; "there is no doubt
about it."  The brutes had smelt me out, and with their usual caution,
they were making this advance to commence an attack.

How many there were I could not tell, but there must have been a flock
of them--parents and children, the biggest and fiercest as usual in the
van.  I concluded that they had not yet seen me in the dark, but I knew
that they would find me out as soon as I moved.  I felt quietly for my
rifle, and got that ready to fire when it was required.  Then I lay
watching the brutes as slowly they crept on, one foot before the other,
just as a pointer advances towards where the covey lies hid.  In another
instant they might spring upon me.  It struck me that they probably did
not like the embers of the fire, so I took my long pole, and beat or
stirred up the ashes with it, making them send forth showers of sparks.
I fancied that the wolves were retreating, so I jumped up, and threw the
bundle of sticks which had served me for a pillow, as well as all others
on which I could lay my hands, upon the ashes.  This act exposed me to
the view of the hungry brutes, who instantly, with loud growls, rushed
back towards me.  Just then the dry sticks, aided by a puff of wind,
ignited, and blazing up exhibited the whole savage troop to me.  It was
a highly picturesque scene I doubt not, the fire blazing up, and the
dark rugged walls of the cavern, and my figure brought into strong
light, with my gleaming brand pointed towards my savage assailants; but
I don't mean to say I thought about that just then.  All I saw were the
fierce glaring eyes, the shaggy coats, and the hungry-looking fangs of
the brutes, as they licked their jaws in anticipation of the feast they
hoped to enjoy off me.  I did not, however, like to throw away a shot
among them, which could only have killed one, so I waited to see what
they would do.  In my late combat with the bear, I had the anticipation
of a meal off my foe, should.  I prove the victor, but on this occasion
I had not that incitement to exertion, for a man must be very hard up
for food who could complacently dine of the flesh of a gaunt wolf at the
end of winter; and even the cubs, though probably not quite such tough
morsels as their parents, had already far too much muscular development
to afford satisfactory employment to the jaws.  Though, however, I did
not want to eat the wolves, they wanted to eat me, which was quite
sufficient reason to make me excessively anxious to gain the victory.

After baying at me for some time, the brutes in the front line once more
stealthily advanced, followed by those in the rear, whose forms appeared
less and less distinct, till all I could make out of them were their
fierce eyes, glaring like hot coals through the darkness.  By this time
a good portion of the sticks had caught fire.  As the wolves got nearer,
the scent of the remainder of the bear steaks, which I had put aside for
my breakfast, filled their nostrils; their eagerness increased, and,
with a loud howl, they in a body sprang towards me.  I must conquer
gloriously, or die and be eaten ignominiously; so, seizing a bundle of
the burning sticks, I threw them in among the advancing ranks, and then,
with loud shouts, grasping my pole, sprang out towards my foes, and
belaboured them with might and main about their heads.  They snarled and
bit fiercely at the pole, but did not advance.  Still they would not
take to flight, and as it was very evident I should have a disturbed
night's rest if they remained in the neighbourhood, I was very anxious
to make them decamp.  I got together, therefore, an additional supply of
burning sticks.  These I put in readiness for use.  Then I levelled my
rifle at one of the foremost and biggest wolves, and knocking him over,
brandished my pole in one hand, and hurling the burning sticks among
them with the other, I made a second furious onslaught on the wolves.

With unearthly howls and cries away they fled, leaping and scrambling
over each other like an affrighted flock of sheep, and in complacent
triumph I returned to my sandy couch, expecting to enjoy a quiet and
comfortable night's rest.  A heap of stones served me now for a pillow.
Some of my readers may say, if you had had a downy couch or a
feather-stuffed pillow, in a nice room with curtains, and a good fire,
you might have had some reason for your hopes; but let me assure them
that our ideas of comfort arise from comparison.  The first night I
slept in a feather bed after my camp life I caught the worst cold I ever
had.  Well, leaving the dead body of the wolf where he had fallen, I
took the precaution to make up the fire with the remaining sticks I had
collected, and lay down once more to enjoy the sweets of repose.  Can it
be believed!  I had not been ten minutes wrapped in the arms of
Morpheus, when I was again roused out of them by a terrific snarling and
barking and growling.  I looked up.  There, as I expected, were the
wolves, unnatural brutes, tearing away at the carcass of their ancient
kinsman, and quarrelling over his limbs.  "If that is what you are
about, my boys, you are welcome to your sport, only let me alone," said
I to myself; and leaning back I was immediately fast asleep again.  The
truth is, not having had a comfortable night's rest for some time, I was
very sleepy, which will account for my apparent indifference to the near
neighbourhood of such unsatisfactory gentry.

In spite of snarling, and barking, and howling, and growling, and every
other variety of noise which the genus _canis_, whether in a tame or
wild state, is capable of making, I slept on.  To be sure I could not
help dreaming about them; sometimes that they were running off with my
ten toes, then with my fingers; then that a big fellow had got an
awkward grip at my nose.  The last dream, which was so particularly
unpleasant, made me lift up my hand to ascertain whether that ornament
of the human visage was in its proper place, when I felt several hot
puffs of air blow on my cheek, and opening my eyes I beheld the glaring
orbs of half a dozen wolves gazing down upon me over my barricade.  Had
not my dream given me warning, in another instant they would have been
upon me.  As it was, they seemed inclined to make a spring and to finish
the drama by eating me up, which I calculated they would have done in
ten minutes, when, seizing my spear, I swept it round, and as I knocked
one off after the other the loud yelling they made showed the force of
the blows I had, in my desperation, dealt on them.

I then got up, and scraping a portion of the fire within reach of my
hands, I kept the ends of a number of sticks burning in it, and as soon
as the wolves came back, which they did not fail to do, I hove one at
their noses.  This made them wary.  They must have taken me for a
Salamander or some fire-spitting monster; at all events, although some
of the bolder ones every now and then came and had a look at me, licking
their jaws and wishing they could eat me up, the singeing I gave their
whiskers quickly drove them away, while the greater number kept at a
respectful distance.  At last when morning light returned, I started up,
and uttering shouts and shrieks with the most hearty good-will, fired
again at the foremost, and, as before, laying about me with my pole, put
the remainder to an ignominious flight.  I had not enjoyed a quiet night
certainly, but I was much warmer than I should have been had my fire
gone out.

"It's an ill wind that blows no one good."

"Good may be got out of everything," I say.

So the wolves said, when they supped of their old grandsire instead of
me.  Having also enjoyed a warm breakfast, I shouldered my rifle and
pushed on as fast as my legs could carry me to overtake my friends.  I
was extremely anxious to get up with them before they descended into the
plains; for as I supposed that the snow would be melting there, I knew
that I might have great difficulty in following their traces.  I pushed
on till noon, and then stopped but ten minutes to dine, or rather to
rest and chew a bit of bear's flesh.  That done, on again I went as fast
as before.  I did not at all like the notion of having to camp out by
myself, for I was so sleepy that I fancied I might be torn limb from
limb by wolves or a bear without awaking; and certainly I might have
been frozen to death.  The evening came, the sun set, and though I was
on the track of my friends, I could see nothing of them.  Still I pushed
on, because I might overtake them before dark; but at length the shades
of night crept up the mountain's sides, and for what I could tell I
still might be many hours distant from them.  I could see very little
way ahead; but I had arrived at a part of the mountain-range where there
were some very ugly-looking precipices on either side of the pass, and I
thought it more than likely, should I push on, that I might slip down
one of them, when very probably I should not be brought up till I had
had a jump of a couple of thousand feet or so.

I could find no dry wood for a fire; but there were plenty of stones,
and a superabundance of snow and a big overhanging rock near at hand.
I, therefore, built myself a hut with the stones and snow, the big rock
forming the back.  There was no door nor window, seeing that such would
have been more useful to an enemy than to myself; but as there was no
roof the space where it should have been enabled me to get into my
abode, and allowed air and such light as the stars afforded to enter
also.  Some men would not have taken so much trouble for a single night,
but as I thought that I very probably should be eaten if I did not, I
did not think the trouble thrown away.

My castle being complete, I climbed over the wall, and sat down on a
stone, which I intended as my pillow, to munch a piece of bear's flesh.
I felt much better after it, and before going to sleep I bethought me
that I would exercise my voice a little, and fire off my rifle to
frighten away any prowling bear, who might otherwise take a fancy to
inspect my fortress while I might be asleep.  My voice rang loudly
amidst the solemn silence of that mountain region, and the crack of my
rifle echoed from rock to rock, but I heard no sound in return, and
having reloaded my rifle, and sung a few songs and a hymn, I knelt down,
said my prayers, and placing my head on my rough pillow, went to sleep.
I had slept some time when I was awoke by hearing a noise as if some one
was climbing over the walls of my tower.  Grasping my rifle, which I had
placed leaning against the wall nearest me, ready for instant service, I
looked up and there I saw the head of a bear looking down upon me.  I
was on the point of firing, as was natural, when I heard a voice say--

"Hollo, stranger, you snore loudly."  I sprang to my feet.

"Why, Obed and Elihu, old boys! is it you?"  I exclaimed.  "And my young
friend Gog!"

"I might well say, is it you, Dick?" cried Obed and his brother, almost
wringing off my hand.

"We thought you were some hundred feet under the snow, with all the
red-skins, the White Dogs, and Flintheads, and none of us ever expected
to see you again, that we did not, let me tell you; but it won't make us
less glad to find you come to life again.  How is it you are here?  Tell
us."

In reply, I gave them a rapid sketch of my escape and adventures, and
inquired anxiously after my friends.  He told me that only two white men
of our party had lost their lives, though several had been dug out of
the snow, whereas, of the Indians, only old White Dog himself had
escaped.

"And Magog?"  I asked, "my other young bear."

"Oh, we ate him," answered Obed; "he was an ill-natured brute, and as he
bit one of the children, and we wanted some fresh meat, father ordered
him to be knocked on the head.  I guessed it would come to that.  Now,
the moment we heard your shots and shouts, Gog was full of fidgets, till
he saw us starting off to see what it was about, and then up he got and
followed us like a dog.  He's a sensible little brute, that he is."

This conversation took place while I, like a Jack in a box, stood inside
my castle, and my friends outside.  At last I bethought me that I should
like to be on the move, if it was only the sooner to enjoy a cup of hot
coffee and a pipe, luxuries I had had all day an especial longing for.
They had been so eager to learn what had occurred to me, that it did not
occur to them that the sooner we could get back to camp, the better for
me.  It was pitched, I found, in a sheltered nook, in a valley some way
down the mountain, and thus their fires had been hidden from me, as well
as the sound of their voices.  Off we set, therefore, little Gog jumping
and frisking before me as playful as a young puppy.  It was a wonder he
did not tumble over the precipices in the dark.  I received a warm
welcome and got a warm supper, and when I did once go to sleep, I
believe that it would have taken a pretty heavy piece of ordnance fired
over my head to awaken me.

We had now reached the extreme western edge of the Rocky Mountains, and
our course was henceforth to be all down hill.  We had expected to have
had easy work of it, but when we stood on the edge of the cliffs and
looked down the terrific precipices, the bottom of which we had by some
means or other to reach, we very soon changed our minds.  First we had
to search for the side of the mountain with the least slope; that is to
say, forming the greatest angle with the base.  When found we saw that
no oxen or horses could, by themselves, prevent a loaded wagon rushing
down and being dashed to pieces.  We therefore held a council to
consider the best means to be adopted.  Two plans were agreed on
according to the nature of the ground.  Where the descent was short and
steep we unharnessed the cattle, and making one end of a rope fast to a
rock or tree, we passed it through a block in the hinder part of the
wagon, and thus lowered the vehicle down gradually to the next platform.
The ropes were then unrove and secured to another rock or tree.  It was
a very slow operation, but it was the only safe one.  Indeed, in some
places the descent was so precipitous that we had to unload the wagons
altogether, and carry each article down separately.

