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´╗┐Title: The Boy Settlers - A Story of Early Times in Kansas
Author: Brooks, Noah, 1830-1903
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 "The Boy Settlers - A Story of Early Times in Kansas" ***

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THE BOY SETTLERS

      *      *      *      *      *

In Uniform Style.

  THE BOY SETTLERS.   By NOAH BROOKS.  $1.25.
  THE BOY EMIGRANTS.  By NOAH BROOKS.  $1.25.
  A NEW MEXICO DAVID. By C. F. LUMMIS. $1.25.

      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: SURE ENOUGH, THERE THEY WERE, TWENTY-FIVE OR THIRTY
INDIANS.]


THE BOY SETTLERS

A Story of Early Times in Kansas

by

NOAH BROOKS

Illustrated by W. A. Rogers



New York
Charles Scribner's Sons
1891

Copyright, 1891,
by Charles Scribner's Sons.



TO

John Greenleaf Whittier

Whose patriotic songs were the inspiration of the prototypes of

THE BOY SETTLERS

This little book is affectionately inscribed



CONTENTS

 CHAPTER                                                          PAGE
      I. The Settlers, and Whence They Came.                         1
     II. The Fire Spreads.                                           9
    III. On the Disputed Territory.                                 20
     IV. Among the Delawares.                                       36
      V. Tidings from the Front.                                    53
     VI. Westward Ho!                                               62
    VII. At the Dividing of the Ways.                               72
   VIII. The Settlers at Home.                                      85
     IX. Setting the Stakes.                                        95
      X. Drawing the First Furrow.                                 105
     XI. An Indian Trail.                                          116
    XII. House-Building.                                           126
   XIII. Lost!                                                     134
    XIV. More House-Building.                                      150
     XV. Play Comes After Work.                                    158
    XVI. A Great Disaster.                                         181
   XVII. The Wolf at the Door.                                     187
  XVIII. Discouragement.                                           200
    XIX. Down the Big Muddy.                                       215
     XX. Stranded Near Home.                                       236



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                          TO FACE PAGE

 SURE ENOUGH, THERE THEY WERE, TWENTY-FIVE OR THIRTY
 INDIANS.                                               _Frontispiece_

 IN CAMP AT QUINDARO. THE POEM OF "THE KANSAS
 EMIGRANTS."                                                        34

 THE YANKEE EMIGRANT.                                               54

 OSCAR WAS PUT UP HIGH ON THE STUMP OF A TREE, AND,
 VIOLIN IN HAND, "RAISED THE TUNE."                                 60

 THE POLLS AT LIBERTYVILLE. THE WOBURN MAN IS
 "HOISTED" OVER THE CABIN.                                          70

 THE SETTLERS' FIRST HOME IN THE DESERTED CABIN.                    90

 YOUNKINS ARGUED THAT SETTLERS WERE ENTITLED TO ALL
 THEY COULD GET AND HOLD.                                          102

 SANDY SEIZED A HUGE PIECE OF THE FRESHLY-TURNED SOD,
 AND WAVING IT OVER HIS HEAD CRIED, "THREE CHEERS FOR
 THE FIRST SOD OF BLEEDING KANSAS!"                                106

 MAKING "SHAKES" WITH A "FROW."                                    128

 FILLING IN THE CHINKS IN THE WALLS OF THE LOG-CABIN.              142

 LOST!                                                             146

 THEY WERE FEASTING THEMSELVES ON ONE OF THE DELICIOUS
 WATERMELONS THAT NOW SO PLENTIFULLY DOTTED THEIR OWN
 CORN-FIELD.                                                       160

 HE GENTLY TOUCHED THE ANIMAL WITH THE TOE OF HIS BOOT
 AND CRIED, "ALL BY MY OWN SELF."                                  176

 A GREAT DISASTER.                                                 188

 THE RETREAT TO BATTLES'S.                                         194

 "HOME, SWEET HOME."                                               204



THE BOY SETTLERS.

CHAPTER I.

The Settlers, and Whence They Came.


There were five of them, all told; three boys and two men. I have
mentioned the boys first because there were more of them, and we shall
hear most from them before we have got through with this truthful
tale. They lived in the town of Dixon, on the Rock River, in Lee
County, Illinois. Look on the map, and you will find this place at a
point where the Illinois Central Railroad crosses the Rock; for this
is a real town with real people. Nearly sixty years ago, when there
were Indians all over that region of the country, and the red men were
numerous where the flourishing States of Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin
are now, John Dixon kept a little ferry at the point of which I am now
speaking, and it was known as Dixon's Ferry. Even when he was not an
old man, Dixon was noted for his long and flowing white hair, and the
Indians called him Na-chu-sa, "the White-haired." In 1832 the Sac
tribe of Indians, with their chief Black Hawk, rose in rebellion
against the Government, and then there happened what is now called the
Black Hawk war.

In that war many men who afterwards became famous in the history of
the United States were engaged in behalf of the government. One of
these was Zachary Taylor, afterwards better known as "Rough and
Ready," who fought bravely in the Mexican war and subsequently became
President of the United States. Another was Robert Anderson, who, at
the beginning of the war of the Rebellion, in 1861, commanded the
Union forces in Fort Sumter when it was first fired upon. Another was
Jefferson Davis, who, in the course of human events, became President
of the Southern Confederacy. A fourth man, destined to be more famous
than any of the others, was Abraham Lincoln. The first three of these
were officers in the army of the United States. Lincoln was at first a
private soldier, but was afterwards elected captain of his company,
with whom he had come to the rescue of the white settlers from the
lower part of the State.

The war did not last long, and there was not much glory gained by
anybody in it. Black Hawk was beaten, and that country had peace ever
after. For many years, and even unto this day, I make no doubt, the
early settlers of the Rock River country loved to tell stories of the
Black Hawk war, of their own sufferings, exploits, hardships, and
adventures. Father Dixon, as he was called, did not choose to talk
much about himself, for he was a modest old gentleman, and was not
given, as they used to say, to "blowing his own horn," but his memory
was a treasure-house of delightful anecdotes and reminiscences of
those old times; and young and old would sit around the comfortable
stove of a country store, during a dull winter evening, drinking in
tales of Indian warfare and of the "old settlers" that had been handed
down from generation to generation.

It is easy to see how boys brought up in an atmosphere like this, rich
in traditions of the long-past in which the early settlement of the
country figured, should become imbued with the same spirit of
adventure that had brought their fathers from the older States to this
new region of the West. Boys played at Indian warfare over the very
ground on which they had learned to believe the Sacs and Foxes had
skirmished years and years before. They loved to hear of Black Hawk
and his brother, the Prophet, as he was called; and I cannot tell you
with what reverence they regarded Father Dixon, the white-haired old
man who had actually talked and traded with the famous Indians, and
whose name had been given him as a title of respect by the great Black
Hawk himself.

Among the boys who drank in this sort of lore were Charlie and
Alexander Howell and their cousin Oscar Bryant. Charlie, when he had
arrived at his eighteenth birthday, esteemed himself a man, ready to
put away childish things; and yet, in his heart, he dearly loved the
traditions of the Indian occupation of the country, and wished that he
had been born earlier, so that he might have had a share in the
settlement of the Rock River region, its reclamation from the
wilderness, and the chase of the wild Indian. As for Alexander,
commonly known as "Sandy," he had worn out a thick volume of Cooper's
novels before he was fifteen years old, at which interesting point in
his career I propose to introduce him to you. Oscar was almost exactly
as many years and days old as his cousin. But two boys more unlike in
appearance could not be found anywhere in a long summer day. Sandy was
short, stubbed, and stocky in build. His face was florid and freckled,
and his hair and complexion, like his name, were sandy. Oscar was
tall, slim, wiry, with a long, oval face, black hair, and so lithe in
his motions that he was invariably cast for the part of the leading
Indian in all games that required an aboriginal character.

Mr. Howell carried on a transportation business, until the railroads
came into the country and his occupation was gone. Then he began to
consider seriously the notion of going further west with his boys to
get for them the same chances of early forestalling the settlement of
the country that he had had in Illinois. In the West, at least in
those days, nearly everybody was continually looking for a yet
further West to which they might emigrate. Charlie Howell was now a
big and willing, good-natured boy; he ought to be striking out for
himself and getting ready to earn his own living. At least, so his
father thought.

Mr. Bryant was engaged in a profitable business, and he had no idea of
going out into another West for himself or his boy. Oscar was likely
to be a scholar, a lawyer, or a minister, perhaps. Even at the age of
fifteen, he had written "a piece" which the editor of the Dixon
_Telegraph_ had thought worthy of the immortality of print in his
columns.

But about this time, the Northern States were deeply stirred by the
struggle in the new Territory of Kansas to decide whether freedom or
slavery should be established therein. This was in 1854 and
thereabout. The Territory had been left open and unoccupied for a long
time. Now settlers were pouring into it from adjacent States, and the
question whether freedom should be the rule, or whether slave-holding
was to be tolerated, became a very important one. Missouri and
Arkansas, being the States nearest to Kansas, and holding slavery to
be a necessity, furnished the largest number of emigrants who went to
vote in favor of bringing slavery into the new Territory; but others
of the same way of thinking came from more distant States, even as far
off as South Carolina, all bent on voting for slavery in the laws
that were to be made. For the most part, these people from the slave
States did not go prepared to make their homes in Kansas or Nebraska;
for some went to the adjoining Territory of Nebraska, which was also
ready to have slavery voted up or down. The newcomers intended to stay
just long enough to vote and then return to their own homes.

The people of the free States of the North heard of all this with much
indignation. They had always supposed that the new Territories were to
be free from slavery. They saw that if slavery should be allowed
there, by and by, when the two Territories would become States, they
would be slave States, and then there would be more slave States than
free States in the Union. So they held meetings, made speeches, and
passed resolutions, denouncing this sort of immigration as wrong and
wicked. Then immigrants from Iowa, Illinois, and other Northern
States, even as far off as Massachusetts, sold their homes and
household goods and started for the Promised Land, as many of them
thought it to be. For the men in Kansas who were opposed to slavery
wrote and sent far and wide papers and pamphlets, setting forth in
glowing colors the advantages of the new and beautiful country beyond
the Missouri River, open to the industry and enterprise of everybody.
Soon the roads and highways of Iowa were dotted with white-topped
wagons of immigrants journeying to Kansas, and long lines of
caravans, with families and with small knots of men, stretched their
way across the country nearest to the Territory.

Some of these passed through Dixon, and the boys gazed with wonder at
the queer inscriptions that were painted on the canvas covers of the
wagons; they longed to go with the immigrants, and taste the sweets of
a land which was represented to be full of wild flowers, game in great
abundance, and fine streams, and well-wooded hills not far away from
the water. They had heard their elders talk of the beauties of Kansas,
and of the great outrage that was to be committed on that fair land by
carrying slavery into it; and although they did not know much about
the politics of the case, they had a vague notion that they would like
to have a hand in the exciting business that was going on in Kansas.

Both parties to this contest thought they were right. Men who had been
brought up in the slave States believed that slavery was a good
thing--good for the country, good for the slave-owner, and even good
for the slave. They could not understand how anybody should think
differently from them. But, on the other hand, those who had never
owned slaves, and who had been born and brought up in the free States,
could not be brought to look upon slavery as anything but a very
wicked thing. For their part, they were willing (at least, some of
them were) to fight rather than consent that the right of one man to
own another man should be recognized in the Territories of Kansas and
Nebraska. Some of these started at once for the debatable land; others
helped their neighbors to go, and many others stayed at home and
talked about it.

Mrs. Bryant, Oscar's mother, said: "Dear me, I am tired and sick of
hearing about 'bleeding Kansas.' I do wish, husband, you would find
something else to talk about before Oscar. You have got him so worked
up that I shouldn't be the least bit surprised if he were to start off
with some of those tired-looking immigrants that go traipsing through
the town day by day." Mrs. Bryant was growing anxious, now that her
husband was so much excited about the Kansas-Nebraska struggle, as it
was called, he could think of nothing else.



CHAPTER II.

THE FIRE SPREADS.


One fine morning in May, Mr. Bryant was standing at his front gate
watching for his brother-in-law, Mr. Howell, to come down the street.

He held a newspaper in his hand, and with this, loosely rolled, he was
impatiently tapping on the gate as Mr. Howell drew near. Evidently
something had happened to disturb him.

"See here, Aleck," he exclaimed, as soon as his brother-in-law was
within the sound of his voice, "I can stand this sort of thing no
longer. I'm bound to go to Kansas. I've been thinking it over, and I
have about made up my mind to go. Brubaker will take my store and the
good-will of the concern. Oscar is wild to go, and his mother is
perfectly able to take care of the house while I am getting ready for
her to come out. What d'ye say? Will you go too?"

"Well," said Mr. Howell, slowly, "you nearly take my breath away!
What's happened to stir you up so?"

"Just listen to this!" cried the other, "just listen!" and, unfolding
his newspaper, he read, with glowing cheeks and kindling eyes, an
account of an attack made by some of the "pro-slavery men," as they
were named, on a party of free-State immigrants who had attempted to
cross the river near Kansas City. His voice trembled with excitement,
and when he had finished reading, he asked his companion what he
thought of that.

Mr. Howell looked pensively down the street, now embowered with the
foliage of early summer, noted the peaceful aspect of the village, and
the tranquil picture which gardens, cottages, and sauntering groups of
school-children presented, and then said slowly, "I never was much of
a hand at shooting, Charles, leastways, shooting at folks; and I don't
know that I could take steady aim at a man, even if I knew he was a
Border Ruffian out gunning for me. But I'm with you, Charles. Charlie
and Sandy can do a heap sight better in Kansas, after things get
settled, than they can here. This place is too old; there's too much
competition, and the boys will not have any show if they stay here.
But what does Amanda say?"

Now, Amanda was Mr. Bryant's wife, Mr. Aleck Howell's sister. When
Aleck asked this question, the two men looked at each other for a
moment, queerly and without speaking.

"Well, she'll hate to part with Oscar; he's the apple of her eye, as
it were. But I guess she will listen to reason. When I read this piece
in the paper to her this morning, at the breakfast-table, she was as
mad as a wet hen. As for Oscar, he's so fired up about it that he is
down in the wood-shed chopping wood to blow off steam. Hear him?" And
Mr. Bryant laughed quietly, notwithstanding his rising anger over the
news of the day.

At that moment Sandy came whooping around the corner, intent on
overtaking a big yellow dog, his constant companion,--Bose by
name,--who bounded along far in advance of the boy. "See here, Sandy,"
said his uncle, "how would you like to go to Kansas with your father,
Oscar, Charlie, and myself?"

"To Kansas? shooting buffaloes, deer, Indians, and all that? To
Kansas? Oh, come, now, Uncle Charles, you don't mean it."

"But I do mean it, my laddie," said the elder man, affectionately
patting the freckled cheek of the lad. "I do mean it, and if you can
persuade your father to go along and take you and Charlie with him,
we'll make up a party--just we five--that will scare the Border
Ruffians 'way into the middle of next year." Then, with a more serious
air, he added, "This is a fight for freedom, my boy, and every man and
every boy who believes in God and Liberty can find a chance to help.
I'm sure _we_ can." This he said with a certain sparkle of his eye
that may have meant mischief to any Border Ruffian that might have
been there to see and hear.

As for Sandy, he turned two or three hand-springs by way of relieving
his feelings; then, having once more assured himself that the two men
had serious thoughts of migrating to Kansas, he rushed off to the
wood-shed to carry the wonderful news to Oscar. Dropping his axe, the
lad listened with widened eyes to the story that Sandy had to tell.

"Do you know, Sandy," he said, with an air of great wisdom, "I thought
there was something in the wind. Oh, I never saw father so roused as
he was when he read that story in the Chicago _Press and Tribune_ this
morning. Why, I thought he'd just get up and howl when he had read it
out to mother. Jimmini! Do you really suppose that he will go? And
take us? And Uncle Aleck? Oh, wouldn't that be too everlastingly bully
for anything?" Oscar, as you will see, was given to the use of slang,
especially when under great excitement. The two boys rushed back to
the gate, where the brothers-in-law were still talking eagerly and in
undertones.

"If your mother and Aunt Amanda will consent, I guess we will go,"
said Mr. Bryant, with a smile on his face as he regarded the flushed
cheeks and eager eyes of Sandy and Oscar. Sandy's father added: "And
I'll answer for your mother, my son. She and I have talked this thing
over many a time, more on your account and Charlie's than for the sake
of 'bleeding Kansas,' however. I'm bound to say that. Every man is in
honor bound to do his duty by the country and by the good cause; but
I have got to look after my boys first." And the father lovingly laid
his hand on Sandy's sturdy shoulder. "Do you think you could fight, if
the worst comes to the worst, Sandy, boy?"

Of course the lad protested confidently that he could fight; certainly
he could protect his rights and his father's rights, even with a gun,
if that should be found necessary. But he admitted that, on the whole,
he would rather shoot buffaloes and antelope, both of which species of
large game he had already learned were tolerably plentiful in Kansas.

"Just think of it, Oscar, we might have some real Indian-fighting out
there, like that Father Dixon and the rest of the old settlers had in
the time of the Black Hawk war."

His father assured him, however, that there was no longer any danger
from the red man in Kansas. The wild Indians were now far out on the
frontier, beyond the region to which emigrants would probably go in
search of homestead lands for settlement. Sandy looked relieved at
this explanation. He was not anxious for fighting with anybody. Fun
was more to his liking.

The two mothers, when they were informed of the decision of the male
members of the family, made very little opposition to the emigration
scheme. In fact, Mrs. Howell had really felt for some time past that
her boys would be better provided for in a new country. She had been
one of the "old settlers" of Dixon, having been brought out from the
interior of New York when she and her brother were small children. She
had the same spirit of adventure that he had, and, although she
remembered very well the privations and the discomforts of those early
days, it was more with amusement than sorrow that she recalled them to
mind, now that they were among the traditions of long-past years. The
two young Howells were never weary of hearing their mother tell of the
time when she killed a wildcat with her father's rifle, or of her
walking fifteen miles and back to buy herself a bonnet-ribbon to wear
to her first ball in the court-house. Now her silent influence made it
easier for the Kansas Exodus (as they already called their scheme) to
be accepted all around.

The determination of the two families to migrate made some stir in the
town. It was yet a small place, and everybody knew every other body's
business. The Bryants and Howells were among the "old families," and
their momentous step created a little ripple of excitement among their
friends and acquaintances. The boys enjoyed the talk and the gossip
that arose around them, and already considered themselves heroes in a
small way. With envious eyes and eager faces, their comrades
surrounded them, wherever they went, asking questions about their
outfit, their plans, and their future movements. Every boy in Dixon
looked on the three prospective boy settlers as the most fortunate of
all their young playfellows.

"I wish my father would catch the 'Kansas fever,'" said Hiram Fender,
excitedly. "Don't you suppose your father could give it to him,
Charlie? Do you suppose your uncle would take me along if Dad would
let me go? Oh, wouldn't that be just gaudy, if I could go! Then there
would be four of us boys. Try it on him."

But the two families resolutely attended to their own business, asking
help from nobody, and not even so much as hinting to anybody that it
would be a good thing for others to go with them to the Promised Land.
The three boys were speedily in the midst of preparations for their
migration. It was now well along in the middle of May. If they were to
take up land claims in Kansas and get in a crop, they had no time to
spare. The delightful excitement of packing, of buying arms and
ammunition, and of winding up all the small concerns of their life in
Dixon made the days pass swiftly by. There were all the details of
tents for camping-out, provisions for the march, and rough clothing
and walking gear for the new life beyond to be looked after.

Some of the notions of the boys, in regard to what was needed and what
was to be expected from the land beyond, were rather crude. And
perhaps their fathers were not in all cases so wise as they thought
themselves. The boys, however, cherished the idea that absolutely
everything they should require in Kansas must be carried from
Illinois. "Why," said the practical Mr. Howell, "if we cannot buy
ploughs, cattle, and seed, cheaper in Missouri than we can here, we
can at least save the labor and cost of transportation. We don't want
to haul a year's provisions, either. We expect to raise something to
eat, don't we?"

Charlie, to whom this remonstrance was addressed, replied, "Well, of
course we can raise some garden truck, and I suppose we can buy bacon
and flour cheaper in Missouri than here."

"Then there's the game," interrupted Oscar and Sandy, both in one
breath. "Governor Robinson's book says that the country is swarming
with game," added Sandy, excitedly.

The boys had devoured a little book by Mr. Robinson, the free-State
Governor of Kansas, in which the richness of the Promised Land was
glowingly set forth.

"Much time we shall have to shoot buffaloes and antelope when we are
breaking up the sod and planting corn," Mr. Howell answered with a
shade of sarcasm in his voice.

"And we may have to fire at bigger game than either of those," added
Mr. Bryant, grimly.

"Border Ruffians?" asked Sandy, with a feeble attempt at a grin. His
mother shuddered and hastily went out of the room. The Kansas scheme
seemed no longer pleasant to her, when she read the dreadful stories
of violence and bloodshed with which some of the Western newspapers
were teeming. But it was settled that most of the tools needed for
farming could be bought better in Missouri than in Illinois; the long
haul would be saved, and the horses with which they were to start
could be exchanged for oxen to good advantage when they reached "the
river." They had already adopted the common phrase, "the river," for
the Missouri River, then generally used by people emigrating
westward.

"But perhaps the Missourians will not sell you anything when they know
that you are free-State men," suggested Mrs. Bryant, timidly, for this
was a family council.

"Oh, well," answered Mr. Howell, sturdily, "I'll risk that. I never
saw a man yet with anything to sell who wouldn't sell it when the
money was shaken in his face. The newspapers paint those border men
pretty black, I know; but if they stop to ask a man's politics before
they make a bargain with him, they must be queer cattle. They are more
than human or less than human, not Americans at all, if they do
business in that way." In the end they found that Mr. Howell was
entirely right.

All was settled at last, and that, too, in some haste, for the season
was rapidly advancing when planting must be attended to, if they were
to plant that year for the fall harvest. From the West they heard
reports of hosts of people pouring into the new Territory, of land
being in great demand, and of the best claims near the Missouri being
taken by early emigrants. They must be in a hurry if they were to get
a fair chance with the rest and a fair start on their farm,--a farm
yet existing only in their imagination.

Their wagon, well stored with clothing and provisions, a few books,
Oscar's violin, a medicine chest, powder, shot, and rifle-balls, and
an assortment of odds and ends,--the wagon, so long a magical
repository of hopes and the most delightful anticipations, was ready
at last. It stood at the side gate of Mr. Bryant's home, with a "spike
team" (two horses at the pole, and one horse for a leader) harnessed.
It was a serious, almost solemn, moment. Now that the final parting
had come, the wrench with which the two families were to be broken up
seemed harder than any of the members had expected. The two mothers,
bravely keeping up smiling faces, went about the final touches of
preparations for the lads' departure and the long journey of their
husbands.

Mr. Howell mounted the wagon with Sandy by his side; Mr. Bryant took
his seat with the other two boys in an open buggy, which they were to
drive to "the river" and there trade for a part of their outfit. Fond
and tearful kisses had been exchanged and farewells spoken. They drove
off into the West. The two women stood at the gate, gazing after them
with tear-dimmed eyes as long as they were in sight; and when the
little train disappeared behind the first swale of the prairie, they
burst into tears and went into the house which was now left unto them
desolate.

It was a quiet party that drove over the prairie that bright and
beautiful morning. The two boys in the buggy spoke occasionally in
far-off-sounding voices about indifferent things that attracted their
attention as they drove along. Mr. Howell held the reins, with a
certain stern sense of duty on his dark and handsome face. Sandy sat
silently by his side, the big tears coursing down his freckled
cheeks.



CHAPTER III.

ON THE DISPUTED TERRITORY.


The straggling, unkempt, and forlorn town of Parkville, Missouri, was
crowded with strangers when the emigrants arrived there after a long
and toilsome drive through Iowa. They had crossed the Mississippi from
Illinois into Iowa, at Fulton, on the eastern shore, and after
stopping to rest for a day or two in Clinton, a pretty village on the
opposite bank, had pushed on, their faces ever set westward. Then,
turning in a southwesterly direction, they travelled across the lower
part of the State, and almost before they knew it they were on the
sacred soil of Missouri, the dangers of entering which had been
pictured to them all along the route. They had been warned by the
friendly settlers in Iowa to avoid St. Joseph, one of the crossings
from Missouri into Kansas; it was a nest of Border Ruffians, so they
were told, and they would surely have trouble. They must also steer
clear of Leavenworth; for that town was the headquarters of a number
of Missourians whose names were already terrible all over the Northern
States, from Kansas to Massachusetts Bay.

"But there is the military at Fort Leavenworth," replied Mr. Bryant.
"Surely they will protect the citizens of the United States who are
peaceful and well-behaved. We are only peaceable immigrants."

"Pshaw!" answered an Iowa man. "All the army officers in this part of
the country are pro-slavery men. They are in sympathy with the
pro-slavery men, anyhow, and if they had been sent here to keep
free-State men out of the Territory, they couldn't do any different
from what they are doing. It's an infernal shame, that's what it is."

Bryant said nothing in reply, but as they trudged along, for the roads
were very bad, and they could not often ride in their vehicles now,
his face grew dark and red by turns. Finally he broke out,--

"See here, Aleck," he cried, "I don't want to sneak into the
Territory. If these people think they can scare law-abiding and
peaceable citizens of a free country from going upon the land of these
United States, we might just as well fight first as last. For one, I
will not be driven out of a country that I have got just as much right
to as any of these hot-headed Missouri fellows."

His brother-in-law looked troubled, but before he could speak the
impetuous and fiery Sandy said: "That's the talk, Uncle Charlie!
Let's go in by the shortest way, and tackle the Border Ruffians if
they tackle us. Who's afraid?" And the lad bravely handled his
"pepper-box," as his old-fashioned five-barrelled revolver was
sportively called by the men of those days; for the modern revolver
with one barrel for all the chambers of the weapon had not then come
into use. "Who's afraid?" he repeated fiercely, looking around.
Everybody burst out laughing, and the valorous Sandy looked rather
crestfallen.

"I am afraid, for one," said his father. "I want no fighting, no
bloodshed. I want to get into the Territory and get to work on our
claim, just as soon as possible; but if we can't get there without a
fight, why then, I'll fight. But I ain't seeking for no fight." When
Aleck Howell was excited, his grammar went to the four winds. His view
of the situation commended itself to the approval of Oscar, who said
he had promised his mother that he would avoid every appearance of
hostile intention, keep a civil tongue in his head, have his weapons
out of sight and his powder always dry.

The emigrants decided to go into Kansas by way of Parkville.

At Claybank, half-way between the Iowa line and the Missouri River,
they encountered a drover with a herd of cattle. He was eager to
dicker with the Kansas emigrants, and offered them what they
considered to be a very good bargain in exchanging oxen for their
horses. They were now near the Territory, and the rising prices of
almost everything that immigrants required warned them that they were
not far from the point where an outfit could no longer be bought at
any reasonable price. The boys were loth to part with their buggy;
for, although they had been often compelled to go afoot through some
of the worst roads in the States of Iowa and Missouri, they had clung
to the notion that they might have a pair of horses to take into the
Territory, and, while the buggy was left to them, they had a refuge in
times of weariness with walking; and these were rather frequent. The
wagon was exchanged for another, suitable for oxen.

The immigrants drove gayly into Parkville. They were in sight of the
Promised Land. The Big Muddy, as Missourians affectionately call the
turbid stream that gives name to their State, rolled sluggishly
between the Parkville shore and the low banks fringed with cottonwoods
that were the eastern boundary of Kansas. Looking across, they could
see long lines of white-covered wagons, level plains dotted with
tents, and the rising smoke of many fires, where people who had gone
in ahead of them were cooking their suppers; for they entered
Parkville late in the afternoon. It was a commonplace-looking view of
Kansas, after all, and not at all like what the lads had fancied it
would be. Sandy very emphatically expressed his disappointment.

"What would you have, Sandy?" asked his uncle, with some amusement.
"Did you expect to see wild honey dripping out of the cottonwoods and
sycamores, buffaloes and deer standing up and waiting to be shot at,
and a farm ready to be tilled?"

"Well," replied the boy, a little shamefacedly, "I didn't exactly
expect to see all those things; but somehow the country looks awful
flat and dull. Don't you think so?"

For answer, Mr. Bryant pointed out a line of blue slopes in the
distance. "Those are not very high hills, my boy, to be sure, but they
are on the rolling prairie beyond, and as soon as we get away from the
river we shall find a bluffy and diversified country, I'll warrant
you."

"Yes; don't you remember," broke in Oscar, eagerly, "Governor
Robinson's book told all about the rolling and undulating country of
the Territory, and the streams that run under high bluffs in some
places?"

Sandy admitted that this was true of the book; but he added, "Some
books do lie, though."

"Not Governor Robinson's book," commented his brother Charlie, with a
slight show of resentment. For Charlie had made a study of the reports
from the Promised Land.

But a more pressing matter was the attitude of the border-State men
toward the free-State emigrants, and the question of making the
necessary purchases for their farming scheme. Parkville was all alive
with people, and there were many border-State men among them. Some of
these regarded the newcomers with unmistakable hostility, noting
which, Sandy and Oscar took good care to keep near their two grown-up
protectors; and the two men always went about with their weapons
within easy reaching distance. All of the Borderers were opposed to
any more free-State men going into the Territory; and many of them
were disposed to stop this by force, if necessary. At one time, the
situation looked very serious, and Sandy got his "pepper-box" into
position. But the trouble passed away, and the arrival of fifteen or
twenty teams, accompanied by a full complement of men, checked a
rising storm of wrath.

From Platte City, a short distance up the river, however, came doleful
and distressing stories of the ill-treatment of the free-State men who
had gone that way. They were harassed and hindered, and, in some
cases, their teams were deliberately turned about and driven back on
the road by which they had come. It was useless to remonstrate when
the rifles of a dozen men were levelled at the would-be immigrants.
But our travellers in Parkville heard a good story of the bravery of
one free-State man who had been refused transportation across the
ferry at Platte City, kept by an ardent pro-slavery man. The intending
immigrant, unconscious of any hindrance to his crossing, was calmly
driving down to the ferry-boat, a flat-bottomed craft propelled by
long oars, or sweeps, when the ferryman stopped him with the question,
"What hev ye got into yer waggin?"

"Oxen," sententiously replied the newcomer.

"And what's them thar cattle follering on behind?" he asked, pointing
to a drove of milch-cattle in the rear.

"Caouws," answered the immigrant, in the broad pronunciation peculiar
to provincial people of the New England States.

"All right," was the rejoinder; "a man that says 'caouws' can't go
over this yere ferry withouten he's got the tickets." No argument
would induce the ferryman to explain what the tickets were and where
they could be procured. Finally, his patience exhausted, the
free-State man suddenly drew from the big pockets of his frock a pair
of tremendous pistols, ready cocked, and, holding them full in the
face of the surprised ferryman, he said,--

"Here are my tickets, and I'm going across this ferry right off,
caouws or no caouws!" And he went.

Even at Parkville, where there was very little difficulty in crossing,
as compared with what there had been earlier in the struggle for
Kansas, they were advised by discreet friends and sympathizers to be
on the lookout for opposition. Every fresh arrival of free-State men
angered yet more the Borderers who were gathered there to hinder and,
if possible, prevent further immigration. Mr. Bryant chafed under the
necessity of keeping his voice hushed on the topic that engaged all
his thoughts; and Oscar and Sandy were ready to fight their way
across the river; at least they said so.

They did find, however, that the buying of provisions and farming-tools
required for their future use, was out of the question in Parkville.
Whether it was the unexpected demand, or a refusal of the Missourians
to sell to free-State men, they could not determine. But the prices of
everything they wanted were very high. What should they do? These
articles they must have. But their cost here was far beyond their
most extravagant estimates. When Mr. Howell was reminded by his
brother-in-law how he had said that no politics could interfere with
trade and prices, he was amused.

"Of course," he said, "it does look as if these Missourians would not
sell at fair prices because they want to hinder us; but don't you see
that the demand is greater than the supply? I know these folks are
bitterly hostile to us; but the reason why they have so small a stock
of goods on hand is that they have sold out to other free-State men
that have come before us to buy the same things. Isn't that so?"

Mr. Bryant was obliged to admit that this was a reasonable explanation;
but as he had begun by thinking that every Borderer hated a free-State
man and would do him an injury if he could, he did not give up that
notion willingly. He was certain that there was a plot in the high
prices of bacon, flour, corn-meal, and ploughs.

In this serious dilemma, Charlie came to the relief of the party with
the information that a free-State man, whose team had just recrossed
the river for a load of supplies sent him by a wagon that was to
return to Iowa, brought news that a large trading-post had been opened
at a new Kansas town called Quindaro. He said that the Iowa man told
him that prices were just now lower in Quindaro than they had ever
been in Parkville.

"Quindaro?" said Oscar, musingly;--"why, that must be an Indian
name,--feminine Indian name, too, unless I miss my guess."

Mr. Bryant had heard of Quindaro. It was a brand-new town, a few miles
down the river, settled by free-State men and named for a young,
full-blooded Indian girl of the Delaware tribe. The town was on the
borders of the Delaware reservation, which in those days came close to
the Missouri River. Charlie, also, had gathered some facts about the
town, and he added that Quindaro was a good place to start from, going
westward. The party had laid in a stock of groceries--coffee, tea, and
other articles of that description--before leaving home. Now they
needed staple provisions, a few farming tools, a breaking-plough, and
some seed corn. Few thought of planting anything but corn; but the
thrifty settlers from Illinois knew the value of fresh vegetables, and
they were resolved to have "garden truck" just as soon as seeds could
be planted and brought to maturity.

"And side-meat?" asked Sandy, wonderingly, as he heard his father
inquiring the price of that article of food. Side-meat, in the South
and West, is the thin flank of a porker, salted and smoked after the
fashion of hams, and in those parts of the Southwest it was (and
probably is) the staple article of food among the people. It is sold
in long, unattractive-looking slabs; and when Sandy heard its name
mentioned, his disgust as well as his wonder was kindled.

"Side-meat?" he repeated, with a rising inflection. "Why, I thought we
were going to live on game,--birds and buffalo and the like!
Side-meat? Well, that makes me sick!"

The two men laughed, and Mr. Howell said,--

"Why, Sandy, you are bent on hunting and not on buckling down to farm
work. How do you suppose we are going to live if we have nothing to
eat but wild game that we kill, and breadstuffs and vegetables that we
buy?"

Sandy had thought that they might be able to step out into the woods
or prairie, between times, as it were, and knock down a few head of
game when the day's work was done, or had not begun. When he said as
much, the two heads of the party laughed again, and even Charlie
joined in the glee.

"My dear infant," said his father, seriously, but with a twinkle in
his eye, "game is not so plenty anywhere as that; and if it were, we
should soon tire of it. Now side-meat 'sticks to the ribs,' as the
people hereabouts will tell you, and it is the best thing to fall back
upon when fresh meat fails. We can't get along without it, and that is
a fact; hey, Charlie?"