Two days were thus occupied; but when we looked up and saw the heights
from which we had descended, and the steepness of the precipices above
us, we had reason, I thought, to be thankful.  We now came to a series
of sheer descents, long, excessively steep slopes of half a mile or more
each.  They were of a more treacherous character, and required as much
caution.  We first cut down as many trees, with their branches on them,
as we had wagons, and secured the butt-ends to the axle-trees, while the
thick branchy tops trailed behind digging into the ground.  We were too
wise, however, to risk the whole at once.  First we got one of the
lighter wagons with a steady pair of horses ahead.  Then we locked all
the wheels, and besides that made fast some stout ropes to either side.

We remembered that: "The greater haste the worst speed."

"Gently, so ho," was the word.  On moved the wagon.  Obed and I went to
the horses' heads.  It was ticklish work with all our care.  Downward we
slid.  Often we could scarcely keep our own footing.  I was very glad, I
know, when we reached the bottom of the first descent.  We had several
more, however, to accomplish.  Others, seeing our success, came
following with the same caution, and succeeded as well.  All but one
party, a family of Irish emigrants, agreed that our plan was the only
safe one.  Pat Leary, however, and his sons, and sons-in-law, and wife,
and daughters, and daughters-in-law, for though the eldest was not
twenty, they were all married, cried out lustily against our
proceedings.

"Arrah, now, why are ye afther bothering so long on the side of the
mountain?" exclaimed Leary the elder.  "Jist let the wagons now take an
aisy slide down by themselves, they'll raich the bottom safe enough.
Don't ye see no harm has come to any one of them yet, at all, at all?"

"For the very reason, friend Leary, because we have taken proper
precautions to prevent an accident," observed Mr Ragget, who had
adopted a peculiarly sententious tone in speaking to Pat, a great
contrast to the other's rapid style of utterance.

Pat was not to be convinced.  One of the longest and steepest of the
descents lay before us.  On one side was a precipice of some six or
seven hundred feet in depth.  Pat insisted on leading the way.  He and
his boys were certain that they could trot their horses down it.  "It
was all so straight and aisy."

We entreated them to let the women and children remain behind.  With a
bad grace they consented, charging us to bring them on to Californy
after them.  On they went.  The descent was tolerably gentle for some
way.  They looked round laughing at us, cracking their whips.  However,
steeper and steeper it grew, and faster and faster they went, till,
dashing on at a terrific speed, they were hidden from our sight.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

SAD FATE OF THE POOR LEARYS--GRIEF OF THE MOTHER AND SISTERS--WE GO IN
SEARCH OF THE MISSING ONES--FIND THEM AT THE BOTTOM OF THE RAVINE--THE
BURIAL--WILD SCENE--RETURN TO CAMP--GO ON A SPORTING EXPEDITION--MY
BATTLE WITH THE HAWKS--VERY NEARLY BEATEN--SHORT COMES TO THE RESCUE--
CONSEQUENCES OF INDULGING IN A FIT OF ROMANCE ON A JOURNEY--GO TO SLEEP,
AND FIND THAT MY ONLY COMPANION IS A HUGE RATTLESNAKE.

I was describing our passage down the western slopes of the Rocky
Mountains, our worthy companion Pat Leary having taken it into his head
that he had discovered a much more rapid way of reaching the bottom than
the slow one which the rest of our party thought it prudent to pursue.
As we stood on the platform immediately above the slope he had taken, we
saw him dashing on at a furious speed not at all conscious of the danger
he was running.  As his wife and daughters, however, saw his rapid
descent, they became so, and screamed out for him to stop.  He was a
great favourite with us all, in spite of a few eccentricities, for he
was a capital fellow in the main; and had he not been so, the cries of
the women would have made us anxious for his safety.

Obed and I, who were in advance of the rest of the party, could not
resist the temptation of setting off to see what had become of him and
to render him any assistance in our power.  Leaving our wagon,
therefore, in charge of two lads, we ran down the slope of the mountain
as fast as our legs would carry us.  On we went till we were almost done
up, but the only sign of the Learys were the ruts which their wagon
wheels had made in the softer spots on the mountain side; often they
approached fearfully near the edge of the precipice on the left, and
then apparently the animals, seeing the danger, had inclined again to
the right.  We were already carried much farther down the mountain than
we intended, and began to repent having come, and to think of our long
climb up again, when we saw, a considerable way below us, close to the
precipice, some objects moving, which, on descending farther, we
discovered to be human beings.  They were lying on the ground and waving
their hands.  As we proceeded we found that the nearest was our poor
friend Leary.

"Oh, help them!--save them! murther, murther, or they'll all be dashed
to pieces," he shouted out, pointing down to the deep glen or gorge
below us, through which rushed a rapid, roaring, foaming stream.

Two of his sons lay close to him almost stunned.  Four had started in
the wagon.  Where were the other two?  Where was the wagon?  The marks
of the cart wheels verging to the left, and the broken ground at the
edge of the precipice, told us too plainly what had occurred.  We looked
down the fearful ravine.  No attempt we could make to aid the two
unfortunate young men would avail.  Far, far, down amid masses of rocks
at the edge of the torrent lay a confused mass, amid which we could
distinguish the wheel of a wagon, and the head of one of the animals
which had drawn it, but nothing moved, no sound was heard.  It was our
conviction that both men and beasts had been, long ere they reached the
bottom, deprived of life.

We did not describe to the poor father what we had seen.  He was hoping
against hope that his sons had escaped.  We needed no one to describe to
us how the accident had occurred.  The road sloped away to the left, and
the animals, losing their footing, had been forced by the impetus of the
wagon over the precipice, while he and his other two lads had
mechanically leaped out at the moment it was about to make the fatal
plunge.  The two lads were stunned and so much bruised that when they
came to themselves they could not walk, while Leary, though less hurt,
what with grief and regret at his folly and alarm, had his nerves so
completely unstrung that he lost all command over himself.  To leave
them in this condition was impossible, so I volunteered to climb up the
mountain to hurry on some of the party with assistance; but Obed would
not hear of it, and insisted on my remaining while he returned.  I
consented to his proposal, and having assisted me in dragging the three
men to a distance from the precipice, off he started.  My watch was a
very painful one.  Poor Leary was constantly raving, asking why his boys
did not come up from below there, and crying out that he would go and
look for them.  I often had great difficulty in restraining him.  One of
his sons, too, was so severely hurt that I feared he would sink before
assistance could come.  The other, who was the eldest, was fully
conscious of what had occurred, and groaned and cried bitterly, blaming
himself and his father as being the cause of the death of his younger
brothers, which was indeed too true.  Many an anxious look did I cast up
the mountain in the hope of seeing my companions on their descent.  I
expected them long before they could possibly arrive, for I had not
calculated how much time it would occupy Obed in ascending, and the
wagons with their wheels locked, and the trees astern in descending the
mountain.

The state of my poor friends almost unnerved me, and I began to think of
grizzly bears and wolves, and all sorts of monsters which might scent us
out.  Though I had my rifle at my back I could scarcely hope to defend
myself and my companions.  Still I, of course, determined to do my best.
As I looked towards the glen into which the wagon had shot over, I saw
high in air several huge birds rapidly winging their flight from various
directions, and hovering over the spot ere they made a pounce down on
it.  I knew too well what they were--vultures drawn by their keen scent
from afar to their dreadful banquet.  They knew, whatever we might have
hoped, that death was there.  At last the wagons appeared, and the sound
of female voices shrieking and wailing gave me notice that Obed had told
the poor wives and sisters of the sufferers what had occurred.  It was a
most piteous scene.  As soon as the wagons could be safely brought to a
stop, some of the women threw themselves by the side of the sufferers,
and hung over them, and kissed them, and embraced them convulsively,
while the bereaved widows cried out for their husbands, and asked what
had become of them.

This state of things might have continued all day had not Mr Ragget
arrived and somewhat restored order.  He first judiciously applied such
remedies as were at hand to the sufferers, and then had them all lifted
into a wagon, and on we proceeded to the bottom of the mountain.  Soon
after this we reached a spot whence what appeared a vast plain was seen
stretching out before us, and became aware that we were near the
termination of the mountain portion of our journey.  Here and there we
observed slight elevations, while several silvery lines meandering amid
groves marked the course of what seemed small rivulets flowing towards
the Pacific.  We afterwards found that the slight elevations turned into
considerable hills, the groves into vast forests, and the small rivulets
into rapid rivers, which cost us much toil and danger to pass.  We had
still some way to descend before we reached a level spot, when, near the
edge of the stream which rushed out of the gorge I have mentioned, we
halted to encamp.

Leaving the rest to make the usual arrangements, without stopping to
take food, I and three of the Raggets, with Leary's sons-in-law, and one
or two others, set off up the gorge to try and find the spot where the
wagon and the bodies of our late companions lay.  I should say that as
we descended the mountain we had looked out for any practicable place by
which we might reach the bottom of the gorge, but none could we
discover.  We had, of course, our rifles at our backs and our axes in
our belts, and either crowbars or poles in our hands.  The ground was
rugged in the extreme.  Sometimes we had to climb the sides of the
precipices, now to wade along the edge of the stream, running a great
risk of being carried off by the current.  Sometimes we came to marshy
spots, into which we sank nearly up to our middle; then we worked our
way onward under trees, swinging ourselves from bough to bough, but the
greater part of the way we had to climb over huge boulders with crevices
between them, into which it would have been destruction to slip.  We had
all climbed to the top of one huge rock, expecting that we should see
from it the spot at which we were aiming, when, on looking down the
opposite side, we found that there was at the bottom a watercourse with
a fall of nearly twenty feet into it, while nothing could we see of the
broken wagon.  We had, therefore, to slip down the way we had come up,
and to progress as before.  It was weary, fatiguing work.  Still we
persevered; for there was, of course, a possibility that the poor young
Learys might be alive, though of this we had very little hope.

We had been deceived as to the distance, and we judged that we must
already have travelled a league, or three miles.  Obed suggested that we
might have passed the spot, but this I did not think possible.  Our
course, as I mentioned, lay along the side of the torrent; but
frequently we lost sight of it, though we did not cease to hear its loud
roar, as the foaming waters rushed over its rocky bed.  I calculated, as
I looked at it, what a mighty torrent would be shortly hurrying onward,
when the snows above melted by the heat of the approaching summer.  At
length, climbing another rock, we saw not fifty yards from us the sad
spectacle of which we were in search, the fragments of the wagon and the
dead horses.  We hurried on and soon reached the spot.  Already over the
horses were hovering eight or ten huge vultures, flapping their wings as
they alighted, while with unearthly cries they tore away the flesh with
their sharp talons and hooked beaks.  They seemed inclined to dispute
their prey with us; but on Obed and I firing we killed two of them, and
the rest flew off; but we could see them hovering in the distance, ready
to pounce down again as soon as we had retired.

We instantly set to work with our crowbars and poles to turn over the
broken wagon.  The sight which met our eyes was sad indeed.  There lay
the two young men, fearfully crushed and mangled, directly under the
wagon.  They must have clung to it as it descended, or have been
entangled among the goods in it.  They must instantly have been killed.
We had wished to carry the bodies back to the camp, but in consequence
of the impracticable character of the road we had come over this was
impossible.  We hunted about till at last we discovered a sort of basin
among the rocks, into which the earth from above had washed.  Here we
dug two graves as deep as time would allow, and with scant ceremony,
though not without a tear, we placed in them the two brothers.  We knew
that prayers for them were of no avail; they had gone to their account;
but we did pray that we might not thus be hurriedly snatched away
without a warning.  There were plenty of slabs of stone on the side of
the mountain chipped off by winter frosts and summer heats and rains,
and so we placed one at the head of each grave, and then we left them to
sleep on undisturbed.  Probably many ages may roll by before that spot
is again visited by human footsteps.  So engaged had we been in our
painful employment that we did not perceive how rapidly daylight was
decreasing, and before we had proceeded half-a-mile on our return
journey we came to the disagreeable conclusion that we should be
benighted before we could possibly reach the camp.  Still we of course
pushed on as long as we could see our way.  As we had had no food since
the morning, we were desperately hungry; but as Obed observed, "I guess
we've plenty of water, mates, and maybe we shall kill a rattlesnake, and
that won't be bad eating."

The cold we did not much mind, though somewhat icy blasts came down the
glen, for we were pretty well inured to that; but as we had had nothing
since the morning, our stomachs craved lustily for food, and I would
have tried my teeth on the flesh of a gaunt wolf, or even on one of the
vultures we had killed, if we could have got at them.  We found our way
in among a circle of boulders, and there we passed the night, and a most
unpleasant one it was.  At the earliest dawn we were on foot, but it
took us nearly two hours to reach the camp.  I will not describe the
lamentations of the Leary family when we gave them an account of our
proceedings--the shrieks and wailing which the poor women commenced and
continued for the greater part of the next twenty-four hours.  As there
was plenty of wood, water, and grass for the cattle, we determined to
remain there a day to prepare for our journey along the level country.
To avoid the lamentations of the unhappy wives, as soon as I had
performed the part of the work allotted to me for the general good, I
stole from the camp to enjoy some portion of quiet.  When the sun got
up, as the wind was from the west, the heat became very great, and I did
not feel inclined to move very fast.

Soon after leaving the camp, I observed several hawks hovering round a
spot in the wood, the abode probably of some rabbits, hares, or other
small game.  By cautiously creeping on, I got within shot of one of
them.  I fired, and down tumbled the monster bird.  He was a huge
creature, with a large hooked beak and immense claws, who, if he could
not have carried off a lamb or a goose, would have had no trouble in
flying away with a duck, or a fowl, or a rabbit.  I observed where the
others went to, and followed them till I reached a tolerably accessible
cliff, at the top of which a whole colony seemed to reside; big and
little, sires and offspring, were circling round, and making themselves
quite at home.  Having a fancy to examine the nature of their
habitations, I looked about me to see how I could get up the cliff, and
with my pole alone in hand commenced the ascent.  This, from the nature
of the ground, was not very difficult; and I had got within a dozen feet
or so from their nests, and was standing on a broad ledge, looking up to
ascertain how I could best ascend higher, when they espied me, or, as
they had been all along watching me, they probably came to the
conclusion that it was time to put a stop to my further proceedings.  I
had just discovered their nest, which was as large as the baskets market
women carry on their heads.  It was composed of twigs and small sticks,
none less than an inch in circumference.  On the ledge below it were
scattered numerous bones, and the skeletons and half-mangled bodies of
pigeons, hares, and a variety of small birds.  Without much
consideration, I constituted myself the champion of the smaller denizens
of the wood, and, axe in hand, was ascending to knock the robber
stronghold to pieces, when old and young, with fierce cries, made a
desperate sortie to drive off the assailant of their castle.  Down they
came upon me with the most desperate fury, dashing at my head and face,
and evidently aiming at my eyes.  I struck right and left with my axe,
but it is a bad weapon for defence, and they laughed at all my efforts,
only wheeling round to renew the attack.

Ten times rather would I have had a combat with a dozen wolves, or a
hungry grizzly.  I should instantly have had both my eyes torn from
their sockets, had I not kept my left arm like a shield before them; and
as it was, my forehead got some ugly blows which almost drove in the
bone, while the blood flowing from the wounds nearly blinded me.  Never
have I felt so unmanned,--so terribly alarmed.  It was like being
attacked by a host of demons.  I could not seek safety in flight, for I
should have broken my neck, as I dared not for a moment move my left arm
from before my face, while my right was fully occupied in dealing blows
on every side at my fierce enemies.  I shrieked out at the top of my
voice with downright terror, but I was too far from the camp, I fancied,
to have any hope of being heard.  Even my right arm began to get weary
with striking at the empty air, and at the same time the boldness of my
assailants increased.  They attacked me in rear as well as in front,
darting against my neck and the back of my ears; and so terribly did
they beat me that I began fully to believe that I should be done to
death by birds.  Still, had it not been for the dread of losing my eyes,
I could easily have escaped.

At last, one big fellow, the father of the brood, pounced down and hit
me on the temple within an inch of my right eye.

Just then, when almost in despair, I heard the voice of Sam Short
shouting out, "Throw yourself on the ground, Dick; face downward, Dick."

I did as he counselled, and the next moment a shot from his rifle
brought down my chief foe, who fell close to me.  Still he was not dead,
and with the fury of despair, flapping his way up to me, he began to
make such determined attacks on my head, that I feared he would have
bitten off my ear before I was able to disengage my right hand, with
which I then gave him a blow on his head, which made him quiet for ever.
Still the rest of the amiable family kept circling above me, giving me
most disagreeable prongs, till another shot from Short's rifle killed
two more, and the rest, discovering that I had an ally in the field,
took to flight.  He then came up, and having destroyed the nest, helped
me down the cliff, for I really could scarcely have descended by myself,
so completely shaken were my nerves with the novel contest in which I
had engaged.  I begged Sam not to mention in camp what had occurred, but
he kept my counsel very badly, for he could not resist asking when I
would like to go birds'-nesting again, and made so many other allusions
that I thought it was best to tell the story, and got heartily laughed
at for my pains.  I, however, have always felt that it was no laughing
matter, and that I was never in greater peril than on that occasion.

We next day proceeded on our journey, and for ten days or so made but
slow progress, as we had numerous rivers to pass, and the change of
climate from the cold of the mountains to the heat of the plains was
very trying to man and beast.  We now took to encamping during the
middle of the day, and travelling very early and late.  In that way our
animals got two unbroken rests instead of one, which was a great
advantage.

One day, after a long morning's journey, we had camped near a stream
bordered by rich pastures of red and white clover.  As I have hinted,
although I was on the most friendly terms with all my companions, I now
and then had a longing to be by myself, to commune with my own thoughts,
and to call to mind friends whose ideas and manners were so different
from those of my present associates.  As I frequently did, therefore, I
left the camp, and wandered on up the stream till I came to a little
grove of sumach and cherry trees, under whose shade I sat down to enjoy
the cool air, and to watch the clear water which flowed bubbling by.
The sweet-scented flowers of spring were bursting out from many a bush,
and encumbering the ground around me.  Their balmy odours filled my
nostrils, the fresh air played round my brow, and the murmur of the
stream sounded in my ears, till my pleased senses became completely
overcome by the surrounding soporific influences, and wandered far away
amid the regions of dreamland: in other words, I went fast asleep.  At
last I awoke, and rubbed and rubbed my eyes; I had good reason for
rubbing them, for the beautiful landscape on which they had closed was
no longer before them.  There was the murmur of the stream, and the
scent of the flowers, but obscurity was around me, and the stars were
glittering brightly overhead.  How far in the night it was I could not
guess.  How to follow my companions too, was a question, as it was so
dark that I could not have found my way to the camp, even if they had
been there.  The only cause I could then assign for my having slept so
long, was that I must have been surrounded by some herbs of soporific
power, though, perhaps, the perfect tranquillity of the spot, the heat
of the weather, and the exertion I had of late gone through were
sufficient reasons for the unusual length of my nap.  Having no hopes of
overtaking my friends that night, I judged that the best thing I could
do was to stay where I was and go to sleep again.  This was, however,
not very easy to do.  I was lightly clad, and the night damp had made me
feel very chilly.  It was not, therefore, till morning that sleep again
overpowered me.  It would have been better for me had I kept awake.
Suddenly I opened my eyes with a start.  The sun had already risen, and
was glancing through the woods on my head.  I heard a noise--a rustling
in the grass.  I turned my head, and there, to my horror, I beheld a
huge rattlesnake about to spring on me.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

A FIGHT WITH A RATTLESNAKE, AND A DESCRIPTION OF MY ENEMY--FIND THE CAMP
DESERTED--FEEL VERY HUNGRY--KILL A GOOSE--SEE SOME HORSEMEN IN THE
DISTANCE--FIND A RIVER BETWEEN ME AND THEM--BUILD A RAFT, AND TAKE A
LONGER VOYAGE THAN I INTEND--SHOOT A FALL, AND HAVE THE PLEASANT
PROSPECT OF BEING CARRIED DOWN A CATARACT.

I sprang up as if I had been galvanised, and leaped a dozen feet or more
away from the fangs of the rattlesnake.  I had left my pole at the camp,
and I had placed my rifle by my side when I went to sleep.  There it lay
close to the rattlesnake.  My axe was in my belt, but it is not a good
weapon for the attack of either birds or snakes.  My enemy was advancing
towards me, his tail rattling ominously.  My foot, as I leaped back,
struck a stone--the only one appearing thereabouts among the grass.  I
seized it, and dashed it down on the head of the reptile, who was not
then a yard from me, with such force that it drove its body right down
into the earth, while its tail wriggled and rattled away in a vain
endeavour to extricate itself.  I ran and picked up my rifle, and looked
round to see that I had left nothing behind me.  I could not help
stopping, before I proceeded on my way, to examine the creature I had
killed.

It was of a yellowish-brown colour, marked all down its back with spots
of a dark-brown, while from the head down the neck ran three
longitudinal lines of the same hue.  The head was large and flat, and
covered with small scales.  It was about five feet long, and as thick as
my wrist, and altogether a very formidable-looking snake.  The
rattlesnake has a small set of teeth, which serve to catch and retain
its prey, and the poisonous fangs with which it kills them.  These
latter are placed in the upper jaw, and when not employed remain flat
along it.  It is one of the most deadly of poisonous serpents, and would
be very dangerous were it not that it is very sluggish in its movements,
and that it has a rattle at the end of its tail, with which it cannot
avoid giving notice of its approach.  The rattle is a collection of
bones, formed something like the backbone of a human being.  It looks as
if it were fastened on outside the tail, at its very tip.  The broad
part of the rattle is placed perpendicularly to the body, and it is so
contrived that each bone strikes against two others at the same time, so
as to multiply the rattling sound.  I have often thought how glad the
rattlesnake would be to get rid of his rattle, just as a person with a
bad character, justly obtained, would like to have the stigma removed,
that he might commit more mischief on the unwary.