The rest of the party saw the wisdom of this suggestion, and Sandy was
obliged to give up, then and there, his glowing views of a land so
teeming with game that one had only to go out with a rifle, or even a
club, and knock it over. But he mischievously insisted that if
side-meat did "stick to the ribs," as the Missourians declared, they
did not eat much of it, for, as a rule, the people whom they met were
a very lank and slab-sided lot. "Clay-eaters," their new acquaintance
from Quindaro said they were.

"Clay-eaters?" asked Charlie, with a puzzled look. "They are
clayey-looking in the face. But it can't be possible that they
actually eat clay?"

"Well, they do, and I have seen them chewing it. There is a fine, soft
clay found in these parts, and more especially south of here; it has a
greasy feeling, as if it was a fatty substance, and the natives eat it
just as they would candy. Why, I should think that it would form a
sand-bar inside of a man, after awhile; but they take to it just as
naturally!"

"If I have got to choose between side-meat and clay for a regular
diet," said Sandy, "give me side-meat every time."

That night, having made their plans to avoid the prying eyes of the
border-State men, who in great numbers were now coming in, well-armed
and looking somewhat grimly at the free-State men, the little party
crossed the river. Ten dollars, good United States money, was demanded
by the ferryman as the price of their passage; it looked like robbery,
but there was no other way of getting over the river and into the
Promised Land; so it was paid, with many a wrench of the patience of
the indignant immigrants; and they pitched their tent that night under
the stars and slept soundly on the soil of "bleeding Kansas."

Bright and early next morning, the boys were up and stirring, for now
was to begin their camp life. Hitherto, they had slept in their tent,
but had taken their meals at the farm-houses and small taverns of the
country through which they had passed. They would find few such
conveniences in the new country into which they had come, and they had
been warned that in Kansas the rule was "every man for himself."

They made sad work with their first breakfast in camp. Oscar had taken
a few lessons in cooking from his mother, before leaving home, and the
two men had had some experience in that line of duty when out on
hunting expeditious in Illinois, years before. So they managed to make
coffee, fry slices of side-meat, and bake a hoe-cake of Indian-corn
meal. "Hog and hominy," said Sandy's father. "That's the diet of the
country, and that is what we shall come to, and we might as well take
it first as last."

"There's worse provender than this, where there's none," said Mr.
Bryant, cheerfully; "and before we get through we shall be hungry more
than once for hog and hominy."

It was an enlivening sight that greeted the eyes of the newcomers as
they looked around upon the flat prairie that stretched along the
river-side. The tents of the immigrants glistened in the rising sun.
The smoke of many camp-fires arose on the summer air. Groups of men
were busily making preparations for their long tramp westward, and,
here and there, women and children were gathered around the
white-topped wagons, taking their early breakfast or getting ready for
the day's march. Here, too, could now be seen the rough and
surly-looking border men who were on the way to points along the route
that were to be occupied by them before too many free-State men should
come in. An election of some sort, the newcomers could not exactly
make out what, was to take place in a day or two, and the Missourians
whom they had seen flocking into Parkville were ready to vote as soon
as they got into the Territory.

Breakfast over, the boys sauntered around through the camps, viewing
the novel sights with vast amusement. It was like a militia muster at
home, except that the only soldier element they saw was the band of
rough-looking and rough-talking men who were bound to vote and fight
for slavery. They swaggered about with big pistols girt at their hips
and rifles over their shoulders, full-bearded and swarthy, each one a
captain apparently, all without much organization, but very serious in
their intention to vote and to fight. It really seemed as if they had
reached the fighting-ground at last.

"See here, daddy," said Oscar, as he came in from the camps when the
Dixon caravan was ready to move; "see what I found in this newspaper.
It is a piece of poetry, and a mighty fine piece, too"; and the boy
began to read some lines beginning thus,--

                 "We cross the prairie as of old
                   The pilgrims crossed the sea,
                 To make the West, as they the East,
                   The homestead of the free!"

"Oh, well; I can't bother about poetry, now," said the father,
hastily. "I have some prose work on hand, just about this time. I'm
trying to drive these pesky cattle, and I don't make a very good fist
at it. Your Uncle Aleck has gone on ahead, and left me to manage the
team; but it's new business to me."

"John G. Whittier is the name at the top of these verses. I've heard
of him. He's a regular-built poet,--lives somewhere down East."

"I can't help that, sonny; get on the other side of those steers, and
see if you can't gee them around. Dear, dear, they're dreadful
obstinate creatures!"

That night, however, when they were comfortably and safely camped in
Quindaro, amid the live-oaks and the tall sycamores that embowered the
pretty little town, Oscar again brought the newspaper to his father,
and, with kindling eyes, said,--

"Read it out, daddy; read the piece. Why, it was written just for us,
I do declare. It is called 'The Kansas Emigrants.' We are Kansas
Emigrants, aren't we?"

The father smiled kindly as he looked at the flushed face and bright
eyes of his boy, and took from him the paper folded to show the
verses. As he read, his eyes, too, flashed and his lip trembled.

"Listen to this!" he cried. "Listen to this! It is like a trumpet
call!" And with a voice quivering with emotion, he began the poem,--

                 "We cross the prairie as of old
                   The pilgrims crossed the sea,
                 To make the West, as they the East,
                   The homestead of the free!"

"Something has got into my eyes," said Mr. Howell, as the last stanza
was read. "Great Scott! though, how that does stir a man's blood!" And
he furtively wiped the moisture from his eyes. It was time to put out
the light and go to sleep, for the night now was well advanced. But
Mr. Bryant, thoroughly aroused, read and re-read the lines aloud.

[Illustration: IN CAMP AT QUINDARO. THE POEM OF "THE KANSAS EMIGRANTS."]

"Sing 'em," said his brother-in-law, jokingly. Bryant was a good
singer, and he at once tuned up with a fine baritone voice, recalling
a familiar tune that fitted the measure of the poem.

"Oh, come now, Uncle Charlie," cried Sandy, from his blankets in the
corner of the tent, "that's 'Old Dundee.' Can't you give us something
lively? Something not quite so solemn?"

"Not so solemn, my laddie? Don't you know that this is a solemn age we
are in, and a very solemn business we are on? You'll think so before
we get out of this Territory, or I am greatly mistaken."

"Sandy'll think it's solemn, when he has to trot over a piece of newly
broken prairie, carrying a pouchful of seed corn, dropping five grains
in each sod," said his father, laughing, as he blew out the candle.

"It's a good song; a bully good song," murmured the boy, turning over
to sleep. "But it ought to be sung to something with more of a
rig-a-jig-jig to it." So saying, he was off to the land of dreams.



CHAPTER IV.

AMONG THE DELAWARES.


Quindaro was a straggling but pretty little town built among the
groves of the west bank of the Missouri. Here the emigrants found a
store or trading-post, well supplied with the goods they needed,
staple articles of food and the heavier farming-tools being the first
required. The boys looked curiously at the big breaking-plough that
was to be of so much consequence to them in their new life and labors.
The prairies around their Illinois home had been long broken up when
they were old enough to take notice of such things; and as they were
town boys, they had never had their attention called to the implements
of a prairie farm.

"It looks like a plough that has been sat down on and flattened out,"
was Oscar's remark, after they had looked the thing over very
critically. It had a long and massive beam, or body, and big, strong
handles, suggestive of hard work to be done with it. "The nose," as
Sandy called the point of the share, was long, flat, and as sharp as a
knife. It was this thin and knife-like point that was to cut into the
virgin turf of the prairie, and, as the sod was cut, the share was to
turn it over, bottom side up, while the great, heavy implement was
drawn along by the oxen.

"But the sod is so thick and tough," said Oscar, "I don't see how the
oxen can drag the thing through. Will our three yoke of cattle do
it?"

The two men looked at each other and smiled. This had been a subject
of much anxious thought with them. They had been told that they would
have difficulty in breaking up the prairie with three yoke of oxen;
they should have four yoke, certainly. So when Mr. Howell explained
that they must get another yoke and then rely on their being able to
"change work" with some of their neighbors who might have cattle, the
boys laughed outright.

"Neighbors!" cried Sandy. "Why, I didn't suppose we should have any
neighbors within five or ten miles. Did you, Oscar? I was in hopes we
wouldn't have neighbors to plague us with their pigs and chickens, and
their running in to borrow a cupful of molasses, or last week's
newspaper. Neighbors!" and the boy's brown face wore an expression of
disgust.

"Don't you worry about neighbors, Sandy," said his uncle. "Even if we
have any within five miles of us, we shall do well. But if there is to
be any fighting, we shall want neighbors to join forces with us, and
we shall find them handy, anyhow, in case of sickness or trouble. We
cannot get along in a new country like this without neighbors, and
you bear that in mind, Master Sandy."

The two leaders of this little flock had been asking about the
prospects for taking up claims along the Kansas River, or the Kaw, as
that stream was then generally called. To their great dismay, they had
found that there was very little vacant land to be had anywhere near
the river. They would have to push on still further westward if they
wished to find good land ready for the pre-emptor. Rumors of fighting
and violence came from the new city of Lawrence, the chief settlement
of the free-State men, on the Kaw; and at Grasshopper Falls, still
further to the west, the most desirable land was already taken up, and
there were wild stories of a raid on that locality being planned by
bands of Border Ruffians. They were in a state of doubt and
uncertainty.

"There she is! There she is!" said Charlie, in a loud whisper, looking
in the direction of a tall, unpainted building that stood among the
trees that embowered the little settlement. Every one looked and saw a
young lady tripping along through the hazel brush that still covered
the ground. She was rather stylishly dressed, "citified," Oscar said;
she swung a beaded work-bag as she walked.

"Who is it? Who is it?" asked Oscar, breathlessly. She was the first
well-dressed young lady he had seen since leaving Iowa.

"Sh-h-h-h!" whispered Charlie. "That's Quindaro. A young fellow
pointed her out to me last night, just after we drove into the
settlement. She lives with her folks in that tall, thin house up
there. I have been looking for her to come out. See, she's just going
into the post-office now."

"Quindaro!" exclaimed Sandy. "Why, I thought Quindaro was a squaw."

"She's a full-blooded Delaware Indian girl, that's what she is, and
she was educated somewhere East in the States; and this town is named
for her. She owns all the land around here, and is the belle of the
place."

"She's got on hoop-skirts, too," said Oscar. "Just think of an Indian
girl--a squaw--wearing hoops, will you?" For all this happened, my
young reader must remember, when women's fashions were very different
from what they now are. Quindaro--that is to say, the young Indian
lady of that time--was dressed in the height of fashion, but not in
any way obtrusively. Charlie, following with his eyes the young girl's
figure, as she came out of the post-office and went across the ravine
that divided the settlement into two equal parts, mirthfully said,
"And only think! That is a full-blooded Delaware Indian girl!"

But, their curiosity satisfied, the boys were evidently disappointed
with their first view of Indian civilization. There were no blanketed
Indians loafing around in the sun and sleeping under the shelter of
the underbrush, as they had been taught to expect to see them. Outside
of the settlement, men were ploughing and planting, breaking prairie,
and building cabins; and while our party were looking about them, a
party of Delawares drove into town with several ox-carts to carry away
the purchases that one of their number had already made. It was
bewildering to boys who had been brought up on stories of Black Hawk,
the Prophet, and the Sacs and Foxes of Illinois and Wisconsin. A
Delaware Indian, clad in the ordinary garb of a Western farmer and
driving a yoke of oxen, and employing the same curious lingo used by
the white farmers, was not a picturesque object.

"I allow that sixty dollars is a big price to pay for a yoke of
cattle," said Mr. Howell, anxiously. He was greatly concerned about
the new purchase that must be made here, according to the latest
information. "We might have got them for two-thirds of that money back
in Illinois. And you know that Iowa chap only reckoned the price of
these at forty-five, when we traded with him at Jonesville."

"It's no use worrying about that now, Aleck," said his brother-in-law.
"I know you thought then that we should need four yoke for breaking
the prairie; but, then, you weren't certain about it, and none of the
rest of us ever had any sod-ploughing to do."

"No, none of us," said Sandy, with delightful gravity; at which
everybody smiled. One would have thought that Sandy was a veteran in
everything but farming.

"I met a man this morning, while I was prowling around the settlement,"
said Charlie, "who said that there was plenty of vacant land, of
first-rate quality, up around Manhattan. Where's that, father--do you
know? _He_ didn't, but some other man, one of the New England
Society fellows, told him so."

But nobody knew where Manhattan was. This was the first time they had
ever heard of the place. The cattle question was first to be disposed
of, however, and as soon as the party had finished their breakfast,
the two men and Charlie sallied out through the settlement to look up
a bargain. Oscar and Sandy were left in the camp to wash the dishes
and "clean up," a duty which both of them despised with a hearty
hatred.

"If there's anything I just fairly abominate, it's washing dishes,"
said Sandy, seating himself on the wagon-tongue and discontentedly
eyeing a huge tin pan filled with tin plates and cups, steaming in the
hot water that Oscar had poured over them from the camp-kettle.

"Well, that's part of the play," answered Oscar, pleasantly. "It isn't
boy's work, let alone man's work, to be cooking and washing dishes. I
wonder what mother would think to see us at it?" And a suspicious
moisture gathered in the lad's eyes, as a vision of his mother's tidy
kitchen in far-off Illinois rose before his mind. Sandy looked very
solemn.

"But, as daddy says, it's no use worrying about things you can't
help," continued the cheerful Oscar; "so here goes, Sandy. You wash,
and I'll dry 'em." And the two boys went on with their disagreeable
work so heartily that they soon had it out of the way; Sandy remarking
as they finished it, that, for his part, he did not like the business
at all, but he did not think it fair that they two, who could not do
the heavy work, should grumble over that they could do. "The worst of
it is," he added, "we've got to look forward to months and months of
this sort of thing. Father and Uncle Charlie say that we cannot have
the rest of the family come out until we have a house to put them
in--a log-cabin, they mean, of course; and Uncle Charlie says that we
may not get them out until another spring. I don't believe he will be
willing for them to come out until he knows whether the Territory is
to be slave or free. Do you, Oscar?"

"No, indeed," said Oscar. "Between you and me, Sandy, I don't want to
go back to Illinois again, for anything; but I guess father will make
up his mind about staying only when we find out if there is to be a
free-State government or not. Dear me, why can't the Missourians keep
out of here and let us alone?"

"It's a free country," answered Sandy, sententiously. "That's what
Uncle Charlie is always saying. The Missourians have just as good a
right here as we have."

"But they have no right to be bringing in their slavery with 'em,"
replied the other. "That wouldn't be a free country, would it, with
one man owning another man? Not much."

"That's beyond me, Oscar. I suppose it's a free country only for the
white man to come to. But I haven't any politics in me. Hullo! there
comes the rest of us driving a yoke of oxen. Well, on my word, they
have been quick about it. Uncle Charlie is a master hand at hurrying
things, I will say," added Sandy, admiringly. "He's done all the
trading, I'll be bound!"

"Fifty-five dollars," replied Bryant, to the boys' eager inquiry as to
the price paid for the yoke of oxen. "Fifty-five dollars, and not so
very dear, after all, considering that there are more people who want
to buy than there are who want to sell."

"And now we are about ready to start; only a few more provisions to
lay in. Suppose we get away by to-morrow morning?"

"Oh, that's out of the question, Uncle Aleck," said Oscar. "What makes
you in such a hurry? Why, you have all along said we need not get away
from here for a week yet, if we did not want to; the grass hasn't
fairly started yet, and we cannot drive far without feed for the
cattle. Four yoke, too," he added proudly.

"The fact is, Oscar," said his father, lowering his voice and looking
around as if to see whether anybody was within hearing distance, "we
have heard this morning that there was a raid on this place threatened
from Kansas City, over the border. This is the free-State headquarters
in this part of the country, and it has got about that the store here
is owned and run by the New England Emigrant Aid Society. So they are
threatening to raid the place, burn the settlement, run off the stock,
and loot the settlers. I should like to have a company of resolute men
to defend the place," and Mr. Bryant's eyes flashed; "but this is not
our home, nor our fight, and I'm willing to 'light out' right off, or
as soon as we get ready."

"Will they come to-night, do you think?" asked Sandy, and his big blue
eyes looked very big indeed. "Because we can't get off until we have
loaded the wagon and fixed the wheels; you said they must be greased
before we travelled another mile, you know."

It was agreed, however, that there was no immediate danger of the
raid--certainly not that night; but all felt that it was the part of
prudence to be ready to start at once; the sooner, the better. When
the boys went to their blankets that night, they whispered to each
other that the camp might be raided and so they should be ready for
any assault that might come. Sandy put his "pepper-box" under his
pillow, and Charlie had his trusty rifle within reach. Oscar carried
a double-barrelled shot-gun of which he was very proud, and that
weapon, loaded with buckshot, was laid carefully by the side of his
blankets. The two elders of the party "slept with one eye open," as
they phrased it. But there was no alarm through the night, except once
when Mr. Howell got up and went out to see how the cattle were getting
on. He found that one of the sentinels who had been set by the
Quindaro Company in consequence of the scare, had dropped asleep on
the wagon-tongue of the Dixon party. Shaking him gently, he awoke the
sleeping sentinel, who at once bawled, "Don't shoot!" to the great
consternation of the nearest campers, who came flying out of their
blankets to see what was the matter. When explanations had been made,
all laughed, stretched themselves, and then went to bed again to dream
of Missouri raiders.

The sun was well up in the sky next day, when the emigrants, having
completed their purchases, yoked their oxen and drove up through the
settlement and ascended the rolling swale of land that lay beyond the
groves skirting the river. Here were camps of other emigrants who had
moved out of Quindaro before them, or had come down from the point on
the Missouri opposite Parkville, in order to get on to the road that
led westward and south of the Kaw. It was a beautifully wooded
country. When the lads admired the trees, Mr. Howell somewhat
contemptuously said: "Not much good, chiefly black-jacks and
scrub-oaks"; but the woods were pleasant to drive through, and when
they came upon scattered farms and plantations with comfortable
log-cabins set in the midst of cultivated fields, the admiration of
the party was excited.

"Only look, Uncle Charlie," cried Sandy, "there's a real flower-garden
full of hollyhocks and marigolds; and there's a rose-bush climbing
over that log-cabin!" It was too early to distinguish one flower from
another by its blooms, but Sandy's sharp eyes had detected the leaves
of the old-fashioned flowers that he loved so well, which he knew were
only just planted in the farther northern air of their home in
Illinois. It was a pleasant-looking Kansas home, and Sandy wondered
how it happened that this cosey living-place had grown up so quickly
in this new Territory. It looked as if it were many years old, he
said.

"We are still on the Delaware Indian reservation," replied his uncle.
"The Government has given the tribe a big tract of land here and away
up to the Kaw. They've been here for years, and they are good farmers,
I should say, judging from the looks of things hereabouts."

Just then, as if to explain matters, a decent-looking man, dressed in
the rude fashion of the frontier, but in civilized clothes, came out
of the cabin, and, pipe in mouth, stared not unkindly at the passing
wagon and its party.

"Howdy," he civilly replied to a friendly greeting from Mr. Howell.
The boys knew that "How" was a customary salutation among Indians, but
"Howdy" struck them as being comic; Sandy laughed as he turned away
his face. Mr. Bryant lingered while the slow-moving oxen plodded their
way along the road, and the boys, too, halted to hear what the
dark-skinned man had to say. But the Indian--for he was a "civilized"
Delaware--was a man of very few words. In answer to Mr. Bryant's
questions, he said he was one of the chiefs of the tribe; he had been
to Washington to settle the terms of an agreement with the Government;
and he had lived in that cabin six years, and on the present
reservation ever since it was established.

All this information came out reluctantly, and with as little use of
vital breath as possible. When they had moved on out of earshot, Oscar
expressed his decided opinion that that settler was no more like James
Fenimore Cooper's Indians than the lovely Quindaro appeared to be.
"Why, did you notice, father," he continued, "that he actually had on
high-heeled boots? Think of that! An Indian with high-heeled boots!
Why, in Cooper's novels they wear moccasins, and some of them go
barefoot. These Indians are not worthy of the name."

"You will see more of the same sort before we get to the river," said
his father. "They have a meeting-house up yonder, by the fork of the
road, I am told. And, seeing that this is our first day out of camp on
the last stage of our journey, suppose we stop for dinner at Indian
John's, Aleck? It will be a change from camp-fare, and they say that
John keeps a good table."

To the delight of the lads, it was agreed that they should make the
halt as suggested, and noon found them at a very large and comfortable
"double cabin," as these peculiar structures are called. Two
log-cabins are built, end to end, with one roof covering the two. The
passage between them is floored over, and affords an open shelter from
rain and sun, and in hot weather is the pleasantest place about the
establishment. Indian John's cabin was built of hewn logs, nicely
chinked in with slivers, and daubed with clay to keep out the wintry
blasts. As is the manner of the country, one of the cabins was used
for the rooms of the family, while the dining-room and kitchen were in
the other end of the structure. Indian John regularly furnished dinner
to the stage passengers going westward from Quindaro; for a public
conveyance, a "mud-wagon," as it was called, had been put on this part
of the road.

"What a tuck-out I had!" said Sandy, after a very bountiful and
well-cooked dinner had been disposed of by the party. "And who would
have supposed we should ever sit down to an Indian's table and eat
fried chicken, ham and eggs, and corn-dodger, from a regular set of
blue-and-white plates, and drink good coffee from crockery cups? It
just beats Father Dixon's Indian stories all to pieces."

Oscar and Charlie, however, were disposed to think very lightly of
this sort of Indian civilization. Oscar said: "If these red men were
either one thing or the other, I wouldn't mind it. But they have shed
the gaudy trappings of the wild Indian, and their new clothes do not
fit very well. As Grandfather Bryant used to say, they are neither
fish nor flesh, nor good red herring. They are a mighty uninteresting
lot."

"Well, they are on the way to a better state of things than they have
known, anyhow," said Charlie. "The next generation will see them
higher up, I guess. But I must say that these farms don't look very
thrifty, somehow. Indians are a lazy lot; they don't like work. Did
you notice how all those big fellows at dinner sat down with us and
the stage passengers, and the poor women had to wait on everybody?
That's Indian."

Uncle Charlie laughed, and said that the boys had expected to find
civilized Indians waiting on the table, decked out with paint and
feathers, and wearing deerskin leggings and such like.

"Wait until we get out on the frontier," said he, "and then you will
see wild Indians, perhaps, or 'blanket Indians,' anyhow."

"Blanket Indians?" said Sandy, with an interrogation point in his
face.

"Yes; that's what the roving and unsettled bands are called by white
folks. Those that are on reservations and earning their own living, or
a part of it,--for the Government helps them out considerably,--are
called town Indians; those that live in wigwams, or tepees, and rove
from place to place, subsisting on what they can catch, are blanket
Indians. They tell me that there are wild Indians out on the western
frontier. But they are not hostile; at least, they were not, at last
accounts. The Cheyennes have been rather uneasy, they say, since the
white settlers began to pour into the country. Just now I am more
concerned about the white Missourians than I am about the red
aborigines."

They were still on the Delaware reservation when they camped that
evening, and the boys went into the woods to gather fuel for their
fire.

They had not gone far, when Sandy gave a wild whoop of alarm, jumping
about six feet backward as he yelled, "A rattlesnake!" Sure enough, an
immense snake was sliding out from under a mass of brush that the boy
had disturbed as he gathered an armful of dry branches and twigs.
Dropping his burden, Sandy shouted, "Kill him! Kill him, quick!"

The reptile was about five feet long, very thick, and of a dark
mottled color. Instantly, each lad had armed himself with a big stick
and had attacked him. The snake, stopped in his attempt to get away,
turned, and opening his ugly-looking mouth, made a curious blowing
noise, half a hiss and half a cough, as Charlie afterward described
it.

"Take care, Sandy! He'll spring at you, and bite you in the face! See!
He's getting ready to spring!"

And, indeed, the creature, frightened, and surrounded by the agile,
jumping boys, each armed with a club, seemed ready to defend his life
with the best weapons at his command. The boys, excited and alarmed,
were afraid to come near the snake, and were dancing about, waiting
for a chance to strike, when they were startled by a shot from behind
them, and the snake, making one more effort to turn on himself,
shuddered and fell dead.

Mr. Howell, hearing the shouting of the boys, had run out of the camp,
and with a well-directed rifle shot had laid low the reptile.

"It's only a blow-snake," he said, taking the creature by the tail and
holding it up to view. "He's harmless. Well! Of course a dead snake is
harmless, but when he was alive he was not the sort of critter to be
afraid of. I thought you had encountered a bear, at the very least, by
the racket you made."

"He's a big fellow, anyhow," said Oscar, giving the snake a kick, "and
Sandy said he was a rattlesnake. I saw a rattler once when we lived in
Dixon. Billy Everett and I found him down on the bluff below the
railroad; and he was spotted all over. Besides, this fellow hasn't any
rattles."

"The boys have been having a lesson in natural history, Charlie," said
Mr. Howell to his brother-in-law, as they returned with him to camp,
loaded with firewood; Sandy, boy-like, dragging the dead blow-snake
after him.



CHAPTER V.

TIDINGS FROM THE FRONT.


Supper was over, a camp-fire built (for the emigrants did their
cooking by a small camp-stove, and sat by the light of a fire on the
ground), when out of the darkness came sounds of advancing teams.
Oscar was playing his violin, trying to pick out a tune for the better
singing of Whittier's song of the Kansas Emigrants. His father raised
his hand to command silence. "That's a Yankee teamster, I'll be
bound," he said, as the "Woh-hysh! Woh-haw!" of the coming party fell
on his ear. "No Missourian ever talks to his cattle like that."

As he spoke, a long, low emigrant wagon, or "prairie schooner," drawn
by three yoke of dun-colored oxen, toiled up the road. In the wagon
was a faded-looking woman with two small children clinging to her.
Odds and ends of household furniture showed themselves over her head
from within the wagon, and strapped on behind was a coop of fowls,
from which came a melancholy cackle, as if the hens and chickens were
weary of their long journey. A man dressed in butternut-colored
homespun drove the oxen, and a boy about ten years old trudged behind
the driver. In the darkness behind these tramped a small herd of cows
and oxen driven by two other men, and a lad about the age of Oscar
Bryant. The new arrivals paused in the road, surveyed our friends from
Illinois, stopped the herd of cattle, and then the man who was driving
the wagon said, with an unmistakable New England twang, "Friends?"

"Friends, most assuredly," said Mr. Bryant, with a smile. "I guess you
have been having hard luck, you appear to be so suspicious."

"Well, we have, and that's a fact. But we're main glad to be able to
camp among friends. Jotham, unyoke the cattle after you have driven
them into the timber a piece." He assisted the woman and children to
get down from the wagon, and one of the cattle-drivers coming up,
drove the team into the woods a short distance, and the tired oxen
were soon lying down among the underbrush.

"Well, yes, we _have_ had a pretty hard time getting here. We are the
last free-State men allowed over the ferry at Parkville. Where be you
from?"

"We are from Lee County, Illinois," replied Mr. Bryant. "We came in by
the way of Parkville, too, a day or two ago; but we stopped at
Quindaro. Did you come direct from Parkville?"

[Illustration: THE YANKEE EMIGRANT.]

"Yes," replied the man. "We came up the river in the first place, on
the steamboat 'Black Eagle,' and when we got to Leavenworth, a big
crowd of Borderers, seeing us and another lot of free-State men on the
boat, refused to let us land. We had to go down the river again. The
captain of the boat kicked up a great fuss about it, and wanted to put
us ashore on the other side of the river; but the Missouri men
wouldn't have it. They put a 'committee,' as they called the two men,
on board the steamboat, and they made the skipper take us down the
river."

"How far down did you go?" asked Bryant, his face reddening with
anger.

"Well, we told the committee that we came through Ioway, and that to
Ioway we must go; so they rather let up on us, and set us ashore just
opposite Wyandotte. I was mighty 'fraid they'd make us swear we
wouldn't go back into Kansas some other way; but they didn't, and so
we stivered along the road eastwards after they set us ashore, and
then we fetched a half-circle around and got into Parkville."

"I shouldn't wonder if you bought those clothes that you have got on
at Parkville," said Mr. Howell, with a smile.

"You guess about right," said the sad-colored stranger. "A very nice
sort of a man we met at the fork of the road, as you turn off to go to
Parkville from the river road, told me that my clothes were too
Yankee. I wore 'em all the way from Woburn, Massachusetts, where we
came from, and I hated to give 'em up. But discretion is better than
valor, I have heern tell; so I made the trade, and here I am."

"We had no difficulty getting across at Parkville," said Mr. Bryant,
"except that we did have to go over in the night in a sneaking fashion
that I did not like."

"Well," answered the stranger, "as a special favor, they let us
across, seeing that we had had such hard luck. That's a nice-looking
fiddle you've got there, sonny," he abruptly interjected, as he took
Oscar's violin from his unwilling hand. "I used to play the fiddle
once, myself," he added. Then, drawing the bow over the strings in a
light and artistic manner, he began to play "Bonnie Doon."

"Come, John," his wife said wearily, "it's time the children were
under cover. Let go the fiddle until we've had supper."

John reluctantly handed back the violin, and the newcomers were soon
in the midst of their preparations for the night's rest. Later on in
the evening, John Clark, as the head of the party introduced himself,
came over to the Dixon camp, and gave them all the news. Clark was one
of those who had been helped by the New England Emigrant Aid Society,
an organization with headquarters in the Eastern States, and with
agents in the West. He had been fitted out at Council Bluffs, Iowa,
but for some unexplained reason had wandered down as far south as
Kansas City, and there had boarded the "Black Eagle" with his family
and outfit. One of the two men with him was his brother; the other
was a neighbor who had cast in his lot with him. The tall lad was John
Clark's nephew.

In one way or another, Clark had managed to pick up much gossip about
the country and what was going on. At Tecumseh, where they would be
due in a day or two if they continued on this road, an election for
county officers was to be held soon, and the Missourians were bound to
get in there and carry the election. Clark thought they had better not
go straight forward into danger. They could turn off, and go west by
way of Topeka.

"Why, that would be worse than going to Tecumseh," interjected
Charlie, who had modestly kept out of the discussion. "Topeka is the
free-State capital, and they say that there is sure to be a big battle
there, sooner or later."

But Mr. Bryant resolved that he would go west by the way of Tecumseh,
no matter if fifty thousand Borderers were encamped there. He asked
the stranger if he had in view any definite point; to which Clark
replied that he had been thinking of going up the Little Blue; he had
heard that there was plenty of good vacant land there, and the land
office would open soon. He had intended, he said, to go to Manhattan,
and start from there; but since they had been so cowardly as to change
the name of the place, he had "rather soured on it."

"Manhattan?" exclaimed Charlie, eagerly. "Where is that place? We have
asked a good many people, but nobody can tell us."

"Good reason why; they've gone and changed the name. It used to be
Boston, but the settlers around there were largely from Missouri. The
company were Eastern men, and when they settled on the name of Boston,
it got around that they were all abolitionists; and so they changed it
to Manhattan. Why they didn't call it New York, and be done with it,
is more than I can tell. But it was Boston, and it is Manhattan; and
that's all I want to know about _that_ place."

Mr. Bryant was equally sure that he did not want to have anything to
do with a place that had changed its name through fear of anybody or
anything.

Next day there was a general changing of minds, however. It was
Sunday, and the emigrants, a God-fearing and reverent lot of people,
did not move out of camp. Others had come in during the night, for
this was a famous camping-place, well known throughout all the region.
Here were wood, water, and grass, the three requisites for campers, as
they had already found. The country was undulating, interlaced with
creeks; and groves of black-jack, oak, and cottonwood were here and
there broken by open glades that would be smiling fields some day, but
were now wild native grasses.

There was a preacher in the camp, a good man from New England, who
preached about the Pilgrim's Progress through the world, and the
trials he meets by the way. Oscar pulled his father's sleeve, and
asked why he did not ask the preacher to give out "The Kansas
Emigrant's Song" as a hymn. Mr. Bryant smiled, and whispered that it
was hardly likely that the lines would be considered just the thing
for a religious service. But after the preaching was over, and the
little company was breaking up, he told the preacher what Oscar had
said. The minister's eyes sparkled, and he replied, "What? Have you
that beautiful hymn? Let us have it now and here. Nothing could be
better for this day and this time."

Oscar, blushing with excitement and native modesty, was put up high on
the stump of a tree, and, violin in hand, "raised the tune." It was
grand old "Dundee." Almost everybody seemed to know the words of
Whittier's poem, and beneath the blue Kansas sky, amid the groves of
Kansas trees, the sturdy, hardy men and the few pale women joyfully,
almost tearfully, sang,--

              We crossed the prairie, as of old
                The pilgrims crossed the sea,
              To make the West, as they the East,
                The homestead of the free!

              We go to rear a wall of men
                On freedom's Southern line,
              And plant beside the cotton-tree
                The rugged Northern pine!

              We're flowing from our native hills
                As our free rivers flow;
              The blessing of our Mother-land
                Is on us as we go.

              We go to plant her common schools
                On distant prairie swells,
              And give the Sabbaths of the wild
                The music of her bells.

              Upbearing, like the Ark of old,
                The Bible in our van,
              We go to test the truth of God
                Against the fraud of man.

              No pause, nor rest, save where the streams
                That feed the Kansas run,
              Save where our pilgrim gonfalon
                Shall flout the setting sun!

              We'll tread the prairie as of old
                Our fathers sailed the sea,
              And make the West, as they the East,
                The homestead of the free!

"It was good to be there," said Alexander Howell, his hand resting
lovingly on Oscar's shoulder, as they went back to camp. But Oscar's
father said never a word. His face was turned to the westward, where
the sunlight was fading behind the hills of the far-off frontier of
the Promised Land.

[Illustration: OSCAR WAS PUT UP HIGH ON THE STUMP OF A TREE, AND, VIOLIN
IN HAND, "RAISED THE TUNE."]

The general opinion gathered that day was that they who wanted to
fight for freedom might better go to Lawrence, or to Topeka. Those who
were bent on finding homes for themselves and little ones should press
on further to the west, where there was land in plenty to be had for
the asking, or, rather, for the pre-empting. So, when Monday morning
came, wet, murky, and depressing, Bryant surrendered to the counsels
of his brother-in-law and the unspoken wish of the boys, and agreed to
go on to the newly-surveyed lands on the tributaries of the Kaw. They
had heard good reports of the region lying westward of Manhattan and
Fort Riley. The town that had changed its name was laid out at the
confluence of the Kaw and the Big Blue. Fort Riley was some eighteen
or twenty miles to the westward, near the junction of the streams that
form the Kaw, known as Smoky Hill Fork and the Republican Fork. On one
or the other of these forks, the valleys of which were said to be
fertile and beautiful beyond description, the emigrants would find a
home. So, braced and inspired by the consciousness of having a
definite and settled plan, the Dixon party set forth on Monday
morning, through the rain and mist, with faces to the westward.



CHAPTER VI.

WESTWARD HO!