The more I have travelled, and the longer I have lived, the greater
reason I have to admire the wonderful and beautiful arrangements of the
Creator of all things.  Why venomous serpents were formed I cannot say,
though I am very certain it was for a good object; but it is very
evident why the snake I have been describing was furnished with a
rattle--that man might be warned of its approach.  My examination of the
snake did not last long.  I afterwards saw and killed many others.
Quitting the spot, I hurried towards the camp.  When I thought that I
had gone a sufficient distance I expected to hear the voices of my
associates; but all was silent.  I pushed on as fast as I could among
the trees.  The camp had been placed in a pleasant open glade.  I was
certain that I had reached the spot.  I looked round on every side.  No
one was there; but there were the black patches where the fires had
been, and a few bones, and straw scattered about, and other signs of a
deserted encampment.  From the character of the ground the trail was
very indistinct.  Still I thought that I could follow it, and off I set
as fast as I could walk.  I had not gone far before I became aware that
I had lost the track.  I looked about in every direction in vain.  I
could not find it.  I was getting very hungry.  At last I could go on no
longer; so I bethought me that I would kill some bird or beast for
breakfast.  On examining, however, my powder-flask, what was my dismay
to find that I had only five or six charges at the utmost.  At that
early time of the year there were no berries or wild fruits ripe.  Later
I might have found wild cherries in abundance, and raspberries, and
strawberries, on which I could have supported nature.

"I must take care not to throw a shot away," I said to myself, as I
looked about in search of game.  Just then I saw the glimmer of water
through the trees, and walking on, I found myself by the side of a
beautiful lake, a mile or more long, and half a mile wide.  I was not
certainly in a humour to contemplate its beauty, but I was very much in
the mood to admire some flocks of geese and ducks which were disporting
themselves on its surface, in happy ignorance of the presence of man.  I
almost trembled with anxiety as I crept along the margin of the lake,
till I could get near enough to obtain a shot at one of them.  A duck
would have satisfied me, but as a goose, being larger, would last
longer, I waited till one came near.  A stately fellow came gliding up,
picking insects off the reeds close to the margin.  I fired.  He rose
and fluttered his wings awhile, and then down he flopped close to me.  I
sprang forward like a famished wolf, and very nearly toppled heels over
head into the water, when, had I escaped drowning, I should, at all
events, have spoiled the remainder of my powder in my eagerness to grasp
my prey.  At first he fluttered away from the land, but something turned
him, and he came back so close that I caught hold of a wing, and,
hauling him on shore, very soon put an end to his sufferings.  To
collect sticks, light a fire, pluck, and clean out my bird, was the work
of a few minutes.  I cannot say that the first part I ate of him was
very much done, for I tore off a wing and then put the body back to get
more roasted while I satisfied the more violent cravings of hunger.  I
washed down my breakfast with a draught of water from the lake, and then
hurried on again towards the west.

Before, when I had lost my friends, I dreaded suffering from cold, now I
had to fear the heat.  The sun came down with terrific force on my head,
and seemed, at times, as if it would scorch my brain to a cinder.  At
last I felt that if I went on longer I might be struck down by it, so I
threw myself on the ground under the shade of a wide-spreading cedar, in
a little wood, which contained besides cedars, pine trees, birch, wild
cherries, hawthorn, sweet willow, with honeysuckle and sumach.  I slept
an hour or more, and, having eaten some more goose, continued my
journey.  Though I kept my eyes actively engaged on every side I could
discover no trace of my friends.

It was evening, when, as I was travelling along the banks of a river
towards the west, I saw on the opposite side, and on the summit of a
rocky ridge, which extended at a distance for some miles parallel with
it, two horsemen.  From the way they rode along I had no doubt that they
were my friends the Raggets in search of me.  Had they been going east I
might have had hopes of cutting them off on their return; but they were
moving west, and going from me.  I shouted at the top of my voice,
though at that distance they could not possibly hear me.  I took off my
jacket; I waved it frantically.  I was about to plunge into the river to
swim across, but the current was very strong and rapid, swelled by the
melting snows of the mountains.  I had good reason to dread being
carried away should I make the attempt.  I ran on, hoping to find a ford
or some high spot whence my signals might be more easily seen.  No
elevated ground appeared, but the banks were very uneven, sometimes
rocky, in some places overgrown with brushwood, so that my progress was
very slow, and the horsemen disappeared in the distance.

It soon after this grew dark, and this circumstance made me hope that
should the horsemen I had seen have been the Raggets, the camp could not
be very far-off; but then again I had sufficient experience to teach me
that it would be vain to attempt reaching it in the dark.  I had now to
look about for a place in which to pass the night.  I wished to avoid
the vicinity of rattlesnakes as well as of bears and wolves.  I selected
a dry bank near the river, and set to work to collect a quantity of long
grass which grew about, not only to form a mattress, but to protect me
from the cold and the dew of the night.  The thick grass cut my hands
sadly as I plucked it, and laughed at the efforts of my axe to cut it
down.  At length, however, I managed to cut and pluck enough for my
purpose, and piling it in an oblong heap, I burrowed under it longways,
keeping a bundle in my hands to serve as a pillow.  I was surprised to
find how warm and comfortable I felt.

I was congratulating myself on this, and was just dozing off into sleep,
when I was roused up again by the dreadful sound of the rattlesnake's
tail.  I started up to listen from which side the serpent was
approaching; for had I moved I might have run directly on it.  A horror
seized me.  It appeared as if I was surrounded by the creatures.  On
every side of me there was the same noise.  I began to fancy that I was
dreaming.  I had never heard of so many rattlesnakes being found
together.  Still I was sure that I was awake.  There was the noise
again.  It was quite close to me.  I put out my hand and caught a
grasshopper, or rather a sort of locust.  The sound of their wings
resembles very much that made by the rattlesnake when about to dart on
its prey.  I was sure that was the noise I had heard.  "There may be
thousands of them for what I care; they can't eat or sting me," I said
to myself; and then I went fast asleep.

I awoke very much refreshed, but so strongly had the thought of
rattlesnakes been impressed on my mind, that my first impulse on waking
was to look cautiously round to ascertain that none were near.  Finding
that, as far as I could see, the coast was clear, I jumped up and shook
myself, then bathed my face in the river; and having said my prayers,
which I never failed to do, and returned thanks to Him who had hitherto
so mercifully preserved me, continued on my journey.

I was now anxious to get to the other bank of the river, which I was
convinced my companions had crossed by some ford higher up, and which I
had missed.  In vain, however, I searched for one; the river, as I
advanced, grew wider and more rapid, as more streams poured into it; and
at length I came to the conclusion that I must either go back again till
I had found the ford, or swim the river and ferry over my gun and
powder-horn, or construct a raft, and attempt the passage on it myself.
While I was balancing in my mind which I should do, my eye fell on a
patch of withies or osiers, growing in a shallow bend of the river close
to the bank.  This decided me.  I would make a raft, for the withies
would enable me to fasten it together.  I set to work, and cut down with
my faithful axe a number of young trees, selecting firs and those of the
lighter description of wood.  That reminds me, that I would advise every
traveller in wild countries to carry an axe, and to know how to use it.
It is a weapon which to use properly, requires both care and practice.

In my search for fit trees I came upon several dry logs, which, from
being so much lighter than the green trees, were very valuable.  Having
collected my materials, I commenced the construction of the raft, and
finished it in half an hour, very much to my satisfaction.  I built it
partly in the water, so that I might have less difficulty in launching
it.  I had to prepare a very essential implement to enable me to perform
my voyage, namely, a long pole with which to shove the raft along.  I
had cut down a tall sapling, and cleared it of its boughs, when I heard
a rushing noise louder than that hitherto produced by the current.

I ran towards the river, dragging my pole, when, as I got near it, I saw
that a fresh body of water, caused by the rapid melting of the snow, or
by the giving way of some natural dam higher up the stream, was rushing
down the channel, and raising its waters considerably above their usual
level.  I was just in time to see my raft, which I had constructed with
so much labour, and which I had left safely resting on the shore, slowly
gliding away from it.  I could not bear the idea of losing it, and,
without a moment's consideration, I made a rush into the water, caught
hold of it just as I found myself up to my middle, and with a spring
threw myself flat upon it, still, however, keeping hold of my pole.  The
shove I of necessity gave the raft sent it further from the shore, and
by the time I gained my feet, and was in a position to attempt guiding
the raft, I found that it had got completely out into the impetuous
current, and was being rapidly hurried down it.  I tried to reach the
bottom with my pole, and though I succeeded, I could in no way stem the
current.  I should have been wiser had I tried to get back to the shore
I had left; instead of this, by following up my first purpose of
crossing, I quickly got into a stronger part of the current, and was
sent whirling more quickly downward.  Holding my pole, I balanced myself
as well as I could, prepared for any emergency.  The river was four or
five hundred yards wide at least, and I saw that I could not hope on
this part to reach the opposite or northern shore.  The river seemed
free from rocks, and as there was no particular danger that I saw to be
apprehended, it occurred to me that I was prosecuting my journey in a
far more expeditious and pleasant way than I had expected.

I was congratulating myself on this circumstance, when I became suddenly
conscious that the noise of the rushing water had greatly increased.
Looking ahead down the river, the water seemed to bubble and foam more
than where I was, while a cloud of mist hung over the spot.  The
dreadful conviction forced itself on me that I was approaching a rapid,
or perhaps a waterfall, down which I should be whirled hopelessly, and
dashed to pieces.  Again I plunged my pole to the bottom, but it only
made the raft whirl round--I had no power of guiding it.  On it went.
The raft began to tumble and pitch; it was in a rapid of considerable
length.  The additional rush of water hid many of the rocks; now and
then, however, I saw their black tops rising out of the mass of foam
which surrounded them.  I prayed that I might not strike one.  I looked
anxiously ahead with compressed lips.  The water roared, and foamed, and
hissed about me.  I might have been proud of my raft-making skill; had
not my ark been well built it would soon have gone to pieces.

Before long my fears were with reason increased.  Before me rose a line
of black rocks.  There seemed scarcely room for the raft to pass between
them.  I could no longer keep my feet.  I sat down, holding my pole.
The raft was driving directly down upon a rock.  It swerved a little.  I
shoved my pole against the rock, and it glanced clear.  On it went--but
numerous other dangers appeared.  I was whirled by the rocks, the foam
dashed from them, flying over me.  I felt a dreadful blow; the raft
quivered.  I thought all was over with me, but it floated clear of the
rock against which it had struck, and on I went.  Suddenly the jerking
motion of the raft ceased.  I was clear of the rapid.  I tried again to
pole towards the shore, but the water was so deep, and the current so
rapid, that I was able to make but slight progress across the river,
when the raft began to pitch again, and I found that I was in another
rapid.  Away I was whirled as before.  There were more rocks in this
rapid; at all events the raft drove against more, and it began to suffer
from the repeated shocks it was receiving--parts of it got loosened, and
I dreaded every moment to see it part asunder, and to find myself
hurried amid its fragments to destruction.  Again a space of smooth
appeared, but it was smooth because it was deep, and I could make but
little way towards the shore among its whirling eddies.  Still for the
present I was safe, and had time to look about me.  Thus I floated on,
when a loud thundering noise assailed my ears, and a mass of mist rose
before my eyes, giving evidence indubitable that I was approaching a
formidable cataract.  I had seen Niagara.  Should this be only half its
height it would be sufficient to make mincemeat of me.  In vain I looked
around for aid, and clinging desperately to my raft, I resigned myself
to my fate.



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

UNEXPECTEDLY REACH THE BANK, AND LAND IN SAFETY--MY CLOTHES ARE IN
TATTERS--AFTER MAKING A LONG JOURNEY FIND THAT I HAVE RETURNED TO THE
VERY SPOT I LEFT--ENCOUNTER A HUNGRY WOLF--SUFFER FROM WANT OF WATER--
MEET A LYNX, BUT FIND NO LIQUID--GO TO BED AMONG SOME NESTS OF
RATTLESNAKES--SLAUGHTER A HOST OF SNAKES AND SIP THE DEW OF THE
MORNING--MORE RATTLESNAKES--MY ONWARD JOURNEY CONTINUED--MY CRY IS STILL
FOR WATER--OBTAIN A LARGER SHARE THAN I REQUIRE--I SWIM DOWN THE STREAM,
AND ON LANDING AM RECEIVED BY A HUGE GRIZZLY.

There was only one way I conceived by which, humanly speaking, I could
possibly have been saved.  I was whirled furiously down the current.  I
saw, a short distance before me, the commencement of the rapid which led
to the cataract, when I felt the raft turn slightly round, and half
stop, as it were, and by the appearance of the water I was convinced
that it had got into an eddy.  I darted down my pole.  It speedily
struck the bottom.  I shoved on with all my might.  New energy returned
to me.  I sprang to my feet.  The raft no longer advanced towards the
rapid, but I found that I could urge it surely and steadily towards the
shore.  A shout of joy, and an exclamation of thankfulness escaped my
lips as it reached the bank, and, by the aid of my pole, I leaped on to
the dry land a dozen feet at least from the edge.  I was preserved from
immediate death.  But where had I drifted to?  Where were my friends?
What prospect had I of obtaining food to sustain life till I could find
them?  All these were questions which I asked myself, but to which I
could give no satisfactory answer.  Scarcely had I reached the shore
than my raft, which I had not secured to it, began to drift away.
Onward it went down the stream.  I could not recover it; so a very
natural impulse made me follow its course along the banks.  I ran on for
two or three hundred yards, when I arrived at the edge of a roaring
cataract, some forty feet deep at least.  First, there was a foaming
rapid, with here and there black rocks appearing amid the sea of froth,
and then came a dark treacherous mass of water, which curled over and
fell downwards in a broad curtain into a deep pool, out of which there
arose a cloud of dense spray with a deafening roar; and then the river
went gliding away, dark and smooth, in innumerable eddies, showing the
rapidity of the current, till it was concealed by thick woods and rocks.
I now felt more than ever how deeply grateful I ought to be for the way
I had been preserved, for not an instant longer could I have existed had
I once reached the edge of the cataract.

I had, however, no time to lose, so, shouldering my rifle and pole, I
struck off at a right angle from the course of the river, hoping thus to
across the track of my late companions.  I had, it must be remembered,
but two charges of powder remaining, and as at that season of the year
there were no fruits ripe, my existence depended on my making an
economical use of them.

I had another source of anxiety.  I had left the camp in a pair of thin
old shoes, and they were now so worn-out and coming so completely to
pieces, that they no longer afforded any protection to my feet, which
were already cruelly cut.  My only resource, therefore, was to tear off
the sleeves of my jacket, with which I bound them up.  This afforded me
some relief; but the ground near the river was in many places rocky, so
that these bandages quickly again wore out.  The sky, too, became
cloudy, and the wind changed constantly, so that when I got into a
hollow where I could not see any distant object by which to guide my
course, I was often uncertain in which direction I was going.  I found
also, after I left the river, a great scarcity of water; the heat had
dried-up all the water-holes and rivulets, and I thus began to suffer
much from thirst.  The pangs increased as I walked on.  I might have
killed a bird, or some animal, and quenched my thirst with their blood;
but as I might require their flesh for food, I did not wish to expend a
charge of powder till my present stock of meat was expended.  It was
getting dark.  I was more thirsty than hungry; so on I went in the hopes
of reaching a spring before it was quite dark.  I looked about me.
After a time, I could not help fancying that the features of the country
were very similar to those through which I had passed some hours before,
and at length the disagreeable fact forced itself on me that I had
returned back on my own track, and that all my late exertions had been
completely thrown away.  For an instant I felt very much inclined to
despair of reaching my friends, but I quickly recovered myself, and the
clouds clearing away in the west, the glow of the setting sun showed me
the right direction to take.  I therefore determined to push on as long
as the least glimmer of light enabled me to find my way.

I had not gone far, however, when I heard a rustling noise in a copse
close to which I was passing, and presently out of it stalked a huge
gaunt wolf, and planted himself before me in a threatening attitude,
some twenty paces in advance, as if he had resolved to dispute my onward
progress.  My first impulse was naturally to fire, but I recollected
that if I did, I might not possibly kill him, as I had only small shot,
and that though I did kill him, his flesh would be far from pleasant
food.  I knew that if I showed the slightest symptoms of fear he might
fly at me, so I faced him boldly, as I had faced many of his brethren
before, and tried to look somewhat braver than I felt.  I waved my long
pole towards him, and advanced a pace or two, on which he retreated,
still keeping his piercing eye fixed savagely on me.  Again I advanced,
and began shouting as loud as I could, hoping thus to frighten him away,
but instead of this he set up the most terrific howls, which I could not
help interpreting as invitations to his comrades to assemble from far
and near, in order to make a meal on my carcase.  The more he howled the
louder I shouted, and the odd idea occurring to me that if I shouted out
real names the wolf would be more alarmed, I called by name on all the
Raggets, and Short, and Noggin to come to my assistance, and looked
round, pretending that I expected them to appear.  The wolf, I thought,
winked his wicked eye, as much as to say, "That's all gammon; don't
suppose you can do an old soldier like me;" but I cannot say positively,
as it was growing dark.  Still he would not move, and I had no wish to
get nearer his fangs.  I continued shouting, and he went on howling, and
a sweet concert we must have made, for I had bawled till I was hoarse.
I have an idea that my shouts kept his friends away.  Perhaps it
prevented them from hearing what he was saying.

At length, much to my relief, I saw him turn his head, first on one side
and then on the other, and then about he went, as if he had given up all
hopes of his expected supper, and away he skulked into the wood.  On
seeing this my courage rose to the highest pitch, and after him I went,
shaking my pole and shouting and shrieking and hallooing at the very top
of my voice to expedite his movements; and it is my belief that he was
so frightened that he did not stop again to look round till he had got
many a mile from where he met me; though I own that, when we first set
eyes on each other, I was much the more frightened of the two.

The shades of evening were now approaching, and I was anxious to find a
place in which I could spend the night in tolerable safety.  Scarcely,
however, had the wolf disappeared, than an old lynx, followed by a young
one, trotted up close to me.  I got my rifle ready, but rather than fire
I began shouting and shrieking as before, and they continued their
course without molesting me.  My great wish was now to find water.  A
draught of the pure liquid would have appeared like the richest nectar.
Hurrying on, I saw a green spot with some rushes growing near.

"There must be water," I exclaimed, rushing on with eager haste, like
the pilgrim in the desert, towards the longed-for oasis, even fancying
that I saw the shining surface through the trees.  I reached the spot; I
looked about; there were the rushes sure enough, and there had been the
water, but it was dried-up.  Oh, how thirsty I felt!  I thought I might
find some moisture at the roots of the rushes.  I pulled them up and
sucked eagerly at them, but they afforded no moisture to my parched
lips.  I had no resource, therefore, but to go liquidless to bed.  It
was rapidly getting dark, so I had no time to lose.  I saw a large stone
at a little distance, and thinking that it would afford me some
protection if I slept beside it, I began to pull up some rushes with
which to form my bed.  Having collected as many as I could carry, I took
them to the spot and threw them on the ground.  I went back for more,
and having scattered them about and piled up a few for a pillow, was
about to throw myself on this quickly-formed couch when I saw, just
under the stone, what I at first took for a stick, but which then
beginning to move, exhibited itself to me as a monstrous rattlesnake,
with its body coiled up and its head erect, its fierce eyes glittering,
and its forked tongue moving rapidly to and fro as if eager to bite me.
I had disturbed it from its slumbers, and it was naturally excessively
angry.  I did not stop to let it bite me, but sprang back several feet
before I recovered my usual coolness.  I felt sadly conscious that I was
not like myself, and that my nervous system was very much upset.
Regaining my self-possession pretty quickly, however, I once more
advanced, and settled the creature with a blow of my stick.

The strokes I gave the ground soon roused up several other rattlesnakes,
and I found that a whole brood were collected under the stone.  As they
are slow-moving creatures, I was able to kill every one of them before
they could escape.  They would have been somewhat unpleasant companions
to me during my nocturnal slumbers.  Scarcely had I despatched my
rattle-tailed enemies than, turning over with my foot some smaller
stones near the big one, out wriggled a number of other snakes, black,
brown, and yellow, twisting and turning amid the grass, many making
directly towards me.  To be surrounded, even in daylight, by such
creatures would have been especially unpleasant, but in the dusk, when I
could scarcely see them, the sensations I experienced were scarcely
bearable.  I felt inclined to shriek out at the top of my voice, but I
restrained myself, and began slashing away right and left with my stick.
Some I killed, but the others being more nimble than the rattlesnakes,
escaped.  Still I could not venture to proceed in the dark, nor could I
stay on my legs all night; but I had no fancy to sleep near where I had
killed the snakes.  I looked about, therefore, for another suitable
spot, and having selected it, I lashed about in every direction with my
stick, so that any lurking serpent must of necessity be killed or put to
flight.  Then I collected more rushes, and taking a suck at a piece of
dry duck for my supper, threw myself at my length on them and tried to
go to sleep.  It was no easy matter to do this, as I could not help
remembering that I was surrounded by venomous creatures and wild beasts
of all sorts, who might find me out during my slumbers and rouse me up
in a very unpleasant way.

At last, however, I closed my eyes, and so tightly did they remain
sealed that the sun had arisen before I awoke.  I started up and looked
around me.  Neither venomous serpents nor wild beasts were near, but the
bodies of the snakes I had killed lying about showed me the reality of
what had occurred.  I started to my feet, and a few shakes completed my
toilet.  I had hoped to awake before daylight, that I might have time to
collect the dew from the branches of the trees and from the long grass,
that I might at least moisten my lips.  I felt as if all the liquid
would be dried-up before it got down my throat.  But, alas! when I
looked round, so hot was the sun, and so dry the atmosphere, that
scarcely a drop could I find, even in the shade, sufficient to wet my
tongue.  I however plucked some cool grass and chewed it, and then
continued on my journey.  I was now able to proceed with more certainty
than on the previous day.

As I walked on, my glance was turned on every side for the sort of
vegetation which might indicate the vicinity of water.  Every height I
came near I ascended, that I might enjoy a wider range of vision.  I was
all this time suffering dreadfully from my feet.  Sometimes I passed
over a wide extent of ground covered with small sharp stones, which
speedily wore out all the bandages which I had fastened round my feet.
That was bad enough; but soon afterwards I came to a tract overgrown
with stunted prickly pears, or _cacti_ as they are called.  It was very
much as if the ground were planted thickly with short swords, daggers,
dirks, and penknives.  Walk as carefully as I could, my feet and legs
were constantly striking against them, and from my shins to the soles of
my feet I was covered with wounds and blood.  My jacket was soon used
up, and I then had to begin on the lower part of the legs of my
trousers, off which I tore shreds as I required them.  At last I sat
down on a stone to apply fresh bandages to my feet, and what with the
heat, and thirst, and hunger, and weakness, and sickness, and pain, and
anxiety, I felt more inclined to cry than I had ever in my life before;
but I did not cry.  I was too much dried-up for that, I suppose.  My
next impulse was to throw myself down on the ground and give up the
struggle.