The following two or three days were wet and uncomfortable. Rain fell
in torrents at times, and when it did not rain the ground was steamy,
and the emigrants had a hard time to find spots dry enough on which to
make up their beds at night. This was no holiday journey, and the
boys, too proud to murmur, exchanged significant nods and winks when
they found themselves overtaken by the discomforts of camping and
travelling in the storm. For the most part, they kept in camp during
the heaviest of the rain. They found that the yokes of the oxen chafed
the poor animals' necks when wet.

And then the mud! Nobody had ever seen such mud, they thought, not
even on the black and greasy fat lands of an Illinois prairie.
Sometimes the wagon sunk in the road, cut up by innumerable wheels, so
that the hubs of their wheels were almost even with the surface, and
it was with the greatest difficulty that their four yoke of oxen
dragged the wagon from its oozy bed. At times, too, they were obliged
to unhitch their team and help out of a mud-hole some other less
fortunate brother wayfarer, whose team was not so powerful as their
own.

One unlucky day, fording a narrow creek with steep banks, they had
safely got across, when they encountered a slippery incline up which
the oxen could not climb; it was "as slippery as a glare of ice,"
Charlie said, and the struggling cattle sank nearly to their knees in
their frantic efforts to reach the top of the bank. The wagon had been
"blocked up," that is to say, the wagon-box raised in its frame or bed
above the axles, with blocks driven underneath, to lift it above the
level of the stream. As the vehicle was dragged out of the creek, the
leading yoke of cattle struggling up the bank and then slipping back
again, the whole team of oxen suddenly became panic-stricken, as it
were, and rushed back to the creek in wild confusion. The wagon
twisted upon itself, and cramped together, creaked, groaned, toppled,
and fell over in a heap, its contents being shot out before and behind
into the mud and water.

"Great Scott!" yelled Sandy. "Let me stop those cattle!" Whereupon the
boy dashed through the water, and, running around the hinder end of
the wagon, he attempted to head off the cattle. But the animals,
having gone as far as they could without breaking their chains or the
wagon-tongue, which fortunately held, stood sullenly by the side of
the wreck they had made, panting with their exertions.

"Here is a mess!" said his father; but, without more words, he
unhitched the oxen and drove them up the bank. The rest of the party
hastily picked up the articles that were drifting about, or were
lodged in the mud of the creek. It was a sorry sight, and the boys
forgot, in the excitement of the moment, the discomforts and
annoyances of their previous experiences. This was a real misfortune.

But while Oscar and Sandy were excitedly discussing what was next to
be done, Mr. Howell took charge of things; the wagon was righted, and
a party of emigrants, camped in a grove of cottonwoods just above the
ford, came down with ready offers of help. Eight yoke of cattle
instead of four were now hitched to the wagon, and, to use the
expressive language of the West, the outfit was "snaked" out of the
hole in double-quick time.

"Ho, ho, ho! Uncle Charlie," laughed Sandy, "you look as if you had
been dragged through a slough. You are just painted with mud from top
to toe. Well, I never did see such a looking scarecrow!"

"It's lucky you haven't any looking-glass here, young Impudence. If
you could see your mother's boy now, you wouldn't know him. Talk about
looks! Take a look at the youngster, mates," said Uncle Charlie,
bursting into a laugh. A general roar followed the look, for Sandy's
appearance was indescribable. In his wild rush through the waters of
the creek, he had covered himself from head to foot, and the mud from
the wagon had painted his face a brilliant brown; for there is more or
less of red oxide of iron in the mud of Kansas creeks.

It was a doleful party that pitched its tent that night on the banks
of Soldier Creek and attempted to dry clothes and provisions by
the feeble heat of a little sheet-iron stove. Only Sandy, the
irrepressible and unconquerable Sandy, preserved his good temper
through the trying experience. "It is a part of the play," he said,
"and anybody who thinks that crossing the prairie, 'as of old the
pilgrims crossed the sea,' is a Sunday-school picnic, might better
try it with the Dixon emigrants; that's all."

But, after a very moist and disagreeable night, the sky cleared in the
morning. Oscar was out early, looking at the sky; and when he shouted
"Westward ho!" with a stentorian voice, everybody came tumbling out to
see what was the matter. A long line of white-topped wagons with four
yoke of oxen to each, eleven teams all told, was stringing its way
along the muddy road in which the red sun was reflected in pools of
red liquid mud. The wagons were overflowing with small children; coops
of fowls swung from behind, and a general air of thriftiness seemed to
be characteristic of the company.

"Which way are you bound?" asked Oscar, cheerily.

"Up the Smoky Hill Fork," replied one of the ox-drivers. "Solomon's
Fork, perhaps, but somewhere in that region, anyway."

One of the company lingered behind to see what manner of people these
were who were so comfortably camped out in a wall-tent. When he had
satisfied his curiosity, he explained that his companions had come
from northern Ohio, and were bound to lay out a town of their own in
the Smoky Hill region. Oscar, who listened while his father drew this
information from the stranger, recalled the fact that the Smoky Hill
and the Republican Forks were the branches of the Kaw. Solomon's Fork,
he now learned, was one of the tributaries of the Smoky Hill, nearer
to the Republican Fork than to the main stream. So he said to his
father, when the Ohio man had passed on: "If they settle on Solomon's
Fork, won't they be neighbors of ours, daddy?"

Mr. Bryant took out a little map of the Territory that he had in his
knapsack, and, after some study, made up his mind that the newcomers
would not be "neighbors enough to hurt," if they came no nearer the
Republican than Solomon's Fork. About thirty-five miles west and south
of Fort Riley, which is at the junction of the Smoky Hill and the
Republican, Solomon's Fork branches off to the northwest. Settlers
anywhere along that line would not be nearer the other fork than
eighteen or twenty miles at the nearest. Charlie and Sandy agreed with
Oscar that it was quite as near as desirable neighbors should be. The
lads were already learning something of the spirit of the West. They
had heard of the man who had moved westward when another settler drove
his stakes twenty miles from his claim, because the country was
"gettin' too crowded."

That day, passing through the ragged log village of Tecumseh, they got
their first letters from home. When they left Illinois, they had not
known just where they would strike, in the Territory, but they had
resolved that they would not go further west than Tecumseh; and here
they were, with their eyes still fixed toward the west. No matter;
just now, news from home was to be devoured before anybody could talk
of the possible Kansas home that yet loomed before them in the dim
distance. How good it was to learn all about the dear ones left at
home; to find that Bose was keeping guard around the house as if he
knew that he was the protector of the two mothers left to themselves
in one home; to hear that the brindle calf had grown very large, and
that a circus was coming to town the very next day after the letter
was written!

"That circus has come and gone without our seeing it," said Sandy,
solemnly.

"Sandy is as good as a circus, any day," said his uncle, fondly. "The
greatest show in the country would have been willing to hire you for
a sight, fixed out as you were last night, after we had that upset in
the creek." The boys agreed that it was lucky for all hands that the
only looking-glass in camp was the little bit of one hidden away in
Uncle Charlie's shaving-case.

The next day, to their great discomfiture, they blundered upon a
county election. Trudging into Libertyville, one of the new mushroom
towns springing up along the military road that leads from Fort
Leavenworth to Fort Riley, they found a great crowd of people gathered
around a log-house in which the polls were open. Country officers were
to be chosen, and the pro-slavery men, as the Borderers were now
called in this part of the country, had rallied in great numbers to
carry the election for their men. All was confusion and tumult.
Rough-looking men, well armed and generally loud voiced, with slouched
hats and long beards, were galloping about, shouting and making all
the noise possible, for no purpose that could be discovered. "Hooray
for Cap'n Pate!" was the only intelligible cry that the newcomers
could hear; but who Captain Pate was, and why he should be hurrahed
for, nobody seemed to know. He was not a candidate for anything.

"Hullo! there's our Woburn friend, John Clark," said Mr. Howell. Sure
enough, there he was with a vote in his hand going up to the cabin
where the polls were open. A lane was formed through the crowd of men
who lounged about the cabin, so that a man going up to the door to
vote was obliged to run the gauntlet, as it were, of one hundred men,
or more, before he reached the door, the lower half of which was
boarded up and the upper half left open for the election officers to
take and deposit the ballots.

"I don't believe that man has any right to vote here," said Charlie,
with an expression of disgust on his face. "Why, he came into the
Territory with us, only the other day, and he said he was going up on
the Big Blue to settle, and here he is trying to vote!"

"Well," said Uncle Charlie, "I allow he has just as good a right to
vote as any of these men who are running the election. I saw some of
these very men come riding in from Missouri, when we were one day out
of Quindaro." As he spoke, John Clark had reached the voting-place,
pursued by many rough epithets flung after him.

He paused before the half-barricaded door and presented his ballot.
"Let's see yer ticket!" shouted one of the men who stood guard, one
either side of the cabin-door. He snatched it from Clark's hand,
looked at it, and simply said, "H'ist!" The man on the other side of
the would-be voter grinned; then both men seized the Woburn man by his
arms and waist, and, before he could realize what was happening, he
was flung up to the edge of the roof that projected over the low door.
Two other men sitting there grabbed the newcomer by the shoulders and
passed him up the roof to two others, who, straddling the ridge-pole,
were waiting for him. Then the unfortunate Clark disappeared over the
top of the cabin, sliding down out of sight on the farther side. The
mob set up a wild cheer, and some of them shouted, "We don't want any
Yankee votes in this yer 'lection!"

"Shameful! Shameful!" burst forth from Mr. Bryant. "I have heard of
such things before now, but I must say I never thought I should see
it." He turned angrily to his brother-in-law as Mr. Howell joined the
boys in their laugh.

"How can you laugh at such a shameful sight, Aleck Howell? I'm sure
it's something to cry over, rather than to laugh at--a spectacle like
that! A free American citizen hustled away from the polls in that
disgraceful fashion!"

"But, Charlie," said Uncle Aleck, "you'll admit that it was funny to
see the Woburn man hoisted over that cabin. Besides, I don't believe
he has any right to vote here; do you?"

"He would have been allowed to vote fast enough if he had had the sort
of ballot that those fellows want to go into the box. They looked at
his ballot, and as soon as they saw what it was, they threw him over
the cabin."

[Illustration: THE POLLS AT LIBERTYVILLE. THE WOBURN MAN IS "HOISTED"
OVER THE CABIN.]

Just then, John Clark came back from the ravine into which he had slid
from the roof of the log-house, looking very much crestfallen. He
explained that he had met some pro-slavery men on the road that
morning, and they had told him he could vote, if he chose, and they
had furnished him with the necessary ballot.

"They took in my clothes at a glance," said Clark, "and they seemed to
suppose that a man with butternut homespun was true-blue; so they
didn't ask any questions. I got a free-State ballot from another man
and was a-goin' to plump it in; but they were too smart for me, and
over I went. No, don't you worry; I ain't a-goin' up there to try it
ag'in," he said, angrily, to an insolent horseman, who, riding up,
told him not to venture near the polls again if he "did not want to be
kicked out like a dog."

"Come on, neighbor; let's be goin'," he said to Uncle Aleck. "I've had
enough voting for to-day. Let's light out of this town." Then the men,
taking up their ox-goads, drove out of town. They had had their first
sight of the struggle for freedom.



CHAPTER VII.

AT THE DIVIDING OF THE WAYS.


The military road, of which I have just spoken, was constructed by the
United States Government to connect the military posts of the Far West
with one another. Beginning at Fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri
River, it passed through Fort Riley at the junction of the forks of
the Kaw, and then, still keeping up the north side of the Republican
Fork, went on to Fort Kearney, still farther west, then to Fort
Laramie, which in those days was so far on the frontier of our country
that few people ever saw it except military men and the emigrants to
California. At the time of which I am writing, there had been a very
heavy emigration to California, and companies of emigrants, bound to
the Golden Land, still occasionally passed along the great military
road.

Interlacing this highway were innumerable trails and wagon-tracks, the
traces of the great migration to the Eldorado of the Pacific; and here
and there were the narrow trails made by Indians on their hunting
expeditions and warlike excursions. Roads, such as our emigrants had
been accustomed to in Illinois, there were none. First came the faint
traces of human feet and of unshod horses and ponies; then the
well-defined trail of hunters, trappers, and Indians; then the
wagon-track of the military trains, which, in course of time, were
smoothed and formed into the military road kept in repair by the
United States Government.

Following this road, the Dixon emigrants came upon the broad, bright,
and shallow stream of the Big Blue. Fording this, they drove into the
rough, new settlement of Manhattan, lately built at the junction of
the Blue and the Kaw rivers.

It was a beautiful May day when the travellers entered Manhattan. It
was an active and a promising town. Some attempt at the laying out of
streets had been made. A long, low building, occupied as a hotel, was
actually painted, and on some of the shanties and rude huts of the
newly arrived settlers were signs giving notice of hardware,
groceries, and other commodities for sale within. On one structure,
partly made of sawed boards and partly of canvas, was painted in
sprawling letters, "Counsellor at Law."

"You'll find those fellows out in the Indian country," grimly remarked
one of the settlers, as the party surveyed this evidence of an
advancing civilization.

There was a big steam saw-mill hard by the town, and the chief
industry of Manhattan seemed to be the buying and selling of lumber
and hardware, and the surveying of land. Mounted men, carrying the
tools and instruments of the surveyor, galloped about. Few wheeled
vehicles except the ox-carts of emigrants were to be seen anywhere,
and the general aspect of the place was that of feverish activity.
Along the banks of the two streams were camped parties of the latest
comers, many of whom had brought their wives and children with them.
Parties made up of men only seldom came as far west as this. They
pitched their tents nearer the Missouri, where the fight for freedom
raged most hotly. A few companies of men did reach the westernmost
edge of the new settlements, and the Manhattan Company was one of
these.

The three boys from Illinois were absorbed with wonder as they
strolled around the new town, taking in the novel sights, as they
would if they had been in a great city, instead of a mushroom town
that had arisen in a night. During their journey from Libertyville to
Manhattan, the Dixon emigrants had lost sight of John Clark, of
Woburn; he had hurried on ahead after his rough experience with the
election guardians of Libertyville. The boys were wondering if he had
reached Manhattan.

"Hullo! There he is now, with all his family around him," said
Charlie. "He's got here before us, and can tell all about the lay of
the land to the west of us, I dare say."

"I have about made up my mind to squat on Hunter's Creek," said
Clark, when the boys had saluted him. "Pretty good land on Hunter's,
so I am told; no neighbors, and the land has been surveyed off by the
Government surveyors. Hunter's Creek? Well, that's about six miles
above the fort. It makes into the Republican, and, so they tell me,
there's plenty of wood along the creek, and a good lot of oak and
hickory not far off. Timber is what we all want, you know."

As for Bartlett, who had come out from New England with the Clarks, he
was inclined to go to the lower side of the Republican Fork, taking to
the Smoky Hill country. That was the destination of the Jenness party,
who had passed the Dixon boys when they were camped after their upset
in the creek, several days before. This would leave the Clarks--John
and his wife and two children, and his brother Jotham, and Jotham's
boy, Pelatiah--to make a settlement by themselves on Hunter's Creek.

Which way were the Dixon boys going? Charlie, the spokesman of the
party because he was the eldest, did not know. His father and uncle
were out prospecting among the campers now. Sandy was sure that they
would go up the Republican Fork. His father had met one of the
settlers from that region, and had been very favorably impressed with
his report. This Republican Fork man was an Arkansas man, but "a good
fellow," so Sandy said. To be a good fellow, according to Sandy's way
of putting things, was to be worthy of all confidence and esteem.

Mr. Bryant thought that as there were growing rumors of troublesome
Indians, it would be better to take the southern or Smoky Hill route;
the bulk of the settlers were going that way, and where there were
large numbers there would be safety. While the lads were talking with
the Clarks, Bryant and his brother-in-law came up, and, after greeting
their former acquaintance and ascertaining whither he was bound, Mr.
Howell told the boys that they had been discussing the advantages of
the two routes with Younkins, the settler from Republican Fork, and
had decided to go on to "the post," as Fort Riley was generally
called, and there decide which way they should go--to the right or to
the left.

As to the Clarks, they were determined to take the trail for Hunter's
Creek that very day. Bartlett decided to go to the Smoky Hill country.
He cast in his lot with a party of Western men, who had heard glowing
reports of the fertility and beauty of the region lying along
Solomon's Fork, a tributary of the Smoky Hill. It was in this way that
parties split up after they had entered the Promised Land.

Leaving the Clarks to hitch up their teams and part company with
Bartlett, the Dixon party returned to their camp, left temporarily in
the care of Younkins, who had come to Manhattan for a few supplies,
and who had offered to guide the others to a desirable place for
settlement which he told them he had in mind for them. Younkins was a
kindly and pleasant-faced man, simple in his speech and frontier-like
in his manners. Sandy conceived a strong liking for him as soon as
they met. The boy and the man were friends at once.

"Well, you see," said Younkins, sitting down on the wagon-tongue, when
the party had returned to their camp, "I have been thinking over-like
the matter that we were talking about, and I have made up my mind-like
that I sha'n't move back to my claim on the south side of the
Republican. I'm on the north side, you know, and my old claim on the
south side will do just right for my brother Ben; he's coming out in
the fall. Now if you want to go up our way, you can have the cabin on
that claim. There's nobody living in it. It's no great of a cabin, but
it's built of hewed timber, well chinked and comfortable-like. You can
have it till Ben comes out, and I'm just a-keeping it for Ben, you
know. P'raps he won't want it, and if he doesn't, why, then you and he
can make some kind of a dicker-like, and you might stay on till you
could do better."

"That's a very generous offer of Mr. Younkins's, Charles," said Mr.
Howell to Bryant. "I don't believe we could do better than take it
up."

"No, indeed," burst in the impetuous Sandy. "Why, just think of it! A
house already built!"

"Little boys should be seen, not heard," said his elder brother,
reprovingly. "Suppose you and I wait to see what the old folks have to
say before we chip in with any remarks."

"Oh, I know what Uncle Charlie will say," replied the lad, undismayed.
"He'll say that the Smoky Hill road is the road to take. Say, Uncle
Charlie, you see that Mr. Younkins here is willing to live all alone
on the bank of the Republican Fork, without any neighbors at all. He
isn't afraid of Indians."

Mr. Bryant smiled, and said that he was not afraid of Indians, but he
thought that there might come a time when it would be desirable for a
community to stand together as one man. "Are you a free-State man?" he
asked Younkins. This was a home-thrust. Younkins came from a slave
State; he was probably a pro-slavery man.

"I'm neither a free-State man nor yet a pro-slavery man," he said,
slowly, and with great deliberation. "I'm just for Younkins all
the time. Fact is," he continued, "where I came from most of us are
pore whites. I never owned but one darky, and I had him from my
grandfather. Ben and me, we sorter quarrelled-like over that darky.
Ben, he thought he oughter had him, and I knowed my grandfather left
him to me. So I sold him off, and the neighbors didn't seem to like
it. I don't justly know why they didn't like it; but they didn't.
Then Ben, he allowed that I had better light out. So I lit out, and
here I am. No, I'm no free-State man, and then ag'in, I'm no man for
slavery. I'm just for Younkins. Solomon Younkins is my name."

Bryant was very clearly prejudiced in favor of the settler from the
Republican Fork by this speech; and yet he thought it best to move on
to the fort that day and take the matter into consideration.

So he said that if Younkins would accept the hospitality of their
tent, the Dixon party would be glad to have him pass the night with
them. Younkins had a horse on which he had ridden down from his place,
and with which he had intended to reach home that night. But, for the
sake of inducing the new arrivals to go up into his part of the
country, he was willing to stay.

"I should think you would be afraid to leave your wife and baby all
alone there in the wilderness," said Sandy, regarding his new friend
with evident admiration. "No neighbor nearer than Hunter's Creek, did
you say? How far off is that?"

"Well, a matter of six miles-like," replied Younkins. "It isn't often
that I do leave them alone over night; but then I have to once in a
while. My old woman, she doesn't mind it. She was sort of skeary-like
when she first came into the country; but she's got used to it. We
don't want any neighbors. If you folks come up to settle, you'll be
on the other side of the river," he said, with unsmiling candor.
"That's near enough--three or four miles, anyway."

Fort Riley is about ten miles from Manhattan, at the forks of the Kaw.
It was a long drive for one afternoon; but the settlers from Illinois
camped on the edge of the military reservation that night. When the
boys, curious to see what the fort was like, looked over the premises
next morning, they were somewhat disappointed to find that the post
was merely a quadrangle of buildings constructed of rough-hammered
stone. A few frame houses were scattered about. One of these was the
sutler's store, just on the edge of the reservation. But, for the most
part, the post consisted of two- or three-story buildings arranged in
the form of a hollow square. These were barracks, officers' quarters,
and depots for the storage of military supplies and army equipments.

"Why, this is no fort!" said Oscar, contemptuously. "There isn't even
a stockade. What's to prevent a band of Indians raiding through the
whole place? I could take it myself, if I had men enough."

His cousin Charlie laughed, and said: "Forts are not built out here
nowadays to defend a garrison. The army men don't propose to let the
Indians get near enough to the post to threaten it. The fact is, I
guess, this fort is only a depot-like, as our friend Younkins would
say, for the soldiers and for military stores. They don't expect ever
to be besieged here; but if there should happen to be trouble anywhere
along the frontier, then the soldiers would be here, ready to fly out
to the rescue, don't you see?"

"Yes," answered Sandy; "and when a part of the garrison had gone to
the rescue, as you call it, another party of redskins would swoop down
and gobble up the remnant left at the post."

"If I were you, Master Sandy," said his brother, "I wouldn't worry
about the soldiers. Uncle Sam built this fort, and there are lots of
others like it. I don't know for sure, but my impression is that Uncle
Sam knows what is best for the use of the military and for the defence
of the frontier. So let's go and take a look at the sutler's store. I
want to buy some letter-paper."

The sutler, in those days, was a very important person in the
estimation of the soldiers of a frontier post. Under a license from
the War Department of the Government, he kept a store in which was
everything that the people at the post could possibly need. Crowded
into the long building of the Fort Riley sutler were dry-goods,
groceries, hardware, boots and shoes, window-glass, rope and twine,
and even candy of a very poor sort. Hanging from the ceiling of this
queer warehouse were sides of smoked meat, strings of onions, oilcloth
suits, and other things that were designed for the comfort or
convenience of the officers and soldiers, and were not provided by
the Government.

"I wonder what soldiers want of calico and ribbons," whispered Sandy,
with a suppressed giggle, as the three lads went prying about.

"Officers and soldiers have their wives and children here, you
greeny," said his brother, sharply. "Look out there and see 'em."

And, sure enough, as Sandy's eyes followed the direction of his
brother's, he saw two prettily dressed ladies and a group of children
walking over the smooth turf that filled the square in the midst of
the fort. It gave Sandy a homesick feeling, this sight of a home in
the wilderness. Here were families of grown people and children,
living apart from the rest of the world. They had been here long
before the echo of civil strife in Kansas had reached the Eastern
States, and before the first wave of emigration had touched the
head-waters of the Kaw. Here they were, a community by themselves,
uncaring, apparently, whether slavery was voted up or down. At least,
some such thought as this flitted through Sandy's mind as he looked
out upon the leisurely life of the fort, just beginning to stir.

All along the outer margin of the reservation were grouped the camps
of emigrants; not many of them, but enough to present a curious and
picturesque sight. There were a few tents, but most of the emigrants
slept in or under their wagons. There were no women or children in
these camps, and the hardy men had been so well seasoned by their past
experiences, journeying to this far western part of the Territory,
that they did not mind the exposure of sleeping on the ground and
under the open skies. Soldiers from the fort, off duty and curious to
hear the news from the outer world, came lounging around the camps and
chatted with the emigrants in that cool, superior manner that marks
the private soldier when he meets a civilian on equal footing, away
from the haunts of men.

The boys regarded these uniformed military servants of the Government
of the United States with great respect, and even with some awe.
These, they thought to themselves, were the men who were there to
fight Indians, to protect the border, and to keep back the rising tide
of wild hostilities that might, if it were not for them, sweep down
upon the feeble Territory and even inundate the whole Western
country.

"Perhaps some of Black Hawk's descendants are among the Indians on
this very frontier," said Oscar, impressively. "And these gold-laced
chaps, with shoulder-straps on, are the Zack Taylors and the Robert
Andersons who do the fighting," added Charlie, with a laugh.

Making a few small purchases from the surly sutler of Fort Riley, and
then canvassing with the emigrants around the reservation the question
of routes and locations, our friends passed the forenoon. The elders
of the party had anxiously discussed the comparative merits of the
Smoky Hill and the Republican Fork country and had finally yielded to
the attractions of a cabin ready-built in Younkins's neighborhood,
with a garden patch attached, and had decided to go in that
direction.

"This is simply bully!" said Sandy Howell, as the little caravan
turned to the right and drove up the north bank of the Republican
Fork.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE SETTLERS AT HOME.


A wide, shallow river, whose turbid waters were yellow with the
freshets of early summer, shadowed by tall and sweeping cottonwoods
and water-maples; shores gently sloping to the current, save where a
tall and rocky bluff broke the prospect up stream; thickets of oaks,
alders, sycamores, and persimmons--this was the scene on which the
Illinois emigrants arrived, as they journeyed to their new home in the
far West. On the north bank of the river, only a few hundred rods from
the stream, was the log-cabin of Younkins. It was built on the edge of
a fine bit of timber land, in which oaks and hickories were mingled
with less valuable trees. Near by the cabin, and hugging closely up to
it, was a thrifty field of corn and other garden stuff, just beginning
to look promising of good things to come; and it was a refreshing
sight here in the wilderness, for all around was the virgin forest and
the unbroken prairie.

Younkins's wife, a pale, sallow, and anxious-looking woman, and
Younkins's baby boy, chubby and open-eyed, welcomed the strangers
without much show of feeling other than a natural curiosity. With
Western hospitality, the little cabin was found large enough to
receive all the party, and the floor was covered with blankets and
buffalo-skins when they lay down to sleep their first night near their
future home in the country of the Republican Fork. The boys were very
happy that their journey was at an end. They had listened with delight
while Younkins told stories of buffalo and antelope hunting, of Indian
"scares," and of the many queer adventures of settlers on this distant
frontier.

"What is there west of this?" asked Charlie, as the party were
dividing the floor and the shallow loft among themselves for the
night.

"Nothing but Indians and buffalo," said Younkins, sententiously.

"No settlers anywhere?" cried Sandy, eagerly.

"The next settlement west of here, if you can call it a settlement, is
Fort Kearney, on the other side of the Platte. From here to there,
there isn't so much as a hunter's camp, so far as I know." This was
Younkins's last word, as he tumbled, half dressed, into his bunk in
one corner of the cabin. Sandy hugged his brother Charlie before he
dropped off to sleep, and whispered in his ear, "We're on the frontier
at last! It's just splendid!"

Next day, leaving their cattle and wagon at the Younkins homestead,
the party, piloted by their good-natured future neighbor, forded the
Fork and went over into the Promised Land. The river was rather high
as yet; for the snow, melting in the far-off Rocky Mountains as the
summer advanced, had swollen all the tributaries of the Republican
Fork, and the effects of the rise were to be seen far down on the Kaw.
The newcomers were initiated into the fashion of the country by
Younkins, who directed each one to take off all clothes but his shirt
and hat. Then their garments were rolled up in bundles, each man and
boy taking his own on his head, and wading deliberately into the
water, the sedate Younkins being the leader.

It seemed a little dangerous. The stream was about one hundred rods
wide, and the current was tolerably swift, swollen by the inrush of
smaller streams above. The water was cold, and made an ominous
swishing and gurgling among the underbrush that leaned into the margin
of the river. In Indian file, Mr. Howell bringing up the rear, and
keeping his eyes anxiously upon the lads before him, they all crossed
in safety, Sandy, the shortest of the party, being unable to keep dry
the only garment he had worn, for the water came well up under his
arms.

"Well, that was funny, anyhow," he blithely remarked, as he wrung the
water out of his shirt, and, drying himself as well as he could,
dressed and joined the rest of the party in the trip toward their
future home.

Along the lower bank of the Republican Fork, where the new settlers
now found themselves, the country is gently undulating. Bordering the
stream they saw a dense growth of sycamores, cottonwoods, and birches.
Some of these trees were tall and handsome, and the general effect on
the minds of the newcomers was delightful. After they had emerged from
the woods that skirted the river, they were in the midst of a lovely
rolling prairie, the forest on the right; on their left was a thick
growth of wood that marked the winding course of a creek which, rising
far to the west, emptied into the Republican Fork at a point just
below where the party had forded the stream. The land rose gradually
from the point nearest the ford, breaking into a low, rocky bluff
beyond at their right and nearest the river, a mile away, and rolling
off to the southwest in folds and swales.

Just at the foot of the little bluff ahead, with a background of
trees, was a log-cabin of hewn timber, weather-stained and gray in the
summer sun, absolutely alone, and looking as if lost in this untrodden
wild. Pointing to it, Younkins said, "That's your house so long as you
want it."

The emigrants tramped through the tall, lush grass that covered every
foot of the new Kansas soil, their eyes fixed eagerly on the log-cabin
before them. The latch-string hung out hospitably from the door of
split "shakes," and the party entered without ado. Everything was just
as Younkins had last left it. Two or three gophers, disturbed in
their foraging about the premises, fled swiftly at the entrance of the
visitors, and a flock of blackbirds, settled around the rear of the
house, flew noisily across the creek that wound its way down to the
Fork.

The floor was of puncheons split from oak logs, and laid loosely on
rough-hewn joists. These rattled as the visitors walked over them. At
one end of the cabin a huge fireplace of stone laid in clay yawned for
the future comfort of the new tenants. Near by, a rude set of shelves
suggested a pantry, and a table, home-made and equally rude, stood in
the middle of the floor. In one corner was built a bedstead, two sides
of the house furnishing two sides of the work, and the other two being
made by driving a stake into the floor, and connecting that by
string-pieces to the sides of the cabin. Thongs of buffalo-hide formed
the bottom of this novel bedstead. A few stools and short benches were
scattered about. Near the fireplace long and strong pegs, driven into
the logs, served as a ladder, on which one could climb to the low loft
overhead. Two windows, each of twelve small panes of glass, let in the
light, one from the end of the cabin, and one from the back opposite
the door, which was in the middle of the front. Outside, a frail
shanty of shakes leaned against the cabin, affording a sort of outdoor
kitchen for summer use.

"So this is home," said Charlie, gazing about. "What will mother say
to this--if she ever gets here?"

"Well, we've taken a heap of comfort here, my old woman and me," said
Younkins, looking around quickly, and with an air of surprise. "It's a
mighty comfortable house; leastways we think so."

Charlie apologized for having seemed to cast any discredit on the
establishment. Only he said that he did not suppose that his mother
knew much about log-cabins. As for himself, he would like nothing
better than this for a home for a long time to come. "For," he added,
roguishly, "you know we have come to make the West, 'as they the East,
the homestead of the free.'"

Mr. Younkins looked puzzled, but made no remark. The younger boys,
after taking in the situation and fondly inspecting every detail of
the premises, enthusiastically agreed that nothing could be finer than
this. They darted out of doors, and saw a corral, or pound, in which
the cattle could be penned up, in case of need. There was a small
patch of fallow ground, that needed only to be spaded up to become a
promising garden-spot. Then, swiftly running to the top of the little
bluff beyond, they gazed over the smiling panorama of emerald prairie,
laced with woody creeks, level fields, as yet undisturbed by the
ploughshare, blue, distant woods and yet more distant hills, among
which, to the northwest, the broad river wound and disappeared.
Westward, nothing was to be seen but the green and rolling swales of
the virgin prairie, broken here and there by an outcropping of rock.
And as they looked, a tawny, yellowish creature trotted out from
behind a roll of the prairie, sniffed in the direction of the boys,
and then stealthily disappeared in the wildness of the vast expanse.

[Illustration: THE SETTLERS' FIRST HOME IN THE DESERTED CABIN.]

"A coyote," said Sandy, briefly. "I've seen them in Illinois. But I
wish I had my gun now." His wiser brother laughed as he told him that
it would be a long day before a coyote could be got near enough to be
knocked over with any shot-gun. The coyote, or prairie-wolf, is the
slyest animal that walks on four legs.

The three men and Charlie returned to the further side of the Fork,
and made immediate preparations to move all their goods and effects to
the new home of the emigrants. Sandy and Oscar, being rather too small
to wade the stream without discomfort, while it was so high, were left
on the south bank to receive the returning party.

There the boys sat, hugely enjoying the situation, while the others
were loading the wagon and yoking the oxen on the other side. The lads
could hear the cheery sounds of the men talking, although they could
not see them through the trees that lined the farther bank of the
river. The flow of the stream made a ceaseless lapping against the
brink of the shore. A party of catbirds quarrelled sharply in the
thicket hard by; quail whistled in the underbrush of the adjacent
creek, and overhead a solitary eagle circled slowly around as if
looking down to watch these rude invaders of the privacy of the
dominion that had existed ever since the world began.

Hugging his knees in measureless content, as they sat in the grass by
the river, Sandy asked, almost in a whisper, "Have you ever been
homesick since we left Dixon, Oscar?"

"Just once, Sandy; and that was yesterday when I saw those nice-looking
ladies at the fort out walking in the morning with their children. That
was the first sight that looked like home since we crossed the Missouri."

"Me, too," answered Sandy, soberly. "But this is just about as fine as
anything can be. Only think of it, Oscar! There are buffalo and
antelopes within ten or fifteen miles of here. I know, for Younkins
told me so. And Indians,--not wild Indians, but tame ones that are at
peace with the whites. It seems too good to have happened to us;
doesn't it, Oscar?"

Once more the wagon was blocked up for a difficult ford, the lighter
and more perishable articles of its load being packed into a dugout,
or canoe hollowed from a sycamore log, which was the property of
Younkins, and used only at high stages of the water. The three men
guided the wagon and oxen across while Charlie, stripped to his
shirt, pushed the loaded dugout carefully over, and the two boys on
the other bank, full of the importance of the event, received the
solitary voyager, unloaded the canoe, and then transferred the little
cargo to the wagon. The caravan took its way up the rolling ground of
the prairie to the log-cabin. Willing hands unloaded and took into the
house the tools, provisions, and clothes that constituted their all,
and, before the sun went down, the settlers were at home.

While in Manhattan, they had supplied themselves with potatoes; at
Fort Riley they had bought fresh beef from the sutler. Sandy made a
glorious fire in the long-disused fireplace. His father soon had a
batch of biscuits baking in the covered kettle, or Dutch oven, that
they had brought with them from home. Charlie's contribution to the
repast was a pot of excellent coffee, the milk for which, an
unaccustomed luxury, was supplied by the thoughtfulness of Mrs.
Younkins. So, with thankful hearts, they gathered around their frugal
board and took their first meal in their new home.

When supper was done and the cabin, now lighted by the scanty rays of
two tallow candles, had been made tidy for the night, Oscar took out
his violin, and, after much needed tuning, struck into the measure of
wild, warbling "Dundee." All hands took the hint, and all voices were
raised once more to the words of Whittier's song of the "Kansas
Emigrants." Perhaps it was with new spirit and new tenderness that
they sang,--

             "No pause, nor rest, save where the streams
               That feed the Kansas run,
             Save where the pilgrim gonfalon
               Shall flout the setting sun!"

"I don't know what the pilgrim's gonfalon is," said Sandy, sleepily,
"but I guess it's all right." The emigrants had crossed the prairies
as of old their father had crossed the sea. They were now at home in
the New West. The night fell dark and still about their lonely cabin
as, with hope and trust, they laid them down to peaceful dreams.



CHAPTER IX.

SETTING THE STAKES.


"We mustn't let any grass grow under our feet, boys," was Mr. Aleck
Howell's energetic remark, next morning, when the little party had
finished their first breakfast in their new home.

"That means work, I s'pose," replied Oscar, turning a longing glance
to his violin hanging on the side of the cabin, with a broken string
crying for repairs.

"Yes, and hard work, too," said his father, noting the lad's look.
"Luckily for us, Brother Aleck," he continued, "our boys are not
afraid of work. They have been brought up to it, and although I am
thinking they don't know much about the sort of work that we shall
have to put in on these beautiful prairies, I guess they will buckle
down to it. Eh?" and the loving father turned his look from the grassy
and rolling plain to his son's face.

Sandy answered for him. "Oh, yes, Uncle Charlie, we all like work!
Afraid of work? Why, Oscar and I are so used to it that we would be
willing to lie right down by the side of it, and sleep as securely as
if it were as harmless as a kitten! Afraid of work? Never you fear
'the Dixon boys who fear no noise'--what's the rest of that song?"

Nobody knew, and, in the laugh that followed, Mr. Howell suggested
that as Younkins was coming over the river to show them the stakes of
their new claims, the boys might better set an extra plate at
dinner-time. It was very good of Younkins to take so much trouble on
their account, and the least they could do was to show him proper
hospitality.

"What is all this about stakes and quarter-sections, anyway, father?"
asked Sandy. "I'm sure I don't know."

"He doesn't know what quarter-sections are!" shouted Charlie. "Oh, my!
what an ignoramus!"

"Well, what is a quarter-section, as you are so knowing?" demanded
Sandy. "I don't believe you know yourself."

"It is a quarter of a section of public land," answered the lad.
"Every man or single woman of mature age--I think that is what the
books say--who doesn't own several hundred acres of land elsewhere (I
don't know just how many) is entitled to enter on and take up a
quarter of a section of unoccupied public land, and have it for a
homestead. That's all," and Charlie looked to his father for
approval.

"Pretty good, Charlie," said his uncle. "How many acres are there in a
quarter-section of land?"

"Yes, how many acres in a quarter of a section?" shouted Sandy, who
saw that his brother hesitated. "Speak up, my little man, and don't be
afraid!"

"I don't know," replied the lad, frankly.

"Good for you!" said his father. "Never be afraid of saying that you
don't know when you do _not_ know. The fear of confessing ignorance is
what has wrecked many a young fellow's chances for finding out things
he should know."

"Well, boys," said Mr. Bryant, addressing himself to the three lads,
"all the land of the United States Government that is open to
settlement is laid off in townships six miles square. These, in turn,
are laid off into sections of six hundred and forty acres each. Now,
then, how much land should there be in a quarter-section?"

"One hundred and sixty acres!" shouted all three boys at once,
breathlessly.

"Correct. The Government allows every man, or single woman of mature
age, widow or unmarried, to go upon a plot of land, not more than one
hundred and sixty acres nor less than forty acres, and to improve it,
and live upon it. If he stays there, or 'maintains a continuous
residence,' as the lawyers say, for a certain length of time, the
Government gives him a title-deed at the end of that time, and he owns
the land."

"What?--free, gratis, and for nothing?" cried Sandy.

"Certainly," said his uncle. "The homestead law was passed by Congress
to encourage the settlement of the lands belonging to the Government.
You see there is an abundance of these lands,--so much, in fact, that
they have not yet been all laid off into townships and sections and
quarter-sections. If a large number of homestead claims are taken up,
then other settlers will be certain to come in and buy the lands that
the Government has to sell; and that will make settlements grow
throughout that locality."

"Why should they buy when they can get land for nothing by entering
and taking possession, just as we are going to do?" interrupted
Oscar.

"Because, my son, many of the men cannot make oath that they have not
taken up Government land somewhere else; and then, again, many men are
going into land speculations, and they don't care to wait five years
to prove up a homestead claim. So they go upon the land, stake out
their claim, and the Government sells it to them outright at the rate
of a dollar and a quarter an acre."

"Cash down?" asked Charlie.

"No, they need not pay cash down unless they choose. The Government
allows them a year to pay up in. But land speculators who make a
business of this sort of thing generally pay up just as soon as they
are allowed to, and then, if they get a good offer to sell out, they
sell and move off somewhere else, and do the same thing over again."

"People have to pay fees, don't they, Uncle Charlie?" said Sandy. "I
know they used to talk about land-office fees, in Dixon. How much does
it cost in fees to enter a piece of Government land?"

"I think it is about twenty-five dollars--twenty-six, to be exact,"
replied Mr. Bryant. "There comes Younkins," he added, looking down the
trail to the river bank below.

The boys had been washing and putting away the breakfast things while
this conversation was going on, and Sandy, balancing in the air a big
tin pan on his fingers, asked: "How much land can we fellows enter,
all told?" The two men laughed.

"Well, Alexander," said his father, ceremoniously, "We two 'fellows,'
that is to say, your Uncle Charlie and myself, can enter one hundred
and sixty acres apiece. Charlie will be able to enter the same
quantity three years from now, when he will be twenty-one; and as for
you and Oscar, if you each add to your present years as many as will
make you twenty-one, you can tell when you will be able to enter and
own the same amount of land; provided it is not all gone by that time.
Good morning, Mr. Younkins." Sandy's pan came down with a crash on the
puncheon floor.

The land around that region of the Republican Fork had been surveyed
into sections of six hundred and forty acres each; but it would be
necessary to secure the services of a local surveyor to find out just
where the boundaries of each quarter-section were. The stakes were set
at the corner of each section, and Younkins thought that by pacing off
the distance between two corners they could get at the point that
would mark the middle of the section; then, by running lines across
from side to side, thus: [Transcriber's note: An image of a square
subdivided into four smaller squares appears here] they could get at
the quarter-sections nearly enough to be able to tell about where
their boundaries were.

"But suppose you should build a house, or plough a field, on some
other man's quarter-section," suggested Charlie, "wouldn't you feel
cheap when the final survey showed that you had all along been
improving your neighbor's property?"

"There isn't any danger of that," answered Younkins, "if you are smart
enough to keep well away from your boundary line when you are
putting in your improvements. Some men are not smart enough,
though. There was a man over on Chapman's Creek who wanted to have
his log-cabin on a pretty rise of ground-like, that was on the upper
end of his claim. He knew that the line ran somewhere about there;
but he took chances-like, and when the line was run, a year after
that, lo, and behold! his house and garden-like were both clean
over into the next man's claim."

"What did he do?" asked Charlie. "Skip out of the place?"

"Sho! No, indeed! His neighbor was a white man-like, and they just
took down the cabin and carried it across the boundary line and set it
up again on the man's own land. He's livin' there yet; but he lost his
garden-like; couldn't move that, you see"; and Younkins laughed one of
his infrequent laughs.

The land open to the settlers on the south side of the Republican Fork
was all before them. Nothing had been taken up within a distance as
far as they could see. Chapman's Creek, just referred to by Younkins,
was eighteen or twenty miles away. From the point at which they stood
and toward Chapman's, the land was surveyed; but to the westward the
surveys ran only just across the creek, which, curving from the north
and west, made a complete circuit around the land and emptied into the
Fork, just below the fording-place. Inside of that circuit, the land,
undulating, and lying with a southern exposure, was destitute of
trees. It was rich, fat land, but there was not a tree on it except
where it crossed the creek, the banks of which were heavily wooded.
Inside of that circuit somewhere, the two men must stake out their
claim. There was nothing but rich, unshaded land, with a meandering
woody creek flowing through the bottom of the two claims, provided
they were laid out side by side. The corner stakes were found, and
the men prepared to pace off the distance between the corners so as to
find the centre.

"It is a pity there is no timber anywhere," said Howell, discontentedly.
"We shall have to go several miles for timber enough to build our
cabins. We don't want to cut down right away what little there is
along the creek."

"Timber?" said Younkins, reflectively. "Timber? Well, if one of you
would put up with a quarter-section of farming land, then the other
can enter some of the timber land up on the North Branch."

Now, the North Branch was two miles and a half from the cabin in which
the Dixon party were camped; and that cabin was two miles from the
beautiful slopes on which the intending settlers were now looking for
an opportunity to lay out their two claims. The two men looked at each
other. Could they divide and settle this far apart for the sake of
getting a timber lot?

It was Sandy who solved the problem. "I'll tell you what to do,
father!" he cried, eagerly: "you take up the timber claim on the North
Branch, and we boys can live there; then you and Uncle Charlie can
keep one of the claims here. We can build two cabins, and you old
folks can live in one, and we in another."

The fathers exchanged glances, and Mr. Howell said, "I don't see how I
could live without Sandy and Charlie."

[Illustration: YOUNKINS ARGUED THAT SETTLERS WERE ENTITLED TO ALL THEY
COULD GET AND HOLD.]

Younkins brightened up at Sandy's suggestion; and he added that the
two men might take up two farming claims, side by side, and let the
boys try and hold the timber claim on the North Branch. Thus far,
there was no rush of emigration to the south side of the Republican
Fork. Most of the settlers went further to the south; or they halted
further east, and fixed their stakes along the line of the Big Blue
and other more accessible regions.

"We'll chance it, won't we, Aleck?" said Mr. Bryant.

Mr. Howell looked vaguely off over the rolling slope on which they
were standing, and said: "We will chance it with the boys on the
timber land, but I am not in favor of taking up two claims here. Let
the timber claim be in my name or yours, and the boys can live on it.
But we can't take up two claims here and the timber besides--three in
all--with only two full-grown men among the whole of us. That stands
to reason."

Younkins was a little puzzled by the strictness with which the two
newcomers were disposed to regard their rights and duties as actual
settlers. He argued that settlers were entitled to all they could get
and hold; and he was in favor of the party's trying to hold three
claims of one hundred and sixty acres each, even if there were only
two men legally entitled to enter homesteads. Wouldn't Charlie be of
age before the time came to take out a patent for the land?

"But he is not of age to enter upon and hold the land now," said his
father, stiffly.

So it was settled that the two men should enter upon the quarter-section
of farming land, and build a cabin as soon as convenient, and that the
claim on the North Fork, which had a fine grove of timber on it,
should be set apart for the boys, and a cabin built there, too. The
cabin in the timber need not be built until late in the autumn; that
claim could be taken up by Mr. Howell, or by Mr. Bryant; by and by they
would draw lots to decide which. Before sundown that night, they had
staked out the corners of the one hundred and sixty acre lot of
farming land, on which the party had arrived in the morning.

It was dark before they returned from looking over the timber land in
the bend of the North Fork of the Republican.



CHAPTER X.

DRAWING THE FIRST FURROW.


The good-natured Younkins was on hand bright and early the next
morning, to show the new settlers where to cut the first furrow on the
land which they had determined to plough. Having decided to take the
northwest corner of the quarter-section selected, it was easy to find
the stake set at the corner. Then, having drawn an imaginary line from
the stake to that which was set in the southwest corner, the tall
Charlie standing where he could he used as a sign for said landmark,
his father and his uncle, assisted by Younkins, and followed by the
two other boys, set the big breaking-plough as near that line as
possible. The four yoke of oxen stood obediently in line. Mr. Howell
firmly held the plough-handles; Younkins drove the two forward yoke of
cattle, and Mr. Bryant the second two; and the two younger boys stood
ready to hurrah as soon as the word was given to start. It was an
impressive moment to the youngsters.

"Gee up!" shouted Younkins, as mildly as if the oxen were petted
children. The long train moved; the sharp nose of the plough cut into
the virgin turf, turning over a broad sod, about five inches thick;
and then the plough swept onward toward the point where Charlie stood
waving his red handkerchief in the air. Sandy seized a huge piece of
the freshly-turned sod, and swinging it over his head with his strong
young arms, he cried, "Three cheers for the first sod of Bleeding
Kansas! 'Rah! 'Rah! 'Rah!" The farming of the boy settlers had begun.

Charlie, at his distant post on the other side of the creek, saw the
beginning of things, and sent back an answering cheer to the two
boys who were dancing around the massive and slow-moving team of
cattle. The men smiled at the enthusiasm of the youngsters, but in
their hearts the two new settlers felt that this was, after all, an
event of much significance. The green turf now being turned over was
disturbed by ploughshare for the first time since the creation of
the world. Scarcely ever had this soil felt the pressure of the foot
of a white man. For ages unnumbered it had been the feeding-ground
of the buffalo and the deer. The American savage had chased his game
over it, and possibly the sod had been wet with the blood of
contending tribes. Now all was to be changed. As the black, loamy
soil was turned for the first time to the light of day, so for the
first time the long-neglected plain was being made useful for the
support of civilized man.

No wonder the boys cheered and cheered again.

[Illustration: SANDY SEIZED A HUGE PIECE OF THE FRESHLY-TURNED SOD, AND
WAVING IT OVER HIS HEAD CRIED, "THREE CHEERS FOR THE FIRST SOD OF
BLEEDING KANSAS!"]

                 "We go to plant her common schools,
                   On distant prairie swells,
                 And give the Sabbaths of the wild
                   The music of her bells."

This is what was in Mr. Charles Bryant's mind as he wielded the
ox-goad over the backs of the animals that drew the great plough along
the first furrow cut on the farm of the emigrants. The day was bright
and fair; the sun shone down on the flower-gemmed sod; no sound broke
on the still air but the slow treading of the oxen, the chirrup of the
drivers, the ripping of the sod as it was turned in the furrow, and
the gay shouts of the light-hearted boys.

In a line of marvellous straightness, Younkins guided the leading yoke
of cattle directly toward the creek on the other side of which Charlie
yet stood, a tall, but animated landmark. When, after descending the
gradual slope on which the land lay, the trees that bordered the
stream hid the lad from view, it was decided that the furrow was long
enough to mark the westerly boundary line of the forty acres which it
was intended to break up for the first corn-field on the farm. Then
the oxen were turned, with some difficulty, at right angles with the
line just drawn, and were driven easterly until the southern boundary
of the patch was marked out. Turning, now, at right angles, and
tracing another line at the north, then again to the west to the point
of original departure, they had accurately defined the outer
boundaries of the field on which so much in the future depended; for
here was to be planted the first crop of the newcomers.

Younkins, having started the settlers in their first farming, returned
across the river to his own plough, first having sat down with the
Dixon party to a substantial dinner. For the boys, after the first few
furrows were satisfactorily turned, had gone back to the cabin and
made ready the noon meal. The ploughmen, when they came to the cabin
in answer to Sandy's whoop from the roof, had made a considerable
beginning in the field. They had gone around within the outer edge of
the plantation that was to be, leaving with each circuit a broader
band of black and shining loam over which a flock of birds hopped and
swept with eager movements, snapping up the insects and worms which,
astonished at the great upheaval, wriggled in the overturned turf.

"Looks sorter homelike here," said Younkins, with a pleased smile,
as he drew his bench to the well-spread board and glanced around at
the walls of the cabin, where the boys had already hung their
fishing-tackle, guns, Oscar's violin, and a few odds and ends that
gave a picturesque look to the long-deserted cabin.

"Yes," said Mr. Bryant, as he filled Younkins's tin cup with hot
coffee, "our boys have all got the knack of making themselves at
home,--runs in the blood, I guess,--and if you come over here again
in a day or two, you will probably find us with rugs on the floor and
pictures on the walls. Sandy is a master-hand at hunting; and he
intends to get a dozen buffalo-skins out of hand, so to speak, right
away." And he looked fondly at his freckled nephew as he spoke.

"A dibble and a corn-dropper will be more in his way than the rifle,
for some weeks to come," said Mr. Howell.

"What's a dibble?" asked both of the youngsters at once.

The elder man smiled and looked at Younkins as he said, "A dibble, my
lambs, is an instrument for the planting of corn. With it in one hand
you punch a hole in the sod that has been turned over, and then, with
the other hand, you drop in three or four grains of corn from the
corn-dropper, cover it with your heel, and there you are,--planted."

"Why, I supposed we were going to plant corn with a hoe; and we've got
the hoes, too!" cried Oscar.

"No, my son," said his father; "if we were to plant corn with a hoe,
we shouldn't get through planting before next fall, I am afraid. After
dinner, we will make some dibbles for you boys, for you must begin to
drop corn to-morrow. What ploughing we have done to-day, you can
easily catch up with when you begin. And the three of you can all be
on the furrow at once, if that seems worth while."

The boys very soon understood fully what a dibble was, and what a
corn-dropper was, strange though those implements were to them at
first. Before the end of planting-time, they fervently wished they had
never seen either of these instruments of the corn-planter.

With the aid of a few rude tools, there was fashioned a staff from the
tough hickory that grew near at hand, the lower part of the stick
being thick and pointed at the end. The staff was about as high as
would come up to a boy's shoulder, so that as he grasped it near the
upper end, his arm being bent, the lower end was on the ground.

The upper end was whittled so as to make a convenient handle for the
user. The lower end was shaped carefully into something like the
convex sides of two spoons put together by their bowls, and the lower
edge of this part was shaved down to a sharpness that was increased by
slightly hardening it in the fire. Just above the thickest part of the
dibble, a hole was bored at right angles through the wood, and into
this a peg was driven so that several inches stuck out on both sides
of the instrument. This completed the dibble.

"So that is a dibble, is it?" said Oscar, when the first one was shown
him. "A dibble. Now let's see how you use it."

Thereupon his Uncle Aleck stood up, grasped the staff by the upper
end, pressed his foot on the peg at the lower end of the tool, and so
forced the sharp point of the dibble downward into the earth. Then,
drawing it out, a convex slit was shown in the elastic turf. Shaking
an imaginary grain of corn into the hole, he closed it with a stamp of
his heel, stepped on and repeated the motion a few times, and then
said, "That's how they plant corn on the sod in Kansas."

"Uncle Aleck, what a lot you know!" said Oscar, with undisguised
admiration.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bryant, taking a pair of old boots, cut off the legs
just above the ankles, and, fastening in the lower end of each a round
bit of wood, by means of small nails, quickly made a pair of
corn-droppers. Sandy's belt, being passed through the loop-strap of
one of these, was fastened around his waist. The dropper was to be
filled with corn, and, thus accoutred, he was ready for doing duty in
the newly ploughed field. When the lad expressed his impatience for
another day to come so that he could begin corn-planting, the two
elders of the family laughed outright.

"Sandy, boy, you will be glad when to-morrow night comes, so that you
can rest from your labors. You remember what I tell you!" said his
father.

Nevertheless, when the two boys stepped bravely out, next morning, in
the wake of the breaking-team, they were not in the least dismayed by
the prospect of working all day in the heavy furrows of the plough.
Bryant drove the leading yoke of oxen, Charlie tried his 'prentice
hand with the second yoke, and Howell held the plough.

               "'He that by the plough would thrive,
               Must either hold the plough or drive,'"

commented Oscar, filling his corn-dropper and eyeing his father's
rather awkward handling of the ox-goad. Uncle Aleck had usually driven
the cattle, but his hand was now required in the more difficult
business of holding the plough.

"'Plough deep while sluggards sleep,'" replied his father; "and if you
don't manage better with dropping corn than I do with driving these
oxen, we shall have a short crop."

"How many grains of corn to a hole, Uncle Aleck? and how many bushels
to the acre?" asked Oscar.

"Not more than five grains nor less than three is the rule, my boy.
Now then, step out lively."

And the big team swept down the slope, leaving a broad and shining
furrow behind it. The two boys followed, one about twenty feet behind
the other, and when the hindermost had come up to the work of him who
was ahead, he skipped the planted part and went on ahead of his
comrade twenty feet, thus alternating each with the other. They were
cheerily at work when, apparently from under the feet of the forward
yoke of oxen, a bird somewhat bigger than a robin flew up with shrieks
of alarm and went fluttering off along the ground, tumbling in the
grass as if desperately wounded and unable to fly. Sandy made a rush
for the bird, which barely eluded his clutches once or twice, and
drew him on and on in a fruitless chase; for the timid creature soon
recovered the use of its wings, and soaring aloft, disappeared in the
depths of the sky.

"That's the deceivingest bird I ever saw," panted Sandy, out of breath
with running, and looking shamefacedly at the corn that he had spilled
in his haste to catch his prey. "Why, it acted just as if its right
wing was broken, and then it flew off as sound as a nut, for all I
could see."

When the ploughmen met them, on the next turn of the team, Uncle Aleck
said, "Did you catch the lapwing, you silly boy? That fellow fooled
you nicely."

"Lapwing?" said Sandy, puzzled. "What's a lapwing?" But the ploughmen
were already out of earshot.

"Oh, I know now," said Oscar. "I've read of the lapwing; it is a bird
so devoted to its young, or its nest, that when it fancies either in
danger, it assumes all the distress of a wounded thing, and,
fluttering along the ground, draws the sportsman away from the
locality."

"Right out of a book, Oscar!" cried Sandy. "And here's its nest, as
sure as I'm alive!" So saying, the lad stooped, and, parting the grass
with his hands, disclosed a pretty nest sunk in the ground, holding
five finely speckled eggs. The bird, so lately playing the cripple,
cried and circled around the heads of the boys as they peered into the
home of the lapwing.

"Well, here's an actual settler that we must disturb, Sandy," said
Oscar; "for the plough will smash right through this nest on the very
next turn. Suppose we take it up and put it somewhere else, out of
harm's way?"

"I'm willing," assented Sandy; and the two boys, carefully extracting
the nest from its place, carried it well over into the ploughed
ground, where under the lee of a thick turf it was left in safety.
But, as might have been expected, the parent lapwing never went near
that nest again. The fright had been too great.

"What in the world are you two boys up to now?" shouted Uncle Aleck
from the other side of the ploughing. "Do you call that dropping corn?
Hurry and catch up with the team; you are 'way behind."

"Great Scott!" cried Sandy; "I had clean forgotten the corn-dropping.
A nice pair of farmers we are, Oscar!" and the lad, with might and
main, began to close rapidly the long gap between him and the steadily
moving ox-team.

"Leg-weary work, isn't it, Sandy?" said his father, when they stopped
at noon to take the luncheon they had brought out into the field with
them.

"Yes, and I'm terribly hungry," returned the boy, biting into a huge
piece of cold corn-bread. "I shouldn't eat this if I were at home, and
I shouldn't eat it now if I weren't as hungry as a bear. Say, daddy,
you cannot think how tired my leg is with the punching of that dibble
into the sod; seems as if I couldn't hold out till sundown; but I
suppose I shall. First, I punch a hole by jamming down the dibble with
my foot, and then I kick the hole again with the same foot, after I
have dropped in the grains of corn. These two motions are dreadfully
tiresome."

"Yes," said his uncle, with a short laugh, "and while I was watching
you and Oscar, this forenoon, I couldn't help thinking that you did
not yet know how to make your muscles bear an equal strain. Suppose
you try changing legs?"

"Changing legs?" exclaimed both boys at once. "Why, how could we
exchange legs?"

"I know what Uncle Aleck means. I saw you always used the right leg to
jam down the dibble with, and then you kicked the hole full with the
right heel. No wonder your right legs are tired. Change hands and
legs, once in a while, and use the dibble on the left side of you,"
said Charlie, whose driving had tired him quite as thoroughly.

"Isn't Charlie too awfully knowing for anything, Oscar?" said Sandy,
with some sarcasm. Nevertheless, the lad got up, tried the dibble with
his left hand, and saying, "Thanks, Charlie," dropped down upon the
fragrant sod and was speedily asleep, for a generous nooning was
allowed the industrious lads.



CHAPTER XI

AN INDIAN TRAIL.


The next day was Sunday, and, true to their New England training, the
settlers refrained from labor on the day of rest. Mr. Bryant took his
pocket Bible and wandered off into the wild waste of lands somewhere.
The others lounged about the cabin, indoors and out, a trifle sore and
stiff from the effects of work so much harder than that to which they
had been accustomed, and glad of an opportunity to rest their limbs.
The younger of the boy settlers complained that they had worn their
legs out with punching holes in the sod while planting corn. The soles
of their feet were sore with the pressure needed to jam the dibble
through the tough turf. In the afternoon, they all wandered off
through the sweet and silent wilderness of rolling prairie into the
woods in which they proposed to lay off another claim for pre-emption.
At a short distance above their present home, cutting sharply through
the sod, and crossing the Republican Fork a mile or so above their own
ford, was an old Indian trail, which the boys had before noticed but
could not understand. As Charlie and Oscar, pressing on ahead of
their elders, came upon the old trail, they loitered about until the
rest of the party came up, and then they asked what could have cut
that narrow track in the turf, so deep and so narrow.

"That's an Injun trail," said Younkins, who, with an uncomfortably new
suit of Sunday clothes and a smooth-shaven face, had come over to
visit his new neighbors. "Didn't you ever see an Injun trail before?"
he asked, noting the look of eager curiosity on the faces of the boys.
They assured him that they never had, and he continued: "This yere
trail has been here for years and years, long and long before any
white folks came into the country. Up north and east of yer, on the
head-waters of the Big Blue, the Cheyennes used to live,"--Younkins
pronounced it Shyans,--"and as soon as the grass began to start in the
spring, so as to give feed to their ponies and to the buffalo, they
would come down this yere way for game. They crossed the Fork just
above yere-like, and then they struck down to the head-waters of the
Smoky Hill and so off to the westwards. Big game was plenty in those
days, and now the Injuns off to the north of yere come down in just
the same way--hunting for game."

The boys got down on their knees and scanned the trail with new
interest. It was not more than nine or ten inches across, and was so
worn down that it made a narrow trench, as it were, in the deep sod,
its lower surface being as smooth as a rolled wagon-track. Over this
well-worn track, for ages past, the hurrying feet of wild tribes had
passed so many times that even the wiry grass-roots had been killed
down.

"Did war parties ever go out on this trail, do you suppose?" asked
Sandy, sitting up in the grass.

"Sakes alive, yes!" replied Younkins. "Why, the Cheyennes and the
Comanches used to roam over all these plains, in the old times, and
they were mostly at war."

"Where are the Cheyennes and the Comanches now, Mr. Younkins?" asked
Uncle Aleck.

"I reckon the Comanches are off to the south-like somewhere. It
appears to me that I heard they were down off the Texas border,
somewheres; the Cheyennes are to the westwards, somewhere near Fort
Laramie."

"And what Indians are there who use this trail now?" inquired Oscar,
whose eyes were sparkling with excitement as he studied the well-worn
path of the Indian tribes.

Younkins explained that the Pottawottomies and the Pawnees, now
located to the north, were the only ones who used the trail. "Blanket
Indians," he said they were, peaceable creatures enough, but not good
neighbors; he did not want any Indians of any sort near him. When one
of the boys asked what blanket Indians were, Younkins explained,--

"There's three kinds of Injuns, none on 'em good,--town Injuns,
blanket Injuns, and wild Injuns. You saw some of the town Injuns when
you came up through the Delaware reserve--great lazy fellows, lyin'
round the house all day and lettin' the squaws do all the work. Then
there's the blankets; they live out in the woods and on the prairie,
in teepees, or lodges, of skins and canvas-like, moving round from
place to place, hunting over the plains in summer, and living off'n
the Gov'ment in winter. They are mostly at peace with the whites, but
they will steal whenever they get a chance. The other kind, and the
worst, is the wild ones. They have nothing to do with the Government,
and they make war on the whites whenever they feel like it. Just now,
I don't know of any wild Injuns that are at war with Uncle Sam; but
the Arapahoes, Comanches, and Cheyennes are all likely to break loose
any time. I give 'm all a plenty of elbow room."

As the boys reluctantly ceased contemplating the fascinating Indian
trail, and moved on behind the rest of the party, Charlie said: "I
suppose we must make allowance for Younkins's prejudices. He is like
most of the border men, who believe that all the good Indians are
dead. If the Cheyennes and the Comanches could only tell their story
in the books and newspapers, we might hear the other side."

The idea of a wild Indian's writing a book or a letter to the
newspapers tickled Sandy so much that he laughed loud and long.

Some two miles above the point where the settlers' ford crossed the
Republican Fork, the stream swept around a bluffy promontory, and on a
curve just above this was the tract of timber land which they now
proposed to enter upon for their second claim. The trees were oak,
hickory, and beech, with a slight undergrowth of young cottonwoods and
hazel. The land lay prettily, the stream at this point flowing in a
southerly direction, with the timber claim on its northwesterly bank.
The sunny exposure of the grove, the open glades that diversified its
dense growth, and the babbling brook that wound its way through it to
the river, all combined to make it very desirable for a timber claim.
At a short distance from the river the land rose gradually to a high
ridge, and on the top of this grew a thick wood of spruce and fir.

"That's what you want for your next cabin," said Younkins, pointing
his finger in the direction of the pines. "Best kind of stuff for
building there is in these parts." Then he explained to the boys the
process of cutting down the trees, splitting them up into shakes, or
into lengths suitable for cabin-building, and he gave them an
entertaining account of all the ways and means of finishing up a
log-cabin,--a process, by the way, which they found then more
entertaining in description than they afterward found it in the
reality.

That night when Sandy lay down to refreshing sleep it was to dream of
picturesque Indian fights, witnessed at a safe distance from afar.
Accordingly, he was not very much surprised next morning, while he was
helping Charlie to get ready the breakfast, when Oscar ran in
breathless, with the one word, "Indians!"

"Come out on the hill back of the cabin," panted Oscar. "There's a lot
of 'em coming out on the trail we saw yesterday, all in Indian file.
Hurry up!" and away he darted, Sandy hastening with him to see the
wonderful sight.

Sure enough, there they were, twenty-five or thirty Indians,--blanket
Indians, as Younkins would have said,--strung along in the narrow
trail, all in Indian file. It amazed the lads to see how the little
Indian ponies managed to keep their feet in the narrow path. But they
seemed to trot leisurely along with one foot before the other, just as
the Indians did. Behind the mounted men were men and boys on foot,
nearly as many as had passed on horseback. These kept up with the
others, silently but swiftly maintaining the same pace that the
mounted fellows did. It was a picturesque and novel sight to the young
settlers. The Indians were dressed in the true frontier style, with
hunting-shirt and leggings of dressed deerskin, a blanket slung
loosely over the shoulder, all bareheaded, and with coarse black hair
flowing in the morning breeze, except for the loose knot in which it
was twisted behind. Some of them carried their guns slung on their
backs; and others of them had the weapons in their hands, ready for
firing on the instant.

"There they go, over the divide," said Oscar, as the little cavalcade
reached the last roll of the prairie, and began to disappear on the
other side. Not one of the party deigned even to look in the direction
of the wondering boys; and if they saw them, as they probably did,
they made no sign.

"There they go, hunting buffalo, I suppose," said Sandy, with a
sigh, as the last Indian of the file disappeared down the horizon.
"Dear me! don't I wish I was going out after buffalo, instead of
having to dibble corn into the sod all day! Waugh! Don't I hate
it!" And the boy turned disconsolately back to the cabin. But he
rallied with his natural good-humor when he had his tale to tell at
the breakfast-table. He eagerly told how they had seen the Indians
passing over the old trail, and had gazed on the redskins as they
went "on the warpath."

"Warpath, indeed!" laughed Charlie. "Pot-hunters, that's what they
are. All the warfare they are up to is waged on the poor innocent
buffalo that Younkins says they are killing off and making scarcer
every year."

"If nobody but Indians killed buffalo," said Mr. Bryant, "there would
be no danger of their ever being all killed off. But, in course of
time, I suppose this country will all be settled up, and then there
will be railroads, and after that the buffalo will have to go. Just
now, any white man that can't saddle his horse and go out and kill a
buffalo before breakfast thinks they are getting scarce. But I have
heard some of the soldiers say that away up north of here, a little
later in the season, the settlers cannot keep their crops, the buffalo
roam all over everything so."

"For my part," put in Charlie, "I am not in the least afraid that the
buffalo will be so plenty around these parts that they will hurt our
crops; and I'd just like to see a herd come within shooting distance."
And here he raised his arms, and took aim along an imaginary rifle.

Later in the forenoon, when the two younger boys had reached the end
of the two rows in which they had been planting, Sandy straightened
himself up with an effort, and said, "This is leg-weary work, isn't
it, Oscar? I hate work, anyhow," he added, discontentedly, leaning on
the top of his dibble, and looking off over the wide and green prairie
that stretched toward the setting sun. "I wish I was an Indian."

Oscar burst into a laugh, and said, "Wish you were an Indian!--so you
could go hunting when you like, and not have any work to do? Why,
Sandy, I didn't think that of you."

Sandy colored faintly, and said, "Well, I do hate work, honestly; and
it is only because I know that I ought, and that father expects me to
do my share, that I do it, and never grumble about it. Say, I never do
grumble, do I, Oscar?" he asked earnestly.

"Only once in a while, when you can't help it, Sandy. I don't like
work any better than you do; but it's no use talking about it, we've
got to do it."

"I always feel so in the spring," said Sandy, very gravely and with a
little sigh, as he went pegging away down another furrow.

Forty acres of land was all that the settlers intended to plant with
corn, for the first year. Forty acres does not seem a very large tract
of land to speak of, but when one sees the area marked out with a
black furrow, and realizes that every foot of it must be covered with
the corn-planter, it looks formidable. The boys thought it was a very
big piece of land when they regarded it in that way. But the days soon
flew by; and even while the young workers were stumping over the
field, they consoled themselves with visions of gigantic ripe
watermelons and mammoth pumpkins and squashes that would regale their
eyes before long. For, following the example of most Kansas farmers,
they had stuck into many of the furrows with the corn the seeds of
these easily grown vines.

"Keep the melons a good way from the pumpkins, and the squashes a good
way from both, if you don't want a bad mixture," said Uncle Aleck to
the boy settlers. Then he explained that if the pollen of the
squash-blossoms should happen to fall on the melon-blossoms, the fruit
would be neither good melon nor yet good squash, but a poor mixture of
both. This piece of practical farming was not lost on Charlie; and
when he undertook the planting of the garden spot which they found
near the cabin, he took pains to separate the cucumber-beds as far as
possible from the hills in which he planted his cantaloupe seeds. The
boys were learning while they worked, even if they did grumble
occasionally over their tasks.



CHAPTER XII.

HOUSE-BUILDING.


There was a change in the programme of daily labor, when the corn was
in the ground. At odd times the settlers had gone over to the wood-lot
and had laid out their plans for the future home on that claim. There
was more variety to be expected in house-building than in planting,
and the boys had looked forward with impatience to the beginning of
that part of their enterprise. Logs for the house were cut from the
pines and firs of the hill beyond the river bluff. From these, too,
were to be riven, or split, the "shakes" for the roof-covering and for
the odd jobs of work to be done about the premises.