However, I did not remain long in that mood.  It is the worst mood to
encourage.  I had always belonged to the "try" school.  "No, I will not
give in," I exclaimed suddenly; "I will trust to Providence to carry me
out of my difficulties."  Still I was so weak and I felt so helpless
that I sat and sat on till I was about to fall into a sort of lethargy,
from which I might have had no power to arouse myself.  Suddenly,
however, my ears caught the well-known and justly-dreaded sound of the
rattlesnake's rattle.  I sprang up all alive in a moment, and saw the
creature half a dozen paces from me, approaching through the grass.  A
blow with my long stick, however, soon stopped his rattle, and
remembering how much time I had lost, I hurried on.  I bethought me as I
did so, that I had offered but an ungrateful return to the poor snake
for the service he had rendered me, for had it not been for him I might
never have stirred from the stone on which I was sitting till I had
fallen off into the arms of death.

I now walked on more rapidly than before, and in about an hour saw
before me a more thickly-wooded country than I had yet passed.  I
pressed forward towards it.  I should find shade, and perhaps--what I so
earnestly wished for--water.  The wood was extensive, and looked gloomy
enough when I first entered it, though I felt the shade most grateful
after the glare of the open prairies.  The sun, also, found its way
sufficiently through the foliage, only now bursting forth, to enable me
to steer my course as before.  I have described the silence of the snow
mountains.  I might now speak of the language of the woods.  I sat down
to adjust my feet coverings, and when my feet ceased to tread on the
grass and dead leaves, I became conscious that I was surrounded by a low
rustling noise.  At first I thought that the sound was caused by the
wind among the dry leaves, but I was soon convinced that it was made by
the young buds breaking forth from the cases which had shielded them
during the cold of early spring--that I literally heard the trees
growing!

I did not rest long, for I was afraid of falling into my former state.
On I limped--unable to help uttering every now and then complaining
"Oh!" as my foot trod on a thorn or knocked against a stone.  I grew
faint and more faint--"Water! water! water!"  I ejaculated.  How
dreadful is thirst!  "I cannot stand it longer," I cried out; but I felt
it would be suicide to stop as long as I could move, and the next
instant a low, murmuring, rushing sound reached my ears.  I thought it
was fancy, but still I dragged on as fast as I could my weary steps.
The noise increased--it was that of a waterfall--I was certain of it.  I
tried to hurry on my feet, and scarcely felt the pricks and cuts they
were receiving.  I caught sight of the glittering spray through an
opening in the woods.  I fancied that I felt the coolness of the air
passing over it.  On I went.  There was the water rushing, gurgling,
foaming away; but as I sprang on, forgetting my weakness, I found myself
on the top of a rock, over which I very nearly toppled into the
sought-for stream, twenty feet or more below me.

I looked about for a path to lead me down to it.  I saw, a little way
higher up the stream, a part of the bank less steep than the rest.  I
ran towards it.  I slid down; but what was my dismay to find that I
could not stop myself, and into the water I plunged, with my rifle and
powder-flask at my back!  I had now more of the element I had been so
eagerly desiring than was pleasant.  My feet, however, touched the
bottom, and stooping down, I let the water run into my mouth and wash my
dried-up face.  Oh, how delicious it was!  It revived me and restored my
strength; and then I began to consider how I was again to get out of the
stream.  The current was so strong that I dare not let go the bank, lest
I should be carried off my feet.  I could not hope to climb up that down
which I had come, and those on each side were still steeper.  The matter
was soon settled for me, for suddenly I felt myself taken off my feet,
and down the stream I drifted.  I kept as close to the bank as I could,
grasping at the rocks as I passed, and endeavouring to climb up by them
out of the water.  My anxiety was to ascertain whether or not I was
above the waterfall.  If above it, I might be carried down, and fall
into the very danger I had before escaped.  I tried to make out by the
sound, but could not tell, nor could I see the spray which I had before
observed.  Still I hoped that I was below it.  On I went, drifting down
the stream just as I have seen a dog carried along a river when he is
trying to climb up on a steep bank.  Some bushes appeared.  I caught at
them--several broke in my grasp.  I caught eagerly at others.  My
strength was failing me.  At length I seized one which held.  Close to
it I saw that there was a resting-place for my feet.  I was about to
draw myself out of the water when, on looking up, what should I see on
the top of the bank but a huge bear gazing intently down on me, and
licking his jaws as if in contemplation of a pleasant repast.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

I LOOK AT THE BEAR, AND THE BEAR LOOKS AT ME--I CLIMB UP AND HE TRIES TO
CATCH ME, BUT I DODGE HIM AND ESCAPE--PROCEED ON--FIND A HOLLOW FALLEN
TREE, AND MAKE MY BED IN THE INTERIOR--PLEASANT SLEEP UNPLEASANTLY
DISTURBED--MY FRIEND THE GRIZZLY AGAIN--I ESCAPE UP A TREE, AND BRUIN
OCCUPIES MY BED--WE TRY EACH OTHER'S PATIENCE--I WATCH FOR AN
OPPORTUNITY OF ESCAPING, AND HE WATCHES TO CATCH ME.

The bear looked very fierce; but I felt desperately desperate, and
determined not to be compelled by him to continue my voyage.  So,
grasping the branch, I gradually drew myself up by it nearly out of the
water.  I got one knee on the bank; the bear gave a growl; then I got
the other knee on _terra firma_; the bear growled again.  I was not to
be intimidated.  I had never let go my pole.  I sprang to my feet and
stood looking up at the monster.  He growled more fiercely than ever, as
if to warn me that I was intruding on his domains.

"Growl away, old Bruin," I exclaimed, "I do not fear you.  Stop me from
getting to the top of the bank you shall not."

I flourished my stick as I spoke.  He took the movement as a challenge,
and began to descend.  The top was not nearly so steep as the place on
which I stood.  The bear got down tolerably well, growling as he
advanced, and picking his way.  My rifle was loaded, but I had every
reason to doubt that it would go off, after the ducking it had got,
though the muzzle had not got under water.  I flourished my pole,
therefore, at the bear, and shouted at the top of my voice, but it did
not stop him.  Just above me was a ledge.  I climbed up to it, and there
waited the approach of the bear.  The ground above was very steep and
slippery.  On he came, faster and faster.  My shouts had enraged him,
and he was eager to have a grab at me.  I ran up a little way higher,
and then turned as if I would spring back into the water.  He was afraid
he should lose me, and forgetting his previous caution, he sprang on to
catch me.

As he did so I leaped nimbly on one side, and he toppled over, head
foremost, souse into the water.  I saw him struggling away to regain the
bank; I did not stop to watch him, however, but sprang upwards with all
the agility I could exert, and did not stop till I had reached the
summit.  Never have I gone through so many adventures for the sake of a
mouthful of water; I had not even, as it were, had enough, so I
determined to keep down the stream for the rest of the day.

My clothes very quickly dried, which is not surprising, considering that
I had on only the remnants of my jacket, a shirt, and the upper part of
my trousers.  The legs were bound round my feet.  The water, had,
however, so much revived me that I began to feel a greater sensation of
hunger than I had before experienced.  I had but one piece of my dried
duck left.  I nibbled a bit as I walked on, keeping the remainder for
supper.  On what I was to breakfast was a question which, if my powder
failed me, might be difficult to solve.  Sometimes I lost sight of the
water, but quickly regained it, and ever and anon returned, where the
bank was practicable, to take a refreshing sip.  As may be supposed, I
took care never to get out of the hearing of its pleasant sound.  I did
not see the waterfall, and therefore concluded that I must have fallen
into the stream a short way below it.

Night was now again approaching.  I looked about in every direction for
a spot in which I might pass it.  At last I came upon a huge pine tree,
which had been struck by lightning and lay prostrate on the ground.  The
centre part of the trunk was hollowed out something like a dug-out
canoe, and on examining it I bethought me that it would make a
peculiarly comfortable abode for the night.  I therefore set to work to
clear out all the rubbish inside which might conceal any creatures, and
I then collected some large sheets of birch-bark which lay stripped off
some neighbouring trees.  This I placed over the top to form a roof, and
a very comfortable sort of abode I considered that I had made.  It was a
safe one also, I thought, for no snake was likely to climb into it, nor
was it probable that any wild animal would find me out.  I now ate my
last piece of meat, and then went down to the river and took a hearty
draught of water, and felt far more invigorated than I had been for a
long time.

This done, I returned to my hollow tree, crept in, drew the sheets of
birch-bark over me, and went comfortably to sleep.  Oh, how I did enjoy
that sleep!  I felt so much more secure than I had ever been at night
since I commenced my wanderings.  I awoke in the middle of the night,
but it was to turn myself round and to think, how comfortable I was.  I
had, however, some causes for anxiety.  How should I protect myself if
attacked either by savages or wild beasts? how should I procure food,
and how should I defend my feet when all my bandages were worn-out,
should I not succeed in finding my friends?  The most pressing matter
was how to procure food.

Suddenly I recollected that I had once put a couple of fish-hooks in a
pocket-book which I carried with me.  I could not sleep till I had
pulled it out and ascertained that they were there.  A rod I should have
no difficulty in forming; but how to make a line was the puzzle.  At
last I remembered that my jacket was sewn together with very coarse
strong thread, and I thought that I could manufacture a line out of it.
Having come to this satisfactory conclusion, I again went to sleep.

I had but a short time closed my eyes, when once more I was awoke by a
noise, as if something was scratching on the outside of the tree in
which I lay.  What could it be?  The scratching continued, and then
there was a snuffing sound, as if a snout was smelling about in the
neighbourhood.  The noises were suspicious and somewhat alarming.  I did
not like to move to ascertain what caused them, but I could not help
dreading that they were made by some wandering bear who had smelt me
out, and was now trying to get a nearer inspection of me.  The
scratching and the snuffing continued, and then I was certain that the
creature, whatever it was, was climbing up on the trunk.  It had done
so, but it tumbled off again.  Soon, however, it came close up to me.  I
could contain myself no longer.  I wished to ascertain the worst.  I
gently slid off the piece of bark above my head and sat upright.  I
speedily, though, popped down again.  My worst suspicions were
confirmed.  It was a bear, and very likely the same bear from whom I had
escaped the day before.  The moment he saw me he poked his snout over my
narrow bed-place, but I was too far down for him to get at me,
notwithstanding all the efforts he made to effect that object.  Still it
was not pleasant to have such a watcher over my couch, as I could not
help dreading that he might possibly get his claws in and pull me out,
and that at all events the moment I sat upright he would give me an
embrace, but anything but a friendly one.  The moon came out and shone
on his bearish eyes, and I saw him licking his jaws in anticipation of
his expected repast.  The very way he did this convinced me that he was
my friend of yesterday.

I had outwitted him once, and I determined to try and outwit him again.
I saw that near me was a tree with short branches, reaching close down
to the ground.  I thought that if I could climb up it, I might get out
of the reach of my persecutor.  Mustering all my strength, I suddenly
started up, shrieking out at the top of my voice, and flourishing my
stick, which I brought down with all my force on the bear's head.  Bruin
so little expected the assault that, without attempting to attack me, he
turned round and trotted off to the distance of forty yards or so, when
he stopped and looked very intently at me.  I seized the moment of my
emancipation to climb up the tree near me.

The bear, the instant he saw me take to flight, uttering a deep growl,
sprang eagerly back to the foot of the tree; but I was beyond his reach.
What, therefore, was my dismay to see him put his huge arms and legs
round the trunk and begin to ascend.  Up he came, and as he advanced, I
ascended higher and higher.  Every now and then he looked up at me, and
performed the to me unpleasant ceremony of licking his jaws.  He was a
cautious brute, for, as he got higher, he felt the boughs and shook
them, to ascertain if he could trust his weight on them.  I at last was
obliged to retreat along a wide extending bough, from which I could just
reach my enemy's head as he came near me.  I shouted and banged away
with all my might, which so much annoyed him that he gave up the chase.
The moment I saw him hesitate I redoubled my blows, and at last,
infinitely to my satisfaction, not liking the treatment he was
receiving, he began slowly to descend the way he had come up.  I shouted
and poked at him, but nothing would hurry him.