Now, for the first time, the boys learned the use of some of the
strange tools that they had brought with them. They had wondered over
the frow, an iron instrument about fourteen inches long, for splitting
logs. At right angles with the blade, and fixed in an eye at one end,
was a handle of hard-wood. A section of wood was stood up endwise on a
firm foundation of some sort, and the thin end of the frow was
hammered down into the grain of the wood, making a lengthwise split.

In the same way, the section of wood so riven was split again and
again until each split was thin enough. The final result was called a
"shake." Shakes were used for shingles, and even--when nailed on
frames--for doors. Sawed lumber was very dear; and, except the sashes
in the windows, every bit of the log-cabin must be got out of the
primitive forest.

The boys were proud of the ample supply which their elders had brought
with them; for even the knowing Younkins, scrutinizing the tools for
woodcraft with a critical eye, remarked, "That's a good outfit, for a
party of green settlers." Six stout wedges of chilled iron, and a
heavy maul to hammer them with, were to be used for the splitting up
of the big trees into smaller sections. Wooden wedges met the wants of
many people in those primitive parts, at times, and the man who had a
good set of iron wedges and a powerful maul was regarded with envy.

"What are these clumsy rings for?" Oscar had asked when he saw the
maul-rings taken out of the wagon on their arrival and unloading.

His uncle smiled, and said, "You will find out what these are for, my
lad, when you undertake to swing the maul. Did you never hear of
splitting rails? Well, these are to split rails and such things from
the log. We chop off a length of a tree, about eight inches thick,
taking the toughest and densest wood we can find. Trim off the bark
from a bit of the trunk, which must be twelve or fourteen inches long;
drive your rings on each end of the block to keep it from splitting;
fit a handle to one end, or into one side of the block; and there you
have your maul."

"Why, that's only a beetle, after all," cried Sandy, who, sitting on a
stump near by, had been a deeply interested listener to his father's
description of the maul.

"Certainly, my son; a maul is what people in the Eastern States would
call a beetle; but you ask Younkins, some day, if he has a beetle over
at his place. He, I am sure, would never use the name beetle."

Log-cabin building was great fun to the boys, although they did not
find it easy work. There was a certain novelty about the raising of
the structure that was to be a home, and an interest in learning the
use of rude tools that lasted until the cabin was finished. The maul
and the wedges, the frow and the little maul intended for it, and all
the other means and appliances of the building, were all new and
strange to these bright lads.

[Illustration: MAKING "SHAKES" WITH A "FROW."]

First, the size of the cabin, twelve feet wide and twenty feet long,
was marked out on the site on which it was to rise, and four logs were
laid to define the foundation. These were the sills of the new house.
At each end of every log two notches were cut, one on the under side
and one on the upper, to fit into similar notches cut in the log
below, and in that which was to be placed on top. So each corner was
formed by these interlacing and overlapping ends. The logs were piled
up, one above another, just as children build "cob-houses," from odds
and ends of playthings. Cabin-builders do not say that a cabin is a
certain number of feet high; they usually say that it is ten logs
high, or twelve logs high, as the case may be. When the structure is
as high as the eaves are intended to be, the top logs are bound
together, from side to side, with smaller logs fitted upon the upper
logs of each side and laid across as if they were to be the supports
of a floor for another story. Then the gable-ends are built up of
logs, shorter and shorter as the peak of the gable is approached, and
kept in place by other small logs laid across, endwise of the cabin,
and locked into the end of each log in the gable until all are in
place. On these transverse logs, or rafters, the roof is laid. Holes
are cut or sawed through the logs for the door and windows, and the
house begins to look habitable.

The settlers on the Republican Fork cut the holes for doors and
windows before they put on the roof, and when the layer of split
shakes that made the roof was in place, and the boys bounded inside to
see how things looked, they were greatly amused to notice how light it
was. The spaces between the logs were almost wide enough to crawl
through, Oscar said. But they had studied log-cabin building enough to
know that these wide cracks were to be "chinked" with thin strips of
wood, the refuse of shakes, driven in tightly, and then daubed over
with clay, a fine bed of which was fortunately near at hand. The
provident Younkins had laid away in his own cabin the sashes and glass
for two small windows; and these he had agreed to sell to the
newcomers. Partly hewn logs for floor-joists were placed upon the
ground inside the cabin, previously levelled off for the purpose. On
these were laid thick slabs of oak and hickory, riven out of logs
drawn from the grove near by. These slabs of hard-wood were
"puncheons," and fortunate as was the man who could have a floor of
sawed lumber to his cabin, he who was obliged to use puncheons was
better off than those with whom timber was so scarce that the natural
surface on the ground was their only floor.

"My! how it rattles!" was Sandy's remark when he had first taken a few
steps on the new puncheon floor of their cabin. "It sounds like a
tread-mill going its rounds. Can't you nail these down, daddy?"

His father explained that the unseasoned lumber of the puncheons would
so shrink in the drying that no fastening could hold them. They must
lie loosely on the floor-joists until they were thoroughly seasoned;
then they might be fastened down with wooden pins driven through holes
bored for that purpose; nails and spikes cost too much to be wasted on
a puncheon floor. In fact, very little hardware was wasted on any part
of that cabin. Even the door was made by fastening with wooden pegs a
number of short pieces of shakes to a frame fitted to the doorway cut
in the side of the cabin. The hinges were strong bits of leather, the
soles of the boots whose legs had been used for corn-droppers. The
clumsy wooden latch was hung inside to a wooden pin driven into one of
the crosspieces of the door, and it played in a loop of deerskin at
the other end. A string of deerskin fastened to the end of the
latch-bar nearest the jamb of the doorway was passed outside through a
hole cut in the door, serving to lift the latch from without when a
visitor would enter.

"Our latch-string hangs out!" exclaimed Charlie, triumphantly, when
this piece of work was done. "I must say I never knew before what it
meant to have the 'latch-string hanging out' for all comers. See,
Oscar, when we shut up the house for the night, all we have to do is
to pull in the latch-string, and the door is barred."

"Likewise, when you have dropped your jackknife through a crack in the
floor into the cellar beneath, all you have to do is to turn over a
puncheon or two and get down and find it," said Sandy, coolly, as he
took up two slabs and hunted for his knife. The boys soon found that
although their home was rude and not very elegant as to its furniture,
it had many conveniences that more elaborate and handsomer houses did
not have. There were no floors to wash, hardly to sweep. As their
surroundings were simple, their wants were few. It was a free and easy
life that they were gradually drifting into, here in the wilderness.

Charlie declared that the cabin ought to have a name. As yet, the land
on which they had settled had no name except that of the river by
which it lay. The boys thought it would give some sort of distinction
to their home if they gave it a title. "Liberty Hall," they thought
would be a good name to put on the roof of their log-cabin. Something
out of Cooper's novels, Oscar proposed, would be the best for the
locality.

"'Hog-and-hominy,' how would that suit?" asked Sandy, with a laugh.
"Unless we get some buffalo or antelope meat pretty soon, it will be
hog and hominy to the end of the chapter."

"Why not call it the John G. Whittier cabin?" said Uncle Aleck,
looking up from his work of shaping an ox-yoke.

"The very thing, daddy!" shouted Sandy, clapping his hands. "Only
don't you think that's a very long name to say in a hurry? Whittier
would be shorter, you know. But, then," he added, doubtfully, "it
isn't everybody that would know which Whittier was meant by that,
would they?"

"Sandy seems to think that the entire population of Kansas will be
coming here, some day, to read that name, if we ever have it. We have
been here two months now, and no living soul but ourselves and
Younkins has ever been in these diggings; not one. Oh, I say, let's
put up just nothing but 'Whittier' over the door there. We'll know
what that means, and if anybody comes in the course of time, I'll
warrant he'll soon find out which Whittier it means." This was Oscar's
view of the case.

"Good for you, Oscar!" said his uncle. "Whittier let it be."

Before sundown, that day, a straight-grained shake of pine, free from
knot or blemish, had been well smoothed down with the draw-shave, and
on its fair surface, writ large, was the beloved name of the New
England poet, thus: WHITTIER.

This was fastened securely over the entrance of the new log-cabin, and
the Boy Settlers, satisfied with their work, stood off at a little
distance and gave it three cheers. The new home was named.



CHAPTER XIII.

LOST!


"We must have some board-nails and some lead," remarked Uncle Aleck,
one fine morning, as the party were putting the finishing touches to
the Whittier cabin. "Who will go down to the post and get them?"

"I", "I", "I", shouted all three of the boys at once.

"Oh, you will all go, will you?" said he, with a smile. "Well, you
can't all go, for we can borrow only one horse, and it's ten miles
down there and ten miles back; and you will none of you care to walk,
I am very sure."

The boys looked at each other and laughed. Who should be the lucky one
to take that delightful horseback ride down to the post, as Fort Riley
was called, and get a glimpse of civilization?

"I'll tell you what we'll do," said Sandy, after some good-natured
discussion. "Let's draw cuts to see who shall go. Here they are. You
draw first, Charlie, you being the eldest man. Now, then, Oscar. Why,
hooray! it's my cut! I've drawn the longest, and so I am to go. Oh, it
was a fair and square deal, daddy," he added, seeing his father look
sharply at him.

The matter was settled, and next morning, bright and early, Sandy was
fitted out with his commissions and the money to buy them with.
Younkins had agreed to let him have his horse, saddle, and bridle.
Work on the farm was now practically over until time for harvesting
was come. So the other two boys accompanied Sandy over to the Younkins
side of the river and saw him safely off down the river road leading
to the post. A meal-sack in which to bring back his few purchases was
snugly rolled up and tied to the crupper of his saddle, and feeling in
his pocket for the hundredth time to make sure of the ten-dollar gold
piece therein bestowed, Sandy trotted gayly down the road. The two
other boys gazed enviously after him, and then went home, wondering,
as they strolled along, how long Sandy would be away. He would be back
by dark at the latest, for the days were now at about their longest,
and the long summer day was just begun.

At Younkins's cabin they met Hiram Battles, a neighbor who lived
beyond the divide to the eastward, and who had just ridden over in
search of some of his cattle that had strayed away, during the night
before. Mr. Battles said he was "powerful worrited." Indians had been
seen prowling around on his side of the divide: but he had seen no
signs of a camp, and he had traced the tracks of his cattle, three
head in all, over this way as far as Lone Tree Creek, a small stream
just this side of the divide; but there he had unaccountably lost all
trace of them.

"Well, as for the Indians," said Charlie, modestly, "we have seen them
passing out on the trail. But they were going hunting, and they kept
right on to the southward and westward; and we have not seen them go
back since."

"The lad's right," said Younkins, slowly, "but still I don't like the
stories I hear down the road a piece. They do say that the Shians have
riz."

"The Cheyennes have risen!" exclaimed Charlie. "And we have let Sandy
go down to the post alone!"

Both of the men laughed--a little unpleasantly, it seemed to the
boys, although Younkins was the soul of amiability and mildness. But
Charlie thought it was unkind in them to laugh at his very natural
apprehensions; and he said as much, as he and Oscar, with their
clothes on their heads, waded the Republican Fork on the way home.

"Well, Charlie," was Oscar's comforting remark, as they scrambled up
the opposite bank, "I guess the reason why they laughed at us was that
if the Cheyennes have gone on the warpath, the danger is out in the
west; whereas, Sandy has gone eastward to-day, and that is right in
the way of safety, isn't it? He's gone to the post; and you know that
the people down at Soldier Creek told us that this was a good place to
settle, because the post would be our protection in case of an Indian
rising."

Meanwhile, Sandy was blissfully and peacefully jogging along in the
direction of the military post. Only one house stood between
Younkins's and the fort; and that was Mullett's. They all had occasion
to think pleasantly of Mullett's; for whenever an opportunity came for
the mail to be forwarded from the fort up to Mullett's, it was sent
there; then Sparkins, who was the next neighbor above, but who lived
off the road a bit, would go down to Mullett's and bring the mail up
to his cabin; when he did this, he left a red flannel flag flying on
the roof of his house, and Younkins, if passing along the trail, saw
the signal and went out of his way a little to take the mail up to his
cabin. Somehow, word was sent across the river to the Whittier boys,
as the good Younkins soon learned to call the Boy Settlers, and they
went gladly over to Younkins's and got the precious letters and papers
from home. That was the primitive way in which the mail for the
settlers on the Republican Fork went up the road from Fort Riley, in
those days; and all letters and papers designed for the settlers along
there were addressed simply to Fort Riley, which was their nearest
post-office.

So Sandy, when he reached Mullett's, was not disappointed to be told
that there were no letters for anybody up the river. There had been
nobody down to the post very lately. Sandy knew that, and he was
confident that he would have the pleasure of bringing up a good-sized
budget when he returned. So he whipped up his somewhat lazy steed and
cantered down toward the fort.

Soon after leaving Mullett's he met a drove of sheep. The drivers were
two men and a boy of his own age, mounted on horseback and carrying
their provisions, apparently, strapped behind them. When he asked them
where they were going, they surlily replied that they were going to
California. That would take them right up the road that he had come
down, Sandy thought to himself. And he wondered if the boys at home
would see the interesting sight of five hundred sheep going up the
Republican Fork, bound for California.

He reached the fort before noon; and, with a heart beating high
with pleasure, he rode into the grounds and made his way to the
well-remembered sutler's store where he had bought the candy,
months before. He had a few pennies of his own, and he mentally
resolved to spend these for raisins. Sandy had a "sweet tooth", but,
except for sugar and molasses, he had eaten nothing sweet since
they were last at Fort Riley on their way westward.

It was with a feeling of considerable importance that Sandy surveyed
the interior of the sutler's store. The proprietor looked curiously
at him, as if wondering why so small a boy should turn up alone in
that wilderness; and when the lad asked for letters for the families
up the river, Mullett's, Sparkins's, Battles's, Younkins's, and his
own people, the sutler said: "Be you one of them Abolitioners that
have named your place after that man Whittier, the Abolition poet?
I've hearn tell of you, and I've hearn tell of him. And he ain't no
good. Do you hear me?" Sandy replied that he heard him, and to himself
he wondered greatly how anybody, away down here, ten miles from the
new home, could possibly have heard about the name they had given to
their cabin.

Several soldiers who had been lounging around the place now went out
at the door. The sutler, looking cautiously about as if to be sure
that nobody heard him, said: "Never you mind what I said just now,
sonny. Right you are, and that man Whittier writes the right sort of
stuff. Bet yer life! I'm no Abolitioner; but I'm a free-State man, I
am, every time."

"Then what made you talk like that, just now?" asked Sandy, his
honest, freckled face glowing with righteous indignation. "If you like
Mr. John G. Whittier's poetry, why did you say he wasn't any good?"

"Policy, policy, my little man. This yere's a pro-slavery guv'ment,
and this yere is a pro-slavery post. I couldn't keep this place one
single day if they thought I was a free-State man. See? But I tell you
right here, and don't you fergit it, this yere country is going to be
free State. Kansas is no good for slavery; and slavery can't get in
here. Stick a pin there, and keep your eye on it."

With some wonder and much disgust at the man's cowardice, Sandy
packed his precious letters in the bosom of his shirt. Into one end
of his meal-sack he put a pound of soda-biscuit for which his Uncle
Charlie had longed, a half-pound of ground ginger with which
Charlie desired to make some "molasses gingerbread, like mother's,"
and a half-pound of smoking-tobacco for his dear father. It seemed
a long way off to his father now, Sandy thought, as he tied up
that end of the bag. Then into the other end, having tied the bag
firmly around, about a foot and a half from the mouth, he put the
package of nails and a roll of sheet lead. It had been agreed that
if they were to go buffalo-hunting, they must have rifle-balls and
bullets for their shot-guns.

The sutler, who had become very friendly, looked on with an amused
smile, and said, "'Pears to me, sonny, you got all the weight at one
end, haven't you?"

Sandy did not like to be called "sonny," but he good-naturedly agreed
that he had made a mistake; so he began all over again and shifted
his cargo so that the nails and a box of yeast-powder occupied one
end of the meal-sack, and the other articles balanced the other. The
load was then tied closely to the crupper of the saddle and the boy
was ready to start on his homeward trip. His eyes roved longingly over
the stock of goodies which the sutler kept for the children, young and
old, of the garrison, and he asked, "How much for raisins?"

"Two bits a pound for box, and fifteen cents for cask," replied the
man, sententiously.

"Give me half a pound of cask raisins," said the boy, with some
hesitation. He had only a few cents to spare for his own purchases.

The sutler weighed out a half-pound of box raisins, did them up, and
handed them across the counter, saying, "No pay; them's for
Whittier."

Sandy took the package, shoved it into his shirt-bosom, and, wondering
if his "Thank you" were sufficient payment for the gift, mounted his
steed, rode slowly up the road to a spring that he had noticed
bubbling out of the side of a ravine, and with a thankful heart,
turning out the horse to graze, sat down to eat his frugal lunch, now
graced with the dry but to him delicious raisins. So the sutler at
Fort Riley was a free-State man! Wasn't that funny!

It was a beautifully bright afternoon, and Sandy, gathering his
belongings together, started up the river road on a brisk canter. The
old horse was a hard trotter, and when he slackened down from a
canter, poor Sandy shook in every muscle, and his teeth chattered as
if he had a fit of ague. But whenever the lad contrived to urge his
steed into an easier gait he got on famously. The scenery along the
Republican Fork is (or was) very agreeable to the eye. Long slopes of
vivid green stretched off in every direction, their rolling sides
dropping into deep ravines through which creeks, bordered with dense
growths of alder, birch, and young cottonwood, meandered. The sky was
blue and cloudless, and, as the boy sped along the breezy uplands, the
soft and balmy air fanning his face, he sung and whistled to express
the fervor of his buoyant spirits. He was a hearty and a happy boy.

Suddenly he came to a fork in the road which he had not noticed when
he came down that way in the morning. For a moment he was puzzled by
the sight. Both were broad and smooth tracks over the grassy prairie,
and both rose and fell over the rolling ground; only, one led to the
left and somewhat southerly, and the other to the right. "Pshaw!"
muttered Sandy, and he paused and rubbed his head for an idea. "That
left-hand road must strike off to some ford lower down on the Fork
than I have ever been. But I never heard of any ford below ours."

[Illustration: FILLING IN THE CHINKS IN THE WALLS OF THE LOG-CABIN.]

With that, his keen eyes noticed that the right-hand road was cut and
marked with the many hoof-tracks of a flock of sheep. He argued to
himself that the sheep-drivers had told him that they were going to
California. The California road led up the bank of the Republican Fork
close to the trail that led him from Younkins's to the ford across the
river. The way was plain; so, striking his spur into the old sorrel's
side, he dashed on up the right-hand road, singing gayly as he went.

Absorbed in the mental calculation as to the number of days that it
would take that flock of sheep to reach California, the boy rode on,
hardly noticing the landmarks by the way, or taking in anything but
the general beauty of the broad and smiling landscape over which the
yellow light of the afternoon sun, sinking in the west, poured a flood
of splendor. Slackening his speed as he passed a low and sunken little
round valley filled with brush and alders, he heard a queer sound like
the playful squealing of some wild animal. Slipping off his saddle and
leading his horse by the bridle over the thick turf, Sandy cautiously
approached the edge of the valley, the margin of which was steep and
well sheltered by a growth of cottonwoods. After peering about for
some time, the lad caught a glimpse of a beautiful sight. A young doe
and her fawn were playing together in the open meadow below,
absolutely unconscious of the nearness of any living thing besides
themselves. The mother-deer was browsing, now and again, and at times
the fawn, playful as a young kitten, would kick its heels, or butt its
head against its mother's side, and both would squeal in a comical
way.

Sandy had never seen deer in a state of living wildness before, and
his heart thumped heavily in his breast as he gazed on the wonderful
sight. He half groaned to himself that he was a great fool to have
come away from home without a gun. What an easy shot it was! How
nicely he could knock over the mother, if only he had a shot-gun! She
was within such short range. Then he felt a sinking of the heart, as
he imagined the horror of death that would have overtaken the innocent
and harmless creatures, sporting there so thoughtless of man's hunting
instincts and cruelty. Would he kill them, if he had the weapon to
kill with? He could not make up his mind that he would. So he crouched
silently in the underbrush, and watched the pretty sight as if it were
a little animal drama enacted here in the wilderness, mother and child
having a romp in their wildwood home.

"Well, I'll give them a good scare, anyhow," muttered the boy, his
sportive instincts getting the better of his tender-heartedness at
last. He dashed up noisily from the underbrush, swung his arms, and
shouted, "Boo!" Instantly deer and fawn, with two or three tremendous
bounds, were out of the little valley and far away on the prairie,
skimming over the rolls of green, and before the boy could catch his
breath, they had disappeared into one of the many dells and ravines
that interlaced the landscape.

But another animal was scared by the boy's shout. In his excitement he
had slipped the bridle-rein from his arm, and the old sorrel,
terrified by his halloo, set off on a brisk trot down the road. In
vain Sandy called to him to stop. Free from guidance, the horse
trotted along, and when, after a long chase, Sandy caught up with his
steed, a considerable piece of road had been covered the wrong way,
for the horse had gone back over the line of march. When Sandy was
once more mounted, and had mopped his perspiring forehead, he cast his
eye along the road, and, to his dismay, discovered that the
sheep-tracks had disappeared. What had become of the sheep? How could
they have left the trail without his sooner noticing it? He certainly
had not passed another fork of the road since coming into this at the
fork below.

"This is more of my heedlessness, mother would say," muttered Sandy to
himself. "What a big fool I must have been to miss seeing where the
sheep left the trail! I shall never make a good plainsman if I don't
keep my eye skinned better than this. Jingo! it's getting toward
sundown!" Sure enough, the sun was near the horizon, and Sandy could
see none of the familiar signs of the country round about the Fork.

But he pushed on. It was too late now to return to the fork of the
road and explore the other branch. He was in for it. He remembered,
too, that two of their most distant neighbors, Mr. Fuller and his
wife, lived somewhere back of Battles's place, and it was barely
possible that it was on the creek, whose woody and crooked line he
could now see far to the westward, that their log-cabin was situated.
He had seen Mr. Fuller over at the Fork once or twice, and he
remembered him as a gentle-mannered and kindly man. Surely he must
live on this creek! So he pushed on with new courage, for his heart
had begun to sink when he finally realized that he was far off his
road.

The sun was down when he reached the creek. No sign of human
habitation was in sight. In those days cabins and settlements were
very, very few and far between, and a traveller once off his trail
might push on for hundreds of miles without finding any trace of human
life.

In the gathering dusk the heavy-hearted boy rode along the banks of
the creek, anxiously looking out for some sign of settlers. It was
as lonely and solitary as if no man had ever seen its savageness
before. Now and then a night-bird called from a thicket, as if
asking what interloper came into these solitudes; or a scared
jack-rabbit scampered away from his feeding-ground, as the steps of
the horse tore through the underbrush. Even the old sorrel seemed
to gaze reproachfully at the lad, who had dismounted, and now led
the animal through the wild and tangled undergrowths.

[Illustration: LOST!]

When he had gone up and down the creek several times, hunting for some
trace of a settlement, and finding none, he reflected that Fuller's
house was on the side of the stream, to the west. It was a very
crooked stream, and he was not sure, in the darkness, which was west
and which was east. But he boldly plunged into the creek, mounting his
horse, and urging the unwilling beast across. Once over, he explored
that side of the stream, hither and yon, in vain. Again he crossed,
and so many times did he cross and recross that he finally had no idea
where he was. Then the conviction came fully into his mind: He was
lost.

The disconsolate boy sat down on a fallen tree and meditated. It was
useless to go farther. He was tired in every limb and very, very
hungry. He bethought himself of the soda-biscuits in his sack. He need
not starve, at any rate. Dobbin was grazing contentedly while the lad
meditated, so slipping off the saddle and the package attached to it,
Sandy prepared to satisfy his hunger with what little provisions he
had at hand. How queerly the biscuits tasted! Jolting up and down on
the horse's back, they were well broken up. But what was this so hot
in the mouth? Ginger? Sure enough, it was ginger. The pounding that
had crushed the biscuits had broken open the package of ginger, and
that spicy stuff was plentifully sprinkled all over the contents of
the sack.

"Gingerbread," muttered Sandy, grimly, as he blew out of his mouth
some of the powdery spice. "Faugh! Tobacco!" he cried next. His
father's package of smoking-tobacco had shared the fate of the ginger.
Sandy's supper was spoiled; and resigning himself to spending the
night hungry in the wilderness, he tethered the horse to a tree, put
the saddle-blanket on the ground, arranged the saddle for a pillow,
and, having cut a few leafy boughs from the alders, stuck them into
the turf so as to form a shelter around his head, and lay down to
pleasant dreams.

"And this is Saturday night, too," thought the lost boy. "They are
having beans baked in the ground-oven at home in the cabin. They are
wondering where I am. What would mother say if she knew I was lost out
here on Flyaway Creek?" And the boy's heart swelled a little, and a
few drops of water stood in his eyes, for he had never been lost
before in his life. He looked up at the leaden sky, now overcast, and
wondered if God saw this lost boy. A few drops fell on his cheek.
Tears? No; worse than that; it was rain.

"Well, this is a little too much," said Sandy, stoutly. "Here goes for
one more trial." So saying, he saddled and mounted his patient steed,
and, at a venture, took a new direction around a bend in the creek. As
he rounded the bend, the bark of a dog suddenly rung from a mass of
gloom and darkness. How sweet the sound! Regardless of the animal's
angry challenge, he pressed on. That mass of blackness was a
log-barn, and near by was a corral with cows therein. Then a light
shone from the log-cabin, and a man's voice was heard calling the
dog.

Fuller's!

The good man of the house received the lad with open arms, and cared
for his horse; inside the cabin, Mrs. Fuller, who had heard the
conversation without, had made ready a great pan of milk and a loaf of
bread, having risen from her bed to care for the young wanderer. Never
did bread and milk taste so deliciously to weary traveller as this!
Full-fed, Sandy looked at the clock on the wall, and marked with
wondering eye that it was past midnight. He had recounted his trials
as he ate, and the sympathizing couple had assured him that he had
been deceived by the sheep-driver. It was very unlikely that he was
driving his flock to California. And it was probable that, coming to
some place affording food and water, the sheep had left the main road
and had camped down in one of the ravines out of sight.

As Sandy composed his weary limbs in a blanket-lined bunk opposite
that occupied by Fuller and his wife, he was conscious that he gave a
long, long sigh as if in his sleep. And, as he drifted off into
slumber-land, he heard the good woman say, "Well, he's out of his
troubles, poor boy!" Sandy chuckled to himself and slept.



CHAPTER XIV.

MORE HOUSE-BUILDING.


It was an anxious and wondering household that Sandy burst in upon
next morning, when he had reached the cabin, escorted to the divide
above Younkins's place by his kind-hearted host of the night before.
It was Sunday morning, bright and beautiful; but truly, never had
any home looked so pleasant to his eyes as did the homely and
weather-beaten log-cabin which they called their own while they
lived in it. He had left his borrowed horse with its owner, and,
shouldering his meal-sack, with its dearly bought contents, he had
taken a short-cut to the cabin, avoiding the usual trail in order that
as he approached he might not be seen from the window looking down the
river.

"Oh, Sandy's all right," he heard his brother Charlie say. "I'll stake
my life that he will come home with flying colors, if you only give
him time. He's lost the trail somehow, and had to put up at some cabin
all night. Don't you worry about Sandy."

"But these Indian stories; I don't like them," said his father, with a
tinge of sadness in his voice.

Sandy could bear no more; so, flinging down his burden, he bounced
into the cabin with, "Oh, I'm all right! Safe and sound, but as hungry
as a bear."

The little party rushed to embrace the young adventurer, and, in their
first flush of surprise, nobody remembered to be severe with him for
his carelessness. Quite the hero of the hour, the lad sat on the table
and told them his tale, how he had lost his way, and how hospitably
and well he had been cared for at Fuller's.

"Fuller's!" exclaimed his uncle. "What in the world took you so far
off your track as Fuller's? You must have gone at least ten miles out
of your way."

"Yes, Uncle Charlie," said the boy, "it's just as easy to travel ten
miles out of the way as it is to go one. All you have to do is to get
your face in the wrong way, and all the rest is easy. Just keep
a-going; that's what I did. I turned to the right instead of to the
left, and for once I found that the right was wrong."

A burst of laughter from Oscar, who had been opening the sack that
held Sandy's purchases, interrupted the story.

"Just see what a hodgepodge of a mess Sandy has brought home! Tobacco,
biscuits, ginger, and I don't know what not, all in a pudding. It only
lacks milk and eggs to make it a cracker pudding flavored with ginger
and smoking-tobacco!" And everybody joined in the laugh that a glance
at Sandy's load called forth.

"Yes," said the blushing boy; "I forgot to tie the bag at both ends,
and the jouncing up and down of Younkins's old horse (dear me! wasn't
he a hard trotter!) must have made a mash of everything in the bag.
The paper of tobacco burst, and then I suppose the ginger followed;
the jolting of poor old 'Dobbin' did the rest. Ruined, daddy? Nothing
worth saving?"

Mr. Howell ruefully acknowledged that the mixture was not good to eat,
nor yet to smoke, and certainly not to make gingerbread of. So, after
picking out some of the larger pieces of the biscuits, the rest was
thrown away, greatly to Sandy's mortification.

"All of my journey gone for nothing," he said, with a sigh.

"Never mind, my boy," said his father, fondly; "since you have come
back alive and well, let the rest of the business care for itself. As
long as you are alive, and the redskins have not captured you, I am
satisfied."

Such was Sandy's welcome home.

With the following Monday morning came hard work,--harder work, so
Sandy thought, than miserably trying to find one's way in the darkness
of a strange region of country. For another log-house, this time on
the prairie claim, was to be begun at once. They might be called on at
any time to give up the cabin in which they were simply tenants at
will, and it was necessary that a house of some sort be put on the
claim that they had staked out and planted. The corn was up and doing
well. Sun and rain had contributed to hasten on the corn-field, and
the vines of the melons were vigorously pushing their way up and down
the hills of grain. Charlie wondered what they would do with so many
watermelons when they ripened; there would be hundreds of them; and
the mouths that were to eat them, although now watering for the
delicious fruit, were not numerous enough to make away with a
hundredth part of what would be ripe very soon. There was no market
nearer than the post, and there were many melon-patches between
Whittier's and the fort.

But the new log-house, taken hold of with energy, was soon built up to
the height where the roof was to be put on. At this juncture, Younkins
advised them to roof over the cabin slightly, make a corn-bin of it,
and wait for developments. For, he argued, if there should be any rush
of emigrants and settlers to that part of the country, so that their
claims were in danger of dispute, they would have ample warning, and
could make ready for an immediate occupation of the place. If nobody
came, then the corn-house, or bin, would be all they wanted of the
structure.

But Mr. Howell, who took the lead in all such matters, shook his head
doubtfully. He was not in favor of evading the land laws; he was more
afraid of the claim being jumped. If they were to come home from a
hunting trip, some time, and find their log-cabin occupied by a
"claim-jumper," or "squatter," as these interlopers are called, and
their farm in the possession of strangers, wouldn't they feel cheap?
He thought so.

"Say, Uncle Aleck," said Oscar, "why not finish it off as a cabin to
live in, put in the corn when it ripens, and then we shall have the
concern as a dwelling, in case there is any danger of the claim being
jumped?"

"Great head, Oscar," said his uncle, admiringly. "That is the best
notion yet. We will complete the cabin just as if we were to move into
it, and if anybody who looks like an intended claim-jumper comes
prowling around, we will take the alarm and move in. But so far, I'm
sure, there's been no rush to these parts. It's past planting season,
and it is not likely that anybody will get up this way, now so far
west, without our knowing it."

So the log-cabin, or, as they called it, "Whittier, Number Two," was
finished with all that the land laws required, with a window filled
with panes of glass, a door, and a "stick chimney" built of sticks
plastered with clay, a floor and space enough on the ground to take
care of a family twice as large as theirs, in case of need. When all
was done, they felt that they were now able to hold their farming
claim as well as their timber claim, for on each was a goodly
log-house, fit to live in and comfortable for the coming winter if
they should make up their minds to live in the two cabins during that
trying season.

The boys took great satisfaction in their kitchen-garden near the
house in which they were tenants; for when Younkins lived there, he
had ploughed and spaded the patch, and planted it two seasons, so now
it was an old piece of ground compared with the wild land that had
just been broken up around it. In their garden-spot they had planted a
variety of vegetables for the table, and in the glorious Kansas
sunshine, watered by frequent showers, they were thriving wonderfully.
They promised themselves much pleasure and profit from a garden that
they would make by their new cabin, when another summer should come.

"Younkins says that he can walk all over his melon-patch on the other
side of the Fork, stepping only on the melons and never touching the
ground once," said Oscar, one day, later in the season, as they were
feasting themselves on one of the delicious watermelons that now so
plentifully dotted their own corn-field.

"What a big story!" exclaimed both of the other boys at once. But
Oscar appealed to his father, who came striding by the edge of the
field where they chatted together. Had he ever heard of such a
thing?

"Well," said Mr. Bryant, good-naturedly, "I have heard of melons so
thick in a patch, and so big around, that the sunshine couldn't get to
the ground except at high noon. How is that for a tall story?"

The boys protested that that was only a tale of fancy. Could it be
possible that anybody could raise melons so thickly together as Mr.
Younkins had said he had seen them? Mr. Bryant, having kicked open a
fine melon, took out the heart of it to refresh himself with, as was
the manner of the settlers, where the fruit was so plenty and the
market so far out of reach; then, between long drafts of the delicious
pulp, he explained that certain things, melons for example, flourished
better on the virgin soil of the sod than elsewhere.

"Another year or so," he said, "and you will never see on this patch
of land such melons as these. They will never do so well again on this
soil as this year. I never saw such big melons as these, and if we had
planted them a little nearer together, I don't in the least doubt that
any smart boy, like Sandy here, could walk all over the field stepping
from one melon to another, if he only had a pole to balance himself
with as he walked. There would be nothing very 'wonderful-like' about
that. It's a pity that we have no use for these, there are so many of
them and they are so good. Pity some of the folks at home haven't a
few of them--a hundred or two, for instance."

It did seem a great waste of good things that these hundreds and
hundreds of great watermelons should decay on the ground for lack of
somebody to eat them. In the very wantonness of their plenty the
settlers had been accustomed to break open two or three of the finest
of the fruit before they could satisfy themselves that they had got
one of the best. Even then they only took the choicest parts, leaving
the rest to the birds. By night, too, the coyotes, or prairie-wolves,
mean and sneaking things that they were, would steal down into the
melon-patch, and, in the desperation of their hunger, nose into the
broken melons left by the settlers, and attempt to drag away some of
the fragments, all the time uttering their fiendish yelps and howls.

Somebody had told the boys that the juice of watermelons boiled to a
thick syrup was a very good substitute for molasses. Younkins told
them that, back in old Missouri, "many families never had any other
kind of sweetenin' in the house than watermelon molasses." So Charlie
made an experiment with the juice boiled until it was pretty thick.
All hands tasted it, and all hands voted that it was very poor stuff.
They decided that they could not make their superabundance of
watermelons useful except as an occasional refreshment.



CHAPTER XV.

PLAY COMES AFTER WORK.


The two cabins built, wood for the winter cut and hauled, and the
planting all done, there was now nothing left to do but to wait and
see the crop ripen. Their good friend Younkins was in the same
fortunate condition, and he was ready to suggest, to the intense
delight of the boys, that they might be able to run into a herd of
buffalo, if they should take a notion to follow the old Indian trail
out to the feeding-grounds. In those days there was no hunting west of
the new settlement, except that by the Indians. In that vague and
mysterious way by which reports travel--in the air, as it were--among
all frontier settlements, they had heard that buffalo were plenty in
the vast ranges to the westward, the herds moving slowly northward,
grazing as they went. It was now the season of wild game, and so the
boys were sent across to Younkins's to ask him what he thought of a
buffalo-hunting trip.

Reaching his cabin, the good woman of the house told them that he had
gone into the tall timber near by, thinking he heard some sort of wild
birds in the underbrush. He had taken his gun with him; in fact,
Younkins was seldom seen without his gun, except when he was at work
in the fields. The boys gleefully followed Younkins's trail into the
forest, making for an opening about a half-mile away, where Mrs.
Younkins thought he was most likely to be found. "Major," the big
yellow dog, a special pet of Sandy's, accompanied them, although his
mistress vainly tried to coax him back. Major was fond of boys'
society.

"There's Younkins now!" cried Oscar, as they drew near an opening in
the wood into which the hot sunlight poured. Younkins was half
crouching and cautiously making his way into the nearer side of the
opening, and the boys, knowing that he was on the track of game,
silently drew near, afraid of disturbing the hunter or the hunted.
Suddenly Major, catching sight of the game, bounded forward with a
loud bark into the tangle of berry bushes and vines. There was a
confused noise of wings, a whistle of alarm which also sounded like
the gobble of a turkey, and four tremendous birds rose up, and with a
motion, that was partly a run and partly a flying, they disappeared
into the depths of the forest. To their intense surprise, the usually
placid Younkins turned savagely upon the dog, and saying, "Drat that
fool dog!" fired one barrel loaded with fine bird-shot into poor
Major.

"Four as fine wild turkeys as you ever saw in your life!" he
explained, as if in apology to the boys. "I was sure of at least two
of 'em; and that lunkhead of a dog must needs dash in and scare 'em
up. It's too pesky blamed bad!"

The boys were greatly mortified at the disaster that they had brought
upon Younkins and Major by bringing the dog out with them. But when
Charlie, as the eldest, explained that they had no idea that Major
would work mischief, Younkins said, "Never mind, boys, for you did not
know what was going on-like."

Younkins, ashamed, apparently, of his burst of temper, stooped down,
and discovering that Major's wounds were not very serious, extracted
the shot, plucked a few leaves of some plant that he seemed to know
all about, and pressed the juice into the wounds made by the shot. The
boys looked on with silent admiration. This man knew everything, they
thought. They had often marvelled to see how easily and unerringly he
found his way through woods, streams, and over prairies; now he showed
them another gift. He was a "natural-born doctor," as his wife proudly
said of him.

"No turkey for supper to-night," said Younkins, as he picked up his
shot-gun and returned with the boys to the cabin. He was "right glad,"
he said, to agree to go on a buffalo hunt, if the rest of the party
would like to go. He knew there must be buffalo off to the westward.
He went with Mr. Fuller and Mr. Battles last year, about this time,
and they had great luck. He would come over that evening and set a
date with the other men for starting out together.

[Illustration: THEY WERE FEASTING THEMSELVES ON ONE OF THE DELICIOUS
WATERMELONS THAT NOW SO PLENTIFULLY DOTTED THEIR OWN CORN-FIELD.]

Elated with this ready consent of Younkins, the lads went across the
ford, eager to tell their elders the story of the wild turkeys and
poor Major's exploit. Sandy, carrying his shot-gun on his shoulder,
lingered behind while the other two boys hurried up the trail to the
log-cabin. He fancied that he heard a noise as of ducks quacking, in
the creek that emptied into the Fork just below the ford. So, making
his way softly to the densely wooded bank of the creek, he parted the
branches with great caution and looked in. What a sight it was! At
least fifty fine black ducks were swimming around, feeding and
quacking sociably together, entirely unconscious of the wide-open blue
eyes that were staring at them from behind the covert of the thicket.
Sandy thought them even more wonderful and beautiful than the young
fawn and his dam that he had seen on the Fort Riley trail. For a
moment, fascinated by the rare spectacle, he gazed wonderingly at the
ducks as they swam around, chasing each other, and eagerly hunting for
food. It was but for a moment, however. Then he raised his shot-gun,
and taking aim into the thickest of the flock, fired both barrels in
quick succession. Instantly the gay clamor of the pretty creatures
ceased, and the flock rose with a loud whirring of wings, and wheeled
away over the tree-tops. The surface of the water, to Sandy's excited
imagination, seemed to be fairly covered with birds, some dead, and
some struggling with wounded limbs. The other two boys, startled by
the double report from Sandy's gun, came scampering down the trail,
just as the lad, all excitement, was stripping off his clothes to wade
into the creek for his game.

"Ducks! Black ducks! I've shot a million of 'em!" cried the boy,
exultingly; and in another instant he plunged into the water up to his
middle, gathering the ducks by the legs and bringing them to the bank,
where Charlie and Oscar, discreetly keeping out of the oozy creek,
received them, counting the birds as they threw them on the grass.

"Eighteen, all told!" shouted Oscar, when the last bird had been
caught, as it floundered about among the weeds, and brought ashore.

"Eighteen ducks in two shots!" cried Sandy, his freckled face fairly
beaming with delight. "Did ever anybody see such luck?"

They all thought that nobody ever had.

"What's that on your leg?" asked Oscar, stooping to pick from Sandy's
leg a long, brown object looking like a flat worm. To the boys'
intense astonishment, the thing would not come off, but stretched out
several inches in length, holding on by one end.

Sandy howled with pain. "It is something that bites," he cried.

"And there's another,--and another! Why, he's covered all over with
'em!" exclaimed Oscar.

Sure enough, the lad's legs, if not exactly covered, were well
sprinkled with the things.

"Scrape 'em off with your knife!" cried Sandy.

Oscar usually carried a sheath-knife at his belt, "more for the style
of the thing, than use," he explained; so with this he quickly took
off the repulsive creatures, which, loosening their hold, dropped to
the ground limp and shapeless.

"Leeches," said Charlie, briefly, as he poked one of them over with a
stick. The mystery was explained, and wherever one of them had been
attached to the boy's tender skin, blood flowed freely for a few
minutes, and then ceased. Even on one or two of the birds they found a
leech adhering to the feathers where the poor thing's blood had
followed the shot. Picking up the game, the two boys escorted the
elated Sandy to the cabin, where his unexpected adventures made him
the hero of the day.

"Couldn't we catch some of those leeches and sell them to the
doctors?" asked the practical Oscar.

His father shook his head. "American wild leeches like those are not
good for much, my son. I don't know why not; but I have been told that
only the imported leeches are used by medical men."

"Well," said Sandy, tenderly rubbing his wounded legs, "if imported
leeches can bite any more furiously than these Kansas ones do, I don't
want any of them to tackle me! I suppose these were hungry, though,
not having had a taste of a fresh Illinois boy lately. But they didn't
make much out of me, after all."

Very happy were those three boys that evening, as, filled with roast
wild duck, they sat by and heard their elders discuss with Younkins
the details of the grand buffalo hunt that was now to be organized.
Younkins had seen Mr. Fuller, who had agreed to make one of the party.
So there would be four men and the three boys to compose the
expedition. They were to take two horses, Fuller's and Younkins's, to
serve as pack-animals, for the way to the hunting-ground might be
long; but the hunting was to be done on foot. Younkins was very sure
that they would have no difficulty in getting near enough to shoot;
the animals had not been hunted much in those parts at that time, and
the Indians killed them on foot very often. If Indians could do that,
why could not white men?

The next two days were occupied in preparations for the expedition, to
the great delight of the boys, who recalled with amusement something
of a similar feeling that they had when they were preparing for their
trip to Kansas, long ago, away back in Dixon. How far off that all
seemed now! Now they were in the promised land, and were going out to
hunt for big game--buffalo! It seemed too good to be true.

Bread was made and baked; smoked side-meat, and pepper and salt
packed; a few potatoes taken, as a luxury in camp-life; blankets,
guns, and ammunition prepared; and above all, plenty of coffee,
already browned and ground, was packed for use. It was a merry and a
buoyant company that started out in the early dawn of a September
morning, having snatched a hasty breakfast, of which the excited boys
had scarcely time to taste. Buffalo beef, they confidently said, was
their favorite meat. They would dine on buffalo hump that very day.

Oscar, more cautious than the others, asked Younkins if they were sure
to see buffalo soon.

"Surely," replied he; "I was out to the bend of the Fork just above
the bluffs, last night, and the plains were just full of 'em, just
simply black-like, as it were."

"What?" exclaimed all three boys, in a breath. "Plains full of them,
and you didn't even mention it! What a funny man you are."

Mr. Howell reminded them that Mr. Younkins had been accustomed to see
buffalo for so long that he did not think it anything worth mentioning
that he had seen vast numbers of the creatures already. So, as they
pressed on, the boys strained their eyes in the distance, looking for
buffalo. But no animals greeted their sight, as they passed over the
long green swales of the prairie, mile after mile, now rising to the
top of a little eminence, and now sinking into a shallow valley; but
occasionally a sneaking, stealthy coyote would noiselessly trot into
view, and then, after cautiously surveying them from a distance,
disappear, as Sandy said, "as if he had sunk into a hole in the
ground." It was in vain that they attempted to get near enough to one
of these wary animals to warrant a shot. It is only by great good luck
that anybody ever shoots a coyote, although in countries where they
abound every man's hand is against them; they are such arrant thieves,
as well as cowards.

But at noon, while the little party was taking a luncheon in the shade
of a solitary birch that grew by the side of a little creek, or
runlet, Sandy, the irrepressible, with his bread and meat in his hand,
darted off to the next roll of the prairie, a high and swelling hill,
in fact, "to see what he could see." As soon as the lad had reached
the highest part of the swale, he turned around and swung his arms
excitedly, too far off to make his voice heard. He jumped up and down,
whirled his arms, and acted altogether like a young lunatic.

"The boy sees buffalo," said Younkins, with a smile of calm amusement.
He could hardly understand why anybody should be excited over so
commonplace a matter. But the other two lads were off like a shot in
Sandy's direction. Reaching their comrade, they found him in a state
of great agitation. "Oh, look at 'em! Look at 'em! Millions on
millions! Did anybody ever see the like?"

Perhaps Sandy's estimate of the numbers was a little exaggerated, but
it really was a wonderful sight. The rolls of the prairie, four or
five miles away, were dark with the vast and slow-moving herds that
were passing over, their general direction being toward the spot on
which the boys were standing. Now and again, some animals strayed off
in broken parties, but for the most part the phalanx seemed to be
solid, so solid that the green of the earth was completely hidden by
the dense herd.

The boys stood rooted to the spot with the intensity of their wonder
and delight. If there were not millions in that vast army of buffalo,
there were certainly hundreds of thousands. What would happen if that
great mob should suddenly take a notion to gallop furiously in their
direction?

"You needn't whisper so," said Charlie, noticing the awe-struck tones
of the youngsters. "They can't hear you, away off there. Why, the very
nearest of the herd cannot be less than five miles off; and they would
run from us, rather than toward us, if they were to see and hear us."

"I asked Younkins if he ever had any trouble with a buffalo when he
was hunting, and what do you suppose he said?" asked Oscar, who had
recovered his voice. "Well, he said that once he was out on horseback,
and had cornered a young buffalo bull in among some limestone ledges
up there on the Upper Fork, and 'the critter turned on him and made a
nasty noise with his mouth-like,' so that he was glad to turn and run.
'Nasty noise with his mouth,' I suppose was a sort of a snort--a
snort-like, as Younkins would say. There come the rest of the folks.
My! won't daddy be provoked that we didn't go back and help hitch
up!"

But the elders of the party had not forgotten that they were once boys
themselves, and when they reached the point on which the lads stood
surveying the sight, they also were stirred to enthusiasm. The great
herd was still moving on, the dark folds of the moving mass undulating
like the waves of a sea, as the buffalo rose and fell upon the surface
of the rolling prairie.

As if the leaders had spied the hunters, the main herd now swung away
more to the right, or northward, only a few detached parties coming
toward the little group of hunters that still watched them silently
from its elevated point of observation.

Younkins surveyed the movement critically and then announced it as his
opinion that the herd was bound for the waters of the Republican Fork,
to the right and somewhat to the northward of the party. The best
course for them to take now would be to try and cut off the animals
before they could reach the river. There was a steep and bluffy bank
at the point for which the buffalo seemed to be aiming; that would
divert them further up stream, and if the hunters could only creep
along in the low gullies of the prairie, out of the sight of the herd,
they might reach the place where the buffalo would cross before they
could get there; for the herd moved slowly; an expert walker could far
out-travel them in a direct line.

"One of you boys will have to stay here by the stuff; the rest of us
will press on in the direction of the river as fast as may be," said
Uncle Aleck. The boys looked at each other in dismay. Who would be
willing to be left behind in a chase so exciting as this? Sandy
bravely solved the puzzle.

"Here, you take my shot-gun, Charlie," he said. "It carries farther
than yours; I'll stay by the stuff and the horses; I'm pretty tired,
anyhow." His father smiled approvingly, but said nothing. He knew how
great a sacrifice the boy was making for the others.

Left alone on the hill-top, for the rest of the party moved silently
and swiftly away to the northward, Sandy felt the bitterness of
disappointment as well as of loneliness while he sat on the grass
watching with absorbed attention the motions of the great herds. All
trace of his companions was soon lost as they passed down into the
gullies and ravines that broke the ground adjacent to the Fork to the
westward of the stream. Once, indeed, he saw the figures of the
hunters, painted dark against the sky, rise over a distant swell and
disappear just as one of them turned and waved a signal in dumb show
to the solitary watcher on the hill.

"If those buffalo should get stampeded," mused Sandy, "and make a
break in this way, it would be 'all day' with those horses and the
camp stuff. I guess I had better make all fast, for there may be a
gale of wind, or a gale of buffalo, which is the same thing." So
saying, the thoughtful lad led the animals down into the gully where
the noon luncheon had been taken, removed their packs, tethered them
to the tree, and then ran back to the hill-top and resumed his watch.

There was no change in the situation except that there were, if
possible, more buffalo moving over the distant slopes of the rolling
prairie. The boy stood entranced at the sight. More, more, and yet
more of the herds were slowly moving into sight and then disappearing
in the gullies below. The dark brown folds seemed to envelop the face
of the earth. Sandy wondered where so many creatures could find
pasturage. Their bodies appeared to cover the hills and valleys, so
that there could not be room left for grazing. "They've got such big
feet," he soliloquized aloud, "that I should think that the ground
would be all pawed up where they have travelled." In the ecstasy of
his admiration, he walked to and fro on the hill-top, talking to
himself, as was his wont.

"I wonder if the other fellows can see them as I do?" he asked. "I
don't believe, after all, that it is one-half so entertaining for them
as it is for me. Oh, I just wish the folks at home could be here now,
and see this sight. It beats all nature, as Father Dixon used to say.
And to think that there are thousands of people in big cities who
don't have meat enough to eat. And all this buffalo-meat running
wild!" The boy laughed to himself at the comicality of the thought.
"Fresh beef running wild!"

The faint report of a gun fired afar off now reached his ear and he
saw a blue puff of smoke rising from the crest of a timber-bordered
hill far away. The herd in that direction seemed to swerve somewhat
and scatter, but, to his intense surprise, there was no hurry in their
movements; the brown and black folds of the great mass of animals
still slowly and sluggishly spread out and flowed like the tides of
the sea, enveloping everything. Suddenly there was another report,
then another, and another. Three shots in quick succession.

"Now they are getting in their work!" shouted the boy, fairly dancing
up and down in his excitement. "Oh, I wish I was there instead of here
looking on!"

Now the herds wavered for a moment, then their general direction was
changed from the northward to the eastward. Then there was a swift and
sudden movement of the whole mass, and the vast dark stream flowed in
a direction parallel with the Fork instead of toward it, as
heretofore.

"They are coming this way!" shouted Sandy, to the empty, silent air
around him. "I'll get a shot at 'em yet!" Then, suddenly recollecting
that his gun had been exchanged for his brother's, he added, "And
Charlie's gun is no good!"

In truth, the herd was now bound straight for the hill on which the
boy maintained his solitary watch. Swiftly running down to the gully
in which the horses were tethered, Sandy got out his brother's gun and
carefully examined the caps and the load. They had run some heavy
slugs of lead in a rude mould which they had made, the slug being just
the size of the barrel of the shot-gun. One barrel was loaded with a
heavy charge of buckshot, and the other with a slug. The latter was an
experiment, and a big slug like that could not be expected to carry
very far; it might, however, do much damage at short range.

Running up to the head of the gully, which was in the nature of a
shallow ravine draining the hill above, Sandy emerged on the highest
point of land, a few hundred feet to the right and north of his former
post of observation. The herd was in full drive directly toward him.
Suppose they should come driving down over the hills where he was!
They would sweep down into the gully, stampede the horses, and
trample all the camp stuff into bits! The boy fairly shook with
excitement as the idea struck him. On they came, the solid ground
shaking under their thundering tread.

"I must try to head 'em off," said the boy to himself. "The least I
can do is to scare them a good bit, and then they'll split in two and
the herd will divide right here. But I must get a shot at one, or the
other fellows will laugh at me."

The rushing herd was headed right for the spot where Sandy stood,
spreading out to the left and right, but with the centre of the
phalanx steering in a bee-line for the lad. Thoroughly alarmed now,
Sandy looked around, and perceiving a sharp outcropping of the
underlying stratum of limestone at the head of the little ravine, he
resolved to shelter himself behind that, in case the buffalo should
continue to come that way. Notwithstanding his excitement, the lad did
not fail to note two discharges, one after the other, in the distance,
showing that his friends were still keeping up a fusillade against the
flying herds.

At the second shot, Sandy thought that the masses in the rear swung
off more to the southward, as if panic-stricken by the firing, but the
advance guard still maintained a straight line for him. There was no
escape from it now, and Sandy looked down at the two horses tethered
in the ravine below, peacefully grazing the short, thick grass,
unconscious of the flood of buffalo undulating over the prairie above
them, and soon to swoop down over the hill-side where they were. In
another instant the lad could see the tossing, shaggy manes of the
leaders of the herd, and could even distinguish the redness of their
eyes as they swept up the incline, at the head of which he stood. He
hastily dodged behind the crag of rock; it was a small affair, hardly
higher than his head, but wide enough, he thought, to divide the herd
when they came to it. So he ducked behind it and waited for coming
events.

Sandy was right. Just beyond the rock behind which he was crouched,
the ground fell off rapidly and left a stiff slope, up which even a
stampeded buffalo would hardly climb. The ground trembled as the vast
army of living creatures came tumbling and thundering over the
prairie. Sandy, stooping behind the outcropping, also trembled, partly
with excitement and partly with fear. If the buffalo were to plunge
over the very small barrier between him and them, his fate was sealed.
For an instant his heart stood still. It was but for an instant, for,
before he could draw a long breath, the herd parted on the two sides
of the little crag. The divided stream poured down on both sides of
him, a tumultuous, broken, and disorderly torrent of animals, making
no sound except for the ceaseless beat of their tremendous hoofs.
Sandy's eyes swam with the bewildering motion of the living stream.
For a brief space he saw nothing but a confused mass of heads, backs,
and horns, hundreds of thousands flowing tumultuously past. Gradually
his sense of security came back to him, and, exulting in his safety,
he raised his gun, and muttering under his breath, "Right behind the
fore-shoulder-like, Younkins said," he took steady aim and fired. A
young buffalo bull tumbled headlong down the ravine. In their mad
haste, a number of the animals fell over him, pell-mell, but,
recovering themselves with incredible swiftness, they skipped to their
feet, and were speedily on their way down the hill. Sandy watched,
with a beating heart, the young bull as he fell heels over head two or
three times before he could rally; the poor creature got upon his
feet, fell again, and while the tender-hearted boy hesitated whether
to fire the second barrel or not, finally fell over on his side
helpless.

Meanwhile the ranks of buffalo coming behind swerved from the fallen
animal to the left and right, as if by instinct, leaving an open space
all around the point where the boy stood gazing at his fallen game. He
fired, almost at random, at the nearest of the flying buffalo; but the
buckshot whistled hurtlessly among the herd, and Sandy thought to
himself that it was downright cruelty to shoot among them, for the
scattering shot would only wound without killing the animals.

It was safe now for Sandy to emerge from his place of concealment,
and, standing on the rocky point behind which he had been hidden, he
gazed to the west and north. The tumbling masses of buffalo were
scattered far apart. Here and there he could see wide stretches of
prairie, no longer green, but trampled into a dull brown by the tread
of myriads of hurrying feet; and far to the north the land was clear,
as if the main herd had passed down to the southward. Scattered bands
still hurried along above him, here and there, nearer to the Fork, but
the main herd had gone on in the general direction of the settlers'
home.

"What if they have gone down to our cabin?" he muttered aloud. "It's
all up with any corn-field that they run across. But, then, they must
have kept too far to the south to get anywhere near our claim." And
the lad consoled himself with this reflection.

But his game was more engrossing of his attention just now than
anything else. He had been taught that an animal should not bleed to
death through a gunshot wound. His big leaden slug had gone directly
through the buffalo's vitals somewhere, for it was now quite dead.
Sandy stood beside the noble beast with a strange elation, looking at
it before he could make up his mind to cut its throat and let out the
blood. It was a young bull buffalo that lay before him, the short,
sharp horns ploughed into the ground, and the massive form, so lately
bounding over the rolling prairie, forever still. To Sandy it all
seemed like a dream, it had come and gone so quickly. His heart
misgave him as he looked, for Sandy had a tender heart. Then he gently
touched the animal with the toe of his boot and cried, "All by my own
self!"

[Illustration: HE GENTLY TOUCHED THE ANIMAL WITH THE TOE OF HIS BOOT AND
CRIED, "ALL BY MY OWN SELF."]

"Well done, Sandy!" The boy started, turned, and beheld his cousin
Oscar gazing open-mouthed at the spectacle. "And did you shoot him all
by your very own self? What with? Charlie's gun?" The lad poured forth
a torrent of questions, and Sandy proudly answered them all with,
"That is what I did."

As the two boys hung with delight over the prostrate beast, Oscar told
the tale of disappointment that the others had to relate. They had
gone up the ravines that skirted the Fork, prowling on their hands and
knees; but the watchers of the herd were too wary to let the hunters
get near enough for a good shot. They had fired several times, but had
brought down nothing. Sandy had heard the shots? Yes, Sandy had heard,
and had hoped that somebody was having great sport. After all, he
thought, as he looked at the fallen monarch of the prairie, it was
rather cruel business. Oscar did not think so; he wished he had had
such luck.

The rest of the party now came up, one after another, and all gave a
whoop of astonishment and delight at Sandy's great success as soon as
they saw his noble quarry.

The sun was now low in the west; here was a good place for camping; a
little brush would do for firing, and water was close at hand. So the
tired hunters, after a brief rest, while they lay on the trampled
grass and recounted the doings of the day, went to work at the game.
The animal was dressed, and a few choice pieces were hung on the tree
to cool for their supper. It was dark when they gathered around their
cheerful fire, as the cool autumnal evening came on, and cooked and
ate with infinite zest their first buffalo-meat. Boys who have never
been hungry with the hunger of a long tramp over the prairies, hungry
for their first taste of big game of their own shooting, cannot
possibly understand how good to the Boy Settlers was their supper on
the wind-swept slopes of the Kansas plains.

Wrapping themselves as best they could in the blankets and buffalo-robes
brought from home, the party lay down in the nooks and corners of
the ravine, first securing the buffalo-meat on the tree that made
their camp.

"What, for goodness' sake, is that?" asked Charlie, querulously, as he
was roused out of his sleep by a dismal cry not far away in the
darkness.

"Wolves," said Younkins, curtly, as he raised himself on one elbow to
listen. "The pesky critters have smelt blood; they would smell it if
they were twenty miles off, I do believe, and they are gathering round
as they scent the carcass."

By this, all of the party were awake except Sandy, who, worn out with
excitement, perhaps, slept on through all the fearful din. The mean
little prairie-wolves gathered, and barked, and snarled, in the
distance. Nearer, the big wolves howled like great dogs, their long
howl occasionally breaking into a bark; and farther and farther off,
away in the extremest distance, they could hear other wolves, whose
hollow-sounding cry seemed like an echo of their more fortunate
brethren, nearer the game. A party of the creatures were busy at the
offal from the slain buffalo, just without the range of the firelight,
for the camp-fire had been kept alight. Into the struggling, snarling
group Younkins discharged his rifle. There was a sharp yell of pain, a
confused patter of hurrying feet, and in an instant all was still.

Sandy started up. "Who's shot another buffalo?" he asked, as if
struggling with a dream. The others laughed, and Charlie explained
what had been going on, and the tired boy lay down to sleep again. But
that was not a restful night for any of the campers. The wolves
renewed their howling. The hunters were able to snatch only a few
breaths of sleep from time to time, in moments when the dismal
ululation of the wolf-chorus subsided. The sun rose, flooding the
rolling prairies with a wealth of golden sunshine. The weary campers
looked over the expanse around them, but not a remnant of the
rejected remains of the buffalo was to be seen; and in all the
landscape about, no sign of any living thing was in sight, save where
some early-rising jack-rabbit scudded over the torn sod, hunting for
his breakfast.

Fresh air, bright sunlight, and a dip in a cool stream are the best
correctives for a head heavy with want of sleep; and the hunters,
refreshed by these and a pot of strong and steaming coffee, were soon
ready for another day's sport.



CHAPTER XVI.

A GREAT DISASTER.


The hunters had better success on their second day's search for
buffalo; for they not only found the animals, but they killed three.
The first game of the day was brought down by Younkins, who was the
"guide, philosopher, and friend" of the party, and Oscar, the youngest
of them all, slew the second. The honor of bringing down the third and
last was Uncle Aleck's. When he had killed his game, he was anxious to
get home as soon as possible, somewhat to the amusement of the others,
who rallied him on his selfishness. They hinted that he would not be
so ready to go home, if he yet had his buffalo to kill, as had some of
the others.

"I'm worried about the crop, to tell the truth," said Mr. Howell. "If
that herd of buffalo swept down on our claim, there's precious little
corn left there now; and it seemed to me that they went in that
direction."

"If that's the case," said the easy-going Younkins, "what's the use of
going home? If the corn is gone, you can't get it back by looking at
the place where it was."

They laughed at this cool and practical way of looking at things, and
Uncle Aleck was half ashamed to admit he wanted to be rid of his
present suspense, and could not be satisfied until he had settled in
his mind all that he dreaded and feared.

It was a long and wearisome tramp homeward. But they had been more
successful than they had hoped or expected, and the way did not
seem so long as it would if they had been empty-handed. The choicest
parts of their game had been carefully cooled by hanging in the dry
Kansas wind, over night, and were now loaded upon the pack-animals.
There was enough and more than enough for each of the three families
represented in the party; and they had enjoyed many a savory
repast of buffalo-meat cooked hunter-fashion before an open camp-fire,
while their expedition lasted. So they hailed with pleasure the
crooked line of bluffs that marks the big bend of the Republican
Fork near which the Whittier cabin was built. Here and there they
had crossed the trail, broad and well pounded, of the great herd that
had been stampeded on the first day of their hunt. But for the most
part the track of the animal multitude bore off more to the south, and
the hunters soon forgot their apprehensions of danger to the
corn-fields left unfenced on their claim.

It was sunset when the weary pilgrims reached the bluff that
overlooked the Younkins cabin where the Dixon party temporarily
dwelt. The red light of the sun deluged with splendor the waving grass
of the prairie below them, and jack-rabbits scurrying hither and yon
were the only signs of life in the peaceful picture. Tired as he was,
Oscar could not resist taking a shot at one of the flying creatures;
but before he could raise his gun to his shoulder, the long-legged,
long-eared rabbit was out of range. Running briskly for a little
distance, it squatted in the tall grass. Piqued at this, Oscar
stealthily followed on the creature's trail. "It will make a nice
change from so much buffalo-meat," said the lad to himself, "and if I
get him into the corn-field, he can't hide so easily."

He saw Jack's long ears waving against the sky on the next rise of
ground, as he muttered this to himself, and he pressed forward,
resolved on one parting shot. He mounted the roll of the prairie, and
before him lay the corn-field. It was what had been a corn-field!
Where had stood, on the morning of their departure, a glorious field
of gold and green, the blades waving in the breeze like banners,
was now a mass of ruin. The tumultuous drove had plunged down over
the ridge above the field, and had fled, in one broad swath of
destruction, straight over every foot of the field, their trail
leaving a brown and torn surface on the earth, wide on both sides
of the plantation. Scarcely a trace of greenness was left where once
the corn-field had been. Here and there, ears of grain, broken and
trampled into the torn earth, hinted what had been; but for the most
part hillock, stalk, corn-blade, vine, and melon were all crushed
into an indistinguishable confusion, muddy and wrecked.

Oscar felt a shudder pass down his back, and his knees well-nigh gave
way under him as he caught a glimpse of the ruin that had been
wrought. Tears were in his eyes, and, unable to raise a shout, he
turned and wildly waved his hands to the party, who had just then
reached the door of the cabin. His Uncle Aleck had been watching the
lad, and as he saw him turn he exclaimed, "Oscar has found the buffalo
trail over the corn-field!"

The whole party moved quickly in the direction of the plantation. When
they reached the rise of ground overlooking the field, Oscar, still
unable to speak, turned and looked at his father with a face of grief.
Uncle Aleck, gazing on the wreck and ruin, said only, "A whole
summer's work gone!"

"A dearly bought buffalo-hunt!" remarked Younkins.

"That's so, neighbor," added Mr. Bryant, with the grimmest sort of a
smile; and then the men fell to talking calmly of the wonderful amount
of mischief that a drove of buffalo could do in a few minutes, even
seconds, of time. Evidently, the animals had not stopped to snatch a
bite by the way. They had not tarried an instant in their wild course.
Down the slope of the fields they had hurried in a mad rush, plunged
into the woody creek below, and, leaving the underbrush and vines
broken and flattened as if a tornado had passed through the land, had
thundered away across the flat floor of the bottom-land on the further
side of the creek. A broad brown track behind them showed that they
had then fled into the dim distance of the lands of the Chapman's
Creek region.

There was nothing to be done, and not much to be said. So, parting
with their kindly and sympathizing neighbors, the party went
sorrowfully home.

"Well," said Uncle Aleck, as soon as they were alone together, "I am
awful sorry that we have lost the corn; but I am not so sure that it
is so very great a loss, after all."

The boys looked at him with amazement, and Sandy said,--

"Why, daddy, it's the loss of a whole summer; isn't it? What are we
going to live on this whole winter that's coming, now that we have no
corn to sell?"

"There's no market for free-State corn in these parts, Sandy," replied
his father; and, seeing the look of inquiry on the lad's face, he
explained: "Mr. Fuller tells us that the officer at the post, the
quartermaster at Fort Riley who buys for the Government, will buy no
grain from free-State men. Several from the Smoky Hill and from
Chapman's have been down there to find a market, and they all say the
same thing. The sutler at the post, Sandy's friend, told Mr. Fuller
that it was no use for any free-State man to come there with anything
to sell to the Government, at any price. And there is no other good
market nearer than the Missouri, you all know that,--one hundred and
fifty miles away."

"Well, I call that confoundedly mean!" cried Charlie, with fiery
indignation. "Do you suppose, father, that they have from Washington
any such instructions to discriminate against us?"

"I cannot say as to that, Charlie," replied his father; "I only tell
you what the other settlers report; and it sounds reasonable. That is
why the ruin of the corn-field is not so great a misfortune as it
might have been."



CHAPTER XVII.

THE WOLF AT THE DOOR.


Uncle Aleck and Mr. Bryant had gone over to Chapman's Creek to make
inquiries about the prospect of obtaining corn for their cattle
through the coming winter, as the failure of their own crop had made
that the next thing to be considered. The three boys were over at the
Younkins cabin in quest of news from up the river, where, it was said,
a party of California emigrants had been fired upon by the Indians.
They found that the party attacked was one coming from California, not
migrating thither. It brought the Indian frontier very near the boys
to see the shot-riddled wagons, left at Younkins's by the travellers.
The Cheyennes had shot into the party and had killed four and wounded
two, at a point known as Buffalo Creek, some one hundred miles or so
up the Republican Fork. It was a daring piece of effrontery, as there
were two military posts not very far away, Fort Kearney above and Fort
Riley below.

"But they are far enough away by this time," said Younkins, with some
bitterness. "Those military posts are good for nothin' but to run to
in case of trouble. No soldiers can get out into the plains from any
of them quick enough to catch the slowest Indian of the lot."

Charlie was unwilling to disagree with anything that Younkins said,
for he had the highest respect for the opinions of this experienced
old plainsman. But he couldn't help reminding him that it would take a
very big army to follow up every stray band of Indians, provided any
of the tribes should take a notion to go on the warpath.

"Just about this time, though, the men that were stationed at Fort
Riley are all down at Lawrence to keep the free-State people from
sweeping the streets with free-State brooms, or something that-a-way,"
said Younkins, determined to have his gibe at the useless soldiery, as
he seemed to think them. Oscar was interested at once. Anything that
related to the politics of Kansas the boy listened to greedily.

"It's something like this," explained Younkins. "You see the
free-State men have got a government there at Lawrence which is lawful
under the Topeka Legislator', as it were. The border-State men have
got a city government under the Lecompton Legislatur'; and so the two
are quarrelling to see which shall govern the city; 'tisn't much of a
city, either."

"But what have the troops from Fort Riley to do with it? I don't see
that yet," said Oscar, with some heat.

[Illustration: A GREAT DISASTER.]

"Well," said Younkins, "I am a poor hand at politics; but the way I
understand it is that the Washington Government is in favor of the
border-State fellows, and so the troops have been sent down to stand
by the mayor that belongs to the Lecompton fellows. Leastways, that is
the way the sutler down to the post put it to me when I was down there
with the folks that were fired on up to Buffalo Creek; I talked with
him about it yesterday. That's why I said they were at Lawrence to
prevent the streets being swept by free-State brooms. That is the
sutler's joke. See?"

"That's what I call outrageous," cried Oscar, his eyes snapping with
excitement. "Here's a people up here on the frontier being massacred
by Indians, while the Government troops are down at Lawrence in a
political quarrel!"

The boys were so excited over this state of things that they paid very
little attention to anything else while on their way back to the
cabin, full of the news of the day. Usually, there was not much news
to discuss on the Fork.

"What's that by the cabin-door?" said Sandy, falling back as he looked
up the trail and beheld a tall white, or light gray, animal smelling
around the door-step of the cabin, only a half-mile away. It seemed to
be about as large as a full-grown calf, and it moved stealthily about,
and yet with a certain unconcern, as if not used to being scared
easily.