At last he reached the bottom, but instead of going away, he sat himself
down to watch me.  Then we were just like the fox and the crow in the
fable.  I the crow, and he the fox, only he wanted to get me instead of
the cheese.  I sat on my bough flourishing my stick at him, and at last
he grew tired of watching me; but he did not go away--not he.  My
astonishment was not small, to see him crawl into the bed-place I had
left, and quietly roll himself up and go to sleep.  He must have slept,
however, with one eye open, for whenever I commenced descending from my
bough, he popped up his head as much as to say, "You had better not, or
I'll be after you," and then down he laid again.  As I could not have
made much progress in the uncertain light of the moon, I climbed into a
forked branch of the tree, and tying my arm to a bough that I might not
tumble off, I tried to get a little more sleep.  It was not very sound,
for the recollection that the bear might possibly take it into his head
to pay me a visit kept me wakeful.  I felt certain that the rascal must
have known that my powder was wet, or he would not have been so
impudent.  Once or twice I thought that I would try and make my rifle go
off, and I withdrew the charge of small shot, and put a bullet in
instead.  At last I took aim and pulled the trigger, but no report
followed.

I was thankful that I had not had to depend on my weapon for my life.
Bruin just lifted up his head when he heard the snap, but seeing that I
was safe, lay down again, and began either to snore, or to pretend to
snore, for the cunning rogue was up to any trick, I was certain of that,
to deceive me.  For half an hour or more after this I lay quiet, and I
had great hopes that Bruin had really gone to sleep.  The country to the
west along the banks of the stream appeared, as far as I could see by
the moonlight, pretty clear.  I thought that I might make good some
distance before the bear awoke.

Down I crept very cautiously, for fear of making the slightest noise,
from my lofty perch.  I had got to one of the lower forks of the tree,
and was considering whether I could not drop without much noise to the
ground, from a branch which projected below me, when a low growl
proceeded from my recent bed-place, and the ogre lifted up his head with
one eye still shut, but with the other turned towards me in the most
malicious manner--at least, so I thought.  I cannot quite vouch for this
last fact; but that was my impression at the time.  I was in a most
uncomfortable position, so that I had to move one way or the other.  I
began by moving downwards, and he then rose more, and gave another
growl.  I then climbed up again, and as I ascended higher and higher, he
gradually lay back till his head was concealed inside the hollow of the
tree.  Still, when I leaned forward, I could see his snout sticking up,
and could just catch the twinkle of his wicked eye turned towards me--I
mean the eye which, awake or asleep, as it seemed to me, he always kept
open.

Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that I did not sleep very
soundly, still I did go to sleep, with my arms twined tightly round two
neighbouring boughs.  I longed for daylight, which might enable me to
take some active measures one way or the other.  At last, as I looked
out beyond the tops of the neighbouring trees, I could see a pale pink
and yellow hue suffusing the eastern sky, and the light crept forward,
as it were, on one side, while the forest on the other remained shrouded
in darkness.  Not as in our own land, however, did the birds welcome the
coming sun with a full chorus of song.  They were not altogether silent;
but even in that spring time of the year they only exhibited their
pleasure by a faint untuneful twittering and chirping.  Bruin was, I
found, an early riser.  I saw first one leg come out of his bed-place,
then another, as he stretched them forth; then up went his arms, and I
heard a loud yawn.  It was rather more like a grunt.  Then he began to
growl, and to make all sorts of other strange noises, and finally he
lifted up his head and gradually sat upright on his haunches.  He winked
at me when he saw that I was safe up the tree, and I fancied that he
nodded his head, as much as to say, "Stay a bit, I'll soon be up to
you."  Then he turned one leg out of the bed-place and then another, and
then he walked up to the tree, and sat himself down under it, and began
to growl.



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

I EXHAUST BRUIN'S PATIENCE--MANUFACTURE SOME FISHING-LINES, AND DESCEND
FROM MY PERCH IN THE TREE--CATCH A BIG FISH TO MY GREAT JOY, WITH NO
LITTLE TROUBLE, AND COOK IT--MANY A SLIP BETWEEN THE SPIT AND THE LIP--
MY FISH IS ADMIRABLY DRESSED BUT DISAPPEARS, THOUGH NOT DOWN MY THROAT--
I SET TO WORK AGAIN AND CATCH MORE FISH--CONTINUE MY JOURNEY; AM ALMOST
STARVED--MY AMMUNITION EXHAUSTED--SEE SOME HORSES--FALL IN WITH SOME
INDIANS--THEY PROVE TO BE FRIENDS--ACCOMPANY ME ON MY JOURNEY, AND
CONDUCT ME TO THE CAMP OF THE RAGGETS--WE REACH CALIFORNIA, WHERE I
TERMINATE THE ADVENTURES WHICH I NOW GIVE TO THE PUBLIC.

I do not mind confessing that I felt anything but happy perched up at
the top of a tree in that wild American forest, with a hungry and
cunning bear growling away for his breakfast below me.  I too was
beginning to feel faint for want of food.  The bear seemed to know that,
and to have hopes of starving me into submission.  On that point,
however, I determined to disappoint him.  Sooner than go down and be
eaten I resolved to die up in the tree, and then he would get nothing
but my dry bones for his pains.  I tried his patience I saw, for he
growled and growled louder and more fiercely, and then began to lick his
paws, as a baby does its fingers to amuse itself when hungry.  Two or
three times he began to climb up the tree; but the way in which I
flourished the pole in his face, and his recollection that he could not
reach me at the end of the branch to which I retired, made him speedily
again descend.  The sun was now up and warm, and it struck me that if I
could dry some of my powder I might turn the tables on him, and eat him
instead of his eating me.  I therefore cleared out a hollow in a branch,
into which I poured a charge of powder, and then cleaned my rifle and
picked out the touch-hole.

I was determined not to be idle, and so, remembering my fish-hooks, I
set to work to manufacture a line.  The threads were short, but I
knotted them neatly.  I tried the strength of each one separately, and
those which broke I strengthened with line, which I twisted up.  I thus
sat knotting and spinning, with as much coolness as I could command,
till I had finished my line, and thought my powder was dry.  I then put
up my line, carefully loaded my rifle, and muttered, "Now, Master Bruin,
look out for yourself."  Whether he divined what I was about, or had
grown tired of waiting for his breakfast and was going elsewhere in
search of it, I cannot say, but before I could find a satisfactory rest
for my piece, so as to point it down at him, he turned round and began
trotting briskly away.  I instantly fired, in the hopes of obtaining
some bear steaks for my breakfast.  The rifle went off, nearly knocking
me over from my bough, and the ball hit him, but not in a vital part,
for on he went, growling furiously, till he was lost to sight in the
depths of the forest, and I must say that I heartily hoped I might never
see his ugly face again.  I suspect that I considerably damped his
appetite for breakfast.  As mine was sharper than ever, and I could not
make it off bear, I descended from my perch that I might try and catch
some fish.  I quickly cut a fishing-rod, and a piece of light bark to
serve as a float, and my movements being hastened by hunger, in a few
minutes, having caught some creatures on the bank to serve as bait, I
was bending over the stream as assiduously as old Izaak Walton himself.

What was my delight in a few minutes to feel a bite!  I was an expert
fisherman, but so great was my agitation that I could scarcely give the
necessary jerk to hook my fish.  It is very different fishing for
pleasure, and fishing for the pot or spit when starving.  Away went the
float bobbing down the stream.  It must be done.  I jerked up my rod.
How breathless I felt!  The fish was hooked, of that I was sure, as also
that he was a good-sized fellow.  Down the stream swam the fish, and
along the bank I followed him.  I knew that my tackle was not over
strong, and I was anxious to secure a good place for landing him.

At last I reached a flat rock.  "Now I will have him," I said to myself,
and I drew his nose up the stream.  I got sight of him through the clear
water.  He was a trout, three or four pounds weight at least.  What a
hearty breakfast I would make of him!  I felt very nervous, because as
there was very little bend in my rod, if he gave a sudden jerk he would
too probably snap the line or the hook, and be out of my sight for ever.
The water was somewhat deep below me, or I should have pushed into the
stream and clutched him in my arms, much in the same way as the bear
would have clutched me, if he could, and with the same object.  Slowly
and cautiously I drew him nearer and nearer the shore.  He came along
pretty quietly.  He was pretty well exhausted with his previous swim.

Had I possessed a landing-net I could have had him ashore in a moment;
but I trembled when I thought of the little pliability there was at the
end of my stick to counteract any sudden jerk he might give.  There he
was, scarcely six feet from me, and yet I could not reach him.  I drew
him still closer, kneeling down as I did so, and then lowering my rod I
made a dart at him.  He was quicker than I was, and with a whisk of his
tail off he darted, with the hook still in his mouth, dragging the rod
after him.  I made a dash at the rod, but missed it, and away it floated
down the stream.  After it I went though, watching it as it bobbed up
and down, and dreading lest it should catch fast among some stones, and
the fish break away.  The stream was here narrow, deep, and rapid.
Lower down it was broader, and I hoped might be shallow.  I ran on,
therefore, and found it as I had hoped.  Down came the rod towards me.
"Was the fish on to it, though?"  I seized hold of the butt-end and
lifted it up.  Yes, there he was.  He could scarcely escape me now.
Slowly I drew him up toward me, and slipping my fingers down the line,
eagerly seized him by the gills.  I had him fast, and was not likely to
let him go.  I carried him on shore, and throwing him on the ground,
speedily began to collect sticks to make a fire.  Those near at hand
would not burn, so I went further away from the stream to collect some
more.

While thus engaged, I saw a lynx steal out of the forest and go in the
direction of my proposed fire.  I had collected as many sticks as I
could carry, and was returning as fast as I could, when I saw the lynx
go close up to where I had left my fish.  It stooped down, and then
trotted on.  I rushed on, as fast as my legs could carry me, till I
reached the spot.  My fish was gone.  I shrieked and shouted after the
lynx, whirling my stick at him, but it was to no purpose.  He had found
a good breakfast, and was not going to give it up in a hurry.  I shouted
and shrieked, and ran and ran, till at length I knocked my foot against
the sharp end of a broken branch which brought me crying out with pain
to the ground.  The lynx, holding the fish in his jaws, turned a look of
derision at me, as he disappeared in the forest.  Did I lie there and
howl like a wounded dog?  No; I should be ashamed to acknowledge it, had
I done so.  Instead of that, as soon as the pain would allow me, I got
up on my feet, hobbled back to where I had left my rod, searched for
some fresh bait, and set to work to catch another fish.

Not a minute had passed before I got a bite.  I quickly hooked my fish,
and hauled up one of about half a pound weight.  As that would not be
sufficient for my breakfast, I thought it would be wise to restrain my
appetite till I had caught some more, as possibly when the sun rose
higher they might not bite so readily.  Not half a minute passed before
I caught a second, and in five minutes, with very little difficulty, I
had caught as many fish as would equal the weight of the one I had lost.
This time I took care to keep them about me till I had lighted my fire,
and stuck them on sticks roasting round it.  I kept, too, vigilant watch
lest my old enemy, Bruin, or the watchful lynx should return to rob me
of my repast.