"It's a wolf!" cried Oscar. "The Sunday that Uncle Aleck and I saw one
from the bluff yonder, he was just like that. Hush, Sandy, don't talk
so loud, or you'll frighten him off before we can get a crack at him.
Let's go up the trail by the ravine, and perhaps we can get a shot
before he sees us."

It was seldom that the boys stirred abroad without firearms of some
sort. This time they had a shot-gun and a rifle with them, and,
examining the weapons as they went, they ran down into a dry gully, to
follow which would bring them unperceived almost as directly to the
cabin as by the regular trail. As noiselessly as possible, the boys
ran up the gully trail, their hearts beating high with expectation. It
would be a big feather in their caps if they could only have a gray
wolf's skin to show their elders on their return from Chapman's.

"You go round the upper side of the house with your rifle, Oscar, and
I'll go round the south side with the shot-gun," was Charlie's advice
to his cousin when they had reached the spring at the head of the
gully, back of the log-cabin. With the utmost caution, the two boys
crept around opposite corners of the house, each hoping he would be
lucky enough to secure the first shot. Sandy remained behind, waiting
with suppressed excitement for the shot. Instead of the report of a
firearm, he heard a peal of laughter from both boys.

"What is it?" he cried, rushing from his place of concealment. "What's
the great joke?"

"Nothing," said Oscar, laughing heartily, "only that as I was stealing
around the corner here by the corral, Charlie was tiptoeing round the
other corner with his eyes bulging out of his head as if he expected
to see that wolf."

"Yes," laughed Charlie, "and if Oscar had been a little quicker, he
would have fired at me. He had his gun aimed right straight ahead as
he came around the corner of the cabin."

"And that wolf is probably miles and miles away from here by this
time, while you two fellows were sneaking around to find him. Just as
if he was going to wait here for you!" It was Sandy's turn to laugh,
then.

The boys examined the tracks left in the soft loam of the garden by
the strange animal, and came to the conclusion that it must have been
a very large wolf, for its footsteps were deep as if it were a heavy
creature, and their size was larger than that of any wolf-tracks they
had ever seen.

When the elders heard the story on their arrival from Chapman's, that
evening, Uncle Aleck remarked with some grimness, "So the wolf is at
the door at last, boys." The lads by this understood that poverty
could not be far off; but they could not comprehend that poverty could
affect them in a land where so much to live upon was running wild, so
to speak.

"Who is this that rides so fast?" queried Charlie, a day or two after
the wolf adventure, as he saw a stranger riding up the trail from the
ford. It was very seldom that any visitor, except the good Younkins,
crossed their ford. And Younkins always came over on foot.

Here was a horseman who rode as if in haste. The unaccustomed sight
drew all hands around the cabin to await the coming of the stranger,
who rode as if he were on some important errand bent. It was Battles.
His errand was indeed momentous. A corporal from the post had come to
his claim, late in the night before, bidding him warn all the settlers
on the Fork that the Cheyennes were coming down the Smoky Hill,
plundering, burning, and slaying the settlers. Thirteen white people
had been killed in the Smoky Hill country, and the savages were
evidently making their way to the fort, which at that time was left in
an unprotected condition. The commanding officer sent word to all
settlers that if they valued their lives they would abandon their
claims and fly to the fort for safety. Arms and ammunition would be
furnished to all who came. Haste was necessary, for the Indians were
moving rapidly down the Smoky Hill.

"But the Smoky Hill is twenty-five or thirty miles from here," said
Mr. Bryant; "why should they strike across the plains between here and
there?"

Battles did not know; but he supposed, from his talk with the
corporal, that it was expected that the Cheyennes would not go quite
to the fort, but, having raided the Smoky Hill country down as near to
the post as might seem safe, they would strike across to the
Republican Fork at some narrow point between the two rivers, travel up
that stream, and so go back to the plains from which they came,
robbing and burning by the way.

The theory seemed a reasonable one. Such a raid was like Indian
warfare.

"How many men are there at the post?" asked Uncle Aleck.

"Ten men including the corporal and a lieutenant of cavalry," replied
Battles, who was a pro-slavery man. "The rest are down at Lawrence to
suppress the rebellion."

"So the commanding officer at the post wants us to come down and help
defend the fort, which has been left to take care of itself while the
troops are at Lawrence keeping down the free-State men," said Mr.
Bryant, bitterly. "For my part, I don't feel like going. How is it
with you, Aleck?"

"I guess we had better take care of ourselves and the boys, Charlie,"
said Uncle Aleck, cheerily. "It's pretty mean for Uncle Sam to leave
the settlers to take care of themselves and the post at this critical
time, I know; but we can't afford to quibble about that now. Safety is
the first consideration. What does Younkins say?" he asked of
Battles.

"A randyvoo has been appointed at my house to-night," said the man,
"and Younkins said he would be there before sundown. He told me to
tell you not to wait for him; he would meet you there. He has sent his
wife and children over to Fuller's, and Fuller has agreed to send them
with Mrs. Fuller over to the Big Blue, where there is no danger.
Fuller will be back to my place by midnight. There is no time to fool
away."

Here was an unexpected crisis. The country was evidently alarmed and
up in arms. An Indian raid, even if over twenty miles away, was a
terror that they had not reckoned on. After a hurried consultation,
the Whittier settlers agreed to be at the "randyvoo," as Battles
called it, before daybreak next morning. They thought it best to take
his advice and hide what valuables they had in the cabin, make all
snug, and leave things as if they never expected to see their home
again, and take their way to the post as soon as possible.

[Illustration: THE RETREAT TO BATTLES'S.]

It was yet early morning, for Mr. Battles had wasted no time in
warning the settlers as soon as he had received notice from the fort.
They had all the day before them for their preparations. So the
settlers, leaving other plans for the time, went zealously to work
packing up and secreting in the thickets and the gully the things they
thought most valuable and they were least willing to spare. Clothing,
crockery, and table knives and forks were wrapped up in whatever came
handy and were buried in holes dug in the ploughed ground. Lead,
bullets, slugs, and tools of various kinds were buried or concealed in
the forks of trees, high up and out of sight. Where any articles were
buried in the earth, a fire was afterwards built on the surface so
that no trace of the disturbed ground should be left to show the
expected redskins that goods had been there concealed. They lamented
that a sack of flour and a keg of molasses could not be put away, and
that their supply of side-meat, which had cost them a long journey to
Manhattan, must be abandoned to the foe--if he came to take it. But
everything that could be hidden in trees or buried in the earth was so
disposed of as rapidly as possible.

Perhaps the boys, after the first flush of apprehension had passed,
rather enjoyed the novelty and the excitement. Their spirits rose as
they privately talked among themselves of the real Indian warfare of
which this was a foretaste. They hoped that it would be nothing worse.
When the last preparations were made, and they were ready to depart
from their home, uncertain whether they would ever see it again,
Sandy, assisted by Oscar, composed the following address. It was
written in a big, boyish hand on a sheet of letter-paper, and was left
on the table in the middle of their cabin:--

  GOOD MISTER INDIAN: We are leaving in a hurry and we want you to
  be careful of the fire when you come. Don't eat the corn-meal in
  the sack in the corner; it is poisoned. The flour is full of
  crickets, and crickets are not good for the stomach. Don't fool
  with the matches, nor waste the molasses. Be done as you would
  do by, for that is the golden rule.

                                 Yours truly,
                                          THE WHITTIER SETTLERS.

Even in the midst of their uneasiness and trouble, their elders
laughed at this unique composition, although Mr. Bryant thought that
the boys had mixed their version of the golden rule. Sandy said that
no Cheyenne would be likely to improve upon it. So, with many
misgivings, the little party closed the door of their home behind
them, and took up their line of march to the rendezvous.

The shortest way to Battles's was by a ford farther down the river,
and not by the way of the Younkins place. So, crossing the creek on a
fallen tree near where Sandy had shot his famous flock of ducks, and
then steering straight across the flat bottom-land on the opposite
side, the party struck into a trail that led through the cottonwoods
skirting the west bank of the stream. The moon was full, and the
darkness of the grove through which they wended their way in single
file was lighted by long shafts of moonbeams that streamed through the
dense growth. The silence, save for the steady tramp of the little
expedition, was absolute. Now and again a night-owl hooted, or a
sleeping hare, scared from its form, scampered away into the
underbrush; but these few sounds made the solitude only more
oppressive. Charlie, bringing up the rear, noted the glint of the
moonlight on the barrels of the firearms carried by the party ahead of
him, and all the romance in his nature was kindled by the thought that
this was frontier life in the Indian country. Not far away, he
thought, as he turned his face to the southward, the cabins of
settlers along the Smoky Hill were burning, and death and desolation
marked the trail of the cruel Cheyennes.

Now and again Sandy, shivering in the chill and dampness of the wood,
fell back and whispered to Oscar, who followed him in the narrow
trail, that this would be awfully jolly if he were not so sleepy. The
lad was accustomed to go to bed soon after dark; it was now late into
the night.

All hands were glad when the big double cabin of the Battles family
came in sight about midnight, conspicuous on a rise of the rolling
prairie and black against the sky. Lights were burning brightly in one
end of the cabin; in the other end a part of the company had gone to
sleep, camping on the floor. Hot coffee and corn-bread were ready for
the newcomers, and Younkins, with a tender regard for the lads, who
were unaccustomed to milk when at home, brought out a big pan of
delicious cool milk for their refreshment. Altogether, as Sandy
confessed to himself, an Indian scare was not without its fun. He
listened with great interest to the tales that the settlers had to
tell of the exploits of Gray Wolf, the leader and chief of the
Cheyennes. He was a famous man in his time, and some of the elder
settlers of Kansas will even now remember his name with awe. The boys
were not at all desirous of meeting the Indian foe, but they secretly
hoped that if they met any of the redskins, they would see the
far-famed Gray Wolf.

While the party, refreshed by their late supper, found a lodging
anywhere on the floor of the cabin, a watch was set outside, for the
Indians might pounce upon them at any hour of the night or day. Those
who had mounted guard during the earlier part of the evening went to
their rest. Charlie, as he dropped off to sleep, heard the footsteps
of the sentry outside and said to himself, half in jest, "The Wolf is
at the door."

But no wolf came to disturb their slumbers. The bright and cheerful
day, and the song of birds dispelled the gloom of the night, and fear
was lifted from the minds of the anxious settlers, some of whom,
separated from wives and children, were troubled with thoughts of
homes despoiled and crops destroyed. Just as they had finished
breakfast and were preparing for the march to the fort, now only two
or three miles away, a mounted man in the uniform of a United States
dragoon dashed up to the cabin, and, with a flourish of soldierly
manner, informed the company that the commanding officer at the post
had information that the Cheyennes, instead of crossing over to the
Republican as had been expected, or attacking the fort, had turned and
gone back the way they came. All was safe, and the settlers might go
home assured that there was no danger to themselves or their
families.

Having delivered this welcome message in a grand and semi-official
manner, the corporal dismounted from his steed, in answer to a
pressing invitation from Battles, and unbent himself like an ordinary
mortal to partake of a very hearty breakfast of venison, corn-bread,
and coffee. The company unslung their guns and rifles, sat down again,
and regaled themselves with pipes, occasional cups of strong coffee,
and yet more exhilarating tales of the exploits and adventures of
Indian slayers of the earlier time on the Kansas frontier. The great
Indian scare was over. Before night fell again, every settler had gone
his own way to his claim, glad that things were no worse, but groaning
at Uncle Sam for the niggardliness which had left the region so
defenceless when an emergency had come.



CHAPTER XVIII.

DISCOURAGEMENT.


Right glad were our settlers to see their log-cabin home peacefully
sleeping in the autumnal sunshine, as they returned along the familiar
trail from the river. They had gone back by the way of the Younkins
place and had partaken of the good man's hospitality. Younkins thought
it best to leave his brood with his neighbors on the Big Blue for
another day. "The old woman," he said, "would feel sort of scary-like"
until things had well blown over. She was all right where she was, and
he would try to get on alone for a while. So the boys, under his
guidance, cooked a hearty luncheon which they heartily enjoyed.
Younkins had milk and eggs, both of which articles were luxuries to
the Whittier boys, for on their ranch they had neither cow nor hens.

"Why can't we have some hens this fall, daddy?" asked Sandy,
luxuriating in a big bowl of custard sweetened with brown sugar, which
the skilful Charlie had compounded. "We can build a hen-house there by
the corral, under the lee of the cabin, and make it nice and warm for
the winter. Battles has got hens to sell, and perhaps Mr. Younkins
would be willing to sell us some of his."

"If we stay, Sandy, we will have some fowls; but we will talk about
that by and by," said his father.

"Stay?" echoed Sandy. "Why, is there any notion of going back? Back
from 'bleeding Kansas'? Why, daddy, I'm ashamed of you."

Mr. Howell smiled and looked at his brother-in-law. "Things do not
look very encouraging for a winter in Kansas, bleeding or not
bleeding; do they, Charlie?"

"Well, if you appeal to me, father," replied the lad, "I shall be glad
to stay and glad to go home. But, after all, I must say, I don't
exactly see what we can do here this winter. There is no farm work
that can be done. But it would cost an awful lot of money to go back
to Dixon, unless we took back everything with us and went as we came.
Wouldn't it?"

Younkins did not say anything, but he looked approvingly at Charlie
while the other two men discussed the problem. Mr. Bryant said it was
likely to be a hard winter; they had no corn to sell, none to feed to
their cattle. "But corn is so cheap that the settlers over on
Solomon's Fork say they will use it for fuel this winter. Battles told
me so. I'd like to see a fire of corn on the cob; they say it makes a
hot fire burned that way. Corn-cobs without corn hold the heat a long
time. I've tried it."

"It is just here, boys," said Uncle Aleck. "The folks at home are
lonesome; they write, you know, that they want to come out before the
winter sets in. But it would be mighty hard for women out here, this
coming winter, with big hulking fellows like us to cook for and with
nothing for us to do. Everything to eat would have to be bought. We
haven't even an ear of corn for ourselves or our cattle. Instead of
selling corn at the post, as we expected, we would have to buy of our
neighbors, Mr. Younkins here, and Mr. Fuller, and we would be obliged
to buy our flour and groceries at the post, or down at Manhattan; and
they charge two prices for things out here; they have to, for it costs
money to haul stuff all the way from the river."

"That's so," said Younkins, resignedly. He was thinking of making a
trip to "the river," as the settlers around there always called the
Missouri, one hundred and fifty miles distant. But Younkins assured
his friends that they were welcome to live in his cabin where they
still were at home, for another year, if they liked, and he would haul
from the river any purchases that they might make. He was expecting to
be ready to start for Leavenworth in a few days, as they knew, and one
of them could go down with him and lay in a few supplies. His team
could haul enough for all hands. If not, they could double up the two
teams and bring back half of Leavenworth, if they had the money to buy
so much. He "hated dreadfully" to hear them talking about going back
to Illinois.

But when the settlers reached home and found amusement and some little
excitement in the digging up of their household treasures and putting
things in place once more, the thought of leaving this home in the Far
West obtruded itself rather unpleasantly on the minds of all of them,
although nobody spoke of what each thought. Oscar had hidden his
precious violin high up among the rafters of the cabin, being willing
to lose it only if the cabin were burned. There was absolutely no
other place where it would be safe to leave it. He climbed to the loft
overhead and brought it forth with great glee, laid his cheek lovingly
on its body and played a familiar air. Engrossed in his music, he
played on and on until he ran into the melody of "Home, Sweet Home,"
to which he had added many curious and artistic variations.

"Don't play that, Oscar; you make me homesick!" cried Charlie, with a
suspicious moisture in his eyes. "It was all very well for us to hear
that when this was the only home we had or expected to have; but daddy
and Uncle Charlie have set us to thinking about the home in Illinois,
and that will make us all homesick, I really believe."

"Here is all my 'funny business' wasted," cried Sandy. "No Indian came
to read my comic letter, after all. I suppose the mice and crickets
must have found some amusement in it; I saw any number of them
scampering away when I opened the door; but I guess they are the only
living things that have been here since we went away."

"Isn't it queer that we should be gone like this for nearly two days,"
said Oscar, "leaving everything behind us, and come back and know that
nobody has been any nearer to the place than we have, all the time? I
can't get used to it."

"My little philosopher," said his Uncle Charlie, "we are living in the
wilderness; and if you were to live here always, you would feel, by
and by, that every newcomer was an interloper; you would resent the
intrusion of any more settlers here, interfering with our freedom and
turning out their cattle to graze on the ranges that seem to be so
like our own, now. That's what happens to frontier settlers,
everywhere."

"Why, yes," said Sandy, "I s'pose we should all be like that man over
on the Big Blue that Mr. Fuller tells about, who moved away when a
newcomer took up a claim ten miles and a half from him, because, as he
thought, the people were getting too thick. For my part, I am willing
to have this part of Kansas crowded to within, say, a mile and a half
of us, and no more. Hey, Charlie?"

[Illustration: "HOME, SWEET HOME."]

But the prospect of that side of the Republican Fork being over-full
with settlers did not seem very imminent about that time. From parts
of Kansas nearer to the Missouri River than they were, they heard of a
slackening in the stream of migration. The prospect of a cold winter
had cooled the ardor of the politicians who had determined, earlier in
the season, to hold the Territory against all comers. Something like a
truce had been tacitly agreed on, and there was a cessation of
hostilities for the present. The troops had been marched back from
Lawrence to the post, and no more elections were coming on for the
present in any part of the Territory. Mr. Bryant, who was the only
ardent politician of the company, thought that it would be a good plan
to go back to Illinois for the winter. They could come out again in
the spring and bring the rest of the two families with them. The land
would not run away while they were gone.

It was with much reluctance that the boys accepted this plan of their
elders. They were especially sorry that it was thought best that the
two men should stay behind and wind up affairs, while the three lads
would go down to the river with Younkins, and thence home by steamer
from Leavenworth down the Missouri to St. Louis. But, after a few days
of debate, this was thought to be the best thing that could be done.
It was on a dull, dark November day that the boys, wading for the last
time the cold stream of the Fork, crossed over to Younkins's early in
the morning, while the sky was red with the dawning, carrying their
light baggage with them. They had ferried their trunks across the day
before, using the oxcart for the purpose and loading all into
Younkins's team, ready for the homeward journey.

Now that the bustle of departure had come, it did not seem so hard to
leave the new home on the Republican as they had expected. It had been
agreed that the two men should follow in a week, in time to take the
last steamboat going down the river in the fall, from Fort Benton,
before the closing of navigation for the season. Mr. Bryant, unknown
to the boys, had written home to Dixon directing that money be sent in
a letter addressed to Charlie, in care of a well-known firm in
Leavenworth. They would find it there on their arrival, and that would
enable them to pay their way down the river to St. Louis and thence
home by the railroad.

"But suppose the money shouldn't turn up?" asked Charlie, when told of
the money awaiting them. He was accustomed to look on the dark side of
things, sometimes, so the rest of them thought. "What then?"

"Well, I guess you will have to walk home," said his uncle, with a
smile. "But don't worry about that. At the worst, you can work your
passage to St. Louis, and there you will find your uncle, Oscar G.
Bryant, of the firm of Bryant, Wilder & Co. I'll give you his address,
and he will see you through, in case of accidents. But there will be
no accidents. What is the use of borrowing trouble about that?"

They did not borrow any trouble, and as they drove away from the
scenes that had grown so familiar to them, they looked forward, as all
boys would, to an adventurous voyage down the Missouri, and a welcome
home to their mothers and their friends in dear old Dixon.

The nights were now cold and the days chilly. They had cooked a goodly
supply of provisions for their journey, for they had not much ready
money to pay for fare by the way. At noon they stopped by the roadside
and made a pot of hot coffee, opened their stores of provisions and
lunched merrily, gypsy-fashion, caring nothing for the curious looks
and inquisitive questions of other wayfarers who passed them. For the
first few nights they attempted to sleep in the wagon. But it was
fearfully cold, and the wagon-bed, cluttered up with trunks, guns, and
other things, gave them very little room. Miserable and sore, they
resolved to spend their very last dollar, if need be, in paying for
lodging at the wayside inns and hospitable cabins of the settlers
along the road. The journey homeward was not nearly so merry as that
of the outward trip. But new cabins had been built along their route,
and the lads found much amusement in hunting up their former
camping-places as they drove along the military road to Fort
Leavenworth.

In this way, sleeping at the farm-houses and such casual taverns as
had grown up by the highway, and usually getting their supper and
breakfast where they slept, they crept slowly toward the river. Sandy
was the cashier of the party, although he had preferred that Charlie,
being the eldest, should carry their slender supply of cash. Charlie
would not take that responsibility; but, as the days went by, he
rigorously required an accounting every morning; he was very much
afraid that their money would not hold out until they reached
Leavenworth.

Twenty miles a day with an ox-team was fairly good travelling; and it
was one hundred and fifty miles from the Republican to the Missouri,
as the young emigrants travelled the road. A whole week had been
consumed by the tedious trip when they drove into the busy and
bustling town of Leavenworth, one bright autumnal morning. All along
the way they had picked up much information about the movement of
steamers, and they were delighted to find that the steamboat "New
Lucy" was lying at the levee, ready to sail on the afternoon of the
very day they would be in Leavenworth. They camped, for the last time,
in the outskirts of the town, a good-natured border-State man
affording them shelter in his hay-barn, where they slept soundly all
through their last night in "bleeding Kansas."

The "New Lucy," from Fort Benton on the upper Missouri, was blowing
off steam as they drove down to the levee. Younkins helped them
unload their baggage, wrung their hands, one after another, with real
tears in his eyes, for he had learned to love these hearty, happy
lads, and then drove away with his cattle to pen them for the day and
night that he should be there. Charlie and Oscar went to the warehouse
of Osterhaus & Wickham, where they were to find the letter from home,
the precious letter containing forty dollars to pay their expenses
homeward.

Sandy sat on the pile of trunks watching with great interest the novel
sight of hurrying passengers, different from any people he ever saw
before; black "roustabouts," or deck-hands, tumbling the cargo and the
firewood on board, singing, shouting, and laughing the while, the
white mates overseeing the work with many hard words, and the captain,
tough and swarthy, superintending from the upper deck the mates and
all hands. A party of nice-looking, citified people, as Sandy thought
them, attracted his attention on the upper deck, and he mentally
wondered what they could be doing here, so far in the wilderness.

"Car' yer baggage aboard, boss?" asked a lively young negro, half-clad
and hungry-looking.

"No, not yet," answered Sandy, feeling in his trousers pocket the last
two quarters of a dollar that was left them. "Not yet. I am not ready
to go aboard till my mates come." The hungry-looking darky made a rush
for another more promising passenger and left Sandy lounging where the
other lads soon after found him. Charlie's face was a picture of
despair. Oscar looked very grave, for him.

"What's up?" cried Sandy, starting from his seat. "Have you seen a
ghost?"

"Worse than that," said Charlie. "Somebody's stolen the money!"

"Stolen the money?" echoed Sandy, with vague terror, the whole extent
of the catastrophe flitting before his mind. "Why, what on earth do
you mean?"

Oscar explained that they had found the letter, as they expected, and
he produced it, written by the two loving mothers at home. They said
that they had made up their minds to send fifty dollars, instead of
the forty that Uncle Charlie had said would be enough. It was in
ten-dollar notes, five of them; at least, it had been so when the
letter left Dixon. When it was opened in Leavenworth, it was empty,
save for the love and tenderness that were in it. Sandy groaned.

The lively young darky came up again with, "Car' yer baggage aboard,
boss?"

It was sickening.

"What's to be done now?" said Charlie, in deepest dejection, as he sat
on the pile of baggage that now looked so useless and needless. "I
just believe some of the scamps I saw loafing around there in that
store stole the money out of the letter. See here; it was sealed with
that confounded new-fangled 'mucilage'; gumstickum I call it. Anybody
could feel those five bank-notes inside of the letter, and anybody
could steam it open, take out the money, and seal it up again. We have
been robbed."

"Let's go and see the heads of the house there at Osterhaus &
Wickham's. They will see us righted," cried Sandy, indignantly. "I
won't stand it, for one."

"No use," groaned Charlie. "We saw Mr. Osterhaus. He was very
sorry--oh, yes!--awfully sorry; but he didn't know us, and he had no
responsibility for the letters that came to his place. It was only an
accommodation to people that he took them in his care, anyhow. Oh,
it's no use talking! Here we are, stranded in a strange place, knowing
no living soul in the whole town but good old Younkins, and nobody
knows where he is. He couldn't lend us the money, even if we were mean
enough to ask him. Good old Younkins!"

"Younkins!" cried Sandy, starting to his feet. "He will give us good
advice. He has got a great head, has Younkins. I'll go and ask him
what to do. Bless me! There he is now!" and as he spoke, the familiar
slouching figure of their neighbor came around the corner of a
warehouse on the levee.

"Why don't yer go aboard, boys? The boat leaves at noon, and it's past
twelve now. I just thought I'd come down and say good-by-like, for
I'm powerful sorry to have ye go."

The boys explained to the astonished and grieved Younkins how they had
been wrecked, as it were, almost in sight of the home port. The good
man nodded his head gravely, as he listened, softly jingled the few
gold coins in his trousers pocket, and said: "Well, boys, this is the
wust scald I ever did see. If I wasn't so dreadful hard up, I'd give
ye what I've got."

"That's not to be thought of, Mr. Younkins," said Charlie, with
dignity and gratitude, "for we can't think of borrowing money to get
home with. It would be better to wait until we can write home for
more. We might earn enough to pay our board." And Charlie, with a
sigh, looked around at the unsympathetic and hurrying throng.

"You've got baggage as security for your passage to St. Louis. Go
aboard and tell the clerk how you are fixed. Your pa said as how you
would be all right when you got to St. Louis. Go and 'brace' the
clerk."

This was a new idea to the boys. They had never heard of such a thing.
Who would dare to ask such a great favor? The fare from Leavenworth to
St. Louis was twelve dollars each. They had known all about that. And
they knew, too, that the price included their meals on the way down.

"I'll go brace the clerk," said Sandy, stoutly; and before the others
could put in a word, he was gone.

The clerk was a handsome, stylish-looking man, with a good-natured
countenance that reassured the timid boy at once. Mustering up his
waning courage, Sandy stated the case to him, telling him that that
pile of trunks and guns on the levee was theirs, and that they would
leave them on board when they got to St. Louis until they had found
their uncle and secured the money for their fares.

The handsome clerk looked sharply at the lad while he was telling his
story. "You've got an honest face, my little man. I'll trust you.
Bring aboard your baggage. People spar their way on the river every
day in the year; you needn't be ashamed of it. Accidents will happen,
you know." And the busy clerk turned away to another customer.

With a light heart Sandy ran ashore. His waiting and anxiously
watching comrades saw by his face that he had been successful, before
he spoke.

"That's all fixed," he cried, blithely.

"Bully boy!" said Younkins, admiringly.

"Car' yer baggage aboard, boss?" asked the lively young darky.

"Take it along," said Sandy, with a lordly air. They shook hands with
Younkins once more, this time with more fervor than ever. Then the
three lads filed on board the steamboat. The gang-plank was hauled in,
put out again for the last tardy passenger, once more taken aboard,
and then the stanch steamer "New Lucy" was on her way down the turbid
Missouri.

"Oh, Sandy," whispered Charlie, "you gave that darky almost the last
cent we had for bringing our baggage on board. We ought to have lugged
it aboard ourselves."

"Lugged it aboard ourselves? And all these people that we are going to
be passengers with for the next four or five days watching us while we
did a roustabout's work? Not much. We've a quarter left."

Charlie was silent. The great stern-wheel of the "New Lucy" revolved
with a dashing and a churning sound. The yellow banks of the Missouri
sped by them. The sacred soil of Kansas slid past as in a swiftly
moving panorama. One home was hourly growing nearer, while another was
fading away there into the golden autumnal distance.



CHAPTER XIX.

DOWN THE BIG MUDDY.


It is more than six hundred miles from Leavenworth to St. Louis by the
river. And as the river is crooked exceedingly, a steamboat travelling
that route points her bow at every point of the compass, north, south,
east, and west, before the voyage is finished. The boys were impatient
to reach home, to be back in dear old Dixon, to see the mother and the
fireside once more. But they knew that days must pass before they
could reach St. Louis. The three lads settled themselves comfortably
in the narrow limits of their little stateroom; for they found that
their passage included quarters really more luxurious than they had
been accustomed to in their Kansas log-cabin.

"Not much army blanket and buffalo-robe about this," whispered Oscar,
pressing his toil-stained hand on the nice white spread of his berth.
"Say, wouldn't Younkins allow that this was rather comfortable-like,
if he was to see it and compare it with his deerskin coverlet that he
is so proud of?"

"Well, Younkins's deerskin coverlet is paid for, and this isn't," said
Charlie, grimly.

But the light-hearted younger boys borrowed no trouble on that score.
As Sandy said, laughingly, they were all fixed for the trip to St.
Louis, and what was the use of fretting about the passage money until
the time came to pay it?

When the lads, having exchanged their flannel shirts for white cotton
ones, saved up for this occasion, came out from their room, they saw
two long tables covered with snowy cloths set for the whole length of
the big saloon. They had scanned the list of meal hours hanging in
their stateroom, and were very well satisfied to find that there were
three meals served each day. It was nearly time for the two o'clock
dinner, and the colored servants were making ready the tables. The
boat was crowded with passengers, and it looked as if some of them
would be obliged to wait for the "second table." On board of a
steamboat, especially in those days of long voyages, the matter of
getting early to the table and having a good seat was of great concern
to the passengers. Men stood around, lining the walls of the saloon
and regarding with hungry expectation the movements of the waiters who
were making ready the tables. When the chairs were placed, every man
laid his hand on the top of the seat nearest him, prepared, as one of
the boys privately expressed it, to "make a grab."

"Well, if we don't make a grab, too, we shall get left," whispered
Sandy, and the boys bashfully filed down the saloon and stood ready
to take their seats when the gong should sound.

To eyes unused to the profuseness of living that then prevailed on the
best class of Western steamboats, the display on the dining-tables of
the "New Lucy" was very grand indeed. The waiters, all their movements
regulated by something like military discipline, filed in and out
bearing handsome dishes for the decoration of the board.

"Just look at those gorgeous flowers! Red, white, blue, purple,
yellow! My! aren't they fine?" said Sandy, under his breath.

Oscar giggled. "They are artificial, Sandy. How awfully green you
are!"

Sandy stoutly maintained that they were real flowers. He could smell
them. But when one of the waiters, having accidentally overturned one
of the vases and knocked a flaming bouquet on the carpeted floor of
the cabin, snatched it up and dusted it with his big black hand, Sandy
gave in, and murmured, "Tis true; they're false."

But the boys' eyes fairly stood out with wonder and admiration when a
procession of colored men came out of the pantry, bearing a grand
array of ornamental dishes. Pineapples, bananas, great baskets of
fancy cakes, and other dainties attracted their wonder-stricken gaze.
But most of all, numerous pyramids of macaroons, two or three feet
high, with silky veils of spun sugar falling down from summit to base,
fascinated their attention. They had never seen the like at a public
table; and the generous board of the "New Lucy" fairly groaned with
good things when the gong somewhat superfluously announced to the
waiting throng that dinner was served.

"No plates, knives, or forks," said Sandy, as, amid a great clatter
and rush, everybody sat down to the table. Just then a long procession
of colored waiters emerged from the pantry, the foremost man carrying
a pile of plates, and after him came another with a basket of knives,
after him another with a basket of forks, then another with spoons,
and so on, each man carrying a supply of some one article for the
table. With the same military precision that had marked all their
movements, six black hands were stretched at the same instant over the
shoulders of the sitting passengers, and six articles were noiselessly
dropped on the table; then, with a similar motion, the six black hands
went back to their respective owners, as the procession moved along
behind the guests, the white-sleeved arms and black hands waving in
the air and keeping exact time as the procession moved around the
table.

"Looks like a white-legged centipede," muttered Sandy, under his
breath. But more evolutions were coming. These preliminaries having
been finished, the solemn procession went back to the kitchen regions,
and presently came forth again, bearing a glittering array of shining
metal covered dishes. At the tap of the pompous head-waiter's bell,
every man stood at "present arms," as Oscar said. Then, at another
tap, each dish was projected over the white cloth to the spot for
which it was designed, and held an inch or two above the table.
Another tap, and every dish dropped into its place with a sound as of
one soft blow. The pompous head-waiter struck his bell again, and
every dish-cover was touched by a black hand. One more jingle, and,
with magical swiftness and deftness, each dish-cover was lifted, and a
delightful perfume of savory viands gushed forth amidst the
half-suppressed "Ahs" of the assembled and hungry diners. Then the
procession of dark-skinned waiters, bearing the dish-covers, filed
back to the pantry, and the real business of the day began. This was
the way that dinners were served on all the first-rate steamboats on
Western rivers in those days.

To hungry, hearty boys, used of late to the rough fare of the
frontier, and just from a hard trip in an ox-wagon, with very short
rations indeed, this profusion of good things was a real delight.
Sandy's mouth watered, but he gently sighed to himself, "'Most takes
away my appetite." The polite, even servile, waiters pressed the lads
with the best of everything on the generous board; and Sandy's cup of
happiness was full when a jolly darky, his ebony face shining with
good-nature, brought him some frosted cake, charlotte russe, and spun
sugar and macaroons from one of the shattered pyramids.

"D'ye s'pose they break those up every day?" whispered Sandy to the
more dignified Charlie.

"Suttinly, suh," replied the colored man, overhearing the question;
"suttinly, suh. Dis yere boat is de fastest and de finest on de Big
Muddy, young gent; an' dere's nuttin' in dis yere worl' that the 'New
Lucy' doan have on her table; an' doan yer fergit it, young mas'r," he
added, with respectful pride in his voice.

"My! what a tuck-out! I've ate and ate until I'm fairly fit to bust,"
said Sandy, as the three boys, their dinner over, sauntered out into
the open air and beheld the banks of the river swiftly slipping by as
they glided down the stream.

Just then, glancing around, his eye caught the amused smile of a tall
and lovely lady who was standing near by, chatting with two or three
rather superior-looking young people whom the lad had first noticed
when the question of having the baggage brought on board at
Leavenworth was under discussion. Sandy's brown cheek flushed; but the
pretty lady, extending her hand, said: "Pardon my smiling, my boy; but
I have a dear lad at home in Baltimore who always says just that after
his Christmas dinner, and sometimes on other occasions, perhaps; and
his name is Sandy, too. I think I heard your brother call you Sandy?
This is your brother, is it not?" And the lady turned towards
Charlie.

The lad explained the relationship of the little party, and the lady
from Baltimore introduced the members of her party. They had been far
up the river to Fort Benton, where they had spent some weeks with
friends who were in the military garrison at that post. The young men,
of whom there were three in the party, had been out hunting for
buffalo, elk, and other big game. Had the boys ever killed any
buffalo? The pleasant-faced young gentleman who asked the question had
noticed that they had a full supply of guns when they came aboard at
Leavenworth.

Yes, they had killed buffalo; at least, Sandy had; and the youngster's
exploit on the bluff of the Republican Fork was glowingly narrated by
the generous and manly Charlie. This story broke the ice with the
newly met voyagers and, before the gong sounded for supper, the
Whittier boys, as they still called themselves, were quite as well
acquainted with the party from Baltimore, as they thought, as they
would have been if they had been neighbors and friends on the banks of
the Republican.

The boys looked in at the supper-table. They only looked; for although
the short autumnal afternoon had fled swiftly by while they were
chatting with their new friends or exploring the steamboat, they felt
that they could not possibly take another repast so soon after their
first real "tuck-out" on the "New Lucy." The overloaded table,
shining with handsome glass and china and decked with fancy cakes,
preserves, and sweetmeats, had no present attractions for the boys.
"It's just like after Thanksgiving dinner," said Oscar. "Only we are
far from home," he added, rather soberly. And when the lads crawled
into their bunks, as Sandy insisted upon calling their berths, it
would not surprise one if "thoughts of home and sighs disturbed the
sleeper's long-drawn breath."

Time and again, in the night-watches, the steamer stopped at some
landing by the river-side. Now it would be a mere wood-pile, and the
boat would be moored to a cottonwood tree that overhung the stream.
Torches of light-wood burning in iron frames at the end of a staff
stuck into the ground or lashed to the steamer rail shed a wild, weird
glare on the hurrying scene as the roustabouts, or deck-hands, nimbly
lugged the wood on board, or carried the cargo ashore, singing
plaintive melodies as they worked. Then again, the steamer would be
made fast to a wharf-boat by some small town, or to the levee of a
larger landing-place, and goods went ashore, passengers flitted on and
off, baggage was transferred, the gang-plank was hauled in with
prodigious clatter, the engineer's bell tinkled, and, with a great
snort from her engines, the "New Lucy" resumed her way down the river.
Few passengers but those who were to go ashore could be seen on the
upper deck viewing the strange sights of making a night-landing. And
through the whole racket and din, three lads slept the sleep of the
young and the innocent in room Number 56. "Just the number of the year
with the eighteen knocked off," Sandy had said when they were assigned
to it.

When the boys had asked in Leavenworth how long the trip to St. Louis
would be, they were told, "Three or four days, if the water holds."
This they thought rather vague information, and they had only a dim
idea of what the man meant by the water holding. They soon learned.
The season had been dry for the time of year. Although it was now
November, little or no autumnal rains had fallen. Passengers from Fort
Benton said that the lands on the Upper Missouri were parched for want
of water, and the sluggish currents of the Big Muddy were "as slow as
cold molasses," as one of the deck-hands said to Sandy, when he was
peering about the lower deck of the steamboat. It began to look as if
the water would not hold.

On the second afternoon out of Leavenworth, as the "New Lucy" was
gallantly sweeping around Prairie Bend, where any boat going down
stream is headed almost due north, the turn in the river revealed no
less than four other steamers hard and fast on the shoals that now
plentifully appeared above the surface of the yellow water. Cautiously
feeling her way along through these treacherous bars and sands, the
"New Lucy," with slackened speed, moved bravely down upon the stranded
fleet. Anxious passengers clustered on the forward part of the
steamer, watching the course of events. With many a cough and many a
sigh, the boat swung to the right or left, obedient to her helm, the
cry of the man heaving the lead for soundings telling them how fast
the water shoaled or deepened as they moved down stream.

"We are bound to get aground," said Oscar, as he scanned the wide
river, apparently almost bare to its bed. "I suppose there is a
channel, and I suppose that pilot up there in the pilot-house knows
where it is, but I don't see any." Just then the water before them
suddenly shoaled, there was a soft, grating sound, a thud, and the
boat stopped, hard and fast aground. The "New Lucy" had joined the
fleet of belated steamers on the shoals of Prairie Bend.

The order was given for all passengers to go aft; and while the lads
were wondering what they were so peremptorily sent astern for, they
saw two tall spars that had been carried upright at the bow of the
boat rigged into the shape of a V upside down, and set on either side
of the craft, the lower ends resting on the sand-bar each side of her.
A big block and tackle were rigged at the point where the spars
crossed each other over the bow of the boat, and from these a stout
cable was made fast to the steamer's "nose," as the boys heard
somebody call the extreme point of the bow.

"They are actually going to hoist this boat over the sand-bar," said
Sandy, excitedly, as they viewed these preparations from the rear of
the boat.

"That is exactly what they are going to do," said the pleasant-faced
young man from Baltimore. "Now, then!" he added, with the air of
one encouraging another, as the crew, laying hold of the tackle, and
singing with a queer, jerky way, began to hoist. This would not
avail. The nose of the boat was jammed deep into the sand, and so the
cable was led back to a windlass, around which it was carried.
Then, the windlass being worked by steam, the hull of the steamer
rose very slightly, and the bottom of the bow was released from the
river-bottom. The pilot rang his bell, the engine puffed and
clattered, and the boat crept ahead for a few feet, and then came to
rest again. That was all that could be done until the spars were
reset further forward or deep water was reached. It was discouraging,
for with all their pulling and hauling, that had lasted for more than
an hour, they had made only four or five feet of headway.

"At the rate of five feet an hour, how long will it take us to spar
our way down to St. Louis?" asked Charlie, quizzically.

"Oh, Charlie," cried Sandy, "I know now why the clerk said that there
were plenty of fellows who had to spar their way on the river. It is
hard work to pull this steamer over the sand-bars and shoals, and when
a man is busted and has to work his way along, he's like a steamboat
in a fix, like this one is. See? That's the reason why they say he is
sparring his way, isn't it?"

"You are quite correct, youngster," said the young man from Baltimore,
regarding Sandy's bright face with pleasure. "Correct you are. But I
never knew what the slang meant until I came out here. And, for that
matter, I don't know that I ever heard the slang before. But it is the
jargon of the river men."

By this time, even sparring was of very little use, for the spars only
sank deep and deeper into the soft river-bottom, and there was no
chance to raise the bow of the boat from its oozy bed. The case for
the present was hopeless; but the crew were kept constantly busy until
nightfall, pulling and hauling. Some were sent ashore in a skiff, with
a big hawser, which was made fast to a tree, and then all the power of
the boat, men and steam, was put upon it to twist her nose off from
the shoal into which it was stuck. All sorts of devices were resorted
to, and a small gain was made once in a while; but it looked very much
as if the calculation of Charlie, five feet in an hour, was too
liberal an allowance for the progress towards St. Louis.

Just then, from the boat furthest down the river rose a cloud of
steam, and the astonished lads heard a most extraordinary sound like
that of a gigantic organ. More or less wheezy, but still easily to be
understood, the well-known notes of "Oh, Susannah!" came floating up
the river to them. Everybody paused to listen, even the tired and
tugging roustabouts smiling at the unwonted music.

"Is it really music?" asked Oscar, whose artistic ear was somewhat
offended by this strange roar of sounds. The young man from Baltimore
assured him that this was called music; the music of a steam-organ or
calliope, then a new invention on the Western rivers. He explained
that it was an instrument made of a series of steam-whistles so
arranged that a man, sitting where he could handle them all very
rapidly, could play a tune on them. The player had only to know the
key to which each whistle was pitched, and, with a simple arrangement
of notes before him, he could make a gigantic melody that could be
heard for many miles away.

"You are a musician, are you not?" asked the young man from Baltimore.
"Didn't I hear you playing a violin in your room last night? Or was it
one of your brothers?"

Oscar, having blushingly acknowledged that he was playing his violin
for the benefit of his cousins, as he explained, his new-found
acquaintance said, "I play the flute a little, and we might try some
pieces together some time, if you are willing."

As they were making ready for bed that night, the pleasant-faced young
man from Baltimore, who had been playing whist with his mother and
sister, and the "military man," as the boys had privately named one
of the party, came to their door with his flute. The two musicians
were fast friends at once. Flute and violin made delicious harmony, in
the midst of which Sandy, who had slipped into his bunk, drifted off
into the land of dreams with confused notions of a giant band
somewhere up in the sky playing "Oh, Susannah!" "Love's Last
Greeting," and "How Can I Leave Thee?" with occasional suggestions of
the "Song of the Kansas Emigrants."

Another morning came on, cold, damp, and raw. The sky was overcast and
there were signs of rain. "There's been rain to the nor'rard," said
Captain Bulger, meditatively. Now Captain Bulger was the skipper of
the "New Lucy," and when he said those oracular words, they were
reported about the steamboat, to the great comfort of all on board.
Still the five boats stuck on the shoals; their crews were still hard
at work at all the devices that could be thought of for their
liberation. The "War Eagle"--for they had found out the name of the
musical steamer far down stream--enlivened the tedious day with her
occasional strains of martial and popular music, if the steam-organ
could be called musical.

In the afternoon, Oscar and the amiable young man from Baltimore shut
themselves in their stateroom and played the flute and violin. The
lovely lady who had made Sandy's acquaintance early in the voyage
asked him if he could make one at a game of whist. Sandy replied that
he could play "a very little." The thought of playing cards here on a
steamboat, in public, as he said to himself, was rather frightful. He
was not sure if his mother would like to have him do that. He looked
uneasily around to see what Charlie would say about it. But Charlie
was nowhere in sight. He was wandering around, like an uneasy ghost,
watching for signs of the rising of the river, now confidently
predicted by the knowing ones among the passengers.

"My boys all play whist," said the lady, kindly; "but if you do not
like to play, I will not urge you. We lack one of making up a party."

Sandy had been told that he was an uncommonly good player for one so
young. He liked the game; there would be no stakes, of course. With
his ready habit of making up his mind, he brightly said, "I'll play if
you like, but you must know that I am only a youngster and not a
first-rate player." So they sat down, the lovely lady from Baltimore
being Sandy's partner, and the military gentleman and the young
daughter of the lady from Baltimore being their opponents. Sandy had
great good luck. The very best cards fell to him continually, and he
thought he had never played so well. He caught occasional strains of
music from room Number 56, and he was glad that Oscar was enjoying
himself. From time to time the lovely lady who was his partner smiled
approvingly at him, and once in a while, while the cards were being
dealt, she said, "How divinely those dear boys are playing!"

The afternoon sped on delightfully, and Sandy's spirits rose. He
thought it would be fine if the "New Lucy" should stay stuck on a
sand-bar for days and days, and he should have such a good game of
whist, with the lovely lady from Baltimore for a partner. But the
military gentleman grew tired. His luck was very poor, and when the
servants began to rattle dishes on the supper-table, he suggested that
it would be just as well perhaps if they did not play too much now;
they would enjoy the game better later on. They agreed to stop with
the next game.

When they had first taken their places at the card-table, the military
gentleman had asked Sandy if he had any cards, and when he replied
that he had none, the military gentleman, with a very lordly air, sent
one of the cabin waiters to the bar for a pack of cards. Now that they
were through with the game, Sandy supposed that the military gentleman
would put the cards into his pocket and pay for them. Instead of that
he said, "Now, my little man, we will saw off to see who shall pay for
the cards."

"Saw off?" asked Sandy, faintly, with a dim notion of what was meant.

"Yes, my lad," said the military gentleman. "We will play one hand of
Old Sledge to see who shall pay for the cards and keep them."

With a sinking heart, but with a brave face, Sandy took up the cards
dealt to him and began to play. It was soon over. Sandy won one point
in the hand; the military gentleman had the other three.

"Take care of your cards, my son," said the military gentleman; "we
may want them again. They charge the extravagant price of six bits for
them on this boat, and these will last us to St. Louis."

Six bits! Seventy-five cents! And poor Sandy had only twenty-five
cents in his pocket. That silver quarter represented the entire
capital of the Boy Settlers from Kansas. Looking up, he saw Charlie
regarding him with reproachful eyes from a corner of the saloon. With
great carefulness, he gathered up his cards and rose, revolving in his
mind the awful problem of paying for seventy-five cents' worth of
cards with twenty-five cents.

"Well, you've got yourself into a nice scrape," tragically whispered
Charlie, in his ear, as soon as the two boys were out of earshot of
the others. "What are you going to do now? You can spar your way down
to St. Louis, but you can't spar your way with that barkeeper for a
pack of cards."

"Let me alone, Charlie," said Sandy, testily. "You haven't got to pay
for these cards. I'll manage it somehow. Don't you worry yourself the
least bit."

"Serves you right for gambling. What would mother say if she knew it?
If you hadn't been so ready to show off your whist-playing before
these strangers, you wouldn't have got into such a box."

"I didn't gamble," replied Sandy, hotly. "It isn't gambling to play a
hand to see who shall pay for the cards. All men do that. I have seen
daddy roll a game of tenpins to see who should pay for the alley."

"I don't care for that. It is gambling to play for the leastest thing
as a stake. Nice fellow you are, sitting down to play a hand of
seven-up for the price of a pack of cards! Six bits at that!"

"A nice brotherly brother you are to nag me about those confounded
cards, instead of helping a fellow out when he is down on his luck."

Charlie, a little conscience-stricken, held his peace, while Sandy
broke away from him, and rushed out into the chilly air of the
after-deck. There was no sympathy in the dark and murky river, none in
the forlorn shore, where rows of straggling cottonwoods leaned over
and swept their muddy arms in the muddy water. Looking around for a
ray of hope, a bright idea struck him. He could but try one chance.
The bar of the "New Lucy" was a very respectable-looking affair, as
bars go. It opened into the saloon cabin of the steamer on its inner
side, but in the rear was a small window where the deck passengers
sneaked up, from time to time, and bought whatever they wanted, and
then quietly slipped away again, unseen by the more "high-toned"
passengers in the cabin. Summoning all his courage and assurance, the
boy stepped briskly to this outside opening, and, leaning his arms
jauntily on the window-ledge, said, "See here, cap, I owe you for a
pack of cards."

"Yep," replied the barkeeper, holding a bottle between his eye and the
light, and measuring its contents.

This was not encouraging. Sandy, with a little effort, went on: "You
see we fellows, three of us, are sparring our way down to St. Louis.
We have got trusted for our passage. We've friends in St. Louis, and
when we get there we shall be in funds. Our luggage is in pawn for our
passage money. When we come down to get our luggage, I will pay you
the six bits I owe you for the cards. Is that all right?"

"Yep," said the barkeeper, and he set the bottle down. As the lad went
away from the window, with a great load lifted from his heart, the
barkeeper put his head out of the opening, looked after him, smiled,
and said, "That boy'll do."

When Sandy joined his brother, who was wistfully watching for him, he
said, a little less boastfully than might have been expected of him,
"That's all right, Charlie. The barkeeper says he will trust me until
we get to St. Louis and come aboard to get the luggage. He's a good
fellow, even if he did say 'yep' instead of 'yes' when I asked him."

In reply to Charlie's eager questions, Sandy related all that had
happened, and Charlie, with secret admiration for his small brother's
knack of "cheeking it through," as he expressed it, forbore any
further remarks.

"I do believe the water is really rising!" exclaimed the irrepressible
youngster, who, now that his latest trouble was fairly over, was
already thinking of something else. "Look at that log. When I came out
here just after breakfast, this morning, it was high and dry on that
shoal. Now one end of it is afloat. See it bob up and down?"

Full of the good news, the lads went hurriedly forward to find Oscar,
who, with his friend from Baltimore, was regarding the darkening scene
from the other part of the boat.

"She's moving!" excitedly cried Oscar, pointing his finger at the "War
Eagle"; and, as he spoke, that steamer slid slowly off the sand-bar,
and with her steam-organ playing triumphantly "Oh, aren't you glad
you're out of the Wilderness!" a well-known air in those days, she
steamed steadily down stream. From all the other boats, still stranded
though they were, loud cheers greeted the first to be released from
the long embargo. Presently another, the "Thomas H. Benton," slid off,
and churning the water with her wheels like a mad thing, took her way
down the river. All these boats were flat-bottomed and, as the saying
was, "could go anywhere if the ground was a little damp." A rise of a
very few inches of water was sufficient to float any one of them. And,
in the course of a half-hour, the "New Lucy," to the great joy of her
passengers, with one more hoist on her forward spars, was once more in
motion, and she too went gayly steaming down the river, her less
fortunate companions who were still aground cheering her as she glided
along the tortuous channel.

"Well, that was worth waiting some day or two to see," said Oscar,
drawing a long breath. "Just listen to that snorting calliope, playing
'Home, Sweet Home' as they go prancing down the Big Muddy. I shall
never forget her playing that 'Out of the Wilderness' as she tore out
of those shoals. It's a pretty good tune, after all, and the
steam-organ is not so bad now that you hear it at a distance."



CHAPTER XX.

STRANDED NEAR HOME.


It was after dark, on a Saturday evening, when the "New Lucy" landed
her passengers at the levee, St. Louis. They should have been in the
city several hours earlier, and they had expected to arrive by
daylight. The lads marvelled much at the sight of the muddy waters of
the Missouri running into the pure currents of the Mississippi, twenty
miles above St. Louis, the two streams joining but not mingling, the
yellow streak of the Big Muddy remaining separate and distinct from
the flow of the Mississippi for a long distance below the joining of
the two. They had also found new enjoyment in the sight of the great,
many-storied steamboats with which the view was now diversified as
they drew nearer the beautiful city which had so long been the object
of their hopes and longings. They could not help thinking, as they
looked at the crowded levee, solid buildings, and slender church
spires, that all this was a strange contrast to the lonely prairie and
wide, trackless spaces of their old home on the banks of the distant
Kansas stream. The Republican Fork seemed to them like a far-off
dream, it was so very distant to them now.

"Where are you young fellows going to stop in St. Louis?" asked the
pleasant-faced young man from Baltimore.

The lads had scarcely thought of that, and here was the city, the
strange city in which they knew nobody, in full sight. They exchanged
looks of dismay, Sandy's face wearing an odd look of amusement and
apprehension mixed. Charlie timidly asked what hotels were the best.
The young man from Baltimore named two or three which he said were
"first-class," and Charlie thought to himself that they must avoid
those. They had no money to pay for their lodging, no baggage as
security for their payment.

As soon as they could get away by themselves, they held a council to
determine what was to be done. They had the business address of their
uncle, Oscar Bryant, of the firm of Bryant, Wilder & Co., wholesale
dealers in agricultural implements, Front Street. But they knew enough
about city life to know that it would be hopeless to look for him in
his store at night. It would be nearly nine o'clock before they could
reach any hotel. What was to be done? Charlie was certain that no
hotel clerk would be willing to give them board and lodging, penniless
wanderers as they were, with nothing but one small valise to answer as
luggage for the party. They could have no money until they found their
uncle.

Before they could make up their minds what to do, or which way to
turn, the boat had made her landing and was blowing off steam at the
levee. The crowds of passengers, glad to escape from the narrow limits
of the steamer, were hurrying ashore. The three homeless and houseless
lads were carried resistlessly along with the crowd. Charlie regretted
that they had not asked if they could stay on the boat until Sunday
morning. But Sandy and Oscar both scouted such a confession of their
poverty. "Besides," said Sandy, "it is not likely that they would keep
any passengers on board here at the levee."

"Ride up? Free 'bus to the Planters'!" cried one of the runners on the
levee, and before the other two lads could collect their thoughts, the
energetic Sandy had drawn them into the omnibus, and they were on
their way to an uptown hotel. When the driver had asked where their
baggage was, Sandy, who was ready to take command of things, had
airily answered that they would have it sent up from the steamer.
There were other passengers in the 'bus, and Charlie, anxious and
distressed, had no chance to remonstrate; they were soon rattling and
grinding over the pavements of St. Louis. The novelty of the ride and
the glitter of the brightly lighted shops in which crowds of people
were doing their Saturday-night buying, diverted their attention for a
time. Then the omnibus backed up before a handsome hotel, and
numerous colored men came hurrying down the steps of the grand
entrance to wait upon the new arrivals. With much ceremony and
obsequiousness, the three young travellers were ushered into the
office, where they wrote their names in a big book, and were escorted
to a large and elegant room, in which were ample, even luxurious,
sleeping accommodations for the trio.

The colored porter assiduously brushed off the clothing of the lads.
"Baggage?" the clerk at the desk had asked when they registered.
"Baggage, sah?" the waiter asked again, as he dusted briskly the
jackets of the three guests. Neither Charlie nor Oscar had the heart
to make reply to this very natural question. It was Sandy who said:
"We will not have our baggage up from the steamer to-night. We are
going right on up north."

But when Sandy tipped the expectant waiter with the long-treasured
silver quarter of a dollar, Charlie fairly groaned, and sinking into a
chair as the door closed, said, "Our last quarter! Great Scott, Sandy!
are you crazy?"

Sandy, seeing that there was no help for it, put on a bold front, and
insisted that they must keep up appearances to the last. He would hunt
up Uncle Oscar's place of abode in the city directory after supper,
and bright and early Sunday morning he would go and see him. They
would be all right then. What use was that confounded old quarter,
anyhow? They might as well stand well with the waiter. He might be
useful to them. Twenty-five cents would not pay their hotel bill; it
would not buy anything they needed in St. Louis. The darky might as
well have it.

"And this is one of the swellest and most expensive hotels in the
city," cried Charlie, eyeing the costly furniture and fittings of the
room in which they were lodged. "I just think that we are travelling
under false pretences, putting up at an expensive house like this
without a cent in our pockets. Not one cent! What will you do, you
cheeky boy, if they ask us for our board in advance? I have heard that
they always do that with travellers who have no baggage."

"Well, I don't know what we will do," said Sandy, doggedly. "Suppose
we wait until they ask us. There'll be time enough to decide when we
are dunned for our bill. I suppose the honestest thing would be to own
right up and tell the whole truth. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Lots
of people have to do that sort of thing when they get into a tight
place."

"But I'm really afraid, Sandy, that they won't believe us," said the
practical Oscar. "The world is full of swindlers as well as of honest
fellows. They might put us out as adventurers."

"We are not adventurers!" cried Sandy, indignantly. "We are gentlemen
when we are at home, able to pay our debts. We are overtaken by an
accident," he added, chuckling to himself. "Distressed gentlemen,
don't you see?"

"But we might have gone to a cheaper place," moaned Charlie. "Here we
are in the highest-priced hotel in St. Louis. I know it, for I heard
that Baltimore chap say so. We might have put up at some third-rate
house, anyhow."

"But it is the third-rate house that asks you for your baggage, and
makes you pay in advance if you don't have any," cried Sandy,
triumphantly. "I don't believe that a high-toned hotel like this duns
people in advance for their board, especially if it is a casual
traveller, such as we are. Anyhow, they haven't dunned us yet, and
when they do, I'll engage to see the party through, Master Charlie; so
you set your mind at rest." As for Charlie, he insisted that he would
keep out of the sight of the hotel clerk, until relief came in the
shape of money to pay their bill.

Oscar, who had been reading attentively a printed card tacked to the
door of the room, broke in with the declaration that he was hungry,
and that supper was served until ten o'clock at night. The others
might talk all night, for all he cared; he intended to have some
supper. There was no use arguing about the chances of being dunned for
their board; the best thing he could think of was to have some board
before he was asked to pay for it. And he read out the list of hours
for dinner, breakfast, and supper from the card.

"There is merit in your suggestion," said Charlie, with a grim smile.
"The dead-broke Boy Settlers from the roaring Republican Fork will
descend to the banquet-hall." Charlie was recovering his spirits under
Oscar's cool and unconcerned advice to have board before being in the
way of paying for it.

After supper, the lads, feeling more cheerful than before, sauntered
up to the clerk's desk, and inspected the directory of the city. They
found their uncle's name and address, and it gave them a gleam of
pleasure to see his well-remembered business card printed on the page
opposite. Under the street address was printed Mr. Bryant's place of
residence, thus: "h. at Hyde Park."

"Where's that?" asked Sandy, confidently, of the clerk.

"Oh! that's out of the city a few miles. You can ride out there in the
stage. Only costs you a quarter."

Only a quarter! And the last quarter had gone to the colored boy with
the whisk-broom.

"Here's a go!" said Sandy, for once a little cast down. "We might walk
it," Oscar whispered, as they moved away from the desk. But to this
Charlie, asserting the authority of an elder brother, steadfastly
objected. He knew his Uncle Oscar better than the younger boys did. He
remembered that he was a very precise and dignified elderly gentleman.
He would be scandalized greatly if his three wandering nephews should
come tramping out to his handsome villa on a Sunday, like three
vagabonds, to borrow money enough to get home to Dixon with. No; that
was not to be thought of. Charlie said he would pawn his watch on
Monday morning; he would walk the streets to keep out of the way of
the much-dreaded hotel clerk; but, as for trudging out to his Uncle
Oscar's on Sunday, he would not do it, nor should either of the others
stir a step. So they went to bed, and slept as comfortably in their
luxurious apartment as if they had never known anything less handsome,
and had money in plenty to pay all demands at sight.

It was a cloudy and chilly November Sunday to which the boys awoke
next day. The air was piercingly raw, and the city looked dust-colored
and cheerless under the cold, gray sky. Breaking their fast (Charlie
keeping one eye on the hotel office), they sallied forth to see the
city. They saw it all over, from one end to the other. They walked and
walked, and then went back to the hotel; and after dinner, walked and
walked again. They hunted up their uncle's store in one of the
deserted business streets of the city; and they gazed at its exterior
with a curious feeling of relief. There was the sign on the
prosperous-looking outside of the building,--"Oscar G. Bryant & Co.,
Agricultural Implements." There, at least, was a gleam of comfort. The
store was a real thing. Their uncle, little though they knew about
him, was a real man.

Then, as the evening twilight gathered, they walked out to the borders
of the suburb where he lived. They did not venture into the avenue
where they had been told his house was, vaguely fearing that he might
meet and recognize them. As they turned their steps towards the hotel,
Oscar said: "It's lucky there are three of us to keep ourselves in
countenance. If that wasn't the case, it would be awfully lonely to
think we were so near home, and yet have gone ashore, hard and fast
aground; right in sight of port, as it were."

The parents of these boys had been born and brought up near the
seacoast of New England, and not a few marine figures of speech were
mingled in the family talk. So Charlie took up the parable and
gloomily said: "We are as good as castaways in this big ocean of a
city, with never a soul to throw us a spar or give us a hand. I never
felt so blue in all my life. Look at those children playing in that
dooryard. Pretty poor-looking children they are; but they've got a
home over their heads to-night. We haven't."

"Oh, pshaw, Charlie!" broke in Sandy; "why will you always look on the
dark side of things? I know it's real lonesome here in a strange city,
and away from our own folks. But they are not so far away but what we
can get to them after a while. And we have got a roof over our heads
for to-night, anyway; the Planters' is good enough for me; if you
want anything better, you will have to get outside of St. Louis for
it; and, what is more, they are not going to dun us for our board bill
until after to-day. I'm clean beat out traipsing around this town, and
I give you two fellows notice that I am not going to stir a step out
of the hotel to-night. Unless it is to go to church," he added by way
of postscript.

They did go to church that night, after they had had their supper. It
was a big, comfortable, and roomy church, and the lads were shown into
a corner pew under the gallery, where they were not conspicuous. The
music of choir and organ was soothing and comforting. One of the tunes
sung was "Dundee," and each boy thought of their singing the song of
"The Kansas Emigrants," as the warbling measures drifted down to them
from the organ-loft, lifting their hearts with thoughts that the
strangers about them knew nothing of. The preacher's text was "In my
father's house are many mansions." Then they looked at each other
again, as if to say, "That's a nice text for three homeless boys in a
strange city." But nobody even so much as whispered.

Later on in the sermon, when the preacher touched a tender chord in
Oscar's heart, alluding to home and friends, and to those who wander
far from both, the lad, with a little moisture in his eyes, turned to
look at Sandy. He was fast asleep in his snug corner. Oscar made a
motion to wake him, but Charlie leaned over and said, "Leave the poor
boy alone. He's tired with his long tramp to-day." When they went out
after the service was over, Oscar rallied Sandy on his sleeping in
church, and the lad replied: "I know it was bad manners, but the last
thing I heard the minister say, was 'Rest for the weary.' I thought
that was meant for me. Leastways, I found rest for the weary right
off, and I guess there was no harm done."

With Monday morning came sunshine and a clear and bracing air. Even
Charlie's face wore a cheerful look, the first that he had put on
since arriving in St. Louis, although now and again his heart quaked
as he heard the hotel porter's voice in the hall roaring out the time
of departure for the trains that now began to move from the city in
all directions. They had studied the railroad advertisements and
time-tables to some purpose, and had discovered that they must cross
to East St. Louis, on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, and
there take a train for the northern part of the State, where Dixon is
situated. But they must first see their Uncle Oscar, borrow the needed
money from him, settle with the steamboat people and the hotel, and
then get to the railroad station by eleven o'clock in the forenoon. It
was a big morning's work.

They were at their uncle's store before he arrived from his suburban
home; and, while they waited, they whisperingly discussed the
question, Who should ask for the money? Charlie was at first disposed
to put this duty on Sandy; but the other two boys were very sure that
it would not look well for the youngest of the party to be the leader
on an occasion so important; and Charlie was appointed spokesman.

Mr. Oscar Bryant came in. He was very much surprised to see three
strange lads drawn up in a row to receive him. And he was still more
taken aback when he learned that they were his nephews, on their way
home from Kansas. He had heard of his brother's going out to Kansas,
and he had not approved of it at all. He was inclined to think that,
on the whole, it would be better for Kansas to have slavery than to do
without it. A great many other people in St. Louis thought the same
way, at that time, although some of them changed their minds later
on.

Mr. Oscar Bryant was a tall, spruce-looking, and severe man in
appearance. His hair was gray and brushed stiffly back from his
forehead; and his precise, thin, white whiskers were cut "just like a
minister's," as Sandy afterwards declared; and when he said that going
to Kansas to make it a free State was simply the rankest kind of
folly, Charlie's heart sunk, and he thought to himself that the chance
of borrowing money from their stern-looking uncle was rather slim.

"But it doesn't make any difference to you boys whether slavery is
voted up or down in Kansas, I suppose," he continued, less sternly.
"You will live to see the day when, if you live in Kansas, you will
own slaves and work them. You can never clear up a wild country like
that without slave-labor, depend upon it. I know what I am talking
about." And Uncle Oscar stroked his chin in a self-satisfied way, as
if he had settled the whole Kansas-Nebraska question in his own manner
of thinking. Sandy's brown cheeks flushed and his eyes sparkled. He
was about to burst out with an indignant word, when Charlie, alarmed
by his small brother's excited looks, blurted out their troubles at
once, in order to head off the protest that he expected from Sandy.
The lad was silent.

"Eh? what's that?" asked the formal-looking merchant. "Busted? And
away from home? Why, certainly, my lads. How much do you need?" And he
opened his pocket-book at once. Greatly relieved, perhaps surprised,
Charlie told him that they thought that fifty dollars would pay all
their bills and get them back to Dixon. The money was promptly handed
over, and Charlie, emboldened by this good nature, told his uncle that
they still owed for their passage down the river from Leavenworth.

"And did they really trust you three boys for your passage-money? How
did that happen?" asked the merchant, with admiration.

Charlie, as spokesman, explained that Sandy had "sparred" their way
for them; and when he had told how Sandy still owed for a pack of
cards, and how it was his honest face and candid way of doing things
that had brought them thus far on their homeward journey, Uncle Oscar,
laughing heartily and quite unbending from his formal and dry way of
talking, said, "Well done, my little red-hot Abolitionist; you'll get
through this world, I'll be bound." He bade the wanderers farewell and
goodspeed with much impressiveness and sent messages of good-will to
their parents.

"How do you suppose Uncle Oscar knew I was an Abolitionist?" demanded
Sandy, as soon as they were out of earshot. "I'm not an Abolitionist,
anyhow."

"Well, you're a free-State man; and that's the same thing," said
Charlie. "A free-State boy," added Oscar.

With a proud heart the cashier of the Boy Settlers paid their bill at
the hotel, and reclaimed their valise from the porter, with whom they
had lodged it in the morning before going out. Then they hurried to
the levee, and, to their surprise, found that the little steamer that
conveyed passengers across the river to the East St. Louis railway
station lay close alongside the "New Lucy." Their task of transferring
the baggage was easy.

"Say, Sandy, you made the bargain with the clerk to bring us down here
on the security of our luggage; it's nothing more than business-like
that you should pay him what we owe," said Charlie.

"Right you are, Charlie," added Oscar, "and it's fair that Sandy, who
has had the bother of sparring our way for us, should have the proud
satisfaction of paying up all old scores." So Sandy, nothing loth,
took the roll of bills and marched bravely up to the clerk's office
and paid the money due. The handsome clerk looked approvingly at the
boy, and said: "Found your friends? Good boy! Well, I wish you good
luck."

The barkeeper said he had forgotten all about the pack of cards that
he had trusted Sandy with, when the lad gave him the seventy-five
cents due him. "I can't always keep account of these little things,"
he explained.

"But you don't often trust anybody with cards coming down the river,
do you?" asked Sandy, surprised.

"Heaps," said the barkeeper.

"And do they always pay?"

"Some of 'em does, and then ag'in, some of 'em doesn't," replied the
man, as with a yawn he turned away to rearrange his bottles and
glasses.

With the aid of a lounger on the landing, whom they thought they could
now afford to fee for a quarter, the youngsters soon transferred their
luggage from the "New Lucy" to the little ferry-boat near at hand. To
their great pleasure, they found on board the pleasant-faced lady
from Baltimore and her party. She was apparently quite as pleased to
meet them, and she expressed her regret that they were not going
eastward on the train with herself and sons. "We have had such a
pleasant trip down the river together," she said. "And you are going
back to Illinois? Will you return to Kansas in the spring?"

"We cannot tell yet," replied Charlie, modestly. "That all depends
upon how things look in the spring, and what father and Uncle Aleck
think about it. We are free-State people, and we want to see the
Territory free, you see."

The pleasant-faced lady's forehead was just a little clouded when she
said, "You will have your labor lost, if you go to Kansas, then; for
it will certainly be a slave State."

They soon were in the cars with their tickets for Dixon bought, and,
as Sandy exultingly declared, paid for, and their baggage checked all
the way through. Then Sandy said, "I'm sorry that pretty lady from
Baltimore is a Border Ruffian."

The other two boys shouted with laughter, and Oscar cried: "She's no
Border Ruffian. She's only pro-slavery; and so is Uncle Oscar and lots
of others. You ought to be ashamed of yourself to be so--what is it,
Charlie? Intolerant, that's what it is."

The train was slowly moving from the rude shed that was dignified by
the name of railroad depot. Looking back at the river with their heads
out of the windows, for the track lay at right angles with the river
bank, they could now see the last of the noble stream on which they
had taken their journey downwards from "bleeding Kansas" by the Big
Muddy. They were nearing home, and their hearts were all the lighter
for the trials and troubles through which they had so lately passed.

"We don't cross the prairies as of old our fathers crossed the sea,
any more, do we, Charlie?" said Oscar, as they caught their last
glimpse of the mighty Mississippi.

"No," said the elder lad. "We may not be there to see it; but Kansas
will be the homestead of the free, for all that. Mind what I say."



Typography by J. S. Cushing & Co., Boston.

Presswork by Berwick & Smith, Boston.





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