One of the fish was soon sufficiently warmed to enable me to eat it, and
one after the other disappeared, giving me a satisfaction which the most
highly seasoned feast has never been able to afford.  I washed the fish
down with a copious draught of water, and then felt myself ready for
anything.  This part of the river was evidently well supplied with fish,
so before leaving it I again took my rod in hand, and in half an hour
caught enough fish to last me for a couple of days.  I had lost my hat
in the river, so I now made myself a curious conical-shaped
head-covering with some rushes and long grass, and what with my bare
legs, my feet swathed in bandages, and my sleeveless jacket, I must have
had a very Robinson Crusoe appearance.  As there was no one to see me,
this was of no consequence.

I now shouldered my pole and fishing-rod, and with my rifle slung at my
back, continued my course.

I kept down the stream for some way; but as I had not passed the tracks
which my friends must have left, I felt convinced that they were to the
north of the line on which I had been travelling.  I therefore crossed
the stream by a ford, at which I arrived in the afternoon, and with much
regret left its pure waters to wander into what might prove an arid
desert.  I had, unfortunately, nothing in which I could carry water, so
that I had to depend on the supply which I might find in my path.  I
pushed on as fast as I could.  It was almost night, however, before I
reached a pool of water.  It was stagnant, and so bad tasted that I
could only moisten my lips with it, after I had cooked and eaten one of
my fish.  A number of birch trees were growing near.  I quickly built a
shanty with their bark, and with the same material formed myself a
mattress and an ample covering for my body.

After my long vigil on the previous night I speedily fell asleep, but
even in my slumbers I heard the occasional serenades of bears and
wolves, who seemed to be the principal inhabitants of that wild region.
I awoke more than once, and was convinced that the noise was a reality,
and not the fancy of my brain; but I felt that unless they had come and
routed me out, as the bear had on the previous night, nothing would have
induced me to stir.  Off I went to sleep; but much to my satisfaction
day returned without any of them having found me out.

I need not record the adventures of each day.  I suffered so much from
my feet that my progress was of necessity slow.  My fish were gone, I
had found no other friendly stream; but I hoped to come across one
before long.  I had dried the remnant of my powder.  I had enough for
one full charge and a little over.  I loaded my rifle, still wishing, if
possible, to keep it for my defence.  This was early one morning.  I had
had no breakfast.  As the day advanced I grew very hungry.  A small
animal, like a hare or rabbit, came near me.  I seized a stone at my
foot and hit the creature on the leg, and broke it.  Away it went
limping, still at a rapid pace.  I made chase as fast as my sore feet
would let me.  I was gaining on the creature, but was afraid that, after
all, it might get into some hole and escape me.  This made me exert
myself still more, when I caught sight of a burrow ahead, for which I
suspected it was making.  I sprang on, hunger giving an impetus to my
feet, and not a yard from the spot I threw myself forward and caught it,
as it was about to spring into the hole.

The poor creature turned an imploring look at me; but like a savage, as
I felt, I speedily squeezed the life out of it, and in another ten
minutes I had it skinned and roasting away before a fire of sticks,
which I had in the meantime collected.  I felt, as I ate the creature,
what reason I had to trust in the care of Providence, for each time,
when most in want, I had been amply supplied with food, and I doubt not
that, had I possessed some botanical knowledge, I should have found a
still larger store of provisions in the productions of the earth.  The
creature was rather lean, so that the best half of him only served me
for a meal, and I finished the remainder at night.

The next day I was less fortunate.  Towards the evening, as I was
proceeding along an elevated ridge, I saw in the valley below me a black
spot, as if a fire had been there.  I hurried down to the place; I was
not mistaken.  There were the charred embers of sticks, and round it
were scattered the half-picked bones of grouse, partridges, and ducks,
as if a numerous party had camped there.  I looked about, but could find
nothing to indicate that they were my friends, hunger made me do what I
should not otherwise have fancied.  I collected all the bones, and with
a pile of sticks, left by my predecessors on the spot, I made a fire, at
which I speedily cooked them.  As there was plenty of birch-bark about,
I then built a wigwam and formed a comfortable couch within it, in which
I might pass the night.

These bones were all the food I got that day.  Several deer had on the
previous day come skipping around me, fearless of the approach of man.
The next day again hunger assailed me.  I had been wishing that some
more deer would come, when a herd came racing by, and when they saw me
they all stopped staring at me, as if to ask why I had come there.

The pangs of hunger just then made me very uncomfortable.  Here was an
opportunity of supplying myself with food for a week to come.  A fat
buck stood in the centre; I fired.  The whole herd were in full flight,
but the buck was wounded, I saw by the drops of blood which marked his
track; I hurried after him.  What was my delight to see him stop, then
stagger and fall!  I ran on.  He rose and sprang forward, but it was a
last effort, and the next moment he rolled over on the ground.  I could
have shouted for joy.  I had now got food in abundance, and what was of
great consequence to my ultimate preservation, the means of covering my
feet.  I finished the poor animal with a blow of my hatchet, and then
set to work to skin him and cut him up.

I had one drawback to my satisfaction.  There was no wood or water near.
I therefore cut off as much of the hide as would serve me for moccasins
and leggings, loaded myself with all the flesh I could carry, and struck
away towards the west.  I had been unable to follow up the tracks which
led from my last sleeping-place, and this convinced me that the camp had
been formed by Indians.  Whether they would prove friends or foes,
should I fall in with them, was a question.  At all events, I felt
rather an inclination to avoid than to find them out.

At length I came to a wood, through which ran a stream of pure water.
Sticks were quickly collected, a fire was lit, and some of my deer was
roasting away.  While it was cooking, I ran down to the stream to take a
draught of water and to wash my feet, and then hurried back to enjoy my
repast.  I did enjoy it; and as there were still two hours more of
daylight, and I felt my strength increased, I hurried onward.

Scarcely had I got again into the open country than I came on some
recent tracks of horses.  Could my friends be ahead?  There were no
wheel tracks, though.  A beaten track appeared.  It must lead somewhere.
I had not gone half a mile when I fancied that I heard the neighing of
a horse.  My heart thumped away in my breast.  I listened with
breathless attention.  Again a horse neighed loudly.  I could not be
mistaken, and hurrying on I saw across a rapid stream, which passed at
the base of the hill on which I found myself, a whole herd of those
noble animals frisking about in a wide rich meadow spread out before me.
I hurried down the hill, and by the aid of my pole, though not without
difficulty, hurried across the stream.  One of the horses as soon as I
landed, came trotting up to me; but seeing that I was a stranger, and
rather an odd-looking one too, off he went again.  I thought how
satisfactory it would be if I could catch one of them to make it carry
me the rest of the journey.  I remembered, however, that the animals
must belong to some one.  Perhaps, however, the owner might lend one to
me.  Crossing the meadow, I saw before me a wreath of smoke gracefully
curling up among the trees.  It must proceed from some human habitation.
Was it from the hut of a white man or from the temporary encampment of
Indians?  If the latter, would they prove friends or foes?  Knowing the
necessity for precaution, I hid myself behind every bush and tree, till
I got into the wood, and then I advanced with equal care, looking out
ahead before I left my shelter, and stooping down in Indian fashion,
trailing my rifle and stick after me as I made my onward way.

I soon came to an open glade, in one corner of which appeared a
skin-covered wigwam, before the entrance to which sat two squaws busily
engaged in some culinary occupation.  If found looking about I might
naturally have been suspected of treacherous intentions, so slinging my
rifle, and grasping my pole and fishing-rod in one hand, I advanced,
holding out the other.  The old woman looked up, and uttered a few
grunts, but seemed in no way alarmed.  What they took me for I do not
know.  I must have seemed to them rather a strange character.  I had
advanced a few paces, when two men sprang out of the hut.  This was a
trying moment.  Greatly to my satisfaction, they stretched out their
hands in a friendly way as I hobbled on towards them.  Though they had
painted faces, and were dressed in skins, I saw by the kind expression
on their countenances that they commiserated my condition.  Blood was
even then streaming from my feet.  At once they lifted me up in their
arms and carried me into the hut, where they placed me on a couch of
skins, and the old woman brought water from the river which flowed close
by, and washed my feet, and bound them up with salves.  The pain from
which I had so long been suffering quickly disappeared.

They then brought me a piece of salmon, which I thought delicious, and
some soup, which, under other circumstances, I might have thought
suspicious.  This, with some roots which they roasted, made up a repast
more refreshing than I had eaten for a long time.

I could not speak a word of their language, nor did they understand
English, but I tried by signs to make them comprehend that I had parted
from my companions, and that I wished to get to them.  At last they
appeared to fancy that they comprehended me, for they nodded and smiled,
and uttered the same sounds of satisfaction over and over again.  They
signified, however, by their gestures, that I must sleep in the hut that
night, but that on the following morning, as soon as the sun rose, we
would set off on our journey.

I offered them the deer's flesh which I had slung about me, and which
they seemed to value.  Just before dark, however, they brought me in
another salmon, which I preferred to the somewhat high flavoured meat.
I cannot describe how I enjoyed that night's rest.  I had perfect
confidence in my hosts, and I had no longer the dread of being visited
by a wandering bear or prowling wolf.  I felt like a new being when,
next morning, the good-natured Indian roused me from my slumbers.  The
rushing sound of waters invited me to take a bath, and going down to the
river, I stretched my limbs with a pleasant swim, and then returned to
enjoy a hearty breakfast on salmon, roots, and some decoction which
served the purpose of tea.  My hosts, too, had provided some new
moccasins in which to shield my feet.

It was a completely patriarchal establishment.  There was an old father
and four sons, with an old mother, and another old woman and the wives
of the younger men, and eight or ten children.  The skin-covered huts of
the younger couples were close at hand, under the trees.  The old man
and his eldest son now brought up three horses, they mounted me on one,
and they leaped on the others.  A deerskin served as a saddle, and rough
thongs of leather as a bridle.

I wished all the family a hearty good-bye, resolved in future to think
better of Indians than I had done, and off we set.  How delightful it
was to move along over the prairie at the rate of eight or ten miles an
hour, instead of creeping along with suffering feet, as I had been so
long doing.  I travelled on two whole days on a westerly course with my
Indian friends.  I could not hold much conversation with my guides,
except by signs, but we soon appeared to understand each other perfectly
well.

I made out that we were approaching the camp of my old companions, and
as I drew nearer my eagerness increased to be once more among them.
After a time I saw wreaths of white smoke curling up from a valley below
us.  They must proceed from a considerable encampment.  The Indians and
I rode on in silence, till I heard voices, which I judged came from the
spot where I had seen the smoke ascending.  Presently a boy, whom I
recognised as one of the emigrant children, ran back, shouting out,
"Injins--Injins!"  His cries brought out the Raggets, and a number of my
friends with rifles in their hands, ready to do battle in case of
necessity.  They saw that we were peaceably disposed; but they did not
recognise me till I was in the middle of them, and had addressed them by
name.

I was cordially welcomed.  In truth, most of them had given me up for
lost.  They showed that they placed some value on me by loading my
Indian friends with presents.

I am sorry to say that I must bring my adventures in the Far West to a
conclusion.  We struck our tents next morning, and continued our
journey.  After a variety of adventures we reached California, and at
once proceeded to the gold-diggings.  Most of the party separated and
worked for themselves.  The Raggets kept together, and were the only
family who succeeded in securing an independence.  For myself I will say
nothing, but that I was thankful to find myself back in old England, if
not a richer, I hope at all events a wiser man, than when I left its
deservedly well-loved shores.

THE END.





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